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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Is this 2013 or 1947?

Last night when I got home from work, my older son was sitting on the couch watching one of the cable sports talk shows... so I joined him in order to share a little father-son time.

The topic of the moment was the news that Jason Collins, an NBA basketball player for the Washington Wizards, had mentioned in an interview with Sport Illustrated magazine that he is gay.

Apparently he is the first pro basketball player in the US to formally 'come out of the closet'.

As I sat watching with my son (who has grown up with openly gay family members and friends), I was sort of pleased that a pro in any major sport felt comfortable enough to reveal something so intensely personal (not to mention potentially a source of ridicule), in an interview with arguably the most prominent sports magazine in the world.

But as the show went on, the topic continued to be discussed.  And went on and on... until it was clear that his being gay was to be the topic for the entire 30 minute show.

Within a few minutes I went from being mildly pleased at how evolved society had become that a player could reveal something that only a decade ago would have made him a pariah... to realizing that a society hasn't really evolved so much if this kind of revelation was enough to fuel an entire 30 minute sports talk show.

We're not yet at the point where a person's sexual orientation is as much 'news' as his right/left handedness, hair color or any other 'hard-wired' aspect of who they are.  That's certainly a looong way off.

But in my humble opinion, the litmus test for how big a deal to make of something should be how many times it would be appropriate to raise the subject in a face-to-face, one-on-one interview.

Being an openly gay pro basketball player in 2013 is arguably worthy of a question or two.  Being the first is certainly worthy of a follow-up question or two. 

But if I'm Jason Collins and the fourth and fifth question of the interview are still about what I enjoy in the privacy of my bedroom, I'd have to wonder out loud if the other player's sexual preferences were worthy of an entire sports show.

Move on, people.  This isn't Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947.  And if we treat it like it is on the same level, we need to face up to the fact that, as a society, we aren't nearly as evolved as we think we are here and now in 2013.

Posted by David Bogner on April 30, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Does John Kerry speak for the Obama administration?

I ask because in a question and answer session held while he was visiting Turkey this week, Mr. Kerry was asked a pointed question regarding reapproachment between Turkey and Israel (in the wake of the Gaza Flotilla raid).

In his response, the Amemrican Secretary of State, who presumably speaks for the U.S. adminsitration, said:

"I have just been through the week of Boston and I have deep feelings for what happens when you have violence and something happens and you lose people that are near and dear to you. It affects a community, it affects a country. We’re very sensitive to that."  Source

Let's parce that, shall we?

First, who are the victims of violence in the cases in which he is drawing a parellel?

That would be a) those who were killeed or injured in the Boston Marathon bombing and; b) those who were killed or injured in the IDF raid of the blockade runner MV Mavi Marmara.

So, unless I'm mistaken, that would leave both the Boston Marathon bombers and the IDF Commandos as the perpetrators of "violence [where] something happens and you lose people that are near and dear to you".

Have I missed anything?

So far I haven't seen or heard of any attempt at clarification from anyone in the U.S. government.

Posted by David Bogner on April 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fear the Primitive Weapons Made by Primitive People

As a former New Englander now living in Israel, I have been following the news quite closely since hearing of the horrible attack on the crowd at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  And several things about the media coverage have me genuinely concerned.

First, despite the obvious carnage caused by the two explosive devices, officials almost immediately began stressing to the media (and by extension, the public), that the bombs seemed to be small and unsophisticated... as if this were somehow good news. 

As parts of pressure cookers (which apparently housed the bombs) and kitchen egg timers (which were apparently used to trigger the bombs) were found and identified, this emphasis on the unsophisticated, improvised nature of the weapons has continued to be at the core of nearly every news story.

Apparently someone decided that telling the public that the bombs were relatively small, home-made affairs would be reassuring, since an unseen enemy lacking high end tools and materials (e.g. plastic explosives, electronic triggering devices, etc.), is far less threatening than an enemy with access to military grade stuff, right? 

After all, Hollywood has indoctrinated us to know that nothing short of a custom machined metallic briefcase containing an organized medley of circuit boards, neat blocks of C4 sprouting colored wires that lead to an ergonomic push button panel and blinking digital display, is worth worrying about.

Take for example the New York Times headline story "Boston Bombs Were Loaded To Maim", which stresses the simple nature of the bomb's construction as if to soften the gory details of the damage inflicted on the innocent bystanders by the ball bearings and nails which were apparently packed around the core of the pressure cooker bombs:

"The explosives that killed three people and injured more than 170 during the Boston Marathon on Monday were most likely rudimentary devices made from ordinary kitchen pressure cookers, except they were rigged to shoot sharp bits of shrapnel into anyone within reach of their blast and maim them severely, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

The pressure cookers were filled with nails, ball bearings and black powder, and the devices were triggered by “kitchen-type” egg timers, one official said." [emphasis mine]

But that word 'except' which I've highlighted in the first paragraph of the quote above is the problem with the whole premise.

At a certain point, someone – either the American public or the media – is going to twig to the fact that, far from being good news, the primitive construction and deliberately barbarous scattergun nature of the bombs used in the Boston attack are, in fact, extremely bad news.

You see, modern military weapons are designed to attack specific targets with a high degree of accuracy. 

Neither the current conventions of warfare nor the news-reading public will tolerate the use of weaponry that kills or maims indiscriminately.  Surgical strikes and precision laser-guided weapons are de rigueur, and any state that cuts too wide a swath of collateral damage in persuit of an enemy is likely to find itself in the dock of the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

But that's not what happened in Boston.  

The terrifying thing about being attacked by non-state actors (i.e. terrorists), whether of the domestic or international variety (and nobody knows it better than we Israelis), is that when primitive bombs packed with nails and ball bearings start blowing up in public places, everyone and anyone is the target… making it nearly impossible to mount a meaningful defense.

So as a former New Englander, my heart goes out to the victims of the Boston bombing and their loved ones. 

But as an Israeli, I hope against hope that the American public and the international media come to their collective senses sooner rather than later, and realize that it's the sick son-of-a-bitch cooking up a shrapnel bomb filled with nails and ball bearings from a pressure cooker and egg timer, that civilized countries need to be deathly afraid of… not some secret agent with a shiny metal briefcase containing a photogenic Hollywood bomb.

Posted by David Bogner on April 17, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack