Saturday, October 10, 2015 at 8:07 AM
Friday, October 9, 2015 at 7:22 AM
Frankly, the only thing I found shocking or disappointing about this viral tweet is that it provoked so much genuine outrage.
After all, here is how I presaged this years ago in “Twitter Rant: Take 2,” November 27, 2012.
What is surprising, however, is that erstwhile pillars of Western civilization are taking to Twitter like hood rats to crack.
Most notable among them are former GE Chairman Jack Welch and News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch. For there can be no doubt that, but for their Twitter addiction, the world would never have known that Welch is a right-wing nutjob who thinks Obama’s ‘Chicago guys’ cooked macro-economic numbers to boost his re-election; or that Murdoch is a closeted, oxymoronic Zionist who thinks the self-hating ‘Jewish-owned press’ is anti-Israel in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So just imagine what this portends for public debate – having politicians and corporate CEOs compete with entertainers and wannabe celebrities to see who can attract the most twits with their mindless tweets on everything from public policy to daily gossip. And let’s face it, getting self-interested attention seems to be the prevailing reason for tweeting. And every tweeting twit in the twitterverse seems to think that the only way to get it is to be as obnoxious, incendiary, and/or bellicose as possible.
This is why I firmly believe that Twitter has about as much redeeming value as Twinkies.
Ben and Candy Carson terrific. What about a real black President who can properly address the racial divide? And much else.
8:59 PM October 7, 2015
And, like a Cheshire Cat, Murdoch cynically apologized for any offense he might have caused.
Apologies! No offence meant. Personally find both men charming.
8:14 AM October 8, 2015
Of course, Carson should have taken offense at Murdoch complimenting him as a foil for his racist slight against Obama. But I fear Carson has become captive to the Republican ruse of excusing all manner of insults as liberation from political correctness. Only this explains the phenomenon of Trump’s candidacy.
But, alas, I’ve become like John the Baptist preaching salvation that comes by reacting to such racist dog-whistle with indifference instead of outrage.
Again, it speaks volumes about the narcissism and dumbing down of public discourse these days that even the owner of the Wall Street Journal is tweeting like a teenage schoolgirl … just for attention. The only saving grace in this case is that the selection process for a new speaker in the Republican-controlled Congress erupted into utter chaos yesterday, sucking up much of the media coverage Murdoch would have received.
Incidentally, apropos of my allusion above to the mainstream media trolling social media for ignorant snark to peddle as news. Only this explains the Huffington Post publishing today, on its front page no less, the lunatic rantings of Sarah Palin’s spawn, Bristol, against states providing young women with free options for birth control.
Never mind that Bristol might have grown into less of a religious/political hypocrite than her mother if she had availed herself of one of those options, instead of breeding two kids out of wedlock … with two different men.
Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 8:23 AM
For years, CARICOM leaders have been demanding billions in reparations from the British government for slavery.
I tried in such commentaries as “The Fatally Flawed Demands for Reparations for Slavery,” February 16, 2007, and “CARICOM Demands for Reparations Smack of Extortion,” November 4, 2013. Not least because, given that “Britain emancipated its enslaved people” in 1833, reparations today countenances the unconscionable specter of Britons paying for the sins of their (fore)fathers on the one hand, and Caribbean natives receiving unjust enrichment on the other.
Correlatively, in “French Forgiving Haitians like Germans Forgiving Jews,” May 14, 2015, I proffered a 10-point argument against reparations for slavery and for debt relief.
By instructive contrast, I’ve urged CARICOM leaders to focus their efforts on more legally, politically and morally sustainable demands for reparations for colonial atrocities, using the case of Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion as precedent.
I urged them in such commentaries as “Reparations from Britain for Colonialism?” July 18, 2012, and “Britain Apologizes and Pays for Colonial Atrocities,” June 7, 2013.
But frankly, I am loath to continue beating this dead horse … too much; especially given that my comprehensive points against reparations remain uncontroverted. Instead, I shall suffice to reprise this excerpt from the above-cited “CARICOM Demands for Reparations Smack of Extortion.”
I just hope the damning irony is not lost on any proud African that, 50 years after decolonization, hundreds of Africans (men, women, and children) are risking their lives, practically every day, to subjugate themselves to the paternal mercies of their former colonial masters in Europe.
(“Lampedusa Tragedy Highlights Europe’s ‘Haitian’ Problem,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 7, 2013)
CARICOM [leaders] have been more dogmatic in trying to force former European colonizers to pay for slavery than Senator Ted Cruz and the Tea Party have been in trying to force President Obama to repeal Obamacare. Like Cruz and the Tea Party, CARICOM [leaders] are banking on public shaming and political pressure to compensate for shortcomings in their legal case.
Their mercurial strategy assumes that, just as corporations often settle cases (even frivolous ones) to avoid bad publicity, European governments will settle out of court, instead of forcing them to prove their case. Which, of course, would constitute a triumph of European paternalism and self-recrimination over Caribbean pride and self-responsibility – the ‘damning irony,’ in our case, be damned.
Alas, Jamaican leaders decided to seize the occasion of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent state visit to bully and/or shame him into acceding to their demands; this, despite longstanding British opposition to paying reparations for slavery.
Ahead of his trip, Sir Hilary Beckles, chair of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, has led calls for Cameron to start talks on making amends for slavery and referenced the prime minister’s ancestral links to the trade in the 1700s through his cousin six times removed, General Sir James Duff…
‘If it is not on the agenda, I will not attend any functions involving the visiting prime minister, and I will cry shame on those who do, considering that there was not a dissenting voice in the debate in parliament,’ [Mike Henry MP] told the newspaper.
(The Guardian, September 28, 2015)
But Cameron was unmoved:
We do not believe reparations is the right approach.
(The Associated Press, September 30, 2015)
Cameron even rejected calls for a formal apology, clearly mindful of the legal implications that would entail. Instead, in his address to the Jamaican Parliament, he channeled former PM Tony Blair’s expression of “deep sorrow” by duly acknowledging that “[these wounds of Slavery] run very deep indeed.” But he made clear his intent to “move on [and] strengthen the bonds between the UK and the Caribbean.”
Accordingly, he did what British leaders have been doing since the abolition of slavery – pursuant to what might be described as an unbroken cord of moral obligation. He offered CARICOM leaders a “major new package” of £360 million (US$550 million) in development aid.
I am launching a new UK-Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership to build real, tangible things that will make a difference for people across the Caribbean…
[This is] not tied aid… It is up to you in this room and in the region to decide how best to spend it on the things that your country needs most…
This represents more than a quadrupling of Britain’s support [making us the largest bilateral donor to the region, and] you can take it – literally – as a concrete statement of my commitment to the Caribbean.
(Gov.uk, September 30, 2015)
Mind you, the operative phrase of his address was: “It is up to you in this room … to decide how best to spend it.” Because anyone who knows anything about Caribbean politics knows that the only people who will receive any personal benefit from this aid are CARICOM leaders, their family members and their political and business cronies. And the same would obtain if CARICOM leaders were to extract (or extort) billions in reparations from the British government.
Unsurprisingly, many regional commentators dismissed Cameron’s aid package as tantamount to “throwing a bone” in lieu of compensation for slavery.
Except that whatever cynicism they ascribe to Cameron pales in comparison to the cynicism inherent in CARICOM leaders taking hundreds of millions, if not billions, in UK aid over the years, and still demanding reparations.
