The iPINIONS Journal


  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 7:52 AM

    Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel Laureate and Political Journalist, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    garcia_marquez1I’ve read enough about Gabriel García Márquez (Gabo) to know that he was that rare writer who was as critically acclaimed as he was commercially successful. That he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 and enjoyed J.K. Rowling-like book sales attest to this.

    Yet how fitting in this age of Twitter that most people, including those who should know better, are eulogizing this “greatest writer in the Spanish language since Cervantes” as if he wrote only one novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

    Worse still, the vast majority of those eulogizing him probably know no more about his works than they do about Stephen Hawking’s. I remember well in the late 1990s when, oddly enough, people wanted to appear both hip and intelligent. It seemed de rigueur back then to rave about the brilliance and insightfulness of Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

    Yet, whenever I asked people to elaborate on what made this book so compelling, I was invariably met with the kind of doe-eyed stutter one gets from a child trying to explain that it wasn’t him who ate the cookies … with his mouth full. I’m not sure what it says about me that I had no difficulty admitting that I found his sojourn into black holes and quarks so friggin’ inscrutable I did not get beyond the first few pages.

    The point is, if you were to ask anyone waxing literary about the greatness of One Hundred Years of Solitude to elaborate, chances are very good that, after some trite fluff about magical realism, you too will get that very telling doe-eyed stutter. And don’t bother asking about his lesser-known works because chances are you’d be lucky to even get the title of any of them.

    I should disclose here that this celebrated novel was among others, including No One Writes to the Colonel and The Autumn of the Patriarch, I was required to read for a comparative literature course I took in college. Yet, just as it was when pretending to be impressed by Hawking’s writing was in vogue, I have no difficulty admitting today that Gabo’s writing did not leave much of an impression on me. Love in the Time of Cholera, arguably his second most popular novel, had yet to be published.

    Interestingly enough, though, as a bit of a lark, a close friend has been urging me for years to read Memories of My Melancholy Whores. I’m not sure why she thinks I would be more impressed by, or able to relate to, this particular novel. But I might finally read it as a way of paying my last respects.

    article-2607250-1D2B030D00000578-897_634x433Having said all that, what I found most interesting about Gabo’s life were the political realities that, on the one hand, forced him to flee his native Columbia, while on the other, won him the admiration and affection of world leaders like Bill Clinton. Most notably, Gabo was an uncompromising leftist, which no doubt explains why the likes of Fidel Castro were so solicitous of his political imprimatur.

    But when fellow Latino and estranged friend Mario Vargas Llosa emulated him by winning the Nobel Prize, I could not resist using the occasion to mock Gabo’s reputed self-righteousness:

    It would be remiss of me not to admit the schadenfreude I experienced from the fact that the announcement of this award was probably greeted with quiet resentment by two of Vargas Llosa’s most notorious nemeses:

    One is Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez, his erstwhile best friend, whom Vargas Llosa gave a black eye in 1976 for reportedly counseling his wife to leave him after he (Vargas Llosa) had an affair.  The two men did not speak for over 30 years after that bout, and reports are that their relationship today is cordial at best.

    The other is former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro who became the target of Vargas Llosa’s poison pen after he renounced the leftist ideology he shared with old comrades like García Márquez to become one of the world’s most celebrated right-wing intellectuals … much to my dismay.

    (“Vargas Llosa Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 8, 2010)

    To be fair, apropos of his famous falling out with Vargas Llosa, it might just be that Gabo was also an uncompromising romantic:

    Shoot me. There is no greater glory than to die for love.

    (‘Life in the Time of Cholera,’ p. 82)

    A sentiment that rivals Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death!” No?

    Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos announces three days of national mourning for the death of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and that the national flag be flown at half-staff at all public institutions in BogotaMeanwhile, moments after Gabo’s death notice yesterday, Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos delivered a televised address to the nation in which he hailed him as “the most admired and cherished compatriot of all time” and then declared three days of mourning.

    In doing so, however, Santos might have, unwittingly and ironically, betrayed the kind of unrequited love Gabo famously made a virtue of in Life in the Time of Cholera. After all, unlike fellow exile Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who eventually made it back to his homeland of Russia, Gabo died not in his homeland of Columbia, where he is evidently so beloved, but in his adopted country of Mexico, where he lived from the early 1960s until his death.

    He reportedly suffered from dementia and other maladies in recent years and finally died on Thursday.  He was 87.

    Farewell, Gabo.

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 7:28 pm

  • Friday, April 18, 2014 at 5:19 AM

    My Good Friday Sermon

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    One of the things I found most dispiriting about growing up the son of a preacher man was having to listen to the same sermon over and over again, knowing full well that my Daddy expected me to be moved by the Holy Spirit anew each time.

    In fact, only the wife of a vainglorious politician could possibly appreciate how inured my mind, to say nothing of my soul, had become (by the time I was 10) to “inspired” sermons from the pulpit that I could parrot (almost verbatim) from my church pew.

    Yet I never grew tired of the rituals that attended the Easter season. Indeed, I could never disguise the spirit of suspended animation that got me through it all — even as others affected the countenance each occasion warranted (i.e., by being appropriately maudlin on Good Friday to mourn the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and joyous on Easter Sunday to celebrate his resurrection).

    goodfridayNever mind that my animated countenance was due entirely to the anticipation of what fun Easter Monday would bring — as the first beach holiday of the year in the Commonwealth Caribbean.

    But oh the guilt I suffered for supplanting religious pathos with this hedonistic inspiration during Christianity’s holiest days!

    Thank God I deduced before my puberty was in full bloom that He would forgive me — not only for my sinful thoughts, but also for the diabolical pleasure I derived from playing one of the soldiers who flogged Jesus Christ (as he crawled his way to Golgotha) in the passion plays our Church performed every Easter.

    Therefore, here’s my own Good Friday Sermon, which I address especially to those Christian parents who will force their children to abide church services throughout this weekend just as my parents forced me to do when I was a child:

    God will forgive the little ones for not getting all worked up each year for the scripted homage to His son’s crucifixion and resurrection. He will even forgive them for not writhing with the Holy Spirit on cue at revivals, at which, as I recall, only the souls of mischievous children, not those of sinful adults, seemed in need of salvation.

    Moreover, He will not ruin their lives if the only spirit that moves them at Easter time is the one they hope will get them to the beach on Easter Monday; trust me!

    goodfridaybHowever, if you really must wallow in the macabre passions of the season, I suggest you buy the DVD of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and watch it tonight. Because, more than any Easter homily or play, this movie will evoke the funereal emotions and convey (in refreshing and entertaining fashion) the expiatory significance of these familiar words:

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

    (The Holy Bible, John 3:16)

    Amen.

    With that, and given the Pharisaic standards that govern conduct in most churches, it will probably surprise none of you that the elders of my church damned me to Hell long ago for being a “backsliding reprobate.”

    Nevertheless, I believe it is duly recorded on God’s Heavenly scroll that I am more spiritual, and live a more Christ-like life, than almost all of the tartuffes who bored me to distraction with their sermons in my youth!

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 5:55 AM

    Epidemic of (Female) Teachers Hooking Up with Students … is Benign

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 1.02.26 PMThis week yet another female high-school teacher entered the rogues’ gallery of those caught assigning select students assignations with them as extra-curricular activity. And, by the way, I find it more than a little curious that 99.9 percent of these educational rogues just happen to be White.

    A 29-year-old Polk County teacher was arrested Monday night on charges of having sex with a 17-year-old student during a four-month romance that involved a pregnancy and abortion, Lakeland police said.

    Jennifer Christine Fichter, an English teacher at Central Florida Aerospace Academy, told the boy’s mother that she was in love with her son and admitted to several sexual encounters, police said.

    (The Tampa Bay Tribune, April 15, 2014)

    Of course, Florida is not the only state where cougars posing as teachers are using high schools as fertile hunting grounds. For also this week:

    More than 100 city teachers, administrators and other school staffers have been caught in the last five years engaging in sexual or “inappropriate” relationships with students, The Post has learned…

    Social media and smartphones have fueled the epidemic of hookups, experts say, with teachers and students easily able to flirt under the radar of parents and colleagues.

