Russia has seized the Crimea, China is threatening to seize Japanese islands, Iran is going nuclear, and, at President Obama's Sunday press conference on his Asian tour, the accompanying reporters took time out from asking him whether he'd slept well and had enjoyed the Mount Fuji ice cream in Japan to seek his opinion on some rich bloke's argument with his mistress.
So it must be important. Otherwise our expensively credentialed press wouldn't have wasted the President's valuable time with it. In olden days, this would have been covered as a man-in-a-top-hat-slips-on-banana-peel story. Donald Sterling isn't famous, but he owns something famous - a sports team. He's an octogenarian billionaire with a mistress a quarter of his age currently going under the oddly priapic name "V. Stiviano", although, according to the legal complaint, also known as "Vanessa Maria Perez", "Monica Gallegos", "Maria Monica Perez Gallegos" and "Maria Valdez". The mistress goes around with other men. The rich bloke takes a relaxed view of this, except insofar as they're black men. On the tape leaked by Ms Stiviano to the press, Mr Sterling is heard telling her:
Bring him here, feed him, f**k him, I don't care. You can do anything. But don't put him on an Instagram for the world to see so they have to call me. And don't bring him to my games. OK?
It's not clear whether Ms Stiviano also consorts with white men, Asians, Pacific Islanders, or only with black men. But the point of contention appears to be that Mr Sterling doesn't mind his mistress bringing black guys back to the pad and going to bed with them but that, having lavished upon her many baubles including (just to stick to the motor vehicles category) a Ferrari, two Bentleys and a Range Rover, he'd rather she didn't bring the black guys to his games.
At this point in the conversation, Mr Sterling seems unaware that his mistress is herself black. He refers to her as "a delicate white girl", and she explains to him that she's mixed-race - half-Hispanic, half-black. From the pictures of Ms Stiviano, it seems odd that this should have come as news to Mr Sterling.
As the cherry on the cake, the NAACP is about to give a lifetime achievement award to Mr Sterling. Possibly he's also unaware they're black. As I said, back in the old days anyone other than the principals would have had to have a heart of stone not to laugh their socks off at the sorry spectacle of a rich guy laid low by a vengeful mistress.
But, of course, we're all more enlightened these days, so the story is about the endemic racism of American society. What isn't about racism in America? If a federal-government cattle dispute in Nevada can be about racism, there's no reason a billionaire's gal-pal's Instagram armpieces shouldn't be. You might recall Paul Begala, who back in the Nineties showed a single-minded devotion to his sugar daddy Bill Clinton that Donald Sterling can only dream of. He's still around apparently, and immediately tied this Sterling fellow to prominent Republicans:
Friendly tip to @seanhannity, @SenRandPaul, @SenTedCruz: don't endorse or defend Donald Sterling. DO NOT do it.
Because, as everyone knows, endorsing and defending racists is what Republicans do. Unfortunately for Mr Begala, Donald Sterling is a bigtime Democrat. Just when you thought the story couldn't get any funnier!
And, even without that awkward reality, it's hard to see quite what the Begala angle is here. Is he saying progressives like him are cool about their mistresses going around with white and black guys? What about orientation? If Begala cheats on his beloved, does he only do it with women or does she insist he take another guy to the Obama Christmas party? Is he in favor of an affirmative-action program to ensure that rich adulterers' cheating mistresses' lovers of color are not subject to disparate impact?
At any rate, the Reverend Al Shakedown has now demanded that Mr Sterling be removed from ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers and the team be handed to someone who practices non-discrimination when it comes to his squeeze's consorts. And a member of the Village People has now denied the Clippers the right to use the group's songs, presumably because Mr Sterling doesn't mind Ms Stiviano showing up to games with a cowboy or construction worker but draws the line at a black motorcycle cop or Indian chief. That's how bad things are in today's America.
So, when the President was asked to weigh in on the subject in Malaysia, there being no other pressing matters of state to attend to, he rightly recognized that we still have so much more to do:
Obama cast the comments through a broader prism of racism in America, adding that "we constantly have to be on guard on racial attitudes that divide us rather than embracing our diversity as a strength."
"The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that's still there, the vestiges of discrimination," Obama said during a news conference in Malaysia, where he was traveling.
"We've made enormous strides, but you're going to continue to see this percolate up every so often," he added. "And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out some much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves."
We've made enormous strides - rich white octogenarian racist Democrats are now happy to embrace diverse mistresses and encourage them to bring black men home and go to bed with them. But there's still so much to be done as we wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation while simultaneously wrestling with our mistresses. I have a dream that one day my children will live in an America where people are judged not by the color of their skin but by the color of the skin of their two-timing girlfriend's boyfriends in the executive box.
~Yesterday, I mentioned some critical free-speech developments in Britain, Australia and the United States. We'll have more on that tonight.