The iPINIONS Journal


  • Friday, March 27, 2015 at 6:27 AM

    BBC to ‘Top Gear’s’ Clarkson: You’re Fired!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 6.59.26 AMRecall that Jeremy Clarkson reportedly gave defenseless Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon a mind-boggling twenty-minute tongue lashing, before raining down a torrent of physical blows on him. All this just because the hotel where they were shooting on location had only cold food available, instead of the sizzling steak and crisp chips he expected to be served.

    Yet no less a person than News Corp Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch led the chorus of those venting consternation that the BBC would even countenance sacking Clarkson. Murdoch, of course, is a pied piper in the vast wasteland television has become … and social media ever was.

    Rupertmurdoch_main_1455345aHere is the viral tweet he tweeted on March 24 to advance his latest ignoble cause:

    How stupid can BBC be in firing Jeremy Clarkson? Funny man with great expertise and huge following.

    But Clarkson’s supporters, especially those blaming his victim for the fallout, should appreciate that what Murdoch is saying is as morally repugnant as saying that it was stupid of the Baltimore Ravens to fire Ray Rice for beating up his then fiancé Janay Palmer. After all, Rice was not only their leading rusher, and indispensable to any chance of repeating their 2012 feat as Super Bowl champions; he was easily their most popular player.

    By contrast, here is what I urged the BBC to do:

    I applaud the BCC for promptly suspending Clarkson and canceling the show’s final two episodes of this season. I also appreciate it holding a full inquiry, which convenes today, to discover facts and grant him procedural due process. But, having already made quite a show of issuing Clarkson that final warning, the BBC has no choice now but to sack him…

    As entertaining as he admittedly is, however, Clarkson is no more indispensable to Top Gear than Sean Connery was to the James Bond…

    The BBC can ill afford to be seen coddling an unrepentant bully and “casual racist” like Clarkson after all of the reputational damage it suffered two years ago, when reports revealed that it had been coddling an equally unrepentant bully and serial pedophile like Jimmy Savile… for decades.

    So kudos to the BBC for putting the brakes on Top Gear; and here’s to it making sure that, when the show starts again, Clarkson is no longer one of the three presenters in the driver’s seat.

    (“BBC Puts Brakes on Top Gear,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 16, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 8.03.41 PMWell, here is how BBC Director General Tony Hall announced the organization’s fateful decision on this now notorious steak and chips “fracas:”

    It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly…

    There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.

    (BBC, March 25, 2015)

    Hear, hear!

    Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 7.36.05 PMAnd here’s to this arrogant brute now being formally charged with assault for causing Tymon to end up in hospital with a bloody, busted fat lip.

    Incidentally, many media commentators speculated that Hall would find some way to give Clarkson (yet) another pass – not just because of his “huge [Twitter] following,” but also because of their personal friendship. This is why Hall’s principled decision to sack him should be instructive – not just to media commentators in the United States, but also to the new head of NBC News, Andrew Lack.

    News of the talks, which bounced around media circles, prompted speculation that Lack, a good friend of Brian Williams, the exiled anchor of the network’s “Nightly News,” will push early to get the fact-challenged newsman back on the air.

    ‘Andy Lack wouldn’t come back without Brian, said a source friendly with both executives. ‘This is all about saving Brian.”

    (New York Post, March 3, 2015)

    Frankly, given the fatal blows Williams inflicted upon his own credibility, hosting a show like The Biggest Loser or a reboot of Truth or Consequences is the only TV role he’s now fit to play.

    Related commentaries:
    Top Gear
    Nightly News

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 6:24 AM

    Yemen Falls Apart … Too

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yemen’s embattled president was pushed deeper into crisis Wednesday after fleeing a last-ditch refuge as advancing Shiite rebels seized a key air base to add another prize to their expanding territory.

    The whereabouts of Western-allied President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was not immediately clear.

    But any further disintegration of Hadi’s power would tip Yemen closer toward a civil war involving various factions, including a powerful branch of al-Qaeda.

    (Washington Post, March 25, 2015)

    No kidding….

    6144568756_12825d0f88_bHere, in part, is how I’ve been pooh-poohing every new strategy (i.e., troop deployment) President Obama has announced to combat Islamic terrorists (from Al-Shabaab in Somalia to ISIS in Syria).

    I urge you to listen carefully for anything that convinces you that his war on terrorism (against ISIS) will be any more successful than Bush’s ill-fated war on terrorism (against al-Qaeda). Just be mindful that JFK convinced the American people that his war on communism (in Vietnam) would be more successful than his predecessor Truman’s war on communism (in Korea). And beware that a stupid war by any other name (like “a counterterrorism operation”) would still prove as stupid….

    (“Demystifying ISIS: Case against Obama’s Bush-lite War on Terrorism,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 10, 2014)

    Nothing validates (or vindicates) my cynicism quite like the fact that ISIS appears to have only gotten stronger since Obama launched his master plan last August to “degrade and ultimately destroy” it.

    More importantly, here (also from “Demystifying ISIS…”) is what I’ve been proffering as the only sensible strategy Obama should execute – with respect not just to these rampaging terrorists, but also to the various factions in Afghanistan and Iraq that have bedeviled America’s ill-fated efforts at nation building for more than a decade.

    _________________

    I’ve been lamenting – in commentaries as far back as “The Shotgun Convention of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds to Frame an Iraqi Constitution,” August 22, 2005 and as recently as “Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds Fighting for Control of Iraq. Stay Out, America” June 19, 2014 – the folly of the United States acting as if it can either ‘win’ a war on terrorism or build a Jeffersonian democracy in the Middle East:

    With respect to the former, I’ve maintained that the best the United States can do is deny terrorists safe havens and disrupt their training and planning with vigilant drone surveillance and targeted preemptive strikes. After all, as it has demonstrated by doing this everywhere from Pakistan to Yemen, the United States does not need a coalition of the willing to do so.

    With respect to the latter, I’ve maintained that it’s best to leave warring factions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria to their own devices, sufficing only to warn whichever one emerges as the governing authority that it will suffer a Taliban-like fate too if it harbors terrorists within its borders.

    I put forward this strategy because, if the Afghans and Iraqis Americans spent over a decade training to govern themselves, defend themselves, and sustain themselves can’t stand on their own against a rag-tag bunch of Taliban fighters and rampaging ISIS/ISIL terrorists, respectively, then they deserve whatever fate befalls them. To say nothing of the dreadful spectacle of so many of those the U.S. trained either turning their guns directly on U.S. troops – in now notorious ‘green-on-blue’ killings, or using that training to professionalize the ranks of terrorist groups like ISIS.

    __________________

    yemen.map02

    This is why I hope I can be forgiven for just rolling my eyes in disgust when Yemen began falling apart a few months ago, despite Obama’s best efforts to portray it as his proverbial “city upon a hill” in the Middle East.

    Nothing damns Obama’s folly in this context quite like Yemen looking more like Iraq today. Recall that he hailed Yemen a few months ago for the type of successful counterterrorism partnership the United States is attempting to establish in Iraq.

    (“Obama’s Mission Creep in Iraq Channeling JFK’s Mission Creep in Vietnam,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 12, 2014)

    usa-isis-strike-deploy.siBut even I was dumbfounded that, even with the writing so clearly on the wall, Obama had hundreds of Marines still trying to put this Humpty Dumpty of a country back together again.

    Unsurprisingly, this set up the inevitable spectacle of these Marines retreating in the face of Shiite rebels (aka Houthis) in Yemen this week, in a manner embarrassingly similar to the way U.S. trained and equipped Iraqi soldiers retreated in the face of Sunni rebels (aka ISIS) in Iraq last year.

    6ee83bc2e3f46a0c710f6a7067009a98_r620x349In fact, the symmetry of this spectacle is such that fleeing Marines left behind even more sophisticated U.S. armaments for the poorly equipped Houthis to exploit than the fleeing Iraqis infamously left behind for ISIS to exploit.

    The Pentagon is unable to account for more than $500 million in U.S. military aid given to Yemen, amid fears that the weaponry, aircraft and equipment is at risk of being seized by Iranian-backed rebels or al-Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.

    With Yemen in turmoil and its government splintering, the Defense Department has lost its ability to monitor the whereabouts of small arms, ammunition, night-vision goggles, patrol boats, vehicles and other supplies donated by the United States. The situation has grown worse since the United States closed its embassy in Sanaa, the capital, last month and withdrew many of its military advisers.

    (Washington Post, March 17, 2015)

    Frankly, I couldn’t create such a conflagration of follies if I tried. All I can do is reiterate my call for Obama to leave the various Muslim factions across the Middle East and in parts of Africa to their own devices.

    But I hasten to clarify that, despite warmongering media reports, none of their sectarian fighting has ever posed any threat to the national security of the United States. Indeed, let us not forget that Sunni Iraq and Shia Iran fought an eight-year war during the 1980s, which most Americans were not even aware was going on.

    RTR4UPPL-1024x664Again, the United States should deploy Special Forces to those regions only to protect areas of vital strategic interest, like Saudi oil production and international shipping lanes.

    This is why I was so dismayed on Tuesday, when Obama compounded his decision to surge more troops into Afghanistan in 2009 by announcing a one-year extension of their deployment at the behest of new Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. After all, and I cannot belabor this point, it is abject folly to think that 10,000 U.S. troops can do a better job of training Afghan troops in one year to defend their country from Taliban fighters than 100,000 U.S. troops did in ten years.

    Apropos of folly, nothing is more so than the United States trying to prevent Shiite rebels from overthrowing a hapless Sunni president in Yemen, while the putatively powerful and predominantly Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia sat idly by – right across the border – with a military arsenal worth hundreds of billions just becoming sand infested. This is why I was so heartened yesterday, when the Saudi ambassador to the United States announced that his country has finally begun launching military strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

    sunni-vs-shiajIncidentally, it might be helpful to know that eight-five percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are Sunnis. Therefore, if Sunni Saudi wants to forfeit leadership of them to the marauding band of Sunni psychopaths now trying to form a medieval Caliphate in Syria and Iraq, what business is that of the United States? Moreover, if Sunnis want to forfeit the soul (or political control) of Islam to the fifteen percent of Shias, led by Iran, again, what business is that of the United States?

