Almighty Pupppetmaster

•July 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The same way we characterize Sauron from Lord of the Rings, or Palpatine from Star Wars, any fictional character has characteristics, and the same is true for the god of the Bible.

Granted, the Lord of the Rings is one hell of a lot better-written than the Bible is. It’s better-worded, its characters are better-developed, its plot is more coherent, its setting is more realistic, its mythology is more believable, its more scientifically and historically accurate, its scenarios are more plausible… So it’s a lot easier to determine who, exactly, the real villain is in The Lord of the Rings than it is in the Bible.

With the Bible, you really have to read it very carefully, or else you’ll come away from it with the mistaken and fallacious impression that the villain of the story is one or more of the human characters. But they’re the victims.

The real villain of the bible is God, just as Sauron is the real villain of the Lord of the rings [not Thranduil or Smaug or Saruman or Denethor, who are all just puppets]. If you read the Similarion, then you know that the villain of the whole story isn’t even really Sauron, but Morgoth, Sauron’s master, an evil god [Valar] very much like the one of the bible (except substantially more believably realistic in his description).

Just like, from watching only the Original trilogy, you might get the impression that the ultimate villain of Star Wars is Darth Vader, when it is really Darth Sidious [Palpatine], Vader’s master; if one reads only the New Testament, one might come away with the impression that villain of the bible is “Satan”.

But Satan in the Bible, like Darth Vader in Star Wars and Saruman in the Lord of the Rings, is just another victim: a puppet.

Just as Darth Vader used to Anakin Skywalker, Satan was once Lucifer [in Latin: "The Bringer of Enlightenment"], the serpent in the Garden of Eden who gifts the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge to humankind [much like the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans].

Just as Anakin Skywalker was turned into Darth Vader trying to save his wife Padme Amidala and his twin son and daughter, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, and just as Prometheus was punished by the gods for bringing light and heat to humans in the form of fire, so too Lucifer in the Bible becomes Satan by giving to humans the knowledge of good and evil [knowledge which the egomaniacal, megalomaniacal, narcissistic, selfish, self-centered god of the Bible wants to keep all to himself].

Satan, like the ancient Greek god Hades is given dominion over the underworld, a place the bible calls “hell” and which very closely mirrors the Ancient Greek myth of Tartarus. In the New Testament, Satan is portrayed as a simile to the Norse god of mischief, Loki, with elements of Sekhmet, or Setesh, the ancient Egyptian god of Chaos [who was later known in the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris, which directly inspired the Christian virgin birth nativity myth of Mary and Jesus in the New Testament Gospels, as "Setan"].

The original name for Satan in the Bible, Lucifer ["light-bringer"], was stolen from the name that the Ancients gave to the planet Venus, the “Morning and Evening Star”.

Venus was, in turn, named after the ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite, Goddess of Grace, Peace, Poetry, Marriage, Merriment, Song, Prosperity, Rebirth, and Eternal Youth, Patroness of Gardens, Vegetation and Vineyards and protector of the fatherland.

Sound familiar?

Withdrawn

•July 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

On January 26, 1991, the United Somali Congress; led by their Chairman, General Mohamed Farrah Hassan Caydiid; overthrew the Communist regime of Somali Democratic Republic President Mohamed Siyaad Barre.  On January 23, 1992; acting under Chapter III of the June 26, 1945 Charter of the United Nations; the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 733, placing a “general and complete” arms embargo on Somalia.

On April 24, 1992; under the authority of the March 17, 1992 United Nations Security Council Resolution 746; United Nations Security Council Resolution 751 established the United Nations Operation in Somalia [or UNOSOM], consisting 54 military of observers and 893 military personnel  that arrived in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu with the adoption of Resolution 767 on  July 24, 1992.

On December 3, 1992; acting under the authority of Chapters VII and VIII of the United Nations Charter; the United Nations Security council unanimously adopted Resolution 794. On the evening of December 4, 1992, in an address to the nation, 41st President of the United States George Herbert Walker Bush I launched Operation Restore Hope, creating the Unified Task Force [or UNITAF] on December 5, 1992. UNITAF was a multinational force composed of 37,000 personnel from 24 different countries, with the United States contributing 25,000 personnel.   Operation Restore Hope began on December 6, 1992 with reconnaissance of Mogadishu’s Aadan Abdulle Osman Daar International Airport by the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group [or NSWDG] and the United States Navy Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen [or SWCC].

