Monday, December 31, 2012 at 7:35 AM
Friday, December 28, 2012 at 6:57 AM
It speaks volumes that South African President Jacob Zuma is even more gaffe prone than former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Zuma, for example, incited shock and mockery when he pronounced his belief that taking a shower after sex with an HIV-positive woman would reduce his risk of being infected.
The difference of course is that South African voters have been far more forgiving of Zuma’s gaffes than American voters have been of Romney’s.
It is hardly surprising therefore that Zuma now seems emboldened in this respect. Especially since he was easily re-elected just weeks ago as leader of the ANC, virtually guaranteeing him a second five-year term as president when general elections are held in 2014.
President Zuma said that owning and walking a dog, and even taking one to the vet, were not African activities, and was just copying White culture.
[He] got into a spot of bother Thursday when he suggested that owning a dog was not African and belonged to White culture…
Not able to let sleeping dogs lie, President Zuma went on to say that pet ownership was part of a worrying trend of Black Africans trying to be White.
That prompted howls of protest from South African pet owners of all hues and mottles.
(Africa Review, December 27, 2012)
Except that I inserted the “so-called” qualifier because, in this case, there is at least a factual basis for what Zuma said. Specifically, I have read enough about pre-colonial Africa to know that dogs were kept for hunting and protection, not as pets. Moreover, this remains the case (particularly with respect to protection) in many places throughout Africa and the Caribbean where, because of the apartheid conditions White colonists imposed, Blacks have had no real opportunity to copy White “culture.”
Not to mention that most Blacks of Zuma’s age harbor an indelible association between dogs and the White police who routinely used them as rabid weapons to breakup their anti-Apartheid/civil rights protests….
Alas, Zuma incites such reflexive ridicule these days that he can quote Shakespeare verbatim and his critics will find a gaffe in that to0. But anyone who takes a moment to reflect cannot deny the essential truth in what he said.
What’s more, no less a person than Queen Elizabeth II herself personifies the understandable resentment Blacks like Zuma have towards Whites who take pride in treating their dogs better than they treat their fellow (Black) human beings.
Therefore, we should not only acknowledge the cultural/humanitarian premise of Zuma’s remarks, but also appreciate why he would chide Blacks (even in his politically incorrect fashion) for aping the way Whites pamper their dogs.
I would only admonish Zuma not to be too self-righteous in his condemnation. For there seems precious little Blacks do in Africa today that was not copied from White culture. In fact, if he were not copying White culture, Zuma himself would be dressing in tribal garb (everyday) instead of donning his bespoke suits that seem tailored on Savile Row.
Scoop the poop…
Friday, December 28, 2012 at 6:45 AM
I have taken a lot of flak for repeatedly damning Tea Party congressmen as a bunch of political jihadists who are possessed of such misguided and dogmatic convictions that they consider any compromise political heresy:
It is clear that Republicans, driven by their Tea Party political jihadists, are the ones (mostly) to blame for the partisan gridlock that now defines politics in America. And they do not seem the least bit chastened by the deliberate, do-nothing obstructionism that has caused Congress to suffer its lowest rating in public opinion polls in the history of the United States.
(“A Super Committee to Deal with National Debt? Fat Chance!” The iPINIONS Journal, November 21, 2011)
Therefore, imagine my feeling of vindication a week ago today when Steve LaTourette, the very popular and respected Republican Congressman from Ohio, damned them in similar terms. He did so right after Tea Partiers blew up Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” – a bill to ensure that only millionaires and billionaires would be subjected tax increases. Ironically, this bill was intended to show the American people that Republicans are prepared to compromise to avert the looming fiscal cliff. What it showed instead is that Republicans would rather plunge the country into an economic depression than compromise on their doctrinaire pledge to never raise taxes … ever!
That’s the same 40, 50 chuckleheads [aka Tea Party members] that all year … have screwed this place up. [The Speaker] has done everything in his power to make nice to them, to bring them along, to make them feel included, but it hasn’t mattered.
(FOX News, December 21, 2012)
Naturally one might wonder how 50 bad apples can spoil the whole bunch of 435 members of Congress. The reason of course is that the Republicans who control Congress now regard it as an article of faith to pass party-line legislation to avoid even the appearance of compromising with Democrats. In fact, though incomprehensible to any sane person, compromise has become such a dirty word among them that even Speaker Boehner dares not speak its name.
No less a person than Speaker John Boehner betrayed their new jihadist approach to politics just weeks after Republicans won control of the House in November 2010. He did so during an interview on the December 12, 2010 edition of 60 Minutes when Leslie Stahl stated that ‘surely governing means compromising,’ and then asked why he was so unwilling to say that he and the Republicans would be willing to compromise with Obama and the Democrats. Boehner replied:
‘We are doing the will of the American people. As for compromise, I utterly reject the word.’
This, in a nutshell, explains why we’ve been treated over the past two years to the spectacle of Washington gridlock over every piece of legislation, including those merely extending policies Republicans once supported.
(“The Will of the American People? Really? The iPINIONS Journal, July 11, 2012)
And because 218 members are needed to pass anything and this Congress is comprised of only 242 Republicans, having 40 to 50 Tea Party chuckleheads dictating (and acting like enforcers of) party dogma can make doing business impossible.
Frankly, these days Republicans and Democrats are behaving more like Israelis and Palestinians. Which is why, instead of passing legislation to resolve this looming fiscal cliff crisis, they seem determined to ape the Israelis and Palestinians by pointing fingers and agreeing only on stop-gap measures to kick the can down the road to fight this same fight another day.
