How Not To Talk About Mass Murder.

Welcome to the chalk outline. Mind the blood stains.

I’ve fed my inner right-winger pretty thoroughly with all this death penalty stuff, but along comes this month’s regularly scheduled mass shooting spree.  America averages a mass killing every two weeks which are different from shooting sprees.  By now, you already know more than you wanted to about the latest one as details about the killer (if not his victims) continue to flood out.

Here’s what I’m not going to do.  I’m not going to mention the shooter’s name.  I’m not going to watch his creepy video or read his even creepier “manifesto.”   I will the skip the armchair sleuthing for motives and amateur psychoanalysis for possible motives.  That’s the territory of the cable TV “experts” and I don’t want to horn in on their act.
This is the Internet.  You don’t need a blog to tell you more of what you already know.

This murderer was unknown to me a few days ago.  I will deny recognizing his existence a while longer.

I am confident the Bill of Rights is resilient enough to survive this latest “gutting” of it the NRA and gun fanatics fret over in much the same way it has every previous mass shooting in America. The organized stalwarts of the Second Amendment have been quite efficient in controlling the sort of conversations we the people have about mass murder and the use of firearms in these tragic, but all too common, events.

We seem to have fallen into an automatic response to these sort of things. First things first: let’s name the shooter, speculate on what his motives might be, (because it nearly always is a male).

Later we can get to the mundane little details like who our shooter killed in his rampage and much later we just might get around to what the efficacy and effectiveness is of using a gun when you absolutely positively want to kill a lot of human beings in as little time as possible.

This is how Americans deal with mass shooting events.

1. Speculate and theorize in the absence of facts.
2. Emphasize how terrible this is and how sympathetic we are to the wounded and the slain.
3. Do NOT bring up guns. It’s too soon.

Remember Columbine? Or would you rather forget?

If those three fast and easy rules to discussing mass shooting events are too much to remember, then remember this:

BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!
BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!
BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!
BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!
BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!
BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!
BLAME THE SHOOTER. DON’T BLAME THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH!

If you’re in some undemocratic country without a Bill of Rights like China reading this please translate this to read “Blame the stabber. Don’t blame the knives he stabbed people with!”

Me? I multitask. I BLAME THE SHOOTER. AND THE GUNS HE SHOT PEOPLE WITH TOO!

When it comes right down to it, I don’t care why these guys go off.   Their backgrounds and motives and reasons are only interesting as far as understanding their crimes.  But understanding why mass murderers commit murder doesn’t seem to be preventing or stopping them from murdering.  There are a lot of dudes just like this one who have poor self-image issues who can’t attract the ladies who don’t go out and slaughter innocents.  ALL and I do mean ALL of the attention is given over to the killer and his issues, motives sad feelings and staggering narcissism and days later we get a blurb or two about the victims.

It’s no wonder so many of these loners/losers lash out this way. At long last the world is finally paying attention to them. It shouldn’t.

We learn a lot about these killers. less about their victims and nothing about how to prevent the next mass killing.   We’ll be back here again and sooner, rather than later.

jaredloughner

Different names. Same kind of crazy.

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“Welcome to the 9/11 Memorial Museum(and Be Sure To Check Out the Gift Shop).”

Exit Through the Gift Shop? (photo credit: Sue Edelman)

Here’s Today’s Daily Outrage courtesy of the New York Post:

The museum at Ground Zero tells the dark story of the 9/11 terror attacks with spectacular artifacts and exhibits. It pays heart-wrenching tribute to the innocents and heroes killed that day.

It also has a gift shop.

The 9/11 museum’s cavernous boutique offers a vast array of souvenir goods. For example: FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority Police T-shirts ($22) and caps ($19.95); earrings molded from leaves and blossoms of downtown trees ($20 to $68); cop and firefighter charms by Pandora and other jewelers ($65); “United We Stand” blankets.

“To me, it’s the crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died,” Diane Horning said.

She and husband Kurt never recovered the remains of their son Matthew, 26, a database administrator for Marsh & McLennan and an aspiring guitarist.

About 8,000 unidentified body parts are now stored out of sight in a “remains repository” at the museum’s underground home.

“Here is essentially our tomb of the unknown. To sell baubles I find quite shocking and repugnant,” said Horning, who also objects to the museum cafe.

