• Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 6:55 AM

    Why Republicans take Obama’s claim that Trayvon could be his son literally…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Republicans would have you believe that Trayvon was killed trying to mug George Zimmerman. But these are the same folks who would have you believe that President Obama is the one mugging us with rising gas prices.

    Related commentaries:
    Vigilante killing of Trayvon Martin

  • Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 5:23 AM

    Another Sign of America’s Lost Cause in Afghanistan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have become a veritable Cassandra with my warnings about the folly of America’s involvement in Afghanistan. Instead of wondering why I keep beating this dead horse, however, my only wonder is why more people aren’t doing the same.

    After all, the killing of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan is even more senseless than the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Yet, where the latter has incited national outrage, the former has been blithely tolerated or simply ignored.

    Of course, some might soothe their conscience by thinking that soldiers assumed the risk of getting killed when they signed up. All the same, I have written numerous commentaries showing just cause why there should be more people in the streets protesting against this war than there were protesting against the war in Vietnam. Indeed, nothing suggests that the war in Afghanistan is being waged in a parallel universe quite like more people protesting the killing of Trayvon than those protesting the killing of thousands of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan … for no good cause.

    Hell, even the recent spate of them being killed by the Afghans they’re supposedly training to kill Taliban fighters has done nothing to incite national outrage.

    Meanwhile, TIME magazine ran a cover two years ago featuring a women with her nose cut off with the caption, “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan?”  But the irony seemed completely lost on those pointing to this cover as justification for continued U.S. involvement there that far too many Afghan women could answer this question by saying, “the same things that are happening now.”

    Well, perhaps the latest report on the way women are being treated under the U.S.-supported Karzai government will be the spark that gets people protesting in the streets. Not least because everyone from former first lady Laura Bush to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has cited the liberation of Afghan women as justification for this otherwise unwinnable war.

    The report said that the government of President Hamid Karzai had failed to fulfil its obligations under international human rights laws. ‘It is shocking that 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban, women and girls are still imprisoned for running away from domestic violence or forced marriage,’  said Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

    (BBC, March 28, 2012)

    Frankly, this only reinforces my abiding view that the invasion of Afghanistan to impose democracy is every bit the march of folly the invasion of Iraq to find WMDs turned out to be….

    I have fairly well established in commentaries dating back to October 2006 that nobody has been and remains a more ardent supporter of Barack Obama than I. This is why it pains me to assert that his decision to escalate this war will prove as grave a military blunder as George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

    (“U.S. Soldiers No More Trustworthy than Taliban Fighters,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 19, 2012)

    So where’s the outrage?

    Related commentaries:
    U.S. soldiers no more trustworthy

  • Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 5:17 AM

    Supreme Court takes on Obamacare

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yesterday lawyers for and against Obama’s landmark healthcare reform began three days of arguments before the Supreme Court. What is truly remarkable though is that the arguments the lawyers are proffering in Court are essentially the same as those politicians proffered in Congress when the healthcare bill was being debated two years ago. 

    I have written many commentaries on this topic. Therefore, I shall suffice to mark this occasion by merely reprising the one I wrote last November 23 when the Court announced the sessions now underway on the constitutionality of “Obamacare.” It’s anybody’s guess how it will decide, but you’d be hard-pressed to read a more informed commentary than what follows. Which is important given that an increasing majority of Americans believe this healthcare reform law is unconstitutional based on little more than hysterical ignorance:

    Supreme Court to Rule on Landmark Healthcare Reform

    To listen to his critics, you’d think President Barack Obama signing into law the Patient Accountability and Affordable Care Act (healthcare reform) in March 2010, which made healthcare affordable for over 40 million uninsured Americans, constituted an even greater blight in the blighted annals of American history than President Andrew Jackson signing into law the Indian Removal Act in May 1830, which sanctioned the removal of native Indians from their tribal homeland to make way for white “pioneers.”

    Indeed, nothing evokes a Pentecostal-like response at Republican rallies quite like when one of Obama’s wannabe successors declares – with the conviction of a born-again Tartuffe – that his/her “first act as president will be to repeal Obamacare.” Mind you, their declaration is invariably animated by the hope that the Supreme Court will rule the healthcare reform law unconstitutional long before they are faced with the manifestly impossible task of honoring their promise to repeal it.

