• Monday, April 30, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    Obama-Clinton Kick off Obama-Biden Re-election Campaign

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Obama kicked off his re-election campaign yesterday with a fundraiser in my neck of the woods featuring none other than Bill Clinton. And why not; after all, the public rapport and repartee between these two have been such lately that one could be forgiven for thinking that Clinton had replaced Biden as Obama’s running mate.

    All indications are that Clinton will be the VIP member of team Obama this year. But I feel constrained to pooh-pooh any impression that the two have kissed and made up since their nasty political death match during the 2008 presidential campaign, which was highlighted by Clinton (as Hillary’s campaigner-in-chief) essentially calling Obama an uppity Negro and Obama essentially calling Clinton a Redneck racist.  Because nothing could be further from the truth.

    Instead what is playing out between them is a political marriage of convenience:

    Obama needs Clinton to woo (Reagan) Democrats who favored Hillary and only voted for him begrudgingly, but whose disgruntlement with the slow economic recovery and escalating debt crisis has them thinking that Romney might be preferable to Obama for the same reasons they thought Reagan was preferable to Carter.  Not to mention being able to use Clinton to access all of the donors who have made the Clinton Global Initiative a multi-billion dollar cash cow.

    Clinton needs Obama because he knows that his re-election would give Hillary the best chance at being elected president in 2016.  Because it’s far better to run on the coattails of an incumbent Obama than to run against an incumbent Mitt Romney.  And I have no doubt that, despite her coy denials, Hillary plans to run again….

    Beyond this, I feel constrained to also pooh-pooh the narrative being propagated by (white) Democratic pundits about Clinton spoon feeding talking points to Obama to help him make his case for re-election.

    This was demonstrated in brazen fashion last week when former Clinton press secretary (and die-hard Hillary supporter) Dee Dee Meyers asserted that Obama’s line about a chasm growing between ordinary Republicans and the Republican Party was “vintage Bill Clinton.”  For this is belied by the argument Obama has been making for over a year now about the Republican Party lurching so far to the right that Ronald Reagan himself could not win a Republican primary today.

    As for needing Clinton to feed him talking points, this narrative is ironic to the point of being laughable when one remembers that Clinton could not come up with enough talking points to help his own wife defeat Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2008. Clearly Obama does not need to be spoon fed words to make his case.

    Then there’s this annoying attempt to squeeze more cash out of me by inviting me to attend this fundraiser for the “opportunity” to meet Obama and Clinton:

    Anthony –

    This Sunday, President Obama and former President Bill Clinton will be in McLean, Virginia, for a reception and an opportunity to meet with dedicated supporters like you.

    Time is running out to reserve your seat at this event. We don’t want you to miss it, so consider this a nudge….

    The problem is that I did not need a nudge because I have already donated all I intend to give to help re-elect Obama. You’d think team Obama would have some way of tracking long-established donors like me to avoid nickel and diming us with e-mail solicitations every week.

    Hell, it’s only April and I’m already treating every e-mail from Obama-Biden as SPAM. I don’t see how they expect to rekindle that 2008 fire by throwing a wet blanket on the enthusiasm of supporters like me.

    As for the invitation itself, ever since working on the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign in 1996 – with all of the pre-Monica disillusionment that entailed, I’ve wanted to attend an open campaign event about as much as I’ve wanted to roll around in the mud with pigs.

    The event is being hosted at the McLean, Va., home of Terry McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and personal friend of the Clinton family.

    Reflecting a fundraising arms race among the candidates, price tags for the venue are hefty. Five hundred supporters are expected to attend the reception, with tickets starting at $1,000 a person. The Obama campaign says 80 will be present for the banquet, with individual donations of $20,000 donation necessary for that event

    McAuliffe tells ABC News the evening will bring in over $3 million combined

    (ABC News, April 29, 2012)

    Ironically enough, I attended a similar event in 1996 at this same home when McAuliffe was my boss, serving as the National Finance Director for the Clinton-Gore re-election team.

    UPDATE (11 am)

    Adding insult to my growing disaffection, none other than Barack himself just sent me this solicitation that, frankly, I would have expected more from Ed MaMahon pitching his patently rigged Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes than from a president raising money to fund his re-election campaign:

    Anthony –

    In a few days, I’ll be hitting the trail for my last campaign.

    Everything we’ve accomplished in the past three years — and our chance to do so much more — is on the line.

    What we do today will be a measure of whether or not we’re ready to fight for it.

    Donate $190 or whatever you can before tonight’s fundraising deadline.

    By pitching in before midnight, you’ll automatically be in the running to join me and George Clooney at his place on May 10th. It’s not often I can get away from work, so I look forward to spending a fun evening in L.A. with a couple supporters like you.

    In the meantime, let’s close out this deadline strong:

    https://donate.barackobama.com/Midnight-Deadline

    Thanks,

    Barack

    I can’t make this stuff up folks….

    UPDATE II (9:06 pm)

    This is now bordering on harassment:  After Barack’s e-mail at 11, I received another solicitation from Ann Marie Habershaw, Chief Operating Officer - Obama for America, at 4:46 pm. Now this:

    Anthony –

    There are two ways to look at it: This is yet another email from the campaign in your inbox. Or this email is making our organization stronger.

    Grassroots support, especially online, is how we compete with our opponents. And we won’t win without it.

    If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, mind chipping in before midnight?

    https://donate.barackobama.com/Midnight-Deadline

    THANK YOU.

    Rufus

    Rufus Gifford
    National Finance Director
    Obama for America

    P.S. — Last call for the chance to fly to L.A. to meet President Obama at George Clooney’s house. Enter here — deadline is midnight.

    Don’t these campaign finance people have better things to do than sit around all day writing and sending out demonstrably useless e-mail solicitations? Does this obvious disorganization/carelessness reflect badly on Obama, or is it just me?

    Whatever the case, it seems not only desperate but also clueless that these nincompoops would think that, after ignoring their pleas to participate in a sweepstakes for a chance to meet Obama and Bill Clinton in his own neighborhood,  any (heterosexual) man would jump at the chance to participate in one to fly way the hell to California for a chance to meet Obama and George Clooney. Insulting is not the word….

  • Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 6:10 AM

    Presidential campaign already going to the dogs…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, April 27, 2012 at 5:44 AM

    Former Liberian President Charles Taylor Convicted in The Hague

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yesterday the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague convicted former Liberian President Charles Taylor on 11 counts of aiding and abetting all manner of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape.  This conviction practically guarantees that he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

    But I predicted his fate would be thus:

    As a warlord, Taylor commanded rebel forces who raped, tortured, and killed indiscriminately on their march to power. And as president of Liberia, he aided, abetted, and traded (guns for diamonds) with warlords in Sierra Leone whose rebel forces did there what his did in Liberia…

    So here’s to the fate that awaits Charles Taylor (think Slobodan, not Saddam). And let’s hope that his capture puts all despots (like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe) on notice that their day of reckoning is drawing nigh. Because Taylor today, Kony tomorrow? Who knows for whom the bell will toll in due course?

