The iPINIONS Journal


  • Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 5:18 AM

    Is Ferguson Awaiting Grand Jury Decision or Lying In Wait to Riot…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Ferguson has become a theatre of the absurd – complete with the-sky-is-falling reporters doing more to fuel the protests than to cover them, while using selfie-camera angels to ensure that they are featured as much as the protesters. There’s no denying that these protests would burnout overnight if the media lights, which have been inflaming them like adding fuel to fire, were suddenly turned off.

    And don’t get me started on the smattering of (White) professional protesters doing all they can to get arrested just to have another notch on their resume of civil disobedience.

    (“Why Are They Still Protesting in Ferguson? And Who Are They?” The iPINIONS Journal, August 19, 2914)

    darren-wilson-michael-brownBased on increasingly alarmist news reports, you’d think the whole country were sitting on a powder keg, waiting for a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, to deliver its decision on whether or not to prosecute White Officer Darren Wilson for killing Black teenager Michael Brown.

    More to the point, those reports give the impression that protesters are not awaiting that decision so much as laying in wait to go on a riotous rampage the likes of which America has not seen since 1992. That, of course, was when Los Angeles erupted in race riots after an all-White jury acquitted four White officers of the brutal beating of Black Rodney King.

    The problem, however, is that the media are not reporting news so much as stoking tensions to make rioting a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hell, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think rioting in the streets is now the generally accepted way to react to disappointing jury verdicts.

    To be fair, a few commentators began echoing this week the critique of the media I began sounding months ago – as my opening quote attests.

    1408535931-media-circus-in-ferguson-after-peaceful-day-turns-into-chaos-missouri_5562423But nothing is more telling or damning in this context than the conspicuous failure of reporters covering Ferguson – like buzzards circling dying prey – to report that the grand jury could deliver a decision that Brown’s (predominantly Black) supporters would find wholly satisfactory.

    Of course, if they were providing fair and balanced coverage, they would’ve also reported that justice in this case might require the grand jury to decide that Wilson should not be prosecuted. Likewise, what’s good for the goose being good for the gander, they would’ve reported that deciding he should be prosecuted could incite Wilson’s (predominantly White) supporters to take to the streets to vent their outrage … too.

    Meanwhile, reporters behaving as if rioting is devoutly to be wished is surpassed only by local politicians behaving as if rioting is a fait accompli:

    On Monday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) declared a state of emergency ahead of a grand jury decision that is currently determining whether to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown.

    The action activated the use of the National Guard, which was met with widespread concern from community members who are on edge and fear police crackdown — similar to the outcome from initial protests that occurred immediately following Brown’s death.

    [T]he National Guard has been ordered to assist local and state police to quell any potential violence that may result from the grand jury’s decision.

    (The Huffington Post, November 18, 2014)

    ferguson_0To be fair, though, given historical precedents, most notably the LA riots referenced above, one can hardly blame this governor for deploying additional reinforcements to quell any unrest.

    For my part, I can only reiterate:

    Those eulogizing Michael would’ve honored 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.

    That said, let me end by clarifying, again, that, notwithstanding his robbery or other bad acts, the killing of Michael Brown, as alleged, was unjustified; and Officer Wilson should be prosecuted for use of excessive force. Because, no matter what a person does to resist arrest, a policeman cannot shoot to kill if that person relents and no longer poses any threat of bodily harm. Period.

    (“Why Chastise the Times for Describing Michael Brown as ‘No Angel’”?! The iPINIONS Journal, August 26, 2014)

    imrsOf course, I appreciate that, just as news means nothing to reporters in Ferguson unless it heightens the suspense they’re manufacturing for riots, justice means nothing to protesters there unless it results in Wilson being arrested, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned … for a very long time.

    But, whatever the grand jury decision, it should not be used as a pretext to riot in the streets, which could only result in self-immolating destruction of businesses and public services the predominantly Black residents of Ferguson depend on for their daily sustenance. Not to mention the very likelihood that stoked-up confrontations with the police could easily result in more senseless loss of life.

    Related commentaries:
    Why are they still
    The Times…no angel

  • Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 6:52 AM

    In Defense of Obamacare Adviser’s Claim about Stupidity of the American Voter

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber is being publicly excommunicated and excoriated for committing what constitutes a cardinal sin in Washington these days: telling the unvarnished truth. And, miraculously, his sin has inspired Democrats and Republicans to unite in their joint (and several) condemnation of him.

    For the uninitiated, Gruber was as much the architect of Barack Obama’s healthcare reform as Karl Rove was of George W. Bush’s neo-con agenda.

    obama11_c0-43-1024-639_s561x327Yet no less a person than Obama himself is leading the chorus of those condemning Gruber:

    He ‘never worked on our staff,’ President Obama said this weekend in Brisbane, Australia, (even though Gruber was paid almost $400,000 by his administration, is the intellectual author of the individual mandate and met in the Oval Office with Obama and the head of the Congressional Budget Office to pore over the bill). ‘I don’t know who he is,’ Nancy Pelosi declared on Capitol Hill (even though she repeatedly cited him by name  during the Obamacare debate).

    (Washington Post, November 17, 2014)

    This is why the Democrats’ effort to throw him under the bus is so brazenly hypocritical. But what’s even more contemptible is that they are doing so simply because he admitted that, in drafting the signature legislation of Obama’s presidency, he and fellow architects had to take into account the growing bane of American politics: the stupidity of the American people.

    Democrats began disowning him last week after Republican operatives flooded the media with old video clips of Gruber blithely stressing and reinforcing this point. Here, for example, is what one clip shows him saying about their strategy for ensuring passage of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare):

    The lack of transparency is a huge political advantage [and] the stupidity of the American voter … was really, really critical for the thing to pass.

    (Gruber, CSPAN, March 11, 2010)

    gruberOn the other side, the Republicans’ effort to paint him as a political fraudster is as disingenuous as it is ignorant, which, alas, defines almost every Republican criticism of Obama, his policies, and anybody associated with him … or them.

    In this case, those clips merely show Gruber stating what has been a fact of American politics for over 100 years.

    For example, H.L. Mencken was arguably the most admired and accomplished journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American life and culture, and scholar of American English in U.S. history. Yet Mencken’s dismay, with what he might have called the stupidity of the American voter, caused him to lament as follows:

    No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor [more to the point] has anyone ever lost public office thereby.

    (Chicago Daily Tribune, September 19, 1926)

    I’m no Mencken, but even I have had cause to lament the same in such commentaries as “On Syria and almost Every Other Issue, the American People are Insolent, Ignorant Idiots … and Their Congressional Representatives are Pandering, Pusillanimous Pussies,” September 10, 2013.

    PP79.1261 Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)More to point, here is how I echoed Mencken’s estimation of “the great masses of the plain people” with respect to the very legislation Gruber was referencing:

    Nothing indicates how much delusions of despair are undermining Obama’s presidency quite like poor, unemployed and uninsured (White) folks, who depend on food stamps for their daily bread, opposing his healthcare reform (aka Obamacare).

    They are doing so because they too have bought into the Republican ‘big lie’ that this reform, which Republicans like former President Nixon once championed, will turn America ‘into a socialist state like Europe [sic].’  (Polls routinely show that the vast majority of those who oppose Obamacare actually approve of its provisions.) Idiots!

    (“Delusions of Despair Undermining Obama’s Presidency,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 21, 2012)

    Stressing and reinforcing this point, the American digital media company Vox reported on November 15 that 50 percent of the American people think the unemployment rate is 32 per cent. It’s 5.8. So bear this in mind the next time you hear a politician invoking the “will of the American people” – as if it were some divine ordination.

    In which case, the real sin here is not what Gruber said about the stupidity of the American voter. Instead, it’s the way Democrats and Republicans are now falling all over themselves to disown and exploit him, respectively, for craven political gain.

    For, to paraphrase Mencken, no politician in America, so far as I know – and I’ve googled key words as well as polled historians on this – has ever lost a debate or an election by pandering to the stupidity of the American people.

    Related commentaries:
    Delusions
    The American people are insolent, ignorant

  • Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 6:47 AM

    Bill Cosby’s (all too belated) Fall from Grace

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last February, Bill Cosby – ‘America’s favorite TV Dad’ (and faithful husband) – escaped prison when prosecutors investigating allegations of sexual assault concluded that they did not have sufficient evidence to convict him, beyond a reasonable doubt, at trial.

    But no one thought that was the end of the story…

    Lawyers for his accuser filed motion in court for 10 more women to give evidence of similar sexual assaults that Cosby allegedly perpetrated against them too…

    This case seems likely to typecast him forever as a predatory sexual wolf despite his (trademark) sheepish grin.

    (“10 More Women Accuse Bill Cosby of Sexual Assault … Rape,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 23, 2005)

    s-BILL-COSBY-largeAs this quote indicates, I became convinced almost a decade ago that Cosby paid off many women over the years to uphold his wholesome “Dr. Huxtable” (or Dr. Jeckyll) image.

    I deduced, however, that, as part of the deal, he required each of them to sign a confidentiality agreement promising to keep their mouths shut, in perpetuity, about the dirty “Mr. Coz” (or Mr. Hyde) side of his character. After all, even a self-righteous, arrogant rapist like Cosby (is alleged to have been) would’ve been wary about leaving any of his victims as a “loose end” that could cause him public embarrassment and/or professional work.

    1416229824088_Image_galleryImage_Barbara_Bowman_one_of_BilYet he seems to have done just that; now that chick is coming home to roost:

    Bill Cosby raped me. Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my story?

    This was the sensational and poignant headline that greeted readers in the November 13 edition of the Washington Post. It accompanied Barbara Bowman’s personal account of how Cosby groomed her (when she was just 17) with lavish gifts and promises of acting stardom, and plied her with gut-retching drugs, all to have his way with her.

    Incidentally, I’m constrained to note here that there’s something particularly perverse and pathetic about a man drugging a woman into a catatonic stupor to have sex with her, when that woman might’ve been perfectly willing to have sex with him without being drugged. More to the point, I’d bet that, with a little grooming, 9 out of 10 of Cosby’s victims would’ve been perfectly willing to have sex with him (and for reasons having nothing to do with his sexual charms).

    To be fair, Bowman claims that she fell hostage to a confusing quest to reconcile the genial old man – who posed as a professional father figure, with the dirty old man – who treated her like a high-paid call girl. But she shared enough to give the impression that a vulnerable (and all too familiar) combination of star-struck awe, lack of financial resources, and overriding ambition might also explain why she kept going back to Cosby for more….

    Hannibal-Buress-Calls-Bill-Cosby-Rapist-VideoOn the other hand, as my April 2005 commentary cited above indicates, there’s nothing new about her claims, or about many other women making similar claims. Indeed, what gives Bowman’s story its poignancy is not just the predatory behavior (she alleges) Cosby exhibited, but the prevailing indifference the media exhibited to that behavior.