On March 9, 1993, UNITAF troops arrived in Mogadishu. Simultaneously, the United States Marine Corps One Marine Expeditionary Force’s 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit [or MEU]; a Marine Air Ground Task Force [or MAGTF] of 2,200 personnel; performed an amphibious assault into Mogadishu from the Iwo Jima-class Landing Platform Helicopter [or LPH] USS Tripoli, the Austin-class Landing Platform Dock [or LPD] USS Juneau and the Whidbey Island-class Landing Ship Dock [or LSD] USS Rushmore; and the II Marine Expeditionary Force [or MEF] 3rd Marine Division’s 9th Marine Regiment 2nd Battalion of 1,200 Marines performed raids on Aadan International Airport and the Mogadishu International Port. The 3rd Battalion 9th Marines’ India Company, the 11th Marine Regiment’s 3rd Battalion and the 1st Marine Division’s 7th Marine Regiment 1st Battalion of 1,000 Marines; supported by the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion [or AABN], 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing [or MAW] Marine Aircraft Group 39 [or MAG]’s Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267 [or HMLA] and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 164 [or HMM], Marine Aircraft Group 16’s Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 [or HMH], and the United States Army XVIII Airborne Corps’ 10th Mountain Division Light Infantry; secured Iscia Baydhabo, the capitol city of Somalia’s Baay region, Kismaayo, the largest city and commercial capital of Somalia’s Dooxada Jubbada region, and Baardheere City in the Geedo region. 43 American soldiers were killed and 153 wounded in Operation Restore Hope. 3 Italians, I Australian, 3 Belgians, 1 Malaysian and 1 Greek deployed in UNITAF were also killed. On March 26, 1993; under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter; United Nations Security Council Resolution 814 established an extension of the United Nations Operation in Somalia [or UNOSOM II], including 22,000 troops and 8,000 logistic and civilian staff, with the United States providing 1,167 troops.

UNITAF was dissolved on May 4, 1993.

On June 5, 1993 24 Pakistani soldiers were ambushed and killed and 56 troops were injured, including 1 Italian and 3 Americans, by militia forces under orders from United Somali Congress Chairman Mohamed Caydiid. The troops had been tasked with the inspection of an arms cache located in a Caydidd-controlled area of Mogadishu; and on June 6, 199; under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 837, calling for the arrest and prosecution of Caydiid. On June 12, 1993, United States troops began a campaign of attacking targets in Mogadishu in hopes of finding Caydiid and on June 17, 1993, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative for Somalia, United States Navy Admiral Jonathan Howe, issued a $25,000 warrant for information leading to the arrest of Caydiid.

On July 12, 1993, 763 Somali men women and children were killed and more than 100 were wounded when several buildings were destroyed in a United States helicopter attack on a what was believed to be a safe house Caydiid was believed to be occupying; and English photojournalist Daniel Eldon, Hansi Krauss of the Associated Press, and Hosi Maina and Anthony Macharia of Reuters were stoned and beaten to death by mobs of angry Somalis after the survivors of the raid went to the journalists hotel requesting them to investigate the incident.

On August 8, 1993, four United States soldiers were killed by a remote controlled bomb detonated by Caydiid’s militia forces. Two weeks later, another bomb injured seven more. On August 22, 1993, 42nd President of the United States William Clinton launched Operation Gothic Serpent. Task Force Ranger; composed of the 75th Ranger Regiment’s 3rd Ranger Battalion, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta [or SFODD] and the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group [or NSWDG]; flew to Mogadishu with the Unites States Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment Airborne and the 24th Special Tactics Squadron and began a manhunt for Caydiid.

On September 21, 1993, the Delta Force captured Osman Hassan Ali Atto, Caydiid’s financier. On September 25, 1993, Caydiid’s forces shot down an Igor Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation UH-60 Black Hawk from the 101st Airborne Division with a shoulder-fired Rocket-Propelled Grenade [or RPG] near Mogadishu, killing three crew members.

On the afternoon of Sunday October 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger sent 19 aircraft from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment Airborne and 160 men to arrest Omar Sala Elmi, Caydiid’s Foreign Minister, and Mohamed Hassan Awale, Caydiid’s top political advisor. Ranger Private First class Todd Blackburn suffered an injury to his head and back of his neck when he fell 70 feet (21 meters) from a hovering MH-60 Black Hawk to the street. 3rd Ranger Battalion Sergeant Dominick Pilla was killed by a Somali combatant. 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment MH-60 Super Six One was shot down by a Somali combatant using a rocket propelled grenade, killing pilot Warrant Officer Clifton Wolcott and copilot Warrant Officer Donovan Briley; and Delta Force Staff Sergeant Daniel Busch was killed defending the two wounded Crew Chiefs and Delta Force Sergeant Jim Smith. Delta Forces Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randall Shughart were killed securing MH-60 Super 64; also shot down by an RPG, killing copilot Raymond Frank and Staff Sergeants William Cleveland and Thomas Field; and its pilot, Warrant Officer Michael Durant, was taken hostage by Caydiid’s militia and beaten violently after killing more than 25 Somalis. In all 18 United States soldiers were killed and another 73 were wounded. One Pakistani soldier was killed and two were wounded. One Malaysian soldier, Lance Corporal Mat Aznan Awang was killed when his Rheinmetall Condor was hit by an RPG, and seven were injured. 2,000 Somali militiamen were killed, and another 4,000 wounded. On October 6, 1993, Delta Force Sergeant first Class Matt Rierson was killed Caydidd’s militia launched a mortar strike on a United States compound; and President Clinton directed United States Navy Admiral David Jeremiah, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to cease all military actions by United States forces against Caydiid.