“I think it’s a money-making venture to support inflated salaries, and they’re willing to do it over my son’s dead body.”

It’s easy to be reflexively angry when you don’t what it is exactly you’re angry about.

Is a gift shop in a 9/11 museum in bad taste? Gee, I don’t know. Does the snack bar ruffle some feathers too? Should there be no restrooms either because taking a leak there would be disrespectful?

It’s called the National September 11 Memorial Museum. It’s not just a 9/11 memorial. And you have to pay to get in ($24 admission for adults, $18 for seniors and students, and $15 for kids 7 to 17). Who’s going to do this? Tourists,  and New York City has a ton of those. Who else would want to buy a 9/11 Memorial hat or T-shirt or toy fire truck?

How many of the critics losing their minds over a $11.00 coffee mug have actually been in the museum? Perspective matters and getting all riled up over a gift shop nobody is forcing anyone to buy anything from without knowing how it fits into the larger picture is more than a tad premature.

English: Construction of the National Septembe...

English: Construction of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New York magazine sent their architecture critic to visit the museum and here is part of what he saw:

In late May 2002, the place they still called ground zero had become an immense and pristine hole. Truckload after surreal truckload of mangled steel and ash and gruesome finds had been carted away, leaving a flat expanse of concrete and rock. One final column from the Twin Towers remained standing, a 36-foot totem of rusting steel emblazoned with cryptic notes, duct-taped snapshots, and a running tally of dead bodies. But even with the cleanup declared done, workers kept raking the floor with ordinary garden tools, hunting for some infinitesimal shard of human bone. Today, the floor, the column, and one of those rakes are reunited in the National September 11 Memorial Museum, a huge and spectacularly mournful institution in the bowels of the new World Trade Center.

For years, I have stayed away from reminders of 9/11 and the weeks that followed. The most exhaustively recorded cataclysm in history yielded fictionalized movies, documentaries, YouTube clips, eyewitness accounts, TV news reports, police-radio tapes, and endless documentation. I avoided it all. Instead, I remained focused on the drama of reconstruction, visiting the site many times to watch swarms of hard-hatted welders cauterizing the urban wound. I did, however, have an early preview of what a museum might be like a decade ago, when I visited Hangar 17 at JFK. There, crushed emergency vehicles, twisted girders, sections of the broadcasting antenna, half a dozen bikes still chained to a rack, and a lump of fused metal, concrete, paper, and glass were all laid out in an improvised architectural morgue. The last column was stretched out there, too, housed in its own dehumidified area. The hangar tour was draining, and, years later, the prospect of revisiting that archive of mass murder in its place of origin makes me fibrillate with dread.
The museum is buried in a crypt beneath the crime scene, but I enter through the silvery origami-like pavilion designed by Snøhetta, whose architects have anticipated some of its visitors’ more primal anxieties. Large windows look onto the memorial plaza, where the atmosphere is a mixture of reverence and casual cheer. Outside, kids take selfies with the names carved in bronze and the big shiny towers beyond. Inside, all is bright light and blond wood and soothing necessities like the coat check and bathrooms. A wide staircase descends into darkness; alongside it, a pair of tremendous steel arms reaches up into the light. This is the first trace we see of the ruined behemoths, two of the linked tridents that formed the towers’ gothic arches. Weathered but unbent, they thrust vertically past their new home’s weave of angled struts, mute reminders of the original buildings’ enormity. They also stand as signposts to the Stygian galleries below.

Flower at September 11 Memorial

Flower at September 11 Memorial (Photo credit: pamhule)

It’s not just craving for forgetfulness that slows my step, but skepticism, too. I wonder where the museum experience will fall on the spectrum from anodyne to brutal—whether disaster will morph into prurient multimedia entertainment or force visitors into a morbidly earnest trudge. Virtually every decision in this enterprise has been controversial: the underground location, the inscription from Virgil’s Aeneid (“No day shall erase you from the memory of time”), the ticket price ($24), the gift-shop souvenirs, the placement of unidentified human remains in an inaccessible chamber just off the museum’s main hall, the inclusion of terrorists’ photographs, the short film about the rise of Al Qaeda, and more. Given this swarm of sensitivities, will the museum fall back on pieties and pabulum? The more I think about the task of perpetuating the recollection of that day, the more doubts flock: How can a museum chronicle unsettled history, or interpret an event we don’t fully understand? How can an exhibit be meaningful to those who were showered in ash that day and also to children who have yet to be born? I think of that field of ravaged metal at JFK: How can those relics be installed in a museum without converting them into aesthetic objects, beautifully lit but stripped of violence and specificity?

