Posts from — February 2012
I am waiting for someone to walk up the driveway this morning and present me with the Oscar I should have received last night. I deserve some kind of award. After all, I stayed up till the bitter end of the show.
I must have been the only viewer left. Even Sandra, a bona fide movie buff, fell asleep. I know I am not in the loop, and I can’t expect to catch on when I am deluged with “inside” jokes, but why wasn’t anyone else laughing? I mean really laughing?
It wasn’t until I read Salon this morning that I realized Billy Crystal was playing SammyDavis Junior, for example. I thought I saw Sammy himself once, but I couldn’t remember the legend’s name right away – not after all these years. You’re right: I am getting old.
And why were we shown Billy Crystal playing Sammy Davis Jr. anyway (if that’s what it was)? I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many flashbacks of an actor’s career – certainly not while they were still alive.
Sandra, ever-compassionate, described Hollywood’s big event as “almost embarrassing.”
Almost? Then how come it made my skin crawl?
The awards were politically predictable. Of course it was time for Meryl Streep to win another Best Actress Oscar. With 17 nominations and just two previous wins, it was only fair.
Of course those brave, misunderstood Iranians would get a trophy. They need encouragement to endure life under the wicked Ayatollah and his creepy stooge Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Maybe that will put an end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and promote peace with America. But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.
Of course the Academy had to throw “The Help” a bone. Of course they had to say ”merci” to the French for memorializing Hollywood’s glory days. Of course they had to get an Oscar into Christopher Plummer’s hands before he dies of old age.
But what on earth were those Circle de Soleil acrobats about? Were they there because they’re French, you think?
And did Crystal and his quirky presenters have to go on and on with endless double entendres and wink-wink, nudge-nudge allusions to events only they could recall? OK, so I didn’t get it. As I said, I’m not in the loop. I live in Lakeland, Florida, after all.
But you have to admit it’s not much of a show when the most memorable scene was Angelie Jolie poking her knee out of that slit in her dress. (photo above).
Perhaps it’s time to put the Academy Awards ceremony out of its misery.
But you and I know that’s not likely. And you and I know we’ll be propping up our eyelids and trying to stay awake through another extravaganza next year.
As the French say, the more things change the more they stay the same (but they say it in French, naturellement).
February 27, 2012 2 Comments
I’m sure you’ve been told that nothing is impossible. And I’m sure you know that it’s nonsense. Some things cannot be done. Afghanistan comes to mind. “Nationbuilding” in Afghanistan in this century is not possible. To hang around in that treacherous wasteland only exposes America to continuing loss of life and a hemorrhage of cash. And – as the Koran-burning riots (photo above) make abundantly clear – the longer American troops stay the more of a mess they are bound to create.
I concede up front that the way Afghan women are treated is a crime against humanity, and I wish the Afghan people would be more enlightened. I also wish that the members of America’s Tea Party would see the light. But wishing won’t make it so.
Some people are beyond redemption. By us humans, anyway. That kind of change can come only from Divine intervention.
Looking around this crazy world, I am tempted to agree with Ron Paul when he declares that America should bring home all of the troops stationed at foreign military bases. It would certainly save a lot of money. And, in some cases, precious lives.
Implementing Paul’s policy would be insanely risky, of course. But it’s nice to dream. And Paul’s supporters know all about dreaming.
With things the way they are, no American president in his (or her) right mind would close all foreign bases and call the troops home.
But there is no point in dragging out that adventure in Afghanistan. President Obama did the job he set out to do: Osama bin Ladin is dead.
With the technology available today, America can keep a watchful eye on Afghanistan from afar. There’s no need for boots on the ground to guard against another al Qaida infestation. And American troops are apparently doing little good there. The longer they stay the worse things seem to get.
It’s time to call it quits. Now.
That old Kenny Rogers song sums up the situation astutely:
You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run..
February 26, 2012 3 Comments
Long, long ago, when I was living in Haiti, the owner of the tiny weekly newspaper I worked for set off on a sailing trip and left me without access to the paper’s bank account. That left me to survive on the small change I took in for classified ads. Eventually, I got so short of cash that I went without food for four days.
