WAR ON WOMEN

Those who believe that there is war on women are absolutely correct. There is a war on women. It is widespread, all-encompassing and relentless. In many cases, it begins before the woman is even born and continues her entire life. However, this war is not being fought in the US against American women, but, rather, against women in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and virtually every other country EXCEPT the US. Women, if you think are discriminated against in America, read on. See how it is in the rest of the world. I have selected a couple of the more egregious examples.

1. China –

a. Infanticide has always been practiced in certain parts of the world, most prevalently in backward or poor areas, for various reasons. In China, however, female infants and even fetuses, have accounted for a disproportionate number of the deaths. Chinese officials refuse to acknowledge that this practice still exists, and they deny any correlation with the country’s “one-child policy,” but statistics don’t lie. Since 2005 there have been a significant excess of male births compared to females (over 1 million), and it is estimated that males under 20 now outnumber females under 20 by 32 million. We all know that the male-female birth odds are virtually 50%, so the only logical conclusion for this sizeable difference is female infanticide and/or abortions. Recently, while vacationing in China I was told that even though the “one-child policy” provides some exceptions, many couples are reluctant to have more than one child for economic reasons. Furthermore, even though disclosing the gender of the fetus before birth is supposed to be prohibited, many couples manage to find out anyway. This provides further incentives for the infanticide of females fetuses and infants.

b. It is well-documented that the female sex trade is rampant throughout Asia (and in many other third-world countries as well). In China the practice of families selling their female children to sex traffickers is not uncommon, particularly in rural and poorer areas. In addition, young girls are often kidnapped from their homes and sold to sex traffickers. In recent years sex trafficking and prostitution have become more prevalent and more visible as well.

c. Women have virtually no meaningful representation as political leaders. No woman has ever become a member of the Politburo, and, according to the latest information available, there are only three female government ministers out of 27.

d. In some of the poorer areas of the country polygamy has been gaining in popularity. In my opinion, this re-enforces the notion of viewing women as property, which is a notion right out of the Middle Ages.

2. Women in Muslim Countries

a. Virtually every aspect of a woman’s life is governed by Islamic laws and cultural customs. This includes, but is not limited to, education, employment, sex crimes, marriage and legal standing.

b. Education opportunities are severely restricted. According to a study by the World Economic Forum in 2012, 17 of the 18 nations with the largest education gender gap were Muslim.

c. Islamic law permits polygamy. Additionally, in some countries, such as Iran, Muslim men are also allowed to enter into “temporary” marriages.

d. Women’s legal rights are inferior to that of men. For example, a women’s right to inherit property is secondary to that of a male sibling. Furthermore, in cases of rape a woman is required to find four male witnesses to support her claim (unless the rapist has confessed). Otherwise, she could be convicted of a false accusation, which is a crime in and of itself punishable by flogging. We all know about the custom of “honor” killings.

e. Generally, employment opportunities are no where nearly equal to those of men. Women require their husband’s approval to work at all. In addition, they are expected to give first preference to caring for their home and family, rather than their job. The notion of a fulfilling career is virtually non-existent.

f. Women are expected to dress “modestly” in public. In most cases, that means covering their extremities and wearing a burqa.

g. Abortion is banned in every country in which Islam is the state religion, except for Tunisia. In addition, most Muslim nations forbid birth control, and contraceptives are often not even available.

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

I could have cited many other countries, but I believe I have made my point.

There is no doubt that, in some instances, American women have been and still are treated in an inferior manner compared to men. But, the gender gap has been closing rapidly, particularly in employment, education, politics and legal rights to name a few. We may even have a female president in two years.

Consider, a generation or two ago few married women worked outside the home. Married women were expected to stay home, care for the house and raise the children. If a wife had a job it was assumed that the husband was unable to support her. Divorce was rare and an anathema. If you were divorced you were considered a failure. The mantra was “find a good husband who could support you.” Men were blatantly afforded preference over women in the job market. I still remember one of my high school teachers admonishing a college-bound female classmate that she would be majoring in “Mrs.”

Women did not play organized sports. They were considered to be too strenuous. They played half court basketball. Marathons and other long distance races were another “no-no.” There were no college athletic scholarships or varsity teams, much less professional leagues.

There were few female doctors, lawyers, financial gurus, scientists or opportunities for other lucrative careers. For the most part, the career opportunities for a female college graduate were limited to becoming a teacher, nurse or secretary.

So, when some women characterize every minor inconvenience or impediment in their lives as a major affront and claim there is a “war on women,” my advice is get some perspective. But for the grace of god, you could have been born 50 years ago or in present-day China, Saudi Arabia, Africa, Eastern Europe, etal.

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THE COWARDS OF EUROPE

President Obama has been coming under much criticism for his weak response to Russia’s aggression in the Crimea. I agree that his response has been weak. There are many additional sanctions he could have imposed on Russia, for example, various trade sanctions or currency sanctions. His ineffectual, if not laughable, response so far is, however, consistent with his strategy with respect to the recent situations with Iran and Syria. Rather than taking decisive action, he has preferred to build a consensus of allies and lead from behind. That said, the main theme of this blog is not President Obama, but rather the cowardly response of our European allies so far.