Of course there are the usual gaggle of nincompoops in Congress and on Wall Street who are doing their damnedest to make falling off this cliff a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Never mind that the automatic increases in taxes and cuts in spending that lie at the bottom of that cliff (if Congress fails to enact a credible plan by January 1, 2013 to reduce the budget deficit and national debt) will probably do more to stimulate the economy than Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus bill did. That is, once the economy gets over the initial hysteria.
But if you think I’m just too cynical or stupid to appreciate what this fiscal cliff portends, I urge you to simply reflect on the dire predictions professional Chicken Littles were making about the Y2K cliff.
(“Ignore the Chicken Littles. Fiscal Cliff about as Real as Mayan Calendar,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 3, 2012)
Call me crazy….
Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 6:39 AM
War between China and Japan over the Senkakus would make the war Argentina and Britain fought over the Falklands seem like a barroom brawl between mindless drunks. Not least because the United States would be compelled to honor its treaty obligations to defend Japan…
[But] notwithstanding the mob-like passions of their respective nationalists, I’m sure Chinese and Japanese leaders alike are mindful of the folly of fighting a war over desolate islands that could only end in a pyrrhic victory at best.
(“China and Japan in Falklands-like Dispute,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 23, 2012)
Japan’s parliament formally elected Shinzo Abe as prime minister yesterday. He led his Liberal Democratic Party to victory in national elections on December 16 based mostly on bellicose rhetoric about standing up to China.
But nothing betrayed just how much hot air this rhetoric contained quite like Abe going out his way in his first address to assure the Japanese people, and warn the Chinese, that reinforcing military ties with the United States will be his top priority.
‘Japan’s national security faces a clear and present danger,’ Abe said, referring to intensifying territorial disputes around the Japanese seas, and renewed his campaign promise to protect the safety of the people of Japan and its territory.
‘Japan must strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance, the cornerstone of Japan’s diplomacy,’ Abe said. That will be key to re-stabilizing Japan’s regional diplomatic relations, he added.
(Associated Press, December 26, 2012)
Rather reminds one of the little school kid with the big mouth who knew he could get away with it because his brother was the big man on campus, doesn’t it?
China and Japan…
Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 7:03 AMIt’s a curious thing that so many Black Americans – who insist on calling themselves African Americans – know so little about their American heritage, and even less about their African ancestry. But this is probably because “Black pride” is about as ethereal and subjective as religious faith….
Nonetheless, just as Martin Luther King Jr. taught us the objective value of judging people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, I humbly suggest that racial pride should be based not on the assumption of things unseen but on substance of deeds done.
It is in this spirit of racial enlightenment that I celebrate Kwanzaa (December 26 to January 1).
In so doing, I pay homage to the Afrocentric Dr Maulana Kerenga who founded this holiday in 1966 “not to substitute for Christmas” but to reaffirm what it is to be of African ancestry.
More important, though, if all Black people endeavored to live according to the seven guiding principles (Nguzo Saba) of Kwanzaa, then having Black pride would entail far more than spouting off hollow rhetoric:
1. Umoja: (oo-MO-jah) Unity stresses the importance of togetherness for the family and the community, which is reflected in the African saying, “I am We” or “I am because We are.”
2. Kujichagulia: (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-yah) Self-determination requires that we define our common interests and make decisions that are in the best interest of our family and community.
3. Ujima: (oo-GEE-mah) Collective Work and Responsibility remind us of our obligation to the past, present, and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and world.
4. Ujamaa (oo-JAH-mah) Cooperative economics emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support.
5. Nia (NEE-yah) Purpose encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community.
6. Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) Creativity makes use of our creative energies to build and maintain a strong and vibrant community.
7. Imani (ee-MAH-nee) Faith focuses on honoring the best of our traditions, draws upon the best in ourselves, and helps us strive for a higher level of life for humankind, by affirming our self-worth and confidence in our ability to succeed and triumph in righteous struggle.
In fact, with these guiding principles, Blacks should come to celebrate Kwanzaa the way Jews celebrate Hanukkah….
Happy Kwanzaa !
Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 9:21 AM
Sunday, December 23, 2012 at 10:23 AM
Jesters were used in plays and other forms of entertainment to highlight the folly in prevailing thoughts and customs of the day long before William Shakespeare patented this literary device.
Therefore, it seems entirely fitting that it took jesters on the comedy show Seinfeld to highlight the blithe spirit with which we have made Christmas a celebration more of crass commercialism than of the birth of Christ. For it was on this show that most Christians worldwide were first introduced to the celebration of “Festivus for the rest of us.”
Festivus, which is celebrated on December 23, began in 1965 as a family ritual in the home of writer Dan O’Keefe. And, interestingly enough, it was his son Daniel, a writer for Seinfeld, who wove the entire history and meaning of Festivus into the December 18, 1997 episode of the show.
I saw this episode, and can attest that the uproarious laughter all references to Festivus evoked was surpassed only by the cunning message about the real meaning of Christmas that I felt compelled to ponder long after it ended.
Ironically, Festivus is a wholly secular attempt to remind us that Jesus is the reason for the season. Accordingly, it encourages us to utterly shun not only the indulgent ritual of shopping, but all of the other hedonistic activities Christians engage in this time of year.
The O’Keefes do this by having an “Airing of Grievances” meal at which each person tells other family members all the ways they disappointed him or her over the past year. They follow this meal with a “Feats of Strength” performance, during which family members must wrestle and pin the head of household to the floor to bring the celebration of Festivus to a close….
