• Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 6:46 AM

    A bully? Try a mental case

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Only a mental case would pick on someone twice his size.  Only this explains why a pint-size kid would pick on a kid twice his size.  And only this explains why Hamas would begin lobbing rockets at Israel again.

    Well, what should happen in such cases was demonstrated in the video showing a pint-size bully getting body slammed by his much bigger victim that went viral last week.  In similar fashion, the video of Hamas getting bombed by Israel will go viral soon.

  • Friday, March 25, 2011 at 5:45 AM

    NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s 7:05 EDT and the first of this year’s Sweet Sixteen NCAA Men’s Division I basketball games is scheduled to tip off in 10 minutes.

    I’m running late for many reasons but mostly because I am not a big fan of college basketball. Frankly, I know few people who are. After all, most people’s interest seems limited to picking teams on a whim from brackets in their office pools.

    But participating in this ritual is as obligatory for political/social/cultural commentators as it is for sports analysts.  So here are my picks:

    East: Ohio State over Kentucky; North Carolina over Marquette 

    West:  Duke over Arizona; Connecticut over San Diego

    Southeast: Butler over Wisconsin; BYU over Florida

    Southwest: Kansas over Richmond; Virginia Commonwealth over Florida State


     North Carolina vs Kansas

    Duke vs BYU


    North Carolina vs BYU


    North Carolina

    NOTE: I read an ESPN report today about a five year old whose picks are outperforming those of seasoned experts, including NCAA tournament junkie President Barack Obama. And how did this kid choose his teams? By pointing to the team with the cutest mascot.   That should tell you just how informed and reliable most professional picks really are.

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 7:05 pm.

  • Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 5:19 AM

    Elizabeth Taylor, Legendary Actress and AIDS Activist, is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    She was certainly an iconic figure. The remarkable thing, however, is that her profession had little to do with it. To be sure, she was a very accomplished actress: starring in over 60 films and even winning an Academy Award for best actress for her roles in Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf.

    Instead, the legend that was Dame Elizabeth (yes she was British, believe it or not) had far more to do with her off-screen activities.  Granted, in the first instance, her life-long status as a sex symbol stemmed from her signature role in the 1963 movie classic Cleopatra.

    But her eight marriages, most notably to fellow screen legend and Cleopatra co-star Richard Burton, reinforced the notion that she was every bit as desirable in real life as she was on screen.

    Well, that might’ve been the case a half century ago. Because every time I saw her she looked boozy, disheveled, and fat. Which I suppose reflects the ironic fate that awaits all sex symbols who live long beyond their prime. Have you seen Bridget Bardot lately?

    Indeed, over the last two decades of her life Taylor was probably recognized far more for her pioneering fight to combat the ravages of HIV/AIDS than for the erstwhile beauty that launched her fame. Reports are that she led fundraising efforts that garnered $325 million for amfAR – the foundation for AIDS research of which she was a founding member in 1985.

    But it was clear in recent years that she was battling a terminal illness of her own. This is why it came as little surprise on Wednesday when I read that she had just died of congestive heart failure.    

    Though she had recently suffered a number of complications, her condition had stabilized and it was hoped that she would be able to return home.  Sadly, this was not to be.

    (Spokesman for Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, TMZ, March 23, 2011)

    Taylor is survived by 4 children, 10 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren. She was 79.

  • Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 5:03 AM

    A Sad but Instructive Day in Israel

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yesterday Israel demonstrated why it stands out in the Middle East not just as a Jewish state surrounded by mostly hostile Muslim ones, but as an unqualified democracy amidst dictatorships in varying degrees of benignity.  (Granted, the dramatic revolutions now unfolding throughout this region might usher in bona fide democratic governments in a few countries, but the jury is still out on all of them, including Egypt.)

    What happened was sad because it involved the sentencing of a former president, Moshe Katsav, to seven years in prison on convictions for rape and a number of other sexual offences. Many had expected him to get off with a relatively light sentence, or even probation.

    This is an extraordinary day in the state of Israel. This is a day of sadness and shame, but it is also a day of deep appreciation and pride for the Israeli justice system.

    (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Haaretz, March 22, 2011)

    The sordid details of Katsav’s misconduct (or sexual crime spree) are irrelevant. Besides, I am reliably informed that such details only compound the assault on rape victims. 

    Instead, the point of this commentary is to hail the instructive way his case demonstrates in the heart of the dictatorial and chauvinistic Middle East that no man is above the law. Netanyahu is right; Israel should be proud.

    Although he has appealed, Katsav is scheduled to begin serving his sentence in 44 days, on May 8.

  • Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 5:06 AM

    Aristide Returns to Haiti. Uh-oh…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide expected that his long-planned and long-anticipated return to Haiti on Friday would command at least as much international media coverage as his flight into exile in 2004.

    And it probably would have if the international media were not already preoccupied, if not obsessed, with coverage of not one but two far more momentous and consequential events: the unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan and looming Western military action against Libya.

    This is why all of the hosannas that heralded Aristide’s return smacked of the existential tree falling in the forest which nobody hears.

    In any case, he promptly put Wyclef Jean lite Michel Martelly and former first lady Mirlande Manigat, the two candidates in Sunday’s runoff presidential election, on notice by:

    …criticizing the fact that his once-dominant party, Fanmi Lavalas, had been barred from the ongoing election campaign, saying it represented the ‘exclusion of the majority’…  [He added] ‘today may the Haitian people mark the end of exile and coup d’etat, while peacefully we must move from social exclusion to social inclusion.’

    (Caribbean News Now, March 19, 2011)

    This does not bode well for political stability in Haiti. Because not only is Aristide still worshipped by a critical mass among Haitians, he clearly still regards himself as the legitimate president of this Godforsaken country.

    I’m so happy — it’s like a hunger.  I feel in my heart that with Aristide here things will be better.

    (Jobless Haitian Nadia Paul as quoted by Caribbean News Now, March 19, 2011)

    But I knew it would be thus; in fact, here is how I presaged his return and this day of reckoning over five years ago:

    Aristide is no more a man of the past today (after allegedly being forced into exile to South Africa by American forces in 2004) than he was a man of the past in 1993 (after clearly being forced into exile to the United States by Haitian forces – only to make a triumphal return two years later to resume his presidency)…

    Indeed, that the Bush administration is putting more pressure on President Preval to renounce Aristide than to announce his plans to resuscitate the Haitian economy indicates the clear and present fear the Americans have of Aristide’s imminent return. And, their fears are well founded: After all, the vast majority of leaders throughout the Americas believe Aristide’s damning claim that he was the victim of a coup d’etat because President Bush (and local businessmen – mostly mulatto bourgeois Europhiles calling themselves “the Group of 184”) found his governing socialist policies politically and ideologically untenable. And these regional leaders never fully recognized the US-installed Latortue government as legitimate.