    Which brings me to the Court’s announcement a week ago Monday that it will hear consolidated challenges to this law next spring and rule on its constitutionality before the end of June.

    The challenge in the case, brought by 26 states out of Florida, is based on the constitutionality of the individual mandate … which requires that all Americans purchase health insurance.

    The nine-member court will also look at severability, meaning if the mandate falls, could the rest of the law survive since it is primarily built on the revenues collected by forcing people to buy health care.

    (FOX News, November 14, 2011)

    But this is one of those occasions where the adage “be careful what you wish for” seems apt. Because I believe Obama’s critics are in for a rude awakening.

    First and foremost, though, it should be understood that 99 percent of the opposition to healthcare reform has nothing to do with the law, but everything to do with partisan politics. Specifically, it simply galls the Tea Partiers who have hijacked the Republican Party that Obama would have any success as president, let alone success on this seminal issue. After all, presidents (Democrat and Republican alike) as far back as Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 attempted healthcare reform but failed.

    Clearly the prospect of healthcare reform should have been cause for (belated) national celebration in this richest country on earth, which prides itself on its charity towards others as well as adherence to other Christian values. But nothing could have been further from the truth. For the debate leading up to last night’s historic vote was characterized by the kind of political rhetoric (complete with racial and homophobic epithets) one might expect of a banana republic on the brink of civil war.

    Remarkably, the Republicans are still vowing to ‘kill the bill,’ claiming, among other things, that it is a socialist manifesto that will usher in the death of American liberty. Even worse, the Christians who comprise their party’s base seem oblivious to the inconsistency between their fanatical opposition to healthcare reform and their attempts to imbue every facet of American life with their ‘Christian’ values.

    (Obama delivers healthcare reform – from Obamacare to Obama cares, The iPINIONS Journal, March 23, 2010)

    In any event, where the Supreme Court had just cause to rule Jackson’s Indian removal unconstitutional, it has no cause to rule Obama’s healthcare reform law so. Never mind that partisan politics have so infected even the hallowed chambers of the Court (see Bush v. Gore 2000) that Republicans can be forgiven for thinking that it will declare the law unconstitutional – with the five justices who were appointed by Republican presidents ruling to overturn it and the four appointed by Democratic presidents ruling to uphold it.

    All the same, I am convinced that the Court’s own precedents granting Congress virtually plenary powers to regulate interstate commerce will compel even right-wing Justice Antonin Scalia, appointed by Republican president Ronald Reagan, to rule that Congress had the power to enact this healthcare reform bill and that Obama had the right to sign it into law.

    The most instructive precedent is the Court’s decision in Wickard v. Filburn (1942). Because there the Court ruled that a law that effectively regulated what a farmer could do with the wheat he grew on his own farm for his own use was in fact constitutional. It follows therefore that if Congress can regulate this personal activity, it can regulate activities involved in the healthcare stream of commerce. The regulation here of course is the necessary and proper mandate which holds that, since every American is bound to use/need healthcare at some point, everyone should be required to buy basic insurance (i.e., instead of relying on emergency-room care, which only forces the insured to pay higher premiums).

    Beyond honoring precedents, though, I suspect all justices will be keen to regain the institutional integrity and goodwill the Court lost after Bush v. Gore. Because that case required (conservative justices) to disregard long-established precedents to arrive at what was clearly more of a political decision in favor of Bush than a legal one based on the merits of the case. Indeed, the judicial activism that made a mockery of their conservative jurisprudential philosophy in Bush v. Gore was shameful enough. I doubt all five conservative justices will risk compounding that mockery by overturning Obamacare.

    And this obtains no matter how tempted the five Republican appointees might be to do so as payback for the indignant way Obama disrobed them during his 2010 State of the Union Address. Perhaps you recall how Obama chastised them for ruling — in a 5-4 split decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) — that no limits can be placed on the amount of money corporations and interest groups can use to fund political campaigns.  

