Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 5:55 PM
Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 7:26 AM
Friday, September 28, 2012 at 7:56 AM
I have become a veritable Cassandra with my warnings about the folly of America’s involvement in Afghanistan. Instead of wondering why I keep beating this dead horse, however, my only wonder is why more people aren’t doing the same…
Nothing suggests that the war in Afghanistan is being waged in a parallel universe quite like more people protesting the killing of Trayvon Martin than those protesting the killing of thousands of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan … for no good cause.
Hell, even the recent spate of them being killed by the Afghans they’re supposedly training to kill Taliban fighters has done nothing to incite national outrage.
(“Another Sign of America’s Lost Cause in Afghanistan,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 29, 2012)
Well, it’s time for another beating of this dead horse. This one was provoked by a U.S. military report (published yesterday) that finally confirmed what some of us predicted years ago; namely, that the surge of troops into Afghanistan would do nothing but provide more targets for Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters:
The U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan ended last week. Conditions in Afghanistan are mostly worse than before it began…
That conclusion doesn’t come from anti-war advocates. It relies on data recently released by the NATO command in Afghanistan, known as ISAF… According to most of the yardsticks chosen by the military — but not all — the surge in Afghanistan fell short of its stated goal: stopping the Taliban’s momentum…
Meanwhile, the pathway ‘out’ of Afghanistan, training Afghan forces, is imperiled by Afghan troops turning their guns on their U.S. mentors. There is little to no appetite within the country for another U.S. troop surge in what is now the U.S. longest war — and an unpopular one.
And there’s a number missing from ISAF’s latest set of war data. That’s 988 — the number of U.S. troops killed in action in Afghanistan or who died from their combat wounds since Obama announced the troop surge.
(Wired, September 27, 2012)
But this report should come as a surprise to nobody. To demonstrate this, I’ve decided to reprise Obama Escalates Afghan War - the commentary I wrote on December 2, 2009 delineating why I thought Obama’s highly touted troop surge was ill-advised and ill-fated:
The media did quite a Barnum & Bailey job of drumming up suspense, but President Obama’s address tonight on his new military strategy “to bring this war [in Afghanistan] to a successful conclusion” was wholly anticlimactic. Not to mention the pedantry he displayed in restating all of the (now Bushy) reasons why this is a just war, which only served to remind us of all of the reasons why the war he’s still waging in Iraq is an unjust one….
We must deny al-Qaida a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum… And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government.
In any event, his now infamous dithering over this strategy clearly telegraphed his intent to find the most politically palatable way to give his generals the additional forces they requested. And there can be no denying that political concerns figured every bit as prominently in his deliberations as military ones.
In fact I’m sure Obama spent most of the past six months trying to fashion a strategy that would protect his political hide at home while achieving some (objective) measure of success in Afghanistan. Alas, I doubt even King Solomon could fashion such a strategy.
For, on the one hand, he’s clearly trying to pacify his liberal (Democratic) supporters by sending only 30,000 of the 40,000 (or 65,000 according to some reports) troops requested, setting all kinds of political and military benchmarks, and articulating a plausible exit strategy; while on the other, he’s trying to appease his conservative (Republican) critics by showing a hawkish willingness to fight (even choosing to announce this escalation at the Military Academy at West Point) and assuming full responsibility for winning this “good war.”
Meanwhile, because of his predecessor’s misguided, six-year preoccupation with that “bad war” in Iraq, Afghanistan has descended into a political and military quagmire that would take 500,000 troops and decades to stabilize.
Therefore, it makes one wonder what possible reason – other than cynical political pandering – Obama has for not sending at least the 40,000 troops his generals requested…. Moreover, it seems more than a little disingenuous for him to declare that he will begin withdrawing troops in July 2011. After all, even if he does, it could still take years after that date to reduce the number of troops deployed there to today’s level … or lower.
But this was not nearly as disingenuous as his touting NATO participation in this surge. For, having criticized President Bush for making a similar claim, he knows full well that the vast majority of those NATO troops will serve as nothing more than political window dressing. Hell, the Italians have become a laughing stock for their jingoistic refusal to even leave their cloistered and heavily fortified base; similar “combat caveats” limit German participation to “gardening”; and the French, well, plus ca change… .
These are just some of the reasons why his proverbial splitting of the baby will end up pleasing neither his supporters – who will accuse him of just aping the war-mongering policies of George W. Bush; nor his critics – who will (eventually) accuse him of playing politics and undermining the war effort by shortchanging his generals. Even worse, I fear it will amount to nothing more than the kind of march of folly in Vietnam that doomed the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.
I appreciate of course that Obama is merely fulfilling his campaign promise to fight and win this war. But the changed circumstances on the ground today – viz the political mess that would compromise even a perfect military strategy – makes his decision to follow through almost as foolhardy as Bush’s decision to follow through with his invasion of Iraq even after it was clear that there were no WMDs there.
No doubt you’ll be inundated with the belated insights of Johnny-come-lately commentators and weather-vane politicians criticizing Obama for escalating this war. By contrast, here are a few excerpts from previous commentaries establishing my informed and principled criticisms dating back to 2005:
These wars have converted multitudes of peaceful Muslims into Jihadists who welcome the opportunity to sacrifice their lives in bin Laden’s holy war. Moreover, these Jihadists have demonstrated that they are as committed to (and capable of) killing Americans (in Iraq and Afghanistan) as President Bush is committed to (and capable of) “routing them out … one by one.” And it doesn’t take a genius in military war strategy to figure out who will win this war [especially on their turf].
[Please spare us the al-Qaeda obituaries, TIJ, December 2005]
Not so long ago, some of us considered the war in Afghanistan as much an unqualified success as we deemed the war in Iraq an unmitigated failure. But a new crop of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are beginning to surpass die-hard insurgents in Iraq in their ability to undermine US efforts to “stand up” a democratic Afghan government…
Alas, victory in Afghanistan may prove another casualty of the war in Iraq.
[Meanwhile over in Afghanistan: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, September 18, 2006]
Nothing is more responsible for the bedeviling success of the insurgents in Iraq (and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan) than Bush’s refusal to deploy enough soldiers to win these wars. And this despite pleadings by his most respected military advisers, including his Secretary of State Gen Colin Powell and Army Chief of Staff Gen Eric Shinseki, for Bush to deploy 4 to 5 times the number of troops he finally ordered into battle.
[Support the Draft to prevent stupid wars, TIJ, March 17, 2007]
The irony is not lost on me that McCrystal’s grim assessment makes it woefully clear that nation building in Afghanistan (even under the guise of a “counterinsurgency strategy”) is no longer advisable or feasible. Indeed, all indications are that the die has been cast for this “good war.”
Accordingly, the US legacy there will be distinguished either by a terminally wounded national pride as American forces beat a hasty retreat in defeat (following the Russian precedent in Afghanistan), or by tens of thousands of American soldiers being lost in Afghanistan’s “graveyard of empires” as they continue fighting this unwinnable war (following America’s own precedent in Vietnam) … [And more troops only mean more sitting ducks for Taliban fighters.]
Not to mention the prevailing fallacy that America must wage war in Afghanistan because it (still) constitutes the central front in the war against al Qaeda. After all, for the past six years the Bush administration prosecuted the war in Iraq as if it was the central front in this war.
Moreover, there’s no denying that the last vestiges of al Qaeda are now so splintered that they are just as likely to be found in Pakistan, Somalia or, indeed, in the United States, which makes the strategy for taking them on in Afghanistan patently misguided.
Therefore, Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and run ASAP; to let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and to rely on Special Forces and aerial drones to “disrupt and dismantle” Taliban and al Qaeda operations there.
[‘Without (or even with) more forces, failure in Afghanistan is likely', TIJ, September 23, 2009]
[E]veryone from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Sen Kerry himself has insisted that Obama will not send over any more troops until the Afghan government gets rid of corruption.
And since the corruption UN officials uncovered at the presidential level is in fact endemic throughout the entire government, nobody believes there will be any change in this respect even if the next president could channel honest Abe Lincoln.
Accordingly, I urge Obama to stop his Hamletian dithering on this issue. In particular, he should ignore the (conservative) chicken hawks who are egging him on to surge troops in Afghanistan to follow the precedent President Bush set in Iraq.
Because the only instructive precedent here is the one President Johnson set in Vietnam, which should warn Obama not to allow a military quagmire to doom his presidency the way a similar quagmire doomed Johnson’s.