    Moreover, the Americans can be forgiven their suspicion that, despite his pronouncements, Preval remains as devoted to Aristide as ever. Recall that Aristide practically anointed Preval as his successor in 1996 – only to oust him and reclaim power in 2001. And, it’s an open secret that most Haitians who voted for Preval, did so only because they expect him to facilitate the return of their Lavalas leader Aristide to his rightful place in Haiti….

    (“What to make of elections in Haiti,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 13, 2006)

    This is why it is hardly surprising to me that, instead of presiding over the transition of power to his successor from Sunday’s election (who will be announced in about 10 days), President Preval’s last significant act in office will be ushering in the return of his predecessor and mentor Jean-Bertrand Aristide. And this despite vehement protest against Aristide’s return by Preval’s erstwhile patron, U.S. President Barack Obama.

    But if you want to know what this portends for Haiti, just look at the civil war now brewing in the Ivory Coast between factions loyal to Laurent Gbagbo and Alassanne Ouattara over who has the legitimate right to serve as president.

    Alas, in Haiti as in Africa, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

    Related commentaries:
    What to make of elections in Haiti
    Africa’s democratic despots now includes Gbagbo
    Return of Baby Doc

  • Monday, March 21, 2011 at 5:11 AM

    One-legged NCAA Wrestling Champion

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    While I was doing a little research last night for today’s commentary on the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti, I came across a story about a one-legged wrestler who had just won a Division I national championship.  

    This captivated my attention for two reasons

    First, college wrestling (which is more like the challenging sport you see every four years at the Olympics than the fake stuff you see  every weekend on the TV) is a mostly white sport. And it filled me with racial pride to see this black kid excel at this level – with just one leg no less. 

    Second, like him, I too competed in college in a mostly white sport: swimming.  I even harbored ambitions of becoming a national champion. But I never came close. And my school, Williams College, was in the much less competitive Division III. So I also take a little vicarious pride in his remarkable accomplishment.

    At any rate, I found this story so heartwarming and inspirational that I thought I should do what little I can to help it go viral. It also occurred to me that it provides a much-needed break from all of the bad news lately about natural disasters, wars, and drug-addled celebrities. And, of course, the return of Aristide portends nothing but more bad news for Haiti….

    I’m also mindful that even the most amazing story about college wrestling will not get one percent of the coverage in print and on TV that college basketball is currently getting with the NCAA tournament.

    So here it is as reported yesterday by the Associated Press:

    PHILADELPHIA — Arizona State wrestler Anthony Robles, who was born without a right leg, became an NCAA champion Saturday night when he won his 125-pound final at the Division I Wrestling Championships

    Robles took a 7-1 decision from Iowa sophomore Matt McDonough. Robles got the only takedown, in the first period of the match, and worked a pair of tilts to secure five back points.

    “I had a lot of butterflies going out there,” said Robles, who admitted he most likely is done as a competitive wrestler but wants to remain involved in one facet or another.

    “This year I think that was the biggest difference in my wrestling, was my mental game (sic). Going into every match I was real relaxed, real calm. But before that, before this match, it was nothing but butterflies. I felt like I was going to throw up, I was so scared I almost started crying. But it’s just the atmosphere. It’s the true athletes that are able to just overcome that.”

    Congratulation Anthony!

  • Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    A silver lining in the nuclear cloud over Japan: Iran reconsidering nuclear ambitions?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


  • Friday, March 18, 2011 at 5:23 AM

    UPDATE Libya: UN Approves No-Fly Zone

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Everybody also knows that China and Russia will veto any UN resolution to sanction a no-fly zone. This is why all of the talk about imposing one is just hot air.

    (“No-fly zone over Libya?” The iPINIONS Journal, March 16, 2011)

    I was wrong.  Because last night the UN actually approved a surprisingly robust resolution (1973) authorizing not just a no-fly zone over Libya, but “all necessary steps to protect civilians from Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.”  This is effectively a declaration of war.

    Which begs the question: why not intervene in places like Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran and, most glaring of all, China where dictators are brutalizing their citizens far worse than what Gaddafi is doing in Libya?

    Not to mention that black Africans in places like Darfur, Congo, and Zimbabwe must be wondering why the same humanitarian concerns that prompted this international intervention to protect Muslim Africans have not prompted similar action to protect any of them from the genocidal dictators who have brutalized them for decades.

    I reiterate that this action reflects nothing more than good old-fashioned Western hypocrisy coupled with a healthy dose of bullying. And, yes, one can be forgiven for thinking that the warmongering George W. Bush, not the Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama, is president of the United States….

    Why don’t you organize a group of respected Americans and ask for a meeting with Gaddafi, you can’t order him to step down and get out, who the hell do you think you are?

    (This was some of the wise counsel Minister Louis Farrakhan offered Obama during an interview on WVON-AM 1690 Chicago, March 18, 2011)

    China and Russia did not support the resolution. But they did not veto it either. Instead they abstained, which enabled its passage while preserving China and Russia’s ability to criticize the countries involved in its execution if (or more likely when) things go wrong.

    This means that the U.S. will soon be leading yet another coalition of the willing to fight yet another war in yet another Arab country.  But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it abundantly clear that Arab leaders who called for this action will be required to put their money where their mouth is by sending troops to participate – even if only in token roles – in the execution of this no-fly zone.

    Nevertheless, I maintain that this (still very limited) military intervention will prove no more effective in getting rid of Gaddafi than it proved in getting rid of Saddam Hussein.  More to the point, just as the no-fly zone over Iraq did nothing to prevent Saddam from massacring Kurds and other Iraqis who dared to oppose his dictatorial rule, enforcing one over Libya will do nothing to prevent Gaddafi from doing the same.  And let’s face it, what the rebels – who are now under siege in their last stronghold of Benghazi – really want is not just air cover, but targeted bombing of key Gaddafi military assets, if not the bombing of Gaddafi himself.

    (U.S. law prohibits the targeting of foreign leaders. But everyone knows that Obama will be targeting him just as surely as former President Ronald Reagan did when he launched  cruise missiles against Libya in 1986 after he found “that mad dog” responsible for the bombing of a Berlin night club that killed two American servicemen. Of course, all Reagan succeeded in doing was turning Gaddafi’s home into rubble and killing one of his children, which is why Obama is faced with the same bedeviling challenge today.)

    Meanwhile, Gaddafi has vowed that this UN resolution will only increase his determination to squash the rebels with dispatch and without mercy….

    Finally nothing demonstrates how ad hoc and unprincipled this American-led war is quite like Obama spending weeks proclaiming that “Gaddafi must go” and everyone in his administration now saying that “Gaddafi is not a target”.  What’s more the head of the Arab League is already issuing warnings about Western military forces exceeding the amorphous bounds of this UN mandate. What a reckless farce! At least Bush knew what he wanted.

