Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 6:19 AM
I have argued for years that it is in Serbia’s enlightened national interest to give up all sovereign claim to any part of Kosovo. Not least because Serbs had/have neither the military nor the political power to enforce such a claim.
The international military and political forces aligned against the Serbs are such that they would be well-advised to have their religious leaders lead them in serene prayers of acceptance, instead of having their political leaders lead them in jingoistic cries of defiance, over Kosovo. Because it will take a miracle for them to retain any control over this province when all is said and done.
(“Kosovo: Wither Serbia’s Alamo,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 4, 2007)
No less important, though, is that the EU made “visible and sustainable improvements with Kosovo” a key condition for Serbian membership. Therefore, given that Serbia’s economic survival is so dependent on EU membership, continuing to fight over Kosovo constitutes a classic case of being penny wise and pound foolish:
After all, as much as they cherish historic religious ties with Kosovo, Serbs clearly covet future economic ties with Europe much more.
By contrast, no matter how much their Slav brothers in Russia are prepared to abet their pipe dream for Kosovo (but only with political, not military, support), Serbs appear no more interested in being the political and economic bedfellows of Russians today than they were during the height of the Cold War.
(“Serbs Cry Uncle Over Kosovo,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 3, 2007)
Well, it took them long enough, but it appears the Serbs are finally coming to their senses. Specifically, after mediating countless rounds of talks between prime ministers Ivica Dacic of Serbia (right) and Hashim Thaçi of Kosovo, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Baroness Cathy Ashton, is now praising them as “brave leaders” for reaching an historic deal to “normalize ties.”
‘I wasn’t sure we would get a deal until the moment the two prime ministers initialled it,’ Cathy Ashton said. ‘I really didn’t know.’ Kosovo’s Serbs have long refused to recognise the Kosovan government.
The deal, reached on Friday … concede[s] that the government in Pristina has legal authority over the whole territory, including Serb-majority areas of northern Kosovo.
(BBC, April 24, 2013)
The EU duly marked the occasion on Monday by announcing that accession talks could start within the year if Serbia complies with all provisions that are:
…aimed at ending the ethnic partition of the young country between its Albanian majority and a pocket of some 50,000 Serbs in the north.
(Reuters, April 22, 2013)
Alas, true to its preternaturally fractious character, Serbia is a country divided against itself even where this existential deal is concerned. For here is how the religious leaders I hoped would lead Serbs in prayers of acceptance six years ago, are instead leading them in prayers of defiance today:
The leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, said [this deal] appears to ‘mark the pure surrender … of our most important territory in spiritual and historical terms.’
(BBC, April 24, 2013)
Sadly, this might be all the inspiration ethnic Serbs need to mount an insurgency in Kosovo that makes the one that has been raging in Iraq for the past decade seem like a barroom brawl by comparison.
It is clear that Kosovo Serbs are not ready to accept the agreements reached between Serbia and Kosovo under pressure from Brussels. Most residents of the province condemn the actions of the government of Ivica Dacic, and consider them an act of betrayal. Many of them are willing to take to the streets to defend their political rights in the breakaway republic.
(Pravada.Ru, April 23, 2013)
Israeli politician and author Abba Eban is renowned for saying, “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The same can be said of the Serbs.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 7:22 AM
Much is made in the international media of the way North Korea ignites military tensions with Groundhog Day-like precision. It does this, of course, by threatening to nuke not just wary neighbors like South Korea and Japan, but even the United States.
By contrast, relatively little is made of the way Japan ignites similar tensions with equal precision. It does this by having its leaders make annual pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine, where they pay homage to war dead from World War II, including notorious war criminals.
These pilgrimages invariably incite militant outrage in China and South Korea – countries Japan invaded and/or occupied during that war and whose leaders decry these pilgrimages as a direct affront to their war dead.
No matter in what capacity or form Japanese leaders visit Yasukuni Shrine, in essence it is an attempt to deny Japan’s history of aggression. Only by facing up to and repenting for its history of aggression can Japan create the future, and truly develop friendly and cooperative relations with its neighbors.
(The Australian, April 23, 2013)
But just as I have commented over the years on the mostly rhetorical skirmishes North Korea’s bellicose threats have instigated, I have done the same with respect to Japan’s provocative pilgrimages:
In conversation with a European friend about this international spat, she expressed bewilderment that China and South Korea would take offense at a Japanese prime minister visiting a shrine to his fallen comrades in his own country. In response to her bewilderment, I merely posed the following:
How do you suppose the Poles, French, and British would feel if German chancellors made a similar show of annual pilgrimages to a shrine to pay homage to war dead, including Adolf Hitler and other Nazi war criminals? Surely you are aware that the Japanese committed atrocities against the Chinese and Koreans that were very much in kind to those the Germans committed against the Jews and other Europeans during World War II, no?
(“Japan Gives Finger to Aggrieved Neighbors,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 18, 2005)
Yet, no matter how justified China and South Korea may be in their outrage, there has never been any real fear that the spat over Japan’s war shrine could escalate into full-scale war. By contrast, there has been abiding fear that the spat over North Korea’s nuclear program could mushroom into thermo-nuclear war.
This is why it is so ironic that the increasingly bellicose rhetoric China and Japan have been hurling at each other over ownership of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is inciting even more fear than the spat over North Korea’s nukes. Got that?
Addressing Japan’s parliament, [Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe stated, ‘We would take decisive action against any attempt to enter territorial waters and to land’ on the uninhabited islands, adding ‘it would be natural for us to expel by force the Chinese if they were to make a landing.’
(Japan Daily Press, August 23, 2013)
Even more ironic is that on the one hand Japan is urging China to keep North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship in check, while on the other hand it is urging China to keep its own territorial brinkmanship in check. And the latter is especially noteworthy given the way China has been trespassing what Japan considers to be its territorial waters surrounding these disputed islands — as it did with an armada of eight patrol ships just yesterday.