    Accordingly, I predict the Court will rule 6-3 to uphold the constitutionality of what is bound to go down in history as the most important achievement of any U.S. president since the Civil Rights bill President Lyndon Johnson signed into law in 1964. Obama could then weave this victory into his campaign stump speech as yet another promise made, promise kept. His re-election team would also be emboldened to promote the historic benefits this law provides more aggressively. Because you’d be surprised at the number of Republican nincompoops who have been chanting “Obamacare is socialism,” but who have no idea what the law provides or, more importantly, that many of them stand to benefit from its provisions.

    (In a similar vein, I can think of nothing more irresponsible than news reporters citing public opinion on the constitutionality of this law. Not least because I’d bet my life savings that half of those polled have never even read the Constitution: talk about promoting mass ignorance.)

    Of course, if the Court rules that the law (or just its mandating feature) is unconstitutional, Obama could then weave this defeat into his campaign stump speech as yet another way rabid, right-wing ideology is poisoning politics in America today. His re-election team could also begin running ads showing how a right-leaning Supreme Court is an even greater danger to civil liberties in America than religious nuts (like Republican candidate Rick Santorum) who want to abolish not just all abortions but all contraceptives as well. In other words, vote Obama and he will appoint more impartial, fair-minded justices.

    So – instead of this case portending doom for Obama’s presidency – no matter how the Court rules, Obama will be able to frame the outcome to his political advantage.

    Stay tuned….

    NOTE: That those complaining about the government forcing people to buy insurance are invariably Republicans who already have insurance is an indication of how politically driven they are just to deny Obama the historic achievement this healthcare reform law represents. After all, these are the same people who preach personal responsibility as an article of their conservative faith, but who are now encouraging poor people to rely on others for their healthcare: a clear case of Obama derangement syndrome manifesting as cardinal political hypocrisy.

    Not to mention (and it cannot be mentioned enough) what mockery their pharisaic opposition to the provision of healthcare to over 40 million fellow Americans makes of the Christian values they proselytize so zealously.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama delivers healthcare reform

  • Monday, March 26, 2012 at 5:29 AM

    Obama Nominates Korean-American to Head the World Bank

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Hillary has pooh-poohed reports about her heading to the World Bank [WB] with the same conviction with which she has pooh-poohed reports about her running for VP (or president again). But I am convinced that she could not resist the former if it’s handed to her on a silver platter; whereas, given the disappointment of 2008, she would clearly be loathed to pursue the latter.

    Accordingly, I urge Obama to have his White House aides begin shining that platter.

    (“Hillary: Running for VP or Heading to WB,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 16, 2012)

    Well, so much for my advice: because instead of Hillary, Obama nominated South Korean-born U.S. academic Jim Yong Kim on Friday to be the next president of the WB.

    Kim is a Harvard-trained medical doctor and former WHO official who is currently the president of Dartmouth College. For political junkies like me, however, what is most intriguing about his nomination is that it was Hillary herself who reportedly recommended him. Indeed, showing that they are still very much a 2-for-1 team, here is how her husband Bill weighed in:

    Jim Kim is an inspired and outstanding choice to lead the World Bank… [Not least because of his] years of commitment and leadership to development and particularly health care and AIDS treatment across the world.

    (The Envoy, Yahoo News, March 23, 2012)

    More significantly, though, this is perhaps the surest sign yet that team Hillary intends to spend the next four years laying the groundwork for another presidential run in 2016. All indications are, however, that she’ll have to compete with VP Joe Biden for that top job. And there’s no question about which of these two will get Obama’s endorsement—even if political protocol will prevent him from announcing it before the end of the nomination process.

    Meanwhile, in an ironic attempt to inject principles of democracy into the traditional process of handing the WB presidency from one American to another, a coalition of African states has nominated a Nigerian and a coalition of South American states has nominated a Columbian to challenge Kim.

    Alas, it is almost certain that, just as it was with similar challenges to the EU’s nomination of Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde last year to head the IMF, these challenges will amount to little more than political grandstanding.

    [T]he irony is not lost on me that a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ exists between the United States and Europe which calls for an American to head the World Bank and a European to head the IMF.

