The late Franklin D. Roosevelt once jokingly compared a conservative to a man or woman with two functioning legs who however had never learned to walk. Malcolm X was more caustic and to the point -in his autobiography, published just after his February 1965 assassination (which I read and had an indelible impression on me) he charged that both liberals and conservatives were pretty much on the same page when it came to racial justice- conservatives just said flat out- "let's keep the n---rs in their place " whereas liberals said "no no let's keep the knee-grows in the place.").
Granted that observation is nearly half a century old but not much has changed since at least when it came to conservatism and race. Of course there are several prominent African American conservatives such as Ken Hamblin, conservative talk radio host and self prolaimed "black Rush Limbaugh" and several prominent conservative celebrities who are manifestly NOT racists( sitcom stars like Patricia Heaton and Kelsey Grammer, Gary Sinise of "CSI:NY" and Angie Harmon of "Law And Order"- full disclosure here: I have watched all four of the above in the aforementioned series ), but it is also true that conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly , Pat Buchanan and the late William F. Buckley (1925-2008) have aired racist sentiments wihtout other of their fellows expressly diasvowing or condemning them- leading to suspicions that they simply say out loud what others are too polite to say publicly.
Of course it may be argued that there are millions of good and decent Americans(of both sexes) who are appalled at the charge of generic bigotry and consider it to be totally unjust and hurtful but as with liberals and left wingers who (pace Paul Robeson, Beatrice and Sidney Webb) act as apologists for tyrannical regimes such as Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's China and Castro's Cuba and as the father of modern day conservatism, the 18th century Anglo Irish philosopher Edmund Burke noted- "evil flourishes when good men-or women for that matter- refuse to act!".
Personally I am as uncomfortable with the idea that all blacks or women must all sing from the same political hymn sheet or subscribe to the same views( black Americans have voted en masse for the Democratic Party since FDR and Truman's day) as I am with the statements of some "conservative" commentators( race or gender irrelevant).
Someone once defined insanity as doing the same thing- like trying to add two and two together- and trying to get an answer other than four.
A few years ago(2012) I wrote a blog post here entitled " Texas Republican Party goes "batsh!t crazy" ".
Look at the new GOP Texas platform I experienced an eerie sense of deja vu- same old, same old,unfettered right to bear arms, check, repeal Obamacare, check, withdraw from UN, World Bank , IMF(but oddly enough not NATO per se)check.
Presumably unaware that the very same year Barack Obama buried Mitt Romney, the "severely conservative" challenger who espoused many of these views, the Texas Republicans seem to think that the American electorate of 2016 will subcribe to these views.
Well for a start if the Texas GOP and the Republican Party in general wants the US to leave the UN and the UN to be removed from American soil, I say, OK- we'll pack our backs anr return New York to the backwater it was before the UN set up shop there back in the 1940s!
London based readers may have read of the memorial to the victims of the 7/7 bombings being defaced by graffiti apparently by Islamists with such choice phrases as "Blair Lied, Thousands Died" "4 Innocent Muslims" and my personal "favourite"- "MI5 did 7/7"!
Naturally, MI5 actually caused the 7/7 bombings , if only because Islamic fundamentalists(much like Irish Republicans), are so monumentally incompetent that they couldn't even organized a "piss up in a brewery!"
Precisely what the 52 men, women and presumably children(of all religions including Muslim presumably although no one has ever tabulated the victims by religious creed) had to do with Iraqi regime change or claims of Saddam's WMD, escapes me. Given the cries of faux outrage that followed the release of a third rate film mocking the Prophet Mohammed, allegedly "blasphemous" cartoons of same in Denmark several years ago and an obscure preacher's threat to publicly burn a Koran some years back, it seems odd to me that self styled Islamists would engage in such behaviour!
Even during the worst periods of the NI "Troubles", opposing sides usually left graves and memorials of their opponents alone( although after an IRA bomb attack on the Commandant General of the Royal Marines in October 1981, Marines reportedly entered a cemetery and smashed the headstones of recently buried IRA hunger strikers in Milltown Cemetery).
All I can do is feel a profound sense of disgust at such an inhumane act( defacing the 7/7 memorial not what the Marines did -at least they had cause for retaliation).
