• Saturday, January 24, 2015 at 7:26 AM

    This Pope’s loose tongue is his most redeeming/endearing trait….

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Who am I to judge gays? 

    You talk about my Mama, I’ll punch you in the mouth!

    Catholics don’t have to **** like rabbits!

    Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 10.34.36 PM

    God Bless him…

  • Friday, January 23, 2015 at 6:06 AM

    Congress Invites Israeli PM Netanyahu to Respond to Obama’s State of the Union Address?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    a874572c98c64726610f6a7067009ca5I have had cause on far too many occasions to denounce the presumptuous way Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has, variously, attempted to challenge Obama’s presidential authority or dictate how Obama should exercise it.

    What is most troubling, however, is that congressional Republicans have invariably enabled him. In fact, while doing all they could to block Obama’s policies (regardless of merit), they allowed Netanyahu to treat the U.S. Congress, for his intents and purposes, like “Israeli-occupied territory.”

    What’s more, whenever Obama tried to put Netanyahu in his place, Republicans decried Obama’s presumptuousness and defended Netanyahu’s impudence. Hell, you’d think Netanyahu, not Obama, was the president of the United States….

    Here is an excerpt from “Obama Dissing Israel PM Netanyahu?” September 12, 2012, which provides a little insight:

    ____________________

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

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

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

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

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

    ____________________

    netanyahu_boehnerThis is why I was not at all surprised when news broke on Wednesday about Republican Speaker John Boehner inviting Netanyahu to address a Joint Session of Congress … on whether the United States should impose (more) sanctions against Iran, immediately. Boehner did this, despite Obama practically pleading – in his State of Union Address on Tuesday – for Congress to give his diplomatic initiatives a reasonable chance to work, without congressional and/or Israeli interference that could undermine them, fatally.

    Setting up a diplomatic showdown on an issue that has sharply divided Obama and congressional Republicans, Boehner announced the invitation the day after Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to veto Iran sanctions legislation being developed in Congress.

    (Reuters, January 21, 2015)

    Of course, the Jewish Zionists, Christian fundamentalists, and political neo-cons – who Boehner and Netanyahu consider their bilateral base – would like nothing more than to kill Obama’s initiatives. For this, they figure, would provide their pretext for this president (or the next) to bomb Iran … in an Iraq-style misadventure to protect Israel. But I digress….

    012215_otr_panel_640Nor was I surprised when Netanyahu not only accepted, but declared his intent to meet with Obama during his visit, even though the White House issued no invitation.

    Frankly, this congressional invitation just crystallizes the antic contempt both Republicans and Netanyahu have for Obama. Only this explains why this Speaker would defy long-established protocol by inviting this foreign leader to address a Joint Session of Congress without even bothering to consult this president. And only this explains why this Israeli prime minister would defy long-established protocol by accepting. Not to mention that the speaker’s interference smacks of an attempt to usurp the long-established power of the president to conduct foreign affairs.

    Unfortunately, the only thing Obama can do is ignore them.

    Accordingly:

    The White House announced that President Barack Obama will not meet with Netanyahu during his visit; U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will also forgo meeting with Netanyahu [and] Vice President Joe Biden is also expected to do the same.

    (Haaretz, January 23, 2015)

    Meanwhile, nobody seems the least bit bothered by the untenable precedent this congressional flouting of protocol – to slight this president and hail this prime minister – sets. After all, it will only embolden other foreign leaders to curry favor with congressional leaders to undermine the authority of a president whose policies they don’t like. It will also give credence to visceral assertions by Obama’s more rabid supporters, like Reverend Al Sharpton, about Republican opposition to him having more to do with racism than politics.

    But I urge all Democrats (and sensible Republicans) to boycott Netanyahu’s address. Because only this would demonstrate, quite appropriately, that in showing this kind of contempt for Obama, Boehner and Netanyahu are also showing contempt for the American people.

    By the way, on Iran:

    Netanyahu showed no regard for the fact that Obama has insisted all along that, like Reagan in his dealings with leaders of the Soviet Union, he will ‘trust but verify, verify, verify’ everything. Specifically, that there will be no lifting of crippling sanctions, which have Rouhani crying uncle on behalf of his long-suffering people, until there’s concrete and verifiable evidence that Iran has dismantled all of its facilities to develop nuclear weapons.

    What’s more, it cannot be lost on Obama that, if he had his way, Netanyahu would have already misled him down a primrose path to war against Iran similar to the one neo-cons misled his predecessor, George W. Bush, down to war against Iraq 10 years ago.

    (“Netanyahu, Obama’s Iago; Iran, His Desdemona,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 2, 2013) 

    584016-c3f18e54-9ae1-11e4-b380-6759e7d08be1Iran notwithstanding, I would be remiss not to mention the prevailing suspicion that Netanyahu invited himself to bolster his image in advance of Israel’s March 17 elections. That the French accused him of doing just that a few weeks ago lends credibility to this suspicion.

    Specifically, reports are that French President Francois Hollande was so concerned about Netanyahu’s participation in the recent Charlie Hebdo parade inflaming passions (for obvious reasons), he personally rang to beg him off attending. But that Netanyahu regarded his participation as such a potential boost to his re-election prospects (for obvious reasons), he not only ignored this personal entreaty, but made quite a show of leading the parade … right alongside Hollande.

    Like I said, the chutzpah of the man never ceases to amaze me.

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

  • Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 6:48 AM

    New England Patriots Caught in ‘Deflategate’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Allegations that the New England Patriots cheated during Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts went viral within minutes after it ended. It pertained to charges that the Patriots underinflated game balls to make it easier to throw and catch in the cold, wet weather.

    Here in part is how I commented:

    The Patriots trampled the Colts (45-7) in a game that will be remembered more for an allegation of cheating off the field than for the execution of any play on it…

    Even if proven true, the Patriots would clearly be happy to absorb the relatively light penalties as the cost of doing business. After all, a few draft picks and even a $1-million fine would be a small price to pay to get to the Super Bowl for the sixth time and have a shot at a fourth title during this Belichick-Brady era.

    (“NFL Conference Championship Sunday,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 20, 2015)

    tom-brady-game-ballWell, it now seems that not just this game, but the entire Belichick-Brady era will be remembered more for cheating than winning:

    The NFL has found that 11 of the New England Patriots’ 12 game balls were inflated significantly below the NFL’s requirements, league sources involved and familiar with the investigation of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game told ESPN.

    The investigation found the footballs were inflated 2 pounds per square inch below what’s required by NFL regulations.

    (ESPN, January 21, 2015)

    The prevailing suspicion is that, after the referee inspected their game balls two hours before kickoff, the Patriots secretly deflated them to quarterback Brady’s preferred, but illegal, level….

    With this finding, however, the only question now is what penalties the NFL will impose for this latest act of cheating. This is the same team and personnel, after all, that the NFL penalized for illegally videotaping their opponents’ hand signals during a game in 2007.

    roger-goodell-nfl-commissioner-roger-goodell-press-conference3-850x560Indeed, the NFL should be guided by the fact that stripping the team of one first-round draft pick, fining it $250,000, and fining Coach Belichick $500,000 in that case had no deterrent effect. Of course, it should also be guided by the notorious misstep it made last year by initially giving Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice just a slap on the wrist for battering his then fiancé.

    But, consistent with my assertion about the Patriots factoring in such penalties as the cost of doing business, I think the NFL should:

    • Fire all support staff involved in deflating those game balls, immediately.
    • Strip the team of three times as many draft picks, and fine it ten times as much, as the NFL stripped and fined the Patriots for cheating with those videotapes.
    • Suspend Coach Belichick for one year without pay, immediately; despite his protestations that he knew nothing about it. He should have known, and his credibility is obviously suspect.
    • Suspend quarterback Tom Brady for one year without pay, immediately; especially in light of the way he initially laughed off the allegation as utterly preposterous. He clearly knew or should have known, and he benefited more than any other player from this cheating caper.
    • Place asterisks next to victories and quarterback stats this team accumulated during the Belichick-Brady era. This would consign them to the same kind of fate that will forever call into question the victories and stats associated with notorious cheaters like steroid-junkies Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez.
    • Deny Belichick and Brady entry into the NFL Hall of Fame for the same reasons Bonds, Clemens, and Rodriguez will never make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not least because of the unavoidable deduction that Belichick and Brady got away with cheating in similar fashion during far too many other games to countenance.

    Of course, immediate suspensions would bar Belichick and Brady from coaching and playing, respectively, in the forthcoming Super Bowl. But I can think of no better way for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to redeem his and the league’s reputation (after the Ray Rice debacle) than to impose immediate suspensions.

    635548731457112737-DREW-BREES-AND-SEAN-PAYTONAll NFL fans are familiar with Goodell invoking the maxim “ignorance is no excuse” in 2012 to justify suspending New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton (for one year without pay) for his team’s crush-for-cash scheme (aka “Bountygate”). This, despite Payton pleading then, as Belichick is now, that he knew nothing about it.

    And, just as pleading ignorance about the steroids he was shooting up to hit home runs did not exculpate Bonds (He thought it was flaxseed oil, remember?), pleading ignorance about using deflated game balls to help him complete passes should not exculpate Brady.

    Finally, if these suspensions make it easier for the Seattle Seahawks to win, it would constitute only a fraction of the poetic justice required to compensate for all the games, to say nothing of the three Super Bowls, the New England Patriots have won under the cheating leadership of these two arrogant schmucks.

    Related commentaries:
    NFL Conference Championship

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 6:28 p.m.

  • Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 7:41 AM

    From Washington to Davos, Calls to Stop Rich Getting Richer Just Hot Air

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    People have been sounding alarms about the rich getting richer (and the poor getting poorer) for over 150 years. In fact, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Vol. 2, quotes no less a person than former president Andrew Jackson invoking this aphorism way back in 1832:

    When the laws undertake … to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society … have a right to complain of the injustice to their Government.