    (“Lagarde to Replace DSK at IMF,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 16, 2011)

    This is an untenable and unsustainable arrangement in an increasingly multi-polar world of course. Not to mention that the nominee of the African States, internationally acclaimed economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is easily the most qualified; or that, as a woman, she appeals to my political sense that women would be far better stewards of global finance. (Which is why I was so pleased to write Lagarde to Replace DSK at IMF, The iPINIONS Journal, June 16, 2011.)

    It’s just that my racial sensibility (or pride) is such that I’d rather the Third World wait until the next White man is president to humble that good ol’ boy – instead of rallying for the first time in history to defeat the nominee of a U.S. president who just happens to be the first black president of the United States.  The racial irony in this would be too much to bear; to say nothing of the fodder it would provide the right-wing nuts who have been proselytizing the conspiracy that Obama was elected solely to undermine America’s power and influence in the world.

    Besides, it is clearly a sign of Obama’s respect for the growing influence of these Third World countries that he nominated not just the first American of minority background to head the WB, but one who was actually born in a Third World country. Surely that is concession enough – from this U.S. president – for now….

    Related commentaries:
    Hillary: Running for VP or Heading to WB

  • Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 7:14 AM

    Warning: we can play that “stand your ground” game too

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Perhaps the only good thing that will come out of this case is that the Florida legislature (with prodding from the Department of Justice) will be compelled to modify or even repeal its stand-your-ground law, which emboldens people to shoot to kill based merely on their subjective fears.  Especially since the Sanford police seem to think that it’s okay to use deadly force even if that fear is not of personal bodily harm, but of Black kids just walking home in their own neighborhood.

    (Vigilante killing of Black teenager Trayvon Martin, The iPINIONS Journal, March 21, 2012)

    Related commentaries:
    Vigilante killing of Black teenager Trayvon Martin

  • Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    NCAA Sweet 16 (the women)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On March 14, of the 64 teams selected to enter the 2012 NCAA tournament, I picked Tennessee, Maryland, Stanford, and Connecticut to make it to the hallowed Final Four … and Connecticut to win it all.

    Well I suppose it’s a good thing I have no allegiance to any of these teams and couldn’t care any less which one eventually wins the national championship. Because not a single one of my teams made it through to the Sweet 16 – as the following matchups confirm.

    Kentucky vs. Indiana; Syracuse vs. Wisconsin

    Baylor vs. Xavier; Cincinnati vs. Ohio State

    Michigan State vs. Louisville; Marquette vs. Florida

    North Carolina vs. Ohio; NC State vs. Kansas

    Nevertheless, to feign continued interest in the outcome, I hereby choose the Kentucky women to match my choice of the Kentucky men to win it all.

    Related commentaries:
    My picks for women’s Final Four

  • Friday, March 23, 2012 at 5:17 AM

    Sports Update: Sweet 16 / Tebow to the Jets

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Sweet 16

    On March 12, of the 68 teams selected to enter the 2012 NCAA tournament, I picked Kentucky, Florida State, Louisville, and Kansas to make it to the hallowed Final Four.

    Well, for one who had no allegiance to any of the teams and couldn’t care any less which team wins the national championship, I did a pretty good job of picking winners in my office pool. For, of the four teams I picked, three (namely, Kentucky, Louisville, and Kansas) made it through to the Sweet 16 – as the following matchups confirm.

    Kentucky vs. Indiana; Syracuse vs. Wisconsin

    Baylor vs. Xavier;  Cincinnati vs. Ohio St

    Michigan St vs. Louisville; North Carolina vs. Ohio

    Marquette vs. Florida; NC State vs. Kansas

    Alas, I picked Florida State to win it all.  So it is more than a little ironic that it was the only one of my four picks to fail to make it even to the Sweet 16.  I hereby choose Kentucky to win it all….

    Tebow to the Jets

    On March 20, after news broke about the Denver Broncos signing Peyton Manning, I wrote the following:

    I have no doubt that some other team will be happy to exploit what little remains of the “tebowing” phenomenon by signing Tebow to hang out on the side lines like a de facto mascot.

