The iPINIONS Journal


  • Wednesday, June 28, 2017 at 7:14 AM

    New Normal of Female Teachers Risking Prison to Have Sex with Students

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    News about female teachers having sex with students is now as commonplace as news about Islamic jihadists blowing up innocent people.

    Mind you, as predatory as these female teachers might be, their exploits still pale in comparison with those of their male counterparts. In fact, the Washington Post reported (on January 20, 2015) that male teachers accounted for two-thirds of the 781 cases of sexual misconduct across the United States in 2014.

    It’s just that news about female sexual predators is more sensational and titillating. More to the point, latterday Mrs. Robinsons (à la The Graduate) generate higher ratings on TV and more likes on social networks than latterday Prof. Humbert Humberts (à la Lolita).

    Beyond this prurient appeal, there’s the intrigue inherent in the way these female teachers are shattering gender stereotypes. After all, the presumption has always been that men prey on underage children because they think with their dicks. What, then, are we to make of the increasing number of women who are now doing the same – that they think with their clits?

    Lindsey Jarvis is among several female teachers who were caught with their panties down just this week:

    [Married teacher] Lindsey Jarvis, 27, allegedly had sex with the underage boy [i.e., younger than 16] when she worked as a social studies teacher at Woodford County Middle School in Kentucky. …

    The victim told police that he slept with Jarvis, while his cellphone had evidence that he and the teacher were in a romantic relationship. …

    Jarvis was arrested by Lexington police and pleaded not guilty to two counts of rape on Monday.

    (New York Post, June 21, 2017)

    Of course, it’s legally impossible for a 27-year-old teacher to have “a romantic relationship” with an underage student. But it might be helpful to recall the paradigmatic case of the 34-year-old teacher, Mary Kay Letourneau, and her 12-year-old student, Vili Fualaau.

    When Letourneau got arrested for having sex Fualaau in 1996, it was as much a sexual scandal as a cultural aberration. But their romantic relationship proved so strong, it survived her spending seven-and-a-half years in prison. They married in 2005, now have two teenage daughters, and insist (in the May 31, 2017, edition of Vanity Fair) that they are still going strong, despite media reports to the contrary.

    The point is that aberrant relationships like theirs soon became a cultural trend, defying all social and legal recriminations. You’d think female teachers, of all people, would be sensible and disciplined enough to resist jail bait. Yet a shocking number of them blithely emulated Letourneau – by eating that bait and ending up in jail.

    The trend during those early days was such that I could not resist commenting. Unfortunately, the cheeky way I did now fills me with embarrassment. The title, “Sex Scandals? Hot Teachers Just Helping School Boys Think More with Their Heads,” June 20, 2005, speaks volumes. But here is a cringe-worthy excerpt.

    __________________

    After the notorious Mary Kay Letourneau case, America seemed overtaken by a trend of female teachers preying on school boys. Political correctness demanded outright condemnation of these teacher babes, notwithstanding that each had the uncanny ability to make unruly boys stand at attention like no other teacher could.

    Somehow, neither criminalizing nor condoning their private tutorials with these lucky boys seems warranted.  … But I urge you to read the facts before condemning me as chauvinistic (innocent) or wistful (guilty).

    Legally speaking, these cases cry out for the exercise of creative judicial discretion: I recommend a good tongue lashing (a.k.a. public shaming) and a period of probation. The latter should include mandatory therapy sessions to teach these misguided teachers to appreciate the psychological, emotional, and even physical wonders of sex with more age-appropriate men.

    ___________________

    My only redeeming claim is that I established a jurisprudential principle back then, which still passes muster today. I laid it out in “Doing Teachers Becoming Students’ Favorite Extracurricular Activity,” August 5, 2005.

    ___________________

    As a legal matter, the age to trigger statutory rape should be lowered to reflect prevailing sexual mores. Accordingly, we should put this ‘crime’ into context as follows:

    A teacher (male or female) having consensual sex with any student aged 16 or older should be fired and banned from teaching for life – but no criminal charges should obtain. However, that teacher having sex with a student aged 15 or younger should be arrested and prosecuted on charges of statutory rape and related offenses. …

    I know some argue that even 16-year old boys could be psychologically damaged by having their sexual fantasies fulfilled by their school teachers. But those boys would be the exception rather than the rule. And anyone who insists otherwise either was never a 16-year old boy or is just talking puritanical rubbish! Because, with obliging teachers, no lesson could prove more educational, wholesome and, ultimately, useful for teenage boys.

    ___________________

    This principle led me to write “Surely Some Student-Teacher Sexual Relationships Are Okay!” August 9, 2013. But, given the flak it incited, you’d think I had championed the mortal sin of Catholic priests raping adolescent boys.

    In any event, I’d be remiss not to note the role social media have played in normalizing this trend. Indeed, it’s no surprise that these illicit relationships often begin with sexting and other, more explicit forms of online flirting. By the way, am I the only one who has noticed that white females compose nearly 100 percent of these predatory, pedophile pedagogues…?

    Alas, social media have either blurred or eradicated all notions of personal discretion, professional boundaries, and public decency. Only this explains the self-subjugating craze of “ordinary” women objectifying themselves. And only this explains so many female teachers seeing nothing wrong with sharing pornographic images that contribute to the delinquency of their own students.

    Apropos of this, I highly recommend the aptly titled Sundance film, A Teacher (2013). For it dramatizes, in comprehensive fashion, the psycho-social dynamics involved in student-teacher affairs in this age of social media. The irony, of course, is that this film depicts the grave realities of such relationships in ways the fairytale relationship between Letourneau and Fualaau defy.

    But this is not the forum to delve any further into this topic. Instead, I shall end by lamenting that, as an ardent feminist, I am truly dismayed that so many women are aping men in this sexually perverse context.

    Related commentaries:
    Sex Scandals
    Doing teachers
    Some are okay

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 6:18 p.m

  • Monday, June 26, 2017 at 8:03 AM

    North Korean Nukes like Quicksilver for China and US

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    China and the United States agreed that efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula should be ‘complete, verifiable and irreversible’, Chinese state media said on Saturday, reporting the results of high level talks in Washington this week.

    ‘Both sides reaffirm that they will strive for the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,’ a consensus document released by the official Xinhua news agency said.

    (Reuters, June 24, 2017)

    Today China and the US are pronouncing seemingly consequential efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. But just years ago they were making similar pronouncements to prevent nuclearization there in the first place.

    Frankly, it’s arguable that the more China and the US vow to stop North Korea’s nuclear program, the more North Korea develops it. Nothing demonstrates this ironic symmetry quite like them agreeing to redouble efforts to denuclearize the Peninsula just days after President Trump himself conceded this:

    @realDonaldTrump

    While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!

    11:38 AM – 20 Jun 2017

    After their first meeting in April, Trump continually touted the “good chemistry” he and Chinese President Xi Jinping established. He implied that this would lead to China doing his bidding like it has never done for any other president in US history. Well, so much for that!

    In fact, Trump would be hard-pressed to show exactly how “China tried.” After all, it seems Xi merely paid lip service to those purported efforts. Because he did nothing to tighten the noose of economic sanctions, which China has been holding very loosely around North Korea’s neck for over sixty years.

    Incidentally, this makes Xi just the latest world leader to play Trump for a fool by simply stroking his infantile ego. Unfortunately, Trump is so self-obsessed and delusional, he regards his humiliations as praises, his hypocrisies as virtues.

    For example, only this latter oxymoronic trait explains why this hypocrite was all over TV today blaming Obama for doing nothing to stop Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election.

    After all, to this day, Trump refuses even to acknowledge the full extent of that interference. This, notwithstanding the open and notorious way he encouraged Russia to keep hacking and leaking damaging information on Hillary and her campaign operatives.

    Whereas, far from doing nothing, Obama confronted Putin, commissioned a comprehensive intelligence report, and imposed diplomatic and economic sanctions. Not to mention the extraordinary report in Friday’s edition of the Washington Post, which Trump willfully ignored. For that report detailed the way

    President Obama, angered by Russian hacking during the 2016 elections, authorized a covert cyber operation to deploy ‘implants’ in Russian networks that could be triggered remotely in retaliation to any future cyber aggression by Moscow.

    But I digress …

    It has been obvious to me for decades that China would rather have a stable North Korea with nukes than a war-ravaged one. It fears, quite reasonably, that military intervention would create a migration crisis a thousand times worse than the one war-ravaged Syria has created.

