• Monday, February 8, 2016 at 5:47 AM

    Broncos Tame Panthers to Win Super Bowl 50

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The National Anthem

    Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 8.56.36 PMWhitney Houston set what might be an unsurpassable bar with her rendition at Super Bowl 25 in 1991. But, arguably, Lady Gaga came as close as any singer has since.

    Of course, you can be forgiven if you were surprised – not just by how elegant she looked but also by how well she sang. I was not.

    Lady Gaga literally personifies the triumph of packaged and formulaic acts over talented performances. Which is rather a shame because this girl can sing….

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

    Brava, Gaga!

    The game

    Truth be told, there wasn’t much to cheer, or even jeer; except that the jeering Tom Brady got during the pre-game introduction of previous Super Bowl MVPs was an unexpected treat. This vindicates my abiding contention that:

    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)

    Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 10.32.29 PM

    Frankly, the most exciting thing for me was thinking of gamblers having conniption fits after the Broncos jumped to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. After all, the Panthers were not only odds-on favorite to win, but had never trailed at any point in any game during the playoffs.

    Instead, they looked like nerve-wracked rookies unable to cope with the pressure of playing on this global stage. And none more so than their superstar quarterback and regular-season MVP, Cam Newton. In fact, he was throwing tantrums after bad plays far more often than doing dabs after good ones.

    More to the point, given their feckless play over the first three quarters, Panthers fans had no reason to hope their team would overcome a 16-7 deficit going into the fourth. They didn’t: the Broncos won 24-10

    Still, it’s not as if the Broncos played like champs. With all due respect, that they won is mostly a measure of how badly the putatively invincible Panthers played.

    20160207_090906_von-millerTo be fair, the Broncos proved the counterintuitive maxim that defense wins Football games. Because their defense did to Panther Cam Newton what it did to Patriot Tom Brady (in the AFC championship); that is, pressured, harassed, and sacked both quarterbacks so relentlessly it rendered them hapless and hopelessly frustrated. Not to mention that Denver’s defense accounted for most points in both games.

    No doubt this is what quarterback Peyton Manning meant when he said that he was just along for the ride. And it’s why linebacker Von Miller was so deserving of being named MVP of Super Bowl 50.

    Incidentally, Manning played coy when asked if this was his “last rodeo.” But I’m convinced he’ll be riding off into the sunset as the oldest player to win a Super Bowl at 39. Never mind that he’ll be leaving a trail of allegations about taking human growth hormones to help him perform these last few years.

    On the other hand, there was nothing coy about the way he plugged Budweiser beer in every interview. It’s a wonder he didn’t slice in a plug for Papa John’s pizza too; mind you, he probably compensated by making a show of kissing Papa John before his wife after the game. Manning is known as a class act. But there was nothing classy about this shameless shilling. What’s more, it should disabuse anyone of the belief that he’s too classy to take steroids.

    Talking heads on TV, sports radio, and social media will be yakking about this game for days, if not weeks to come. But I see no point in commenting any further.

    Congratulations, Denver!

    The Halftime Show

    Chris Martin and Cold Play are no Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, or Bono and U2, for that matter. Still, why book them as the main event, and then invite not just Bruno Mars but Beyoncé too to upstage them?

    Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 9.48.37 PM

    Even so, Bruno and Beyoncé should have left well enough alone. Because their Super Bowl guest performances did not, perhaps could not, live up to the memory of their respective headline performances. The whole show – with its we-are-the-world vibe  seemed, well, overplayed.

    Which is why I propose this rule: One Super Bowl performance, and that’s it! You know, spread the exposure/wealth around. No more of this rich getting richer BS – complete with Beyoncé using this stage to announce her new world tour: she was self-righteous, greedy, and shameless.

    And, by the way, I can think of far better ways to honor victims of Katrina and police brutality than with the video this opportunistic self-promoter dropped the day before, which features more of her twerking than their suffering. Yet, sadly, her loyal subjects will just lap it up. Just sayin’, Queen Bey.

    The commercials

    Apropos of overplayed, here is what I wrote two weeks ago – in “NFL Conference Championship Sunday…” January 25, 2016.

    _________________

    I would be remiss not to comment on the annual hype surrounding Super Bowl commercials — for which companies are paying $5 million for a 30-second spot this year. Frankly, we are treated to so many previews that, by game time, they hold about as much interest as those eye-rolling commercials for erectile dysfunction.

    I gather that companies release them early to become a trending topic online. Except that, like most topics on social media, people suck them up and spit them out in a viral flash.

    super-bowl-commercials-2012-header.jpg-300x158Not so long ago, even die-hard fans waited with bated breath to see them air during the game; and the best ones trended, in real life, for days and weeks thereafter. These days, most people just see them as opportunities to go to the toilet.

    Which raises the question: Why pay millions to run a commercial on TV during the Super Bowl, only to have people ignore it, when you can pay pittance to release it online during Super Bowl week, and generate viral interest? Surely it’s only a matter of time before this fact dawns on companies.

    Then, of course, there’s this: I have watched many funny, even interesting Super Bowl commercials over the years. But none has ever moved me to purchase the product being advertised. You…?

    _________________

    afe3baf45edf42c3bebdaf08e0de4569That said, I must confess that watching Academy Award winner Sir Anthony Hopkins hawk an app for TurboTax made me laugh out loud. Therefore, it gets my vote for best Super Bowl commercial.

    Indeed, this year’s commercials were notable for actors like Dame Helen Mirren, Liam Neeson, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Walken, and Harvey Keitel all “selling out;” so much so that you’d have thought we were watching Japanese TV. Easy money for retirement, I suppose.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 11:09 p.m.

  • Saturday, February 6, 2016 at 7:18 AM

    In case you were wondering how peace talks on Syria went this week…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    175062_600

  • Friday, February 5, 2016 at 7:38 AM

    # Team Clinton So White

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 8.10.51 AM

    Watching a Bloomberg Politics breakfast with Team Clinton yesterday, I got the impression I was spying on a secret meeting of an all-white book club. SMH.

    “With all due respect,” I’m feeling the Bern more than ever today.

    I would like nothing more than to see Bernie do to Hillary in 2016 what Barack did to her in 2008.

    (“Bernie Sanders: The Democrats’ Ron Paul…?” The iPINIONS Journal, July 2, 2015)

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  • Friday, February 5, 2016 at 6:48 AM

    Wikileaker Julian Assange Making News Again. Whoopie!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Five years ago, Julian Assange commanded such media attention, you’d have thought he posed the greatest threat to the United States since Osama bin Laden. Yet media mentions of him soon became as noteworthy as those of Ted Kaczynski or Eric Rudolph. Exactly.

    As it happens, I’m on record not only decrying the cause celebre Assange used to be, but also presaging the hapless sideshow he would become. The following excerpt from “Ecuador Grants Wikileaker Julian Assange Asylum … in London?” August 20, 2012, attests to this.

    __________________

    Such is the nature of groupthink among Western commentators that you’d be hard-pressed to find any who support, as I do, Russia’s decision on Friday to incarcerate three Pussy Rioters. The nature of their political hooliganism warrants prosecution.

    558000009488203Likewise you’d be hard-pressed to find any who oppose, as I do, Ecuador’s decision that same day to grant Julian Assange asylum. The nature of his alleged sexual offenses warrants prosecution.

    [Britain] maintains that it has an obligation to extradite him to Sweden in accordance with the Vienna Convention’s Extradition Act and pursuant to the finding of just cause by its own Supreme Court.

    To be fair, Assange maintains that he does not fear criminal prosecution in Sweden. He fears that, if extradited, Sweden will promptly extradite him to the United States to face the death penalty for publishing a treasure trove of classified government documents on his infamous site, WikiLeaks.

    For the record, here is how I characterized his fate in this respect two years ago:

    [I]f these leaks pose (or have caused) the kind of damage U.S. officials claim, then  Julian Assange, the defiant discloser of all government secrets who heads WikiLeaks, should be dead or sitting in Guantanamo Bay.

    (“WikiLeaks More U.S. Secrets,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 29, 2010)

    But I hasten now to clarify that, if extradited, tried, and convicted under the Espionage Act, Assange would be sentenced to prison, not death. After all, the United States stopped executing people for espionage decades ago. It’s also instructive that prosecutors have already declared they will not be seeking the death penalty against Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who stole those classified documents for Assange.

    Meanwhile, it is plainly absurd for Assange to be championing freedom of speech from sanctuary being provided by a country that is notorious for denying this freedom. Not to mention that his schtick about being a martyr for transparency and freedom of the press smacks of nothing more than a cynical ploy to avoid doing time for his crime(s).

    It is hardly surprising, of course, that pathologically anti-American countries are standing in solidarity with Ecuador. But I am stupefied that so many Western commentators are standing in solidarity with Assange. Not least because they are doing so at the expense of his alleged victims who have been waiting for years for this self-righteous crusader to be brought to justice…

    It is  irrelevant, and I’m sure Sweden couldn’t care less, that Assange fears the United States is on a ‘witch hunt’ against WikiLeaks – as he claimed during his sermon on the windowsill yesterday…

    assangec-300x171In the meantime the world is being treated to a Mexican standoff. There’s no way Ecuador can sneak him out of the embassy, let alone the country; therefore, Assange could be inside for a very long time…

    That said, I’m on record declaring that if Assange were in the business of exposing government corruption and/or actions that betray the public trust, I would be his most ardent supporter. But in his foolhardy and untenable ambition to foster complete transparency in diplomatic relations, he has only ensured that diplomats will be even more secretive in all of their dealings to avoid even the remotest possibility of being ‘exposed.’

