Archive for September 2017

SportsWorld interrupted

September 29, 2017



On September 19 a USA federal investigation uncovered scandal that apparel companies are funneling money to top high school recruits to attend certain colleges, and that coaches at those colleges are bribed to ensure that players go on to sign with specific agents and apparel companies upon reaching the NBA.

Without going into any particulars the scandal took down a well known coach Rick Pitino of Louisville. A longtime Canadian observer of the the corrupt nexus of US college sport and money, Robert Anderson wrote:

US College sports is just a mess with the hypocrisy that collegiate games still honour the “student-athlete” tradition.  Total and increasingly nasty joke!  Big money is all over the field, the court, the jerseys of the players and the alumni and fans in their duds.  Most of the athletes are used and abused with scholarships withdrawn in the flick of an eye.  And now financial corruption and sexual scandals are coming out of the shadows.

I have never followed US College sports and never understood why otherwise rational people invested so much time and energy here. Old style Catholics wallow in nostalgia seem to actually care about ow Notre Dame did on the gridiron.To me it was all rancid sentimentality.

About 40 years ago I came to the conclusion that what New York sportswriter Bob Lipsyte called SportsWorld was deleterious to my mental and spiritual health. This was a parallel universe to the global village i lived in, too often a vale of tears for much of humanity. But, hey, I’m all right Jack!


This massive distraction served to deflect our attention from the real world. The great social critic Lewis Mumford correctly stated in 1934 that “sport is one of the least effective reactions against the machine.” The machine being the way global economics served to disenfranchise and pauperize fellow humans. The United States of Amnesia was the closest machine to us, a turbocapitalist country run like an empire which for decades destroyed popular movements in Latin America so that locals could continue to get oil, fruit etc cheap on the backs of 3rd world labour. Most Americans had no idea of their country’s cruel and illegal state interventions in Chile, Iran, Central America etc. They had no idea why the US hated Cuba with a passion and why Fidel was a hero to ”los pobres de la tierra” to quote Jose Marti’s poem, Guantanamara


The docile citizenry lulled to sleep by the siren calls of pop culture, sport and celebrity were daily infantilized. Television became the perfect narcotic to turn our attention from the truly important. things that matter. We were in T.S. Eliot’s phrase, “distracted from distraction by distacation.” It was to be sure a very friendly fascism. For many it became too difficult to resist.


This game was really old. The Roman satirist Juvenal who lived around 100 CE coined the expression duas tantum res anxius optat panem et circenses. My translation would go something like this–only a couple of things get people’s attention, bread and circuses. Give the “ugly horde” (profanus vulgus) their daily annona—free food and the circus of the Roman amphitheater and this will keep them happy. A pretty good insight. What about those Blue Jays and Go Leafs Go. People Magazine full of celebrity chit chat was a perfect vehicle for such folderol.

Think of the pseudo-religion in America, the place where people “commune”, no longer the church—but the football stadium, both college and pro. This is the holy arena where life and death themes abound.. Millions spend big bucks on sweaters, caps to support their team. The stars are worshipped. The fans (short for fanatics) are supposed to really care who wins in this Sunday liturgy—Saturday for ole Miss or Bama and Friday night when Texas towns shut down to watch high school heroes of the gridiron


In Quebec when the English controlled the province before the French woke up and became maitres chez nous. It was hockey where the Quebecois invested much of their energy. Sport had become  a central part of identity, a meaningful area of psychical enlargement. The habs simply made them feel good.

Rejean Tremblay a perceptive Quebec sportswriter once pointed to 14,000 fans in the Forum and said, “Look at these people, they used to be Roman Catholics!

And now in good old USA, a bunch of black athletes dare to interrupt our Sunday ritual, our holy communion. this is blasphemous.

Those sons of bitches. They’re fired. Get em off the field says the Prez.

SportsWorld interrupted!



Rising Star pt.7

September 28, 2017



Second term
Politico’s John Harris and Jonathan Martin judged Barack as “a man of conventional instincts practicing conventional politics..he has presented no set of ideas that collectively represent anything that might last beyond his term.His cultural impact has ben virtually nil.”

Obama seemed to be a man of “excessive pragmatism.”

Then there was in mid-September his attendance at a $40,000-per-person fund-raiser hosted by hip-hop stars Jay Z and Beyoncé. He thanked “Jay and Bey so much for your friendship.” Obama then snubbed Israel PM Netanyau and his Jewish Chicago benefactor Susan Crown a member of one of Chicago’s wealthiest families—the Crowns (nee Krinski) who owned General Dynamics a huge arms manufacturing company.

Global Research commented ,”Yet, ironically, the 2008 presidential candidate who apparently is being financially backed by the next generation of the Crown Dynasty seems to be marketing himself these days as “the next generation’s anti-war candidate.”