    Meanwhile, I watched in utter bemusement earlier today as two foreign-policy experts debated the North Korean crucible on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS. They spent all of their time rehashing the merits and demerits of talks (between the US and North Korea), sanctions (by China), security guarantees (by the US), and military exercises (between US and South Korea). The problem is that, since the 1990s, successive Chinese and US governments have been trying each of these, to varying degrees, to no avail.

    Even worse, one of Zakaria’s experts, Nuclear Nightmares author Joe Cirincione, exclaimed that Trump’s policy on North Korea is an incoherent mess. Never mind that this is about as insightful as a nutrition expert exclaiming that Twinkies are filled with empty calories.

    For his part, Trump has done nothing but talk tough and pass the buck on North Korea (and on practically every other issue). I called out his hypocritical cowardice in “Trump ‘Leading from Behind’ as World Reacts to (Latest) North Korean Nuclear Test,” February 14, 2017, and “Trump Depending on North Korea to Protect US,” April 20, 2017.

    Now, having acknowledged that China has failed, you’d think he would feel compelled to make good on this boast/threat:

    Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.

    (Financial Times, April 2, 2017)

    Except that Trump has been bluffing his way through his presidency from day one. This was thrown into stark relief just last week. That’s when a congressional ultimatum forced him to finally admit that he had nothing to back up this infamous threat against the former FBI director:

    @realDonaldTrump

    James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

    5:26 AM – 12 May 17

    But, as indicated, this was just the latest in a litany of bluffs that have been called to cowering effect. Chief among those were his bluff to

    • produce Barack Obama’s “African” birth certificate;
    • move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem;
    • renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA;
    • build that wall and make Mexico pay for it;
    • label China a currency manipulator;
    • drain the swamp in DC; and
    • tear up Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

    I could go on, but you get the point.

    Therefore, given his record, nobody should have any expectation that Trump will do anything “to solve North Korea.”

    Because, as counterintuitive as it may seem, it will take military warfare to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. What’s more, this warfare will only happen if North Korea triggers it by escalating from merely testing nuclear missiles to actually bombing South Koreans or Americans (with nukes or even with conventional weapons)..

    North Korean President Kim Jong-un might seem mad. But this baby-faced dictator is sensible enough to avoid pulling this trigger.

    Which is why the advice I gave Obama — in “North Korea to The World: Nuke Off!” December 13, 2012 — is the only effective way to deal with the menace North Korea’s missile testing poses.

    __________________

    Obama should convene a coalition of the willing among Asia-Pacific countries (APEC) to forge agreement on the following resolution, which, significantly, would not be subject to a UN-style veto by any country (namely, China or Russia):

    APEC

    • Recognizing that the United Nations is unable or unwilling to stop North Korea from violating its resolutions (most notably, res. 1718 against conducting nuclear tests or launching ballistic missiles) with impunity;
    • Finding that these violations pose an untenable threat to the Asia-Pacific region;

    Resolves that:

    1. Instead of continuing the feckless practice of bribing North Korea with cash, oil and food to get it to stop these violations, APEC shall henceforth impose the severest possible sanctions, unilaterally;
    2. If, either as a result of misfire or deliberate intent, any of North Korea’s missiles even threatens any APEC country, the United States shall lead the bombardment of all of its nuclear and missile facilities until they are incapable of even setting off firecrackers, let alone launching nuclear missiles.

    All else is folly.

    __________________

    I ended the February 14 commentary cited above by stating that Trump would do well to heed this advice. Consider that restated here. Significantly, this would mean no longer joining other Pavlovian leaders in treating every nuclear test North Korea conducts as if it were the first salvo in World War III.

    With that, I see no point in writing another commentary on this kabuki nuclear dance unless North Korea actually triggers war.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump depending on China

    *  This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 3:43 p.m.

  • Saturday, June 24, 2017 at 8:19 AM

    Gaffe of the Year (and in Washington a gaffe is accidentally telling the truth)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
    Obamacare...
    House fail to repeal

  • Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 9:18 AM

    New Research Shows Men Are the Weaker Sex

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I grew up in a family that was a de facto  matriarchy. More to the point, my seven sisters, as well as every woman I’ve known since those formative years, make the following seem self-evident:

    A growing body of scientific study is turning centuries-old gender research on its head — by suggesting that women are, in fact, stronger than men.

    ‘We often think of males as being the tougher and more powerful sex,’ explains Angela Saini, author of Inferior, a ground-breaking new book which charts the scientists’ findings. …

    ‘When it comes to the most basic instinct of all — survival — women’s bodies tend to be better equipped than men’s.’

    (Mail Online, June 21, 2017)

    I mean, did we really need scientific research to tell us that women live longer than men; that women are more resourceful (even more cunning) than men; and, indeed, that women are stronger than men in every respect except for brute physical strength (and that, even here, the strength women show during childbirth diminishes the superiority generally ascribed to men)?

    Hell, drones and robots are even rendering superfluous the male brawn once needed for military warfare. Since time immemorial, men have perpetuated the stereotype of the hysterical, emotionally crippled woman to rationalize their dominance. But most of us can readily attest that, when the rubber meets the road, we’d rather have a woman controlling that joystick than a man.

    Meanwhile, has there ever been any question about female superiority when it comes to the myriad forms of soft power, most notably the power of persuasion?

    As it happens, I’ve been championing women as the stronger sex for years – as such commentaries as “Cracking the Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” December 12, 2005, and “Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” October 14, 2010, attest.

    This is why I was so heartened when I read recently that Barack Obama, the erstwhile most powerful man in the world, is now doing the same. In “Obama: To Solve World Problems Put Women in Charge,” June 8, 2017, I welcomed him among the ranks of men not empowering but championing women to rule the world.

    Here is how I justified this clarion call in  “Men Should Be Barred from Politics,” September 25, 2013.

    ___________________

    We have enough data, as well as anecdotal evidence, from the way women have influenced the corporate world to make some credible extrapolations. The correlation between more women holding positions of power and the implementation of family-friendly policies is undeniable in this respect. Therefore, it’s entirely reasonable to assert that if more women held positions of power in politics they would use their power more towards building up human resources than military armaments – just to cite one obvious example.

    Finland’s president, prime minister, president of the Supreme Court, as well as eight of its eleven government ministers are all women. Arguably, there’s a direct correlation between their positions and the fact that Newsweek rated this county the best place to live in 2010 – in terms of health, economic dynamism, education, political environment, and quality of life.

    ___________________

    There’s no denying the twin trends of, on the one hand, women dominating the brainy professions, while on the other hand, technology dominating the brawny ones. Therefore, it behooves us to not only champion the ascent of women in this context but also help men cope with the emasculating cultural transformation afoot.

    Women have learned that they can be surgeons and physicists without losing their femininity. Men need to understand that traditional manual jobs are not coming back, and that they can be nurses or hairdressers without losing their masculinity.

    (Economist, May 30, 2015)

    The Economist might have added that men can also take pride in being househusbands, performing the most traditional of all jobs once relegated to women.

    Related commentaries:
    Put women in charge
    Wonder woman

  • Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at 5:02 PM

    World Refugee Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    More than 120 refugees are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean after a boat sank off the Libyan cost on Friday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said. …

    At least 1,850 refugees have lost their lives on the dangerous crossing so far this year, says the IOM. …

    After drifting for a while, the boat, believed to have been carrying 130 refugees — most of them of Sudanese and Nigerian nationality — capsized.

    (London Independent, June 20, 2017)

    Refugees no longer get headline coverage, but they are still fleeing chronic strife for a better life.

    But I appreciate the compassion fatigue and feelings of fecklessness that cause so many to ignore their plight. After all, I’ve been pleading their cause to no avail for over a decade. In fact, I refer you to such commentaries as “Europeans Erecting Fences to Maintain Good Relations with African Neighbors,” October 8, 2005, “Compassion Fatigue for Haitian Migrants,” July 31, 2009, “Lampedusa Tragedy Highlights Europe’s ‘Haitian’ Problem,” October 7, 2013, “Migrants Still Turning Mediterranean Sea into a Cemetery,” June 1, 2016, and “Groundhog-Day Famine in Africa,” March 20, 2017, to name just a few.

    As it happens, this last commentary features my despairing concerns about Sudanese refugees. Syrian refugees were making headlines at the time, but the Sudanese seemed bound to outnumber them 10 to 1. Today’s report is just the latest since then to justify my concerns.

