Friday, December 13, 2013

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) House Republicans (!) have brokered a bi-partisan budget deal proposed by Paul Ryan (!!).

2) In related news, John Boehner has put down the scotch and started drinking Everclear. I guess this sort of makes moderate Republicans and the rest of the American people Boehner's trophy wife, now that the Teabaggers have slipped into self-parody.

3) The Speaker's race year ought to be a boozy. I mean, doozy.

4) OhthankGod…

5) As nauseating and reprehensible as I find the man in general, Mayor Mike Bloomberg has done some really good things for the people of New York, particularly the rich and middle class white folks. But this fight, I think, transcends his legacy to be one of the best things he took up for all of us.

6) ♪ You better not shit, you better not pee, better not spit, I'm telling you why, SantaCon is coming to town. ♫

7) "Shaken, not stirred," for a reason.

8) NOTE to South Africa: the mimed blow job might have been a tell.

9) This was a term I hoped would never make the leap from perjorative to legal defense.

10) Speaking of "Affluenza," the party guests AND the owner of this mansion both seem to have terminal cases.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I think Barack Obama took a swing and a miss in his eulogy of Nelson Mandela this morning. In a rare moment, I believe he misread his audience.

In fairness, it’s easy to get caught up in the dignity of the moment, and the fact that nearly 100 world leaders – the single largest gathering in history – were in attendance. It was easy to be somber and reflective. It was easy to point to his struggle and his imprisonment.

Even Obama himself recognized this at one point:

Given the sweep of his life, and the adoration that he so rightly earned, it is tempting then to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men. But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. Instead, he insisted on sharing with us his doubts and fears; his miscalculations along with his victories. "I'm not a saint," he said, "unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."

It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection - because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried - that we loved him so. He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood - a son and husband, a father and a friend. That is why we learned so much from him; that is why we can learn from him still. For nothing he achieved was inevitable. In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness; persistence and faith. He tells us what's possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well.

And yet, much of the front half of his speech was precisely an attempt to chisel in stone Mandela’s legacy to his people and to the world and in so doing, made him and the people of South Africa a portraiture.

And it wasn’t until President Obama began to talk about Ubuntu, the oneness of spirit of humankind, that we began to see a fleshing out of Mandela. He was a wise man, a far better man than this world deserved, and with his existence, he lifted all of us – black, white, American, African, Asian – a little out of the abyss to stand on his shoulders and see a farther horizon.
In that moment in his speech, he began to lift the spirits of people he veered precariously close to sobering up. The people of South Africa, the people of Mvezo, Qunu and Soweto, had come to party, as mourning had passed.

It was interesting to watch as people streamed off buses from all over the nation, and dance into the stadium. I was abruptly reminded of how petty and small Americans can be. We would be somber. We would demand dignity and silence, for our mourning is not the mourning of a death, but the mourning of our dimunition.

As another example, over the weekend there was no “moment of silence” at real football – excuse me, soccer – games around the world. Mandela was warmly, enthusiastically, and lovingly cheered and applauded for an entire minute. It was a “thank you,” not a goodbye, and it made all the difference.

And even that moment of silence, that selfish display of faux sincerity, had some Americans up in arms. We truly are a vain and petty people.

One last warming note before I wrap this up, so I can go out on a high note: it was tremendous to hear the ovation that Barack Obama got from the people of South Africa. I imagine it has been a long time since he’s heard that kind of endorsement of what he means to the world. He certainly would never heard that in South Carolina.

Oh, PS: the handshake. It’s time to normalize relations with Cuba. He could finally earn that Peace Prize.

Monday, December 09, 2013

I May Be Wrong, But...

I think Bibi Netanyahu might have a problem with Nelson Mandela’s legacy:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cancelled plans to attend memorial events for the late South African leader Nelson Mandela, citing travel and security costs, Israeli media reported Sunday.

Netanyahu, whose spending habits have recently come under fire, cited costs of about $2 million to travel to South Africa for the memorial, Haaretz reports.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Dalai Lama said Sunday that he won’t travel to South Africa either, AFP reports. It wasn’t immediately clear why, but the Dalai Lama has been visas to visit the country twice since 2009.
$2 million is pretty small beer, when you think about it, so let’s look at this a little more closely, and we discover that Israel had a deep and fruitful relationship with the apartheid government of South Africa.

South Africa was one of the first members to vote in favor of creating the state of Israel and as relations between Israel and the rest of the Middle East worsened in subsequent decades, South Africa stood alone, from Egypt to the Cape of Good Hope as being Israel’s only ally on the continent.

In turn, Israel was the last nation standing in support of the apartheid forces in the nation. The rise of Mandela could not have sat well with them. Indeed,it has been rumoured that Israel launched a nuclear development program with the Botha government (possibly culminating in the “Vela incident,” altho no one has ever claimed responsibility for that) and forcing the United States into an uncomfortable position of covering up possible Israel nuclear capabilities. In 1997, Ha’aretz reported that indeed it was a South African weapons test, conducted using Israeli designs.

When Mandela took office, he received offers to visit every nation in the world…except Israel (which he visited anyway in 1999 in conjunction with a visit to the Palestinian territories.) To his death, Mandela was vociferous about his support for a Palestinian state.

And there it is.