Sunday, March 6, 2011

King of the Double Talkers

Peter King is a longtime GOP congressman from Long Island who, through longevity and bellicosity, has netted the chairmanship of the House Homeland Security Committee in the new, far-right dominated House of Representatives. To anyone familiar with American political history, the committee's name should provoke at least a mild shudder. It's a near match to House Internal Security Committee which, in fact, was nothing more than the rechristened old House Committee on Un-American Affairs. You know-- the witch hunt vehicle.

That committee by any other name would stink as bad and King is doing his best to boost the stink-o-meter by holding hearings on "radical Islam" beginning this week. His garbled justifications always circle back to his perception that American Muslims are insufficiently loyal to the state; that is, they may not take to bomb making themselves, but they aren't quick enough to turn in those that do. Why, one might almost call them "fellow travelers" (there goes that shudder again).

Aside from being not much more than politicized paranoia, King's stance is also the rankest hypocrisy. For until Sept. 11, 2001 -- when it became too politically perilous to appear one -- King was a prominent, loudmouthed supporter of the Irish Republican Army. He promoted Noraid, a charitable organization widely suspected of diverting its funds to the purchase of weapons. He hung out with Gerry Adams before the Sinn Fein leader agreed to negotiate for a peace agreement. While the IRA was committing some of its worst outrages, he called it "the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland." (That quote and other nuggets of information can be found in a 2005 New York Sun piece which is a pretty good encapsulation of King's other republicanism.)

Can you imagine King's response to a Congressional investigation of Irish-Catholic Americans in, say, 1980? Notice I don't say IRA supporters because, in his investigation, King isn't focused on "Islamic terrorists," just American Muslims. Not on criminals, but on people who know about them.

Just like all of us Irish-Catholic Americans who knew about a bigmouth Noraid supporter who'd fart his way down 5th avenue every March 17.

Clueless in Cincinnati

The Gillette Company rode to world prominence thanks to two factors. One was its embrace of the new-fangled safety razor early in the 20th century, which led to its quick near dominance of men's shaving gear. The other was its access to educated and hardworking workers in Boston, its headquarters beginning with its early days on a fish pier. The company's identification with the city was so complete that in 2002, it stepped in to purchase the naming rights for the New England Patriots' stadium after the original purchaser (the place was called CMGI Field) got kerplunked by the bust.

In 2005, Gillette was merged into/bought by Cincinnati-based Proctor & Gamble. As a separate company, Gillette ceased to exist, though its name was retained as a brand name. Proctor & Gamble soon began toying with the workforce. Its unions accused it of setting up two suburban facilities with permanent "temporary" workers in order to dodge union wage and working condition agreements. The South Boston factory -- virtually a landmark in Greater Boston -- is still operating, but Massachusetts jobs have been shipped to Poland and Mexico.

To add insult to injury (literally -- no, really, literally) Proctor & Gamble began an advertising campaign in 2009 featuring, of all people, Derek f---ing Jeter. Now, on certain days of the year, when the NY Yankees visit Fenway Park to play the sainted Red Sox, there are as many signs in Boston with Jeter's name on them as there with Gillette's. But whereas Gillette's name appears on billboards, Jeter's turns up on the hand-held variety invariably followed by the word "sucks."

Having Jeter as a tout is bad enough. But, in a twist unrivaled since Brutus and Caesar, Gillette made a TV commercial in which Jeter is booed by boorish "Red Sox fans" (no doubt actors recruited from the NYC area). Either the Gillette girly products Jeter is shown using, or the same impulse that drives Jeter to tie up the bathroom with his toilette, supposedly enable him to retain his dignity in the face of such an uncouth verbal onslaught. (Yeah, dignity, like what he showed in his last contract negotiation. No money-grubbing there.)

Gillette doesn't deserve to have its name associated with Boston sports. Maybe instead it should look into associating itself with the teams of Southern Ohio. After all, corporate culture dictates that home is where the bank is.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oscar Can't Stop Deportations

The subjects of an Oscar-winning documentary are about to be ejected from Israel as part of an anti-immigrant crackdown. This despite the fact that many of the kids were born in Israel, speak only Hebrew, and have never lived anywhere else.

The Oscar category, Best Documentary Short was unusually rich this year, all five nominees being films of merit. I thought the best was Poster Girl, a heart-filling, if slightly rough-hewn, portrait of a brave, intelligent young woman afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her experience in the U.S. Army in Iraq. Despite obvious anguish, Robynn Murray campaigns against the war and the exploitation of soldiers by the Pentagon public relations machine.

The winner was Strangers No More, a profile of the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv. Its students are children and adolescents from around the world who are on the run from war and extreme poverty, some alone, some with parents who are asylum-seekers or refugees themselves or who have taken low-wage positions that would otherwise go unfilled in the Israeli economy.

My only reservation with the movie was that it verged on being a brochure, almost gilding a particularly lovely lily. But you could hardly blame filmmakers Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon for falling in love with such caring administrators and teachers as well as students yearning for security and education.

Up to 120 of the school's children, among the most defenseless people in the world, are about to be cast back into the darkness. It's a moral and ethical offense of the highest order.

For the whole story -- my own resource for this posting -- read Batsheva Sobelman's solid article in the March 1 Los Angeles Times, A damper on Israeli school's Oscar celebration.