What’s more, as I argued in the commentaries cited above, Caribbean natives have reaped billions in (compensatory?) benefits from transforming British institutions related to education, good governance, and civil society. We have also reaped, and continue to reap, benefits from security cooperation on, among other things, drug trafficking and climate change.
Hell, many putatively independent CARICOM countries remain so intent on exploiting their colonial ties to Britain that they see no point in establishing national courts of last resort. They are perfectly content to continue having their citizens appeal to the UK Privy Council in London, despite public entreaties by UK jurists, most notably Lord Phillips, for these former colonies to “set up their own final courts of appeal instead.” I lamented this willful abnegation of judicial independence in “No More Privy Council; Take Care of Your Own Judicial Mess,” October 8, 2009.
In any event, I fear CARICOM leaders remain as committed to collecting reparations for slavery as Cruz and the Tea Party are to repealing Obamacare. It’s a toss-up as to which of these pursuits is more legally frivolous, politically delusional, and morally repugnant.
In the meantime, do we dare consider that mid-seventeenth to early-nineteenth century slavery, for which CARICOM leaders are seeking reparations, might have been a perverse “godsend” for those of us born free in the Caribbean of the twentieth century, despite colonialism – or because of it, as the case may be?
After all, post-colonial Africa seems fated to loom amidst the continents of the world as a dark, destitute, diseased, desperate, disenfranchised, dishonest, disorganized, disassociated, dangerous and ultimately dysfunctional mess. So, notwithstanding slavery, Blacks living in America and the Caribbean should probably thank their lucky stars that neither Abraham Lincoln nor Idi Amin doppelganger Marcus Garvey succeeded in “repatriating” Blacks to Africa.
In other words, thank God we are here and not there….
Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at 7:49 AM
Move over, Barack and Michelle Obama! Apparently, America just got a new first family…
According to Cosmopolitan, the Kardashians are the new reigning family. The magazine recently unveiled the cover for its November 2015 issue, featuring the [Kardashians].
(NBC TODAY, October 5, 2015)
Not that the Obamas, America’s real first family, have anything to worry about, mind you.
But, for the sake of what little remains of common decency, professional respect, and natural beauty, I urge you to boycott this issue.
Given that the Kardashians have left absolutely nothing about their plastic bodies and manufactured lives to the imagination, I trust the categorical imperative for joining this boycott is self-explanatory.
Kris Jenner and her family of social-media thotties are as politically clueless as they are socially shameless. But Cosmopolitan’s (White) editors should have known better than to expropriate the title of “America’s First Family” – even if only for an issue on the narcissistic and brain-dead world of social media.
All the same, let me hasten to note that, unlike far too many social critics, I do not begrudge the Kardashians their success. Not least because it says far more about the dumbing down of popular culture (where snarky tweets pass for public debate and photoshopped pictures for great novels) than it does about their admittedly admirable branding … of so little for so much.
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 8:54 a.m.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at 7:17 AM
The world has been preoccupied in recent months with the man-made devastation still unfolding in Syria, which has triggered an unprecedented migration crisis in Europe.
But Hurricane Joaquin is Mother Nature’s way of reminding us that she is capable of wreaking horrific devastation too. And, when Mother Nature charts her path of wrath, all one can do is get out of the way and pray.
Much of the damage was centered in the southeastern Bahamas, particularly Crooked Island, Acklins Island, Long Island and San Salvador. The storm ripped roofs from homes, flooded main roads and farms, spoiled wells for drinking water and forced the closure of small airports, creating a logistical nightmare for rescue and relief efforts.
As of late Sunday, the storm had claimed one life, according to Bahamian officials, who reported that the man died when the roof of his home on Long Island collapsed as a result of high winds, said the Rev. Keith Cartwright of the Anglican Diocese of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
(The Miami Herald, October 4, 2015)
Thank God no one in my immediate family was in its path. My prayers go out to all fellow Bahamians who have been affected.
Floodwaters inundating South Carolina after unprecedented rainfall have resulted in nine deaths, more than 500 road and bridge closures and hundreds of rescues of people trapped in their homes by the rising water, officials said on Monday…
More than 2 feet of rain have fallen in the past three days in some areas of South Carolina, and moderate to heavy rain persisted on Monday in the already saturated northeastern corner of that state and southeastern North Carolina, the National Weather Service said.
(Reuters, October 5, 2015)
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley made news by declaring this a “1,000-year” rain event. Meteorologists at the Weather Channel say it’s no exaggeration.
My prayers go out to all who have been, and are still being, affected there. Not least because of Breaking News about Katrina-like breaches in dams across the state, which are bound to compound Joaquin’s damage … and increase its death toll.
The El Faro
Apropos of getting out of the way, given that everyone had due notice of Joaquin’s path and wrath, one wonders why the captain of the cargo ship El Faro decided to go full steam ahead from Jacksonville, right into the “teeth” of this hurricane.
A cargo ship missing since Thursday with 33 crew members on board was believed to have sunk 15,000 feet in the teeth of Hurricane Joaquin, which began strengthening and moving closer to its path almost as soon as it set to sea.
One ‘unidentifiable’ body, in a survival suit, was found Sunday in a 225-square-mile debris field of wood and cargo [Coast Guard Captain Mike Fedor said].
The Coast Guard planned to focus on finding ‘people in the water,’ he said. ‘We are not looking for the vessel any longer.’
(CNN, October 5, 2015)
It would be a miracle if anyone survived this apparent shipwreck. Therefore, barring that, here’s to them resting in peace … in Davy Jones’s locker.
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 7:16 p.m.
Monday, October 5, 2015 at 8:33 AM
Just days after Pope Francis ended his historic ten-day visit to America on September 27, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis began testifying about how he had invited her for a private audience and blessed her grandstanding defense of traditional marriage. No doubt you recall the media spectacle Davis created last month, when she “martyred” herself by getting thrown in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples – as required by law.
In fact, everything about the pope and this dope left me dismayed. After all, one of the things I found so endearing about this pontiff was his “judge-not” regard for people’s sexual orientation.
Not to mention that, as reported, his meeting with this Pharisaic homophobe reeked of deceit. Hell, Davis seemed to think the pope and she were emulating the biblical meeting between Jesus and King Nicodemus.
But oh how Pope Francis restored my faith in his liberal Christian message when he instructed the Vatican Curia to correct the record.
For this entailed not only clarifying that Davis was just one of dozens he met in a receiving line at the Vatican embassy, but also publishing a video of the pope embracing a former pupil and his gay partner, during what appears to have been a bona fide private audience.
The day before Pope Francis met anti-gay county clerk Kim Davis in Washington last week, he held a private meeting with a longtime friend from Argentina who has been in a same-sex relationship for 19 years.
Yayo Grassi, an openly gay man, brought his partner, Iwan Bagus, as well several other friends to the Vatican Embassy on September 23 for a brief visit with the Pope. A video of the meeting shows Grassi and Francis greeting each other with a warm hug.
(CNN, October 3, 2015)
This video speaks volumes (about his regard for homosexual couples), especially given the Vatican’s refusal to release even a picture of Davis meeting him, which no doubt she and her enablers devoutly prayed to receive.
Unfortunately, events unfolded in Rome just days later that undermined this spiritually uplifting video, much as this video undermined Davis’s mendacious testimony about the pope blessing her homophobic crusade.
Foremost, a priest held a press conference to out himself, using the pope’s own words of acceptance and inclusion to profess his abiding faith. The Vatican was not amused.
The Vatican on Saturday dismissed a gay priest from his Holy See job on the eve of a major Church meeting for a highly public coming out that challenged the Roman Catholic teaching that homosexual acts are a sin…
Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, a Polish theologian, had worked at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal arm, since 2003.