    NOTE: The fact that its own brutal dictatorship compels China to sit on the sidelines as democratic revolutions reform and reshape the Middle East demonstrates, yet again, why – even if it eventually supplants the U.S. as the biggest economy in the world – China will never replace the U.S. as the world’s only indispensable superpower.                  

    Related commentaries:
    No-fly zone over Libya?

  • Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 5:17 AM

    No-Fly Zone Over Libya?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Democratic Senator John Kerry, neo-con Republicans, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and the Arab League are all among the strange bedfellows calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya. They claim that this will give democratic forces a fighting chance against forces loyal to Dictator Muammar Gaddafi – who are now mounting a blitzkrieg counteroffensive to regain control of the country.

    But everybody knows that unless the U.S. takes the lead in assembling a coalition of the willing to do so, a no-fly zone will never happen.

    And, despite proclaiming that Gaddafi must go, President Obama can be forgiven for being gun shy about doing anything that might plunge America into yet another entanglement in an Arab country.

    In fact, he’s now trying desperately to extricate his country from the military and political quagmire Afghanistan and Iraq have become. And U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has already thrown cold water on this prospect by noting that it would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Libya. 

    Meanwhile, everybody also knows that China and Russia will veto any UN resolution to sanction a no-fly zone.

    This is why all of the talk about imposing one is just hot air. What I find incredulous, however, is that nobody is bothering to point out the precedential flaw inherent in this course of action.

    After all, the no-fly zone the U.S., France, and the UK enforced over Iraq from 1991-2003 did nothing to prevent Saddam Hussein from exercising dictatorial control. Instead, it took a full-scale invasion (based on trumped-up charges that he not only possessed but was planning to use WMDs) to finally get rid of him. And look how well that turned out….

    I’m on record arguing that it is hypocritical on many levels for Western countries to be trying to overthrow Gaddafi while kowtowing to dictators in China and Saudi Arabia.  But it was clear to me from the outset that the most plausible and effective way to hasten his demise would be to train and arm the rebels

    This is still the case. But Gaddafi’s forces have beaten them back so decisively (while Western leaders did nothing but vent self-righteous indignation) that I fear it might be impossible now for the rebels to regain their revolutionary zeal.

    Alas, like the Mullahs and Ahmadinejad in Iran, Gaddafi and his sons in Libya appear to have weathered the democratic storm blowing over the Middle East.

    NOTE: It speaks volumes about the futility and fecklessness of the Arab League and African Union that they have to turn to Westerners (their former colonial masters) to discipline one of their own….

    Related commentaries:
    Sanctioning Libya but not China
    Gaddafi vows to fight to the death

  • Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 5:13 AM

    Union Busting in Wisconsin

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Many of you have asked why I haven’t commented on the recent fight between labor unions and the Republican-controlled government in the state of Wisconsin.  Well, it’s because I found the whole thing an anticlimactic farce.

    In a nutshell, the fight was over a bill Republican Governor Scott Walker was championing that was designed to strip public employees of all collective bargaining rights except pay – and this would be indexed to inflation thereby limiting their bargaining power in this respect as well. 

    Of course, workers spent much of the last 100 years collectively bargaining for such basic rights as fair wages, reasonable working hours, unemployment benefit and health benefits.  In fact, in 1911 Wisconsin became the first state to pass workers compensation protections. 

    Republicans insisted that the bill was necessary to balance the state budget and control government spending. Democrats charged that it was just a venal ploy by Republicans to reward the fat cats who funded their campaigns. (Governor Scott Walker gave credence to this charge when he was secretly recorded saying as much to someone he thought was major Republican donor David Koch but who in fact was a reporter posing as Koch.)

    However, as I observed this fight unfold – complete with thousands of union workers occupying the state Capitol and 14 Democratic members of the legislature fleeing the state (on February 17) to deny Republicans of the quorum needed to vote on the bill – my only thought was that elections have consequences. In this case, after a few weeks of stalemate, the Republicans deployed a parliamentary maneuver to pass the bill, which the governor duly signed on Friday.

    More to the point, it’s no more surprising to me that Republican Governor Scott Walker and his Republican legislature made this move to bust the unions than it was that Democratic President Barack Obama and his Democratic Congress made their move to pass healthcare reform. 

    Yet you’d be surprised at the number of union workers who actually voted not just for Walker, but also for the Republican legislature that passed this bill.  They are the poor white fools who – because they aspire to be rich someday – vote like rich people today.  And they take self-destructive pride in their oxymoronic designation as “Reagan Democrats.”

    Lord knows there’s precious little difference between Republicans and Democrats these days. Not least because of the success former President Bill Clinton had with his triangulation scheme of putting a Democratic label on Republican policies (like welfare reform, which amounted to little more than transferring welfare benefits from poor people to rich corporations). But I digress.

    But if anything distinguishes Republicans from Democrats, it’s the unabashed way Republicans enact laws that favor the rich at the expense of the poor. And this came into stark relief a few months ago when Republicans insisted that the only way Democrats would be able to extend unemployment benefits for the very poor is if they first agreed to extend Bush era tax-cuts for the very rich.

    So I don’t blame Republicans in Wisconsin, or those in other states with similar union-busting bills pending, for serving the economic interests of those who fund their campaigns.

    Frankly, I hope this serves as a wake-up call not just for those Reagan Democrats, but for all poor whites who believe it’s better to vote for a Republican Party that sees diversity as a national menace than for a Democratic Party that promotes diversity as a national strength. 

    Because the only lesson to be learned from this Wisconsin fight is that, if you value all of the worker’s (and even many of the social) rights we take for granted, then henceforth you’d better vote Democrat as if your livelihood depended on it.

  • Monday, March 14, 2011 at 4:03 AM

    Historic Quake Hits Japan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [Author’s note: This commentary was originally published on Saturday, March 12 at 12:07 am. However, given the saturation media coverage of this disaster, I have decided to reprise it with an UPDATE appended.]

    Earthquakes and other natural disasters should always remind us that there but for the grace of God… But there’s no denying that living in a relatively rich country increases one’s chance of surviving and recovering from such disasters tremendously…

    It’s bad enough that accident of birth can consign one to a life of chronic poverty. It just seems unfair that even the wrath of Mother Nature affects the poor so disproportionately.

    (Killer earthquakes: First Haiti, now Chile, The iPINIONS Journal, March 2, 2010)

    Yesterday an earthquake registering a 9.0 magnitude hit Japan. It triggered a tsunami across the northern city of Sendai that sent all types of buildings, vehicles, and everything else in its path bobbing over vast land areas like corks in white-water rapids.