    (New York Post, April 13, 2014)

    Alas, some of them are preying on kids in ways that smack more of pedophilia than cougar-like assignations:

    Caron Elizabeth Blanton, 34, of Mooresboro, North Carolina, handed herself in on Tuesday and was charged with three counts of indecent liberties with a child under age 16 and six counts of disseminating obscene material to a minor.

    Blanton resigned from her job as a sixth-grade science teacher at Burns Middle School in Lawndale late last week.

    (South Carolina Post and Courier, August 16, 2014)

    I’m on record proffering that, as epidemics go, this one is easily the most benign there ever was. Indeed, whatever “trauma” parents claim their boys suffered from such student-teacher assignations is far outweighed by the sexual education these lucky buggers must’ve acquired. In any event:

    Given that 16 is the age of consent in most states (30), I submit that if a teacher (male or female) has consensual sex with any student aged 16 or older, he/she should be fired and banned from teaching for life, but no criminal charges should obtain. However, if that teacher has sex with a student aged 15 or younger, he/she should be arrested and prosecuted on charges of statutory rape and related offenses…

    Now, anyone who says that 16-year-old boys will be psychologically damaged by having their sexual fantasies fulfilled by hot teachers either was never a 16-year-old boy or is just talking puritanical rubbish! After all, with an obliging teacher, no lesson could prove more educational, wholesome and, ultimately, useful for a teenage boy.

    (“Sexy Middle-School Teacher Gets Off after Blowing More than Schoolboy’s Mind,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 26, 2006)

    Clearly, to avoid even the appearance of favoritism, no teacher should be allowed to have in her class a student with whom she’s having a sexual relationship.

    Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 9.03.05 AMWhat’s more, I’m prepared to concede that it should be a firing offense for any teacher to become sexually involved with a student; such a relationship constitutes a flagrant violation of school rules, after all. But that teacher should not be criminally prosecuted.

    I mean, am I the only one who thinks constant exposure to violent video games has far more deleterious effects on the intellectual and emotional development of 16-year-old boys? Or that the same can be said for the effects constant exposure to photoshopped and invariably sexualized images of women in magazines has on 16-year-old girls?

    And let me hasten to clarify that, despite chauvinistic notions about girls being more prone to emotional damage than boys, I think a 16-year-old girl is every bit as capable as a 16-year-old boy of consenting to and coping with a sexual relationship with a high-school teacher.

    Related commentaries:
    Sexy middle-school teacher
    Doing teachers
    Student-teacher relationships okay

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 5:42 AM

    Phelps Comes Out of Retirement. Duh

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    phelps-1Michael Phelps made quite a show of declaring his intent to retire after the 2012 London Olympics. Here, for example, is a definitive exchange he had with Anderson Cooper on the May 8, 2012 edition of 60 Minutes, the most widely watched news program in the United States:

    Cooper: What happens if your mom, you know, after London, after 12 months goes by and says, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to go to Rio?’

    Phelps: We’ll go watch.

    Cooper: No chance you’d compete?

    Phelps: No. Once I retire, I’m retiring. I’m done.

    Except that:

    Sports history is replete with superstar athletes who vow to retire at the top of their game. Yet, just this year, Brett Favre joined the long list of those, including Michael Jordan and Mohammed Ali, who failed to do so.

    (“Jackson Resigns After Lakers Swept Out of Playoffs,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 10, 2011)

    phelps-jordan-jpg_184410What’s more, superstar athletes who come out of retirement invariably do little more than tarnish their legacies. Just ask Michael Jordan what he accomplished by doing so, for the second time, to play for the Washington Wizards. Because, in my humble opinion, all he did was make a mockery of his celebrated “Air Jordan” skills by playing like an old fart who could barely take off, let alone fly.

    Now Michael Phelps is demonstrating that it’s not enough for him to be remembered as the greatest athlete in Olympic history – with a record-setting haul of 22 medals (18 of them gold) that is bound to stand the test of time.

    Michael Phelps is coming out of retirement, the first step toward possibly swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

    The 22-time Olympic medalist will compete for the first time since the 2012 London Games at a meet in Mesa, Ariz., on April 24-26.

    Bob Bowman, the swimmer’s longtime coach, told The Associated Press on Monday that Phelps is entered in three events — the 50 and 100-meter Freestyles and the 100 Butterfly.

    (The Associated Press, April 4, 2014)

    As indicated above, however, I’m hardly surprised that Phelps is adding his name to the dubious list of superstar athletes who found life unbearable out of the limelight. But, because his fame is based primarily on his Olympic feats, Phelps seems more sympathetic in this respect. After all, he had/has to wait every four years to bask in the kind of glory an athlete like Jordan got to bask in every year of his career:

    Let’s face it, as acclaimed as Phelps is, like most Olympians, his fame seems limited to quadrennial fleets of fancy. Yet, even this kind of fame is so addictive that Phelps is already hinting at coming out of retirement to bask in more of it at the 2016 Rio Games.

    (“The Lolo Jonesing of Lindsey Vonn,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 4, 2013)

    michael-phelps_1507188cThat said, I hasten now to show that my allusions to Jordan’s career are as instructive as they are foreboding. For it’s arguable that Phelps coming out of retirement at 29 today is rather like Jordan coming out of retirement, for the first time, at 33 in 1996. He proceeded then to lead the Bulls to three more NBA championships.

    This is why I am not as dismayed with Phelps today as I was with Jordan when he came out of retirement, for the second time, in 2001 – as indicated above. More to the point, I fully expect Phelps to pad his haul of Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio Games. Indeed, I am happy to see that he’s even heeding my advice to be more strategic, in light of his age, in selecting his events:

    Since being defeated at the outset in this energy-sapping and potentially ego-deflating event [the 400m Individual Medley] could ruin his chance at gold in every other event, it would not surprise me if Phelps decides to withdraw.

    (“Olympic Trials: Preview of Exciting Feats to Come,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 2, 2012)

    londona2-150x150Sure enough, he won the 400m Individual Medley handily at the 2008 Beijing Games, which augured well for his unprecedented eight gold medals: five in individual events and three in relays. But Phelps refused to withdraw from this energy-sapping event at the 2012 London Games and finished an ego-deflating fourth, which augured ill for a repeat of Beijing. Granted, he still ended up with a relatively impressive haul of six medals: two gold and two silver in individual events, and two gold in relays.

    But when he retires after Rio, which he will surely do, I urge him to stay retired and not follow Jordan’s ill-fated path of coming out of retirement a second time.

    Related commentaries:
    Jackson resigns
    Lolo Jonesing
    Olympic trials

  • Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 7:37 AM

    Obama Trumpets Obamacare Success … Despite Republican Sabotage

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Republicans are not going to like the New Yorker’s latest cover.

    The illustration nods to Obamacare’s recent victory, and shows President Obama feeding medicine to a little boy…

    Artist Barry Blitt told the magazine ‘I enjoyed drawing Ted Cruz, John Boehner, and Michele Bachmann as petulant children — and I especially wanted to draw an open-mouthed Mitch McConnell being spoon-fed his meds.’

    (Huffington Post, April 7, 2014)

    Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 10.11.55 AMPriceless!

    Recall that Republicans tried their damnedest last October to convince the American people that the rollout of the Obamacare website, healthcare.gov, was so incompetent and portended such doom that President Obama should do the honorable thing and resign.

    Therefore, who can blame Obama for making quite a show last week of announcing that, despite those infamous glitches with the website, Obamacare (officially, the Affordable Care Act) actually surpassed its March 31 goal of getting seven million poor Americans to join the ranks of the insured?

    Yet Blitt’s illustration highlights the fact that, instead of celebrating like sensible, patriotic Americans, Republicans reacted to Obama’s announcement as if he had trumpeted enrollment figures for his new socialist party.

    Now comes the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reporting this week that Obamacare will cost less and cover millions more than even the Obama Administration projected, making a mockery of Republican projections of doom and gloom:

    The Congressional Budget Office has released updated estimates on the Affordable Care Act’s impact on both the budget and the health insurance industry. The findings show that the president’s signature health care law is actually growing cheaper to implement, costing the government $5 billion less in 2014 than was previously projected…

    Twelve million more non-elderly people will have health insurance in 2014 than if Obamacare had not become law.