    Nonetheless, I urge you to bear in mind that mere accident of birth explains why most refugees find themselves in such dire straits. I am a person of African descent; therefore, I am particularly mindful of this fact. I have duly noted it in many commentaries, including most recently in “French Forgiving Haitians like Germans Forgiving Jews,” May 14, 2015.

    __________________

    Post-colonial Africa seems fated to loom amidst the continents of the world as a dark, destitute, diseased, desperate, disenfranchised, dishonest, disorganized, disassociated, dangerous, and ultimately dysfunctional mess. So, notwithstanding slavery, blacks born in America and the Caribbean should probably thank their lucky stars that neither Abraham Lincoln nor Marcus Garvey succeeded in ‘repatriating’ us to Africa. In other words, thank God we are here and not there!

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

    ___________________

    But even informed and conscientious people of European descent could readily concede that, but for the grace of God, they too could be among latterday huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Of course, this is even more the case with anyone living a charmed life in the developing world. Never mind that the serendipitous accumulation of wealth has caused many of them to forget where they came from.

    All of that is why I find this so poignant:

    A Syrian artist has re-imagined US President Donald Trump and 10 other world leaders as refugees in a series of paintings currently on display in Dubai.

    Abdalla Al Omari, who has refugee status in Belgium, says his own experience with displacement prompted him to create ‘The Vulnerability Series.’

    ‘Being a refugee is like having a new lump in your body that you had nothing to do with, and it will stay until the last day, so you better deal with it,’ Al Omari told CNN.

    (CNN, June 16, 2017)

    The message of Al Omari’s series is obvious. It says that a little empathy would go a long way towards helping our fellow human beings deal with the strife that compels them to become refugees in the first place.

    A record 65.5 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2016, according to a UN report.

    This is the highest figure recorded by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) since the organization was founded after World War II.

    (USA Today, June 20, 2017)

    It’s easy to indict the myriad forms of man’s inhumanity to man, which are the root causes of this migration crisis. But Al Omari’s evocative images show how our collective failure of empathy indicts us all.

    Related commentaries:
    Compassion fatigue
    Europeans erecting fences
    French forgiving Haitians
    Lampedusa tragedy
    Mediterranean Sea
    Groundhog Day
    Merkel

  • Monday, June 19, 2017 at 7:49 AM

    Oh No! CNN Excommunicated Religious Scholar Reza Aslan! Thanks Twitter

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Reza Aslan is to religion what Fareed Zakaria is to politics: easily the most interesting, informed, and impartial TV commentator in his field. Each man is like an oasis in a vast desert of empty-headed twits parroting partisan talking points as insightful commentary.

    This is why CNN firing Aslan means a far greater loss for us than him.

    CNN no longer believes in Believer, the non-fiction series it launched earlier this year with Reza Aslan, the Iranian-American author and religious scholar. …

    In the tweet, Aslan called Trump ‘a piece of sh*t’ and expressed dismay at Trump’s use of the tragedy to promote his desire for a so-called ‘travel ban’ on certain kinds of people hailing from specific countries in the Middle East. The author later apologized, saying, ‘I should have used better language to express my shock and frustration at the president’s lack of decorum and sympathy for the victims of London. I apologize for my choice of words.’

    (Variety, June 9, 2017)

    For clarity and context, here is Aslan’s offending tweet in full, followed by the Trump tweet that provoked his outrage:

    @rezaaslan

    This piece of sh*t is not just an embarrassment to America and a stain on the presidency. He’s an embarrassment to humankind.

    @realDonaldTrump

    We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!

    6:47 PM – 3 Jun 2017

    Yet I am more disappointed in Aslan for posting that offensive tweet than in CNN for firing him. This excerpt from “Twitter Rant: Take 2,” November 27, 2012, explains why.

    __________________

    This medium does little more than give voice to people who really should just keep their mouths shut. …

    A sure sign of the oft-cited decline of Western civilization is a faux celebrity like Kim Kardashian making more money writing idle-minded tweets about her cash-driven life than a Pulitzer Prize-winning author like Philip Roth makes writing psychoanalytical books about his angst-ridden life. …

    What is surprising, however, is that erstwhile pillars of Western civilization are taking to Twitter like hood rats to crack. …

    Getting self-interested attention seems to be the prevailing reason for tweeting. And every twittering twit in the twitterverse seems to think that the only way to get it is to be as obnoxious, incendiary, and/or bellicose as possible.

    Twitter is like a virtual schoolyard where not just one but most kids act like bullies or rabble-rousers. So just imagine what this portends for public debate – having politicians, CEOs, and professors compete with celebrities, athletes, and trolls to see who can attract the most twits with their mindless tweets on everything from public policy to daily gossip.

    This is why I firmly believe that Twitter has about as much redeeming value as Twinkies.  And it’s why the mainstream media are no better than Hostess in this respect. Because the contrived tweets (i.e., junk thoughts) of self-promoting buffoons like Trump would never enter public consciousness, let alone public discourse, if networks like FOX did not routinely report them as BREAKING NEWS.

    __________________

    Of course, with nearly every tweet since my rant five years ago, Trump has only vindicated my casting him as the poster boy for rude, narcissistic, and often self-destructive tweets. And his improbable election as president of the United States has only blown that poster up a thousand times.

    Given this, it should speak volumes that I am as big a fan of Aslan as I am a critic of Trump. I clearly expected more of Aslan.

    More to the point, though, it only reinforces my take on Twitter’s debasing lure that he got hooked on and trapped by this social-media addiction. Because only this explains a religious scholar like him tweeting a profane insult like that in the name of public debate.

    That said, I hope you’ll pardon this parting shot from “Why I Hate Twitter,” February 1, 2013.

    __________________

    Not so long ago celebrities evoked a blissful illusion that made them seem larger than life. The paparazzi destroyed most of that. But far too many celebrities have destroyed what little illusion remained by engaging in pedestrian, often petulant exchanges with fans/followers on Twitter. …

    Meanwhile, am I the only one who sees the Orwellian folly inherent in using the term ‘social networking’? After all, it refers to the act of huddling alone with one’s PDA to socialize, electronically, with friends (real and, more likely the case, virtual). The irony only compounds this doublespeak. After all, PDA once stood for ‘personal display of affection.’ Now it stands for the ‘personal digital assistant’ that enables users to engage in the kind of impersonal and anti-social networking that has become so fashionable.

    And don’t get me started on the misguided fools who seek relevance and self-esteem by having arguments on Twitter – complete with baying spectators; you know, like chicken-scratch gladiators.

    __________________

    Related commentaries:
    Twitter rant
    Why I hate Twitter

  • Sunday, June 18, 2017 at 12:49 PM

    Wither England…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Fraught events are besieging England like wild weeds o’er the green grass of Wimbledon.

    Brexit was (and remains) unsettling enough.

    But then Islamists started terrorizing the place.

    Then Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election, which she (and every pundit) thought would forge national unity and seal her mandate. Instead, it left the country more divided than ever with May looking like an utterly clueless captain of a ship of state adrift at sea.

    Now England is fighting fallout from a fire, which raged for 24 hours like a purgatorial imperative for national rebirth:

    More than 70 Grenfell Towers residents are now feared to have died, as the official number of deaths yesterday climbed to 30 and police warned it could take months to locate victims inside the blackened tower.

    The policeman heading the inquiry into Wednesday’s fire, Commander Stuart Cundy, said he ‘hoped’’ the death toll would not reach 100.

    It comes as protests turned violent in London, with residents and activists demanding action in response to the tragedy.

    (Telegraph, June 16, 2017)

    Naturally, my thoughts and prayers are with those affected by recent tragedies.

    But so much of what has afflicted England has been self-inflicted, including that infernal Grenfell fire. Therefore, I offer this expiatory requiem for her, with apologies to Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt:

    This fawlty tower of realms, this battered isle,

    This place of tragedy, the fate of Pluto …

    This cursed lot, this place, this blot, this England.

    _________________

    Related commentaries:
    Brexit
    Terrorists terrorizing London

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Saturday, at 8:13 a.m.

  • Friday, June 16, 2017 at 8:06 AM

    Trump’s Hypocrisy on Human Rights: Cuba vs Qatar

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I know, complaining about President Trump’s hypocrisy is rather like complaining about a prostitute’s promiscuity. Except that the former portends consequences that could destroy a country (even the whole world), which makes those the latter portends seem like nothing more than a genital itch.