    Except, of course, that there is clearly no conflict defense contractors and their congressional pawns will not declare of strategic interest to the United States – if only to justify the unconscionable amount of taxpayer dollars budgeted each year to feed the frankensteinian military industrial complex Eisenhower famously warned about over 50 years ago.

    Mind you, I urge the United States to use its good offices and regional influence to try to broker peace between Sunnis and Shias, just as it has been doing to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Notwithstanding that the prospect for peace in the former case (with shifting alliances among far too many Muslim clans to count) is probably even dimmer than in the latter.

    In any event, this would/should not require military intervention of any kind. Only unbridled mercenary interests and misguided neo-imperialism would necessitate that.

    Related commentaries:
    Demystifying ISIS
    Obama mission creep

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 7:34 AM

    Germanwings Clipped in the Alps

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A German jetliner en route from Barcelona, Spain, to Düsseldorf, Germany, plunged from the sky on Tuesday and slammed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.

    Helicopters and rescue personnel swarmed into the remote, rugged area in southeastern France after the crash but found no signs of life. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said none of the 144 passengers and six crew members survived.

    (New York Times, March 24, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 7.26.29 AMNow the same armchair pilots, investigators, and terror experts – who are still trying to explain what happened to MH370 one year ago – will be treating us to idle speculation about what happened to this flight. Of course, the aim of all media in covering tragedies like this is not to inform so much as to entertain … for ratings.

    Meanwhile, none of this will mean anything to the loved ones of those who perished. My thoughts and prayers go out to them.

    NOTE: Despite the recent spate of airline disasters, flying remains a far safer mode of transportation than driving.

    Related commentaries:
    MH370

  • Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 9:07 AM

    Black Women Dominate at NCAA Division 1 Swimming Championships?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    simone-manuel-lia-neal-start

    Yes, Black women can’t swim, like White men can’t jump. Ha!

    When I was struggling to make my mark in NCAA Division III swimming thirty years ago, I could not have imagined a day when Black swimmers (men or women) would be dominant in Division 1.

    Manuel_-Simone-FR-Manuel-Stanford_TBX_0431Yet that day has come:

    African-American swimmers took the top three finishes in a single event at the Women’s Division 1 NCAA Championship this weekend, a feat recognized by the national governing body of swimming in the United States with a celebratory tweet.

    Freshman phenom Simone Manuel of Stanford set an NCAA, American, U.S. Open, Championship and Pool record when she clocked a time of 46.09 in the women’s 100 yard freestyle; Manuel’s Stanford teammate Lia Neal came in second place with a time of 47.13 … the University of Florida’s Natalie Hinds [came in third] with a time of 47.24.

    (NBC Sports, March 23, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 9.51.51 AMI could not be more proud. And I don’t mind admitting that my best time in the 100-yard freestyle would not have been good enough to even qualify for the final in their event, let alone win a medal.

    Of course, pioneering Black swimmers like Enith Brigitha, Maritza (Correia) McClendon, Anthony Nesty, Anthony Ervin, Cullen Jones, and Alia Atkinson (of Jamaica!) have long since dispelled the myth that Blacks can’t swim.

    But this is an historic occasion worthy of celebration and, frankly, deserving of far more mainstream media coverage than it’s getting.

    No doubt coverage of their feats at Rio 2016 will more than compensate. I can’t wait!

  • Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 8:45 AM

    Elton John Unwittingly Shows Flimsy, Fleeting Nature of Most #Protests

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Elton John, after calling for a boycott against Dolce & Gabbana, was photographed carrying a Dolce & Gabbana shopping bag into a Los Angeles recording studio March 16, according to CBS News. John was spotted with the shopping bag after he had sworn on his Instagram account that he’d never wear anything from the designers again, blasting them for their comments on gay couples adopting and babies born by in vitro fertilization.

    (Inquisitr, March 22, 2015)

    26BC657D00000578-2999023-image-a-8_1426612088498Therefore, John’s a hypocrite? Hardly.

    For I suspect he finds the insult inherent in Dolce & Gabbana dismissing children like his as “synthetic” so unforgivable that he really will back up his hashtag protest with real-life action.

    By contrast, far too many people, especially celebrities, make a show of joining online protests, but show no interest in how those protests play out in real life.

    Remember when the #StopKony2012 viral campaign made expressing concern for the “invisible children” the LRA kidnapped an article of our shared humanity?

    Invisible Children’s entire campaign smacks of little more than a feel-good PR stunt (perhaps even a misleading ploy to raise funds for administrative rather than charitable purposes). In fact, I would wager a fair amount of my pride that if you were to ask Rihanna and any of her followers a week from today who Joseph Kony is, they would react as if you asked what the Higgs Boson is….

    (“Tweeting the Genocidal Joseph Kony to Death,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 8, 2012)

    MichelleObamaBringBackOurGirlsTo be fair to viral poseurs like Rihanna, though, no less a person than Michelle Obama has participated in equally flimsy, fleeting hashtag protests.

    Remember when the #BringBackOurGirls viral campaign made expressing concern for the schoolgirls Boko Haram kidnapped an article of our shared humanity? Well, Michelle figured as prominently in that campaign as Rihanna did in #StopKony2012. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a single real-life utterance from Michelle demanding their return since making quite a show of tweeting her support almost a year ago.

    Sadly, we live in a world today where social media have made imaginary friends and hashtag protests like the real thing.  Which is why, apart from losing a few celebrity clients (who probably never paid for their stuff anyway), I don’t think #BoycottDolceGabbana will have any real impact on sales for gay fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana….

    Of course, even gay men are entitled to hold traditional views – no matter how seemingly hypocritical or self-abnegating:

    ‘You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be. Dolce said. ‘I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.’

    (NPR, March 16, 2015)

    But we are equally entitled to boycott Dolce & Gabbana for holding such views. And I would, if  – for some unforeseen reason – I were ever inclined to buy their stuff.

    Related commentaries:
    Tweeting Joseph Kony

  • Monday, March 23, 2015 at 5:46 AM

    Lee Kuan Yew, the World’s Most Admired Authoritarian Leader, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Lee Kuan Yew, who founded modern Singapore and was both feared for his authoritarian tactics and admired for turning the city-state into one of the world’s richest nations, died Monday…

    The country’s first and longest-serving prime minister, Lee guided Singapore through a traumatic split with Malaysia in 1965 and helped transform what was then a sleepy port city into a global trade and finance center.

    Although he could have remained in office for much longer, he stepped aside and handed over leadership of the ruling party, and the country, to a younger generation in 1990.

    (The Associated Press, March 23, 2015)

    i58nHNNlx3aMBetween the 1960s and 1990s, long before China became the “awakening dragon,” the talk of the global economy was of the “four Asian tigers,” namely, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore.

    But the Cambridge-educated Lee articulated such a cogent and pragmatic philosophy for national development – characterized by the very visible hand of authoritarian governance guiding free enterprise – that Singapore was easily the most dynamic and envied of the four.

    In fact, so much so that the father of China’s economic awakening, Deng Xiaoping, expressly decreed that China’s national development shall emulate Singapore’s:

    Singapore’s social order is rather good. Its leaders exercise strict management. We should learn from their experience, and we should do a better job than they do.

    (New York Times, August 9, 1992)

    Therefore, Lee’s greatest legacy may not be what he did for Singapore, but what he did for China. And could have done for Russia – if only Putin were more interested in developing its economy than in building his ego and lining his pocket.

    lee-kuan-yew-crying-national-tvWhat I find most impressive about him is that (a) unlike most strongmen of his generation, he had the humility and good sense to cede power of his own volition, and (b) he made it okay for political strongmen to cry long before a political iron lady felt she could even shed a tear.

    Granted, it remains debatable whether his were tears of joy or sorrow that day in 1965, when Singapore separated from Malaysia:

    The separation was the result of deep political and economic differences between the ruling parties of Singapore and Malaysia, which created communal tensions that resulted in racial riots in July and September 1964. At a press conference announcing the separation, then Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was overcome by emotions and broke down. Singapore’s union with Malaysia had lasted for less than 23 months.

    (Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819-2005)

    In any event, there’s no denying Lee’s indispensable role in helping Singapore not just survive but thrive as an independent and sovereign nation.

    pm-meets-obama-washington1The irony, however, is that Singapore’s new generation of leaders – headed (perhaps unsurprisingly) by Lee’s own son,  Lee Hsien Loong, as prime minister – are now looking to emulate Western democracies.

    And why not? After all, the United States has demonstrated – not just for a generation or two, but for more than two centuries – that political freedoms, property rights, competition, and transparency are absolutely necessary for sustainable development.

    Indeed, as impressive as China appears today, corruption, which is endemic and systemic, portends it doom. And, as for the Singapore model it has emulated, the Economist duly notes in its current issue that:

    Growth has become dependent on high levels of immigration, angering natives who feel the influx is suppressing their wages and making it impossible to get a seat on the tube… The Singapore model may prove unsustainable even in Singapore.

    Which is why the efforts underway to modify Lee’s model suggest that, far from being a “paragon of development,” Singapore really was never more than a “Pyongyang with broadband.”

    Lee died early this morning. He was 91.

    Farewell, Minister Mentor.

  • Saturday, March 21, 2015 at 8:42 AM

    Starbucks Now Offering Conversations on Race? No Thanks!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If I hear another political or civic leader calling for a “conversation on race,” I’m going to puke.

    (“Ferguson Grand Jury Decides: Officer Wilson Walks,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 25, 2014)

    But leave it to an old lady to explain what the only talk of Black and White at Starbucks should entail.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 9.31.08 AM

     

    Related commentaries:
    Ferguson grand jury

  • Friday, March 20, 2015 at 7:18 AM

    If Championing Michael Brown Was a Mistake, Why Champion Martese Johnson?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    jonathan-capehart-cnnJonathan Capehart, the celebrated editorial board member and columnist at the Washington Post, was in the vanguard of those hailing Michael Brown as a Black martyr. Brown, you recall, was the unarmed Black teenager who White officer Darren Wilson shot in Ferguson, Missouri last August, triggering months of (often violent) protests under the galvanizing and racially polarizing slogans, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “Black Lives Matter.”