    What’s more, the laws of practically every country on earth have invariably undertaken to make the rich richer. And that includes socialist/communists countries, like China and Cuba, where laws purport to prevent glaring disparities in wealth and income.

    download (10)This is why I am so bemused by all the media fuss about Oxfam, the international anti-poverty organization, sounding a similar alarm. It stems from a report the agency released on Monday, which executive director Winnie Byanyima summarized as follows:

    The richest 1% have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014…

    Do we really want to live in a world where the 1% own more than the rest of us combined?

    (CNN, January 19, 2015)

    But a report telling us that the ‘wealthiest 1% will soon own more than the rest of us combined’ is about as newsworthy as reports telling us that China will soon overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy.

    1297653873024_ORIGINALIn any event, the media are making a fuss especially about Byanyima attending the meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week to present Oxfam’s concerns. For anyone familiar with the Bible, this probably conjures up allusions to Christ entering the temple and overturning the tables of usurious money changers and greedy merchants; or of Christ admonishing the Pharisees and Sadducees against a man gaining the whole world, and losing his own soul.

    Except that this too strikes me as much ado about nothing. Not least because I’m on record decrying Forum organizers for continually inviting do-gooders like Byanyima just to help them feel good, not to make them do good. Here, for example, is an excerpt to this effect from “Why All the Fuss about the World Economic Forum,” January 30, 2006.

    _________________

    The World Economic Forum … is an annual event at which corporate titans, international bankers, world leaders, and a smattering of celebrity do-gooders gather for invigorating gabfests about the impact of world developments on their businesses, personal wealth, and collective conscience. And, while the politicians and invited guests from the Third World change from year to year, the other attendees are invariably the same rich CEOs, investors, and financial managers – who represent the world’s super rich…

    The wealthiest 1% would have the rest of us believe that Davos is all about addressing world economic problems that affect our lives. That’s why the most talked about feature of their gathering is not the (main event) schmooze-fests for business opportunities; rather, it’s the (under card) gabfests for charitable causes – at which invited guests sit on panels to share their enlightened concerns about world affairs, particularly the plight of the poor.

    __________________

    This is why the issue is not the ever-growing gap between rich and poor; it’s whether world leaders are ever going to stop undertaking laws to make the rich richer and the poor poorer – to paraphrase President Jackson.

    To be fair, President Obama took a significant step towards redressing this gap in the United States five years ago, when he prevailed upon Democrats – who controlled Congress – to pass his healthcare reform bill (aka Obamacare). But it reeks of garden-variety political pandering that he waited until the “fourth quarter” of his presidency to begin proposing legislation that would tax the rich to pay for such things as free community-college education for the poor and rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure.

    Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 6.59.47 AMAs I write this, I’m listening to him tout this and other redistributive policies (mostly having to do with closing loopholes rich folks and corporations use to avoid fair taxation) in his annual State of the Union Address. And, if implemented, they would close the gap between rich and poor considerably.

    Unfortunately, Republicans – who now control Congress – are so ideologically committed to passing laws to make the rich richer that they even regard Obamacare, which makes healthcare affordable for the poor, as a political abomination. Therefore, Obama knows full well that all of the social and economic justice items he’s championing now have about as much chance of becoming law as I have of becoming president.

    I have listened to enough State of the Union Addresses to know that they invariably amount to a triumph of style over substance.  And nothing demonstrates this quite like the most memorable thing about President Obama’s first address last year being not something he said, but a congressman yelling, ‘You lie.’

    (“2011 State of the Union Address,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 26, 2011)

    No doubt this is why PBS NewsHour felt obliged to report earlier this evening that only 2 of the 18 proposals Obama made in his 2014 State of the Union Address have become law….

    Meanwhile, you are probably wondering how the rich feel about the prospect of Obama “spreading their wealth around” – as so many voted for him in 2008 hoping he would do.

    Well, the following excerpt from “Super-Rich Irony,” October 5, 2012, provides some insight. But I should preface it by noting the commendable exception of some of the super rich, most notably public-spirited philanthropists like Bill Gates and progressive-taxation champions like Warren Buffet.

    ___________________

    I find it amusing when people regale me with a story or opinion that mirrors one of my published commentaries. Such was the case yesterday when a colleague vented her incredulous take on an article in the current issue of the New Yorker titled: “Super-Rich Irony: Why Do America’s Super-Rich Feel Victimized by Obama?”

    Of course the irony is that the super-rich (aka the one-percenters) are the ones who have benefited most from his presidency…

    Most notable are Wall Street bankers whose firms he bailed out and who raked in record profits as the DOW rose an unprecedented 56 percent.  But they are joined at the hip by corporate CEOs whose companies are sitting on trillions in profits and who earned so much in compensation that the cause of their despair must be some perverse form of thriver’s guilt.

    __________________

    On the other hand, Chris Rock triggered viral interest a few weeks ago, when he quipped that there would be riots in the streets if poor people knew how filthy rich the rich really are.

    Except that the French Revolution erupted precisely because poor people knew this. Moreover, it’s not only the case that technology has enabled poor people to know all about the “secret lives of the super rich;” but rich people have become even more conspicuous in consuming their unprecedented amount of wealth.

    secret-lives-super-rich-hdr-wed

    But, apropos of rich irony, one of the reasons today’s poor are unlikely to revolt is that they are too busy pretending to be rich. More to the point, technology has also enabled poor people to live virtual lives in which they have more in common with rich people than with each other.

    (Karl Marx lamented that religion is the opiate of the poor masses, which induces the complacency of “illusory happiness.” Social media is giving religion a run for its money in this respect.)

    Not to mention that partisanship in America has become so dogmatic that millions of poor, uninsured folks support politicians – whose sole agenda is to repeal Obamacare – just to honor their membership in the Republican Party (of the rich).

    That said, I couldn’t end without reprising this pet peeve about the annual gathering in Davos. As you read it, bear in mind reports about as many as 1,700 private jets crisscrossing the pristine Swiss Alps, taking attendees to and fro:

    To hear these rich folks lamenting about the depletion of the ozone, the increasing gap between haves and have nots, and the almost criminal waste of non-renewable energy, one would think they all jet-pooled to Davos in ethanol-fueled airplanes; instead of flying in on their gas-guzzling, air-polluting private jets.

    (“Attendees Emit More CO2 than Solutions at World Economic Forum,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 29, 2007)

    Frankly, all of the above makes clear that all talk of redressing the gap between rich and poor (including calls for a “New Magna Carta” no less) is, well, just hot air. I mean, am I the only one who sees that the more the rich talk about helping the poor, the richer the rich become…?

    Related commentaries:
    Why all the fuss
    Super-rich
    2011 SOTU address
    More than solutions

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 10:11 p.m.

  • Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 6:51 AM

    NFL Conference Championship Sunday! 

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Real Football fans will tell you that the most exciting day of the NFL season is Conference Championship Sunday, not Super Bowl Sunday — as casual fans might say.

    (“Historic NFL Championship Sunday,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 22, 2007)

    True to form, yesterday’s National Football Conference (NFC) game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers did not disappoint. Never mind that it took an improbable second-half comeback by the Seahawks for this game to generate the kind of excitement we’ve come to expect of conference championship games.

    589APTOPIX NFC Championship FootballAfter all, with the Packers sitting on a 16-0 lead and the Seahawks having almost as many interceptions as completions at halftime, this game was generating nothing but Zzzs — no doubt aided in part by watching it play out in torrential rain.

    But suffice it to know that one had to be a dead fish not to be electrified watching the Seahawks execute a fake field goal attempt for a touchdown, score a two-point conversion with a Hail Mary pass, and recover an onside kick that led to another touchdown — all within a two-minute span late in the fourth quarter. This forced the Packers to pull off some heroics of their own, including a long (48-yard) field goal just for an overtime-triggering tie (22-22) at the end of regulation.

    But frankly, when they followed up all of their fourth-quarter heroics by winning the coin toss to take first possession in overtime, the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks seemed assured of a rendezvous with destiny. Indeed, it only took a few snaps for quarterback Russell Wilson to make up for his four interceptions by tossing a 35-yard touchdown pass to secure sudden-death victory, 28-22.

    Alas, my post-game high did not last long. You probably recall the post-game rant following last year’s NFC championship game that made Richard Sherman a household name:

    images2

    He might well be the best cornerback in the NFL, but chances are that you never heard of the Seahawks’ Richard Sherman until the media made a barking fool of him on Sunday.

    Unfortunately, the takeaway (especially for young Black boys) is that you have a far better shot at fame in America today by acting like an obnoxious jerk than by displaying real talent. And amoral corporate sponsors will only reinforce this socially demeaning value now by rewarding him with lucrative endorsement deals.

    Which is why the story here is not Sherman’s postgame rant, as the media would have you believe. Rather, it’s the media (and advertisers) choosing to elevate his rant over the game itself.

    (“‘Thug’ — the Politically Correct Word for Nigger,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 23, 2014) 

    It was hardly surprising, therefore, that little-known Seahawk players tried to emulate Sherman with post-game rants of their own — clearly hoping to stir up Campbell Soup-like endorsement deals too. But it was a real snooze watching them do so. Thankfully, I don’t think they’ll find the media, let alone advertisers, as interested in their testosterone/steroid-fueled gloating as they were in Sherman’s.

    In any event, apropos of rendezvous with destiny, the Seahawks are now poised to become the first NFL team to defend their Super Bowl title since the New England Patriots did it in 2003-04.

    How fitting then that they will have to beat the Patriots to do so. In fact, thank God that NFC game ended up providing so much excitement. Because it more than compensated for the bore the American Football Championship (AFC) game between the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts turned out to be.

    image (2)The Patriots trampled the Colts (45-7) in a game that will be remembered more for an allegation of cheating off the field than for the execution of any play on it:

    The NFL has confirmed it is looking into charges the New England Patriots cheated Sunday night when they clinched a trip to the Super Bowl Sunday night by using deflated footballs … to make them easier to throw and catch.