We've all heard stories about so-called "cursed objects"- but do they really exist- after all how on earth can inaminate objects become evil??? I was just looking at the entry on ComicVien for Bloodaxe(full disclosure: I plan to paint him), a Marvel villain who possessed the enchanted axe of Skurge the Executioner which drives its owners over a period of time to commit acts of horrendous bloodshed based on the foul deeds of its previous owner. In reality though I have heard not just of cursed objects but cursed families- pace the Kennedy and Barrymore clans(full disclosure again: Drew Barrymore is my favourite film star) as well as the so-called 20 year jinx for US Presidents( since 1840 every US President elected in a year ending in a "0" has died in office either through natural causes( JohnTyler and FDR) or assassination( Garfield, McKinley, JFK).
Whilst I admit I would certainly not like to own something assocaited with a notorious evil doer( which makes the current craze for so-called serial killer art all the more disturbing) such as Saddam Hussein's toothbrush , Bin Laden's shaving kit or Stalin's pipe, I really have my doubts about such objects although demonologists like the late Ed and Lorraine Warren have amassed an entire warehouse full of them- much like Micki and Ryan in "Triday the 13th:The Series"- objects so charged with Satanic power that simply touching them will cause the demon within to manifest themselves.
The recent US Supreme Court ruling vis a vis furniture chain Hobby Lobby (which successfully argued that the contraception requirement in the Affordable Care Act- or "Obamacare" as it derisively termed in popular parlance mainly by its critics- violated its rights to religious freedom) got me thinking about freedom
(not just in the US but across the Western world) in the run up to the Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations in America.
"Freedom for the pike can mean death- or considerable discomfort- for the minnow!" runs an apocryphal statement of Aneurin (Nye) Bevan.
I should declare my bias on this issue- I have long not only been pretty cynical about the whole Fourth Of July hoopla( big deal- a bunch of white first-born Protestant males declared that man(presumably white ones- many of them such as my namesake George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry were admitted slaveowners)was born and entitled to be "free" but suspicious about the whole concept of corporate "personhood".
It is true that if we examine the whole sweep of American history, the trend has been towards expanding the blessings of liberty not just for the freed slaves and their descendants(albeit after the long dark night of "Jim Crow" segregation which lasted nearly half a century), Native Americans, Hispanics and Orientals but more recently for women(irrespective of their ethnicity or race) and indeed for LGBT people(pace same sex marriage), but the whole "three fifths of a human being" business for the slaves left a bad taste in the mouth(at least in mine!)
So what freedoms are YOU as an American most grateful for come the Fourth of July?
I have heard of some weird excuses and claims in my time, but as the Americans say, this claim by an Oklahoma Republican that his primary opponent is not only dead but has been replaced by a body double robot is a"doozy".
Rep Tim Murray claims that his opponent(fellow Republican) Frank Lucas was executed by "The World Court" in Southern Ukraine in January 2011 and was replaced by a "body double" robot afterwards.
First things first:(a) Lucas claims he has never visited Ukraine in his life(a simple examination of his passport will prove or disprive this claim- assuming he HAS a passport to begin with) (b), The "World Court"( whether he means the International Criminal Court or the World Court of Justice in reality is unclear- I presume he means the former, a bete noire amongst American conservatives although at the time of writing it has yet to indict a single US national) has no authority to execute anybody(never mind how heinous their alleged crimes) by hanging or any other forms of execution (c), the Ukraine in 2011 had not signed or ratified the ICC Convention(nor has it done so now at the time of writing (d) even if all of the above were true, is he saying that it in today's hyper-connected world, nobody noticed said executions???
Whatever his merits (of lack of same) Jean Claude Juncker is now President of the European Union- and David Cameron has only HIMSELF to blame for it!
Firstly it must have been obvious even without hindsight that Mr Cameron's hectoring shrillness would turn off even conservative allies in his attempt to block Juncker's candidacy. What is known in the trade as the "Violet Rose" school of diplomacy( Violet Rose is a character in Richmal Crompton's "Just William" series of books who whenever she didn't get her own way, just threatened to "scweam and scweam the whole house down" until everyone else submitted to her wishes) was never likely to bring home the diplomatic bacon.
Secondly it validates my long held view that those politicians who for narrow political expediency play with the fires of religious, racial and ideological extremism( as the US Republicans did with the Tea Party in the run up to the 2012 Presidential elections) usually end up getting deservedly burned by them!
