The iPINIONS Journal


  • Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 11:19 AM

    Hey, UK, No (More) Cherry Picking for You! Hey, Bernie and Jeremy, Get Lost Already!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    From day one, the UK has schemed to gain all of the benefits but sustain none of the burdens of EU membership. Specifically, it has used “opt-outs” to remain a veritable island unto itself (e.g., exploiting the single market while denying the free movement of people, which member states are otherwise obligated to allow).

    1034974138I’ve been decrying the UK’s have-cake-and-eat-it-too agenda for years — as such commentaries as “A Dead EU Constitution as a ‘New Treaty’ Is Still a Dead EU Constitution,” November 13, 2007, attest. This is why the only silver lining I see in this Brexit fiasco is that European leaders are finally calling out the UK:

    Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has dismissed Boris Johnson’s proposal that Britain might enjoy access to the European single market and restrict immigration at the same time, telling German MPs the UK would enjoy no special favours.

    ‘We will make sure that negotiations will not be carried out as a cherry-picking exercise. There must be and there will be a palpable difference between those countries who want to be members of the European family and those who don’t,’ she said.

    (London Guardian, June 28, 2016)

    All too belated, but still I say: hear, hear!

    Concede, Bernie! Resign, Jeremy!

    Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are fast disabusing me of what little regard I had left for politicians. Here, in part, is the admittedly qualified praise I heaped upon them last year in “Hail, Jeremy Corbyn! The Bernie Sanders of British Politics,” August 17, 2015:

    I am convinced that Corbyn’s popularity is rising there for the same reason Bernie’s is here: Both upstarts are championing policies that provide the starkest contrast in the politics of their respective countries in a generation. This is especially the case on issues like immigration, income inequality, racial injustice, and the corrupting influence of money in politics…

    But I am sensible enough to appreciate that, while Corbyn stands a far greater chance of winning his party’s leadership than Bernie does of winning his party’s nomination, neither one stands a snowball’s chance in Hell of being elected leader of his country, respectively.

    Bernie SandersSure enough, Bernie is now a lame duck candidate. Hillary has been duly declared the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Yet he refuses to concede:

    Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders promised in a video address on Thursday night to continue his political revolution, declining to concede the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton despite losing a majority of votes to his rival.

    Still, he vowed in his video address to do whatever he could do to help Clinton defeat Donald Trump in a general election, promising to work with her to ‘transform the Democratic Party.’

    (TIME, June 14, 2016)

    Jeremy-Corbyn__3406649bAnd Corbyn is now the most feckless and compromised party leader in the history of British politics. His own Labour ministers blame him for doing so little to help Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron carry the day for the UK to remain in the EU. Yet he refuses to resign:

    A motion of no confidence in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been passed by the party’s MPs.

    The 172-40 vote, which is not binding, follows [nearly 40] resignations from the shadow cabinet and calls on Mr Corbyn to quit.

    Mr Corbyn said the ballot had ‘no constitutional legitimacy’ and said he would not ‘betray’ the members who voted for him by resigning.

    (BBC, June 28, 2016)

    Evidently, Bernie and Jeremy are convinced that the grassroots movements they led were more about advancing their respective political careers than championing any political cause. Only this explains why they seem to have no qualms about discrediting these movements in a vain attempt to hold onto (establishment) power – with all of the professional perks and media attention that entails.

    Frankly, Bernie should have emulated the way Hillary conceded to Barack in 2008 by conceding to her weeks ago. And Jeremy should emulate every other compromised party leader, including Margaret Thatcher, Ed Miliband, and David Cameron, by resigning today.

    camcorb1_3472076bInterestingly enough, here is how Cameron, rising with the moral standing he earned by standing down on Friday, spewed unbridled contempt at Corbyn during Prime Minister’s Question Time earlier today:

    It might be in my party’s interest for him to sit there, it’s not in the national interest and I would say, for heaven’s sake man, go.

    (Huffington Post, June 29, 2016)

    Except that the only rise he got out of Corbyn was a more acute expression of abiding cluelessness and smug self-righteousness.

    Alas, each man’s refusal to do the decent thing shall redound to his eternal shame.

    Related commentaries:
    A dead EU constitution
    Brexit: Britain exits
    Hail, Jeremy

  • Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 5:51 AM

    China’s Paper-Tiger Warnings to US about Dalai Lama and South China Sea

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    China on Wednesday warned U.S. President Barack Obama against meeting with the Dalai Lama at the White House, saying that hosting the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader could damage mutual trust.

    Obama has met the Dalai Lama several times before and calls the monk, who is revered by Tibetans but portrayed by Beijing as a dangerous separatist, ‘a good friend.’

    The tete a tete, planned for Wednesday will – as usual – take place behind closed doors in an effort to avoid angering China, which accuses the Nobel peace laureate of using ‘spiritual terrorism’ to seek independence for Tibet.

    (Agence France-Presse, June 15, 2016)

    dalai-lama-obama-meet-mainIt is self-evident that no U.S. president can allow China to dictate who gets invited to the White House. Yet this has not stopped China from repeatedly warning U.S. presidents against meeting with the Dalai Lama.

    Here is how I framed its antic but foreboding futility in this respect in “World Beware, China Calling In (Loan-Sharking) Debts,” February 3, 2010.

    __________________

    The Chinese can be forgiven for thinking that even President Obama would heed their extraterritorial warning against meeting with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. They were undoubtedly emboldened last year when Obama appeared to do just that; specifically, when he snubbed the Dalai Lama on the eve of his (Obama’s) first state visit to China.

    But the day of reckoning for this warning (for Obama and the Chinese) is drawing nigh. The White House announced yesterday that Obama intends to welcome the Dalai Lama later this month. On cue, the Chinese reacted variously like an angry parent disciplining a willful child and a loan shark dealing with a delinquent debtor…

    I applaud Obama for calling China’s bluff. Not least because any real attempt to squeeze the United States financially would amount to an unprecedented case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. After all, the U.S. market is even more indispensable to China’s economic growth than China’s credit is to the U.S.’s…

    This episode should serve as a warning to all countries around the world that are not just lapping up China’s largesse, but heralding it as a more worthy superpower than the United States. After all, China is spitting imperious and vindictive fire at the rich and mighty United States over a relatively insignificant matter like meeting with the Dalai Lama. So just imagine what it would do to a poor and weak country in a conflict over a truly significant matter.

    __________________

    96834597-exiled-tibetan-spiritual-leader-the-dalai-lama-walks-out.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeSure enough, Obama met with the Dalai Lama back in 2010 and three times since then, including two weeks ago today as planned.

    Except that he undermined America’s superpower prerogative each time by meeting with him “behind closed doors” – even making him use the back door. Rather smacks of the cowardly King Nicodemus meeting with Jesus only “at night,” no?

    Yet Obama stands apart from far too many world leaders who have heeded China’s warning against meeting with this exiled Buddhist monk.

    Western leaders are heeding China’s warning against meeting with the Dalai Lama in any official capacity, making a mockery of their condemnation of the brutal crackdown on Tibetan monks.  In fact, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeased the Chinese by refusing to meet with him at No. 10, choosing instead to meet only at the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This enabled Brown to claim that he was meeting the Dalai Lama ‘in a spiritual rather than political capacity.’

    (“Punishing China for Its Brutal Crackdown on Tibet? Hardly…,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2008)

    I have condemned this venal kowtowing in many commentaries. But in “South Africa Joins Ranks of Countries ‘Selling Sovereignty to China,” October 3, 2014, I offered this resignation:

    It came as no surprise when China began demanding that countries utterly shun the Dalai Lama pursuant to its national interest… [It] has just prevailed upon South Africa to do just that…

    Alas … the United States heads a list of precious few countries with the military and financial power to reject China’s inducements to sell their sovereignty … without fear of reprisals.

    image (5)But nothing indicates how petty and punitive China can be in this respect quite like this:

    Lady Gaga has reportedly been added to a list of hostile foreign forces banned by China’s Communist party after she met with the Dalai Lama to discuss yoga.

    The American pop singer, who has sold more than 27m albums, met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader on Sunday before a conference in Indianapolis.

    The meeting sparked an angry reaction from Beijing, which has attacked the spiritual leader as a ‘wolf in monk’s robes.’

    (London Guardian, June 27, 2016)

    This vindicates my warning that, despite its rise as a superpower, China’s congenital insecurity could still cause it to strike out in imperious and vindictive ways against enemies, real and imagined, formidable and nominal – no matter how petty the provocation. Never mind that Lady Gaga seemed too busy trying to seduce the celebrated monk (with her see-through, tit-baring top) to worry about any consequence meeting with him portended.

    All the same, China’s (over)reaction to her puts into context its warning to other countries against challenging its territorial claims to waters and islands in the South China Sea. Unlike efforts to make the Dalai Lama persona non grata, however, its efforts to have dominion over this sea is “a truly significant matter.”

    Slider-South-China-Sea1

    By way of background, here is how the Philippines framed this territorial dispute a few years ago, when it sought declaratory judgment and injunctive relief from the UN-backed court of arbitration in The Hague, pursuant to the U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS):

    The South China Sea must comport with UNCLOS, which would invalidate China’s nine-dash line; classifies maritime features occupied by China as rocks, low tide elevations, or submerged banks, but not islands; and declares the Philippines’ right to operate inside of its EEZ and continental shelf as outlined by UNCLOS without Chinese harassment.

    (CSIS, January 22, 2013)

    Of course, the Philippines is just one of six regional countries seeking similar judgment and relief. The others are Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei. Each is trying to prevent China from unilaterally staking claims over territorial waters that are rich in fisheries, natural gas, and/or oil.

    Meanwhile, China is trying to prevent all countries, including the United States, from navigating commercial shipping lanes in the South China Sea without acknowledging and giving effect to its territorial claims.

    Reports are that the court will hand down its ruling in Philippines v. China any day now. But chances are that China will not abide any U.N. ruling against it with respect to the South China Sea, just as the United States has not abided WTO rulings against it with respect to offshore gambling. (I have decried the latter in such commentaries as “Antigua v. United States re: Online Gambling … Continues,” January 30, 2013.)

    In any event, here is how I sought to allay fears about this seemingly ominous territorial dispute in “China and Japan in Falklands-Like Dispute,” August 23, 2012.

    __________________

    War between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands would make the war between Argentina and Britain over the Falkland Islands seem like a barroom brawl between mindless drunks. Not least because the United States would be compelled to honor its treaty obligations to defend Japan…

    [But] notwithstanding the mob-like passions of their respective nationalists, I’m sure Chinese and Japanese leaders alike are mindful of the folly of fighting a war over desolate islands that could only end in a pyrrhic victory at best.