    If the Patriots did cheat, it would not be the first time. The team was penalized a first-round draft pick, fined $250,000 and head coach Belichick was personally fined $500,000 after an investigation by the NFL determined the team had illegally videotaped their opponents hand signals during a 2007 game.

    (FOX News, January 19, 2015)

    I have only two points to make about this:

    • These charges would be relevant only if each team played offense with its own footballs. In fact, both teams provide footballs to the referees before each game for inspection, and have no control over which ball is put in play during games. Hence, the charges of cheating, in this case, seem frivolous.
    • Even if proven true, the Patriots would clearly be happy to absorb the relatively light penalties as the cost of doing business. After all, a few draft picks and even a $1-million fine would be a small price to pay to get to the Super Bowl for the sixth time and have a shot at a fourth title during this Belichick-Brady era.

    That said, my home team, the Washington “Epithets,” have been too busy setting new precedents for futility and providing new highlights for derision to even make the playoffs. Therefore, I won’t have a dog in the fight when the Seahawks play the Patriots for Super Bowl XLIV in Arizona on February 1.

    All the same, I’ll be routing for the Seahawks!

    0ap3000000460559

    Primarily because, despite being defending champions, they are the underdogs; and I am psychologically disposed to champion the underdog. Indeed, that Wilson, the Seahawks’ relatively small quarterback, looks like the proverbial David compared with (Tom) Brady, the Patriots’ relatively big quarterback (the proverbial Goliath), personifies my take on this matchup.

    But I am also picking the Seahawks to win because I’m so impressed with the poise, class, and humility a victorious Wilson invariably displays. In fact, his character is such that it not only compensates for that of the chest-thumping, trash-talking nincompoops on his team, but also stands in admirable contrast to the cheating that seems to have enabled so much of the Patriots’ accomplishments — with all due respect to Brady and the rendezvous with the NFL Hall of Fame that awaits him.

    Go Hawks!

    Related commentaries:
    Historic NFL
    Thug

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 1:13 p.m.

  • Monday, January 19, 2015 at 6:20 AM

    Observing MLK Day…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    mlkcIf Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would be as thrilled as anybody that Barack Obama is doing so well as the first Black president of the United States.

    Yet he would be the first to remind us that we are still far from reaching the Promised Land that inspired his prophetic dream.

    No doubt Obama himself is all too mindful that his election was only one small step on the march toward economic and social equality for all Americans.  Indeed, nothing betrays the fatuous notion of his election ushering in a post-racial era quite like Selma-like marches against police brutality, which have been popping up all over the country for months.

    Incidentally, it might be helpful to recall that, when he was elected president, Obama was the only Black member of the U.S. Senate. Yet it was White Democratic leaders who did all they could to block the swearing in of the Black man the governor of Illinois appointed to replace him….

    Nevertheless, it speaks volumes that, of all the great Americans who have ever lived, MLK is the only private citizen to have a federal holiday declared in his honor.

    gty_martin_luther_king_memorial_jp_110815_wgHell, even Washington and Lincoln have to share one holiday on Presidents Day.  And, with the August 2013 dedication of his memorial, MLK will now be perched on the Mall alongside them in perpetuity. All of which might explain why Washington’s monument is glaring down on MLK’s….

    Seriously, though, am I the only one who thinks Washington’s looks eerily like a stonemason’s monument to the KKK…?

    There was considerable media coverage last week of workers repelling down the Washington Monument to inspect damage that was caused by the recent earthquake. However, while most people seemed mesmerized by the acrobatic feat this entailed, I could not help noticing how much up-close images of the cone of the Monument resembles the hood of a Ku Klux Klansman.

    I’ve read accounts of Free Masons, who were instrumental in building DC, inserting masonic symbols all over the city. Therefore, is it so farfetched to think that this monument, which was built between 1848-84 as a memorial to George Washington, also paid homage to prevailing notions of white supremacy…?

    (“Washington Monument’s KKK Imagery,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 11, 2011)

    Whatever the case, today’s holiday is not just a testament to MLK’s greatness; it’s a symbolic down payment on the promissory note, which represents the unpaid, if not unpayable, debt America owes descendants of the Blacks it enslaved.

    That said:

    This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

    And I can think of no better way to mark this MLK holiday than by pledging henceforth to tune out all politicians, pundits, and provocateurs who traffic in incendiary rhetoric that can inspire political assassinations or revive racial enmities.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, January 17, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    WTF! Ohio’s Cardale Jones Opts to Stay in School…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [Most ‘student athletes’] not only graduate with degrees not worth the paper they’re written on; they actually enter college aiming to do nothing but make themselves more marketable to professional teams – as no less a person than last night’s star, Cardale Jones, asserted in a refreshingly honest tweet years ago:

    ‘Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come here to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.’ (8:43 AM – 5 Oct 12)

    Of course, classes could indeed prove pointless for Jones now that he’s a national champion quarterback. The only lesson left for him to learn is that he must strike while the iron is hot and go pro.

    (“Ohio Buckeyes Trample Oregon Ducks to Win NCAA Football National Championship,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 13, 2015)

    635569357188557110-DSC-1842Alas, he failed to learn this lesson. For here is the pithy way Cardale announced, during a LeBronesque press conference on Thursday, that he’s taking his talents back to Ohio:

    [The NFL] was out of the question. A first-round draft pick means nothing to me without my education.

    (ESPN, January 16, 2015)

    With this announcement, Cardale became the poster boy for (the idealized notion of) student athletes. This of course is ironic — given his infamous tweet about going to school “to play Football [not] to play school.” Arguably, that made him the poster boy for “one and done” athletes who deem it pointless to stay in school if they stand any chance of being drafted into the professional leagues.

    images (6)In any event, I respect his decision. But, given my instruction, it would be remiss of me not to offer just a few more instructive, clarifying points:

    • Playing in the NFL is no more anathema to getting an education than playing in the NCAA, especially considering the amount of time student athletes dedicate to sports at Division 1 colleges, like Ohio State. Moreover, many athletes have completed (and are completing) their education while playing professional sports, which makes Cardale’s claim about staying in school to complete his seem shockingly naive.
    • The best way to prepare for a career in the NFL is to play in the NFL — as any first-round draft pick, who completed his four-years of indentured servitude in college, will attest.
    • It smacks of a perverse form of paternalism to question a 21-year-old football player’s mental and emotional ability to handle all that comes with suddenly making millions (especially if he grew up dirt poor — as Cardale did). After all, teenage entertainers handle the same every day. At least nobody can question the 6’-5”/250-pound Cardale’s physical ability to handle playing in the NFL.
    • Cardale claims he sought advice from family members and close friends about whether to go or stay. But this is unfair, almost to the point of being cruel. After all, even if they wanted to say, “take the money and run, fool,” they probably feared coming across like parasites who just can’t wait to live off Cardale, his education be damned.
    • Cardale claims he also sought advice from his coach. But, for obvious reasons, his coach has more vested interest in having him stay in school than his teachers.
    • Cardale would have been far better served if he had sought advice from men who have been in his shoes, like superstars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant – neither of whom ever spent a day in college. What’s more, given his declared interest in studying financial planning, I’m sure LeBron would’ve been happy to hook Cardale up with his private tutor, multibillionaire investor extraordinaire Warren Buffet.

    But I wish him well – as he continues doing far more for Ohio State than Ohio State can do for him at this point….

    Related commentaries:
    Ohio

  • Friday, January 16, 2015 at 6:23 AM

    Oscar Snubs ‘Selma.’ Good!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I not only urge you to shun this movie, but hope the major arbiters of artistic merit, especially those at the Golden Globes and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will snub it as well.

    (“‘Selma’ Defames LBJ to Make MLK Look, What, Even Better?” The iPINIONS Journal, January 5, 2015)

    2490295400000578-2910567-image-a-45_1421271133977I took a lot of flak, especially from fellow Blacks, for issuing this clarion call not only for moviegoers to boycott Selma, but for awards syndicates to snub it too. But nothing vindicated my call quite like its director, Ava DeVernay, proffering this fatuous explanation for her willfully distorted depiction of the relationship between LBJ and MLK:

    History is for each of us to interpret for ourselves, so anyone’s opinion is valid, truly it is.

    (CBS Morning Show, January 7, 2015)

    In other words, never mind historical facts, if you think Hitler rescued six million Jews from slaughter by the Soviets, that’s valid. Sadly, her explanation only makes DeVernay seem as ignorant as she is irresponsible.

    This is why it served her right that:

    • moviegoers are shunning Selma in favor of such unabashedly fictional fare as Taken 3, Into the Woods, and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies;
    • the Golden Globes snubbed it a few weeks ago by recognizing it only for John Legend’s theme song (ironically, reinforcing a racial stereotype); and
    • the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences followed suit this morning by awarding it token nominations for Best Song and Best Picture — the latter of which is not the honor it used to be, considering that the Academy nominates ten instead of only five pictures these days for this most coveted Oscar.

    For the record, though, here is how the Washington Post reported this snub:

    The most obvious snub was Selma, Ava DuVernay’s moving biopic about Martin Luther King Jr. Despite a nod for best picture and best original song (for Common and John Legend’s recent Golden Globe-winning “Glory”), the film’s director and actors were shut out in their respective categories. David Oyelowo missed out on a best actor nomination, but more surprisingly, Ava DuVernay was not acknowledged in the best director category, a nomination that would have been the first for an African American woman.

    Cue the cries of racism:

    Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 11.51.26 AM

    In fact, the increasingly popular Huffington Post, which too often panders to Blacks, promptly blared – “White Gold: Whitest Oscars since ’98…,”– as if Blacks are entitled to a quota of nominations, regardless of the merit of their work.

