Wednesday, April 11, 2007

 

This Point Is Moot, But...

I've been thinking about the whole Don Imus situation since my last entry, and I had come to the conclusion that the man should not be fired.

Once again, silly me.

It would seem that this point is moot, but my reaction upon hearing that MSNBC had cancelled his simulcast TV show -- after first waiting a few days to suspend him for two weeks, and then waiting a few more to fire him -- was disappointment. I was disappointed that MSNBC had caved in to the mounting public pressure against Mr. Imus and his reprehensible comment regarding the Rutgers women's basketball team. Please don't misread me here. It is not that I in any way agree with Imus' comments; rather, it is that I disagree with MSNBC's refusal to stand by a man who had made a mistake, who had publicly apologized for it (repeatedly, exhaustively!), and who has done everything since -- in a very public way -- to make amends. Not pretend that he had all of the sudden "become tolerant" or something lame like that. But to take actual steps to turn his huge public gaffe into a constructive, rebuilding exercise.

To wit, Imus apologized to the Rutgers women and planned to meet with them to hear, firsthand, of the personal pain that he had caused them. And, although fired by MSNBC, he still plans to do so. Why? Because Imus is not a hateful person. Because Imus is not a racist. Because Imus could give two shits about pleasing the MSNBC bigwigs. No. What Imus cares about is making the situation right.

Again, don't misread me here. I don't count Don Imus as one of my personal heroes. Imus is no saint. Indeed, Imus is a flawed human being. But aren't we all? And how many of us -- perhaps more pointedly, how many public figures in America today -- not only admit their mistakes, but are also willing to face public ridicule and try to make their error into a positive? By my estimation, not too many.

So, yes, the point is moot. But Don Imus should not have been fired. To be sure, MSNBC has showed much less courage than Mr. Imus, himself, by firing him and saving face amid society's current obsession with "making problems disappear," as comedian Bill Maher says. Why face public pressure straight up, engage in difficult dialogue, and deal with real problems when we can simply "make the problem disappear" (or so we think) with one quick dismissal?

As I stated in my previous posting, this situation underscores a problem that is much deeper than a radio/TV personality making a hateful and insulting remark. Yes, Don Imus' comment was a symptom of the bigger problem we have in this country with racism. But it only scratches the surface. Firing Don Imus will not make racism go away. It may even exacerbate the situation.

That's why I was disappointed in MSNBC's actions today.

Monday, April 09, 2007

 

Should Don Imus Be Fired?

Last week, WFAN and MSNBC morning talk-show host Don Imus jumped directly into hot water when commenting that the Rutgers University women's basketball team, playing for the national championship, looked like a bunch of "nappy-headed ho's."

I heard it live. My initial reaction was not shock; rather, it was more like a subtle "say what?" I recognized it immediately as racist, but I wondered if it would just slip by, relatively unnoticed. Silly me.

What followed was a firestorm of reaction. "He should be fired!" stated many an activist. "An apology is not enough."

Over the past several days, Imus has been in the hot seat, feet to the fire, facing his self-fashioned crucible. Most notably, he offered to appear on the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show today where he, in no uncertain terms, "was torn a new one."

I am in no way endorsing the words of Mr. Imus, but I give him a great deal of credit. He is not only admitting his mistake but taking full responsibility for it. He is not hiding. He is showing that he is an endangered species among today's public figures: He is facing the fire from all directions, and he's doing it with complete humility.

So, should Mr. Imus be fired? Or, should he resign? Where do you draw the line on this one? I'm still making up my mind. I'll weigh in with an update sometime soon.

Meantime, Don Imus has created for all of us -- quite unwittingly, I might add -- a time to ponder racism in our country. How far have we come since the Jim Crow laws of the early 20th century? Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Since Rodney King and the LA riots of the early 1990s? Indeed, how much farther do we have to go?

It's time to think seriously about racism in America. Again.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

 

Predictions for the Rest of 2007

Greetings, readers! Long time, no write. My apologies. Not sure why I'm writing again, truth be told. Just felt the urge, I suppose. Lots on my mind of late, most notably politics. Ugh. Also, baseball. That's a little less of an "ugh," but I am a Baltimore Orioles fan, so it's still an "ugh." So what to talk about in this long-time-no-ventilate version of "Paradox World"? How about a few predictions re: politics and baseball? Here goes:

* George Bush will not make it through his second term. Honestly, I am not wishing ill upon our President. I just can't imagine that the man will be able to handle the ever-growing pressure of the job. Either mental and/or physical weariness will cause him to quit, or he will be impeached and resign in disgrace. Call it the "seeds you sow" prediction.

* A strong USA military presence will continue in Iraq beyond the end of the year. Perhaps beyond the decade. Maybe even beyond this century. I'm not kidding.

* US newspapers will continue to lose readers, and American cities will continue to lose newspapers. In record numbers. As in, 15-25 dailies will fold by the end of the year.