    Which is why WikiLeaks is about as relevant today as yesterday’s newspaper. And Assange himself will be old news soon enough – as the fickle Twitterverse, which seems to determine all the news that’s fit to follow these days, becomes obsessed with the next sensational story…

    It is truly mind-boggling that his supporters do not even seem concerned that Assange’s cult-like mission has ruined the careers and endangered the lives of scores of innocent diplomats.

    ________________

    assange-head-beard_3425420bWhich brings me to the Lazarus-like news Assange is making today.

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s three-and-a-half-year stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London amounts to ‘unlawful detention’, a United Nations panel examining his appeal will rule on Friday…

    Britain said it had never arbitrarily detained Assange and that the Australian had voluntarily avoided arrest by jumping bail to flee to the embassy.

    It said Assange will be arrested if he leaves the embassy and then extradited to Sweden for questioning over allegations of rape in 2010.

    (Reuters, February 4, 2016)

    Trust me folks, this is much ado about nothing. Not least because the U.N. has no greater influence when it comes to Assange’s fate than it has when it comes to that of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

    This, after all, is the same U.N. that ruled years ago that the United States is in breach of international law for holding prisoners there for years without charge or trial. Yet the Bush administration couldn’t care less. And the Obama administration has released a few of them not to comply with international law, but to improve America’s international reputation.

    In fact, the only material difference between Bush and Obama on this issue is that the former wanted hard-core prisoners to serve indefinite time at Guantanamo Bay; the latter wants them to serve indefinite time at a supermax prison in the United States.

    article-2726803-2093D3B900000578-495_634x824Meanwhile, Assange is complaining about all kinds of heart and lung complications from the lack of fresh air, sunlight, and exercise. This, without any hint of irony or responsibility — given that he had these luxuries when he was confined in a British prison. He was eventually granted bail, which he then jumped by seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy. And here we are….

    In any event, no matter his complaints, what I indicated four years ago remains the case today: There’s only one way Assange will ever leave his “Hotel California;” which is by deciding that he would have a better quality of life serving finite time in prison in Sweden and the United States than serving indefinite time in the Ecuadorian embassy.

    And no amount of pleading can alter his fate – even if the person pleading is his celebrity lawyer Amal Alamuddin (aka Mrs. George Clooney).

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 6:23 AM

    Zika Virus: God Help the Children; Save the Olympics?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The World Health Organization [WHO] declared the Zika virus and its suspected link to birth defects an international public health emergency on Monday, a rare move that signals the seriousness of the outbreak and gives countries new tools to fight it.

    An outbreak of the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, was detected in Brazil in May and has since moved into more than 20 countries in Latin America, including two new ones announced Monday: Costa Rica and Jamaica.

    The main worry is over the virus’s possible link to microcephaly, a condition that causes babies to be born with unusually small heads and, in the vast majority of cases, damaged brains.

    (New York Times, February 1, 2016)

    Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 11.06.31 AMThe WHO did not say so, but concerns about how this virus might affect the Rio 2016 Olympics had a lot to do with Monday’s declaration. Concerns, incidentally, that were only heightened last week after Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Castro conceded his country is “badly losing the battle” against Zika.

    One health expert at the epicentre of the outbreak, in Bahia state in northeastern Brazil, accused Ms. Rousseff’s administration of acting too late, and warned that the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro pose a transmission risk.

    (Reuters, February 2, 2016)

    The point is that the international community has a vested interest in seeing Brazil host a successful Olympics … with full participation. And this declaration is bound to galvanize rich countries, like the United States, to help Brazil contain this virus.

    Brazil-Zika-Birth-Defects-620x443Moreover, there seems to be a direct correlation between the extent to which infectious diseases affect people in rich countries and media coverage of those diseases.

    No doubt images of Zika babies with deformed heads are heartrending. But, trust me, we would not be seeing so many of them if the Olympics were being held in Berlin instead of Brazil this summer.

    Case in point, the recent outbreak of Ebola dates back to March 2014, when related deaths were limited to West Africa. But the media did not begin covering it as a “public health emergency of international concern” until September 2014, after the first case was diagnosed in the United States. By then, the WHO had already reported 3,000 Ebola deaths in West Africa.

    To date, coverage of Zika has focused on the (real) health risks to pregnant women living in or traveling to poor countries throughout the Americas.

    Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 12.32.42 PM

    But it’s only a matter of time before it begins focusing on the (potential) health risks to Olympic athletes living in rich counties who are preparing travel to Brazil. That is, unless Zika transmissions begin occurring in the United States, as opposed to travellers returning already infected. In which case, there will be viral coverage – complete with scaremongering reports to generate TV ratings and online clicks, just as it was with Ebola.

    As it happens, just yesterday the Texas Department of Health Services claimed that it has one documented case of human-to-human transmission. (Infected by a human prick instead of a mosquito prick?) This case involves a man who returned from Venezuela, already infected, and transmitted the virus sexually.

    Except that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is discounting its significance because, like other carriers, the man had travelled from a Zika-affected nation. And neither he nor his partner was pregnant, presumably. The CDC is also discounting this case because there has been no documented case of human-to-human transmission even in any of the Zika-affected nations.

    In any event, as Olympic athletes become the focus of media coverage, I urge you to spare a little sympathy for the innocent victims. And I’m referring to victims not only of this infectious disease but also of others, like lower respiratory and diarrheal infections, which kill hundreds of thousands of children every year.

    Incidentally, it took almost two years and over 11,000 deaths before the WHO declared all countries Ebola free. Estimates are that it will take 3-5 years and up to 20 million infections before a vaccine or treatment is developed to control the spread of Zika.

    Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 2.37.51 PM

    In the meantime, the CDC informs us that:

    Babies with mild microcephaly often don’t experience any other problems besides small head size…

    For more severe microcephaly, babies will need care and treatment focused on managing their other health problems [from vision and hearing loss to intellectual and physical disability].

    Health experts cannot overstate that “mild symptoms like rashes and fever” are the only risks Zika poses to anyone who is not pregnant. This stands in reassuring contrast to Ebola, which kills men, women, and children, indiscriminately.

    Meanwhile, with Zika coming on the heels of Ebola, you could be forgiven the impression that infectious diseases are suddenly becoming as common as, well, the common cold. But there’s nothing at all sudden about them – as the persistence of tuberculosis, malaria, Hepatitis B, and HIV, to name a few, readily attest. Not to mention chikungunya, which, like Zika, is transmitted to people by mosquitoes.

    rio-games-water

    That said, media alarms about Zika make it easy to tune out persistent alarms about Brazil’s sewage-infested bays and lagoons, which expose locals, and will expose Olympic athletes, to MRSA and all kinds of other waterborne viruses.

    Waterborne virus expert Kristina Mena says none of the venues for Rio’s 2016 Olympics are fit from swimmers or boaters. Athletes who ingest three teaspoons of water have a 99 percent chance of being infected by viruses.

    (Associated Press, December 2, 2015)

    Which means that Olympic athletes have more to fear from fetid water than Zika mosquitoes.

    Frankly, holding the Summer Games in Brazil now seems as ill-fated as holding the World Cup in Qatar.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, February 1, 2016 at 7:26 AM

    For Independence Sake, Caribbean, Abolish Privy Council!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The migration crisis is only the latest issue threatening to blow the European Union asunder. From “Brexit” to “Grexit,” respective countries are chipping away the categorical imperatives of integration by reasserting the political imperatives of sovereignty.

    In fact, more and more Europeans are longing for the days when the EU functioned primarily as a trading bloc. Even German and Hungarian Europhiles are joining British and Greek Eurosceptics in ruing the day they delegated so much of their sovereignty to EU institutions in Brussels.

    One can hardly blame them; after all, there’s scarcely an area of life in which the EU does not exercise some decision-making power.

    Many in Europe don’t want the EU to get any closer.

    They feel EU bureaucracy already invades their personal – and national sovereign – space too much.

    (BBC, March 3, 2015)

    I share the above because it provides instructive contrast with what is happening in the Caribbean. For, while even newly independent countries in Europe are trying to clawback sovereignty in every respect, newly independent countries in the Caribbean are refusing to claim it, at least in one very material respect.

    neville_smithSpecifically, an eminent jurist stirred a furor last week when he decried this willful clinging to colonial dependence as it pertains to The Bahamas, the country of my birth.

    Retired Justice Neville Smith QC, said on Thursday the country should not allow itself to become a ‘hostage’ to the Privy Council and recommended that The Bahamas set up its own final court of appeal rather than continue to ‘perch’ on the British government’s doorstep

    ‘Who knows when the British government, bent on the restructuring of its courts … will do away with the Privy Council that it created by an 1844 English act,’ said Smith at a special sitting at the Court of Appeal to mark the opening of the legal year.

    ‘Should we not set up our own final court in our own deliberate time rather that to continue to perch on the doorstep of the foreign office in London or wait to be embarrassed by the British government doing away with the Privy Council and cause us here to run … to make up a replacement court?’

    (Nassau Guardian, January 29, 2016)

    The answer, of course, is: Yes we should! Not least because a final court of appeal composed entirely of foreign judges makes an obvious mockery of any country’s claim of independence.