On December 15, 1993, President Clinton announced the resignation of 18th Unites Sates Secretary of Defense Leslie Aspin. On December 16, 1993, President Clinton launched Joint Task Force United Shield, the 24th Infantry Division, which arrived on February 7, 1994 and began to withdraw ONOSOM forces. President Clinton appointed Robert Oakley Special Envoy to Somalia and announced that all United States forces would withdraw from Somalia no later than March 31, 1994.

On March 6, 1994, the United Nations Operation in Somalia ended when all remaining United Nations troops were withdrawn. Most United States troops were out of the country by March 25, 1994.

On April 24, 1994, Butrus Ghali, 6th Secretary-General of the United Nations, declared the United Nations mission a defeat.

 

As American author and educator William Cosby writes in his 1991 book “Childhood”:

I told you that story to tell you this one.”

People, me included, remember the 1990’s as a period of peace and prosperity for the United States. However, that is in no small part due to the fact that the Battle of Mogadishu on October 3, 1993; what is regarded to have been the greatest United States foreign policy blunder since the Gulf of Tonkin on August 2, 1964 until the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003; made the Bill Clinton administration highly reticent to intervene in any other overseas crises, namely the Rwandan Genocide of April 7, 1994.

The United States suffered what is unarguably an ever more tragic blunder with George Walker Bush Junior’s unilateral invasion of Iraq, which cost the lives of 4,487 United States forces; with 32,226 wounded; and 655,000 Iraqi civilians dead.

What I see in the foreign policy of George W. Bush’s successor, 44th President of the United States Barack Obama, is a similar reticence; following his December 15, 2011 withdrawal of all United States forces from Iraq; to President’s Clinton’s post-Somalia.

For example, when 4th President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Muhammad Mubarak was overthrown on February 11, 2011, President Obama declared as early as January 25th that the United States would not play any part in the Egyptian Revolution. Likewise, when Muammar Gaddafi was killed on October 23, 2011, President Obama; without regard to the overwhelming unpopularity of his decision among Bush-era neoconservatives, permitted France and the United Kingdom of Great Britain to take the lead in in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [or NATO]’s efforts to enforce the March 17, 2011 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. Once again, when 4th President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych was ousted on February 23, 2014, knowing that doing so could spark off a military confrontation with President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, President Obama decided that the United States would not intervene in the Ukrainian Revolution.

And even with the full knowledge that the same Taliban who harbored Saudi Arabian petrochemical multi-billionaire Osama Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization that attacked the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on the morning of September 11, 2001 is in the process of taking over the government of nuclear-armed Pakistan; President Obama has made clear his intention to follow through on the obligations made by his predecessor and withdraw all United States troops from the country of Afghanistan by the end of December 2014.

The tragedy in Mogadishu came as a rude awakening to most Americans, who under President George Walker Bush I had seen only American military victory in Operation Desert Shield on August 2, 1990 and Operation Desert Storm on January 17, 1991. President Clinton recognized this, and so deemphasized the use of American military power overseas for the last seven years of his Presidency. Clinton instead turned his attention to making the 1990’s what those of us who grew up during them remember them as being: The longest period of economic prosperity since the administration of 34th President Dwight Eisenhower in the post-Second World War 1950’s. President Clinton left office on January 20, 2001 with the first balanced budget, and biggest budget surplus, in recorded history.

President Obama came into office on January 20, 2009 presiding over a nation that had grown weary after more than seven years since the beginning of George W. Bush Junior’s October 7, 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and nearly six years of bloody and costly war in Iraq. Like Clinton before him, President Obama recognized that the attention of the American public who had elected him on November 4, 2008 had turned inward. So Obama devoted the first two years of his first term to the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [or ARRA] of 2009; which in June 2009 put an end to the “Great Recession” of 2007 and 2008 that he had inherited; and the Patient Protect and Affordable Care Act [or PPACA] of 2010, which extended health insurance coverage to more than 90% of all Americans. In his first term in office, President Obama also managed to cut the more than $1.4 Trillion-dollar budget deficit that he had inherited from his predecessor more than in half to $600 billion by the time of his reelection on November 6, 2012. The ARRA of 2009 increased American Gross Domestic Product [or GDP], created millions of new private-sector working-class jobs, and reduced the nation’s unemployment rate. By the time of his second inauguration of January 21, 2013, President Obama had reduced the double-digit unemployment rate of his first year in office to one lower than that when he first ran for President in 2008.

