• Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 7:13 AM

    Make America Great Again…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Well, Trump’s back-to-the-future presidency might have at least one fringe benefit:

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  • Friday, December 2, 2016 at 2:13 AM

    World AIDS Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    World-AIDS-Day-2014-Theme-4According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 1.2 million people aged 13 and over are living with HIV infection in the United States.

    Blacks, who are 13 percent of the population, continue to account for the most infections – with 17,670 diagnoses in 2015 alone; whereas whites, who are 72 percent, accounted for 10,509, and latinos, who are 16 percent, 9,290.

    Meanwhile, according to UNAIDS, there were 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide in 2015. Unsurprisingly:

    The vast majority of people living with HIV are in low-to-middle-income countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. 1.8 million children worldwide are living with HIV. Most of these children were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.

    But, if there is a silver lining in all of the distressing statistics related to this pandemic, it’s that AIDS-related deaths worldwide are decreasing – from a peak of 2.2 million in the mid-2000s down to 1.1 million in 2015. Significantly, the BBC reported on World Aids Day in 2014 that preliminary results of studies conducted in South Africa showed that, after decades of attacking the human immune system, the HIV virus has become much less infectious, making it far more difficult to transmit than was the case 20 years ago.

    All the same, it’s important to appreciate that greater access to testing and treatment explains why it appears the number of people living with HIV is increasing. Even so, it speaks volumes that:

    Only 60 percent of people living with HIV know their status.

    (aids.gov)

    Meanwhile, as crooked as President-elect Trump alleges the Clinton Foundation is, President Bill Clinton deserves special commendation for establishing the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in 2002.

    [It is] a global health organization committed to strengthening integrated health systems in the developing world and expanding access to care and treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis…

    Since its inception, CHAI has helped more than 2 million people access the medicines needed for treatment, which represents nearly half of all the people living with HIV and on treatment in developing countries.

    (Clinton Foundation)

    This – coupled with his Clinton Global Initiative, which he founded in 2005 to raise private funds to help alleviate poverty, create a cleaner environment, and increase access to health care and education – has Clinton now giving Jimmy Carter a run for the title of best former president in U.S. history.

    Having said that, I would be remiss not to commend former President George W. Bush for creating the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003. According to the Kaiser Foundation, it has provided $48 billion in funding thus far, making it the largest effort in history by a single nation to combat a single disease.

    Actually, I was so impressed with PEPFAR, as well as Bush’s unprecedented initiatives to promote development in Africa, that I wrote “President Bush Has Done More for Africa than Any Other President,” June 20, 2005.

    On the other hand, I am constrained to note that, despite promising to increase funding for PEPFAR by $1 billion annually, President Barack Obama has failed to do so.

    AIDS activists expressed bitter disappointment over President Obama’s proposal to cut $200 million from the global AIDS budget for FY 2016. The President’s budget fails to restore cuts made since 2011 in PEPFAR, and reduces by nearly $250 million the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This reduction to global AIDS programs from FY15 (enacted) amplifies years of underfinancing, leaving PEPFAR short of funds needed to carry out its mission.

    (Health GAP (Global Access Project), February 2, 2015)

    To be fair, these cuts probably had more to do with prevailing budget constraints and congressional Republicans, who control the government’s purse, than anything else. After all, even if the money were available to increase funding, Republicans, who applauded Bush, might’ve accused Obama of using American taxpayers’ money to further some pan-African liberation agenda. (Absurd, I know; but they have routinely accused him of things that are even more absurd.)

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    Finally, Erving “Magic” Johnson deserves honorable mention for doing more than anybody to raise public awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrate how truly fulfilling life can still be for a person living with this deadly virus. This year marks his 25th living and thriving with HIV.

    Keep hope alive….

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, December 1, at 4:08 p.m.

  • Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 5:53 AM

    ‘Backlash’ against (Liberal) Women Leaders…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In light of the recent trend set by Angela Merkel of Germany and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Bachelet’s election [in Chile] would be encouraging to those of us who welcome the seepage of womanpower through the crevices of political and corporate governance around the world…

    Here’s to ‘the fairer sex’ – not only as indispensable guardians of home and hearth, but also as invaluable (and capable) stewards of the ship of state!

    (“Cracking the Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 12, 2005)

    As this quote indicates, I’ve been championing the rise of women as heads of state for many years. This is why the insidious backlash against them is so disheartening.

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    Of course, most notably, this backlash saw last month Donald Trump, a brazenly unqualified, racist, xenophobic, male chauvinist pig, elected president of the United States. An election result that was all the more disheartening because he defeated Hillary Clinton, a woman universally regarded as the most qualified person ever nominated to become the world’s most powerful leader.

    But it also saw in June 2013 a resentful band of male MPs mutiny against Julia Gillard, the first woman elected Australian prime minister, citing her inability to command their loyalty and support. The irony, if not hypocrisy, inherent in this was completely lost on them. But here is how Gillard called out their misogyny:

    In the [three] years in which I’ve served as prime minister, predominantly I’ve faced a minority government and political division in my own party…

    I’ve been a little bit bemused by those colleagues in the newspapers who have admitted that I have suffered more pressure as a result of my gender than other PMs in the past but then concluded it had zero effect on my political position or the political position of the Labor party.

    (London Guardian, June 26, 2013)

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    It saw in May 2014 a military-appointed court oust Yingluck Shinawatra, the first woman elected Thai prime minister, citing a battery of trumped-up charges of corruption. I decried this military coup in “RIP Thailand Democracy,” April 20, 2015. Incidentally, Shinawatra returned to public life this year as more people’s princess than laudable leader, which is as discouraging as it is noteworthy….

    It saw in September 2016 a mercenary cabal of male legislators impeach Dilma Rousseffthe first woman elected Brazilian president, citing a battery of trumped-up charges of corruption. I decried this political coup in “Chauvinistic Impeachment of Brazil’s First Female President…,” September 1, 2016.

    park-geun-hyeBut most disheartening of all, this backlash saw this week a measure of vindication when Park Geun-hye, the first woman elected South Korean president, offered to resign.

    The disgraced South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, has offered to resign and called on parliament to arrange her exit amid a corruption and cronyism scandal that has all but destroyed her administration.

    Speaking in a nationally televised address on Tuesday, Park – whose single five-year term will not be officially over until early 2018 – asked the national assembly to set a new deadline for the end of her turbulent presidency.

    (London Guardian, November 29, 2016)

    Would that I could decry her fate too. Unfortunately, all indications are that Park is guilty as charged, which makes her offer to resign more Nixonian than honorable.

    Reports are that she allowed her Rasputin-like confidante to misuse her good offices to peddle influence and rake in millions. The audacity of this misuse appears such that it makes the way Hillary reportedly allowed her husband Bill to misuse hers (as secretary of state) seem, well, positively charitable.

    As my opening quote indicates, I have written many commentaries hailing the rise of women as heads of state. Therefore, it is perhaps prescient that I was as loath to hail Park’s election in February 2013 as I am to hail Trump’s today.

    screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-3-09-44-pm

    Meanwhile, there’s no denying the curious fact that all of the women leaders who have fallen victim to this backlash engaged in very public displays of affection for Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States. No doubt the fallen Australian prime minister, Gillard, would be bemused by whites who express visceral hatred of Obama but then insist that her affection for him had zero effect on their support for her.

    Never mind that Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s notorious displays gave even his wife Michelle cause for resentment. As it happens, Thorning-Schmidt was the first woman elected prime minister of her country in 2011.

    Alas, she only lasted one term. To be fair, she was neither impeached nor ousted in a military or political coup. Instead, she was swept away by a pre-Brexit wave of right-wing populism, which saw Denmark’s right-bloc parties defeat her left-bloc parties in the 2015 general election.

