• Saturday, December 20, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    The Tsar Wears No Clothes…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


    Related commentaries:
    Putin blaming US

  • Saturday, December 20, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    The Sony Chicken Picture Show…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


    Related commentaries:
    Boycott Sony

  • Friday, December 19, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    Happy Hanukkah

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    wishing-you-a happy-hanukkah

  • Friday, December 19, 2014 at 8:05 AM

    Boycott Sony (and Other Studios Too)!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This boycott is not about some silly movie, The Interview, which ends with the exploding head of North Korea’s tin-pot dictator, Kim Jung-un.

    • boycottIt’s about Sony making a mockery of America’s vaunted and enviable freedoms – of speech and expression – by pulling it under dubious threats from anonymous hackers.
    • It’s about major theater chains, like Regal, AMC, and Cinemark, doing the same by deciding not to run it even if Sony had the balls to release it.
    • It’s about other major studios, like Universal, Warner Bros, and 20th Century Fox, doing the same by refusing to sign a petition (being circulated by no less a star than George Clooney) in support 0f Sony’s right to release it. This, of course, betrays the foreboding fact that these studios would cave in under similar threats too.
    • It’s about these studios being so willing to make a mockery of our freedoms that Paramount even denied permission for appropriately defiant movie theaters to re-release its 2004 comedy Team America, which parodies Jung-un’s father in similar fashion. They would have you believe they’re willing to do so because they are concerned about hackers blowing you up in the theater – “9/11-style. As if implementing more security measures is as foreign to them as implementing more democratic freedoms is to Kim Jung-un. Whereas, in truth, they’re doing so in a venal, cowardly, irresponsible and, ultimately, self-defeating effort to “protect shareholder interests” and spare themselves the embarrassment more leaked e-mails would inflict. Indeed, if they did not fear hackers leaking more e-mails by top executives dissing A-list actors and reveling in racist banter, which is clearly bad for business, far from caving in, Sony and theater chains would probably be welcoming these threats as good box office promotion….

    For these reasons, to say nothing of their untenable implications, I hereby call for a national boycott - not just of Sony’s movies, but of all movies … period!

    Do not set foot in a theater this holiday season. And stay away — not only until Sony reverses its decision and releases this movie, but also until other studios issue a public pledge never to cave in to such threats ever again.

    Let us show these spineless studios and equally spineless theater chains that they have far more to fear from indignant movie fans than from anonymous hackers (especially if their paymasters are in fact the humorless thugs who run North Korea – as the FBI now contends).

    Related commentaries:
    Crying shame: Sony

  • Friday, December 19, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    Putin Blames America for Russia’s Aggression

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Russian President Vladimir Putin’s year-end press conferences are becoming more like theatre performances every year.


    In fact, I got the impression watching his three-hour show yesterday that it was worthy of actor Spalding Gray’s four-hour, one-man show, Swimming to Cambodia.

    Except that, there is probably more truth in Gray’s theatrical script than there ever is in Putin’s political spin.

    Russian President Putin attends his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow

    In this case, Putin strutted and fretted his hours up on the stage mostly blaming the United States for all that ails Russia. You know: a rouble plummeting in value, foreign companies competing with rich Russians to divest as much as quickly as possible, and falling oil prices making the economic foundation of his highly touted Novorossiya seem like quicksand.

    But Putin blaming the United States for Russia’s economic woes is rather like Nixon blaming the Soviet Union for Watergate.

    Remarkably, even when Putin blurted out a relatively factual and cogent argument, he promptly undermined it by weaving it into a larger theme that could only make sense in the parallel universe he’s trying to create in Russia.

    For example, here is what Putin said about the obscene amount of money the United States spends on military defense:

    The budget of our defense ministry for the next year has increased, in dollars it is about $50 billion. The Pentagon budget is almost 10 times bigger…

    [A]nd you want to say we are the aggressors?

    (Channel 4 News, December 18, 2014)

    I sympathize. In fact, here is how I presaged Putin’s main point years ago (albeit with respect to China, not Russia):

    American foreign policy has long been characterized by insidious hypocrisy and egregious double standards. And nothing demonstrates these features quite like the Bush Administration insinuating that China is becoming a regional and international menace because it has budgeted $45 billion in military expenditures for fiscal 2007. After all, Bush has budgeted $625 billion to feed America’s military industrial complex for this same year.

    (“Who Says America Is Concerned about China’s Booming Military,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 11, 2007)

    I disagree, however, with Putin’s insinuation that Russia’s comparatively small budget completely refutes any claim that it is an aggressor.

    For this is rather like a scavenging hyena devouring the carcass of a gazelle then accusing a plant-eating elephant of doing so just because the elephant is, well, 1000 times bigger.

    What’s more, it was the undisputed record of Russia’s aggression (not just in Ukraine, but Georgia too) that forced the United States and Europe to impose the sanctions that are contributing so much to its economic woes.

    Apropos of which, this is why Putin analogizing Russia to a big bear just feeding itself and protecting its territory was the most self-flattering and self-delusional part of his very self-indulgent media performance yesterday.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 7:04 AM

    A Crying Shame: Sony Pulls ‘The Interview’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 9.54.54 PMI must confess that I appreciated hackers exposing the racist banter Sony Chairman Amy Pascal and über producer Scott Rudin engaged in – as “Sony: Leaked E-mails Expose Big-Shot Hollywood Liberals as Closet Racists,” December 12, 2014, will attest.

    But I never thought those hackers were willing or able to do anything more than cause Sony endless embarrassment (by releasing more private e-mails) and financial woes (by pirating or spoiling unreleased films).

    download (8)Imagine my shock, therefore, when Sony pulled The Interview from distribution, citing manifestly incredible threats to blow up theaters if it did not:

    With theater chains defecting en masse, Sony Pictures Entertainment has pulled the planned Christmas Day release of The Interview.

    In announcing the decision to cancel the holiday debut, Sony hit back at the hackers who threatened movie theaters and moviegoers and who have terrorized the studio and its employees for weeks.

    ‘Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like,’ the statement reads.

    (Variety, December 17, 2014)

    To be clear, The Interview is nothing more than a slapstick comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as two wannabe reporters the CIA enlists to assassinate the president of North Korea, Kim Jung-un. But, if North Korea is making these threats, it would not be the first case of a different culture taking Western humor deadly serious….

    Mind you, I would understand a studio head, like Pascal, pulling a movie because hackers were blackmailing her (privately) with threats to release material even more compromising than racist e-mails (like a video of her pooch nuzzling her cooch, for example). Even so, though, you’d have to be a gullible fool to think that, by caving in to their demands, these hackers will spare you any further embarrassing leaks. Moreover, it strikes me as utterly preposterous to do so simply because anonymous hackers were hurling the kinds of Chicken-Little threats that have made North Korea a laughing stock on the world stage.

    Kim_Jong_Il_TANot to mention that the congenitally irreverent creators of South Park got away with portraying Jung-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, in an even more unflattering light in the 2004 marionette comedy, Team America: World Police. This, incidentally, is why I find these threats so incredible….

    Frankly, it’s far more likely that a disgruntled Edward Snowden-like insider is behind this hack and, for obvious reasons, is just routing blame to North Korea. And, it speaks volumes about the kind of propaganda North Korea thrives on that it is accepting this blame as if it were a national Christmas present.

    Whatever the case, this reaction by Sony and theater chains is as incomprehensible as it is unsustainable.

    After all, what happens if/when hackers issue similar threats against another Sony picture, or against that of a different studio? Beyond this, what happens if/when hackers threaten to blow up several NFL stadiums during Sunday games (simultaneously al-Qaeda style)?

    It’s plainly untenable to think that others would act in the cowardly, irresponsible, shortsighted, and, ultimately, self-defeating way Sony Pictures and theater chains have in this case.


    Related commentaries:
    Sony e-mails

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 9:44 p.m.

  • Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Obama Takes Historic Steps Towards Lifting Cuban Embargo!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have written many commentaries on America’s 50-year embargo against Cuba. Here, for example, are excerpts from two of them in which I proffered the moral imperative for the United States to lift it.

    • fidelb-720814From “Dancing on Castro’s Grave Is Not Only Unseemly; It’s Premature,” August 2, 2007:

    Most of us in the Americas are acutely aware that Exhibit A for the patent double standards in U.S. foreign policy is not America’s relationship with Palestine; it’s America’s relationship with Cuba.

    Moreover, all fair-minded and progressive-thinking Americans lament that, for almost 45 years, U.S. foreign policy throughout this region has paid undue deference to a cabal of Cuban exiles in Miami – whose political sensibilities are guided by nothing more than their visceral, vindictive and, ultimately, self-defeating hatred of Fidel Castro.

    • And from “European Union Lifts Sanctions against Cuba. United States Will Follow … Eventually,” June 23, 2008:

    Advocates for America’s puerile, inhumane and hypocritical policy towards Cuba invariably cite Fidel Castro’s dictatorship as justification for sustained hostilities. But all one has to do is cite China – with whose dictators the U.S. courts a very beneficial relationship – to dismiss this justification as demonstrably specious…

    Long before his first trip to Cuba in 1998, the Pope [John Paul II] decried America’s policy towards Cuba as ‘oppressive, unjust, and ethically unacceptable…’ Specifically, he pronounced that ‘imposed isolation strikes the people indiscriminately, making it ever more difficult for the weakest to enjoy the bare essentials of decent living, things such as food, health and education.’

    More to the point, though, while other pundits were waxing either theoretical or completely hopeless about this prospect, here is the political predicate I posited for the United States to finally lift the embargo:

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

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

    B5EqmhuCcAAIj6UWell, thusly re-elected, he is now vindicating my expectations, and sealing his legacy:

    Today the United States of America is changing it relationship with the people of Cuba … we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries…

    Consider that for more than 35 years we’ve had relations with China – a far larger country also governed by a communist party…

    To those who oppose the steps I’m announcing today … I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.

    (“President Obama Statement on Cuba,” C-SPAN, December 17, 2014)

    VbTms.AuSt.91Obama delineated the many steps he intends to take to implement this policy shift immediately, especially with respect to diplomatic relations, financial transactions, communications, travel … and trade.

    Out of respect, he urged Congress to come to its senses and pass legislation to formally lift the embargo. But this is no more necessary for Obama to normalize relations with Cuba than Congress coming to its senses and passing legislation to formally apologize for slavery was for President Lincoln to abolish slavery. (Congress finally apologized in 2008  – almost 150 years after Lincoln took his steps).

    For its part, Cuba agreed, among other things, to continue political reforms, release scores of political prisoners (from a list the United States provided), and allow Cubans unfettered access to the Internet.

    RUBIO-videoSixteenByNine540Unsurprisingly, Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is leading the chorus of those insisting that Cuba has not implemented enough democratic reforms to “deserve” normalized relations with the United States.

    But, as indicated above, all one has to do is challenge those folks to cite what reforms made China deserving, especially given that no less a person than Rubio himself voted just this year to support normalized relations with this unabashedly communist dictatorship.

    They exclaim that America is getting nothing in exchange.

    But, putting aside the imperial and mercantile arrogance inherent in this exclamation, all one has to do is challenge them to cite what benefits America has gotten in exchange for the 50-year embargo they still support.

    Frankly, (mostly White) Miami Cubans care more about continuing their legacy of hatred and resentment against the Castros than about ending the legacy of poverty and isolation (mostly Black) Cubans – who were too poor to escape – have endured.

    But, like Obama intimated, those who oppose normalizing relations with Cuba, after decades of the same old sanctions, fit the Einsteinian definition of insanity.

    That said, I would be remiss not to note that these are historic steps every president from Lyndon B. Johnson to George W. Bush wanted to, but dared not, take. Which is why, like healthcare reform, this milestone development demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt the boldness and effectiveness of Obama’s transformational leadership.

    Incidentally, anyone who thinks Obama is normalizing relations with Cuba just because it released two American spies probably also thinks he championed healthcare reform just to provide poor women easy access to abortions.

    140316-obama-putin-jms-1716_8738df87611b8c672fae8d824b332866No less noteworthy, though, is that this move makes fools of the pundits who have been ridiculing Obama – as an upstart playing checkers on the world stage against Vladimir Putin as a master playing chess.

    Not least because all Putin has to show for his ham-handed moves in Eastern Ukraine is history’s biggest money pit in Crimea, a national economy that is hurtling into recession, and Russia now as reviled and isolated, for all intents and purposes, as North Korea.

    vladimir-putin2All this has befallen his country as a direct result of Obama’s deft move to marshal European nations to join the United States in imposing crippling sanctions to punish Putin for his Hitlerian aggression. And, significantly, Obama did it without resorting to any of the Cold War rhetoric and bullying military maneuvers Putin has been relying on to make himself appear strong.

    Which brings me to the geostrategic timing of this move. After all, the truly humbling irony should not be lost on anyone that Obama is bringing Cuba in from the cold with one hand, while pushing its former Communist patron, Russia, out in the cold with the other hand. And, trust me, Cuba is eager to grasp America’s hand in friendship as it jumps from Russia’s Cold War sinking ship….

    In an address on Cuba-US relations broadcast on national radio and television on Wednesday, Cuban President Raul Castro said that US President Barack Obama’s decision to normalise relations between the two countries deserves the respect and acknowledgement of the Cuban people.

    (Caribbean News Now, December 17, 2014)

    So who’s the master now, bitches? Hell, this (chess) move might make Obama finally worthy of that affirmative-action Nobel Peace Prize he won five years ago. After all, Barack Obama normalizing ties with Cuba is, arguably, every bit as consequential as Jimmy Carter brokering peace between Egypt and Israel. No?

    Hail Obama!

    CARICOM-Single-Market-and-EconomyFinally, I feel constrained to remind my compatriots down in the Caribbean of this abiding fringe concern:

    I find it ironic, if not misguided, that CARICOM leaders traveled to Cuba – in an unprecedented show of unity amongst themselves and solidarity with the Castro regime – for this elusive purpose.

    After all, my call [to lift the embargo] was always tempered by my hope that a fully integrated CARICOM would be firmly established to compete economically (and politically) in the region with a Cuba unbound by the perennial restrictions the U.S. has placed on its growth…

    [T]he irony seems completely lost on our leaders that they were attending a summit to discuss economic ties with a country that not only poses a far greater threat to their economies than the global financial crisis, but also looms as yet another cause for more zero-sum infighting among themselves (in the absence of integration).

    (“CARICOM’s Ironic, If Not Misguided, Call to Lift Cuban Embargo,” Caribbean News Now, December 12, 2008)

    Alas, integrating our economies into a Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) seems even less likely today than six years ago, when I expressed this existential concern.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    Massacre in Pakistan Shows Muslims Suffer Most from Islamic Terrorism

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The entire world watched in horror on Monday as police stormed a café in Australia to take out one Islamic terrorist – who was holding 17 people hostage. Miraculously, despite all of the terror that incident inflicted, only two innocent people were killed.

    slide_389832_4720052_compressedNow, just a day later, comes this humbling reminder that, when it comes to Islamic terrorism, those who practice Islam have far more to fear:

    Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing at least 141 people, mostly children, before Pakistani officials declared a military operation to clear the school over.

    The overwhelming majority of the victims were students at the school, which instructs grades 1-10. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the assault and rushed to Peshawar to show his support for the victims.

    (The Associated Press, December 16, 2014)

    It speaks volumes, however, that American media are dedicating more coverage today to people now mourning in Australia than to people still wailing in Pakistan. Hell, even rank media speculation about another presidential matchup between a Bush (Jeb) and a Clinton (Hillary) is cutting into coverage of this massacre in Pakistan.