Burdened by these musings, I walk down the long staircase into the minimalist Hades designed by Davis Brody Bond. I am greeted by a murmuring choir of recorded reminiscences from all over the world, reminding me that 9/11 was a global event. The dark floors and austere sarcophagal aura make me wistful for the light above, but the architects have taken care to lead visitors gently into the depths. Underground spaces can be disorienting, but this one comes into partial focus at the first overlook. Shock arrives in ripples of recognition. A ramp winds down toward the foundations, where the cut-off columns that held up the Twin Towers sit embedded in Manhattan schist. A pair of building-size boxes, containing the memorial’s waterfalls and coated with glistening aluminum foam, hang in the immense cavern like geometric stalactites. I have arrived at bedrock level, the floor of the concrete bathtub, separated from the Hudson River by a 70-foot-high section of “slurry wall” so brawny and raw that it could almost be a segment of the Hoover Dam. It’s here that the collapsing skyscrapers came to rest, here that the worker with the rake knelt and scraped. That great trench has become a vast vault, containing some of the nation’s most eloquent ruins. The tale that this museum has to tell is partly about dimensions—the inconceivable scale of murder, the size of the weapons, the targets’ bulk, the worldwide aftershocks. Doing it justice requires a lot of space. The biggest artifacts are back, and as I stare at all that crooked metal, thick girders bent by the force of a speeding plane, I find myself trying in vain to conjure up the extremes of violence that formed it. The last column is standing again, dwarfed just as it was when the hall was an open pit, only now a touchscreen allows visitors to zoom in to the scrawls and taped mementos and read a digital text label for each one. After all, a museum’s job is not just to preserve but also to explain.
Before anyone gets all hyped and bent out of shape over the presence of a gift shop (so you can show all the folks back home you went to the National September 11 Memorial Museum!) perhaps they would be better served to pay the ticket price, enter the exhibit hall, walk the floor, see the sights and weigh the significance vs the trivialization of the whole endeavor.   If people are unhappy now they may very well be the same ones who were unhappy when the idea of a 9/11 museum was first floated.

The next time we visit New York we will decide whether we want to go visit the museum.   I’m not entirely sure I’m ready for such a grim experience.

But if I find I am and I’m so inclined, maybe I’ll buy a $40 FDNY rescue dog vest. Or not.

For only $10.95 this lovely coffee cup can be all yours. Impress your friends!

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Is Michael Sam a Hero or a Hustler?

Michael Sam is in a spotlight he put on himself.

In the entire history of the NFL, there has never been a seventh round draft pick quite like Michael Sam.  His story is unique.  He inspires and he polarizes.   On his chiseled physique rests the hopes, dreams and aspirations of an untold number of LGBT Americans who may care nothing about pro football, but are pulling for the first openly gay player to make a team’s roster.

But the feel-good aspect of Sam’s story was sidetracked by the revelation that a reality TV program for the Oprah Winfrey Network was in the works.   NFL officials were aware of this before Sam was drafted in the last round by the St. Louis Rams, but none of the teams were told.   Would it have lessened Sam’s chances of being selected?   Without a doubt.

As a rookie, Sam stands to make a minimum salary of $420,000.  Excluded is a signing bonus and other contract bonuses negotiated between the player and club.   Sam’s contract can’t be renegotiated until after three years and he would not receive any salary until the regular season starts.  If Sam doesn’t make the Rams roster, he gets nothing but the bonus money.

If Sam were to play for the three years of the contract, his minimum salary would to $495,000 in the second year and $570,000 in the third.

Michael Sam (and friend) get the good news.

“Michael is focused on football and making the St. Louis Rams team,” said Howard Bragman, Sam’s publicist and one of the show’s producers. “We’re going to work with the Rams organization to make sure the show doesn’t interfere with his primary goal.”

Bragman didn’t say how much Sam stands to make from the show, but you can bet it’s more than his rookie salary.