* Generation Y members -- current teens and twentysomethings -- will read even less this year. Fewer books, fewer magazines, fewer anything that has words on a page made out of paper will be touched by Gen Yers. Those things are "so yesterday."

* The Red Sox will win the American League East in 2007. Second place goes, surprisingly, to the Baltimore Orioles. (The Yanks finish third.) Alas, the wild card will go not to the Orioles but to the Angels, who finish behind the A's in the West. Bank it!

* Wisconsin will not play Georgetown for the NCAA men's basketball championship this year. Oh, that's right. It already happened. (Who would have guessed a repeat for Florida?) So I guess my brackets were a little off!

* This blog will gain two new readers in 2007. To those two educated individuals I say, "Respond to this entry now!"

Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 02, 2006

 

The World Really Has Gone Daft!

daft - adj - 1. Mad; crazy. 2. Foolish; stupid.

Representative Mark Foley from Florida gets caught sending "overfriendly" text messages to a 16-year-old page and resigns from office. A fellow Republican congressman claims he warned Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert about Foley's potential indiscretions at least three years ago. And Fox News radio/TV host Sean Hannity questions the timing of it all: "Why did this happen after the Republican primary, after Foley had already been voted as the Republican party's candidate?" Perhaps, opined Hannity, so the Dems could win a seat in the House. That's right! The liberals are behind it all.

Huh? You're kidding, Sean, right? No? Well, I guess the world really has gone daft -- as I stated in my previous entry (sorry so long ago!).

Only in America can an alleged sexual predator from one political party (one, who -- by the way -- championed legislation to help save kids from sexual predators!) be supported by a talk-show host who blames the entire dilemma on the rival political party. Only in America.

Are Americans that stupid? (Or is it just sycophantic Hannityites who love to tell Sean, "You're a great American," who are that vapid?) Or have most of us just thrown up our hands in disgust as if to say, "What does it matter anymore?"

Herewith a timely list of questions that can all be followed aptly with a simple, "Well, duh!"

* Should Donald Rumsfeld be fired?
* Is there truly any well-defined "course" to stay in Iraq?
* Did the Bush adminstration lie in order to lead us into war in Iraq?
* Had the neocons already decided before 2002 to invade Iraq?
* Is anything in Bob Woodward's book State of Denial a surprise?
* Has the USA as preeminent world leader reached the tipping point?

Sorry for the pessimism. But never have I felt so strongly that the world has indeed gone daft. Where will we go from here?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

 

"The World Has Gone Daft"

A good friend and colleague has been known to say this from time to time: "Let me tell you, the world has gone daft." The ensuing conversation usually entailed some rants, some debate, and some jokes. Unfortunately, this comment has never been truer than now. A quick look at today's news underscores the point:

* Afghan/NATO forces killed 18 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. (Yes, the fighting has continued there, despite the U.S. pullout in 2001 right on the cusp of finding Osama.)

* Sri Lanka's civil war has reared its ugly head again as Tamil Tigers attacked three army camps.

* Islamic militants continue to stoke up the terror in Indian Kashmir, yesterday throwing a grenade into a public bus stand.

* Citizens took to the streets in Mexico City to protest alleged voter fraud in the recent election.

* And, oh yes, there's Israel, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iraq, Iran, et.al. As David Byrne might say, "Same as it ever was."

Such events only intensify the growing feeling I've had about the state of the world. In a word, it's "explosive." Never in my lifetime (which began, incidentally, about the same time the U.S. first entered Vietnam) has the world felt so unstable, so ready to erupt in global violence -- that is, if it hasn't already. What's going on here? Where do we go from here?

Unfortunately, I hold little hope that the United States will lead the way. Indeed, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's comments on this past Sunday's "Meet the Press" hammer this point home. Paraphrasing now, Friedman said the world -- more than ever -- needs the "optimism" that America brings to the table. We need to be that "beacon of freedom" that the world has typically looked to in times of crisis. Sadly, we have moved far from being that beacon, thanks to a foreign policy that seeks pre-emptive military strikes and eschews any meaningful dialogue and diplomacy. Say what you want about Friedman as a member of "the liberal media elite." I would tend to listen to a man -- a Jewish man -- who spent more than 10 years in the Middle East talking to Muslims, Jews and Christians in his daily job as a reporter. I'd wager he knows a bit more about Middle East history, Middle East policy, and Middle East diplomacy than say, oh, Condy Rice.

So what's going to happen? Will the U.S. ever modify its strike-first, talk-later (if at all) foreign policy? Or am I being too cynical? One could indeed argue that "the world has gone daft." The list of news items at the top of this page should at least make one wary.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

 

It's Been Too Long: A Few Odds 'n' Ends

Sorry for the delay (that is, to my one or two readers out there!). It's been too long since I last posted, so let's get started up again. Just a few random thoughts on this mid-July day:

* The Middle East (Israel vs. the Arab World) has trumped the news agenda again after a long hiatus. Only this time I find it more than a bit eerie that the USA can no longer stay out of the fray and play diplomat, as we have in the past; we are too involved in a Middle East war all our own right now.