[Karzai submits to runoff election, TIJ, October 21, 2009]
Unfortunately, this means that troops are bound to be returning home in body bags throughout his entire presidency. Because, frankly, given the military quagmire Afghanistan has become, sending 20 (or even 40) thousand additional troops amounts to the proverbial tossing of a 50-foot life line to a man drowning 100 feet away
[Picture of Obama saluting war dead the defining image of his presidency? TIJ, October 30, 2009]
Well, to be fair, in rejecting the Vietnam precedent, Obama cited UN support for this war, lack of general support in Afghanistan for the insurgents and the fact that the 9/11 attacks were launched from there.
But he conspicuously failed to counter the three salient points on which this precedent is based, namely: that the military is caught in a quagmire (fighting Afghans who are essentially engaged in their own feudal/territorial wars, not al Qaeda’s holy war); that American soldiers are dying in a misguided search for al-Qaeda fighters who everyone knows are no longer there; and that the US is trying to prop up an Afghan government that shows no signs of developing into anything worth fighting for.
I should also note that the president said, in effect, that he will be able to stamp “mission accomplished” on Afghanistan before he leaves the White House … in seven years.
But I suspect he’s predicating this on a little too much HOPE: first, that this ill-fated escalation won’t doom his run for reelection; and second, that conditions will be better in Afghanistan then than they were in Iraq when Bush declared “mission accomplished” there, woefully prematurely, six and a half years ago.
Never mind the folly of announcing that he’ll begin bringing troops home in 18 months and have them all out in seven years to make sure the Afghan government gets the message that he’s “not giving them a blank check.” After all, this not only encourages the Taliban to simply lie in wait, it also defies the common sense of conveying this message privately.
Meanwhile, I do not see how Obama can possibly justify the loss of life and waste of money that will occur over this period just for him to end up doing in seven years what President Nixon did way too belatedly in Vietnam: i.e., declaring victory and going home….
* This commentary was published originally last night at 9:19
Spare us the serial al-Qaeda obits…
Afghanistan: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
Support the Draft to prevent stupid wars
Picture of Obama saluting war dead…
Without (or even with) more forces…
Karzai submits to runoff election
Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 9:17 AM
My advice to the regular refs is to swallow your pride and settle (ASAP!) before you are not only permanently replaced but completely forgotten.
(“NFL: Replacement Refs … and the Call,” The iPINIONS Journal, 2012)
In the above-quoted commentary I presented a clearly rational case for the NFL to stick with the replacement refs by pointing out, inter alia, that much of the criticism of them was being fueled by mob passion masquerading as fan outrage.
But, evidently, I did not fully appreciate the impact a mutinous mob (even in the Twitterverse) could have on rigid businessmen (as opposed to the impact mobs routinely have on spineless politicians).
Because only mob rule explains the irrational way the NFL folded like a cheap suit yesterday and gave the regular refs practically everything they were demanding – most notably in terms of pension benefits and pay rises.
Indeed, you know insane fans are ruling the league when no less an authority than legendary sportscaster Warner Wolf proclaims that the only reason the commissioner and owners caved in is that they feared Cheeseheads in Green Bay would inflict bodily harm on replacement refs if they showed up to call their home game on Sunday. It is telling, if not troubling, that Wolf proclaimed this repeatedly – without any hint of dismay or disgust – on this morning’s edition of the IMUS in the Morning program on Fox News.
But, frankly, I don’t see how this outcome is any different from newspaper editors caving in (by not publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad) because they fear Islamic fanatics might do bodily harm to their cartoonists.
In any case, the NFL has been so spooked by what the commissioner described, disingenuously, as fan passion that regular refs will be returning to call tonight’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns.
But mark my words, before the last game ends on Sunday, these same passionate fans will be complaining about the bad calls their now saintly regular refs made….
Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 12:27 PM
When NFL owners locked out regular (unionized) referees this summer over pay, pension, and other contract issues, they surely did not anticipate that the talk of the league at this point in the season would be more about bad calls than good plays.
This talk came into stark relief on Monday night after a bad call by replacement referees on the very last play of the game handed a win to the Seattle Seahawks over the (heavily favored) Green Bay Packers 14-12.
I should insert here that I did not watch this game; not least because, with all due respect especially to the Cheeseheads of Green Bay, I did not think it would be all that interesting. And, by all accounts, it wasn’t … until this last play.
But given that everyone from taxi drivers to the president of the United States is talking about this call, and that replays of this fateful play are now competing with campaign ads on TV, it would be remiss of me not to add my two-cents worth:
In short, the Seahawks were losing 7-12 with only eight seconds left on the clock when they went for the proverbial Hail Mary, which almost never works. Well, it worked … thanks to the confluence of a botched and a missed call on this one play.
Most critics insist that what the refs called a touchdown for the Seahawks was in fact an interception for the Packers that should have sealed their victory. I agree; this was the botched call, which was actually made manifest by one ref signaling touchdown and another touchback/interception simultaneously.
But it was their missed call that I found most interesting. Because it was clear that the Seahawks receiver literally shoved a Packers defender to the ground just to get his hand on the ball to force what appeared to be, but really was not, his joint reception with another Packers defender. The Seattle receiver should have been penalized for offensive pass interference. This would have rendered moot the ensuing controversy over whether there was a reception or a touchback/interception, and the Packers would have held on to win.
That said, much of the criticism of these replacement refs smacks of collective, hysterical amnesia. And, shamefully, it’s being stoked – not just by players trying to get away with intentional infractions on the field, but also by coaches trying to bully these refs from the sidelines.
Meanwhile, to listen to the critics you’d think the regular refs never botched or missed a call. Whereas, the irony is that we now have instant replay in Football precisely because regular refs were making many of the same mistakes replacements refs are now being pilloried for making.
Not to mention the glaring pass Cheeseheads are giving their Packers; after all, if they hadn’t played so poorly they would not have ended up at the mercy of this Hail Mary. Which is why it seems more like blame shifting than legitimate criticism for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to insinuate that, by using the replacement refs, the NFL is showing that it cares more about money than the integrity of the game.
But, apropos of this, I don’t blame the commissioner and owners for ignoring the Twittering mobs braying for them to throw the replacement refs under the bus. In point of fact, I suspect the commissioner and owners are savvy enough to appreciate that having sports fans rail against NFL games the way reality-TV fans rail against Here Comes Honey Boo Bo will only result in them laughing all the way to the bank: ka-ching, ka-ching.
No doubt, despite their carping, regular fans will continue to tune in; but now non-fans will do so too just to see what all the fuss and farce is all about. This ratings boon is why unionized refs are sadly misguided if they are banking on universal outrage among fans over bad calls forcing the owners to cave in to their demands.
What’s more, these replacement refs will get better with each game, and I predict that by mid-season these same fans will be as wistful for unionized refs as travelers are for the striking air-traffic controllers President Reagan famously replaced in the early 1980s.
Accordingly, my advice to the regular refs is to swallow your pride and settle (ASAP!) before you are not only permanently replaced but completely forgotten.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 7:43 AM
The BBC was forced to issue a public apology to Queen Elizabeth II yesterday after one of its journalists blithely recounted a private conversation she had with him a few years ago about an alleged terrorist who was living openly and notoriously in London.
The conversation should have remained private and the BBC and Frank deeply regret this breach of confidence. It was wholly inappropriate. Frank is extremely sorry for the embarrassment caused and has apologised to the Palace.
The terrorist in question is Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri who is wanted in the United States for masterminding, inciting, and/or facilitating various acts of terrorism. However, like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, al-Masri had been fighting extradition for the past eight years – complete with appeals right up to the European Court of Human Rights, which finally ruled just yesterday that British authorities could extradite him without further ado.
This ruling is what prompted BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner to recount on a radio program how Her Majesty expressed royal outrage that al-Masri was still free to proselytize his jihadist form of Islam on the streets of London.
No doubt in this age of WikiLeaks, Facebook, Twitter … and telephoto lenses nothing seems confidential or private anymore. More to the point, I would be the first to dismiss – as fairytale nonsense – much of the genuflection that passes for royal protocol.
But everyone in the UK knows that part of what makes the Queen so revered and respected is the constitutional fiction that she is above politics. It is no accident, for example, that she never gives interviews or holds press conferences.