The pay range from the No. 1 pick to the last at No. 256 is more than $22 million.   Compared to Sam,  Jadeveon Clowney, the top overall selection of the Houston Texans will sign a $22 million contract, including a guaranteed $14 million signing bonus.   That last part is crucial because unlike the NBA or MLB, contracts are not guaranteed in the NFL.  If Sam bombs out at the first practice, that’s it.

Certainly Oprah Winfrey, the NFL and to a lesser extent, the Rams, are hopeful that isn’t the case and the Michael Sam shows ends before it barely gets started.   But there are no guarantees Sam will be on the team’s opening day roster.   As a borderline player who was not highly coveted despite his SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, Sam is unlikely to find many other teams to latch on if the Rams cut him loose.

It is understandable why Sam would agree to the making of a reality show on his journey to the NFL.   Unless he make it in the league, his star will never shine brighter and burn hotter than it does now.   The time to maximize the Michael Sam Brand is now when the interest is there as well as the cameras and commercial endorsements.

What this does is shoot a hole in Sam’s assertions he wants to be known as just a football player and not any sort of celebrity.   Let’s be honest here.  If Sam wasn’t a gay man, there would be no story here.  He’d be just another guy taken in the last round of the NFL Draft trying to impress his coaches by winning a roster spot.

Making money while you’re trying to make a football team isn’t a bad thing, but there’s no way Sam can honestly claim he only wants to be regarded as just another guy.  He’s not.  He’s a celebrity and whether he makes the team there will be books, talk shows, and a ton more deals coming his way.

Sam’s representatives are making all the typical sounds of how this won’t become a distraction, but it already is.   Nothing about Sam leads me to believe he is stupid or naive and he’d have to be both not to know how this would look to the casual football fan who doesn’t care if Sam is gay, doesn’t mind if he kisses his boyfriend on camera, and only expects him to make plays and be about the team, not himself.

There is a strong conservative streak in the NFL.   When a straight player like Chris Kluwe made too much noise about gay rights, it was suggested by the front office that he should pipe down and when he didn’t, Kluwe was out of a job and out of the league.   If Sam becomes the go-to guy for what the gay athletes position is, it’s not going to be well-received in the locker room in St. Louis or NFL headquarters in New York.

While Sam deserved a shot and thought he should have been drafted higher, he pretty much went where he was supposed to go. Sam is a classic “tweener.” Not big enough to play on the line and not fast or intuitive enough to play linebacker. Even if he hadn’t been drafted there are reports he would have received invitations as an undrafted free agent from no less than four teams.

What Sam has said he wanted most was exactly what he got. He wanted to be treated like just another football player and nothing special.   It seems that wasn’t true now and while he’s still worth pulling for, his status as an underdog has given way to that of a savvy hustler, and that’s a little disappointing.   The burden is on him to prove he’s not just hype, but a change agent on the football field, not reality TV.

Michael Sam could be another Jackie Robinson, but if he doesn’t watch it he could end up as the next Tim Tebow.

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Clayton Lockett Suffered. His Victim Suffered More.

Clayton Lockett (L) and Charles Warner (R) earned their places on Death Row.

 

I almost feel sorry for death penalty opponents.

When some miscreant breaks into an old woman’s home, beats, rapes and guts her like a trout, my argument is made for me.

“Joe Schmoe beat, raped and fileted a 77-year-old Bingo-playing grandmother like she was 90 pounds of sushi. He should be put to death for this horrendous atrocity.”

The other side has a tougher nut to crack.

“While yes, it is undeniably true Joe Schmoe did indeed beat, rape and filet a 77-year-old, Bingo-playing grandmother like she was 90 pounds of sushi, (and everyone is very much cross with Joe about that and nobody feels more awful about this than we do), we should still spare his life because he might be redeemable and killing him makes us no better than him killing her and the State murdering Joe is no different from Joe murdering that old woman.”

Good luck with that. I’d rather argue the other side.

Convicted murderer Clayton Lockett was put to death by the state of Oklahoma. They screwed it up.

It certainly appears like Mr. Lockett suffered a rather painful and horrible end.

So did Stephanie Neiman.

Mr. Lockett was not a nice man. In fact, it might be fair to say he’s a bit of an evil demon. The other gentleman scheduled for the hot-shot, Charles Warner is actually even more so.