    (Denver Broncos: We want Peyton; Tebow can go to Hell, The iPINIONS Journal, March 20, 2012)

    Therefore, I was not at all surprised when news broke the following day about the New York Jets picking up Tim Tebow. More to the point, after re-signing their young franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez to a three-year extension just last month, the only possible reason for the Jets signing Tebow is to profit from all of the sideline hype they hope he will generate (or like I said, to use him like a de facto mascot).

    To be fair, the Jets claim they will use him as a running quarterback on third-down plays.  But this only reinforces the inadequacies of both Sanchez and Tebow (i.e., that they are both needed to play this one position: one to pass, the other to pass and/or run).

    But this only reinforces the reasons why Robert Griffin of Baylor not only won the Heisman this year, but is the most coveted player in the NFL Draft:  he has that Michael-Vick ability to throw like a quarterback as well as run like a running back.

    Of course, one can be forgiven the impression that the ostentatiously Christian Tebow actually ended up in Hell given reports about the relatively debauched and profane nature of the Jets locker room, which Head Coach Rex Ryan reputedly presides over with devilish relish.  Actually, this might just be the sports version of Mephistopheles attempting to lure Jesus over to the Dark Side. Except that where he failed, I suspect Ryan will succeed….

    Related commentaries:
    My picks for the Final Four
    Denver  Broncos

  • Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    Whitney Houston Porn Tape(s)…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Several tabloids are reporting that Whitney’s boy toy, Ray J, is lying in wait to sell a whole library of pornographic pictures and videos featuring Whitney and him. He adamantly denies these reports, insisting that they are “despicable.”

    But his denial is so half-hearted that he did not even bother to issue the perfunctory threat to sue.  And my informed cynicism is such that unless the victim of such allegedly libelous reports not only threatens to sue but actually does, their denial is just a PR distraction.

    No doubt some of you recall how outraged former Senator John Edwards was by reports that, while he was pretending by day to be a devoted husband caring for his cancer-stricken wife, he was creeping by night with his mistress.  He not only denied the affair but dismissed the very idea that he would ever make a sex tape with her as preposterous.  Yet he turned out to be a boldfaced liar on both counts.

    Then there’s this:

    I’ve seen enough clips to gather that host LL Cool J did a superb job of setting a tone that prevented the show from degenerating into a series of maudlin tributes to Whitney. His opening prayer was a classy, pithy touch.

    But why so many shots of her boy toy, Ray J? Especially since he was clearly looking to draw attention to himself by showing up just hours after Whitney’s death only to make a public display of his crocodile tears. The disassociated look on his sister Brandy’s face, as he was leaning on her throughout for “emotional” support, said it all. A grief-stricken boyfriend…? I think not. Hell, he’s so vain he probably thought the show was about him….

    (The Grammys: a postmortem, The iPINIONS Journal, February 13, 2012)

    But never mind this craven display, all one has to know about Ray J to believe these reports is that his only claim to fame is videotaping and then leaking that now infamous porno tape of Kim Kardashian and him.

    I create stars. So you know Kim was created… Now I’m off to a new project.

    (Examiner, February 23, 2011)

    Perhaps Whitney was his new project. After all, he probably knew better than anybody that she had so destroyed her voice with drugs that the only way she was ever going to make money by opening her mouth again was by fellating a venal exhibitionist like him.

    She reportedly ‘loved doting on him and would have done anything he asked – including making a sex tape.’

    (Daily Mail, March 21, 2012)

    This is why, despite his denial, I suspect he’s only trying to figure out when, not if, he’ll drop his latest hit(s) – Whitney’s memory, and her family’s sensibilities, be damned.

    Mind you, notwithstanding taboos against speaking ill of the dead, I am loath to blame Ray J. After all, Whitney had to have known what she was getting into – not just when she began letting him get into her, but especially when he revealed (one presumes) that he can only get it up if they are videotaping their sex acts….

    But at least Kim was alive to profit from the proceeds of this sexploitation. Whitney is dead. (And even if her heir Bobbi Kristina were entitled to her share, I fear she’d only end up blowing it on … blow.) Moreover, the only regret Ray J has ever expressed about his tape with Kim going viral is that all the focus on her fat ass made “him” look like a two-bit peanut.