This is why it was so inconceivable that anyone in public life, especially a journalist, would dare recount anything she said in private – especially of such a political nature. For this clearly undermines the ceremonial role on which the monarchy is based.
I would understand if Gardner were a republican who has no regard for the Queen and even less for royal protocol. But by all accounts he is an unabashed monarchist, which makes this breach all the more incomprehensible.
After all, Gardner recounting what the Queen said in private constitutes an even greater betrayal of long-established royal convention than that paparazzo taking pictures of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 7:44 AM
The annual UN General Assembly amounted to little more than a queue of world leaders delivering canned speeches. And even though none of them said anything of any consequence (Do they ever?), it would be remiss of me not to comment.
(“World Leaders Blow Hot Air…,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 26, 2007)
As this quote indicates, I have little regard for the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly; and even less for the speeches of the 193 heads of state, which begin today for this 67th session. The reason is that listening to world leaders address this assembly is rather like listening to U.S. presidential candidates address their 1,000th campaign rally. They never have anything new or meaningful to say.
For starters, the featured speakers this year will be the same ones who have dominated coverage of this event in recent years, namely, the leaders of Iran, Israel, and the United States. And each of them will say the very same things they’ve been saying for years:
Ahmadinejad of Iran will present his familiar threats about wiping Israel off the map; Netanyahu of Israel will present his familiar Chicken-Little warnings about Iran being just months away from acquiring the nukes to do so; and Obama of the United States will present his familiar admonitions to Iran about going nuclear and assurances to Israel about having its back. To be fair, there will also be a fair amount of pontificating by these and other leaders on such perennial topics as Palestinian statehood, poverty alleviation, and climate change.
Of course, as leader of the free world, Obama will also pay lip service to the historic transformation erupting in the Muslim world, and he will entreat Russia and China, plainly to no avail, to get on the right side of history in this respect. This is why Morsi of Egypt will get the residual attention usually reserved for rogue leaders like Chávez of Venezuela.
That’s it. In fact, I’d be surprised if the media even bothers to mention anything the leaders of “old Europe” (like Hollande of France) have to say, let alone what those from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean have to say.
So when all is said and done, what transpires at this General Assembly will be no more memorable than what transpired at any gathering in recent years. And I would wager a fortune if anyone could cite anything of any substance that contradicts this assessment.
But let me hasten to clarify that, unlike Republicans who want to get rid of the UN, I think it serves a very quelling purpose by providing an international forum for sworn enemies, like Iran and Israel, to vent their hatred by hurling words instead of bombs at each other:
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
Celebrities from the world of politics, finance, and entertainment gathered in New York City to pledge financial commitments to the Clinton Global Initiative, the charitable foundation of former U.S. President Bill Clinton – that unrepentant political rogue who has assumed the role of Mother Teresa’s male counterpart (Father Bill?) rather persuasively…
Clinton did not seem the least bit conflicted by the fact that his celebrity fundraiser, which he schedules to coincide with the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, made the United Nations seem even more irrelevant than his Republican critics claim it already is. Indeed, it is instructive to juxtapose Secretary General Kofi Annan commiserating with delegates about the unprecedented lack of interest shown these days in supporting UN operations with Clinton boasting to hordes of international reporters about the unprecedented amount of interest shown in supporting his foundation, which collected $8 billion in new pledges at this one-week gathering.
(“Friends of Bill…,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 30, 2006)
Incidentally, rumor had it that Clinton harbored ambitions of becoming secretary general of the UN as a follow-up to his presidency. But there seems little doubt that he’s wielding far more power and influence on the world stage as head of his own global foundation. In point of fact, there is far more media hype surrounding the speeches attendees, including Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, will be delivering at Clinton’s fundraiser than the speeches world leaders will be delivering at the UN this week.
That said, Obama is being roundly criticized for eschewing meetings with world leaders to appear with the catty women of The View. His only reason for doing so is to avoid any gaffe or awkwardness that Romney would surely exploit for partisan gain.
But, frankly, this is taking presidential campaigning to a conceited, cynical, and craven low. Yet, my disappointment in Obama is surpassed by my contempt for Republicans who are criticizing him for not holding meetings at a UN General Assembly that most of them are on record decrying as a complete waste of time in the first place.
Monday, September 24, 2012 at 8:58 AM
I am not a big fan of Football. In fact, I’m probably the only person who spends far more time reading about college and professional games on Monday than he spends watching them on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
That said, as I channel surfed through college games on Saturday, I was struck by how many Blacks were playing quarterback. Struck only because I grew up listening to eugenics propaganda about Blacks not being smart enough to play this position. (You can still hear residual nonsense in this respect when commentators use code phrases like “he has raw talent” or “he’s just naturally gifted” – both of which overlook that he may have been smart enough to actually learn some of his skills.)
Thankfully, this propaganda has been so thoroughly debunked that no less a paper than the Wall Street Journal was moved to publish this scorecard recently:
In the six major conferences — the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10 and Southeastern — six black quarterbacks were named first or second-team all-conference. That’s half of the spots. (A seventh, Michigan’s Denard Robinson, was named Big Ten offensive player of the year.) This occurred even though Black quarterbacks held less than a third of the 65 starting quarterback positions.
This isn’t a one-year, one-off occurrence, either. A study of the winning percentages of black quarterbacks at 40 major-conference schools since 1970 found them to cumulatively be 31 points higher than other quarterbacks at the same schools. With the exception of former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, the most dominant offensive players of the past two decades have arguably all been black quarterbacks: Florida State’s Charlie Ward, Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick, Texas’s Vince Young and Mr. Newton.
(December 30, 2010)
With a record like that, people who question the ability of Blacks to play quarterback today are clearly no different from Whites who questioned the ability of Blacks to fly airplanes 75 years ago.
I am mindful, though, that some “informed” sports commentators suggest that this record has more to do with affirmative action than playing ability. Specifically, that political correctness has forced NCAA coaches to restructure their offense to rely more on running than passing.
Except that, whereas all commentators agree that Black quarterbacks invariably offer coaches more options, only congenitally racist ones still presume that Whites are invariably better at passing. After all, this is rather like presuming Whites were better home-run hitters until Baseball was integrated.
Anyway, the point is that the undisputed success Blacks are having as quarterbacks in the NCAA makes one wonder why they are not having similar success in the NFL.
No doubt foremost is that, with only 32 teams (compared to 120 in NCAA Division 1-FSB alone), the opportunity to play Black quarterbacks is considerably less. This explains the phenomenon of many Blacks who excel as quarterbacks in the NCAA being drafted to play a different position in the NFL. Hell, Charlie Ward, who won the 1993 Heisman Trophy, offered so many options that the New York Knicks drafted him in the first round to play in the NBA.
As things stand, Blacks comprise only 4 of the 32 (starting) quarterbacks in the NFL. But I have no doubt that it’s only a matter of time before they predominate. And this will be because more and more coaches come to appreciate the options quarterbacks who can run and pass give their teams for winning games; not because those coaches are furthering some unspoken affirmative-action policy.
To be fair though, more than anything else, the number of Blacks currently playing this position in the NFL probably has to do with Doug Williams being the only Black to quarterback his team, the Washington Redskins, to a Super Bowl victory (in 1998).
In other words, as exciting and versatile as Black (pass-and-run) quarterbacks like Michael Vick, Cam Newton, and Robert Griffin III undoubtedly are, if they don’t lead their teams to Super Bowl victories, White (more pass-than-run) quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, and Ben Roethlisberger will be the standard for the NFL. And there’s nothing racist about that.
Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 6:30 AM
Who is the fakest of them all?
Print models who get airbrushed to look more mannequin than human? Or ordinary women who paint themselves to look like print models?
And the winner is … a tie:
I will assert here that the deception inherent in airbrushing images is only a more high-tech form of the deception inherent in plastering one’s face with makeup. And nothing demonstrates this quite like magazine issues featuring celebrities ‘caught’ without their masks, um, er, makeup:
For what it’s worth, I would be irretrievably turned off if the difference between the way a woman looks the first time we go to bed and the way she looks after washing her face the next morning were like night and day.
And don’t get me started on deceptive features like hair extensions and boob implants…. Yikes!