    Well, it seems last week’s DOJ report on this shooting, which damned the Ferguson police department but acquitted Wilson, triggered a conversion of sorts in Capehart. For here, in part, is the public confessional he wrote on March 16 under the born again-like title, “Hands up, don’t shoot was built on a lie”:

    We must never allow ourselves to march under the banner of a false narrative on behalf of someone who would otherwise offend our sense of right and wrong. And when we discover that we have, we must acknowledge it, admit our error and keep on marching. That’s what I’ve done here.

    The error, of course, was practically deifying a kid who got shot only after trying to wrest away the officer’s gun. To say nothing of the fact that he did this knowing full well that he had just committed a strong-arm burglary at a local convenience store.

    26C8A72600000578-3001555-image-a-93_1426732202444Unsurprisingly, on the one hand, Blacks – determined to not let inconvenient truths derail their political activism – are condemning Capehart. While, on the other hand, Whites – eager to cite any fodder that reinforces their racial prejudices – are commending him.

    But Capehart should be neither condemned nor commended. He should be questioned. After all, some of “us” were duly decrying the martyrdom of Michael Brown last August, when Capehart and far too many others were championing it. Here, in this respect, is an excerpt from “Why Chastise the Times for Describing Michael Brown as ‘No Angel’? August 26, 2014.

    ___________________

    The New York Times is catching hell for daring to describe Michael Brown, quite accurately, as “no angel”…

    But, if/when the Times caves under this ‘Room 101’ backlash, I recommend it corrects those offending words with the two words I dared to use in one of my related commentaries to describe Michael, namely, “menacing thief”…

    Frankly, anyone tuning in to his nationally televised memorial service could have been forgiven for thinking that Michael actually belongs in the pantheon of young civil rights martyrs, alongside Emmett Till and James Earl Chaney…

    I fear that the lesson most young Black men are learning from this tragedy is that they can resist arrest – so long as they shout the newfangled slogan, ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ while doing so, or after failing to get the upper-hand. Clearly, this will only lead to more of them ending up like Michael…

    Instead of doublespeak that would make him a saint, those eulogizing Michael would honor his death far more by admonishing young Black men against the deadly hazards of resisting arrest and defying authority … merely as a misguided badge of honor or rite of passage.

    ___________________

    Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 4.30.36 PMWhich brings me to Martese Johnson, the subject of another Ferguson-like spectacle – this time in my home state of Virginia. Reports are that an intoxicated Martese, a 20-year-old Black student at UVA, became “agitated” after a local bar turned him away on St. Patrick’s Day (for presenting a fake ID, allegedly). Further, that he then became “belligerent” when a White officer tried to question him. This led to Martese getting his head bashed in on the concrete sidewalk when the police took him down to restrain him.

    Luckily, he’s not only okay; he’s well enough to experience the surreal honor of participating in campus rallies aimed at making him a Michael Brown-like martyr. Never mind that, had he had cooperated with the police, like any sensible, law-abiding citizen would, he would not have suffered a scratch.

    I feel obliged to note here that the facts about how and why Martese ended up face down on the concrete are very much in dispute. And it would not surprise me in the least if it turns out that the officers used excessive force. But, if that DOJ report taught us anything, it’s that eyewitness testimony in these cases is often unreliable, even contrived. What is beyond dispute, however, is that even as two officers were trying to restrain him on the ground, Martese could be seen on viral video not only resisting, but also screaming racist profanities at them….

    slide_411584_5187492_compressedMeanwhile, I fear the untenable message it sends to young Black men to see a sober and suited Martese and his lawyer holding a press conference yesterday. Evidently, they wanted to telegraph his intent to file a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the White cops, for injuring him when they tried to restrain him, and against his university, for failing to prevent him from drinking underage, getting drunk, and resisting arrest.

    Hell, playing this MO holds better odds than playing the Lotto.

    Frankly, the only redeeming thing about the Martese protests is that they seem to be confined to UVA’s campus and online hashtags. Of course, the latter means that they’ll be no more disruptive or effective than other hashtag protests like #Kony2012 and #BringBackOurGirls. Remember those?

    But at least these protests spare us the indignant way the Brown protests blocked traffic and flash mobbed stores, day in and day out for months, not just in Ferguson but in cities across the country.

    In an event, readers of the Washington Post are undoubtedly wondering what editorial position Capehart will champion in this case. In the meantime, even though I appreciate him confessing his sin, the public would be better served if he’d explain why he committed it in the first place.

    After all, it should not have taken a DOJ report for a critically acclaimed columnist like him to get that protesters marching back then, under the banner of ‘Hands up, don’t shoot,” were either woefully misguided or willfully ignorant.

    Related commentaries:
    Michael Brown no angel
    Ferguson

  • Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 5:38 AM

    Russia Flexing Military Muscles: more Regional Bully than Global Superpower

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet and paratrooper units to go on full alert as part of snap military exercises in the Arctic … to include nearly 40,000 servicemen, 41 warships and 15 submarines.

    (Reuters, March 16, 2015)

    PUTINA chest-thumping feature of the relationship between nuclear powers (like Russia, China, and the United States) is the elaborate military exercises each performs as if conventional warfare between them were still probable.

    After all, they may engage in proxy warfare in places like Ukraine and Syria, or invade hapless nations – as the U.S. did in Iraq in 2003 and Russia did in Georgia in 2008. (Just yesterday Putin signed a treaty formally integrating South Ossetia into Russia, similar to the one he signed last year formally integrating Abkhazia, another pro-Russian breakaway region of Georgia, both of which his military gobbled up in 2008.)

    But Hell will freeze over before any of them triggers direct military conflict. And the reason can be explained in one, appropriately eponymous acronym: MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction).

    Which is why these military exercises have always been more about advertising for defense contractors (to feed the military industrial complex that has become a cannibalizing sector in their respective economies) than about preparing for national security. Manufacturing threats to justify military spending is as old as warfare itself.

    ria-6-1-10-russian-amphibious-assault-landing-ship-baltops-previewBut let me hasten to clarify that there’s nothing wrong with Putin ordering military exercises on Russian territory (including the disputed Crimea); not least because U.S. presidents routinely order similar exercises not only on American territory, but all over the world.

    Indeed, reports are that Putin ordered his snap exercises in response the U.S.-led NATO exercises Obama ordered to be conducted in the Baltics—Russia’s backyard.

    Incidentally, there’s also nothing wrong with China increasing its fleet of one aircraft carrier to twenty; not least because the United States has been deploying its fleet of twenty (aka flexing its military muscles) around the globe for decades.

    In fact, some version of this is bound to play out in decades to come. And it will be interesting to see if the European allies defying the United States today to join China-led financial institutions, which aim to rival U.S.-led ones like the World Bank, will defy the United States then to support China’s equal rights to patrol the High Seas. Especially if Chinese naval vessels begin making ports of call on former European colonies in the Caribbean, from whence the United States announced just this week its navy is abandoning patrols.

    I fear those European allies will be so indebted to China they’ll have no choice but to salute and abide. But I digress….

    The only issue I have with Putin’s military exercises is that he’s using them to extract economic concessions from the West.

    Russia has stepped up military activity to pressure EU leaders who are set to consider fresh sanctions against Moscow, Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said Tuesday.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered massive military manoeuvres on Monday, including the deployment of nearly 40,000 troops in the Arctic.

    (Agence France-Presse, March 17, 2015)

    Not to mention his shameless boast this week about being fully prepared to go nuclear last year if that’s what it took for him to take Crimea from Ukraine. Of course, this ignores the fact that, had he done so, pro-Ukrainian nuclear powers – like France, England, and the United States – would have no choice but to respond in kind.

    More to the point, though:

    Having to resort to military force to win friends and influence neighbors makes Russia look more like a pathetic regional bully (akin to North Korea with more nukes) than a respected global power in league with the likes of China and the United States.

    (“Berlin Wall 2014: Mr. Gorbachev, Take Back that Speech!” The iPINIONS Journal, November 10, 2014)

    nk3-300x217In other words, far from making Russia look strong, these maneuvers only make it look as feckless as Putin is reckless. What’s more, it might be an unwitting demonstration of his intent to use desperate military threats to extract sanctions relief that he invited North Korea’s boy leader, Kim Jung-un, to make the first foreign trip of his reign to Russia.

    The leader of North Korea is among 26 world leaders who have accepted invitations to Moscow to take part in celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany…

    (The Associated Press, March 17, 2015)

    Kim, after all, is heir to a presidential legacy that is defined by visceral threats to launch nuclear strikes (against manufactured foes as nearby as Seoul and as far away as Washington) to command world attention and extract economic concessions:

    When it comes to psychological warfare, this North Korean gnome is one Chicken Little who manages to jerk the world’s chain every time. Indeed, true to form, statements of concern from world leaders about what Jong-Il might do followed his antic declaration [about launching nuclear strikes] with Pavlovian predictability. Which, in turn, made me constrained to wonder why — given his record of idle threats — world leaders even give him the time of day?!…

    Well, evidently, like father, like son; because Kim Jong-un is now doing the same thing … for the same reason.

    (“North Korea Craving Attention Dennis Rodman Can’t Give,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 19, 2013)

    So, with all due respect to Karl von Clausewitz, Putin is now aping Jung-un in threatening war as just the continuation of trade negotiations by other means.

    Related commentaries:
    Berlin Wall
    North Korea

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    Israel Votes to Become more like (Old) Apartheid South Africa

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yesterday’s Election Day in Israel was full of surprises; none more so than the desperate declarations and exhortations Bibi Netanyahu made to get his supporters to the polls.

    mideast-israel-electionFor he not only declared that there will never be a Palestinian state as long as he’s prime minister; he also exhorted right-wing Jews to help him stay in power to honor this declaration as follows:

    The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going in droves to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses.