So I know how important food is.
When you’re hungry – really hungry – nothing else matters.
In America, it seems, food is taken for granted. All kinds of other things get more attention. Oil companies, for example, receive massive subsidies from the government, and the price of gas dominates the headlines. Meanwhile, politicians talk about “manufacturing” as the answer to the country’s economic woes. They seem to forget that you can’t eat gasoline or cars.
But Willie Nelson knows better.
In a “Reader Supported News” article today, co-authored with Anna Lappe, the legendary country singer warns:
Our food is under threat. It is felt by every family farmer who has lost their land and livelihood, every parent who can’t find affordable or healthy ingredients in their neighborhood, every person worried about food borne illnesses thanks to lobbyist-weakened food safety laws, every farm worker who faces toxic pesticides in the fields as part of a day’s work.
When our food is at risk we are all at risk.
Over the last thirty years, we have witnessed a massive consolidation of our food system. Never have so few corporations been responsible for more of our food chain. Of the 40,000 food items in a typical U.S. grocery store, more than half are now brought to us by just 10 corporations. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of all U.S. beef, Tyson, Cargill and JBS. More than 90 percent of soybean seeds and 80 percent of corn seeds used in the United States are sold by just one company: Monsanto. Four companies are responsible for up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. And one in four food dollars is spent at Walmart….
Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, the destruction of soil fertility, the pollution of our water, and health epidemics including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain forms of cancer. More and more, the choices that determine the food on our shelves are made by corporations concerned less with protecting our health, our environment, or our jobs than with profit margins and executive bonuses.
Nelson is calling on Americans to join a massive protest on Monday. More than 60 “Occupy” groups and other organizations are staging protests in Brazil, Hungary, Ireland, Argentina, the United States and other countries to call attention to the dangers we all face from the agricultural giants that control the world’s food supply.
Nelson (shown above at his “Farm Aid” concert) writes that:
People will be reclaiming unused bank-owned lots to create community gardens; hosting seed exchanges in front of stock exchanges; labeling products on grocery store shelves that contain genetically engineered ingredients; building community alliances to support locally owned grocery stores and resist Walmart megastores; and fighting back against industrial giants Monsanto and Cargill.
If you don’t have to go to work on Monday, and you want to add your voice to the protest, click the link below to find an event near you:
February 25, 2012 1 Comment
The ship of state is navigating in dangerous seas, tacking among submerged rocks and swamped by storm-tossed waves. The captain’s skill is being put to the severest of tests. The challenge he faces demands his total concentration.
This would be the worst possible time to fire the captain. Especially when the replacement crew has a completely different destination in mind – and different charts to guide them.
It takes time to turn a big ship like this around, to head for a different destination. Trying to do that now could mean disaster. You don’t pause to change course when you are in imminent danger of running aground.
OK, so America is not a ship.
It is a patchwork of diverse states, all with different histories, traditions, goals and beliefs, with a combined population of more than 300 million, each individual with unique needs and hopes and dreams. You tell me how you would balance their interests, protect them from each other, and from disease and natural disasters… how you would ensure prosperity not only for them but for their children and grandchildren as well.
Tell me how you would maintain America’s dominance in a changing world, with emerging nations jockeying for advantage and powerful rivals challenging your leadership.
Tell me how you would keep the peace in the Mideast, shield the Arab protesters from their oppressors and Israel from its neighbors… how you plan to rescue the victims of famine, drought and tribal war in Africa, stem the flow of dangerous drugs and weapons around the globe, police the scamps who are tampering with the global financial system to steal billions from it…
I bet you don’t want the job.
So, who would you give it to?
Mitt Romney? Rick Santorum? Ron Paul? Newt Gingrich?
I’m sure you have a bone or two to pick with President Obama. I do, too.
But I wouldn’t take America’s tiller out of his hands.
February 24, 2012 3 Comments
Last night’s Republican presidential debate was enlightening. But it was not because of anything the candidates proposed; they trotted out the same threadbare theories we’ve heard before. It was revealing because of the insights it provided into the candidates’ character.