(“Airbrushed Models Banned in UK. Hallelujah!” The iPINIONS Journal, July 29, 2011)
Case in point, I give you “supermodel” Tyra Banks … looking like night and day:
Friday, September 21, 2012 at 5:25 AM
The debate over whether serving time in prison should be more about punishment than rehabilitation has been going on forever. Therefore, I shall suffice to share that I side with advocates who believe that our common humanity and enlightened interest (should) compel us to do all we can to rehabilitate all prisoners – even those sentenced, inhumanely, to death.
More than 30 low risk prisoners from Cardiff and Prescoed jails work at The Clink Cymru, a 96-cover restaurant next to Cardiff prison.
Set up by The Clink charity and the prison service, it is aimed at reducing reoffending rates by helping low-risk prisoners develop employable skills.
The charity said the project was “a positive influence” on rehabilitation.
The inmates, all Category D, work full-time in the restaurant and its kitchen, before returning to their prisons at the end of the day.
In doing so they are training towards gaining City and Guilds NVQ qualifications and, on their release, the charity will help them find employment within the Welsh catering and hospitality industry.
Frankly, I find it utterly incomprehensible that anybody in his right mind could oppose this program. The benefits – in terms of prison violence and recidivism – seem so obvious. In fact, I think every prison service in the civilized world should establish similar linkages to provide full-time work for all inmates – even if that means working on chain gangs picking up trash.
All the same, it smacks too much of Chinese-style labor camps to pay inmates a prison wage of (only) around $19 a week instead of a minimum wage of around $40 a day. After all, to fully appreciate the dignity and value of work, one should be paid a fair wage. I would recommend one-third be earmarked for a victim’s compensation fund, one–third for his/her room and board, and one-third for a savings account in that inmate’s name.
Call me crazy … maybe.
Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 5:21 AM
Claims about Jesus being married are becoming as farcical as claims about Obama being foreign.
Granted, this latest claim has more of a patina of credibility because it stems from research conducted by Harvard Divinity School Professor Karen L. King. Except that when one reads beyond the sensational headlines, Professor King’s findings about Jesus being married become about as persuasive as Donald Trump’s findings about Obama being foreign.
In any event, this latest, greatest story being sold is based entirely on King’s interpretation of some scribbling in Coptic on a shred of centuries-old papyrus (the size of a credit card), which allegedly reads, in material part, as follows:
Jesus said to them, ‘My wife … she will be able to be my disciple.’
That’s it. Eureka?! Hallelujah?!
To be fair to the professor, most media reports are deliberating distorting her findings to provoke interest. For here is how she summarizes the true, but less sensational, nature of what she found:
This fragment, this new piece of papyrus evidence, does not prove that (Jesus) was married, nor does it prove that he was not married. The earliest reliable historical tradition is completely silent on that. So we’re in the same position we were before it was found. We don’t know if he was married or not…
What I’m really quick to say is to cut off people who would say this is proof that Jesus was married because historically speaking, it’s much too late to constitute historical evidence. I’m not saying he was, I’m not saying he wasn’t. I’m saying this doesn’t help us with that question.
(CNN, September 19, 2012)
But, even with all of her qualifications, her findings are inherently flawed because neither she nor anybody else even knows the origins of this piece of papyrus. Not to mention that it is dated centuries after the New Testament was allegedly written – with its four gospels purporting to account for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ containing nary a mention of a wife.
For surely, given all of the variations/discrepancies in the gospels, you’d think at least one of the authors (namely, Mathew, Mark, Luke, or John) would’ve included this rather seminal fact about Jesus … if he were married, no? Never mind that there have been more scholarly tomes written about Mary Magdalene, the woman to whom he was allegedly married, as a favorite disciple or a repentant whore than as his wife.
It is possible, however, that he was portrayed as celibate in the gospels to comport with prevailing efforts to marginalize the role of women in the church – efforts that have persisted ever since. But, if so, such an Original Lie (by omission) would clearly make a mockery of everything else that purports to be the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Not that any of this means anything; after all, faith, by definition, is the willing suspension of belief in the existence of things that are clear to see. And nothing demonstrates this quite like enduring faith in Catholicism despite clear and convincing evidence that, far from being celibate as professed, many Catholic priests are just closeted homosexuals or predatory pedophiles in religious garb.
So even if Professor King could somehow prove beyond all reasonable doubt that Jesus was married, it would hardly matter to devout Christians, for whom belief in the story of Jesus as a celibate holy man is, well, an article of faith.
But, as I alluded to above, specious claims about Jesus being married are nothing new. Here, for example, is how I commented, in part, on the findings of dilettante explorer and movie director James Cameron in this respect over five years ago:
Cameron regaled the assembled press corps – as only a movie director could – by telling them about the ‘huge’ findings his team of forensic scientists (think CSI) made after examining anew several caskets (in which dry bones were kept, not ones in which bodies were buried) that were discovered in a cave just outside Jerusalem 27 years ago. He then proclaimed that these caskets are etched with letters that his team has determined, scientifically, spell the names of ‘Jesus son of Joseph, Judah son of Jesus, Maria, Mariamne [his wife] (thought to be Mary Magdalene’s real name), Joseph and Matthew…’
Never mind that Cameron has no way of authenticating these findings unless he takes a titanic leap of faith by relying on samples from the fabled Shroud of Turin, which is purported to be the cloth that covered Jesus when he was placed in his tomb. Or, better still, samples from one of the many alleged descendants of Christ – like The Expected One, Kathleen McGowan - who Da Vinci author Dan Brown spawned after he popularized the myth of a very consummated marriage between the Son of God and Mary Magdalene…
(“Tomb of Jesus Found … or Is this the Work of the Devil,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 27, 2007)
Tomb of Jesus…
Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 5:32 AM
Yet another Afghan police betrayed his U.S. trainers on Sunday by opening fire on them, killing four. This brought to 51 the number of NATO soldiers killed in these so-called “green-on-blue” attacks so far this year.
Ominously, this happened just days after Afghan authorities ejected some 700 members of the Afghan security forces for suspected ties to the Taliban and/or al-Qaeda. Which means it’s very likely that many more of these green-on-blue assassins remain active.
The generals have decided that the best way to limit these attacks is to increase the ratio of U.S. trainers to Afghan trainees. Except that this only gives the would-be assassin more targets to shoot at … no?
More to the point, there seemed to be genuine national outrage when news broke about this latest attack. Unfortunately, all it took was another political gaffe less than 24 hours later for that outrage to vaporize. (FYI: This gaffe du jour was Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney getting caught on tape dismissing 47% of the electorate as lazy moochers who would never vote for him because they are slavishly dependent on Obama’s government handouts.)
Anyway, this fleeting sense of outrage about the continuing waste of American lives in Afghanistan explains why:
I have become a veritable Cassandra with my warnings about the folly of America’s involvement in Afghanistan. Instead of wondering why I keep beating this dead horse, however, my only wonder is why more people aren’t doing the same…
Nothing suggests that the war in Afghanistan is being waged in a parallel universe quite like more people protesting the killing of Trayvon Martin than those protesting the killing of thousands of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan … for no good cause.
Hell, even the recent spate of them being killed by the Afghans they’re supposedly training to kill Taliban fighters has done nothing to incite national outrage.
(“Another Sign of America’s Lost Cause in Afghanistan,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 29, 2012)
Juxtaposed to the war in Vietnam (where over 58,000 U.S. soldiers died), the one in Korea (where over 36,000 died) became “the forgotten war.” In a similar vein, juxtaposed to the war in Iraq (where almost 5,000 died), the one in Afghanistan (where almost 2,000 have died) is becoming another forgotten war. Nothing indicates this quite like Romney failing to even mention this war during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention a few weeks ago.
All the same, Obama is risking this doomed war becoming the defining event of his presidency the way the Vietnam War became the defining event of LBJ’s:
Just as it was in Vietnam, the presence of U.S. troops is only delaying the day of reckoning when local factions will fight it out among themselves for control of their own country. So the sooner the U.S. gets out of the way the better. Not to mention the lives and money an immediate withdrawal would save.
In any case, the war in Afghanistan today is more about Obama’s Faustian ambition (he doesn’t want to be the president who loses this unwinnable war) than about U.S. national security…
The blood of every troop who has died (and will die) because he decided to escalate this war instead of ending it in 2009 is on his hands. No doubt this explains the lines now creasing his face and grey hairs now sprouting up all over his head.