    (The Jerusalem Post, March 18, 2015)

    To better appreciate the racist nature of this clarion call, just imagine the international outrage and condemnation if Mitt Romney had gone on FOX News on Election Day in 2012, and exhorted White voters to get to the polls because Black voters were going in droves, thereby putting his plan to “take back our [White] government” in danger….

    But it worked like a charm for Netanyahu. His right-wing government won a decisive victory. And if you think he has any compunction or regret about the scaremongering and race-baiting means he took to this end, think again:

    Frankly, the best way to get my disdain for Netanyahu’s politics is to understand that there’s no event too farcical or solemn for him to exploit for political gain or self-aggrandizement. This exploitation invariably has him playing the Holocaust card, which is why he can be fairly thought of as little more than Al Sharpton’s political brother from another mother.

    (“Netanyahu’s Call for Jewish Exodus more Sharpton than Moses,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 23, 2015)

    That Netanyahu has now out-Sharptoned Sharpton, by playing his own version of the race card, probably says all one needs to know about his political character and leadership.

    26BF69FD00000578-3000224-image-m-9_1426664992823In any event, I’m on record declaring that I couldn’t care any less who governs Israel. My only concern is that, in voting for Netanyahu, Israelis have consigned their country, for the near term, to international pariah status worthy of South Africa at the height of the apartheid regime.

    In fact, one can fairly think of the Palestinians in the occupied territories as the Blacks who wallowed in South African townships; Arab Israelis as the “Coloureds” who lived like “house niggers;” and right-wing Jews as the White Afrikaners who lived atop the apartheid caste system.

    Ultimately, this election result means that, to avoid charges of rank hypocrisy (if not complicity), fair-minded world leaders must now shun Netanyahu’s government, just as they once shunned South Africa’s.What’s more, multinational corporations must now divest from Israel for the same humane and moral reasons they divested from South Africa.

    Although, to be fair, Arab leaders have been calling Netanyahu the racist spade he has now revealed himself to be for years. Moreover, even I am on record, in such commentaries as “Neverending Story: Territorial (Holy War) between Israelis and Palestinians,” January 3, 2009, pooh-poohing any prospect for peace. This result only vindicates my cynicism.

    That said, I have no doubt that Netanyahu will still be embraced by right-wing Republicans in the United States, just as South Africa’s apartheid leaders were until their dying days.

    2015-03-03T174326Z_01_WAS145_RTRIDSP_3_USA-ISRAELBut, instead of marveling at the means Netanyahu took to win re-election, reporters and pundits should challenge his Republican enablers to say if they have any compunction or regret about inviting him to address a joint session of Congress on Iran just weeks ago. After all, in light of Netanyahu’s Election Day declaration and exhortation, this now makes about as much sense as inviting KKK leader David Duke to address a joint session of Congress on race.

    I feel obliged, yet again, to register my disgust with Israel-can-do-no-wrong enablers in the U.S. Congress. Because, instead of supporting the wholly informed warning Secretary of State John Kerry issued to Israel on Monday about becoming an ‘apartheid’ state, everyone from Tea Party conservative Senator Ted Cruz to left-wing liberal Senator Barbara Boxer reacted as if he uttered words that were as anti-Semitic as Donald Sterling’s were racist.

    (“Instead of Peace Israel Settling for Apartheid?” The iPINIONS Journal, May 1 2014)

    I now feel obliged to ask, in disgust: what will it profit a man to win an election, but lose his soul?

    Alas, Netanyahu is one man who is clearly all too willing to find out.

    Related commentaries:
    Netanyahu’s call
    Israel apartheid

  • Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 5:07 AM

    Republicans Send ‘Mutinous’ Letter to Iran

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    European allies are joining the Obama administration in criticizing Republican congressional interjection into nuclear negotiations with Iran, saying that an open letter from Republican senators to Iranian leaders has been counterproductive and comes at a particularly sensitive time in the talks…

    The letter warned Iran that any nuclear agreement signed by Obama could be revoked ‘by the stroke of a pen’ by any future president, and that Congress could modify its terms ‘at any time.’

    (Washington Post, March 13, 2015)

    People of all stripes are criticizing this letter to Iran. Most notably, the above-cited edition of the Post quotes retired Major Gen. Paul D. Eaton damning it as “mutinous.”

    Mona Hoobehfekr (72 of 134)

    But far too few of them are mentioning what is most egregious and misguided about this letter, which is the utter contempt its signatories showed for leaders of the other P5+1 countries (i.e., the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France + Germany). After all, these leaders are indispensable parties not only to the ongoing negotiations, but also to the economic sanctions that forced Iran to the table in the first place.

    That said, it still speaks volumes that the only sign of bipartisanship in Washington these days is the criticism conservatives/Republicans and liberals/Democrats are hurling at the forty-seven Republican senators who signed this letter.

    It’s hardly surprising, of course, that liberals are denouncing it. What is surprising is that conservatives are matching their outrage – with the editorial board of The Plain Dealer summarizing the prevailing criticism on March 11 as follows:

    The magnitude of this disgraceful decision shows the degree to which partisanship has gobbled up rationality on foreign policy.

    2015-03-03T174326Z_01_WAS145_RTRIDSP_3_USA-ISRAELMind you, many of the conservative commentators criticizing this “disgraceful decision” are on record hailing the Republican leadership’s equally disgraceful decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on Iran two weeks ago.

    What’s more, the sole purpose for writing this letter is the same as it was for inviting Netanyahu: to defy or marginalize Obama’s presidential authority by undermining his diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons; notwithstanding that doing so will only clear the way for a march of folly into Iran that would make the war in Iraq seem like a mere skirmish.

    The point is that some of us have been decrying the partisanship that has been gobbling up rationality among Republicans, on practically all of Obama’s policies (foreign and domestic), since day one of his presidency. And even among the conservatives now venting outrage over this letter, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone explaining why so many Republican senators – who knew or should have known better – signed it.

    ap495302862877_wide-8b7947002ad55627adae9f974af650ef3ba1e9f9-s1100-c15On the one hand, it’s all too understandable that a Tea-Party senator like Tom Cotton of Arkansas – who, as Secretary of State John Kerry fumed, has only been in the Senate for sixty days – took it upon himself to write this letter.

    Not least because he and fellow upstart Republicans, like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, seem to think they were elected only to pander to right-wing nutjobs by defying long-established governing principles and protocols as often as they defy common sense.

    On the other hand, it’s simply stupefying that Cotton got so many putatively seasoned and rational Republicans, including no less a person than Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to co-sign.

    But here’s why I think they did:

    So irrational is their purpose that one could also be forgiven the suspicion that their dark ulterior motive is to see America become so dysfunctional and humiliated under Obama’s leadership that Americans would not even consider electing another Black person as president for at least another 100 years.

    Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has declared repeatedly, and quite unabashedly, that, ‘The single most-important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.’ (National Journal, October 23, 2010)

    That, folks, is what this is all about – not about creating jobs, or reducing the national debt, or maintaining America’s AAA credit rating, [or preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons].

    (“S&P Downgrades U.S. Credit Rating,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 8, 2011)

    Incidentally, here also, in a nutshell, is the basis for this mutinous common cause between upstart (or Tea-Party) and establishment (or Grand-Old) Republicans: the former want Obama to fail to vindicate their fatally flawed rhetoric about the incompetence of the big government they think he personifies; the latter want him to fail to vindicate their fatally flawed rhetoric about the incompetence of Obama himself.

    Specifically, to call a spade a spade:

    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

    (“Obama Trumpets Obamacare Success … Despite Republican Sabotage,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 15, 2014)

    CBSmorning_4Now I know partisanship is nothing new in American politics. But no president in modern times has been subjected to more wanton congressional disrespect than Obama. I mean, as much as Democrats hated Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, no Democratic congressman ever heckled them during their formal state of the union address; and no Democratic leadership ever invited a foreign leader to address a joint session of Congress in a manner designed to make the sitting Republican president seem irrelevant.

    More to the point, though, I dare anyone to point to a time in U.S. history when politicians so blindly and blithely abandoned long-held policy positions, to say nothing of common sense. Yet Republicans have done this, over and over again, in a vain effort to make Obama “a failed president” – the welfare of the country be damned.

    Hell, nothing demonstrates this quite like McConnell touting his experience and seniority as virtues during his re-election campaign last year, only to discredit both, and abandon his leadership position, by co-signing this plainly ill-conceived and ill-advised letter.

    mccain-obama-485x362And don’t get me started on Senator John McCain, arguably the most distinguished and respected Republican in Congress, excusing his irrational decision to co-sign as follows:

    I saw the letter, I saw that it looked reasonable to me and I signed it, that’s all. I sign lots of letters.

    (Politico, March 10, 2015)

    This, from a man who, as the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, could have been elected president of the United States. Think about that folks….

    To be fair, though, let me hasten to clarify that losing to Obama has probably done far more to gobble up McCain’s political rationality than the simmering/opportunistic racism that seems to be gobbling up that of so many other members of his party.

    In any event, for the record, I can assure you of two things:

    1. a future president will revoke foreign aid to Israel before she revokes a nuclear deal with Iran; and
    2. congressional Republicans will have about as much success modifying the terms of such a deal as they’ve had modifying the provisions of Obamacare (i.e., none whatsoever).

    That said, given general elections being held there today, I shall end by urging Israel to get rid of Netanyahu as prime minister. Because only this will enable it to reclaim the promise of peaceful co-existence with a Palestinian state, as well as the security of an unshakable bond with the United States … under the leadership of its president, Barack Hussein Obama.

    Related commentaries:
    S&P downgrades
    Obama trumpets

  • Monday, March 16, 2015 at 5:52 AM

    BBC Puts Brakes on ‘Top Gear’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Top Gear is a British TV show that road tests cars of all types – from Italian Ferraris, British Rolls Royces, and German BMWs to French Citroëns, Russian Ladas, and American SUVs. The premise is to see if the cars perform as their manufacturers claim.

    topgearuk

    But this is hardly a show just for car geeks – a point the Monty Python-like repartee and driving hijinks of its three presenters (James May, Jeremy Clarkson, and Richard Hammond) make hilariously clear at every turn. It boasts 350 million viewers in 170 countries. I’m a big fan.