    __________________

    Not to mention that China will be no more successful today in building islands to protect its territorial claims at sea than it was thousands of years ago in building walls (later the Great Wall) to protect its territorial claims on land. Those walls did not prevent northern nomadic tribes from invading; these islands will not prevent the United States and other countries from navigating.

    Granted, less powerful countries like Brunei and Vietnam might face Chinese harassment if they attempt to fish or drill in these disputed waters. But Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines have collective defense agreements with the United States, which make them much less vulnerable.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 6.39.23 PMBut I commend Obama for ignoring China’s warnings – complete with imperial force to counter China’s imperial claims. For, instead of engaging in a battle of words, he deployed an armada of battleships to navigate through what China claims are its territorial waters, daring Chinese leaders to do something about it.

    A Chinese observation ship shadowed the U.S. aircraft carrier John C. Stennis in the Western Pacific on Wednesday, as it joined warships from Japan and India for drills close to waters Beijing considers its backyard, the carrier’s commander said.

    The show of U.S. naval power comes as Japan and the United States worry China is extending its influence into the Western Pacific with submarines and surface vessels as it pushes territorial claims in the neighboring South China Sea, expanding and building on islands.

    China has been angered by what it views as provocative U.S. military patrols close to the islands; the United States says the patrols are to protect freedom of navigation.

    (Reuters, May 15, 2016)

    This vindicates my attempt to allay the fears I referenced in my August 2012 commentary quoted above. After all, China’s “observation ship” poses no greater deterrence to U.S. warships than a clan of hyenas poses to a herd of elephants.

    Then, of course, there’s the hypocrisy inherent in China complaining about the United States violating its territorial waters, while its neighbors are complaining about it violating theirs:

    A Chinese navy reconnaissance vessel entered Japanese territorial waters near Kuchinoerabu Island off Kagoshima Prefecture early Wednesday morning — the first time since 2004 that a Chinese military ship has done so.

    Wednesday’s incursion comes just under a week after a Chinese naval frigate entered the contiguous zone just outside Japan’s territorial waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea…

    The ministry said it warned the Chinese ship to exit the territorial waters — generally defined under international law as within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of a nation’s land border — prompting it to leave the waters south of Yakushima Island.

    (Japan Times, June 15, 2016)

    Therefore, here’s to the United States calling China’s bluff at every turn. Especially given that, despite its bellicose protests, China has shown no greater willingness to risk political, economic, or military confrontation with the United States to defend (extra)territorial waters than to ostracize an itinerant monk.

    Namaste.

    Related commentaries:
    World beware
    Countries selling sovereignty
    China and Japan
    US and Antigua

  • Monday, June 27, 2016 at 5:28 AM

    Revealed: Michael Jackson’s pedophile file…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have written many commentaries lamenting the way Michael Jackson’s antic behavior and pedophile perversions upstaged his songwriting and showmanship.

    As it happens, my very first commentary was “Michael Jackson’s Jury of His Peers,” February 23, 2005. It includes this cynical but prescient take on his O.J.-style trial on child molestation charges:

    A jury has finally been empanelled to hear evidence of child molestation against Michael Jackson. There are no blacks. Therefore, this case will be heard by a white judge, tried by white prosecutors, defended by white lawyers … and covered by white media.

    Perhaps Michael knew long ago that this day would come, and therefore bleached his skin and straightened his hair to avoid conviction on account of his race.

    Sure enough, that all-white jury acquitted him of all charges. Given my allusion to his racial metamorphosis, however, it might be as vindicating as it is ironic that my last commentary was “White Actor Playing Michael Jackson Exploits His Self-Hate,” January 29, 2016.

    imagesIn any event, between the first and last commentaries, I wrote many others denouncing Michael as the worst kind of psycho, namely, one who preys on little boys. Here are quotes from just two of them:

    In a rather pathetic attempt to delay or escape his trial for sexually molesting a little boy, Michael Jackson failed to show up as required in court yesterday. The judge immediately issued a warrant for his arrest – telling Michael’s lawyer that he’s fed up with Michael’s prima donna antics…

    It is clear beyond all reasonable doubt that Michael is a pathological corrupter and abuser of little boys. What’s more, he fascinates today as a walking freak show far more than he ever did as the ‘King of Pop.’

    (“Michael Jackson Cops a Sick Plea,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 11, 2005)

    Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 8.51.30 PMYet:

    Yesterday Michael Jackson’s estate released Xscape. It’s the latest in what seems destined to be an endless (financial) stream of posthumous albums. But his die-hard fans could be forgiven suspicions that the latest filing of sexual molestation charges against him on Friday was timed to undermine sales. 

    On the other hand, they should beware that anyone insisting Michael was not a pedophile is as willfully ignorant as V. Stiviano insisting Donald Sterling is not a racist.

    The facts this latest victim alleges are now all too familiar – complete with Michael grooming him not just with his parents’ giddy approval, but even in the full glare of public view. Five victims are now parties to the class-action lawsuit Wade Robson filed a year ago this month. But I have no doubt that many more will come out of the woodwork before this case is closed.

    (“Xscape! More Pedophile Charges Prove Michael Was Not ‘Gone Too Soon.’” The iPINIONS Journal, May 13, 2014)

    As you can well imagine, I incurred the wrath of wacko-Jacko fans. But I based everything I wrote on the idiomatic truth that if he looks like a pedophile and acts like a pedophile, then he’s a pedophile.

    Which is why I pitied the fools who insisted Michael is not a child molester, as the damned soul mates of those who insisted O.J. is not a double murderer. Not to mention posthumous reports, citing FBI files, that Michael paid nearly $200 million in hush money to nearly 20 victims. (But I would not be surprised if he molested more boys than the number of women (55+) Bill Cosby allegedly raped….)

    Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 10.39.05 AMNow comes this revelation about what made prosecutors every bit as obligated to file child molestation charges against M.J. in 2005, as they were to file double murder charges against O.J. in 1994 – avenging, star-struck jurors in each case notwithstanding:

    Police discovered Michael Jackson had a large collection of pornography, which allegedly included images of children, animal torture and gore, reportedly used in his bid to seduce young boys…

    The police report describes several of the materials found at Jackson’s estate and notes that many of the books and images ‘can be used as part of a ‘grooming’ process by which people (those seeking to molest children) are able to lower the inhibitions of their intended victims and facilitate the molestation of said victims.’

    (Huffington Post, June 21, 2016)

    Not to mention this:

    Investigators were convinced Michael Jackson preyed on his own nephews, several sources involved in the criminal probe told The Post…

    ‘We received a credible tip about the nephews and, as with many things that happened during the investigation, Jackson’s people got wind of it and Jackson spirited the one boy off to an island,’ said a former county detective. ‘Well, when that boy returned, Jackson had also purchased him a brand new car which we understood, along with the trip, was to shut the nephew up.’

    (New York Post, June 25, 2016)

    All of which compels this poignant observation:

    Why did it take 13 years of proof of Jacko’s depravity to be revealed? The Mail knows these pictures, found in a police raid at his Neverland home are disturbing. But, just released, they shatter all his protestations of innocence.

    (Daily Mail, June 22, 2016)

    article-0-1A8B5DD7000005DC-211_634x476Meanwhile, Michael compounded his sexual abuse of little boys by emotionally abusing his own children. It was bad enough in this latter respect that he raised them to believe he is their biological father.

    Nothing is more pathetic than watching his siblings on TV going on about how these kids look just like Michael — seemingly unaware that surgically or cosmetically altered features (like his pointed nose, bleached-white skin, and wigged-out long, straight hair) cannot be inherited.

    (“52nd Annual Grammy Awards,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 1, 2010)

    But that emotional abuse has now burdened them with the untenable legacy of trying in vain to defend their racial identity and his pedophile perversions to trolls on social media. Ironically enough, in doing so, they invariably end up looking every bit as wacko as their … Daddy..

    If there’s a God, Michael can’t be resting in peace. All the same, with this commentary, I’ve decided to let him be.

    Related commentaries:
    Jury of peers
    Sick plea
    Xscape
    White actor playing MJ
    Bill Cosby
    Grammys

  • Saturday, June 25, 2016 at 7:13 AM

    Meet Boris Johnson, Britain’s head Brexiter and presumptive prime minister

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 4.09.47 PM

    More Benny Hill than Winston Churchill, no?

    Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 7.16.29 AM

    Whatever the case, he makes buffoonish Donald Trump look … er … classy?

    trump

  • Friday, June 24, 2016 at 9:50 AM

    Brexit: Britain Exits, the Die Is Cast

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I couldn’t care any less whether Britain leaves or remains in the EU. But I think the Remainers will carry the day…

    The irony seems lost on both sides in this Brexit debate that Britain poses a far greater threat to the EU if it remains…

    The EU has 99 problems but Brexit shouldn’t be one. In fact, no matter the outcome of Thursday’s referendum, the Remainers should take it as a wake-up call to reform the EU Constitution to manage a common market (the feasible original intent), not to govern a United States of Europe (the quixotic adapted intent).

    (“Brexit: Forget Leaving, Britain a Greater EU Contagion if It Remains,” June 22, 2016)

    BRITAIN-EU-VOTE-BREXITWell, the people have spoken.

    Britain has voted to leave the European Union, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing the biggest blow since World War Two to the European project of forging greater unity.

    Global financial markets plunged on Friday as results from a referendum defied bookmakers’ odds to show a 52-48 percent victory for the campaign to leave a bloc Britain joined more than 40 years ago.

    The pound fell as much as 10 percent against the dollar to touch levels last seen in 1985, on fears the decision could hit investment in the world’s fifth-largest economy, threaten London’s role as a global financial capital and usher in months of political uncertainty.

    (Reuters, June 24, 2016)

    As comedian Bill Maher might quip, this outcome represents a triumph of British pride and prejudice over sense and sensibility. Except that this pales in comparison to the more ominous triumph of rabble-rousers exploiting rabid ignorance over political leaders respecting basic intelligence. Only this explains the phenomenon of Donald Trump, for example.

    But things are bound to get a lot worse.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 12.59.48 PMNothing telegraphs this quite like Brexit’s mascot, Ukip leader Nigel Farage, making this foreboding admission … while taking a victory lap on morning TV:

    Nigel Farage has admitted that it was a ‘mistake’ to promise that £350million a week would be spent on the NHS if the UK backed a Brexit vote.

    Speaking just an hour after the Leave vote was confirmed the Ukip leader said the money could not be guaranteed…

    The pledge was central to the official Vote Leave campaign and was controversially emblazoned on the side of the bus which shuttled Boris Johnson and Michael Gove around the country.

    (London Telegraph, June 24, 2016)

    This folks, would be like Trump admitting, just an hour after winning the presidential election in November, that it was a mistake for him to promise that he would build a wall (and get Mexico to pay for it) and ban all Muslims.