(“Obama’s Withdrawal Plan … a Tragic Joke,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 22, 2011)
The United States’ legacy there will be distinguished either by a terminally wounded national pride as American forces beat a hasty retreat in defeat (following the Russian precedent in Afghanistan), or by thousands of American soldiers being lost in Afghanistan’s ‘graveyard of empires’ as they continue fighting this unwinnable war (following America’s own precedent in Vietnam). And more troops only mean more sitting ducks for Taliban fighters…
Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and run ASAP; to let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and to rely on Special Forces and aerial drones to ‘disrupt and dismantle’ Taliban and al-Qaeda operations there.
(“‘Without (or even with) more forces, failure in Afghanistan is likely,’” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2009)
Frankly, one could be forgiven the impression that, just like LBJ, Obama is being misguided in his disregard for U.S. soldiers dying there by generals who regard the death of up 33% of their men in any war as “acceptable loss.” This means that they won’t even begin to lose sleep, let alone call for America to “cut and run,” until U.S. casualties reach around 30,000 in Afghanistan. (It might also explain why war hawks like Senator John McCain and chicken hawks like Romney seem quite prepared to have U.S. soldiers deployed like sitting ducks there “for 100 years if necessary.”)
Meanwhile, in addition to the untenable spectre of their Afghan partners shooting them in the back (of the head), U.S. soldiers must now fear Afghan women dressed in traditional garb blowing them to smithereens. This, after a seemingly non-threatening woman became the country’s first suicide bomber yesterday by ramming a car rigged with explosives into a bus carrying foreign contractors, killing 12.
All of which warrants every American asking Obama this prophetic question, which Senator John Kennedy (D-MA) asked about the war in Vietnam when he was just a 27-year-old Navy veteran testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 23, 1971:
How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 5:16 AM
Many Catholics suspect that a cabal of homosexuals in the Vatican continues to indulge and cover up the serial sexual abuse of little boys by gay priests, including pedophiles.
(“Pope Comes to America,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 16, 2008)
I am amazed that so many people seem “shocked, shocked” by a report that the Boy Scouts of America has been as fertile a plucking ground for pedophiles as the Catholic Church.
The Boy Scouts of America could face a wave of bad publicity as decades of records of confirmed or alleged child molesters within the U.S. organization are expected to be released in coming weeks.
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported the organization failed to report allegations of sex abuse of scouts by adult leaders and volunteers to police in hundreds of cases from 1970 to 1991. In some cases, the Boy Scouts helped the accused ‘cover their tracks,’ the paper said.
(Reuters, September 17, 2012)
Frankly, the only thing I find shocking is that this outing of the relatively open Boy Scouts comes years after the outing of the relatively closeted Catholic Church. After all, you’d think the opposite would’ve been the case – given that the very mission of the Scouts is premised on all manner of man-boy “bonding.”
Of course, there is the irony of this report coming on the heels of the patently hypocritical (or pathetically self-loathing) decision of the Boy Scouts in July to ban gays from joining. Which is rather like gay Republicans supporting a ban on gay marriages, no?
But if there is a God, legal actions will result in these perpetrators, as well as the cabal in the Scouts that indulged and covered up their serial sex abuse, not only losing their last dime but also rotting in jail (and then joining pedophile priests to burn in hell).
In the meantime, any father who wants his son to hangout in the woods learning survival skills should take the time to be that boy’s scoutmaster himself. After all, it’s far better to have the man-boy bonding the Scouts promotes develop between father and son.
Monday, September 17, 2012 at 6:56 AM
No doubt it is reprehensible that even a gossip rag would publish pictures of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless at a private residence in the South of France. Alas, reports are that even more salacious photos of her lounging (semi) au natural with hubby Prince William are forthcoming.
Incidentally, royal watchers were opining just days ago that videos of Kate toasting with water instead of wine were the surest sign yet that she is pregnant. Well, if pictures of her anorexic tummy do not, those of her puffing away on a cigarette should disabuse them of their expectations in this respect. But who knew Kate was a smoker … yuck!
Anyway, my disgust over these pictures has nothing to do with who she is. For, unlike so many others venting royal indignation, I would feel the same way if Angelina Jolie or Julia Roberts were the victim of such a prurient and mercenary invasion of privacy.
Granted, part of the bargain of being a celebrity these days (or even a more socially redeeming public figure) is having to suffer intrusions into one’s private space that some of us would find tantamount to an assault. Never mind that, as a society, we facilitate this Faustian bargain by eating up celebrity gossip as if it had replaced bread as the staff of life.
But many celebrities (real and faux) actually invite these intrusions with their constant social networking and public confessionals. I hear, for example, that sassy, brassy Paris Jackson blithely volunteered to Glamour last week that she no longer wants to be known as Michael Jackson’s daughter; thereby inviting speculation that she has decided to search for her real (biological) daddy. But I digress….
In fact, what I find most noteworthy about this scandal is that it shows just how little impact the death of Princess Diana has had on the swarming menace to society the paparazzi have become. Remember how much public handwringing and soul searching that tragedy evoked?
Which is why, instead of another orgy of public outrage, I wish governments around the world would enact laws making it a serious crime to take a picture of any person in a place where that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. And it does not matter if that person is fully nude or fully clothed. It follows, of course, that it should be an even more serious crime to publish such a picture.
I stress the word “serious” because I gather that this is already a crime in France. But reports are that it is punishable only by a fine of a few thousand euro, which is a patent joke. After all, the paparazzo who shot the titillating pictures of Kate probably spends more than that on one day’s supply of digital storage cards. This means that a simple cost-benefit analysis will compel shooting (and publishing) every time.
No, this kind of commercial exploitation of one’s privacy is clearly a form of rape and warrants commensurate punishment. This means serious jail time and fines that would surely bankrupt any paparazzo foolish enough to even shoot such a picture in the first place.
What’s more, governments should enact laws broad enough to make it prohibitive for the paparazzi to swarm public spaces – from sidewalks outside restaurants to arrival areas inside airports – to shoot the one-thousandth photo of the celebrity du jour.
That said, I couldn’t be less interested in the Royal family’s Sisyphean efforts (namely, filing lawsuits) to prevent every Tom, Dick, and Harry (and Sally) from being able to ogle Kate’s tits at the click of a mouse (or the tap of a finger as the case might be) … in perpetuity. I understand those efforts, though; after all, she is the future queen of England.
I will only add that I do not think the Queen will be in the least bit disappointed in Kate for sunbathing topless. Especially since she and William were at what they were royally assured was the very secluded and paparazzi-free private home of the Queen’s own nephew, Viscount Linley.
Rather, I think she duly appreciates that there but for advancements in the telephoto lens go I. Her Majesty might even think wistfully that she wishes she looked that good when she was 30.
* This commentary was published originally yesterday, Sunday, at 7:06 am
Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 6:51 AM
Well, at least they’re consistent….
Offended Muslims attack U.S. embassies
Friday, September 14, 2012 at 5:21 AM
No network has been criticized more for its coverage of any event than NBC has been for its coverage of the London Olympics. The criticism has everything to do with NBC’s decision to broadcast premier events on tape delay.
What critics fail to appreciate, however, is that NBC paid handsomely for the exclusive rights to broadcast the Olympics as a business undertaking, not as a public service. And in this context, the time difference between the United States and London left the network no choice.
After all, had NBC carried them live, the premier events would have been broadcast in the United States during working hours, guaranteeing relatively low ratings in a business where the higher the ratings, the greater the profits.
On the other hand, NBC clearly calculated that, even if viewers already knew the results (e.g., of a race featuring Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps), they would still want to see how that race unfolded. And, given that its tape-delayed broadcasts garnered the highest ratings for any Olympics in history, nobody can gainsay the soundness of NBC’s business decision.
Which brings me to its coverage (or lack thereof) of the London Paralympics that ended on Sunday.
I have no idea how much NBC paid for the exclusive rights to broadcast these Games. But it’s an indication of the level of interest it banked on that NBC contracted to provide only 6 hours of coverage for the Paralympics, which is virtually nothing compared to the 3,500 hours of coverage it contracted to provide for the Olympics.
Not surprisingly, the network is being criticized almost as much for dissing the Paralympics in this fashion as it was for broadcasting all of the premier events of the Olympics on tape delay. What’s more, much of the criticism in this case is laced with accusations about discrimination against people with disabilities. Even I vented reflexive criticism of this nature in conversations with friends.
Upon reflection, however, I believe criticisms of NBC’s coverage of the Paralympics are every bit as unfair as criticisms of its coverage of the Olympics are uninformed. For I suspect exhaustive market research indicated that interest would be such that broadcasting any more than 6 hours would be a waste of capital resources.