    Latest reports are that 300 have been killed, but hundreds remain unaccounted for and are feared dead. Sizable aftershocks and tremors have disrupted life in Tokyo, Japan’s biggest city, forcing tens of thousands to sleep in train stations and in the streets after the public transport system came to a screeching halt.

    Even worse, red alerts are being sounded about potential radiation leaks in several nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant that could turn this natural disaster into a human catastrophe.

    Offers to help with search and rescue efforts are rushing in from over 50 countries with a force commensurate with that of the tsunami. President Obama announced that, after consulting with Japanese Prime Minister Nauto Kan, he mobilized America’s considerable military assets in the region to provide whatever assistance is needed.

    Today’s events remind us of just how fragile life can be. Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region and we’re going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy

    (Obama, Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2011)

    Of course the equality of all human life should compel us to regard all such tragedies with equal sympathy. But as my opening quote indicates, we invariably show less sympathy and render even less support when natural disasters befall relatively rich countries like Japan than we do when they befall poor ones like Haiti.

    The primary reason for this, I submit, is twofold:

    1. Natural disasters always come as an insult to the injury of chronic poverty and other privations that constitute daily life in poor countries; and rich countries always have more resources to recover and rebuild. (Japan is reportedly more prepared and equipped than any other country to deal with earthquakes. More to the point, talk has already begun about how a massive rebuilding effort might help Japan reclaim its place from China as the second-biggest economy in the world – after the United States.)
    2. The tragedy of the hundreds (or even thousands) who may have died in Japan cannot compare with that of the hundreds of thousands who died in Haiti.

    Nevertheless, I am mindful that the Japanese will grieve their loss just as intensely as the Haitians did.

    Accordingly, I convey my deepest sympathy to all of the people of Japan, and my thoughts and prayers are with them as their country moves from rescue and recovery to rehabilitation and rebuilding in the days, months and years ahead.

    NOTE: According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “Japan’s worst previous quake was a magnitude 8.3 in Kanto that killed 143,000 people in 1923. A 7.2-magnitude quake in Kobe killed 6,400 people in 1995.”

    ENDNOTE: Am I the only one thinks this Japanese quake is just the cover Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi needs to finish squashing the floundering democratic uprising in his country; i.e., without the inhibiting glare of the international media…?


    Latest reports are that the death toll “may top 10,000.” But, according to the Associated Press, the official count as of today is 2,800. In any case, given that the 2010 quake in Haiti and the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia each left over 200,000 dead, the death toll in Japan hardly seems newsworthy.

    This, I submit, is why international media outlets are covering this story as if this quake has already triggered a full-scale nuclear meltdown that will make the fallout from Hiroshima and Nagasaki seem relatively minor. In fact, it triggered a few relatively harmless hydrogen explosions, which scientists have been fighting heroically to contain. This is a far cry from a full-scale nuclear meltdown.

    But no less a person than the prime minister gave them cover to report on the potential for a nuclear catastrophe as a fait accompli after he declared this Japan’s worst crisis since World War II. (What a tragic irony it would be though if Japanese nuclear reactors end up killing more Japanese than American nuclear bombs did….)

    TV stations cover natural disasters purportedly as a public service. But there’s no denying that such coverage is a ratings boon for their bottom line – catering as it does to the perverse thrill of suspense that keeps us fixated on the hype of impending doom….

    (“Run for your lives…Katrina’s coming!” The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2005)

    So now the story is not so much the natural disaster that has already occurred as it is the media prophesying about some man-made tragedy that may never come.

    Not to mention how replete the Western media have been with indignant and know-it-all criticisms about the Japanese response. Indeed, so much so that you’d think nobody in Japan has any clue about how to deal with this unprecedented and wholly unforeseeable confluence of a quake, a tsunami and a potential nuclear meltdown.  (Oh, right, there was a snow blizzard too.)

    Mind you, these are the same reporters who were telling us in the immediate aftermath that the Japanese were better prepared to deal with a natural disaster than any other people on earth. More to the point, Japanese reporters and commentators could have spewed similar criticisms about the way the Americans responded to Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill….

    Meanwhile, of the 180,000 people who have been evacuated from the at-risk nuclear zone, reports are that less than 200 “may” have been exposed to non-lethal levels of radiation. (This does not include the 50-180 scientists who are on what some are calling a suicide mission to avert a catastrophe at that nuclear plant.)

    There’s no gainsaying the very serious nature of this crisis, and things could get much worse. But the media hysteria to date is clearly not warranted.

    Of course, even if all of the doomsday reporting turns out to be unwarranted (as I fully expect will be the case), media outlets would have generated ratings the likes of which they have not seen since, well, Haiti.

    Scaremongering sells!  Hell, to listen to some American news reports, you’d think this disaster were unfolding in the northeastern United States instead of northeastern Japan. (Have you purchased your potassium iodide pills yet – to store with your apocalypse-now supplies … right next to the cipro you purchased in another fit of hysteria many years ago?)

    Related commentaries:
    Run for your lives

    To contribute to the relief effort please visit: redcross.org

  • Friday, March 11, 2011 at 5:31 AM

    Hearing on un-American activities by American Muslims

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is axiomatic in Washington that congressional hearings are more often than not the modern-day equivalent of a pillory. For they invariably amount to little more than a venue to hold private citizens up to public ridicule.

    But not since Senator Joe McCarthy’s hearing on un-American activities by American Communists in 1954 has a hearing backfired quite like Representative Peter King’s (R-NY) hearing on un-American activities by American Muslims did yesterday.   And here’s why:

    Ascribing the evil acts of a few individuals to an entire community is wrong; it is ineffective; and it risks making our country less secure… Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans. His life should not be defined as a member of an ethnic group or a member of a religion, but as an American who gave everything for his fellow citizens.

    (Rep. Keith Ellison, The Washington Post, March 10, 2011)

    This, in part, was the tear-filled testimony Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn), himself a Muslim, gave that ended up turning King’s hearing on its head. Ellison was referring here to a Muslim-American paramedic who was among the first responders after the al-Qaeda attacks on 9/11.

    Yet for months this paramedic was accused of pulling a disappearing act after helping the terrorists pull off those infernal attacks … until reports confirmed that:

    Mr. Hamdani’s remains had been found near the north tower, and he had gone there to help people he did not know.

    (Portraits, New York Times, March 9, 2003)

    Ellison’s testimony exposed in dramatic and riveting fashion the impact, perhaps even the intent, of this hearing, which was the willful stereotyping and scapegoating of American Muslims.

    Many have accused King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, of rank hypocrisy given his unabashed support for the IRA – a terrorist group that targeted the UK the way al-Qaeda is now targeting the U.S. 