* Will any real "policies" ever been discussed again in Washington, or has all DC discourse become politics and PR, exclusively? Anti-flag-burning and anti-gay-marriage amendments to the Constitution? These are the most critical issues of the day? You'd think our elected officials would be more dignified. (For that matter, you'd think the citizenry would be more outraged.) Instead, it's politics as usual, thanks to the mid-term elections coming up in November. Who needs sincere, forward-thinking policy discussions on issues like wars, budget deficits, and global warming when we have an election to think about?

* As for global warming, say whatever snide/sarcastic/sneering thing you want about Al Gore, but his film ("An Inconvenient Truth") seems to have more and more people talking about global warming these days (as in, newsmagazine cover stories, Tom Brokaw's recent show on the Discovery Channel, etc., etc.). Hmm. Maybe there really is something to this global warming concept after all.

* Joe Lieberman, US Senator from Connecticut, is running for his life right now. Closing fast is his Democratic rival Ned Lamont. There's nothing I like more than seeing DC franchises like Lieberman forced to own up to their actions. Indeed, we could use a lot more of this accountability in government.

* On that note, we could also use a lot more bi-partisan discussion and action in Washington. So corrupt has the system become -- thanks to lobbyists, the campaign-finance fiasco, the Us vs. Them mentality of political "talk shows," and the utter stupidity and/or indifference of Americans -- that the USA is mired in a status-quo political quagmire. Neither Republicans nor Democrats dare stray too far from the party line, lest they tick off their "political base." This may help most sitting politicians get re-elected, but looking around America (and the world) right now, I wouldn't say it helps solve many core problems. Check out www.beyondpartisan.org and investigate if there might be a better way. Let's all hope so.

Enjoy your summer. More later.

Friday, May 19, 2006

 

Is It Just Me, Or...?

As a friend and mentor of mine is wont to say from time to time, "the world has gone daft." I have come to agree with him:

* First, I ask, is it just me, or is the big to-do over the just-released film The Da Vinci Code really worth all the fuss? The Catholic Church, conservative Christians, and devout believers see the Dan Brown-novel-turned-movie as outright heresy. "Don't see it," they say. "It blasphemes Jesus and his followers." Good advice. Anytime a loud group calls for the censorship of a controversial film/book/TV show, the public consumes it by the millions! Even so, here's my prediction: Christianity, the Catholic Church, and the Religious Right will continue to exist quite fruitfully, thank you very much.

* Is it just me, or are politicians, pollsters, and pundits missing the boat (wrong metaphor, in this case!) when it comes to addressing the "immigration problem"? So many people are belly-aching over these very threatening "illegal" immigrants: we must deport them immediately, we must not grant them any form of amnesty, we must save jobs for Americans, etc. Admittedly, more than 11 million immigrants are here illegally. They are illegal aliens, say the true Americans. Enforce the law and send them back! OK, we get it. So if we're so dedicated to this "enforce-the-law" sentiment, why don't we also enforce the employment laws of the land and arrest those companies that hire these immigrants illegally? It's just a hunch, but I bet if those companies didn't hire illegal immigrants to begin with, there'd be far fewer immigrants.

* Is it just me, or do the New York Yankees -- and their fans -- live in an alternate universe? Two of their starting outfielders (Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield) go down with injuries, and the discussion turns to "which all-star outfielder can we lure away from another team?" Virtually any other team in Major League Baseball would call upon its bench or farm system to supply a subsitute. Not George Steinbrenner's Yankees. They can afford to shop around for a top-shelf player. Is it any wonder that the Yankees are in the thick of the pennant race most years? Of course, to hear Yankee fans tell it, the Bronx Bombers are simply the best franchise in the history of sports. Maybe in all of the known history of humanity. Just ask 'em!

* Finally, is it just me, or are people really getting more selfish and lazy? I had a conversation along these lines with a friend recently, and he still opts for the glass-half-full approach: "Most people want to fulfill the social contract because it makes them feel good to do good." Fair enough. But I, on the other hand, am a bit more cynical. I want to be optimistic -- I really do! -- but I see more and more people building walls around themselves. Rather than reaching out to others, they choose a "me-first" mentality that puts selfish needs and desires above those of the world at large. How else to explain all the crying about high gas prices (we still pay less than the people in Europe) -- to name but one example. Hey, I hate paying more at the pump and I know that others less fortunate than I are having a tough time with high gas prices. But we've been down this road before. (Remember the oil crisis of the '70s?) And did we learn anything, did we adjust our behavior, did we plan for the future? Nope. Instead, we invented something called the "Sport Utility Vehicle" so we could feel invincible in the "captain's chair" as we averaged 15 miles to the gallon!

Is it just me, or am I starting to rant? Sorry, but I had to get a few things off my chest. I welcome your comments.

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