    To be fair, though, such terrorist attacks are nothing new in Pakistan; whereas this was the first such attack in Australia. In fact, Pakistan has suffered the equivalent of ten 9/11 terrorist attacks since, well, 9/11.

    President Asif Ali Zardari vowed to continue Pakistan’s fight against militancy while Taliban attackers laid siege to a police station in Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. ‘Terrorists violate both human and divine values by inflicting death and destruction on fellow human beings. They have no religion,’ he said.

    Zardari said that militant attacks had killed 35,000 people in Pakistan, 5,000 of them law enforcement personnel, and caused material damage totalling $67 billion.

    (The International New York Times, June 26, 2011)

    article-2875729-241B256A00000578-999_636x382It is particularly distressing that innocent women and children are so often the targets of Islamic terrorists, who proudly proclaim to kill in the name of Allah.

    Not to mention even more deadly Muslim-on-Muslim attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those now inflicting terror throughout several countries in Africa.

    In any event, the routine nature of this latest terrorist attack might explain the lack of sustained media coverage. After all, such attacks in Pakistan have become even more commonplace than school shootings in the United States.

    But, as I stated in my commentary on the terrorist attack in Australia, I see no point in commenting on the medieval, dogmatic and bloodthirsty ideology that evidently inspires these terrorists. What’s more, I fear law-enforcement authorities will prove no more capable of stopping terrorist attacks in Pakistan than they are of stopping school shootings here.

    Which is why all we can do is send our thoughts and prayers out to all those affected in this case.

    That said, I’m acutely aware that there’s nothing Islamic about terrorism. Islam, by definition, is “a religion of peace” after all.

    The problem, however, is that far too many political leaders in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have sanctioned all manner of terrorism, including the subjugation of women, in the name of Allah; while far too many religious leaders in those countries have failed to condemn it – out of fear, I suppose, of going to jail or losing their head.

    islam_religion_of_peace_022More generally, there’s the Taliban-like behavior far too many purportedly mainstream Muslims exhibit:

    Muslims have been engaged in what is fast becoming an ironic and perverse religious rite; namely, defending perceived offenses to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad by rioting, looting, and threatening to kill!

    Their latest acts of holy vigilantism were triggered – unwittingly, one assumes – by Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on a 14th Century Christian emperor’s (evidently perspicacious and prescient) condemnation of the fanatical worship the Prophet Muhammad inspires…

    It is undeniable that what most people see today of the religion Muhammad brought is precisely the evil and inhuman things Emperor Paleologos condemned over 500 years ago. And, the irony is not lost on many of us that the bellicose way Muslims have reacted to the Pope’s comments only affirms the emperor’s condemnation.

    (“Pope Benedict Committed No Sin with Comments on Muhammad, and He Should Not Apologize,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 16, 2007)

    Perhaps most troubling of all, though, there’s the prevailing suspicion that the country’s notoriously perfidious Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, the ISI, cultivated the jihadi menace the “Pakistani Taliban” has wreaked with impunity for decades. And, that the ISI did so simply to undermine the enviable influence India and the United States wield throughout the region, including in Pakistan itself.

    For these reasons, I’m obliged to note that there might be a little reaping what you sow in Muslim-on-Muslim violence … in the name of Allah.

    Related commentaries:
    Lone wolf terrorizes Australia
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  • Monday, December 15, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorizes Australia

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A gunman who claims to have four bombs is holding up to 20 people hostage in complete darkness at a café in Sydney’s financial district…

    The siege began at 10am (local time) when [the lone wolf] – who was previously known to both Sydney police and media – entered the Lindt cafe in Martin Place carrying a pump-action shotgun.

    Shortly afterwards, hostages were seen holding a black flag with white Arabic text similar to those displayed by Islamic State.

    (Sky News, December 15, 2014)

    2411FADA00000578-2873855-image-a-71_1418657623776The “Breaking News” is that police stormed the café after nearly 17 hours of futile negotiations. Never mind that negotiating with a Muslim terrorist is like swimming in quicksand.

    Reports are that, in the conflagration that ensued, the gunman and two hostages were killed, and several others injured. But it would not surprise me to learn that the police did all of the killing and injuring – given what seemed like the thousand rounds of bullets they fired just to kill this lone wolf.

    Whereas the opportunity clearly presented itself numerous times throughout this standoff for a sniper to take him out with one bullet….

    In any event, this obliges me to repeat my view that, post 9/11, it’s almost always better to take one’s chances by fighting back as soon as one of these situations arises. For example, I can’t imagine terrorists attempting to hijack an airplane today and having all passengers just cower in fear and let them have their way.

    240DDFC100000578-2873855-Terrified_customers_and_employees_were_among_those_standing_with-a-41_1418607805775The same categorical imperative applies to terrorists attempting to hijack a café or any other place of public accommodation: think not to flee in fright, but to stay and fight! And this should be the case especially if it’s just one “lone wolf” against many able-bodied men (and women).

    This reflexive action of fighting back (as most of us would if a stranger suddenly slapped us in the face) would probably have the effect of shocking the terrorist into such paralysis that it would be as if he were hit by a stun gun.

    That said:

    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)


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

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

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


    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 [Islamist groups] deploy 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)

    My thoughts and prayers go out to all Australians, especially to the families of those directly affected.

    Until the next one then….

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, December 15, 2014 at 6:51 AM

    In Denying Dalai Lama, Pope more Politician than Pontiff

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    m_140909ttI have repeatedly denounced world leaders for refusing to meet with the Dalai Lama out of fear of incurring the wrath of China:

    Western leaders have made a mockery of their condemnation of the brutal crackdown on Tibetan monks by heeding China’s warning against meeting with the Dalai Lama in any official capacity. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeased the Chinese by refusing to meet with him at No. 10, choosing instead to meet only at the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This enabled Brown to claim that he was meeting the Dalai Lama ‘in a spiritual rather than political capacity.’

    (“Punishing China for Its Brutal Crackdown on Tibet? Hardly…,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2008)

    I have also lamented that, in each case, nothing but greed for Chinese money explains the hypocrisy inherent in world leaders shunning His Holiness.

    Pope-on-planeBut I never thought I would have cause to denounce Pope Francis as the latest world leader to appease China in this respect. Not least because of the precedent his predecessor Benedict XVI set by granting the Dalai Lama an audience in 2006.

    What’s more, this Pope has cultivated an ascetic reputation based not only on denouncing money as the root of all kinds of evil, but also on living a lifestyle of such Christian modesty, he has shamed many of the putative princes of the Catholic Church (aka the Cardinals) into giving up their imperial appurtenances.

    Yet, now comes this:

    Pope Francis has denied a private audience to the Dalai Lama because it could harm the Holy See’s already fraught relations with China, the Vatican said on Friday.

    The request was declined ‘for obvious reasons concerning the delicate situation’ with China, a Vatican spokesman said…

    The Dalai Lama, in Rome for a meeting of Nobel Peace Prize winners, told Italian media he had approached the Vatican about a meeting but was told it would not be possible.

    (Reuters, December 12, 2014)

    Frankly, not since Peter denied Jesus, thrice, has there been a more craven (and venal) case of one holy man denying another.

    Not to mention the mockery this makes of the mission of this pope’s own Pontifical Council for Interreligious dialogue. After all, just last month, Francis made quite a show of greeting Orthodox and Muslim leaders in Istanbul, and the Vatican hosted a conference on family values in Rome with “leaders from across the religious spectrum,” including Jews … and Buddhists.

    The Worship of MammonWhich constrains me to ask: what does it profit a pope to gain favor with China, but lose favor with God? Especially given that worshipping Mammon instead of God is China’s de facto state religion.