It is extremely deplorable and unacceptable that Chinese government ships are repeatedly entering Japanese territorial waters. We have made a firm protest against China both in Beijing and Tokyo.
(Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Japan Daily Press, April 23, 2013)
Nonetheless, I’m on record declaring this territorial spat to be full of sound and fury, signifying … little:
War between China and Japan over the Senkakus would make the war Argentina and Britain fought over the Falklands seem like a barroom brawl between mindless drunks. Not least because the United States would be compelled to honor its treaty obligations to defend Japan…
[But] notwithstanding the mob-like passions of their respective nationalists, I’m sure Chinese and Japanese leaders alike are mindful of the folly of fighting a war over desolate islands that could only end in a pyrrhic victory at best.
(“China and Japan in Falklands-like Dispute,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 23, 2012)
Of course, I am all too mindful that, as Barbara Tuchman chronicled in The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, countries have often fought wars over much less. So stay tuned….
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:35 AM
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) was founded in 1985 to promote the image of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the media.
On Saturday night, former President Bill Clinton was the guest of honor at its 24th Annual Media Awards in Los Angeles. More to the point, he probably felt prouder receiving his GLAAD award for being an advocate for change than President Obama felt receiving his Nobel Prize for being an advocate for peace.
Except that Clinton is even more undeserving of his award than Obama was of his.
Obama was undeserving because:
There’s no denying that the Nobel Committee awarded Obama its 2009 Nobel Peace Prize today (just 9 months into his presidency) not for what he has done, but for who he is.
(“Obama Awarded – Affirmative Action – Nobel Peace Prize,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 10, 2009)
Clinton was undeserving because:
It’s a matter of public record that Clinton signed ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ (DADT) into law in 1993 as a Machiavellian compromise to ingratiate himself with the homophobic top brass of the military who, otherwise, regarded him as little more than an insolent, draft-dodging and unreformed hippie. [DADT barred openly gay and lesbian soldiers from serving in the military.]
(“Discriminating Against Gays in Military Is Not Only Immoral; It’s Self-Defeating,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 18, 2007)
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) holds that states that ban same-sex marriages are not obligated to recognize such marriages even if entered into in states where they are legal, which clearly violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution…
This Act is so patently unconstitutional that former President Bill Clinton, who signed it into law in 1996 (for craven political reasons), has been in the vanguard of those calling for its repeal.
(“Supreme Court to Rule on Same-Sex Marriage,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 10, 2012)
In other words, by signing DADT and DOMA into law, Clinton did more than any other president in U.S. history to codify discrimination against gays and lesbians. Which clearly begs the question: why, then, would the nation’s most respected and influential gay civil rights group be honoring him?
In fact, nothing betrays how solicitous GLAAD was to honor Clinton (just because of who he is) quite like this being the very first time it has presented the “Advocate for Change Award.”
Imagine how fawning, sad, and pathetic it would’ve been if the NCAAP created a special award just to honor former Alabama Governor George Wallace. For even though he famously disavowed his racist politics when it became politically expedient to do so, Wallace did more than any other governor in U.S. history to defend the segregationist policies of the Jim-Crow South….
Mind you, I’m all for repentance and redemption. For example, where Blacks are concerned, I think Clinton made a persuasive case for both: by going from dismissing Obama’s presidential campaign as a fairytale in 2008, to being the most convincing surrogate for his re-election in 2012. Never mind the political calculation that this was the best way for him to lay the groundwork for Hillary’s presidential campaign in 2016; or that he has yet to make amends for approving in 1995:
…the inherently unfair, if not racist, ‘wet foot, dry foot’ immigration policy, which stipulates that seafaring Cuban refugees who make it to U.S. shores must be assimilated, unconditionally; whereas seafaring Haitian refugees (fleeing even greater persecution and privations) who make it must be repatriated, summarily.
(“Compassion Fatigue for Haitian Migrants,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 31, 2009)
But I digress….
The point is that most gays and lesbians probably consider Clinton sufficiently repentant, and thus redeemed, for being in the vanguard of those calling for a repeal of DOMA. No doubt it also helps that both he and Hillary have come out of the closet in recent months in support of same-sex marriages.
I just think it cheapens and undermines gay civil rights for GLAAD to honor a politician like Clinton – whose regard for its principled cause has always been so notoriously compromised. Especially when it could have honored someone like California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom who, unlike Clinton, always championed laws to advance gay rights.
Not to mention what an insult making Clinton the recipient of this inaugural award is to a bona fide advocate for change like Larry Kramer who spent his entire life advocating for the advancement of LGBT people.
Monday, April 22, 2013 at 7:43 AM
This observance was conceived in the late 1960s by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, as an enlightened response to carefree pollution all over America. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970.
The environmental practices this day inaugurated have become so routine and universal that the symbolic replenishing of Earth’s natural resources — by planting trees — now seems trite, if not contrived. Although, to hear alarmists talk about climate change, you’d think healthy regard for our planet was brought into public consciousness only years ago by Al Gore preaching from his environmental bible, Earth in the Balance.
But this celebration of, and deference to, Earth’s natural wonders should be distinguished from Gore’s convenient truths about climate change (like his using fake images of melting glaciers in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth just to scare people).
After all, the original Earth Day ushered in conservation and greening trends that have led to cleaner air, more potable (lead-free) water, and a much less polluted environment. Whereas, for all his prophesying, Gore has had no impact:
Nobel Peace Prize-winner Al Gore said in an interview published Monday that there had been no improvement in the fight against climate change since his Oscar-winning film on the issue was released.
(Agence France-Presse, April 20, 2008)
Of course, if there’s any truth to Gore’s doomsday scenario (especially with China and India joining the United States as superpower polluters), I suppose there would be no point in wishing us earthlings another 43 years….
Global warming…a flaming hoax
Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 8:46 AM
We got him.