    (Huffington Post, April 14, 2014)

    To be fair, all of this good news must be a bitter pill for Republicans to swallow. Especially when you factor in leading economic indicators, which show the Obama economy continuing in strong and sustainable recovery mode.

    After all, they have staked their political fortunes for the 2014 congressional elections and 2016 presidential election on not just Obamacare but Obama’s whole presidency turning out to be an abject failure. And no Republican personified their perverse hope for failure more than the “open-mouthed” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – who sounded this treacherous clarion call:

    The single most important thing we want to achieve [as Republicans] is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

    (Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2010)

    Clearly, after failing in their mission to make him a one-term president, Republicans redoubled their efforts to make Obama a failed president. And nothing would signal success in this regard quite like undermining this signature legislative achievement of his presidency, which they have attempted to do, to no avail, by voting 54 times on measures ranging from repealing Obamacare in its entirety to defunding or delaying key provisions.

    All of their partisan talking points and political posturing aside, these are people who hate Obama(care) more than they love their country.

    Not to mention what a mockery their obsessive, delusional opposition to Obamacare (yes, Obama cares) makes of the most fundamental calling of their Christian faith, which, of course, is to help the poor. (In this case, it’s clearly too inconvenient for these Bible-thumping charlatans to ask: what would Jesus do?)

    (“Bob Woodward: Republicans Are Trying to Blackmail Obama,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 1, 2013)

    147003_600Meanwhile, Obama could only have exacerbated the bitter taste in their mouths by choosing this moment of triumph to give Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius the boot.

    After all, Republicans made quite a show of demanding her head last October when technical glitches with the rollout of healthcare.gov made that March 31 goal of signing up seven million people seem like a pipe dream. By waiting until now, Obama not only highlights how inured he is to the “nattering nabobs of negativism” Republicans have become, but also demonstrates that he will hold people accountable on his own terms … and in his own time.

    Kathleen Sebelius … is resigning, ending a stormy five-year tenure marred by the disastrous rollout of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

    Mr. Obama accepted Ms. Sebelius’s resignation this week, and on Friday morning, he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her, officials said.

    The departure comes as the Obama administration tries to move beyond its early stumbles in carrying out the law, convince a still-skeptical public of its lasting benefits, and help Democratic incumbents, who face blistering attack ads after supporting the legislation, survive the midterm elections this fall.

    (New York Times, April 10, 2014)

    I’m on record stating (as I did most recently in my October 17, 2013 commentary, “Republicans Grant 90-Day Reprieve from Economic Armageddon”) that everything from the 2008 financial crisis to the 2013 government shutdown seems pursuant to an open conspiracy among Republicans to make America look like a dysfunctional Banana Republic.

    6-19-Holder-300x200Indeed, at the National Action Network’s 2014 Convention in New York City just last week, no less a person than (Black) Attorney General Eric Holder insinuated that only one word explains why Republicans would rather see their country fail than see Obama succeed: racism.

    A fed-up Attorney General Eric Holder is accusing congressional critics of launching ‘unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive’ attacks on him and the Obama administration.

    ‘Forget about me [specifically]. Look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a [Republican] House committee,’ Holder told the crowd. ‘What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?’

    (ABC News, April 10, 2014)

    Mind you, Republican talking heads, deploying reverse psychology, would have you believe that, far from being disrespected, Obama and Holder are benefiting from affirmative action-like, liberal media bias. Except that I doubt Obama would think he got a pass from the putatively liberal Washington Post with its Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, which made his administration look even more secretive than Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon’s.

    But just imagine Holder’s righteous indignation at having Whites who can be fairly judged racists accusing him of “playing the race card” — as if he were no different from (the reformed) Reverend Al Sharpton….

    Of course, for far too many Republicans, it would seem a natural fate for the first Black president to preside over what they claim are the worst years in U.S. history. Their ulterior motive or misguided hope being that this would ensure no Black is elected president (or appointed attorney general) for at least another 100 years.

    Enough said?

    Related commentaries:
    Computer glitches
    Republicans trying to blackmail Obama

  • Monday, April 14, 2014 at 7:38 AM

    The Masters Without Tiger Is like The Heat Without LeBron

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Tiger Woods announced Tuesday that he has undergone a successful microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve that has been hurting him for several months…

    The procedure was successful, but Woods will be unable to play in the Masters Tournament, instead requiring rest and rehabilitation for the next several weeks…

    The goal is for Tiger to resume playing sometime this summer.

    (tigerwoods.com, April 1, 2014)

    GOLF-US-MASTERS-FINALNo doubt die-hard Golf fans enjoyed watching Bubba Watson win his second green jacket yesterday at The Masters, Golf’s first Major of the year. But, with all due respect to Bubba, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth (who almost bested Tiger by becoming the youngest player to win this tournament), and all other noteworthy contenders, millions didn’t bother watching because Tiger did not play.

    There was a feeling around The Masters that the absence of Tiger Woods might not hurt as much as expected… Television viewers apparently had a different opinion.

    ESPN’s first-round telecast was down 800,000 viewers to a record low of 2 million. That’s the lowest … in the seven years the network has been broadcasting the Masters.

    (ESPN, April 11, 2014)

    I expected it would be thus.

    Here:

    It’s an indication of how much Tiger Woods dominates professional Golf that, even when he’s not playing well, he’s still the only golfer anybody is interested in watching or talking about.

    This manifested in Technicolor last weekend – when the highlight of The Masters was not the play of those atop the Leaderboard, but the controversy that erupted over Tiger’s violation of an arcane rule.

    (“The Masters: All about Tiger Even When He Was Losing, “ The iPINIONS Journal, April 15, 2013)

    tigerwoodsAnd here:

    I understand why professional golfers are chagrined to hear that the popularity of their sport is due as much to shrewd marketing (to yuppies as the course to take for corporate success) as to their skillful and entertaining play.

    There can be no denying, however, that Tiger Woods transcends the corporate image of this sport. After all, his athletic bearing alone makes him something of a phenomenon amongst professional golfers and country-club shakers alike; his Horatio-Alger personal story makes him as American as apple pie; and his charismatic play makes him as irresistible to watch as Michael Jordan was when he played Basketball.

    Indeed, I don’t mind admitting that, despite its career-boosting hype, I have never swung a golf club, let alone played a round of golf…. Yet I’m as big a fan of the game as anyone else – whenever Tiger hits the links.

    (“Tiger Wins British Open … Again,” July 24, 2006)

    It’s really that simple folks: Tiger makes even what for millions of us is the boring game of Golf exciting.  So here’s to a speedy and successful recovery, Tiger.

    We miss you. Golf misses … needs you.

    I should have added that no group will be happier to see him back on the links than his fellow players. Because, even though he routinely kicks their butts, they all have Tiger to thank for the millions in their bank accounts.

    (“Tiger’s Back on the Prowl, um, er, for Golf Titles that Is,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 12, 2010)

    Related commentaries:
    The Masters
    Tiger wins British Open
    Tiger’s back

  • Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    Forget Gisele! Who’s that hot chick behind her?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    article-2602887-1D09B3C500000578-356_634x1135

    ‘Biker chic: Gisele Bundchen channelled 1970s New York by wearing a leather jacket and, big boots and dark shades in the city today’

  • Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    Businesses think $10.10 minimum wage is too much. Really?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 8.13.16 PM

  • Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 7:03 AM

    WTF, Colbert to ‘The Late Show’?! And WTF is with Woody Allen?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The CBS Television Network today announced that Stephen Colbert, the host, writer and executive producer of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Colbert Report, will succeed David Letterman as the host of THE LATE SHOW, effective when Mr. Letterman retires from the broadcast.

    (CBS, April 10, 2014)

    Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 7.35.10 PMFolks, Steven Colbert hosting THE LATE SHOW as himself is like Bozo the clown entertaining a birthday party without his familiar makeup and costume.