    Sadly, the only thing that explains the hypocrisy inherent in Francis denying the Dalai Lama is that, after decades of corruption at the Vatican bank, The Holy See’s fleeced and tainted finances are forcing it to sell not just its sovereignty to China, but its soul to boot:

    It came as no surprise to me when China began demanding that countries utterly shun the Dalai Lama pursuant to its national interest. Hell, it had become so empowered that it felt entitled to place this demand even on the United States, which (in a profound case of geopolitical irony) had since become China’s biggest debtor nation.

    (“South Africa Joins the Ranks of Countries ‘Selling Its Sovereignty to China,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 3, 2014)

    Meanwhile, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera caused all kinds of consternation last week, when it reported that Francis believes animals will go to heaven. But, when he arrives at The Pearly Gates, I fear Francis will have some ‘splainin’ to do for denying the Dalai Lama.

    Related commentaries:
    World beware
    Countries queuing up
    Save little Mandela praise for Dalai Lama
    Countries selling sovereignty to China

  • Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    My flu shot doesn’t work?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    You may not be in the clear this flu season, even if you’ve already been vaccinated…

    Health officials say this year’s flu vaccine isn’t working as well as expected. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 52% of recent flu samples were not a good match for the current vaccine…

    According to the CDC, the virus has mutated, making the flu vaccine less effective and it’s too late to make any adjustments to the vaccine.

    (FOX News, December 11, 2014)

    Er, what’s up, Doc? When did getting “the right shot” become such a crap shoot…?


  • Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 7:43 AM

    UPDATE: Sony Chairman Amy Pascal Buying Racial Indulgences…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    After weathering one of the most embarrassing days in her career, during which her racially insensitive remarks were disseminated on the Internet, Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal is ready to begin the ‘healing process,’ and reached out to the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

    ‘I’m being proactive,’ the executive tells The Hollywood Reporter. ‘And I want to accept responsibility for these stupid, callous remarks.’

    (Hollywood Reporter, December 12, 2014)

    Except that, if she takes this path to (presumed) racial absolution, Black folks will think Pascal is not only a closet racist but a shameless cynic to boot.


    After all, we know all too well that these venal reverends would grant racial indulgences to the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, in a minute, for an extortionate fee, er, contribution (to slush funds operated by Jackson’s practically defunct Rainbow Coalition and Sharpton’s notoriously indebted National Action Network). Pascal knows this all too well … too.

    But only God knows why so many White folks think kissing Jackson’s or Sharpton’s brass ring will wash away the stain of their racism in the eyes of all Black folks. (Come to think of it, at least Rev. Jesse “Hymietown” Jackson can commiserate….)

    download (7)Remember the spectacle radio shock jock Don Imus made of himself in this respect? And I don’t think Imus even has (or had) a racist bone in his body. That he referred to women on the Rutgers Basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” – not in private to one person, but on live radio to millions – would seem to indicate as much.  Never mind that that was a pretty accurate description of at least a couple of their players….

    Of course, neither the reverends nor Pascal could care any less about the insult this path (of least reflection) poses to the racial pride of any self-respecting Black. After all, I don’t know anyone who thinks either one of these race-baiting charlatans wields racial authority over even a few Blacks, the way the pope wields moral authority over all Catholics.

    Which is why Amy’s penitence will amount to little more than Jackson and Sharpton using moral suasion to extract as many (proverbial) pieces of silver from her as possible. And don’t be surprised if, pursuant to the racial indulgences they dispense, Sony makes quite a show of announcing the hiring of minorities; even though we all know this will amount to nothing more than Sony putting a nominated bagman for each reverend on its payroll.

    Related commentaries:
    Don Imus
    Sony e-mails expose Hollywood closet racists

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 6:33 p.m.

  • Friday, December 12, 2014 at 4:07 AM

    Sony: Leaked E-mails Expose Big-Shot Hollywood Liberals as Closet Racists

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    23F9046800000578-2869917-image-m-5_1418306455431Chattering classes – from Los Angeles to Cannes and all points in between – are all atwitter today about putative Hollywood liberals coming across like Tea Party racists in e-mails, which “anonymous” hackers leaked as part of their ongoing vendetta against Sony Pictures.

    What has so many White liberals expressing “shock, shock” (i.e., instead of looking in the mirror), is an exchange between Sony Chairman Amy Pascal and über producer Scott Rudin, in which they revel in the stereotypical view that Blacks, including even the president of the United States, could, if not should, only be interested in films about Blacks … preferably by Blacks:


    On the eve of a fundraising breakfast being attended by the President at the home of DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Pascal and Rudin went over things she could discuss with Obama while at the event.

    ‘Should I ask him if he liked DJANGO?’ Pascal asks Rudin, a reference to the 2012 Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained that dealt with the subject of slavery in the antebellum South.

    ’12 years,’ responds Rudin, referencing another slavery film, this time Steve McQueen’s 2013 Academy Award-winning work 12 Years a Slave…

    The pair then keep (sic) going, listing as many current films starring Black actors as they can name, including Lee Daniels’ The Butler and two Kevin Hart movies, Think Like a Man and Ride Along … ‘I bet he likes Kevin Hart,’ says Rudin at one point.

    (Daily Mail, December 11, 2014)

    It’s a wonder they did not damn Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever with this faint praise, or suggest that he might prefer popeyes instead of popcorn with his movies … and watermelon of course.

    Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.52.35 AMBut, if you are genuinely shocked by this insight into the “deeply rooted” racist views of White liberals, I am constrained to share this excerpt from “Obama-Day Tuesday: BET Founder Executes Black-on-Black Hit for Hillary,” January 15, 2008:

    As Sen. Ted Kennedy – who recently referred to a Republican Black female judge as an ape – can attest, White liberals will never pay a political price for insulting Blacks – who are either too stupid to realize they’re being insulted or don’t care, or both…

    What is even more disappointing, however, is that Blacks like BET’s Bob Johnson open wide and swallow their pride even when Hillary’s White liberal supporters make racist remarks about Obama: as was the case, for example, when Andrew Cuomo dismissed his campaign strategy in New Hampshire as “shucking and jiving”; and when Bob Kerry insinuated that Obama is a Muslim who was educated at a Jihadist madrassa in Indonesia, even though he knew these were bold-faced lies. Not to mention, just last week, when her husband Bill dismissed the very premise of Obama’s campaign, namely his opposition to the Iraq War, as an uppity fairy tale.

    Incidentally, please don’t be fooled by these political assassins – who hurl stink bombs, and then issue patently cynical statements clarifying or apologizing for their remarks. Also, in this respect, bear in mind that no two people show more indignant sincerity when lying or spinning for political expediency than Bill and Hillary Clinton. And, as between the two of them, Bill has nothing on Hillary.

    120517030533-stanley-obama-story-topTherefore, do not wait to see if their leaked racist e-mails will forced these White liberals to issue perfunctory and plainly disingenuous apologies.

    Wait to see if Obama will coddle them (either tacitly by saying nothing or overtly by accepting their apologies), the way fawning Black liberals like Johnson have always done; or if he will publicly condemn them (by upbraiding them Sista-Soulja style), the way proud Black liberals like me will always do.

    Moreover, beware of the likelihood that e-mail exchanges (to say nothing of private conversations) of this racist nature flow between far too many White liberals — not only in politics and entertainment, but in every context imaginable. But, for a little more insight into Hollywood liberals, consider this about their most celebrated member, George Clooney:

    Alas, it speaks volumes that, almost 50 years later, America not only remains as segregated on Sunday during church services, but seems equally so on Saturday during social occasions. This was brought into stark relief today when pictures of George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin’s wedding party went viral on social and mainstream media.

    But let me hasten to clarify that I really couldn’t care any less who White folks invite to their nuptials. It’s just that, if a putative Hollywood liberal like George can have a wedding party as lily-White as his apparently was, then we must face the sad fact that the wedding hour on Saturday might be the second most segregated hour of America.