    As it happens, I’ve been pleading this case for years in such commentaries as “Idle-minded Debate on Privy Council Continues,” June 30, 2011. Here, for example, is what I wrote seven years ago in “No More Privy Council; Take Care of Your Own Judicial Mess,” October 8, 2009.

    __________________

    The failures of CARICOM have become so notorious that talking about them incites more contemptuous laughter than lawyer jokes.

    privycouncilbThere’s probably no greater monument to these failures than the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which was established in 2001 to replace the Privy Council as our final court of appeal.

    Establishing the CCJ codified the natural desire of CARICOM’s newly independent member states to cut the final umbilical cord of British colonialism.

    Therefore, it is stupefying that only two of them, namely Barbados and Guyana, have actually severed this cord and embraced the untethered independence that they all yearned for so proudly.  Indeed, given that enlightened Jamaicans proposed this liberating cut as early as 1970, the fact that even they have not followed through reflects an habitual suckling on the colonial tit that is as judicially infantile as it is politically hypocritical.

    It’s no wonder we now face the humiliating spectacle of Lord Nicholas Phillips, president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, giving us, in effect, a public spanking for failing to assume ultimate responsibility for our own judicial affairs.

    privycouncilc-195x300In an interview published in the September 20, 2009, edition of the Financial Times, Lord Phillips complained that the five British judges who sit on the Privy Council spend 40 percent of their time adjudicating cases from the former colonies. He indicated – with forlorn hope – that he wished these now-independent countries:

    … would stop using the Privy Council and set up their own final courts of appeal instead.

    You’d think Lord Phillips’ admonition – that it’s high time we take care of our own judicial mess – would cause any self-respecting Caribbean leader to feel not only (duly) chastened but also determined to relieve Britain of this ‘white man’s burden,’ which is plainly anachronistic, untenable, and unfair.  Never mind that Lord Phillips is not admonishing us to do anything we haven’t known for almost 40 years we should, indeed must, do.

    Yet all indications are that it’s going to take a far sterner rebuke than this polite kiss-off to get Caribbean leaders to do the right thing.  Nothing demonstrates this quite like the clueless and hopelessly solicitous reaction of the deputy prime minister and attorney general of The Bahamas, Hon. Brent Symonette:

    It may be that one course of action may be to limit the (number of) appeals from the Court of Appeal to the Privy Council – that might be an alternative.

    (Nassau Tribune, October 8, 2009)

    Mind you, this is not to say that the CCJ is the only real alternative. In fact, the jingoistic politics that have made CARICOM such a dysfunctional laughing stock actually militate against member states turning to this regional court as a replacement for the Privy Council.

    Accordingly, we may find that the only viable alternative is for each CARICOM country to simply establish its own Supreme Court.  To be sure, this would be an ironic default outcome; after all, a judiciary with a final court of appeal at its apex is a hallmark of any independent nation.

    In any case, it is immature, irresponsible and, frankly, niggardly for Caribbean leaders to have relied all these years on our former colonial master to fulfill this essential function of our national self-determination.

    At long last CARICOM Heads, have you no self-respect?!

    _________________

    Incidentally, the Privy Council ruled in March 2006 that the death penalty is unconstitutional. This ruling exposed the impudent absurdity of our umbilical dependence.

    Because Bahamian politicians reacted merely by decrying the neocolonial fiat of the British judges who handed it down; whereas, you’d think their indignation would have compelled them to wrest final appeal from those judges and vest it in Bahamian judges. But it appears this did not even occur to them.

    privya-150x150On the contrary, many Caribbean leaders argue that the Privy Council serves an indispensable guardian of judicial competence and confidence for foreign investors. They seem inured to the fact that this argument perpetuates the very colonial stereotypes independence was supposed to relegate to the dustbin of history.

    Alas, as I indicated in my 2009 commentary, no insult to national sovereignty or pride seems sufficient to cause them to abolish this instrument of British colonialism.

    That said, I’ve also pleaded for the Caribbean to get rid of other customs and practices that are nothing more than vestiges of colonialism.

    Here, for example, here is how I pleaded for change in this respect in “Hey, Tony, What’s Up with the Brothers Wearing White Wigs,” Caribbean Net News, March 2, 2007.

    __________________

    I am on record entreating regional governments to abolish the (inherently superficial and corrupt) British honours system, which only perpetuates a slavish devotion to royal pretensions amongst our people…

    court-wigs-sqTherefore, it should come as no surprise that I’ve pleaded for our regional judiciaries to abolish wigs and gowns.

    These legal accoutrements are more suited to the stuffy, dank, and frigid climes of the British Isles, not the liberating tropical weather of the Caribbean. Granted, blue-blooded British lawyers might find the itchy discomfort wigs of horsehair inflict perfectly amenable to their sadomasochistic nature. But we red-blooded Caribbean lawyers wear them under duress, as prickly and unsightly wigs of thorns.

    Not to mention the sweat this quaint, effete and anachronistic attire produces, which I can personally attest poses a formidable challenge even to the most fragrant antiperspirant.

    Accordingly I plead: free us from British wigs and gowns!

    __________________

    I welcome Smith, as well as other judges emeriti, to this liberating cause of ridding the Caribbean of the Privy Council. But I hope they see the manifest necessity of ridding our profession of the equally unsuitable wigs and gowns too.

    Related commentaries:
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    Idle-minded debate
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  • Saturday, January 30, 2016 at 7:06 AM

    Race in America: Plus ca change…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 9.46.29 PM

    The contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan, has so outraged community advocates that they now pose a powerful question: Was the city neglected because it is mostly black and about 40% poor?

    Several advocates say yes. They charge that Flint residents are victims of ‘environmental racism’ – that is, race and poverty factored into how Flint wasn’t adequately protected and how its water became contaminated with lead, making the tap water undrinkable.

    (CNN, January 28, 2016)

  • Friday, January 29, 2016 at 5:51 AM

    White Actor Playing Michael Jackson Exploits His Self-Hate

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    September 2001 was allegedly witness to one of the strangest road trips in history: Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando driving from New York to Ohio in an attempt to get home [to California] following the 9/11 terrorist attacks…

    The saga is now being dramatised in a one-off special for Sky Arts, starring Joseph Fiennes as Jackson, Stockard Channing as Taylor, and Brian Cox as Brando.

    (London Guardian, January 26, 2016)

    Unsurprisingly, this casting of a white actor to play Michael Jackson has incited viral outrage. Never mind that Michael would probably have been every bit as flattered by a white actor playing him as Rachel Dolezal would be by a black actress playing her.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 4.56.44 PMOf course, the outrage her “passing” incited has already been lost in the black hole of hashtag protests. No doubt the outrage this casting incited will be in short order too.

    But at least Rachel is honest enough to admit she’s doing all she can to look black because she does not want to be identified as white. By contrast, Michael maintained the charade of saying, I’m black and I’m proud.

    Except that he never looked more dishonest, if not delusional, than when he said this during that famous 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

    As it happens, Oprah questioned him about reports that he wanted a white child to play his younger self in a Pepsi commercial. Michael protested that the very thought of this was “stupid … ridiculous … horrifying … crazy.”

    article-0-0583B1CD000005DC-754_468x411He protested too much, methinks. Not least because those words unwittingly described the racial metamorphosis Michael was undergoing at the time, which would soon see him get “whiter than white” and even produce white children to play his own … in real life.

    The most manifestly troubling aspect of Michael’s personal life was his role as a father. In addition to many other Freudian questions, I wonder about the psychological impact on his three lily-white children of having this black man (notwithstanding his appearance) insist that he is their biological father.

    Just imagine the psychological defect (self-hate?) or physical dysfunction that led Michael to choose the sperm of a white man, instead of using his own (or that of a black man), to inseminate the (white) surrogates who gave birth to his designer babies.

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

    Frankly, it was as plain as the nose on his face that Michael hated features that made him look black. Perhaps that’s why his fake nose kept falling off every time he lied about this. In any event, the racial self-hate he personified evoked in me sadness bordering on pity, so much so that I still find it impossible to listen to his music with unbridled joy.

    Sociologists have proffered the notion of “complex personhood” to explain the psychopathology of blacks bleaching themselves white. But, no matter how nuanced or complicated the psychology that causes this pathology, there’s no denying the racial abnegation involved.

    No great poet has ever been afraid of being himself…

    But this is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America – this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American [i.e. white] as possible…

    I am ashamed … for the colored artist who runs from the painting of Negro faces … because he fears the strange unwhiteness of his own features.

    (Langston Hughes, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” 1926)

    joseph_mjMind you, given that Michael cast a white man to father his children, one can hardly blame producers for casting a white man to play him. They clearly hope the casting’s the thing wherein they’ll catch viewers for this macabre farce.

    Incidentally, it bears pointing out that September 2001 was allegedly witness to an even stranger trip: the FBI helping 14 Saudis flee from Kentucky to Saudi Arabia following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This, I respectfully submit, is far more worthy of dramatization.

    Meanwhile, MLK famously preached that people should “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Michael famously sang that “it don’t matter if you’re black or white.”

    But it clearly mattered to him. What’s more, he practically compelled us to judge him not by the content of his character, but by the color of his (bleached) skin.

    Not to mention that if you’re black or white has always mattered. And we did not need #BlackLivesMatter or #OscarsSoWhite to throw this into stark relief.

    That said, it’s not the artistic license producers are taking that troubles me. After all, if a black man can play Thomas Jefferson in the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, surely a white man can play Michael Jackson in a TV tragicomedy.