It was like peeking under a manhole cover and getting a whiff of the stuff running through the pipes below.
As Mitt Romney (above, left) thrashed Rick Santorum (second from left) – using the former senator’s voting record as his whip – Newt Gingrich (second from right) bared his fangs and went for President Obama’s jugular. (Ron Paul (far right) was his usual irrelevant self, treading that well-worn libertarian line that 12 percent of America’s Republicans know and love.)
I knew Gingrich was nasty, but I didn’t realize how nasty. He actually accused President Obama of promoting “infanticide.”
The truth is, of course, much less dramatic. As an Illinois senator, Barack Obama once opposed a bill requiring doctors to care for surviving fetuses. Obama argued that the bill would be struck down by the courts. Furthermore, Illinois already had laws to ensure that infants who survived abortions would be given medical attention.
Gingrich declared that “not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide.” But in its “fact check” today, the National Journal found:
The media, including CNN, reported on and discussed Obama’s opposition to the legislation during his 2008 presidential campaign.
I’ve heard this kind of bizarre lie before – from a relative who swore that Barack Obama “grabbed newborn babies, stabbed them in the heart and threw them down the sink.” I guess it’s one of those “talking points” that Republicans distribute to supporters.
Gingrich was the most vile but he was not alone in slandering the president. Romney and Santorum joined him in spreading the GOP fantasy du jour – that the president is waging war on religion by trying to ensure free birth control for America’s female employees. And they waxed ominously eloquent making up false scenarios about America’s foreign policy. To listen to them, you would think this administration intervenes militarily to aid Muslim uprisings while ignoring the slaughter of Christians by Muslims. They also accused President Obama of allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, which would spread throughout the Third World and end up on the streets of American cities.
You and I know nothing could be farther from the truth. The Obama Administration has led the crackdown on Iran, which is backed by Russia and China. But with billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson funding them, you can expect both Gingrich and Romney to spread Zionist propaganda. Heaven help us if either of them gets to be president. America would be hip deep in another dreadful Mideast conflict, this time with the possibility of Russian – and even Chinese – involvement.
Fortunately, the prospect of a Gingrich nomination is now very dim, but Romney’s star is brighter this morning. He ripped off Santorum’s “conservative” mask in the debate, leaving the former Pennsylvania senator bobbing and weaving to explain why he voted for bills that seemed to be the opposite of the philosophy he has been touting on the campaign trail. After all was said, the answer seemed to be that as a “team player,” Santorum went along to get along – as Washington insiders like him might say.
It looks to me like the beginning of the end of the Santorum surge.
But that leaves Romney.
February 23, 2012 1 Comment
I am amazed by the temerity of people like Franklin Graham (no relation, thank God!) who claim to know who God wants us to vote for. I not only read most of the Holy Bible during my long life (sorry, I couldn’t quite make it through Numbers and Deuteronomy) but I also listened over and over to my mother, grandmother and numerous other relatives quoting from the Word of God. I belong to a very religious family (most of them, anyway).
But I have never heard anyone claim to identify the real Christian candidates in an election. Not until Franklin Graham (photo above) did it on TV.
Jesus warned us against being taken in by the “whited sepulchers.” He said we would be deceived by false prophets.
But Franklin Graham has the nerve to assure us that Rick Santorum is a Christian and cast doubt on President Obama’s faith.
Listening to the TV interview, I was left as breathless as Andrea Mitchell when she heard that joke about using aspirin as birth control.
What kind of pompous egomaniac would dare to be so bold?
Yes, I know he is Billy Graham’s son. But he is no Billy Graham.
He is a false prophet.
And he is endorsing the sick theology of a demented demagogue. To claim that Rick Santorum is a Christian is to fly in the face of Christ’s teaching. Jesus of Nazareth taught gentleness and compassion, tolerance and love. Santorum preaches intolerance and hate. He spews venom like the serpent in the garden.
He is precisely the type of breast-beating Pharisee that Jesus deplored.