Obama was very good at playing both sides of the fence.


Susan Crown went ballistic on Obama nd switched her vote to Romney—not gaga enough over Israel.

He has never worked in the commercial sector. He has been the most anti-business president we’ve ever had. I don’t think he surrounded himself with people with professional experience; they tend to be more academic, and the day that really made a difference for me was the day he suggested that Israel go back to 1967 borders. That infuriated me. That was the day I switched candidates.

As we will see Obama well knew how brutal israel was, what an occupying power it was, but nobody gets to be president in the USA  speaking this truth.

SportsWorld pt 2

September 27, 2017

I taught 2 well known sports writers and told each of them that they needed to read Robert Lipsyte and Dave Zirin, two brave journalist who refused to “god up” athletes (a phrase of iconic sportswriter Stanley Woodward) or make a religion out of sport. I could have added Lester Rodney, the white sports writer of the Communist paper the Daily Worker who was fearless in writing about the convergence of sport and injustice. Rodney was particularly incensed about the colour bar in baseball which Jackie Robinson broke.

These three are shining examples of penetrating scribes who refused to become idolators of those athletes who inhabited SportsWorld.



Now the feces has hit the fan in the USA over those who kneel and those who don’t, athletes who latterly joined the very brave Colin Kaepernick who could no longer stomach the ongoing murders of black people in the USA.


Interesting concept “kneeling”, once only used in liturgical settings. Today these settings are pro sports, the new temples of worship, athletes the new high priests and those who challenge this illness—i guess they are atheists.
It has cost Kaepernick his livelihood as a football player just as it cost the brave John Carlos and Tommy Smith who raised their fists in defiance at the 1968 Olympics; just as it cost Mohammed Ali 5 of his best years for his refusal to fight in Vietnam.

Take note they were all black.

70% of the NFL players are black, the same ones Trump called “sons of bitches.”


Who would have guessed that sport might be the venue for serious reflection on the state of democracy?

SportsWorld pt.1

September 26, 2017

In the biggest display of athletic defiance in years, football teams across the nation protested President Donald Trump after he attacked the NFL, NBA and some of their most popular athletes for daring to draw attention to racism and police violence.


This is a wonderful lead in to the prevailing world of SportsWorld

This is the rarified planet where sport is totally separated from the context of world events.This concept was unpacked for me 40 years ago by a brilliant New York writer Robert Lipsyte. His successor today is Dave Zirin. Both refused to give pro sport and the dreamworld of US college sports an intellectual pass.

Both writers demanded that sport be seen within the country’s context.

Why do ordinary people too often with mundane workaday jobs invest so much energy in games? Why do these fanatics know so much about the players and coaches, the strategies and misplays of the games they obsess over? Why do they know so little about the world they live in, the manipulation proceeding daily in their own stunted lives? This has always fascinated me.

Lipsyte wrote:

Even for ball games, these values with their implicit definitions of manhood, courage and success are not necessarily in the individual’s best interests. But for daily life they tend to create a dangerous web of ethics and attitudes, an amorphous infrastructure that acts to contain our energies, divert our passions and socialize us for work or war or depression. I call this infrastructure ‘SportsWorld.’



The NFl is 70% black.Many players, led by the renegade Colin Kaepernick chose to become critical citizens rather than meat on the hoof, modern gladiators with no opinions. That day is over/in a country which has never come to terms with the Civil War and its racist aftermath, many athletes say enough is enough. We will no longer stay silent and dance to your tune as entertainers but not as citizens.

Trump has called these largely black protesters, “sons of bitches.” He speaks these hateful words in all places Alabama where the ghosts of Selma, lynching, church bombings,Montgomery Bus boycott are still alive. In front to of an almost all white crowd he spews out his nonsense.

People are beginning to connect the dots. The players are finally leaving SportsWorld.

As Raptor guard Kyle Lowry said, “I’m a citizen before I am a basketball player.”

Friendly arms dealer

September 26, 2017


Just good business!

And mind your own!

Israel Refuses to Stop Arms Sales to Myanmar, Despite Its Campaign of Rape, Torture and Massacres Against the Rohingya The state’s lawyer tells the High Court that it shouldn’t interfere in Israel’s foreign relations The state has not said that it will stop selling weapons to the military junta in Myanmar, despite recent reports and United Nations data on massacres the country’s military has perpetrated against the Rohingya minority, as well as systematic rape and expulsions.