    Never mind that, just last year, this same Academy, which is 94 percent White, not only nominated Blacks in most of the major categories, but also awarded the most-coveted Oscar to a “Black movie,” 12 Years a Slave. In fact, members went beyond the call of duty by awarding an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress to Black Lupita Nyong’o and another for Best Adapted Screenplay to Black John Ridley.

    Frankly, it has become farcical to watch race-baiting activists, like Reverend Al Sharpton, perform racial tantrums every time this lily-white Academy fails to meet some undetermined quota of Black nominations. It would’ve occurred to well-intentioned civil rights activists long ago to negotiate behind closed doors to better integrate the Academy. Failing that, genuine Black pride would’ve compelled them to simply establish their own version of the Oscars. And they could’ve named their Academy Award of Merit, The Leroys – given that there’s an “Uncle Leroy” in practically every Black family.

    In a similar vein, am I the only one who finds it curious that Hollywood cast British actors to portray the two most admired men in U.S. history: Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln three years ago; and David Oyelowo as MLK in Selma last year…?

    NOTE: Folklore has it that Margaret Herrick, the Academy director during the 1930s, had an uncle named Oscar whose features seemed to have been used to mold the famous golden statue. Further, that this resemblance inspired Academy staff to begin calling their Award of Merit, The Oscars—in homage to her uncle.

    Related commentaries:
    Selma defames LBJ

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 11:53 a.m.

  • Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 11:16 AM

    Pope Francis Rebukes ‘Charlie Hebdo’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    From day one, I seemed to be among far too few non-Muslims condemning Charlie Hebdo for publishing anti-Muslim cartoons.

    It’s one thing to defy Islamic jihadists to expose human rights and other abuses Muslims perpetrate in the name of Islam — as Hirsi Ali and van Gogh did with their film. It’s quite another to do so merely to propagate caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad — as Charlie Hebdo and its celebrated cartoonists did with their cartoons. The former clearly informs and has undeniable redeeming social value; whereas the latter serves no purpose other than to provoke/offend Muslims (for the amusement of non-Muslims?).

    Put another way, would so many people be standing in solidarity with these cartoonists if they were propagating racist caricatures of Blacks — complete with liberal use of the word “nigger” in speech bubbles…? Or, perhaps more relevant to Europeans, would so many people be standing in solidarity with them if they were propagating anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews — complete with hooked nose sniffing for financial schemes…? I don’t think so…

    No amount of religious or cultural offense can ever justify the kind of jihadi justice meted out against Charlie Hebdo and its staff today – no matter how repugnant, or indeed sacrilege, their offense.

    (“Massacre in Paris: Islamic Jihadist Come Home to Roost,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 7, 2015)

    pope on charlieImagine my feeling of solidarity, therefore, when Pope Francis affirmed our condemnation — not only of mass murder in the name of religion, but also of religious insult in the name of freedom of speech.

    Here in part is what he pronounced just hours ago:

    To kill in the name of God is an aberration.

    [However], if [a close friend] says a swear word against my mother, he’s going to get a punch in the nose. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.

    (TIME, January 15, 2015)

    Amen.

    By the way, I hope it’s self-evident that the pope was speaking metaphorically about punching his friend in the nose (instead of turning that proverbial other cheek). He clearly said this to convey the depth of offense such insults provoke. Not to mention that he prefaced this illustrative point with several pronouncements condemning violence, to say nothing of mass murder, as a reaction to religious insult.

    That said, bear in mind that you’d be hard-pressed to find a single politician or pundit in the West who has not gotten on board the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ bandwagon. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a single one who has not hailed Francis as the most compelling and consequential religious leader of our times.

    Therefore, it will be really interesting to see if this papal rebuke has a chastening effect on all who have been blithely riding along with those religious bullies (or, as the pope might call them, mean-spirited provocateurs) at Charlie Hebdo.

    UPDATE

    French PM echoes my view on root causes of Muslim violence

    January 20

    Those who took exception to my criticism of the “je suis Charlie” rallying cry also took exception to my warnings about feelings of disenfranchisement, disillusionment, and disaffection among Muslim youths leading inevitably to anger, rage, and pathological violence. I originally issued warnings in this respect in “Caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad Incite Fiery Rage, Part II,” February 6, 2006, and again, most recently, in “Massacre in Paris: Islamic Jihadists Come Home to Roost,” January 7, 2015.

    Imagine my feeling of vindication, therefore, when French Prime Minister Manuel Valls echoed my warnings. For here in part is what he admitted during a speech today before the National Assembly in Paris:

    We have to look at all the divisions, the tensions that have been going on for years … the neglect of the suburbs, the ghettos, the social misery…

    A geographical, social and ethnic apartheid has established itself in our country.

    (Reuters, 20, 2015)

    I rest my case.

    Related commentaries:
    Massacre in Paris

  • Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 7:51 AM

    Forget Mount Everest, Try Climbing El Capitan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    381373

    Never before in the history of human endeavor has there been a demonstration of such natural skill, perseverance, and daring — all in the name of sport.

    On the 19th day of their climb, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, both now bearded, reached the summit of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall, completing a quest that included years of planning and that many considered the most challenging rock climb in the world.

    It was the first ascent of the 3,000-foot Dawn Wall in a single expedition with the use of only hands and feet to pull climbers up — a challenge long considered impossible. Ropes were merely safety devices to break the occasional fall.

    (New York Times, January 14, 2015)

    381368

    To get a better sense of this, imagine climbing a building that is twice the height of the world’s tallest, relying only on gripping your fingers and planting your toes in crevices (shallower than those you’d find on a brick building) to get to the top. Imagine further that, instead of climbing straight up, you had to climb in zigzag fashion. Hell, I get queasy just recalling how seized with fright I was when I first looked over the edge of a 3-meter diving board….

    Frankly, the difference between this climb up El Capitan and treks up Mount Everest is the difference between swimming the English Channel and rowing it. And, if you know anything about all Everest expeditions, you know that sherpas and ropes are to trekkers as boats and paddles are to rowers.

    Incidentally, one does not climb Mount Everest; one treks it. Which compels me to note that not enough is being made in the media about the seven years of unsung and unseen training it took to accomplish this feat….

    Indeed, what makes this climb so laudable is the pure athleticism and mental toughness it displayed. Which is so refreshing – given that some form of cheating or corruption taints practically every sport in the world these days.

    Of course, many of you are probably wondering what motivated Caldwell and Jorgeson to climb this mountain. But I suspect they can offer no better answer than the famous one English mountaineer George Mallory gave … before he died trying to summit Mount Everest in 1924:

    Because it’s there.

    Congratulations guys!

    CLIMBERS1-articleLarge

  • Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at 6:48 AM

    ‘Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    n-je-ne-suis-pas-charlie-large570I am proud to be among the few still small voices condemning instead of praising Charlie Hebdo. But nobody in his right mind could possibly think that committing mass murder against its staff was a right way to express this condemnation:

    It’s one thing to defy Islamic jihadists to expose human rights and other abuses Muslims perpetrate in the name of Islam — as Hirsi Ali and van Gogh did with their film. It’s quite another to do so merely to propagate caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad — as Charlie Hebdo and its celebrated cartoonists did with their cartoons. The former clearly informs and has undeniable redeeming social value; whereas the latter serves no purpose other than to provoke/offend Muslims (for the amusement of non-Muslims?).

    Put another way, would so many people be standing in solidarity with these cartoonists if they were propagating racist caricatures of Blacks — complete with liberal use of the word “nigger” in speech bubbles…? Or, perhaps more relevant to Europeans, would so many people be standing in solidarity with them if they were propagating anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews — complete with hooked nose sniffing for financial schemes…? I don’t think so…

    No amount of religious or cultural offense can ever justify the kind of jihadi justice meted out against Charlie Hebdo and its staff today – no matter how repugnant, or indeed sacrilege, their offense.

    (‘Massacre in Paris: Islamic Jihadist Come Home to Roost,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 7, 2015)

    Vous êtes Charlie. OK. Êtes-vous KKK too?

    The prevailing argument in support of Charlie Hebdo’s anti-Muslim cartoons is that it desecrates all religions with equal irreverence. Except that, because Christians tolerate insults to their faith does not mean that Muslims should too. After all, nobody in his right mind would argue that, because Whites tolerate racist jokes about their race, Blacks should too.

    (“Media Covering Manhunt more as Entertainment than News,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 9, 2015)

    Paris MuslimsFrankly, I see little difference between Charlie Hebdo publishing anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic cartoons and the KKK publishing racist … and anti-Semitic propaganda. They both peddle hate speech that offends all reasonable notions of free speech.

    This is why I am marking its heralded return today – complete with cartoons expressly intended to insult Muslims more than ever – by formally declaring my solidarity with those who feel as indignant towards Charlie Hebdo as I feel towards the KKK.

    On 11 January, an estimated 1.6 million people took to the streets of Paris to voice their solidarity with those murdered at the hands of radical Muslim terrorists and proclaim ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie). But not everyone in the city felt comfortable with that idea. Many Muslims throughout Paris chose to stay away – some of them even stating ‘Je ne suis pas Charlie’ (I am not Charlie).

    (The Guardian, January 12, 2015)

    Apropos of which, corporate interests might prevent the New York Times from declaring its solidarity. But refusing to follow media fashion, by running Charlie Hebdo cartoons, indicates that its editors do not think they constitute “news that’s fit to print” – even out of sympathy.

    On the other hand, for those of you who want a related hashtag that is more worthy of your viral activism, how about #Je Suis Ahmed:

    I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie disrespected me and ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so.