Of course, because there’s no religious dogma associated with this holiday, you do not have to follow the O’Keefe’s fashion when celebrating this holiday. Instead, you can choose whatever non-commercial activities you wish to engage in to celebrate Festivus. For example, I think the most spiritual way of doing this would be to take a family walk in the woods (even in the snow) to commune with nature.
In any event, I urge you to think – “What would Jesus do?” – before joining the madding crowd of those rushing out in a last-minute dash to spend money in a patently perverse effort to celebrate His birth.
Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 6:17 PM
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has perpetrated a brazen and unconscionable fraud on the American people by pretending to be arch defenders of their right to keep and bear arms. Because the NRA is just the lobbying arm of gun manufacturers, and its sole mission is to ensure that those manufactures have the right to sell as many guns of every type to as many people as possible. Period!
(“The Second Amendment and Gun Control,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 19, 2012)
Friday, December 21, 2012 at 6:47 PM
Obama should nominate John Kerry to serve as Secretary of State. After all, he has more foreign policy experience than Hillary; he is fluent in at least one foreign language (French); she is not; and he would surely be more loyal…
This would be an ideal way for Obama to repay Kerry for inviting him to speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention – the seminal occasion that launched his meteoric rise to the presidency just four years later.
Not to mention that Kerry endorsed his candidacy when most in the Democratic establishment were still riding Hillary’s bandwagon on her purportedly inevitable path to the presidency….
(“Hillary As Secretary of State? Don’t Do It Barack,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 15, 2008)
I hope this quote explains why it should have been a moment of mutual triumph at the White House this afternoon when President Obama announced Senator Kerry as his nominee to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.
Yet the occasion seemed more funereal than triumphal. And this pall had nothing to do with their having just come from a funeral service for Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii; or with their knowledge that the concussion Hillary sustained is actually worse than has been reported. Instead it had everything to do with their acute awareness that the entire world knew Kerry was standing there only because a few rabidly partisan Republicans threatened to vote against Susan Rice, Obama’s first choice.
Instead it had everything to do with the fact that they knew the entire world knows that Kerry was standing there only because a few rabidly partisan Republicans threatened to vote against Obama’s first choice, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.
Hence my mixed reaction: because even though Kerry was my first choice, I regret the way Obama caved in to Republicans by throwing Rice under the bus. For after telegraphing his intent to nominate her, he should have dared those Republicans to vote against her.
In my November 19 commentary, Benghazi-gate? No. McCain fried Rice, I delineated the many reasons why Republicans would not have been able to sustain their opposition to Rice under the public glare of a congressional hearing. But Obama denied her that chance. Instead, he allowed her to wither on the political vine until she was forced to withdraw her name from consideration to preserve what was left of her professional dignity.
The disillusioning and disaffecting truth, of course, is that Obama prevailed upon her to withdraw in a misguided attempt to preserve all of his re-election capital. Never mind the public humiliation he had already caused her by having her crawl up to Capitol Hill to appease her Republican critics by kissing their … brass rings – only to have them diss her as a lousy kisser.
This is why Obama looked like a whipped phony heaping praise on Kerry as the “perfect choice” for the job; and Kerry looked like a poor sap standing there like the kid who is always the last to be picked for high-school sports teams.
Benghazi-gate? No. McCain fried Rice
Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 5:19 AM
In case you haven’t heard, according to some Mayan calendar, which even most Mayans seem to know nothing about, the world is going to end tomorrow.
But truth be told, what I find most interesting about those who have the most faith in this Mayan prophecy is that they are the ones who appear to know the least about the Mayan people. I am constrained to wonder, though, if those who believe the world will end according to the Mayan calendar are any loonier than those who believe it began according to the Holy Bible (you know, the Garden of Eden and all that)….
Anyway, the final stanza of T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men seems a fitting dirge for the mundane awakening on December 22 of all who expected the world to end on December 21.
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
But just in case the Mayan apocalypse takes place as scheduled:
Farewell to all my family and friends.
May the Mayan gods look favorably upon you … and me.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 6:07 AM
The response in each case plays out like a macabre version of Groundhog Day – complete with swat teams showing up brandishing their big guns (oblivious to the obvious irony) long after all of the killing is done; politicians mouthing patently hollow words about gun control; and reporters emulating the Bill Murray character by repeating the few basic facts ad nauseam, yet making it seem like BREAKING NEWS each time.
(“Now Newtown: Shooting Massacres USA”, The iPINIONS Journal, December 15, 2012)
The above indicates why the 24/7 media coverage of the Newtown shooting massacre had me feeling wistful even for coverage of the farcical Washington debate on the fiscal cliff.
Alas, it’s an indication of how little influence I have to trend topics that, despite writing a commentary on the MLK Memorial yesterday, all anybody wanted to talk about was this massacre. Granted, they might have been more interested if I’d written about Honey Boo Boo.
Anyway, this is why I have decided to revise and extend what I wrote on Saturday about gun control. I am also mindful that media coverage is now evolving from wallowing in the survivors’ grief (for ratings) to egging on a national debate on this very contentious topic (for even greater ratings).
Frankly, I fear that curbing gun violence is almost as daunting as curing lung cancer. Yet, just as the daunting challenge does not deter us from attempting to cure lung cancer, I do not think it should deter us from attempting to curb gun violence. And the best place to begin is to inject some clarity and sanity into our understanding and application of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Second Amendment specifically refers to “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” Obviously, this is because, when the Constitution was signed 225 years ago, the United States did not have the well regulated police forces, let alone the well regulated armed forces, it has today.