    This is a big mistake – no matter how funny the real Colbert is. He has done such a good job of acting as if the right-wing nut on The Colbert Report is who he really is that, every time he appears, the audience will expect him to act the way that Colbert would and say what that Colbert would; especially given that he will still look the way that Colbert would.

    This really is like Jon Stewart suddenly trying to anchor the CBS Evening News. That dog won’t hunt.

    Indeed, this was brought into foreboding relief last year when Colbert returned to his home state of South Carolina to campaign for his sister’s congressional bid. She was pitted against the state’s disgraced former governor, Mark Sanford, who became a national laughing stock when he tried to explain going AWOL while in office by saying that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail; in fact, he was on a romantic rendezvous with his mistress down in Argentina. Yet voters were apparently so confused by Colbert campaigning as himself — but acting, sounding, and looking so much like his buffoonish TV character — that they thought his sister’s campaign was just a big joke. She lost, badly.

    But my real beef is that CBS refused to break the tradition of casting only White guys to host these plum late-night shows. Okay, so Arsenio Hall returned to his hosting gig recently. But he appears to have fallen into a TV black hole. The point is that, with all the truly witty and intelligent female comedians working today, like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Chelsea Handler, you’d think the purportedly liberal executives at CBS would’ve … tapped one of them.

    Woody AllenMeanwhile, apropos of casting Whites only, what’s with Woody Allen featuring only White actors in his play, Bullets Over Broadway, which opens tonight?  It’s clearly his artistic prerogative. But you’d think a play about Harlem’s famous Cotton Club, which was frequented mostly by Blacks, would feature more than just one token Black … as an extra:

    ‘Everyone’s white at Woody’s Cotton Club and in the gangster numbers,’ says our well-placed Broadway insider. ‘Casting was considering a big-name African-American actor for the play, but Woody passed because he just got the idea that a Black gangster wouldn’t be good. One man wasn’t asked back and then was told it was Woody who didn’t want any Black gangsters.’

    (The Daily News, April 10, 2014)

    I’m sure Woody would insist that casting only White actors in his play about Black culture (or in all of his movies for that matter) does not make him a racist. Except that he would also insist that seducing and then marrying girlfriend Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter does not make him a pervert; never mind suspicions that he’s also a pedophile who molested his and Mia’s seven-year-old biological daughter.

    WTF indeed.

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 7:44 pm

  • Friday, April 11, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    Stabbing Rampage at Pennsylvania High School

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I don’t know why the media always reward these psychopaths by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds.

    You’d think that – given the record of these psychotic and vainglorious episodes since Columbine – 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)

    High School StabbingsGiven the above, the only thing noteworthy about the stabbing rampage at a Pennsylvania high school on Wednesday is that it wasn’t a shooting rampage. After all, just imagine the casualties if this unhinged 16-year-old kid was firing two pistols instead of wielding two knives. Better still, imagine a country where “stabbing rampage” replaced “shooting rampage” in public consciousness.

    That he wounded 21, but killed nobody, demonstrates how any legislation that limits access to firearms with high-capacity magazines would save lives.

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  • Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    Liberal Jihadists Rebuke Mozilla CEO Eich and Islam Critic Hirsi Ali

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I feel obliged to establish my standing for what follows by declaring up front that I am, and have always been, a proud liberal. And I have the ideological scars to show for it.

    Mozilla CEO

    The term “liberal jihadists” is clearly oxymoronic. Yet it fairly describes the thought police who forced Mozilla’s co-founder and CEO, Brendan Eich, to resign last week. After all, Eich’s only (corporate) sin was that he dared to support California’s Proposition 8, which called for a ban on gay marriages, way back in 2008.

    mozillaMind you, back then, no less a person than presidential candidate Barack Obama also opposed gay marriages. Moreover, to clarify his position and save his job, Eich pleaded that, like Obama, he had evolved to a point where he would not countenance unequal treatment of LGBT individuals at Mozilla in any respect.

    Even so, his inquisitors, led by mullahs from the dating site OKCupid, demanded his head on a platter. And they made it clear that, if it did not comply, Mozilla would face a boycott that rivals the historic one Blacks mounted against the Montgomery bus service in 1955.

    Eich bowed out before Mozilla chopped off…:

    I have decided to resign as CEO effective today, and leave Mozilla. Our mission is bigger than any one of us, and under the present circumstances, I cannot be an effective leader.

    (ABC News, April 3, 2014)

    Unlike Eich and Obama, I’ve always expressed unqualified support for gay civil rights, including the fundamental right to marry. But I think demanding the resignation of a CEO just because he opposes gay marriages is as much an affront to the democratic freedoms we take for granted as demanding the resignation of one just because he supports abortion.

    Indeed, if you think these liberal jihadists were right to demand Eich’s head, you must reconcile how you would feel if conservative jihadists had similar power to demand the head of every CEO who supports abortions, which they regard as murdering the most innocent and vulnerable of all human life. And bear in mind that Eich was rebuked for opposing gay marriages as an expression of his personal conscience, not as an enforcement of Mozilla’s corporate policy.

    Islam Critic Hirsi Ali

    Now come reports that liberal jihadists forced Brandeis University in Massachusetts to rescind the offer of an honorary degree it made to the internationally acclaimed critic of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Here, in part, is the statement the university issued, trying to explain its antic decision:

    She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.

    (foxnews.com, April 9, 2014)

    infidel-ayaan-hirsi-aliA Talibanic alliance of Muslim students and liberal professors demanded this rescission. Which is why this explanation is patent nonsense. Not least because Brandeis deemed Hirsi Ali a suitable recipient primarily to bask in the reflected fame she earned by making the very statements (about the way self-appointed guardians of Islam treat women and girls) it now claims are inconsistent with its core values.

    Not to mention the irony that nothing could be more inconsistent (i.e., hypocritical) in this respect than Brandeis discouraging the free expression of ideas by publicly rebuking Hirsi Ali to appease dogmatic students and faculty. Indeed, you’d expect this from a Pakistani madrassa, not an American university.

    ‘This is a real slap in the face to Muslim students,’ said senior Sarah Fahmy, a member of the Muslim Student Association who created the petition said before the university withdrew the honor. ‘A university that prides itself on social justice and equality should not hold up someone who is an outright Islamophobic.’

    (foxnews.com, April 9, 2014)

    As it happens, I’ve been commenting on Hirsi Ali’s advocacy of women’s rights in Islamic countries for over a decade. And I can attest that calling her Islamophobic is like calling Gloria Steinem misogynistic.

    Hirsi Ali is clearly a very provocative and controversial woman. Nonetheless, her advocacy of women’s rights and pleadings for the dignity of her religion are unassailable. Her contrived deportation is a loss for the Dutch and a gain for the Americans.

    (“Dutch Regrets and Recriminations Over Revocation of Hirsi Ali’s Citizenship,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 19, 2006)

    But, frankly, after having the Dutch government revoke her citizenship to appease Muslim Jihadists, Hirsi Ali is unlikely to be too bothered by having Brandeis University rescind her degree to appease liberal jihadists.

    thStill, it’s an indication of the fear liberal jihadists instill that even administrators at a liberal institutions like Brandeis would rather look like mendacious cowards than incur their wrath.

    Incidentally, I know firsthand that faculty members at such institutions suffer acute professional insecurities and jealousies. Therefore, those at Brandeis who endorsed misguided student demands for this rescission were probably also motivated by good old-fashioned resentment: not only over Hirsi Ali’s international fame and acclaim, but that of her husband, the telegenic Harvard historian and academic contrarian Niall Ferguson, as well.

    Whatever the case, with respect to the rebuke of both Eich and Hirsi Ali, I have long argued that conservatives who believe they know what’s best for the rest of us are surpassed in their dogmatism only by liberals who know they know what’s best….

    Here, for example, is an excerpt from “Word to Democrats: Get Over Alito” (January 10, 2006), in which I protested attempts by liberals to rebuke a George W. Bush Supreme Court nomine the way they just rebuked that Mozilla CEO:

    It’s foolhardy for liberal Democrats to demonize him for holding views that are shared by almost half the American population. After all, one does not have to be a racist to oppose affirmative action, or a misogynist to oppose abortions, or a fascist to endorse executive powers that allow the president to wiretap American citizens in the interest of national security.