    (Vox, January 9, 2015)

    461219988.0.0

     

    Meanwhile, a number art historians are declaiming that there’s nothing wrong with Charlie Hebdo publishing images of the Prophet Muhammad because images of the Prophet appear in medieval Islamic art. But this is plainly specious; not least because, instead of publishing images to respect and revere (as Islamic art invariably did), Charlie Hebdo invariably publishes them to demean and defile.

    What’s more, non-Muslims telling Muslims what should not cause them religious offense reeks of the kind of paternalistic arrogance that once had Whites telling Blacks what should not cause them racial offense. Of course, just decades ago, it was commonplace to refer to Blacks as Negroes/Niggers. But it’s generally accepted that today, in light of cognitive dissonance, only racists and ignoramuses would dare refer to Blacks as such.

    By instructive contrast, it has been centuries since it was commonplace to publish images of the Prophet Muhammad. Therefore, by the same token, why shouldn’t we deduce that today, in light of changing religious mores, only Islamophobes and ignoramuses would dare not only publish such images, but do so in the form of deliberately offensive cartoons…?

    Finally, am I the only one who sees the self-defeating irony inherent in Westerners, on the one hand, implementing all kinds of police-state measures to prevent “lone wolf” attacks; while on the other hand, leading mass parades in support of anti-Muslim cartoons, which will likely do more than jihadist propaganda to incite and recruit Muslims to carry out such attacks?

    Related commentaries:
    Massacre in Paris

  • Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 8:27 AM

    Ohio Buckeyes Trample Oregon Ducks to Win NCAA Football National Championship

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    cardale-trophy

    My team, Virginia Tech, didn’t even make the coveted AP top 25, let alone the playoffs. Therefore, I did not have a dog in this fight (no allusions to Michael Vick intended).

    150112.RJK_.EMG_.FBS_.CFPC_.CFPC_.1299-980x653Still, it was a pretty exciting game, especially watching Ohio’s third-string quarterback, Cardale Jones, outplay Oregon’s first-string and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Marcus Mariotta.

    The Buckeyes’ season seemed lost in November when quarterback J.T. Barrett broke his right ankle in the regular-season finale. They had already lost their regular starter, Braxton Miller, to a shoulder injury before the season even began. They had no choice but to turn to their third-stringer, Cardale Jones.

    (New York Times, January 13, 2015)

    But I’d seen enough of the way the Ohio Buckeyes dominated the first half, offensively and defensively, to feel certain that there was no way the Oregon Ducks could overcome the halftime score of 21-10.

    Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 7.05.33 AMThe Ducks made it interesting early in the third quarter, though, when they quacked up a quick 10 points to come within one. In doing so, they displayed a little of the seemingly invincible force that helped them drown the Florida Gators 59-20 in their semifinal game. But, before I could finish a bathroom break, the Buckeyes had responded with an even quicker 14 points of their own, and it was all downhill for them, or upstream for the Ducks, from then on.

    Ohio ended up winning 42-20 – complete with an unsporting score with mere seconds to go, which seemed like payback on behalf of the Gators for the way the Ducks ran up the score against them….

    CFPCHAMPIONSHIP-1421122778393-articleLargeAs impressive as Jones was, however, Ohio running back Ezekiel Elliot deserves honorable mention. For he virtually carried his team to the national championship on his back with 246 yards and four touchdowns.

    But, truth be told, the most interesting thing for me about last night’s “final” is that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice served as the only woman on the 12-member committee that devised the NCAA’s new playoff system.

    For the first time ever, the highest level of college Football has a playoff system, something the fans and media have desired for years. This is the first year of the College Football Playoff, a four-team playoff that consists of two national semifinal games and a final.

    The top four seeds were, in order, Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State … were selected by a committee.

    (CNN, January 11, 2015)

    img-cfp-selection-committee2

    Particularly noteworthy is the howling protest her appointment incited among influential male chauvinist pigs – like former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden and former Auburn coach Pat Dye. Reports suggest that they remain wedded to the Neandertal belief that only men understand what makes Football competitive … and profitable. Which is why, incidentally, they must just roll their eyes at Condi’s shameless lobbying for her “dream job” as commissioner of the NFL….

    But nothing vindicated this new playoff system quite like having Alabama and Florida State knocked out in semifinal games on New Year’s Day. After all, these two teams would surely have played for the national championship under the old (BCS) poll and computer-driven system.

    Moreover, this championship game generated so much hype, I would not be surprised if more people tuned in last night than will tune in to watch the Super Bowl in a few weeks. Not to mention that, instead of the traditional salad of post-season bowl games claiming to crown a national champion, this game finally crowned the NCAA champion with the same certainty with which the Super Bowl always crowns the NFL champion.

    Which brings me to my abiding pet peeve about the big business of college football masquerading as an amateur sport. This excerpt from “Reggie Bush Forfeits Heisman Trophy,” September 16, 2010, explains why.

    ___________________

    There’s nothing amateur about college football.  It’s a multibillion-dollar business for Christ’s sake!  And the people who are generating its revenues are not the university presidents, athletics directors, or coaches who, incidentally, make millions of dollars in salary and endorsement deals. Instead, they are the poor, mostly Black athletes whose raw talent they all exploit to pack 100,000 fans into their stadiums on game day.

    I have always felt that it is tantamount to modern-day slavery for universities to recruit poor and all too often uneducated athletes just to play football (considering they rarely get an education) and not compensate them for their services…

    But this indentured servitude is made much worse by branding these poor players – who generate tens of millions for their respective universities – as cheaters for accepting a little cash on the side. Mind you, those offering the cash are often boosters just trying to make life easier for the players to enable them to perform better for their universities. Not to mention that if the NCAA were to penalize all college players who accept such gifts there would be no college Football (or Basketball) worth watching.

    In any case, the hypocrisy inherent in this is beyond shameful. This is why I think universities should be required to compensate student athletes in direct proportion to the way owners of professional Football teams compensate their players.

    _________________

    01football_span-articleLarge-v2Therefore, I hereby call on the NCAA to form another special committee to rewrite the rules governing the relationship between colleges and so-called student athletes. Because it’s unconscionable to continue exploiting these athletes as nothing more than indentured servants – most of whom end up even more indebted, if not indentured, after their service.

    After all, they not only graduate with degrees not worth the paper they’re written on; they actually enter college aiming to do nothing but make themselves more marketable to professional teams – as no less a person than last night’s star, Cardale Jones, asserted in a refreshingly honest tweet years ago:

    Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come here to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.

    (8:43 AM – 5 Oct 12)

    Of course, classes could indeed prove pointless for Jones now that he’s a national champion quarterback. The only lesson left for him to learn is that he must strike while the iron is hot and go pro. Mind you, classes would not have proved so pointless had fate not intervened to injure Ohio’s first and second-string quarterbacks (as reported above), giving him a chance to shine. As it stands, chances are very good that ninety percent (or more) of his teammates, who share the same attitude and approach to classes, will never earn a penny as professional Football players….

    Finally, I would be remiss not to note that three of the four teams selected for this inaugural playoff competition (namely Alabama, Florida, and Ohio) all featured Black quarterbacks. Not to mention that both NFL teams in last year’s Super Bowl featured Black quarterbacks.

    Accordingly, I am happy to use this occasion to declare that I am finally over another of my pet peeves, which concerned the racist legacy of NCAA and NFL teams reserving this pivotal position for White players because they deemed Blacks not intelligent enough to play it. Imagine that….

    NOTE: Reporters and pundits invariably hurl indignation at Black folks for going on rioting sprees to vent frustrations over systematic racial injustice; and rightly so. Therefore, you’d think these same reporters and pundits would hurl even more indignation at White folks for going on rioting sprees to express jubilation over a sports championship (as they did in Ohio last night); yet few of them do. What’s up with that?!

    Related commentaries:
    Reggie Bush
    Student-athletes gradate poor … and dumb

  • Monday, January 12, 2015 at 6:31 AM

    Discovery Channel Promises Facts Instead of Fiction

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    20141024164538-9573Here is how the founder and chairman of the Discovery Channel, John Hendricks, crystallizes its mission statement:

    To satisfy curiosity and make a difference in people’s lives by providing the highest quality content, services and products that entertain, engage and enlighten.

    (corporate.discovery.com)

    Of course, all fact-based productions, for TV and film, would do well to be guided by this mission statement.

    Yet, here in part is how I commented two years ago on the History Channel presenting producer Mark Burnett’s Eurocentric depiction of Jesus (and Satan) as historical fact:

    There seems no doubt that, in making Jesus White and Satan Black, Burnett is proselytizing and perpetuating insidious and pernicious racial stereotypes, associating as he does White people with good and Black people with evil…

    The Bible’s biggest sin is not the artistic license Burnett took with his casting. Rather, it’s the decision executives at the History Channel took to carry this greatest story ever sold. They should have sent Burnett over to the Disney Channel, where make-believe TV belongs.

    Accordingly, I pray: “Let’s Bring History Back To The History Channel,” and leave all of the ‘scripted reality’ programming to the entertainment networks.

    (“‘The Bible’ – Proselytizing and Perpetuating Racial Stereotypes,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 19, 2013)

    And here in part is how I commented just last week on Paramount Studio presenting director Ava DuVernay’s Afrocentric depiction of the relationship between LBJ and MLK as historical fact:

    No doubt Selma Director Ava DuVernay thought her revisionist version of the relationship between LBJ and MLK, during this pivotal point in the Civil Rights Movement, would pack a more dramatic punch. Only this explains her clear, formulaic intent to portray LBJ as a Pharaoh-like villain and MLK as a Moses-like savior.

    No matter the commercial or political agenda, however, no artist should get away with peddling revisionist history as historical fact.