I know that Jesus wants us to be forgiving. I know He would want me to pray for the Santorums of the world, and even for Franklin Graham. But it is not easy, Lord.
I will have to take a while to catch my breath.
February 22, 2012 4 Comments
As I listen in disbelief to the ravings of Rick Santorum, I have to consider the possibility that a serious third-party presidenital challenge is possible this year.The former Pennsylvania senator sounds more and more like some kind of disturbed creep, the kind that overcompensates for a secret and troubling perversion perhaps.
This weirdo is actually doing well in the polls. Among Republicans, of course, but even so, who knew?
Who knew that a significant number of Americans in the year 2012 would contemplate banning birth control?
And Santorum is their guy.
If he gets the Republican nomination, I am betting the party will splinter. There’s no way Ron Paul’s libertarians can find common ground with Puritans intent on invading women’s bedrooms and dictating how, where and when they can have sex.
Paul would likely mount an independent challenge, taking his 12 to 15 percent of the party with him.
In that case, the Americans Elect crowd might come courting, bringing their $30 million in secret cash. They’ve been desperate to find a candidate, so desperate they’ve actually approached Joe Lieberman. Imagine that! Joe Lieberman for president! What is this world coming to?
Americans Elect is the best funded but not the only third-party movement in America. The undergrowth is crawling with presidential candidates. What if they – or some of them, anyway - decided to support a challenge by Ron Paul? Could they get him elected president?
There are a lot of crazies in America. More than I ever suspected, apparently. But I doubt they exist in enough numbers to elect either Paul or Santorum.
Increasingly, it seems as if there will be only one electible candidate for president in 2012.
His name is Barack Obama.
February 21, 2012 2 Comments
To look at Mitt Romney you might think he’s really rather harmless. He wears clean clothes, keeps his hair neatly combed and has that reassuring touch of gray at the temples. Central Casting might choose him as a kindly surgeon in a TV soap opera. He doesn’t look like someone who could get really mean.
The people backing him are a different story. As you could tell from those Super PAC ads that smeared Newt Gingrich into oblivion, some of Romney’s supporters can be mean indeed.
Take the national finance co-chair of the Mitt Romney presidential campaign. His name is Frank VanderSloot and he made his billions by persuading hordes of people to peddle a vast array of products – from vitamins to household cleaners – or to recruit others to do the peddling for them.
You may have come across VanderSloot’s merchandise. They’re marketed under the Melaleuca label, and I have a relative who swears by the stuff. Of course, she also happens to be selling it.
But a Salon.com article by Glenn Greenwald isn’t so enthusiastic about the Idaho billionaire’s operation. The piece reports that:
Melaleuca’s get-rich pitches have in the past caused Michigan regulators to take action, resulting in the company’s entering into a voluntary agreement to “not engage in the marketing and promotion of an illegal pyramid”‘; it entered into a separate voluntary agreement with the Idaho attorney general’s office, which found that “certain independent marketing executives of Melaleuca” had violated Idaho law; and the Food and Drug Administration previously accused Melaleuca of deceiving consumers about some of its supplements.
It’s not the 62-year-old billionaire’s marketing tactics that inspired Greenwald’s article, however; it’s his way of silencing critics. According to the Salon article:
It is VanderSloot’s chronic bullying threats to bring patently frivolous lawsuits against his political critics — magazines, journalists, and bloggers — that makes him particularly pernicious and worthy of more attention.
Greenwald cites Forbes, Mother Jones and “at least one local gay blogger in Idaho” as victims of VanderSloot’s bullying. He reports that “even journalists and their employers who have done nothing wrong are afraid of the potentially ruinous costs they will incur when sued by a litigious billionaire.”
Greenwald relates the following anecdote to illustrate how vindictive VanderSloot can be:
The Post Register, a small, independently-owned newspaper in Mormon-heavy Idaho Falls, …. unearthed the story of a pedophile in the local Boy Scouts troop who had molested dozens of scouts (the national Boy Scouts of America had succeeded in having the subsequent civil case sealed from public view). The Post Register sued to obtain those sealed records, and then detailed how a Mormon bishop knew of his pedophile history yet still recommended him as a Scout master, how he was protected by several Boy Scout lawyers who were aware of more abuse but did not tell the boys’ parents, and how top-level local and national leaders of the Mormon Church had also received warnings. The newspaper then began uncovering the presence of several other scout-master pedophiles….