Before I wring my hands in concern or squirt a single tear for Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner over their possibly suffering a grisly, painful and lingering death, I’m going to ask two questions and only two: What did they do to get themselves strapped to a gurney and do they deserve to die for it?

  • Stephanie Neiman, 19: terrorized, beaten, raped, shot and buried alive in a grave with her mouth still covered with duct tape.
  • Adriana Walker, 11 months old: shaken, skull fractured in two places, jaw and ribs broken, lungs and spleen bruised and lungs lacerated, brain swollen, hemorrhaging found in her eyes and around the brain, anally raped.

Lockett got off easier than his victim.  If there were a way to kill him twice, he’d deserve it. When there are no more criminals like Lockett and Warner raping and torturing and murdering terrified teenagers and helpless infants there will be no more need to execute them.

Governor Mary Fallin rushed through Lockett’s execution and President Obama is troubled by that.

That day is not today and they both lived, lusted and laughed far, far longer than their victims.

Good-bye to both of them and good riddance.

Such a harsh judgment may muddy up my reputation as a good liberal, but I’ll take the hit.

There are prisoners more deserving of compassion and mercy than scum like this.

I want to see as much concern expressed for the victims of the crime and their suffering as there is for the perpetrators. Too often their plight is the center of the conversation and little to none given to the people whose lives they destroyed and the families they irrevocably shattered forever.

Present me with the option of feeling bad over how sorry an end Lockett’s last minutes of life were and they still won’t approach the horrors he put Stephanie Neiman through.

stephanie neimanI’m pro-death penalty with reservations. No one should ever be put to death if there is the faintest shadow of a doubt of their guilt or capacity for rehabilitation. The ultimate penalty should only be imposed for the most heinous and vicious crimes. Popping a clerk at a gas station during a robbery may not rise to that standard. Kidnapping, raping, and sadistically torturing a clerk at a gas station during a robbery before murdering them probably would.

The death penalty is disproportionately applied based upon race and class, haphazard in its application, unproven as a deterrent and unreliable as a method to offer any sort of closure to the families or protection of society.   I understand every argument made in opposition to capital punishment and I don’t pretend I have an equally logical argument for it.

I do have two reasons why I believe someone like Lockett and Warner should be put to death.

It does write a definitive end to the potential threat of a killer to offend again and their criminal acts end with their last heartbeat.

If you anally rape an 11-month-year-old baby to death, you should die.   It’s really that graphic and that simple.

You don’t rape babies to death and you live. You do rape babies to death and you die. See how easy that works? It’s a choice whether you stick your filthy little pecker into places you know it should not go. If you wish to live, do not put your penis in those places.

Because if you do, you’re a baby-raper and there’s nothing lower than that. May God have mercy on your rancid soul because I will have none. Zero tolerance. Ultimate penalty. Bottom line: You do really bad things and you die a really bad death.

The pain Lockett endured in his last moments is no worse than Stephanie Neiman endured buried alive under the dirt.   Don’t ask me to feel more sympathy for his life than he showed for hers.   If there is a way to kill a killer that is less painful and more “humane” than lethal injection, let’s try that.   I don’t advocate torturing the condemned, but I’m not concerned if they endure some discomfort.   Clayton Lockett caused enough of it for others.

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The Search For the Stolen Girls of Nigeria

abduction

 

Nearly a month ago a group of Islamic fanatics kidnapped nearly 300 girls from schools in Nigeria. Estimates vary how many are still held captive, but it may be as many as 276. The world barely noticed. Scratched its belly, yawned and wondered what’s for dinner?

The “reaction” of the international community to the abductions has been a sad, pathetic joke without a punchline. That 276 girls could be kidnapped, probably beaten, possibly raped, thoroughly terrorized and threatened with being sold as sex slaves is an abomination.