    That said, Trump’s America-First policy towards Cuba amounts to little more than pandering to Miami Cubans, while cutting off America’s nose to spite its face:

    In an overhaul of one of his predecessor’s signature legacies, President Donald Trump will redraw US policy toward Cuba on Friday, tightening travel restrictions for Americans that had been loosened under President Barack Obama and banning US business transactions with Cuba’s vast military conglomerate. …

    Trump plans to cite human-rights violations in Cuba as justification for the new US approach.

    (Miami Herald, June 15, 2017)

    However, as is invariably the case with Trump, this “overhaul” is not quite as advertised. He’s trying to have it both ways: for political (re-election) purposes, by feeding a dying breed of Miami Cubans the Cold-War rhetoric they crave; and for practical purposes, by restricting instead of completely shutting Obama’s open door policy. But, significantly, he’s not cutting off diplomatic relations, closing the US embassy in Havana, or even reinstating the “wet foot, dry foot policy.”

    All the same, there’s no denying that these changes will hurt many Cubans in their pocket books. This, notwithstanding that the vast majority of them are the newly liberated entrepreneurs who compose America’s best hope for a Cuba that is more friend than foe.

    But, as it was for the 55 years before Obama normalized relations, these changes will not chasten Cuba’s ruling elite politically or hurt them financially. On the contrary, Canada and Europe will now be competing with Russia and China to pick up every slack America’s retreat creates.

    Apropos of new restrictions, Trump clearly couldn’t care less about making it inconvenient for ordinary Americans to travel to Cuba. But it speaks volumes about his hypocrisy that he’s planning to deny American businessmen the very opportunities he himself was seeking to exploit in Cuba just years ago.

    Then, of course, there’s the self-defeating prospect of Trump provoking Cuba to cease all cooperation on regional anti-terror and anti-drug efforts.

    In other words, these changes only provide further vindication for those of us who think this president is just plain STUPID, which stands for self-absorbed, tendentious, unhinged, pusillanimous, insecure, and delusional.

    Incidentally, you’d be hard-pressed to find many Republicans – outside Florida’s congressional delegation – who support Trump’s plans. That’s how politically alienating and positively insane they are.

    In fact, polls show that over 70 percent of the American people support the steps Obama took to normalize relations with Cuba. Alas, the other 30 percent is composed of idiots for whom Trump can (literally) do no wrong, as well as these perverse dreamers:

    Only unbridled conceit and arrogance among Miami Cubans can explain their support for continuing the embargo … until kingdom come if necessary. Nothing betrays this quite like them presuming that — once the Castro brothers die off — they’ll be able to return to Cuba to inherit the political power and social privileges they and their families abdicated decades ago. And they presume this prerogative without any regard for the Cubans who have been toiling at home, waiting for their opportunity to govern their country.

    Except that, at this rate, a well-indoctrinated Elian Gonzalez will be Cuban dictator before Miami Cubans are disabused of their antic pining for their paradise lost.

    (“Dancing on Castro’s Grave Is Not Only Unseemly; It’s Premature,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 2, 2006)

    Meanwhile, Trump’s America-First policy towards Qatar amounts to little more than selling Qatar presidential indulgences – its abysmal record on human rights (even its support for terrorism) be damned:

    While President Trump berates Qatar for sponsoring terrorism at the highest levels, he is simultaneously authorizing the country to purchase over $21 billion of US weapons.

    One portion of that deal – $12 billion for 36 F-15QA fighter jets – was inked on Wednesday in Washington, DC, when Qatar’s Defense Minister met with US Defense Secretary James Mattis.

    (CBS News, June 15, 2017)

    Actually, Trump is blithely doing business with a country that he publicly condemned as a sponsor of the very terrorism he claims he’s fighting “like no president has before.” That’s hypocritical enough.

    But it reeks – like no hypocrisy Washington has experienced before – that Trump’s first trip abroad was not to a bona-fide democracy like Canada, Mexico, or any number of countries in Europe. Rather, it was to Saudi Arabia, which Amnesty International rates among the 10 worst abusers of human rights across the world.

    Not to mention his stupefying bromance with Russian President Vladimir Putin – that wannabe czar who punctuates his human-rights abuses by having political dissidents and independent journalists murdered.

    Yet Trump’s congenital venality and brazen hucksterism are such that he has no compunction about touting a change in US policy towards Cuba based on his purported regard for universal human rights.

    To be fair, every president has been guilty of hypocrisy in this respect. I mean, Obama had no compunction about preaching the gospel of universal human rights on Sunday, only to bow before the repressive Saudi king on Monday. But at least he showed (amoral) consistency by having America deal with Cuba and Iran just as it deals with Saudi Arabia and China.

    In any event, I’ve already had cause to denounce Trump’s hypocrisy in “The Week Trump Kissed Up to Saudi Arabia, Kissed Off Europe, and French Kissed the Philippines,” May 30, 2017. And, for the record, even though Cuba has a lot to answer for, it’s record on human rights is better than Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s in many ways, not least when it comes to LGBTQ and women’s rights.

    NOTE: This is just his latest stab at either whitewashing or undermining Obama’s accomplishments. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking that Trump has predicated his presidency on vindicating his birther conspiracy; you know, the one he peddled about Obama being an illegitimate interloper (a.k.a. an uppity African) who does not belong among the ranks of American presidents, especially in the top 10 as seems his destiny.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama normalizes relations
    Kissed Up to Saudis
    Fidel is dead
    Trump-Putin bromance

  • Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 8:43 AM

    Gun-Crazy USA: Mass Shooting Targets Congressmen (and Postmen Too)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A man angry with President Trump unleashed a barrage of gunfire Wednesday morning at Republican members of Congress as they held a baseball practice at a park in Alexandria, wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others in a frenzied scene that included a long gun battle with police.

    The gunman, James T. Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old unemployed home inspector from southern Illinois, died after the shootout. Two Capitol Police officers assigned to Scalise’s security detail were wounded.

    (Washington Post, June 14, 2017)

    No doubt you’ve seen some of the media’s wallowing, 24/7 coverage of this shooting. It features profiles of the shooter that would make any politician green with envy, which compels me to reiterate that:

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

    You’d think … we would have figured out by now that the best way to discourage them is by focusing our attention on the victims and limiting what we say about the [terrorists] to: May God have mercy on your soul as you all burn in Hell!

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

    Thank God the shooter was the only one who died in this case. But it speaks volumes about the commonplace nature of mass shootings in this country that the only reason this one is getting so much coverage is that he targeted members of Congress.

    Nothing betrays this new normal quite like the media paying only passing attention to another far deadlier shooting yesterday:

    A UPS employee who had recently filed a grievance opened fire Wednesday inside one of the company’s San Francisco packing facilities, killing three co-workers before fatally shooting himself as employees fled frantically into the streets shouting ‘shooter!’ authorities and witnesses said.

    (Associated Press, June 14, 2017)

    Yet this cynical media coverage is surpassed by cynical political talk about this shooting in Alexandria triggering a new era of civility. After all, if the killing of 20 children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School or, more on point, the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords didn’t do so, the near-death experience of these congressmen surely won’t.

    Frankly, the only honest thing any of us can say in times like these is the proverb:

    There but for the grace of God go I.

    This fatalism is especially warranted given that the elephant in all this media coverage is the easy, ready access even crazy people in America have to military-style weapons. I have lamented the willful failure of Congress to redress this enabling access in many commentaries, including more recently in “San Bernardino: Another Day, Another Shooting in Gun-Crazy USA,” December 3, 2015, and “‘Under the Gun’ Appeals to Common Sense of NRA Members. Good Luck with That.” May 16, 2016.

    But the following from “This Gun-Control Debate Is Insane!” April 5, 2013, sums up the madness that played out yesterday:

    The United States is calling North Korea insane for threatening to launch ‘merciless’ nuclear strikes against it.  Well, I suppose it takes an insane country to know one. After all, one can fairly call the United States insane for repeatedly vowing to curb gun violence without making any reference to guns.

    In fact, I’m willing to bet my growing legacy (you may laugh) that – looking back 100 years from now – American guns will have killed more Americans than North Korean nukes by a factor of at least one million.

    In the meantime, good luck being safe if you’re caught up in the next mass shooting.