It’s arguable therefore that the only reasonable reading of this amendment in today’s context is that the only people who should have the right to “keep and bear Arms” are those in law enforcement and the military (i.e., those actively involved in ensuring national security).
Nevertheless, in deference to American culture, I am prepared to concede that congressional legislation granting citizens the right to keep and bear (at most) six-cylinder handguns and double barrel shotguns (for home protection) and single-shot rifles (for hunting) does not violate the spirit of the Constitution. But I would make it illegal for civilians to possess any other type of firearm or munitions. Period!
Accordingly, I believe that anti-gun advocates who argue for a ban on all guns are just as irrational as anti-immigration advocates who argue for the deportation of all illegal immigrants. More to the point, though, pro-gun advocates who argue that civilians retain the right to possess everything from semi-automatic pistols to assault rifles (with magazines that carry 100 rounds) are just as cooky as evangelical Christians who argue that we all descend from Adam and Eve.
This, notwithstanding that no less a person than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose legal reasoning I’ve always thought is way overrated, has opined that it is probably constitutional even to keep and bear “hand-held rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes.” For if this self-professed “textual originalist” were more rigorously intellectual, and less vigorously partisan, he would insist that only muskets, bayonets, and single-shot pistols can pass constitutional muster. After all, these are the only types of arms the framers knew of and could have (originally) intended when they drafted the Constitution in 1787.
But I have no doubt that Scalia’s opinion will give aid and comfort to the paranoid fools who would happily buy a Sherman tank to fight off the federal troops they know President Obama will order any day now to “take their freedoms [i.e., guns] away.”
Apropos of which, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has perpetrated a brazen and unconscionable fraud on the American people by pretending to be arch defenders of their right to keep and bear arms. Because the NRA is just the lobbying arm of gun manufacturers, and its sole mission is to ensure that those manufactures have the right to sell as many guns of every type to as many people as possible. Period!
Therefore, the American people would be well advised to consign the NRA to the rogues gallery of American politics – right alongside groups like the KKK. And any politician who even appears to be doing its bidding should not only be thrown out of office but pilloried as a venal sell-out in perpetuity.
In fact, we should begin by targeting the 31 senators who, before Newtown, were wearing their “A” rating from the NRA like a badge of honor; but who, after Newtown, were too cowardly/ashamed to appear on Meet The Press to defend their uncompromising pro-gun voting record.
That said, let me hasten to clarify that banning assault weapons alone will not end shooting massacres. For this will do nothing to combat the mental triggers that everything from grotesquely violent movies to even more violent video games provide. Indeed, it seems a case of putting the cart before the horse to talk about targeting mental illness in this context before getting rid of these triggers.
I am all too mindful that the glorification of violence is every bit as American as apple pie and Chevrolet. But unless we move as aggressively to ban these mental triggers (by shaming and penalizing Hollywood) as we do to ban assault weapons (by shaming and penalizing the NRA), we will merely be picking at the superficial scab instead of treating the deep wound that gun violence represents.
NOTE: Am I the only one who finds it odd that the police are talking about the investigation of this massacre taking months? What … do they think he was part of an al-Qaeda cell or a neo-Nazi group?! Hell, it seems patently clear to me that all we have here is what we had in Columbine and elsewhere; namely, just another mentally disturbed and socially alienated kid going postal.
Monday, December 17, 2012 at 5:19 AM
Nationally acclaimed poet Maya Angelou threw cold water on the dedication of the MLK Memorial last year when she complained that organizers defiled his famous “Drum Major” speech by having the sculptor inscribe a paraphrase, instead of a verbatim, quotation from it.
I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.
The verbatim quotation is:
If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.
Angelou also lamented that the paraphrase quotation:
… makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit.
(News One for Black America, October 14, 2011)
I disagreed, arguing that:
I understand the artistic license the designer took; because cramming that many words onto the side of the MLK statue would detract from his profile. Besides, MLK’s character as a Gandhian/humble civil rights leader is so deeply rooted in American consciousness today that people can be left to put this quote into proper perspective without Professor Angelou’s pedantic vigilance.
(“Dedication of the MLK Memorial,” The iPINIONS Journal, 2012)
But I also conceded later in this same commentary that:
It does seem rather arrogant to paraphrase MLK’s words in this formal and permanent context. This is why I urge the organizers to have the sculptor inscribe the entire quotation – regardless of its aesthetic impact. Alternatively, they could select a pithier one for this location and exhibit the ‘Drum Major’ quotation, which clearly must be included, in another prominent place on the grounds of the memorial.
Well, last week organizers announced that the paraphrase quotation will be completely removed. Evidently, the sculptor determined that drilling to include the verbatim quotation would harm the monument’s structural integrity. Significantly, though, they said nothing about inscribing it elsewhere….
In a joint statement released by the U.S. Interior Department, King’s family voiced support for the new plan. King’s youngest daughter Bernice King, who is chief executive of the King Center in Atlanta, thanked [Interior Secretary] Salazar and the National Park Service for taking ‘care to maintain the spirit and appearance of such an important monument to our country’s history and my father’s memory.’
(Associated Press, December 11, 2012)
All the same, I hope I can be forgiven for noting that King’s family agreed with my proposal for resolving this monumental conflict:
While our family would have of course preferred to have the entire ‘Drum Major’ quote used, we fully endorse and support the secretary’s proposal.
Repairs are scheduled to begin in late February and completed by late spring. But the National Park Service is keen to assure the public that the memorial will be open for visits throughout.
If you have an opportunity to visit, seize it! Because this memorial is not only beautifully sculpted; it’s wholly serene.
Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 7:21 AM
A lone gunman reportedly opened fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut today, killing 20 children (ages 6-10) and six adults, before killing himself. It only adds perversity to his motivating psychosis that among the adults he killed was his own mother.
For a little perspective, Yahoo News reports that:
It is the second worst mass shooting in U.S. history, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 when 32 were killed before the shooter turned the gun on himself. Today’s carnage exceeds the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in which 13 died and 24 were injured.
Alas, shooting rampages are becoming a defining feature of life in America. Here, courtesy of Reuters and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is a list of others that occurred just this year:
- April 2 – A gunman kills seven people and wounds three in a shooting rampage at a Christian college in Oakland.
- July 20 – A masked gunman kills 12 people and wounds 58 when he opens fire on moviegoers at a showing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, Colorado.
- August 5 – A gunman kills six people during Sunday services at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, before he is shot dead by a police officer.
- August 24 – Two people are killed and eight wounded in a shooting outside the landmark Empire State Building in New York City at the height of the tourist season.
- September 27 – A disgruntled former employee kills five people and takes his own life in a shooting rampage at a Minneapolis sign company from which he had been fired.
- October 21 – Three people are killed in a Milwaukee area spa including the estranged wife of the suspected gunman, who then killed himself.
Meanwhile, the response in each case plays out like a macabre version of Groundhog Day – complete with swat teams showing up brandishing their big guns (oblivious to the obvious irony) long after all of the killing is done; politicians mouthing patently hollow words about gun control; and reporters emulating the Bill Murray character by repeating the few basic facts ad nauseam, yet making it seem like BREAKING NEWS each time.
So in the only spirit this occasion seems to summon, I shall repeat myself too:
I’m constrained to wonder why the media always reward these psychotic people by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and on the front page of every major newspaper … worldwide, and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds. Isn’t it clear to see, especially in this age of instant celebrity, why some loser kid would find this route to infamy irresistible?
You’d think that – given the record of these psychotic and vainglorious episodes since Columbine – we would have figured out by now that the best way to discourage them is by focusing our attention on the victims and limiting what we say about the shooter to: May God have mercy on your soul as you burn in hell!
(“Massacre in Omaha,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 7, 2007)
I fully support strict gun-control laws. Nevertheless, I am convinced that no laws can prevent these kinds of human tragedies. In fact, incidents like this bring into stark relief the fact that it’s not guns, but insane and troubled people – with motives no one can possibly anticipate or comprehend – who commit mass murders.
(“Massacre at Virginia Tech,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 17, 2007)
That cynicism aside, my thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families affected by this latest rampage.
NOTE: If one troubled kid can cause this kind of national tragedy, disproportionate reaction, and emotional trauma, just imagine the tragedy, reaction, and trauma al-Qaeda terrorists could cause. All they would have to do is target, in their signature simultaneous fashion, 10 to 20 Friday night high-school football games – where security would be low and the stands packed with thousands of unsuspecting kids … who would be like sitting ducks.
* This commentary was published originally yesterday, Friday, at 9:02 pm
Friday, December 14, 2012 at 5:41 AM
For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.
One can be forgiven for thinking that, with those words, President Obama sealed Assad’s fate as surely and immediately as, with a thumb down, an emperor sealed the fate of Roman gladiators.
After all, as leader of the world’s only superpower, Obama can seal the fate of more men with the stroke of his pen than Commodus ever could with the show of his thumb – as the few remaining al-Qaeda leaders now cowering in caves from Obama’s aerial drones will attest.
Yet the Washington Post quotes him pronouncing those seemingly fateful words well over a year ago (on August 8, 2011).
Which compels one to wonder how Assad managed not only to survive, but to massacre tens of thousands of the people Obama seemed so concerned about? The answer, frankly, can be summed up in one name: Vladimir Putin.
For the simple fact is that while Obama was aiming to deal with Assad as a twenty-first century, multilateral statesman, Putin was aiming to score geo-political points as a twentieth century, bipolar cold warrior.
Specifically, while Obama steadfastly refused to supply weapons to anti-Assad forces to back up his words, Putin wasted no time supplying Assad with all he needed to destroy them – no doubt hoping to make Syria as much a satellite state for Russia today as Cuba was for the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.
But Putin is no fool. He knows better than to have blood still dripping from his hands when this Syrian dictator falls. Which is why he has begun washing his hands of Assad:
Russia’s top Middle East diplomat and the leader of NATO offered dark and strikingly similar assessments of the embattled Syrian president’s future on Thursday, asserting that he was losing control of the country after a nearly two-year conflict that has taken 40,000 lives and has threatened to destabilize the Middle East.
(New York Times, December 13, 2012)
In other words, for the sake of Putin’s reputation, the time really has come for President Assad to … flee.
Assad massacres with impunity…
Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 5:19 AM
President Obama led a chorus of world leaders hurling patently meaningless condemnation at North Korea yesterday after it launched a long-range missile/satellite into space. Never mind that the only thing newsworthy about this launch is that (after the fifth, brazen attempt) it appears to have been successful.
Moreover, all indications are that the only danger North Korea poses is the irrational fear of imminent nuclear attack it incites every time it test-fires one of its missiles. Never mind that the United States possesses (and can fortify its regional allies with) anti-ballistic missile defenses that could neutralize any such attack.
