Monday, December 17, 2012

Seeing the Best of Us in the Worst of Places

In the wake of the most recent fight between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the experts have declared winners: "Obama won. Hilary won. Israel won…" No, only the Palestinians won.

Obama did not win because, as the "leader of the free world,' he may be one of the worst "honest brokers" of all time. He promises one side (Israel) the most advanced weapons on Earth, while promising to deny the other side (Hamas of Gaza) any weapons at all.

Hilary did not win because, while posing as a peace broker, she refused to talk to Hamas, one of the two warring factions. (Impossible!) Apparently, Hamas offends her sensibilities.

Israel did not win because it launched over 1500 air strikes into one of the most densely-populated communities on Earth. ('Nuff said.)

Since 2007, Israel has imposed a land, sea, and air blockade of the Gaza Strip. For all intents and purposes, these people of Gaza exist in a 21st century concentration camp - what Rule Jebreal, Newsweek correspondent, calls an "open-air prison." When the bombs start falling, the Gazans cannot retreat to refugee camps across the border, as many civilian populations do in times of war. They are trapped in a fish bowl, and must hunker down, and hope.

In an eight-day span, Israel killed 168 Palestinians - "mostly women and children," according to Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. For the Israelis, it was like shooting fish in a bowl.

And then it was over, and the Palestinian people, unbowed, defiantly celebrated in the streets of Gaza City. Talk about the "indomitable human spirit," and then we see it in real time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

That Glaring Divide

In the wake of President Obama's re-election victory over Mitt Romney, opponents are saying, "America is divided as ever." No, it is not. It was divided as ever on the eve of the Civil War. It is that division that has haunted this country ever since. If you want someone to blame, start with the British and the Portuguese for introducing slavery into the Americas over 500 years ago. That is where our troubles began, long before there was an "America." It began on this continent 100 years later when the nascent colony at Jamestown imported African slaves fro the Caribbean to work its tobacco farms. No one could have known at the time that that one act - born of greed and ignorance - would foster a divide that has lasted the entire life of Europeans on this continent.

People think the Confederacy lasted only four years. The military defense of the Confederacy lasted four years, from 1861 - 1865. The Confederacy itself began to consolidate before the Revolutionary War,. At the time, tensions between slaveholders and abolitionists took a back seat to the animus the colonists held for the British. By the time of the Civil War, the lines were starkly drawn. It was the Mason Dixon line that separated America down the middle, not anything Lincoln said or did. The South seceded when Lincoln was elected in 1860 - not because of anything Lincoln did, but because of what the South was doing (to African-Americans), and their fear of what Lincoln would do to them.

The Confederacy, comprising the slave states of America, once stretched from Texas in the West to the Carolinas in the East. That same Confederacy still exists - not in the name, of course, but in spirit - having remained politically homogeneous throughout the centuries.

The Daily Show's John Stewart, in his mock coverage of the 2012 elections, declared, "This just in: We project a win for Obama in Pennsylvania." A moment later, he said, "Good news for Romney: We project he will win most of the Confederacy." And so Romney did. The Republican Party almost always wins the entire Confederacy. It is the foundation of the Republican hopes in election after election.

With such an unabashed connection to the most sordid element of America's past, how can the Republican party hope to convince ta 21st century electorate - ever more comprised of African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians - that it is looking out for their interests? Yet, they do not address that association Rather, they look outward and blame Obama, similar to how the antebellum South blamed its problems on Lincoln.
Meanwhile, people the world over are celebrating Obama's victory, while Republicans in 20 states talk of seceding (once more.) Obama is driving them crazy. It is deja vu all over again.

If the Republican Party has not the guts to shake it dependence on America's Confederate past, then it should embrace that past fully, since it must represent the soul for their hopes. Become what you are, even if that means breaking away from the RINDS (Republicans In Name Only) and forming a third party. You can call yourselves "The Confederate Party of America". That shoe fits.

It is time the Confederacy came to an end once and for all. Time to dismantle the granite carvings of Confederate icons such as the one at Georgia's Stone Mountain of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. These men defended the despicable institution of slavery - not America - with their lives, calling it "the honorable thing to do." (Talk about a "divide" - Fie! With heroes like that, America, you are the divide.) Monuments to such a sadistic past is no different than if the Germans placed sculptures of Hitler, Goebbels, and Goering at the Brandenburg Gate.

Until this country confronts the many vestiges of slavery that haunt us still - until it decries all organizations (such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy, UDC) that insists on celebrating men and events of that brutal past; until the Stars and Bars, banner of the Confederacy, is lowered forever, and cast among that discredited lost that includes the Nazi swastika - we will forever glare across that great divide.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Obama on the Ropes

If President Obama loses this election, it will be for one reason: He did not heed my advice

Three years ago, I wrote a five page speech and sent it, along with a cover letter, by certified mail to the president at Pennsylvania Ave. In a nutshell, I told him to step out of his comfort zone - the urban areas, the college campuses - and go small town. The speech was entitled "Small-town, USA." It detailed a rural strategy that would weave this nation closer together and ensure his re-election in one fell swoop.

I went on to say:  "You have already won the cities and universities. They will not leave your side. Now go where the people do not know you; go where they do not expect you to come. And when you get there, give them the words they long to hear. Tell them:  "This nation needs you." For each small town you visit, a hundred will be touched.

He did not do it. Instead, President Obama consistently went for the cities, the campuses, and the fancy talk shows - The View, David Letterman, The Daily Show. If not there, you were likely to find him in New York or San Francisco at some swanky fundraiser. Why? Because it was easier for him in those places. They are like "Cheers." (Everybody knows his name.) Once there, all he needed to do was give them that smile, and "strut his stuff."

One person made aware of my speech said, "No president does the small towns anymore." All the more reason for Obama to have done it. Whether he promised it or not, this country - this electorate - imagined Obama to be a transcendent figure, one who would stand above the stale models that have stifled our enthusiasm for politics and left half of us too jaded to vote.

Add to that:  Mr. Obama has counted on the specter of fear to be his surrogate campaigner, to do the heavy lifting - to hover above the Hispanic and African-American communities, to haunt the gays, the unions, and female voters. He figured the thought of Romney and the Republicans would spur them in droves to storm the voting booths. All Obama would have to do is "look good", and his re-election would be assured. "Looking good" is easy. "Being good," is harder; it takes more work.

If Obama loses this election, he will have failed - not because he was a bad president; he was not - but because he did not try hard enough to be his best.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Sunset

There before your golden ember
I could easily remember
Ghoulish-faced trick-or-treaters dancing
Behind great bags and hopes a'prancing
On the eve of stark November.

Pumpkins sodden as they were
Original reasons now a blur
With faces carved in frightful laughter
Down from under the harvest gathered
To strew the way with garish mirth.

Yet there in Mama's kitchen stands 
A cook who's baking pies by hand
No trick could muscle such a treat
Of Golden brown and spicy sweet
She's made it known her pumpkin's plans.

And long October's night in walking
Toward a town were bravely stalking
Three autumn youth forsook the rest
In hopes their bounty would be the best
The fear of silence would stoke the talking.

Afar a howl is suddenly heard
Against the other's limbs they gird
A rustle, scratch, and frantic beat
That trips the other's toes to feet
It's just the owl - October's bird.

A raucous laughter surely followed
The afore-felt stomach swiftly swallowed
By visions of werewolves suddenly loosed
And fresh wolf bane and slashing tooth
Three tales of stardom now drilled hollow.

So, what? The booty's now in reach
The jack-o-lantern beckons each
You ring the bell, I'll knock instead
We'll gorge on cookies and ginger bread
And cider to quench the thirst we've breached.