    Hence, I suspect many Britons (both saddened Remain and sobered-up Leave voters) are feeling the anxious sentiment Paddy Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, tweeted upon learning the results:

    God help our country.

    American voters beware, especially you big-talking, no-voting, feel-the-Bern Millennials.

    Related commentaries:
    Brexit: forget leaving

  • Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 5:33 AM

    Brexit: Forget Leaving, Britain a Greater EU Contagion if It Remains

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    pigsJust years ago, Grexit had the European Union reeling with existential angst.

    Notably, the fear was not that Greece would leave, but that its chronic indebtedness posed too great a communal burden to allow it to remain. Further that bailing out Greece would create a domino effect – with other poor, debt-ridden member states (aka PIGS) queuing up for similar bailouts.

    I commented on the hysteria back then in such commentaries as “If Rescuing Greece is Necessary to Save Europe, Europe’s in Big Trouble,” October 15, 2011, and “Greece: a Tumor Growing in Europe,” May 15, 2012.

    The following is an excerpt from the latter, which should be instructive in light of Brexit.

    _________________

    I find it stupefying that Greece is causing so much existential angst in Europe. Mind you, I used to accept the prevailing view that, like JPMorgan Chase, Greece is just too big to fail; moreover, that if it failed others would surely follow.

    I am now convinced, however, that this transformative logic simply does not hold. Not least because the more appropriate analogy is not the risk of a big bank failing, but the fear of a little tumor growing. And in this context, cutting Greece out of the Eurozone is the best way to forestall the self-fulfilling prophecy of its failure triggering a contagion/domino effect; you know, the way one might excise a metastasizing (malignant) tumor out of the body.

    _________________

    Of course, Brexit refers to the debate on whether the UK should leave or remain in the EU.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 7.15.21 PMAs it happens, Britons have been engaging in this debate for decades. But they will finally decide the issue in a referendum tomorrow, June 23.

    The leadership of the Remain Campaign is composed of the head of every EU member state.

    These “Remainers” fear that Brexit portends the same kind of moral hazards and portends the same kind of domino effect Grexit portended. In fact, a report in the May 10 edition of the Telegraph validated this fear:

    Nearly half of citizens in eight European Union countries want a referendum on the union like the one due to be held in the UK next month, according to a new poll.

    In the Ipsos Mori survey, more than 50 per cent of French and Italian citizens wanting a vote on the union and half of those asked believed that if Britain left the EU, there would be a domino effect with other countries following its exit.

    The leadership of the Leave Campaign is composed of a motley bunch of famous Eurosceptics, xenophobes, and nationalists/neo-fascists. (That so many are following their led shows how condemned we are to repeat the worst mistakes of history.)

    These “Leavers” declare that Britain can survive well enough as an island unto itself. Except that a report in the February 20 edition of the Independent debunked this declaration:

    If Britain votes to leave the European Union against the wishes of Scotland then a second independence referendum is likely inevitable, says Nicola Sturgeon [leader of the Scottish National Party and of Scotland’s devolved government]…

    Ms Sturgeon said she supports staying in the EU, and that polls show the majority of Scots also back this view.

    This would mean that Britain couldn’t be an island unto itself even if it wanted to: from the halcyon days, when the sun never set on its empire, to this?

    BN-MR809_BREXIT_8S_20160219172453In any event, I am equally stupefied that “this sceptered isle … this England” is causing so much existential angst in Europe. Granted, if one were to rank “indispensable” member states, Britain would rank near the top, Greece at the bottom.

    But the EU could survive, and even thrive, without Britain. This, notwithstanding fears that leaving could ignite a tinderbox of nationalism on the continent not seen since the days of Germany’s Third Reich – with all of its potential for armed conflict.

    Which is why the analogy in this case might be that of an NBA team – like the recently crowned champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Specifically, if Kevin Love (UK) decides he wants to leave (Kevxit?), I doubt that would cause much angst among team members like LeBron James (Germany), Kyrie Irving (France), J.R. Smith (Italy) … you get the point. Cleveland would do just as well, if not better, without Love.

    Incidentally, I couldn’t care any less whether Britain leaves or remains in the EU. But I think the Remainers will carry the day. What’s more, I see no point in commenting on the polarizing issues that have animated this referendum debate.

    356F8E4500000578-0-image-a-34_1466328712120But I would be remiss not to note that chief among them are:

    • Migration – particularly the free movement of people and the xenophobic fears ongoing Arab and African migration to Europe has incited (melting pot causing loss of national [white] identity … terrorism?).
    • Jobs and wages – particularly the impact an influx (from aforementioned migration) of unskilled workers will have on available jobs and livable wages (cheap labor for the rich, hardship for the poor?).
    • Public Services – particularly the impact “benefits tourism” will have on the National Health Service (ignoring the contribution migrants have made to London’s rise as a world financial center and the UK’s rise as the fifth largest economy in the world?)
    • Sovereignty – particularly the loss of national self-determination from too much EU regulation (ignoring sovereign opt-outs Britain has already negotiated for itself, among other things, to retain its own currency and maintain border controls against the 26 EU countries that have abolished them throughout the Schengen Area?)

    It is also noteworthy that:

    The purported benefits from Brexit are uncertain and may prove illusory, while the risks are much greater if voters choose to leave. Similar sentiments led Britons to vote to stay in the European project in 1975, and Scots to remain in the union in 2014. And yet the outcome in June seems more uncertain.

    (The Economist, February 27, 2016)

    Remarkably, incomprehensibly, nothing is more uncertain than what relationship Britain will have with the EU if it leaves. More concerning, perhaps, is that the same might be said for its relationship with the United States.

    606x340_335286In fact, apropos of angst, President Obama caused quite a lot of it for the Leavers during a recent trip to London.

    Barack Obama has warned that the UK would be at the ‘back of the queue’ in any trade deal with the US if the country chose to leave the EU, as he made an emotional plea to Britons to vote for staying in.)

    (London Guardian, April 22, 2016)

    So much for that often-touted “special relationship,” eh….

    Meanwhile, the irony seems lost on both sides in this Brexit debate that Britain poses a far greater threat to the EU if it remains.

    After all, Britain planted the seeds of disintegration years ago, when it began negotiating all kinds of opt-outs from EU legislation and treaties. I mentioned the Eurozone and Schengen Area above, but other opt-outs include everything from fiscal and monetary policies to employment law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. And it does not bode well that three other countries have negotiated similar opt-outs.

    This is what compelled me to write “A Dead EU Constitution Resurrected as a ‘New Treaty,’” November 27, 2007. In it, I warned that Britain’s imperial and mercantile intent to carve out a “special status” constitutes a cancer that would eventually metastasize throughout the EU.

    ___________________

    Nothing justifies my ‘eurocynicism’ quite like the Sisyphean attempts by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to reconcile the contradictions inherent in this treaty. Because, according to the BBC, he boasted in recent parliamentary debates – without any hint of irony – that he had secured ‘special treatment for the UK in a range of areas’ at the European summit and that Britain would keep opt-outs on foreign policy, labor rights, tax and social security.

    But if Britain has already established the untenable precedent that it can ‘opt-out’ of all of the key provisions of the treaty, then what is the legal and substantive effect of this ersatz constitution?!

    ___________________

    Yet Brown’s successor, David Cameron, has predicated his Remain Campaign on securing even more opt-out concessions from the EU.

    Continuing my NBA analogy from above, this is rather like Kevin Love (UK) saying he will remain with the Cavaliers (EU) only if he’s guaranteed more play, pay, and perks than every other player on the team, including LeBron (Germany).

    unnamedClearly, the only sensible EU response should be:

    Don’t let the door hit you on the ass as you … Brexit!

    Frankly, the way Cameron brags about his country’s “special status,” you’d think the EU needs the UK more than the UK needs the EU. Whereas, arguably, it’s the EU that should be holding a referendum on whether to allow the UK to remain…. Instead the EU is allowing the UK to do in blithe spirits what it chastised Greece for trying to do in desperate straits, namely, trying to have its cake and eat it too.

    But I reiterate: if Britain remains, the feared domino effect would not be one country after another leaving, but one country after another negotiating opt-out provisions. This would make a mockery of the EU’s categorical imperatives of integration and harmonization, rendering the EU more of a confederacy than a union.

    Also, lest the Remainers forget, the Grexit debt that had the EU in its death throes a few years ago remains a contagion:

    [T]he so-called ‘PIGS’ (namely, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) have been arguing that the sovereign debt crisis that is threatening to plunge their respective countries into bankruptcy is a burden all of Europe should bear. And everybody knows that a default by any of these PIGS will cause the disunion of the European Union.

    (“A Europe Divided by Debt Cannot Stand,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 25, 2010)

    The point is that, just as the EU cannot stand with every chronically poor member state depending on Greece-style bailouts, it cannot stand with every politically influential member state demanding Britain-style opt outs.

    The EU has 99 problems but Brexit shouldn’t be one. In fact, no matter the outcome of Thursday’s referendum, the Remainers should take it as a wake-up call to reform the EU Constitution to manage a common market (the feasible original intent), not to govern a United States of Europe (the quixotic adapted intent).

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, June 20, 2016 at 6:41 AM

    NBA Finals: LeBron Delivers on His Promise to Cleveland, Finally

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Whether LeBron James would finally deliver on his promise to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a championship was the overriding story of these NBA finals — with all due respect to their opponents, the defending champion Golden State Warriors and their reigning league MVP, Stephen Curry.

    nba_a_lebron_poster_b1_576

    As it happens, the composition of this Cleveland team, as well as the likelihood of losing key members to free agency this offseason, made this season LeBron’s last, and perhaps best, opportunity to fulfill that promise.

    For the record, in “LeBron Abandons Cleveland for Miami,” July 13, 2010, I delineated why his legacy depends so much on winning a title in Cleveland, no matter how many he wins elsewhere. Here is an excerpt.

    __________________

    It’s important to bear in mind that LeBron’s all-consuming ambition to win a championship is the same ambition that motivated (and still motivates) all great NBA players: winning really is everything to them.

    7446474And he will surely win in Miami – given that the triumvirate of LeBron, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade has the same potential to dominate during the playoffs as other championship triumvirates like Dr. J, Moses Malone, and Maurice Cheeks of the 76ers and Michael, Bill Cartwright, and Scottie Pippen of the Bulls.

    The only question for LeBron is: what price victory?

    After all, finally winning on a team with which they suffered so many years of playoff frustration is what made winning a championship so sweet for Dr. J and Michael.  Not to mention the unbridled pride and joy they brought to longsuffering fans in cities that, in the case of Philadelphia, had not won an NBA championship in almost two decades, and in the case of Chicago, had never won at all.