    (“Good News: Charles Taylor captured,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 31, 2006)

    This second paragraph on the precedent Taylor’s capture would/should set is particularly noteworthy. Because here is how the BBC parroted this notion yesterday in its report on Taylor’s conviction:

    The indictment of Charles Taylor took war crimes jurisprudence to a new level, establishing the principle that a serving head of state was not immune from prosecution.

    The later indictments by the International Criminal Court of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast are a testament to the significance of the Taylor precedent.

    I take exception, however, to reports (like the BBC’s) that suggest this precedent only applies to African despots.  Indeed, you’ll note that I cited the precedent set by the prosecution of the European despot Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia when I wrote about the good news of Taylor’s indictment and capture. (The only reason Taylor now has the unenviable distinction of being the first head of state to be convicted by an international war crimes tribunal is that Milosevic died during his trial before the inevitable guilty verdict could be rendered.)

    Frankly, it seems an egregious oversight that the BBC did not even mention Vladimir Putin of Russia. After all, this news organization has been in the vanguard of those reporting on how Putin is aiding and abetting all manner of crimes against humanity in Syria today just as Taylor did in Sierra Leone:

    On 10 January, a Russian cargo ship loaded with containers from the country’s main arms exporter made an unscheduled stop at the port of Limassol in Cyprus…

    A well-placed source has confirmed to the BBC that it was carrying tons of ammunition destined for the Syrian security forces which stand accused of committing atrocities against their own people, killing and torturing thousands since the uprising began last year.

    (BBC, January 30, 2012)

    Which clearly begs the question. If Taylor of Liberia can be hauled to The Hague and tried for aiding and abetting atrocities that were committed in Sierra Leone, why shouldn’t Putin of Russia face the same fate for aiding and abetting similar atrocities now being committed in Syria?

    Of course, the UN has a dubious record of sanctioning the relatively powerless for things the powerful do with impunity. (Consider, for example, the way Obama of the United States has gotten away with violating Pakistan’s sovereignty for years by launching drone missiles into its territory at will, killing suspected terrorists and innocent civilians alike.) This is why I have no doubt that Putin will get a pass; whereas it’s only a matter of time before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ends up in The Hague (or dead).

    Related commentaries:
    Charles Taylor captured

  • Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 5:13 AM

    China’s Purging of Bo Xilai

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As recently as early March Bo Xilai was arguably the most popular politician in China – destined for a seat on the country’s all-powerful, nine-member Politburo Standing Committee later this year. Today he is under investigation for “serious discipline violations” – having been fired from his high-profile job as Communist Party boss of the thriving metropolis of Chongqing. For all intents and purposes his political career has come to a screeching and ignominious end.

    It must have been troubling enough for party elders that, while proselytizing the regressive philosophy of Chairman Mao and fighting gangland corruption in a manner that would make Eliot Ness proud, Bo was living a lavish lifestyle that made a mockery of both his Maoist devotion and his fight against corruption.

    But I suspect it was the antic attempt of his chief of police to seek asylum in the U.S. Consulate near Chongqing in early February that torpedoed Bo’s career. Because, despite all of China’s purported progress, this move betrayed that loyalty to the Communist Party remains so absolute that independent-minded officials are just as inclined to defect from China today as they were to defect from the Soviet Union 50 years ago.

    (The chief was “persuaded” to surrender to local authorities within hours after entering the Consulate which was immediately surrounded by Chinese police.)

    This means that the discipline violations Bo is accused of probably have far more to do with this spectacular failure to instill party loyalty than with the flair for self-promotion that made him so popular.

    Of course revelations that his wife Gu Kailai had a “close” relationship with a murdered British businessman named Neil Heywood did not help. Not least because reports are that they had a falling out over his refusal to help her smuggle millions of dollars out of the country shortly before he was found dead in a Chongqing hotel last November.  Chinese authorities announced on April 10 that she is the prime suspect.

    Then there’s the trail of spoil-brat shenanigans his son Bo Guagua blazed from Britain’s most expensive prep school through Oxford and on to Harvard. He duly chronicled most of them on his Facebook page, providing unprecedented fodder for Internet gossip.

    But if the family life of almost any high-ranking Chinese official were placed under similar public scrutiny, chances are very good that the details would be every bit as scandalous as that of Bo Xilai’s. Such is the epidemic of corruption, bribery, internecine squabbles, and all manner of vice that defines China’s political system.

    This is why I am convinced that it was the national “loss of face” the attempted defection represented that compelled party elders to begin the process of purging Bo by firing him on March 15. And whatever the mystery surrounding Heywood’s death, Bo’s wife seems little more than collateral damage in this process. After all, the police originally declared the cause of his death was “overconsumption of alcohol.”

    Meanwhile, China is doing all it can to prevent ordinary Chinese from accessing this story on the Internet – no doubt fearing that it might galvanize them the way the story of one Tunisian burning himself in protest galvanized ordinary Arabs….

  • Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 5:03 AM

    Obama Weighs In on Secret Service Sex Scandal

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is hardly surprising that this Secret Service sex scandal has … legs. But the only reason I’m revisiting it today is that President Obama finally weighed in last night in a way that flattered me even more than I suspect those Columbian prostitutes flattered the agents involved.

    As it happened, though, I was called everything from a “male chauvinist pig” to an “ignorant fool” for writing in my original commentary that this is only a scandal because the female supervisor in charge overreacted:

    If [supervisor] Reid had been one of the good ole boys instead of a newly appointed woman, this incident would have been handled just like all others had been (i.e., with the supervisor slapping the primary agent involved on the wrist and fellow agents ribbing him as a knucklehead and admonishing him to just pay up next time).

    (“No Secret Service Scandal…If Supervisor Were a Man,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 23, 2012)

    In fact, I argued that the real scandal is the way the Secret Service, easily the most honored and respected agency in the U.S. government, is having its reputation irreparably tarnished. Not to mention the travesty of so many agents losing their careers (nine so far) just because one of them haggled with a prostitute over payment for a little harmless sex.

    In any case, here’s where the flattery comes in. Because here’s how no less a person than President Obama himself effectively dismissed this story last night during an appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon:

    These guys are incredible. They protect me, they protect Michelle, they protect our girls, they protect our officials all around the world… 99.9 percent of them every day they’re putting their lives on the line and do a good job. So a couple of knuckleheads shouldn’t detract from, you know, what they do.

    (Reuters April 24, 2012)

    Specifically, Obama not only limited his censure of the agents to the mild ribbing I suggested the incident called for, but telegraphed his own belief that this scandal is much ado about nothing.

    Actually, Reuters reporting that Obama “blamed the uproar on a couple of knuckleheads in an otherwise incredible agency” also supports my contention that this scandal has far more to do with political grandstanding than with any concern about the president’s safety. Which makes the notion that the agency itself needs to be investigated patent nonsense.

    I also wrote in the above-referenced commentary that not since the impeachment of Bill Clinton has Washington been in the throes of such a sensational witch hunt. But don’t forget, we later discovered that the self-righteous Republicans who led the charge to impeach Clinton for having an extra-marital affair were themselves having extra-marital affairs.

    Therefore, it would not surprise me to discover in due course that the Republicans leading this charge to drive a stake through the career of any Secret Service agent who has ever patronized a prostitute are themselves patronizing some of the high-class “escort services” this city is famous for. What’s more these politicians - untrained as they are - are far more likely to divulge government secrets during their assignations than agents are during theirs.