    Barack Obama, Portia Simpson-MillerAnd I would be remiss not to mention the equally notorious displays Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller lavished on Obama. She too was the first woman elected prime minister of her country in 2012 (after serving a one-year stint as appointed prime minister in 2006). Alas, she too only lasted one term – as she was swept away when the conservative party defeated her liberal party by a razor-thin margin of just one seat in a general election held in March of this year.

    Hope springs eternal that it’s only a historical hiccup that so many women leaders are falling out of favor. But, apropos of not wanting to be remiss, I am constrained to note that, in far too many cases, the failure of other women to support them is contributing to their downfall. I’ll spare you my abiding rant on this utterly incomprehensible intra-gender psychodynamic….

    In the meantime, I fear this backlash might provide a pretext for misogynists to discredit women as heads of state; you know, the way Obama’s failure to seal his legacy, by helping Hillary defeat Trump, is providing a pretext for racists to give credence to the following suspicion:

    So irrational is [the Republicans’ declared intent to make Obama a failed president], one could be forgiven the suspicion that their dark, ulterior motive is to see America become so dysfunctional and humiliated under his leadership that Americans would not even consider electing another black person as president for at least another 100 years.

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

    That said, I hasten to point out that a few women are riding the crest of right-wing populism that helped Trump defeat Hillary. Most notable among them are Marine Le Pen, who is angling for a Brexit-like victory in France’s presidential election next year, and Frauke Petry, who is angling for the same in Germany’s general election.

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    Except that black heads of state like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe proved long ago that there’s no enlightened pride in hailing a black leader based solely on race. And, by the same token, women heads of state like Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom proved long ago that there’s no enlightened pride in hailing a woman leader based solely on gender.

    Yet here is why I remain hopeful … even if the women becoming heads of state are more right-wing than liberal:

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

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

    (“Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 14, 2010)

    Related commentaries:
    Glass ceiling
    Brazil’s Rousseff
    Thailand’s Shinawatra
    S&P downgrades
    Women make better politicians

  • Tuesday, November 29, 2016 at 7:10 AM

    Ovation! Gimmicky Gaga Is Now Singer ‘Joanne’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    c2c_clips_iwontdance_I remember well watching the gimmicky Gaga perform jazz standards with Tony Bennett and thinking that she seemed more interested in showing off her quirky personality/fashion than her beautiful voice.

    Hence, whenever I had cause to comment on the cultural phenomenon she became, it invariably went something like this:

    I’m not sure why people are so gaga over Lady Gaga.

    Ironically, her costume-heavy act probably never looked so ‘been there, done that’ as when she came out for a somber duet with Elton John, who – as we all know – elevated the spectacle of theatrics over talent to its zenith 25 years ago.

    Perhaps, like Elton, she will come to realize someday that her talent alone is enough to make her a superstar – cuz the girl can sing.

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

    gaga_01_1348297a-209x300And like this:

    Lady Gaga literally personifies the triumph of packaged and formulaic acts over talented performances…

    Most singers today seem to think the key to success is looking and behaving in ways offstage that render what they do onstage irrelevant… For you older folks, think of all of the offstage exhibitionism that rendered the music of recording artists like Grace Jones and Madonna irrelevant…

    By sterling contrast, Adele not only sings like an angel, she might just be the music industry’s saving grace. Unfortunately, this [industry has] so little to do with musical talent these days that Adele performing [on any music awards show] is rather like Andrea Bocelli performing on So You Think You Can Dance.

    (“2011 MTV Video Music Awards,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 30, 2011)

    Unsurprisingly, my critique incited Gaga’s “Little Monsters” to begin trolling me … like avenging zombies. Except that what their small, fawning minds did not, indeed, could not appreciate was that my commentaries contained more truth about Gaga than they, perhaps even she, knew.

    Sure enough, CBS Sunday Morning aired a profile two days ago, during which she vindicated every word of my critique. Here, musically speaking, is the hook:

    I used to come home, I think my mom used watch me having a hard time washing it off, you know, I’d keep the wigs on, keep the makeup on, keep the outfits on… I was always, I never wanted to let my fans down … always wanted them to see me in my art form…

    I think that when people see me with less makeup on and less of what I was doing before [‘there’s a sense you’ve evolved,’ the interviewer interjected]… They have to kind of let go of the last era of music.

    screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-8-23-22-pm

    Gaga’s profile included clips of her new vamped-down, “dive-bar” show. As I watched them, I could not help thinking she had evolved from imitating Grace Jones during that last era of her music to channeling Amy Winehouse during this one. In other words, she’s presenting herself, at long last, as more recording artist than performing artist.

    As it happens, Amy (the recording artist) probably mesmerized me as much as Gaga (the performance artist) mesmerized her Little Monsters. But the tragedy of Amy’s drug-fueled life offstage is nothing to channel. Therefore, I hope Gaga limits her very flattering channeling to Amy’s onstage performances….

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  • Monday, November 28, 2016 at 6:09 PM

    Fidel Is Dead. His Revolution Is Not

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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    Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday…

    He dominated his country with strength and symbolism from the day he triumphantly entered Havana on Jan. 8, 1959, and completed his overthrow of Fulgencio Batista…

    The power of his personality remains inescapable, for better or worse, not only in Cuba but also throughout Latin America.

    (New York Times, November 26, 2016)

    No doubt the most significant thing about Fidel’s 50-year dictatorship is the notorious failure of 10 successive U.S. presidents to overthrow it. The New York Times affirms this by duly noting their failure in the first sentence of his obituary.

    screen-shot-2016-03-20-at-8-31-54-pm-230x300Remarkably, Fidel lived long enough to see the eleventh, President Obama, end this string of feckless folly by normalizing relations with Cuba. Obama even sealed the foreign policy plank of his legacy by becoming the first U.S. president to visit the island nation in nearly 90 years.

    Apropos of legacy, the highlight of Fidel’s will surely be the system of totalitarian governance that is now so embedded in Cuba’s DNA, it will probably survive another 50 years; this, despite the efforts of President-elect Trump and another 10 successive U.S. presidents to overthrow it. Indeed, just as emulating the Soviet Union’s totalitarian regime helped Cuba survive the past 50 years, emulating China’s will help it survive the next 50.

    Which brings me to the Miami-Cubans – whose voting bloc in presidential elections is the only thing that explains America’s post-revolutionary/pre-Obama relationship with Cuba.

    The 10 successive U.S. presidents referenced above pandered to them for over half a century – complete with bungled CIA assassination attempts, the humiliating Bay of Pigs invasion, and a plainly hypocritical economic embargo.

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    But nothing betrays their forlorn hopes quite like the way they’re celebrating Fidel’s death as if it represents reclamation of their paradise lost.

    Thousands took to the streets cheering, dancing, waving Cuban flags in celebration of the former Cuban president’s death. Many remembered Castro not as a heroic revolutionary, but as a ruthless Communist dictator.

    In every corner of this Cuban-American city, people waved Cuban flags, honked their horns, banged their pots and pans and hugged each other late into the night.

    (USA Today, November 26, 2016)

    As it happens, I’ve written numerous commentaries on Fidel’s Cuba … and the history (of American imperialism and perfidy) that gave rise to it. But the titles to just a few of them should explain why a revered leader like Nelson Mandela praised him as readily as one like Ronald Reagan condemned him:

    • “President Bush, Seal Your Legacy, Lift the Embargo Against Cuba,” January 24, 2006
    • “CIA’s Exposure of ‘Family Jewels’ Intended as a Titillating Distraction,” June 25, 2007

    • “Raul Pledges to Continue Fidel’s (50-year) Cuban Revolution…Duh!” February 26, 2008
    • “Castro Admits His ‘Cuban Model’ Has Failed,” September 10, 2010
    • “Castro’s (White) Successor Highlights Racism in Cuba,” March 1, 2013
    • “For Miami Cubans, Hatred of Castro Trumps Respect for Mandela,” December 16, 2013
    • “Cuba: Obama Has Landed,” March 16, 2016

    Incidentally, this list of titles should also explain why, despite my socialist affinities, I felt so conflicted about his leadership….