    But nothing indicates what impenetrable walls she ran into, when she finally decided to go public, quite like Gloria Allred — that perennial legal avenger of all wronged women — refusing to even speak to her. Such was Cosby’s reputation as a sacred cow … back then.

    But we now live in a Twitter age, when even rank gossip on social media, especially about putative sacred cows, invariably ends up in the mainstream media. This was brought into stark relief last month, when a video of stand-up comedian Hannibal Buress riffing off rape allegations against Cosby (during an October 16 performance) went viral online. The mainstream media duly lapped it up by running breaking news reports about Bowman’s decades-old allegations.

    Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.51.45 AMNot to mention that it seems de rigueur these days for people to say online things they’d never say in polite society. Cosby experienced this last week when he invited his Twitter followers to “meme” his famous Dr. Huxtable character. Because tweets like “you’re a serial rapist” were among the kindest people hurled back at him.

    Ironically, more than anything else, this ill-advised and ill-timed foray into self-promotion on social media signaled the beginning of Cosby’s fall from Grace. For it must have been troubling enough that this stunt forced him to cancel promotional appearances in the mainstream media with everyone from Queen Latifah to David Letterman.

    But the nail in the coffin of his Dr. Huxtable fame had to have been the cringeworthy exchange that occurred last weekend, during what he clearly expected would be a “safe” radio interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

    Cosby and his wife Camille were promoting the 62 truly impressive pieces of African and African-American art they loaned to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art for a recently opened exhibition, which runs through 2016.

    ae1cf8dd0ab844b9bf71be570d5851a4-bfdd31a26f554447affac4c980e70d41-4Unfortunately, no doubt reflecting why he canceled earlier TV interviews and foreshadowing things to come, every mention of their radio interview focused almost exclusively on what he said (or refused to say) about these rape allegations.

    To his credit, radio host Scott Simon prefaced the inevitable and unavoidable question, which hovered over the interview like a big black cloud just waiting to burst, by voicing displeasure with his obligation as a news reporter to ask about the rape allegations.

    Except that, when he finally asked it, Cosby responded with finger-wagging silence. Simon persisted, asking Cosby again if he had any response to Bowman’s allegations. Cosby persisted, wagging his finger in a manner that conveyed disgust, disappointment, and despair … in sequent toil.

    This obliged Simon to wrap their awkward, but very telling, exchange as follows:

    SIMON: [You are] shaking your head no. There are people who love you who might like to hear from you about this. I want to give you the chance.

    COSBY: [SILENCE]

    SIMON: Alright. Camille and Bill Cosby… Thank you both.

    This is what has become of America’s favorite Dad and advertisers’ favorite pitchman. But, truth be told, Cosby is probably well-advised to keep his mouth shut at this point. Because there’s nothing he can say to prevent or even diminish the fallout from these rape allegations; and, even though it would make great TV, confessing to Oprah about what inner devil made him do it would do little to rehabilitate his image (as Lance Armstrong can attest).

    Meanwhile, here’s why things will only get worse for him:

    Another woman [publicist and journalist Joan Tarshis] has accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault….

    ‘Through the haze I thought I was being clever when I told him I had an infection and he would catch it and his wife would know he had sex with someone; but he just found another orifice to use’…

    She said the time is right for her to come forward with Cosby’s other alleged victims.

    (Washington Post, November 17, 2014)

    Even more ominously, after his NPR interview went viral, Bowman revealed that other women are preparing to come out of the woodwork to share eerily similar claims about the M.O. Cosby used for decades to perpetrate serial sexual assaults. This could make the bimbo eruption that made Tiger Woods a national laughing stock seem like a tempest in a teapot – complete with a woman or two coming out with false claims against Cosby in a desperate attempt to garner those Warholian 15 minutes of fame.

    Never mind what it says about Mr. Coz’s dark side that the women who have come forward to date are all White….

    Unfortunately, because of statutes of limitation, it’s doubtful that any of these rape allegations will trigger a criminal investigation, let alone an arrest and prosecution. Besides, that Cosby paid off so many of his alleged victims (directly or indirectly) means that their credibility as witnesses, for legal purposes, is hopelessly compromised.

    In any event, I suspect it’s only a matter of time before Cosby undergoes a metamorphosis from father figure to tar baby in the eyes of commercial advertisers. This would force NBC to abort development of a sitcom in which he’s scheduled to make a celebrated return to TV next year as America’s favorite (Gran)dad. Hell, it would not surprise me if public outrage forces the Smithsonian to discontinue its exhibition of his African and African-American art….

    Frankly, media coverage of Bill Cosby as a serial rapist could prove every bit as deadly to his career in entertainment as media coverage of Anthony Weiner as a serial sexter proved to his in politics.

    But if you’re inclined to feel any sympathy for Cosby, don’t! After all, if just one of these women is telling the truth, Cosby should’ve spent most, if not all, of the past 30 years in prison, not on TV. Especially considering that the following excerpt from his 1969 comedy album titled, appropriately enough, It’s True! It’s True!, could fairly be read as an unwitting statement of his consciousness of guilt:

    You know anything about Spanish Fly… you put some in her drink, man … ahhhhhh … Spanish Fly is groovy. Yeah boy … any time you see a girl: Wish you had some Spanish Fly boy….

    bill-cosby_1420356iFinally, given my allusion above to Tiger Woods, I should note that his wife had enough dignity and self-respect to divorce him. Mind you, none of the women Tiger had extramarital affairs with ever accused him of rape.

    By contrast, Cosby’s wife seems determined to continue standing by her man:

    I gave up some time ago trying to reason why purportedly liberated women, like Camille Cosby and Hillary Clinton, stand by men who humiliate them.

    The ardent feminist in me would like to think this simply reflects their evolved understanding that marriage is about a lot more than (sexual) monogamy. But it may be that they are riding so high on the power trip these marriages afford them that they couldn’t care any less how much their husbands betray traditional notions of fidelity (or legality?).

    (“The Hypocrisy of Eliot ‘Ness” Spitzer’s Assignation with a Prostitute,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 11, 2008)

    Enough said.

    Related commentaries:
    The hypocrisy
    A serial rapist

  • Monday, November 17, 2014 at 6:38 AM

    Earth to Media: Stop Broadcasting Terrorist Propaganda

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    ISIS_claims_to_have_killed_Peter_Kassig_2254360000_9619314_ver1.0_640_480It speaks volumes about the media’s amoral code of conduct that they transitioned a few days ago, with nary a pause, from reporting on the Rosetta spacecraft landing on Comet 67P, to broadcasting the latest recording from the Daesh/ISIS leader calling his foot soldiers to arms. They punctuated the latter today with lurid wall-to-wall coverage of a video showing “Jihadi John” spewing more terrorist propaganda and beheading more hapless victims.

    Alas, the simple fact is that, if it inspires, terrorizes … or bleeds, it leads.

    Yet I reiterate my plea that:

    The only people who need to know about these beheadings at this point are the loved ones of the godforsaken beheaded. What’s more, notwithstanding the media, President Obama can help quell the hysteria by expressing his condolences privately, instead of issuing pubic statements — full of angst and outrage signifying nothing — after each of them.

    (“Stop the ‘Breaking News’ about Beheadings Already!” The iPINIONS Journal, October 4, 2014)

    I get that my plea must make me seem every bit as hapless as the victims referenced above. But I remain hopeful that, at some point, someone far more influential than I will incite public outrage against these media nincompoops – who are not only abusing their freedom of the press, but also betraying their abject venality by propagating terrorist propaganda so blithely.

    I mean, can you imagine any news outlet in the United States or Britain broadcasting Nazi propaganda during WWII, the way all news outlets in these two countries are broadcasting Daesh/ISIS propaganda today…?

    Unfortunately, we live in a Twitter age of such promiscuous, indiscriminate and surreal media practices that it seems perfectly normal for our own media to be helping the enemy perpetrate psychological warfare against us. What else explains the media shielding us from the epithets of racists, but bombarding us with the taunts of terrorists?

    mhtop (1)

    I can’t be the only one who sees that broadcasting audio-visual press releases from terrorists serves no public interest whatsoever. Not to mention that, instead of conveying coded messages for sleeper cells to launch coordinated attacks (as some media outlets insinuate for greater terrorizing/ratings effect), these releases are far more likely to incite disaffected and often disturbed lone wolves to seek their 15 minutes of infamy by launching indiscriminate attacks.

    Therefore, I entreat you to help me convey this anti-terror message to the media:

    • We do not need to know their names (which should spare you the professional terror of having to pronounce them);
    • We do not need to see their menacing faces or gruesome videos; and
    • We do not need to hear their press releases;
    • All we need is to know that Obama and his coalition of the willing are killing more and more of them before they can kill any more of us.

    Related commentaries:
    Stop broadcasting beheadings already

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 3:48 p.m.

  • Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 8:40 AM

    China-U.S. Landmark Agreement More about Clean Air than Climate Change

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am convinced that all of the preaching about global warming is just hot air. Of course the planet is getting warmer (although only by a sweltering 1°F every 100 years … ouch?). Moreover, I have no doubt that humans (especially Americans) are marginally to blame. But I also have no doubt that this warming is simply due to natural climate variations (i.e., a cyclical phenomenon).

    (“My Final Word on Global Warming,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 8, 2006)

    aptopix-china-us-obamaChina pulled a Shanghai surprise this week at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit, when it announced a bilateral agreement with the United States to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

    As my opening quote indicates, however, this agreement is a good thing not because it advances man’s Sisyphean attempts to control Mother Nature (i.e., by stopping polar caps melting and sea levels rising). It’s a good thing because it will enable China’s 1.3 billion people to breathe cleaner air (even as its tired, poor, huddled masses continue their political “yearning to breathe free”).

    la-me-gs-new-cheaper-co2-capture-discovered-20-001After all, China has almost as many coal-burning smokestacks fueling its economic growth as the United States has coffee-brewing Starbucks fueling its people’s get up and go.

    What’s more, instead of the United States’ idealistic approach to reducing carbon emissions, China has made clear its intent to emulate Canada’s more pragmatic approach, which maintains that:

    The work to reduce carbon emissions must be done without damaging [Canada’s] fragile economic recovery [or China’s enviable economic growth].

    (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, November 14, 2014)

    This distinction is important to appreciate because global-warming alarmists, like Al Gore, have been drowning out the inconvenient truth that, even though it is the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gasses, China is fast becoming the world’s leading producer of clean, renewable energy (e.g., from solar, wind, and hydro sources). One should also appreciate the distinction between countries implementing policies borne of alarmist fears about destroying the planet (which the United States represents), and those implementing policies borne of due regard for the inexhaustible resources the planet provides for the benefit of mankind (which China represents).

    Not to mention the hypocrisy inherent in Western countries lecturing China about the greenhouse gasses its factories emit in the process of producing everything from cheap phones to cheap toys for Western consumption….