    Meanwhile, I have warned repeatedly that the greatest threat to Obama’s safety is the way he insists on running up and down the stairs when boarding and deplaning Air Force One.  I wish the Secret Service would get him to take more careful steps to avoid pulling a Gerald Ford and suffering far more than a bruised ego.

    NOTE: I will be forced to adjust my attitude a little if the prostitute who set off this scandal by demanding more “cash money” shows up in a Hugo Chávez propaganda video the way Anna Chapman did in Vladimir Putin’s. But all indications are that she is far more likely to show up in the pages of the National Enquirer, having sold every titillating (even if embellished) detail of her story for mucho dinero.

    Related commentaries:
    No secret service scandal

  • Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 5:22 AM

    The Kid (Blanket) is Not Michael’s Son?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Matt Fiddes is a reputed “martial arts master” who once served as Michael Jackson’s bodyguard. He claims that at a hotel in 2001 Michael asked him to be a sperm donor, and he obliged … and Blanket was born a year later.

    Now Fiddes wants his paternity confirmed by a court and acknowledged by Blanket’s guardian, Michael’s mother Katherine.

    I am going to lodge my DNA and formally ask the Jacksons for access. I want visitation rights… To me the truth is the big issue, and that’s why I want to take it further. I’m a self-made man, I don’t want or need their money.

    (Daily Mail, April 17, 2012)

    Naturally this is causing all kinds of waves at the transplanted Neverland, where the Jacksons have steadfastly refused to even speak to Fiddes, let alone acknowledge his claim of paternity. But it’s only a matter of time before he has his day in court to prove his claim….

    The real story here, however, is not this bodyguard’s wholly credible claim; rather it’s the wholly incredible insistence by the Jackson family that not just Blanket but the other two kids (Prince and Paris) are all Michael’s biological children.

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

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

    Ironically, the chorus to his song Billie Jean is unwittingly prescient and uncannily instructive in this respect:

    Billie Jean Is Not My Lover
    She’s Just A Girl Who Claims That I Am The One
    But The Kid Is Not My Son
    She Says I Am The One, But The Kid Is Not My Son

    I suspect that Michael never consummated his relationship with any of the women who bore his children. And for some “wacko-jacko” reason he obviously did not even use his own sperm to inseminate them..

    More to the point, though, here is how I felt constrained years ago to pooh-pooh claims that Michael is the biological father of any of these kids:

    The most manifestly troubling aspect of Michael’s personal life, however, was his role as a father. Because, in addition to many other Freudian questions, I wonder about the psychological impact on his three lily-white children of having this Black man (notwithstanding his appearance) insist that he is their biological father. But just imagine the psychological defect (self-hatred?) or physical dysfunction that led Michael to choose the sperm of a white man instead of using his own to inseminate the (White) surrogates who gave birth to his designer babies.

    (“Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, Is Dead, “The iPINIONS Journal, June 27, 2009)

    Meanwhile, his claim that he refused $500,000 from Michael for his sperm donation will hold Fiddes in very good stead if this kid proves to be his son. After all, this would stand in honorable contrast to the women (most notably Debbie Rowe) who collected, indeed demanded, millions for serving as surrogates.

    Related commentaries:
    52nd Annual Grammy Awards
    King of pop is dead

  • Monday, April 23, 2012 at 5:29 AM

    No Secret Service Sex Scandal…If Supervisor Were a Man

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    All of the agents and military personnel who enlisted the services of Columbian prostitutes (21 of them at last count) were relieved of duty and sent home in disgrace within hours after the hotel called local police to settle the pay dispute. The potential they created to compromise the president’s safety is beyond measure. This is why they are now facing an ignominious end to their careers.

    But surely the greater worry for each of them will be trying to convince his wife that, even though the entire unit is being disciplined, he was not personally involved with any prostitute…. Yeah, good luck with that.

    (“Obama’s ‘Bushism’ highlight of Summit of the Americas,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 17, 2012)

    I fully intended to limit my commentary on the Secret Service agents who were caught being serviced not so secretly to the above.  But given all of the talk in Washington about the agency being rocked, if not rotten, to its core, I feel constrained to elaborate.

    It’s an indication of the metastasizing nature of this scandal that the Washington Post ran a front-page story yesterday on Paula Reid, the new Secret Service supervisor for the South American region whose snap decision turned a petty argument between one prostitute and one agent into an institutional and international crisis. To say nothing of the way this scandal has completely overshadowed and undermined President Obama’s reason for being in Columbia at that Summit of the Americas, which was to reassert America’s sphere of influence in this hemisphere.

    But, frankly, it’s also an indication of the reflexive, myopic and opportunistic rhetoric that passes for political opinion today that some of the most influential politicians in Washington are referring to this as the worst scandal in the history of the Secret Service: Really? What about the agency’s failure to prevent that hapless drifter Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK? Hell, even the more recent scandal of the Salahis crashing a state dinner at the White House is worse.

    (Incidentally, I was puzzled by the apparent concern so many Republicans were expressing for Obama’s safetyuntil I heard Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) declare on Thursday that this scandal is just another manifestation of this president’s failure of leadership; you know, just as Syria’s massacre of democratic protesters, China’s trade surplus, and even April snow in Texas all are….)

    In any case, during an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday, former Secret Service director Ralph Basham insisted that:

    This is an aberration. This is not the character of the men and women who serve every day in the Secret Service. And, obviously, this is a huge story. It’s a huge issue, because this sort of thing does not happen in the Secret Service…

    Certainly, this incident is an extremely embarrassing incident, but it is an incident.

    Got that? It’s just an “incident” folks!  It spoke volumes, however,  that when moderator Bob Schieffer asked if he was sure no agent had been fired for a scandal “like this” during his tenure (2003-06), Basham conceded that:

    I can’t recall one instance where the action went to the point of removing an agent from duty. There were agents who were disciplined – you know, given time off, that sort of thing – but I can’t recall one actually being removed.

    Indeed; yet the fallout from this implosion has already seen six agents (including two supervisors) removed from duty. And no less a politician than Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee that has oversight authority over the agency, has been all over TV in recent days pledging, with scoutmaster indignation, that “more heads will roll.”

    Meanwhile, former director Basham only hinted at the undeniable truth that, if Reid had been one of the good ol’ boys instead of a newly appointed woman, this incident would have been handled just like all others had been (i.e., with the supervisor slapping the primary agent involved on the wrist and fellow agents ribbing him as a knucklehead and admonishing him to just pay up next time).

    The corollary of course is that, considering nobody believes this was their first group assignation with prostitutes, Secret Service agents clearly know how to deal with them without compromising the president’s safety (despite the potential). And, but for Reid, the extracurricular secrets of the agents would have been kept, none of them would have lost their jobs (and possibly their marriages), and the nation would have been spared all of the sanctimonious carping about the performance of an agency whose public record and reputation are the envy of the world.

    This is why, where everyone else in Washington seems to think highly of the way she “swiftly rounded up 11 agents and officers and ordered them out of the country,” I think supervisor Reid simply overreacted. This, notwithstanding all of the moralizing about their infidelity not just to the agency’s Hooverian code of conduct but also to their marriages.