Is the lesson to be drawn, perhaps, as late 19th century Swiss analytical psychotherapist Carl Jung wrote in the early 20th century?

Who look outside, Dreams. Who looks inside, Awakens.”

 

Racism as Artificial

•July 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I remember in my Race and Ethnic Diversity Studies class (at UWSP, it’s called “Cultural Anthropology”), our teacher had us watch a video which stated that the solution to racism was to be more aware of race.

I did then and still do now take exception to that claim. I believe that racism only exists in the first place because people are too “aware” of race.

At a biological level, each and every single human being is 99.99% identical to every other human being on Earth. In other words, what we refer to as the different “races” only exist because we say that they do, usually for reasons that are entirely arbitrary.

Not acknowledging that people belong to different races is not “claiming ignorance“, for no other reason than simply because, in reality, they don’t.

In reality, all human beings belong to the same race, because; by any biological, physiological, anatomical, biochemical, bimolecular, taxonomic, phylogenetic, cladistics, or evolutionary standard; there exists only one human race.

The whole point of my post was that race only exists because we say it does, and not in any objective sense.

For example, we classify people as being “black” and “white”, when in reality there exist people in the world with quite literally every skin tone imaginable. There are people with black skin, people with white skin, and people with every other color of skin in between. where we draw the line between who is “black” and who is “white”, when there is a full spectrum of skin colors covering every imaginable tone between the two, is often a matter of purely subjective personal opinion.

I made the point that we identify people as being “black” and “white” based on criteria that are, at best, entirely arbitrary and a matter of entirely subjective individual personal opinion.

In reality, there exist people with a full spectrum of skin colors in between the lightest of whites and darkest of blacks. This is due in no small part to the fact that, for environmental reasons, skin tone scales with one’s geographical distance from the Earth’s equator by lines of degrees of latitude.

If, hypothetically speaking of course, one were to line up all of the people of the world by skin tone from lightest to darkest [or vice versa] and choose the exact median between black and white, a brown or oranges color perhaps; then whether the people with that skin color were to be classified as belonging to the race of “black people” or to the race of “white people” would be entirely a matter of subjective perception, and thereby would vary from person to person with each person’s own individual opinion thereof.

The unavoidable conclusion one must draw from this thought experiment is that whether someone belongs to one race or another is not, in any sense, something which is based in objective empirical reality.

Therefore, as I suggested the solution to “move past” these arbitrary and random subjective assignments of people to one race or another is, in fact, precisely what you stated that it isn’t: To pretend as though they don’t exist (because, in any objective sense, they don’t).

In reality, racism only exists in this world because people “buy in” to these randomly assigned designations of people as belonging to one arbitrarily-defined race or another. The ideal would be for everyone to be treated equally.

In order for this to happen, however, we must first do away with the arbitrary classification of people into different “races” once and for all. Being more discerning of the entirely subjective differences between people of different races is, if anything, moving in the exact opposite direction. The suggestion therein is that we become more conscientious of the random assignment of any given person we might meet as belonging to one race or another, thereby “buying in” even more to the fictitious myth that any such a thing as “race” even exists at all, when in fact it does not.

To state, as so many others (including my Cultural Anthropology professor) did that buying in more to the myth of the existence of different “races” is somehow the “solution” to racism in this world is, I believe, a nonsensical non-sequitur.

Therefore, I believe that the solution, if there indeed is one, to racism is precisely the opposite of what my Cultural Anthropology professor claimed that it was: That is to say, the solution is be less “aware” of race, not more so. In an ideal world, we would all see our fellow human beings as they really actually are: One human race, and only one. We would see our fellow human beings as being 99.99% identical to us.

I believe that the remaining .01% that separates us; and on which each individual human being should by all rights be duly judged; is what Martin Luther King once referred to as being the “content of our character”.

For better or worse, like it or not, we do live in a meritocracy. however, the fallacy of racism lies in the fact that merely having one color skin or another (or for that matter merely being from one part of the world or another) is in no way, shape or form something that should be counted among a person’s “merits” for anything; be it a job or a basic human right.

This is the reason why I take such extraordinary exception to such cultural dictates as the Biblical commandment to “Honor thy father and mother” [Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16] (and anyone who does not obey their father or mother must be stoned to death [Exodus 21:17, Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18-21, Matthew 15:4 and Mark 7:10]). Respect, even for one’s own parents, should in no way be automatic. It should instead have to be earned, and even thereafter it should be based on the person in question’s conduct.

