John McCaslin

We haven't seen this much strain between the United States and Mexico since Davy Crockett and a band of 189 volunteers bravely defended the Alamo against a Mexican army numbering in the thousands.

On the heels of Mexican President Vicente Fox insulting U.S. civil rights groups by opining that Mexican immigrants in the United States - legal or otherwise - are filling jobs "not even blacks" want to fill, along comes Memin Pinguin.

And once again, the Mexicans don't know what all the fuss is about.

Ever since the 1940s, Memin Pinguin, with his thick lips and flat nose, has been a favorite comic-book character south of the border. So popular, that the Mexican government recently issued a set of postage stamps honoring the cartoon figure.

"Memin Pinguin is a character with a long tradition in our culture," boasted Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez.

Enter Jesse Jackson, who - fresh from his defense of pop star Michael Jackson - is demanding the Mexican stamps be pulled from circulation. They have "no place in today's world," he said.

NAACP interim President Dennis Courtland Hayes agreed. So much so that he is calling for a summit between Fox and black Americans.

"It is inexplicable that the Mexican government would not comprehend the insensitivity of the negative depiction of blacks on this stamp," the NAACP leader said.

Even the White House is weighing in.

"It is an internal issue for Mexico," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "With that said ... racial stereotypes are offensive, no matter what their origin. The Mexican government needs to take this into account."

Don't count on it.

"He is loved by all Mexicans," Derbez said of Memin Pinguin, "and it shows a complete lack of understanding of our culture that people are translating this to their culture with no respect for ours."


These days, you never know a crown prince when you see one.

A White House pool reporter who accompanied President Bush to Denmark's Fredensborg Palace, a French baroque structure built by King Frederick IV in the 1720s, saw fit to observe:

"Among the onlookers outside the palace was a young man wearing black jeans cut off at mid-calf, a striped green polo shirt and suede moccasins. He snapped photos as the president's motorcade left the estate. Our bus driver, a Dane, identified him as Crown Prince Frederik."


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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