    Except that Jefferson had no psychological defect that made him want to be black, notwithstanding his sexual penchant for black female slaves. Therefore, the producers of that musical cannot be accused of wantonly exploiting the psychopathology of racial self-hate. The same cannot be said of the producers of this farce.

    Related commentaries:
    Rachel Dolezal
    MJ: the kid’s not my son
    OscarSoWhite
    BlackLivesMatter

  • Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at 6:52 AM

    British Inquiry Finds Putin Ordered London Hit. No Sh*t

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last week, the British Government published the long-awaited findings of its inquiry into the 2006 hit on ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. No doubt the most sensational finding is that Russian President Vladimir Putin had to have ordered FSB (formerly KGB) agents to execute it:

    Mr. Putin is likely to have signed off the poisoning of Mr. Litvinenko with polonium-210 in part due to personal ‘antagonism’ between the pair, it said.

    Home Secretary Theresa May said his murder was a ‘blatant and unacceptable’ breach of international law.

    (BBC, January 21, 2016)

    Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 8.27.22 AMBut there’s something to be said for the very British way Putin’s hitmen, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovturn, killed Litvinenko: they invited him to afternoon tea, and then laced his cuppa with poison.

    Never mind its copycat nature. After all, any student of the deadly art of spy craft had to have recognized similarities with the 1978 hit on Bulgarian defector Geogi Markov.

    In that case, the KGB and Bulgarian secret police conspired to have a hitman use a poison-tipped umbrella to pin prick Markov while he waiting for a bus on Waterloo Bridge. Clearly, only poisoning a target at afternoon tea could be more British than that. But I digress.

    Sir Robert Owen, chairman of the Inquiry, published the findings in a report on January 21. Unsurprisingly, the outrage it incited in Britain was matched by the contempt it incited in Russia.

    As it happens, I telegraphed this outrage and contempt, respectively, almost ten years ago. Here, in part, is what I wrote in “Putin Probably Ordered the Hit. But There’s Nothing Anyone Can Do about It,” November 28, 2006.

    __________________

    Litvinenko fled Russia in 2000, after accusing the FSB of killing over 300 Russians in 1999, in a Machiavellian scheme to frame and discredit Chechen rebels.

    The prevailing suspicion is that Putin targeted Litvinenko because he was becoming too public (and credible) in his criticisms of the Kremlin. Further, that his high-profile investigation into what many suspect was an FSB hit last month on journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was discovering and publishing too many inconvenient truths about the Kremlin’s Chechen conspiracy, prompted Putin to silence him now…

    Nonetheless, with all due respect to Scotland Yard and Interpol, no matter how probative the circumstantial evidence of Putin’s guilt, neither he nor his putative hitmen will ever be held to account for this murder. And everyone knows it.

    I coined the term “Putinization” to describe the way Putin has been ruling Russia for years more like a criminal enterprise than a democratic country…

    russiaspye-796848Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Putin would order the assassination of a spy who, for all intents and purposes, he considered not only an insufferable critic but also a traitor. Moreover, notwithstanding all of the accusations and investigations this case warrants, it will result in nothing but terminal frustration for Litvinenko’s loved ones (namely his avenging wife and son) and inevitable futility for British authorities.

    However, if one appreciates that Putin seems determined to emulate former Russian strongman Joseph Stalin, his ordering the assassination of these two journalists would seem relatively benign. After all, Stalin ordered the assassination of at least one million Russians (at home and abroad) and threw another 18 million in the Gulag for political offenses.

    putinvilniusc-789876Of course, it’s in the nature of totalitarian leaders like Stalin and Putin to manage their public image the way they manage sycophantic bureaucrats. Therefore, it should also come as no surprise that Putin would do all he could to intimidate critics he cannot kill.

    In this regard, here is how he warned the British and others against drawing reasonable conclusions about his involvement in Litvinenko’s murder:

    I hope the British authorities won’t fuel groundless political scandals… It is a great pity that even such tragic things as human death are used for political provocations. As I know, the medical certificate of British doctors does not indicate that he died a violent death. It does not say that. Hence there is no reason for such talk at all.

    (New York Times, November 25, 2006)

    His perversely proud reference to the insidious rather than violent method his assassins used to kill Litvinenko speaks volumes, even if unwittingly. Alas, I suspect Putin will feel obliged to say no more.

    _________________

    Moscow_3215206cBut if ever there were an assassination worthy of “such talk,” it happened last year. That’s when Putin allegedly ordered the most brazen hit of his rule. And the four bullets in the back of this target made it a very violent death indeed.

    Boris Nemtsov, a leading opponent and former deputy prime minister was gunned down in Moscow just a few hours after a radio interview in which he denounced Vladimir Putin’s ‘mad, aggressive’ policies…

    Nemtsov, 55, was shot in the shadow of the Kremlin shortly before midnight on Friday in a murder that bore all the hallmarks of a contract killing.

    (London Telegraph, February 28, 2015)  

    I duly lamented in “Fated Assassination of Russian Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov,” March 1, 2015.

    On the other hand, this Inquiry report also found that a salacious “personal antagonism” motivated Putin to kill Litvinenko. Here is how the London Daily Mail highlighted this angle on January 22:

    Alexander Litvinenko claimed that Vladimir Putin had been caught on camera having sex with young boys…

    Litvinenko made the accusation after the president was pictured kissing the stomach of a five-year-old boy during a walkabout in the Kremlin in June 2006…

    The inquiry report describes how the dissident claimed Mr. Putin was a ‘paedophile’.

    kiss_4Mind you, I remember thinking when I saw that picture that, even though strange, there was nothing sexual about it. And it’s not as if Litvinenko had not already given Putin more than enough reasons to kill him.

    But I can see how this accusation could have been the triggering event, perverting as it did the macho, he-man image Putin always cultivated. Sure enough, Litvinenko was dead within five months of making it.

    All the same, nothing in this report challenges what I wrote 10 years ago. What’s more, despite the sensational reporting and expressions of outrage it incited, the British government still seems loath to even attempt to hold Putin to account. Hell, it did all it could to prevent the Inquiry in the first place.

    Signs are the British state may not be keen at this moment to further escalate tensions with Russia, particularly because of Moscow’s role in the Middle East and the Syria crisis.

    (BBC, January 21, 2016)

    imagesThe aforementioned home secretary betrayed the government’s intent in this respect. Specifically, she made a parliamentary show of freezing the nominal assets of the alleged assassins, while uttering nary a word about Putin, the man who ordered the assassination.

    Granted, anyone who has seen any James Bond film knows that the British themselves are avid practitioners of the deadly art of spy craft. I don’t mean to make light of Litvinenko’s death. But it would not surprise me to learn that British leaders have ordered similar assassinations abroad, and that the host government did even less about it.

    To be sure, the findings in this report are as devastating as they are unimpeachable. Yet Putin was right. There was no reason for such talk of legal consequences, especially given that even I knew from the outset that it would amount to sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    Related commentaries:
    Putin ordered hit
    Hit on Boris Nemtsov

  • Monday, January 25, 2016 at 5:49 AM

    NFL Conference Championship Sunday: Hail, Broncos! Hail, Panthers!

    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)

    AFC

    The media hyped the American Conference Championship (AFC) game between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos as a bout between their respective quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 9.17.43 PM

    Arguably, Brady and Manning have been the two best quarterbacks in the NFL over the past 16 years. They’ve met 17 times over that period, with Brady besting Manning 11-6 in regular-season matchups. More significantly, going into this game, they were tied 2-2 in the playoffs. But Brady has led his team to 4 Super Bowl wins, whereas Manning has led his to only 1.

    IFTo be fair, even I was more interested in which alleged cheater would prosper than in which team would win.

    After all, Brady remains dogged by credible allegations that he masterminded the infamous Deflategate cheating caper. I reveled in the deflation of his all-American ego in such commentaries as “NFL on Brady’s Appeal: He Cheated, then Lied, and then Obstructed Justice,” July 29, 2015. And Manning remains dogged by credible allegations that he fueled his play over the past few years with performance-enhancing drugs.

    It just so happens I commented on their improbable bond as cheaters a few weeks ago in “Steroids: Peyton Manning Caught on the ‘Dark Side,’ December 29, 2015.

     ___________________

    Not just die-hard fans but even seasoned analysts are rushing to defend Manning. Except that they are defending him by denouncing Charlie Sly as if his name alone should discredit everything he said. What, pray tell, do you suppose they would have insinuated about the credibility of ‘Deep Throat’ in real time?

    Mind you, I get it: Finding out that Peyton Manning cheated in Football is rather like finding out that Jimmy Carter cheated on his wife. Never mind that having Tom “Deflategate” Brady defend Manning’s professional integrity is rather like have Vladimir Putin defend Bashir Assad’s democratic values…

    Manning is playing out the final year or two of his career. Notably, a career in Football that has been as celebrated and accomplished as Armstrong’s was in Cycling. It’s a shame his now seems fated to end in a similar fall from grace. What fateful symmetry….

    ___________________

    Perversely, Manning could now vindicate this symmetry and seal their disreputable bond. All he has to do is win this year’s Super Bowl with steroids dogging him, the way Brady won last year’s with Deflategate dogging him….

    That said, this AFC game did not live up to the hype. In fact, the highlights of the first three quarters all featured Manning and Brady scrambling for their lives. And, unlike Cam Newton below, neither of them is known for exciting fans as much with his running as with his passing.