In summary, our respect (or lack thereof) for our fellow human beings should not, in any way, shape or form, be based upon what they look like. It should instead be based on what they do.

Stereotypic Jezebels

•July 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

In the original Middle Eastern creation myths upon which the Bible’s Book of Genesis was based, the very first female ever “created” at the same time as the first man, Adam, was named Lilith. Their “creator” gave to Adam and Lilith the very same commandment as in Genesis: to “go forth and be fruitful and multiply and replenish the Earth”. However, having been “created” at the same time as him, Lilith demanded to be treated as Adam’s equal. Their “creator” responded by transforming Lilith into a she-demon known as a Succubus, who would prey on infants in their cradles [the incantations that mothers would recite over their sleeping children to ward Lilith away is where we get the term "lullaby" from].

God then “created” a second mate for Adam [named Eve], this time made from a part of his very own body [his rib; Genesis 2:22], and called her a “womb-man” [Genesis 2:23], so that she would always and forever be subservient to him [Genesis 3:16]. God also added a last command to his proclamation: “Go forth and multiply, replenish the Earth and Subdue It.”

Many believe this is the reason why, in the Bible’s book of Genesis, human beings are “created” not once, but Twice [Once in Genesis 1 and then a second time in Genesis 2].

In Genesis 1, humans are just one of numerous “kinds” of animals (along with “cattle” and “livestock” [Genesis 1:25]) that were “created” by god on the sixth day of Genesis, and man and woman are “created” at the same time [Genesis 1:27]; which fits much better with the Lilith story of male and female being “created” as equals.

However, in Genesis 2, man and man alone was “created” before all of the other “kinds” of animals [Genesis 2:7], and then women were created only after all other “kinds” of animals had been created to serve man [Genesis 2:18-20].

Then again, is any surprise to anyone that the Bible, a book written exclusively by men; at a time only just barely out of the stone age when people still lived in caves [Genesis 19:30] and practiced both animal and human sacrifice [Genesis 22:2]; states repeatedly over and over again and again that women are to be subservient to men in every single way imaginable [Exodus 20:17, Numbers 5:14, Deuteronomy 5:21, Deuteronomy 22:5, 1 Samuel 25:38, Proverbs 31:3, Jeremiah 6:12, Jeremiah 44:9, Romans 1:27, 1 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:4, 1 Timothy 2:14-15, Titus 2:4-5, and 1 Peter 3:1-7]?

Colored Bosses

•July 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

When it comes to citing examples of television shows wherein minorities take on leadership roles, my thoughts naturally turn to the work of my personal hero and idol Aaron Sorkin.

On Sorkin’s 1990’s half-hour sitcom for ABC, entitled “Sports Night“, the boss of every other character on eponymous late night sports news show [modeled after the show “Sports Center” on ESPN, which is owned and operated by the same Walt Disney corporation as ABC] on the fictional Continental Corp’s “CSC”; from hosts Casey McCall and Daniel Rydell [Peter Krause and Joshua Aaron Charles; both modeled after 1990’s “Sport Center” host Keith Olbermann] to Executive Producer Dana Whitaker [Felicity Huffman]; is “Sports Night” Managing Editor Isaac Jaffe, who is played by Tony-Award-nominated African-American stage actor Robert Guillaume.

Sports Night” Associate Producer Jeremy Goodwin [Joshua Malina] describes Guillaume’s character this way in Season 1, Episode 7: “Dear Louise”:

Isaac Jaffee is the Managing Editor of Sports Night.

He’s led a pretty remarkable life. He started out as a stringer for the Atlanta Journal, won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Gemini missions, and retired as London Bureau Chief for CNN.

But his passion has always been sports. Three years ago, when Luther Sachs bought Continental Corp, and announced that he was starting a cable-sports division, Isaac came out of retirement.”

 

In what is by far and away Sorkin’s best-known work [with the possible exception of his often-quoted December 11, 1992 film “A Few Good Men”], NBC’s “The West Wing” (the most award-winning drama in the history of television), the primary character of the show, and once again the boss of everyone else, is Democratic President of the United State Josiah Bartlet, who is played by Hispanic actor Ramon Gerardo Antonio Estevez [better known by his on-screen pseudonym “Martin Sheen], son of Francisco Estevez Martinez; an immigrant from Salceda de Caselas, Spain; and father of actors Carlos Estevez [AKA “Charlie Sheen”] and Emilio Estevez, as well as “The West Wing” actress Renee Pilar Estevez.