    But the more damning (and more accurate) accusation is that King unfairly singled out Muslims – as Ellison delineated in his testimony, which actually reads like a political indictment. Because neither King nor any other congressman has ever called for hearings to rout out the white radicals Timothy McVeigh represented, or the white radicals Unibomber Ted Kaczynski represented; never mind the white radicals the KKK represent.

    That said, I think Ellison and others are engaging in the same kind of scaremongering they’re accusing him of by claiming that his hearing will just provide fodder for al-Qaeda propaganda and recruitment. 

    After all, the notion that al-Qaeda needs more fodder to fuel their hatred of Americans is every bit as fatuous as the notion that the KKK needs more fodder to fuel their hatred of blacks.

  • Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 5:48 AM

    Gingrich takes political hypocrisy and chutzpa to new level

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I do not intend to waste any time commenting on the dog-and-pony show that has already begun among Republicans to win the nomination for president of the United States in 2012.  But I could not resist commenting on how former Speaker Newt Gingrich is attempting to neutralize the criticisms about his notorious moral turpitude that other Republican contenders are bound to hurl at him.

    In a nutshell, Newt is the self-righteous SOB who led the impeachment of Bill Clinton for lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.  Yet it was later revealed that – at the very time he was leading this crusade – he himself was having an affair with a 23-year-old Congressional aide. 

    But nothing betrays the moral vacuity of this man quite like the way he visited his first wife in hospital – where she was recovering from cancer-related surgery – only to tell her that he was divorcing her. 

    Therefore, it should come as no surprise that this dead-beat dad, draft dodger, check kiter, book-sale scammer, embezzler, thrice-married serial adulterer had the unmitigated gall to go on the Christian Broadcasting Network yesterday and give the following testimony:

    There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate… I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them… I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness.

    (Associated Press, March9, 2011)

    Did you get that?! In the heat of his passion for this country he mistakenly had a passionate affair with a staffer young enough to be his daughter. 

    In any case, this was clearly a craven bid to curry favor with the Evangelical Christians whose votes he will need to win the nomination. I am reminded of what British moralist and man of letters Samuel Johnson said about patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel. But Newt is one scoundrel who evidently hopes to find refuge in both patriotism and religion.

    More to the point, his delusions of grandeur are such that he really thinks – even after his litany of scandals forced him to resign as Speaker and leave Washington in disgrace in 1999 – that he can now wrap himself in the flag, claim religious conversion, and return as president of the United States. 

    Now that’s chutzpa! No doubt he thinks Evangelical Christians are so stupid that they will buy into his the-country-made-me-“do-it” confession. But I doubt even the wackos in the Tea Party are stupid enough to do so.

  • Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    Abraham Lincoln was a white nationalist?! Yes, but…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2008), 90 percent of American students attend public schools.  Unfortunately, overcrowded classrooms, violence, and truancy are just some of the problems that have plagued public school education in America for decades. 

    As a result, we are confronted almost daily with data showing that American students routinely perform at levels well below their counterparts in other OECD member countries. And nowhere is this more manifest than in their knowledge (or lack thereof) of history.

    Only this explains why a new book regurgitating old facts about the most written about president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, is receiving so much attention. The book, Colonization After Emancipation, purportedly presents new evidence from the British National Archives about Lincoln’s efforts to colonize freed blacks.

    For the sake of your race, you should sacrifice something of your present comfort for the purpose of being as grand in that respect as the white people.

    This, according to authors Phillip Magness and Sebastian Page, is how Lincoln exhorted blacks in free states to take their freedom and go to Central America to set up their own separate, even if unequal, black nation. In a March 4, 2011 report by NPR, Magness and Page claim to have extracted this quote from a heretofore little-known speech Lincoln gave at the White House in 1862. They suggest that Lincoln’s white nationalism was so acute that he went so far as to call blacks “selfish” for resisting his exhortation.

    To be fair, however, Lincoln was not advocating a pogrom or mass deportation. Instead, he was proposing a voluntary separation based on the prevailing view of the day – even among abolitionists – that:

    …unconquerable prejudice resulting from their color, they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country. It was desirable, therefore, as it respected them, and the residue of the population of the country, to drain them off.

    (Henry Clay as quoted by Maggie Montesinos Sale, The slumbering volcano: American slave ship revolts and the production of rebellious masculinity. p.264. Duke University Press, 1997)

    In fact, by the time Lincoln gave his supposedly revelatory speech in 1862, Clay and other founding members of the American Colonization Society had already been working for over 45 years to “repatriate blacks to greater freedom in Africa.”  And Exhibit A in this regard was the founding of Liberia in 1847

    So the only thing newsworthy about Colonization After Emancipation is its account of Lincoln’s focus on Central America instead of Africa as a more hospitable destination for blacks.  And Exhibit A in this regard was Belize, where American slaves were being exhorted to join British slaves who were emancipated there in 1838.  

    That said, it is general knowledge that Lincoln favored the gradual emancipation of slaves long before he was elected president.  But, just like the Founding Fathers, he subjugated the moral imperative to free them to the political realities that kept them in bondage. 

    Ultimately, political necessity (i.e., winning the Civil War) compelled him to emancipate only those slaves living in states not under his/Union control. This is why Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation is as compromised as Article I of the U.S. Constitution, which counted blacks as only three-fifths of a person.

    Here, in fact, is the poignant way William Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state, reflected on this second-most infamous compromise on the humanity and liberty of black folks in U.S. history:

    We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.

    (Africans in America, pbs.com)

    The hypocrisy is palpable even today.  More to the point, though, the same political necessity that compelled him to emancipate the slaves also caused Lincoln’s views about colonizing blacks to evolve. Specifically, he came to believe that blacks who enlisted in the Union army had duly earned their right to live as free men (albeit as second-class citizens) in the United States. Indeed, it is well known that the unselfish role blacks played in helping him win the Civil War  moved Lincoln to “slough off colonization” – as his presidential secretary, John Hay, reportedly wrote in July 1864.

    In any event, Magness and Page discovering new evidence which indicates that Lincoln was more in favor of colonizing blacks than previously known is rather like me discovering new evidence which indicates that Governor George Wallace of Alabama was more committed to segregation than previously known. Duh.

    Class dismissed.

    NOTE: As one who grew up under British colonial rule, I always accepted as an article of faith that public school education in the UK was far superior to that offered in the U.S.

    Imagine my surprise therefore when I read media accounts recently about the way a “rebel teacher” named Katharine Birbalsingh was sending shockwaves through the UK by criticizing public school education there for being plagued with all of the same problems associated with public school education in the U.S.  Alas, it seems the sun is setting rather closer to home these days…. 

    Miss Birbalsingh lectures on point here.

  • Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    UPDATE: Charlie Sheen fired! Duh…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [Author’s note: I usually reserve updates for the annual book version of my commentaries.  But  the national spectacle surrounding  Charlie Sheen warrants this exception.]

    Warner Bros. sent a letter to lawyers representing Charlie Sheen yesterday informing them that it was firing the actor from Two and a Half Men, effective immediately. Not surprisingly, that letter was made public almost immediately. Here, in part, is what it said:

    Your client has been engaged in dangerously self-destructive conduct and appears to be very ill. For months before the suspension of production, Mr. Sheen’s erratic behavior escalated while his condition deteriorated. His declining condition undermined the production in numerous and significant ways. Warner Bros. would not, could not, and should not attempt to continue ‘business as usual’ while Mr. Sheen destroys himself as the world watches.

    (Associated Press, March 7, 2011)

    The only thing interesting or newsworthy about this development, however, is the way so many showbiz reporters and media commentators are now lauding Warner Bros. for firing Charlie. After all, 99.9 percent of them are on record saying that it would make no sense for Warner Bros. to do so. They invariably proffered that there was just too much money to be made off him, noting that his recent antics only increased his entertainment value in a way that is now all too perversely familiar.

    By contrast, for the record, here is what I wrote about Charlie’s fate:

    As for this hit show, it would take the swallowing of pride the likes of which would give even Shylock indigestion for it to continue – with him as its star – after Charlie referred to it in the above-referenced Los Angeles Times report as:

    ‘…a bad-joke-filled pukefest that everyone worships.’

    Yeah, I’d say that’s a wrap.

    (Charlie Sheen, the Daffy Gaddafi of Hollywood, The iPINIONS Journal, February 27, 2011)

    And now it’s official.

    To be fair, though, many reporters and commentators reasoned that Charlie’s latest bouts of aberrant behavior could not constitute just cause to fire him because he has been not just “dangerously self-destructive … and very ill,” but a serial abuser of women for many years. Even I made clear my dismay that, after letting him get away with so much egregious behavior, Warner Bros. finally fired him because of his anti-Semitic rant against the show’s producers.

    Yet it must be said that even Charlie knew he had committed a cardinal sin in this respect. This is why he spent much of last week seeking absolution. Of course, this being Charlie, he did this by repeating, as if saying Hail Marys, that he couldn’t possibly say or do anything that is anti-Semitic because his criminal lawyer, his civil lawyer, his accountant, his agent, his ex-wife, his two children with that ex-wife, and his own mother, which means he himself, are all Jewish.  (And now he’s promising to pay his Jewish lawyers millions in a vain effort to sue his Jewish bosses for firing him….)

    I am mindful, however, that offended Jews might find his defense almost as specious as a white person defending his belligerent use of the N-word by saying that he couldn’t possibly say or do anything that is racist because his maid, his nanny, his gardener, and his driver are all black. Furthermore, it might come as a surprise to Charlie to learn that being Jewish does not make one immune to the charge of self-loathing anti-Semitism any more than being black makes one immune to the charge of self-loathing racism: Exhibit A – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

    Nevertheless, I appreciate why many will find this ulterior motive for firing Sheen capricious, arbitrary, and even discriminatory in light of all of his other, and arguably more serious, infractions.  But I submit that, just as a racist rant would have crossed a red line in this context, his perceived anti-Semitism crossed one too.

    That said, even though the mainstream media are bound to show less interest, Charlie will have no shortage of outlets to air his drug-fuelled antics. In fact he’s already generating a lot of buzz and, reportedly, mounds of cash with his tweets and YouTube chat show, Sheene’s Korner.

    It’s just too bad that, within minutes of receiving his termination letter, he went to his Korner and launched into another manic rant that only manifested, in living color, all of the untenable traits Warner Bros. cited for firing him….

    Alas, there is no end to many people’s interest in his ad nauseam raving about his tiger blood and Adonis DNA and ranting about his (former) bosses as losers and trolls.  And let’s face it, far too many of us derive macabre pleasure from watching a person, especially a bona fide celebrity, destroy himself. But this, for Charlie, is “winning.”

    All the same, it is instructive that Charlie resorted to snorting his cigarette butts to entertain his viewers after he himself admitted that he had run out of things to say on the first episode of his show. Ironically, he may now have an all too belated appreciation of the skill it took writer Chuck Lorre, the main target of his vile, anti-Semitic rants, to come up with funny things for him to say on 177 episodes of Two and a Half Men.

    Of course, now that he does not have to worry about violating the morals clause of his terminated contract, Charlie might consider tripping out on LSD and broadcasting his hallucinogenic rants. That would surely generate better ratings than Snooki’s drunken rants on The Jersey Shore; i.e., if you’re into this kind of train-wreck reality TV.

    In any case, I hereby declare that henceforth this weblog shall be a Charlie-free zone.  Because, far from being funny or entertaining, his schtick just strikes me as sad, pitiful, suicidal, homicidal, and utterly unwatchable. 

    Sorry Charlie….

    Related commentaries:
    Charlie Sheen, the Daffy Gaddafi

  • Monday, March 7, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    Miami Heat on a Cold Streak

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The moniker “Dream Team” is usually reserved for the group of NBA players who join forces every four years to guarantee Olympic gold in basketball for the United States.  Therefore, it’s an indication of their arrogance and disrespect for what this moniker represents that Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James co-opted it when they joined forces last year to guarantee an NBA championship for the Miami Heat.

    Evidently, they presumed that, because they were three of the best players on the 2008 Olympic team that won gold, they would be able to dominate other teams in the NBA the way they dominated teams from other countries at the Olympics.  No doubt, in their egocentric enthusiasm, it did not occur to them that all of the other teams in the NBA would be comprised of players of their calibre, unlike the second-rate players they faced at the Olympics.  

    By the same token, Dwayne, Chris, and LeBron hyped their coming together in Miami to such degree that devoted Heat fans were inspired to hail them as the holy trinity of the NBA.  Well, that was then.

    Because, even though they have played at times like a dream team, they’re on course to end this season in a failure so shocking that it really would be tantamount to the United States losing in basketball at the Olympics, which it did quite shockingly in 1988 and 2004.

    It’s bad enough that El Heat can’t buy a win against the top 5 teams this season. But nothing telegraphed this nightmare scenario unfolding quite like its 87-86 loss to the Chicago Bulls yesterday. And it is particularly noteworthy that no player on this Bulls team was deemed good enough to play with Dwayne, Chris, and LeBron on the dream team at the last Olympics. 

    More telling, though, was the embarrassing post-game show, which featured the dumbfounded coach of the Heat trying in vain to explain why his superstars were playing more like a dream team from the UK than one from the US. Furthermore, it could only have exacerbated their shattered confidence when he revealed that he had just left them in the locker room crying like babies over this loss, which put the Heat on a very cold, four-game losing streak.