    All the same, there’s no denying the central role Miami Cubans have played in framing America’s relationship with Cuba for nearly all of the past 60 years.

    Therefore, the best tribute I can pay to Fidel is to share an excerpt from “Dancing on Castro’s Grave Is Not Only Unseemly; It’s Premature,” August 2, 2006. I wrote it when rumors of his death had them celebrating way back then (i.e., over 10 years ago).

    __________________

    Reports that emergency surgery forced Fidel to transfer power to his brother Raul a few days ago had Miami Cubans dancing in the streets yesterday. Their reaction did not surprise me. But I was stupefied. After all, their celebration not only betrayed their naiveté about the implications of this transfer, but also indicated how much wasted emotion and misspent resources they have vested in this man’s eventual death…

    fidelblacks-796302Let me hasten to clarify, however, that I am no Fidel (or Che) groupie. After all, I am all too mindful that the people who have suffered most under his dictatorship are black Cubans who – like black Americans too poor to escape Hurricane Katrina – did not have the means to flee the revolution…

    In fact, the vast majority of black Cubans live in more squalid conditions today – 47 years into his socialist revolution – than they did under the Apartheid-style dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, the man he overthrew. This is a damning indictment not only of Castro’s leadership, but also of the political judgment of those who praise him unconditionally – most notably influential blacks throughout the Americas and the Caribbean…

    It is precisely because black Cubans have suffered most from America’s 44-year embargo against Cuba that I condemn Miami Cubans for misusing their political influence to keep it in place. Not to mention that they voice support for this embargo while shedding (crocodile) tears about Cubans having to depend on remittances of everything from hard cash to soft toilet paper. Alas, they are too self-righteous to appreciate the brazen, unconscionable contradiction inherent in their support.

    screen-shot-2013-12-14-at-8-38-11-pmMore to the point, though, here is why I dismiss these Cuban exiles as a bunch of hopelessly misguided zealots:

    Their dancing is premature not because Fidel might survive. It’s premature because all indications are that his brother Raul will be every bit as ruthless a dictator, even if less vain.

    I predict the pragmatic Raul will emulate his new Chinese patrons by pursuing liberal economic policies under strict political and military control. And I fully expect him … to groom Fidel’s handpicked protégés to lead the next generation of the revolution.

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

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

    ____________________

    Of course, dancing Miami Cubans have nothing on pandering Republican politicians — who are competing among themselves to tweet the most offensive denunciations of Fidel, blithely ignoring the proverbial admonition against speaking ill of the dead. Never mind that they are merely parroting the anti-Castro rhetoric others have been spewing to no avail for over 50 years, which clearly fits the Einsteinian definition of insanity.

    Indeed, you’d think they would be a little more chastened — given that such hostile rhetoric has done nothing over all those decades to advance the cause of democratic freedoms or human rights in Cuba.

    But their spineless, inconsequential denunciations are not worthy comment; even less so their antic condemnations of Obama for properly offering condolences to the Castro family and “a hand in friendship” to the Cuban people.

    As his transfer of power to Raul indicated, Fidel had been battling terminal illness for over a decade. Therefore, the surprise is not that he is dead; it’s that he survived for so long, which I suppose is a testament to Cuba’s much vaunted healthcare system. He was 90.

    Farewell, Fidel.

    images

    Related commentaries:
    President Bush, lift embargo
    Dancing on Castro’s grave
    CIA family jewels
    Raul pledges to continue revolution
    Castro Cuban model failed
    Castro’s white successor
    For Miami Cubans, Hatred
    Obama has landed

    *  This commentary was originally published on Saturday, November 26, at 1:39 p.m.

  • Saturday, November 26, 2016 at 7:17 AM

    Selfie-centered social media and the death of intimacy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Wednesday, November 23, 2016 at 7:05 AM

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    With the election of Donald Trump, there’s bound to be spirited debate about illegal immigration over dinner or during Football.

    Therefore, it might be helpful to bear in mind the instructive historical perspective illustrated below. The hypocrisy it depicts would be laughable if it were not steeped in the genocide white colonists perpetrated against Native Americans.

    happythanks

  • Tuesday, November 22, 2016 at 8:42 AM

    Women Soccer Players in ‘Match of their Lives’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Few teams have been as glorious on the soccer field as the United States Women’s National Team. They’ve won three World Cups, four Olympic gold medals, and set the standard in the most popular sport on the planet.  But despite their achievements, the players say they have been discriminated against, paid less and treated worse, next to the U.S. men’s team. Soccer may be known as the beautiful game, but the team has embarked on a bruising and historic legal fight for equality and their opponent is the U.S. Soccer Federation, their own employer…

    They hope a victory will help close the gap, not just in sport, but in any job where women do the same work as men for less pay.

    (CBS 60 Minutes, November 20, 2016)

    USA v Japan: Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015To be fair, it’s complicated. After all, this is not an apples-to-apples case of women doing the same work as men, in the same workplace, for less pay.

    Not least because women Soccer players do not generate as much interest, let alone as much revenue, as men Soccer players. Which is why this is not about discrimination – as the women players claim. It’s about capitalism.

    Indeed, nothing undermines their claims quite like women Tennis players getting equal pay because they generate as much interest and revenue as men Tennis players. Not to mention the prevailing examples women Golf and Basketball players are setting. After all, like women Soccer players, they do not get equal pay because they do not generate as much interest and revenue as the men in their sports, respectively.

    No doubt deeply rooted cultural biases account for, explain, and perpetuate much of this discrepancy in pay:

    Instead of commanding network coverage in primetime, like the men’s championship, the women’s was relegated to cable last night, which guaranteed only a fraction of the viewership. Yet the TV executives who are responsible for dissing women’s college Basketball in this fashion are the very ones who wonder why they can’t get better ratings for the fledgling women’s professional league – the WNBA.

    Moreover, what does all of this say to female college athletes, as well as to young girls who we encourage to have the same interest in sports as young boys…? Frankly, it says that male chauvinism, sexism, and discrimination against women in sports not only still exist but are blithely tolerated.

    Sorry girls….

    (“NCAA Women’s Championship,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2009)

    I clearly have a great deal of sympathy for the claims these women Soccer players are making. But I have more sympathy for similar claims NCAA Division 1 Football players are making.

    Not least because NCAA Football players are generating as much interest and (almost as much) revenue as NFL Football players; yet they are getting NO pay. Which is why this is not amateurism – as the NCAA claims. It’s indentured servitude.

    I’ve been decrying this manifest unfairness for years in such commentaries as “The Categorical Imperative to Pay College Athletes Just Got Stronger,” March 28, 2014, and “Salaries of College Coaches Reflect Enduring Master-Slave Relationships,” October 28, 2016.

    All the same, I urge you to not only watch this Soccer match for equal pay as it plays out, but cheer for the women players against the federation – as if they were playing a final World Cup match against the Russians. Because they deserve all of the money they can get … even if it’s not equal to what their male counterparts are getting.

    WWCup Japan US Soccer

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, November 21, 2016 at 8:38 AM

    Russia Withdraws from ICC to Avoid (Nuisance) Prosecution…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Wednesday to withdraw Russia from the International Criminal Court, which rules on such grave charges as genocide and crimes against humanity…

    Putin’s decree, published on the Kremlin’s website, comes a day after the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee approved a resolution condemning Russia’s ‘temporary occupation of Crimea’ and blamed Russia for rights abuses such as discrimination against some Crimean residents, such as Tatars…

    Several African nations have recently announced plans to leave the treaty.