    By contrast, I fear that winning for LeBron will be bitter sweet. Not least because, instead of being hailed as a basketball savior in Miami, where the Heat won a championship just years ago (in 2006), he’ll be regarded as nothing more than a hired gun who was brought in to help them win a few more.

    Even worse, no matter how many championships he wins in Miami, he’ll be forever haunted by the fact that he abandoned not just his team but his childhood home to do so…

    My sense is that LeBron’s plumed ego will make it difficult for him to cope with being treated like a courtier instead of hailed like a king.

    __________________

    Of course, I gave grudging props when he won championships as a hired gun for Miami – as “LeBron James Leads Miami Heat to NBA Championship,” June 22, 2012, attests. But I heartily heralded his decision to return to Cleveland in “LeBron James Taking His Talents Back to Cleveland,” July 12, 2014.

    home

    More to the point, when he led Cleveland to the NBA finals last year, I hailed it in “LeBron Wins Second Chance to Become a Real Champion,” May 28, 2015. I deemed it a second chance because he led Cleveland there in 2007 as well, but lost.

    Perhaps equally noteworthy is that LeBron is on an enviable streak of making it to 6 consecutive finals, becoming the first non-Boston Celtic player to do so. Never mind that his record in NBA finals is less than stellar, having lost 4 (with Cleveland in 2007 and 2015, and Miami in 2011 and 2014) and won 2 (with Miami in 2012 and 2013).

    This brings me to his seventh NBA finals, which played out in a thrilling Game 7 against the Warriors last night. As indicated above, this was LeBron’s third, but perhaps last, chance to become a real champion.

    The more than five decades without a major Cleveland sports championship — the Drive, Jose Mesa, the Fumble — was erased. The pain of watching local star LeBron James depart, without a trophy, for Miami in 2010, only to win two titles with the Heat in absentia, all of that, gone with one stunning win in what was one stunning NBA Finals series.

    In the process, Finals MVP James and the Cavaliers completed the greatest comeback in the history of the Finals, rallying from a 3-1 deficit and completing their championship journey with a 93-89 win over the record-setting Warriors here at Oracle Arena.

    (Sporting News, June 19, 2016)

    Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 6.52.50 AM

    LeBron was a champion before, of course. But when the buzzer sounded to end this game, he fell to his knees and cried what had to have been tears of relief, revenge … and redemption. He couldn’t stop crying. And the reason is that he had finally shown the world that he’s a real champion.

    Six years ago, Cleveland fans were damning LeBron as a traitor. Today, they’re hailing him as a king.

    Congratulations, LeBron! (Oh, and Cleveland too).

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  • Saturday, June 18, 2016 at 3:53 PM

    Track Officials Ban Russians from Rio Olympics for Doping

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    poistogovasavinovaolympics12Last November, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) published a report, which found that Russia perpetrated state-sponsored doping to enhance the performance of Track and Field athletes. It made two major recommendations:

    1. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the sport’s governing body, should suspend all Russian athletes from international competition.
    2. The Russian Athletic Federation (RusAF) should take a probationary period to implement reforms to better prevent or catch doping among its athletes.

    I commented back then under the telling title, “In Putin’s Russia Even Athletics Is a Criminal (Doping) Enterprise,” November 9, 2015. Here is an excerpt.

    ___________________

    Not since Adolph Hitler presided over the 1936 Berlin Olympics has a leader been so determined to see his country win the overall medal count. Only this fanatical nationalism explains Putin dispatching members of his special police to ensure that no Russian athlete tests positive — no matter how dedicated that athlete’s doping for Sochi.

    Nevertheless, I do not agree with WADA’s recommendation to ban all Russian athletes from international competition, including the 2016 Rio Olympics.

    _84623138_gatlin_gettyThere’s no evidence indicating that governments in other top-performing countries (e.g., Jamaica for Summer Games or the United States for Winter Games) have aided and abetted doping the way the Russian government did. But there’s more than sufficient prima facie evidence to suspect that athletes from those countries engage in doping just as much as athletes from Russia do…

    WADA should enlist the governing bodies of all major sports to ban Russia from hosting any sanctioned competition, so long as Putin remains in power. Because, no matter their representations, officials in Putin’s Russia will never implement the reforms WADA deems are necessary to eradicate this systemic doping. As it happens, soccer’s governing body, FIFA, is in a similar doghouse. And, ironically, nothing would show its determination to implement the reforms Western governments deem are necessary to eradicate systematic corruption quite like withdrawing Russia’s highly coveted hosting gig for the 2018 World Cup.

    But WADA should not stigmatize and penalize Russian athletes – who subjected themselves to independent testing and never tested positive – with collective punishment.

    ___________________

    Unsurprisingly, the IAAF complied with WADA’s recommendation and suspended all Russian athletes pending review; RusAF did not and failed to implement the reforms. Russian officials reportedly spent most of their probationary period trying to cover up their doping schemes.

    920x920Therefore, RusAF left the IAAF no choice but to ban Russian athletes, indefinitely. Here is how IAAF President Sebastian Coe announced the decision to do so after a special meeting in Vienna yesterday:

    So although good progress has been made, the IAAF Council was unanimous that Russia had not met the reinstatement conditions and that Russian athletes could not credibly return to international competition without undermining the confidence of their competitors and the public.

    As a result Russia has not been reinstated to membership of the IAAF…

    While Russia remains suspended, no other representatives of Russia (i.e., officials, athletes, support personnel) should take part in international competition or in the affairs of the IAAF.

    (BBC, June 17, 2016)

    This implies that no Russian Track and Field athlete will be allowed to participate in the Rio Olympics, which begin on August 5. But the IAAF did not completely ignore pleas to avoid collective punishment.

    Rusanova of Russia competes during the woman's 800 metres semi-final heat 1 at the IAAF World Championships in DaeguFor it left open a “back door” for innocent athletes to pursue “individual justice.” Notably, this applies to famous doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova (née Rusanova), as well as others who have trained and been tested regularly outside of Russia.

    But this poses the spectacle of these athletes competing in Rio under a “neutral” flag, while their compatriots in other sports compete under the Russian flag. The insult to this country’s vaunted pride would be unbearable, for all Russians. Not to mention that such an arrangement would mark these “neutral athletes” for life as traitors … with all that portends.

    If they are innocent, I say let them compete for their country, Russia!

    71f07908-e4c7-4e0b-b4a5-f4a2e0952b39Apropos of Russian pride, it is noteworthy that President Vladimir Putin made quite a show of weighing in yesterday – before the IAAF announced its decision. Not least because he clearly knew the federation had already assigned collective guilt and intended to mete out collective punishment:

    That is unjust and unfair…

    There are universally recognized principles of law and one of them is that the responsibility should be always personified – if some of the members of your family have committed a crime, would it be fair to hold all the members of the family liable including you? That is not how it’s done.

    (Sky Sports, June 17, 2016)

    Of course, as indicated above, the problem with his analogy is that he lords over a nation that functions eerily like a mob family. Therefore, it is entirely just and fair to hold all members liable for any crime any member commits in furtherance of the family’s organized crimes. In this case, those crimes relate to systematic doping (i.e. across all sports) for national glory.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 4.04.12 PMThis is not a case where “one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch.” Instead, the doping at issue is the fruit of a poisonous tree. Put another way, it’s not just that something is rotten in the state of Russia; the state of Russia itself is rotten.

    Again, unless an athlete can prove he/she has trained and been tested outside Russia for an extended period, there’s no avoiding the stigma of doping and penalty it incurs.

    But Putin is too full of himself to appreciate the irony, if not hypocrisy, inherent in his eleventh-hour admonition to the IAAF. After all, this is the man who invited collective punishment upon all Russians, in the form of U.S. and EU sanctions, when he annexed Crimea.

    Never mind that U.S. and EU companies have systematically undermined those sanctions by doing business in Russia. Putin made mocking, vindicating and self-satisfying reference to this fact yesterday — as he presided over the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, at which Western companies joined in an orgy of deal making totaling over $15 billion. (I presaged the porous efforts to impose sanctions against Russia in “Checkmated on Crimea, Obama Plays for Rest of Ukraine,” March 14, 2014.)

    What’s more, he might have the last laugh in this context. After all, nothing would fill Russians with more national pride than Putin reclaiming Soviet-era sphere of influence over Eastern Europe; nothing would facilitate this reclamation quite like the disintegration of the EU; and nothing would trigger the disintegration of the EU quite like the “Leave” campaign winning Thursday’s Brexit referendum. But I digress….

    For now, Putin says he will appeal to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which meets in Lausanne on Tuesday to discuss the IAAF’s unprecedented ban:

    I hope there’ll be an appropriate response from the International Olympic Committee.

    (Reuters, June 18, 2016)

    14661972700The problem, however, is that the IAAF enjoys exclusive authority to determine eligibility for international Track and Field competitions. Therefore, it would take an extraordinary usurpation of that authority for the IOC to overrule the IAAF.

    Yet people can be forgiven suspicions that Putin might make the IOC an offer it can’t refuse. Not least because Russia probably bribed more IOC officials to win hosting rights for the 2014 Sochi Olympics than the number of FIFA officials Qatar bribed to win the same for the 2022 World Cup. And the infamous boondoggle Sochi turned out to be only lends credence to those suspicions. (I wrote about this in “Putin Turns $51 Billion Sochi Olympic Park into Racetrack?! October 15, 2014.)

    Meanwhile, I suspect Track and Field athletes are being punished for the sins of Russian athletes in every other sport, putting an ironic twist on concerns about collective punishment. After all, it beggars belief to think that Russia used systemic doping to enhance the performance of these athletes, but left those in every other sport to rely on their natural abilities.

    In any event, to better appreciate the significance of this IAAF ban, or the success of the doping regime it’s targeting, recall that Russia was second only to the United States in the medal count for Track and Field at the 2012 London Olympics. It clearly has a lot to lose.

    Hence the spectre of saving national face, which the image-is-everything Putin is undoubtedly more interested in doing than saving any innocent athlete’s career. Except that he might have to order all Russian athletes to boycott the Rio Olympics to do so. Because bribing the IOC to overrule the IAAF would win him nothing but fool’s gold.

    Stay tuned….

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  • Saturday, June 18, 2016 at 8:02 AM

    Think choosing Hillary vs. Trump is lesser of two evils? Think again…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 7.56.34 AM

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  • Friday, June 17, 2016 at 5:41 AM

    ‘Hamilton’ and the Triumph of Hip-Hop

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Tony Awards on Sunday night were a bonanza for Hamilton, as Broadway’s wildly popular hit musical collected an impressive 11 prizes, including the coveted one for best musical. While the results reflected the widespread audience and critical acclaim for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop biography of Alexander Hamilton, they did not quite match the record 12 prizes bestowed on the musical The Producers in 2001.