    Therefore, whatever your prurient interest in seeing a drug-addled Whitney, hardly looking her best, doing the nasty with this hustler, just bear in mind that the tapes will likely make it clear that he thinks the act is about him … yuck!

    Sadly, the worldwide appetite for porn – especially featuring celebrities (a la Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee) – is so insatiable these days that Whitney in flagrante delicto would probably give that viral video on Joseph Kony a run for its money. More to the point, it would make Ray J very rich indeed.

    This is where Clive Davis comes in. Davis of course is the über music producer Whitney called Daddy and encouraged her daughter to call Grandpa.  More to the point, he made more money off Whitney’s music than she did.

    Therefore, if he has any regard for her memory or appreciation for all she gave him, he would negotiate a deal to purchase those tapes from Ray J – complete with ironclad promises that no others exist that can be stolen from his home or iPhone and “leaked” for sale online. That deal should also prohibit him from peddling a kiss-and-tell book about his relationship with Whitney, which he is no doubt planning to do.

    And, of course, Davis should then burn them as if burning away the last of the many demons that haunted Whitney during the last years of her life.

    Related commentaries:
    The Grammys: a postmortem

  • Wednesday, March 21, 2012 at 7:06 AM

    The Vigilante Killing of Black Teenager Trayvon Martin

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Over 9,000 people are murdered in the United States every year.  Therefore, it takes extraordinary circumstances – like a mother (Casey Anthony) killing her child – for any of them to become a cause celebre. The circumstances surrounding the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin are extraordinary to say the least. (One can be forgiven for thinking he was only 11 based on pictures now popping up everywhere….)

    Ironically, the facts are very straightforward and undisputed:

    Trayvon was shot dead on February 26 just yards from his home in Sanford, Florida by George Zimmerman, a trigger-happy neighborhood watchdog. Zimmerman claims that he feared Trayvon was an armed burglar on the prowl. In fact Trayvon was just walking home from a neighborhood store armed with nothing but his mobile phone, some skittles candy, and an iced tea.

    The reason these facts are undisputed is that a number of eyewitnesses called 911 when they heard Trayvon crying out in despair as cop-wannabe Zimmerman was attempting to detain/arrest him.  Indeed, that Trayvon could be heard crying “help, help” on the 911 tapes is what gives this case its heart-wrenching pathos. It is also what belies Zimmerman’s claim that he shot Trayvon in self-defense.

    Not to mention that Zimmerman’s own call to 911 indicts him. Because no matter the wild-west nature of Florida’s “stand-your-ground” self-defense law, that Zimmerman clearly stalked and then confronted Trayvon – after being told by the 911 operator not to – impeaches his claim.  And this is so even if Trayvon managed to knock him on his ass and bust his nose before Zimmerman shot him dead.

    Here is an excerpt from that damning 911 call:

    Zimmerman: Hey we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy… This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something.

    Dispatcher: OK, and this guy is he White, Black, or Hispanic?

    Zimmerman: He looks Black… These assholes they always get away… Shit he’s running…

    Dispatcher: Are you following him?

    Zimmerman: Yeah

    Dispatcher: Ok, we don’t need you to do that.

    Zimmerman: Ok… Fucking coons [aka “niggers” barely audible under his breath]….

    (Mother Jones, March 18, 2012)

    _________________

    Of course, we now know that he lied. Because he continued following Trayvon in “hot pursuit” – as if he were in fact a police officer. Which makes this provision in his own Neighborhood Watch guide so relevant:

    The manual from the Neighborhood Watch program states: ‘It should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers. And they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles.’

    (ABC News, March 20, 2012)

    What’s more, there was late-breaking news today that Trayvon was on the phone with his teenage girlfriend from the time Zimmerman began following him to when he physically confronted him. According to reports, she says they were merely engaging in puppy-love talk before he expressed concern about some man following him, and that it was she who told him to run home.

    The point is that her account belies all of Zimmerman’s alleged suspicions about Trayvon casing places to burglarize. Not least because it includes her actually hearing Zimmerman commanding to know “what are you doing around here?” and Trayvon repeatedly pleading “why you following me?” … until a scuffle breaks out and Trayvon’s phone goes dead.