    (Miami Herald, November 16, 2016)

    62536-putin-and-duterte-want-to-bail-on-the-icc-here-s-why-that-mattersOf course, the UN could have included in this indictment Russia’s de facto annexation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, to say nothing of its genocidal bombing of opposition territories in Syria.

    I have written many commentaries on both – as “Georgia: the Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming,” August 20, 2008, and “Putin’s Bush-lite Declaration of ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Syria,” March 19, 2016, attest, respectively.

    Mind you, the paper-tiger nature of this resolution condemning Russia is bad enough. But it reeks of abject hypocrisy considering the pass the UN gave the United States, despite its military aggression against — and human rights abuses in — places like Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria … too.

    In any event, the real story here is not Russia’s military aggression and human rights abuses; it’s the ICC’s Afrocentric prosecutions and administrative fecklessness.

    As it happens, I’ve been decrying and lamenting the latter for years. Therefore, instead of doing so anew, I shall suffice to reprise “International Criminal Court Is Neocolonial, Imperious, and Incompetent. Abolish It!” April 11, 2016. For it includes quotes from previous commentaries that not only chronicle my disillusionment with the court, but also document why Russia is just joining the growing list of African countries that no longer recognize its jurisdiction.

    Meanwhile, many more countries, most notably the Philippines and Venezuela, seem poised to leave too.

    __________________

    It never ceases to amaze me when putatively educated people betray their ignorance about the mission of and proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

    150324-icc_building-sophie_van_leeuwen-the_hague_trials_kenyaThis ignorance stems from the fact that the ICC gets so little coverage in Western media, especially here in the United States. This coverage stems from the fact that, since it was established in 1998, the ICC has targeted African leaders for war crimes prosecutions. And this targeting stems from the fact that the world’s most powerful leaders enjoy a presumption of immunity – as the war crimes former U.S. President George W. Bush and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair allegedly committed in Iraq attest.

    Incidentally, for the record, the ICC’s mission is to prosecute (select) persons charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

    That said, the collapse of its latest prosecution came as no surprise.

    Judges at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday threw out post-election violence charges against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto…

    A similar case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta collapsed last year…

    Judges halted the trial before Ruto’s defense lawyers opened their case, ruling that prosecutors had failed to marshal enough incriminating evidence.

    (Reuters, April 6, 2016)

    Frankly, the incompetence of ICC prosecutors is such that they probably couldn’t even convict ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of war crimes.

    665003303001_4825232248001_vs-56fd760fe4b07531229ed54b-782203292001I should note here that the ICC is not part of the United Nations’ mishmash of international courts and tribunals. Not that the UN’s imprimatur ensures credibility or competence, mind you. Indeed, just weeks ago, its International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) handed down a verdict against Serbian nationalist Vojislav Seselj that threw this into shocking relief:

    The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal has acquitted Serbian nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj on all nine counts that UN prosecutors filed against him in his marathon trial…

    [H]e had spent more than a decade in custody at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia…

    Seselj reportedly said he would seek 14 million euros in damages from the court in The Hague for his time spent there.

    (Aljazeera, March 31, 2016)

    Unsurprisingly, Seselj’s victims across the Balkans, who could and did bear witness to his many war crimes, reacted in utter disbelief, disgust, and disillusionment.

    The problem, of course, is that the Nuremberg trials set an unsustainable precedent. After all, the circumstances following World War II were such that victorious Allied leaders could have summarily executed defeated Axis leaders and nobody would have complained. Absent similar circumstances, however, setting up international courts and tribunals to prosecute anyone is fraught with imperial presumptions and biases.

    My abiding belief is that any person accused of war crimes should be tried in the country where he allegedly committed his crimes – complete with local prosecutors and judges. This is not the commentary to elaborate. But just consider the obvious reasons France is seeking extradition of the Belgian who masterminded the November bombings in Paris….

    As it happens, I have written a series of commentaries over the years not only decrying the ICC’s neocolonial approach to prosecutions, but also lamenting its prosecutorial incompetence.

    Therefore, I shall suffice at this point to share excerpts from a few of them. They should explain why I think 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, 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, as well as those of small and relatively powerless countries like the former Yugoslavia.

    Exhibit A in support of their complaint is the fact that no arrest warrants have been issued for Chinese leaders for their genocidal crackdown on Tibet’s Buddhist intifada in 2008, to say nothing of their notorious Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

    • kenya-300x203From “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 opposition leader 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?

    • From “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.

    • icc-600x400From “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.

    • 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.

    • And from “ICC Decides Not to Prosecute Kenya’s Kenyatta. Duh,” December 8, 2014:

    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.

    I rest my case … against the ICC.

    __________________

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  • Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 8:41 AM

    Burkini Laws in France Like Segregation Laws in America…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Shocking

    France’s top administrative court suspended the ban in Villeneuve-Loubet on Friday on civil liberties grounds.

    However, a number of mayors have said they will continue applying the bathing suit ban…

    Responding to the ruling, Villeneuve-Loubet’s Mayor, Lionnel Luca, said: ‘We need to decide if we want a smiley, friendly version of sharia law on our beaches or if we want the rules of the [French] Republic to be implemented.’

    (BBC, August 27, 2016)

    184313_600

    Like the blacks who defied segregation laws in America 60 years ago, Muslims who defy burkini laws in France today are civil rights pioneers.

    It does not bode well, however, that the top candidates for France’s forthcoming presidential election are all trying to out-Trump each other with their anti-Muslim rhetoric. After all, with leaders and would-be leaders in other European countries doing the same, this foreshadows the Niemöller tragedy of Europeans scapegoating Muslims the way they once scapegoated Jews.

    Of course, President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered refuge to Jews fleeing persecution in Europe. Never mind that he engaged in far too much moral and geo-political dithering before doing so. But, given the moral and geo-political certainty with which President-elect Donald J. Trump spews his anti-Muslim rhetoric, he seems unlikely to do the same for Muslims fleeing similar persecution….

    Meanwhile, here is why this ban is as sexist as it is Islamophobic:

    Male officials are dictating what women can wear on French beaches — and people across a wide swath of French society say that’s a good thing…

    To many Muslim women, that’s pure hypocrisy. They see the burkini bans themselves as sexist, not to mention racist and a reactionary backlash to terrorism fears.

    (Associated Press, August 17, 2016)

    fashion

    Alas, plus ca change….

  • Friday, November 18, 2016 at 6:52 AM

    ‘UnLike’ Facebook for Facilitating Trump’s ‘Post-Truth’ Run to the White House

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s plain for all to see that a ‘President Trump’ would lead America down an Orwellian rabbit hole, into a post-fact world where leaders in every facet of life propagate lies as truth and engage in dystopian doublespeak.

    (“‘October Surprise’: New York Times Publishes (one year of) Trump’s Tax Returns,’” The iPINIONS Journal, October 3, 2016)

    I spent much of the U.S. presidential election bemoaning the willingness of so many people to believe a “big lie” – as commentaries like “Trump’s ‘Law and Order’ Doublespeak Has RNC Raving and Roiling,” July 20, 2016 attest. I found it particularly dismaying that their willingness often meant rejecting the plain truth … with Trumpian arrogance.

    liessBut this post-election fingerpointing at Facebook might explain that epidemic of ignorance:

    The top malicious fake news stories actually outperformed legitimate news stories shared by some of the most popular media companies…

    The top 20 fake news stories collectively got more engagements — shares, likes, and comments — than 20 factually accurate news stories shared by mainstream news outlets…

    Unscrupulous hoaxers are using Facebook to spread bald-faced lies — and there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that they may have had an impact on people’s voting decisions in a historic presidential election.

    (Business Insider, November 17, 2016)

    Who knew Facebook’s iconic “f” also stands for fake; or that the news most users “Like” is often a “Li*e.”

