Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hypersensitive America?

This week’s blog topic comes from Maya.  She sent me this great article about this major backlash that a mom of three ended up having simply due to a FaceBook post and image that she posted.  CLICK HERE to read the article.  So, I began looking into this whole idea of just how hypersensitive our society has become.

Here’s a simple example.  According to a recent Rasmussen poll, nearly 35% of Americans believe that it’s “offensive to refer to an illegal immigrant as an ‘ILLEGAL immigrant.”  Seriously??

Has America became a society of hypersensitive babies?

Literally EVERYTHING that EVERYONE does in the media - be it in television, film, radio, print or on the web - is scrutinized, held under a microscope and perpetually monitored by a number of advocacy groups. “Watchdogs” who are sitting idly by, ready to bark for the simple sake of hearing themselves “bark.” Truth be told, I probably am going to have  a number of them find this on the internet and come after me for calling them “watchdogs” and using the derogatory word “bark.” (I’ll let you know if that happens!)

Here’s another good example:  Miley Cyrus recently pulled double duty on the Saturday Night Live show, appearing as both the host and musical guest.  Now, giving the Miley her due, most people that saw the program said that she “killed it.”  Now, in my opinion, Miley is far more self-aware than she gets credit for - meaning that she is purposely doing the shock and awe to self-promote herself; which there is nothing wrong with - again in my opinion.  During the show, she poked fun at all she’s currently vilified for - including how she incessantly, and annoyingly, sticks her tongue out.  Miley joked that she wasn’t actually sticking her tongue out at all, but rather, “kept having mini-strokes.”

Guess what??  Her comments infuriated the Stroke Association, who immediately demanded that Miley issue an apology.  SERIOUSLY!!!!  (and of course, she apologized..."sincerely")

Now, before I continue, let me clarify that I’m not a big Miley Cyrus fan (as a matter of fact, I don’t have a single one of her songs on my iPhone…just for the record); nor am I making light of strokes.  To be honest, that would be asinine (great SAT word, by-the-way).  Anyone with a modicum (yep, that would be another great SAT word!!) of intelligence knows that strokes are no laughing matter.  That being said, I also firmly believe that anyone intelligent enough to write a strongly worded complaint letter SHOULD be smart enough to realize a joke for what it is - even if you considered it in poor taste or not.  I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe that even one stroke victim is currently dealing with lasting mental trauma brought on by a Saturday Night Live monologue.

Reality check: Sometimes - nay, actually, ALL the time - people say or do things that you don’t like.  For better or worse, that’s reality.  That’s life.  To be even  clearer, that’s the FIRST AMENDMENT.

One more example: Fez Whatley, co-host of Sirius XM’s popular Ron & Fez Show, recently went on a long, passionate on-air rant about a Chevy commercial that uses the word “crazy” multiple times, claiming that it was “insensitive to the mentally insane.”  Really?  As if “crazy” is a race, gender or nationality.  As if somewhere in the East Village, someone’s currently planning the next Nutjob Pride Parade (ok, that may be a bad analogy - but I think you get the idea).

Now, let me clarify that I DO believe that each one of us have a responsibility within society to be sensitive to others.  In a society it is important that we respect each other and not INTENTIONALLY degrade nor demean others for the pure sake of doing so.  Yet, with that said, it appears that our political correctness and hypersensitivity has gone overboard.  We’ve become too sensitive about things of which are by no ways or means meant to inflict harm on others.  As Maria Kang (the mom in the article that Maya sent) stated: “What you interpret is not MY fault. It’s Yours.  The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your head.  I didn’t create them.  You created them…”  (yet, she did make an apology..."sincerely")

Blog Question:

Do you feel that Maria Kang’s post was inappropriate? Has America become too hypersensitive?  Do “empty” and “forced” apologies only perpetuate a society of hypersensitivity?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Return of a Super Power?

"The West is blinking in disbelief – Vladimir Putin just invaded Ukraine. German diplomats, French Eurocrats and American pundits are all stunned. Why has Russia chosen to gamble its trillion-dollar ties with the West?

Western leaders are stunned because they haven’t realized Russia’s owners no longer respect Europeans the way they once did after the Cold War. Russia thinks the West is no longer a crusading alliance. Russia thinks the West is now all about the money.

Putin’s henchmen know this personally. Russia’s rulers have been buying up Europe for years. They have mansions and luxury flats from London’s West End to France’s Cote d’Azure. Their children are safe at British boarding and Swiss finishing schools. And their money is squirreled away in Austrian banks and British tax havens.

Putin’s inner circle no longer fear the European establishment. They once imagined them all in MI6. Now they know better. They have seen firsthand how obsequious Western aristocrats and corporate tycoons suddenly turn when their billions come into play. They now view them as hypocrites—the same European elites who help them hide their fortunes.

Once Russia’s powerful listened when European embassies issued statements denouncing the baroque corruption of Russian state companies. But no more. Because they know full well it is European bankers, businessmen and lawyers who do the dirty work for them placing the proceeds of corruption in hideouts from the Dutch Antilles to the British Virgin Islands.

We are not talking big money. But very big money. None other than Putin’s Central Bank has estimated that two thirds of the $56 billion exiting Russia in 2012 might be traceable to illegal activities. Crimes like kickbacks, drug money or tax fraud. This is the money that posh English bankers are rolling out the red carpet for in London.

Behind European corruption, Russia sees American weakness. The Kremlin does not believe European countries – with the exception of Germany – are truly independent of the United States. They see them as client states that Washington could force now, as it once did in the Cold War, not to do such business with the Kremlin.

When Russia sees Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal outbidding each other to be Russia’s best business partner inside the EU (in return for no mention of human rights), they see America’s control over Europe slowly dissolving.

Back in Moscow, Russia hears American weakness out of Embassy Moscow. Once upon a time the Kremlin feared a foreign adventure might trigger Cold War economic sanctions where it hurts: export bans on key parts for its oil industry, even being cut out of its access to the Western banking sector. No more.
Russia sees an America distracted: Putin’s Ukrainian gambit was a shock to the U.S. foreign policy establishment. They prefer talking about China, or participating in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Russia sees an America vulnerable: in Afghanistan, in Syria and on Iran—a United States that desperately needs Russian support to continue shipping its supplies, host any peace conference or enforce its sanctions.
Moscow is not nervous. Russia’s elites have exposed themselves in a gigantic manner – everything they hold dear is now locked up in European properties and bank accounts. Theoretically, this makes them vulnerable. The EU could, with a sudden rush of money-laundering investigations and visa bans, cut them off from their wealth. But, time and time again, they have watched European governments balk at passing anything remotely similar to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which bars a handful of criminal-officials from entering the United States.

All this has made Putin confident, very confident – confident that European elites are more concerned about making money than standing up to him. The evidence is there. After Russia’s strike force reached the outskirts of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, in 2008, there were statements and bluster, but not a squeak about Russia’s billions. After Russia’s opposition were thrown into show trials, there were concerned letters from the European Union, but again silence about Russia’s billions.

The Kremlin thinks it knows Europe’s dirty secret now. The Kremlin thinks it has the European establishment down to a tee. The grim men who run Putin’s Russia see them like latter-day Soviet politicians. Back in the 1980s, the USSR talked about international Marxism but no longer believed it. Brussels today, Russia believes, talks about human rights but no longer believes in it. Europe is really run by an elite with the morality of the hedge fund: Make money at all costs and move it offshore."

Blog Question:
Has United States lost it's once "feared" and "respected" status in the world today?  Is Russia, as the article suggest, about to make a major move and re-establish itself, economically, politically and militarily as a major super power?