This was what we heard as NBC aired communications on police scanners last night; it’s how we knew the manhunt was over.
Like most people I sat riveted in front of my TV last night as an army of law-enforcement officials closed-in on the terrorist who got away. They were alerted by a Watertown resident who told them an obviously wounded man (presumably from the shootout the night before) covering a boat in this resident’s backyard. But why it took hours after receiving that tip to end this manhunt is beyond me.
I watched and listened as SWAT teams unloaded fusillades of gunfire on that boat – no doubt to make sure he was dead. So imagine my shock when I heard their self-congratulatory boasts about finally having their prey in custody… alive.
Again, how can the best marksmen in law enforcement open fire with hundreds of rounds on a sitting target and not kill … it? Clearly there needs to be less high-fiving and more target practicing. Not to mention the surreal spectacle of millions of Bostonians – who some misguided kid with pressure-cookers bombs forced to cower in terror in their homes for days – celebrating in the streets as if the United States had just won World War III.
Of course, now we’re going to be treated to shootouts in the courts as federal prosecutors put this terrorist on trial. These will make those we saw in the streets, as law-enforcement officials tried to capture him, actually seem, well, quite targeted.
So let the spectacle – complete with second-guessing and fingerpointing – begin….
NOTE: As part of their “If you see something, say something” campaign, law-enforcement officials are encouraging people at all public events to be on the lookout for anyone leaving a bag behind or for any unattended bag. I am mindful, however, that such vigilance will do little to detect the kinds of suicide bombers who have been terrorizing places like Iraq and Afghanistan for years and who, I fear, will be doing the same in the United States in due course.
Manhunt for marathon bomber…
Friday, April 19, 2013 at 4:46 PM
No doubt you know by now that those responsible for terrorizing the Boston Marathon on Monday are two brothers, aged 19 and 26, who hail from the former Soviet republic of Chechnya.
Incidentally, it’s an ironic indication (and indictment) of how wrong CNN was to describe its speculative suspect as a “dark-skinned male” that the real suspects are from an area in Northern Europe called the Caucasus. After all, this is the place from which White people derive their ethnic name, Caucasian.
Reports indicate that they immigrated to this country with their parents at a relatively young age and were somehow “radicalized” by anti-American propaganda on Islamist websites and religious opposition to U.S. foreign policies throughout the Muslim world.
Therefore, it came as no surprise when news broke late last night that the police had them cornered in Watertown, a small town outside Boston. What was truly shocking, however, was that, after killing one of them in a blazing shootout, the police let the other one get away. What kind of keystone screw-up was that?! I mean, how could the police unload over 200 rounds against two kids dodging behind cars on the street and not kill them…?
Their bungling is why America woke up this morning to the truly unprecedented news that not just Watertown but the entire city of Boston was in complete lockdown: all public transportation was suspended, government offices, businesses, schools, etc., were ordered closed, and all residents were ordered to stay indoors.
As a result, incredulous reporters on the scene began describing the otherwise teeming metropolis of Boston as a “Ghost town.”
In fact, as I channel surfed the wall-to-wall coverage of the manhunt for the one who got away, the only things I saw moving were thousands of policemen looking like an invading army of Robocops as they went about the seemingly impossible task of searching house-to-house to find their man.
Twelve hours later and they’re still searching, which begs the question: will Boston remain in lockdown for as long as it takes to find this one lunatic…? I think not; hence the absurdity of it all. Not to mention the billions in opportunity costs it’s exacting….
But am I the only one who thinks it’s so absurd to lockdown an entire city to chase one 19-year-old kid that it’s positively insane? All of which makes a mockery of Obama’s words in praise of Bostonian courage and resilience. Hell, given the way people are being quarantined in their homes, you’d think Boston were being invaded by aliens breathing a virus so deadly it makes the bird flu seem like the common cold.
More to the point, am I the only one who remembers that we regularly watch for entertainment (i.e., with nary a tinge of terror) as the police chase far more deadly criminals through the streets of Los Angeles?
For example, just two months ago we were treated to wall-to-wall coverage of a similar manhunt for the former LAPD officer who went rogue and killed four people, including two police officers. But I’m sure it never occurred to anyone to lockdown Los Angeles. (Granted, if it had, it might have spared the two women whose truck was riddled with bullets when the police mistook them for the rogue cop. Remarkably, they survived.)
Frankly, the only reason for the grossly disproportionate reaction in this case seems to be that bogeyman term: terrorist.
Therefore, God help us if al-Qaeda ever decides to emulate this feat by coordinating 10 similar bombings, at 10 football stadiums, in the 10 biggest cities in America all on a typical Saturday in the fall when they’re packed with over 100,000 people watching college football games. Not only would the carnage be 1,000 times more devastating, but based on the reaction to this terrorist attack, law-enforcement authorities would have to lockdown not just the airports as they did on 9/11, but the entire friggin’ country, no? This gives new meaning to the War of the Worlds prank, “The Martians are Coming!”
This reaction sets an untenable precedent folks; and it will only encourage/embolden wannabe terrorists to try to bring the mighty United States to its knees in similar fashion.
Apropos of which:
I’m constrained to wonder why the media always reward these psychotic people by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds?
You’d think that – given the record of these psychotic and vainglorious episodes since Columbine – we would have figured out by now that the best way to discourage them is by focusing our attention on the victims and limiting what we say about the shooters [terrorists] to: May God have mercy on your soul as you burn in hell!
(“Massacre in Omaha,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 7, 2007)
In this case, I certainly understand why the FBI published their pictures yesterday. And it clearly had the desired result. But do we need to know their names and entire background? It seems to me “terror suspect one” and “terror suspect two” would have sufficed.
Instead, the media are now doing their damnedest to make them every bit as relevant and infamous as Osama bin Laden himself. Insane.