So instead of stoking such fears, Obama should convene a coalition of the willing among Asia-Pacific countries (APEC) to forge agreement on the following resolution, which, significantly, would not be subject to UN-style veto by any country (namely, China or Russia):
- Recognizing that the United Nations is unable or unwilling to stop North Korea from violating its resolutions (most notably, res. 1718 against conducting nuclear tests or launching ballistic missiles) with impunity;
- Finding that these violations pose an untenable threat to the Asia-Pacific region;
- Instead of continuing the feckless practice of bribing North Korea with cash, oil and food to get it to stop these violations, APEC shall henceforth impose the severest possible sanctions, unilaterally;
- If, either as a result of misfire or deliberate intent, any of North Korea’s missiles even threatens any APEC country, the United States shall lead the bombardment of all of its nuclear and missile facilities until they are incapable of even setting off firecrackers, let alone launching nuclear missiles.
All else is folly.
Which is why, instead of writing another commentary on this latest North Korea vs. The World Kabuki dance, I shall suffice to reprise the one I wrote exactly seven months ago (on April 13, 2012). I think you’ll find it every bit as relevant and instructive today (in every respect) as it was back then.
North Korea Commanding World Attention … Again
When you hear President Obama issuing his cease and desist statement to North Korea about testing its missile this week, just bear this is mind:
The only thing newsworthy about this statement is that it is almost identical to the one he issued last month in response to similar tests this hermit kingdom conducted.
Moreover, Obama could well have been reading from the statements his predecessors, Bush and Clinton, issued in response to the nuclear brinkmanship North Korea played on them throughout their respective presidencies. After all, for decades now, the bilateral relationship between this little country and ‘the world’s sole superpower’ has consisted of this improbable tail-wagging-the-dog phenomenon.
(“North Korea’s Nuclear Test: Wagging the U.S. Dog … Again,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 26, 2009)
I could barely contain my stupefaction at President Obama and world leaders for wasting time at their summit to fix the global financial crisis to warn Kim that playing with nuclear missiles is not the way to win friends and influence people.
After all, the record clearly shows that his pathology is such that dire warnings from perceived enemies only embolden Kim’s unruly behavior. Not to mention that these warnings never amount to anything more than hollow words…
The best way to deal with Kim is to let him test fire his missiles without making it seem like an existential threat to the world. Especially since North Korea has the same sovereign right the United States has to test its missiles … and he’ll do so anyway despite (or to spite) global protestations.
Of course, if he does the unthinkable (i.e. attacks another country or even attempts to sell nuclear weapons to terrorists), then I’m sure Obama will have no difficulty amassing a coalition of the willing, including the Chinese, to take out his little hermit kingdom.
(“North Korea…Calling the World’s Bluff … Again,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 4, 2009)
Obviously, I wrote the above about a North Korea led by the recently deceased Kim Jong-il whose domestic policy amounted to little more than manufacturing conventional weapons to fight a war with South Korea that ended almost 60 years ago, and whose foreign policy amounted to nothing more than building nuclear weapons to extort (from the United States and other countries) everything from oil to run his military industrial complex and food to feed the privileged among his starving people.
But I could have written the same about a North Korea led by the father (Kim II-sung) who preceded him just as easily as I could write the same about a North Korea now being led by the son (Kim Jong-un) who succeeded him.
This is a country whose military recently had to lower the minimum required height for its soldiers to 4 feet, 9 inches because of chronic malnutrition, the Los Angeles Times reports. One-third of North Korean children are believed to be ‘permanently stunted’ because of a lack of food. Additionally, Amnesty International has reported that crippling food shortages have forced malnourished North Koreans to eat grass and tree bark just to survive.
(The Atlantic Wire, April 12, 2012)
Therefore, you might wonder why North Korea is not just spending hundreds of millions to launch this rocket to “monitor weather patterns,” but also forfeiting over 240,000 tons of food aid from the United States to do so. Well, its perverse calculation is that a successful launch will give it a much stronger hand to extort (with threats to attack the South or sell nukes to terrorists) tons more money and food when it returns to the negotiating table for patently disingenuous talks about dismantling its nuclear program. And, past being prologue, it is right.
Meanwhile, it is surreal enough that Cuba has survived for 50 years with an economy stuck in 1962 (the year of the U.S. embargo). It is even more so that North Korea has thrived for 60 with an economy stuck in 1953 (the year the Korean War ended).
This is why, despite all of the worldwide Sturm und Drang now surrounding Baby Kim’s testing of yet another missile, it all smacks of a groundhog-day spectacle not worthy of any further or new comment.
Missile test bombs
The following only affirms my dismissive take on this spectacle:
For the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, who completed the last step in his hurried ascension to power in Pyongyang on Friday, his government’s failure to put a satellite into orbit is a $1 billion humiliation.
Mr. Kim wanted to mark his ascension to top political power — timed with the country’s biggest holiday in decades, the 100th birthday of his grandfather and North Korean founder, Kim Il-sung — with fireworks, real and symbolic. And the launching of its Kwangmyongsong, or ‘Bright Shining Star,’ satellite was the marquee event.
On Friday, the satellite disintegrated in a different kind of fireworks. The rocket carrying it exploded mid-air about one minute after the liftoff, according to American, South Korean and Japanese officials.
(New York Times, April 13, 2012)
This gives a whole new meaning to the term, minute man, eh?
But Baby Kim is only twenty-something and this was his first time. So instead of reveling in his embarrassment, I say we pat him on the head, let him know that every man suffers the premature “explosion” of his missile at this age, and assure him that things will get better.
Otherwise, this little jerk might really go ballistic and launch sure-fire missiles into South Korea in a cataclysmic attempt to prove his manhood.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 5:28 AM
Perennial contender Juan Manuel Márquez of Mexico shocked the world on Saturday when he knocked out Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines in the sixth round at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. And nowhere was this shock felt more profoundly than in Pacquiao’s home country where he’s a bona fide national hero.