The Nigerian government seems inept at best and utterly powerless to force the Islamic extremists of Boko Haram to take a backward step. You can’t negotiate or reason with unreasonable men and this story may not end well. The inability of Nigeria, other African nations and the United Nations to muster anything more than tepid concern and a sluggish response forces the cynic in me to think the only value Africa ever has to the rest of the world is its natural resources first and its people as a secondary matter.

flotus

Veteran journalist Tracie Powell’s All-Digitocracy reports on how the mass kidnapping is being covered:

  • Nigeria-based Vanguard News reports that Boko Haram kidnapped 11 more girls on Monday from a village in Northeastern Nigeria;
  • Allafrica.com carries another Vanguard News story that a coalition of youth and students promise to mobilize a national hunger strike if the abducted Chibok girls are not released by May 24. That date is 40 days from April 14, when more than 370 female students were kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents;
  • The Associated Press published its interview with a 16-year-old who escaped the abductors in Chibok. Among new details: School guards fought for an hour before fleeing the insurgents;
  • The Washington Post and several other outlets say United States Secretary of State John Kerry called Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan with an offer to send a team of American law enforcement and military experts to find the missing school girls;
  • The Nigerian-based blog 360Nobs posts photos from a #bringbackourgirls rally held outside the Nigeria High Commission Office in London;
  • A 2012 BBC report, “Who Are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists,” provides background information on the group responsible for the kidnappings;
  • The Washington Post answers eight basic questions about the abduction, the Nigerian government’s response to it, and the Nigerian protests that have led to international outrage.

Another question is Boko Haram has been murdering and terrorizing Nigeria for years now. Why did it take a mass kidnapping before the world finally started to pay attention?

 

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau says he will sell the captive girls into slavery.

 

The real reason for the disproportionate amount of press coverage and outrage this time around, experts say, has to do with a combination of things: the Nigerian government’s tepid response to the missing girls, the international media’s initial indifference, and Nigerians becoming fed up with both.

“The initial assumption was that the girls would be rescued in a matter of days,” Obasi says. But “this tragic situation dragged on, with the Nigerian government seemingly unable to find a solution.” From the start, Nigerian security forces did not appear particularly motivated to find the girls, Mausi Segun, a researcher for Human Rights Watch based in northern Nigeria, told Mother Jones last week. She says the military was not making use of information provided by parents and locals in its rescue efforts. Meanwhile, the government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has formed no rescue operation, and falsely reported earlier on that some of the girls had been rescued. Jonathan waited 19 days to create a “fact-finding” committee. (Nigerian First Lady Patience Jonathan recently alleged that women protesting in Abuja against the government’s weak response to the Chibok abductions had fabricated the kidnappings.)

Adding insult to injury, the international media largely ignored the massive abduction for the first week or so. In response, some Nigerians lashed out at the Western press for not covering the kidnapping of hundreds of black girls in the way that it likely would have covered the kidnapping of hundreds of white girls, and launched the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. The campaign to rescue the girls spurred the belated outpouring of global press coverage on the abductions and on the origins and motivations of Boko Haram.

The kidnapping and the initial radio silence “hit a nerve in the Nigerian diaspora and among communities of color, and in particular women and girls,” says Adotei Akwei, a former Africa advocacy director for Amnesty International. Christopher Anzalone, an expert on political violence and terrorism at McGill University, agrees. “I think that the media in certain places, such as the United States, which did not initially report much on the most recent kidnapping, may be trying to ‘make up’ for their tardiness.”

Whenever something so terrible as this occurs in a sovereign country, even the most accommodating and earnest offers of aid and assistance must be tempered by how it can blowback with unintended consequences. In the case of African nations and Nigeria’s dilemma in particular, anything the U.S. can offer to facilitate the safe return of the kidnapped girls must be the paramount concern.

Yet it cannot help the Nigerians for the U.S. to walk in and start calling the shots. Destabilizing President Goodluck Jonathan’s government might end up pushing the country into the waiting arms of the Boko Haram extremists whom already seem quite capable to strike at will and act with impunity. The Nigerians have already delayed too long and acted too timidly. Demonstrating to the international community they need the Western powers to come and rescue their daughters may be a cure deadlier than the malady.

Yet, I fear the humanity issues at play here may be far less of a concern for the international community than the economic long-term risk of embarrassing a shaky, but otherwise established oil-producing government.

 

President Jonathan (L) and the Nigerian military are battling the public perception they can’t contain the threat of Boko Haram.

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The Power Belongs to the Players in the NBA.

Brothers gonna work it out.

Look at this picture.

April 28, 2014 marked the 47th anniversary of Muhammad Ali‘s refusal to be inducted into the U.S. Army.

At Ali’s side during the press conference to announce his disinterest in being drafted to go off to fight the Vietnamese were several prominent athletes who were to show support of the G.O.A.T. Maybe you recognize a few of them?