    (“Clooney Nuptials Show Saturday Weddings as Segregated as Sunday Services,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 27, 2014)

    Mind you, to be fair to George, his Lebanese mother-in-law would probably have had it no other way…. Still, as Arsenio Hall might say, ‘things that make you go, hmmmm.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama-day Tuesday
    Clooney nuptials
    Racism worse under Obama…


    Hollywood big shots apologize

    Less than two hours after I published the above, the Huffington Post published the following (at 1:45 p.m. EST) under the headline “Scott Rudin & Amy Pascal Apologize After Racially Insensitive E-mails About Obama Leak”:

    Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin have apologized after racially insensitive e-mails they sent to each other leaked online as part of a massive hack of Sony Pictures.

    ‘The content of my e-mails were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am,’ Pascal said in a statement provided to the Huffington Post

    In a statement to Deadline.com, Rudin said that while the emails were private correspondence between friends that were ‘written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity,’ he understood the notes were out of line.

    No shit.

    This might seem like a script right out of Hollywood. But I can’t make this stuff up folks.

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 12:07 p.m.

  • Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 6:42 AM

    On CIA Torture: I Was Wrong

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    An exhaustive, five-year Senate investigation of the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects renders a strikingly bleak verdict of a program launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, describing levels of brutality, dishonesty and seemingly arbitrary violence that at times brought even agency employees to moments of anguish.

    The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee delivers new allegations of cruelty in a program whose severe tactics have been abundantly documented, revealing that agency medical personnel voiced alarm that waterboarding methods had deteriorated to ‘a series of near drownings’ and that agency employees subjected detainees to ‘rectal rehydration’ and other painful procedures that were never approved.

    The 528-page document catalogues dozens of cases in which CIA officials allegedly deceived their superiors at the White House, members of Congress, and even sometimes their own peers about how the interrogation program was being run and what it had achieved [‘curveballs’].

    (Washington Post, December 9, 2014)

    Inquisition Tortures

    The above is an overview of the damning indictment the Senate Intelligence Committee laid out against the CIA in a report released yesterday.

    But I should add that, in addition to waterboarding and rectal rehydration/feeding, which involved pureeing food and force feeding it up the rectum of detainees, CIA interrogation methods included:

    • sleep deprivation for as long as 180 hours (while standing or being frog marched naked);
    • all manner of extreme sensory deprivation; mock executions;
    • standing on broken legs and being hog-tied and strung up in all kinds of stressful/painful positions for inhumane lengths of time; and
    • marathon interrogation sessions (using all manner of threatening language, including threats to rape and kill detainees, and to do the same to their children and mothers).

    And bear in mind that the CIA subjected far too many detainees to these methods who not only had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11, but were not even members of al-Qaeda.

    It is particularly noteworthy that, in a Congress where positions on every issue fall along partisan lines, this report enjoys bipartisan support – with Democrats represented by chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, and Republicans by former presidential nominee and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

    More to the point, though, this report makes such cogent, compelling, and comprehensive reading that I feel compelled to admit that I was wrong to express such categorical support for the interrogation methods it indicts.

    Here, for example, is what I wrote after Obama ordered the CIA to end these interrogation methods just days into his presidency in January 2009:

    Obama’s presidency is now doomed if terrorists pull off another 9/11-style attack. Especially since this would stand in damning contrast to one of the only redeeming features of Bush’s purportedly failed presidency, namely, that he protected the American people from such an attack.

    Until Obama leads the country through seven years without another terrorist attack, I am going to accept President Bush’s word that the enhanced interrogation techniques he approved were absolutely indispensable in foiling numerous attacks and saving thousands of American lives.  The proof is in the pudding….

    And frankly, I don’t give a damn if, by some subjective application of international law, those techniques amount to torture. It certainly beats the alternative!

    (“CIA Memogate: Protecting the American People or Betraying American Values,” The IPINIONS Journal, April 23, 2009)

    Foremost, my conversion is informed by the fact that I am far more impressed by Obama preventing another 9/11 for six years without torturing people, than I am by Bush doing so for seven years by torturing people. Not to mention that Obama’s six years without such an attack fatally undermines the Bush-era argument that torturing terror suspects was necessary to keep America safe.

    mccain_senateBut, in light of this fact, I was also moved by McCain’s restatement of his longstanding opposition to these interrogation methods. Here, in part, is how he delivered it, like a veritable testimony, on the Senate floor following yesterday’s release (and bear in mind that he’s a former POW who was himself tortured in Vietnam):

    I believe the American people have a right – indeed, a responsibility – to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values…

    I know that victims of torture will … say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering… Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored…

    But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which this report makes clear were neither in the best interests of justice nor our security nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend.

    (C-SPAN, December 9, 2014)

    Some argue that disclosing these secrets will alienate America’s friends and embolden its enemies. Except that this rings hollow in light of the secrets Wikileaks and Edward Snowden disclosed; to say nothing of those the CIA itself disclosed in June 2007 with the declassification of its “Family Jewels,” which included revelations about assassinating foreign leaders, wiretapping journalists, reading private mail to and from China and the Soviet Union, and undermining anti-war activists. Not to mention that hostage-beheading terrorists hardly need incitement to unleash more jihadist rage against Americans.

    To be fair, Republicans on the Committee issued a rebuttal report, in which they maintain not only that the indicted methods do not constitute torture, but that they were indispensable in protecting the United States from another 9/11 attack. In fact, all defenders insist the CIA’s interrogation methods cited in this report do not constitute torture because the Bush Administration signed off on them. The incriminating irony seems lost on them that this is rather like Nixon insisting the activities cited in the particulars of impeachment against him do not constitute high crimes and misdemeanors because he, the president, ordered them.

    Alas, as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might say, the “known knowns … known unknowns … and unknown unknowns” inherent in claims and counterclaims in this respect are such that partisans will be debating the efficacy of these interrogation methods till kingdom come. But I refer you to a November 20, 2005, article in the Los Angeles Times, headlined “How the U.S. Fell Under the Spell of ‘Curveball’, to get a sense of just how willing the CIA is to make exaggerated claims about the efficacy of plainly flawed intelligence … even if the consequence is war (hint: Iraq’s WMDs).

    All the same, I would be guided in this not by what current CIA Director John Brennan says (even though it speaks volumes that he’s littering his defense of the agency with words like “regret … mistakes…abhorrent…unknowable…moving on.” Instead, I would be guided by what former CIA Director David Petraeus says:

    Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. That would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary.

    (ThinkProgress, May 5, 2009)

    In the meantime, I’d rather stand with Feinstein and McCain in defending American values against the presumptions and practices documented in their report, than with those who see nothing wrong with these presumptions and practices, presumably because, for them, America can do no wrong. Indeed, their rebuttal makes one think that these Republicans would argue that the internment of Japanese Americans was indispensable in helping the United States win World War II.

    Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 7.47.24 AMExcept that, while I’m in this confessional mood, I should also confess to developing grave concerns about Obama’s drone policy, which is killing thousands of innocent Muslims in a “clean-hands” effort not to interrogate, but to execute terror suspects. Frankly, it takes a willful suspension of common sense to think that killing terror suspects in drone strikes, with all of the collateral killing and property damage that entails, is more conscionable than torturing them at “black sites,” no matter how morally repugnant the methods used.

    All I can say is: God help Obama’s legacy when a Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee publishes a comprehensive report on his drone policy.

    For the record, I think it’s better to use CIA operatives to infiltrate terror groups to disrupt operations and provide actionable intelligences for Special Forces to capture high-value terror suspects: those captured should be interrogated using the reportedly more humane and effective FBI or Army Field methods; those who resist should be killed in direct combat fashion. But drone strikes should be reserved for clearly identified terrorist training camps or terrorists mobilized in combat formation away from civilian areas.