    Now, lest you think my judgment here  is clouded by bad old-fashioned male chauvinism, please bear in mind that I have written many commentaries with titles like Women Make Better Politicians than Men (October 14, 2010), in which I proudly extol the virtues and effectiveness of women assuming positions of power traditionally held by men.

    I just don’t think there can be any gainsaying that, but for Reid’s hysterical reaction:

    1. there would be no scandal;
    2. the critical esprit de corps within the agency would still be firmly intact (reports are that the agents are now turning on each other to save their own hides and some are even threatening to sue the agency); and most important
    3. there would be no greater concern about the agency’s ability to protect the president today than there was on the day he was inaugurated.

    Instead, not since a bunch of self-righteous Republicans attempted to impeach former President Bill Clinton has a little bit of harmless sex triggered such a self-inflicted institutional crisis on the one hand and a hypocritical political witch hunt on the other. Not to mention that good conscience and common sense dictate that a little more deference should be accorded these agents who take a vow to take a bullet for the president.

    Finally, human nature being what it is, I’d hate to be in Reid’s position. Because even though grandstanding politicians are hailing her as a latter-day Miss Goody Two-Shoes, the “Mad Men” inside the agency undoubtedly deplore and resent her trigger-happy officiousness.  She may not see it now, but she just placed a glass ceiling over her own head as far as her career in the Secret Service is concerned. And given that she’s a 46-year-old Black spinster to boot, well, just imagine the backlash (to say nothing of the racial jokes about a Black woman swooping in to clean up the mess; never mind that she made it herself)….

    NOTE: This incident went down in an area of Columbia where prostitution is legal. Of course, I’m on record declaring that prostitution should be legal everywhere.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama’s ‘Bushism’ highlight of Summit of the Americas
    The Salahis White House gatecrashers

  • Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    Happy 42nd Earth Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This observance was conceived in the late 1960s by Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin, as an enlightened response to carefree pollution all over America. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970.

    The environmental practices this day inaugurated have become so routine and universal that the symbolic replenishing of Earth’s natural resources — by planting trees — now seems trite, if not contrived. Although, to hear all of the alarmist talk about climate change, you’d think that healthy regard for our planet was brought into public consciousness only years ago by Al Gore preaching from his environmental bible Earth in the Balance.

    But this celebration of, and deference to, Earth’s natural wonders should be distinguished from Gore’s convenient truths about climate change (like his using fake images of melting glaciers in his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” just to scare people).

    After all, the original Earth Day ushered in conservation and greening trends that have led to cleaner air, more potable (lead-free) water and a much less polluted environment. Whereas, by Gore’s own admission, there has been “no improvement in the fight against climate change” since he began prophesying about global warming.

    Of course, if there’s any truth to Gore’s doomsday scenario (especially with China and India joining the United States as superpower polluters), I suppose there would be no point in wishing us earthlings another 42 years….

    Related Articles:
    Global warming…a flaming hoax

  • Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 6:54 AM

    Secret Service agents caught being serviced not so secretly…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    All of the agents and military personnel who enlisted the services of Columbian prostitutes (21 of them at last count) were relieved of duty and sent home in disgrace within hours after the hotel called local police to settle the pay dispute.  The potential they created to compromise the president’s safety is beyond measure. This is why they are now facing an ignominious end to their careers.

    But surely the greater worry for each of them will be trying to convince his wife that, even though the entire unit is being disciplined, he was not personally involved with any prostitute…. Yeah, good luck with that.

    (Obama’s ‘Bushism’ highlight of Summit of the Americas, The iPINIONS Journal, April 17, 2012)

    Related commentaries:
    Obama Bushism

  • Friday, April 20, 2012 at 5:41 AM

    ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ – Mainstreaming Kinky, Abusive Sex?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have to begin with a disclaimer: I did not read this book. Instead I just listened in utter stupefaction a few days ago as a female friend who did shared why Fifty Shades of Grey, by author E. L. James, is all the rage.

    No doubt my friend would declare herself an unabashed feminist. And she has never struck me as the submissive type when it comes to sex.

    This is why I was so taken aback when she expressed how captivated and stimulated she became as she read about the sadomasochistic relationship that plays out in graphic fashion between the main characters in this novel: the virginal, eager to please Anastasia Steele and her emotionally scarred and domineering Sugar Daddy, Christian Grey.

    Taken aback because women always (mis)led me to believe that they are more high-brow when it comes to erotic literature. But the stuff in this book makes Penthouse Forum seem G-Rated; yet women of every stripe – from Type-A professionals to soccer moms – are eating it up like teenage boys discovering Internet porn.

    What’s more, I was confused by the almost self-righteous way my friend rationalized the emotional and physical abuse Christian repeatedly inflicts upon Anastasia by saying it was all consensual (i.e., that that’s what she wanted). Really? I’m all for a little rough sex, but jeez….

    Indeed, I wonder if Pretty Woman would have been the blockbuster it was if the relationship that played out on screen between the rich man played by Richard Gere and the prostitute played by Julia Roberts were more Marquis de Sade than Cinderella? Although, based on the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, I suppose it would have – especially given that Gere as Sugar Daddy duly made amends by lavishing Julia as prostitute with cash and expensive gifts too.

    On the other hand, it is instructive that my female friend begrudgingly conceded that she would not have been nearly as enthralled by James’s master-slave, kinky-sex storyline if Christian were just a plumber – even if he looked, atypically, like a stud. If they were being honest I think most women would concede this point.

    Still, here is where it got really interesting:

    Given the way she so blithely related to the submissive, if not degrading, way Anastasia behaves, I asked my friend to explain why she not only condemned Chris Brown for beating up Rihanna but, more to the point, then condemned Rihanna for going back to him … for more.

    I also asked if she’s not at all concerned that the popularity of this novel might undermine the signature feminist argument that men who get off on the psycho-sexual abuse so often depicted in porn are being conditioned to act out that abuse in their personal relationships. For surely it must follow that women (especially impressionable teenage girls) who get off on the psycho-sexual abuse depicted in this book are being conditioned to accept this abuse in their personal relationships.

    Trust me, she’s a brilliant woman. But I am still waiting for a comprehensible, credible reply….

    Meanwhile, Chris can be forgiven for thinking now that he actually treated Rihanna the way all women fantasize about being treated. After all, what man would not want to do all he can to fulfill his woman’s sexual fantasies…? And bear in mind that, like Christian, Chris too was a victim of abuse….  (I hope that’s not giving away too much.)

    At any rate, I suppose the joke is on men like me who thought that, nowadays, no self-respecting woman would even condone a relationship in which the woman’s only interest is in doing whatever pleases her man. Which makes all of the women swooning over the relationship in this novel seem like latter-day Stepford Wives: feminism coming full circle…?

    Mind you, I’m all for women harboring secret fantasies about anything, literally. And I see nothing wrong with whatever kinky, even abusive, sex consenting adults get into behind closed doors.

    I just fear the very public swooning women are engaging in over this book is misleading women and men into a very grey area. But the romantic sadist in me can’t resist encouraging men to seize this opportunity to have fun finding out just which shade of grey gets their women off: some baby oil and silver balls might help….

  • Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 5:08 AM

    Dick Clark, Trailblazing Entertainment Icon, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Dick Clark [is the] the music industry maverick, longtime TV host, and powerhouse producer who changed the way we listened to pop music with American Bandstand, and whose trademark Rockin’ Eve became a fixture of New Year’s celebrations.

    (ABC News, April 18, 2012)

    What more can one say?

    Everybody knows about his involvement in the two pioneering shows mentioned above, but this guy also created, produced, and/or hosted other TV classics, including The $25,000 Pyramid, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes, The American Music Awards, The Golden Globe Awards, and The Academy of Country Music Awards.

    But what I appreciate most about Clark’s legacy is that he did more than anyone else to integrate the music industry. He did this by featuring – on what was effectively “White TV” in the 1960s – such Black entertainers as Chuck Berry, Chubby Checker, Little Richard, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, the Jackson Five, and Gladys Knight and the Pips. Significantly, the national exposure these appearances provided led to the “cross-over” appeal that was indispensable to the commercial success these artists would go on to enjoy.

    The use of Black artists not only served to popularize their recordings, it also reminded viewers of the link between rock-and-roll music and African-American culture.

    (Blacks and White TV… Since 1948 by J. Fred MacDonald)

    Mind you, Blacks did not only appear on stage during these early days. For what is too often overlooked is that Clark also brought in Black kids to integrate Bandstand’s studio dance floor. This aspirational part of the show made it must-see TV even for a little Black island boy like me; well, that is until Soul Train came along….

    Of course, he also introduced America to a who’s who of rock and roll and pop (including Madonna) – with few notable exceptions (like the Rolling Stones).

    Appropriately enough, Clark had a Peter-Pan persona that earned him the nickname “America’s Oldest Teenager.”

    This is why it was so sad to watch him (struggling to) host his Rockin’ Eve show in 2006 – after suffering a stroke. Because he was not only severely speech impaired, he actually looked every bit his old age. The irony was palpable.

    Clark died yesterday at hospital in Santa Monica of a “massive heart attack.” He was 82.

  • Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    Stop Bitching about TSA Patdowns!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    One of the problems with social networks like Twitter is that people use them far more for self-promotion than social networking.

    A truly disturbing trend in this respect is the way people seek attention by making patently specious claims about TSA agents sexually assaulting them. The latest is model Bar Rafaeli who tweeted yesterday that the agent who gave her a patdown recently “left no doubt about her sexual preferences (sic).” Of course, the real story here is that Bar is having to resort to this for attention after being dumped by Leonardo DiCaprio.

    But you’d be hard-pressed to find a single TSA agent who has been arrested for groping a passenger at the airport.  And it’s an indication of how plainly contrived these claims are that you’d be just as hard-pressed to find a so-called victim who has even bothered to file a civil lawsuit against an agent for assault.

    Truth be told, they are far more likely to steal your iPad than cop a feel.

    Meanwhile, if an underwear bomber (male or female) were to get on board and blow a plane from the sky, these same complainers would be the first ones tweeting their self-righteous condemnation of TSA agents.

    For the record folks, a proper, non-sexual patdown will invariably, indeed necessarily, entail touching around the breast/chest and crotch.

    But think about it: what TSA agent in his orher right mind would try to fondle anybody sexually while doing this thankless job at the airport? They probably hate giving patdowns just as much as passengers hate receiving them.

    And don’t get me started on the idiots who complain about being sexually violated by airport scanners.

    Get over yourselves people! (Or don’t fly.)

  • Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 5:03 AM

    Obama’s ‘Bushism’ Highlight of Summit of the Americas

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s an indication of what a waste of time this year’s Summit of the Americas was that the only newsworthy items were:

    1. the threat by ALBA countries (most notably Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador) to boycott future summits if the United States and Canada veto an invitation to Cuba … again;
    2. the ” wheels-up, rings-off” shenanigans of U.S. Secret Service agents being exposed after one of them caused an international incident by bickering with a local prostitute over a measly $47 charge;
    3. and an embarrassing gaffe by President Obama.

    In fact the countries of the Americas have become so polarized along pro-American and anti-American/pro-Chinese lines that the 31 heads of state could not even bring themselves to issue the customary, pro-forma joint communique on charting the future of the hemisphere. (For more on this burgeoning Cold War II polarization, and on what it portends, I refer you to my April 12 commentary China Invading U.S. Sphere of Influence….)

    Indeed, according to a report in today’s edition of the Globe and Mailthey agreed on one thing:

    The U.S.-led war on drugs has been a dismal failure.

    Which of course is rather like agreeing that the Sun rises in the east. This is why, among the few newsworthy items listed above, the one most worthy of comment is the gaffe.

    President Obama’s undisputed intelligence and reputation for giving awe-inspiring speeches have enabled him to get away with gaffes that made his predecessor, George W. Bush, seem like a glorified dunce.  Imagine the ridicule, for example, if it were Bush who wrote the wrong date in the Westminster Abbey guest book, or continued toasting the Queen after the British national anthem started playing during his state visit to the UK last year….

    Well, Obama committed a truly Bush-worthy malapropism yesterday during his keynote speech at this summit in Cartagena, Columbia. Specifically, in attempting to impress his Spanish-speaking audience by referring to the disputed Falkland Islands by their Spanish name, he said Maldives instead of Malvinas.

    Malvinas of course is the archipelago that lies off the east coast of South America; Maldives is an archipelago that lies off the south coast of India.

    But what made this such a diplomatic blunder is that Obama was actually trying to pander in an even more brazen fashion. For reports are that in private discussions almost all of the Latin American leaders were as unified in their opposition to the United States continuing its embargo against Cuba as they were in their opposition to the United States continuing its support of Britain in its ongoing dispute with Argentina over the Falklands — notwithstanding protestations of neutrality by every U.S. president from Reagan to Obama.

    Therefore, Obama was clearly hoping for a triumph of charm over substance by using the Latin American name for the islands in this context.  Never mind that, even if he got it right, most leaders would probably have been as charmed as cold fish….

    Meanwhile:

    The Falklands are little more than a bleak and desolate cluster of rocks dotting the South Atlantic Ocean some 8,000 miles from Britain. Therefore, when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dispatched the Royal Navy there in 1982 to oust Argentine forces, I thought she was acting pursuant to some quixotic, neocolonial notion of extraterritorial sovereignty.

    It never occurred to me that she went to war in the Falklands for the same reason U.S. President George W. Bush went to war in Iraq two decades later; namely, oil.

    (“Argentina vs. Britain over Falklands … Still?” The iPINIONS Journal, February 26, 2010. For more on this dispute, I refer you to this 2010 commentary linked to below.)

    That said, it would be remiss of me not to at least share this pithy comment on the U.S. Secret Service Agents who were caught being serviced not so secretly:

    All of the agents and military personnel who enlisted the services of Columbian prostitutes (21 of them at last count) were relieved of duty and sent home in disgrace within hours after the hotel called local police to settle the pay dispute.  The potential they created to compromise the president’s safety is beyond measure. This is why they are now facing an ignominious end to their careers.

    But surely the greater worry for each of them will be trying to convince his wife that, even though the entire unit is being disciplined, he was not personally involved with any prostitute…. Yeah, good luck with that.