    308B487500000578-3414908-image-a-52_1453679582866Granted, the last four minutes of the fourth quarter almost made up for the rest of the game. No doubt fans of both teams were experiencing heart palpations as the Patriots seemed poised to pull off a miraculous comeback. This was highlighted by two improbable fourth-down conversions and a touchdown with less than a minute to go, to pull within 2 points.

    Only a failed two-point attempt stopped them from sending this game into overtime, during which I suspect a thoroughly demoralized Broncos team would’ve simply ceded victory to the Patriots.

    But, as indicated above, I couldn’t have cared any less which team won. It turned out to be the Broncos by the hair on their chinny chin chin, 20-18.

    As of the QB matchup: Manning passed for 176 yards with 2 touchdowns; and rushed for 11. Brady passed for 310 yards with 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions; and rushed for 13.

    NFC

    Instead of hyping the AFC game so much, the media should have hyped this National Conference Championship (NFC) game between the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals much more.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 11.26.35 PM

    Sure enough, Cam Newton and the Panthers wasted little time showing why: They scored almost as much in the first quarter as Manning and the Broncos scored all game, jumping to a 17-0 lead over Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. And Newton showed why he’s as good a passer as any quarterback and (almost) as good a rusher as any running back in the league.

    As it turned out, it was mostly icing on the cake for the Panthers and humble pie for the Cardinals for the remaining three quarters. But I exercised my mercy rule and switched to Doc Martin on PBS after the Panthers went up 24-7 with 2 minutes left in the first half.

    -cff61795783b50eeThey ended up winning 49-15, scoring the most points in championship history.

    As for the QB matchup: Newton passed for 335 yards with 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; and rushed for 47 with 2 touchdowns. Palmer passed for 235 yards with 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions; and rushed for 0.

    Mind you, the Panthers should be playing out the most storied season in NFL history. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Super Bowl:

    Gone was the Carolina Panthers’ 18-game regular-season winning streak, which dated to last season. Gone was their quest to be just the second team to finish a regular season 16-0.

    [T]heir pursuit of history, to potentially join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only unbeaten Super Bowl champion, came to an abrupt end with the 20-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

    (USA Today, December 28, 2015)

    Their only pursuit now is for annual Super Bowl glory. I’m rooting for them to win it when they meet the Broncos for the Golden Super Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on February 7.

    308BF48100000578-3415083-image-a-154_1453693257707

    Go Panthers!

    Super Bowl commercials

    That said, I would be remiss not to comment on the annual hype surrounding Super Bowl commercials — for which companies are paying $5 million for a 30-second spot this year. Frankly, we are treated to so many previews that, by game time, they hold about as much interest as those eye-rolling commercials for erectile dysfunction.

    super-bowl-commercials-2012-header.jpgI gather that companies release them early to become a trending topic online. Except that, like most topics on social media, people suck them up and spit them out in a viral flash.

    Not so long ago, even die-hard fans waited with bated breath to see them air during the game; and the best ones trended, in real life, for days and weeks thereafter. These days, most people just see them as opportunities to go to the toilet.

    Which raises the question: Why pay millions to run a commercial on TV during the Super Bowl, only to have people ignore it, when you can pay pittance to release it online during Super Bowl week, and generate viral interest? Surely it’s only a matter of time before this fact dawns on companies.

    Then, of course, there’s this: I have watched many funny, even interesting Super Bowl commercials over the years. But none has ever moved me to purchase the product being advertised. You…?

    NOTE: My team is the Philadelphia Eagles. But the only thing that distinguished them this season was firing head coach Chip Kelly before the final game of regular-season play. Hope springs eternal.

    Related commentaries:
    Peyton Dark Side
    Deflategate

  • Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 7:17 AM

    Snowmageddon II: We Survived!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 1.54.13 PM

    Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 8.04.22 PM

  • Friday, January 22, 2016 at 6:44 AM

    #OscarsSoWhite! Duh. But Boycott? Nah.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The world is all atwitter about the “lily-White Oscars.” Because, for the second consecutive year, the 20 nominees for best performances are all White.

    landscape_nrm_nrm_1424804285-464287122

    I commented on this racial snub when it happened last year. And, frankly, everything I wrote back then remains as relevant today. Most notably, that commentary, titled “Oscar Snubs Selma. Good,” January 16, 2015, includes the following excerpt.

    _________________

    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.

    You’d never know that, just last year, this same Academy, whose over 6,000 voting members are 94 percent White (77 percent male, and average age 62), not only nominated Blacks in most major categories, but also awarded the most-coveted Oscar, for best picture, to a “Black movie,” 12 Years a Slave.

    oscar-winners-2014-0302

    In fact, members went beyond tokenism 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 de facto 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. They could’ve named their Academy Award of Merit, the Leroys – given that there’s an ‘Uncle Leroy’ in practically every Black family…

    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.

    _________________

    All the same, I would be remiss not to comment on this year’s racial snub, especially given the backlash Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee set off.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 4.45.30 PMSmith triggered it Monday when she called for a boycott of the Oscars. Spike Lee seconded that (e)motion by declaring his intent to be otherwise entertained.

    Except that Lee betrayed how ill-advised this was when he began insisting, just 36 hours later, that he never called for a boycott. Suffice it to know that there’s a reason the mainstream media reported on his and Jada’s statements as follows:

    Invoking the Rev. Martin Luther King’s legacy on his birthday, two prominent African-Americans announced Monday that they will boycott this year’s Academy Awards over a lack of diversity among nominees.

    Filmmaker Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith posted separate messages Monday saying they would not be attending the February 28 ceremony. The Oscars have drawn criticism a after an all-white slate of major nominees was announced Thursday for the second year in a row.

    (CNN, January 19, 2016)

    Meanwhile, George Clooney is leading a viral chorus of stars venting outrage about Hollywood “going in the wrong direction.” Significantly, though, none of them is saying anything about boycotting the Oscars. And that’s a good thing.

    After all, boycotting the AMPAS Oscar Awards because they’re so White is rather like boycotting the NCAAP Image Awards because they’re so Black. More to the point, Blacks boycotting the Oscars would have about as much impact as Blacks boycotting the Republican National Convention.

    This is not the NBA, NFL, KFC, or Burger King – whose bottom line depends on Blacks either playing or paying. Nobody will miss you. What’s more, I would not be at all surprised if the ironic impact of this backlash is that this year’s telecast becomes the most watched in history.

    Not to mention that Lee and Smith do not inspire solidarity … the way MLK and Rosa Parks did. Instead, they race bait and alienate … the way Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters do.

    rs_1024x759-160119105858-1024.fresh-prince.cm.11916With respect to Smith, this was thrown into sharp relief when Janet Hubert took to social media to respond to her call. Hubert co-starred with her husband Will on the hit sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996). Here, in part, is what “Aunt Viv” said:

    Just because the world doesn’t go the way that you want it to go doesn’t mean that you can go out and then you start asking people to stand up and say we can overcome…

    You have a huge production company that you only produce your friends, your family and yourself…

    You are a part of the system that is unfair to other actors.

    (Huffington Post, January 19, 2016)

    Reports are that, in the early days of The Fresh Prince, Hubert lobbied Will to use his clout to get more pay per show for all cast members; you know, like actors on “White shows” do. According to her, he refused, saying in effect, I got mine, y’all get yours.

    Therefore, Hubert can be forgiven for acting like a woman (still) scorned, especially because this seems to be the first starring role she’s had since then. But there’s no denying the merit of her response. I, for one, believe her charge that Jada would not be calling for this boycott if Will had been nominated for Concussion – even if he were the only Black nominated in any category.

    will-smith-gma-interview-oscars-controversyAs it happens, Will unwittingly betrayed their self-serving motivation during an interview with ABC’s News earlier today. He claimed that he’s joining his wife’s boycott because he’s concerned about the message all-White nominees sends to little Black children.

    Which raises this obvious question: Why the hell wasn’t he concerned about this message last year? The obvious answer, of course, is that he had no skin in the game. As Hubert knows all too well, Will is only about getting his….

    With respect to Lee, I have condemned him over the years for the very kind of rash reaction to legitimate racial issues he demonstrated in this case. Such commentaries as “Spike Lee vs. Clint Eastwood Over No Blacks in Hollywood War Movies,” June 10, 2008, attest to this. Enough said.

    Again, my commentary on last year’s snub was prescient and seemed pretty comprehensive. Yet here are brief comments on three subjects it did not cover:

    It’s the Movies, Stupid

    Given that Monday was the MLK holiday, it’s understandable that this backlash has been littered with allusions to the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. But the proper corollary would be a boycott not of the Oscars, but of the movies that are so white.

    500fullI referred above to George Clooney taking a leading role in speaking out against this racial snub – as he is wont to do. Therefore, it might surprise you to learn that “MoviesSoWhite” include many that Clooney himself produced.

    Except that, if he’s comfortable casting his wedding of the century “so White,” it’s hardly surprising that he’d be equally so casting his movies as such:

    It’s just that Clooney is a vocal, proud, and celebrated Hollywood liberal. So, if even he could have a wedding party as lily-White as his apparently was, the sad fact is that the wedding hour on Saturday might be the second most segregated hour in America.

    After all, from Hollywood to Washington and even throughout Africa, no White celebrity appeared to have nurtured more cross-racial/cultural friendships than he. Yet, while it’s understandable that Barack Obama had far more pressing matters, it strains credulity that every one of his other Black ‘friends’ was otherwise occupied.