    Related commentaries:
    Another mass shooting
    under the gun
    Gabby Giffords
    gun control

  • Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 7:17 AM

    No Heels for “Wonder Woman,” Thank You Very Much!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    DC Comics’ Wonder Woman just broke two of the remaining glass ceilings in Hollywood:

    1. Gal Gadot is the first woman to star in a superhero blockbuster.
    2. Patty Jenkins is the first woman to direct one.

    These women have proven that they are every bit as capable and bankable as Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan – the star and director, respectively, of the best (and second-most profitable) superhero movie ever, The Dark Knight.

    Wonder Woman is continuing to defy expectations at the box office and easily becoming the DC Extended Universe’s most successful movie. …

    The very positive word of mouth that has helped Wonder Woman outperform Man of Steel, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad in its second week at the box office. …

    As of right now, the movie has made a grand total of $435.2 million, with $205 million of that coming domestically.

    (Movieweb.com, June 11, 2017)

    Indeed, word of mouth has grown women flocking to see this movie the way it had little children flocking to buy Harry Potter novels.

    Even the opening of superstar Tom Cruise’s latest franchise, The Mummy, proved no match for Gadot’s Wonder Woman.  Granted, this might also be a reflection of how low Cruise’s star has fallen in recent years …

    That said, I haven’t seen a superhero movie since the original Spider Man in 2002. And even this enticing distinction, which acclaimed director John Landis offers, is not enough to get me to see another:

    All the superhero movies tend to be interchangeable, you always have these mass destruction of cities and huge computer-generated extravaganzas to the point where you could take a reel from any of the Marvel superhero movies and put it any of the others and nobody would notice. …

    One of the reasons Wonder Woman has been received so well by the critics is that it doesn’t destroy cities! Even the superhero stuff is on a very human scale, it’s the gods!

    (Entertainment.ie, June 12, 2017)

    Therefore, as proud as I am of Wonder Woman’s gender-defying feats, I won’t be among the evolved men braving wannabe Amazons to see it.

    Which brings me to the “no heels” in my title. It refers to the quixotic crusade to liberate women from the crippling perch of stilettos.

    You’d be hard-pressed to find even a few men evolved (or daring) enough to join it. But I’ve been on this crusade with women of substance, like actress Emma Thompson, for years.

    Here, for example, is an excerpt from “Burning Bras, Still Wearing Heels. Feminism’s Unfinished Work,” January 15, 2014.

    __________________

    Only a willing suspension of common sense explains why women do the things they do to look beautiful. And only this suspension explains why they will find nothing insulting or contradictory in the Huffington Post, on the one hand, hailing high heels as the ‘hallmark of womanhood,” while on the other hand, quoting sophisticated, stylish, and graceful women complaining about how stupid, degrading, and painful wearing them is. …

    I can personally attest that (heterosexual) men would have no difficulty determining if a woman is sexy even if she were strutting her stuff in flip flops (i.e., instead of teetering along in high heels).

    But you don’t have to take my word, because here’s the finding of a seminal study by experts at Northumbria University, which the September 21, 2010, edition of the Daily Mail reported under the instructive headline, “Don’t Bother with the High Heels Ladies, Men Don’t Even Notice”:

    Women who hope a pair of killer heels will help them attract a man are wasting their time, it is claimed. … Obsession with high-heels could be pointless as research shows it makes no difference to attractiveness.

    What’s more, I hope it’s not betraying some unwritten man code of secrecy to inform women that, far from enhancing their beauty, sophistication, style, and grace, high heels only make them look more like parading sex objects for the few men who actually notice them. Yet it’s a reflection of the addictive high women get on heels that, when they’re barefoot (or wearing tennis shoes), they invariably perch themselves on the balls of their feet to simulate those missing high heels. Have you noticed this?

    __________________

    Well, here is why Gadot is my wonder woman:

    ‘I want to create this trend of doing red carpets in flats … I love wearing high heels, it’s beautiful, it’s sexy … [but] it’s not good for our backs. Why do we do it?’

    The shoes can cause calluses, bunions and muscle spasms, and that’s if you don’t also lose your balance and fall. There’s even been a push in different countries around the world to make it illegal to require high heels in workplaces.

    (Yahoo! Entertainment, June 7, 2017)

    That said, my Jewish friends, particularly Israelis, would never forgive me if I fail to mention that Gadot is Jewish, especially considering this:

    Many superheroes were created by Jews, according to Haaretz, including Superman, Captain America, Batman, Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Ironman, the X-Men, Thor and the Avengers. Since daily newspapers in the 1930s would not accept illustrations by Jews, Haaretz reports, many Jews found a home in comic book publishing.

    (Washington Post, June 7, 2017)

    Did you know that? I didn’t.

    In any event, not just Hollywood but the global cult of celebrity has been waiting for Gadot. And nobody is happier that, unlike her literary homophone, she has arrived.

    Shalom!

    Related commentaries:
    Burning bras, wearing heels

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 7:52 a.m.

  • Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 7:47 AM

    Hired-Gun Durant and Warriors Outshoot King James and Cavaliers

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It had been five seasons since Kevin Durant had reached the NBA Finals, a basketball eternity, but the star forward certainly made the most of his first trip since then, leading the Warriors to a championship – his first – while winning Finals MVP honors.

    Durant, 28, received the honor Monday after the Warriors’ 129-120 Game 5 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena, garnering every vote on a media panel of 11.

    ‘The way that he embraced the opportunity in the Finals, it was unbelievable,’ Stephen Curry said [Gulp].

    (ESPN, June 13, 2017)

    I was rooting for the Cavs. And I appreciate the glimmer of hope fellow fans had after their blowout win over the Warriors on Friday.

    But even before that game, I felt it was expecting too much for them to repeat last year’s feat of coming from 0-3 down to win the championships (on the Warriors home court) 4-3. Sure enough, it turns out the Warriors were probably just trying to make the series look respectable by letting the Cavs win one game.

    That said, for me, Durant was always the storyline of this NBA season. Specifically, I wanted to see how things would play out after he abandoned Oklahoma last year to take his talents to Golden State.

    Of course, this storyline is familiar to all NBA fans. After all, James drew unprecedented attention, and considerable derision, when he abandoned Cleveland in 2010 to take his talents to Miami.

    Most commentators criticized him for turning his abandonment into a Trumpian TV spectacle. Perhaps this is why Durant executed his abandonment like a Navy Seal on a secret mission.

    But I criticized James for his can’t beat them, join them cowardice. This criticism holds for Durant. Which is why I can think of no better tribute to him than to reprise “LeBron Abandons Cleveland for Miami,” July 13, 2010. I have included bracketed additions to reinforce this symmetry.

    ___________________

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

    And he will surely win in Miami [Golden State]. For the triumvirate of James [Durant], Chris Bosh [Klay Thompson], and Dwyane Wade [Stephen Curry] has the same potential to dominate during the playoffs as other championship triumvirates like Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Michael, Bill Cartwright, and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls.

    The only question for LeBron [Kevin] is: What price victory?

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

    By contrast, I fear that winning for James [Durant] will be bitter sweet. Not least because, instead of being hailed as a Basketball savior in Miami [Golden State], where the Heat [Warriors] won a championship just years ago (in 2006) [in 2015], he’ll be regarded as nothing more than a hired gun – who they brought in to help them win a few more.

    Even worse, no matter how many championships he wins in Miami [Golden State], James [Durant] will be forever haunted by the fact that he abandoned not just his team but his childhood home [long-suffering Oklahoma fans] to do so.

    Then, of course, there’s the inevitable conflict that will arise when some sports writers and commentators begin referring to the Heat [Warriors] as James’s [Durant’s] team, while others continue referring to it as D-Wade’s [Curry’s … remember him?].  Because, even though a domineering triumvirate seems an indispensable component of all championship teams, there’s always one player who must be treated like the undisputed star. …

    To be fair, though, the people of Cleveland [Oklahoma] should be thanking their lucky stars that James [Durant] gave them seven [nine] years of the best entertainment in sports, as well as ancillary economic benefits and national goodwill that most cities would die for. He did not sign a contract to be their golden goose for the rest of his career; therefore, any charge of betrayal in this case is utterly baseless and irresponsible.

    _____________________

    Incidentally, you’ve probably heard James whining about super teams, like Durant’s Warriors, ruining the NBA. But you should bear this “Golden Rule” in mind whenever you hear his pot-calling-kettle-black tripe:

    Do to others as you would have them do to you.