Consider:

1. Germany has the most powerful economy in Europe. Its Chancellor, Angela Merkle, is, according to “Forbes,” one of the most powerful persons in the word (ranked #2 behind the Pope in 2012 and #5 in 2013). As a leader, she has been compared to both Margaret Thatcher, probably the strongest female leader of the 20th Century, and Otto von Bismarck the greatest German Chancellor ever. Indeed, she has been nicknamed the “Iron Frau” and the “Iron Chancellor.” She is the most influential person and the de facto head of the EU. Germany is a strong trade partner of Russia’s. But, has she weighed in on the Crimea situation? Has she backed any meaningful trade or currency sanctions? Noooo! Why not? Could it possibly be because Russia is a big supplier of natural gas to Germany?

2. David Cameron, the PM of the UK, is another coward. To paraphrase Lloyd Benson, he is no Margaret Thatcher. One of Ms. Thatcher’s many shining moments was her classic response to Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982. Rather than getting bogged down in “wishy-washy” negotiations or diplomatic “protests,” she simply sent a fleet to the area to retake the Islands. No leading from behind for her. Just like that; “easy-peasy,” the problem was resolved. In addition, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and President George H. W. Bush was hesitant about taking action, it was Ms. Thatcher who counseled “Don’t get all wobbly on me now, George.” In this instance, what has Mr. Cameron done? Nothing. Why not? Most likely, he is afraid of damaging the UK’s strong trading ties with Russia.

3. As far as France is concerned, the less said the better. The French think they are superior to everyone else. They look down their noses at the rest of the world. The truth is the French are an inconsequential power both militarily and economically. They only won WWI and WWII because they were allied with the US and England. They have not won a war on their own since the time of Charlemagne. Their socialist-style economy is choking the country. Nevertheless, their silence has also been deafening.

4. The other countries with a stake in this situation, e.g. Poland, the Ukraine, and the Baltics, are concerned, but they are too weak to do anything meaningful.

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

Does anyone really think that Russia will be satisfied with just the Crimea, especially given the world’s weak and ineffectual response? If you do, you are both delusional and devoid of any knowledge of world history. Appeasing aggressors, like Putin, has never worked, EVER. It only encourages them. For example, are you cognizant of the Munich Agreement in 1938? Hitler had just seized the Sudetenland. He convinced the Allies that that was all he wanted. He was now satisfied. The Allies bought it due to either fear or delusion. Remember the famous scene of Neville Chamberlain waiving the treaty proclaiming “Peace in our time?” We all know how that worked out.

The cowards of Europe are not thinking globally. They are more interested in their own internal situations. They figure that their economies need the continued trade with Russia. They hope and expect that the US will handle the situation, both economically and, if necessary, militarily as it has done for the past 70 years. Well, I say “Don’t count on it.” Not with this President, and not with the growing isolationist attitude among the American people.

Meanwhile, the other bad boys of the world, Iran, Syria, North Korea and China, are watching.

FAVORITE MOVIES

What are your favorite movies? I don’t mean the “best” movies as ranked by “experts.” Nor do I mean the highest grossers (if that is even a word). I mean, which movies did you enjoy the most. Everyone has his or her own list. Some people favor critically acclaimed movies; others favor ones that tell a story or are well acted. I prefer ones that entertain me. I also gravitate toward ones with big stars. I’m the reason why certain actors get paid $20 million or more for a picture. In any event, below, in alphabetical order, is my list of favorite movies. I listed them in alphabetical order because it was too difficult to rank them. You may not agree, but to paraphrase Lesley Gore “Its my blog, and I can do what I want to.”

“A League of Their Own” (1992) – “There’s no crying in baseball.”

“Casablanca” (1942) – Many oft-quoted lines, but Bogie never said “Play it again Sam.”

“Crash” (2004) – Debunked stereotypes. No one is what they seem to be.

“Godfather” (1972) – I had to include this one. Someone made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

“Godfather 2” (1974) – One of the best sequels.

“Gone with the Wind” (1939) – The first “spectacular.”

“High Noon” (1952) – In the gunfight, Coop is actually shown reloading.

“Hoosiers” (1986) – A “feel-good” story; well done.

“Jaws” 1975 – Made many kids scared of the water. Put Spielberg on the map.

“Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) – An all-star cast.

“Psycho” (1960) – Who can forget the shower scene?

“Raiders of the Lost Arc” (1981) – Wouldn’t let my son see it because of the gruesome ending.

“Rocky” (1976) – The ultimate “feel-good” story. Stunning fight scenes.

“Schindler’s List” (1993) – Powerful story. Superb acting.

“School Ties” (1992) – Anti-Semitism in the early 1950s. An early view of Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Brendan Frazier and Chris O’Donnell.

“Shawshank Redemption” (1994) – Redemption and revenge.

“Star Wars” (1977) – Perhaps, not the best of the series but the one with the most impact.

“Terminator 2 Judgment Day” (1991) – “Hasta la vista, baby.”