    In other words, if terrorists are hiding out in residential neighborhoods, where capturing them would entail too much risk, then surveil them until they can be captured or killed under more acceptable conditions.

    poar01_guantanamo0805That said, I agree with Obama that it would serve no national interest to prosecute the interrogators who tortured terror suspects on orders from their CIA handlers.

    After all, those handlers not only gave the interrogators a wink and a nod; but, by keeping Congress and the White House (where these methods were initially green lighted) “in the dark,” they also gave that which all politicians covet in such cases, plausible deniability.

    Moreover, nothing in this report impeaches the prevailing assertion that the sole intent of those implicated (from the interrogator in the field to the president in the White House) was to extract actionable intelligence for one noble purpose: to keep the country safe … no matter how demonstrably misguided that purpose might seem in hindsight.

    So here’s to learning from history, as well as from our own mistakes.

    Related commentaries:
    CIA memogate
    Obama droning terrorists
    CIA family jewels

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 6:22 a.m.

  • Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    Racism Worse Under Obama? Yes, but…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    7-10-12-obama-cedar-rapids-t1lrgMany people are expressing shock, dismay, and disillusionment that racism in the United States seems to have worsened since Obama’s purportedly post-racial election in 2008.

    President Barack Obama had hoped his historic election would ease race relations, yet a majority of Americans, 53 percent, say the interactions between the White and Black communities have deteriorated since he took office, according to a new Bloomberg Politics poll. Those divisions are laid bare in the split reactions to the decisions by two grand juries not to indict White police officers who killed unarmed Black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.

    (Bloomberg News, December 7, 2014)

    Ironically, no Black American has been targeted more by this racist awakening than President Obama himself (as old viral memes like “You lie,” “show me your birth certificate,” and “he’s a Muslim socialist” duly attest).

    Meanwhile, this (ironic) racial narrative is trending to such degree that I caught commentators on the BBC program, Dateline London, discussing it on Saturday.

    Except that I’m not sure why people are so “shocked, shocked” by this phenomenon (of Obama’s election giving White folks license to express “deeply rooted” racism):

    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)

    On a more local level, Whites who voted for a White man with a Black wife to become mayor of the country’s largest city, New York, New York, probably feel doubly “liberated.”


    Nonetheless, the greater irony is that, given this phenomenon, reactions to these grand jury decisions are not nearly as split along racial lines as the media would have you believe. You need only look at the media’s own coverage of ongoing protests – from New York to California – to see, with your own eyes, the multiracial nature of the protesters involved.

    ferguson-620x400Frankly, based on the “split reactions” to the O.J. Simpson verdict, reactions to these decisions seem more kumbaya than polarized.

    On the other hand, as shocked you might be by people feeling more “liberated to give way to their racial prejudices,” this is no cause for dismay or disillusionment. After all, the more people express their racism, the more likely it is that someone, perhaps even you, will disabuse them of it.

    In fact, this is the kind of daily, honest, person-to-person conversation on race we should welcome; instead of that phony, politically expedient claptrap politicians are always blathering about every time the media inflame racist passions.

    Moreover, these police shootings and grand jury decisions should not mislead us to believe that America is regressing to the bad old days of Jim Crow and race riots. Nor should they force the police into contrived (re)training programs to learn how to stop shooting unarmed Black men (especially given FBI statistics showing that they shoot more unarmed White men).

    POLICE_PROTESTS_CALIFORNIA_CANB103-2014DEC09_053105_561.jpgRather, I repeat, these shootings and decisions should teach people that they are not entitled to resist when the police are trying to arrest them. What’s more, when they’re not blocking city streets and chanting “Hands up, don’t shot,” “I can’t breathe,” and “Black lives matter,” it behooves those protesting to help young Black men learn this existential lesson. Because failure to do so will only result in more thugs with no respect for authority – who feel entitled to prey on others … until they get arrested (or shot) by the police we call upon to protect us from them.

    In the meantime, and this I repeat too, I urge more Blacks to seek careers in law enforcement to help redress the racial spectacle of all-White policemen policing Black neighborhoods like “invading armies;” I urge the police to wear body cameras (to demonstrate and vindicate their professionalism); and I urge cities to establish civilian review boards — complete with the power to refer any police shooting to an independent prosecutor — in order to effectively police the police, instead of leaving it to the police to police themselves.

    All else is folly, especially those “die ins” and commando street marches, which are just traffic fatalities waiting to happen.

    Related commentaries:
    Ferguson, NYC grand jury decisions

  • Monday, December 8, 2014 at 6:48 AM

    ICC Decides Not to Prosecute Kenya’s Kenyatta. Duh

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 6.32.42 AMLast week the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC) decided not to prosecute the president of Kenya for triggering ethnic violence that killed 1200 Black men, women, and children, and displaced 600,000.

    War crimes prosecutors dropped charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday…

    Judges at the Hague-based court had on Wednesday given the prosecution a week to decide whether to proceed with their case against Kenyatta, who was accused of fomenting ethnic violence after the 2007 election, or to withdraw the charges…

    Prosecutors have said Kenyatta, who had been accused of orchestrating a wave of deadly violence after Kenya’s 2007 elections, used his political power to obstruct their investigation, especially since becoming president last year.

    (Reuters, December 5, 2014)

    Interestingly enough, this news came less than 48 hours after news broke that a grand jury in New York had decided not to prosecute a White cop for killing a Black man. After all, the whole world seems not only aware of the grand jury’s decision, but outraged by it. Whereas you’d be hard-pressed to find a non-Kenyan who is even aware of the ICC’s decision, let alone outraged by it. This, of course, is ironic given the clarion shouts of “Black lives matter!” among those protesting the grand jury’s decision.

    Frankly, prevailing ignorance about (or disinterest in) the ICC’s decision betrays Martin Luther King’s Jr.’s famous admonition that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Especially considering that ethnic/religious violence in Africa makes police shootings in America look like misdemeanors on the global spectrum of injustice.

    Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 11.28.37 AMNot to mention prevailing ignorance among traffic-stopping, business-disrupting protesters even about the nature and incidence of police shootings in America. This was brought into embarrassing relief on the December 3 edition of The O’Rielly Factor, when no less a person than prominent talk-show host and Black activist Tavis Smiley appeared to speak on their behalf:

    SMILEY: There is no respect for the humanity and the dignity for Black life in this country…

    O’REILLY: Do you know how many Blacks were killed by police by gunfire last year?

    SMILEY: Off the top of my head, I don’t.

    O’REILLY: The number is 123. Do you know how many whites were killed? 326.

    Granted, police shootings are systematically underreported (with respect to Black and White victims). Still, given these protests, you’d think Smiley would be at least familiar with the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports.

    Mind you, even when a little awareness filters into this prevailing ignorance, it manifests as little more than hashtag activism — as was the case with #Bringbackourgirls and #Kony2012 viral tweets. Remember those? But I digress….

    As my headline indicates, I was not surprised by the ICC’s decision not to prosecute Kenyatta. I’ve written a series of commentaries foreshadowing it and delineating why the ICC is such a hopelessly discredited institution.

    In fact, this case was as much about the ICC’s credibility as it was about Kenyatta’s guilt. Therefore, I shall suffice to share excerpts from a few of those commentaries, which explain not only why this case failed, but also why the ICC should be abolished.


    • From “Alas, the ICC Charging Bashir of Sudan with Genocide Means Nothing!” July 15, 2008:

    It is critical to note that neither the United States nor Sudan has ratified this treaty.  Which means that the only country that would even dare to arrest Bashir on these charges does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction.

    • From “ICC Double Standards…” June 29, 2011:

    It is hardly surprising that, far from being cowered by ICC arrest warrants, al-Bashir and Gaddafi have reacted to them with unbridled contempt. But there’s no gainsaying their complaint that the ICC amounts to little more than a tool Europeans use to prosecute leaders of African countries.