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

    Given this, one could fairly assert that George Clooney venting outrage about the lack of Blacks in Hollywood is like Donald Trump doing so about the lack of Hispanics in the Republican Party

    Still, it was Matt Damon who exposed the root cause of the Oscars being so White. It happened last September when he famously asserted that there’s nothing wrong with having no Blacks in position to greenlight movies. He insisted that all would be h[o]nky dory, so long as White studio heads, producers, and directors make an effort to cast Blacks in their films (as tokens?). #White Hollywood hypocrites?

    Oscar’s First Black President

    In theory, Cheryl Boone Isaacs becoming head of the Academy is even more remarkable than Barack Obama becoming president of the United States. To say nothing of how improbable it is for a Black to head a major studio. More to the point, I fear her promise to “bring much-needed diversity to Hollywood” will prove even more feckless than Obama’s to bring much-needed civility to Washington.

    86th Annual Academy Awards - Oscar Foreign Language ReceptionReports are that Isaacs has proposed new rules to ensure noticeable and sustainable change by next year. But I can think of nothing more anathema to the artistic license and freedom that defines Hollywood than requiring Academy members to vote like North Korean bureaucrats.

    After all, the only way Isaacs can fulfill her promise is to impose a quota for Black nominees, which only a rash fool like Lee would recommend.

    There’s also talk of increasing the number of nominees in each category. The expectation is that this would give Black movies like Straight Outta Compton and Black actors like Idris Elba a better shot at being nominated. But this would be tantamount to the farce of awarding “participation trophies,” which diminishes recognition of all achievement. Not to mention making a mockery of the real purpose of affirmative action.

    Again, human nature being what it is, the only way to seed and grow diversity at the Oscars is to ensure diversity at every stage in the filmmaking process. This will lead organically to the Academy reflecting the demographics more of the American people than a Connecticut country club. With all due respect to Isaacs, this cannot be done in one year. But the silver lining in this backlash is that it presents this year as an unprecedented seeding season for diversity in Hollywood.

    Oscar’s Black Host

    splash-rock-0118

    The pressure on comedians hosting the Oscars to be funny is tremendous even under the best of circumstances – as Seth MacFarlane found out to his eternal shame. Therefore, the pressure on Chris Rock, with the black cloud of this backlash hanging over his head, must be unbearable.

    First he had to deal with misguided calls to withdraw. Now he’s having to deal with race-based demands to use his platform as host to speak Black truth to White power, which for many means cracking jokes about Hollywood being so White.

    Never mind that there’s nothing Rock can say that these White folks haven’t already heard. Ironically, no less a person than Spike Lee preempted him in this respect just months ago, albeit he was under no pressure to be funny.

    spike-lee-oscars-boycottThe occasion was the seventh annual Governors Awards, at which these same lily-White members of the Academy awarded Lee an honorary Oscar:

    Everybody in here probably voted for Obama but when I go to offices, I see no black folks except for the brother man at the security who checks my name off the list as I go into the studio… So we can talk ‘yabba yabba yabba’ but we need to have some serious discussion about diversity and get some flavor up in this…

    This industry is so behind sports it’s ridiculous.

    (E News, November 15, 2015)

    Really, what else is there for Rock to say … no matter how funny?

    Clearly, the entitled racism White liberals in Hollywood assume is unforgivable. That must change, but I’m not holding my breath. Not least because I’ve been taking White liberals in Washington to task in similar fashion for years … to no avail. Such commentaries as “Senator Kennedy Calls Bush’s Black Female Judicial Nominee an Ape,” June 7, 2005, “Hillary: Republicans Treating Democrats like Slaves,” January 23, 2006, and “VP Biden, Stop Your Dog-Whistling about Race…Now!” August 16, 2012, attest to this.

    Nonetheless, I hope Rock does not take this race bait. Because nobody wants to tune in to a celebration of Hollywood, no matter how lily White, just to hear a rich Black host bitching all night about how racist and unfair life is for rich Black actors. In any event, there’s bound to be no shortage of stars looking to use this occasion to vent Oscars-So-White outrage, hoping for an additional 15 minutes of fame.

    With that, I hope you enjoy the show. That is, unless you’re planning to join Will and Jada in their boycott by not even watching on TV….

    Related commentaries:
    Oscar Snubs
    Spike Lee
    Clooney nuptials
    VP Biden et al

    *  This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 10:40 p.m.

  • Wednesday, January 20, 2016 at 5:21 AM

    Evangelicals Supporting Donald Trump like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is a black-swan phenomenon. Nothing demonstrates this quite like so many commentators having egg on their faces for mistakenly predicting its demise.

    The only reason I don’t is that I have never underestimated the ignorance or gullibility of large segments of the American people. Such commentaries as “On Syria (and almost Every Other Issue), the American People are Insolent, Ignorant, Idiots,” September 10, 2013, attest to this.

    Nearly 10 percent of college graduates in the United States think that TV host Judith ‘Judge Judy’ Sheindlin sits on the Supreme Court, according to a recent study.

    (New York Post, January 19, 2016)

    See? And that percent is probably five times higher among non-grads and high-school dropouts.

    In other words, this Trump phenomenon says more about far too many Americans than it does about him.

    Donald Trump is nothing more than the P.T. Barnum of business: a huckster who thrives on the maxim that ‘there’s a sucker born every minute’…

    The only people who think Trump would make a good president are the suckers to whom he could sell swampland in the Florida Everglades as beachfront property.

    (“Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2011)

    Which brings me to the Evangelicals and their incomprehensible support. I know Evangelicals. As the son of an evangelical preacher, I grew up amongst them. So trust me when I say that, for any sober Evangelical, Trump is the very personification of Mammon.

    how-donald-trump-explains-america-806-body-image-1438883172This, after all, is a man who takes diabolical pride in boasting that he never asks God for forgiveness because he’s without sin; he’s rich; and he’s like a god himself. He even boasts that The Art of the Deal, his book about the virtues of greed and the salvation of wealth, rivals the Bible.

    Not to mention that he made most of his money building gambling casinos. Because gambling is as great a sin for most Evangelicals as usury is for most Islamists.

    But Trump is probably best known for building a gilded tower in New York City as a monument to himself. And, given his delusions of grandeur, one could well imagine him challenging Jesus by channeling the Devil from atop that tower as follows:

    Finally, the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain. He showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. ‘If You bow down and worship me,’ he said, ‘I will give You all of this.’

    (Matthew 4:8)

    jesus-temptation007Of course, Jesus rebuked and then admonished the Devil to humble himself before God. You’d think Evangelicals would do what Jesus did, especially given that Trump challenges their Christian faith almost every day. Instead of rebuking and admonishing him, however, they invariably hail him as if he were, well, the second coming of Jesus Christ.

    This was the case yesterday, when he held a rally at their Gethsemane, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Trump has an infamous and unrepentant record of iniquity; therefore, one might have expected Evangelicals there to give him a proverbial stoning. Instead, they behaved as if Trump had channeled Daniel in the lion’s den and cast a spell on them.

    Incidentally, this, from the conservative news site World Net Daily (on August 15, 2015), might explain why Trump is wooing Evangelicals so successfully:

    President Obama isn’t the Antichrist – but he sure is ‘paving the way’ for him, said some Christian evangelists who’ve been watching the White House in biblically prophetic light with alarm.

    (WND, August 15, 2015)

    160118_pol_social_trump_33x16_1600As it happens, Trump betrayed that he just might be the Antichrist when he bit his tongue trying to read a scripture from the Bible:

    After vowing to protect Christians across the globe, Trump read a verse from Second Corinthians — one of the books in the New Testament. But Trump flubbed the name, pronouncing it ‘Two Corinthians.’

    (AOL News, January 18, 2016)

    As he does with everything, Trump boasts about the love Evangelicals have for him. But they have clearly lost their way. It’s a testament to just how far that more Evangelicals are filling stadiums to hear Trump boast about his wealth than are filling churches to hear pastors preach about their God.

    The only thing that explains this willful suspension of their evangelical faith is the precedent the lost Israelites set in Bible times:

    the-golden-calf-1

    Exodus 32 relates that the Israelites, anxious about Moses’ prolonged absence, demanded that provide a god to lead them. Complying, Aaron collected the golden ornaments of the people and fashioned the gold into the shape of a calf…

    The image was immediately hailed by the people as a representation of the God who had brought Israel out of Egypt.

    (Jewish Virtual Library.org)

    donaldtrumpisreallyrich-1Trump is brazenly exploiting his “relationship” with Evangelicals for all it’s worth. Never mind that their relationship is based primarily on Trump boasting about his wealth and evangelicals hailing it as a representation of the God who will help Trump lead them down the primrose path.

    Again, it would be one thing if Trump troubled himself to show a little regard for their purported Christian values. But the feature attraction of his campaign rhetoric is mean-spirited, bullying, even profane language, which makes a mockery of those values.

    6a00d83451c36069e2013485663a12970cTo be fair, some Evangelicals are more political conservatives than religious fanatics. But Trump, the New York liberal masquerading as a conservative, should be just as much a heathen as Trump, the apocalyptic Antichrist masquerading as a fanatic. Which is why all Evangelicals in this context are sacrificing their political ideology and/or Christian faith at the altar of Trump’s egomaniacal ambition.

    And this does not even address the sacrilege inherent in Trump comparing himself to Ronald Reagan. After all, Reagan is like a god to political conservatives and religious fanatics alike, which is also incomprehensible. But I digress.