Interestingly, the screenplay for “The West Wing” began life as extra pages that Sorkin had written for his November 17, 1995 film “The American President” [in which Estevez had a supporting role as Chief of Staff to the President played by actor Michael Douglas], but which director Rob Reiner decided not to use.

In its original form, the script for the “The West Wing” featured President Bartlet as only a minor character that would a appear on-screen little more than twice each season. This changed after Sorkin cast Estevez for the role and saw firsthand the actor’s powerful self-introduction in the show’s September 22, 1999 Pilot episode [the very first words that President Bartlet speaks on “The West Wing” upon his explosive entrance on-screen are, not coincidentally, those of Exodus 20:2-3 and Deuteronomy 5:6-7; the god of the Bible’s First Commandment: “I am the lord thy god. Thou shalt worship no other god before me.”]

Later on, in Seasons 6 and 7 of “The West Wing”, the character that wins the Presidential election to succeed President Bartlet [in April 9, 2006’s Season 7 Episode 17: “Election Day”] is that of Latino Congressman Matthew Vicente Santos from Houston, Texas’s 40% African American and 35% Hispanic 18th Congressional District (represented in real life since January 3, 1995 by African-American Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee). Santos was played by Puerto Rican-American actor Jimmy Smits, the son of a Puerto Rican mother and a father from the Republic of Suriname.

Interestingly, though the Presidential campaign and election portrayed in Seasons 6 and 7 of “The West Wing”, in which a Latino candidate wins, predated by more than two years the election of the first-ever African-American President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama [himself the native-born Hawaiian son of a father of the same name from the Republic of Kenya], the parallels between Texas Congressman Santos’s campaign against Republican California Senator Arnold Vinick; played by Italian-American actor Alphonso Giuseppe Giovanni Roberto D’Abruzzo [like Estevez, better known by his on-screen pseudonym “Alan Alda]; and then-Illinois Senator  Obama’s campaign against Arizona Senator John McCain [himself born in Coco Solo in the Republic of Panama; and after whom both “The West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin and Season 6 and 7 writer Lawrence O’Donnell have stated D’Abruzzo’s character of Senator Vinick was modeled] are striking.

Santos speaks about the state of racism in America in December 4, 2005’s Season 7 Episode 8: “Undecideds”:

You all think that there is something I can get up there and say that’s going to bridge the divide? Well, there isn’t. They want to hear what I have to say as the representative for every Latino man, woman, and child in the 50 United States. And let me tell you something: I’m frankly getting very tired of being responsible for every Jose Miguel Rodrigo Garcia Martinez de Lopez in America. I’m exhausted! Of course, they do! They want me to make sense out of all of this. And you know what, Helen, I’ve got nothing. That’s what I’ve got right now. You think that’s going to make anyone feel better… My prayers are with those families and with this one.                    You know, I find myself on days like this casting around for someone to blame. I blame everyone I can think of and I am filled with rage. \                   And then I try and find compassion. Compassion for the people I blame, compassion for the people I do not understand, compassion. It doesn’t always work so well.                    I remember as a young man listening on the radio to Dr. King in 1968. He asked of us compassion and we responded, not necessarily because we felt it but because he convinced us that if we could find compassion, if we could express compassion, that if we could just pretend compassion it would heal us so much more than vengeance could. And he was right: it did but not enough.                    What we’ve learned this week is that more compassion is required of us and an even greater effort is required of us.                    And we are all, I think everyone of us, are tired. We’re tired of understanding, we’re tired of waiting, and we’re tired of trying to figure out why our children are not safe and why our efforts to try to make them safe seem to fail. We’re tired.                    But we must know that we have made some progress and blame will only destroy it. Blame will breed more violence and we have had enough of that. Blame will not rid our streets of crime and drugs and fear and we have had enough of that. Blame will not strengthen our schools or our families or our workforce. Blame will rob us of those things and we have had enough of that.                    And so I ask you today to dig down deep with me and find that compassion in your hearts because it will keep us on the road. And we will walk together and work together. And slowly, slowly, too slowly, things will get better. God bless you and God bless your children.”                Lawrence O’Donnell, who replaced Aaron Sorkin as writer of “The West Wing” when Sorkin left the show after Season 4 and who wrote Season 6 and 7 of “The West Wing”, now hosts a primetime [9:00 PM Central Time] nightly news program on MSNBC entitled “The Last Word”.

Sports: Entertaining, but Is It News?

•July 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I take any number of issues with the gradual but inexorable takeover of the news by sports. The first and foremost step in discussing it, as with any issue, is to clearly define our terms. In this specific case, this involves not only defining what is and is not a “sport”, but also what does and does not qualify as “news”.