Then wearily trudging home at last
Tomorrow's feast a school day's fast
And lunch will be an afterthought
Of jelly beans and juggernuts
And specters in the looking glass.

The kamikaze truckers wheel
At home the dealers freedom steal
Adrift in circa '86'
The bogeyman now needs a fix
Dear Halloween has gotten a chill.

The apple, once a student's lark
Its exciting crunch vitality's mark
Now cyanide and strychnine laced
Razors mar the waxen faee
A terrible hoax does grace the dark.

And children look about in fear
Unknown to them the witching year
For Easter eggs are now unsafe
And devilment has Christmas' place
An aging baby now appears.

And like a prodigal, lonesome member
Lost among the thickened timber
Days like dinosaurs ruined and buried
Tomorrow's goblin now miscarried
I'm drawn so to your dying ember.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Afghan Elephant

For all of our efforts in Afghanistan - the monies spent, the young lives lost - in the end, we will have accomplished very little. Afghanistan careens toward its own inexorable destiny with or without us along for the ride. That is all we do, you know: we are being taken for a ride.

Every nation seeks its own destiny, consciously or unconsciously  We cannot change that about Afghanistan; we can only interfere. Certainly, we can influence the course of a nation - for better or for worse - but that influence is equivalent to how a drought, or a flood, or an epidemic might affect a nation's arc. It is temporary - perhaps tangential - but nonetheless, single element in the otherwise unpredictability of peoples. No nation knows where it will be 100 years from now, including the U.S.  Each nation will be affected by natural and man-made disasters, by great and terrible citizens of its own, by time. 

Afghanistan is like a large elephant; our soldiers are like fleas on its back. They will make little difference in that elephant's course. Many will be thrown and end up with broken arms and legs; many more will be crushed. 

In the end, America's politicians - the president, et al - will call our boys home. And they will begin a dangerous dismount, even as that elephant continues his jaunt across the Afghan plains. (He will not stop.) Still more young Americans will die while getting off. 

Afghanistan's elephant has been running for a thousand years. America's elephant has been running for half as long; it runs a lot faster. It could be that the Afghan elephant will run for another thousand years. He may be running even after America's elephant has died. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Scared to Death

At 51 years of age, the actor, Michael Clark Duncan, cleared his refrigerator of $5,000 worth of meat and became a vegetarian. Three years later, he is dead at 54. Pass the ribs.

I do not mean to make light of Mr. Duncan's death. He was a good actor, and from all accounts, a good man. But only a joyful meat-eater would have had $5,000 worth of meat in his fridge. What or who could have scared him so that he would suddenly go cold turkey, and then go over the cliff?

We all die. But do we all live? Fear is not living, folks. Fear is hanging onto a life that you are afraid to live.

To have lived a long life does not mean you have lived a good life. In some cases, it only means that you have held on tighter; you didn't let go. But, it is that zeal to hold onto life that never allows us both hands to grab in life what truly matters.

Let go, man. Life does not love you; neither does death hate you. (They are both indifferent.) Embrace in life that which gets your juices flowing. Grab with both hands that which makes you feel alive.

Since MCD loved meat so, would it have been so bad to enjoy a morsel - a steak here, a hamburger there, a slice of bacon - in moderation? What does a long life profit a man when it is filled with fear and deprivation?

In this world, there is a doctor for, and against, everything. You like ribs? Somewhere, there is a doctor who will cheer you on. You like chocolates? I will be your doctor-for-a-day and order you to have a chocolate-covered cherry, now!

Mostly, I would say, "Be happy." It is no sin. Happiness is the gift of gifts. It is not meant to be had daily, and all day. But, at certain moments - when you've earned it - it is that thing that elicits a life-affirming "yes."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Simply Murder

Obama killed Osama. He assassinated pirates on the high seas. He killed the American terrorist, Anwar Al-Awlaki, with a precision strike in Yemen. Then, he killed the son, 21-year-old Al-Awlaki, Jr. He is bombing people in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, (and God only knows what other sovereign nations.) He affirms his commander-in-chief bonifides on a regular basis, while building a firewall against any claims from the Republican right that he is weak on defense. He shows he knows how to kill.

Now the president has authorized clandestine military operations against Assad regime in Syria - so says CNN. (How do they announce the beginning of "clandestine operations" on national T.V.?) Well, those "operations" are not "clandestine" any longer.  

Add to that:  Israel has pushed Obama to the brink of war with the sovereign nation of Iran. Apparently, we are offended that Iran would dare to presume that it could have a couple of those (nuclear) weapons of which American, who has thousands, is so proud. For that Obama would start a war?

Memo to the president:  Mr. Obama, you can kill every bad guy on Earth and the Republicans will still vote against you in November. (They don't like you.) More importantly, though you have cowed the Democratic legislators, our Democratic base - women, college students, et al - are disillusioned. They do not like your killing ways; they just don't.

And you still haven't answered for those nine young boys you killed with a Hellfire missile as they gathered wood for their mothers on the outskirts of that Afghan village. That was simply murder.

The Americans who fired the missile - on your orders - say they though those children were militants. "Oops" is not an answer.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Don't Come Home Without Your Brother

Barack Obama wrote a book, "Dreams from My Father" (1995). It became a best seller. He went on to become president of the most powerful nation on Earth. Still, I wonder that his father, Barack Obama, Sr., might not be disappointed.

Besides a son that is living in the White House, Mr Obama, Sr. has a son, George, who lives in a thatched hut in Kenya. From all accounts, George has never been to the United States, much less visited his brother on Pennsylvania Avenue. This is as much a shortcoming on Michelle's as Barack's. After all, men have been know to lack in social graces. Where Barack has come up short, should not Michelle have said to him, "We need to have George over for dinner?"

When asked about this, George said, "My brother (Barack) has many responsibilities. He is trying to take care of the world. In that way, he is taking care of me, too." Sounds like a decent, well-spoken man to me. Who wouldn't invite such a brother into his home?

When we were young, my parents would issue this warning as we left out of the door:  "Don't come home without your brother."

I have not read "Dream from My Father", but I imagine Mr. Obama, Sr.'s dreams are similar to my father's. Those dreams start with the family - always - and that is where they return.

Barack Obama, for all his achievements seems to lose sight of the notion that the dreams of his father are likely the dreams of everyman:  That his children look out for one another; that his son be his brother's keeper.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Inviting Bad Karma onto the World Stage

"…never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee." - John Donne

The U.S., in the person of President Obama, is urging nations worldwide to cease all trade with Iran, including the purchase of Iran oil, lest the U.S. punish those nations that persist.

Have we gone mad? There is a global epidemic of failing economies; everyone is at risk. (And we seek purposefully to reduce a nation of people to kindling and heap them upon that fire.)

The world of nations is one body - each member is a finger, an arm, a leg. We hope (out of self-preservation) that Greece survives. Though Greece is just a toe - a small tone, at that - an infection there could cause the entire body to become sick.

Iran, on the other hand, is bigger than a toe. Because it is a large country, and one of the top oil producers on Earth, it is more like half a foot. Yet, the U.S. would sever that part based upon this political imperative: Iran continues to enrich uranium.

It is a false imperative. The U.S. enriches uranium every day - so does Israel, China, Russia, and many others. Besides, according to the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), Iran has a legal right to enrich uranium. It is a right Israel refuses to acknowledge, hence the falsity of the U.S. position The U.S., nonetheless, forges ahead in its twisted desire to wreck the Iranian economy. Apparently, it is reaping results.

Recently, a U.S. newspaper columnist - a Mr. Kristof - appeared on CNN's "Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer. He had previously spent weeks traveling in Iran. With a smile, he told Blitzer, "It looks like the sanctions are working. The Iranian people are struggling; factories are closing." Wolf Blitzer, too, appeared pleased.