    (Washington Post, June 12, 2016)

    I have not seen this musical, which I suspect is the case with most of you. Never mind that I’ve seen so many video clips that seeing it live at this point will seem anticlimactic.

    636013684811974124-HAMILTON-RD12426

    I also feel obliged to mention that I stopped watching entertainment award shows years ago. To understand why, I refer you to such commentaries as “And the Oscar Goes To…,” February 29, 2016, and “My Review of The Oscars,” February 25, 2008.

    That said, Hamilton is as big a cultural phenomenon as it is a Broadway hit. Whereas The Producers never resonated much beyond “The Great White Way” – its hilarious caricatures of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis notwithstanding.

    160317-lin-manuel-miranda-lew-treasury-yh-1021a_dee17e4ca5e2d06dee00c7a1b97dc337.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000For example, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew cited this hip-hop musical as the inspiration for reversing his decision to take Alexander Hamilton off the $10 bill. I commented on this in “Tubman, Truth, and MLK on Currency Is Fine. But What about Douglas? And Remember Geronimo?” April 25, 2016.

    Not to mention that, even without seeing it, kids are probably learning more about early U.S. history from Hamilton than textbooks. Arguably, Hamilton’s hip-hop songs are doing for kids who don’t know much about history what Jesus Christ Superstar’s rock-and-roll songs did for kids who didn’t know much about religion.

    The obvious reason for this is that it’s a lot easier for kids to learn lyrics in popular songs than dry facts in history books. And rap – with its rhythmic and rhyming style – is even more didactic in this respect.

    Incidentally, you can be forgiven for having no clue that CBS aired the Tony Awards on Sunday night. After all, the rest of mainstream media and all of cable and social media were too busy providing hyena-like coverage of the terrorist slaughter in Orlando; so much so that you’d think the fate of Western civilization depended on their coverage.

    2016-tony-awards-313-superJumbo-v2

    In any case, you know hip-hop has come a long way, baby, when it breaks all box-office records and Broadway celebrates it with 11 Tonys.

    For the second time since opening, Hamilton has dethroned The Lion King as the highest-grossing show on Broadway. It also anchored Broadway’s overall box office once again, delivering the biggest haul in history for the second week of a new year.

    (Forbes, January 20, 2016)

    Never before has a show enjoyed the trifecta of being popular, praiseworthy, and profitable in such spectacular fashion. And how American that it took a Hispanic actor/playwright adapting the work of a white historian, using a black music style, and leading a multiracial cast to accomplish this unprecedented feat.

    Yet Hamilton’s most interesting impact might be the way it is allowing so many middle-aged white men to seem hip to their kids. After all, its rap songs give it such street cred that seeing Hamilton on Broadway is every bit as cool as seeing Kanye at the Garden.

    Congratulations, Hamilton.

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  • Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 5:47 AM

    UN Exposes Wahhabi Saudis as Extortionists

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The United Nations is little more than a corrupt talking shop composed of (far too many) diplomats who are more interested in pursuing personal interests than in resolving international disputes. I have repeatedly denounced it as such – in commentaries as early as “United Nations: Corrupt from Head to Toe?” June 17, 2005, and as recently as “UN Peacekeepers like Foxes Guarding the Henhouse,” April 4, 2016.

    Nevertheless, I regard the role the U.N. plays in resolving disputes among nations much as Winston Churchill regarded the role democracy plays in governing them. During a House of Commons debate on November 11, 1947, he famously paraphrased that:

    Democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

    obamaUN-300x199Paraphrasing too, I say that the U.N. is the worst organization for resolving the issues confronting humanity except for all those other organizations that are trying to even less avail. I have duly credited the U.N. in this respect, most notably in “UN General Assembly: Hurling Words, Not Bombs,” September 25, 2012, in which I noted that:

    [The U.N.] provides a quelling forum for sworn enemies, like Iran and Israel, to vent their enmities by hurling words instead of bombs at each other; you know, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’

    This is why, despite my abiding criticisms, I have always taken exception to partisan calls for the United States, which contributes the lion’s share of the U.N.’s regular budget (at 22 percent), to defund it.

    652752Hence I take exception to this:

    A diplomatic fight, usually kept behind closed doors, exploded in public Thursday as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon accused Saudi Arabia and its military allies of placing ‘undue pressure’ on the international organization [by threatening to defund its 0.864 percent].

    A source told CNN earlier this week that the Saudis applied full court pressure with a threat to cut off ties with the U.N. if the organization did not remove the country from a blacklist of groups violating children’s rights in the conflict in Yemen. The U.N. source said that a threat of a ‘total rupture’ had been made, placing hundreds of millions of dollars to U.N. humanitarian agencies in doubt.

    (CNN, June 10, 2016)

    Mind you, the problem is not so much the Saudis extorting the U.N., as it is the U.N. allowing them to get away with it. After all, this erodes what little moral authority the U.N. has left to censure and/or sanction nations.

    la-1460998489-snap-photoYet one can hardly blame the U.N. for caving in – given the notorious way no less a country than the U.S. caved in to similar “undue pressure” just months ago:

    Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

    The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage…

    [Administration] officials have warned senators of diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.

    (New York Times, April 15, 2016)

    I fully appreciate the geostrategic interests that compelled the Obama Administration to oppose this bill. Not least U.S. interest in having Saudi Arabia serve as a bulwark against Iranian hegemony in the Middle East, especially after the Bush Jr. Administration destroyed the bulwark Iraq used to provide.

    But there’s a little too much tail wagging the dog in the way Saudi Arabia has extorted both the U.N. and U.S:

    With respect to the U.N., for example, one wonders why Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council and wannabe superpower, did not seize this opportunity to defend the U.N. After all, unlike China and other developing countries, Russia does not depend on Saudi oil.

    Doing so would have earned Russia desperately needed goodwill in the international community. No doubt more importantly, this would have deflected from its role in violating all manner of human rights in the conflict in Syria.

    With respect to the U.S., it is self-evident that Saudi Arabia would suffer far more, perhaps even existentially, if it ever made good on its threat to divest from the United States. After all, from day one of their seventy-year alliance, the Saudis have depended on U.S. security guarantees to protect them from enemies, foreign and domestic – the mercenary symbiosis between American arms merchants and Saudi oil money notwithstanding.

    22fb43d530b82bc554a8290efe4cf07bMoreover, it has been over ten years since America’s dependence on Saudi oil had President George W. Bush gushing over Saudi King Abdullah like a teenage girl – even holding his hand as they traipsed along the garden trails at his Texas ranch in April 2005. In fact, fracking has made the U.S. so oil rich since then that, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration dated February 11, 2016, it has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world’s top producer (with over 13.7 million barrels a day).

    Not to mention that striking a nuclear deal and seeking rapprochement with Iran were supposed to spare the U.S. having to genuflect to Saudi Arabia’s imperious prerogatives. Not least because those prerogatives include funding Wahhabi mosques and madrassas around the world that indoctrinate men and boys, respectively, with jihadi ideology.

    This, of course, is the Islamist ideology that not only inspired the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorists, but also inspires the ISIS terrorists who have been trying to outdo them ever since. Nothing is more telling in this context than the FBI arresting a star pupil who attended a madrassa – located just miles from the White House – for plotting to assassinate Bush.

    As it happens, a radicalized American Muslim perpetrated the worst terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11, when he opened fire in a gay nightclub early Sunday morning, killing 49 people and wounding over 50. It is noteworthy that Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, used this shooting massacre to call out Saudi Arabia for funding Wahhabi mosques and madrassas. But, with all due respect to this former secretary of state, some of us have been calling out Saudi Arabia for doing so for over a decade—as my commentary “Bush’s Smiling Assassin Jailed Indefinitely,” March 2, 2005, attests.

    This is not the forum to elaborate any further. But I hope the above suffices to explain my indignation at Saudi Arabia for using extortion as the continuation of diplomacy by other means, and my consternation at the U.N. and U.S. for submitting to its “undue pressure.” The U.N. should have called Saudi Arabia’s bluff and, Russia’s incentive notwithstanding, the U.S. should have defended the U.N.

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  • Monday, June 13, 2016 at 3:39 PM

    Orlando Gay Club – Scene of Latest Mass Shooting in Gun-Crazy USA

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In what police are calling the worst shooting in American history, a lone gunman killed [49] people and injured at least 53 when he opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

    ‘Our SWAT officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect. The suspect is dead,’ Orlando Police Chief John Mina said at a press conference.

    (Huffington Post, June 12, 2016)

    Sadly, this only reinforces my contention that mass shootings in the United States have become as commonplace as mass bombings in Iraq. And I’m still waiting for U.S. politicians to explain why they think occasional massacres by Muslims constitute “acts of terrorism,” but regular massacres by non-Muslims do not.

    Why, for example, did they decry the shooting of 12 people by a Muslim in San Bernardino last December as an act of terrorism, but bemoan the shooting of 9 by a (white) Christian in Charleston last June as a mass shooting?

    In any event, such acts of terrorism (no matter who perpetrates them) cause a numbing sense of anomie. This is why I doubt the average Iraqi would find it newsworthy that the latest mass bombing is the worst in Iraqi history. In a similar vein, I doubt the average American finds it newsworthy that this latest mass shooting is the worst in American history. After all, the only reasonable thought anyone could have in the midst of such commonplace violence is the idiomatic:

    There but for the grace of God go I.

    Our LGBT brothers and sisters were targeted today. But the casualties such shootings and bombings have left in their wake make distressingly clear that terrorism is no respecter of race, creed, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation … or of perpetrator.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 2.41.06 PM

    Meanwhile, why should we care if this gunman was a crazy white guy or a Muslim jihadist; or whether he was motivated by anti-gay (self)-hatred or Islamic extremism? Especially when it’s arguable that American gun merchants, motivated by profits at all costs, pose a far greater danger.

    After all, their NRA lobbyists have bribed most members of Congress into propagating the plainly absurd fiction that everyone has a constitutional right to buy the kind of military-style assault rifle the gunman used today. Hell, the NRA has so proselytize the false promises and protections of gun ownership, it has an increasing number of Americans thinking that the best way to react to shooting massacres is to rush out and buy their own “weapons of war.” And gun merchants show no scruples whatsoever about exploiting these tragedies for windfall profits.

    Whereas, if congressmen had shown the modicum of courage necessary to enact sensible gun-control legislation to ban such weapons, this gunman (using only a handgun) would not have been able to kill nearly as many people.