    Alas, Top Gear has a Keith Olbermann problem: its most charismatic and engaging presenter on-screen (i.e., Clarkson) is an abusive and impolitic jerk off-screen. Olbermann, of course, is ESPN’s most charismatic and engaging presenter. But this sports network suspends him for bad behavior off-screen as often as it promotes him for good performance on-screen.

    Affirming this analogy, the March 10 edition of the New York Times catalogued some of the ways Clarkson established his reputation as the show’s enfant terrible.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 9.50.44 PMMost notably, he’s on record demeaning Mexicans as “lazy, feckless [and] flatulent;” ridiculing the gastroenteritis that affects millions of chronically poor Indians living in unsanitary conditions; and singing the nursery rhyme “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe,” complete with that familiar racial epithet – not unlike those students at Oklahoma University who were expelled last week for singing an equally racist fraternity song.

    In fact, Clarkson’s record of shameful behavior was such that, after video of him singing that nursery rhyme went viral, the BBC felt compelled to announce that it had given him a “final warning.”

    Now comes this:

    The millionaire presenter is said to have verbally abused then ‘smacked’ the producer in the face in the ‘dust-up’ over being offered a ‘cold platter’ instead of a 8oz steak and fondant potatoes…

    Top Gear’s co-stars Richard Hammond and James May looked ‘embarrassed’ and were forced to sit with him to ‘calm him down’…

    ‘He was saying: ‘This is not f***** good enough … typical of the f****** BBC; you’re going to lose your job over this, I’ll make sure of it.”

    (Daily Mail, March 13, 2015)

    I applaud the BCC for promptly suspending Clarkson and canceling the show’s final two episodes of this season. I also appreciate it holding a full inquiry, which convenes today, to discover facts and grant him procedural due process. But, having already made quite a show of issuing Clarkson that final warning, the BBC has no choice now but to sack him.

    korean-air-heather-choIt might be helpful to recall that the “heiress of Korean Air,” executive vice president Cho Hyun-ah, not only lost her job, but is now sitting in prison for assaulting a lowly steward in similar fashion. Remarkably, she erupted in a “nut rage” last December when he tried to serve her macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a platter.

    The fate that befell her should be instructive. But I suspect the BBC is just doing, in effect, what Clarkson is:

    I’m having a nice cold pint and waiting for this to blow over.

    (The Sun, March 12, 2015)

    Clearly, far from the humility and contrition Cho demonstrated, Clarkson is behaving as if he should be applauded. He seems to be banking on the 350,000 of his 4.8 million Twitter followers who signed a “#BringBackClarkson” petition making BBC executives think they must – institutional integrity be damned. (Such is the impudent support he inspires that B-B-C standing for Bring-Back-Clarkson became a trending meme.)

    Never mind the likelihood that 90 percent of his Twitter followers have probably never even watched his TV show. Like most twits, they probably just enjoy his snarky, obnoxious, but often-funny tweets.

    Mind you, this online petition should have about as much influence on the BBC as that “#BringBackOurGirls” petition had on Boko Haram. But social media, especially the way they now influence mainstream media, are such that the BBC might be more inclined to cave in to the viral demands of Clarkson’s twits than do what is necessary to protect its corporate reputation.

    269B3C3D00000578-2992920-image-a-9_1426254213186Unfortunately, the perverse reality is that other, less scrupulous networks are reportedly salivating at the prospect of hiring Clarkson if/when the BBC fires him. A reality he seems to be reveling in with trademark arrogance.

    As entertaining as he admittedly is, however, Clarkson is no more indispensable to Top Gear than Sean Connery was to the James Bond. In other words, if the BBC were to put another witty, acerbic Brit in Clarkson’s seat, the show would continue to go, perhaps even grow. More importantly, by doing so, the BBC would protect and preserve its institutional integrity.

    Incidentally, American viewers might appreciate the instructive analogy of Lester Holt replacing the purportedly indispensable Brian Williams in the anchor chair at NBC Nightly News a month ago – with no measurable drop in ratings whatsoever; this, after reports exposed Williams as a serial liar.

    (Yes, prime minister, your children’s hearts should be spared. David Cameron chimed in on the fallout from Clarkson’s “fracas,” supporting him rather supinely by whining that his children would be heartbroken if the show itself were canceled.)

    What’s more, though, the BBC can ill afford to be seen coddling an unrepentant bully and “casual racist” like Clarkson after all of the reputational damage it suffered two years ago, when reports revealed that it had been coddling an equally unrepentant bully and serial pedophile like Jimmy Savile … for decades.

    So kudos to the BBC for putting the brakes on Top Gear; and here’s to it making sure that, when the show starts again, Clarkson is no longer one of the three presenters in the driver’s seat.

  • Sunday, March 15, 2015 at 8:23 AM

    Shooting Police to Protest Police Violence in Ferguson, Mo? Idiots.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Protesters flip over a Ferguson police car in FergusonIt was only a matter of time:

    Two police officers were shot and seriously injured early Thursday near the Ferguson, Mo., police headquarters, an incident that occurred amid ongoing protests in the city.

    Just hours earlier, the Ferguson police chief had announced his resignation, a decision that came in the wake of a blistering report from the U.S. Department of Justice. Federal investigators said last week they determined that the city’s police force and court system were racially biased and predatory.

    (Washington Post, March 12, 2015)

    In fact, that “blistering report” forced the city manager and several other employees to resign as well.

    Moreover, federal authorities have declared their intent to hold Ferguson in practical receivership. And it shall remain thus while they implement reforms to redress the systemic, race-based abuses that caused such simmering (and now imploding) resentment among Black residents.

    Obama-Ferguson-FoxIncidentally, it speaks volumes that no less a person than President Obama commented on this report by observing that the “racially biased and predatory” policies it cites are not unique to Ferguson. Policies, I remind you, that had everyone from the White cop on the beat to the White judge in court treating Blacks as nothing more than sources of revenue (i.e.,by routinely ticketing and arresting them on trumped-up charges just to extract fees and fines).

    It was also astute of Obama to give notice to other predominantly Black cities with predominantly White police departments that his DOJ could be investigating them next.

    Apropos of which, anyone who knows anything about DOJ investigations could or should have anticipated these forced resignations and federal oversight. Hence the forlorn question I posed months ago, when federal authorities first announced their intent to investigate policing in Ferguson:

    Why are they still protesting in Ferguson? And who are they?

    Frankly, given the misguided and disruptive nature of their ongoing protests, man-bites-dog headlines about protesters opening fire on the police were inevitable.

    Ferguson Mayor James Knowles announces the resignation of Police Chief Thomas Jackson during a press conference in Ferguson, MissouriIt’s understandable, for example, that they now feel emboldened to demand the head of the mayor too. But they could do so in a far more orderly and sympathetic fashion by organizing a recall, instead of taking to the streets, invariably at night, which only disrupts traffic, frustrates local businesses, and attracts mischief-makers like moths to a flame. Not to mention that it was the DOJ’s report, not these protests, which forced those resignations.

    This compels me to reiterate:

    No case of police brutality justifies looting and vandalism. Period. Not least because the anger and frustration among Blacks today pale in comparison to that which simmered among Blacks during the Civil Rights Movement. Yet the only barbarism on display during their protests came not from Black marchers looting and vandalizing stores, when they weren’t taunting the police, but from White cops willfully attacking them as they marched peacefully and non-violently.

    Is there any wonder that people (Black and White) have as much contempt for these marauding Black protesters today as they had for those mauling White cops back then?

    (“Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as about Police Brutality,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 12, 2014)

    Better still, I offer this take on an instructive quote from MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963:

    Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 9.34.25 AM

    Sadly, these protesters, who claim to be engaged in a new civil rights movement, are just making a mockery of the precedent MLK and others set.

    What’s more, the “internal violence of spirit” among so many of today’s shortsighted and narcissistic protesters is such that it seems impossible to separate the wheat (those truly interested in nonviolent protest) from the chaff (those only interested in creating mischief).

    Meanwhile, I fear media coverage is only fueling their antics. Therefore, henceforth, I shall do my part by publishing no more commentaries on this tragic but all too common episode in the life of Black America.

    Related commentaries:
    Ferguson

  • Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 5:49 AM

    Alecia Lightbourne-Morris (aka My Aunt Titt) Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Growing up in The Bahamas, I was always aware that I belonged to an uncommonly large extended family – comprised of men and women who commanded a great deal of attention and respect. For a shy boy like me, this had many (vicarious and fringe) benefits.

    But my shyness also meant that I participated as little more than a potted plant at family gatherings. Yet there was benefit in this too; not least because it allowed me to observe (and be entertained by) everybody else.

    Oh the things I observed … . But this is not the occasion or place for all that.

    I share the above only to recall fond memories of observing my Aunt Titt interacting with family members of her generation much as I did with those of mine.

    Not that she was a potted plant too, mind you. No, she was far too beautiful. If anything, she participated more like an elegant floral centerpiece: admired and talked about, but somehow beyond approach (or reproach) … and shy.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 6.36.50 PM

    Of course, even if I weren’t so shy, the “generation gap” was such back then that getting to know an aunt or uncle consisted primarily of them picking up where the preacher left off in church, throwing in a question or two about school to show a little personal interest. No doubt this concept will seem alien to kids of today – who see their parents competing daily with aunts and uncles to be their best friends. But those were the days … .

    The point is that, as fond as I was of Aunt Titt, I cannot say I ever really “knew” her. Alas, this holds true for all of my aunts and uncles.

    To be fair, though, it did not help that I left The Bahamas in my mid-teens. After all, this not only stunted opportunities for me to branch out during family gatherings, but also meant that I wasn’t around when that generation gap began closing … even in my family.