    The point is that, Evangelicals seem drunk with wonder as they hang on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of Trump. But I am constrained to ask: What will it profit an Evangelical if he gains Trump as president, but loses his own soul?

    In a similar vein, Trump would do well to heed this admonition … from God Himself:

    Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

    (Mathew 19:24)

    Evangelicals have always intoned that character matters. They would do well to be guided by this admonition when choosing a candidate to enter the White House.

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  • Monday, January 18, 2016 at 2:13 PM

    Evangelicals Supporting Trump like Israelites Worshipping Calf

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    the-golden-calf-1

    More later…

  • Monday, January 18, 2016 at 7:23 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 of this. His election was only one small step on the march towards equal rights and opportunities for all Americans.  Indeed, nothing betrays the fatuous notion that his election ushered in a post-racial era quite like Selma-like marches against police brutality, which were held over the country last year.

    But this is MLK’s day. It speaks volumes that he is the only private citizen (Black or White) 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 is now 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 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 resemble the hood of a 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 the prevailing symbol 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.

    I can think of no better way to mark this MLK holiday than by pledging henceforth to tune out all politicians and pundits who traffic in incendiary rhetoric. Such rhetoric only divides Americans and could even inspire political assassinations.

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  • Saturday, January 16, 2016 at 7:23 AM

    Powerball: Was the fantasy worth it for you?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    174084_600

  • Friday, January 15, 2016 at 8:47 AM

    Bowie more Popular in Death than He Ever Was in Life. Thanks for Nothing!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Thin White Duke’s catalog drew 51 million views on Vevo on Jan. 11, a new one-day high-mark for any artist on the streaming music platform…

    Bowie breaks the previous same-day record, which was held by Adele whose catalog generated 36 million views on Oct. 23, 2015, the day “Hello” premiered.

    Bowie’s last album, Blackstar, was released Jan. 8 and is on track to become the singer’s first recording to top the Billboard 200. It’s also expected to bow at No. 1 on the Official U.K. Albums Chart.

    (Billboard, January 14, 2016)

    At least Michael’s fans gave him Thriller during his lifetime.

    Don’t get me started on his self-professed fans taking to social media to share how much his music meant to them. After all, if just a fraction of them had actually purchased his music, Bowie’s last hit single would not have been “Let’s Dance” … over 30 years ago. Mind you, he probably couldn’t have cared any less.

    Ironically, apropos of hits, that is bound to change with the timely release, just two days before he died, of Blackstar, his requiem/farewell album. It’s trending; therefore, millions of social-media twits must have it.

    (“David Bowie, Gender-Bending Performing Artist,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 12, 2016)

    More to the point, if you think Bowie is reveling in his grave over this, think again. Because he’s probably rolling over in disgust at this peddling of his music as a necrophiliac phenomenon. And when he’s not doing that, he’s probably just giving all of you posthumous lovers the finger – as was his wont.

    0f2ec9e2ebb7320aeab71853fa362e0f-2

    So, if you’re among the millions of rubbernecking death hags buying his music for the first time, get over yourself!

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  • Thursday, January 14, 2016 at 4:55 AM

    Obama Delivers Final State of the Union Address. Thank God!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    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 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)

    On Tuesday, President Obama delivered his seventh and final State of the Union address. He ascended the presidency on a platform of “Hope and Change.” But, where this annual address is concerned, he only delivered more of the same, namely soaring rhetoric, signifying nothing — except fodder for political talking heads on cable TV.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 9.20.27 AM

    No doubt Obama delivered great addresses. Alas, this has proved no more significant than the bad ones his predecessor, George W. Bush, delivered. This is why I marked last year’s address with a commentary titled, “State of the Union: A Political Spectacle … Take 2,” January 29, 2015.

    Which brings me to the only part of Obama’s final address that is even worthy of comment. It pertains to the folly of U.S. entanglements across the Middle East.

    Here is how he presented this hard-learned lesson:

    We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq, and we should have learned it by now…

    The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia…

    [W]e have to set priorities.

    (WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU, January 12, 2016)

    Except that even this bit of soaring rhetoric signified nothing. After all, Obama claimed that America was fighting the “good war” in Afghanistan. Yet 2,326 American soldiers died there … in vain. More to the point, 70 percent of them fell not on Bush’s watch, but on Obama’s … when it was already patently clear that this war had descended into an unwinnable quagmire.

    Frankly, I have written many commentaries decrying Obama’s Bush-lite war on terrorism. And each of them laments a recipe for quagmire, which resulted only in spilling more American blood and treasure.

    Here are excerpts from just a few.

    __________________

    • bush-mission-accomplished-iraqFrom “Obama Escalates Afghan War; the ‘Die’ Is Cast on His Presidency,” December 2, 2009:

    I do not see how Obama can possibly justify the loss of life and waste of money that will occur over this period [to the end of 2014], just for him to end up doing what President Nixon did in Vietnam: i.e., declaring victory and going home.

    • From “Perhaps Only Authoritarian Regimes Can Govern Arab Countries,” June 11, 2014:

    The primary cause of this mess is the sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims that has been simmering in Arab countries since time immemorial [aka millennia]…

    Regarding wasted blood and treasure: according to the Washington Post’s ongoing feature ‘Faces of the Fallen,’ as of April 2014, the United States had already lost 6,805 soldiers trying to build ‘full democracies’ in Iraq and Afghanistan; and a 2013 study from Harvard University estimates that, by the time the United States retreats from Afghanistan next year, it will have spent upwards of $6 trillion trying to do so.

    Not to mention the more than one hundred thousand Iraqi and Afghan civilians who lost their lives.

    • From “Obama’s Mission Creep in Iraq Channeling JFK’s Mission Creep in Vietnam,” November 12, 2014:

    I knew when Obama announced his 300-troop redeployment in June that he’d be redeploying more … and more – as I cynically argued in “Why Have 300 Troops When 3000 Will Do?” June 20, 2014. [He has now redeployed 3,500.]

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

    __________________

    *** COMPOSITE ***I’ve been an ardent Obama supporter since he stepped onto the world stage as a wannabe president in 2006. Among others, my commentary, “It’s TIME: Run Obama, Run!” October 24, 2006, attests to this.

    I’ve proudly hailed him as a transformative president, citing, among other accomplishments, his championing healthcare reform, normalizing relations with Cuba, and striking a nuclear deal with Iran. Among others, my commentary, “Success of Obama’s Policies Confounding, Vexing, Defying Republican Critics,” December 29, 2014, attests to this.

    But I take profound exception to Obama making such a show of denouncing the deployment of U.S. troops to countries that fall into crisis. Not least because, from day one, the bane of my support and the Achilles heel of his presidency has been his decision to do just that, time and again.

    Incidentally, much is being made about how old Obama looks these days. I submit, however, that having the blood of so many American soldiers on one’s hands, and having so little to show for it, is enough to turn any president’s black hair grey. What’s more, I warned it would be thus. My commentary, “Obama Saluting War Dead Will Be Defining Image of His Presidency,” October 30, 2009, attests to this.

    In any event, among others, my commentaries, “Support the Draft to Prevent Stupid Wars,” March 14, 2007, “Obama Escalates Afghanistan War: the ‘Die’ Is Cast on His Presidency,” December 2, 2009, “Sunni, Shias, and Kurds Fighting for Control of Iraq. Stay Out, America!” June 19, 2014, “Demystifying ISIS: Case against Obama’s Bush-lite War on Terrorism,” September 10, 2014, and “Obama Amassing Coalition to Do in Syria What Bush Did in Afghanistan/Iraq,” September 30, 2015, attest to my dismay with this plank of his foreign policy.

    But, hey, it’s never too late even for Obama to learn. Or should I say, HOPE springs eternal…?

    NOTE: ‘Tis wind and nothing more,’ but my support for Obama’s presidency compelled me to continue commenting on this annual address. Nevermore!

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  • Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 5:26 AM

    David Bowie, Gender-Bending Performing Artist, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’ve been a big David Bowie fan since high school (in the late 1970s). My classmates thought I was a weirdo. They preferred acts like Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones. But I took perverse pride and pleasure in having them gossip about my sexuality because I preferred him.

    For what it’s worth, my favorite songs back then were “Space Oddity” 1969, “Changes” 1971, “Fame” 1975, “Golden Years” 1976, and “Heroes” 1977. I’m not sure what to make of the fact that they remained my favorites throughout his career.

    Incidentally, his onstage makeup and costumes grabbed most attention. But anyone who bothered to listen knows that Bowie was always a master lyricist and composer.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 11.41.33 AM

    It just so happens I stood out as much among my classmates as Bowie did among his fellow artists. I was the only Black kid in my school, until administration officials recruited a Black girl. Whether they were benign racists seeking gender parity, or homophobes guiding my sexual orientation, is debatable. But I digress.

    The point is that even I was as shocked by the outpouring of tributes as I was by the news of his death yesterday. With all due respect to Michael Jackson, we have not seen anything like this since the news of Princess Diana’s death shocked the world in August 1997. Even the Vatican paid tribute to Bowie for Christ’s sake!

    Except, of course, that there’s this:

    I fear the expression of such sentiments [like condolences] these days is intended more to draw attention to the person tweeting them than to comfort the person (who should be) receiving them.

