Friday, July 09, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) I'm not particularly interested in the LeBron James story, except to make a few observations. First, two wars have been waged for nearly a decade now, which received less attention over the entire decade than the James story has received in 2010. Second, if I was LeBron James, I'd hire a bodyguard and petition the NBA to allow him to accompany me onto the court. The spectacle he and his agent have created denigrated his reputation and disrespected the fans in the cities who were vying for him.
That kind of self-indulgent flashiness-- if I were a Knick, say-- would warrant punishment, up to and including a career-ending injury. In short, he's been treated with kid gloves until now because his story was one of those rare touching moments in sport: hometown boy grows up and makes good with his hometown team, he loves his mom, he enjoys the game and rarely seemed to be anything but a big kid at heart.
That ended last night. Keep your enemies close, is my advice.
2)   “Politicians need to understand there are consequences of their actions,”  hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman. True, but then so should hedge fund managers. Greed in the 21st Century is passé.
3) Another example of the poor shouldering more than their fair share of the burden.
4) Sometimes public outcry works.
5) The fastest growing category of mortgage defaults? The rich!
6) Fly-by-night solar plane. This bodes well for the electric car and other battery operated machinery.
7) I think CNN may have overstepped its bounds here. Reporters are allowed to have opinions and some of those opinions may be controversial. This was spineless.
8) The vuvuzela has hit the big time.
10) Finally, Skynet actually became self-aware on June 3, 1980. I guess this explains LeBron James.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Slippery Ski Slope Of Terrorism

Norway? Really?

The sparsely populated and largely peaceful country was not used to being at the receiving end of either international or domestic terror threats.

But there has been much water under the bridge in the seven years since that threat, and Thursday's announcement of the arrest of three people on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack - one of them a Norwegian citizen - has so far been met with less incredulity.

There are some, to put it politely, tangential reasons why Al Qaeda might target Norway for terror attacks. And I do mean "tangential." For example, Norway has provided a small number of troops under its obligation to NATO, to the conflict in Afghanistan. The cartoons that depicted and mocked Muhammed, created in Denmark, were also syndicated in some Norwegian newspapers.

Mostly, cuz, there are a fair number of Danes living in Norway, you see. I should note that Norwegian embassies in the Middle East were attacked in the wake of those cartoons, but so were French, German, Austrian as well as Danish embassies.

The biggest stretch of them all, tho, has to be that Oslo hosted a 1993 peace conference between Israel and Palestine. The so-called "Oslo Accords" provided for the creation of the split Palestinian state (the West Bank and Gaza strip), and recognized the Palestinian Authority. Attending the conference were, of course, Israel and the Palestinians, but also American and Russian officials.

Yet, Norway is somehow to blame for this advance in Muslim-Western relations? OK, I suppose the case could be made that Al Qaeda wants diametrically the opposite: a total state of war between the West and Islamic worlds. Too, the Oslo talks grew out of earlier talks in Madrid, which has also been targeted by terror, albeit nominally by Basque separatists...but who knows who supports them? It's possible Al Qaeda outsourced the train attack there.

It strains credulity, as the article infers, to blame Norway for anything to do with the Islamic struggles. However, there appears to be a growing Muslim community in Norway (in urban areas, particularly) and even radical and moderate Muslims have battled in the recent past. 

I get the sense of Al Qaeda that its kind of like the drunk in the bar who wants to fight. He tries to pick a fight with the biggest guy in the bar, who smacks him down and then resumes his own drinking. The drunk staggers to his feet, sees all the eyes on him, and decides he'll take on anyone and everyone, if he has to go pick a fight with random strangers. 

Starting with the quiet couple in the corner, of course. 


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Missing Story

By Carl
Today is the fifth anniversary of the London transit bombings.
Naturally, the British papers are full of references.
Oddly, the only references in American media are from the Voice of America and some short wire service pieces. Interesting particularly when you consider the Queen was visiting just yesterday, on the eve of the anniversary, and visited our ground zero.
I say "oddly" because what England suffered that day is what America is only now starting to see: home-grown terrorism. First British and now American citizens attacking their countrymen.
In America, though, those attacks could be militant Islamists, or militant right-wingers. There's the dirty little secret of the American media. This is a third rail story possibly because if they were to report it fully, they'd have to report on the activities of the Eric Rudolphs in this nation: angry white men with grudges.
This would also require exploring why those angry white men are so angry, and here's the real story: they're angry because they feel their own country is against them.
It's easy to poo-poo those complaints. After all, old white men still have it the easiest in this nation. They're living longer, they have drugs to prevent erectile dysfunction which means they can have sex longer, they make the lion's share of money in this country, own the lion's share of property.
The problem with the easy answer here is, it's the wrong answer. It's not that angry white men are wrong to be angry. It's wrong that they're angry because they're white.
The real problem stems from the fact that society has put aside, for the most part, the racial divides. Instead, the problem lies within economic classes. So the angry white man has more in common with the working class black man or woman, or white woman for that matter, than he has in common with the concentration of wealth that has occurred over the past thirty years.
In the hands of rich (and not angry) white men. The United States has spent thirty years assisting those who need no assistance, at the expense of transmogrifying a thriving middle class into a society of poor and indebted. When you consider the fact that several tens of millions of Americans owe to banks and credit card companies more than the total value of their assets (i.e. are functionally bankrupt) and that two-income families, almost unheard of in 1980, are now the norm, it's no wonder that working class white men are angry, and that middle-class white men are not far behind. Who wants to live like that, knowing that a catastrophic illness, or a divorce, or a fire could wipe you out and force you to live on the streets?
That's not a fantasy. That's a reality, and that reality builds another reality where terrorism might be the blonde German-American frustrated that his wife left him holding the bag. In a dog-eat-dog world, the losing dog is going to look mighty tasty.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)