    Nonetheless, what I can say is that, based on the little interaction I had with all of my aunts and uncles, Aunt Titt was easily the most endearing. And this had everything to do with the fact that, unlike the others, she seemed genuinely more interested in talking to me than in preaching at (or patronizing) me.

    It’s probably self-evident that I have long since overcome my boyhood shyness. So much so, in fact, that family elders have come to expect me to say things, especially inconvenient truths, that get their knickers all in a twist.

    Accordingly, I hereby disclose that most (if not all) of my seven sisters and seven brothers always regarded Aunt Titt’s husband, Uncle Nat, as the coolest of our fourteen aunts and thirteen uncles. I, however, always regarded her as such.

    Indeed, I was so inspired by her unassuming willingness to bridge that generation gap that I made a point of showing the kind of interest in my nieces and nephews (no matter how unrequited) she showed in me.

    That said, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the trials and tribulations my Aunt Titt endured with unfailing equanimity and grace. Which is why I shall end this modest tribute with homage to the religious faith that sustained her throughout her life:

    “The Old Rugged Cross”

    On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
    The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
    And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best
    For a world of lost sinners was slain…

    So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
    Till my trophies at last I lay down;
    I will cling to the old rugged cross,
    And exchange it someday for a crown.

    Aunt Titt finally laid down her burdens on February 25 in Freeport, Grand Bahama, dying from the ravages of stomach cancer. She was 68.

    Farewell, sweet aunt.

  • Monday, March 9, 2015 at 6:04 AM

    ‘The Search for MH370: One Year On’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A year ago this week, the media were regaling us with 24/7 reports on the historic scope of search-and-rescue efforts to find this missing flight. Never mind that their reports consisted of little more than rank speculation – complete with references to pings, beacons, and floating debris, all of which served no purpose other than to heighten the suspense.

    Whereas, here, in part, is what I wrote back then in “Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 … ‘Lost’,” March 14, 2014.

    ____________________

    Nobody knows what became of it.

    Which is why your guess at to what happened is as good as that of any of the experts of every stripe who have been filling up hours and hours of TV floating all kinds of scenarios –from a hijacking to a Bermuda Triangle-like disappearance.

    My own scenario follows the takeoff for the TV series Lost. All things considered, those on board should be so lucky…

    You know they’re just drumming up suspense for ratings when news anchors begin posing leading questions like: I know U.S. authorities have debunked this theory, but what do you think it says about what happened if it were true…?

    In other words it doesn’t even matter that the premise of their questions has no basis in fact; they pose them just to manufacture suspense and justify their obsessive reporting on an incident that has produced nothing newsworthy since it happened seven days ago…

    Anyway, instead of adding to this babel of self-serving rumor mongering, I shall suffice to declare my firm belief that this mystery will eventually be solved and extend my despairing hope and best wishes to all family members affected. But there’s no denying my consternation over the fact that, despite all the advances in radar and avionics, this Malaysian jumbo jet disappeared without a trace today just as Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed prop plane did 77 years ago.

    ___________________

    Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 10.35.44 AMWell, it seems I was all too prescient, even if a little too irreverent:

    ‘Good night Malaysian three-seven-zero’…

    On March 8, 2014, at 1:19 a.m., someone spoke those last words from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to air traffic controllers before the Boeing 777 vanished.

    A year later, searchers have no new clues as to where it went with 239 people on board.

    (CNN, March 7, 2015)

    Lost….

    Related commentaries:
    MH370

  • Sunday, March 8, 2015 at 3:11 PM

    Commemorating Selma, Recognizing Ferguson: Never Forget, Never Again!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    BloodySundayConfrontation_022013

     

    390-sunday-0306

     

    No doubt images from Bloody Sunday are as indelibly seared in America’s national consciousness as images from the Kennedy assassination. And, in each case, a picture is truly worth a thousand words.

    Therefore, I shall suffice to reprise excerpts from two previous commentaries.

    The first is from “Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as about Police Brutality,” August 12, 2014. Especially because many consider this killing as much a tipping point for a new civil rights movement as Bloody Sunday was for the original one.

    ___________________

    Not every fatal shooting by the police of an unarmed (Black) man is a case of police brutality. We’ve all seen far too many incidents of people resisting arrest – even wresting away a policeman’s gun and killing him…

    Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to cite a case that resulted in fatality, where the victim followed the few general rules we should all follow when dealing with the police. Those rules are:

    1. Do not run;
    2. Follow instructions calmly (i.e., no sudden moves that might spook a nervous or trigger-happy policeman);
    3. Wait for the police to explain why you’re being stopped before politely posing any objections, concerns, or questions you may have;
    4. If instructed to turn around to be frisked or handcuffed, comply without uttering a word; and
    5. Save any disagreements or arguments you may have for the courtroom or your civilian complaints review board.

    No case of police brutality justifies looting and vandalism. Period. Not least because the anger and frustration among Blacks today pale in comparison to that which simmered among Blacks during the Civil Rights Movement. Yet the only barbarism on display during their protests came not from Black marchers looting and vandalizing stores, when they weren’t taunting the police, but from White cops willfully attacking them as they marched peacefully and non-violently.

    Is there any wonder that people (Black and White) have as much contempt for these marauding Black protesters today as they had for those mauling White cops back then?

    __________________

    The second excerpt is from “Why Chastise the Times for Describing Michael Brown as ‘No Angel?!” August 26, 2014. Especially because, with all due respect to protest slogans like “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” and “Black Lives Matter,” nothing will do more to save Black lives than drumming the following message into the heads of Black kids. But also because of the killing in Wisconsin, just last night, of yet another unarmed Black kid, Tony Robinson (19), by yet another White cop … after this kid, like Michael, not only resisted arrest but attempted to wrest the cop’s gun away, reportedly.

    __________________

    It cannot be overstated that, instead of doublespeak that would make him a saint, those eulogizing Michael would honor his death far more by admonishing young Black men against the deadly hazards of resisting arrest and defying authority … merely as a misguided badge of honor or rite of passage.

    __________________

    We the people shall overcome. Yes we … shall.

    Related commentaries:
    Killing of Michael Brown
    DOJ: no civil rights charges in Brown case
    Michael Brown no angel

    * This commentary (just pics) was originally published yesterday, Saturday, at 7:10 a.m.

  • Friday, March 6, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    Hey Stupid, Personal Tweet Is an Oxymoron

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    rs_500x280-140720115955-KUWTK_914_16I’m on record decrying much of social media as little more than a virtual oasis for attention-seeking showoffs.

    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 standard-bearers of what is now not only 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)

    Don’t get me started on the attention-seeking oafs who post the most outrageous things their addled minds can fathom because, evidently, this is the surest way to become a trending topic on social media. For them, the additional attention their inevitable apology generates is just icing on the cake.

    Nothing is more irritating/dismaying, though, than mainstream media trolling social media for such topics to broadcast as breaking news, which has become standard journalistic practice. I mean, why the hell is Lester Holt reporting on the NBC Nightly News what some pseudonymous twit tweets about the day’s event?!

    But let me hasten to clarify that I’m also on record readily conceding that social media provide the most effective and cheapest ways ever to promote one’s business or, far more often than not, oneself. And I’m acutely mindful of the role social media can play (and have played) in organizing, galvanizing, and/or publicizing everything from political protests to flash mobs.

    Coco-Chanel-Surrounded-by-008I just shudder to think what it portends for Western civilization that a no-talent boob like Kim Kardashian is an even bigger celebrity than a cultural icon like Coco Chanel ever was. Indeed, such is Kim’s trendsetting influence, across all social media, that designers like Karl Lagerfeld are falling all over themselves to feature her sister Kendall as their muse, hoping to bask in and profit from Kim’s (okay, Kimye’s) reflected glow.

    Over two decades ago, the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan fatefully lamented the trend of “defining deviancy down,” which normalized previously unacceptable behavior. Soon thereafter reality TV became a cultural phenomenon — with the salacious, drug-induced antics of Anna Nicole Smith passing for primetime entertainment.

    Today, I fatefully lament the trend of people using social media to convey personal messages. A chat I had with an old acquaintance yesterday (via phone) demonstrated how normalized this previously unacceptable form of “human interaction” has become.

    funeral_selfieFor, despite having access to my personal phone number and e-mail address, she demanded to know why I failed to acknowledge the “heartfelt condolences” she tweeted upon learning of a death in my family.

    But her indignation turned immediately to consternation when I asked her to explain why she posted her condolences on Twitter instead of conveying them to me on the phone (or via e-mail). I kid you not, I might as well had asked a stupid question like, why do people go to restaurants instead of eating at home?

    Alas, I fear the expression of such sentiments these days is intended more to draw attention to the person expressing them than to comfort the person receiving them.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 11.58.16 AMNonetheless, I respectfully submit that there’s something profoundly dehumanizing in people thinking that no thought, expression, or deed – no matter how personal or intimate – has any redeeming value unless it’s posted on social media.

    I realize, of course, that trying to correct this cultural trend is even more quixotic than trying to win the war on drugs.

    In any event, for the record, I am not, and never have been, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, or any other social media platform. It follows, therefore, that if you sent a message to me on any of them, I never saw it. Not that it was for my eyes only anyway….

    At long last, is nothing personal, intimate, or sacred…?

    Related commentaries:
    Keep your selfies to yourself

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 12:12 pm

  • Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 5:36 AM

    Snowden Wants In from the Cold…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A Russian lawyer for Edward Snowden said on Tuesday the fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor who leaked details of the government’s mass surveillance programs was working with American and German lawyers to return home.

    ‘I won’t keep it secret … he wants to return back home.’

    (Reuters, March 3, 2015)

    Well, that didn’t take long. I thought he would hold out for at least a few years.

    But here is an excerpt from “I Said Putin Would Hand Snowden Over. I Was Wrong,” October 25, 2013, which explains why I never thought he’d enjoy life as a fugitive in Russia.