    More to the point, though, here’s just a graphic illustration of why all of the warnings about climate change smacks of such hot air:

    156257_600

    NOTE: When global cooling (“Global Cooling? Yes!” The iPINIONS Journal, October 21, 2008) made global warming a patent absurdity, global-warming alarmists began branding their evangelical mission as climate change. Except that fighting climate change is ultimately every bit as futile as fighting old age.

    Related commentaries:
    March to save planet
    Global cooling

  • Friday, November 14, 2014 at 7:08 AM

    ‘Jesus Was Married…Had Two Sons…and Was Never Crucified’?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 9.48.56 PMNo doubt the authors of The Lost Gospel, a new book making the claims proffered in the headline above, expected it to incite sales-generating outrage.

    Unfortunately, the daily swill of viral tweets, videos, and pictures has so desensitized the entire world that these seemingly outrageous claims about Jesus Christ have not even made it into the enviable stream of trending topics. Topics, incidentally, which range from sublime images of a spacecraft landing on a comet, to photoshopped images of a champagne glass teetering on the surgically enhanced butt of Kim Kardashian.

    Not to mention that, for growing multitudes, religion is becoming irrelevant and alienating in equal measure – with Islam being hijacked by head-chopping jihadists, Judaism by land-grabbing Zionists, and Christianity by child-molesting priests.

    All we need now is for a prominent religious historian, like Karen Armstrong, to produce research showing that Jesus had more wives than the 40 who the Mormon Church finally admitted this week honored, served, and obeyed its founder, Joseph Smith. Or, better still, that those twelve disciples were in fact Christ’s lovers; which is not so far-fetched given Pope Francis’s recent confession that a cabal of homosexuals wield organic influence within the Vatican.

    All institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

    (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and of Fabulous Theology, 1794)

    Nevertheless, as the son of a preacher man, I feel a special obligation to comment on scholarship that challenges the Christian beliefs so many of my loved ones adhere to with the conviction, even if not the bloodlust, of a Muslim Jihadist.

    1415825947071.cachedMind you, I do not do so as a defender of the faith; after all, I’m inspired more by the polemical writings of Paine than by the canonical writings of Mark, Mathew, Luke, or John. And don’t get me started on those of the brazen fabulists who wrote the “Old Testament.” Indeed, I digress….

    A new book based on an ancient manuscript claims Jesus Christ was not crucified…

    The book is based off a translation of an Aramaic manuscript found inside the British Library.

    Professor Barrie Wilson and writer Simcha Jacobovici claim the text reveals secrets to Jesus’ family life, including his marriage to Mary Magdalene, the names of their two children, assassination attempts on both their lives and Jesus’ connection to powerful political figures in the Roman Empire.

    (International Business Insider, November 12, 2014)

    Frankly, it’s bad enough that promotion for this book is drowning in the viral sea of trending topics. But the cardinal sin is that it reveals no secrets.

    Which makes Wilson and Jacobovici, who should know better, even more mercenary than FOX News commentator Bill O’Reilly, who claimed that his Killing Jesus (2013) presented all kinds of new facts about this Biblical event. Whereas, in fact, his book simply added to the cottage industry of “direct-to-the-the-public pseudoscholarship” on the greatest story ever sold. An industry, incidentally, which dates back to, well, the writing of the “Four Gospels of the New Testament.”

    20031222_400More to the point, though, bona-fide scholars have been debunking Christian orthodoxy about Jesus Christ for centuries – as the cover story for the December 22, 2003, edition of TIME magazine, titled “The Lost Gospels,” duly attests.

    Some scholars, like French historian Constantin Francois Chasseboeuf de Volney, have posited, quite persuasively, that Jesus is a completely mythical character – no different from other mythical characters like Hercules and Agamemnon.

    Interestingly enough, the aforementioned Paine asserts in “The Age of Reason…” that the miraculous birth, crucifixion, and ascension of Christ “sprung out of the tail of … heathen mythology.” Alas, given the way this heathen mythology, masquerading as divine theology, still governs so much of our daily lives, Paine heralding the 1790’s as the age of reason was clearly premature….

    Other scholars, like Iranian-American professor of religion Reza Aslan, have posited that the historical Jesus was far more compelling than the mythical Jesus portrayed in the Bible.

    In point of fact, the Jesus Aslan portrays, in Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (2013), strikes one as having more common cause throughout the ages with the likes of Patrick Henry than Martin Luther.

    davincicodeholybloodholygrailFor my part, I began my Doubting Thomas questioning about Jesus’ family life many years ago after reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which is arguably a prequel to (if not a blueprint for) more popular books like The Da Vinci Code.

    I read Holy Blood, Holy Grail in the mid-1980s, and remember vividly proselytizing its fascinating claims amongst friends because I thought it gave credence to my ingenuous apostasy.

    I especially relished challenging Christian fundamentalists in my family with ‘proof’ that, although Jesus might have been a saint, celibacy was not one of his virtues (and, what better justification can there be for one’s own promiscuity, eh…). Because Holy Blood, Holy Grail asserts that Jesus not only ‘had carnal knowledge’ of Mary Magdalene, but also fathered children with this woman who Catholic dogma insists was nothing more than a ‘harlot’ (whore).

    (“Holy Blood, Holy Grail v. The Da Vinci Code,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 28, 2006)

    I not only wrote this almost 10 years ago, but cited the affirmation I found decades earlier in Holy Blood, Holy Grail for my abiding doubts about the generally accepted account(s) of Jesus’ family life.

    This is why, far from acclaim for their scholarship, the authors of The Lost Gospel barely qualify for entry into the academy of those who question whether the Bible contains the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the life of Jesus Christ.

    Finally, to be fair, leaders of the Catholic and Protestant Church maintain that Jesus was (as the Bible says) the celibate son of God. What’s more, they denounce any claim to the contrary as just the work of mischief-making heretics.

    Except that these are the same Catholic leaders who not only denounced claims about the epidemic of child-sex abuse among priests, but are still engaged in a conspiracy to cover up that abuse; and the same Protestant leaders who continue to propagate, as objective truth, the fairytale about God creating man and woman in some Garden of Eden.

    So who ya gonna believe…?

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 6:39 AM

    Rosetta’s Comet Mission: the Robot Has Landed. Great! Now What?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Rosetta_s_mission_to_a_cometToday, scientists at the European Space Agency hailed the successful landing of their Rosetta Spacecraft’s robotic probe (named Philae), after a 10-year journey, on a comet (named 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko), which is hurtling through space, 317 miles from Earth, at 41,000 mph: a first for mankind, and very impressive indeed.

    Given their jubilation (with high-fiving, backslapping, and hugging all around), you’d think they had in fact discovered signs of life out there … somewhere.

    But I, for one, remember all too well the jubilation that attended, not just some robotic probe, but man landing on the Moon. And I am hard-pressed to cite ways in which that landing has lived up to the hype and hope it inspired.

    Not to mention that I’m still recovering from all of the disillusionment man’s robotic missions to Mars caused:

    I don’t get it. Curiosity only traveled where many other rovers (namely, Pathfinder, Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity) have gone before. And each one of them merely proved what earthbound astronomers have known for decades; namely, that our closest neighbor in Milky Way galaxy is nothing but a desolate, volcanic, uninhabitable mass. And, yes, it’s covered in red dust.

    Meanwhile, scientists estimate that there are over 500 million planets in our “galactic habitable zone” alone. And there are supposedly billions of other galaxies in the universe. So why, pray tell, all the jubilation, to say nothing of the billions wasted trying to breathe life into this dead planet? And here’s a news flash folks: if NASA thought there was even the remotest chance of its rover encountering life on Mars it would not be beaming images back live for all the world to see!

    (“Mars … Again?” The iPINIONS Journal, August 7, 2012)

    Clearly, as I’m no rocket scientist, you might be inclined to dismiss my cynicism in this case as utterly without merit.

    Except that, here is the similar note I sounded two years ago, when scientists at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva (CERN) hailed what was arguably an even greater feat: discovery of the holy grail of science, the God particle:

    Higgs boson (aka the God particle) was the theoretical missing link that explains (or should explain) the DNA – not just of our universe, but of others that might be out there…

    But, frankly, not since the 1988 publication of A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes by physicist Stephen Hawking has there been so much media hype about a subject few people know anything about…

    Therefore, whatever benefits it might lead to at some point in the distant future, I suspect this discovery will have about as much impact on our daily lives as the pre-historic discovery of Halley’s comet.

    (“The God Particle? Hardly…,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 7, 2012)

    And here – in a report published just days ago, making it as coincidental as it should be instructive – is the cynical note the very scientists who hailed the Higgs boson discovery back then are sounding now:

    Scientists raise doubts about Higgs boson discovery; say it could be another particle. Was all the Higgs hoopla a bit premature?

    In a new paper that has raised eyebrows around the world, an international team of scientists says there is no proof that the particle whose discovery was confirmed last year by physicists at CERN is the long-sought Higgs boson….

    (Huffington Post, November 10, 2014)

    1415809881979_Image_galleryImage_Rosetta_LandingTherefore, I hope I can be forgiven a little vindication amidst all of today’s jubilation.

    More to the point, though, I just think that, given the feat of landing a man on the Moon almost 50 years ago, scientists would do well to be a little more humble about feats that amount to little more than high-wire, robotic acts in space. Especially if those feats, in and of themselves, do little to advance man’s ongoing quest to either discover signs of other life in the universe, or find out more about the origins of our planet … ourselves.

    Finally, for good measure, just imagine how misguided and misleading it would be if the “inhabitants” of some other planet landed a lazy chair-size probe in the middle of the Sahara Desert, and extrapolated from images it beamed back to them facts about Earth and its inhabitants….

    Related commentaries:
    God particle
    Mars

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 1:19 p.m.

  • Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 6:58 AM

    Obama’s Mission Creep in Iraq Channeling JFK’s Mission Creep in Vietnam

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    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)

    download (5)President Obama made quite a show on September 10 of announcing his grand strategy to combat Daesh terrorists. Not because they were attacking (or even plotting to attack) the United States mind you, but because they were killing fellow Muslims in the latest crucible of Islam’s thousand-year sectarian war.

    Here in part is how I pooh-poohed his strategy (hours before he formally announced it) in my commentary cited above:

    Warmongers … have already goaded Obama into a Vietnam-style mission creep — given that the 300 troops he said in June were sufficient to protect embassy personnel in Iraq have already mushroomed to over 1000, not including an untold number of military ‘advisers.’

    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 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.

    Incidentally, Obama is making quite a show of seeking congressional authorization to train ‘moderate’ Syrian fighters as part of his war on terrorism strategy. But, consistent with the foregoing, nothing betrays the wishful thinking inherent in this quite like the shameful (and ultimately sacrificial) way thousands of U.S.-trained Iraqi fighters threw down their U.S.-made weapons, abandoned their U.S.-made military vehicles, and hightailed it from just a few hundred poorly equipped ISIS fighters.