In response, the billionaire – a devout Mormon…
bought numerous full-page newspaper ads in The Post Register that attacked the story and explicitly identified the reporter, Zuckerman, as “a homosexual” (Zuckerman had previously written for a small Florida paper about being gay when he lived in that state, but had kept his sexual orientation largely a secret since he moved to rural Idaho).
Post Register Managing Editor Dean Miller told Salon that because of the ad, strangers started ringing Zuckerman’s doorbell at midnight and the reporter’s partner of five years was fired from his job.
Greenwald says VanderSloot has a history of virulent anti-gay activism. He says the billionaire spearheaded “a despicable billboard campaign condemning Idaho Public Television for a documentary, entitled It’s Elementary, that was designed to provide ‘a window into what really happens when teachers address lesbian and gay issues with their students in age-appropriate ways.’ “
VanderSloot is not unique – or even unusual – among the zealots who back the Romneys of the world. It has become part of the far-right playbook. They make a practice of cowing the media into airing their views and suppressing dissent. Think of the change in CNN since the days of Ted Turner, for example.
As Greenwald points out:
To allow…. billionaires to use their bottomless wealth to intimidate ordinary citizens and media outlets out of writing about them is to permit the wealthiest in America to thuggishly shield themselves from legitimate criticism and scrutiny.
But with the recent Supreme Court decision unleashing the corporate elite’s billions for political campaigns, we can expect more of this kind of bullying. Much more.
February 18, 2012 No Comments
It’s an old, old joke, one I hadn’t expected to hear again in my lifetime, and it is deeply revealing. It goes something like this: The best way to practice birth control is to use an aspirin. The girl puts the aspirin between her knees and holds it there by squeezing her legs together.
It wasn’t funny when I heard it back in my teenage years and it’s not funny now. But that didn’t stop Foster Friess from trotting it out in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell this week. He said he meant it as a joke, and I am sure he did.
But as a joke, it says a lot.
It sums up much of what I learned about sex growing up as a Jamaican male, stuff that seems crazy in retrospect.
We Jamaican boys were taught – or rather, taught each other – that it was our duty to go as far as we could in trying to get a girl into bed and – here’s the sad part – that it was every “good” girl’s duty to stop us.
Apparently, that’s what the boys in Wisconsin learned, too. At least that’s what they learned when Foster Friess was growing up. He is 71 years old and the world has changed a lot since he courted and won “Badger Beauty” queen Lynnette Estes, a fellow-student at the University of Wisconsin (photo of the couple above).
Something obviously went wrong in their marriage. It must have been happy sometimes; they produced two sons and two daughters. But there was a rocky patch. Back in the Seventies, Friess complained of “a marriage flirting with divorce.” You think the aspirin could have been the problem?
Anyway, they worked things out after Friess was “born again.” And I hope they are enjoying a fulfilling life together.
Why should I care about Foster Friess’ sex life?
Because his personal experiences and the views they bred are being presented as a template for the rest of America.
Friess is one of a handful of super-rich folks vying for control of the American government. With the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that allows unlimited campaign spending by SuperPACs, they are providing the bulk of the funding for the 2012 elections. You’ve probably heard of the Gingrich campaign’s Sheldon Adelson and Romney’s hedge fund buddies, for example.
Friess, a rancher who made a fortune in the stock market, is bankrolling Rick Santorum.
If you don’t know what Rick Santorum stands for, you might want to find out. He could very well become the Republican candidate for president.
Santorum is at least as “conservative” as Friess. He is on a mission to change the way of life in America by outlawing such new-fangled evils as birth control and public education, and rooting out the Islamic fundamentalists hiding under our beds. A devout Roman Catholic, he and his wife, Karen, have seven children (a testament to the efficacy of the aspirin method?).