More to the point, I can personally attest that NBC made the right decision in both cases, and here’s why: I was so eager to know the results of premier events at the Olympics that I went out of my way to find them online. And my interest was such that, just as NBC calculated, knowing the results did nothing to diminish my interest in seeing its tape-delayed broadcasts.
By instructive contrast, I’m ashamed to admit that the only time I became interested in anything related to the Paralympics was when the poster boy for these Games, Oscar Pistorius, suffered a surprising upset in the men’s 200m. And this was only because Pistorius received so much media attention during the Olympics for being the first double amputee to participate.
Indeed, the greater is my shame that a little schadenfreude stoked my interest in actually seeing him humbled. In other words, what business did he have participating in the Olympics if he was not even good enough to win in the Paralympics? I even took perverse interest in the way Pistorius made a mockery of his highly touted sportsmanship by crying sour grapes about the length of the other runner’s blades after his loss….
At any rate, I’m not sure what it says about me that I would be eager to watch 3,500 hours of the Olympics but not in the least bit interested in watching just 6 hours of the Paralympics, let alone searching the Internet for results.
As one who has family members with disabilities, though, I fully understand that the last thing Paralympians want is for their performances to evoke sympathy or, even worse, pity. But, as admirable and life affirming as their performances might be, a confluence of sympathy and pity is all I feel when I see people with disabilities competing in sporting events.
Mind you, I think it’s great that attendance at Paralympic events rivaled that at Olympic events. Never mind that attendance at the former probably had more to do with overflowing British pride from the latter than with any interest in the performance of Paralympians.
For example, I would bet my life savings that, where 99 percent of spectators attending the Olympics knew of Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt, not even one percent of those attending the Paralympics knew of the athletes who became the most decorated. Moreover, for those of you who find my frank admission of a lack of interest “insensitive,” I would bet the only Paralympians you knew, if any, are either relatives or family friends.
Incidentally, apropos of spectators, people who rave about the performance of athletes with disabilities always come across like annoying parents raving about the first baby steps of their children. Which is why much of the celebration of the Paralympic Games strikes me as patronizing, disingenuous, and even a little guilt-ridden.
I don’t know if this constitutes discrimination on my part. What I do know, however, is that NBC should not be criticized for calculating that tens of millions of TV viewers in the United States would feel the same way I do.
Finally, from the sublime to the ridiculous, I was shocked to learn that British band Cold Play commandeered the Closing Ceremony for the Paralympics on Sunday by playing what can only be described as a self-indulgent set of 15 songs. And having Rihanna and Jay-Z make cameo appearances only magnified their ego trip.
It would’ve reeked of craven self-promotion if they had performed just 5 songs; but 15?!
Coldplay took centre stage at the Closing Ceremony for the Paralympics – prompting anger from some spectators who wondered why the athletes weren’t the stars of the show… Some of the show’s audience felt they outstayed their welcome.
(Daily Mail, September 9, 2011)
Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 5:17 AM
Frankly, though absurd, it’s hardly surprising that an obscure Internet video by some crackpot depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a blasphemous light would incite ignorant Islamists (redundancy intended) to violent rage. Remember how mere cartoons of Muhammad incited fiery protests throughout the Muslim world a few years ago? These mindless Islamists are as embarrassing to all of my Muslim friends as they are incomprehensible to me.
What is surprising is that these religious lunatics would dare to vent their rage on U.S. embassies.
I do not presume to know what motivates so many Muslims to participate in the hateful and violent demonstrations still erupting all over the world. I am convinced, however, that it is as much an insult to Muhammad for these rabble-rousers to be rioting in his name as it was for European newspapers to publish the caricatures in the first place.
(“In the name of Allah: Stop the protests!” The iPINIONS Journal, February 9, 2006)
Yet reports are that yesterday (significantly on September 11) they stormed the Embassy in Cairo, Egypt and launched rocket-propelled grenades at a Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others there.
Host countries are responsible for securing the perimeter of foreign embassies. Unfortunately, just as the mighty United States cannot prevent a lone gunman from going postal in a movie theater, fledgling democracies in the Middle East cannot prevent crazed mobs or organized jihadists from perpetrating such attacks … only brutal dictators can do that.
Nevertheless, given that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has predicated much of his campaign on painting him as just another feckless Jimmy Carter, the impulse might’ve been for President Obama to react with bravado in a vain attempt to prevent Romney’s caricature from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy (in the impressionable minds of American voters).
And, by rushing to slam this president as an apologist/appeaser in chief even before the cause and scope of these tragedies were known, Romney showed that he will not allow diplomacy, U.S. strategic interests, or even respect for dead American diplomats to prevent him from exploiting these unfolding events for political gain. (For what it’s worth, Libyan authorities are blaming the attack on die-hard Gaddafi loyalists, while some reports are pinning it on the coordinated hand of al-Qaeda. Although, if the latter, one would have to wonder why kill in Benghazi but only tear up flags in Cairo, no?)
Whatever the case, Obama did not take Romney’s bait. Instead, after being fully briefed, he properly condemned the “outrageous and shocking” Benghazi attack and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice. But he insisted that this attack will do nothing to alter American values.
Today many Americans are asking, indeed, I ask myself, how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, how confounding the world can be.
But we must be clear-eyed even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya.
(Secretary Clinton, CNN, September 12, 2012)
Indeed, Libyan authorities immediately offered the kind of politically expedient apology we have become accustomed to hearing from U.S. authorities whenever errant drone missiles kill innocent civilians in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But the vexing irony Hillary alluded to cannot be overstressed. It should have been anticipated, however; after all, these are people merely venting understandable rage at a country that supported dictators who oppressed and humiliated them for decades. Actually, the real irony is that, by finally throwing those dictators under the bus, it was the United States that uncorked this pent-up rage. Some of us warned it might be thus:
With all due respect to the protesters, the issue is not whether Mubarak will go, for he will. (The man is 82 and already looks half dead for Christ’s sake!) Rather, the issue is who will replace him. And it appears they have not given any thought whatsoever to this very critical question.
The devil the Egyptians know might prove far preferable to the devil they don’t. Just ask the Iranians who got rid of the Mubarak-like Shah in 1979 only to end up with the Ayatollah – whose Islamic revolution they’ve regretted (and have longed to overturn) ever since….
(“Army Pledges No Force Against Protesters,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 1, 2011)
Meanwhile, conspicuously, both Obama and Hillary failed to mention the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo: an omission even more egregious than Romney’s failure to mention troops serving in Afghanistan during his RNC acceptance speech. At any rate, as they presented their joint statement on TV moments ago, the (Republican) elephant taking up much of the screen was the fearful symmetry between Egyptians storming the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo yesterday and Iranians storming the walls of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.
Except that Obama has demonstrated that he’s no Jimmy Carter and, to complete the symmetry, Romney has demonstrated that he’s no Ronald Reagan.
NOTE: A little comic relief always helps when coping with tragedies like these. And the craze, ironically enough, over the gangnam dance that is now sweeping the country certainly provides it. But here is all I have to say about this dance: Hey Macarena!
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, September 12 at 1:37 pm
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 6:06 AM
Nobody in his right mind doubts that President Obama fully appreciates the existential threat Israel faces by having Iran, which seems hell-bent on building nuclear weapons, continually threaten to wipe it off the map. In point of fact, he has repeatedly vowed that the United States will not allow Iran to build those weapons, let alone allow it to launch them at Israel. And, as the few surviving members of al-Qaeda can attest, this is not a president who makes hollow threats.
This is why I am simply stupefied by the way Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has been publicly goading Obama – almost from day one of his presidency – to stop Iran before it enters some amorphous “zone of immunity” (presumably where North Korea resides).
The world tells Israel: ‘Wait. There’s still time.’ And I say: ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.
(Netanyahu, The Washington Post, September 11, 2011)
The problem, of course, is that Netanyahu’s woe-is-Israel schtick is belied by the record of Obama repeatedly endorsing Israel’s absolute right to act whenever and however it sees fit. In other words, all of his talk about red lines and red lights is just a red herring. If Netanyahu wants to attack Iran today, nobody’s stopping him.
Except that this arrogant SOB would rather sit on his moral high-horse (playing the Holocaust card) and declaim falsely about Obama dictating when and how he should act to defend Israel’s national security interests, while presuming to dictate to Obama when and how he should act to defend America’s national security interests with respect to Iran: talk about brass ones….
