Opinion

The Great Debate

Donald Sterling: Pariah

Amid the outcries over Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald Sterling’s heinous comments about African Americans, something is likely to be overlooked. The response to Sterling in both degree and magnitude was different from that of previous instances of racist ignorance — which shows just how much times have changed when it comes to race.

This time, there was no backtracking, no trimming, no apologies or excuses, no veiled support of the “yes-but” variety. Sterling was slammed with the weight of the world.

He is a pariah. National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver has now even taken the unprecedented step of formalizing Sterling’s non-personhood. He can have nothing whatsoever to do with professional basketball. He is through — an old man with a life sentence.

Those condemning Sterling’s racist remarks have harkened back to Los Angeles Dodgers Vice President Al Campanis, CBS football analyst Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder and Cincinnati Reds Chief Executive Officer Marge Schott as Sterling forebears. All three voiced similarly silly sentiments.

In 1987, on the 40th anniversary no less of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut, Campanis told a Nightline audience that the reason there weren’t more black managers is that they lacked what he called the “necessities.” He added that there were no great black swimmers either — because blacks lacked “buoyancy.”

An America beyond black and white

America is growing too complicated and mixed — very brown, I would say.

Everyone is becoming everything. And the old man was a fool not to see it.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is on record pleading with his companion, V. Stiviano, not to be seen in public with black people and certainly not to post pictures of herself on the Internet with black athletes — particularly Magic Johnson.

But the most ironic thing about his comments is that Sterling was often seen and photographed at Clippers games sitting alongside Stiviano, a woman much younger than he and who is, by her own description, Mexican and black.

In the parlance of modern-day Los Angeles, Stiviano is a “Blaxican.”

from Stories I’d like to see:

Regrouping for Detroit, GM’s bankruptcy evasion and Chinese corporate records

1. Kevyn Orr and a Detroit rebound?

Last Friday, I happened onto a C-Span broadcast of a speech to a national group of bankruptcy lawyers given by Kevyn Orr -- the emergency manager who Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appointed to take over Detroit’s finances and guide the fallen city through bankruptcy. Since I couldn’t stand watching the Yankees get slaughtered by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, I stopped on the Orr speech for a minute. I stayed 45.

I had never seen Orr speak or paid much attention to Detroit’s troubles and his efforts to dig the city out from under. But if his talk -- riveting, funny, emotional, self-effacing, forceful, fact-filled, wholly convincing and seemingly off the cuff -- is any indication, both Orr and Detroit 2014 are big national stories.

They are worthy of coverage beyond the good work that’s been done by, among other local outlets, the Detroit Free Press, which ran this comprehensive story  last month, on the one-year anniversary of Orr leaving a lucrative partnership at the Jones, Day law firm to take on the rescue job.

The increasing significance of race

Behind every Supreme Court decision is a sociology of ordinary life. Opinions reveal the justices’ view of what’s what in the world, how people act and why things change.

Justices probably prefer that we focus on their legal analyses, but we can glean the sociology behind their assumptions. Last week, judicial world views spun into interplanetary conflict when the court voted to affirm Michigan’s vote to bar all consideration of race, gender, ethnicity, color or national origin in public decision-making, including in state college admissions.

The justices based their decision on a novel faith in the democratic process, which Justice Sonia Sotomayor spent 58 pages countering in a dissent that seemed to come from another universe.

Cliven Bundy: Racism entwined with government antipathy

Conservatives would like us to believe that hatred of government and racism are totally separate phenomena. That one has nothing to do with the other. They’re wrong.

Resentment of the federal government and racism have gone hand-in-hand in the United States for 200 years. In the 19th century, Democrats were the anti-government party. That was the legacy of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson.  Southern slave owners embraced the Democratic Party because they feared the federal government would take away their property without compensation. And it did.

Southerners rallied to the cause of “states’ rights” because it meant the preservation of slavery. Later, that morphed into segregation.

U.S. v Russia: Searching for Kennan

No matter how counterintuitive it may seem, Washington needs to stop lecturing Russian President Vladimir Putin if it wants to resolve problems with him.