    • From “Uhuru Kenyatta, Son of Kenya’s Founding Father, Indicted on War Crimes,” January 24, 2012:

    I wonder what evidence the ICC possesses that ties Uhuru and the three other prominent Kenyans it indicted to the rapes and murders that were committed. And am I the only one who finds it a little too convenient that, of the four indicted, two of them supported [President] Kibaki (namely, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura) and two supported [presidential candidate] Odinga (namely, former Education Minister William Ruto and radio presenter Joshua arap Sang)?

    Frankly, this seems a contrived attempt by the ICC to forestall more score-settling and communal violence by saying, in effect, a pox on both your houses.

    What’s more, I doubt any of these men had any hands-on involvement in any of the violence at issue. And if the charges stem just from inciting and organizing what the BBC described as ‘a bloody round of score-settling and communal violence,’ then surely no two people are more responsible than Kibaki and Odinga themselves. Which makes this rather like blaming Hitler’s generals but not Hitler himself, no?

    • taylor-in-courtFrom “Liberian President Charles Taylor Convicted in The Hague,” April 27, 2012

    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?

    • From “No Equitable Justice in ICC Prosecuting Kenya’s Kenyatta,” March 25, 2013”

    It now seems my suspicions about the ICC’s evidence were wholly warranted. Because on March 11, 2013, the ICC dropped all charges against Uhuru’s co-defendant, Francis Mathaura, citing the lack of credibility of its star witness.

    More important, though, given that the ICC based its indictment against Uhuru primarily on this same witness’s testimony, it can only be a matter of time before prosecutors swallow their pride and drop all charges against him too

    Prosecutors insist they have other witnesses who can testify to hearing Uhuru order Kibaki supporters to attack Odinga supporters. But this still begs the question: If the witness intimidation that forced the ICC to dismiss charges against Muthaura ‘is ongoing [and] will get more serious,’ isn’t it more likely than not that such intimidation will succeed in compromising the testimony of any witness against Uhuru? After all, he is not only the richest man in Kenya but now the most powerful one too, having been elected as its new president earlier this month.

    I am willing to bet my life savings that President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta will never … serve a day in jail.

    • international-criminal-courtFrom “International Criminal Court Lost All Credibility,” June 5, 2013:

    My commentaries are replete with condemnation of the kleptomaniacal and genocidal thugs who have lorded, for far too long, over far too many countries in post-colonial Africa. But there’s no denying that thugs of a different sort have lorded, for far too long, over far too many countries on every other continent as well…

    I am heartened that Africa now has a new crop of reputable and respected leaders who are echoing my condemnation of both African despots and ICC prosecutors…

    I urge you to bear in mind that nobody called for the racist fiends who ruled the United States from slavery to Jim Crow to be hauled before any international criminal court for the systematic crimes against humanity they committed (or orchestrated).

    Therefore, I submit that, just as America has done since its founding, African countries should be left alone to figure out how to prosecute and imprison (if called for) any leader who commits an impeachable offense. And remember, it took a bloody civil war the likes of which the world had never seen for American leaders to just begin abiding by their constitutional principles of democracy and freedom.

    • And from “African Leaders Defy ICC to Defend Kenya’s Kenyatta,” October 15, 2013:

    It’s one thing for the ICC to prosecute a diamonds/drugs warlord turned president like Charles Taylor of Liberia; it’s quite another to prosecute Kenyatta. After all, he’s not only the son of a man who is arguably even more revered throughout Africa than Nelson Mandela, he’s now the sitting, legitimately elected president of Kenya.

    This is why it came as no surprise when the African Union convened an extraordinary session last weekend to decide whether member states should withdraw en masse from the ICC’s jurisdiction…

    The AU … resolved that …no African head of state shall appear before any international court.


    That said, I fully expect the ICC to decide not to prosecute Kenyatta’s other co-defendant, Deputy President William Ruto, for the same reasons it decided not to prosecute Mathaura and Kenyatta. Not least because it would say far more about the ICC’s lack of credibility than Ruto’s guilt if it proceeds in the circumstances.

    President-elect Kenyatta greets his supporters with his running mate Ruto after attending a news conference in NairobiOn the other hand, prominent political commentators like Natznet Tesfay, head of Africa analysis at IHS Country Risk, are predicting that, with no fear of ICC prosecution, a congenital need for ethnic supremacy will plunge Kenyatta’s Kikuyus and Ruto’s Kalenjins back into the kind of violence that gave rise to ICC charges in the first place.

    But I’m convinced they both recognize and appreciate that they have too much to gain by continuing their coalition government. Not to mention their need to focus on the existential threat their common enemy, al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab, poses.

    Finally, apropos of my reference above to “Putin of Russia,” the ongoing civil war in Ukraine compels me to double down on the glaring double standard in the ICC not indicting Vladimir Putin – no matter its snowball’s chance in hell of actually prosecuting him.

    After all, like “Taylor of Liberia,” Putin has fomented (and is still fomenting) ethnic violence there to the same degree between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian nationalists. Not to mention how the ICC stood by as Putin’s annexed Crimea to become a part of his Novorossiya….

    I rest my case.

    Related commentaries:
    Ferguson wrong, NY right
    ICC Kenyatta
    ICC Gaddafi
    ICC Bashir
    African leaders defy ICC to defend Kenyatta

  • Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 7:34 AM

    Save Our Planet vs. Save Our Economies?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


    Alas, for poor countries, this “false” conflict is all too real; and I’m in the save our economies camp.

    I’ve written far too many commentaries on this topic to count. Unfortunately, they’ve done little more than lump me together with the “heretics” trying to temper increasing alarms about climate change with calming facts about environmental protection and conservation.

    Therefore, on behalf of all proud heretics in this respect, let me hasten to clarify that, while acknowledging climate change as a fact but hardly a threat, we have maintained that there are many “Global Priorities Bigger than Climate Change” – as the critically acclaimed Danish environmentalist, Professor Bjorn Lomborg, proffered in his now seminal TED talk in 2005.

    (“March to Save the Planet? Get Real!” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2014)

    Related commentaries:
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  • Friday, December 5, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    Bahamas, Beware the Canonization of Dr. Myles Munroe

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I believe it’s fair to say that nothing became Dr. Myles Munroe in this life quite like leaving it … so tragically.

    myles crash bahamas-1109Munroe, his wife, and seven others died on November 9, when his private jet crashed on approach to Freeport, Grand Bahama. He was 60.

    I suspect, however, that even those who knew him best were surprised by the extent and depth of national mourning his death evoked. After all, even though an inspiring motivational speaker and preacher, Munroe was never recognized in life as the national icon he has suddenly become in death.

    Truth be told, I found his alchemy of traditional Christian dogma and newfangled prosperity gospel as self-righteous as it was uncharitable. Indeed, it speaks volumes, regarding the former, that his public pronouncements on homosexuality made those of Pope Francis seem hedonistic; and, regarding the latter, that the success of his Bahamas Faith Ministries seemed to be measured more in terms of wealth acquired for himself than souls saved for God.

    How fitting, then, that the eponymous Pastor Creflo Dollar was chief among the pharisaic evangelists paying tribute. Dollar, after all, has parlayed his own prosperity gospel into the conspicuous accumulation of expensive cars, private jets, and multi-million dollar homes.

    More to the point, as much as Pope Francis personifies the true calling of men of God to live as shepherds of His flock, Dollar personifies the perversion of this calling, which has them living as masters of their own plantations (aka megachurches).

    To be fair, it’s arguable that Munroe had little choice but to build his ministry on the gospel of money being the root not of evil, but of salvation.

    After all, he, his wife, and children were all indoctrinated at Oral Roberts University. And nothing has distinguished this religious institution quite like its namesake preaching in 1987 that, if members of his megachurch did not send him $8 million within three months, God would kill him. According to the October 27, 1987 issue of TIME, they sent him $9 million.