    By the way, the reason I pooh-poohed it with such foreboding indignation is that, despite his protestations to the contrary, I knew when Obama announced his 300-troop deployment in June that he’d be deploying more … and more – as I cynically proffered in “Why Have 3000 Troops When 300 Will Do?” June 20, 2014.

    Now comes this:

    President Obama authorized Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday to send up to 1,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, roughly doubling the force the United States has built up since June to fight the Islamic State militants who control much of Iraq and Syria.

    The announcement of a major increase in the U.S. force in Iraq deepens U.S. involvement in a messy regional conflict that officials are warning may last for years. The White House said it would request $5.6 billion for the military campaign against the Islamic State, including $1.6 billion to train and equip Iraqi troops.

    (Washington Post, November 7, 2014)

    obama-kennedy-350Hence my analogy to Vietnam; after all, Obama is conducting the vietnamization of this conflict by the book (i.e., emulating JFK’s original march of folly in textbook fashion). And all indications are that, even though not nearly as formidable a fighting force as the Viet Cong, Daesh terrorists will prove every bit as vexing and unconquerable (their greatest weapon being their fanatical ideology of anti-Western hatred).

    Hell, even the warmongering former Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, is voicing misgivings about this fight:

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reflected on his days of service in the Vietnam War in a radio interview on Tuesday, Veterans Day. McCain, a former naval aviator and prisoner of war, voiced concern that the U.S. may be heading down a similar path in Iraq and Syria as it did in Vietnam.

    (Huffington Post, November 11, 2014)

    Yet 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.

    Except that:

    ‘This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years,’ Obama said on Sept. 10, in a marquee speech outlining his strategy to combat the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria.

    Now the administration is conceding that one of those bright spots may go dark, which could serve as further ammunition for critics who say Obama has mishandled the volatile region.

    On Thursday, a leading general said that Yemen – which has been a ready and willing ally in the United States’ drone war against al Qaeda – may soon fall off the list of U.S. partners, a consequence of a brewing civil war in which the Obama administration has been loath to involve itself, and that most U.S. media has largely ignored.

    (Huffington Post, November 7, 2014)

    Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 9.09.04 PMBut never mind history repeating itself; because, frankly, it takes a willful suspension of disbelief for Obama to think that 1500 troops and $5 billion will be enough to train and equip Iraqi troops in a 10 months, when 150,000 troops and $1.5 trillion proved insufficient to do so in 10 years.

    How fitting, though, that he chose to double down on this latest march of folly into war on the very weekend when the entire world was marking the futile loss of blood and treasure World War I wrought.

    Happy Veterans Day? Try Hapless Veterans Day!

    Related commentaries:
    Demystifying Daesh

  • Tuesday, November 11, 2014 at 6:52 AM

    In Observance of Veterans Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

     

    1410516116218_Image_galleryImage_LONDON_ENGLAND_SEPTEMBER_

    A colleague astonished me yesterday when she asked, “What’s the deal with that red flower?” Specifically, she wanted to know why Prince William, Kate Middleton, and so many other Brits are wearing a poppy on their left lapels these days.

    For me, though, this was rather like a colleague asking, “What’s the deal with that pink ribbon?” You know, the one people wear throughout the month of October….

    Anyway, for the edification of those of you who have no clue, people wear the poppy from late October to early November (primarily) to remember those who died in WWI, which began 100 years ago this year. The peace treaty to end this war was reportedly signed at 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

    This is why 11:11/11 is generally observed as Remembrance Day (or Armistice Day).

    poppies-toewer-of-london-1In recent times, however, Remembrance Day has been designated (secondarily) as a day to remember the dead from all wars, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    That said, for a little appreciation of my (perhaps too parochial) astonishment over the fact that my colleague did not know what the poppy symbolizes, please consider this:

    “In Flanders Fields”, which was inspired by the death of one soldier during WWI, has evolved over the years into an elegy on all war dead.

    My primary school teacher taught me to recite it with the same reverence with which my Sunday school teacher taught me to recite “The Lord’s Prayer.”

    In Flanders Fields

    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place: and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe;
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high,
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    (John McCrae, 1915)

    NOTE: This commentary was originally published on November 11, 2012. I reprised it not only to mark the 100th anniversary of WWI, but also to commend the UK for its awe-inspiring tribute: It features 888,246 long-stem ceramic poppies (one for each of the British and Colonial soldiers who died in that war, and all of them planted in moat formation around the Tower of London, row on row). The tribute is a poignant reminder of the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” that characterized WWI.

  • Monday, November 10, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    Berlin Wall 2014: Mr. Gorbachev, Take Back that Speech!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 3.28.57 PMEvidently, 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.

    The Germans invited him, of course, because he played such a pivotal role in facilitating the peaceful reunification of Germany after the fall. But this is precisely why they might’ve expected Gorbachev to use the occasion to urge Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama to emulate the statesmanship he and George H. W. Bush Sr. demonstrated back then to facilitate the peaceful reunification of Ukraine today.

    Instead, 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:

    The world is on the brink of a new Cold War…

    Euphoria and triumphalism went to the heads of Western leaders. Taking advantage of Russia’s weakening and the lack of a counterweight, they claimed monopoly leadership and domination in the world, refusing to heed words of caution from many of those present here.

    The events of the past few months [in Ukraine] are consequences of short-sighted policies, of seeking to impose one’s will and faits accomplis while ignoring the interests of one’s partners.

    (Huffington Post, November 8, 2014)

    Except that Gorbachev blaming the West for stoking tensions that could lead to Cold War II, is rather like former German President Paul von Hindenburg  (1925–34) blaming the Allied countries for stoking tensions that led to World War II.

    Russia-tanksBut nothing betrayed what a propaganda hit piece this was quite like his conspicuous refusal to mention Crimea once in the 2,305 words he delivered. After all, what most defines “the events of the past few months” is Russia imposing its will and faits accomplis to annex Crimea and foment pro-Russian secessionism in Eastern Ukraine, ignoring treaty obligations it entered into with Ukraine and the United States to respect that country’s sovereignty.

    Mind you, I’m on record criticizing the West for many of the geopolitical grievances Gorbachev cited … from what is so plainly Putin’s neo-Stalinist perspective. Most notably, given the disbandment of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, I thought it smacked of rubbing defeat in the face for the U.S.-led NATO to not only remain in force, but also enlist so many members of that old Pact into its ranks.

    I also warned (in commentaries like “Catalonia: Spain’s Kosovo Problem,” October 1, 2012) that the adhesive way the West facilitated Kosovo’s breakaway from Serbia (in 2008) would set an untenable precedent. Sure enough, Russia cited that very precedent for the adhesive way it facilitated South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s breakaway from Georgia (just months later), and Crimea’s from Ukraine (earlier this year).

    Not to mention the untenable precedents the United States set by leading coalitions of the willing (to do its bidding) on military misadventures everywhere from Iraq to Libya and Syria. Imagine the outrage in the West if Russia had done the same. Indeed, this scenario compelled me to float the argument that “Putin Took Crimea More Out of Resentment and Fear than Imperial Ambition,” March 24, 2014.

    1415529914452.cachedThis is why my criticisms of Russia have stemmed, foremost, from the brazen steps Putin has taken to roll back all of the democratic freedoms Gorbachev himself implemented; and only secondarily, from the very measured steps he has taken to reconstitute as much of the old Soviet Union as possible.

    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)

    Incidentally, with all due respect to Gorbachev, the steps Putin took in this latter case constrained me almost 10 years ago to declare that “the world is on the brink of a new Cold War,” which tit-for-tat sanctions between the West and Russia over Ukraine prove is already full blown. What’s more, instead of whining about NATO expansion, Gorbachev should have acknowledged that Putin’s military expansion into Ukraine has only justified the fears that compelled so many former republics of the Soviet Union to seek the protection (from Russia) that NATO membership guarantees.

    Beyond this, I refer you to related commentaries – dating as far back as “President Putin Reforming Russia in His Own Image,” March 25, 2005, through “Cold War Redux: Friendship Over between Russia and the United States,” May 5, 2006, and “The Putinization of Russia Extends to Georgia,” November 2, 2006, to as recently as “Hello1937 – Putin Turning Russia Back to Stalin Days,” June 13, 2012, and “Int’l Court Declares Putin a Liar and a Thief,” July 29, 2014, to name just a few.

    Interestingly enough, Gorbachev himself is on record decrying Putin for taking Russia back to the future. Here, for example, is how the March 6, 2009, edition of CBS News characterized his views:

    In some of his strongest criticism of his successors, Mikhail Gorbachev has likened Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party to the worst of the communists he once led and helped bring down, and said Russia is today a country where the parliament and the judiciary are not fully free.

    This is why so many were utterly stupefied that he was speaking in Berlin yesterday more as a Putin apologist than as the only Soviet leader the West thought they could do business with. But I knew better.

    After all, what few political pundits, let alone ordinary Westerners, seem to know is that, even though he intended his Glasnost and Perestroika policies to introduce democratic freedoms, Gorbachev never imagined they would lead to the breakup of the Soviet Union. Moreover, even as he was criticizing Putin for systematically rolling back those policies at home, he was applauding him for reestablishing Russia’s Cold War sphere of influence throughout the former republics of the Soviet Union (aka the near abroad). Never mind that 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.

    But here is what is perhaps the most interesting point of all:

    2009-03-20, Joe Biden empfängt Gorbatschow im Westflügel des Weißen Hauses, dem Amtssitz des Vizepräs., Obama auch daPutin is on record damning the breakup of the Soviet Union as the greatest catastrophe of the twentieth century (notwithstanding two world wars, and far too many genocides). Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that Gorbachev is regarded in Putin’s Russia with about as much esteem as Benedict Arnold is in the United States.

    Hence, it might just be that delivering this anti-Western speech was his way of attempting to redeem himself, if not his legacy, in the eyes of his Putinized compatriots. For only this explains why an erstwhile statesman like Gorbachev would so willfully play the role of skunk at Germany’s national celebration this weekend.

    If you think about it, this is rather like former British Prime Minster Tony Blair – who played a pivotal role in brokering peace between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland – being invited to speak at an anniversary celebration of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and delivering an anti-German diatribe about Germany flexing economic muscles in Europe, the way it once flexed military muscles, in ways that threaten to blow the EU asunder. Got that? In other words, just as peace in Northern Ireland has nothing to do with growing dissension in the EU, the fall of the Berlin Wall has nothing to do with growing tensions between the West and Russia.

    In any event, I suspect Gorbachev will find no redemption at home, and the welcome mats that once greeted him throughout the West will now be few and far between.

    Related commentaries:
    Putin reforming Russia
    Putinization of Russian extends to Georgia
    Hello1937
    Int’l court

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 12:31 p.m.

  • Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 7:23 AM

    On second thought, Ebola might be good for some Africans…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Letter-to-Ebola-

     

    I find this illustration so poignant because it gives the impression that the boy could also be kneeling at his bedside praying with an equally aggrieved look.

    The point for me, of course, is that his letter/prayer couldn’t be any less effective than a bunch of American celebrities – who couldn’t tell Boko Haram from an Arab Harem – posting #BringBackOurGirls selfies….

    Related commentaries:
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  • Friday, November 7, 2014 at 6:48 AM

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    berlin14-1This weekend, Germany will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. But every country in the West should be doing so too.

    After all, it led not only to the reunification of Germany, but also to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the (first) Cold War.

    Frankly, the tumbling of the Berlin wall (on November 9, 1989) was as glorious and transformative as the bombing of the Twin Towers (on September 11, 2001) was murderous … and transformative. But, just as commemorating that fateful event on 9/11 requires little comment, celebrating that delightful event on 11/9 requires little comment too.

    Therefore I shall suffice to celebrate this anniversary by highlighting two German words.

    foiTAkBSPrH7QAbQKZLqVNyMAccording to the website of German Missions in the United States:

    After the fall of the wall, the word Wendehals was used to describe East Germans whose political convictions did a 180-degree turn during reunification.

    Clearly, this word could also be used to describe people still living under totalitarian regimes in countries like China, Russia, Zimbabwe, and Cuba … if the walls of their oppression were suddenly torn down.

    Except that, unlike East Germans, I don’t think any of them would need Begrüßungsgeld (“welcome money”) to pull a 180-degree turn on their respective state-imposed ideology.

    All the same, here’s to that historic day in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

    Ich bin ein Berliner!

  • Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 6:38 AM

    Supercookies? Yes, Eat Up

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Verizon and AT&T have been quietly tracking the Internet activity of more than 100 million cellular customers with what critics have dubbed ‘supercookies’ — markers so powerful that it’s difficult for even savvy users to escape them.

    The technology has allowed the companies to monitor which sites their customers visit, cataloging their tastes and interests. Consumers cannot erase these supercookies or evade them by using browser settings, such as the ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ modes that are popular among users wary of corporate or government surveillance…

    There was surprise among security researchers and privacy activists in the days after the Electronic Frontier Foundation, based in San Francisco, first tweeted about the practice on Oct. 22, calling it ‘terrible’ and citing an article in Advertising Age from May. Several news organizations have since reported the news.

    (Washington Post, November 5, 2014)

    Duh.

    larger-14-MOBILE-phones-cookies1Folks, I know I come across as thinking I’m intellectually superior in some of my commentaries. But you would too if you were obliged to comment on the talking points of clueless hacks media outlets routinely present as experts on politics, sports, and every topic in between.

    You might think, for example, that the esteemed Washington Post reported “there was surprise among security researchers and privacy activists” because it verified that these experts had no way of knowing what tech companies like Verizon and AT&T were up to.

    Except that even I knew, and I’m no security researcher or privacy activist.

    Here is the cautionary note I sounded on this topic almost five years ago, long before Edward Snowden became the self-appointed patron saint of privacy:

    You’d better pray you are never prosecuted or sued for anything. Because not only Big Brother but even your civil adversary could compel Google to turn over all of the searches you made when you thought nobody was watching.  And just think how embarrassing or compromising it would be to have some of those search terms come under public scrutiny – no matter how innocent your explanation.

    So if you’re planning to cheat on your spouse, or to do something even worse, don’t search Google for guidance because you might as well be talking to your local gossipmonger, or to the police. And if you think you can un-Google your most compromising searches, think again…

    By the way, it’s not just Google. Because you’d be shocked at the spying and eavesdropping your employer, your Internet Service Provider, your local supermarket, or even your favorite (naughty) website engages in to keep track of your emails, purchases, preferences and … peccadilloes. And all of them blithely use that information for their own commercial purposes, but would rat you out just as blithely at the mere hint of prosecution or civil litigation.

    (“Beware: Google Declares ‘Nothing’s Private,’ The iPINIONS Journal, December 8, 2009)

    139617_600And here, because I mentioned him, is why I thought the alarm Snowden sounded with his NSA leaks was as traitorous as it was redundant:

    You are probably aware that President Obama appointed a commission to recommend cosmetic changes to the NSA programs. But he only did so to avoid having to point out how stupid the American people are for buying into Snowden’s self-righteous and misguided outrage. After all, the NSA collects metadata for the sole purpose of trying to keep them safe.

    By contrast, these outraged nincompoops are showing nary a concern about tech companies tracking every move they make online for the sole purpose of trying to sell them stuff. Which makes the open letter Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and AOL sent to Obama last week complaining about NSA surveillance a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    (“Judge Ruling on NSA Spying Amounts to Judicial Selfie,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 18, 2013)

    Enough said?

    Related commentaries:
    Beware Google
    Judge ruling on NSA…

  • Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 5:54 AM

    2014 Midterm Elections: Republicans and the Triumph of Irrational Intelligence

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    gop

    I’ve coined the term “irrational intelligence” to define that which informs people to do and say plainly ignorant things … with the conviction of a genius (or a saint).

    article-1213056-0666E255000005DC-603_634x438Think, for example, of people who say that President Obama is an incompetent leader whose socialist policies have ruined the economy. (Incidentally, polls indicated that the state of the economy was the most important issue facing voters this cycle.) Those people couldn’t care any less that Obama has in fact done more to reinforce America’s capitalist system than any president in recent history, which includes implementing policies that have facilitated record gains on Wall Street.

    I also feel constrained to note here that, despite all the (purely-for-ratings) media hype, the Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate only means more congressional gridlock (i.e., now that they control both chambers of Congress).

    After all, Republicans won’t be able to enact any of their wacko pledges, like repealing Obamacare, because Obama retains the power to veto any legislation. But they will have more power to continue what they’ve been doing from day one of his presidency: obstructing key items on Obama’s progressive agenda, like comprehensive immigration reform.

    For the record, though, here is how no less a person than then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky betrayed (on the July 10, 2011, edition of FOX News) the real goal of their gridlock agenda:

    Well that is true, making Obama a one-term President is my single most important political goal along with every active Republican in the country.

    (“Washington Political Food Fight Over Debt Ceiling,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 25, 2011)

    For his part, Obama has pledged to respond to greater Republican obstructionism by doubling down on his use of executive powers to move the country forward, wherever possible.

    This is why one can fairly sum up the results of these midterm elections with the idiom, plus ça change. It is also why I couldn’t care any less who won or lost any race in particular.

    us-president-barack-obamaThat said:

    I’m not on the ballot this fall. But make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.

    (CNN, October 6, 2014)

    This was how Obama touted his policies as campaigning entered the final stretch. And, to any rational mind, it made perfect sense for him to do so.

    After all, among other salutary accomplishments, “these policies:”

    • rescued the economy from the brink of another Great Depression and set it on course for years of sustainable growth;
    • led to a halving of the fiscal deficit and more than doubling of the stock market;
    • provided healthcare coverage for millions of uninsured Americans;
    • cut the ranks of the unemployed almost in half;
    • mandated pay equity for women, marriage equality for gays, and minimum wage for all; and
    • stopped the hemorrhaging of American blood and treasure by ending unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Surely these undisputed accomplishments must compel any rational mind to consider how much better still life in America would be if Republicans hadn’t decreed that any compromise with this president would be tantamount to treason.

    Meanwhile, they have become possessed of such jihadist ideology that Republicans appear unable to even conceive of congressional Democrats obstructing a Republican president’s agenda the way they have obstructed Obama’s. And, given the truly enviable state of affairs in the United States today (notwithstanding media-driven irrational despair), one shudders to think what Republicans will do to vindicate McConnell’s triumphal clarion call to “turn this country around,” which is only slightly more politically correct than their good-ole-boy call to “take our country back.”

    On the other hand, apropos of those congressional Democrats, Obama had just cause to expect that, even if political strategy compelled them to keep him at arms length, they would be hailing his accomplishments.

    clinton-bill-2014-campaign-485x333But such was the irrational intelligence that informed most campaign rhetoric this fall that Democrats were competing with Republicans not only to treat him like a tar baby, but also to shun his policies, well, like the Ebola virus. This alone is why they deserved to lose control of the Senate and the most seats in the House since WWII. I mean, is it really any wonder over 65 percent of eligible voters (mostly Democrats and Independents) decided to eschew the dog and pony show candidates put on this fall…?

    Frankly, all that was left was for Democrats to begin aping Republican flat-earthers by campaigning for creationism (or “intelligent design” – as right-wing zealots call it … irrationally enough) to be taught in schools as historical fact, and evolution as junk science.

    You’d have thought Democrats would welcome the opportunity to run on Obama’s policies, while heaping scorn on the Republicans’ obstructionist policies that were designed to do nothing but undermine Obama’s – the welfare of the country be damned. Except that, as one mysterious White House official might say, far too many Democrats are “chickenshit” politicians who will do and say anything – no matter how irrational – that they think will induce their invariably ignorant constituents to vote for them….

    2014-11-03-NBC-NN-Midterms4Only this explains no less a person than David Axelrod, Obama’s most celebrated adviser, declaring – on Sunday’s edition of NBC’s Meet the Press – that “it was a mistake” for Obama to tout his policies as he did. This signaled Axelrod’s belief that Democrats were right to play along with the zeitgeist of irrational intelligence by shunning Obama’s policies too.

    But nothing betrays this surreal, oxymoronic state of American politics quite like Noam Scheiber, Obama’s most celebrated critic, confessing on the same day – in “My Book Argued That Obama ‘Fumbled the Recovery.’ Here’s What I Got Wrong,” New Republic, November 2, 2014 – that criticisms of Obama’s policies have been proven wrong:

    My mistake was to assume Obama’s errors were strategic ones — errors that would doom the economy to years of slow growth and brutally high unemployment. In fact, most were not.

    What’s more, Scheiber notes that Obama’s policies overcame Republican obstructionism to compare favorably not only with those of other world leaders who had to deal with the 2008 financial crisis, but also with those of his predecessors, like Ronald Reagan, who had to deal with financial crises that were not nearly as grave.

    Again, only the delirious appeal of irrational intelligence explains why so many voters bought (hook, line, and sinker) the Republican narrative about Obama and his policies being the worst thing to happen to the United States since Nixon and Watergate.

    Hell, their alternative universe provided such fertile ground for growing Republican support that some candidates even proffered the notion that Sarah Palin would’ve done a better job than Obama has as president. And only in this universe would you have found poor miners in West Virginia and rich bankers on Wall Street singing the same blues about Obama’s policies; notwithstanding that his policies have done more to benefit such disparate groups as miners and bankers than those of any other president since FDR.

    I’m on record lamenting the irrational intelligence that informs the support so many poor White people give Republican candidates. Nothing is sadder (or more irrational) in this context than these poor suckers railing against Obamacare – even though Obamacare provides the opportunity of a lifetime for them to get comprehensive healthcare.