    Until they do, members of Congress who oppose such legislation will be willfully complicit in all such mass shootings. Except that they seem perfectly willing to accept this blame, so long as they can play the radical-Islam card from time to time. After all, foreigners from Muslim countries perpetrate less than five percent of the mass shootings that terrorize us. Which is why all of the talk about banning Muslims from entering this country is tantamount to locking the door with “Freddy Krueger” already inside the house.

    It’s really that simple, folks. All else is folly.

    Therefore, I see no point in commenting any further, except to share my constant admonitions.

    With respect to stopping mass shootings/bombings:

    Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 2.15.36 PM

    It must be understood that no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing law enforcement officials can do to prevent [them].

    (“London 7/7 terrorist attacks,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 8, 2005)

    Incidentally, it came as no surprise that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, couldn’t wait to tweet insinuations about this happening because President Obama is too weak. Of course, he’s banking on so-called journalists just eating up his tweet, instead of challenging him on it; namely by forcing him to explain what a “strong…smart…tough” President Trump would do to prevent such shootings/bombings, or how he would react if they occurred on his watch. (Hint: He has no friggin’ clue. Hell, he thinks “radical Islam,” including the jihadi terrorism it inspires, is a conventional army encamped in the Arabian Desert — just waiting for him to drop a few bombs to destroy it … “big time.”)

    With respect to the media’s obsessive, repetitive coverage, which is as motivated by profits as the gun manufacturers’ peddling of assault weapons:

    2016-06-12t15-28-46-267z--1280x720.nbcnews-ux-1080-600

    I don’t know why the media always reward these psychotic people by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and on the front page of every major newspaper … worldwide, and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds. Isn’t it clear to see, especially in this age of instant celebrity, why some loser kid would find this route to infamy irresistible?

    You’d think – given the record of these psychotic and vainglorious episodes since Columbine – that we would have figured out by now that the best way to discourage them is by focusing our attention on the victims and limiting what we say about the shooter to: May God have mercy on your soul as you burn in hell!

    (“Massacre in Omaha,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 7, 2007)

    And, with respect to future shootings/bombings, especially given the unprecedented carnage this lone wolf caused, the national mourning he evoked, the wall-to-wall coverage he commanded, and the political hysteria he incited:

    God help us if al-Qaeda ever decided to emulate this feat by coordinating 10 similar [shootings], at 10 football stadiums, in the 10 biggest cities in America, all on a typical Saturday in the fall, when they’re packed with over 100,000 people watching college football games.  Not only would the carnage be 1,000 times more devastating, but based on the reaction to this terrorist attack, law-enforcement authorities would have to lockdown not just the airports as they did on 9/11, but the entire friggin’ country, no?

    (“Manhunt for Bombers Turning Boston into Theater of the Absurd,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 19, 2013)

    With that, until the next mass shooting/bombing, my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of these latest victims.

    Related commentaries:
    Brussels, Paris, San Bernardino
    NRA

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 10:39 a.m.

  • Saturday, June 11, 2016 at 7:53 AM

    Euro 2016: The kick off that has most fans on the edge of their seats…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    180477_600

    France remains under a state of emergency after last November’s attacks on Paris, when 130 people were killed.

    More than 90,000 police, soldiers and private guards will be deployed at the tournament, with seven million fans expected to visit the 10 host venues.

    The US and British governments have both warned fans they could be at risk.

    (BBC, June 10, 2016)

  • Friday, June 10, 2016 at 5:51 AM

    Taliban Values in Paradise. Bahamas Votes ‘No’ to Equal Rights

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In “Referendum on Equal Rights in The Bahamas Is ‘Unnecessary’, Despite Dame Sawyer,” May 18, 2016, I expressed misgivings about the country of my birth subjecting the constitutional rights of fellow citizens to a referendum.

    I reasoned, in part, that the rights of citizenship at issue are necessarily implied in existing constitutional provisions. Further that we only needed the Supreme Court to duly interpret and enforce those provisions, or Parliament to codify any clarification of them, for women to enjoy all of the constitutional rights men already enjoy … and vice versa.

    referendumI lamented, in part, that only prevailing religious bigotry explains the failure of the Supreme Court and Parliament to do so. Further that there is no reasoning with people whose ignorance or religious conviction (or an insidious confluence of both) has them convinced that granting equal rights to women is tantamount to granting equal rights to LGBTs, most notably the right to marry. And, of course, these misguided souls believe with every fibre of their being that any marriage not composed of a man and a woman is an abomination to their God.

    Alas, such “believers” compose the majority of the Bahamian electorate. I grew up amongst them. I know them all too well….

    But don’t get me started on the pitiful irony of so many women voting “No” with feelings of joy and hopes of vindication….

    That said, I commend the government-appointed Constitutional Commission for holding hundreds of public consultations around the country, for over two years – trying to disabuse our people of their ignorance, while showing due respect for their religious beliefs.

    Presentation-of-Report_1

    But, given the dogmatic blowback those consultations provoked, I suspect the Commissioners are not at all surprised that their efforts amounted to no avail.

    Prime Minister Christie this morning called the failed gender equality [referendum on June 7] a setback for the program of constitutional reform…

    ‘The voice of the people has sounded in the land. It needs to be respected and honored and it will,’ the prime minister said.

    (Nassau Guardian, June 8, 2016)

    Incidentally, even though not entirely without merit, the claim that mistrust of the Christie’s PLP government caused this result is a red herring, which is being proffered by secular fools, religious bigots … and political opportunists.

    But, given my reasoning and lamentation above, there’s clearly no point in commenting any further; except to say:

    God help The Bahamas.

    Related commentaries:
    Referendum

  • Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at 5:16 AM

    Republicans Bewailing Trump as Their Nominee; Democrats Hailing Hillary as Theirs

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I hereby pledge anew that this will be my last commentary on this presidential horse race (i.e., on how candidates fared in latest caucus or primary), until Republicans and Democrats choose their respective nominees this summer.

    (“New Hampshire Primary Proved One-Third of Republicans Are Gullible Fools,” February 12, 2016)

    I honored my pledge. And I did so with enlightened indignation.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 10.18.07 AM

    As it happens, President Obama is probably the only other person in America who pledged to refrain from commenting on this horse race. But Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have now secured the nomination of their respective parties. Therefore, you might think that, like him, I am champing at the bit to jump back into the fray.

    But I still couldn’t possibly comment. Not least because The Donald and Hillary have already demonstrated their intent to campaign on little more than mutually assured character assassination.

    gettyimages-501494050_wide-b524e50f5d54316a69117164491e1bc91054679c-s900-c85Granted, it hardly helps that they are universally regarded as the most flawed standard-bearers for their respective parties in U.S. history. Senator Lindsey Graham threw this into sharp relief for Republicans only yesterday, when he called on party leaders to rescind their endorsement of Trump. He cited their nominee’s racist, anti-Mexican rant against the American judge of Mexican descent – who is presiding over the now infamous Trump University fraud case:

    This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy. If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it. There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.

    (New York Times, June 6, 2016)

    Mind you, a Republican damning Trump for spewing racist bile is rather like a historian damning John Wilkes Booth for interrupting the play….

    What’s more, it might be instructive to note that Republican hatred of Obama has trumped love of country from day one of his presidency. Only this explains the reflexive obstruction Republican leaders have mounted to every salutary measure he proposed, the welfare of the country be damned. “What’s past is prologue“?

    Screen-Shot-2014-12-24-at-8.33.26-AM-300x218In fact, their abiding hatred of Obama is such that they are even refusing to grant a Senate hearing to his nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. I commented on this unprecedented obstruction in “Obama Presents Consensus Supreme Court Nominee, Merrick Garland,” March 16, 2016.

    Not to mention that Graham is appealing to hopelessly compromised Republican leaders. After all, they spent the nominating process accusing Trump of displaying all kinds of disqualifying traits, notably those of a “racist [and] Islamophobe,” a “pathological liar,” a “con artist,” a “dangerous narcissist,” and a “wannabe dictator” – who, among other things, has threatened to punish his media critics if he’s elected president. Which means that, like the sensible “Never Trump” members of their party, they should never have gotten on the Trump bandwagon in the first place.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 4.19.01 PM

    Except that their hatred of Hillary is such that – as soon as plainly uninformed and gullible voters elected him the nominee of their party – these same leaders turned on a dime and endorsed Trump, love of country be damned. Now they’re all over TV twisting themselves into intellectual and political pretzels, trying to no avail to justify their endorsement.

    They’ve allowed the angry-mob faction of their party to ensnare them into a shotgun marriage with Trump. Now they’re stuck trying to honor their vows by supporting him as their standard-bearer — no matter the damage to their party or danger to the country Trump poses.

    But Republican leaders would do well to remember that Nazi leaders endorsed Adolf Hitler in the early 1930s as the best chancellor for Germany, notwithstanding his disqualifying traits – notably those of a genocidal anti-Semite. And we all know how that turned out and, more to the point, how history judged those leaders. These Republican leaders are sheepishly running the risk of being judged in similar fashion….

    In any event, I presaged Graham’s lament in numerous commentaries, including “Republicans Send ‘Mutinous’ Letter to Iran,” March 17, 2015, “Success of Obama’s Policies Confounding, Vexing, Defying Republican Critics,” December 29, 2014, and “S&P Downgrades U.S. Credit Rating,” August 11, 2011.

    For their part, Democrats are voicing fears about the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicting Hillary for her reckless handling of classified e-mails as secretary of state … and then lying about it. But, as reckless as she undoubtedly was, I would be shocked if the DOJ intervenes, so decisively, in this presidential election. Yet, only hoping against hope that it does explains Bernie’s reluctance to give up the ghost, reasoning that he would be the default choice if the Democrats’ fears come true.

    Meanwhile, Trump is heading into this general election campaign with a dark cloud of racism hovering over his head; Hillary, with a Damoclean sword of federal indictment over hers. Frankly, coupled with all of the muckraking to come, it’s all enough to make you want to cover your ears and scream.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 11.33.42 AMAll the same, I would be remiss not to commend Hillary on her historic nomination.

    Hillary Clinton further cemented her status as the first woman to presumptively win the nomination of a major American political party on Tuesday night, when the Associated Press projected her the winner in New Jersey’s presidential primary…

    Clinton’s victory came just three days after the 97th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1920. It also was eight years to the day after Clinton conceded the 2008 Democratic presidential primary to Barack Obama with a speech in which she famously declared that her supporters helped her put ‘18 million cracks’ in the ‘glass ceiling.’

    (Yahoo! News, June 7, 2016)

    Congratulations, Hillary!

    Incidentally, in “Dude, I ‘Feel the Bern’ Too. But…,” May 21, 2016, I admonished “Bernie-or-Bust” Democrats to get on the Hillary bandwagon, after taking a few days to lick their wounds. I hereby reiterate that admonition, and urge Bernie to emulate the way Hillary helped “Hillary-or-Bust” Democrats get over her loss in 2008 to support Obama, wholeheartedly.