    ____________________

    0202121Snowden is enjoying his honeymoon period in Moscow, being fêted, oddly enough, by Westerners his WikiLeaks paymasters are flying in to sing his praises…

    Snowden seems destined to emulate British double agent Kim Philby, who defected to the Soviet Union in 1963 and lived there (in Moscow), free of reprisals, until he died in 1988. It is instructive to note, however, that this fabled ‘Third Man’ lived out almost all of his 25 years in relative obscurity and penury, and not without palpable regret and abiding sorrows [which he drowned in the bottles of alcohol that eventually killed him]…

    So don’t be surprised if a disillusioned Snowden ends up drinking himself to death too. After all, Philby’s Russian spymasters had just cause to treat him like a national hero, yet he still felt like little more than a Western mascot almost from day one. By contrast, Snowden’s Russian wards have no reason to treat him like anything but a traitorous rat.

    ____________________

    snowden-edward-nsa-russiaWith all due respect to Snowden, however, the real story here is what his plea to return home says about life in Putin’s Russia. After all, here is a man making a perfectly rational decision to live as a prisoner in the United States instead of as a folk hero in Russia.

    Still, nothing has impressed me about Snowden’s reputed intelligence quite like this decision to announce his “Thanks, but no thanks” to Russia while Putin is busy trying to cover up his latest political assassination: how shrewd, and eminently worthy of a now-seasoned traitor.

    On the other hand, the timing of his announcement might have something to do with the documentary about his NSA leaks winning an Oscar ten days ago. After all, Snowden is so full of himself, he probably thinks this means that he’s such a bona fide national hero now that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will be compelled to grant him a sweetheart plea deal.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 8.35.38 AMYou know, similar to the slap on the wrist the DOJ announced yesterday it’s giving former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus for sharing classified information with his mistress, Paula Broadwell, to use in a book she was writing … about his heroic exploits. (The DOJ is recommending Petraeus serve two years probation and pay a $40,000 fine.)

    But even this Petraeus comparison might be unfair to Snowden. Not least because this self-righteous SOB has been insisting, from day one, that he should be accorded the right to dictate terms for what he deems would constitute “reliable guarantees of a fair trial … even before he sets foot in court. He couldn’t care any less that, for all its faults, the United States has the fairest criminal justice system in the world; or that no defendant anywhere has ever been accorded the right he feels entitled to.

    In any event, I hope Snowden is smart enough to anticipate that Putin will probably prolong his homesickness by seizing this opportunity to use him as a bargaining chip the way ISIS uses its Western hostages….

    But here’s to Edward Snowden soon going the way of Bradley/Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. Remember them…?

    He met failure as one day he would probably meet death, with cynical resentment and the courage of a solitary.

    (John le Carré, ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’)

    Related commentaries:
    Putin hand over Snowden
    Assassination of Russian opposition leader
    David Petraeus affair
    Snowden’s NSA leaks

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 5:47 AM

    Political Confession (or Dying Declaration…?) of Mugabe of Zimbabwe

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    _744174_mugabe-fist300You’d be hard-pressed to find a non-African (or even a non-Zimbabwean) who has decried Robert Mugabe’s rule more than I.

    Here are two illustrative excerpts from the many commentaries I’ve written on point.

    • From “Zimbabweans Pray for Liberation from their Liberator – Robert Mugabe,” March 29, 2005.

    _____________________

    The Mugabe government of Zimbabwe is the most corrupt, dysfunctional, and incompetent in Africa. And on a continent that has the most corrupt, dysfunctional, and incompetent governments in the entire world, Mugabe’s achievement in this regard is a truly dubious distinction…

    Like his plan for Black economic empowerment, Mugabe’s plan for land reform has been an abject failure: Five years ago, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Sub-Saharan Africa; today, it’s a basket case of starving people. Five years ago, there were 4,000 white-owned farms in Zimbabwe; today, there are only 400 – mostly unproductive – farms left…

    According to a March 12 report in The Times:

    Most of the seized farms went to President Mugabe’s loyal cronies in government who used them for weekend retreats. Virtually every Cabinet minister and senior security official now has at least two farms.

    Zimbabwe’s courageous archbishop, Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, has even said a public prayer for a Ukrainian-style uprising to overthrow Africa’s lone reigning big dada.

    Alas, the conditions of poverty, disease, and hunger are so severe that Zimbabweans may not have the strength to march in the streets even if they wanted to.

    ____________________

    • From “Yes, Save Darfur! But What about Zimbabwe,” February 8, 2007.

    ___________________

    hqdefault (1)In November 2005, long-suffering Zimbabweans seemed to have won a reprieve when the BBC reported that Mugabe had finally agreed to ease his iron-fisted rule, after realizing that doling out White farms as patronage to Black cronies – who had no experience (or interest) in farming – did not guarantee his political legacy…

    Never mind the criminally negligent death by starvation of hundreds of thousands of his people that resulted from his seizure of White farms; or the rendering homeless of millions more after he bulldozed their homes pursuant to the ‘Operation-wipe-out-the-trash’ phase of his land reforms.

    However, notwithstanding that BBC report (which also cited the prospect of Mugabe soliciting many of the 3,600 White farmers he evicted to return to their farms), I expressed doubts about his conversion – in “Mugabe Finally Admits That Starving His Own People Was a Mistake. No Shit,” November 7, 2005 – as follows:

    My serially vindicated cynicism compels me to suspect that this mea culpa is just another amoral Mugabe ploy to elicit sympathy and extract financial aid from Western donors. After all, feigning regret for the suffering they’ve inflicted on their own people has always served Africa’s big Dadas (despotic rulers) well when courting rich countries (like the United States during the Cold War, and China today).

    Therefore, I was not at all surprised when the Washington Post reported this week (on February 5) that … Mugabe remains committed to keeping his country mired in the death throes of genocidal starvation:

    Zimbabwe’s national security minister has told the country’s last remaining white farmers that they will be jailed if they refuse to abide by a deadline that passed over the weekend for them to leave their farms.

    __________________

    These excerpts should explain why I was so unmoved (and why you should’ve been too) by a BBC report on Friday, informing the world that Mugabe has admitted, yet again, that his land reform program was an abysmal failure:

    Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has admitted failures in the country’s controversial land reform programme.

    ‘I think the farms we gave to people are too large. They can’t manage them,’ the 91-year-old leader said in unusually candid comments.

    (BBC, February 27, 2015)

    Too large?! No Mr. Mugabe, the problem was giving farms (of any size) to people who clearly intended to use them for anything but farming. Not that anybody expected these congenitally selfish SOBs to farm, mind you. After all, it was too easy for them to buy their food on the black market, despite the threat of economic sanctions, just as corrupt ruling elites from Iran to North Korea had been doing for decades?

    The poet George Eliot is credited with coining the maxim:

    It’s never too late to be what you might’ve been.

    She was wrong. Because, in Mugabe’s case, it’s much too late to be the Black liberator he might’ve been (and always pretended to be).

    Vatican Pope John Paul II BeatificationTo be fair, though, far from being just another amoral ploy to elicit sympathy and extract financial aid, this might be Mugabe’s way of confessing his sins before he meets his maker. Indeed, at 91, chances are that the only things he hears loud and clear these days are the Grim Reaper’s footsteps drawing nigh.

    Except that this is a man who based his nearly forty-year rule on blaming Western countries for executing neo-colonial policies, which he claimed not only undermined Zimbabwean independence, but starved millions of its people to boot. This, notwithstanding that those countries provided the only food millions of Zimbabweans got for many years, thanks to his confiscatory land reform.

    Therefore, to give himself the best possible chance of being escorted through the Pearly Gates, instead of the Gates of Hell, it behooves Mugabe to admit that demonizing the West for his catastrophic policies was also mistake.

    Grace MugabeMeanwhile, apropos of mistake, Mugabe seems intent on anointing his wife, Grace (49) as his successor. Granted, he would only be emulating the “democratic” precedent President Néstor Carlos Kirchner of Argentina set in 2007, when he effectively anointed his wife, Cristina Elisabet Fernández, as his.

    Incidentally, Mugabe and Grace seemed to be tempting fate when they threw a 91st-birthday party for him last month that was truly worthy of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

    mugabe-birthday-party-associated-pressSo much so that not since Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier and Michele threw the last of their notoriously lavish parties has a dictator displayed such galling and wanton contempt for his chronically impoverished people. (For what it’s worth, that Duvalier party in 1986 proved to be the final straw for his dictatorial rule.)

    More to the point, though, nothing indicates how short his wife’s grace period would be quite like members of Mugabe’s own ruling ZANU-PF party already decrying her ambition and mocking his dotage. Not to mention the scramble for survival (or power) he set off recently when he:

    … fired his deputy, Joice Mujuru, and seven government ministers, his cabinet secretary … in the latest twist in a power struggle over the choice of his successor.

    The move took place days after Mugabe … publicly rebuked Mujuru, who was seen just months ago as the most likely to take his place when he dies or retires.

    (Reuters, December 9, 2014)

    Mugabe proffered the plainly spurious (if not paranoid) claim that his deputy and others were conspiring to overthrow and assassinate him.

    But whispers dismissing him as just a doddering old fool doing his wife’s bidding have become so loud that he prevailed upon The Herald, his state-owned newspaper, to publish a report on Friday under the headline, “I’m still in charge,” which included this telltale sign that he’s not:

    She is not the power behind my throne. She has come into politics in her own right.

    kb1hjboInterestingly enough, this dying declaration (politically speaking) came on the heels of an incident, which not only saw Mugabe fall from grace, literally, but caused him to sow seeds of fateful resentment among the bodyguards who have protected him all these years:

    [Twenty-seven] bodyguards of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe have been punished for failing to prevent him falling down the steps from a podium, in an incident that drew widespread mockery online

    The 90-year-old dictator was captured on camera as he stumbled on a red carpet and fell to his knees after addressing supporters who gathered to welcome him back from a trip to Ethiopia at Harare airport last week.