What is wrong with us? How does an American journalist travel to a foreign land, speak about how kind the locals treated him - taking him into their homes, feeding him, serving him tea - and then return to the U.S. and gloat about the insidious affect our sanctions are having on their lives.

Ascendant nations are built upon trade. Even the most successful nation on Earth - the U.S. - is ever seeking new trade alliances. The loss of one trading partner can spell doom to distinct sectors of a nation's economy. That is why governors - beyond anything the U.S. Commerce Department does - seek out international trade agreements on their own to address local economies within their states.

We are all affected by trade; we should all be sensitive to the impact the severing of trade agreements can have on poor families around the world. For any nation - let alone, the self-proclaimed "Leader of the Free World" - to purposefully destroy the livelihoods of innocent men and women, and with that, all chance they have of feeding their children - and then gloat - is despicable.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Folks, No-Fault, and '57 Fords

It doesn't get much more complicated than ObamaCare. So, let's make it simple:  Under ObamaCare, which is universal health care, everyone must have health insurance.

Put that way, it doesn't sound so bad. Certainly, everyone, eventually will need health insurance. Still, people are uneasy. They hear the word "mandate," as in "mandatory," and they get worried that the government will try to make them do something that they may not feel like doing just now.

Try this:  Think "mandate" and then think of a point of reference. For me, that "point of reference" is 1973. I was twenty, and in my third year at Western Michigan University. Prior to returning to school after summer break, I bought a '57 Ford for 50 bucks. It was a two-tone blue, stick-in-the-column tank - no fiber glass there, just pure cast-iron muscle. I did not need car insurance. I just told folks to "Get outa  the way."

But government told me I had to have insurance. (On a fifty-dollar car?) Yes.

That's a mandate. Still, I could not afford real insurance. So, I purchased a "no-fault" insurance package - what we jokingly called "yo-fault" - which was no insurance at all, but a penalty for not buying real insurance. Sound familiar?

Now, the Republicans, on the heels of the Roberts ruling, is calling ObamaCare a "tax." Of course, it is a tax. All government programs tax the public. You want a road built? Tax the public first. National Defense plan, food stamp program, education budget - tax, tax, tax.

So what if ObamaCare is a tax. There are 30 million Americans - most of whom are poor - who are without health insurance, including millions of small children. ObamaCare insures that they, too, will receive those services that can give them a better life.

Sounds like a vintage two-tone '57 Ford to me. Please, get out of the way.

Monday, July 16, 2012

LeBron James: Doing it "My Way" in America

At 6'8" and 260 pounds, LeBron James may be the greatest athlete on Earth. He is hardworking, articulate, and man, can he fly. And he stays out of trouble - no guns, no drugs, no domestic assaults. He has mooned no one.

Yet, those in the sports media have declared LeBron one of the "most hated" sports stars in America. Really?

In 2003, fresh out of high school, LeBron James signed a seven-year contract with the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers. By the time he had fulfilled that contract, he had taken a last place team to first place in the standings, and then to the NBA finals in the playoffs. He single-handedly doubled the value of that Cleveland franchise. During that same time, he won the NBA's Rookie-of-the-year, two MVP awards, and an Olympic Gold Medal.

Then, as a free agent, during a made-for-television special, LeBron announced, "I'm taking my talents to South Beach (Miami)."  That did it. Apparently, no fouler words had ever been spoken. For the next three years, the sports media and its sycophants went after LeBron with a vengeance. It has been a vile attempt to villianize a fine, young African-American for being himself.

They are Hatfields and McCoys - these types of people - ignorant and cruel. they make something our of nothing, magnify it to illogical proportions, and then draw as many idiots as they can muster down into their vortex. In that mosh pit of inanity, they find affirmation.

These most-imperfect people demand perfection of LeBron (as though they would recognize "perfection" if they saw it.) They not only want to tweak LeBron's game (because being the best isn't good enough), but they want to tweak his personality to fit their image of what he should be.

All the while, LeBron has continued to perform at a level unmatched at both ends of the court despite their damnedest efforts to drain the joy from him and his game. It appears they do this for not other reason than that LeBron has decided to do things his way.

I guess doing it "my way" is okay for Ol' Blue Eyes, but not for a young "brother" in America.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

…And Justice For All

Last month, they sent back his remains - letters of an American soldier missing in Vietnam. In one letter, he wrote: "This is a dirty and cruel war."

That is all the Vietnam War was - dirty and cruel. It was senseless violence on an epic scale waged against an agrarian society who had done the U.S. absolutely no harm. We contrived grievances against those people, and then bombed them mercilessly. We killed well over a million men, women, and children, and then, on the Washington mall, built a monument to our suffering.

For a nation known for making its own citizens pay dearly for their crimes, America has never paid for the crimes it committed against the Vietnamese people.

They Don't Like You

A year ago, the Pakistani government was charging the U. S. $250 per supply truck passing through Pakistan to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Now they want $5,000 per. Sound familiar?

Remember "Godfather II", when Nevada's Senator Geary decides to charge Michael Corleone $25,000 for a gaming license? Corleone asks, "Why should I pay $25,000 when the fee for a license is only $1,000?"  Geary responds: "Because I don't like you, and I intend to squeeze you."

That, Mr. Obama, is your relationship with the Pakistanis in a nutshell.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The NAACP: A Search for Relevance in the 21st Century

The question of "relevance" ever haunts the NAACP these days, and for good reason. As it is presently constituted, it is irrelevant.

Start with the name, NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. It was in 1994, fully 18 years ago, when I wrote to the NAACP leadership, after attending one of their membership banquets at the Hilton in downtown Kalamazoo. I implored them to change their name to NAAPC - National Association for the Advancement of People of Color. Sounded like a no-brainer as we approached the 21st century. This particular membership drive was geared toward young people. I suggested: "What young people would join an organization whose very name - "Colored People" - insults them? The leadership rejected my idea.

Why does the NAACP persist in denigrating itself and the people it supposedly represents? Because the NAACP is a dancing bear - it dances for its supper.

Deep down, the NAACP knows it has not accomplished anything in years. Perhaps the leadership - Ben Jealous, et al - imagines there would be no donations to the NAACP at all, except those donations have come because of that iconic name. Unfortuantely, the very name - NAACP - has become synonymous with self-congratulatory fetes, and subsequent lethargy.

Recently, the NAACP passed a resolution in support of same sex marriage as a civil right. Many wonder why the NAACP would take up this issure considering the majority in the African-American community rejects gay marriage. All seem to agree, however, that is was an attempt to "remain relevant," (and cash in on what political pundits are calling an abundance of "gay money.")

There are bigger issues in America, like the resolution put forth by this citizen declaring the institution of slavery in America a Crime Against Humanity. Such a resolution in the hands of a once-august entity such as the NAACP, could help bring this nation to the brink of racial healing for which it so deeply longs.

Then there is Major League baseball and its system of apartheid (better known as "Jim Crow baseball") that has persisted since baseball's inception in 1839. And though this forced segregation ended in 1947 with Jackie Robinson's entrance into the Major Leagues, the achievements of those Negro League stars who toiled in that separate (but equal) league are whitewashed from baseball history as though they never happened. This, too, is a post in the structure that helps sustain the racial divide in America. We cannot change baseball's sordid past, but with the NAACP's help, we can correct it.

And what of this criminal justice system which consistently preys upon poor families in America? There is little pretense at "justice" there anymore - it is just "criminal" the way they squeeze monies from these poor families even as they drain them of their hope.

America's prison system has become a den of human rights abuses - none more egregious than its penchant for keeping men and women imprisoned who, anywhere else, would be free. Even China and Iran compare favorably.