    I would rue ever feeling the Bern if he persists in willfully pissing on Hillary’s parade and providing gratuitous fodder for Trump’s character assassination. Not to mention that this would expose him as nothing more than the self-righteous, self-centered, grumpy old man Larry David caricatures.

    With that, I shall sit back and enjoy the greatest spectacle on earth: the 2016 campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to be elected president of the United States.

    God help America.

    Related commentaries:
    Mutinous letter
    Success of Obama policies
    S&P downgrades
    Supreme Court nominee
    Bernie Sanders
    New Hampshire
    Feel the bern

  • Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at 6:41 AM

    Peter Schaffer, Critically Acclaimed Playwright, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    34FC79A900000578-3628112-image-a-26_1465244039713Sir Peter Schaffer died yesterday. If his name means nothing to you, then shame on you.

    More to the point, Sir Peter’s modesty was such that I doubt he would begrudge all of the coverage mainstream and social media are dedicating to Ali’s death (and Trump’s mouth), while relegating his to just a footnote. Of course, the same cannot be said for other public figures who die this week – like MMA fighter Kimbo Slice who happened to die yesterday too.

    What the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve over, does it?

    (Equus)

    Farewell, Sir Peter.

  • Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 8:26 AM

    Muhammad Ali, Celebrated Boxer and Conscientious Objector, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 8.14.46 AMMuhammad Ali was “The Greatest of All Time” – even if he said so himself. But what made him undeniably so had to do with what he did (and said) outside, as much as inside, the boxing ring.

    Of course, his opponents – from Sonny Liston to Joe Frazier and George Foreman – would readily attest that he really did “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” And, with all due respect to the likes of Joe Louis, Floyd Patterson, and Sugar Ray Leonard, Ali was easily the most charismatic and entertaining boxer in the history of their sport.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 8.24.12 AMNo doubt the way his “Louisville lip” hyped up fights and psyched out fighters contributed to his success. And legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell deserves honorable mention for playing straight man and comic foil for much of the truly poetic trash talking that made Ali famous.

    Never mind the inconvenient truth that he copied much of his “I am the greatest,” self-promoting schtick from the flamboyant professional wrestler Gorgeous George (Google him); or that Ali played the intra-race card, most notably by mocking his Thrilla-in-Manila opponent, Joe Frazier, an “Uncle Tom,” a “gorilla,” and the “white man’s champion.” (I suspect Ali’s taunts gave the preternaturally black and proud Frazier a terminal racial complex, much like that which the humiliating Senate hearings for Clarence Thomas’s appointment to the Supreme Court gave him.)

    Yet nothing is more telling about Ali “inside the ring” than the fact that he does not even rank among boxers with the “greatest unbeaten record of all time.” That distinction belongs to the likes of Joe Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs), Rocky Marciano (49-0, 43 KOs), and Floyd Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs). Surely any of these boxers has a more legitimate claim to the title as the greatest fighter of all time than Ali (56-5, 37 KOs).

    This brings me to Ali “outside the ring,” which accounts for so much of his greatness.

    He claimed in his 1975 autobiography that he threw the gold medal he won at the 1960 Summer Olympics into the Ohio River – after a “whites-only” restaurant refused to serve him and a friend. But this reportedly apocryphal story was just his poignant way of protesting the shame and injustice of championing America abroad, only to be treated like a second-class citizen at home … in Jim Crow America.

    ny_a_ali01_576He described his conversion to Islam in 1965 as one of the most important milestones in his life. This led to the very public show he made of denouncing his “slave name,” Cassius Clay, and demanding to be called by his Muslim name, Muhammad Ali.

    But almost as many blacks as whites regarded this as a betrayal. Bear in mind that Ali pledged his allegiance to the Nation of Islam, which was then, and remains to this day, an unabashedly black separatist … cult. The only equivalent I can think of today, with respect to those feelings of betrayal, is Stephen Curry denouncing Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party and proclaiming his support for Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

    In any event, nothing sealed Ali’s legacy as the greatest in this context quite like his refusal to be inducted into the armed services. Here is the now famous way he justified his conscientious objection to going to war in Vietnam:

    Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?

    Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.

    (BBC, June 4, 2016)

    Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 8.40.51 AMHe was arrested in 1967 and convicted as a draft dodger. He faced five years in prison and a $10,000, but was released on bond pending appeal. Unfortunately, the New York Athletic Commission summarily banned him from boxing and revoked his heavyweight title.

    Jackie Robinson was probably the only black athlete more famous than Ali at the time; not least because the then retired Robinson traveled and marched with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

    Which is why it was so significant when Robinson condemned Ali as follows:

    I think that he’s hurting, I think, the morale of a lot of young Negro soldiers over in Vietnam. And the tragedy to me is that Cassius has made millions of dollars off of the American public, and now he’s not willing to show his appreciation to a country that is giving him, in my view, a fantastic opportunity, hurts a great number of people.

    (“Eyes on the Prize,” PBS American Experience, August 23, 2006)

    To fully appreciate his condemnation it might be helpful to know that Robinson was drafted to serve during World War II. Not to mention that heavyweight-boxing champion Joe Louis and other celebrities enlisted to serve during that war.

    But, ironically, it was Ali’s defiant refusal to be drafted for Vietnam that made him so heroic. Here is how civil rights firebrand Stokely Carmichael hailed Ali — courtesy of Dave Zirin’s book, A People’s History Of Sports In The United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protests, People, and Play (2009):

    Lots of people refused to go…

    But no one risked as much from their decision not to go to war in Vietnam as much as Muhammad Ali. And his real greatness can be seen in the fact that, despite all that was done to him, he became even greater and more humane.

    Of course, as opposition to the war grew, the athletic commission seized the opportunity to reinstate Ali’s boxing license in 1970. But, by then, he had lost over three years of boxing in his prime – from age 25 to 29. In a unanimous but anticlimactic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1971.

    MIchael-Jordan-Tiger-WoodsThe point is that I can’t imagine any other athlete risking so much to stand on any principle. In fact, political activism for most athletes these days is limited to posting feckless tweets like #BringBackOurGirls, or wearing T-Shirts with fashionable slogans like “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” and “I Can’t Breathe.”

    Nothing is more cynical in this respect than headlines about Tiger Woods “leading the golf world in celebrating the life of Muhammad Ali.” This, after all, is the same Tiger who was so zealous about protecting his brand, he conscientiously objected to being called black, preferring what he deemed the more marketable classification, cablanasian.

    Not to mention the truly selfish precedent no less an athlete than Michael Jordan set. He was so zealous about protecting his brand, he conscientiously objected to endorsing a black candidate for the U.S. Senate – from his home state of North Carolina no less.

    Here is the now infamous way Jordan justified his conscientious objection:

    Republicans buy shoes, too.

    (Forbes, September 22, 2011)

    Frankly, it’s easy to see why no athlete has sacrificed more for the national advancement of black people than Muhammad Ali. And, with respect to having the courage of one’s convictions, no athlete has stood as a better role model for us all.

    Meanwhile, other celebrities are competing with famous athletes to pay homage to Ali with tweets that are clearly intended to draw attention to them more than to honor him. Exhibit A is Donald Trump. This, of course, is the same Islamophobic Trump who,  just months ago, was tweeting that he can’t think of a single Muslim worthy of presidential praise as an American hero – Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar be damned (or banned?)

    Later in life, Ali received numerous accolades for his humanitarian, interfaith, and charitable works. For example, both Sports Illustrated and the BBC named him sportsman of the century in 1999; President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005; and his hometown of Louisville opened the Muhammad Ali Center also in 2005, which chronicles his life and promotes tolerance and respect among all people.

    But it seemed a fate as ironic as it was cruel when he was diagnosed in 1984 with Parkinson’s disease. There are credible but conflicting reports that repeated boxing blows to his head caused it. Whatever the case, Parkinson’s soon reduced this man who once floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee, to one so stricken with tremors he could hardly … pee. Perhaps even worse, though, it put a zip on his Louisville lip….

    Ali’s condition first shocked most of us during the Opening Ceremony for the 1996 Centennial Olympics in Atlanta. When he suddenly appeared as the final torch bearer, it was heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure to see him battling his unruly tremors just to light the flame. In that moment I made a causal link between boxing and his pitiable condition. My love for the “sweet science” of boxing has never been the same.

    Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 10.55.56 PMBut it speaks volumes about his character that the withering ravages of Parkinson’s did not cause him to shun public appearances. Most notably, he continued fundraising for his many charities and foundations, including the Special Olympics and the Parkinson Society.

    Sadly, this included being propped up for photo ops with all kinds of people. This, even though the resulting image often looked like a screenshot from Weekend at [Ali’s]. But they did it because a selfie, even with “The Greatest” looking like a dead man, is by definition more about them than him.

    Ali died late Friday at a hospital in Arizona. He is survived by nine children from four wives. Which compels one to hope they do not defile his legacy by fighting over his fortune, the way the heirs of MLK and James Brown defiled their respective legacies by doing so.

    Perhaps even more dismaying, though, are reports that some of his children are just lying in wait to shock the world; specifically, with debunking details showing why the greatest as a boxer was anything but as a husband and father.

    Ali was 74.

    Farewell, Champ.

  • Saturday, June 4, 2016 at 7:34 AM

    Parents Beware: Ultimate ‘safe space’ for millennials…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 8.32.26 PM

  • Friday, June 3, 2016 at 7:33 AM

    Al Jazeera Outed Peyton Manning as a Cheater. He Outs Himself as a Coward.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In “Steroids: Peyton Manning Caught on the “Dark Side,” December 29, 2015, I relegated this Football superstar to the rogues’ gallery of athletes who used steroids to fuel their way to fame, glory, and fortune. Here is an excerpt.

    __________________

    I watched Al Jazeera’s “The Dark Side: Secrets of the Sports Dopers.” And, I must say, 60 Minutes could not have presented a more compelling report…

    usa-today-8980230.0Finding out that Peyton Manning cheated in Football is rather like finding out that Jimmy Carter cheated on his wife. [And] having Tom ‘Deflategate’ Brady defend his professional integrity is rather like have Vladimir Putin defend Bashir Assad’s democratic values…

    Even before Manning’s Armstrongesque denial, I asserted in text messages to an old friend that there’s too much smoke in that Al Jazeera report for there to be no fire. More to the point, I warned that it would constitute consciousness of guilt if Manning throws his wife under the bus.

    Sure enough, that’s exactly what he did [insinuating that steroid deliveries to their marital home were for her]. [Never mind that] his wife would be hard-pressed to provide any legitimate reason for receiving steroids for her personal use.