    By the way, apropos the role self-confidence plays in sports, these struggling Heat players need only look at how his shattered confidence has put the once-dominant Tiger Woods on a truly shocking one-year losing streak. Talk about not being able to buy a win…. When Tiger, when?! But I digress….

    I warned Heat fans (especially the rabid ones in my family) that fragile egos and grandiose expectations might make it impossible for LeBron and Dwayne, the putative team leader, to develop the chemistry necessary to win an NBA championship:

    [N]o matter how many championships he wins in Miami, he will be forever haunted by the fact that he abandoned not just his team but also his childhood home to do so. Then, of course, there’s the inevitable conflict that will arise when some sports writers and commentators begin referring to the Heat as LeBron’s team while others continue referring to it as D-Wade’s…

    But God help him if the Heat does not win the NBA championship next year. Because failing to do so will turn his new “dream team” into a living nightmare.

    (LeBron abandons Cleveland for Miami, The iPINIONS Journal, July 13, 2010)

    Of course, it ain’t over till it’s over. So hope springs eternal that the Heat’s marquee players will finally play up to their self-propelled hype.

    Related commentaries:
    LeBron abandons Cleveland

  • Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 7:43 AM

    In the fight over NFL billions, who gets your support: rich players or richer owners?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, March 4, 2011 at 5:19 AM

    No sex please! We’re BYU…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is generally understood that Brigham Young University (BYU) was founded:

    To provide an education in an atmosphere consistent with the ideals and principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [i.e., the Mormons]… We believe in being honest, true, CHASTE, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. . . .


    Therefore, students know, or should know, going in that the sexual experimentation that is a rite of passage on most university campuses in America is a cardinal sin at BYU.

    Yet, even by BYU standards, what happened to its star basketball player, Brandon Davies, seems surreal. For the university kicked him off the team on Tuesday for having sex with his girlfriend.  (Actually, unconfirmed reports are that he cheated on his girlfriend with another girl and got her pregnant. But all of that is beside the point. The violation was the sex itself … with whomever.) 

    Now, to appreciate how truly puritanical and ascetic this disciplinary action is, consider that it alone will effectively cost BYU, currently No. 3 in the NCAA rankings, its best chance in history of winning the holy grail of college basketball – the national championship. And, perhaps to prove the point, BYU proceeded to lose to lowly, unranked New Mexico the very next day (Wednesday). 

    Frankly, I admire that BYU is so committed to its ideals and principles that it forfeited a once-in-a-lifetime chance at NCAA-tournament glory (with all of the riches that entails) just to punish a kid for doing what most young kids do on college campuses every day. This stands in stark contrast to the likelihood that any other school in the top 25 would have bent over backwards to keep its star player on the court, especially at this critical juncture in the season, even if that player were accused of rape.

    (Coincidentally, according to a report in today’s edition of the Washington Post, a recent survey conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services found that  72 percent of people in their late teens and early 20s are sexually active. Which I suppose explains why nobody is casting moral aspersions at the parents of 16-year-old Justin Bieber for allowing him to have well-publicized assignations with his 18-year-old girlfriend, Selena Gomez, in the penthouse suites of swanky hotels.)

    I am also mindful that, as a private university, BYU can impose any punishment for violations of its honor code, including expulsion, as long as it does so in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. The university has yet to decide whether Brandon will be expelled. But I think being kicked off the team is punishment enough.

    No doubt some will argue that this is a really tough lesson for any young kid to learn. However, BYU can stand firm on its moral high ground by replying that this lesson is far tougher on the university than it is on Brandon.

    Indeed, nothing indicates what a sacrifice this is for BYU quite like students and alumni alike taking to Facebook and Twitter to chastise, not the all-star Brandon, but his girlfriend (or the groupie) for ruining their university’s chance of winning a national championship this year.

    In any event, if this 6’9″ sophomore has any hoop dreams of playing professionally, he would be well advised to trade on this notoriety to enter this year’s NBA draft.

    After all, the scarlet letter BYU has placed on his chest is probably worth at least a few million in endorsements, and his skills probably won’t improve much over the next two years (assuming BYU reinstates him next season or he transfers to another school to finish his junior and senior years). Not to mention that, instead of being a cardinal sin, sexual promiscuity, which includes impregnating groupies, seems to be a badge of honor in the NBA.

    NOTE:  It is no more absurd for BYU to forbid pre-marital sex by its students than it is for the U.S. government to forbid drinking alcohol by anyone under 21. But I submit that, if 18-year olds are mature and responsible enough to go to war, they are mature and responsible enough to have premarital sex and to drink alcohol.

  • Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    Sanctioning Libya but not China?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Leave it to the hypocrisy and double standards that govern international relations to make even Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi seem sympathetic.  For, given the way Western leaders are lining up to condemn and sanction him for his crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, you’d think he had committed the worst human rights abuses since the Holocaust.

    Hell, Senator John Kerry, the very influential chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, even declared yesterday that Western leaders cannot stand by and allow Gaddafi to squash the democratic aspirations of his people, intimating that they have a moral duty to stop him by any means necessary.

    Whereas, in fact, even if reports of Gaddafi’s most egregious abuses turn out to be true, I suspect they will still pale in comparison to those Chinese leaders not only committed during their brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989, but are committing today in their continual vigilance to attack any sign of democratic expression as if it were the plague.

    As a matter of fact, China has not been immune to the Tunisian-inspired protests that are sweeping across the Middle East; but you’d never know it given scant reports in Western media and nary a peep from Western leaders.

    Anyway, the Chinese are so venal and amoral in their repression of democratic activists that they had no compunction about incarcerating the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo,  under circumstances that made the incarceration of Nelson Mandela by the Apartheid government of South Africa seem benign.

    Yet, instead of issuing condemnations and imposing sanctions, Western leaders are acting as if the human rights abuses the Chinese commit are pursuant to political and cultural norms that are sacrosanct. Even worse they are lining up to pay homage to and curry favor with Chinese leaders the way one assumes the Indians did when seemingly rich and invincible Europeans first came to the Americas.

    But I’m cynical enough to assert that the way our leaders exorcise their guilt over standing by and allowing the Chinese to squash the democratic aspirations of their people is by venting moral indignation at relatively hapless abusers like Gaddafi, Castro, and Mugabe. So the next time you hear Western politicians beating their chest about getting tough on Libya, just bear in mind what pusillanimous hypocrites they are.

    Which brings me to the real point of this commentary: raining on China’s parade to replace the U.S. as the richest and most influential country in the world.