Now they seek to privatize their prison industry - prison for profit.

Where prisons' goal becomes profit, it conflicts with the liberation interests of humans everywhere. The very trajectory is contrary to the course of justice set forth in the U.S. Constitution. And America's prisons beome plantations - people, once more, are made chattel. Who will speak up for these dispossessed?

Want relevance, NAACP? Change your name. Then, declare a moratorium on feasts and fashion shows. Get back to earning your celebrations.

Justice has been known to skip a generation - no fault of its own. It happens most often when those charged with protecting the rights of others go to sleep at the switch. Fortunately for us all, justice marches on.

Wake up, NAACP. You've been asleep too long. Justice is up ahead. If you try, you may intercept her at that next great moment in history. If you do not, you will go down as the biggest mat-head since Rip van Winkle.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Is Gay Sex Simply True Love Gone Awry?

At the risk of sound rude (and ignorant), may I take this moment to speak on behalf of the so-called "straight people" everywhere? We have questions:

How do we tell which of you is the man, and which is the woman?

And what is your story…anyway? Shakespeare wrote, "Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, others have greatness thrust upon them." Does that notion apply here? Certainly, some people are born gay, (I suppose), while others purposely seek a gay lifestyle, (I suppose). Still, there must be those who have homosexuality thrust upon them - by force, or circumstance. Simply put, we do not know who you are. And, if you come out of the closet, that can be scary too.

We can pretend that gay people are like the rest of us, but they are not, (unless we all are gay). I doubt that 1% of the world's people are gay. If they are, that would amount to roughly 70 million homosexuals on Earth, which is fine. (It is not like they can reproduce).

No one doubts that a man can love a man, and a woman can love a woman. We only wonder whether it is prudent to "do something about it."

When a gay man says, "I love him," we say, "Okay, but must you have sex with him?" A man can love a child, but he cannot have sex with that child. He can show his love for that child by taking the child to a ballgame, buying him ice cream, or taking him fishing. All the while, he must control himself. If he loses control and indulges himself in his love for that child, then that love becomes sick; it becomes a crime.

A man can love his sister, and she can love him back. But he cannot have sex with her - that is taboo. They certainly cannot marry and have children - that would be an abomination. Yet, both are grown. She may be a doctor, and he a lawyer. Intelligent, successful, and in love - yet, we are repulsed at the thought of them consummating their union. As a society, we would deny them the chance to lawfully spend their lives together as man and wife based on our revulsion at the thought of them coupling.

Fifty percent of the American people seem to want a constitutional amendment giving a man the right to couple with another man. Just this past week, the NAACP passed a resolution endorsing same sex marriage as a civil right. Yet, I doubt that one percent of the American people would consent to bestowing the same rights upon a man who wants to spend the rest of his life with his sister. Why deny a brother-sister couple the same civil rights, when given the choice, most men on Earth would marry their sister before they would marry another man.

The survival of any species is dependent upon its ability to produce offspring. That is the basic function of sex on this Earth - to insure the continuation of life. A man and a child can do that; a brother and a sister can do that. Two men cannot; neither can two women.

Why then this rush to wed one man with another? Who has convinced us that this is good, or necessary, or just?

If adult brothers and sisters want to have sex, no one can stop them. But, just because we cannot stop them, that is no reason to cheer them on. It is the same with grown men. If they want to have sex with each other, that is their business. But why do we, as a society, feel compelled to encourage this willful indulgence? It is as though we have conceded that since we cannot stop them, we should join them. Is that supposed to make us feel good about ourselves? Does our approval make it right? Or does it simply make us complicit in love gone awry?

Historically, incest and homosexuality have been condemned throughout all major societies. Today, both continue to be prohibited by custom or law in most societies around the world. More and more, however, Western societies - including the U.S. - while continuing to condemn incest, increasingly embrace homosexuality as a viable lifestyle.

Are we to believe a split has occurred, much like the split millions of years ago that sent apes in one direction and man in another - a split that insures one branch of this modern-day tandem makes it out of the trees, while the other does not?

Or, could it be that both incest and homosexuality are what they are, what they have always been, and what they always will be - not books to be read, but bookends - the extremes of our lusts, beyond which, sickness and deformity await mankind?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cleaning Baseball Of Its Jim Crow Past

Baseball has been living a lie. Invented by Abner Doubleday in 1839 to be "America's game," it proceeded to draw the most un-American lines - lines designed to exclude African-Americans from the game. In what they called a "gentleman's agreement," organized baseball erected a color bar against black men that lasted until 1946. And for the next 173 years, it has lied to itself, to the American people, and to the world. It is the kind of lie that has left baseball in a perpetual state of fear (of being found out). At times, like during all-star games between white Major Leaguers and Negro League players, "organized baseball" has had trouble breathing.

This past month, they celebrated 100 years of baseball in Boston's venerable Fenway Park - harking back to that glorious day in 1912 when the Boston Red Sox (formerly the Boston Americans) played the New York Highlanders, (re-named the "Yankees" in 1913). Glorious? It was Jim Crow baseball. It would be 47 years after that "glorious day" - nearly half of Fenway's existence - before the first black man, Elijah Green, was allowed to join the team in 1959. How do we celebrate injustice in this country without wincing with each "hurrah!"?

It is time the era of Jim Crow baseball was put in its play - separated from the myth that made legends of men like Ty Cobb, who practiced his bigotry with the same zeal with which he played the game; and men like commissioner Kenesaw Landis who, from 1920 to 1944, guarded the gates like fanged Cerberus.

Let us put an asterisk around all of Jim Crow baseball now - around it hallowed moments, its stars, their hallowed records. Speak no more of Cy Young and Ty Cobb, old Ebbets Field, Roger Hornsby, and Babe Ruth, lest you preference those remarks with an asterisk that states:  THESE MEN PLAYED BASEBALL DURING THE JIM CROW ERA WHEN AFRICAN-AMERICAN MEN WERE NOT ALLOWED TO COMPETE AGAINST THEM.

If some of the greatest ballplayers of the time were not allowed to compete (because they were the wrong color), how could any of the records compiled during that era not deserve an asterisk? How could Babe Ruth be the "greatest baseball player of all time," as ESPN's Tim Kurkjian recently proclaimed, when men his equal, or better, were not allowed to challenged him on the same field where he won his accolades?

It am not saying, "Throw out the 'Jim Crow' records." I am saying, put them in their proper context. You think that will diminish the game they played? Baseball did that when it committed its sins of apartheid.

Time to integrate Negro League baseball - its stars, their records - into the fabric of baseball history. If that means Cy Young is no longer baseball's winningest pitcher, so what? What is will really means is that he was only baseball's winningest pitcher until Smokey Joe Williams and Satchel Paige both passed him by over 50 years ago.

Once you've asterisked Jim Crow baseball, put Negro League baseball into its proper context. Negro League baseball was "organized," too. It was also more "American" than the Jim Crow baseball we persist in celebrating. Where Jim Crow base ball excluded African-Americans, Negro League baseball included all men - black, white, Hispanic. Even a woman made the roster of a Negro League club. She was Toni Stone; here father had played in the Negro Leagues. She began playing in the Negro League's minor league system, for the New Orleans Creoles in 1949. She made it to the Negro majors in 1953 where she played a single season for the Indianapolis Clowns, and hit .243. The following year, she retired.

So what if her stint in the league was an attempt at boosting gate receipts. She was given a shot. In other words, if you were able to play, you were given a chance to play in the Negro Leagues. In that way, Negro League baseball was a true reflection of what America aspired to be: "The land of opportunity."