    As it happens, I avoid all social media like the plague. This report merely validates my long-standing disdain. Here, for example, is how I ranted about Twitter, which is to fake feuds what Facebook is to fake news:

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

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

    So just imagine what this portends for public debate – having politicians and corporate CEOs compete with entertainers and wannabe celebrities to see who can attract the most twits with their mindless tweets on everything from public policy to daily gossip. And let’s face it, getting self-interested attention seems to be the prevailing reason for tweeting. And every tweeting twit in the twitterverse seems to think that the only way to get it is to be as obnoxious, incendiary, and/or bellicose as possible.

    (“Twitter Rant: Take 2,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 27, 2012)

    screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-6-12-00-pmWhich brings me to the dystopian way Oxford Dictionaries marked the election of Donald J. Trump as the most powerful demagogue in the world:

    It’s official: Truth is dead…

    Oxford Dictionaries has selected ‘post-truth’ as 2016’s international word of the year, after the contentious ‘Brexit’ referendum and an equally divisive U.S. presidential election caused usage of the adjective to skyrocket, according to the Oxford University Press…

    The dictionary defines ‘post-truth’ as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’

    (Washington Post, November 16, 2016)

    The prophetic world of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four (1949) is frightening. But that has nothing on Trump and the triumph of fake news, to say nothing of the inevitable things his presidency portends.

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  • Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 7:43 AM

    Dylan Disses Nobel Committee … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last month, Bob Dylan left the Nobel Committee “Blowin’ in the Wind” for days before acknowledging its purportedly coveted prize. The consensus among music critics and fans alike was that he was just being his rogue self.

    Leonard Cohen, the author of the famous “Hallelujah” song who died ten days ago, insinuated that the Nobel prize is not worthy of Dylan. He might have thought Dylan accepting it for writing from Swedes is rather like Mount Everest accepting a medal for height from weeds.

    dylan3But I argued that Dylan was perfectly willing to sell his soul. And that he was only trying to haggle (in a passive-aggressive way) over the “logistics” of the Committee’s tender and his acceptance:

    It would not surprise me if, like Sartre, Dylan is wondering if the Committee would consider giving him the cash without him acknowledging the award, let alone showing up to formally accept it.

    (“The Nobel Prize: Dylan No More Worthy than Obama,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 24, 2016)

    This is why I was not at all surprised when I read this yesterday:

    [I]n a personal letter to the academy, Dylan told them ‘he wishes he could receive the prize personally, but other commitments make it unfortunately impossible’…

    The Swedish Academy said it ‘respects Bob Dylan’s decision’ but stressed it is ‘unusual’ for a Nobel laureate not to come to Stockholm to accept the award in person.

    Nonetheless, the academy noted: ‘The prize still belongs to … Bob Dylan.’

    (London Guardian, November 16, 2016)

    How’s that for having your cake and eating it too. But I cannot criticize Dylan for this encore diss. Not least because I’ve written too many commentaries decrying the arbitrary way the Nobel committee awards it prize.

    On the other hand, given what little is now left of his artistic soul, I fear Hell will freeze over before he’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”

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  • Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 7:52 AM

    Last Word: Why Hillary Lost…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am truly stupefied that so many people still have so much interest in the presidential election that ended so decisively eight days ago.

    Nothing is more annoying in this respect than people taking to the streets to protest the free and fair election of Donald Trump – complete with their delusional rallying cry, “He’s not my president.” But a close second are pundits taking to the airwaves to tell you why Hillary lost, especially given that they’re the ones who kept telling you why she was going to win.

    Frankly, the former are like political arsonists setting fires to which the latter must respond … like political firemen. But the raging flames are such that no less a pundit than President Obama spent much of his news conference in Greece yesterday trying to put them out, while explaining why he’s not the reason Hillary lost.

    3a67a03600000578-3938752-image-a-11_1479229089419

    I share the above because even I have been obliged, on far too many occasions, to explain why Hillary lost. I invariably warn that it’s complicated. But I also cite the one word that I think provides the best explanation: karma.

    Then, if pressed, I offer a version of what I wrote nearly six months ago in “E-mailgate: FBI Gives Hillary Tongue Lashing but Recommends No Charges,” July 5, 2016. Here is the operative excerpt.

    _________________

    Hillary set up her personal e-mail server to avoid oversight by the Obama Administration. Evidently, she wanted to maintain contact with people of dubious reputation (like Sidney Blumenthal). This, despite the fact that they are the very people who brought her husband’s administration, as well as her family’s ‘charitable’ foundation, into disrepute; and, more to the point, that Barack Obama made her promise to keep them at arm’s length if he appointed her secretary of state.

    13clinton-master768In doing this, she not only betrayed Obama’s trust, but also violated State Department rules and regulations. But her sense of entitlement is clearly such that she couldn’t care less.

    In any event, F.B.I. agents recommending no criminal charges, and Justice Department prosecutors declaring their intent to oblige, will provide fodder for endless partisan debate. But I see no point in participating. Except I feel constrained to note that there’s a big difference between escaping criminal charges and defying karma. Especially given that the latter is often a bitch that slaps when you least expect.

    _________________

    Now juxtapose that with this:

    Hillary Clinton on Saturday cast blame for her surprise election loss on the announcement by the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, days before the election that he had revived the inquiry into her use of a private email server.

    (New York Times, November 12, 2016)

    Like I wrote,  karma is often a bitch that slaps when you least expect; in this case, just “days before the election.”

    Williams, of Calvi Electric, lowers the 'M' letter from the signage of Trump Plaza Casino to his co-workers in Atlantic City, New JerseyMeanwhile, in  “‘I Can’t Hear, or See, or Say that Name [TRUMP] Without Spitting,’” March 14, 2016, I called for people everywhere to treat anything branded TRUMP as if it were branded KKK. Now comes this:

    Three buildings on New York’s Upper West side will soon drop the Trump name, CBS New York reported…

    Some residents at Trump Place signed a petition last month for the name removal…

    ‘He’s disgusting, and you know it’s embarrassing to tell people you live in a Trump building,’ Marjorie Jacobs said.

    (CBS News, November 15, 2016)

    I’m out!

    mic-drop

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  • Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 7:49 AM

    China Vows to Crush Hong Kong-Led Confederacy; and It Should

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A week ago today, thousands of lawyers donned black suits and marched silently through Hong Kong. They did so to protest Mainland China’s decision to bar two elected legislators from serving in their local legislature:

    [The legislators’] specific offense (at least in the eyes of Beijing) was to unfurl a banner proclaiming ‘Hong Kong Is Not China’ and to pronounce the country’s name in a derogatory manner during their swearing-in.

    (TIME, November 13, 2016)

    I’ve been sounding alarms for years about China as a more formidable and foreboding superpower than the Soviet Union – as such commentaries as “Gap Between Rich and Poor In Communist China Is Sowing Seeds of Resentment and Terminal Unrest,” December 22, 2005, “Punishing China for Its Brutal Crackdown in Tibet? Hardly!” July 28, 2008, and “China Buying the Global Influence Russia and China Fighting For,” October 19, 2016, attest.

    1protest_0

    Therefore, you might think I marched in virtual solidarity with those lawyers in Hong Kong. But I did not.

    This … reminds me of the British who ruled Hong Kong for 150 years as colonial despots and then, when the time came to return the territory to China, they suddenly decided that – for the sake of humanity and all that is fair and just – the people of Hong Kong must have democracy!

    (“U.S. Ports Now Have Arab Harbormasters… So What!” The iPINIONS Journal, February 21, 2006)

    As one who lived under British colonialism, I appreciate why its colonial rule is preferable to China’s communist rule. But my national/racial pride is such that I have little sympathy for Chinese residents in Hong Kong who consented to be governed by British colonialists, but are refusing to be governed Chinese nationalists. Besides, the issue here is not between colonialism and communism; it’s between national unity and regional secession.