“The Birds” (1963) – Hitchcock at his best. Stunning ending; no one left the theatre as the credits rolled.

“The 10 Commandments” (1956) – Who can forget the parting of the Red Sea.

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

That’s my list. I’m sure I omitted some excellent movies, but I thought 20 was enough. I’m sure there will debate over some of my choices, but that’s the fun of it.

What’s your list. I’d like to know.

MANDELA AND APARTHEID

My recent vacation included approximately two weeks in South Africa, and one of the things I learned was that the stories of Nelson Mandela and Apartheid are entwined to the extent that one cannot discuss one without the other. Most South Africans view Nelson Mandela as a cross between George Washington, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. Most of us have some familiarity with Mandela’s life – anti-Apartheid activist, political prisoner, first black prime minister, architect of the dismantling of Apartheid. But, what of his early life? How did he come to be the leader of the anti-Apartheid forces? How did he come to be so revered?

First, it is necessary to understand what Apartheid was and how people existed under its laws. There had always been some degree of racial segregation in SA all the way back to Dutch colonial times. The white Dutch colonists, much like whites in other parts of the world, including America, had always viewed non-whites as inferior. In 1948, however, this attitude was taken to a new level. The National Party, which was dominated by hardliners, narrowly gained control of the government, and as the ruling party, it began legislating and enforcing the Apartheid laws with which we are all familiar.

The word “Apartheid” literally means “the state of being apart,” or “apart-hood,” in Afrikaans. Under its laws, people were classified into four separate groups according to an elaborate and arbitrary set of criteria: “white,” “black,” “colored,” and other mixed people, such as Asians and Indians. In addition, some of the groups had several subcategories to refine the separation further. Every aspect of life was strictly segregated: housing, schools, beaches, jobs, medical care. You name it. Millions of people were uprooted from their homes and forcefully relocated to the “appropriate” residential area. It was not unusual for family members to be classified differently. Thus, they would be forced to live, work and exist apart from each other. Women were discriminated against both racially and gender-wise. Asian groups were treated differently. For example, Japanese, Taiwanese and South Koreans were classified as “honorary whites,” whereas other Asians, such as Chinese and Indonesians, were classified as “colored.” People classified as “blacks” and or “colored” were subjected to curfews with strict penalties for violations, including arrest and imprisonment.

From what I could gather from first-hand accounts of people who actually lived through this period, it was the most demeaning, depressing, and emasculating situation one could imagine. It took the US “Jim Crow” laws to a new level. This way of life was what Mandela was largely responsible for ending, and that is why he so revered in SA today.

Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahia Mandela on July 18, 1918 in Transkei, SA. One might say that his name was a portent for his life as it meant “pulling the branch of a tree” or, more commonly, “troublemaker.” After his father died when he was nine Nelson was adopted by a local chieftain and was given the same status and opportunities as if he were the chieftain’s own son. This became extremely fortuitous as Nelson was able to receive a formal education up to and including college. Indeed, it was one of his primary school teachers who arbitrarily decided to change his name to “Nelson.” Eventually, Nelson moved to Johannesburg and began to study law.

Nelson joined the African National Congress in 1942. For the next 20 years he participated in and/or directed peaceful, non-violent protests against the Apartheid government. He was arrested on a few occasions. In 1963 he was one of over 100 persons arrested for various political offenses, including sabotage, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Not surprisingly, former inmates told us that, in the eyes of the government, a political crime was the worst offense, even worse than murder. He spent 27 years in prison, including 18 on Robben Island.

It should be noted that the conditions at Robben Island were not exactly up to the level of American prisons. For example, we saw one section where 50 inmates had to share one toilet. Inadequate food and mistreatment by prison guards were commonplace. It would be easy to become bitter and resentful, but inmates who had been imprisoned with Nelson recall that he continued to preach non-violence and even forgiveness.

Finally, by early 1990 internal and external political, economic and social pressures had built up against the SA government to such a degree that Nelson was released from prison. He continued to work toward a peaceful end of Apartheid. In 1993 he and then President Frederik Willem de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize. (Incidentally, de Klerk deserves a great deal of credit for his role in the ending of Apartheid. It is not easy to cede power the way he did.) Finally, in 1994 blacks were given the right to vote in SA’s first democratic election. Fittingly, Nelson was elected the country’s first black president. The long struggle was over.

In 1999 Nelson withdrew from public office, but he continued his life’s work on behalf of his country. Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013 in Johannesburg at the age of 95.

CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION

Few people are able to make a real, meaningful difference in millions of people’s lives, to change the course of history. Nelson Mandela was such a man. Today, in SA it is hard to find anyone, white or black, who would say anything negative about the man.

That said, SA has a long way to go. Two generations of blacks and colored were raised under Apartheid. They were denied basic human rights, including education, decent jobs, etc. The disenfranchisement of these people cannot be rectified easily or, possibly, at all. In addition, during this period the country suffered a massive “brain drain,” as many professionals fled the country. I believe SA’s recovery, as a nation, will be a long, hard road, but it can be accomplished. Time will tell.