    (Luke 6:31)

    After all, Durant’s Warriors only did to James’s Cavaliers, what James’s Heat did to others after he took his talents to Miami. As indicated above, only players like Dr. J and Michael have standing to lament the cowardice of superstars abandoning original teams to create super teams.

    To be fair, though, James returned home and famously fulfilled his promise to bring an NBA championship to his original team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. But it’s debatable whether he’d have any of the three championship rings he has today if he hadn’t gone to Miami to secure the first one. The same holds for Durant with respect to Golden State. The challenge for him now is to emulate James by “returning home” to fulfill his promise to bring an NBA championship to his original team, the Oklahoma Thunder.

    I duly hailed James for fulfilling his promise in “NBA Finals: LeBron Delivers on His Promise to Cleveland, Finally,” June 20, 2016. I hope I can hail Durant in similar fashion, someday.

    Related commentaries:
    LeBron abandons Cleveland
    LeBron returns home

  • Monday, June 12, 2017 at 3:43 PM

    Three More Americans Die for “Mistake” in Afghanistan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The media stopped giving the deaths of American soldiers anything more than passing coverage years ago. More to the point, cable news stations seem obsessed these days with providing 24/7 coverage of Donald Trump’s snarky tweets and lunatic antics – complete with all of the international scandals and congressional investigations they spawn.

    Unfortunately, their obsession is such that you’d be forgiven for having no clue that soldiers are still fighting and dying over in Afghanistan – 16 years after 9/11.

    Three US Army soldiers were killed and another was wounded in an attack by an Afghan soldier for which the Taliban has claimed responsibility. …

    Insider or so-called ‘green-on-blue’ attacks have been an ongoing threat to US military personnel in Afghanistan.

    In March, three U.S. soldiers were injured in Helmand Province after being fired upon by an Afghan soldier.

    (ABC News, June 10, 2017)

    Unsurprisingly, the amount of coverage the media are dedicating to this breaking news pales in comparison to the coverage they are dedicating to the congressional testimony former FBI director James Comey delivered on Thursday. This, despite the fact that Comey testifying that Trump is a liar was about as newsworthy as another Kim Kardashian belfie. Not to mention that their continuing coverage of his testimony features nothing more than redundant punditry and idle speculation.

    As it happens, though, even I have stopped giving these deaths more than passing comment. Except that I didn’t do so to chase better ratings (more likes or followers). I just got tired of beating the proverbial dead horse about the folly of America’s ongoing involvement in unwinnable wars in the Middle East.

    In point of fact, I’ve been decrying and presaging such “green-on-blue” attacks for years. Here, for example, is how I cited this inherent, endemic risk in “Afghanistan: How Many More US Soldiers Must Die for a Mistake,” September 19, 2012:

    Yet another Afghan police betrayed his US trainers on Sunday by opening fire on them, killing four. This brought to 51 the number of NATO soldiers killed in these so-called ‘green-on-blue’ attacks so far this year. …

    All of which warrants every American asking Obama this prophetic question, which Senator John Kennedy (D-MA) asked about the war in Vietnam when he was just a 27-year-old Navy veteran testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 23, 1971:

    ‘How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?’

    I asked Bush this Kerry question time and again to no avail. I asked Obama time and again to no avail. Now I’m asking Trump. But I fear this too will be to no avail, especially given this:

    President Trump’s most senior military and foreign policy advisers have proposed a major shift in strategy in Afghanistan that would effectively put the United States back on a war footing with the Taliban.

    The new plan, which still needs the approval of the president, calls for expanding the U.S. military role as part of a broader effort to push an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban back to the negotiating table, U.S. officials said.

    The new strategy, which has the backing of top Cabinet officials, would authorize the Pentagon, not the White House, to set troop numbers in Afghanistan and give the military far broader authority to use airstrikes to target Taliban militants.

    (Washington Post, May 8, 2017)

    Frankly, this new strategy reflects a willful refusal to learn the lessons of history. Only this explains Pentagon officials refusing to see that executing it will only further the Vietnamization of this war. But nothing demonstrates this willfulness quite like Trump’s about face. After all, here is what he was tweeting just four years ago:

    @realDonaldTrump

    Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense!

    6:55 PM – 11 Jan 2013

    Granted, there’s nothing newsworthy about Trump’s congenital hypocrisy. But we must never fail to condemn it when his hypocrisy is getting US soldiers killed.

    I’m on record preaching about America’s doomed determination to repeat this history in many commentaries, including “Without [and Even With] More Forces, Failure in Afghanistan Is Likely,” September 23, 2009, “Obama’s Ironic Mission to Afghanistan,” March 31, 2010, and “Obama Continues Vietnam-Style Mission Creep in Iraq (Afghanistan and Syria),” April 20, 2016, to name just a few.

    In fact, just two months ago, I felt like John the Baptist as I denounced the masturbatory impact of America dropping the “mother of all bombs” (MOAB) on the Afghan Taliban. After all, everyone else was hailing it as if it had finally vanquished the Taliban.

    Then came Saturday – with the reckless, pointless, and feckless deaths of three more American soldiers.

    But perhaps I should stop this preaching in the wilderness – while I still have my head on my shoulders.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama’s ironic mission
    Nice
    Groundhog-day killing of terrorists
    Afghanistan: a mistake
    Masturbatory violence
    From mission accomplished to mission creep
    MOAB on Afghanistan

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 8:19 a.m.

  • Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 7:38 AM

    Capital Pride Weekend

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Have a gay old time, folks!

  • Friday, June 9, 2017 at 7:16 AM

    Comey’s Testimony Had All the Suspense of Yesterday’s News

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The media used allusions to the Super Bowl to hype former FBI director James Comey’s testimony today before the Senate Intelligence Committee. As it played out, though, sports fans could be forgiven for feeling duped. Granted, the suckers who flocked to local bars to watch, as if it were a big game, could at least drown their disappointment in alcohol.

    But, foremost, the Committee’s release of his opening statement yesterday had an anticlimactic effect. Because the media picked it apart – complete with political pundits and legal analysts stripping it of any meaty suspense, like hyenas devouring a gazelle.

    As former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee, it’s useful to bear two things in mind: What he’s describing isn’t normal. And it isn’t going away.

    In a written statement released before his appearance, Comey depicted a disturbing sequence of events related to the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. President Donald Trump repeatedly asked Comey to pledge his loyalty, requested that he state publicly that Trump wasn’t under investigation, and suggested that he drop a probe into Michael Flynn, the erstwhile national security adviser. Comey declined on all counts, and Trump fired him not long afterward.

    (Bloomberg News, June 8, 2017)

    Frankly, I suspect only political junkies like me found his testimony interesting. Yet even for me, watching it was rather like watching my favorite suspense movie, Psycho, for the 100th time. In fact, the only thing that had any dramatic effect worthy of the hype was when Comey declared:

    After all, given the famously bullying, threatening tweet it pertained to, Comey was clearly calling Trump’s bluff:

    Of course, Trump is probably storing those “tapes” in the same rabbit hole where he stored that infamous birth certificate, which he claimed for years proved that Barack Obama was born in Kenya …

    Beyond this, my related commentaries are replete with facts about Trump that presaged many of Comey’s claims. Those commentaries include “WTF! President-elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done.” November 10, 2016, “Trumpasites Already Gagging on Big Lies and Outrageous Pledges They Swallowed,” January 29, 2017, “Channeling Nixon, Trump Fires FBI Director,” May 9, 2017, and “Special Prosecutor Appointed to Investigate Trump-Russia Ties. Checkmate!” May 18, 2017.

    Not to mention that nothing was more predictable than Republicans on the Committee acting like defense attorneys for Trump and Democrats like character witnesses for Comey. Regrettably, this is the nature of partisanship in Washington these days – the integrity of the presidency, even the welfare of the country, be dammed. (I hasten to note that, if Trump were a Democrat, the roles Committee members played would’ve been perfectly reversed.)

    But, apropos of presaging, here’s what I wrote in a text exchange with an old friend this morning – before the hearing convened:

    Most interesting will be seeing how wannabe presidents on the [committee] showboat for what could be the biggest audience they’ll have before 2020: Rubio vs Harris.

    As things played out, Marco Rubio (R-FL) clearly did more to tow his party’s line (that Trump did nothing wrong) than Kamala Harris (D-CA) did to tow hers (that Trump obstructed justice). To be fair, the black Harris was probably still smarting from the way the white chairman of this Committee chastised her – as if she were a naughty schoolgirl – when she persisted (as white male members always do) in demanding answers from witnesses during a related hearing yesterday.