‘I ask the pope to be strong and to remember us, homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals and bisexuals as children of the Church and members of humanity,’ Charamsa said.
(Reuters, October 3, 2015)
But the Vatican’s reaction was as ripe with irony as it was rife with hypocrisy:
The irony is that, in outing himself, this priest stood with his partner, looking every bit as loving and committed a couple as the pope’s former pupil and his partner did in that Vatican-released video of their private audience with him.
Hence the showing of papal fallibility, to put it charitably, when this humanistic pope consecrated the Catholic Church’s dogmatic opposition to gay marriage the very next day.
This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self…
The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock.
(Reuters, October 4, 2015)
The hypocrisy is that the Vatican authorities who sacked this priest are very likely themselves openly gay … within the closeted and cloistered confines of the Vatican.
Remarkably, Francis is just the latest pontiff who seems perfectly content to countenance this hypocrisy. This, notwithstanding that he and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, have lamented publicly about a gay cabal wielding unholy influence in the Vatican.
I duly commented: with respect to Francis in “Pope Confesses: There’s a Gay Cabal in the Vatican,” June 13, 2013, and with respect to Benedict in “Report on Gay Cabal in Vatican Forced Pope to Resign…?” February 26, 2013, which includes this excerpt.
A gay cabal in the Vatican continues to indulge and cover-up the sexual exploits of gay priests, including abuse by pedophiles.
(“The Pope Comes to America,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 16, 2008)
Frankly, gay cabals have been making a mockery of every religious edict the Holy See has issued for centuries. The only difference now is that the stench of the pedophile scandal is causing even reporters to turn up their noses at everything that stinks in the state of the Vatican…
Nothing demonstrates how desperate the Vatican is to calm these troubled waters quite like the extraordinary step it took to issue a papal denunciation of reports about homosexual priests turning Vatican City into a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah…
Except that no sooner had the Vatican issued this denunciation than the pope was obliged to accept the resignation of Britain’s top Catholic, Cardinal Keith O’Brien. He was forced to resign over allegations that he not only covered-up for pedophile priests, but also made inappropriate sexual advances on a number of seminarians under his charge in the early 1980s. He will become the first cardinal to be excommunicated from a Papal Conclave in church history.
This is only a little of what informs my abiding belief that celibacy among Catholic priests is more about self-hatred (of being homosexual) than self-denial (of homosexual activity).
And so the institutional hypocrisy and moral fiction continue – despite even a putatively traditional Catholic country like Ireland defying the church by legalizing same-sex marriage, which I hailed in “Holy Matrimony! Catholic Ireland Becomes Trailblazer for Gay Rights,” May 26, 2015.
It might seem a surreal joke, but Ireland became the first nation in the world to legalize gay marriage in national referendum on Friday…
Leaders of the Irish Catholic Church mounted a crusade against this referendum. Except that these are the very leaders who the pope has publicly criticized for showing more devotion to religious traditions and practices than to the word and spirit of the Almighty God…
Their traditions and practices include condemning homosexuality while:
- Engaging in homosexual/pedophile acts themselves.
- Providing indulgences for priests who sexually abuse (aka rape) little boys.
- Knowing full well that a ‘gay cabal’ has always wielded dogmatic power in their Holy Curia.
Saturday, October 3, 2015 at 8:18 AM
A Volkswagen board member has admitted that some staff acted criminally over the emissions cheat tests.
Olaf Lies, who is also economy minister of the German state of Lower Saxony, said those who allowed the deception to happen must take ‘personal responsibility’ for the fall-out.
German prosecutors are leading probes by several countries into the scam – including an inquiry against former CEO Martin Winterkorn – after the firm admitted 11million diesel cars had been fitted with software to cheat pollution tests.
(Daily Mail, September 30, 2015)
Never mind the irony of having a board member named Mr. Lies explain how “shocked, shocked” his colleagues are that VW staff perpetrated this fraud.
Friday, October 2, 2015 at 7:13 AM
[Nine] people were killed and as many as [nine] were wounded Thursday in a shooting at a small community college in Roseburg, Oregon, according to multiple reports.
Sheriff John Handlin said at a press conference Thursday afternoon that officers had ‘neutralized’ [aka killed] the shooter, who was male, during an exchange of gunfire in a campus building at Umpqua Community College.
(The Huffington Post, October 1, 2015)
As tragic as this shooting is, one can be forgiven acquired emotional deficiency (or numbness) – born not only of compassion fatigue but also of a growing sense that such shootings are now as American as apple pie. After all, according to a report in yesterday’s edition of The Washington Post, we’ve been assaulted with BREAKING NEWS on “294 mass shootings” this year alone – with a toll of 380 dead and over 1,000 wounded.
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)
In fact, the only despairing hope we have of reducing the incidence of these shootings is for the media to heed this admonition I offered in “Massacre in Obama,” December 7, 2007.
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 – given the record of these psychotic and vainglorious episodes since Columbine – that 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!
Unfortunately, the media are as hooked on the ratings they generate from providing wallowing, wall-to-wall coverage of such tragedies as the shooters who perpetrate them are on the notoriety they get, even if posthumously. But hey, if this is what it takes to interrupt their indulgent, wall-to-wall coverage of that one-man human disaster, Donald Trump….
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)
God help America.
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 6:05 p.m.
Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 7:03 AM
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same. We have made a lot of progress but still have a long way to go and need your help!
(National Breast Cancer Foundation)
While many have praised Angelina’s brave message, there has also been criticism that the ‘Jolie Effect’ has led to unnecessary and dramatic treatments…
(Interdisciplinary Journal of Health Sciences, April 13, 2015)
Accordingly, I reprise, from January 31, 2014, this PSA:
Forget Angelina! Hannah’s the Breast Cancer Survivor Worthy of Praise
I was shocked and dismayed at the number of women who upbraided me for pooh-poohing hosannas to Angelina Jolie for electing to replace her healthy breasts with implants because she feared she might develop terminal cancer … someday.
I was stupefied that TIME magazine even ran a May 27, 2013 cover heralding “The Angelina Effect” she would have on women. But what got their knickers most in a twist was that I dared to question whether Jolie was more interested in preserving the look of her two most bankable assets than in preventing cancer:
On Tuesday the New York Times published an op-ed by actress Angelina Jolie on her decision to have a double mastectomy. Almost immediately she became the subject of media beatification the likes of which we have not seen, well, since Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president of the United States in 2008…
You’d never know from this coverage that tens of thousands of women, including lesser-known celebrities, have talked openly about having a double mastectomy. Alas, in our celebrity-obsessed culture, having an A-lister like Jolie do so somehow makes it okay, perhaps even fashionable…
Jolie did not opt to remain au naturel (i.e., flat chested). Now that would have been heroic, and truly worthy of media beatification. Instead, she got a boob job … too.
Which raises the question: why hail Jolie as the patron saint of breast-cancer survivors when all she did was elect to look like every other actress in Hollywood who makes a living by showing off the most titillating fake breasts money can buy?
(“Angelina Jolie’s ‘Heroic Decision’ to Get Breast Implants?” The iPINIONS Journal, May 16, 2013)
Even more shocking and dismaying, however, is that my critics seemed not in the least bit chastened five months later when Professor Kefah Mokbel of the London Breast Institute issued the following warning (as reported in the October 3, 2013 edition of the New York Post):
We’re seeing a large number of women requesting a preventive mastectomy for peace of mind, women who’ve been diagnosed but don’t have a genetic predisposition so wouldn’t benefit.