There will be no integrity in baseball until it expunges its racist past by incorporating that which it has feared most - Negro League players. Yes, the record books will change - they will become more honest. And, look on the bright side: Once baseball has taken that grand step, it will have solved its Barry Bonds problem in a fell swoop - you know, the one neither A-Rod nor Pujols can solve because both men are running out of gas. Josh Gibson, with his 962 career home runs, will rescue baseball and its most cherished record from all taint of steroids. He will do it at the same time he helps cleanse baseball of the taint of Jim Crow.

A wise mans once said, "That which you fear shall haunt you until you confront it." It was the same way with slavery. After 250 years, the South predicted such a mass emancipation would disrupt all of American society. So? Was that any reason to keep a race of people enslaved longer? Of course not. It was not their fault that they had to be freed. Any disruptions that mass emancipation created was the price America had to pay for committing such crimes against humanity in the first place.

Same thing with Jim Crow baseball. any disruptions caused by opening baseball's doors to Negro League stars and their records, is the price baseball must pay for denying these men their full rights as American citizens in the beginning.

Of course, Major League baseball will resist. It is in its nature - an instinct honed over years of misplaced persecutions and unwarranted fears. They will say that they do not trust the validity of Negro League records. Why, then, should anyone trust the records of Jim Crow baseball?

Is Josh Gibson's 962 career home runs any more fantastic than Cy Young's 511 pitching victories compiled from 1890 - 1911? (Three of the greatest pitchers of the modern era - Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, and Roger Clemens - won only 311, 325, 341 games, respectively.) Neither is Gibson's 84 home runs in 1936 - the true single season record for home runs, (not Bonds 73) - any more incredible than Jack Chesbro winning 41 games in 1904, and Ed Walsh winning 40 games in a single season four years later.

The African-American community put its love of baseball into the hands of those Negro League players and scorekeepers, just as the white community put its love of the game into the hands of Major League Baseball. They are the same hands - American hands. It is the same love - American love.

Men and scorekeepers; scorekeepers and men. You cannot beat the man, so you attack the scorekeeper? Is that all you got, baseball; is that your last line of defense against your African-American brethren?

Enough! You are the scorekeeper - you kept score at the gates of Jim Crow. Now you want to blame your victims for not being the great scorekeeper you were. As Abe Lincoln would say, "That stunt won't scow."

Time to put Josh Gibson's and Buck Leonard's numbers alongside those of their contemporaries - Ruth, Gehrig, and Hornsby. So, too, must Satchel Paige's and Smokey Joe Williams' career pitching stats take their rightful place alongside those of Cy Young, Walter Johnson, and Grover Alexander Cleveland. These men not only played in a league the equal of the "Majors," but when it came to "put-up time" - in head-to-head matches, the Negro League players defeated the Major leaguers where it counted: on the field, between the lines.

Pitcher Smokey Joe Williams, alone, was 20-7 against Major league competition. Josh Gibson, who hit .347 over a 17 year career in the Negro Leagues, hit .426 against Major league pitching. So says your scorekeepers, scorekeeper.

The gig is up. Kenesaw Landis is dead; so is Jim Crow baseball. Time to scrape away the last vestiges of that sorry period in American sports history. Release baseball from that musty dungeon so that it can breathe; so that it can experience this rebirth. Time baseball claimed the integrity it has never had. Time it reclaimed its infinite mystique.

Monday, May 28, 2012

When Men Become Boys

There is this thing called "discipline." It is the key to all great societies - to great militaries, great companies, and great marriages. Without it, as Shakespeare would say, "the enterprise is sick."

This matter of the Secret Service cavorting with prostitutes in Columbia more than anything is a matter of discipline - that thing that separates men from boys.

The first thing we teach a child is discipline. It is called "potty training." The Secret Service in Columbia forgot their "potty training" and "pooped" in their pants. Boys will be boys? No. Let us call it how it is:  Those men become boys who cast aside their discipline.

There is a saying among military men as they cast off for overseas deployment:  "Wheels up, rings off." I'm sure they get a good laugh out of that. But, it is no laughing matter. First, with that declaration, they instantly reduce themselves and their marriages. Second, their wives have, no doubt, heard that saying, too. Chances are, she must be saying the same thing at precisely the same moment: "Hey girls, wheels up, rings off. Let's party!" (Still laughing?) How about when you "boys" come home and there's a marble rye in oven when before all of your loaves were wheat? (Will you be laughing then?)

Where discipline is lacking, consequences can be severe. When discipline broke down in the Roman Empire, that empire became corpulent and depraved. Soon, the walls began to crumble.

The Secret Service is on the front lines of this nation's defense. Discipline there is suffering. Some say, "What happened in Columbia was an isolated incident." No, that was an incident that, by pure chance, came to the light. (They say that for each time a person is busted for "drunk driving," he has already gotten away with it a hundred times before.)

There is a discipline deficit in America's Secret Service, just as there is in America's military. Pictures of soldiers pissing on enemy corpse, posing with enemy body parts, and reports of our soldiers wreaking murder, rape, and mayhem on civilian populations are tips of the iceberg. For each incident to which we are exposed, bet that there are a hundred more played out in nooks and crannies across Iraq and Afghanistan that we know nothing about.

Instead of making excuses for our "boys", why not demand that they be "men"? Either that, or resign ourselves to a sickness that will bring the walls down.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Raising the Roof on America's Pastime

"Who is the greatest baseball player of all time?" That was the question asked of Tim Kurkjian, baseball guru at ESPN. He mulled the names of the usual suspects aloud - Ruth, Mays, Bonds - and then settled on Babe Ruth. Satisfied with himself, he and the hosts of the Mike & Mike radio broadcast went on to other topics. Nowhere did the name "Josh Gibson" enter the debate.

Babe Ruth played his entire career against all-white teams in the Major Leagues. During the same time, a man named "Josh Gibson" was playing his entire career against all-black teams in a parallel universe - a universe they call "The Negro Leagues."

The Negro Leagues began forming in the early 1920's because the black man was not allowed to play in the white man's league. They were the same men - American men. They shared an equal love for the game. They even played by the same rules; their ballparks bore the same dimensions. But, officially, these leagues and their players never crossed paths.

The two leagues did, however, play each other in exhibition/all-star games, during which time the Negro leaguers regularly beat their major league counterparts. Pitcher, Smokey Joe Williams, a teammate of Gibson's on the Homestead Grays, won 20 games and lost 7 against major league competition.

For the record, Josh Gibson played most of his 18 year career for the Homestead Grays. A catcher, he led the league in home runs ten consecutive seasons. In 1936, he hit 84 home runs. (The most Ruth hit in one season was 60. Ruth hit 714 home runs over his 20 year career.) Afflicted with a brain tumor, Josh Gibson died of a stroke at the age of 36. The year was 1947, the same year Jackie Robinson broke the mythical "color barrier" in major league baseball. For his career, Gibson hit 962 home runs and batted .347. Against major league pitching, he had a .426 batting average.

But for racism, Josh Gibson would reign Bunyan-esgue in this country. Racist convention deprived him of his due 80 years ago. How is it that in this enlightened 21st century society, those rules of exclusion still apply?

We, in this country, will declare Robert E. Lee "America's most beloved general", though he championed a Confederacy whose ultimate goal was to extend slavery in America. And there is no end to our celebrating of Ruth, though he be the standard-bearer of "Jim Crow" baseball. Yet, we shun Josh Gibson who played in a league where there was little money, but an abundance of heart. With hat in hand, and an indomitable spirit, he raised the roof on America's game when few Americans were looking. Perhaps the most prodigious of all of America's sports stars, we still refuse him his place among the pantheon of legends.

As much as we bemoan the racial divide in this country, we continue to pick at it with our curious remembrances. They are shameless celebrations unbefitting a great nation however we drape them in bunting.