    And don’t get me started on the ignorance inherent in voters complaining about Washington gridlock, but voting for Republican candidates who openly pledge to do little more than create more gridlock; or in voters decrying Obama as an incompetent leader, but sputtering Daffy Duck-like gibberish when they’re challenged to explain what makes him so….

    Alas, irrational intelligence prevails in politics today as surely as irrational exuberance prevailed on Wall Street during the Dot.com (bubble) days of the 1990s.

    B08zhknIMAAtpWNThe effect of the former played out like a tragic comedy recently, when the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, tried to quarantine a perfectly healthy nurse (in a tent in the parking lot of a hospital – with no heat, no running water, and just a Port-a-Potty to relieve herself) just because she had been treating Ebola victims in West Africa:

    Rational intelligence dictated that he should have been far more concerned about the tens of thousands of New Jersey residents walking around with the flu – each of whom posed a far greater danger to public health than this nurse. But irrational intelligence, which dictated that it was politically expedient to treat her like a leaper, prevailed.

    It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Republicans won, despite irrational promises to, among other things:

    • repeal Obamacare;
    • return to the failed trickledown economics of cutting taxes for the rich and cutting benefits for the poor; and
    • waste in Syria the same amount of blood and treasure the United States wasted in Iraq.

    The American people deserve what they will surely get. Which only leaves me to square this vicious circle by noting how fitting it is that Mitch McConnell, the politician who personifies Republican obstructionism, has been duly rewarded with a promotion to Senate majority leader.

    Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 9.33.08 PM

    I would be remiss, however, if I did not comment on the dramatic contrast between the messianic popularity Obama enjoyed in 2008, when he was first elected, and the diabolic unpopularity dogging him today, as he ends his career in elective politics with a thorough shellacking of his Democratic Party. Nothing punctuated this apparent fall from grace quite like McConnell’s Democratic challenger in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, deeming Obama so politically toxic that she refused, more than thrice, to say (on the campaign trail and in debates) if she voted for him. Indeed, as I referenced above, the one bipartisan feature of these midterm elections was the way both Republican and Democratic candidates blithely maligned Obama.

    But I warned it would be thus:

    I’m on record stating my suspicion that many Whites voted for Obama in 2008 more as a gesture of racial absolution than of political faith. These AP findings bear that out. And having thusly absolved themselves of their sins of racism (with this one, historic act), many of them now feel liberated to give way to their racial prejudices without fear of being called racists.

    (“Romney vs. Obama: Race (Still) Matters,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 1, 2012)

    Yet, notwithstanding all of the above, voters informed by rational intelligence should not despair … too much. Because, by the next election cycle in 2016, Republican politicians will have reaped the discord and dysfunction they sowed to such degree that even Republican voters will be seeking out candidates who not only boldly champion Obama’s policies, but also proudly embrace Obama himself.

    Hey, HOPE springs eternal….

    Hillary-Clinton-NC_3085849bBut this allusion to 2016 constrains me to note that Bill and Hillary Clinton might be the biggest losers this election cycle. After all, Democrats embraced them with as much alacrity as they shunned Obama.

    Which is why it’s humbling enough that not a single Democrat they endorsed in a truly competitive race won. But that they could not even help incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor hold onto his seat in their home state of Arkansas must give them pause about Hillary’s presidential prospects.

    Related commentaries:
    Washington food fight
    Romney vs. Obama

  • Tuesday, November 4, 2014 at 6:56 AM

    Obama Adviser Is Right: Netanyahu Is a ‘Chickenshit’ Prime Minister!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Meet the Press - Season 67Jeffrey Goldberg is the critically acclaimed correspondent for The Atlantic, America’s top news and ideas magazine.

    His October 28 report, “The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relationship Is Officially Here,” set political and media tongues a wagging from Washington to Jerusalem and all points in between. And nothing in his report caused more wagging than Goldberg quoting a White House official dissing Benjamin Netanyahu as a “chickenshit” prime minister:

    ‘The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,’ the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. ‘The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat: he’s got no nuts.’

    Netanyahu obama israelSuch is Goldberg’s reputation, however, that nobody questioned the credibility of his reporting. Instead, the viral meme it spawned focused on the open and mutual contempt the Obama and Netanyahu administrations have developed for each other. Most notably, Janet Daley, the equally acclaimed correspondent for The Telegraph, lamented (on Saturday’s edition of the BBC’s Dateline London) that his reporting exposes a “new low” between these two notoriously dysfunctional allies.

    Except that Goldberg’s purportedly groundbreaking report broke no new ground. Frankly, heralding an official crisis in the relationship between the United States and Israel is rather like heralding an official crisis in the marriage between Bill and Hillary Clinton.

    Like the Clintons’, crises have dogged the relationship between the United States and Israel from day one. And the causes have had as much to do with American contempt for Israeli arrogance as with Israeli contempt for American ignorance.

    The only reason Goldberg’s report seemed so insightful and controversial is that, like that of teenage girls, the memory of most people in politics and the media these days is limited to the latest viral tweet (or selfie). After all, the “crisis in U.S.-Israel relationship” became so grave 24 years ago that – far from some anonymous adviser privately dissing the Israeli prime minister – no less a person than the then U.S. secretary of state, James Baker, publicly threatened outright divorce.

    Here is how I referenced that “official” crisis four years ago, when yet another one erupted over Israel undermining U.S. efforts to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians by building yet more settlements in the disputed territories:

    It might be instructive to recall that [Israel’s] unbridled contempt for America’s efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations provoked [James Baker] way back in 1990 – as secretary of state under former President George H.W. Bush – to issue the following iconic reprimand during congressional testimony:

    ‘Everybody over there should know that the telephone number for the White House is (202) 456-1414. When you’re serious about peace, call us!’

    And to back up his words, Baker threatened to withhold loan guarantees unless Israel promised not to use the funds to settle Russian Jews in the (Palestinian) West Bank. Not so widely reported, however, was the undiplomatic language he used in a less formal setting a couple of years later, when Baker reportedly said, ‘Fuck the Jews; they don’t vote for us anyway.’

    (“Israel Talks about Settlements the Way Iran Talks about Nuclear Weapons,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 15, 2010)

    Clearly, if that crisis 24 years ago did not cause any material change in the patently dysfunctional relationship between the United States and Israel, nothing will.

    1524589152The fact is that these two countries are wedded by what Obama himself has often vowed is an “unbreakable bond.” A bond, incidentally, that has as much to do with evangelical support for Israel in the United States, despite any president’s warranted frustrations, as it has to do with existential appreciation for the United States in Israel, despite any prime minister’s unwarranted impudence.

    More to the point, though, this bond explains why Israel continually behaves like a trophy wife who knows that she has a rich and powerful husband who will not only give her anything she wants, but be there for her no matter how often she disappoints, or even betrays, him. This, in a nutshell, explains the nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

    netanyahu_bombAs for Goldberg’s celebrated report, here is why I hope I can be forgiven for thinking that his main points about the breakdown in relations between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations seem the result more of plagiarism than reporting, especially with respect to his “scoop” about Netanyahu being a chickenshit:

    The chutzpah of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu never ceases to amaze me…

    I am simply stupefied by the way he has been publicly goading Obama – almost from day one of his presidency – to stop Iran [from developing nuclear weapons] before it enters some amorphous ‘zone of immunity’ (presumably where North Korea resides)…

    All of his talk about red lines and red lights is just a red herring. If Netanyahu wanted to attack Iran today, nobody would stop him.

    Except that this arrogant SOB would rather sit on his moral high-horse (playing the Holocaust card) and declaim falsely about Obama dictating when and how he should act to defend Israel’s national security interests. All the while he’s presuming to dictate to Obama when and how he should act to defend America’s national security interests with respect to Iran: talk about brass ones…

    It is noteworthy that Netanyahu is being supported in his rhetorical misadventure by the same coalition of crusading dunces (namely, Jewish Zionists, Christian fundamentalists, and new-world-order neo-cons) who goaded Bush into attacking Iraq. Not to mention that they have all been issuing Chicken-Little warnings about Iran being just months away from going nuclear since the 1990s….

    (“Obama Dissing Israeli PM Netanyahu?” The iPINIONS Journal, September 12, 2012)

    On the other hand, having a prominent American Jew like Goldberg reporting so favorably on Obama’s efforts to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is bound to cause a crisis of leadership for Netanyahu. Not least because the irrefutable takeaway from his report is that Netanyahu is a petty-minded political coward – who’d rather pander to right-wing nuts (in Israel and the United States) than take the bold steps necessary to make peace.

    Sure enough, even his die-hard supporters are beginning to have second thoughts about Netanyahu’s leadership:

    An editorial in the leading American Jewish newspaper should be read by Prime Minister Netanyahu as a serious warning…

    A lead editorial in The New York Jewish Week, the flagship American Jewish newspaper, center to center-right in orientation, with many thousands of Orthodox Jews among its readers and an ardently pro-Israel editorial line, bluntly asks whether the Israeli government has become unmoored from reality.

    (The Atlantic, October 31, 2014)

    imagesWhat’s more, I readily concede that Goldberg reporting on Netanyahu as a chickenshit will probably do far more to put this Israeli prime minister’s Texas-size ego in check than my commenting on him as a Chicken Little.

    But I trust I’ve vindicated my assertion that there is nothing groundbreaking in Goldberg’s report. Especially given that I’m also on record – in many other commentaries like “Netanyahu, Obama’s Iago; Iran, His Desdemona,” October 2, 2013 – delineating why White House officials have just cause to dismiss Netanyahu as a chickenshit.

    Enough said?

    Except that I’m mindful, even if Goldberg is not, that the public humiliation inherent in prominent people dismissing him as a chickenshit might provoke a “man” like Netanyahu to take rash action to prove his manhood. I suspect, however, that his imperious ego makes Netanyahu immune to public humiliation. Indeed, the fabled concept of “the emperor wears no clothes” probably suits him just fine.

    Related commentaries:
    Israel talks about settlements
    Obama dissing Israeli PM
    Obama’s Iago

  • Monday, November 3, 2014 at 6:13 AM

    People of the Caribbean, Beware of Minister Farrakhan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Minister Louis Farrakhan began preaching about Black empowerment and self-reliance long before President Barack Obama was born. And, based on his appearance at last week’s crusade in Jamaica to mark the 19th anniversary of his Million Man March, the eighty-one-year-old Farrakhan will probably be preaching about the same long after Obama leaves The White House.

    video-farrakhan-on-jamaicas-indeUnfortunately, his message has become so distinguished by hollow rhetoric and financial schemes that one could be forgiven the impulse, in his case, to shoot the messenger. In other words, Farrakhan speaks like a shaman (offering panaceas for all that ails Black people everywhere), but he behaves like a con man (competing with lotteries to rob poor Blacks of what little they have). Only this explains why he hustles more for money at Black political rallies than Pete Rose does at Baseball trade shows. Not to mention his Final Call online store, which is like the Wal-Mart of inspirational and self-help quackery….