    Related commentaries:
    China invading U.S
    Argentina vs. Britain

  • Monday, April 16, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    Republican War on Women vs. Democratic Fight for Women

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Planned Parenthood and Sandra Fluke (remember her?) controversies earlier this year exposed the paternalistic/chauvinistic mindset that still prevails among Republicans and gave the impression that they are waging a war on women. But these controversies also demonstrated why Democrats are winning the fight for women voters this election cycle.

    This is why it is hardly surprising that Republicans are doing all they can to turn the working-woman outrage political strategist Hilary Rosen expressed this week into a new manifesto on women that makes the Democratic Party look like it suddenly morphed into the men-only golf club at Augusta. Mind you, all Hilary did was to vent understandable indignation at Mitt Romney for claiming that he relies on his wife to tell him about women’s economic concerns:

    What you have is, Mitt Romney running around the country saying, ‘Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues… And when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing.’

    Guess what: his wife has never really worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kind of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future.

    (CNN, April 11, 2012)

    What’s more, every word in this statement is true – notwithstanding the clearly inadvertent swipe at stay-at-home moms. For, as Mitt himself intimated, the only kind of economic issues his wife faces has to do with deciding where among their many mansions to spend Thanksgiving and which among their many cars to drive once their private jet flies them there.

    This is why it is so surprising, indeed disappointing, that Rosen’s Democratic colleagues are venting such “faux anger” over her statement they are drowning out that of Republicans.

    Hell, none other than David Axelrod, the campaign manager for the president’s re-election campaign, was so eager to distance Obama and the Democratic Party from her remarks that he insisted Rosen was speaking more as an employee of CNN than as a Democratic strategist. Boy, with friends like these….

    Granted, Rosen would have been well-advised to heed President Obama’s admonition to spare political spouses when trying to score political points.  Especially since, in this case, she failed to appreciate that Mitt was merely referring to his wife as a gilded messenger conveying the economic woes of ordinary women.

    In fact, his latter point hints at why I am so disgusted with Democrats for buying into this faux anger. Because they are so busy throwing Rosen under the bus that they themselves fail to appreciate the fallacy, if not mendacity, inherent in Mitt claiming that he looks to his wife to tell him “what women really care about.”

    After all, what does it say about his regard for women that, after four years of campaigning, he still needs his wife to tell him what women are saying?

    More to the point, women can now be forgiven for thinking that when they were pouring their hearts out to him about issues of real concern to them, Mitt’s mind was far away … perhaps wishing in those moments that he were playing a round of golf on the greens at Augusta.

    Related commentaries:
    Planned parenthood
    Sandra Fluke controversy
    Abortion … again?

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, April 15, at 6:51 pm

  • Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 7:41 AM

    Ah, so that’s why Ann Romney was so offended…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, April 13, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    (UPDATE) North Korea Commanding World Attention … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    When you hear President Obama issuing his cease and desist statement to North Korea about testing its missile this week, just bear this is mind:

    The only thing newsworthy about this statement is that it is almost identical to the one he issued last month in response to similar tests this hermit kingdom conducted.

    Moreover, Obama could well have been reading from the statements his predecessors, Bush and Clinton, issued in response to the nuclear brinkmanship North Korea played on them throughout their respective presidencies. After all, for decades now, the bilateral relationship between this little country and ‘the world’s sole superpower’ has consisted of this improbable tail-wagging-the-dog phenomenon.

    (“North Korea’s Nuclear Test: Wagging the U.S. Dog … Again,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 26, 2009)

    More to the point:

    I could barely contain my stupefaction at President Obama and world leaders for wasting time at their summit to fix the global financial crisis to warn Kim that playing with nuclear missiles is not the way to win friends and influence people.

    After all, the record clearly shows that his pathology is such that dire warnings from perceived enemies only embolden Kim’s unruly behavior. Not to mention that these warnings never amount to anything more than hollow words…

    The best way to deal with Kim is to let him test fire his missiles without making it seem like an existential threat to the world. Especially because North Korea has the same sovereign right the United States has to test its missiles … and he’ll do so anyway despite (or to spite) global protestations.

    Of course, if he does the unthinkable (i.e. attacks another country or even attempts to sell nuclear weapons to terrorists), then I’m sure Obama will have no difficulty amassing a coalition of the willing, including the Chinese, to take out his little hermit kingdom.

    (“North Korea…Calling the World’s Bluff … Again,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 4, 2009)

    Obviously, I wrote the above about a North Korea led by recently deceased Kim Jong-il whose domestic policy amounted to little more than manufacturing conventional weapons to fight a war with South Korea that ended almost 60 years ago, and whose foreign policy amounted to nothing more than building nuclear weapons to extort (from the United States and other countries) everything from oil to run his military industrial complex and food to feed the privileged among his starving people.

    But I could have written the same about a North Korea led by the father (Kim II-sung) who preceded him just as easily as I could write the same about a North Korea now being led by the son (Kim Jong-un) who succeeded him.

    This is a country whose military recently had to lower the minimum required height for its soldiers to 4 feet, 9 inches because of chronic malnutrition, the Los Angeles Times reports. One-third of North Korean children are believed to be ‘permanently stunted’ because of a lack of food. Additionally, Amnesty International has reported that crippling food shortages have forced malnourished North Koreans to eat grass and tree bark just to survive.

    (The Atlantic Wire, April 12, 2012)

    Therefore, you might wonder why North Korea is forfeiting over 240,000 tons of food aid from the United States by insisting on spending hundreds of millions to launch this rocket to “monitor weather patterns.” Well, its perverse calculation is that a successful launch will give it a much stronger hand to extort (with threats to attack the South or sell nukes to terrorists) tons more in food and money when it returns to the negotiating table for patently disingenuous talks about dismantling its nuclear program. And, past being prologue, North Korea is right.

    Meanwhile, it is surreal enough that Cuba has survived for 50 years with an economy stuck in 1962 (the year of the U.S. embargo). It is even more so that North Korea has thrived for 60 with an economy stuck in 1953 (the year the Korean War ended).

    This is why, despite all of the worldwide Sturm und Drang now surrounding Baby Kim’s testing of yet another missile, it all smacks of a groundhog-day spectacle not worthy of any further or new comment.

    UPDATE

    Missile test bombs

    The following only affirms my dismissive take on this spectacle:

    For the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, who completed the last step in his hurried ascension to power in Pyongyang on Friday, his government’s failure to put a satellite into orbit is a $1 billion humiliation.

    Mr. Kim wanted to mark his ascension to top political power — timed with the country’s biggest holiday in decades, the 100th birthday of his grandfather and North Korean founder, Kim Il-sung — with fireworks, real and symbolic. And the launching of its Kwangmyongsong, or ‘Bright Shining Star,’ satellite was the marquee event.

    On Friday, the satellite disintegrated in a different kind of fireworks. The rocket carrying it exploded mid-air about one minute after the liftoff, according to American, South Korean and Japanese officials.

    (New York Times, April 13, 2012)

    This gives a whole new meaning to the term, minute man, eh?

    But Baby Kim is only twenty-something and this was his first time. So instead of reveling in his embarrassment, I say we pat him on the head, let him know that every man suffers the premature “explosion” of his missile at this age, and assure him that things will get better.

    Otherwise, this little jerk might really go ballistic and launch sure-fire missiles into South Korea in a cataclysmic attempt to prove his manhood.