Massacre in Omaha
Friday, April 19, 2013 at 7:22 AM
Here is the friendly advice I gave Pervez Musharraf when it was clear his days as the benign dictator of Pakistan were numbered:
It would behoove Musharraf to follow the trail so many of his predecessors have blazed into exile. And, frankly, given the numerous assassination attempts on his life, it would be understandable if Musharraf decided that he’d be better off enjoying time in London, spending the millions he skimmed from U.S. military aid, than wasting time in Pakistan chasing Islamic terrorists.
(“D-Day for America’s Most-Favored Dictator…,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 24, 2007)
And sure enough, he heeded my advice. In fact, by all accounts, he was living quite comfortably between London and Dubai and traveling the world to regale anyone who would listen with stories about why Pakistan would be a much more stable and reliable friend of the West today if he were still in charge. Of course, he was always at a loss to explain why Osama bin Laden was invited to set up a rather ostentatious haven in Pakistan, right in a military town no less, while he was still in charge. But I digress….
Imagine my consternation, therefore, when I read that he returned last month to enter the fractious politics of Pakistan, pinning clearly delusional hope on being elected president.
Former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf fled court in a speeding vehicle Thursday to avoid arrest after his bail was revoked in a case involving his decision to fire senior judges while in power over five years ago.
The harried escape broadcast live on Pakistani TV marked a new low in Musharraf’s troubled return from exile last month to seek a political comeback in the May 11 parliamentary election.
(Associated Press, April 18, 2013)
Now he’s effectively living under house arrest – albeit surrounded by his residual Pretorian guards. But it can only be a matter of time before he bribes them to help him flee back into exile or political developments conspire to cause them to hand him over for trial on charges of treason.
I knew it would be thus. Why didn’t he? Fool.
At least Napoleon managed to return to power – no matter how short-lived and ill-fated it turned out to be. So even if he escapes the gallows in Pakistan, Musharraf will die in exile in even greater shame and obscurity than Napoleon did on Saint Helena.
Arrest warrant for Musharraf…
Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 7:06 AM
Hopes could not have been higher for passage of the Senate’s gun-control bill last week after Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania struck a compromise on background checks.
After all, Manchin and Toomey are de facto poster boys for the NRA – the gun-lobbying group most members of congress fear more than God … their constituents be damned. What’s more, virtually every pundit thought their compromise would give cover to political cowards on both sides of the aisle to do the right thing.
I find it so utterly stupefying that advocates for gun control have done virtually nothing to name and shame the NRA for having more interest in selling guns than in curbing gun violence. For example, their advocate in chief, President Obama, has been traveling all over the country arguing not for major measures like a ban on assault weapons and limit on high-capacity magazines, but for minor ones like universal background checks…
Even I did not think we’d be here, nearly four months after Newtown, facing the prospect of not having enough congressional support to pass even the universal background checks. Especially given that, according to a Quinnipiac poll published this week, 91 percent of the American people favor such checks…
Hell, at this rate, the NRA will soon be proselytizing such a mercenary interpretation of the Second Amendment that gun-loving Americans will be claiming the right not just to military-style assault weapons but to shoulder-fired missiles too.
Ultimately, all I can say is God help America when a president championing sensible gun control measures can be so clearly beaten by an interest group hell-bent on turning the nation into a circular firing squad.
(“This Gun-Control Debate Is Insane,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 5, 2013)
This is why it came as no surprise to me when the Senate voted against the Manchin-Toomey compromise yesterday – effectively killing all hopes of passing any form of gun-control legislation this year.
There are no coherent arguments as to why we didn’t do this; it came down to politics. They caved to the pressure. And they started looking for an excuse — any excuse — to vote no…
So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.
(Washington Post, April 17, 2013)
Sadly, Mr. President, this is not the first, and it won’t be the last, shameful day for Washington.
This gun-control debate…
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 7:35 AM
Let’s face it, haven’t you had enough of the mundane and often-recycled crap your ‘friends’ share … every day, several times a day? Even worse are the hucksters who keep begging you to ‘Like’ them or their page so they can make money off your ‘friendship.’ Then of course there are the myriad ways those little zuckerheads get you to betray your own privacy.
These are just some of the reasons why Facebook will soon go the way of MySpace. Remember that bubble sensation…?
(“Facebook IPO Just Floating Another Tech Bubble,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 19, 2012)
Now here’s the warning Wall Street is now issuing – courtesy of Wall Street Chet Sheet, April 13, 2013:
A new survey shows that teen interest in Facebook is dwindling, begging the question: Is Facebook doomed to be the next Myspace?
What is truly remarkable, if not pathetic, is that Facebook has induced so many adults to “share” like teenagers that teenagers are screaming at adults, TM(f-ing)I !
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 6:47 AM
The American media went into full-9/11 mode about an hour ago with reports of explosions at the Boston Marathon.
According to CNN, there were two coordinated bombs (near the finish line on famed Boylston Street at Copley Square) that, remarkably, killed only two but injured 46 – many with severed limbs. (Those numbers, especially for the injured, are bound to increase.) It is also reporting that police discovered and diffused one or more devices, begging the question: why didn’t they go off…?
I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before law-enforcement officials catch the perpetrators – not least because they were surely caught in the act by the hundreds of CCTV cameras that covered every second of this event.
Alas, we’ll be treated to such continuing, repetitive coverage of this kind – complete with hysterical and utterly unhelpful eyewitness accounts – that you’d think North Korea no longer exists. (Hint: Lil Kim, now’s the time to launch.) And the only reason for this is the oxymoronic belief among cable networks that labeling even yesterday’s news as “breaking news” or an “exclusive” guarantees higher ratings. This, notwithstanding that no network engages in this practice more than CNN and yet its ratings are lower now than they’ve ever been.
Then, of course, there are the “news” conferences featuring politicians and law-enforcement officials doing little more than repeating what TV reporters and anchors have said a thousand times and slapping each other the back, while offering nothing on the only thing people really care about: who did this and have they been caught?!