Pace Barack Obama's comfortable reelection that year!)
Cameron COULD have taken the moral high road and said "Look, whatever problems we have with the EU, talk of withdrawal is just plain foolishness- to quote Conservative peer Chris Patten- a man or woman in the middle of the Sahara(or was it Gobi) Desert, naked, starving and alone, is sovereign- and doomed!" but instead he chose to toss as much red meat in the direction of UKIP and his own Eurosceptics , ignoring Churchill's diction that the best way to appease a tiger is to allow oneself to be devoured.
Even had Cameron "won" his battle to block Juncker, the Eurosceptics would have found some other issue to oppose the EU on. Rafael Lemkin once noted that when you dislike mustard on principle, you can always find some other issue to oppose it when the other one was debunked- for"mustard" read the "EU" for Eurosceptics(whether Tory or UKIP, Left as well as Right).
Ignoring Clement Attlee's aphorism that referendums are the favoured tools of both demagogues and dictators, Cameron is STILL pressing on with his hare-brained scheme for an "in/out" referendum on the EU in 2017- despite the fact that he may not be PM by then!
I am usually inclined to be cynical about patriotism, esp when it applies to Hollywodd film stars- "the last refuge of a scoundrel" asSamuel Johnson put it in the 18the century( just as comedian George M.Cohan observed "many a bum show has been saved by the flag") but reports that Hollywood A-Lister Amy Adams gave up her first class airplane seat to a US Army soldier seated in Economy class made me smile at her unpretentious-and deeply moving gesture, esp in the run up to the Fourth of July celebrations next Friday in the US.
OK, Ms Adams's father served in the US military when she was a child but it was STILL deeply moving!
By now most readers in the UK will have heard of the story in today's newspapers about a 90 year old (white) woman being allegedly raped( be grateful for small mercies- her purported assailant was reported to be white-had he been black we would NEVER have heard the end of black men's alleged fascination for"white meat", a racist trope dating back to slavery and which inspired more than a few lynchings in America well into the 20th century-and not just in the segregated Deep South).
Another time I might have snickered that (a) who wants to rape a 90 year old woman(the same age as my mother will be next January) when they're plenty of young ones around? (b) she was unlikely to become pregnant as a result of her ordeal but ever since I read "Everyday Sexism" by Laura Bates I have been rethinking my attitude to gender based prejudice- and I think society should do the same for sexism as it does for racist( including anti-Semitism- pace Mel Gibson and more recently Gary Oldman's rants),homophobic( see "Duck Dynasty"_ and Islamophobic prejudices( see "Reflections on the murder of a Saudi student")-namely have a "zero tolerance" for it.
Why did the media not only stress her physical frailty but what she was wearing in addition to her age? Had she been a strapping young woman would it have been more acceptable?
In conclusion it shall probably take my entire lifetime to overcome my inherited sexism but as the Chinese say: "the journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step!"
To quote John McEnroe, "you CANNOT be serious!" It seems that North Korea is threatening "dire consequences" if a comedy drama film "The Interview"( due to be released in October) is shown- namely because it deals with a plot by the CIA to persuade a journalist and producer (played by actors James Franco and Seth Rogen respectively) to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the course of an interview. Leaving aside the inherent absurdity of the "Company" targeting a head of state( even a Communist one) for assassination
(which has been forbidden since the 1970s if only out of enlightened self-interest- American and Western leaders-or their citizens- are too vulnerable for retaliation), just what "dire consequences" are on the table- a Second Korean War? A breach of diplomatic relations?(NK has NO diplomatic relations with the US)
One is reminded of Soviet protests during the "Cold War" about the publication of "anti-Soviet" books and films or complaints by majority Muslim countries about "The innocence Of Muslims" due to its allegedly "blasphemous" and "Islamophobic" character.
I don't usually agree with conservative commentators such as Michael Novak but when Soviet delegates complained about "Rocky IV" (which they claimed portrayed the Soviet boxer Ivan Drago as a "stupid idiot") during the Helsinki review conference, he dryly replied that the film was not produced by the US government but by a private film company and that the Soviets should direct their representations to the company in question. And anyway the First Amendment of the US Constitution precluded government interference with the media including film or TV productions!