    It behooves the party’s White Brahmans to appreciate this distinction. Not least because a vast majority of Black Democrats have more in common with conservative Judge Samuel Alito (e.g., on abortion and gay rights) than they do with liberal Senator Ted Kennedy (who has some nerve lecturing people about civil rights after referring to Bush’s Black female judicial nominee as a Neanderthal)….

    Until the next rebuke then?

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  • Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 7:28 AM

    ‘Cuban Twitter’: Obama’s Bay of Pigs…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Cuba - Poverty - HavanaFor over 50 years, American presidents have been enforcing an embargo against Cuba to force regime change, embarrassingly, to no avail.  This is why I’ve been in the vanguard of those urging President Obama to end it; especially given that it has done nothing more than relegate generations of innocent Cubans to lives of systematic penury.

    I am convinced that, if re-elected, Obama will seal his legacy by lifting the embargo and normalizing relations with Cuba…

    The United States is the only country that has steadfastly enforced this trade embargo.  Therefore, it speaks volumes about its economic power that trade with the rest of the world has been insufficient to lift Cuba out of its 1950s stagnation.

    (“Fifth Summit of the Americas: Managing Expectations,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 17, 2009)

    Therefore, imagine my dismay when I read reports last week that, instead of taking steps to lift the embargo, the re-elected Obama had been waging his own covert operation for regime change.

    460xInstead of aping his predecessors with twentieth-century methods like funding guerillas (aka the Bay of Pigs) or using poison cigars, however, Obama opted for the twenty-first century method of having American geeks set up a secret “Cuban Twitter”…?

    Existence of the program came to light Thursday when The Associated Press published a lengthy story detailing how ZunZuneo [which is slang for a Cuban hummingbird's tweet] was developed to cause social unrest, attempting to recreate the sort of pro-democracy, Twitter-empowered protests that fueled the Arab Spring in 2011 and toppled corrupt governments in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere.

    (CNNMoney, April 3, 2014)

    Except that he ended this program in 2012 for unspecified reasons. Unfortunately, revelations about it are bound to undermine the heroic efforts of Cuban dissidents to bring organic – even if barely noticeable – change to their country, and might even endanger their lives.

    “I think the Cuban government is going to say [of any dissident activity], ‘You see, this is probably funded by some of the U.S. AID funding,’” said Andy Gomez, a retired Cuba scholar from the University of Miami and senior policy adviser with the law firm Poblete Tamargo.

    (The Associated Press, April 6, 2014)

    Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 10.02.58 PMOf course, every president since Eisenhower has tried to overthrow or kill the Castros. The irony is that Democrats JFK and Obama, the two presidents one would’ve thought lest likely to do so, are the ones now most associated with this shameful legacy.

    On the other hand, apropos of irony, being exposed in this fashion might just compel Obama to move aggressively to lift America’s plainly feckless and hypocritical embargo and normalize relations with Cuba – not only to erase this blot on his presidency, but also to finally make himself worthy of that affirmative-action Nobel Peace Prize he won in 2009.

    Hope springs eternal.

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  • Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    Like a Phoenix, UConn Rises to Beat Kentucky for Men’s NCAA Championship

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Thank God I never bet anything more than my pride on sporting events. And it’s a damn good thing I have so much of it.

    (“2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 10, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 8.51.42 AMTrue to form, not a single one of my picks made it to the sweet sixteen, let alone to last night’s championship. Therefore, as thrilling as the final rounds of this year’s tournament were, I could not have been less interested in the outcome of a single game.

    All the same, I heartily congratulate the UConn Huskies on winning their fourth national championship in 15 years by defeating the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54.

    This year’s championship is especially commendable given the travails that dogged the Huskies following their most recent championship in 2011. Most notably, their head coach, Jim Calhoun, seized the opportunity to retire on top. Except that he left behind players he trained to focus on athletics instead of studies so much that they were banned from tournament play last year for failing to meet the minimum academic scores for participation. The team was in ashes.

    040714-CBK-huskies-kevin-ollie-poses-with-team-ahn-PI.vadapt.955.medium.35Then along came a 41-year-old Black guy named Kevin Ollie who nobody thought could do what Calhoun did.  Yet he coached the team to rise like a phoenix back into championship form in just two years – complete with passing grades (even if acquired by notoriously suspect means).

    What I found most interesting, however, was that team leader Shabazz Napier invited all kinds of distracting media attention when he chose the eve of their improbable return to last night’s championship game to make this startling complaint:

    Shabazz Napier, point guard for The University of Connecticut’s men’s basketball team, recently told reporters he understands why athletes at Northwestern need a union, as he sometimes has to go to bed ‘starving’ because he cannot afford food.

    Napier, who heads into the NCAA Championship match-up against the University of Kentucky tonight, told reporters that it’s hard for him to see his jersey getting sold while he struggles to eat.

    (The Connecticut Mirror, April 7, 2014)

    His complaint did not surprise me in the least. What’s more, I think it constituted a brave act of civil disobedience that should help compel payment to these kids who schools like UConn systematically treat more as indentured servants than student-athletes:

    There’s nothing amateur about college [Basketball]. It’s a billion-dollar business for Christ’s sake! And the people who generate its revenue are not the university presidents, athletics directors, or coaches who, incidentally, make millions of dollars in salary and endorsement deals. Instead, they are the poor Black athletes whose raw talents they all exploit…

    I have always felt that it is tantamount to modern-day slavery for universities to recruit poor and all-too-often uneducated Black athletes just to play [basketball] – considering they rarely get an education - and not compensate them for their services…

    The hypocrisy inherent in this is beyond shameful. Universities should be required to compensate these athletes in direct proportion to the way owners of [NBA] teams compensate their players. They could then reallocate the scholarship money they spend on recruitment for financial aid to Black students who aspire to be more than professional athletes.

    (“Reggie Bush Forfeits Heisman Trophy,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 16, 2010)

    Is it any wonder the five freshmen who started for the Wildcats last night have all declared their intent to seek fairer pay in the NBA for the services they provide and the revenues they generate?  Ironically, they can thank their fair-minded coach for tacitly endorsing their one-and-done rite of passage despite criticism from his feudal-minded peers:

    It’s just too bad the post-game talk was more about the way Coach John Calipari recruited the players on this national championship team than about the way they played. But I see nothing wrong with Calipari recruiting standout players who he knows are committed to no more than one year in college before heading to the NBA – the so-called ‘one-and-done trend. In fact, reports are that none of the starters on this team will be returning to Kentucky next year.

    (“Kentucky Wildcats Win 2012 NCAA Men’s Championship,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 3, 2012)

    Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 8.43.27 AMScreen Shot 2014-04-08 at 8.44.57 AMThat said, I would be remiss not to comment on the way acclaimed investor Warren Buffet had even savvy gamblers on Wall Street salivating at the prospect of winning his $1 billion giveaway to anyone who filled out a perfect March Madness bracket; notwithstanding that one stood a better chance of winning the lotto jackpot 10 times in a row.

    Of course everyone can see now what should have been obvious; namely, that this was nothing more than a cheap PR/advertising stunt for Buffet to boost his stake in Quicken Loans, the company sponsoring (and insuring) his giveaway. And Quicken Loans made out like a bandit – having the ability now to market its products to the 15 million suckers who signed up for this pipe dream.

    Meanwhile, there was not a single perfect bracket left just halfway into the tournament; reinforcing the axiom about the rich getting richer….

    Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 8.47.58 AMIn any event, please make an effort to watch the UConn women’s team try to emulate their male counterparts tonight by defeating Notre Dame. Especially since this will be the first time in NCAA history that two unbeaten teams meet for the national championship. It would also give UConn a repeat double feat, having won both the men’s and women’s championship in 2004.

    I’m willing to bet that, if you were to find ten sports fans who dutifully filled out the men’s brackets, at least nine of them would concede that they did not do the same for the women’s.

    Not to mention that, instead of commanding network coverage in prime time like the men’s championship, the women’s was relegated last night to cable, which guaranteed only a fraction of the viewership.  Yet the TV executives who are responsible for dissing women’s college basketball like this are the very ones who wonder why they can’t get better ratings for the fledgling women’s professional league – the WNBA.