    This episode should serve as a warning to all countries around the world that are not just lapping up China’s largesse, but are heralding it as a more worthy superpower than the United States. After all, China is spitting imperious and vindictive fire at the rich and mighty United States over a relatively insignificant matter like meeting with the Dalai Lama. Therefore, just imagine what it would do to a poor and weak country in a conflict over a truly significant matter.

    I anticipated that the Chinese would be every bit as arrogant in the use of their power as the Americans.  But I never thought they would use it for such an irrational and plainly unwinnable cause.

    (World beware: China calling in loan-sharking debts, The iPINIONS Journal, February 3, 2010)

    This quote reflects only one of the many times I felt moved to rain on China’s parade in recent years. I did so in each case because, as much as I admire the economic juggernaut it has become, I have grave concerns about the way it wield its power, as well as abiding doubts about the presumed inevitability of it eclipsing the U.S. as a superpower … in any respect.

    Of course, with so many people holding themselves out as experts on China these days, I appreciate that many may question what qualifies me to speak so authoritatively on the subject.

    Therefore, I am exceedingly pleased to share an excerpt from an interview Charlie Rose conducted on Monday on his eponymous talk show with Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor who former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called “the foremost expert on the substance, diversity, uses, and, abuses of power.”

    Here is what Nye said about the rise of China as a superpower:

    Americans go through cycles of declinism every 10 to 20 years: after sputnik the Russians were 10 feet tall; and then the Japanese were 10 feet tall; now the Chinese are 10 feet tall after the recession of 2008.  We usually outgrow this. But the reason that it’s important is when you misunderstand what power relations are really like it can do two things: it can make us too fearful and it can make other countries like the Chinese (sic) have hubris which makes them push in a way which is unproductive and they get into trouble…

    If they have that feeling that we’re going down, they’re growing up, this can lead to miscalculations. In fact Chinese foreign policy has had a bad year or so: they’ve antagonized the U.S., they’ve antagonized India; they’ve antagonized Japan; they’ve antagonized Vietnam. So this sort of hubris is not good for China…

    Unlike Britain where the rise of Germany created fear in Britain and led to WWI… There’s another 20 years or so before China catches up with us, if then… If you look at per capita income, which is a better measure of the sophistication of an economy they won’t be equal until something like 2040. There’s a huge gap. And so we shouldn’t get too nervous or too overwrought about China… we don’t have to overreact out of fear and the Chinese need to be careful not to react on their side….


    And Nye did not even mention the internal conflicts, which preceded the Tunisian-inspired protests, that may cause China to implode long before 2030:

    Unprecedented urban development, at mach speed, cannot be fueled by rice farming. Moreover, where limited energy resources are likely to cause the relatively stable American economy to contract in due course, fuel shortages compounded by widespread rebellion amongst poor, gentrified and disaffected farmers are clearly sowing the seeds of China’s economic destruction.

    (Gap between rich and poor in China sowing seeds of terminal unrest, The iPINIONS Journal, December 22, 2005)

    In any event, further to this hypocrisy and double standards, prosecutors from the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced today that they will be investigating Gaddafi and his inner circle, including his sons, for committing crimes against humanity in their crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

    Yet, despite all of the reports about the human rights abuses Chinese leaders have committed over the years (including since the ICC was founded in 1998), none of them have ever been investigated.

    By the same token, it’s arguable the human rights abuses Gaddafi is committing against Libyans today are not nearly as inhumane as those American leaders committed against blacks during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement or more recently against innocent Iraqis (remember Abu Ghraib?) and Afghans.

    Yet I doubt prosecutors from any international tribunal have ever even thought about prosecuting any American leader for any crime against humanity. Talk about selective prosecution.

    Related commentaries:
    World beware: China
    Gap between rich and poor in China

  • Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    Dior’s John Galliano in Shocking Anti-Semitic Rants

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent always looked too dazed and confused to walk down a runway, let alone design haute-couture clothing for models to do so. The only other who struck me as weird in this way was Christian Dior’s creative director, John Galliano, who always seemed more interested in impersonating surrealist painter Salvador Dalí than in designing clothes.

    But as weird as he came across I would never have thought that Galliano harbored more anti-Semitic demons than Mel Gibson. Yet he has reportedly been hurling such vile and racist rants in public lately that Dior was forced to fire him yesterday.

    Actually, after a French couple had him arrested on Thursday for verbally assaulting them at Parisian café La Perle, Dior only suspended the notoriously eccentric Galliano. According to a March 1 report by Reuters, he spewed all manner of profanities at the couple, which he punctuated by saying to the woman, “Dirty Jewish face … you should be dead,” and to the man, “fucking Asian bastard, I will kill you.”

    But, evidently, what forced the fashion house to finally fire him was a video that went viral over the weekend of an incident, reportedly from last October, which shows Galliano declaring the following to a group of young girls at the very same café:

    I love Hitler! People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be fucking gassed.

    (The Sun, February 28, 2011)

    Galliano insists that the person in the October video is not him. But I have seen the video, several times, and he would have to convince me beyond all reasonable doubt that I have lying eyes before I believe him.

    This is why I think ordering his lawyers to file a defamation suit to protect his good name is nothing but a PR stunt.  Indeed, this is rather like Gibson filing a defamation suit after tapes of him hurling slurs that would make any anti-Semite, racist, or misogynist blush went viral.

    Meanwhile, it could not have helped Galliano’s case that Natalie Portman, the new face of Dior, issued the following statement on Monday – less than 24 hours after winning the Academy Award (and worldwide acclaim) for her role in Black Swan:

    I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments that surfaced today. In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way. I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.

    (E Online, February 28, 2011)

    No doubt Dior was already ruing the lost sales and goodwill it suffered when Natalie decided to vent her disgust by refusing to wear a Dior Couture gown to the Oscars on Sunday night. Instead, she wore one by Black Swan costumers Rodarte.

    In truth, though, the French are almost as sensitive about and vigilant against anti-Semitism as the Germans. For them the Dreyfus affair (in which the 1890s French establishment willfully scapegoated a Jewish military officer as, ironically enough, a German spy) remains almost as much of a stain on their collective conscience as the Holocaust remains on that of the Germans.

    Hence there’s no way Dior, the premier fashion house in France, could even countenance retaining Galliano after the publication of such Hitlerian utterances, no matter how drunk he might have been at the time.  Especially since, as Mel found out, most people believe the aphorism, in vino veritas.  I commend Dior for acting so swiftly.

    NOTE: French prosecutors have charged Galliano with anti-Semitic and abusive behavior. They say he will stand trial sometime between April and June. Making anti-Semitic remarks in France is a crime, which is punishable by up to six months in prison and $31,000.00 in fines.

    According to the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism seven countries have enacted anti-Semitism legislation (namely, Romania, Spain, Mexico, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, and France).

    Related commentaries:
    Mel Gibson exposed

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