Responding on Monday to a petition in the High Court of Justice from human-rights activists demanding an end to the arms sales, Shosh Shmueli, representing the state, said the court should not interfere in Israel’s foreign relations. That was a repetition of the preliminary response issued in March by the Defense Ministry, according to which the court had no standing in the “purely diplomatic” matter. r

Days of Awe: Standing with whom? pt 1

September 25, 2017

So it’s Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment and Remembering, and we of the Jewish persuasion are beginning ten days of intensive reflection that culminates in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. We are urged to engage in self-examination, both of our personal lives and of our behaviors and attitudes in the complex world in which we live and contribute. This introspection and renewal involves taking personal responsibility for our destiny and the destinies of our communities, being unsparingly honest, and actively apologizing and forgiving. I love this part of my tradition because words are not enough; there are no Hail Marys, there is no forgiveness from on high, and at the end of the day, we actually have to DO better in our relationships with ourselves and our world. If you are a spiritual person, you have to work on that too in the here and now; there is no backup heavenly place where everything will come out fine.

As a secular Jew who finds our traditions and culture part of the bedrock of my psyche, I am obsessed by a topic that is most fraught and perilous in the Jewish community. We are besieged by forces right and left with the message that Judaism is Zionism and uncritical support of Israel is a core Jewish value, in fact the only nonnegotiable ticket to community acceptance. For these reasons at this time, I cannot ignore my relationship to Israel/Palestine. For me, this annual introspection invites an honest evaluation of history in all its voices, a recognition of the behavior and policies of the pioneers and fighters who created the State of Israel, an examination of the foundations of modern political Zionism and its current day consequences, and ultimately a willingness to express regret and apology. This is a perfect topic for the Ten Days of Awe and fully within our prophetic tradition which is focused on issues of justice.


So, how do we define ourselves as Jews in the Diaspora while living in the era of a hyper Jewish nationalism? For the me the first step is examining the realities and framing of history and claiming it in our own voice. The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, in his A History of Modern Palestine, notes that early Zionism was a European phenomenon with a clear disregard for indigenous populations. Early Zionists relied (cautiously) on the goodwill of colonial powers. (The Jewish homeland could have been in Palestine, Argentina, or even Uganda.) The Zionists carved out territory in Mandate Palestine as a haven from European persecution (which was an understandable motivation given the pogroms and anti-semitism of the time), and this became a clearly settler colonial movement when it focused on a national revival in the land of Palestine for Jews at the exclusion of the people actually living there. This was both an intellectual concept focused on the predicament of European Jewry (which was largely described as endless persecution and anti-semitism despite Spinoza, Marx, Freud, Einstein, etc.,) and also a practical solution for getting rid of the Jews in Eastern Europe and plopping them someplace else.

Alice Rothchild

Rising Star pt 6

September 25, 2017



It was heating up by the early 2000s .People saw Obama’s potential.

Time columnist Joe Klein in 2007 wrote that the time was ripe for Obama to run because “he is young and everybody else is so old.”

The left wing magazine the Nation’s David Sirota in a prescient warning wrote that “because the media has not looked at his political positions Obama has taken on the quality of a blank slate on which people can project what they like.Sirota opined that Barack hasn’t discouraged this acknowledging that he had an impressive control of the issues and ‘a a mesmerizing ability to connect.’

Barack Obama also demonstrated a remarkable ability to convince you that his positions are motivated purely by principle not tactical considerations.

Garrow: Rising Star pt.5

September 22, 2017



Obama’s star was rising. People were paying attention. His wife was now onside, agreeing to his candidacy.There was grassroots excitement. He was beginning to get rock star crowds. There was a palpable movement and buzz for something new. Hilary Clinton represented the too long at the trough mood of many in the country.This could be an inspirational time—much like Trudeaumania in Canada.

New York Magazine political writer John Heilemann observed, “for all his promise Obama is basically an empty vessel.The candidate had never used his megaphone to advance a bold initiative or champion a controversial issue. This caveat rang true. The more you wonder what is behind the hype. No original incredible accomplishments for others,only for himself.No one could fill the expectations that have been built up for him.

Open letter to fellow Jews: Wise up

September 21, 2017

Michael Chabon and his wife Ayelet Waldman edited “Kingdom of Olives and Ash,” a new anthology of essays about Israel’s occupation of the West Bank by writers including Dave Eggers, Geraldine Brooks, Colm Toibin  and Madeleine Thien

Chabon is an American novelist, short story writer, and Pulitzer Prize winner. Chabon’s first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, was published when he was 25. He followed it with Wonder Boys, and two short-story collections.

Waldman is an Israeli-American novelist and essayist. She has written seven mystery novels in the series The Mommy-Track Mysteries and four other novels. She has also written autobiographical essays about motherhood. Waldman spent three years working as a federal public defender and her fiction draws on her experience as a lawyer



To our fellow Jews, in the United States, in Israel, and around the world:

We know that, up to now, some of you have made an effort to reserve judgment on the question of whether or not President Donald Trump is an anti-Semite, and to give him the benefit of the doubt. Some of you voted for him last November. Some of you have found employment in his service, or have involved yourself with him in private business deals, or in diplomatic ties.