    Frankly, solidarity with Hong Kongers who want independence from China is tantamount to solidarity with Texans or Californians who want independence from the United States. Therefore, one can hardly blame Chinese President Xi Jinping for acting pursuant to the same principle that compelled U.S. President Abraham Lincoln to preserve the union … by any means necessary.

    Hence President Xi’s Lincolnesque warning:

    All activities that intend to divide the country will certainly be firmly opposed by all Chinese people. We will never allow any one, any organisation, any party to split off any tract of territory from China anytime, or in any way.

    (South China Morning Post, November 11, 2016)

    screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-9-04-05-pm

    Perhaps the extraordinary length to which British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher went to preserve the United Kingdom is more instructive:

    Twenty-five years ago, the British considered the Falkland Islands so vital to their sovereignty that they dispatched their armada to assert dominion over them. They did so because the islanders were poised to pledge allegiance to neighboring Argentina. Never mind that the Falklands were little more than a bleak and desolate cluster of islands situated 8,000 miles away.

    (“Recognizing (or Lamenting) Kosovo Independence,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 17, 2008)

    And let’s face it, more countries recognize Hong Kong as part of China today than those that recognized the Falklands as part of the UK back then.

    This is why, instead of marching in solidarity with those lawyers last Tuesday, I would’ve been more inclined to march in solidarity with the Hong Kongers who took to the streets on Sunday to denounce them.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Sunday, November 13, 2016 at 3:56 PM

    President-Elect Trump: ‘Now I can really grab any woman … wherever’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-3-53-20-pm

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  • Saturday, November 12, 2016 at 8:47 AM

    Congratulations, Madam President! (If Hillary Had Won…)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Many of my progressive friends are having a hard time coming to terms with Donald Trump as president-elect of the United States. Some are even joining self-flagellating, flash-mob protests, which are springing all over the country, to vent their raging disbelief.

    I tried reasoning with them to no avail. Ironically, some of them are convinced the election was rigged, which of course is what Trump would’ve claimed if Hillary had won.

    Therefore, I’ve decided to inject this commentary into the alternative reality this vanquished alt-left seems determined to occupy. And, like injecting the flu virus to inoculate against the flu, I hope injecting this dose of delusion will inoculate them against the type of delusion that defines the ascendant alt-right.

    Accordingly, based on the counterfactual assumption that Hillary won Tuesday’s election, here is my commentary hailing her historic achievement.

    ******

    screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-1-12-00-pmFirst, a few points for the record:

    • I was a Bernie Sanders supporter. But, like him, I threw my support behind Hillary after she won the Democratic nomination – as “Hillary Takes Historic Step Towards Shattering Highest Glass Ceiling,” July 30, 2016, attests.
    • I predicted her landslide victory months ago in “Ignore the Polls. Hillary Will Win in Wave Election,” September 9, 2016. I was wrong. Not least because it turns out the sleeping giant in American politics was not aggrieved anti-Trump Hispanics but angry pro-Trump whites. The latter helped Republicans retain control of Congress and nearly helped Trump defeat Hillary, which would have been the biggest presidential upset since Truman defeated Dewey.
    • Despite Hillary’s shockingly small margin of victory, she only has to cite the presidency of George W. Bush for the proposition that a win’s a win.
    • It was trendy among the commentariat and common folk alike to bemoan this presidential election as a choice between “the lesser of two evils.” But I never followed that trend. For I always saw it as a choice between a Democratic nominee who championed Obamacare (aka universal healthcare), progressive taxation, debt-free education, immigration reform (aka multiculturalism), gun control, equal pay and abortion rights for women, traditional political and military alliances (aka multilateralism), while holding sensible positions on virtually every other issue of national importance; and a Republican nominee who championed the repeal of Obamacare, regressive taxation, school choice only for those who can afford it, immigration bans (aka white nationalism), no restrictions on gun ownership, no equal pay and no abortion rights for women, transactional political and military alliances (aka Trumpism), while holding incomprehensible positions on virtually every other issue. Therefore, Hillary was the only choice, especially when one factored in personal character and public temperament.
    • julian-assange-on-hannity-sized-770x415xcWith all due respect to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Wikileaker Julian Assange, exposing the way the DNC schemed to help Hillary win the nomination is rather like exposing the way Oscar Mayer churns “trimmings” to make hot dogs. This is why, instead of foiling Hillary’s presidential ambition, Putin and Assange merely outed themselves as peddlers of meaningless political gossip with their e-mail hacks and leaks, respectively.
    • Nobel laureate Paul Krugman is already leading a chorus of eminent scholars in hailing Barack Obama as one of America’s greatest presidents. I’m betting Hillary will win similar acclaim … surpassing that of her husband, Bill.

    screen-shot-2016-07-28-at-6-04-35-pm

    That said, I repeat, Hillary was not my first choice. But here is why her election is a consummation eminently worthy of praise:

    After yesterday’s national elections, Michelle Bachelet [of Chile] is poised to become the first female head of state in South America. And, in light of the recent trend set by Angela Merkel of Germany and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Bachelet’s election will hearten those of us who welcome the seepage of ‘woman power’ through the crevices of governance (in politics and business) around the world.

    Alas, male chauvinism still predominates throughout the Americas, and nowhere more so than in the United States…

    Nevertheless, here’s to ‘the fairer sex’ – not only as indispensable guardians of home and hearth, but also as invaluable (and capable) stewards of the ship of state!

    (“Cracking the Political Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 12, 2005)

    And let’s face it, despite his sexist, misogynistic and chauvinistic bent, even Trump probably appreciates that a woman is better (pant)suited to heal the political wounds his scorched-earth campaign inflicted. But, in homage to Mr. Trump, a complete ban on all pundits and pollsters from TV would help this healing process considerably.

    barack-obama-hillary-will-finish-the-job-i-started-136407597913703901-160728093005

    In any event, there’s no denying the historic blow her election strikes against the white-male patriarchy that has ruled the world since the beginning of time. No doubt a blow made all the more impactful by having this first woman succeed the first black as president of the United States.

    Incidentally, I fully expect the triumvirate of Hillary Clinton of the United States, Theresa May of the United Kingdom, and Angela Merkel of Germany to prove every bit as invincible against Vladimir Putin as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and … Joseph Stalin proved against Adolf Hitler.

    screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-11-19-14-am

    Hail, woman power!

    Finally, I would be remiss not to mention Donald J. Trump, now the biggest loser in the history of American politics. But I shall suffice only to reprise the following from “‘I Can’t Hear, or See, or Say that Name [TRUMP] Without Spitting,’” March 14, 2016.

    ___________________

    All Americans should appreciate the categorical imperative of treating anything branded ‘TRUMP’ — from hotels to neckties and vodka — as if it were branded ‘KKK.’ It only hints at his cynicism and hucksterism that he makes such a public show of touting his Made in China products to “Make America Great Again.”

    x-e1438352766857-1940x1091But the legacy of his publicity stunt masquerading as a presidential campaign should be a Trump brand so tarnished that the only people willing to patronize his businesses are the fools who voted for him.

    Given that the vast majority of them are poor and uneducated, by his own estimation, it would only be a matter of time before he’s forced into the mother of all his bankruptcies (i.e., for failing to make payments on the debt he brags about using to finance his businesses). And trust me, this Croesus-envying narcissist would rather go bankrupt than depend on the rabble-rousing suckers who attend his rallies to keep his real-estate empire afloat. Which is just as well given that most of them can barely afford a night at a budget hotel.

    ___________________

    Meanwhile, all Trump has to show for his presidential campaign is the unprecedented coarsening, polarizing, dumbing down, and discrediting of American politics. This is why the shunning and shaming I called for would be his just deserts.