    Related commentaries:
    North Korea’s Nuclear Test: Wagging the U.S. Dog
    North Korea …calling the world’s bluff
    Kim Jong il … is dead

    * This commentary was published originally on Thursday, April 12 at 9:07 am

  • Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 8:41 AM

    China Invading U.S. ‘Sphere of Influence’ in the Caribbean

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Now I know what John the Baptist must have felt like when Jesus began preaching the same gospel he’d been preaching in the wilderness for so many years.

    Because I’ve been writing about the geopolitical implications of China buying up influence throughout the Caribbean for years, but nobody seemed to care. By contrast, the New York Times publishes a report on these same implications for the first time this week, and everyone is reacting as if the region were suddenly being plagued by an epidemic of yellow fever.

    Significantly, though, the U.S. government is reacting (officially) as if this report is full of sound and fury signifying nothing. A reaction that is frankly stupefying considering that China is not coming in concealed inside a proverbial Trojan Horse. Instead, to continue the analogy, it is straddling that horse and riding in like a conquering Caesar.

    In any case, here is a little of what I wrote way back in 2005:

    This week, at the China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Co-operation Forum in Jamaica, Vice President Zeng Qinghong is expected to consolidate China’s geopolitical strategy of co-opting the economies of the Caribbean. He reveled in the Santa Claus-like reception he got at every port of call during his tour of the region…

    However, Christopher Columbus might serve as a more analogous trailblazer for VP Qinghong than Santa Claus. Because China’s search for new markets is really a pretext for their quest for dominion over this region. And with massive direct investments and Chinese tourists boosting visits to unprecedented levels, doing business with China will soon become indispensable to the economies of the Caribbean. In turn, China’s ability to exercise unprecedented political influence will be assured…

    What happens if China decides that converting the container ports, factories, and chemical plants it has funded throughout the Caribbean into dual military and commercial use is in its strategic national interest? Would these governments comply? Would they have any real choice? And when they do comply, would the U.S. then blockade that island – the way it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis? Now consider China making similar strategic moves in Latin America where its purportedly benign Yuan diplomacy dwarfs its Caribbean operations. This new Cold War could then turn very hot indeed….

    (“China Buying Political Dominion over the Caribbean,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 22, 2005)

    Here is how I commented on the chicken’s coming home to roost in this respect 2010:

    The Bahamas is having a precedent-setting dispute with China over a development agreement which calls for Chinese men to comprise the vast majority of workers on a $2.5 billion project (Baha Mar) that China is funding…

    For over a decade now, China has been buying up influence throughout the Caribbean to enable it to exercise its economic, political, and, perhaps, even military power to further its national interests without question … let alone challenge. And nothing demonstrated its modus operandi in this respect quite like the way it allegedly bribed (or attempted to bribe) every nation in the region to sever ties with Taiwan: almost all of them, including The Bahamas, duly complied…

    To those who may have thought that China would be a more benign hegemon than the United States, I offer yet another instructive cliché: better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

    (“China Putting Squeeze on The Bahamas. Your Country Could Be Next,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 2010)

    And here is how I warned about looking to China to help vindicate democratic freedoms or mediate regional disputes:

    China acts like a parent who seems to think her only duty is to feed and clothe her child – all guidance about and regard for right and wrong be damned. The latest example of this is China’s refusal to even voice disapproval of the brutal crackdown Syria is now carrying out against pro-democracy protesters…

    It behooves the black countries of Africa and the Caribbean that are sucking up to China these days as a more generous Sugar Daddy than the United States to appreciate that if the Apartheid government of South Africa were still in power China would have no qualms about doing business with it too.

    (“China’s Deficit? No Moral Authority to Lead,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 16, 2011)

    I have proselytized similar concerns over the years in South Africa Bans Dalai Lama to Appease China, March 24, 2009; World Beware: China Calling in (Loan-Sharking) Debts, February 3, 2010; and many other commentaries.

    By comparison, here are excerpts from China Buys Inroads in the Caribbean, Catching U.S. Notice – the above-referenced Times report (published April 7) which paraphrases so much of what I’ve been writing about I’m actually flattered:

    China’s economic might has rolled up to America’s doorstep in the Caribbean, with a flurry of loans from state banks, investments by companies and outright gifts from the government in the form of new stadiums, roads, official buildings, ports and resorts in a region where the United States has long been a prime benefactor.

    The Chinese have flexed their economic prowess in nearly every corner of the world. But planting a flag so close to the United States has generated intense vetting — and some raised eyebrows — among diplomats, economists and investors…

    “When you’ve got a new player in the hemisphere all of a sudden, it’s obviously something talked about at the highest level of governments,” said Kevin P. Gallagher, a Boston University professor who is an author of a recent report on Chinese financing, “The New Banks in Town.”

    Most analysts do not see a security threat, noting that the Chinese are not building bases or forging any military ties that could invoke fears of another Cuban missile crisis…

    “I am not particularly worried, but it is something the U.S. should continue to monitor,” said Dennis C. Shea, the chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a bipartisan Congressional panel. But, he added, “With China you have to be wary of possible policy goals behind the effort…”

    The new stadium here, Bahamian officials said, was in part a reward for breaking ties with Taiwan in 1997 and establishing and keeping relations with China.

    It is one of several sporting arenas that China has sprinkled in Caribbean and Central American nations as gratitude for their recognition of “one China” — in other words, for their refusal to recognize Taiwan, which Chinese officials consider part of their country…

    “They are buying loyalty and taking up the vacuum left by the United States, Canada and other countries, particularly in infrastructure improvements,” said Sir Ronald Sanders, a former diplomat from Antigua and Barbuda.

    “If China continues to invest the way it is doing in the Caribbean, the U.S. is almost making itself irrelevant to the region,” he added. “You don’t leave your flank exposed.”

    I will only add this sobering thought:

    The United States ended up on its costly 10-year misadventure in Afghanistan because it left its flank exposed in that region after helping the Afghan Mujahideen defeat the Soviet Union.  Now it seems doomed to end up on another costly, even if less bloody, misadventure in the Caribbean (to reclaim its sphere of influence from China) because it left its flank exposed in this region after winning the Cold War.

    Stupid Americans … they’ll never learn.

    In any event,  insofar as sounding the alarm on this issue is concerned, I hereby baptize the New York Times in the name of the Caribbean, influence and the Cold War.

    Related commentaries:
    China buying political dominion
    China putting squeeze on The Bahamas
    China bans Dalai Lama
    China’s deficit

  • Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Tyler Perry’s Claim of Racial Profiling is BS!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am not without some racial empathy of my own, having had similar run-ins with the police in Arlington, Virginia over the past 15 years. Therefore, given that I always managed to reason with the good ole boys who ‘racially profiled’ me, I find it incomprehensible that Gates was unable to do the same in this situation.

    (“The Arrest of Prof Gates Was Probably Justified,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 21, 2009)

    This, in part, is how I expressed dismay after learning that Black Harvard Professor Skip Gates was so seized with racial inferiority under routine questioning by a White cop that he became belligerent and ended up getting arrested.

    Which brings me to Tyler Perry – the Black entertainment mogul who has become so rich and powerful in Hollywood that only people like Oprah, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg can be considered his peers.

    Perry took to his Facebook page on April 1 to give his 6.9 million friends — what he deemed to be — an important lesson in racial profiling.  It is noteworthy, though, that he began this lesson by announcing that the incident in question occurred “a few days before President Obama was supposed to speak at my studio.” Because this casual bit of name dropping betrays the sense of entitlement that got the police’s attention.

    In any event, this lesson consisted of Perry going on about how his “security team” instructed him to take safety precautions when driving to avoid being followed. Evidently, these precautions include making illegal turns, which he did one night and was pulled over by the cops.

    He claims that when the two “White officers” approached and cited his traffic violation, he informed them that he was merely taking safety precautions as instructed. Instead of evoking sympathy, however, this merely incited incredulity. What’s more, before he could intone the customary, “Don’t you know who I am?, one of them startled him by banging on his front passenger-side window, exclaiming that his window is tinted and demanding he wind it down immediately.

    His very long story short, they gave him the third degree, you know, as if he had stolen the expensive car he was driving. But soon a Black officer arrived on the scene and, according to Tyler, “He took one look at me and had that ‘Oh No’ look on his face.” Suffice it to say, he finally got the special, celebrity treatment he felt he was entitled to — complete with profound and profuse apologies.

    But, for Perry, the indignities they inflicted upon him had to be redressed. He informed his friends that this was a classic case of “racial profiling,” which could easily have unfolded in Rondney-King fashion had he not heeded his Mama’s admonition to effectively play Uncle Tom when dealing with the police. More to the point, though, he vowed his intent to have no less an authority than the FBI investigate the way they “badgered” him.

    But here is why this is such bullshit, and why compelling the police to investigate his claim is just an appalling abuse of his celebrity power and a waste of their time:

    This would be racial profiling only if the police clearly stopped Tyler for no other reason than that he was “driving while Black.” But by his own admission, the police stopped him because he committed an egregious traffic violation. (What his “security team” told him to feed his paranoid self-importance is no justification for breaking the law.) Moreover, the police can argue that, for all they knew, it could have been Bruce Willis behind the wheel when they stopped him. After all, his windows were tinted, which itself gave them probable cause to stop him.

    Therefore, that Tyler thinks this is a clear case of racial profiling says more about his ignorance and conceit than it does about corrupt policing in the city of Atlanta. This is brought into stark relief when juxtaposed with the clear case of racial profiling that led to the infamous killing of Trayvon Martin.

    Not to mention the irony of making this specious charge while taking such obvious relish in the celebrity treatment the police eventually accorded him once they realized he was “Madea” in drag.

    Frankly, his account is an insult to the thousands of Black men (like me) who are really racially profiled every day and who get unfairly ticketed … or worse. Of course, because he posted this rant on April 1, I suppose one could dismiss it as just a pathetic, attention-grabbing April fool’s joke.

    Get over yourself Tyler!

    Related commentaries:
    The arrest of Prof Gates was probably justified

  • Monday, April 9, 2012 at 6:54 AM

    Mike Wallace, Godfather of ‘60 Minutes,’ is dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The last thing I wanted to do when I began commenting on the deaths of famous people four years ago was to contribute to our culture’s morbid fascination with celebrities. In fact, I only began this feature of my weblog as a lark to propagate the superstition that the deaths of famous people come in threes.

    I hereby declare that henceforth I shall comment only on the deaths of famous people who have made pioneering or extraordinary contributions to mankind.

    (“Post Mortem on Deaths of Famous People Commentaries,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 4, 2010)

    Yesterday’s death of Mike Wallace vindicates my decision not to write commentaries on the recent deaths of three famous people – despite inquiries and prodding from readers. Because as famous as assembly-line “painter of light” Thomas Kinkade was, for example, he was no pioneer.

    By contrast, to appreciate why commenting on Wallace’s death is so warranted, all one has to know is that he was not just one of the founders of 60 Minutes, the most acclaimed and venerated news program in the history of television, but also its most dynamic, provocative, prosecutorial, versatile, and, above all, compelling reporter.

    Specifically, he pioneered the irreverent and combative style of interviewing that made 60 Minutes such must-see TV, giving it an unprecedented and unmatched run as a top-10 show from 1977-2001.

    And this style was always on display whether he was interviewing controversial world leaders like Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf, major newsmakers like tobacco whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand and euthanasia practitioner Dr. Jack Kevorkian, political firebrands like PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and NOI Minister Louis Farrakhan,  iconic entertainers like actress Barbra Streisand and pianist Vladimir Horowitz, or countless scammers, fraudsters, and cheaters like Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens – who, after being indicted as a steroid abuser, earned the distinction of being the last person Wallace made squirm on 60 Minutes in January 2008.

    In fact, regular viewers probably got as much enjoyment out of watching a Wallace interview as some people get out of watching a Snooki rant.

    All of us at CBS News and particularly at 60 Minutes owe so much to Mike. Without him and his iconic style, there probably wouldn’t be a 60 Minutes. There simply hasn’t been another broadcast journalist with that much talent. It almost didn’t matter what stories he was covering, you just wanted to hear what he would ask next.

    (Jeff Fager, chairman CBS News and executive producer of ’60 Minutes,’ CBS News, April 8, 2012)

    I agree. Alas, all one needs to know about the state of television today is that it was reality-TV shows like American Idol and The Jersey Shore that pushed 60 Minutes out of the top 10….

    I am always loath to comment on the private lives of public figures – unless they make a public spectacle of their private lives (a la Bill Clinton). In this case, however, it is worth noting the ironic public service Wallace provided by disclosing his private battle with depression, which became so acute after Vietnam-era General William Westmoreland sued him for libel in 1984 that he attempted suicide. Because knowing that this commanding, if not domineering, media personality could be humbled by depression is almost as instructive as seeing Mohammed Ali, “the greatest fighter of all time,” humbled by Parkinson’s.

    In a similar vein, it was interesting to hear his old friend, former CNN talk-show host Larry King, wax envious today about Wallace’s distinctive voice. After all, anyone who has seen Wallace honing his interviewing skills on his pre-60 Minutes show, Night Beat, knows that his habitual smoking probably did a lot to shape the sound of that voice.

    Which puts a completely different perspective on his dogged reporting later on 60 Minutes on the way tobacco companies were spiking cigarettes to keep smokers like him hooked. Reports are that after kicking this habit he developed a more obnoxious one of  walking up to complete strangers and yanking cigarettes from their mouths.  He was arguably on a one-man crusade to get as many smokers to quit as he helped get hooked as a spokesman for Parliament cigarettes during the early days of television.

    All the same, there’s no denying that Wallace prided himself far more on his hard-nosed, investigative reporting than on his distinctive-sounding voice. Here, for example, is what the New York Times quotes him saying in its obit today:

    Reputations for reporters are made by discovering things underneath that rock.

    Indeed, his epitaph could say, He left no rock unturned.

    Wallace died last night at an elder-care facility in New Canaan, Connecticut. He was 93.

    Farewell, Mike.

    Related commentaries:
    Post mortem

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 7:34 pm

  • Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    Eat more chocolate! Doctor’s orders…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Courtesy Mike Lukovich

    Happy Easter / Passover

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