    (“‘Selma’ Defames LBJ to Make MLK Look, What, Even Better?” The iPINIONS Journal, January 5, 2015)

    This is why I was somewhat heartened on Friday when the new president of Discovery Channel, Rick Ross, made this promise:

    Despite its ratings success with shows like Mermaids: The Body Found and Megalodon: The New Evidence, new Discovery Channel president Rich Ross said he’s getting rid of fake shows…

    ‘I don’t think it’s right for Discovery Channel…’

    (Huffington Post, January 9, 2015)

    discovery-channel-team-rider-lance-armstrong-dataMind you, in addition to its fake programming, the Discovery Channel also corrupted its corporate mission by sponsoring fake cycling champion Lance Armstrong….

    But, to fully appreciate this promise, just imagine the editor of the New York Times being forced to promise to stop reporting stories about alien abductions, Elvis sightings, and Kim Kardashian’s natural beauty. Such make-believe stories clearly do not belong in any newspaper of record. They belong in a tabloid like the fabled Weekly World News.

    Accordingly, I hope all producers, directors, and entertainment executives follow Ross’s lead. Because only respect for the thick, red line between fact and fiction will prevent so many people from believing specious, and often fatuous, assertions because TV programs presented them as historical facts.

    Related commentaries:
    The Bible
    Selma

  • Saturday, January 10, 2015 at 7:41 AM

    If higher fuel prices = higher plane fares THEN lower fuel prices = lower plane fares. Right?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 10.06.47 PM

    The price of fuel has fallen over 50 percent in the last six months.

    Yet, far from lowering fares during this period, airlines hiked them. Why? Mergers that amount to monopolies, enabling fares that reek of price fixing.

    Airline executives clearly have nothing on used car salesmen….

    Friggin’ Gougers!

  • Friday, January 9, 2015 at 7:42 AM

    Media Covering Manhunt in France More as Entertainment than News

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

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

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

    Since 9/11, I have been preaching, like the proverbial John the Baptist, against the journalistic sin of news organizations – from CNN to the BBC – covering mass shootings and terrorist attacks more like thrilling entertainment than tragic news.

    Nothing demonstrates this quite like reporters heightening suspense (to keep viewers entertained) by peddling rank speculation about unfolding events. And, evidently, they couldn’t care any less that making media martyrs of suspects in these case only encourages other losers to follow their path to infamy.

    mhtop-1

    But what public interest, pray tell, is served by reporters presenting This Is Your Life profiles of terrorist suspects – complete with homages to their inspirational leaders, listings of their terrorist associations, and pleadings of their jihadi grievances? Except, of course, how else would they fill their obsessive, repetitive, 24/7 coverage of these events…? And don’t get me started on all of the erroneous reporting and terrorist propaganda they peddle as “breaking news.”

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

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

    (“Earth to Media: Stop Broadcasting Terrorist Propaganda,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 17, 2014)

    Meanwhile, tuning into media coverage today of the two hostage situations still unfolding in France, one could be forgiven the impression that Daesh terrorists were doing there what they’ve been doing in Syria and Iraq; namely, massacring thousands as they rampage across vast swathes of territory.

    Whereas, in fact, all we have are the two brothers, who perpetrated the Charlie Hebdo shootings, now cornered by security forces in one location; and their copycat comrades – a man and his girlfriend, who killed a policewoman a day later – now cornered in another. And we all know it’s only a matter of time before they end in one of three ways:

    1. the suspects will release their hostages and surrender (as they often do);
    2. the suspects will kill their hostages and themselves; or
    3. the police will storm in (and all hell will break loose, likely killing as many hostages as suspects – as was the case in Sydney, Australia last month).

    Frankly, folks, these types of hostage situations unfold in the United States every day. Which is why it strikes me as silly for the French government to be convening emergency meetings to deal with them; and as irresponsible for President Obama, who clearly should know better, to be feeding into this hysteria by invoking the pathos of 9/11 to convey his sympathies to loved ones of the victims.

    It behooves all Western countries to expect such ‘lone-wolf’ shootings to become as common as school shootings are in the United States. But they must react to them as the local crimes they are, instead of propagating such hysteria about global terrorism that you’d think Daesh (aka ISIS/ISIL) terrorists did in Canada today what they’ve been doing in Iraq/Syria for months.

    More to the point, notwithstanding the misguided backlash Snowden’s NSA disclosures have wrought, they must allow their respective intelligence services to use all means necessary to surveil and apprehend the would-be terrorists amongst us before they act out their jihadist fantasies.

    Otherwise, we will terrorize ourselves to death if we keep reacting to every terrorist-inspired shooting as if it were another 9/11.

    (“Gunman Terrorizes Canada. Keep Calm and Carry On,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 23, 2014)

    In the meantime, like John the Baptist, I’m going to keep on preaching … until “they” chop my head off too….

    Amen.

    That said, the prevailing argument in support of Charlie Hebdo’s anti-Muslim cartoons is that it desecrates all religions with equal irreverence. Except that, because Christians tolerate insults to their faith does not mean that Muslims should too. After all, nobody in his right mind would argue that, because Whites tolerate racist jokes about their race, Blacks should too.

    I also feel constrained to note that this terrorist killing of a few cartoonists is evoking world leaders to not only express condolences, but flock to Paris to march in solidarity with the French people as well. Except that this stands in glaring, if not racist, contrast to the way the terrorist killing of thousands (and kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls) in Nigeria barely evoked condolences, let alone a rush to march in solidarity with the Nigerian people.

    To be fair, though, world leaders can be forgiven their apparent indifference – given that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan rushed to Paris, but has acted all along as if Boko Haram terrorists are just African bogeyman created by Western media to sell newspapers.

    Related commentaries:
    Massacre in Paris
    Massacre in Omaha
    Earth to media
    Gunman terrorize Canada
    Lone wolf terrorizes LA

  • Thursday, January 8, 2015 at 7:43 AM

    Massacre in Paris: Islamic Jihadists Come Home to Roost…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A shooting at the offices of a satirical magazine in Paris has left at least 12 people dead [10 journalists and two policemen]…

    Witnesses report that two masked men entered the building with guns and open fired on staff of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly newspaper that had [drawn repeated threats for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, among other controversial sketches].

    The gunmen fled the building [shouting the prophet has been avenged] and are believed to be on the run….

    (Al Jazeera, January 7, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 11.57.35 AMLate reports are that the editor and three celebrated cartoonists are among the dead. The gunmen are still at large; and the police are searching, house-to-house at times, in an increasingly anxious operation to apprehend them….

    Meanwhile, like Pavlovian dogs, Western media are lapping up feckless expressions of defiance from political figures, as well as arm-chair insights from anti-terrorism experts about who these gunmen are, what the French government needs to do to find them, and what it needs to do prevent further attacks.

    Whereas, in fact:

    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)

    Indeed, what is most notable about saturation media coverage of this attack is the groundhog-day nature of it all – so much so that, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think they were just providing continuing coverage of a similar terrorist attack in Ottawa three months ago.

    Alas, raising the terror alert to the highest level and mobilizing troops all over Paris, like coalition forces patrolling Kabul, will offer comfort only to fools.

    What’s more:

    I feel obliged to repeat my wonder that such attacks are so relatively rare. Not to mention my oft-stated and abiding fear that only God will help if/when al-Qaeda deploys not one 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)

    This point bears stressing because, if this one attack by two former pizza-delivery boys can command 24/7 worldwide media coverage, cause political scrambling from Berlin to Washington and all seats of government in between, make French police and security forces look like keystone Robocops in (ongoing) hot pursuit, and evoke public grieving reminiscent of 9/11, then I shudder to think what feckless, fatalistic spectacle would unfold if/when 20 seasoned terrorists launch ten coordinated attacks at different locations in a major Western city….

    That said, I am on record defending freedom of expression – even when that expression offended the sense and sensibilities of Muslim Jihadists.

    Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 12.33.39 PMHere, for example, is an excerpt from “U.S. Grants Asylum to Celebrated Islamic Reformer after Dutch Government Deports Her,” May 17, 2006, which attests to my declared solidarity with two documentary filmmakers  who were prepared to die for this cause.

    __________________

    Anyone who thinks that Europeans have not cowered in the face of intimidation by Islamic extremists needs only consider the unfortunate fate that has now befallen Ayaan Hirsi Ali – Islam’s most progressive voice in Europe.

    Last year, I wrote two commentaries about Hirsi Ali’s daring campaign to expose and reform the misogynistic and provincial tenets of Islam. The most controversial and provocative part of her campaign was a film she wrote and co-produced with iconoclastic Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. That film, Submission, portrays how conservative interpretations of Koranic verses compel Muslim women to submit to the most demeaning and abusive treatment – all to show appropriate obedience and devotion to the men in their lives, as well as absolute faith to Islam.

    It did not matter that Hirsi Ali’s film presented a wholly accurate depiction of the scars (to bodies and minds) that conservative-Islamic practices inflict on Muslim women, which are always hidden from public view by the chadors many of them are forced to wear. Immediately upon its release, Muslim clerics in the putatively liberal and progressive Netherlands issued a fatwa (decree of death) against her and van Gogh. And, within short order, van Gogh was found dead in the streets of Amsterdam with a note stabbed in his chest warning Hirsi Ali that she was next….

    _____________________

    And, yes, Muslim fanatics duly trolled me….

    With my advocacy for the cause of freedom of expression thusly established, I trust, I feel constrained to make this critical distinction:

    It’s one thing to defy Islamic jihadists to expose human rights and other abuses Muslims perpetrate in the name of Islam – as Hirsi Ali and van Gogh did with their film. It’s quite another to do so merely to propagate caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad – as Charlie Hebdo and its celebrated cartoonists did with their cartoons. The former clearly informs and has undeniable redeeming social value; whereas the latter serves no purpose other than to provoke/offend Muslims (for the amusement of non-Muslims?).

    nig_image48Put another way, would so many people be standing in solidarity with these cartoonists if they were propagating racist caricatures of Blacks – complete with liberal use of the word “nigger” in speech bubbles…? Or, perhaps more relevant to Europeans, would so many people be standing in solidarity with them if they were propagating anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews – complete with hooked nose sniffing for financial schemes…?