Imagine if you can what it would be like if there were a Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar willing to step away from protecting their wallets at all costs and dare to stand up as brave, strong and proud Black men against a racist slave owner like Donald Sterling.

Then realize you are imagining and wake up and shake your head in sorrow because what happened then seems nothing more than a dream that could never happen again. The day of the socially conscious athlete seems to have passed and what we have in their stead are better compensated and safely neutered eunuchs.

Sterling: A master with no more slaves.

But then again, there are still men who are willing to say “Enough!”   In less than a week after the news broke of Sterling’s comments to his girlfriend he was gone.  Banished from the league and his team up for sale and all because the NBA owners and commissioner faced a stark choice:  smack Sterling on the wrist with a fine and suspension and wait for the storm to pass or throw his ugly ass overboard with cement shoes because all hell was going to break loose if they didn’t.  These are not stupid people and the dumped The Donald.

It’s always easy to tell others what they should do in situations you’re not in yourself (and most of us will never cash an NBA-sized paycheck), so I grant what I think doesn’t factor into the decision NBA players faced whether they would boycott playoff games to protest Sterling’s slave master mindset as the owner of the L.A. Clippers.

Sterling’s stupidity is not new to the owners or the players. The difference is now there is a will among the players to do something about Sterling.   If three or four teams–not players–all decided not to play their games, the shock to the system of professional sports would be seismic.

As long as NBA ballers are dunking on Sportscenter and saying silent about anything happening in the real world, the league, the owners and the corporate sponsors of both are happy to sit back and counting the money. But let the Bulls, Wizards, Thunder, Grizzlies and Warriors all refuse to take the court in solidarity with the Clippers and the players will see they make the game and can break it.  The players ARE the NBA. Nobody pays hundreds of dollars to watch Sterling sitting on the sidelines with his hands resting on his enormous guts as his gold-diggers and booty calls smile prettily and wait for Mr. Sugar Daddy to buy them a Ferrari, a Range Rover, two Bentleys and a million dollar apartment.

The fans fill the seats, rock the gear and cheer for King James, Durant, and Kobe to give them a thrill. Nobody ever paid money to watch an owner own.

The Thunder without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Bulls without Joakim Noah, the Wizards without John Wall, the Thunder without Zach Randolph, the Warriors without Stephen Curry and the Clippers without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are not subject to being swapped out with a strike-breaking scab. You can’t replace them with subs from the D-league or scrubs off the street.

The players in pro sports have more power than they know and once having tasted it, I doubt they will willingly give it up.

It’s not where we stand in times of comfort that matter, it’s where we stand in times of turmoil. If my boss is doing everything but calling me a nigger to my face, I always have the option to clean off my desk, drop off my pass card and step. I might be choking down peanut butter and crackers and chasing it with a cup of water, but some things are worth it.

Anyone who would place financial compensation over simple human dignity has skewed priorities. Some things are worth giving up a fat check for. Some things are worth walking away from.

David Stern left the Sterling mess for Adam Sliver to clean up (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

David Stern left the Sterling mess for Adam Sliver to clean up (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Some things are worth being a free man instead of a scared slave for.  What price do you place on your humanity?

The hardest part of the hammer Silver dropped on Sterling isn’t the fine and not even the suspension. It’s forcing a rich man to sell his toy.

Donald Sterling is not going to go quietly. He’s refused for years to sell his team. He feeds off of the fame and the notoriety of being one of 30 rich guys who own a NBA team. He’s 80 years old and sitting on a billion bucks. He may decide suing the shit out of the NBA isn’t the worst way to spend his sunset years.

That’s for the lawyers to worry about.  The league has changed and perhaps irrevocably.   Perhaps only for a moment.   The mantra of the 21st Black athlete has been I just play ball. Don’t say anything about anything that might piss someone off. I’m just a jock. What happens in the real world isn’t important, doesn’t matter. Keep your head down. Cash the check. Keep it moving.

The spirit of unity and solidarity which brought Russell, Abdul-Jabbar, Brown and others to stand with Ali at the most critical point of his career was a singular and inspirational moment.   The story of how the NBA players rallied to remove from the league the cancer that was Donald Sterling doesn’t have as dramatic a moment as one photograph yet it is no less inspirational.

A simple gesture, a quiet protest, a chilling effect.

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