These are patients who say, ‘Can you do for me what Angelina Jolie had done?’ They’re on the increase.
Or even when, around the same time, researchers at the University of Minnesota presented a report at the 2013 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons, which included the following dispositive finding (as reported in the October 7, 2013 edition of the Daily Mail):
Women who have a healthy breast removed over fears they might later develop breast cancer may not improve their survival rate, according to new research.
Well, given that scientific evidence did nothing to disabuse Angie’s avengers of their misguided praise, perhaps the sublime image of what a real patron saint of breast-cancer survivors should look like will. And, thanks to the March 2014 issue of Cosmopolitan no less, Hannah Foxley is a vision to behold, posing proudly, I dare say even seductively, with her bare, scared chest where her pert breast used to be.
Hannah Foxley, who recently had a mastectomy, says she wants to show women you can still be beautiful even when you’ve had parts of your body removed.
‘I have learnt to love it and adopt a positive body image and I want to empower other women to do the same. I want them to see my pictures and say ‘she looks beautiful and I can too.’’
Surely no woman in her right mind would praise the fake, Playboy-style body image Jolie represents over the real, naturally beautiful body image Foxley does … right?
But let me hasten to clarify that nothing I’ve ever written on this subject is meant to convey any disrespect for women who opt for post-mastectomy reconstructive surgery.
I just think a woman like Foxley is far more worthy of being hailed as the patron saint of breast-cancer survivors than Jolie. Don’t you?
Wednesday, September 30, 2015 at 7:50 AM
And Putin is trolling him with a coalition of his own … to do the same.
American-trained Syrian fighters gave at least a quarter of their U.S.-provided equipment to al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria early this week, the U.S. Central Command said late Friday.
In a statement correcting earlier assertions that reports of the turnover were a “lie” and a militant propaganda ploy, the command said it was subsequently notified that the Syrian unit had “surrendered” some of its equipment — including six pickup trucks and a portion of its ammunition — to Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s arm in Syria.
The acknowledgment is the latest discouraging report regarding the $500 million train-and-equip program, which Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, head of Central Command, said last week had only ‘four or five’ trained Syrian fighters active in Syria.
(The Washington Post, September 25, 2015)
Humiliating? Farcical? Unbelievable? Absolutely!
If the Afghans and Iraqis Americans spent over a decade training to govern themselves, defend themselves, and sustain themselves can’t stand on their own against a rag-tag bunch of Taliban fighters and rampaging ISIS terrorists, respectively, then they deserve whatever fate befalls them. To say nothing of the dreadful spectacle of so many of those the U.S. trained either turning their guns directly on U.S. troops — in now notorious ‘green-on-blue’ killings, or using that training to professionalize the ranks of terrorist groups like ISIS.
Incidentally, Obama is making quite a show of seeking congressional authorization to train ‘moderate’ Syrian fighters as part of his war on terrorism strategy. But, consistent with the foregoing, nothing betrays the wishful thinking inherent in this quite like the shameful (and ultimately sacrificial) way thousands of U.S.-trained Iraqi troops threw down their U.S.-made weapons, abandoned their U.S.-made military vehicles, and hightailed it from just a few hundred poorly equipped ISIS fighters.
(“Demystifying ISIS: Case against Obama’s Bush-lite War on Terrorism,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 10, 2014)
Meanwhile, in light of ‘Breaking News’ about the Taliban recapturing a major city in Afghanistan, I reprise this warning – from “Perhaps Only Authoritarian Regimes Can Govern Arab Countries,” June 11, 2014. It pertains to the abiding fecklessness and futility of Americans trying to manage internecine conflicts throughout the Muslim world that have variously simmered and erupted for over a thousand years.
The primary cause of this mess is the sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims that has been simmering in Arab countries since time immemorial, which only authoritarian regimes seem willing and/or able to keep a lid on.
Of course, most glaring in this context is the fact that, after almost 13 years of trying to build an Afghanistan that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself, security there today is no greater than it is in Iraq. Nothing demonstrates this quite like the Taliban – whose authoritarian regime U.S. forces ousted 13 years ago – being so insurgent that they seem destined to destabilize the democratically elected government of Afghanistan with even greater speed and ease (after the United States ends it mission in 2015) than Iraqi insurgents are destabilizing the democratically elected government of Iraq.
Not to mention how emboldened the Taliban had to have become after forcing the United States just 10 days ago to release five of its top leaders from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, the one American POW they held captive for the past five years.
In any event, here are just a few of the points I delineated in the above-quoted “Demystifying ISIS” as the only sensible strategy for dealing with this jihadi menace.
- If your enemies are hell-bent on fighting among themselves (as Sunnis v. Shiites, al-Qaeda v. ISIS are doing), get out of the way! I have belabored this point in such commentaries as “Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds Fighting for Control of Iraq. Stay Out, America!” June 19, 2014.
- If Russia wants to ape your folly by wasting blood and treasure trying to settle/manage sectarian conflicts throughout the Muslim world, let it! Perhaps Russia can do for Syria (and to itself) over the next twelve years what the United States did for Iraq (and to itself) over the past twelve. It’s patently delusional, for example, for Putin to think that Russian airstrikes will be able to shape developments on the ground any more than American airstrikes have … despite a whole year of sorties. Alas, just as the United States did not learn the lessons of its ill-fated war in Vietnam, it appears Russia did not learn the lessons of its equally ill-fated war in Afghanistan. Mind you, this is just the latest in what I have commented on in such commentaries as “Putin’s Military Maneuvers Just Mercenary Distractions,” June 18, 2015, and “Ukraine’s Orange Revolution Turns ‘Red,’” February 25, 2014. Specifically, here is an excerpt from the latter, which explains why his motivation in this case is more about saving Putin’s Russia than saving Assad’s Syria.
It would make a mockery of the Cold-War principles he governs by if Putin allows these Ukrainian revolutionaries to put his puppet Yanukovych on trial — the way Egyptian revolutionaries are doing with their former leaders Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi; or worse, if he allows them to execute Yanukovych in the streets like a bunch of hungry hyenas devouring a gazelle — the way Libyan revolutionaries did with Muammar Gaddafi.
After all, Putin has made no secret of his contempt for what he decried as Obama’s failure to protect America’s puppet leader, Mubarak, from avenging mobs.
Let me hasten to clarify, however, that Putin’s contempt was and remains entirely self-interested. Because his only reason for standing in solidarity with everyone from Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia to Yanukovych of Ukraine [and al-Bashir of Syria] is that he lives in mortal fear that the popular uprisings that toppled them might topple him too. Period.
This is why he must’ve been a little unnerved yesterday when even pro-Russian Ukrainians were calling for Yanukovych’s head after they got a glimpse of the obscenely opulent, Louis-XVI lifestyle he was living at their expense. So just imagine what Putin’s peasant supporters in Russia would want to do to him if they were suddenly presented with clear and convincing evidence that he lives a lifestyle that’s a thousand times more extravagant than Yanukovych’s, having amassed billions in ill-gotten gains over the years as a KGB officer turn politician.
After eight years in power, Putin has secretly accumulated a fortune of more than $40bn. The sum would make him Russia’s (and Europe’s) richest man.