    More important, though, what does all of this say to female college athletes, or to young girls who we encourage to have the same interest in sports as young boys…? It says that chauvinism, sexism, and discrimination against women in sports not only still exist but are blithely tolerated….

    (“UConn Routs Louisville,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2009)

    True to form, even though anyone with a TV set could watch the men’s championship game on “Big three” network CBS last night, only those with a cable subscription will be able to watch the women’s on ESPN tonight.

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  • Monday, April 7, 2014 at 6:58 AM

    Keep Your Selfies to Yourself … Pleeeease!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A selfie is not just about adoring one’s own reflection like Narcissus; it’s also about taking a picture of that reflection to publish for all the world to see. But am I the only one who rues the cognitive dissonance that has turned self-obsessed showoffs from laughingstocks into the standard bearers of what is now not just acceptable but required public behavior?

    You’d never know, for example, that just years ago any self-respecting man would be mortified if he were caught checking himself out in the mirror. Now the Internet is littered with as many selfies of preening men as women. But nothing irritates me in this context quite like the way people convey every private sentiment — from condolences to birthday greetings and romantic love — only by tweeting or facebooking it for everyone to read.

    (“Introduction,” The iPINIONS Journal, Vol. IX, p. xxi, 2014)

    As it happened, a couple of my selfie-posting, real friends could not wait to see me in person to give me a piece of their mind about my anti-selfie screed. Their opportunity came last night – fueled no less by drinking alcohol and watching their teams flame out of the NCAA Basketball tournament. We’re still friends.

    Suffice it to know that I do not believe any apology is warranted for anything I’ve ever written about the craze of social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Ironically, my friends only reinforced this belief when they conceded that selfies probably jumped the shark last week.

    article-2592979-1CB4942400000578-731_634x476It was marked, you may recall, by students at the University of Arizona seeing nothing wrong with posting selfies showing the police in the background struggling to quell the riots that erupted after their team’s surprising loss in the tournament; followed just days later by Baseball player “Big Papi” – of the reigning World Series Champion Boston Red Sox – seeing nothing wrong with corralling the president of the United States, during a team visit to the White House, into a two-man selfie to promote his sponsor’s brand.

    Even so, I feel obliged to clarify that I do not think social media are utterly without any redeeming value.

    • There’s no denying, for example, that social media played a galvanizing role in the Arab Spring; or, specifically, that Twitter not only breaks news faster than the mainstream media, but also gets that news to many more people (including those in remote areas of the world where mainstream media never reach).

    Incidentally, I trust it’s self-evident that the biggest problem with mainstream media these days is the way they assault and insult our intelligence by reporting so much on what ordinary people are doing on social media … like posting attention-seeking selfies, tweets, and videos.

    oritz-obama-selfie-white-house

    • I see nothing wrong with celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Kim Kardashian posting selfies to promote their personal or sponsor’s brand. After being exploited by Big Papi, however, Obama probably won’t allow himself to be corralled into mugging for any more selfies. Indeed, his press secretary voiced official objection because such presidential selfies risk degrading the esteem of the presidency lower than Bill Clinton did when he dignified a wholly inappropriate town-hall question about his underwear with a reply.
    • I think it’s perfectly sensible for real friends to use social media to share private details about their lives or to arrange outings among themselves. I just find it odd, if not inconsiderate and stupid, that people post such details and arrangements for virtual friends they’ve never met, and might never meet, to see. Why not use e-mail or WhatsApp for Christ’s sake? And these oversharing idiots wonder why they’re being trolled, bullied, or even burgled?
    • I suppose there’s even some value in one of my loyal readers setting up a Facebook page to share my commentaries with her “friends” on a daily basis. Never mind my thinking that it would’ve been easier for her to e-mail the link to all of her contacts, inviting them to bookmark my weblog instead of having her spoon-feed them But I digress….

    I’m sure there are other things that attest to the redeeming value of social media. It’s just that, all combined, they probably account for less than 10 percent of what is posted daily. Whereas the other 90 percent seems borne of a pathetic neediness or insecurity that causes people to make fools of themselves by posting selfies for no other reason than the vain hope of eliciting idle flattery.

    Remember when there was no greater social nuisance than the Dad who showed off pictures of his newborn child (even to complete strangers) as if it were the most beautiful thing God ever created? Well that Dad is social wallflower compared to the twit who posts selfies as if she were the most beautiful thing God ever created. Indeed, social media seem littered with selfie-posing women who make Lady Gaga and Mile Cyrus, two notorious attention whores, look shy.

    Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 5.05.01 PMNot to mention that it’s now trendy for a mother to live tweet the birth of her child as if it were the second coming of Jesus Christ, which is surpassed in its TMI cringe-worthiness only by no less a person than renowned NPR journalist Scott Simon live tweeting his mother’s dying moments as if she were, well, the mother of all mankind.

    It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic that millions use social media literally to beg for attention and life-affirming compliments based on images that give the impression they’re living a gilded life or looking more beautiful than they really are. Of course these images are also contrived/photoshopped/airbrushed to make their “friends” green with envy.

    Frankly, this culture of unbridled narcissism and oversharing has become like a metastasizing cancer that is eroding all traditional notions of personal discretion and public decency. This cannot be a good thing; especially for the self-esteem of young girls who were already suffering untenable body dysmorphic triggers from images of models in glossy magazines before social media made it seem like even ordinary girls are setting unattainable standards of beauty … and fame.

    Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 4.07.54 PMAlas, your Facebook friends and Twitter followers are too socially correct to tell you what an embarrassing bore your selfies (to say nothing of your banal thoughts, snarky comments, and hackneyed aphorisms) have become. And I gather “unfriending” and “unfollowing” are tricky propositions.

    Therefore, take it from me, they would really appreciate it if you’d spare them the annoying social obligation of having to tell you how witty you are or how beautiful you look – especially when you insist on posting selfies looking like a Russian babushka selling borscht who thinks she’s a VS model selling lingerie. Really, get over yourself!

    For the record, I’m convinced that my life is actually richer for having avoided all social media like the plague. It has never even occurred to me to take a selfie and, despite many attempts by family and friends, I’ve avoided being corralled to mug for one. Apropos of keeping your selfie to yourself, I’m all too mindful that the only reason people take selfies with their real friends is to share them with all of their virtual friends.

    Nothing’s personal anymore. Hell, you can’t even expect Tinder-like chats to arrange booty calls to remain private – as actor James Franco found out to his global embarrassment a few days ago.

    At long last, can someone explain why this orgy of oversharing does not vindicate my dismissing celebrated leaker Edward Snowden as just a Silicon Valley version of the Nebraska farm boy sounding the alarm after the horse had already left the barn…?

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    * This commentary was originally posted yesterday, Sunday, at 5:08 pm

  • Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 7:35 AM

    Zuma’s April Fool’s Day Joke = South Africa’s Wishful Thinking

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    m_140401tt

  • Friday, April 4, 2014 at 6:07 AM

    ‘Friendly Fire’ at Fort Hood … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    d70f69c71b564d0d500f6a70670049dc-676x450The sign welcoming visitors to Fort Hood hails it as “The Great Place.” With its soldiers reeling and recovering from another on-base shooting rampage, however, that sign is taking on the specter of gallows humor.

    A major in the U.S. Army opened fire this afternoon at a processing facility at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 12 and wounding 31 of his fellow soldiers…

    Fort Hood is the largest military base in the world.  It is home to over 50,000 personnel. In providing initial insights as to motive, military commentators focused on the role Fort Hood plays not only as the place of no return for soldiers heading off to war, but also as a debriefing center for those returning from war…

    Whatever Hasan’s motive, I’ve always marveled at the fact that the post-traumatic stress of fighting in two senseless wars hasn’t driven many more soldiers to go postal…

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those affected and to all members of the U.S. military – all of whom must be thinking there but for the grace of God….