Pacquiao, of course, is the eight-division world champion and reputed “best pound-for-pound boxer’ of all time who inspired this exceptional praise from no less a person than Bob Arum:
I will go on record, and I really believe, that Manny Pacquiao is the best fighter that I’ve ever seen. And that includes Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, and Marvin Hagler. I have never ever seen anything like him…
Ray Leonard is a great friend of mine and he was a great fighter, but he doesn’t compare to Manny Pacquiao, in my opinion. Ray had great, great skills, great heart, and he was a tremendous fighter, but he didn’t have the same type of extraordinary skills that Pacquiao has.
(Boxing Scene, November 24, 2009)
Arum, of course, is the E.F. Hutton of Boxing – as revered in this sport as David Stern is in Basketball. Which is why most sports writers took as gospel his dubious assessment of Pacquiao’s skills.
When Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said last November that he considered Manny Pacquiao the best fighter he’d ever seen, it seemed at the time as little more than promoter hyperbole…
After watching Pacquiao decimate opponent after opponent over the last two-plus years, perhaps Arum isn’t as batty as we all thought.
(Kevin Iole, Boxing analyst for Yahoo Sports, November 14, 2010)
I too have seen all of the great champions who Arum dismisses as mere contenders. And I have yet to see any fighter display the combination of power, speed, and style (or poetry in motion) that Muhammad Ali did in his prime…
But I would go further, on the record, in declaring that even Sugar Ray Leonard, himself a junior middleweight champion, should rank above Pacquiao in the pantheon of great fighters. For no fighter in the lighter weight classes has emulated Ali’s remarkable combination of power, speed, and style than Sugar Ray.
More to the point, just as Ali proved his mettle against the best fighters of his day, including bull dogs like Smokin’ Joe Frazier and giants like George Forman, Sugar Ray did the same against Tommy “Hitman” Hearns and Marvin Hagler.
Meanwhile, Pacquiao’s stellar record is distinguished only by beating up former Golden Boy Oscar de la Hoya long after his prime – when he was clearly more interested in parading around in drag (complete with wig, panties, fishnet stockings and pumps) than in suiting up for the gladiatorial sport of boxing…
But nothing demonstrates how unworthy Pacquiao is of Arum’s praise quite like the fact that he has done everything possible to avoid getting into the ring with the man generally regarded as “the best pound-for-pound fighter” in the world today, Floyd Mayweather Jr…
Finally, if none of my arguments convince you that Arum’s contention is bullshit, just bear in mind that he’s Pacquiao’s fight promoter. And, as any promoter knows, hype – no matter how absurd – sells.
(“Pacquiao – the Best Fighter Ever?!” The iPINIONS Journal, November 18, 2010)
This is why I was not at all surprised when Pacquiao looked more like the journeyman fighter everyone thought Márquez was fated to be. Indeed, that Márquez knocked him out vindicates my suspicion that the one draw and two split decisions Pacquiao won in their three previous fights had more to do with judges buying into Arum’s promotional hype than with Pacquiao’s performance in the ring.
This humiliating loss was the second-consecutive one for Pacquiao. More importantly, though, it demonstrated why Pacquiao has ducked every opportunity to fight the undefeated (43-0) Mayweather – who, incidentally, dominated Márquez in their one fight in 2009.
Apropos of which, you can be forgiven for having no clue that there was (and perhaps still is) as great a demand in the Boxing world for a Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight as there ever has been for any fight in history. But there can be no doubt now that Mayweather would put an even bigger ass whopping on Pacquiao than Márquez did on Saturday night.
Frankly, if I were Mayweather, I would not dignify Pacquiao by stepping into the ring with him at this point. In fact, Pacquiao might want to have a heart-to-heart chat with Robert Duran for insight on the ignominious fate that awaits him if he does not retire, immediately.
Meanwhile, does anybody know who the world heavyweight champion is these days? Does anybody care…?
Pacquiao – the best…?
Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 5:18 AM
In a proverbial case of closing the barn door after the horses have fled, most sites have now yanked the audio of the infamous prank call two Australian DJs made last week to the London hospital where a finally pregnant Duchess of Cambridge (nee Kate Middleton) was being treated for acute morning sickness. But here’s the transcript – courtesy of the New York Daily News (December 7, 2012):
MEL GRIEG: Oh hello there, could I please speak to Kate please, my granddaughter?
GREIG: Thank you.
MICHAEL CHRISTIAN: Are they putting us through?
CHRISTIAN: If this has worked, it’s the easiest prank call we’ve ever made. Your accent sucked by the way, I just wanted you to know.
GREIG: I’m not used to playing old 80-year-olds.
[phone picks up]
GREIG: Kate my darling, are you there?
NURSE B: Good morning, ma’am, this is the nurse speaking. How may I help you?
GREIG: Hello, I’m just after my granddaughter Kate. I wanted to see how her little tummy bug is going.
NURSE B: She’s sleeping at the moment. And she had an uneventful night. And sleep is good for her. As we speak, she’s been getting some fluids to rehydrate her. She was quite dehydrated when she came in. But she’s stable at the moment.
GREIG: Okay, ill just feed my little corgies then.
CHRISTIAN: Lovely. But they’re all okay, everything’s alright?
NURSE B: Yes, she’s quite stable at the moment. She hasn’t had any retching with me, since I’ve been on duty. And she’s been sleeping on and off.
NURSE B: And I think it’s difficult sleeping in a strange bed as well.
CHRISTIAN: Yes, of course! It’s hardly the palace, is it?