In George Kennan’s celebrated 1946 “long telegram,” the diplomat and scholar explained why Russia’s conduct was so often duplicitous. Kennan might well have been writing about Putin when he laid out the West’s problems with the Kremlin leaders’ behavior. Being annoyed with them wouldn’t help, Kennan advised, since their conduct was based on a fierce Russian nationalism complicated by a serious streak of insecurity about Moscow’s position in the world, evident whenever Joseph Stalin felt the Soviet Union was not receiving the respect he believed it was due.

We see this pattern in Putin’s conduct today. He insists that the United States “treats Russia like the uninvited guest at a party,” freely interfering in his country’s affairs, which he won’t tolerate — no matter the cost. Confronted with his outright hostility, the West seems at a loss as to how to deal with the bellicose Kremlin.

A three-part plan for Obama’s pivot to Asia

President Obama embarked this week on an eight-day trip to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. He has tried to reassure the leaders of those countries that his administration is committed to carrying out its signature foreign policy initiative: the rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific.

Obama entered office with the belief that the U.S. had over-invested in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. In an October 2011 essay-cum-policy statement, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained that with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, the U.S. should “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific. In January 2012, the Department of Defense formalized her recommendation, announcing that the U.S. would “of necessity rebalance” towards the region.

Since then, however, crises abroad and changes in domestic leadership have tested the effort. With the emergence of a civil war in Syria, the administration faced pressure to rebalance back to the Middle East, or at least give equal priority to the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific.

The uncanonized saints

The Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn, nearing the end of a long restoration, has a new mural over its main doors. Surrounding the Holy Spirit, in the form of an incandescent dove, is a gathering of women and men flanked by angels. Most have soft yellow halos, but three figures, including the pair closest to the dove, do not.

The three are local icons. Activist and writer Dorothy Day wears a hat with the inscription “NO WAR” and holds a stack of Catholic Worker newspapers, the publication she founded. Beside her is Bernard Quinn, a priest who served Brooklyn’s African American community at a church just blocks away, and whose Long Island orphanage was twice burned down by racists. Pierre Toussaint, who looks intently toward the dove, was a slave-turned-philanthropist who, on gaining his freedom in 1807, adopted his surname from the leader of the Haitian revolution.

Sunday, as Popes John XXIII and John Paul II receive their halos through the Vatican’s canonization process, it may be especially hard to remember that not all saints have official halos. Nor does one have to be a world-famous pope to be a saint.

Bundy: Counterfeit hero

The shelf life of heroes isn’t what it used to be.

Once upon a time, a hero would burst upon the scene — a Charles A. Lindbergh, a Babe Ruth, a Red Grange, an Audie Murphy, a Neil Armstrong — and he would not only receive reverent acclaim, that acclaim would last for decades. Sometimes forever.

Not anymore. Now we live in a world of false heroes — people who have done nothing to deserve their heroism save for capturing media attention or satisfying a group of the like-minded. So they come — and inevitably, they go.

Just last week, a Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy was heralded as a modern American patriot for facing down the Bureau of Land Management, when the bureau came to seize his herd after he had refused to pay government fees for grazing on public land. Many Tea Party types raced to his side to cheer him and provide a protective phalanx. Several Republican officeholders extolled his resistance — as if he were a Minuteman.

from Breakingviews:

Rob Cox: Coke takes fizz out of shareholder spring

By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

America’s shareholder spring hit a cold patch. Just when it seemed investors were finally breaking through entrenched boards’ barricades, the owners of Coca-Cola turned to jelly, led shockingly by Warren Buffett. The failure to challenge a transfer of vast shareholder treasure to the top 5 percent of Coke’s soda jerks shows the agency problem is still alive and well in American capitalism.

Not that investors will retreat from behaving more like owners. Greater shareholder democracy is still on the march. Last month, for instance, activists made nearly 100 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, exceeding the February number by a third, according to Activist Insight.

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