    But I’m embarrassed to admit that I have no idea whether this will advance Rubio’s presidential ambitions or hamper hers. What I do know is that this inside-Washington parlor game (of watching senators shamelessly positioning themselves for a presidential run) is far from over.

    That said, if you only caught the opening statements of (aforementioned) Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), you would have gotten all there was to get out of this hearing. If you watched the whole thing, however, you were probably utterly bemused watching John McCain (R-AZ). Because his comments and questions were as murky and mumbling at the end of this hearing as Burr and Warner’s were clear and concise at the beginning.

    In any event, despite all the hype, Comey’s testimony today was more like an undercard to a heavyweight fight. That fight features Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller investigating all matters related to alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and Putin’s Russia.

    More to the point, even Comey made clear that, if anybody is going to land a knockout blow against Trump, it’s this special prosecutor, not some congressional committee. Which is why, despite the lack of commensurate media hype, “it’s Mueller time!”

    Trust me, Robert Mueller will interrogate Trump under oath – just as Ken Starr famously interrogated Clinton. That’s where the real effect of Comey’s testimony will be felt. Because Trump is a pathological liar. And Comey set so many perjury traps for him that Trump trying to escape one will be like a rat trying to escape a den of cheese-filled mousetraps.

    Finally, Trump’s flaks are trying to spin this as just a case of “he said, he said.” Don’t buy into that cliché. Because Trump calling Comey a liar is not pot calling kettle black; it’s pot calling white bone china black.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump demanded Comey’s loyalty
    Robert Mueller special prosecutor
    Trump’s birther admission

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 4:39 p.m.

  • Thursday, June 8, 2017 at 8:03 AM

    Obama: To Solve World Problems Put Women in Charge!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Former President Barack Obama is making news today for a speech he delivered yesterday before the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.

    Local media hailed it as a “rock star” performance. Never mind that he did little more than regale wistful Canadians with trademark insights and reassurances about what portends for world affairs in this age of Trump.

    But what I found most interesting, and what is getting too little attention, is what Obama said about women ruling the world:

    In my lifetime I think we’ll see a woman president of the United States. …

    I did conclude at a certain point that if you just put women in charge of every country for just about two years, the world would make a huge leap forward and just be better off generally.

    (Canadian National Post, June 6, 2017)

    I just wish he had come to this enlightened conclusion during his presidency. It might have moved Obama to appoint women to more than 35 percent of the positions in his cabinet. Indeed, it speaks volumes that his famous protégés, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron, appointed women to at least 50 percent of those positions, respectively.

    Not to mention that some of us have been championing this inverse of gender roles in public life for many years. I, for one, have been in the vanguard with commentaries like “Cracking the Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” December 12, 2005, and “Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” October 14, 2010.

    Indeed, nothing has made me prouder in this respect than my mother country of the Turks and Caicos Islands electing our first female premier recently. I duly hailed this historic and transformative event in “Hooray! Turks and Caicos Elects First Female Premier, Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson,” December 16, 2016. But the following excerpt from “Men Should Be Barred from Politics,” September 25, 2013, remains most instructive.

    ___________________

    We have enough data, as well as anecdotal evidence, from the way women have influenced the corporate world to make some credible extrapolations. The correlation between more women holding positions of power and the implementation of family-friendly policies is undeniable in this respect. Therefore, it’s entirely reasonable to assert that if more women held positions of power in politics they would use their power more towards building up human resources than military armaments – just to cite one obvious example.

    Finland’s president, prime minister, president of the Supreme Court, as well as eight of its eleven government ministers are all women. Arguably, there’s a direct correlation between their positions and the fact that Newsweek rated this county the best place to live in 2010 – in terms of health, economic dynamism, education, political environment, and quality of life.

    ___________________

    All the same, it’s perhaps instructive that Obama followed up his speech with a bromantic meal with Trudeau. Because the only thing missing from viral pictures of their rendezvous was a caption befitting the gender inversion they both espouse, namely:

    Gentlemen who lunch

    Hail, woman power!

    Related commentaries:
    Men should be barred
    Cracking glass ceiling
    Premier Cartwright-Robinson
    Women make better politicians

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 2.26 p.m.

  • Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 7:17 AM

    D-Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Today, more than ever since D-Day, it behooves us to remember the global conflagration a self-absorbed, tendentious, unhinged, pusillanimous, insecure, delusional (acronym: stupid) megalomaniac – with formidable military power – ignited. Moreover, we would do well to remember the unspeakable blood and treasure sacrificed to combat it.

    Never again…?

    If Donald Trump did not come to mind as you read the above about Adolf Hitler, then you’ve been living under a rock for the past 18 months.

                                                              Der Spiegel

    Of course, you could just be one of the growing number of narcissists who are too wrapped up in their own, selfie-deluded world to notice or care about Trump. But it speaks volumes that his mad-hatter antics are such that more people seem interested in the daily dents of his train-wreck presidency than in the dirty details of Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial.

    Apropos of which, Trump is so stupid he thinks the 100 million people who follow or like his social-media postings are supporters; whereas at least two thirds of them are just rubbernecking addicts looking for their next fix.

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  • Sunday, June 4, 2017 at 9:35 AM

    Terrorists Take Another Stab at London…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Britain has been sent reeling after its capital city was attacked by armed men who launched an assault that left seven people dead and the country stunned less than a week before the General Election.

    Three attackers were shot dead after the van and knife attack at London Bridge and Borough Market, locations less than half-a-mile apart, which injured at least 48 people.

    They brought carnage to the streets of the capital, stabbing a police officer and revellers with 12-inch knives, reportedly shouting ‘this is for Allah’.

    (London Independent, June 4, 2017)

    I fear, as surely as night follows day, it’s only a matter of time before there’s another one there or elsewhere in the West. What’s more, they will continue until such attacks become as commonplace as bombings in Kabul … or shootings in Detroit.

    Sadly, we’re witnessing and suffering the unfolding of a new norm. Of course, it is self-evident that Islamists have already turned most Western democracies into veritable police states. I cannot overstate this transformation. But this new norm includes terrorizing bomb scares like the one at public screening of a soccer match in Italy today, which triggered a panic-stricken stampede that reportedly injured over 1,500 people.

    Truth be told, though, I’ve already written/warned about this in far too many commentaries. Therefore, I see no point in venting damning outrage and proposing coping strategies anew.

    Except that it’s worth noting the saving grace amidst typical overreaction to this attack – highlighted by the media stoking ratings-generating fears and the police mounting their horse-already-out-of-the-barn show of force. That saving grace is the decision by organizers of today’s benefit concert for victims of the Manchester attack to keep calm and carry on. Bravo!

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  • Sunday, June 4, 2017 at 8:47 AM

    Blacks Have Given White Liberals like Bill Maher License to Say Racist Things

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Comedian Bill Maher is known for his politically incorrect schtick. He knows better than anyone that nothing guarantees viral attention in this age of social media quite like a snarky point, sick prank, or salacious photo.

    Moreover, it’s self-evident that the aim of most points, pranks, and photos is not to provoke enlightened thought or stimulate informed debate. Rather it’s to attract mindless YouTube views, Twitter followers, Facebook and/or Instagram likes, etc. – all as a testament to one’s own popularity or in service to one’s own narcissism. Granted, in some cases, easy money motivates too (as the Kardashians would readily attest).

    Except that the fallout from comedian Kathy Griffin’s sick prank shows that one can go too far. No doubt you’ve seen the viral image of Griffin holding up a dummy of Donald Trump’s blood-soaked, severed head … ISIS style.

    The (viral) outrage was such that TV stations and concert venues began canceling her gigs, making her as bookable as Michael Richards. Remember him? “Seinfeld’s Kramer Unleashes a Racist Tirade on Stage! Why the surprise?” November 21, 2006, explains why he got the infamous “you’ll never work in this town again” treatment.

    In any event, now ballsy, wanna-play-ISIS Griffin is crying me a river about Trump and his sons bullying and breaking her. But, as much as I despise Trump and pity his kids, I feel no sympathy for her.

    Which brings me to Maher. He too just went too far. His (latest) outrage stems from an exchange he had on Friday with Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) on his HBO show Real Time.