Instead, I shall suffice to share what I think is the only way to react to such acts of terrorism:
It must be understood that no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing our governments can do to prevent such attacks. Meanwhile, that Americans reacted yesterday as if those explosions [in London] went off in Washington or New York should compel Westerners to focus on calming our collective nerves instead of fretting about (or worse, trying to figure out) the motivation for and timing of terrorist attacks by Islamic fanatics.
(“From New York to London, Terrorists are Terrorizing Us to Death,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 2, 2007)
The only wonder to me is that we do not suffer many more of these kinds of bombings – not just from al-Qaeda-type terrorists, but from home-grown wackos like Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph too. After all, this is the first successful terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11/2001. Yet nothing indicates how terminally spooked we’ve become since then quite like all of DC reacting to those relatively minor explosions in Boston today by going into complete lockdown….
Police seem to like nothing more than showing off their big guns along the streets of NYC and DC, acting as if they are soldiers patrolling the streets of Kabul and Beirut.
Of course, odds being what they are, chances are that one of these days one of these threats will finally materialize. But I’d bet my life that the big bang will occur not in NYC or here in DC, but in some other area of the United States that government officials seem to think has been inoculated against terrorist attacks.
More to the point, though, given the hundreds of billions Western countries have wasted on post-9/11 security measures (not to mention the lives that have been lost in two stupid wars or the living hell traveling has become), is there any doubt that al-Qaeda has already won the war on terror…?
(“9/11 Terror Alert, The iPINIONS Journal,” September 9, 2011)
My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.
But the rest of us should really try to maintain some perspective. Al-Qaeda turned Western civilization into a paranoid, gilded fortress years ago. But if we react to every act of terror as if it were another 9/11, this will only embolden every two-bit terrorist (or lone wolf) to detonate his pipe or pressure-cooker bombs. Not to mention the fallacy inherent in bringing the entire nation to a standstill over “terrorist” bombings that killed two people today, while being blithely unconcerned about American shootings that kill 30,000 people every year….
In the meantime, be prepared for more police-state like intrusions, including electronic surveillance and the stop-and-frisk searches that Blacks and Arabs have been subjected to for years.
If you see (or in this case, saw) something, say something!
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, April 15, at 4:48 pm
April 16 at 9:39 am
Latest reports are that there were only two explosions that killed 3 and injured over 150, and that, contrary to earlier reports, the police discovered and diffused no other devices.
Monday, April 15, 2013 at 7:44 AM
Tiger knows better than anyone that he will not be able to reclaim his throne until he wins another Major (i.e., the Masters in April, U.S. Open in June, British Open in July, or PGA Championship in August).
(“Tiger Won…Finally,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 5, 2011)
It’s an indication of how much Tiger Woods dominates professional Golf that even when he’s not playing well he’s still the only golfer anybody is interested in watching or talking about.
This manifested in stark relief last weekend – when the highlight of The Masters was not the play of those atop the Leaderboard, but the controversy that erupted over Tiger’s violation of an arcane rule.
Woods … admitted to knowingly taking his ball drop two yards further back from where he hit his original shot – a rules violation that provided him with an improper advantage.
(London Daily Mail, April 13, 2013)
There was no consensus among the experts: some insisted he should have been disqualified; others that he did not even violate any rule.
Whatever the case, I was persuaded by Woods’s own admission. This is why I offered the following take on Saturday — during a typical sports day-texting exchange with my old college roommate — even before I knew that officials had decided there was in fact a violation, and imposed a two-stroke penalty:
He should have done what Faldo suggested — disqualified himself. No good will come of from continuing: if he wins, there will always be an asterisk — esp if he passes Jack; if he loses, he loses his mojo and fans will have just another reason to think of him as a self-entitled jerk…
The officials are beholden to Augusta and CBS: nobody dared disqualify Tiger and lose 75% of their viewership.
Now, uncannily, here is the take Mike Lupica, arguably the best-known sports writer in America, offered on Sunday after it was clear that Tiger would not only remain in the hunt, but was well-positioned to win his first Major in almost five years (i.e., heading into yesterday’s final round only four strokes off the lead).
If Tiger Woods wins the Masters now after what happened on a down slope on No. 15 on Friday, after he breaks one rule of golf and gets saved by another one and doesn’t get disqualified, it becomes the Masterisk now, for sure. And maybe it will feel that way to Woods himself if he loses by a stroke, or ends up two strokes out of a playoff on Sunday.
(New York Daily News, April 14, 2013)
Well, he did not win.
More to the point, though, nobody (except Australians) will remember that Aussie Adam Scott won this year’s Masters in a rain-soaked playoff against Argentine Angel Cabrera…. Instead, everybody will remember that it was the tournament where Tiger was accused of cheating at Golf in a fashion that was every bit as sensational as when he was accused of cheating at love….
(Adding to the drama is the rumor that the jealous ex of his current girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn, was the TV viewer who pointed out Tiger’s violation to tournament officials. Was he really watching (or stalking) Tiger that closely…?)
Tiger is 35. So he can probably compete, physically, for another five years. But if he still hasn’t won his 15th major by this time next year, then I fear he will never be able to compete well enough, mentally, to dethrone Jack Nicklaus as the king of the majors with 18 wins…
But, to give you a sense of how difficult it is for one player to dominate the majors the way Tiger once did, just bear in mind that the last 13 major championships have been won by 13 different players.
(“Tiger, Tiger … Losing Fight,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 15, 2011)
For the record, he finished tied for fourth – four strokes off the lead yesterday, making it at least arguable that even without the penalty he still would not have won. So the hunt continues….
It is worth noting, however, that Tiger has not won a Major since 2008. Because, no matter his other accomplishments (to say nothing of his vaunted reputation for competitiveness and nerves of steel), if he does not dethrone Jack, Tiger’s legacy will be that of the most exciting and famous choke artist in the history of sports.