You have counted carefully as each appointment to his administration of a white supremacist, anti-Semite, neo-Nazi or crypto-fascist appeared to be counterbalanced by the appointment of a fellow Jew, and reassured yourself that the most troubling of those hires would be cumulatively outweighed by the presence, in his own family and circle of closest advisors, of a Jewish son-in-law and daughter.


You have given your support to the President’s long and appalling record of racist statements, at worst assenting to them, at best dismissing them as the empty blandishments of a huckster at work, and have chosen to see the warm reception that his rhetoric found among the hood-wearers, weekend stormtroopers, and militias of hate as proof of the gullibility of a bunch of patsies, however distasteful.




You have viewed him as a potential friend to Israel, or a reliable enemy of Israel’s enemies.

You have tried to allay or dismiss your fears with the knowledge that most of the President’s hateful words and actions, along with those of his appointees, have targeted other people — immigrants, Black people, and Muslims — taking hollow consolation in how open and shameless his hate has been, as if that openness and shamelessness guaranteed the absence, in his heart and in his administration, of any hidden hatred for us.

The President has no filter, no self-control, you have told yourself. If he were an anti-Semite — a Nazi sympathizer, a friend of the Jew-hating Klan — we would know about it, by now. By now, he would surely have told us.


Yesterday, in a long and ragged off-the-cuff address to the press corps, President Trump told us. During a moment that white supremacist godfather Steve Bannon has apparently described as a “defining” one for this Administration, the President expressed admiration and sympathy for a group of white supremacist demonstrators who marched through the streets of Charlottesville, flaunting Swastikas and openly chanting, along with vile racist slogans, “Jews will not replace us!” Among those demonstrators, according to Trump, were “a lot” of “innocent” and “very fine people.”

So, now you know. First he went after immigrants, the poor, Muslims, trans people and people of color, and you did nothing. You contributed to his campaign, you voted for him. You accepted positions on his staff and his councils. You entered into negotiations, cut deals, made contracts with him and his government.


Now he’s coming after you. The question is: what are you going to do about it? If you don’t feel, or can’t show, any concern, pain or understanding for the persecution and demonization of others, at least show a little self-interest. At least show a little sechel. At the very least, show a little self-respect.


To Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn, and our other fellow Jews currently serving under this odious regime: We call upon you to resign; and to the President’s lawyer, Michael D. Cohen: Fire your client.


To Sheldon Adelson and our other fellow Jews still engaged in making the repugnant calculation that a hater of Arabs must be a lover of Jews, or that money trumps hate, or that a million dollars’ worth of access can protect you from one boot heel at the door: Wise up.

To the government of Israel, and our fellow Jews living there: Wise up.


To Jared Kushner: You have one minute to do whatever it takes to keep the history of your people from looking back on you as among its greatest traitors, and greatest fools; that minute is nearly past. To Ivanka Trump: Allow us to teach you an ancient and venerable phrase, long employed by Jewish parents and children to one another at such moments of family crisis: I’ll sit shiva for you. Try it out on your father; see how it goes.


Among all the bleak and violent truths that found confirmation or came slouching into view amid the torchlight of Charlottesville is this: Any Jew, anywhere, who does not act to oppose President Donald Trump and his administration acts in favor of anti-Semitism; any Jew who does not condemn the President, directly and by name, for his racism, white supremacism, intolerance and Jew hatred, condones all of those things.

To our fellow Jews, in North America, in Israel, and around the world: What side are you on?

Michael Chabon and  Ayelet Waldman

Berkeley, California, 8/16/17

Rising Star pt 4

September 19, 2017


As Obama entered Harvard law students of all races were unhappy with the institution’s culture.
One alumnus described it as “a miserable experience.”Myriad complaints surfaced about the well the growing culture of individualism and greed seemed to be having its way.
One wrote in a memoir that 70% of his classmates arrived with an expressed interest in public interest law yet only 6 actually accepted legal services jobs.
In the mid 80s a young sociologist Robert Granfield questioned score of students about “the complex ideological process that systematically channels students away from socially oriented work.”

Elite positions and resources seemed to be the way to social progress.


Grads deluded themselves into thinking that they survived with their altruism intact while actually having been co-opted into joining large corporate law firms..the institution was tremendously co-optive.


Michelle Robinson,Obamas wife-to-be was critical of the Harvard culture but in the end joined a corporate firm underlining the problem of paying for the high cost of a Harvard education.


This too was Granfield’s conclusion student debt too often caused students to “provide service to the corporate elite.”