    I don’t think so.

    o-FACEBOOK-570In fact, regarding the latter, a respected German daily newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, provoked public outrage last year with a cartoon of Facebook Founder Mark Zukerberg — “drawn in the style of the worst anti-Semitic caricatures: adorned with a greedy fish-lipped mouth and a long hooked nose under a hat emblazoned with Facebook’s logo and a fringe of Zuckerbergian curls,” according to February 24, 2014, edition of Tablet Magazine.

    But, in that case, instead of rallying to support that cartoonist’s freedom of expression, people mounted such sustained and widespread protests that the newspaper was forced to apologize, and promptly deleted the cartoon.

    By instructive contrast, despite all of the protests its anti-Muslim cartoons incited, which included the bombing of its offices, Charlie Hebdo never apologized for, let alone deleted, any of them. Incidentally, this is just another reason why so many Muslims feel disenfranchised, disrespected, and disillusioned in Europe….

    Therefore, those declaring unqualified solidarity with the cartoonists in this case might want to consider how liable they are to charges of brazen hypocrisy. This applies especially to student activists – who are making quite a show of standing in solidarity with these politically incorrect cartoonists over in Paris, while continuing to enforce politically correct litmus tests on guest speakers on their respective campuses.

    Freedom of expression gives one the right to offend. But prevailing standards of decency and respect have always put generally accepted limits on that right.

    Apropos of which, I am also on record declaring solidarity with the American Indians. They, of course, are every bit as offended by an NFL team using the image of an Indian chief and the nickname “Redskins” in its logo, as Muslims are by a newspaper using the image of the Prophet Mohammed in its cartoons.

    In point of fact, the editor of the newspaper at issue displayed even more wanton disregard for the sense and sensibilities of Muslims than the owner of that NFL team continues to display for the sense and sensibilities of Indians. Mind you, if Indians were still as inclined to scalp heads as Muslims are to chop them off, the owner of that NFL team would’ve stopped using his offensive logo long ago. But I jest/digress….

    Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 12.45.28 PMAs it happens, I warned it would be thus. Here, for example, is a foreboding excerpt from “Caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad Incite Fiery Rage, Part II,” February 6, 2006.

    ___________________

    Muslims in Asia joined the protest that spread like wildfire throughout the Middle East last week after European newspapers published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by Danish cartoonists. Unfortunately, most Europeans seem as dumfounded by their grievance as the French were about the grievances that ignited a fiery rampage amongst Muslim youths three months ago.

    I can understand how centuries of cultural arrogance made the French ignorant of (indeed inured to) simmering rage amongst disenfranchised, disillusioned, and disaffected Muslim youths. And, I can even understand how a gaggle of 12 cartoonists thought they had creative license to perpetrate this religious insult. I find it utterly deplorable, however, that European editors published these caricatures knowing full well that Muslims would consider them a desecration of their religion.

    This was a callous, pernicious and blasphemous provocation – made all the more craven by the specious justification that it was done in the spirit of freedom of the press.

    ____________________

    This is wScreen Shot 2015-01-07 at 2.45.14 PMhy I’m eschewing the virtual activism now going viral under the banner, #Je Suis Charlie. Instead, I feel constrained to note that those participating in this viral campaign appear too busy to be concerned about Boko Haram terrorists slaughtering another 100 innocents in Nigeria today. After all, this slaughter, to say nothing of the continued kidnapping of schoolgirls, constitutes a defiant response to the virtual activism against their unconscionable acts of terror, which went viral nine months ago under the banner, #Bringbackourgirls. 

    Of course, I suspect that ninety percent of those who tweeted in solidarity with those kidnapped girls had never heard of Boko Haram and had no clue about the full extent of its reign of terror. And, in a similar vein, I suspect that ninety percent of those tweeting in solidarity with these murdered cartoonists have never heard of Charlie Hebdo and have no clue about the truly offensive nature of its cartoons, which seem more about hate speech than free speech.

    There’s no denying, though, that this attack will have a galvanizing effect on anti-Muslim sentiments that are becoming epidemic across Europe. And so onward we march towards The Clash of Civilizations Samuel Huntington warned about….

    But I shall end here with two prevailing points:

    • No amount of religious or cultural offense can ever justify the kind of jihadi justice meted out against Charlie Hebdo and its staff today – no matter how repugnant, or indeed sacrilege, their offense.
    • No amount of rhetoric or security measures can ever protect us from the wrath of fanatics who are hell-bent on acting out in this way to avenge grievances (real or perceived). We are all sitting ducks; and, far from ensuring safety, mobilizing tens of thousands of troops all over major cities just smacks of the kind of chest-thumping performance spectacle normally associated with totalitarian regimes.

    Accordingly, my thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones of those killed and injured in today’s terrorist attack in Paris. I am all too mindful though that:

    There but for the grace of God go I [… or you].

    Related commentaries:
    Ottawa
    Hirsi Ali van Gogh
    Caricatures of Muhammad

    * This commentary was originally published, yesterday, at 1:03 p.m.

  • Wednesday, January 7, 2015 at 6:50 AM

    Merry (Orthodox) Christmas!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Saint-Sava-Serbian-Orthodox-Church-in-Mississauga

     

    January 7 is Christmas day for Orthodox Christians in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia.  The holiday also is commemorated January 7 in Syria, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Albania, Cyprus, Finland and by the Orthodox Church in America.

    The Assyrian and Ethiopian churches also celebrate Christmas on the seventh, according to the Julian calendar.

    (Voice of America)  

  • Tuesday, January 6, 2015 at 6:54 AM

    NY Post: Rev. Al Sharpton Is a Shakedown (Con) Artist

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [I]f she takes this path to (presumed) racial absolution, Black folks will think Pascal is not only a closeted racist but a shameless cynic to boot.

    After all, we know all too well that this venal reverend would grant racial indulgences to the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, in a minute, for an extortionate fee, er, contribution (to a slush fund operated by his notoriously indebted National Action Network). Pascal knows this all too well … too.

    But only God knows why so many White folks think kissing Sharpton’s brass ring will wash away the stain of their racism in the eyes of all Black folks…

    I don’t know anyone who thinks this race-baiting charlatan wields racial authority over even a few Blacks, the way the pope wields moral authority over more than one billion Catholics.

    (“Sony Chairman Buying Racial Indulgences…?” The iPINIONS Journal, December 13, 2014)

    "An Evening" Benefiting The Gay & Lesbian Center - Red CarpetThe above was my cynical take on Sony Chairman Amy Pascal seeking absolution (or buying indulgence) from Reverend Al Sharpton after hackers leaked e-mails of her engaging in racist banter with über producer Scott Rudin.

    A surprising number of you thought I was being unfair to Sharpton who, after all, is a reputed at-large adviser not only to the Mayor of New York City, but also to the president of the United States.

    Well, here is how the more authoritative reporters at the New York Post affirmed my take:

    Want to … not be labeled a racist?

    Then you need to pay Al Sharpton.

    For more than a decade, corporations have shelled out thousands of dollars in donations and consulting fees to Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN). What they get in return is the reverend’s supposed sway in the black community or, more often, his silence.

    (New York Post, January 4, 2015)

    58225fffbd850d30680f6a7067001154_c0-386-4489-3002_s561x327In fact, I have been denouncing Sharpton as little more than a brazen shakedown con artist “for more than a decade” (i.e., when he was still fat):

    It is with profound disappointment and disillusionment that I comment on yet another of the heirs to the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. who has defiled his legacy.

    The reprobate minister in this case is that portly, permed, and cantankerous Rev. Al Sharpton who has been caught on tape allegedly bartering his moral and political inheritance for a sack of cold hard cash! And, such was the righteousness of his greed that he could be heard demanding more as he stuffed his loot into every opening of his thousand-dollar zoot suit.

    I can just imagine him laying down the law to targets of his corporate shakedowns as follows: Hey, nobody owns me! Now, if you want to buy a piece of me, have cash, let’s talk…

    It seems that, when he’s not collecting charitable contributions as the court jester among candidates for President of the United States (as was the case here), Rev. Al is either being sued by one business or another for failing to pay his bills or performing on TV for his daily bread.

    (“Rev. Al Sharpton Caught Selling His Soul … Again?” The iPINIONS Journal, April 13, 2005)

    Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 8.52.26 PMFrankly, sometimes I feel like Harry Markopolos. He, you may recall, is the relatively obscure financial analyst who had been warning the SEC about the Madoff scheme for almost a decade, before the 2008 financial crisis triggered “an avalanche” of withdrawals (reportedly over $7 billion worth) that finally stopped Bernie.

    Therefore, I suppose it will take a political crisis of some sort to trigger the long-overdue day of reckoning for the Sharpton scheme, and finally stop Rev. Al….

    Related commentaries:
    Sony
    Sharpton

  • Monday, January 5, 2015 at 6:17 AM

    ‘Selma’ Defames LBJ to Make MLK Look, What, Even Better?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am a big fan of historical films like Spartacus, Schindler’s List, Invictus, and Mississippi Burning. And I fully appreciate the artistic license screenwriters and directors take in each case for dramatic effect.

    But I have always been concerned about artists taking so much license that what appears on screen bears little resemblance to historical facts. This concern is more acute than ever now that films provide the only “education” many young people get about major historical events. For example, most teenagers probably learned more about the institution of slavery from watching 12 Years a Slave than from reading history textbooks….

    Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 9.52.13 PMWhich brings me to Selma. It dramatizes the events surrounding the civil rights marches that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The historical facts are (or should be) well known to any student who had just one semester of American history in high school. What’s more, these (uncontroverted) facts are replete with so much drama, it would seem gratuitous, if not presumptuous, for a screenwriter to use creative license to revise them in any material respect.