    ******

    There, I hope that counterfactual/post-truth commentary helps Hillary’s die-hard supporters come to terms with her historic loss.

    But there’s no overstating the truly astonishing irony that America failed to elect its first female president because it chose to elect a sexist, misogynist, male chauvinist pig instead. Notwithstanding alt-left delusions, however, the sooner we accept this result the better we’ll be able to handle – and overcome – it.

    So let the inoculation begin for my fellow progressives who risk descending into full-blown delusion. Mind you, Trump himself might prove the best medicine in this respect. After all, as I mentioned in my actual post-election commentary, “WTF! President-elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done.” November 9, 2016, his congenital hucksterism is such that he will probably disappoint his rabid supporters as much as he enrages his detractors.

    For example, he’s forming a Cabinet to “drain the swamp” in Washington that is composed of the very establishment elites who are not only creatures but creators of that swamp. Even more telling, though, is that Trump vowed throughout his campaign to repeal Obamacare as an article of faith. Yet, in his first interview as president-elect, he told the Wall Street Journal that he might “keep the good parts” of Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

    So let the disappointment begin for the one-born-every-minute suckers who voted for him. As it happens, I warned years ago – in “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker,” April 8, 2011 – that he would be more P.T. Barnum than president … even as president.

    Related commentaries:
    Hillary takes historic step
    Wave election
    Cracking the glass ceiling
    Can’t see or hear Trump
    Don’t be a sucker
    WTF! President-elect
    FBI e-mails

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 6:52 p.m.

  • Friday, November 11, 2016 at 7:02 AM

    In Observance of Veterans Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    img

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    IN FLANDERS FIELDS

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

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

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

    (John McCrae, 1915)

    NOTE: This commentary was originally published on November 11, 2011. I reprise it yearly not only to honor all war dead, but also to commend the UK for its awe-inspiring tribute: It features 888,246 long-stem ceramic poppies (one for each of the British and Colonial soldiers who died in that war, and all of them planted in moat formation around the Tower of London, row on row). The tribute is a poignant reminder of the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” that characterized the world wars.

  • Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 8:43 AM

    WTF! President-elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done. [UPDATED]

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I get the impression I disappointed many of you more than Hillary did – given the way you reacted yesterday to my brief commentary on the outcome of this election. I hope this updated version makes amends.

    1478678495324

    Donald John Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States on Tuesday in a stunning culmination of an explosive, populist and polarizing campaign that took relentless aim at the institutions and long-held ideals of American democracy.

    The surprise outcome, defying late polls that showed Hillary Clinton with a modest but persistent edge, threatened convulsions throughout the country and the world, where skeptics had watched with alarm as Mr. Trump’s unvarnished overtures to disillusioned voters took hold…

    The results amounted to a repudiation, not only of Mrs. Clinton, but of President Obama, whose legacy is suddenly imperiled.

    (New York Times, November 9, 2016)

    screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-7-40-24-pmWell, here’s to the triumph of white nationalism over multiculturalism/globalism.

    I wrote, “Ignore the Polls. Hillary Will Win in ‘Wave’ Election,” September 9, 2016. I was right about the polls. I was wrong about her win; and that’s the understatement of my life.

    Of course, this has been a year of black-swan phenomena – as results of the Brexit and FARC referendums, as well as the Cubs winning the World Series, attest. But this one is so surreal, it seems like America has just been overtaken by people from an alternative (alt-right?) universe … who came to “take [their] country back.”

    No doubt you’ll see pundits and pollsters all over TV today, trying to explain why they were so wrong. After all, they were certain pigs would fly before Trump is elected president of the United States.

    They would do well, however, to just shut up and pray. Not least because President-elect Trump instills as much fear as President-elect Obama inspired hope. Indeed, I fear he will execute his pledge to “black out” all of Obama’s signature accomplishments from the history books.

    Never mind the misguided way Obama unwittingly invited this prospect by making his legacy a galvanizing issue during Hillary’s campaign. I admonished him against doing so in “WTF! Obama Says It Would Be a ‘Personal Insult’ If Blacks Don’t Vote for Hillary…?” September 20, 2016.

    All the same, there’s no denying this:

    For far too many Republicans, it would seem a natural fate for the first Black president to preside over what they claim are the worst years in U.S. history. Their ulterior motive or misguided hope being that this would ensure no Black is elected president for at least another 100 years.

    (“Obama Trumpets Obamacare Success…Despite Republican Sabotage,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 14, 2014)

    This is why Trump’s victory says far more about white racism than white anger. Not to mention that the “angry whites of rural America” who voted to elect him also voted to re-elect nearly all of the do-nothing, dysfunctional members of the Washington establishment/elite who purportedly incited their anger.

    Also, to be fair, pundits had a perfectly reasonable expectation that whites in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan – who voted for Obama – would vote for Hillary. Especially because they based it on a juxtaposition of Obama’s salutary policies (e.g., saving the auto industry and championing healthcare reform) and Hillary’s pledge to build on them with Trump’s pie-in-the-sky slogans and pledge to either repeal or revoke those policies.

    But the following – from “Racism Worse Under Obama? Yes, But…,” December 9, 2014 – explains why those whites defied that expectation, showing little regard for their own welfare and even less for Obama’s legacy.

    ___________________

    Many people are expressing shock, dismay, and disillusionment that racism in the United States has worsened since Obama’s purportedly post-racial election in 2008. [And reports by Bloomberg News and the Associated Press bear this out]…

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

    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)

    ___________________

    bn-qs693_trumpt_gr_20161109204006

    That said, I urge those of you who cannot even countenance a Trump presidency to resist mounting feckless street protests. Instead, I reprise the following – from “‘I Can’t Hear, or See, or Say that Name [TRUMP] Without Spitting,’” March 14, 2016 – as the best and only way to vent your anger.

    ___________________

    All Americans should appreciate the categorical imperative of treating anything branded ‘TRUMP’ — from hotels to neckties and vodka — as if it were branded ‘KKK.’ It only hints at his cynicism and hucksterism that he makes such a public show of touting his Made in China products to “Make America Great Again.”

    But the legacy of his publicity stunt masquerading as a presidential campaign should be a Trump brand so tarnished that the only people willing to patronize his businesses are the fools who voted for him.

    Given that the vast majority of them are poor and uneducated, by his own estimation, it would only be a matter of time before he’s forced into the mother of all his bankruptcies (i.e., for failing to make payments on the debt he brags about using to finance his businesses). And trust me, this Croesus-envying narcissist would rather go bankrupt than depend on the rabble-rousing suckers who attend his rallies to keep his real-estate empire afloat. Which is just as well given that most of them can barely afford a night at a budget hotel.

    ___________________

    f0183b4c-db04-11e5-b45c-0ae745c63549_1_

    Meanwhile, Trump spent much of his campaign damning Hillary for abusing her position as secretary of state to enrich her family. But he demonstrated throughout a congenital habit of projecting onto others his most brazen faults. Therefore, it would be entirely consistent for him to abuse his position as president to (further) enrich his family.

    Accordingly, I reiterate that a vigilant and sustained campaign to shun and shame the TRUMP brand is the only effective way to protest his presidency.

    Besides, Trump is constitutionally and institutionally precluded from fulfilling many of his outlandish campaign promises, like banning Muslims, building that wall, and locking Hillary up. I am willing to bet, for example, that his promise to reshape the Supreme Court in Scalia’s conservative image will be thwarted by every liberal justice outliving his presidency.

    Hence, chances are very good that his presidency will prove as great a disappointment to his rabid supporters as it will to his enraged detractors.

    Beyond this, the only consolation I can offer is that America has survived far worse than anything a Trump presidency portends.

    God help America. But bear in mind that the entire world has a vested interest in what Trump does as president of the United States….