Mind you, it’s not as if Netanyahu is privy to intelligence about the nature/progress of Iran’s nuclear program that Obama is not. He just thinks that he has some divine dispensation to treat Obama like his lapdog the way Bush treated UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Apropos of this, it is noteworthy that Netanyahu is being supported in his rhetorical misadventure by the same coalition of crusading dunces (namely, Zionists, Christian fundamentalists, and new-world-order neo-cons) who goaded Bush into attacking Iraq. Not to mention that they have all been issuing Chicken-Little warnings about Iran being just months away from going nuclear since the late 1990s….
Thank God Obama is made of sterner stuff. He demonstrated this just yesterday when he rebuffed Netanyahu’s attempt to bully his way into a meeting with Obama during his one-day visit to New York City later this month for the UN Annual General Assembly.
But Netanyahu got the media spin he wanted when virtually every news reporter and political pundit began parroting the line about Obama dissing Netanyahu … again. None of these saps even bothered to question why this Israeli prime minister feels entitled to impose on this U.S. president in this imperious manner.
Anyway, screaming headlines about Obama refusing to meet with Netanyahu forced Obama’s spokesman to plead the obvious: that there is and has been no lack of communication between these two leaders on strategies for dealing with Iran; that, for these occasions, everybody knows that every minute of the U.S. president’s time is scheduled months in advance; and that it would not be in America’s national interest for Obama to blow off a meeting with another world leader just to hold a non-emergency meeting with Netanyahu.
All of which makes one question why Netanyahu would make such a stink about Obama not granting his last-minute request for what could only have been a meaningless photo-op? I submit, in a word: politics.
Foremost, if Netanyahu were truly interested in meeting with Obama, the media would never have known about his request and it would have been scheduled through the normal diplomatic channels.
On the other hand, it is no secret that Netanyahu and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are close personal friends. Indeed they both went out of their way to broadcast this fact during Romney’s visit to Israel last month.
Which is why this manufactured media conflict seems far more about Netanyahu’s desire to get his friend Mitt elected president of the United States than about any need to defend Israel. In fact, a cynical, reckless and hopelessly misguided Republican strategy holds that the more anti-Israel Romney makes Obama look, the better his chances are of winning the election.
In this light, it seems clear that Netanyahu is just providing fodder for Romney to continue perpetrating his big lie about Obama being the first president in U.S. history who would sooner “throw Israel under the bus” than help defend it. Never mind that this big lie has already been debunked not just by Israeli President Shimon Peres, but also by no less a person than Netanyahu’s own defense minister, Ehud Barack:
I am saying very clearly that this administration in regard to Israel’s security – and we are traditionally supported by each and every American president in our generation – but under this administration we went even further into a clear, deep, deep commitment to the security of Israel. And beyond. I see the administration is ready to veto steps which are somewhat go against (sic) or perceived by us as being against the interests of Israel.
(Charlie Rose, March 24, 2010)
Not to mention that top military officials in Israel seem more in synch with the geo-strategic steps Obama is taking towards military confrontation with Iran than with the war-mongering steps Netanyahu is urging him to take: Obama maintains that the sanctions regime in place is having the desired effect. Netanyahu wants to draw red lines that trigger certain war – except that getting him to state where those lines should be drawn is rather like getting Romney to state what deductions he would subtract so that his tax policy adds up.
The United States will always have Israel’s back… Loose talk of war” only plays into Iran’s hands. Now is not the time for bluster. Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in.
(Obama, Associated Press, March 5, 2012)
What more could any Israeli prime minister (in his right mind) want?!
Frankly, I suspect there are many more Israelis who are embarrassed by Netanyahu’s tail-wagging-the-dog impudence than there are Americans who believe Obama is dissing (or has ever dissed) him.
Then, of course, there’s the irony of the Mormon Romney and Jew Netanyahu being bonded by the self-loathing fact that they have sold their political souls to Christian fundamentalists who believe that Netanyahu and Romney have to deny their religion, respectively, to make it into heaven: schmucks.
Despite drumbeat, Israel will never attack Iran
Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 5:15 AM
I applaud NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg for decreeing this week that henceforth the area where the twin towers were destroyed shall no longer be called “Ground Zero”, but shall revert back to its original name, The World Trade Center.
But in addition to this I urge him to decree that henceforth the city shall no longer mark this day, every year, by wallowing in the plainly contrived ceremony of reading all of the names of those who perished on 9/11. Not to mention the untenable emotional conflict this imposes on kids – who were either very young or still in their mother’s womb on 9/11 – to express public grief for a parent they never even knew without feeling as though they are betraying the love they have for the person their surviving parent married….
Instead the families should be left alone to grieve in their own way. Of course, I doubt many of them who moved on with their lives long ago will even feel the need to do so.
This 10th anniversary seems a good time for the rest of the country to move on too…
(“Time to Move On,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 11, 2011)
Monday, September 10, 2012 at 6:53 AM
This will be my last (and, for that reason, relatively lengthy) commentary on the horse race between Romney and Obama until late October. At that time I’ll review their debates, which I suspect will be even more scripted and predictable than these conventions were, and I’ll restate my prediction for Election Day. I’m tuning out because I see no point in commenting on the bickering over inconsequential political gaffes, audaciously dishonest ads, and meaningless tracking polls that will be raining down on us like confetti between now and then.
That said, this week’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) followed on the heels of the Republican National Convention (RNC) that was held last week. As fate would have it, I was unable to watch either show; although, this was probably one of those proverbial blessings in disguise.
In fact, anyone who knows anything about quadrennial party conventions had to have known that neither would produce anything newsworthy. And based on the video highlights I’ve seen, this was in fact the case – notwithstanding some admittedly memorable moments.
As a case in point, the highlight of the RNC was the way actor Clint Eastwood made a doddering old fool of himself by mumbling to an empty chair, in which he insisted President Obama was sitting, for 12 cringe-inducing minutes. He seemed to have completely forgotten that he was allotted just five minutes to endorse Mitt Romney. Now “Eastwooding” (i.e., mumbling to an empty chair) is surpassing Tebowing as the nation’s wackiest social phenomenon.
It was damning enough that Clint showed Tea Party-like disrespect by using this august occasion to caricature the first Black president of the United States as a hapless Invisible Man. But far more so was the way the self-righteous Christians who comprise the base of the Republican Party betrayed their faith by cheering on his profane schtick as if he were Billy Graham preaching at one of his famous crusades.
Apropos of which, it speaks volumes about real Christian values when you juxtapose the way the RNC’S practically all-White delegates egged Clint on with the way Obama turned the other cheek by declaring that, despite the disrespect, he’s still “a huge Clint Eastwood fan.” He also poked fun at Clint’s diss by tweeting a photo taken from behind of him sitting in a chair with just the back of his head and signature Dumbo ears showing with the caption, “This seat is taken.”
On the other hand, like movie critic Roger Ebert, many of you probably found Clint’s performance just “sad and pathetic … and unworthy of him.” Except that this erstwhile tough guy has been playing along in emasculated stupor for over a year now as his trophy wife makes a spectacle of his career and good name by trying to get the Eastwoods to keep up with the Kardashians on reality TV.
But enough about Clint, because the real reason the RNC does not matter is that it did nothing to inform voters about the way Romney and the Republicans would actually govern, if elected.
- that the only plan they have to grow the economy and create jobs is the same concoction of trickle-down policies, including deregulation to allow banks to revert to operating like casinos, that caused Bush to leave behind the worst economic mess the country had seen since the Great Depression for Obama to clean up; or
- that Romney aped congressional Republicans by taking a cult-like pledge to reject any compromise with Democrats to balance the budget and reduce the national debt – even if that compromise grants 90 percent of the cuts in government programs for the poor and middle class Republicans want and only 10 percent of the increases in taxes on the rich Democrats want; or
- that they consider it an article of faith to repeal Obamacare, which provides the basic healthcare that every president from Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton tried to no avail to provide for nearly 40 million poor and uninsured Americans; or
- that they are determined not only to abolish a woman’s right to an abortion (and all it takes is giving Romney the opportunity to appoint one Supreme Court justice), but also to curtail her access to family planning services; or
- that they are hell-bent not just on rekindling Cold War hostilities with Russia, but also on igniting them with China, which would make the trillions Bush wasted on Iraq seem like chump change; or
- that, instead of moderating Israel’s fiery rhetoric about bombing Iran, they are adding fuel to it.