    Yet, reports are that Selma is replete with so many historical revisions, it could win an Oscar nomination this year for best original screenplay:

    [T]he film Selma falsely depicts Johnson as being both opposed to the historic civil rights march and initially against the Voting Rights Act.

    ‘Contrary to the portrait painted by Selma, Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. were partners in this effort,’ [an aide to LBJ] Mr. Califano wrote. ‘Johnson was enthusiastic about voting rights and the president urged King to find a place like Selma and lead a major demonstration.’

    (New York Times, December 30, 2014)

    No doubt Selma Director Ava DuVernay thought her revisionist version of the relationship between LBJ and MLK, during this pivotal point in the Civil Rights Movement, would pack a more dramatic punch. Only this explains her clear, formulaic intent to portray LBJ as a Pharaoh-like villain and MLK as a Moses-like savior.

    No matter the commercial or political agenda, however, no artist should get away with peddling revisionist history as historical fact.

    To say nothing of how this portrayal of Johnson feeds into the false and misguided narrative about White political and law-enforcement officials having no greater regard for Black lives, let alone civil rights, today than they had 50 years ago. (More on this angle below.)

    Ava-DuVernay-on-Set-of-Selma-300x200As it happens, the license DuVernay takes is all the more flagrant given the availability of a now-famous audiotape from January 15, 1965, which has LBJ and MLK discussing the Selma marches as a political tactic to garner popular and congressional support for the Voting Rights Act.

    I have listened to it many times, and their exchange makes clear that, far from the adversaries Selma depicts, these men were collaborators, if not co-conspirators.

    W28-12Indeed, such was LBJ’s enthusiasm for the voting rights of Black folks that he spends most of his time explaining to MLK how best to “stage” protest marches to evoke as much public sympathy and support as possible:

    [I]f you can find the worst condition that you run into in Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana, or South Carolina, where – well, I think one of the worst I ever heard of is the president of the school at Tuskegee or the head of the government department there or something being denied the right to a cast a vote.

    And if you just take that one illustration and get it on radio and get it on television and get it in the pulpits, get it in the meetings, get it every place you can, pretty soon the fellow that didn’t do anything but follow – drive a tractor, he’s say, ‘Well, that’s not right. That’s not fair.’

    What’s more, such was MLK’s appreciation and understanding of LBJ’s good faith and bona fides – as a master not only of the art of political manipulation but also of the legislative process – that he spends most of his time conveying his unqualified agreement with everything LBJ says.

    Accordingly, neither man could have been more pleased when the police turned the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama on March 7, 1965, into “Bloody Sunday” — the dramatic, soul-wrenching images of which made headline news all across America.

    But nothing betrays DuVernay’s depiction of this LBJ-MLK partnership quite like having Julian Bond, who was much an aide to MLK as Califano was to LBJ, speaking out against it:

    He did support King’s fight for voting rights. He probably is the best civil rights president America has ever had. The best. Absolute best. I think the movie people wanted Dr. King to have an antagonist. Why not have it be LBJ?

    (CBS News, January 2, 2015)

    Imagine that: “the best civil rights president America has ever had” – with all due respect to Barack Obama and the man Toni Morrison regretted hailing as America’s first Black president, Bill Clinton.

    Ava-DuVernay-SelmaThe point is that the difference between the LBJ depicted in this purportedly historical film and the one any student of history knows is, well, like black and white. Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, but history should not be – even with allowances for reasonable variations in perspective and artistic license.

    Just imagine a director making an historical film 50 years from now about passage of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), and depicting President Obama as a captive of the insurance industry – who did all he could to undermine the efforts of the activists championing healthcare reform. She would have the artistic license to portray this revisionist version of history of course.

    But she would be accused of such wanton distortions of historical facts that her film would (and should) be categorized as political propaganda, more in the genre of Birth of a Nation than that of Lincoln.

    Unfortunately, far too many people (Black and White) will believe DuVernay’s version of “the Big Lie.” And, as people with “a little knowledge” are wont to do, they will think nothing of making plainly ignorant arguments based on the distortion of facts Selma presents.

    I would not be the least bit surprised, for example, if some twit creates a viral meme by tweeting that:

    #Magic Johnson has done more for civil rights than Lyndon Johnson – who was just another White Southerner doing all he could to preserve Jim Crow.

    (145 characters, including spaces.)

    selmaIn fact, nothing indicates how likely this false portrayal of LBJ is to resonate quite like the Twitter spat that erupted last week between those in the vanguard of Selma-like marches, which have been spreading all over the country to protest police brutality, and Oprah Winfrey.

    Oprah started it, innocently enough, when she suggested that these Michael Brown-inspired marchers need a leader to emulate MLK; specifically, by working with establishment politicians (including the president) to help transform legal frustration into congressional legislation.

    This, of course, is a perfectly sensibly suggestion; especially considering how little they’ve accomplished to date by arbitrarily ambushing businesses with their flash-mob “die-ins” and blocking traffic with their anarchic (i.e., non-permitted) street marches. Not to mention the looting, vandalism, and violence, including the open and notorious assassination of two NYPD officers, that have occasioned so many marches – all of which have people feeling more solidarity with, and sympathy for, the police than the marchers these days.

    Yet all Oprah got for her instructive, fact-based suggestion was #f**kOprah:

    @brownblaze

    Once again a Black ‘celebrity’ shows just how out of touch they are. So, while @oprah searches for an outdated leadership model, #weworkin.

    3:45 PM – 2 Jan 2015

    Mind you, those who took exception could have cited the hypocrisy inherent in Oprah advising these wannabe civil rights activists by citing the collaborative precedent LBJ and MLK set. After all, she’s starring in Selma, which makes a complete mockery of that historic collaboration.

    In any event, for the reasons delineated above, I not only urge you to shun this movie, but hope the major arbiters of artistic merit, especially those at the Golden Globes and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, snub it too.

    Related commentaries:
    Michael Brown, Eric Garner

  • Friday, January 2, 2015 at 6:26 AM

    In Memoriam: Adrian V. Kisovec – Engineer, Inventor, Linguist

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Adrian Vladimir Kisovec was one of the many unsung heroes from World War II who Tom Brokaw of NBC News honored with his bestselling book, The Greatest Generation.

    adrian scan-1True to form, Adrian’s modesty was such that it took over 10 years of my constant prodding to get him to share details of his wartime adventures as a resistance fighter in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia. He would eventually tell and retell his story more than a thousand times … often with such adrenaline you’d think he were back in that place and time.

    Mind you, his exploits were more the mischievous feats of Hogan’s Heroes than the derring-dos of Army of Shadows. To be fair, though, Adrian’s stint as a real-life political prisoner was no laughing matter.

    All the same, I provided a thoroughly enthralled audience of one every time; not least because he invariably fleshed out his stories with references from his encyclopedic knowledge of world history.

    Incidentally, my abiding fascination was tempered with humility because I invariably juxtaposed his wartime experiences with that of both my father and grandfather, which consisted of living relatively idyllic lives in the Caribbean – blissfully ignorant of, and unfazed by, the war raging in Europe.

    In any event, it did not take long after the war for Adrian and Bibi, who played Mata Hari as often as housewife back then, to realize that fate had placed them behind that dreaded iron curtain Winston Churchill warned about. And so they were soon applying the cleverness and guile that helped them survive the Nazis towards helping them escape the communists.

    Suffice it to know that Yugoslavia’s apparatchiks, secret police, and border guards were no match for their determination and resourcefulness. It was particularly helpful, though, that Adrian, a native Slovene, not only spoke Serbo-Croatian, German, and many other languages fluently, but also inherited the skills of persuasion his father developed as an international lawyer and diplomat; and that Bibi, a native Serbian, was equally fluent and inherited the accounting and management skills her mother developed as the matriarch of a palatial home and landlord of many rental properties.

    adrian scan-2They finally settled in the United States in the late 1950s. Interestingly enough, with McCarthyism still in the air, none of the major aeronautical companies would give Adrian the time of day. This is why he was eternally grateful to the Schweizer brothers, of the Schweizer Aircraft Corporation, for giving him the opportunity to begin his work experience here in his chosen profession, which was exceedingly rare for immigrants from communist countries.

    By this time, he had earned his advanced degrees and become an acclaimed aeronautical engineer, having gained valuable experience with the Yugoslav Aeronautical Design Bureau and honed his skills designing sailplanes for (and sometimes flying them in) international competition. In fact, with respect to the latter, his two-seater Ikarus Košava won the 1954 World Gliding Championship in England.

    But nothing distinguished his career quite like his thirty years with the Boeing Corporation, during which time he won numerous patents for inventions in aeronautics and wind energy. Most notable among them was one for combining rotating wings with jet engines, which gave rise to the V-22 Osprey (V/STOL) that finally took flight in March 1989.

    Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 5.04.01 PMAs my reference above to his war stories indicates, Adrian was a raconteur nonpareil (a distinction he would relish as much for what it says about his story telling as for what it invites him, as accomplished linguist, to share about the etymology of these two words). But anyone who has ever had the pleasure of sitting at a dinner table with him can attest to his engaging repertoire of life stories (spanning so many years and so many continents), which free-flowing wine made not only more lively but also more creative.

    I know, however, that he shared his more philosophical musings about life and death with only a select few. Which is why all I can say, without betraying confidences, is that he was as informed and engaging when discussing metaphysics as he was when discussing, “What’s going on in the world?”

    Adrian died of natural causes on December 30 at his home in Arlington, Virginia. Besides Bibi, his devoted wife of 68 years, he is survived by their daughter Katherine, the love of my life for the past 28 years; his niece Ana, her husband Noel and their daughter Alexandra; and his niece Maya.

    He was 96.

    Farewell, Adrian.

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