    (International Business Times, February 10, 2015)

    Mugabe spent nearly forty years cultivating an image as an iron-fisted strongman. Yet the irony seems completely lost on him that this image — of a doddering old fool, trying desperately to anoint his trophy wife as his successor — is the lasting one Zimbabweans will have of him. What’s more, having declared his intent to be re-elected in 2018, when he’s 94, Mugabe will only reinforce this image by withering away in full public view.

    mugabe-780708

    NOTE: Nothing demonstrates what a statesman and class act Nelson Mandela was quite like juxtaposing his career and character with Robert Mugabe’s.

    Related commentaries:
    Zimbabweans pray for liberation
    Save Darfur
    Hail Mugabe … again

  • Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 8:21 AM

    The Fated Assassination of Russian Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s arguable that an opposition leader in Putin-controlled Russia is an even more endangered species than a Christian leader in ISIL-controlled Syria.

    RUSSIA-articleLargeBut the best way to understand why opposition leaders in Russia invariably end up in prison, hopelessly marginalized, or dead is to understand that Putin eliminates them for the same reason the scorpion stings the frog….

    I coined the term ‘putinization’ to describe Putin’s neo-Stalinist tactics, which were (and are) clearly aimed at neutralizing all political dissent, quashing all civil liberties, and making him a latter-day Czar.

    (“Hail Putin,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 3, 2007)

    Nine years ago, an assassin took out former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. I commented back then in “Putin Probably Ordered the Hit. But There’s Nothing Anyone Can Do about It,” November 28, 2006.

    Here is an excerpt.

    ____________________

    Everyone – from government ministers to Litvinenko’s fellow defectors from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB, the successor agency to its infamous KGB) – has already fingered Putin, himself a former KGB spy, for this crime.

    Litvinenko fled Russia in 2000, after accusing the FSB of killing over 300 Russians in 1999 in a Machiavellian scheme to frame and discredit Chechen rebels. The prevailing suspicion is that Putin targeted him because Litvinenko was becoming too public (and credible) in his criticisms of the Kremlin. Further, that it was Litvinenko’s high-profile investigation into what many suspect was an FSB hit last month on another Kremlin critic, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, that prompted Putin to silence him now.

    ___________________

    video-undefined-262A061200000578-175_636x358Now comes this:

    Boris Nemtsov, a charismatic Russian opposition leader and sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down Saturday near the Kremlin, just a day before a planned protest against the government…

    Russia’s top investigative body said Saturday it is looking into several possible motives for the killing … including an attempt to destabilize the state, Islamic extremism, the Ukraine conflict and his personal life.

    (The Associated Press, February 28, 2015)

    But all you need to know about this investigative body is Putin’s declared intent to head it:

    Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the president would take the investigation into Nemtsov’s death under personal control….

    (The Guardian, February 28, 2015)

    2635176000000578-0-image-a-24_1425206967832Clearly, most world leaders would be loath to act as investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury in a murder case, where he’s the prime suspect. But it’s an indication of the totalitarian power he wields at home, and of the respect that power has earned him abroad, that Putin has no compunctions whatsoever in this respect.

    Which is why you can bet this body will investigate every motive except the most obvious one: another hit Putin ordered to silence another Kremlin critic who became too credible for his own good.

    After all, it’s no coincidence that, like Litvinenko, Nemtsov was set to release irrefutable evidence affirming widely held suspicions about nefarious Kremlin activities. According to BBC reports, the evidence in this case shows the presence of Russian soldiers and armaments on battlefields all across eastern Ukraine, giving the “big lie” to Putin’s adamant and persistent denials.

    Incidentally, it might be helpful to highlight two points at this juncture:

    • Nemtsov’s girlfriend, who was strolling with him when he was assassinated, is Ukrainian.
    • The aforementioned Politkovskaya was assassinated in central Moscow in eerily similar fashion in October 2006 — complete with four bullets, just like Nemtsov. Prevailing suspicion was, and remains, that Putin ordered the hit as punishment for her reporting on war crimes the pro-Russian regime and Kremlin-dispatched mercenaries were committing in Chechnya.

    1420660749_1_9_mEtY16BLUnfortunately, Putin has gotten away with so many big lies, one can hardly blame him for thinking he can get away with another one in this case. Therefore, don’t be surprised if he blames pro-Western forces for hiring a Russian (or Ukrainian) hitman to assassinate Nemtsov in a misguided attempt to frame him and destabilize Russia. Putin could then use this big lie as a pretext to turn the country into even more of a police state to prevent such politically motivated assassinations … betraying no hint of irony or hypocrisy. And if you think this is just too cynical, how do you think Putin – who has never held a non-government job in his life – has gotten away with amassing a personal fortune, which Forbes estimates at $40 billion…?

    Trust me, Putin lords over a kleptocracy that has fleeced public funds on such an unprecedented scale that it makes kleptocracies headed by notorious African despots seem petty by comparison. Which of course is why he is so anxious to stoke the combustible geopolitical crisis in Ukraine to deflect the international media from drawing unavoidable parallels between Yanukovych’s illegal accumulation of wealth and his. Far better, for example, to get Russians drunk with pan-Russian pride than to have them pose sober questions about the billions he and his cronies embezzled from the $50-billion price tag for the Sochi Olympics.

    (“Ukraine’s (Peaceful) Orange Revolution Turns Red … with Blood,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 25, 2014)

    But you don’t have to take my word on the credibility and integrity of this Putin regime. Because here is the extraordinary way America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State John Kerry, accused Russia — during congressional testimony just this week — of telling bold-faced lies about its involvement in Ukraine:

    Russia has engaged in a rather remarkable period of the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I’ve seen since the very height of the Cold War.

    And they have been persisting in their misrepresentations, lies, whatever you want to call them, about their activities there to my face, to the face of others, on many different occasions.

    (The Associated Press, February 24, 2015)

    Alas, Nemtsov is on record bemoaning that Russians have become so cowered and brainwashed by Putin’s thuggish rule and shameless propaganda, they’ll believe any lie he propagates. Even I bemoaned this North Korean-like transformation of Russia’s national consciousness, which has even turned redoubtable Putin critic Mikhail Gorbachev into a Putin apologist.

    Many people were seized with shock and dismay yesterday as they listened to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev deliver his keynote speech at a forum marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall…

    Gorbachev delivered an anti-Western diatribe that one could be forgiven for thinking was written by Putin himself. He seemed primarily interested in chastising the West for dancing on the grave of the Soviet Union, ignoring the inconvenient truth that his Glasnost and Perestroika policies did more than anything else to bury it.

    (“Berlin Wall 2014: Mr. Gorbachev, Take Back that Speech,” November 10, 2014)

    Meanwhile, even more farcical than Putin heading the investigation into this murder is foreign heads of state, led by British Prime Minister David Cameron, calling on him to conduct a full, rapid, and transparent investigation to bring those responsible to justice. Never mind that, despite evidence showing that Litvinenko “was murdered by the Russian government” (as the December 12, 2012, edition of The Guardian reported), the British government has yet to bring anyone to justice. In fact, the British government waited until last July, nearly eight years after his murder, to announce that it was finally launching a formal investigation….

    German Chancellor Merkel, Russia's President Putin and French President Hollande attend a meeting on resolving the Ukraine crisis at the Kremlin in MoscowExcept that this patent farce is entirely consistent with European leaders, on the one hand, blaming Putin for orchestrating the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, while on the other hand, hailing him as an impartial peace broker to help end that rebellion. Which is rather like “chickens” relying on the fox to free those in the chicken coop it’s “guarding.”

    But nothing could have been more frustrating to Nemtsov than watching Putin toy with world leaders, while Russian soldiers are wreaking havoc in eastern Ukraine for the pyrrhic glory of helping Putin create his Novorossiya (New Russia).

    It just so happens that, from the outset of the conflict in Ukraine, I’ve been channeling his frustration in such commentaries as “Putin as Hitler; Crimea as Sudetenland,” February 26, 2014; “Europeans Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish Appeasement of Putin,” May 3, 2014; “A Ukraine Divided Is the Only Way It Will Stand,” May 6, 2014; “Russia Gobbling Up Ukraine: First Crimea, Now Donetsk … Next Odessa?” May 13, 2014; “Ukraine: a New (Post-War) Germany in the Making,” August 30, 2014; and “Russia’s Valentine to Ukraine: Be Mine, or I Kill You!” February 14, 2015, to name just a few.

    My abiding lament/foreboding throughout has been that, despite the lessons of history, today’s European leaders seem possessed of the same DNA that misled their predecessors into thinking they could stop Hitler’s military aggression with diplomatic negotiations. Whereas these leaders should’ve acted from the outset pursuant to the categorical imperative of standing up to Putin with military power worthy of the Cold-War principle of Mutual Assured Destruction.

    Mind you, given the congenital appeasement European leaders have demonstrated throughout, I wish Obama had seized this opportunity to show appropriate contempt for Putin’s criminal syndicate masquerading as a democratic government. Instead of parroting their calls for a prompt and transparent investigation, Obama could easily have done so by daring Putin to allow a UN special tribunal to investigate and prosecute, noting that only this will dispel reasonable suspicions that he’s only interested in covering up this sensational crime.

    But let me hasten to clarify that standing up to Putin does not require the kind of D-Day mobilization it eventually took to stand up to Hitler. All it requires is Western leaders, collectively, doing as much for pro-Ukrainian forces as Putin is doing for pro-Russian rebels. To date, they’ve done nothing but impose economic sanctions, which are having even less effect on Putin’s extraterritorial ambitions than the U.S. embargo had on Castro’s political ideology.

    For, when all is said and done, everybody knows, or should know, that only one thing will force Putin to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty: pro-Ukrainian forces sending so many Russian mercenaries home in body bags that even their brained-washed compatriots could no longer deny their foolish sacrifice. This, you may recall, is the strategy former President Reagan deployed to help (then) pro-Western Mujahideen force leaders of the former Soviet Union to respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty – as chronicled, in instructive fashion, in George Crile’s Charlie Wilson’s War. European leaders would do well to take heed.

    All else is folly.

    Related commentaries:
    Putinization of Russia
    Litvinenko
    Ukraine’s Revolution
    Berlin Wall: Gorbachev
    Russia’s valentine

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Saturday, at 3:16 p.m.

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