To the first point, I see many things covered as “sports”, and/or broadcast on sports networks, that do not rise to meet what I believe to be any at all reasonable definition of the term “sport”. Having been born and raised in North Central Wisconsin, the example that always leaps first and foremost to my mind is, of course, that of hunting.

A sport, I believe, is by any rational sense defined at its most basic level by it consisting of two or more opposing sides (whether they be in the form of individual players or teams thereof) who are to a reasonable approximation equally matched in all of the physical and/or mental qualities needed in order to be successful in the completion between them. Having grown up in the Nation Rifle Association-crazed town of Amherst, Wisconsin; I can state to an absolute positive certainty that is most definitively not the case in hunting.

One need look no further for proof of this than to watch any “sport hunting” program on any of the “outdoor sports” networks; and see that the “sportsmen” in question are heavily armed with the equivalent of high-powered military-issue-style sniper rifles, and are hunting an animal with no more protective body armor or other defensive weapons that have been proven to be particularly effective at stopping supersonic bullets than does a naked unarmed human being.

Everything that is wrong with hunting as a sport, and indeed as a practice in general, was I believe best summed up by the character of Continental Sports Channel Associate Producer Jeremy Goodwin [Joshua Malina] in the October 6, 1998 Season 1 Episode 3 of the 1990’s ABC sitcom “Sports Night”, entitled “The Hungry And The Hunted”, written by “The West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin:

We shot a deer in the woods near Lake Mattatuck on the second day.

There was a special vest they had me wear so that they could distinguish me from things they wanted to shoot, and I was pretty grateful for that.

Almost the whole day had gone by, and we hadn’t gotten anything. Eddie was getting frustrated and Bob Shoemaker was getting embarrassed. My camera guy needed to re-load so I told everybody to take a ten minute break. There was a stream nearby and I walked over with this care-package Natalie made me. I sat down and when I looked up I saw three of them: small, bigger, biggest; Recognizable to any species on the face of the planet as a child, a mother and a father.

Now, the trick in shooting deer is you got to get them out in the open. And it’s tough with deer, because these are clever, cagey animals with an intuitive sense of danger. You know what you have to do to get a deer out in the open? You hold out a Twinkie.

That animal clopped up to me like we were at a party. She seemed to be pretty interested in the Twinkie, so I gave it to her. Looking back, she’d have been better off if I’d given her the damn vest.

And Bob kind of screamed at me in whisper, “Move away!” The camera had been re-loaded and it looked like the day wasn’t going to be a washout after all. So I backed away, a couple of steps at a time, and I closed my eyes when I heard the shot.

Look, I know these are animals, and they don’t play bridge and go to the prom, but you can’t tell me that the little one didn’t know who his mother was. That’s got to mean something.

And later, at the hospital, Bob Shoemaker was telling me about the nobility and tradition of hunting and how it related to the Native American Indians. And I nodded and I said that was interesting while I was thinking about what a load of crap it was. Hunting was part of Indian culture. It was food and it was clothes and it was shelter. They sang and danced and offered prayers to the gods for a successful hunt so that they could survive just one more unimaginably brutal winter. The things they had to kill held the highest place of respect for them, and to kill for fun was a sin. And they knew the gods wouldn’t be so generous next time.

What we did wasn’t food and it wasn’t shelter and it sure wasn’t sports! It was just mean!”

In any sane rational world, killing would only be considered “fun”; much less a “sport”; by serial mass-murderers and deranged psychopaths. To derive any sort of enjoyment at all whatsoever from the act of killing is as clear an indication, to me, as any I can conceive of that one suffers from a severe and potentially dangerous form of mental illness.

Another popular “sport” which I believe fails to rise to meet the definition thereof is automotive racing. As far as I can tell, this is disqualified as a sport merely by dint of the fact that it requires little or no readily apparent athleticism of any kind on the part of the participants whatsoever. Even failing that, how watching cars drive at dangerously excessive speeds around in a circle for hours on end was ever deemed to be a form of entertainment quite frankly strains credulity.

A “sport” strikingly similar to that of hunting, the enjoyment of which I believe to be likewise indicative of a strikingly similar form of psychosis, is that of boxing. The objective of a boxing match, as far as I can tell, is for one participant to deliver a physical blow to the other so forceful that it results in an almost immediate concussion if not much more serious and irreparable brain damage; as a boxing match only ever ends, and one participant crowned the “victor”, with what is even referred to within the “sport” itself as a “knockout punch” (meaning, of course, one that results in the unconsciousness of the opposing participant).

While I will readily concede to the fact that the athleticism in upper body muscle strength alone required of a boxer in order to be physically capable of delivering such a blow even with the hindrance of heavily-padded boxing gloves unquestionably qualifies boxing as being a “sport” by any reasonable definition of the term, I nevertheless hold to my belief that anyone who willingly admits to enjoying a boxing match has thereby implicitly identified themselves a potentially dangerous sociopath with little or no conscientious regard for the health or even survival of their fellow human beings.