Here’s a quote from a book Santorum wrote:
We now have a generation that has grown up with the belief, inspired by the Sixties’ free-love assault on sexual mores, that true love is a feeling, and that it should not be resisted or constrained–rather, its ultimate validation is through sexual relations, without regard to the outdated social convention of marriage.
The aspirin joke displays the kind of thinking that could govern our lives if an eccentric billionaire gets the power to invade our bedrooms. The way I see it, Americans could be in danger of returning to the days of the Puritans, when “immoral” women were forced to wear scarlet letters and “witches” were burned at the stake.
February 17, 2012 3 Comments
You would think that in a country of more than 300 million people – from every ethnic background in the world - racial stereotypes would’ve vanished by now. But not in America. Apparently, everyone is amazed by the fact that a Chinese athlete is among the nation’s best in basketball.
It’s true that we don’t see many Asians on American basketball courts, but I suspect the reason has less to do with their ability than with their image.
For one thing, coaches tend to pick the ethnic and physical types they usually associate with a sport. And for another, we all tend to live up – or down – to the expectations others have of us. If throughout our lives we are told that we – and people like us – can’t run or jump or dance or play the guitar, we tend to avoid those pursuits, expecting to fail if we try. And even if we try, we’re beaten before we begin, unable to overcome the ingrained expectation of failure.
But along comes Jeremy Lin (photo above) and – surprise! – he’s an overnight sensation.
A Chinese player with such talent? Who would’ve thought it. “They” are good at math, of course. But basketball? Why, some Chinese guy might turn up behind the wheel at NASCAR yet!
But Lin does not surprise me. At Munro College - the boarding school I attended in Jamaica – some of the best athletes were Chinese. Other stars were black or white or East Indian or Lebanese or Syrian or Jewish or Haitian or Hispanic…
The Jamaican population is diverse, and Munro attracted students from all over. One of my friends was from Rhodesia, and I recall many fellow-students from South America. That made for an ethnically diverse student body, and there was no way to predict who would do well at what.
I concede that some ethnic groups tend to excel at particular sports. Most of the best basketball players are undeniably black. The best marathon runners seem to come from Kenya or some other African country. Jamaicans of West African descent seem to show up on championship track teams around the world.
But this does not always hold true.
My cousin Pat Swaby, who is mostly German (I think), won the 100-yard dash at Sabina Park in record time. And I can recall many more Jamaican high school champions of non-African descent.
Ethnicity is not the only misleading criterion.
They say you can’t tell a book by its cover, and you certainly can’t tell an athlete by his – or her - appearance.
Baseball legend Babe Ruth was fat. Kirby Puckett also looked quite rotund but performed dazzling plays on the baseball diamond. Billy Mayfair is no Tiger Woods as far as physique is concerned but he is the only player to beat Tiger in a playoff on the PGA Tour (1998 Nissan Open). And I wouldn’t bet against “the Walrus” in a head-to-head match against any of today’s athletic looking young stars.
You would think that a long-jumper needs long, powerful legs. But I consistently won the long jump at Munro and no one sees my legs and lives. My brother Bill has equally unimpressive legs. He had polio as a toddler – twice. Yet he was a championship boxer, winning the British Army Junior Welterweight Championship of the Rhine.
I could go on and on, but this drum really shouldn’t need beating. Obviously, stereotyping – racial and otherwise – is absurd. And cruel.
It is a major cause of unjust arrests, convictions and even death senstences in America.
Consider this excerpt from a Salon.com article today:
Asian Americans are currently the No. 1 most bullied demographic in America. The same invisibility that kept Jeremy Lin outside the “frame of reference” of coaches also kept the two different units who hounded Cpl. Harry Lew and Pvt. Danny Chen to suicide last year with constant racist taunts and physical abuse from realizing they were well outside the limits of respectful internal military discipline.
Who knew? Sure, we teased each other a lot back in Jamaica, and our ethic origin was certainly not out of bounds. But bullying to the point of suicide?
And I thought America was an enlightened country.
February 16, 2012 2 Comments