Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Obama Dare

I did not pay much attention to the Syrian civil war (probably like most Americans) until I heard that the army of President Bashar al-Assad was accused of using chemical weapons against civilians; I watched with interest the world's reaction (or inaction) to this horrific event.

Likewise, I followed President Obama's efforts to rally our allies behind a military response--with limited success--and his calls for Congress to sign a resolution that would support the use "targeted strikes" against Syria. This week the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor of Obama's request.

I am not sure which side of the issue that I fall down on: using military strikes in response to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons (which it says was carried out by rebel forces) or staying out of the conflict in the face of a lukewarm international response.

Public opinion polls indicate that a majority of Americans oppose military action.

Those who argue against taking military action cite several reasons, including the fact that atrocities have occurred in other nations and the U.S. has not taken action. Likewise, others believe that the President will entangle us in another drawn out war on foreign soil.

Some political analysts say that the U. S. should not continue to be the watchdog for the rest of the world.

Obama's position is that the international consensus against the use of chemical weapons demands a swift response.

World politics is thorny and complicated, and the president must consider the interests/views of many stakeholders/groups--the public, our allies, Congress, other Middle Eastern nations, diplomats, and our foes (mainly North Korea and Iran).

Whatever the outcome, President Obama can expect criticism, but isn't this the price anyone who sits in the Oval Office must pay for the privilege of serving?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The death of Trayvon Martin, an American tragedy

When attorneys in the George Zimmerman trial gave closing arguments this week, I could not bring myself to hear the defense's closing. Why?

I could not bear to hear Trayvon Martin, demonized as a black "thug," "punk," or "hoodlum." No. These words were not uttered, but I believe they came to mind for many who viewed blurry images of a young man in a hoodie buying a drink and Skittles on February 26, 2012.

From family photos of Trayvon, it is obvious that he had a varied and positive upbringing.

Trayvon was 17 and on the verge of manhood. I suspect that in a few years, under the guidance of a protective mother and a doting father, he would have been a productive citizen with a bright future.

Thanks to George Zimmerman, a man with a gun and a perception of himself as an enforcer (who has not seemed remorseful), he will never have this chance.

Trayvon Martin is a symbol of America's black youth, often regarded with suspicion, contempt, or fear.

He could have been my son, grandson, brother, nephew, or uncle shot dead because he looked, "suspicious."

The defense made Zimmerman the victim and Trayvon the aggressor.

 Today, a jury acquitted him.

It is a sad day for his family and for America.

He is another native son taken from us too soon.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

I Like Father, I Like Son

Just saw "After Earth" starring Will and Jaden Smith, father and son space explorers. The film is set in the future where Earth becomes uninhabitable because creatures, especially the Ursa, ugly, vicious monsters, are hell-bent on
devouring humans.

Most reviewers have trashed the movie for its script, performances, and plot.

Nonetheless, I applaud Will for doing something unprecedented: showing blacks as leaders in the interplanetary future.

Likewise, he does that dynasty thing: using his son in a major motion picture, which depicts the complicated, though loving relationship, between an accomplished father and his ambitious, rebellious offspring.

Sure, Will is rather one-dimensional as Cypher Raige; while, Jaden (Katai Raige) moves from clumsy to heroic (in the film's climactic scenes).

On the other hand, I respect Will for playing against type, such as the swaggering, fast-talking action hero of  "Independence Day," "Bad Boys I and II, and "I, Robot."

At age 44, he is taking on more grown-up, thoughtful roles as he enters the next phase of his career.

Will Smith wrote the script in which plot and character development leave much to be desired. Hey, he tried.

But, some of the blame for the predictability of the of action goes to the director, M. Night Shyamalan, who directed such cinematic duds as "The Village," "The Happening,"and "Lady in the Lake."

When I heard of his collaboration on the film, I did not expect much in the way of originality or creativity.

The Smiths are a show-biz family with two talented children, including 12-year old daughter, Willow, an actress and singer. The Smith children are being groomed by pros--Jada Pinkett Smith and Will. (Another son, Trey, 21, is less in the celebrity spotlight.)

I hope that the film's negative reviews won't deter this close-knit family from pursuing other roles that demonstrate their artistic diversity.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fee Sprees

I have noticed a trend in American society that gives me pause: the charging of fees for things that should be free!

For example, the IRS now demands a $150 payment for setting up a payment plan. Who came up with this idea? It amounts to penalizing taxpayers who cannot afford to pay the full amount of monies due.

Likewise, some cell phone companies (e.g. MetroPCS, Cricket) charge a fee when you pay online OR when you come into the store to make a payment. What the hell?

In addition, the courts, jails, and public defenders offices are forcing those charged or convicted with a crime to pay a fee for days spent in jail, parole services, and other penalties. Is this what America has come to? Insisting that those with the least pay the most.

Another example is Cox Communications, a cable company that charges $30.00 if you  install a cable box yourself. If you do it wrong and need a technician, the cost is $60.00.

Some credit card companies, charge as much as $14.50 to make a payment by phone.

My bank charges $3.50 to transfer money from one of my accounts to another, such as from savings to checking.

Come on America, this mean-spirited mindset is making it more difficult for average consumers to conduct business.

Similarly, there is no longer an effort to serve the consumer. Rather, agencies and businesses have no compunction about charging for services that should be free.

More and more, we are held hostage to big government and corporations that are all about the almighty dollar and less about treating Americans fairly.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Post-New Year Blues

Well, here I sit, one month and seven days into a new year. Sad to say, I have broken one of my (few) resolutions. It has to do with my finances.

I keep very close tabs on my spending, so I  have a clear picture of where my money goes, and it ain't where it should be going---into a savings account.

I should have a substantial nest-egg by now after all my years of working. So, why am I so careless about spending? There's always a battle between the Me that wants to save and the Me that wants to keep money in my checking account in case I need it for something.

I am not a spendthrift my any means. I buy most of my clothes from thrift shops and take lunch to work. I don't go to hair or nail salons. I borrow DVDs, CDs, and books from the library. So, why the heck do I resist putting money (after expenses) into my savings account?

When I fritter away money on day-to-day purchases, at the end of the month, I don't feel good about myself.

This year, however, I intend to examine my behavior and find ways to save for that rainy day.