    (“‘Friendly Fire’ at Fort Hood,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 5, 2009)

    article-2596105-1CCDE34E00000578-421_634x670I wrote the above five years ago, but it pertains in every material respect to the Iraq War veteran, Ivan Lopez, who opened fire on Wednesday at this same Fort Hood, killing three and wounding 16 of his fellow soldiers … before killing himself. (Hasan was captured, tried, and sentenced to death. He’s currently rotting on federal death row.)

    [Lopez] was taking medication and receiving psychiatric help for depression and anxiety, and was undergoing a process to determine whether he had post-traumatic stress disorder.

    ‘We do not know a motive,’ Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, said. ‘We do know that this soldier had behavioral health and mental health issues, and was being treated for that.’

    (Associated Press, April 3, 2014)

    I felt obliged to acknowledge this tragic episode, but I see no point in commenting any further. Well, except to note that it finally gave those ratings-seeking vultures at CNN a better rubbernecking tragedy to cover than the non-news story of the Malaysian airliner that disappeared four weeks ago.

    Accordingly, until the next soldier goes postal, I shall suffice to extend my condolences to all families affected this time.

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  • Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 7:09 AM

    April Is Autism Month

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 4.36.45 PM

    I hereby pledge my humble support for all individuals on the autism spectrum and hail the many contributions they make to our society.

    I am especially sympathetic to the heroic kids who overcome challenges not just from lessons in the classroom but also from bullies in the schoolyard. In this vein, I take this opportunity to make honorable mention of my sister-in-law Barbara – a master teacher who has dedicated her life to educating and empowering children with autism and other learning disabilities.

  • Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    Poisoned Chalices Greet First Black President of U.S. and First Female CEO of GM

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Reuters-Obama-Bible-2008-inauguration-photog-Jim-BourgGiven the way commentators of every stripe criticize and even mock Obama these days, you could be forgiven for not recalling that these are the same commentators who hailed him as a proverbial Messiah on his way to becoming the first Black president of the United States.

    But here’s how I pooh-poohed the unbridled celebration that attended his march to the White House:

    This financial crisis is bound to hasten the demise of America as the world’s sole economic superpower… But am I the only one who finds it fateful that clueless (White) folks in Washington and on Wall Street are doing all they can to turn this country into a bankrupt banana republic just as voters are poised to elect the first Black president of the United States…?

    (“Nutjob Republicans…Defeat Bailout Bill,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 1, 2008)

    Of course, Obama also inherited two unwinnable wars which, combined with the global financial mess he inherited, must have made him feel not like the most powerful man but like the biggest fall guy in the world.

    Even so, apropos of feeling more like fall guy than commander in chief, Obama has nothing on GM’s new CEO Mary Barra.

    No doubt you recall that, just months ago, commentators of every stripe were hailing her for becoming the first female CEO of a Big Three automotive company. The consensus was that, in doing so, she had broken a glass ceiling so high that the only one higher is that which has prevented a woman from becoming president of the United States.

    article-2594509-1CBEFC6D00000578-346_634x400Well, how’s this for pooh-poohing what should still be the honeymoon period of her tenure:

    General Motors Co CEO Mary Barra on Tuesday called her company’s slow response to at least 13 deaths linked to faulty ignition switches ‘unacceptable,’ but could not give U.S. lawmakers many answers as to what went wrong as she pointed to an ongoing internal investigation…

    Representative Henry Waxman, a veteran Democrat who has spearheaded past attempts to tighten U.S. laws on automotive safety, bluntly told Barra: ‘Because GM didn’t implement this simple fix when it learned about the problem, at least a dozen people have died in defective GM vehicles.’

    GM first learned of a problem with its ignition switches on Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other models in 2001, documents have shown, but took no steps to recall any cars until this past February.

    (Reuters, April 1, 2014)

    Mary BarraBarra looked like a cross between a human piñata and a deer caught in the headlights as congressmen grilled her to explain why the rogues gallery of White guys who preceded her made the unconscionable decision to forego fixing this problem because they deemed the cost of 57 cents per ignition “too high.” The only thing worse would’ve been if cigarette peddler Philip Morris had made a public show of replacing its male CEO with a female – just to have her sitting in that fateful congressional hot seat in 1994 being grilled to explain why the rogues gallery of White guys who precede her made the unconscionable decision to spike the nicotine content to make cigarettes more addictive.

    Never mind that it only reinforces what a dog and pony show most congressional hearings are these days that Congress did not subpoena any of the White guys who actually knew about GM’s decision to sit in the hot seat.

    In any case, GM will now have to pay millions per claimant to dam the flood of lawsuits now threatening to wash away its profits for years to come. How’s that for being penny wise and pound foolish. More importantly, being forced to recall 2.6 million cars, to say nothing of the fatalities this ignition defect caused, makes a mockery of GM’s famous slogan that:

    What’s good for GM is good for America.

    2014-04-01T203808Z_352382286_GM1EA420CDZ01_RTRMADP_3_GM-RECALL-CONGRESSMeanwhile, from day one, Barra has spent more time apologizing for what is arguably the biggest corporate cover-up in U.S. history than running what the board promised her would be a “new GM.” The irony is not lost on me that the board clearly sold her a lemon when it made her GM’s first female CEO….

    When daunting challenges were turning what should have been the honeymoon period of Obama’s presidency into a nightmare, I argued (in jest) that the gods of White male dominion were conspiring to make him fail so spectacularly that Whites would not vote for another Black to be president for at least 100 years. Well, perhaps those same gods are conspiring now to make Barra fail so spectacularly that no board of any Big Three automotive company would hire another female to be CEO for at least 100 years.

    Whatever the case, there’s no denying that, like Obama, Barra could be forgiven for thinking that her pioneering position is turning out to be a poisoned chalice. But, like Obama, Barra appears to have the intelligence and skills set to succeed, despite the odds … and gods.

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  • Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 7:17 AM

    Japanese Whaling Harpooned by Western Cultural Bias

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    275530-3x2-940x627For decades, despite international political condemnation and belligerent environmental protests, Japan insisted that it engaged in whaling for cultural as well as scientific purposes.

    In fact, it was so committed to continuing its whaling practices that Japan began inducing more venal members of the United Nations to recognize its right to hunt whales – much as China was inducing them to recognize its right to claim Taiwan.

    1306836275Truth be told, I was always sympathetic to Japan’s position; not least because I see no difference between Japanese hunting whales and Americans slaughtering cows. Not to mention that there are many more people on this planet (most notably one billion Hindus) who consider the latter far more cruel and unethical than the former.

    Frankly, if more meat-eating Westerners were forced to watch how animals are slaughtered (and in many cases processed) for their enjoyment they wouldn’t be so self-righteous about hunting whales.

    In any event, I drew the line when St. Kitts & Nevis, a country in my neck of the global woods, began taking its venal support for Japan a sea too far. Specifically, it began floating the prospect of perverting the sublime experience of whale watching in the Caribbean (which is really big off Dominica) by sanctioning whale hunting too:

    It took all the intestinal fortitude I could muster to contain the gastric reflux the very notion of this prospect triggered. After all, hunting whales in our pristine Caribbean Sea conjures up all of the putrid ghastliness of hunting baby seals on virgin ice in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence.

    Whaling in the Caribbean could not be more inconsistent with the macroeconomic factors that drive our tourism sector.  In fact, given the well-documented aversion to hunting, let alone eating, whales among the Americans, Canadians, and Europeans on whom we rely for our daily bread, we might have to eat those whales ourselves if St. Kitts & Nevis inaugurates commercial whaling in our midst…

    Is it just me or is there something even culturally anathema about wannabe Ahabs in whaling boats crisscrossing cruise ships and luxury yachts to harpoon their Moby Dicks…?

    (“Whaling for Tourism? Rubbish!” Caribbean News Now, Friday, November 17, 2006)

    628x471Thankfully, this notion ended up floating like a ton of bricks.

    Now comes this ruling by the international court of last resort to finally save the whales:

    The future of whaling in Japan was thrown into doubt after the International Court of Justice ruled Monday that the nation’s annual hunt in the Antarctic was not really for scientific purposes — as Tokyo had claimed — and ordered it halted…

    The judgment was praised by Australia, which brought the case against Japan in 2010, and by environmentalists, who have been seeking an end to whaling since the 1970s on ethical grounds…

    Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government will keep its word and obey the court ‘as a state that places a great importance on the international legal order.’