    That said, I’ve been in the vanguard of those calling for the legalization of all performance-enhancing drugs.

    Steroid use has flourished in … professional sports pursuant to an open conspiracy among players and team owners. This, to feed the gladiatorial lust of fans who want to see stronger, faster athletic cyborgs perform for their atavistic enjoyment. And, of course, the more fans revel in their steroid-fueled feats of athleticism, the bigger the players’ contracts (and even bigger the owners’ bottom line) become.

    (“Barry Bonds Is a Steroid Junkie … Duh,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 8, 2006)

    This Al Jazeera report merely provides more compelling evidence to help us make the case for legalizing steroids in all professional sports. Only legalization will stop making liars and cheaters of naturally gifted athletes like Armstrong, Jones … and Manning.

    __________________

    Unsurprisingly, I took a lot of flak from nincompoops for whom Football is a religion and Manning a demigod. But there was no denying the injury that Al Jazeera report inflicted on his saintly reputation. This is why Manning protested his innocence with such vehemence, which included an indignant threat to sue to reclaim his “good name”?

    GettyImages-508391972.0Now comes this:

    When Manning was linked to human growth hormone use by Al Jazeera in late 2015, the NFL great described himself as angry, disgusted, sickened — and likely to sue. Not anymore…

    The change of heart for the record-breaking quarterback was apparently motivated by Manning’s decision to dodge the amount of time and money needed for a lawsuit.

    (Daily News, May 26, 2016)

    Think about that folks. Peyton has retired and is reportedly worth half a billion dollars. Yet this celebrated role model can’t be bothered to spend the time and money necessary to defend his “good name”.

    Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,

    Is the immediate jewel of their souls…

    He that filches from me my good name

    Robs me of that which not enriches him,

    And makes me poor indeed.

    (William Shakespeare, “Othello,” Act 3, Scene 3)

    As I noted in my original commentary, something stinks in the state of Manning’s mind. After all, backtracking on suing Al Jazeera only reinforces his consciousness of guilt.

    maxresdefault (5)Granted, there’s something to be said for not following the precedent Lance Armstrong set. Because all Armstrong has to show for suing L’Equipe, the newspaper that outed him, is legal confirmation about the frankensteinian nature of his steroid use. Not to mention a debit of millions in legal fees in his bank account. But this only proves that Armstrong is as big a fool as Manning is a coward.

    Manning apologists insist that he’s just waiting to see how the other cheaters Al Jazeera outed fare with their defamation lawsuits. But this “bandwagon litigation” strategy further reinforces his guilt and cowardice.

    After all, if a newspaper implicated you and two friends in a gang rape, and alibis could place you thousands of miles away when it occurred, would you wait for your friends to file defamation lawsuits to clear their names, before doing so to clear yours?

    Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 6.39.48 PMWhatever the case, Manning should suffer the same fate that has befallen Baseball superstar Barry Bonds; that is, having sports writers put an asterisk next to his professional accomplishments and advertisers treat him like the plague. He should end up bemoaning his fate that way Bonds was quoted bemoaning his:

    There’s no such thing as an asterisk in Baseball.

    (ESPN, December 7, 2007)

    Except that racism in America is such that, where the MLB seems determined to blackball Bonds, the NFL seems determined to whitewash Manning. Nothing dramatizes this quite like Manning riding off into retirement this year as a Football champion, and Bonds being forced into retirement in 2008 as a Baseball pariah.

    In “Jones Admits Using Steroids,” October 12, 2007, I posed the rhetorical question: If Marion Jones wasn’t clean, who in Track and Field is? Hence, with even greater cynicism I ask: If Peyton Manning wasn’t clean, who in Football is?

    President Obama is scheduled to host Manning and his Denver Broncos teammates, this year’s Super Bowl champions, at the White House on Monday. Obama would do well to bear this question in mind when he roasts them.

    Related commentaries:
    Peyton Manning
    Armstrong confesses
    Bonds blackballed

  • Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at 6:43 AM

    Migrants Still Turning Mediterranean Sea into a Cemetery

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Migrants aren’t a danger, but are in danger.

    _89828650_89828649This, according to the May 29 edition of BBC News Online, is the pontifical way Pope Francis dismissed the hysteria this migrant crisis is inciting all over Europe. Never mind that he said it to little children instead of European leaders at the Vatican on Saturday.

    But, given the way nimbyism is (mis)guiding European leaders, you’d think Arab and African migrants pose the greatest danger to Europe since the Mongol invasion in the 13th century.

    Meanwhile, for geopolitical reasons, Western media have focused on Arab migrants fleeing sectarian wars across the Middle East. To be fair, migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq compose the vast majority of those who triggered this crisis.

    Even so, for pan-African reasons, I have focused on African migrants fleeing chronic privation and predation across the Dark Continent. Migrants from Eritrea, Sudan, and other Sub-Saharan countries compose this smaller but critical mass. I have commented on their plight in such commentaries as “Lampedusa Tragedy Highlights Europe’s ‘Haitian’ Problem,” October 7, 2013, and “African Migrants Turning Mediterranean Sea into Vast Cemetery,” February 12, 2015.

    This excerpt from the latter now seems prescient – given that reports on this crisis over the past 18 months have smacked of Groundhog Day.

    __________________

    This latest tragedy affirms my foreboding that the bobbing crucible at sea will never deter Africans from trying to escape their living hell at home.

    Lampedusa-migration-011The slogan ‘African solutions for African problems’ has gained considerable currency in recent years. Well, no African problem needs an African solution more than living conditions that compel so many Africans to migrate, come what may. The abiding shame is that African leaders show no interest in even trying to solve this problem.

    Meanwhile, European leaders are accusing each other of not doing enough to rescue African migrants adrift at sea, fleeing the abject misery African leaders have wrought.

    Indeed, no less a person than Pope Francis has entreated all European leaders to do more — the enabling spectre of neo-colonialism be damned. Here, according to Reuters, is the edict summoning their noblesse oblige, which he issued during an address before the European Parliament on November 25, 2014:

    We cannot allow the Mediterranean Sea to become a vast cemetery.

    ___________________

    Sadly, despite the pope’s prayers and pleadings, thousands have since met their maker at the bottom of the sea. In “Europe’s Migrant Crisis: Sowing Seeds of Unintended but all too Foreseeable Consequences,” September 7, 2015, I bemoaned their arguably suicidal impulse to flee to be free as follows (with apologies to Shakespeare):

    Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

    So too will Africans take to the sea;

    All changing place with those who went before,

    In droves Africans will continue to flee.

    Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 11.40.50 AMThe recurring tragedy that played out last week is a testament to this:

    At least 880 migrants and refugees [primarily from Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan] died trying to cross the Mediterranean last week, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday, giving updated figures after interviewing survivors brought to Italy.

    This year is ‘proving to be particularly deadly’ with 2,510 lives lost in shipwrecks and capsizing, against 1,855 in the same period in 2015, UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said. ‘At the moment (smugglers) are packing people on boats that are barely sea-worthy and many cases are not meant to make the crossing.’

    (Reuters, May 31, 2016)

    5748b61b130000d605382f97On the other hand, the media are reporting far too little on the Sisyphean fate that greets the “lucky” ones. For whether rescued at sea or rounded up on shore, African migrants are being locked up in concentration camps until they are shipped right back home.

    Libya locks up undocumented migrants in a network of some 20 immigrant detention centers, where inmates report being coerced into hard labor, beaten by guards, and cramped into tiny cells with little food or water and barely any ventilation or sanitation.

    At least 3,332 migrants, including 222 women and eight children, are being held in eight of the centers that were visited by the International Medical Corps earlier this month, according to UNHCR.

    ‘I would do anything not to go to prison here,’ a 20-year-old Nigerian, Mobo, told IRIN News in Libya’s Misrata after being caught by coastguards in a migrant boat.

    (Huffington Post, May 27, 2016)

    As it happens, the pope highlighted their ongoing plight on Sunday at the Vatican’s ‘Un Muro o Un Ponte’ (A Wall or a Bridge) Seminary. But he also used the occasion to award medals to George Clooney, Richard Gere, and Salma Hayek for their contributions to his educational foundation, ‘Scholas Occurentes’.

    Pope Francis meets US actor Clooney and his wife Amal during a meeting of the Scholas Occurrentes at the VaticanUnsurprisingly, the media dedicated far more coverage to the pope hailing celebrities, including Clooney’s trophy wife affecting her best Lady Di look, than to the pope bewailing migrants.

    In any event, even the pope must be humbled by his fecklessness when it comes to ending or managing this migrant crisis.

    Still, it’s noteworthy that some European leaders are attempting to assume the historical white man’s burden. The irony, of course, is that German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the lead in this respect.

    Unfortunately, it did not take long before rank xenophobia had her second-guessing her open-door policy, which led to over one million migrants resettling in Germany last year.

    Germany Anti Islamization RallyIndeed, the Express (of London) reported on December 11, 2015, that “bogus scare stories of migrants raping, abusing, burgling and stealing” incited such hysteria that it would have been political suicide for Merkel to ignore them.

    I commented on her ongoing attempts to reconcile this conflict between her moral compulsion and political survival in “Merkel Betraying Migration Policy that Won Her ‘Person of the Year,’” December 21, 2015.

    All the same, I would be remiss to end this latest lamentation on Europe’s migrant crisis without reciting this indictment of African leaders:

    I just hope the damning irony is not lost on any proud African that, 50 years after decolonization, hundreds of Africans (men, women, and children) are risking their lives, practically every day, to subjugate themselves to the paternal mercies of their former colonial masters in Europe.

    (“African Migrants Turning Mediterranean Sea into Vast Cemetery,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 12, 2015)

    Only ending never-ending conflicts and chronic economic stagnation in the countries of origin will end this migrant crisis.

    This is why I remain convinced that the most humane and effective way to deal with it is to provide safe havens in those countries. And it behooves European leaders to coordinate with Arab and African leaders to do so by any means necessary – even if that means enforcing naval blockades. This might seem farfetched, but it makes far more sense than European countries building Berlin-style walls – as Hungary and others are doing – to keep migrants out. I elaborated on this in “Europe’s Migration Crisis…,” September 6, 2015.

    All the same, I’m acutely mindful that people have been migrating in similar fashion for similar reasons since time immemorial. What’s more, I readily admit that, if I were living in one of the countries of origin affected, I too would be migrating to Europe … by any means necessary.

    Finally, I cannot overstate the comeuppance this portends for Europeans — who are reacting to these Arab and African migrants with such hysterical xenophobia and racism. After all, Europeans used to hurl self-righteous criticisms at Americans for reacting to Haitian and Hispanic migrants the same way. I elaborated on this in “Europeans Erecting Fences to Maintain Good Relations with African Neighbors,” October 8, 2005.

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