(“Putin, the Kremlin Power Struggle and the $40bn Fortune”, The London Guardian, December 21, 2007)
Trust me, Putin lords over a kleptocracy that has fleeced public funds on such an unprecedented scale that it makes kleptocracies headed by notorious African despots seem petty by comparison. Which of course is why he is so anxious to stoke the combustible geopolitical crisis in Ukraine to deflect the international media from drawing unavoidable parallels between Yanukovych’s illegal accumulation of wealth and his. Far better, for example, to get Russians drunk with pan-Russian pride than to have them pose sober questions about the billions he and his cronies embezzled from the $50-billion price tag for the Sochi Olympics.
- If Americans want to go to Syria to fight and die in those conflicts, let them!
- If any American sets foot in Syria or Iraq, and there’s probably cause to believe he might have been fighting with Islamic terrorists, make a public show of arresting him and letting him rot in prison. This prospect is so terrorizing I suspect most terrorists would rather die over there than be imprisoned over here – as Zacarias Moussaoui, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and Richard Reid would readily attest.
But bear in mind that no less a person than Obama used to champion the wisdom of building up the United States, until he started aping Bush by bombing up Arab states … to no avail. I have lamented his political morphing (in this respect) in such commentaries as “Obama Aping Bush on Mideast Peace Too,” September 7, 2010.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 7:27 AM
Pro-independence parties in Spain’s Catalonia region have won an absolute majority in regional elections…
The separatists say the victory gives them a clear mandate to form an independent Catalan state.
Spain’s central government in Madrid has pledged to challenge any unilateral moves towards independence in court
(BBC, September 28, 2015)
I’ve been commenting on pro-independence developments in this rich and restive region of Spain for years, prefiguring much of what is unfolding there today.
Therefore, in light of Sunday’s vote, I shall suffice to reprise “Catalonia: Spain’s Kosovo Problem – Act I,” October 1, 2012.
It smacks of rank hypocrisy for the British [who went to war to reinforce sovereignty over the Falkland Islands] to be denouncing the Serbs for merely threatening to go to war to reinforce sovereignty over Kosovo…
Kosovo embodies as much historical, cultural and religious significance for Serbs as Mecca holds for Saudis. Moreover, it happens to be situated right within Serbia’s universally recognized borders; i.e. not thousands of (imperial) miles away [as the Falklands are from Britain].
(“Kosovo: Wither Serbia’s Alamo,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 4, 2007)
This, in part, is how I criticized the double standard the United States and European countries were imposing on Serbia – not just by supporting, but by actually facilitating Kosovo’s independence. I was convinced that these Western powers were setting a precedent that would come home to roost (everywhere from Quebec to Cyprus). Now it has.
On Thursday lawmakers in the Catalan region of Spain (Catalonia) emulated their counterparts in the Kosovo region of Serbia by voting to hold a referendum on independence. This legislative move was prompted, if not forced, by nearly three weeks of street protests.
Where a “Yes” vote in Kosovo was guaranteed, however, it is not so in Catalonia. Not least because Catalans appear more interested in escaping the same austerity measures (aka economic oppression) that have Greeks protesting in the streets than in gaining independence.
Generations-old grievances for more self-government and recognition of their culture are rising to the surface as the economic downturn bites…
Spain’s slump, which has led to a spike in unemployment and harsh austerity cuts, has proven to be the tipping point for many Catalans who used to be against or ambivalent about seeking their own state.
(Associated Press, September 30, 2012)
Far more interesting, though, is whether Western powers will support and facilitate independence for Catalonia the way they did for Kosovo. After all, Catalonia not only has an equally compelling case for independence; its non-violent means stands in commendable and instructive contrast to the violence that attended Kosovo independence.
Not to mention how this Catalan movement stands in contrast to the more infamous, and perhaps more relevant, example its sister region of Basque set with its decades-long (futile) struggle for independence – complete with ETA terrorists doing throughout Spain back then what Taliban terrorists are doing throughout Afghanistan today.
But such is the vested interest in holding Spain together (economically and politically) that, even if Catalonia were to vote “Yes,” Western powers would surely conspire to nullify it. Which brings me back to the double standard Kosovo represents.
Because, just as Serbia argued that a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo was illegal/unconstitutional, Spain is arguing that a vote for independence by Catalonia is illegal/unconstitutional. Yet where Western powers rejected and undermined Serbia’s argument, they will undoubtedly embrace and champion Spain’s.
Notwithstanding this overweening double standard, however, Catalans themselves must know that their non-violent movement stands even less of a chance of leading to independence than the Basques’ violent movement.
Nevertheless, ‘autonomous’ regions in other countries – among them Iraq’s Kurdistan, Italy’s South Tyrol, Belgium’s Flemish and Walloon, even China’s Uyghur – are bound to tempt fate (for political, cultural and/or economic reasons) by following the powder-keg precedent Kosovo set….
Your move, Madrid.
Monday, September 28, 2015 at 8:01 AM
[M]illions could be wandering through Europe, in migrant formation, before the end of the year. At that rate, Europe might end up with a majority non-White population before the United States…
I would not be the least bit surprised if the Germans greeting this first wave of migrants with banners, cheers, and food are among those hurling xenophobic epithets at sequent waves of them a few months from now — as predictable strains/conflicts with respect to gainful employment and welfare benefits become manifestly untenable.
(“European Migration Crisis: Sowing Seeds of Unintended, but all too Foreseeable Consequences,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 7, 2015)
Consider this vindicating report from the September 22 edition of the New York Times:
With record numbers of migrants pouring across the Hungarian border and rushing west, Germany, the country that had been the most welcoming in Europe, suddenly ordered temporary border restrictions on Sunday that cut off rail travel from Austria and instituted spot checks on cars…
The restrictions put in place by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government were seen as a strong sign — if not an outright message — to other European Union members that Germany was growing weary of shouldering so much of the burden in Europe’s largest humanitarian crisis in decades without more help and cooperation from other nations.
For others, though, the concern was that if even the richest and most powerful nation in the 28-member union was showing signs of reaching its limit, how would Europe be able to find a path through a seemingly ceaseless refugee emergency?
Germany in a state of SIEGE: Merkel was cheered when she opened the floodgates to migrants. Now, with gangs of men roaming the streets and young German women being told to cover up, the mood’s changing…
There is now deepening disquiet in this Christian country, dotted with churches, that it is being overwhelmed by people of a different religion and culture.
Meanwhile, that rich as Croesus Saudi Arabia has refused to open its borders to resettle a single Muslim migrant must suffuse this changing mood in Germany with resentment. And viral (i.e., unsubstantiated) reports about Saudi Arabia offering to build 200 mosques in Germany for resettled migrants to worship (or to be radicalized) could only have fuelled this resentment. After all, the Saudis have a well-earned reputation as the Wahhabi grand wizards of Islamic jihad – who would rather fill the minds of poor Muslims with their radical version of Islam than put a single morsel of food in their bellies.
In any event, I also posited in my September 7 commentary that this migrant crisis poses a far greater risk to EU accord than the Greek economic crisis. That risk came into stark relief last week when the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia voted against a policy to apportion 120,000 migrants among member states, defying the tradition of adopting EU policies by consensus. And, as the New York Times duly noted, that number represents “only a small fraction of those flowing into Europe.” Accordingly, I reiterate from September 7:
European leaders should coordinate comprehensive humanitarian interventions, enabled and protected by NATO (not UN) forces, to contain would-be migrants within their borders. It’s clearly far better to provide local safe havens than for migrants to continue risking life and limb, only to end up in splendid desolation in Europe or in fetid isolation in internment camps, where millions are being detained today in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and, increasingly, in Hungary.