On the strife-torn African continent, nations have established Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. Their purpose is to confront demons of the past, and to purge as many of those demons as humanly possible.

Perhaps it is time for America to set things aright - to try some "Truth and Reconciling" of its own. It can start with its shameful treatment of an American hero who took America's great pastime to a new level.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Chardon School Shootings (and the legacy of Manifest Destiny)

We look at the Chardon shootings and ask, "Why?" Perhaps we should look into the history of America - which is a history of violence - to find our answer.

We need go no further than the genocide of Native American. We have all heard about it, but apparently, we do not fully comprehend the breadth of the killings that comprised that genocide. We think of it as a single word, a single event. It was a total and horrific narrative - an inch by inch slaughter of men, women, and children. From the shores of the Atlantic to the Appalachians, we drove entire nations of people over the mountains, across the Mississippi, killing them all of the way to the Pacific. And for the few who survived - of the millions that once lived freely upon this great land - we herded onto reservations, supposedly for their own good.

It was violence from "sea to shining sea," and we imagined our acts forgivable, born as they were of "Manifest Destiny" - God's plan. It was never God's plan that we kill like we killed. That was "our" plan. We laid the seeds at the doorstep of this continent, and sowed endless rows across its regions. Diligently, we reap that bitter harvest.

We are wed to violence, even unto this day. The marriage document is a defense budget (aka, "offense budget"), larger than the next ten nations combined. We cloak our vows within such expressions as "Defenders of Democracy" and "National Security." These words become our license to kill.

Why should we suppose that there is a disconnect between the violence nations wreak upon helpless peoples, and the violence individuals of that nation wreak on one another?

The other day, at the Republican presidential debate, the candidates were asked if America should negotiate with the Taliban. Three of the four candidates, led by Newt Gingrich, cried out, "We don't negotiate with our enemies, will kill them." The audience erupted in applause.

I hear that among the victims of Chardon, was a boy who was dating the shooter's ex-girlfriend. Chances are, the shooter saw that young rival as his enemy. Are you sure, Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Santorum, and Mr. Romney that we want to send such a message to our young people as, "We don't talk to our enemies, we kill them."? There is a nexus between how adults conduct themselves, and how children behave.

Recently, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, was in America trying to convince our president to join with Israel in an attack against the sovereign nation of Iran - not for something Iran did, but for something Israel imagines Iran might do.

In particular, Netanyahu wants Obama to back a pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Such an attack would be an act of war, one that not only would kill many of innocents, but could unleash deadly nuclear fall-out upon hapless millions in that region. That our president would entertain such an irresponsible prospect reflects the uninhibited nature of our willingness to kill.

And today, a young man of Chardon - more child than man - is charged with the murder of three fellow children. Even now, he might be asking God, "Why did you allow this to happen?"

God did not allow this. Better that he ask America's leaders: "How do you kill so freely, and not expect your killing ways to rub off on us?"

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Great Assassin

Our president, Mr. Obama, has become a great assassin. We, the American people, will be held accountable.

A few months ago, President Obama - with his drone strike force - had Anwar al-Awlaki assassinated. A few days later, he assassinated al-Awlaki's 21 year-old son in the same manner. That son was just a kid! We will go too far; perhaps we have already gone too far.

Are no other Americans sickened by our purposeful killing of a 21 year-old? Whatever his guilt, was he so guilty as to warrant an execution on the spot?

They say he was a militant. So? There are militants in every city on Earth, including every American city. Militants are come by naturally in human society. Many of the young African-Americans who waged a struggle against racial injustice in America were militants. America's own minutemen were militants - standing guard against British oppression. Native American braves were militants. They stood up to the "new" Americans' inexorable encroachment onto their lands.

Today, we assassinated 21 year old Yemeni for being a militant in his own land. Have we become the Mafia. Has Obama become Don Ciccio, the Sicilian boss of Godfather II who, having killed Antonio Andolini, sought to kill all of Andolini's sons lest they see vengeance for their father's death?

Mr. Obama, You stand accused of the murder of a 21 year-old. I draw the line here. Will no other American do the same?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Let Your Sister Play

When we were boy, we owned the outdoors. We fished, fought, climbed trees, and cross swamps; we hunted, and trapped; we fashioned every weapon imaginable and then tested them upon each other. We pitted antes and waged acorn wars. Then, our mother would holler out of the back door, "Let you sister play."

"Oh, mom…"

Well, the girls want in, again. They want - and will be allowed for the first time - to box in the Olympics. They want to be stationed on the front lines in our wars so that they can advance themselves by killing and dying.

On the home front, the older women have set their sights on younger men. Some of these women have axes to grind. They want to chase like the boys chased. They call themselves "cougars" - these nouveau chasers - and they will take down boys. Their dynamics here - no pun intended - are absolutely screwed.

Older men have always chased younger women. It was no big deal because the women controlled the situation. the man would say, "Come sit on my lap." The young lady would say, "Get lost." No harm, no foul. That man is working at a 10% success rate, at best. In the end, reputations are saved simply because the lady said "No" - "no", as in no diseases, no pregnancies, no regrets.

Comes the "cougar". When she says, "Sit on my lap," the young guys come a'runnin. Her success rate is phenomenal - that young man will not say "No." Follow, the deluge; there may be arrests.

Certainly, women should enjoy many of the same opportunities as men. But there are limits to what society can legislate; limits to what women should do. It may be a simple matter of biology. For instance, women want to drink like men, but they are not built for that - they lack the muscle mass necessary to absorb the punishment alcohol inflicts. They go down quickly, and more completely. Once down, some get raped. When men get smashed, they end up on somebody's floor.

Once, after a beach party, I returned to the scene the following morning and found a lone reveler face down in the sand. How was he able to breath, I do not know. I did not try to wake him. I simply turned his face to one side so that he could breathe. Man's game.

There is a limit to how deeply women should go into the pool. A man can walk from one end of this country to the other, and the worst that might befall him is that he is chased by a dog. A women cannot walk around the block at night. It has nothing to do with politics; it is biology Women are wanted; men are not.

And speaking of cougar-dom: It may be the most backward, upside-down social experiment ever - the equivalent of people growing younger as they age. Here, the woman presumes that she has turned the tables on man by replicating his rakish behavior. It it is respect she seeks, she will not get it - not like the men who notch the names of women on their bedposts like gunslingers once boasted notches on their belts.

The cougar's conquest of young men, by contrast, is hollow because there is little, if any, resistance. She is being used, and everyone knows it. Only now, she seeks her debauching, when before she guarded against it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

One Moment in Time

She was at the height of her powers. In was 1991, and Whitney Houston had just belted out "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl. and with that rendition, it was like she had absolved all of the people before and after her - those who had tried to sing our national anthem, and had mangled it. She seem to have spoken these kind words to all of them, and to all of American: "Don't worry. I got this." And in that moment, she assured us that through countless renditions, hers shall echo unvexed across the ages.

The following year, Whitney sang "I'll Always Love You" in the movie, "The Bodyguard." She added "I Have Nothing," and "All The Man I Need." Out of that brief window, songs exploded from her physical and emotional frame. Never had a singer opened her mouth so confidently and then let it out so well.

She and Bobby Brown had recently married. And, for all of his faults, Whitney may never have hit those heights had it not been for Bobby and the brief moment of unbridled happiness he gave to her. he may have been the one who stretched those doors wide so that great voice could get out.

After that moment, it was all downhill - not immediately, of course, but soon. In subsequent years, when Whitney called on that voice, it would not come out. Could it be, because she was no longer as happy, it was no longer as sure?

Thank God she had that "One Moment In Time." Now, we all have it, and will love her for that…always.