 

With the parameters of what; out of those activities that are presently regarded as being “sports”; fail to qualify as such, it is thereafter possible to proceed to the second point of my thesis: Whether the manner in which sports is covered on public broadcasting airwaves can rationally be considered to be “news”.

Once again, I believe it is more useful in this circumstance to examine what about the sports “coverage” broadcast on sports “news” networks does not qualify as “news”.

The prompt for this essay mentioned the starting head quarterback for the National Football League’s 2010 Super Bowl XLV champion Green Bay Packers. While quarterback Aaron Rodgers being named Super Bowl XLV’s Most Valuable Player, or winning the 2011 National Football League Most Valuable Player Award did qualify as newsworthy events; albeit stories of the sort which should be broadcast exclusively on sports networks such as Walt Disney’s ESPN, and not clutter up the important world events occurring and being covered on nightly network newscasts; a three or four hour-long in-depth documentary all about the life story of Rodgers or Packers head coach Mike McCarthy most definitively does not, in my view, rise to the level of any at all reasonable definition of the term “news”.

Again, I refer to the work of  my personal hero and idol Aaron Sorkin, this time in the character of “Sports Night” anchor Casey McCall [Peter Krause], speaking to co-host Daniel Rydell [Joshua Aaron Charles] in the 90’s Disney sitcom’s September 22, 1998 Pilot episode:

But first this—Sacramento Kings back-up power forward Jayson Grisham was released by a judge in Houston this morning after posting a $5,000 bond–which,  by the way, he paid in cash that he happened to have in his pocket.This isn’t an aberration, this is every goddamn night, and I’m tired of it.

When was the last time something good happened in sports? When’s the last time we reported something sports worthy?

Look, I got into this because people like sports. And I’ve turned into a P.R. man for punks and thugs. I’m a P.R. man for the Corleone Family.

Now any atrocity, no matter how ridiculous or hideous or childish, it doesn’t matter, I make it sports.Assault, sexual assault, battery, wife beating, prostitution, drugs, and I am not even talking about what goes on during the damn games. A batter shows you up with a home run? Next time at the plate, whip a baseball at his head. That’s gamesmanship? Isn’t it also assault with a deadly weapon, to say nothing of unsportsmanlike? Ten cent bag man whacks a skater’s leg with a crow bar, that’s sports. Second round draft pick gets cranky in a Houston bar and that’s sports. And let’s not forget the mother of all great sports stories: a double homicide in Brentwood. 

Look—I have a 7 year old son that I get to see on Wednesday and alternate weekends, and these are his heroes. And now six days a week they’re also his male role models.  Who’s supposed to be his male role model now?”

 

In order to classify sports as being “news” would, I believe, necessitate the delineation of two separate categories of “news”.

The first would be what is reported on and covered during the nightly network news broadcasts on ABC, CBS, NBC, etc. and on the 24-hour television news networks such as CNN and MSNBC. This news would consist of national and international current events stories in sociopolitical, geopolitical and socioeconomic realms.

The second category of “news”, into which all sports stories that did not involve international social, political or economic implications [the exceptions including, for example, the summer and Winter Olympic Games and the World Cup] would fall, would be relegated to exclusive coverage by the 24-hour cable sports networks such as ESPN.

About Poetry

•May 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Poetry is writing that you do not with your mind, but with something deeper down.

Something primeval, all passion: be it rage, love, hate…

The language of poetry is different, not planned, not predetermined, not set.

Poetry grows organically, not knowing at the beginning where, how or even if it will end.

Poetry is chaos, a phenomenon visible to us in the landscape that surrounds us.

Mountains, valleys, canyons… None were designed with their end shape in mind.

Nor do we even see them in their final form when we look at them.

They were shaped by water, by wind.

Some water deeper, moving faster.

Some wind blowing harder, carrying more different tools with which to shape the Earth from solid rock.

Some of the water frozen into snow and ice, expanding and contracting, widening and deepening cracks in hard stone with millions of passing seasons.

Such is the same with the writing in poetry.

There is no hand that shapes it, not even that which wields the pencil, nor the one holding the paper in place.

Spaces, pauses, silences and stoppages in poetry are not planned before they happen, but rather are born from the flow of the words themselves.

Like water from a river flowing into the narrowest of cracks in the riverbed, and long after the river has dried to dust, continues to split and crack the now-compressed and solidified sedimentary layers with each freeze in winter and thaw in spring, working its way far deeper into the Earth than the river from whence it came ever could have done.

 
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