As it happens, no less a person than former General David Petraeus, arguably the world’s top military and geopolitical strategist, has now endorsed my strategy for dealing with this migration crisis:
Mr. Petraeus, in his first public testimony since resigning as director of the C.I.A. in 2012, told a Senate committee that the United States should establish safe havens in Syria where a moderate rebel force could operate and displaced Syrians could find refuge under the protection of American and allied air power. (New York Times, September 22, 2015)
Incidentally, much is being made of U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting at the UN today to discuss a military alliance to defeat ISIS. No doubt this alliance can prove every bit as successful as the one U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and USSR President Joseph Stalin forged during WWII to defeat the Nazis.
Except that Putin seems even more determined to divide the spoils of war in Syria between East and West than Stalin was to divide the spoils of war in Germany along similar lines after WWII. That division proved the defining moment of Cold War I. This division could prove the defining moment of Cold War II.
Never mind that Putin has been waging this cold war from day one of his presidency – with the de facto division of Ukraine (complete with Russia’s annexation of Crimea) being his crowning achievement to date.
Still, Obama and Putin would do well to spend far more time discussing strategies to contain this migration than they do discussing strategies to defeat ISIS.
For, on the one hand, even though a very humanitarian gesture, dealing with waves of Syrians migrating to Europe by resettling them is as foolhardy and unsustainable as dealing with waves of Mexicans migrating to the United States by employing them. Indeed, when the United States granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants in 1986, it only encouraged millions more to follow their path. Likewise, I fear, when the EU agreed last week to resettle 120,000 migrants, it only encouraged hundreds of thousands more to follow their path.
Frankly, to date, the European response to this migration crisis has amounted to the triumph of heartrending folly over mindful good sense. The irony, however, is that as many migrants will probably soon regret migrating to Europe as the number of Europeans who already regret welcoming them.
Whereas, on the other hand, I have argued for years that, if only left to their own devices, the warring Muslim factions in Syria (Iraq and Afghanistan) would probably be too busy fighting each other to pose any threat to Westerners (or anyone else). Hell, in such commentaries as “Moderate Muslims Too Busy Fighting Each Other to Fight Extremists,” July 31, 2015, I’ve even pointed out why it’s plainly foolhardy for Obama and Putin to depend on moderates in the region to help them defeat ISIS.
All the same, God/Allah help these misguided Europeans … and these forsaken Muslim migrants.
Saturday, September 26, 2015 at 8:07 AM
To show how even a brain surgeon can be an ignorant fool.
He truly distinguished himself in this respect last week by declaring that we should never:
… put a Muslim in charge of this nation.
(The Washington Post, September 20, 2015)
But nothing has betrayed his Uncle Tomfoolery quite like Carson parroting the dogma of his political massa, Rush Limbaugh, by denouncing Obama’s efforts to provide healthcare for poor Americans as:
… the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.
(MEDIAite, October 11, 2013)
This man is an embarrassment to his profession … and to his race.
Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 7:56 PM
The unprecedented pomp and ceremony began with both President Obama and Vice President Biden leading a delegation to greet him at the airport on Tuesday, when he set foot on U.S. soil for the first time in his life.
The irony, of course, is that Francis is probably the only world leader who would prefer less pomp and ceremony among high-ranking officials, and more meet and greet among ordinary folks.
Nothing betrays this irony, or telegraphs his preference, quite like watching the pope’s presidential-style motorcade moving around the streets of Washington, DC. For it speaks volumes to see the juxtaposition of the tiny, cheap Fiat in which Francis insists on being chauffeured with the big, expensive limousines escorting it.
This will be thrown into even sharper relief over the next few days, as his motorcade navigates the streets of New York City along with those of over 160 other world leaders who are gathering for the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. After all, each of them will be looking to partake of all the pomp and ceremony Francis eschews, including being chauffeured around in big, expensive limousines.
Indeed, what distinguishes the pontiff from every other world leader is his abiding message of personal humility and public service.
Apropos of which, here, in part, is what I wrote – in “Habemas Papam: Hail Francis,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 13, 2013 – the day he was elected pope.
The prevailing wisdom is that Bergoglio chose Francis as his papal name because he intends to return the Church back to its basic mission of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted – in honor of St. Francis of Assisi who was a bone fide champion of the poor…
[Pope Francis] might instruct the cardinals (aka the ‘princes’ of the Church for Christ’s sake) to follow his example by giving up their fancy apartments, cooks, and chauffeured limousines. But I suspect cardinals will be even less willing to follow the pope’s instruction in this respect than lay Catholics have been to follow the cardinals’ instruction with respect to contraception.
That the pope is only doing what Jesus would do indicates how much leaders of the Catholic Church have perverted and corrupted their holy mission. Indeed, that Bergoglio is the first pope to honor St. Francis is testament to how little interest even his predecessors have had throughout the ages in living lives of humility, simplicity, and poverty … as Jesus did.
As it happens, Francis vindicated my take today, as he became the first pope to address a joint session of Congress. For here is how he crystallized the message of his papacy:
Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’
But, as any student of religious dogma and political philosophy will tell you, this Golden Rule is just the Christian version of the socialist credo: “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
Which of course is why, as much as the rich and powerful may love this pope, they are loath to accept his message. It is also why, as much as Americans will remember the pomp and ceremony that occasioned his visit, few will remember the message he delivered on everything from climate change to caring for the poor, the immigration/migration crisis, and the sanctity of human life.
Alas, the Golden Rule is, for all practical purposes, un-American!
To be fair, though, even cardinals of his church are showing little signs of emulating the pontiff’s ways. Not least because this would require them to live the lifestyle of paupers, instead of the lifestyle of princes to which they have become so accustomed. Indeed, no cardinal personifies this princely way of shepherding the poor quite like His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan – the Archbishop of New York who will be hosting Francis during his stay.
Meanwhile, I was a little dismayed by the way Francis undermined his own mission – of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted, during a prayer service at St. Mathew’s Cathedral with U.S. bishops yesterday.
Specifically, he commended the bishops for the courageous and generous way they dealt with “the scourge” of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests; notwithstanding that these are the very bishops who abetted and covered up much of that abuse. Yet he offered nary a word of comfort or compassion to the victims of this clerical neglect and pastoral abuse. I pray he atones for this sin of omission before ending his historic visit.
I feel obliged to note that, for all the praise being heaped on him as a revolutionary, the pope is actually reinforcing his church’s traditional edicts on such issues as women priests, homosexuality, and abortion. He’s just sensible enough to appreciate that there would be many more people in the pews if priests humbled themselves by preaching social justice/liberation theology, which addresses the suffering of the poor, instead of playing God by passing moral judgment on the personal choices (good) people make.
I suppose this is why the pope had no compunction about banishing Germany’s Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst (aka ‘Bishop Bling’) to an ascetic monastery for spending $43 million to renovate his pastoral digs, but seems ambivalent about disciplining the gay cabal that has turned Vatican City into a latter-day Sodom….
(“Pope Francis Condemns the Cult and Idolatry of Money,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 27, 2013)
Still, there’s no denying that America is lavishing Francis with unprecedented reverence, adulation, and respect – complete with wall-to-wall TV coverage worthy of a natural disaster or a shooting rampage. But don’t get me started on the way politicians are jostling to bask in his holy glow; you know, the way kids are jostling to snap selfies with him.
But am I the only one who wonders why security officials are closing so many streets in DC and NYC for his papal visit, given that they did not take such extraordinary measures for visits by his predecessors. One would have thought, after all, that if ever there were a pope in need of relatively little security, it is Francis – who is affectionately known as “the people’s pope.”