    (“Hey Stupid, Personal Tweet Is an Oxymoron,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 6, 2015)

    Case in point, Bowie’s grieving widow is the former Black supermodel, Iman Abdulmajid. But I’d bet good money that the vast majority of his self-professed friends never even attempted to comfort her personally. They were too busy rushing to tweet their “heartfelt” condolences for the world to see.

    To be fair, Bowie kept even close friends at arms length. Only this explains why they were as shocked by the news of his death as we were. Brian Eno, his friend and collaborator of 40 years, admitted as much in a statement to BBC News. He had no idea Bowie had been battling cancer for the past 18 months….

    3991But don’t get me started on his self-professed fans taking to social media to share how much his music meant to them. After all, if just a fraction of them had actually purchased his music, Bowie’s last hit single would not have been “Let’s Dance” … over 30 years ago. Mind you, he probably couldn’t have cared any less.

    Ironically, apropos of hits, that is bound to change with the timely release, just two days before he died, of Blackstar, his requiem/farewell album. It’s trending; therefore, millions of social-media twits must have it.

    In any event, what I admired about Bowie in his younger years, I admired about him in his golden years. Namely, his self-possessed approach to music that defied convention and trends in equal measure.

    He was never more defiant, in his inimitably cool way, than when he called out MTV for featuring only White artists like him. Black artists like Rick James had been publicly accusing MTV of rank discrimination since its debut in 1981. But it took Bowie’s public shaming for the network to finally feature them, beginning with Michael Jackson’s pioneering “Billie Jean” in 1983.

    Bowie spent much of the past 30 years reportedly making music for himself. In doing so, he shunned the rock-star lifestyle zealously. Indeed, he seemed to take perverse pride and pleasure in having people think of him as a stepford husband….

    Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 9.42.32 PMIman provided this little insight about the man (and their nearly 24-year marriage) recently:

    David is even more of a homebody than I am… I also think that there is nothing that he hasn’t seen….

    (London Guardian, June 28, 2014)

    Perhaps even more insightful though are reports that, unlike Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, and other rock stars, Bowie declined to be knighted by the Queen. He explained that he did not need a “fancy title” to validate his life’s work.

    I intimated above that he and I had a little in common. Well, as proud commoners, we shared a mutual disdain for the presumptions, perquisites, and pretensions of royalty. My disdain is redolent in such commentaries as “Pardon Me, Sir, but How Much Did You Pay for Your Knighthood,” July 14, 2006, “The Problem Is Not Kate’s Weight. It’s William’s Title,” February 16, 2011, and “Australia Bans British Honours. Other Commonwealth Countries Should Too,” November 3, 2015.

    Bowie was clearly hard to impress. Which is why, far from flattering him, attention-seeking performers like Kanye, Madonna, and Gene Simmons could only be flattering themselves with their fawning tributes.

    Still, I would be remiss not to acknowledge one viral sensation, which I gather tickled Bowie’s fancy as much as it did mine. It happened in May 2013, when Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield dropped his cover of “Space Oddity.” That Hadfield performed it from the International Space Station was special enough. That he channeled Bowie’s voice so uncannily was, well, otherworldly.

    “Ashes to ashes. Dust to stardust.” Indeed.

    Bowie died at his home in New York City on Sunday. He was 69.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 2.54.08 PM

    Farewell, David.

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  • Monday, January 11, 2016 at 7:21 AM

    Germany: Muslim Men More Sexual Predators than Asylum Seekers…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    did-merkel-just-get-trouncedGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel can be forgiven for bemoaning that no good deed goes unpunished.

    Recall that she made quite a show last summer of welcoming as many refugees as could make it to Germany. But she soon had just cause to rue her open door policy – as reports of assimilation woes and spikes in crime attended sequent waves. I duly commented in “Migrant Invasion Causing Humanitarian Remorse in Germany,” September 28, 2015.

    Understandably, Merkel felt compelled to allay growing fears. Unfortunately, she attempted to do so by pitting the categorical imperatives of assimilation against the transforming impositions of multiculturalism. She even pledged to close Germany’s open door enough to “drastically decrease” the number of refugees entering the country. I duly commented in “Merkel Betraying Migration Policy that Won Her ‘Person of the Year,” December 21, 2015.

    Then came this ‘bombshell:’

    Germany is struggling to respond to a mass assault of women on New Year’s Eve, and news that people suspected of a role in the violence included asylum seekers…

    Merkel has proposed tougher laws that would make it easier to deport migrants after a wave of sex attacks in Cologne that were allegedly carried out by asylum seekers – an incident she is reported to have described as ‘a bombshell’…

    Volker Bouffier, the prime minister of the state of Hesse, told the meeting: ‘Cologne has changed everything; people are full of doubt.’

    (London Guardian, January 9, 2016)

    Germany-Cologne-Crime_Horo-2According to the latest reports, 370 women have filed complaints – all stemming from what appears to have been a flash-mob of sexual assaults.

    Unsurprisingly, xenophobic politicians are stoking remorse and fueling fears:

    Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas was the latest high-profile politician to speak out about the string of sexual assaults in Cologne on Sunday. In an interview with the popular Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Maas voiced his suspicions that the crimes, which have the whole country reeling, were not the result of an opportunistic mob mentality but a thought-out, planned attack on the city’s women.

    (Deutsche Welle, January 10, 2016)

    To be fair, this minister’s suspicions are not entirely unfounded. After all, I wrote many commentaries decrying such “opportunistic mob mentality” among Muslim men after flash-mob sexual assaults became a menacing feature of Arab Spring protests – as such commentaries as “Sustained Sexual Assault on CBS Reporter by Egyptian Protesters,” January 30, 2012, attest.

    I am all too mindful, however, that Muslim men are not the only ones inclined to such predatory mob behavior. In fact, a significant number of non-Muslim White men were among the predators who perpetrated this mass assault.

    Never mind that far too few news outlets are bothering to report this fact. Or that neo-Nazis are already using this incident as a pretext to assault Muslims indiscriminately.

    More to the point, though, here is why such assaults are every bit as congenital among Arabs as they are among Europeans:

    Halfway into the 2012 edition, incidents of sexual abuse at Munich’s Oktoberfest are on the rise as compared to last year, Munich daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reports…

    Irritated by the continued perception of many that women who are involved in sexual abuse of any kind are somehow ‘asking for it,’ feminist activist Anna-Katharina Meßmer said ‘somebody needs to teach [European] men how to behave themselves.’

    (Worldcrunch, October 3, 2012)

    Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 10.10.14 PMAll the same, not just Germans but all Europeans have just cause to fear what unvanquished and unyielding waves of migrants portend:

    [Germany’s Development Minister] Gerd Müller said only 10 per cent of Syrian and Iraqi migrants have reached Europe so far and ‘eight to ten million are still on the way,’ with even more to come from Africa.

    ‘The biggest movements are ahead: Africa’s population will double in the coming decades,’ he told Bild am Sonntag, adding: ‘In the Sahara up to one million people have died trying to escape.’

    (Brietbart News, January 10, 2016)

    In truth, I am compelled to say, I told you so. For, regarding the Syrian and Iraqi migrants Müller cited, here is what I presaged in “Europe’s Migration Crisis: Sowing Seeds of Unintended, but all too Foreseeable Consequences,” September 6, 2015.

    __________________

    Liberal Germans are greeting this first wave of migrants with banners, cheers, and food. But don’t be surprised if these same Germans are hurling xenophobic epithets at sequent waves a few months from now — as predictable strains/conflicts, especially with respect to gainful employment and welfare benefits, become manifestly untenable.

    ________________

    Regarding the even more undesirable African migrants he cited, here is what I presaged in “Lampedusa Tragedy Highlights Europe’s ‘Haitian’ Problem,” October 7, 2013.

    ___________________

    As tragic as [migrants turning the Mediterranean Sea into a Cemetary is], political dysfunction, economic stagnation, and civil strife on the Dark Continent are such that Africans will continue to risk life and limb to seek a better life. Just as no legal barrier or risk of drowning in the Caribbean Sea has stemmed the tide of Haitian migrants setting off for America, no legal barrier or risk of drowning in the Mediterranean Sea will stem the tide of African migrants setting off for Europe.

    __________________

    Above all, though, regarding the best way to deal with this migration crisis, here is what I proposed in “Europe’s Migration Crisis…,” September 6, 2015 – long before Hillary, General David Petraeus, and others began championing it.

    ___________________

    European leaders should coordinate comprehensive humanitarian interventions, enabled and protected by NATO (not UN) forces, to contain would-be migrants within their borders. It’s clearly far better to provide local safe havens than for migrants to continue risking life and limb, only to end up in splendid desolation in Europe or in fetid isolation in internment camps, where millions are being detained today in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and, increasingly, in Hungary.

    __________________

    It will be interesting to see how Europe copes. But I cannot resist this parting shot from “Europeans Erecting Fences to Maintain Good Relations with African Neighbors,” October 8, 2005.

    _______________

    There’s no denying that America has an arbitrary, even mercenary, immigration policy (which, for example, grants Cuban migrants an EZ pass but repatriates Haitian migrants summarily). Yet, compared with that of other countries, America has by far the most inviting and humane policy of them all [notwithstanding Donald Trump].

    This fact is finally coming into stark relief for Europeans – who once chided Americans with righteous indignation for their treatment of [undesirable] migrants. Because African migrants are now posing the same challenges for Europe that Haitian migrants have been posing for the United States for decades.

    _______________

    It does no bode well that NIMBY Europeans are threatening to blow their union asunder as they begin erecting fences to maintain good relations with each other … too.

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