Finally, apropos of yesterday’s winner, there’s this from my “Tiger, Tiger … Losing Fight” commentary cited above:
Earlier this summer Tiger unceremoniously fired Steve Williams, the caddie who served him loyally through 13 of his 14 majors. Therefore, imagine Tiger’s resentment when Williams moved on to caddie for Adam Scott…
Perhaps even more devastating was hearing Williams then gloat all over TV about Scott’s victory being ‘the best win I’ve ever had.’ The insinuation being that he was as responsible for Scott’s win as he was for all of Tiger’s. So, on top of all of his other performance anxieties, Tiger now has to worry about proving that he can in fact win without Williams…
Well, now Scott has won his first Major with Williams, becoming the first Australian to win this most prestigious tournament in professional Golf. Tiger has yet to win one without him. I’m just sayin’….
Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 7:15 AM
Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 8:19 AM
Friday, April 12, 2013 at 7:23 AM
Reprinted from Caribbean News Now!
Book review: The iPINIONS Journal – Commentaries on the
Global Events of 2012 by Anthony L. Hall
Published on April 12, 2013
Once again, another year of world events has elapsed and Caribbean News Now op-ed columnist Anthony Hall has published his eighth retrospective compendium of insight and observations on the major events of our times.
Hall’s latest look back — The iPINIONS Journal – Commentaries on the Global Events 2012 — covers his usual wide range of subjects, conveniently ordered by region and topic, making it easy for the reader to refer to particular sections and items of interest.
Africa and the Middle East: The attacks on US Embassies in Egypt and Libya, and the Vietnamization of Afghanistan.
The Americas and the Caribbean: Where China is invading the US ‘Sphere of Influence’ in the Caribbean, and when Obama’s Bushism was the highlight of the Americas Summit.
Asia: Where North Korea is commanding world attention… again, and where China and Japan are in a Falklands-like dispute.
Europe: The News Corp hacking scandal, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
United States: Shooting rampages vs. gun control, Obamacare, and the presidential (re)election.
Other major topics are the Globalsphere, Sports, Entertainment, a Potpourri, and the deaths of famous people.
As always, Hall tackles all of these topics and many more in his latest volume with his trademark confidence, flair and humour and stays true to his own introduction in that what truly distinguishes his commentaries is their lack of conformity to any prevailing orthodoxy.
“People invariably remark — with evident exasperation — that they can’t tell whether I am a liberal or conservative commentator. The point is that, unlike most political pundits and social critics, I have no vested interest (commercial or political) in proselytizing any ideology… my only aim has been to provide readers an irreverent, informed, and sometimes witty take on the events of the day,” Hall says.
He certainly achieves this objective and more.
Highly recommended reading.
The iPINIONS Journal – Commentaries on the Global Events of Our Times: Volume VII, 528pp, is now available at Amazon (including an e-book version for just $1.99) and all other major booksellers.
Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 10:47 AM
Hell, given their cozy relationship with President Obama, it would not surprise me to learn that he personally sanctioned their visit as goodwill ambassadors pursuant to the ‘people-to-people’ program he initiated to promote greater cultural exchange between Americans and Cubans.
(“Beyoncé and Jay-Z Representing Pop and Hip Hop in Cuba,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2013)
President Obama should have known better than to treat Jay-Z like a friend instead of like just another VIP supporter.
Because today Jay proved, yet again, that you can take the boy outta the hood, but you can’t take the hood outta the boy. Specifically, instead of ignoring ignorant and inconsequential political criticisms about his trip to Cuba, he did what boyz from the hood do: he answered with a bodacious, braggadocios and profanity-laced diss rap titled “Open Letter.”
Embarrassingly, as if dignifying his political critics with a song were not juvenile enough, he treated Obama like just another star-struck groupie with these choice lyrics:
Boy from the hood but got White House clearance…
Politicians never did shit for me, except lie to me, distort history…
Obama said chill ‘You gonna get me impeached … we don’t need this shit anyway, chill with me on the beach’.
(Huffington Post, April 11)
Alas, standard grammar and composition are anathema to rap; so understanding exactly what Jay is saying is a bit of a crap shoot: I don’t need Obama. Obama needs me. That’s why he’s begging me to hang by the sea?
Whatever the case, the point is that even Obama’s Republican nemeses have more respect for him than to betray his confidence by repeating in an “open letter” words he clearly intended to remain private.
Frankly, Obama should have learned from Kennedy’s ill-fated fraternizing with Sinatra that presidents should use celebrities for nothing more than entertainment, fundraising, and pop appeal; and should never, ever be so solicitous for their friendship as to confide anything in crowd-pleasing minstrels like actors, rappers, and rock stars.
This serves Obama right. He famously dismissed Kanye as a Jackass a few years ago. But I suspect far more profane words came to mind when he heard the way Jay exploited his friendship and office just to score a few stupid rap lyrics.
What is certain is that you’ll never see him hanging with this hood-rapper again, let alone inviting him to the White House … even if he brings along his truly redeeming better half, Beyoncé.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z…
Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 7:03 AM
Something’s terribly, and obviously, wrong with this picture:
I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.
(Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man … from 1952)
The (White) suits at CNN can be forgiven for throwing the (stereotypically) intimidating Roland Martin not to the back, but under the bus. But you’d think they would be loath to diss the likes of Don Lemon, Fredricka Whitfield, and Soledad O’Brien in this fashion. But, frankly my friends, they don’t give a damn. Hell, those SOBs even got rid of the distinctive Black voice of James Earl Jones as the voice of the network.
Mind you, if this were a promo for FOX News, the very folks at CNN who approved this lily-White promo (with all due respect to Sanjay and Fareed) would be blasting it as a reflection of unabashed racism.
And Whites wonder why Blacks “have a chip on their shoulder”…?