    This is why (in his mind, heart, and soul) Farrakhan is more snake-oil salesman, like Reverend Ike, than Black empowerment preacher, like Malcolm X.

    I should disclose here that I am a disaffected fan, having been thoroughly disillusioned by his rhetoric and profoundly swindled by what will go down in history as his most notorious and profitable scheme, the Million Man March. Therefore, I speak from experience when I admonish my Caribbean compatriots in Jamaica and elsewhere to take everything Farrakhan says with a pinch of salt.

    He claimed (in an interview published in the October 20th edition of Jamaica’s oldest newspaper, The Gleaner) that he decided to mark this anniversary in Jamaica “because both of his parents were from the Caribbean” (his father from Jamaica; his mother from St. Kitts). But I suspect he decided to do so because people all over the United States have become so wise to his rhetoric and schemes that he had to go abroad to break up his fallow ground. So, Jamaica, be not proud.

    In any event, given Farrakhan’s MO of sowing the same seeds everywhere he goes and hoping they fall on fertile ground, I have decided to mark this 19th anniversary with the same commentary I wrote to mark the 10th – followed by closing remarks on his visit to Jamaica.

    I wrote “Millions More Movement (and that’s millions more dollars, not people…fool!),” on October 17, 2005. More to the point, I did so as one who heeded Farrakhan’s call to join his original Million Man March (in October 1995), only to become so disillusioned, disaffected, and duly disgruntled that I marked that 10th anniversary more as a recovering victim than as an enabling follower.

    Sadly, my testimony is as relevant today as it was on that seminal anniversary. But it should serve as a cautionary tale for any Jamaican or other Caribbean national who was or becomes inspired by Farrakhan’s words – especially on such issues as economic empowerment and lotto-like delusions of reparations for British slavery.

    __________________

    “Millions More Movement…”

    Minister Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam (NOI) marked the 10th anniversary of their Million Man March (the March) by calling Black men, women, and children to the National Mall again on Saturday to launch their Millions More Movement (the Movement). But, considering that I am still in despair over dashed hopes and broken promises from the March, I thought it would be too politically masochistic to join the Movement.

    However, thanks to C-SPAN, I could not resist tuning in from the comfortable home my Caribbean work ethic and unparalleled opportunities in America have enabled me to own. And it saddens me to affirm that what I saw of Saturday’s activities only vindicated my decision not to dignify this occasion with my presence.

    (It seems appropriate to note here that fellow Caribbean native Wyclef Jean delivered the most instructive and useful message of the day. Feigning self-deprecation, he begged the crowd to excuse his perfect English as he shared his immigrant story of coming to America at the age of 10 and working several jobs at once (“the way we West Indians do”) to get by. He ended his story by declaring this self-evident truth: that if he could achieve such stellar success in America, then there was no reason why every Black American could not do the same! Unfortunately, speaking such obvious truths was not on the Movement’s agenda for this day, as every other speaker … made patently clear.)

    millionmore-300x173Farrakhan is easily the most articulate, visionary, inspiring, provocative, dynamic and intelligent public speaker in America today (as he has been for decades). But many of us who have been energized and moved by his anti-establishment polemics have come to realize that Farrakhan is little more than a performer who delivers speeches full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, and then is heard from no more … until his next curtain call.

    For example, in March 1995, Farrakhan led an army of one million Black men in a spirited denunciation of White supremacy. More importantly, he exhorted Blacks to atone for their self-inflicted maladies and for the serial failures of Black leadership. Of course, the irony that his failures are paramount in this respect was completely lost on him.

    Yet he exuded such infectious majesty on that occasion that even pedestrian Black leaders delivered speeches about self-help, Black empowerment, and personal responsibility with such eloquence that one might have mistaken them for historical Black luminaries like Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglas, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. But none of them reached the rhetorical heights where Farrakhan’s rhetoric soared – from the opening of his speech until he ended it with this, now trademark, pitch:

    Now brothers, the last thing we want to say, we want to develop an Economic Development Fund… Inside of one month, we would have over $100 million. And in one year, we would have $1 billion … which means that no Black organization will be accountable to anybody outside of us… How many of you would like to see all our Black organizations free?

    A task force will be formed … to make sure that the things that we say today will be implemented… [W]e want an outside accounting firm to come in and scrutinize every dollar that was raised from your pockets to make the Million Man March a success… We will come back … and we will account for every nickel, every dime, every dollar…so that you can trust. I put my life on this.

    To rob you is a sin. To use you and abuse you is a sin. To make mockery of your love and your trust is a sin. And we repent of all sin and we refuse to do sin anymore.

    (Courtesy of C-SPAN, October 16, 1995)

    I am ashamed to confess that I not only bought every word Farrakhan uttered back then, but also contributed to his phantom Economic Development Fund (EDF). And I derive no consolation from having enough sense not to contribute to his equally dubious Economic Exodus (slush?) Fund.

    The point is that, based on my research and inquiries, Farrakhan did not implement ANY of the Black empowerment initiatives he outlined or fulfill ANY of the fiduciary promises he made (i.e., if any of them were ever intended to be). Frankly, it shall redound to his eternal shame that Farrakhan did, in fact, use and abuse the trust we vested in him and (did) make a mockery of the love we bestowed upon him as a leader who, we hoped, would create a “third force” to compel the American establishment to address the concerns of the poor and powerless.

    Therefore, watching events unfold on Saturday, I had an appalling sense of déjà vu as speaker after speaker delivered essentially the same words I heard 10 years ago. Only this time, instead of projecting the aura of historical Black luminaries mentioned above, they looked and sounded more like second-rate actors spouting off hackneyed lines about Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq. And, instead of professing atonement for their own sins, they were blaming President Bush for everything from causing the levee breaks in New Orleans to cutting back their welfare checks.

    Indeed, what I watched, from my 1995 vantage point, smacked of a bunch of thieves returning to the scene of their greatest heist and trying to pull off a similar heist a decade later. Specifically, one of the longest speeches on Saturday was a shameless (but decidedly shameful) solicitation for money by one of Farrakhan’s boosters. In what must be a patented NOI version of Three Card Monty, he entertained the crowd with jokes (like a Saturday night comedian) and threw them a few religious platitudes (like a Sunday morning preacher), all while coaxing them to put their “Benjamins [100 dollar bills] in the receptacles” (like an everyday street hustler).

    (These receptacles were conveniently placed all over the Mall and guarded like Fort Knox by NOI praetorian guards. But it speaks volumes about Farrakhan’s intent that this was the first political rally on the hallowed Mall at which organizers had receptacles to collect cash instead of trash…?)

    To deliver Saturday’s pièces de résistance (think Sermon on the Mount), Farrakhan descended the steps of the Capitol like a deus ex machina (Black Moses) – escorted by his personal security detail from the Fruit of Islam (FOI) – and wowed the longsuffering crowd with vintage farrakhanisms.

    The highlight (or, depending on your vantage point, the most irresponsible part of his speech) was his call for a separate Black United States of America comprised of “Black, Brown, Red and Poor people.” Never mind that Brown and Red people would probably be inhibited by reasonable suspicions about Blacks treating them in a Black United States just as Whites treated Blacks in the United States.

    Still, Farrakhan went so far as to detail the ministries he envisioned, including those for Agriculture, Education, Trade and Commerce, Defense, Information and Religion. And he promised that his Black United States of America (presumably with him as the Black George Washington) would forge economic and political solidarity with a United States of Africa and a United States of Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Intriguing stuff … until one realizes that it’s merely a repackaging of the grand platform for the “global advancement of Black people” he presented 10 years ago. But to perfect his recidivism, Farrakhan sounded the end of this speech with his familiar refrain:

    Now brothers [and sisters] we need money.

    Only, instead of using the pretext of an EDF, he announced the founding of a National Skills Bank where millions of Black people – who wish to contribute to his borrowed vision of a Pan-African world – could register their names “for a small deposit of $20? and donate “as many Benjamins as you can.” (Farrakhan even pulled a $100 bill out of his pocket at this point and held it above his head so that there could be no confusion between Benjamins and Georges [one dollar bills] when these new suckers make their deposits.)

    millionmancrowds

    As for the “millions” who attended, you can believe NOI counters or your lying eyes…

    Of course, I won’t be at all surprised if – 10 years from now – Farrakhan has nothing of substance to show for all of his talk about the Movement. And I suspect many other Black men who joined his Million Man March are now just as cynical. Not least because aerial shots – juxtaposing the one million men who heeded Farrakhan’s call in 1995, with the smattering of men, women and children who heeded his call on Saturday – provide irrefutable evidence that many of us have become justifiably disillusioned with Farrakhan’s hollow rhetoric and financial schemes, and no longer want to be associated with him.

    (Listening to speaker after speaker on Saturday marveling at the mirage of “millions” in attendance and suggesting that DC authorities might deliberately undercount them for political reasons, one could not help thinking that NOI disciples were propagating a Big Lie about the size of the crowd for their own political reasons.)

    But before too many people register (i.e., pay) to be used, abused, and mocked yet again, I urge all Black people of conscience (especially journalists) to demand the financial reports, which Farrakhan promised in 1995 would be forthcoming on an annual basis to ensure fiscal transparency and good governance of his EDF. And, to help frame our demands in this regard, here are just a few threshold questions I would ask Farrakhan to answer, if I had the chance:

    1. What is the name of the “outside accounting firm” you promised would audit all of the EDF’s operations and use of resources, and can you have that firm publish a comprehensive (or money for value) audit online as soon as possible?
    2. You indicated in 1995 that “in one year, we could have $1 billion” in the EDF. What amount did you have after one year, and what is the total amount collected to date?
    3. One of the most dramatic and “uplifting” moments during your speech in 1995 was when you said that, with so much money in the EDF, you would have your board “call in Myrley Evers Williams and ask her, what the budget of the NAACP is for this year? $13 million? $15 million? Write a check.” How many checks, and in what amounts, Minister Farrakhan, did your EDF write to the order of the NAACP or other minority organizations over the past 10 years?
    4. At your rather less attended and less celebrated Million Family March in October 2000, you called on 1 million families to donate $100 each for your NOI to fund economic development in blighted Black cities all over America. What cities have since benefited from those funds?
    5. In a similar vein, please name three ongoing concerns (whether businesses, development projects or community outreach programs), which have been funded by seed money from the EDF and fill you with the most pride?
    6. When framing your solicitations for donations, you invariably profess an interest in helping Black and poor people of all races, religions, and creeds. Therefore, what has your NOI done to better the lives of non-Muslim Black Americans – besides selling them recordings of your sermons, speeches, press conferences, and, it seems, every other word that has ever proceeded out your mouth? [NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, I purchased many of Farrakhan’s recordings before I came to my senses in the late 1990s – a few years after the Million Man March.]