Saturday, September 19, 2015 at 8:58 AM
Obama authorizes raft of business dealings with Cuba:
The White House on Friday announced wide-ranging changes to loosen travel, commerce and investment restrictions on Cuba, moving to fulfill President Obama’s goal of breaking down barriers between Washington and Havana…
They are to take effect on Monday on the eve of the visit to Washington by Pope Francis, a proponent of the reconciliation between the United States and Cuba who quietly helped broker the agreement last year between Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro.
Mr. Obama spoke to Mr. Castro by telephone on Friday to discuss the normalization process.
(New York Times, September 18, 2015)
It speaks volumes about the significance of Cuba among Caribbean nations that Francis will be the third pope (following John Paul II and Benedict XVI) to make a papal visit. Especially considering that Francis will only be the fourth pope to visit the United States.
John Paul II, the peripatetic pope, was the first one to visit many countries around the world, including Haiti, the Dominican Republic (3), Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Jamaica, and The Bahamas (albeit a mere stopover).
In any event, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood….
U.S./Cuba open embassies…
Friday, September 18, 2015 at 7:49 AM
Lady Gaga literally personifies the triumph of packaged and formulaic acts over talented performances. Which is rather a shame because this girl can sing…
Come to think of it, though, most performers today seem to think that the key to success is looking and behaving in a way off stage that makes what they do on stage seem almost irrelevant: Exhibit B – Nicki Minaj (or, for you older folks, think of all of the off-stage exhibitionism that rendered the music of artists like Grace Jones and Madonna irrelevant).
By sterling contrast, Adele not only sings like an angel, but she might just be the music industry’s saving grace. Unfortunately, the VMAs have so little to do with musical talent these days that Adele performing on this show was rather like Andrea Bocelli performing on So You Think You Can Dance.
(“2011 MTV Music Video Awards,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 30, 2011)
Never mind that this flak came from sophomoric adults who derive their self-esteem from catfish postings on Facebook and photoshopped images on Instagram; or that fans seem more interested these days in pop stars who can brand themselves like Kim than sing their songs like Adele.
Which is why it speaks volumes that even the sophomoric, gossip website TMZ dismissed this year’s VMAs as follows:
If you missed the 2015 VMAs last night, you missed dumb people doing dumb things while wearing dumb outfits and talking about dumb stuff.
(August 31, 2015)
But, on the same day, the respected news website Salon truly vindicated my dismissal and damned the industry – in which music videos are more about going viral on social media than providing visuals to enhance the enjoyment of good music. For here is how it dismissed the whole zeitgeist – complete with this mouthful of a headline: “The insipid hell of the VMAs: Why pop culture’s obsession with ‘Big Moments’ is cynical, stupid & deeply boring. What are we doing still watching this thing?”
In a world where teenagers become mega-famous on Vine without so much as piercing the broader consciousness, the knowledge that the VMAs are still there is almost comforting. Websites hungry for easily consumed bits of content know that they will be able to dine out for days on the slideshows, gif lists and thinkpieces (guilty as charged!) any big thing seems to generate these days.
The downside of all of this is that everything gets ground up into the same, ultra-cynical feedback loop.
Frankly, you know pop music has become little more than self-indulgent performance art when even vaudevillian queen Grace Jones begins complaining. After all, Grace pioneered the triumph of performance art (on and off stage) over song and dance. Yet, in the September 10 edition of the Daily Mail – she dismissed pop stars like Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and Nicki Minaj as being so bereft of talent, they’re just giving audiences crude versions of the sexualized schtick she performed decades ago (and is still pulling off remarkably well today … at 67).
With that, I drop the mic on pop music.
NOTE: MTV aired the VMAs on August 30. I’m only just getting to this commentary because I was on holiday then, and had other far more interesting things to write about since returning on September 6. Did you watch? Will you continue watching?
Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 8:17 AM
Alfred W. McCoy, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is getting a lot of attention for offering – in “Grandmaster of the Great Game,” Huffington Post, September 15, 2015 – what many are hailing as a unique perspective on the Obama presidency. This excerpt sums it up pretty well.
In ways that have eluded Washington pundits and policymakers, President Barack Obama is deploying a subtle geopolitical strategy that, if successful, might give Washington a fighting chance to extend its global hegemony deep into the twenty-first century.
After six years of silent, sometimes secret preparations, the Obama White House has recently unveiled some bold diplomatic initiatives whose sum is nothing less than a tri-continental strategy to check Beijing’s rise. As these moves unfold, Obama is revealing himself as one of those rare grandmasters who appear every generation or two with an ability to go beyond mere foreign policy and play that ruthless global game called geopolitics.
Except that there’s nothing unique about Professor McCoy’s perspective. After all, I’ve been chronicling Obama’s political mastery for years in such commentaries as “New Sanctions on Iran: Naïve or Shrewd,” June 15, 2010, “Obama Planting Political Seeds for Success,” April 7, 2010, and “Obama’s Swing Right Alienates Left,” November 24, 2009, which includes this prescient except.
Far too many liberals are being swayed by conservative spin about Obama’s domestic policy agenda being too unfocused and his foreign policy being too soft. Not to mention the political naiveté being displayed by those who are already calling him a ‘sellout.’
They fail to appreciate that Obama is merely planting political seeds this year (e.g., on the economy, healthcare, Iran, and even in his dealings with rabidly partisan Republicans) that he reasonably expects will blossom (i.e., pay dividends) in due course…
This means that, like the most successful presidents in modern times (namely Reagan and Clinton), Obama is perfectly prepared to sacrifice short-term popularity (and a few congressional Democrats) to ensure his re-election and presidential legacy.
Never mind that there was nothing “subtle” about Obama’s declared intent to “pivot to Asia.” After all, this geopolitical strategy had him making quite a show of championing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and joining the East Asia Summit in order to check China’s political influence and contain its military aggression throughout the region, respectively.
All the same, I commend the professor for recognizing that the “moves” Obama made years ago are beginning to unfold in ways that heretofore have eluded most Washington pundits and policymakers. But I hope I can be forgiven a little indignation – given that I recognized those moves as Obama, the geopolitical grandmaster, was making them during the early days of his presidency.
That said, I feel compelled to clarify that I’m not one of those Obama-can-do-no-wrong supporters.
In fact, I’m on record denouncing the way he championed Arab Spring protesters, whose misguided and uncompromising protests have produced little more than a perennial winter of discontent. After all, given the mess that ensued after Bush toppled Hussein of Iraq, you’d think Obama would have been smarter than to call for the head of dictators like Mubarak of Egypt, Gaddafi of Libya and Assad of Syria, and then fiddle as violence and utter chaos ensued.
What’s more, I have admonished – in commentaries as far back as “The Shotgun Convention of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds to Frame an Iraqi Constitution,” August 22, 2005, and as recent as “Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds Fighting for Control of Iraq. Stay Out, America” June 19, 2014 – that it’s sheer folly for the United States to be trying to settle sectarian conflicts, which have been raging in the Muslim world for over a thousand years. After all, this is even more like political quicksand than trying to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015 at 7:38 AM
The following is an excerpt from “Zimbabweans Pray for Liberation from their Liberator, Robert Mugabe,” March 29, 2005.
It attests to my abiding lamentation on President Mugabe’s willful intent to ruin his country’s farmland and, by extension, its agrarian economy – all in the name of Black liberation.