    (The Associated Press, March 31, 2014)

    0Of course, the real news here is not the court’s ruling, but Japan’s immediate decision to obey.

    Mind you, this does not end whaling. After all, unlike Japan, Norway and Iceland have never shown any regard for the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 moratorium, which imposed “zero catch limits on commercial whaling.” The IWC permits whaling for scientific purposes only, but nobody who knows anything about whaling has ever thought that Japan’s whaling had anything to do with science.

    Interestingly enough, the court allowed that whales caught for scientific purposes could still be slaughtered and sold as a fringe benefit, which means that whale will soon become an expensive delicacy like Kobe steak and White Alba Truffle. But, if it’s morally and ethically wrong to kill whales, isn’t this rather like conducting scientific experiments on poor Blacks and then using them for cheap labor as a fringe benefit…?

    More to the point, though, this ruling smacks of a triumph not of universal ethics or the environment but of Western cultural hegemony. Nothing else explains why it’s okay to slaughter cows, but not okay to hunt whales; especially given the IWC’s own finding that “some whale species are robust enough to support a whaling industry.”

    Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 10.50.04 PMMeanwhile, American fishermen probably dump (aka bycatch) more whales and other endangered or protected species each year than the number of whales Japanese whalers catch for food:

    In the United States, despite strong management measures and conservation initiatives in some regions, bycatch remains a persistent problem for far too many fisheries. Some fisheries discard more fish at sea than what they bring to port, in addition to injuring and killing thousands of whales, dolphins, seals, sea turtles and sharks each year.

    (Oceana.org, March 20, 2014)

    Not to mention the hypocrisy inherent in Westerners condemning the Japanese for capturing and killing whales for food, while they’re capturing and caging them for entertainment. Continuing my admittedly dark analogy, isn’t this rather like American revolutionaries yelling, “Give me liberty or give me death!”, while keeping Blacks shackled as slaves?

    Incidentally, in addition to seeing videos of cows being slaughtered, you should see CNN’s anti-SeaWorld documentary Blackfish to appreciate why killing whales is arguably less cruel and inhumane than caging them.

    But don’t get me started on the fact that the people patting themselves on the back for securing this ruling against Japanese whaling are the very ones blithely committing far more egregious planetary sins with their King Kong-like carbon footprints and Neanderthal-like consumption (of methane-emitting emitting cows). Got that?!

    Anyway, would that half the international effort that has been marshaled over the years to save whales from slaughter in the Southern Ocean had been marshaled to save people from slaughter on the African Continent.

    Just sayin’….

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  • Monday, March 31, 2014 at 7:16 AM

    Crimea One of Many ‘Distinct Nations’ Within Nations Voting to Breakaway

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Britain went to war to reinforce its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. Therefore, it smacks of rank hypocrisy for Britain to be leading the chorus of European countries denouncing Serbia for merely threatening to go to war to reinforce its sovereignty over Kosovo…

    Kosovo embodies as much historical, cultural, and religious significance for Serbs as Mecca holds for Saudis. Moreover, it happens to be situated right within Serbia’s universally recognized borders; not thousands of (imperial) miles away – as the Falklands are from Britain.

    (“Kosovo: Wither Serbia’s Alamo,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 4, 2007)

    kosovoThis, in part, is how I criticized the double standard Western powers used to facilitate Kosovo’s independence from Serbia. I was convinced that they were setting a precedent that would come home to roost. Sure enough, Russia wasted little time invoking the Kosovo precedent to facilitate South Ossetia and Abkazia’s independence from Georgia in 2008.

    But, like Crimea, these were really just predominantly Russian provinces within nations voting to be reunited with their motherland. Catalonia, however, is a different matter.

    Not only is Catalonia presenting an equally compelling case for independence as Kosovo; it is doing so in a non-violent way that stands in commendable and instructive contrast to the violence that attended Kosovo independence.

    Alas, such is the vested (European) interest in holding Spain together (economically and politically) that, even if Catalonia were to vote ‘Yes,’ Western powers would surely conspire to nullify it; hence the double standard…

    Nevertheless, semi-autonomous regions in other countries – like Italy’s German-speaking South Tyrol region, or Belgium’s Flemish and Walloon regions – are bound to tempt fate (for political, cultural and/or economic reasons) by following the pandora’s-box precedent Kosovo set.

    (“Catalonia: Spain’s Kosovo Problem,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 1, 2012)

    Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 9.36.56 PMThe verdict is still out on Catalonia because its referendum is not scheduled until November 9, 2014. But talk about a pandora’s box:

    ‘Scotland, the Basque Country, Wales and Flanders are distinct nations with a long history behind and a strong will to govern themselves,’ Xavier Solano, former representative of the Catalan Government in the U.K., told CNBC.

    Perhaps not all of them will bid for independence, however it seems reasonable to believe that some of them may think that their future would be better in their own hands. I am convinced that EU internal borders will be re-shaped by the democratic will of the people.’

    (CNBC, March 21, 2014)

    Wither Crimea in Ukraine; now Catalonia in Spain?

    But never mind Catalonia; after all, while the international media had their sights focused on Crimea’s vote to breakaway from Ukraine, Venice was voting to breakaway from Italy.

    Here’s how Gianluca Busato, a leader of the referendum movement, expressed the prevailing frustration and resentment that led to the vote in Venice:

    Since Veneto was annexed to Italy in the 19th century we have never felt fully Italian, as we have our own culture and traditions.

    But the main reason behind our need for independence is socio-economic: each year we pay Italy almost $100 billion in taxes, but $30 billion of it never makes it back in the form of services to the region. The government squanders our money! We are better off taking care of ourselves.

    (NBC News, March 19, 2014)

    Except that, just as no Western country has recognized Russia’s attempts to redraw the map of Europe (by exercising dominion over South Ossetia and Abkhazia and annexing Crimea), none will recognize attempts by these “distinct nations” within European countries to do so.  Not to mention that the breakaway vote in Venice, as well as the one pending in Catalonia, is expressly non-binding on Italy.

    14e5398145c6dc27e70699c921f07fdfThe vote in Scotland, however, will be binding on England. Not least because Scotland has been negotiating the terms for an independence referendum with successive English governments ever since unification with England took place in 1707. Milestones towards this end over these years have included the creation of a Scottish Parliament in 1999 – complete with devolution of ministerial powers.

    All the same, both latter-day English imperialists and their abiding Scottish loyalist are painting such a Dickensian future for an independent Scotland that the ‘Yes’ vote seems unlikely to carry the day when the referendum is held on September 18, 2014. And no less a person than Alex Salmond, first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, is on record acknowledging that a ‘No’ vote could spell the end of the SNP as a political force and extinguish any aspiration for independence for at least a generation or two.

    Finally, apropos of the double standard that had the United States supporting independence for majority Albanians in Kosovo but opposing it for majority Russians in Crimea, consider this prospect for California:

    A report published in January by the state of California projects that Hispanics will become the state’s largest demographic group early next year and will represent nearly half of all residents by 2060.

    (New York Times, February 20, 2014)

    Which of course would mean not only that Hispanics could declare California a distinct nation within the United States, but also that, as such, it would rank among the largest nations in the world – with an estimated population in excess of 50 million.

    But does anyone think the United States would ever even countenance allowing Hispanics to declare California an independent state, free to annex with Mexico the way Crimea annexed with Russia?

    In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see how Russia’s long-suffering republics react to the Kremlin treating Crimea like the proverbial prodigal son by turning it into the Monaco of the Black Sea.  Especially given that Sochi, its Gstaad of the Caucasus, is already a veritable ghost city with crumbling buildings that look like they were abandoned decades ago.  What price national pride … czarist vanity?

    NOTE: The Palestinian Territories clearly constitute a “distinct nation” under the dominion, even if not within the state, of Israel. But the long-standing hypocrisy inherent in Western powers refusing to facilitate Palestine’s independence from Israel, the way they facilitated Kosovo’s from Serbia, is so notorious that I trust it requires no comment.

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