    NOTE: Speaker Paul Ryan is leading a chorus of Republican leaders in singing Trump’s praises. But their resentment over his bull-in-a-China-shop run to the White House is palpable.

    Therefore, don’t be surprised if they seize the first opportunity to impeach and replace him with Vice President-elect Mike Pence – who Republicans and Democrats alike consider far more fit to serve as president … for a litany of well-documented reasons. And, given Trump’s Nixonian inclination to punish his enemies, to say nothing of his Clintonian inclination to enrich himself, he is bound to provide all kinds of opportunities for them to do so.

    Related commentaries:
    Hillary will win
    Brexit..
    FARC
    Obamacare success
    Obama personal insult
    Racism worse

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, November 9, at 6:37 a.m.

  • Monday, November 7, 2016 at 6:49 AM

    FBI Repeats: ‘No Reasonable Prosecutor’ Would Charge Hillary Over E-mails

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Nine days ago, Director James Comey sent a letter informing congressional leaders that the FBI was reviewing newly discovered e-mails. He said they “appeared to be pertinent” to its yearlong investigation into Hillary’s use of a private e-mail server. Unsurprisingly, the immediate leaking of that letter shocked the world.

    screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-8-40-54-pmPoliticians and pundits (of every partisan disposition) reacted to that letter as if it were a criminal indictment. For them, the proverbial other shoe had dropped, and Hillary’s presidential campaign was doomed.

    By contrast, here is the sober, albeit incredulous, note I sounded in “Hey, FBI, Scavenging Hillary’s E-mails Is No Way to Disrupt Terrorist Plots,” November 1, 2016:

    Comey admitted he had no idea if these newly discovered e-mails might cause the FBI to change the conclusion it came to in July. Back then, even though it found that she was “extremely careless” in handling classified e-mails, the FBI concluded that Hillary did nothing to warrant prosecution. Comey affirmed in congressional testimony that it was ‘not even a close call’…

    There seems little chance agents will discover anything to incriminate Hillary… [Not to mention] the Keystone-esque absurdity of 147 FBI agents scavenging through the veritable haystack of e-mails on Weiner’s computer, searching for the needle of a smoking gun they could not find on Hillary’s server…

    This e-mailgate is sheer madness.

    160705-clinton-fbi-double-standard-indexHence, even though the timing surprises me, this “breaking news” does not:

    Nine days after upending the 2016 presidential campaign, FBI Director James Comey announced Sunday that Hillary Clinton would not face charges over newly discovered emails found on a separate computer.

    In a letter to Congress, Comey said he would not revisit his initial conclusion, announced in July, that Clinton acted carelessly, but not criminally, when she used a private email account as secretary of state.

    (Huffington Post, November 6, 2016)

    Unfortunately, this comes as little consolation to Hillary. After all, fodder from Comey’s initial letter landed like a cluster bomb on her campaign trail, cratering her seemingly smooth path to the White House.

    Nothing betrayed the devastating effect quite like Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, gloating about the damage Comey had done. Trump’s rise and Hillary’s fall in the polls since then speaks volumes….

    Nonetheless, instead of bemoaning this manifest unfairness, Hillary should “go high.” She should leave it to her surrogates to damn Trump and his surrogates for baying at the FBI to “lock her up;” you know, like tin-pot dictators do to their political opponents in Banana Republics.

    hdlns10-trump-shoot-iowaHillary should have no illusions, however, that Trump’s shoot-first-question-later temperament will cost him any votes, After all, he has vindicated this outrageous statement time and again:

    I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.

    (Washington Post, January 23, 2016)

    It hardly matters to them that his stump speeches have always been little more than a string of exaggerations, misrepresentations, and “big” lies, all of which he uses a teleprompter these days to deliver with Orwellian persuasion. Most brazen among his latest lies is that Hillary is under investigation for all kinds of crimes and will end up in jail. Because he knows full well that the FBI and Department of Justice have now cleared her twice; and, once in the White House, pigs will fly before rabid Republicans impeach and convict her.

    By the way, remember when Trump used to mock Hillary and Obama as “dumb losers” for using a teleprompter? Now he’s “teleprompter Don.” This man’s hypocrisy knows no bounds.

    In any event, what I find most interesting about this latest disqualifying episode is the way his surrogates have betrayed a cult-like mission to proselytize Trump’s most ignorant and reckless blather. None of them has distinguished himself more dubiously in this respect than former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

    cr9qgk1uaaajqovAs a former federal prosecutor, he is the last person who should be preaching Trump’s self-serving message that the FBI is rigged and Hillary is guilty. Again, the director of the FBI said that no reasonable prosecutor would even charge Hillary in this case. It follows therefore that Giuliani has reduced himself to nothing more than just another political hack.

    Remarkably, though, he seems to have derived perverse satisfaction from serving as Trump’s consigliere throughout this campaign. But he will soon learn that this does not compensate for sacrificing his reputation, goodwill and title as America’s mayor … all at the altar of Trump.

    But imagine a Trump presidency, during which Yes Men like Giuliani are continually reassuring him that he’s the smartest, richest, sexiest, and most beloved man in the world.

    donald-trump-mike-pence-air-kiss-30fa236b-4463-4cb6-8cfd-9457e63e66adHis running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, telegraphed this foreboding spectacle at a rally tonight. You’d think a man in his position would admonish the restive mobs at campaign rallies to respect the FBI’s conclusion. Not least because Trump has proclaimed himself the “law and order candidate.”

    Instead Pence fed them red meat; saying in effect that the FBI conclusion does not matter. After all, Trump orthodoxy holds that any FBI conclusion that does not serve his political interest must be rigged … just like any poll that does not show him in the lead.

    Only in America, folks.

    NOTE: If you’re a citizen, 18 or older, I urge you to join the enlightened masses casting ballots on Tuesday to ensure that this ignorant, narcissistic, xenophobic, racist, sexist, misogynistic, bullying, thin-skinned, vindictive, petulant man-child (to list his most-defining traits) does not become the next president of the United States.

    hc-229

    Related commentaries:
    Hey, FBI

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 8:23 p.m.

  • Friday, November 4, 2016 at 7:42 AM

    The Gunpowder Plot

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Remember, remember!

    The fifth of November,

    The Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.

    I know of no reason

    Why the Gunpowder Treason

    Should ever be forgot!

    I learned this English folk verse (circa 1870) in primary school. History.com summarizes the infamous plot it regales as follows:

    The Gunpowder Plot was a failed attempt to blow up England’s King James I (1566-1625) and the Parliament on November 5, 1605. The plot was organized by Robert Catesby (c.1572-1605) in an effort to end the persecution of Roman Catholics by the English government…

    Around midnight on November 4, 1605, one of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes (1570-1606), was discovered in the cellar of the Parliament building with barrels of gunpowder.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Guy “Guido” Fawkes and his co-conspirators were all tried and executed. Ever since, Britons have been burning him in effigy … as a warning to others. In fact, before the annual State Opening of Parliament, the Yeomen of the Guard pay homage to Guy-Fawkes folklore by making symbolic searches of the House of Commons and House of Lords.

    screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-6-15-56-pmThey bungled this plot spectacularly. Hell, reports are that the 36 barrels of gunpowder were of such poor quality, they would have gone off more like firecrackers than bombs even if Fawkes had been clever enough to set them a light.

    Mind you, any good Catholic would swear that the Gunpowder Plot was every bit as heroic and potentially transformative as the 20 July Plot. The latter, of course, was the plot Claus von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators hatched and botched to blow up Adolf Hitler.

    Yet, since primary school, the only thing I’ve ever wondered about the former is why the British (and people throughout their Commonwealth) celebrate their most notorious traitor by burning him in effigy.

    You’d think, for example, that the Americans had good cause to follow suit with Benedict Arnold. But chances are that most Americans don’t even know his name.

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