    [Myles Munroe] became one of the proud sons of Oral Roberts. He was one of the heirs of the Oral Roberts legacy.

    (Alabama.com, Rev. Tommy Lewis, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Alabama, November 10, 2014)

    PM_Pays_Respects_-_3Hell, one could not even tune in to the live stream video of today’s funeral without being solicited for donations “to support the legacy of Dr. Myles Munroe….” And don’t get me started on the king and queen crowns that fronted his and his wife’s caskets, suggesting that, even more than the master, he was the king of his megachurch. (In other words, the king is dead, long live the king … his son? Folks, this would be utterly laughable if religion as a business based on the cult of personality were not so serious.)

    But, as the son of a preacher man, nurture compels me to be more charitable towards (all of) the dead than Munroe was towards (some of) the living….

    Therefore, I shall end my obligatory acknowledgement of today’s “state-recognized funeral” by expressing heartfelt condolences to his family, and praying for him to rest in peace.

    But I would be remiss not to also caution my fellow Bahamians about the untenable precedent this veritable canonization of Dr. Myles Munroe has set.

    Farewell, Dr. Munroe.

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 5:40 p.m.

  • Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 6:51 AM

    Ferguson Wrong, New York Right Not to Indict White Cop for Killing Black Man

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A grand jury in Staten Island voted Wednesday not to indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died after Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold.

    Garner, 43, died July 17 as he was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes. In a video of the arrest, which has since gone viral, Garner screams “I can’t breathe!” multiple times until his body goes limp. A medical examiner later said that he died of a chokehold, a move that is banned by the NYPD, and ruled his death a homicide.

    (Huffington Post, December 3, 2014)

    It is noteworthy, of course, that the fatal encounter in this case was caught on tape. After all, I’ve been in the vanguard of those propounding that such encounters would be less confrontational if we require police officers to wear body cameras.

    Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 5.27.54 PM

    Alas, like beauty, whether Officer Pantaleo committed a crime is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve seen the video … many times, and what I see every time is a big Black man refusing (verbally and physically) to obey lawful commands to turnaround to be handcuffed.

    It might be helpful to know that the police had probable cause to suspect that he was committing one of the many petty crimes that come under NYC’s broken-windows theory of community policing. In this case, Garner was allegedly selling cigarettes without proper authorization.

    But he resisted with such determination that it took four cops to subdue him, and with such indignation that you’d think he was exercising some unwritten constitutional right (or racial entitlement) to resist arrest….

    No doubt it’s tragic that, in attempting to subdue Garner, Pantaleo choked him to death. But I am convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that this was not his intent. Which is why, instead of criminal prosecution, I think he should face disciplinary action for using a chokehold that the NYPD has banned “in most circumstances.”

    Mind you, Pantaleo probably thought he was using less deadly force by attempting to physically subdue Garner, instead of shooting him with a Taser gun. Just imagine the public outcry, however, if he did, and Garner died from the shock….

    But all police officers, paramedics, and EMTs on the scene should face disciplinary action for failing to render immediate assistance when it became clear Garner was suffering acute respiratory distress.

    In any event, I am also convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that, had Garner obeyed (as all law-abiding residents should), Pantaleo would’ve had no cause to lay a hand on him.

    Therefore, let me be clear: the grand jury in Ferguson was wrong not to indict Officer Wilson; the grand jury in New York City was right not to indict Officer Pantaleo.

    But, given all I’ve already written on similar facts and circumstances in the Ferguson case, I shall end by reiterating that the best way to save Black lives in these situations is to:

    … admonish[] young Black men against the deadly hazards of resisting arrest and defying authority … merely as a misguided badge of honor or rite of passage.

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

    It’s really that simple. This is why all of the hackneyed claptrap about a national conversation on race makes me want to puke.

    Meanwhile, I fear that, just as a multiracial band of professional anarchists and petty thieves used the Ferguson decision as an excuse to foment lawlessness and loot businesses, they will use this New York decision to do the same. I just hope the NYPD are more prepared to stop them than the FPD were (especially as protests are beginning to unfold in Times Square as I write)….

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 5:24 p.m.

  • Wednesday, December 3, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    Founding Fathers of Hong Kong Protests Blink, Retreat, Surrender

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If anyone hadn’t noticed already, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests are running out of energy and options. Benny Tai’s announcement, actually planned for some time, simply confirms it. After two long months, the movement has achieved nothing in the way of concessions from Hong Kong’s own government, let alone China’s.

    (BBC News, December 2, 2014)

    _79441903_024950221-1Benny Tai is one of the founders of the protests who announced yesterday not only that the time had come to “retreat from protest sites,” but that he and fellow founding fathers Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming intended to turn themselves into the police today.

    I hope we can show others the meaning of the surrender. We urge the occupation to end soon and more citizens will carry out the basic responsibility of civil disobedience, which is to surrender.

    (Reuters, December 3, 2014)

    Recall that protesters want Beijing to withdraw plans to screen all candidates for Hong Kong elections. Moreover, they want to renegotiate terms of the 1997 “one country, two systems” reunification agreement to guarantee Hong Kong greater democratic freedoms.

    hong-kong_3064102bI should clarify, however, that, even though all of these protesters are “running out of options” (assuming they ever had any), not all of them are running out of energy. Indeed, these middle-aged founding fathers calling on young student protesters to retreat, is rather like President Obama calling on restive Ferguson protesters to be sweet.

    Unfortunately, just as protesters in Ferguson have nothing to show for their efforts, except vandalized businesses and growing public disgust, those in Hong Kong have nothing to show for theirs, except squalid encampments … and growing public disgust.

    But, just as I warned it would be thus in Ferguson, I warned it would be thus in Hong Kong:

    I fear the only issue here is whether these student protesters will give up their demands and return to classes before Chinese leaders do to them what they did to their predecessors in Tiananmen Square.

    As sympathetic as I am to their cause, I pray they will be guided – not only by the tragic outcome of Tiananmen Square, but by the boomerang outcome of Tahrir Square as well – to give up their demands and return to classes before the tanks come rolling in … again.

    After all, it would be tantamount to suicide for Chinese leaders to give in. Not to mention the pandora’s box of similar demands that would immediately flow from other regions, including Xinjiang, Uighar … and Tibet, if they do.

    If Beijing learned anything from Tiananmen Square, instead of sending in tanks again, its leaders would send in local police to quarantine the protesters in one area and ensure access to vital businesses and public services. They would then just let the protesters vent their spleens until they become too hungry, thirsty, and/or tired to continue and begin begging to go home.  In other words, show that vaunted Chinese patience by simply waiting them out.

    (“Hong Kong Protesters Raise Spectre of Tiananmen Square,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2014)

    joshua_hongkongMeanwhile, student leader Joshua Wong and two others preempted the co-founders’ announcement by going on a hunger strike. Except that Beijing probably deems this the equivalent of a two-year old throwing a temper tantrum just to get attention.

    Besides, given that Beijing was perfectly prepared to let renowned Chinese dissidents (like the “Four Gentlemen” of Tiananmen Square fame) die on hunger strikes, it behooves Wong to appreciate that Beijing is perfectly prepared to let him, a relatively insignificant student protester, die as well.

    Nonetheless, these protesters should be encouraged that, unlike many of their Tiananmen predecessors, they are still alive to protest another day. And, with hundreds of daily, unheralded anti-government protests all over Mainland China, that day will surely come.

    In fact, I’m on record predicting – in such commentaries as “Gap Between Rich and Poor in China Is Sowing Seeds of Resentment and Terminal Unrest,” December 22, 2005, and “Jasmine Revolution Simmering in China,” January 19, 2012 – that it’s only a matter of time before Beijing faces far more formidable protests (a la Tiananmen 2.0). Hong Kong protesters would be wise to join those protests in pincer fashion….

    Related commentaries:
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