GREIG: Oh, it’s nothing like the palace, is it, Charles?
Unfortunately, this transcript does not convey the plainly, if not deliberately, unconvincing way these DJs impersonated the Queen and Prince Charles throughout. More importantly, it does not convey the deferential and unassuming way Nurse A took their call.
Tragically, this nurse killed herself on Friday. But who in her right mind could have foreseen this?
To be honest, when I heard the prank call, I thought this nurse was a gullible fool for putting them through. I thought her colleague was doubly so for prattling on about Kate’s condition despite the DJs doing all they could to make clear it was just a prank call. And I have no doubt that their superiors made them feel like fools even though, since Nurse A killed herself, hospital authorities have been going out of their way to give the impression that were nothing but “supportive.”
More to the point, though, media outlets all over the world were airing similar thoughts as they encouraged uproarious laughter at these nurses’ expense. Indeed, before she killed herself, you would’ve been hard-pressed to hear a single media personality say what everyone is conveying now, namely:
This poor nurse, she only did what any royal subject would’ve done.
A sentiment that says a lot about the reflexive genuflection, obsequiousness and self-sacrifice (all too literal in this case) that monarchy fosters. But I digress….
What really bothers me about this tragedy is the way the media are acting as if they condemned the DJs from the outset; whereas, in fact, they compounded Nurse A’s humiliation beyond measure. Now they are covering the backlash against these DJs, which includes being summarily fired by their radio station, with the same facilitating relish with which they covered the pride these DJs took in pulling off their prank call.
But let’s be mindful that everybody had a good laugh; and that nobody could have foreseen that Nurse A would kill herself. It is instructive in this respect that Nurse B, who was pranked to a far greater degree, did not.
‘There’s not a minute that goes by that we don’t think about her family and what they must be going through,’ 2DayFM radio host Mel Greig told Australia’s ‘A Current Affair,’ her voice shaking. ‘We’re gutted… The thought that we may have played a part in that is gut-wrenching.’
(Associated Press, December 10, 2012)
Gutted? Isn’t that what they refer to famously in nearby Japan as hari-kiri? But seriously, should we be worried now that the guilt the entire world is now heaping on these DJs might drive one of them to commit suicide too…?
Anyway, instead of covering this as just another perverse ratings spectacle, the media should empathize with reflective editorials admitting that:
There but for the grace of God go we.
I feel a great deal of sympathy for the family and colleagues of Nurse A for their incomprehensible loss. But I hope I’ll be forgiven for feeling a little sympathy for the DJs as well.
Monday, December 10, 2012 at 5:55 AM
Not allowing gays to marry is an even greater violation of the fundamental civil rights all citizens should enjoy than not allowing Blacks to vote.
(“Same-sex Marriages Now Legal in New York,” June 27, 2011)
It is no exaggeration to lament that I have received more hate mail in response to my commentaries on same-sex marriages than any other topic. Particularly disappointing is that the most hateful mail came from fellow Blacks upbraiding me for presuming common cause between the struggle for our civil rights and the struggle gays are now engaged in for theirs.
This is why I was so encouraged when the Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will finally rule on whether states have the right to ban same-sex marriages or whether homosexuals have the same right to marry as heterosexuals, thereby vindicating my presumption.
Of course legal (and political) pundits will be coming out of the woodwork now to tell you which way the Court will rule. But all you need to know is that the same legal principle that compelled the Court to rule in Loving v. Virginia (1967) that Blacks and Whites have a fundamental right to marry each other will compel it to rule that gays have that (equal) right too.
Not to mention that the Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) that gays have the right under the Fourteenth Amendment to engage in consensual sexual conduct “as part of the liberty protected” by the Constitution. Clearly the right to engage in that conduct “within the bounds of holy matrimony” is the natural, logical, moral, historical, and cultural extension of that liberty.
In other words, the Constitution as well as the Court’s own precedents should compel it to emulate the unanimous ruling in Loving in favor of same-sex marriages. Unfortunately, the political nature of this Court is such that most pundits are predicting it could rule 5-4 either way depending on how the one (purportedly) centrist justice, Anthony Kennedy, casts his vote.
All the same, I predict the ruling will be 7-2 in favor of same-sex marriages. Not least because - after betraying overt political bias to grant George W. Bush the presidency in Bush v. Gore (2000) – at least two of the four conservative justices will be loath to defy legal reasoning again to further a political/religious agenda in this case.
Far less controversial is how the Court will rule on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This Act holds that states that ban same-sex marriages are not obligated to recognize such marriages even if entered into in states where they are legal, which clearly violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution.
I predict the ruling will be 7-2 against it. For clearly, if the Court rules that same-sex marriages are constitutionally protected, all states would be obligated not only to recognize them but also to accord them all of the marital rights, privileges, and benefits traditional marriages enjoy.
Incidentally, this Act is so patently unconstitutional that former President Bill Clinton, who signed it into law (for craven political reasons), has been in the vanguard of those calling for its repeal. More importantly, President Obama has ordered his Solicitor General, the lawyer responsible for defending all federal laws, to not even bother showing up at the Supreme Court to defend this one. Which means that the only people advocating for the Court to uphold the DOMA are Christian Mullahs and their political and legal hired guns.
The Court will hear oral arguments next spring and announce its rulings next summer.
Monday, December 10, 2012 at 5:45 AM
Thank you for all of your get-well wishes. I really appreciate it.
By the way, I always thought colds/flu forced one to lose weight. Yet I somehow managed to gain 22 pounds in 10 days. Go figure….
Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 7:14 AM