    Meanwhile, if purported civil rights leaders – like (the fathering babies out of wedlock) Rev. Jesse Jackson and (chronically indebted) Rev. Al Sharpton – had any credibility or clout left, they would’ve silenced Farrakhan long ago by raising these questions in the public interest. Instead, there they were on Saturday, shadowing Farrakhan, hoping to bask in his reflected glow….

    Finally, I feel constrained to note that, at one point in his speech, Farrakhan ridiculed the $40 billion debt relief African Heads of State negotiated a few months ago with G8 countries. He posited that, because England alone had exploited more than a trillion dollars from the African Continent, this purported relief was, in fact, an insult (implying, of course, that the Africans are too ignorant or provincial to recognize this).

    Except that his logic raises the following question:

    Farrakhan is on record claiming that White Americans amassed trillions of dollars by exploiting Black Americans for centuries as slave and cheap laborers. Therefore, never mind debt relief, how much have Farrakhan and other enlightened Black Americans negotiated in reparations from White Americans?

    The answer, of course, is nothing! Which is why Farrakhan’s advice for African debt relief (or Caribbean reparations) should ring every bit as hollow as his plan for a separate Black United States of America.

    __________________

    Closing remarks

    Again, I wrote this “Millions More Movement…” commentary in October 2005. Yet I fully expect the concerns I raised back then to resonate with any Jamaican who has now sobered up from the intoxicating spell Farrakhan reportedly casted over Jamaica during his recent visit.

    Beyond that, I fully expect anyone who reads my testimony to agree that Farrakhan’s hollow rhetoric and financial schemes are surpassed in their brazenness only by his sociopathic ego. For only this explains how he remains so unaffected by the inevitable disillusionment, disaffection, and disgruntlement his rote message causes.

    mmm-jamaica_hmlf_10-28-2014This is why I am so dismayed that the Jamaican media greeted and treated Farrakhan more like a Black Moses than a prodigal son.

    Of course, he is the purportedly chosen leader who established an “exodus” fund to liberate Black people everywhere from (the legacy of) bondage. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that he aped Moses, not by demanding to let his people go, but by intoning that the Queen must go. Never mind that Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller herself is among many Jamaican leaders who have been intoning the same for years. But such is his political arrogance and self-righteousness….

    To be fair, though, Farrakhan did a lot of preaching to Blacks in the Caribbean about becoming self-reliant and independent of their former slave masters in Europe. The problem, however, is that he has been preaching to Blacks in the United States about becoming self-reliant and independent of their former slave masters in America for over 50 years. And even I now understand why his message always fell, and continues to fall, on fallow ground where 99 percent of Black Americans live their daily lives.

    I am convinced that his message won’t find much fertile ground in the Caribbean either. I just fear that many Caribbean nationals will suffer far greater disillusionment and lose far more money than I did before they come to their senses about the unrepentant Minister Louis Farrakhan and his phantom Nation of Islam.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published on Friday, Oct. 31, for my weekly syndicated column at Caribbean News Now

  • Sunday, October 26, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    Gone Fishing…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    gonefishing

    Back on November 3

  • Saturday, October 25, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    Another Day, Another School Shooting in the USA

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Washington State high school ‘homecoming prince’ opened fire in the cafeteria Friday, killing a girl and wounding four other people before fatally shooting himself, police and witnesses said.

    A hospital official said three patients were in ‘very critical condition’ with head wounds after the shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School about 10:30 a.m. (1:30 p.m. ET)…

    Police said the shooter … died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

    (NBC News, October 25, 2014)

    nn_1_marysville_shooting_141024.nbcnews-video-reststate-1280Frankly, the only commentary this latest shooting evokes is for me to repeat this abiding admonition:

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

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

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

    And to repeat this abiding concession:

    I fully support strict gun-control laws. Nevertheless, I am convinced that no laws can prevent these kinds of human tragedies. In fact, incidents like this bring into stark relief the fact that it’s not guns, but insane and troubled people – with motives no one can possibly anticipate or comprehend – who commit mass murders.

    (“Massacre at Virginia Tech,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 17, 2007)

    141024185121-nr-brooke-baldwin-speaks-to-father-of-two-school-children-at-marysville-pilchuck-high-school-00000000-story-bodyThat said, I feel still constrained to decry the media glorification of this kid (whose tormented ego was clearly not sufficiently stroked by being crowned the homecoming prince of Marysville High). Because coverage of him and his idle-minded motives has already become so perverse and irresponsible that it vindicates – what would’ve been – his reasonable expectation that this shooting rampage would make him world famous. Sure enough, all that’s left is for Rolling Stone to feature him like a rock star (a la the Boston Marathon bomber).

    Therefore, is it any wonder that some other disaffected, demented and/or deluded kid (watching this media orgy play out) would harbor ideations of taking a similar path to infamy…? Again, given this coverage, it’s entirely reasonable for him (or, in due course, her) to think that nothing will ever become him in this life quite like going out in a blaze of glory … by gunning down a bunch of his schoolmates.

    Until the next one, then….

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  • Friday, October 24, 2014 at 6:38 AM

    First, Save the Whales from Japanese; Now, the Dogs from Thais?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I was more than a little annoyed yesterday when a well-intentioned friend tried to get me to sign a celebrity-fronted petition, which exhorted me to:

    Please act immediately to stop thousands of dogs from being tortured and butchered for their meat.

    You can save thousands of dogs from unspeakable pain by adding your name to Soi Dog’s global petition. It calls on Thailand’s leaders to crack down hard on the criminals who profit from the agony of animals.

    Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.13.54 PMIt did not help that the smug face of British comedian Ricky Gervais greeted me on the home page of this online petition (at soidog.com). There he was, evincing all the self-righteous indignation his irrepressibly comic face could muster, droning on about the horrors of poor Thais slaughtering dogs for meat to eat.

    Most annoying of all, however, was his pitch for solidarity:

    I had no idea dogs were being skinned alive for their meat. Did you?

    Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 2.27.32 PMIn fact I did (and do) Ricky! And here’s why I couldn’t care any less:

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

    But don’t get me started on the hypocrisy of Western countries having mouths too full of China’s money to voice any condemnation of the Chinese penchant for eating dogs. Frankly, if more meat-eating Westerners were forced to watch how animals are slaughtered (and in many cases processed) for their enjoyment, they wouldn’t be so self-righteous….

    (“Japanese Whaling Harpooned by Western Cultural Bias,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 1, 2014)

    Which of course raises the question: why target the Thais when the Chinese are slaughtering dogs for meat to eat too? After all, this is rather like making much ado about stopping gun violence in Canada when it would clearly make more sense to target gun violence in America.

    As for Ricky fronting this save-the-dogs petition, perhaps he should try getting his compatriots to stop butchering innocent foxes … just for sport, before passing judgment on what animals other people kill … for food.

    I gather other celebrities are putting on equally indignant faces for this cause. But, unless they are devout vegans, my contempt for their self-righteousness in this context is no less acute.

    Horse+and+cow-300x214While we’re at it, incidentally, here is what I had to say about the hypocrisy and carnivore snobbery inherent in indignation over slaughtering horses for meat to eat:

    Eating horses was (and is becoming again) as commonplace in France, a nation of gastronomes nonpareil, as eating pigs is in the United States.  Which makes all of the outrage over eating horse meat akin to barbarians accusing aristocrats of uncivilized behavior.

    (“Why All the Outrage Over Horse Meat,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 22, 2013)

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  • Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    Gunman Terrorizes Canada. Keep Calm and Carry On

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The heart of the Canadian capital was traumatized and placed in emergency police lockdown on Wednesday after a gunman fatally wounded a soldier guarding the National War Memorial, entered the nearby Parliament building and fired multiple times before he was shot and killed.

    It was the second deadly assault on a uniformed member of Canada’s armed forces in three days. While the motive was unclear, the Ottawa attack heightened fears that Canada, a strong ally of the United States, had been targeted in an organized terrorist plot.

    (New York Times, October 22, 2014)

    1413997510344_wps_39_OTTAWA_CANADA_OCTOBER_22_Frankly, reaction in Canada to one lunatic opening fire and killing one soldier is every bit as hysterical as reaction in the United States to one Ebola victim traveling here and infecting two healthcare nurses.

    I feel obliged to repeat my wonder that such attacks are so relatively rare. Not to mention my oft-stated and abiding fear that only God will help if/when al-Qaeda deploys not a lone wolf, but packs of wolves to open fire at airports, shopping malls, and/or sports stadiums in the United States (a la Westgate shopping mall in Kenya).

    (“Lone-Wolf Gunman Terrorizes LAX,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 5, 2013)

    Alas, that the New York Stock Exchange plummeted over 200 points on news about this shooting up in Canada shows just how little it takes to terrorize us these days. Although, to be fair, news about Beyoncé’s ugly new wig, which makes her look like a Blonde Bettie Page wannabe, could’ve had the same effect.

    1413988800694_wps_9_A_Royal_Canadian_Mounted_In any event, it behooves all Western countries to expect such lone-wolf shootings to become as common as school shootings are in the United States. But they must react to them as the local crimes they are, instead of propagating such hysteria about global terrorism that you’d think Daesh (aka ISIS/ISIL) terrorists did in Canada today what they’ve been doing in Iraq/Syria for months. More to the point, notwithstanding the misguided backlash Snowden’s NSA disclosures have wrought, they must allow their respective intelligence services to use all means necessary to surveil and apprehend the would-be terrorists amongst us before they act out their jihadist fantasies. Otherwise, we will terrorize ourselves to death if we keep reacting to every terrorist-inspired shooting as if it were another 9/11.

    Yet:

    It must be understood that no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing our governments can do to prevent such attacks. That Americans reacted yesterday as if those explosions went off in Washington or New York should compel Westerners to focus on calming our collective nerves, instead of fretting about (or worse, trying to figure out) the motivation for and timing of terrorist attacks by Islamic fanatics.

    (“7/7 Terror Attacks in London,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 8, 2005)

    Meanwhile, it’s hardly reassuring that President Obama felt compelled to inform the world that he rang Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper within hours to express condolences on behalf of the American people, and to pledge U.S. solidarity with Canada. Really? All this just because one misguided fool got dressed in terrorist garb and opened fire near the Parliament building in Ottawa? And who cares if he was shouting Allahu Akbar…? He was still nothing more than one crazed, suicidal nincompoop.

    Which is why reacting, reflexively, as if this were an international incident only feeds into al-Qaeda and Daesh’s terrorizing  propaganda about having sleeper cells in every Western country just lying in wait for orders to strike.

    Apropos of which, again, God/Allah help us if/when, instead of the lone wolf, al-Qaeda/Daesh launches coordinated attacks on numerous sites with terrorist cells comprised of packs of wolves….

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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 6:11 p.m.

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