* This commentary was originally published on Tuesday, April 9, at 10:18 am
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 8:10 AM
Thank God I never bet anything more than my pride on sporting events. And it’s a damn good thing I have so much of it. Because neither my pick for the men’s championship (Ohio State) nor the women’s (Baylor) even made the Final Four.
Truth be told, I became even less interested than usual in the men’s tournament after it became all about Kevin Ware, the second-string player from Louisville who broke his leg in truly retching fashion during an Elite Eight game against Duke.
I’m sure the stars of his team – who busted their asses all year to get the national attention being heaped on Ware – resented having to bask in his reflected glow. And who can blame them?
But kudos to Michigan State for at least making Monday night’s championship game somewhat entertaining and suspenseful.
Louisville won 82-76. This made its coach, Rick Pitino, the first in NCAA history to win a national championship coaching two different teams. However, I am not sure what to make of the incestuous fact that both teams hail from Kentucky: Pitino also coached the Kentucky Wildcats to a national championship in 1996.
Incidentally, one aspect of the indentured servitude college athletics have become is the way coaches (like Pitino) make millions every year on the talents of players (like Ware) – who are lucky to graduate with a degree that is worth the paper it’s written on.
The hypocrisy inherent in this is beyond shameful. This is why I think universities should be required to compensate student athletes in direct proportion to the way owners of professional teams compensate their players.
(“Reggie Bush Forfeits Heisman Trophy,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 16, 2010)
Not to mention that – for 99 percent of college Basketball players – making millions in the NBA is just a pipe dream.
As for the women’s championship game last night, well, you can be forgiven for having no clue it was being played:
Instead of commanding network coverage in primetime like the men’s championship, the women’s was relegated to cable last night, which guaranteed only a fraction of the viewership. Yet the TV executives who are responsible for dissing women’s college Basketball like this are the very ones who wonder why they can’t get better ratings for the fledgling women’s professional league – the WNBA.
Moreover, what does all of this say to female college athletes, as well as to young girls who we encourage to have the same interest in sports as young boys…? Frankly, it says that chauvinism, sexism, and discrimination against women in sports not only still exist but are blithely tolerated.
(“NCAA Women’s Championship,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2009)
UConn ended up winning by the largest margin in NCAA championship history 93-60. Ironically, this mirrored its defeat of this same college for the 2009 championship.
Apropos of which, and perhaps more important, last night’s victory handed UConn’s coach, Geno Auriemma, his eighth national title: another coach making out like a plantation overseer on a college campus.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 5:47 AM
In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman.
This was how the UK Evening News quoted Margaret Thatcher, then the Conservative MP for Finchley, turning male chauvinism on its head – to the delight, no doubt, of her audience at the National Council of the Townwomen’s Guilds in London on May 20, 1965.
More to the point, this quote probably explains what motivated her to become the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom in 1979 – at a time when politics there was even more chauvinistic than it was in the United States.
And one can certainly be forgiven for thinking that it explains why she governed more like a mother hen in a chicken coop than a leader in a democratic country. Apropos of which, Thatcher is also credited with the following ballsy quote (unfortunately sourcing it is like sourcing an Aesop’s fable):
It may be the cock that crows, but it is the hen that lays the eggs.
But this too indicates why her legacy is littered with disaffected male colleagues who took umbrage at her predilection to pussy-whip them into agreeing with her on everything.
This was brought into stark relief when, despite near-unanimous opposition among her cabinet ministers, she rammed a 1990 poll tax – with its reverse Robin-Hood impact – through parliament. A feat for this one-time grocer’s daughter that was as ironic as it was dubious. Not surprisingly, the riots it incited sealed her demise.
Incidentally, I am no psychologist, but that Thatcher appointed only one woman to a peripheral cabinet position during her three-consecutive terms as prime minister makes self-evident her preference for the very chauvinism in politics (and in everyday life) she famously ridiculed.
Yet, far from recognizing the self-hating shame inherent in this, she expressed contempt for women’s efforts to redress this chauvinism in ways that would make any male-chauvinist pig proud:
I owe nothing to Women’s Lib.
(London Telegraph quoting Thatcher, May 4, 2009)
The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.
(The Spectator, March 12, 2011)
But just imagine the condemnation and accusations of racial self-hatred if the first Black president of the United States had appointed only one Black to a peripheral position in his cabinet….
Much is being made today of the way Thatcher changed Britain by smashing the trade unions and championing free markets as the means not just to grow the economy, but to even promote morality – as current Prime Minister David Cameron, an unabashed acolyte, might say. Never mind that, despite being someone whose views her PR guru Lord Saatchi claims Thatcher followed, John Kenneth Galbraith condemned (in The Affluent Society) the economic philosophy she espoused as little more than:
…a search for a superior moral justification for selfishness [and greed].
Or, more directly, never mind that government bailouts in recent years have made a complete mockery of free markets as the engine of economic growth.
Whatever the case, it is no accident that her economic policies have led inexorably to a gap between rich and poor in Britain today (as duly documented in a June 14, 2012 report by Oxfam) that has not been seen since the age of Dickens. Alas, it’s an indication of her influence as prime minister and of the long shadow she casts that when Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair had a chance to redress the demonstrable inequities “Thatcherism” produced, he chose instead to merely rebrand her policies as his own “Third Way,” which amounted to little more than synthesizing left-wing political rhetoric with right-wing economic policies. And every prime minister since Blair has done little more than marry his rhetoric with her policies.
This is why it is arguable that Thatcherism – with its focus on deregulating markets and lowering taxes while decreasing public expenditures and cutting social benefits – spawned the austerity measures that are threatening to plunge Britain into another “winter of discontent.” And, with a triple-dip recession looming, this winter of discontent could make the one Thatcher purportedly saved it from seem like a summer of wine and roses.
Britain’s economic growth has taken an unexpected knock, raising fears of a triple-dip recession.