Most galling of all, though, you’d never know:
- that the prominent RNC speakers blaming Obama for failing to grow the economy and create jobs are the very politicians who met on day one of his presidency to formulate a party-line scheme to ensure the so-called failure they are now complaining/gloating about.
Meanwhile, despite their almost treasonous scheme, Obama has presided over almost four years of positive economic growth, while championing the most progressive legislative agenda since FDR’s New Deal at home and restoring America’s prestige abroad; in a phrase: GM is alive and Osama bin Laden is dead.
Which is why the choice between Obama’s undeniable record of accomplishments and his agenda to keep the country moving forward and Romney’s plan to move it backward in so many ways should be a no-brainer.
I appreciate of course that another commentator could present an equally damning review of the DNC. Except that he would have to propagate the “Big Lies” that informed much of what was said at the RNC. For example, it is a logical fallacy for Romney and the Republicans to damn Obama as a clueless community organizer trying to perpetrate a socialist agenda on America given that he bailed out Wall Street and his policies have led to a near doubling of the U.S. stock market. Incidentally, this latter point exposes every corporate CEO who has complained about his presidency being bad for business as just an overpaid Republican hack.
We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.
This, according to the Washington Post (on August 30, 2012) is how no less a person than Romney Pollster Neil Newhouse responded to reports about speeches at the RNC being riddled with misstatements and outright lies.
In point of fact, VP nominee Paul Ryan himself demonstrated that Republicans are not going to allow facts to get in the way of scaring up support by painting a completely distorted version of Obama’s presidency. This is why it’s pointless to counter their partisan talking points with objective facts. Instead, it would be far more effective to damn them with their own words.
For instance, Romney insisted that the most important decision for any presidential candidate is selecting a VP running mate who is qualified to serve as president on day one. (Sensible Republicans will not hesitate to tell you that John McCain fatally undermined his candidacy four years ago by picking a clearly unqualified Sarah Palin.) To make his point, Romney ridiculed Obama as the most unqualified person ever elected president because he had no business experience.
Actually, according to a May 30, 2012 report in Forbes, Romney stated that a presidential (and vice-presidential) candidate should be required to:
spend at least three years working in business before he could become president [or vice president] of the United States.
Well, it’s disqualifying enough that Obama has had to point out to Romney the elementary differences between running a company with the sole objective of maximizing shareholder profits and governing a country with the multifaceted objective of ensuring the general welfare of an entire nation. (Perhaps this explains why Romney thinks it’s more important to provide tax breaks for the rich than to provide healthcare for the poor.)
But it betrays how uninformed and unreliable Romney’s highly touted business mind is that, by his own standards, some of the most successful presidents in U.S. history, including Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan, would not have been qualified to assume office.
More to the point, though, Romney impeached his own candidacy by selecting Ryan - a VP candidate who, again by Romney’s own standards, will not be qualified to serve as president on day one. After all, Ryan has even less business experience today than Senator Obama had in 2008. And if Obama’s lack of business experience made him so hopelessly unqualified back then (as Romney contends), then surely Ryan’s lack thereof makes him even more so today, no?
Not to mention the truly Palinesque spectacle of Ryan turning out to be a pathological liar – given the whoppers he’s already been caught telling. Those include major things like denying he begged the Obama administration for Stimulus money while condemning the Stimulus program as a symptom of what is wrong with “big government,” as well as minor things like claiming he ran an impressive sub-three-hour marathon when his actual time was closer to four hours.
Which begs the question. Why should any voter trust Romney to honor any of his campaign promises when he can’t even be trusted to honor his own word in selecting a VP running mate?
The truth of course is that Romney betrayed his self-professed sound business judgment in this respect because he was/is only interested in appealing to the conservative base of the Republican Party – Ryan’s fitness (or lack thereof) to serve be damned. In this sense he’s no different from Republicans in Congress who were/are only interested in undermining Obama’s presidency, the economy and security of the nation be damned.
This, I submit, is reason enough to deny Romney and the Republicans their shameless and unprincipled power grab. It is also why I encourage Democrats to exploit the political liabilities inherent in Romney picking Ryan instead of engaging in Republican-style dog whistling about Ryan’s personal life. I’m referring here to the spin Democrats are putting on reports that he dumped his Black girlfriend of 10 years in 1998 to make himself more suitable to Republican voters. Especially since blaming Ryan for dumping her for this purpose is probably just as unfair as Ryan blaming Obama for the closing of an auto plant in his hometown that was in fact closed while Bush was still in office.
It is instructive in this respect that, even though the Republican scheme to make him a failed president was, to a significant degree, racially motivated, Obama has ignored the exhortations of prominent pundits like Joe Klein to “play the race card.” Nevertheless, here’s how I think not just the race card but the religious one too will play out in November:
Whites have a shameful history of polling for Black politicians but then voting for White ones on Election Day. By the same token, I suspect Christians now polling for the Mormon Romney will end up voting for the Christian Obama. And, ironically, it is that very shameful history that will militate against fair-minded (Independent) Whites – who gave George W. Bush (and many other mediocre White presidents) two terms – voting to get rid of the first Black president of the United States after just one.
That said, I will suffice to note that the highlight of the DNC was the way speaker after speaker ridiculed the lies of commission and omission that characterized the RNC. It also helped that Obama capped things off by delineating his plans for a second term, which he promises will be highlighted by infrastructure development, innovation and job training, and comprehensive immigration reform.
To be fair, both conventions featured rousing speeches. Interestingly enough, the Democrats demonstrated that they have on their presidential bench not one but two Hispanics, in San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and his twin brother, who are every bit as impressive at the podium as the Republicans’ Marco Rubio.
Except that, despite their best efforts, no speaker became the breakout star Barack Obama became at the DNC in 2004. And even though Michelle Obama’s speech received far more media acclaim than Ann Romney’s, even Michelle’s struck me as little more than a retelling of the same family stories she has told a thousand times. Indeed, what is truly noteworthy is that so many Twits for brains reacted as if they were hearing her tell them for the very first time….
More important, for those hailing Bill Clinton’s speech as the key to Obama’s re-election bid, I am constrained to note that if Bill were all that he would’ve been speaking at this DNC on behalf of his wife, not Obama. Clinton is simply shrewd enough to know that the best way to get Hillary elected in 2016 is to get Barack re-elected in 2012. This is what inspired his stirring keynote speech.
But this lauding of Clinton just exposes the reflexive, intellectually vacuous and herd-like mooing that passes for political commentary these days. Because virtually every pundit declared that he made a far better case for Obama’s re-election than Obama himself ever could. Yet these are the very same pundits who were hailing Obama just four years ago as the best political orator since Cicero. And, not surprisingly, Obama had them all eating their words the very next day when he made the best case for re-election that any president has ever made.
At any rate, given that lingering resentments now define their strictly “transactional” relationship, it would be remiss of me not to comment on an article in the current edition of the New Yorker that quotes Clinton dismissing Obama in 2008 by saying to Ted Kennedy that:
A few years ago this guy would have been carrying our bags.
Clinton denies it of course. The problem is that I’ve heard him say things about Obama and other Blacks that are even more racist. Moreover, I have written many commentaries lamenting the way White liberals get away with saying things about Black folks that would get White conservatives tarred and feathered, rhetorically. But this is not the time for any further airing of the Democrats’ dirty laundry….
Finally, one of the oldest strategies in sports is to guilt-trip the refs by complaining about them favoring the other team. This invariably results in the refs over-compensating to appease the complainers.
This, in effect, is the strategy Obama’s critics have been executing ever since he declared his candidacy for the 2008 campaign. Specifically, they have accused the media of engaging in a “slobbering love affair” with him. More to the point, it is why so many commentators are now going out of their way to seem tough on Obama – much to the delight of conservatives whose bias against him has always made any media bias in his favor seem like a fantasy. So don’t be surprised this fall when you see talking heads on NBC reporting on Obama as if they are reading from a script written for those on FOX News.
VP Biden dog whistling…
VP candidate Paul Ryan…
Tax returns vs. college transcripts…
Will of the American people…
Whites polling Obama, voting Romney…
White Democrats dissing Obama…
* This commentary was originally published on Saturday, September 8, at 2:03 pm