    The offense came when Maher lamented the folly of grown-ups dressing up for Halloween:

    When Mr. Sasse said this did not happen in his state, Mr. Maher said, ‘I’ve got to get to Nebraska more.’

    Mr. Sasse replied: ‘You’re welcome. We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.’

    Mr. Maher said: ‘Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house [nigger].’

    (New York Times, June 3, 2017)

    I’ve been calling out white liberals for racist quips like this for years. Here, for example, is how I did just that with former President Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, and Obama’s putative successor Hillary Clinton, in “VP Biden, Stop Your Dog-Whistling about Race … Now!” August 12, 2012.

    __________________

    Vice President Joe Biden set Republican tongues wagging on Tuesday for injecting the following not-so-subtle dog-whistle about race into a speech he delivered that day before a predominantly black crowd in Southern Virginia:

    ‘Romney wants to let the, he said the first 100 days he’s gon’ let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchaaain Wall Street … they gon’ put y’all back in chains.’

    (C-SPAN, August 14, 2012)

    I feel obliged to begin by noting that Republicans decrying racism in this context is rather like prostitutes decrying promiscuity. … This is why I have no regard for the feigned outrage Republicans are venting over Biden’s remarks.

    That said, I find what he said insulting. Far too many blacks react to racist remarks by white Democrats [or liberals] by simply pointing to racist remarks by white Republicans [or conservatives]. I do not.

    Here, for example, is what I wrote when Hillary Clinton declared that (white) Republicans were treating (white) Democrats in Congress like slaves:

    This … demonstrates the insidious entitlement white liberals have been granted – by politically compromised black leaders – to make all kinds of racial jibes with impunity; so long as those white liberals are celebrated supporters/members of the Democratic Party.

    And, in this case, it only added insult to the racial offense that Hillary made these remarks in the front of an ‘Amen’ crowd at a black church in Harlem – where she ‘came back home’ like a proverbial prodigal daughter.

    (“Hillary: Republicans Treating Democrats like Slaves,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 23, 2006)

    Just as it was with Hillary’s, what added insult to Biden’s remarks was the way he exaggerated his intonations and broken English to, gasp, sound more black (i.e., ignorant). Yet in each case, instead of jeering, blacks cheered.

    __________________

    It just so happened that I chastised Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton many years earlier in “US Senator Calls Bush’s Black Female Judicial Nominee an Ape,” June 7, 2005. The white liberal involved in that case was no less a person than “liberal lion” Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA).

    Frankly, I lost what little respect I still had for them when neither Jackson nor Sharpton, both putative civil rights leaders, failed to utter a word of condemnation against Kennedy. But you can imagine their outcry if he were a white conservative, especially considering that Kennedy hurled this sub-simian slur during a public hearing on Judge Janice Brown’s nomination.

    This is why I am less outraged by what Maher said than by the apparent license influential blacks gave him to say it. They should have joined me years ago in condemning white liberals who say racist things. What’s more, we should condemn them with even greater indignation than we show when we condemn white conservatives for the same. After all, we expect more of our so-called white liberal friends.

    That said, I am heartened that at least some of these blacks are coming to their senses. Because here is how Sharpton led a (still-too-small) chorus in condemning Maher:

    ‘Bill Maher decided to get on television last night and sanitize and normalize the n-word,’ civil-rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton said in his Saturday sermon in New York. ‘Just because Bill Maher is liberal and our friend, you don’t give him a pass … you never get the right to use that term.’

    (Reuters, June 3, 2017)

    It’s almost as if I wrote that for him, no? Except of course for the glaring, self-subjugating fact that nobody has done more to “sanitize and normalize the n-word” than ignorant and misguided black folks, especially in the hip-hop community.

    Unsurprisingly, Maher hastened to apologize. But I suspect that, if he were a conservative, Sharpton would have demanded his head; that is, for him to suffer the same career-ending fate Richards suffered, and which Griffin is now suffering.

    And so the double standard persists. Regrettably, this not only undermines the moral authority of influential blacks on Race Matters, but also affirms the self-righteousness far too many white liberals display when it comes to the lingering scourge of racism in America.

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  • Saturday, June 3, 2017 at 7:56 AM

    Are you watching the new Cosby show…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Sorting through a jury pool already exposed to the blaze of publicity over allegations against Bill Cosby, lawyers and a judge on Monday selected the first five jurors, all of them white, who will weigh whether he committed a sexual assault.

    The challenge of finding an impartial panel was on full display as jury selection began in the morning at the Allegheny County Courthouse here. When Judge Steven T. O’Neill asked the first 100 potential jurors if they had “heard, read or seen anything” about the case, more than 80 of them raised the numbered cards used to identify them.

    (New York Times, May 22, 2017)

    Uh oh. It looks like Cosby is going to end up with a mostly white jury. Which means that his lawyer, a wannabe Johnny Cochran, will have to reconsider his telegraphed intent to play the O.J. race card.

    More to the point, given that neither the judge nor the jury seems inclined to buy his deaf, dumb, and blind schtick, I predict Cosby will end up after this first criminal trial where O.J. ended up after his second. And he will deserve every second of time he gets!

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  • Friday, June 2, 2017 at 7:33 AM

    Alas, Megyn Kelly Will Debut on NBC Looking like She’s Still on FOX …

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    With Roger Ailes still the chief operating pimp.

    Fox News is still reeling from the allegations of sexual harassment against Ailes and other network honchos that caused Megyn Kelly to jump ship in January. Now she’s moving on.

    She debuts on NBC this Sunday, and seems poised to get off with a bang. This, because she snagged the highly coveted interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. After all, his infamous meddling in democratic elections in the United States and across Europe made Putin the biggest get any anchor could get.

    Unfortunately, the promo suggests that Kelly was more interested in titillating than interviewing Putin. Only this explains her wearing a dress with a slit that invited peeping up her nether regions and spaghetti straps that invited visual disrobing. It would not surprise me if Putin obliged – by showing more interest in her looks than her questions.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure what to make of the fact that the promo shows India’s conservative prime minister, Narendra Modi, sitting in on her interview with Putin. I gather this joint interview was not planned. But I suspect Modi would have felt even more disrespected by that dress than the Saudi king was by Melania Trump’s bare head. (Just ask her husband!)

    Not to mention reports that Kelly compounded any disrespect by asking Modi if he’s on Twitter. But I suspect this gaffe embarrassed her far more than it disrespected him. After all, at over 30 million, Modi has almost as many followers as Donald Trump.

    The point is that this is the same (appropriately dressed) news anchor who famously rattled Donald Trump during the first Republican Party presidential debate last year; so much so that she almost derailed his campaign. In fact, Kelly has established herself as such a bona fide journalist that NBC is pitting her program, Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, against 60 Minutes on CBS, the most successful news program in broadcast history.

    I watched her program on Fox News many times, and I can personally attest that she really is that good. Indeed, this is why I am so disappointed that her promo showed her looking more like a blonde bimbo than a bona fide journalist.

    In “Women Complain that Fox News Head, Roger Ailes, Has Dick for Brains,” July 20, 2016, I decried what appeared to be women at Fox News objectifying themselves to keep their jobs.

    __________________

    Close friends will tell you that I have often decried the way all ‘prominent Fox News women’ seem to abide a dress code that requires them to bare as much leg and wear as much makeup as possible

    Watching them, as I do on occasion for ‘fair and balanced’ news reporting, I always get the sense that they look more like beauty pageant contestants than cable news reporters. What’s more, camera shots invariably reinforce the impression that tits and butts are every bit as important as brains and skills.

    Frankly, their objectification is such that Fox News women are often barely distinguishable from the vaudevillian ‘Benny Hill foxes.’ This might explain why Ailes treated them, eponymously enough, like his Fox News foxes.

    Far more troubling, though, is the rumor that he hired women based solely on whether or not he found them ‘f**kable.’ After all, these allegations not only give credence to that rumor, but also make it impossible to watch Fox News women henceforth without wondering what sexual favors they performed to get, and are performing to keep, their jobs. …

    The parallels in this unfolding scandal to the one that triggered Bill Cosby’s fall from grace are as unavoidable as they are instructive.

    ____________________

    As for Kelly at NBC, evidently, you can take the girl out of Fox News but you can’t take Fox News out of the girl.

    All the same, I gather she’ll be doing a number of interviews (with Putin and others) over the next few days at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Here’s to her dressing more appropriately for those.

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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 7:47 p.m.

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