Monday, February 27, 2012

When You've Come to the Abyss

When Kobe Bryant moved ahead of Shaquille O'Neal into fifth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list, an interesting conversation began. Three sportswriters on ESPN sat and wondered, "Where will Kobe stand among the greats of all time?"

Kobe, a 6'7" shooting guard, has amassed points, assists, rebounds - five NBA Championships - and is consistently voted to the NBA's all-defensive first team. Yet, one writer remarked: "I have trouble putting him up there with the best of all time when he has only one MVP," (the honor bestowed annually upon the league's best player). The writer added: "In fact, Steve Nash (who has won two MVP awards) has as many as Kobe and Shaq combined."

Suddenly, things got quiet - the sportswriters had gotten a glimpse into the abyss. None of them liked what they saw, and they turned away.

What the writers saw was a glimpse of themselves and their own petty ways of determining who is worthy of their favor. These sportswriters who vote for MVPs and Hall of Fame honorees have long ago forgotten themselves. They see athletes and imagine themselves their equals; they are emboldened by the privilege they enjoy sitting in judgment at critical moments in these athletes lives. They borrow on their positions as arbiters - expect to be courted, and liked. They are ruled by slights, and what they fancy to be personality clashes with athletes who reject them. They strive to even the score with their pens.

Steve Nash, a 6'1" point guard is a fine player. He is well-liked and a skilled passer and shooter. He has never been - and will never be - considered among the league's greats. Yet, this player - who won no titles, and was a poor defender - received the coveted MVP award twice during the same years when Kobe, a true all-time great, only received it once. One year, Kobe scored 80 points in one game! - on his way to winning the league's scoring title. That same year, he was named to the NBA's all-defensive team. Still, they awarded Nash the MVP.

In the sports world, MVP awards matter; their value grow with the aging of the athlete. When the ball stops bouncing, these awards become the pole upon which the athlete unfurls his legacy.

Kobe is known worldwide as a player who leaves it all on the floor…year after year after year. And you only once call "The Kobe" the league's most valuable player?

Today, these sportswriters stare into the proverbial abyss. Unfortunately, when you've gone so far that you can see into the abyss, it is already too late to do anything about it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Bon Chat, Bon Rat (To a good cat, a good rat)

It's getting serious folks, and weird. Defense secretary, Leon Panetta, disclosed that Israel is likely to attack Iran's nuclear facilities as early as April. (Isn't any such strike supposed to be a surprise?) For the U.S. to tell its enemy (Iran) that our friend (Israel) is about to cold-cop them strains the concept of friendship, (and enemy-hood). So, what just happened here?

We know the U.S. does not want Israel to stage a unilateral attack against Iran. Bad things could happen, including: 1. it could touch off a regional conflagration; 2. oil prices could spike to over $200 a barrel; 3. the tepid economic recovery the U.S. is experiencing would nosedive; 4. no one can know the full extent of Iran's retaliatory response.

Besides, for Iran's sheer size - it is larger than Iraq and Afghanistan, combined - and the way its nuclear facilities are dispersed from one end of the country to the other, there is serious doubt that an Israeli strike would be successful. More than likely, all we would get is a truckload of problems, and no solutions.

This is geopolitical bullying at its worst: Israel is 1/100th the size of Iran with 1/10th the population. Yet, it seeks to impose its will on the Iranian people. Iran is not compelled by any logic nor law or nature to take this.

When Israel took out Saddam's Osiri nuclear plant in Iraq, Saddam did nothing. Israel followed with an attack on Syria's nuclear; its President Assad made the same mistake. Both leaders refused to respond to Israel's naked aggression, presumably because they feared a fight they might lose. Saddam lost his nation, anyway. Likewise, Assad is on the ropes in Syria.

The French have a saying: "a bon chat (shah), bon rat (rah)" - to a good cat, a good rat. Or, as Sonny Corleone would say, "They hit us, so we hit 'em back." Israel and Iran should both take heed.

So, why is America telling on Israel, anyway? Some say it is part of a good-cop/bad-cop routine. Perhaps. Others suggest that by exposing Israel's intention, Israel might be less likely to take this risk.

The bottom line: America believes an Israeli strike will not only fracture the fragile sanctions regime President Obama seeks to fashion against Iran, but it will drag the U.S. into another disastrous war.

And what of the Israeli people? Do they want their leaders bombing Iran - a strike that could unleash the wrath of Iran's sophisticated missile system? Make no mistake: Iran is not a backward Muslim nation. Just last week, they launched a satellite into orbit around the Earth. That said, Israelis in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem must wonder that a strike on Iran might bring the skies down on their heads. A bon chat, bon rat.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"Gas Can" Newt

In the wake of Gingrich's smashing primary victory in South Carolina, people have asked, "Why has Newt done so well?" It is South Carolina, folks - the birthplace of the Confederacy. They are still confederates.

Remember the last debate there, when Texas governor, Rick Perry, declared: "South Carolina is at war with the federal government!" The way the crowd cheered, you would have thought he fired on Fort Sumter.

So, when Newt went in spouting race-tinged buzz words like "food stamp president" and "Blacks want welfare checks, no paychecks," he was whistling "Dixie." Add this: For many South Carolinians, the news media is no better than "yankee carpetbaggers," anyway. Ever astute Newt just plugged in. He had already been going after the media - blasting Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, and CNBC's Maria Bartoromo. Then, in South Carolina, he went especially hard with the near emasculation of Juan Williams and CNN's John King. And, again, the confederates screamed with delight.

Newt is the Republican field's Howard Stern. He is playing with house money and having a ball saying the most outrageous things. Want to go to the moon? Elect Newt; he's planning a colony there.

As we vote this primary season, we must wonder what America would be in for with the mercurial Newt at the helm: "Lost in Space," and Silvio Berlusconi Goes to Washington."

Monday, February 6, 2012

America's Great Cage and the Cause of Freedom

There is a dichotomy in America that pits our much-ballyhooed "love of freedom" against our hatred of it. In the past, it was people of color - African-American slaves, Native Americans forced onto reservations, this split personality. Today, it is the families of America's prisoners.

For 250 years, this American nation imprisoned an entire race of people - called them "slaves", and determined that they had no rights. They proceeded to build a southern economy - the plantation system - upon the backs of these hapless men, women, and children. These southerners spoke of "God" and "honor" while they inflicted endless abuses upon their captives. They fortified this system of slavery with laws and institutions so that it would last.

When President Lincoln said that he would emancipate the slaves, his pronouncement had a visceral effect on the South. One southerner called Lincoln's plan "despicable." It would take the deaths of 600,000 men to convince the South to let its captives go.

Today, Americans talk of being a "forgiving people"; a people who believes in "second chances." These Americans are no more sincere than the men of the antebellum South who spoke of "honor" even as they castrated black men, raped black women, and sold black children.

Slavery was one big prison cell that stretched from Maryland to Texas. After it was dismantled, America revisited its zeal for imprisoning people with the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Entire families and communities had their lives ripped away for no other reason than America had the power to do so. There was no guilt among the imprisoned Japanese-Americans. They were loyal, honorable American citizens. The guilt was founded in the DNA of people who felt empowered when they imprison.

One hundred and fifty years after slavery, America still boasts the most elaborate system of prisons on Earth. And for many Americans - even today - to speak of freeing someone from America's Great Cage is hateful.

Witness Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, now under fire for pardoning prisoners his last day in office. Incredulous Americans ask, "Why did he do it? What's wrong with him?" We should be incredulous at America's incredulity - this people who so claim to believe in forgiveness and second chances.

Proponents of victims' rights were the first to speak out against Barbour. (Their thirst for vengeance is legend.) When they want to accent their fear of released prisoners, they speak of a "chilling effect" - a scare tactic, similar to how slaveholders would stoke a nation's fears by offering up images of freed black men roaming the countryside.