The Mugabe government of Zimbabwe is the most corrupt, dysfunctional, and incompetent in Africa. And, on a continent that has the most corrupt, dysfunctional, and incompetent governments in the entire world, Mugabe’s achievement in this regard is a truly dubious distinction…
Two decades after independence, a herd of white farmers still managed the most profitable sector of Zimbabwe’s economy: agriculture. And, for a proud Black freedom fighter who promised not only political but also economic liberation from the White man, this fact hovered as a glaring humiliation and contradiction over Mugabe’s leadership. In 2000, he decided to do something about it…
To the relief and exultation of restive Blacks, Mugabe announced sweeping land reforms in which his government would seize the ‘farms of white colonialists to give to landless peasants and the veterans of the war of liberation.’
Unfortunately, like his plan for Black economic empowerment, Mugabe’s plan for land reforms has been an abject failure: Five years ago, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of sub-Saharan Africa; today, it is a basket case of starving people. Five years ago, there were 4000 white-owned farms in Zimbabwe; today, there are only 400 – mostly unproductive – farms left.
The vast majority of the seized farms went to President Mugabe’s loyal cronies in government who used them for weekend retreats. Virtually every Cabinet minister and senior security official now has at least two farms. Even then, they are not given the title deed, just a long lease, which the president can revoke at the first sign of disloyalty.
It has been a catastrophe. These people had no idea how to farm commercially; and farms that would normally be overflowing with maize and other crops lie fallow, now covered in waist-high wild grass. Farm machinery stands unused in abandoned fields.
Alas, since then, I have had cause only to reinforce my lamentation in such commentaries as “UN Sanctions Mugabe’s Genocidal Rule,” May 14, 2007, “Zimbabwe: From Africa’s Bread Basket to Basket Case…,” December 5, 2008, and “It’s Hail Mugabe … Again,” August 4, 2013.
Fifteen years ago, the government began seizing property from thousands of white farmers and giving it to blacks as recompense for the abuses of colonial rule. But now, as agricultural output stalls, black landowners are quietly reaching out to white farmers who were thrown off their land.
‘The problem now is that we have the land, but they have the experience,’ said Mutinhiri, a black landowner.
(The Washington Post, September 14, 2015)
Of course, the wonder is not only that it took these would-be farmers fifteen years to admit their incompetence, but that they never bothered during all of those fallow years to acquire the knowledge and skills to become competent farmers.
The latter, I respectfully submit, speaks volumes about why Whites owned so much farmland in the first place (i.e. notwithstanding colonial rule).
Meanwhile, Mugabe continues to manifest the mental defect that gave birth to his ill-fated land reforms and should have caused his removal from office at least fifteen years ago. You can be forgiven for thinking that I’m referring to this pitiful spectacle:
Zimbabwe’s 91-year-old president Mugabe read the wrong speech at the opening of a new session of parliament on Tuesday, repeating an address he gave to the legislature last month.
The veteran leader read the 25-minute-long speech through to the end, apparently unaware that he was delivering the same text he presented during his state of the nation address last month.
(The Telegraph, September 15, 2015)
But I am not referring to this; not least because it says far more about his yes-men than it does about a plainly senile Mugabe.
Instead, I’m referring to this equally pitiful utterance:
‘We can’t have another war to liberate a country we have already liberated,’ Mugabe said last month, speaking about the increasing number of White farmers now advising or managing Black-owned farms.
(The Washington Post, September 14, 2015)
Sadly, Mugabe’s dementia is such that he does not remember the SOS he himself sounded earlier this year for these White farmers to return.
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has admitted failures in the country’s controversial land reform programme.
‘I think the farms we gave to people are too large. They can’t manage them,’ the 91-year-old leader said in unusually candid comments.
(BBC, February 27, 2015)
Never mind that Zimbabwe’s long-suffering people have been doing so for most of his rule – as the title to my 2005 commentary excerpted above, “Zimbabweans Pray for Liberation from their Liberator, Robert Mugabe,” duly attests.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 7:18 AM
Monday, September 14, 2015 at 10:01 AM
Of course, they seemed bonded by an uncompromising commitment to democratic principles for which they spent 27 and 15 years, respectively, as political prisoners to honor.
Except that, after talking the talk, Mandela began walking the walk from the day he was finally released in 1990. By contrast, Suu Kyi seemed to be walking pursuant to a Faustian bargain with her military jailers from the day she was finally released in 2010.
In fact, so much so that in “Obama’s Historic Trip to Myanmar: Too Soon?” November 12, 2012 – I questioned President Obama’s decision to join the endless procession of world leaders making pilgrimages to her home to bask in the glow of her political halo.
Nothing demonstrates the extent to which she has been co-opted quite like Suu Kyi’s deafening silence about the ongoing religious cleansing of minority Muslims by majority Buddhists. Especially given that the UN has called Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims ‘the world’s most persecuted people.’
Yet when challenged to explain her silence, the Buddhist Suu Kyi demurred, saying self-righteously that she was not taking sides to preserve her impartiality to help them reconcile. But just imagine how much worse the religious cleansing of minority Muslims by majority Hindus in India would have been if the Hindu Gandhi had not been so vocal in condemning it?
Sure enough, Suu Kyi soon vindicated my concerns about her commitment to democratic principles when she made quite a show of sitting with the military leaders she once defied, instead of standing with the people who were still being oppressed.
I wonder what my critics have to say about viral pictures of Suu Kyi sitting quite comfortably yesterday as a solitary figure among hundreds of military men as they presided over the hallmark of all dictatorships, the annual military parade. For there can be no denying that these pictures provide clear vindication of my informed cynicism.
(“Aung San Suu Kyi Becoming Democratic Mascot of Myanmar’s Military Dictatorship,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 28, 2013)
I continue to hope against hope that the klieg light of media coverage will finally shine on Myanmar’s unfolding genocide…
A little more media coverage of their plight would force Myanmar’s military leaders to act – if only to prevent media images of Rohingya fleeing religious oppression from undermining media images of tourist sites, which are intended to entice foreigners to visit….
(“Buddhists Religiously Cleansing Myanmar of Muslims,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 13, 2015)
This is why I am so heartened that the BBC is finally beginning to echo the questions I raised years ago about Suu Kyi’s commitment to democratic principles:
There was a time when Aung San Suu Kyi was seen as Asia’s Nelson Mandela. To her more ardent fans, she was more than that. An icon, almost a saint. So why is the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s political party excluding Muslims from its list of candidates for November’s general election?
(BBC, September 8, 2015)
After all, just imagine how disheartening it would’ve been if Mandela began preparing South Africa for its first democratic elections by presiding over the ethnic cleansing of Whites – not just from his African National Congress party, but from the entire country.
Alas, nothing indicates the willingness of Western powers to continue indulging Suu Kyi’s betrayal of the democratic principles she once championed quite like Washington denouncing military rulers for executing a putsch within their reviled ruling party, while uttering nary a word about Suu Kyi religiously cleansing her revered opposition party:
The recent unseating of the chief of Myanmar’s ruling party had a ‘chilling effect’ on the political climate in the Southeast Asian country and was a reminder of the ‘bad old days’ of military dictatorship, a senior U.S. diplomat has said…
‘The government and the ruling party have to act in a way that reinforces, not undermines, public confidence in the government’s commitment to democratic processes,’ he added.
(The Sydney Morning Herald, September 12, 2015)
Which, of course, makes about as much sense as denouncing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for shaking up his ruling party, while uttering nary a word about Syrian opposition parties enforcing ISIS-style Sharia laws among their ranks.
I fear Western powers, led by the hopelessly compromised United States, will never learn….
Buddhists religiously cleansing…