(Channel 4 News UK, January 25, 2013)
All the same, Thatcher’s legacy is probably distinguished most by her foreign policies (her alliance with U.S. President Ronald Reagan to prolong Apartheid in South Africa being one glaring exception). For example, given the financial crises now threatening the solvency of the entire Eurozone, some might cite the “Euroscepticism” she reinvented as a highlight. I agree. Most will cite her invasion of the Falkland Islands. I disagree. For I believe her invasion of these islands was every bit as vainglorious as Reagan’s invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada:
The Falklands are little more than a bleak and desolate cluster of rocks dotting the South Atlantic Ocean some 8,000 miles from Britain. Therefore, when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dispatched the Royal Navy there in 1982 to oust Argentine forces, I thought she was acting pursuant to some quixotic, neocolonial notion of extraterritorial sovereignty.
(“Argentina vs. Britain Over Falklands … Still,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 26, 2010)
Instead, the foreign policy I would cite in this respect is her truly historic decision to “do business” with Mikhail Gorbachev.
I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together.
(BBC, December 17, 1984)
For it was this decision in the first instance that led inevitably to the disintegration of the Soviet Union after Gorbachev, the reformer, became its leader in 1988.
In fact, her policy of fighting the Cold War by constructive engagement with Gorbachev raised Britain’s stature and influence on the world stage to their highest levels in the 20th Century. Not least because this later enabled her to deftly manipulate both the cowboy president, Ronald Reagan (1980-88), and his wimpy successor, George H.W. Bush (1988-92) – rather like Iago whispering in Othello’s ear. At it turned out, no politicians were more pussy-whipped by her than these two presidents of the United States.
Which brings me back to her cabinet ministers. Because it speaks volumes that these men who knew her best were the ones who decided that, after 11 years, Thatcher had become so bad for Britain they had to mutiny against her (by mounting a parliamentary challenge to her leadership of the Conservative Party in November 1990, which resulted in John Major becoming prime minister).
Alas, so inhibiting is the maxim, “never speak ill of the dead,” that listening to reflections by former colleagues today you’d think she did not have a single critic in her Conservative Party. But because I’d rather be called insensitive than hypocritical, I shall join the still small voices of those who truly believe that nothing became her in political life quite like the way she left it:
The final victory came on Thursday 22 November as Margaret Thatcher ran crying from the steps of 10 Downing Street to a waiting car – a fitting end to an individual whose policies had caused working class people and their families to shed an ocean of tears.
(The Rise of the Militant by Peter Taafe)
Now, lest it be mistaken for gloating, please know that this quote is intended only to convey the reassuring fact that inside that iron political armor this lady wore throughout her career was a woman of genuine human feeling … after all.
Baroness Thatcher lived in relative obscurity after leaving office. In rare public appearances since she suffered a stroke over a decade ago, it was painfully clear that ill health, including dementia, was melting “The Iron Lady” into a wobbly shadow of herself.
She died of another stroke yesterday. She was 87.
NOTE: I developed my political antipathy towards Thatcher as a college student in the early 1980s when she and Reagan were the Western faces of the Apartheid regime - with Thatcher earning everlasting condemnation and shame for dismissing Mandela’s liberation ANC as a “typical terrorist organization.” My campus was a hotbed of anti-Apartheid protests.
But as I read reports about people holding “death parties” to celebrate her passing, it occurred to me that if Nelson Mandela could forgive his Apartheid jailers, then Thatcher’s critics/victims should forgive her.
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, April 8, at 7:05 pm
Monday, April 8, 2013 at 8:55 AM
Beyoncé and Jay-Z incited a lot of outrage for visiting Cuba last week. They reportedly went to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, which they did by touring historical landmarks and spreading the goodwill of American Pop and Hip-Hop music.
But, given the way Republican congressmen beholden to Miami Cubans are reacting, you’d think Bey and Jay’s visit was not only illegal but treasonous. Except that their visit to Cuba was no more illegal or treasonous than Dennis Rodman’s now-notorious visit to North Korea.
After all, even though Americans are generally prohibited from traveling to Cuba, the government grants so many waivers these days that this prohibition is rather like its prohibition against Americans using marijuana.
Specifically, if you were to go the website of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, you’d see that the government issues general or specific licenses to travel to everyone from Americans wishing to visit close relatives to those interested in journalistic activities, educational activities, and professional research – just to name a few categories.
It is instructive, therefore, that the New York Times reported yesterday that Bey and Jay:
…visited a dance troupe, Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, the singer Haila Mompié and the children’s theater group La Colmenita, and met with students and teachers at the Superior Art Institute.
Given that, I’d say they covered their asses under at least two categories.
In any case, I’m sure Bey and Jay are sensible enough to have gotten proper, pro-forma clearance for their travel. Hell, given their cozy relationship with President Obama, it would not surprise me to learn that he personally sanctioned their visit as goodwill ambassadors pursuant to the “people-to-people” program he initiated to promote greater cultural exchange between Americans and Cubans.
Which means that all of the talk about congressional hearings, 10-year prison sentences, and $250,000 fines for violating some travel ban merely reflects resentful thinking by Miami Cubans and their political enablers. Not least because these folks would like to see America’s misguided, hypocritical, and demonstrably porous embargo of Cuba remain in place for another 50 years.
I am convinced that, if re-elected, Obama will seal his legacy by lifting the embargo and normalizing relations with Cuba.
(“Fifth Summit of the Americas: Managing Expectations,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 17, 2009)
This is why it strikes me as certifiably delusional for Miami Cubans to continue hoping against hope that the embargo will end with them reclaiming their paradise lost. Frankly, they stand a far better chance of creating a new Cuba out of their slice of Miami, which is already known as little Havana. And I wish them good luck with that….
OAS lifts ban on Cuba…
Sunday, April 7, 2013 at 8:38 AM