These Americans think nothing of a prisoner spending another year, another five years, another ten years in prison. If you were to ask: "What of the child who longs to be taken fishing by her imprisoned granddad?" Victims' rights is likely to respond, "What about me?" They know nothing of prison, nor of the families of prisoners.

Be assured: Prison is a kicking. Prisoners are kicked, and kicked, and kicked. It is a figurative kicking, unlike slavery, which was a literal kicking. But it is a kicking all the same.

These parallels between prison and slavery are just. Slavery was about denying a people their freedom. Prison is about denying family theirs. Of course punishment is necessary when crimes are committed. But when that punishment drags on, and on, and on…

The institution of slavery in America was as sick as any human endeavor. There the slave master despised his slave so that he heaped endless indignities upon him. Yet, he seemed to love his slave so that he was ready to see the entire house burn down rather than let his slave go.

Prison is not slavery. But as long as indignities are heaped upon prisoners as though they are hated, yet they are kept endlessly as though they are loved, we must begin to wonder if the State knows the difference.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cry Racism

Racism as a force in America is over-rated, especially in these modern times. Most often, racists are viewed as "ignorant" and "fringe," which immediately limits their ability to effect change. Add to that, their visibility - flags go up the moment a racist enters a room. They are an easy target. Most Americans' stock rise just by standing across from them.

Now, Ron Paul, a prominent Republican presidential candidate, is being dogged by a racist newsletter he circulated in the 90's. He claims to have written none of the nasty rhetoric himself, though his signature appears on the newsletter, and he profited from its sales.

The question becomes: Is this a deal-breaker? Does such associations preclude Paul from serious consideration for the office of president of the United States? Many on both sides of the aisle say "Yes." I say, consider this: Ron Paul may be a racist; he is not a warmonger. While all of the other GOP candidates virtually promise a war with Iran, he alone says, "Don't be stupid." Neither is he a big spender. Of all the candidates - President Obama included - Paul appears to be the only one with the guts to tackle the national debt, vowing to trim a trillion from that 15 trillion-dollar monstrosity his first year in office.

Look at it this way: Racism is a kind of bad window dressing. It is not substantive in America anymore. It was years ago, when congress could legislate "Jim Crow" laws and the courts would uphold them. The Ku Klux Klan terrorized entire communities, and blacks could do little more than cower and pray. Those days are long gone. No racist legislation can get through congress now; no racist legislator would try. Today, all a racist can do in America is practice free speech. And each time he opens his mouth, his freedom and his power is further contracted.

We have a greater need to fear warmongers and big spenders - like twin vampires, they stand poised to bleed this nation dry. Warmongers are greater destroyers of nations than all the racists combined. Hitler's racism killed six million Jews. His warmongering killed 35 million others, besides.

Napoleon's racism barely merits a page in the history books. Yet, he was one of the greatest warmongers of all time. His militarism devastated the entire continent of Europe in the pursuit of a greater France. When he was finished, millions lay dead, and France was no greater than when Napoleon started.

Racism in America covers a wide spectrum. At one end are people like the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan; at the other end is each of us. We all harbor some form of racism, prejudice, bias, or simply fear of that which we do not understand.

Then there are those who claim to detest racism. They are posturers - no better than tin men. (Only a fool would be for racism). To say, "I hate racists", is the same as saying "I hat liars", or "I hate thieves." Who don't? All there is to do about those people is to keep an eye on them.

As for the worst of the racists among us: They are oddities, aberrant personalities that are more surprising when unearthed than scary. Our real fear should be of leaders who would send our children to kill and die for nothing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Statue for Smokin' Joe

Former heavyweight boxing champion, Joe Frazier, is dead. And a clamor has risen in the African-American community for a statue in his honor.

"Hey, they put up one for Rocky. Why not for Joe?"

Maybe because they don't want to (and you can't make them.)

True, Rocky is a fictionalized Philadelphia fighter, portrayed wonderfully by Sylvester Stallone in the movies. Joe, on the other hand, was a real Philadelphia fighter - one of the greats of all time. Yet, the city of Philadelphia chose to honor the fake fighter because Hollywood made him look so good.

Ye members of Philly's African-American community, try this: Erect a statue of Joe, yourself. You can do it. And it doesn't have to be a wholly black effort. People across the breadth of Pennsylvania, and the breadth of the nation, loved Joe Frazier. Start the ball rolling, and watch how whites, Asians, Hispanics, and a kaleidoscope of communities kick in. But this time, the African-American community should kick in first.

Often, blacks feel that if they do it - if it is not done by whites - then it will not be as good; it will not be official. Nonsense. Quality of effort is what makes it good, and official. Do it.

Historically, blacks have felt powerless to effect change, and they became accustomed to this powerlessness. They began to look forward to it. Powerlessness seemed to empower them to do whatever they wanted, (which, in many instances, was nothing.) Go to a "brother" to kick in, and he might respond: "Ask the white man. He got all of the money. He just left me with enough to have fun."

Fun. It is over-rated, and the bane of the African-American community. In fact, never in the history of America has so many adults been so consumed with having fun. Is it any wonder the children have lost respect for their elders? Their elders are behaving too much like them.

It is time the African-American too full responsibility for his community. Time to kick in, and keep kicking in. How else will great communities like Detroit survive? How else will we break the bonds of dependence and powerlessness? What other way to usher in a new era, and a new ethic of effort of empowerment?

A statue for Smokin' Joe could be a beginning - a glimpse at the new African-American resolve.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Michelle's "Cougar" Moment

This time, my favorite first lady of all time, has taken a wrong turn.

At a Toys-for-Tots event, a marine corpsman asked Michelle Obama to be his date at Marine Corp ball. She said, I'd love to..." (For a first lady who prides herself on serving up healthy dishes to America's youth, the serving up of herself to an anxious young corpsman is taking that bit a bit too far.)

With today's nouveau coupling of "cougars" (forty-something women) with twenty-something men, (and the rash of high school teachers who seduce their male charges), the first lady's flirtation with the young soldier further blurs the line.

It is one thing when female corpsman asks Justin Timberlake on a date, or a male corpsman asks some "hot" female rock star the same. It is quite another when our first lady includes herself in this awkward tribute to America's troops.

(Mrs. Obama, you are the most respectable woman in America. Act like it.)

Bob Schieffer, the aged CBS News anchor who brought us the story, thought it cute, and called the twenty-year-old marine a "courageous young man." We have different word for such shenanigans where I come from.

"Cute" and "courageous" is when a timid ten-year-old asks the first lady to his fifth-grade marshmallow roast. It becomes something else when a soldier "full of beans" asks the same.

Calling it "innocent" won't do, either. There is something about young men that, when it comes to a beautiful woman, there is no such thing as "innocent." This is why the line must be drawn with a steadfast marker.

If the date comes off, I'm sure the corpsman will be a gentleman and, of course, Michelle will be a lady. But the optics are all wrong: Picture the first lady, dressed to the nines, on the arm of a man who looks much like Barack - same complexion, same body type, but half Barack's age. Nothing is to be got from that but the appearance of impropriety.

It turns out that Michelle told the young man, "I'd love to...but you will have to ask my husband." No, Michelle, he does not have to ask Barack anything. No man should ever ask another man, "Can I take your wife out?" Any woman worth her salt can answer that question herself.

Marine corpsman Leeks did not show courage when he asked the first lady out. He showed disrespect to her, to her husband, and to the institution of marriage.

The first lady should have recognized this as a teachable moment, and been instructive. Instead, she succumbed to some odd vanity.

'Nuff said. Next time, just say "no."