    Given these facts and circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the failure of the Sanford police to arrest him has caused such national and international outrage.  Never mind that, but for this story going viral on social media, the local Police Chief Bill Lee would probably have gotten away with declaring this shooting justified.  As things stand, however, Zimmerman is now almost as much a wanted man as Joseph Kony … remember him?

    No doubt this notoriety and calls for protesters to descend upon Sanford are what forced not just the Florida state attorney general but even the Department of Justice today to announce plans to launch separate investigations. And I am convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the outcome will be Zimmerman’s arrest, trial, and conviction in due course.

    Incidentally, his attorney is bound to assert an insanity defense given Zimmerman’s psychotic suspicion of Black males – evidenced by reports that he made over 40 false-alarm calls to 911 over the past year to report Blacks on the prowl. But there’s a legal chasm between being certifiably insane and being a vigilante bigot.  His insanity defense will fail; not least because he not only knew the difference between right and wrong, the 911 operator made it clear to him that just following this kid was wrong.

    In the meantime, his family members are laboring to disabuse the public of the reasonable suspicion that Zimmerman was racially motivated.  They cite his Hispanic heritage, Black family members, and Black friends as evidence in this respect. Except that anyone who does not think Hispanics can be racist towards Blacks should speak with Blacks who experience this form of racism every day in certain areas of Miami.

    I must confess though that much of the outrage fueling Blacks like me is the Jim-Crow realization that there but for the grace of God, go I … or my son.

    All the same, I am concerned about firebrands like Reverend Al Sharpton making this more a case about Black civil rights than about the murder of an innocent Black kid – in a cold-blooded case of vigilante justice. After all, the last thing this country needs is to have Blacks and Hispanics becoming polarized along racial lines in this case the way Blacks and Whites were after O.J. Simpson murdered his wife and her best friend.

    Not to mention that proving this was a civil rights violation instead of manslaughter is fraught with legal hurdles and factual uncertainties (i.e., his racial profiling and epithets do not necessarily amount to race-based malice in this case.)

    Accordingly, I urge Sharpton to enlist Hispanic leaders to lock arms with him on his “no justice, no peace” march on Thursday to diffuse any sparks of racial conflict between these two minority groups before race-based emotions explode.

    That said, perhaps the only good thing that will come out of this case is that the Florida legislature (with prodding from the Department of Justice) will be compelled to modify or even repeal its stand-your-ground law, which emboldens people to shoot to kill based merely on their subjective fears.  Especially since the Sanford police seem to think that it’s okay to use deadly force even if that fear is not of personal bodily harm, but of Black kids just walking home in their own neighborhood.

    In fact, given the way this police department botched (or covered up) this case, I’d be shocked if these state and federal investigations do not end with Chief Lee losing his job … or worse. Why, for example, did he order the dead boy to be tested for drugs and alcohol but not the shooter…?

    * This commentary was originally published on Tuesday, March 20, at 8:26 pm

  • Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 5:13 AM

    Denver Broncos: We Want Peyton; Tebow Can Go to Hell

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am pretty sure this phenomenon will die a media death this weekend when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots show Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos, in convincing fashion, that winning Football games has absolutely nothing to do with how much of a spectacle one makes of praying to God.

    (“The Divine Tim Tebow? Puhleeese!” The iPINIONS Journal, January 12, 2012)

    Well, Brady and the Patriots vindicated my prediction by beating the hell out of Tebow and the Broncos 45-10 in their January playoff game.

    Now the Denver Broncos are making this prediction seem positively divine by signing Peyton Manning to replace Tim Tebow. Because this not only exposes Tebow as nothing more than the passing media fad I said he was, but also reinforces what seems to have been lost in the hype surrounding him: namely, that teams would rather rely on a player’s talent than his prayer to win Football games.

    That said, I have no doubt that some other team will be happy to exploit what little remains of the “tebowing” phenomenon by signing Tebow to hang out on the side lines like a de facto mascot.

    But whatever you do, don’t blame Peyton for this. Because, like any good Christian, Tebow knows: God’s will be done.

    Related commentaries:
    The divine Tim Tebow

  • Monday, March 19, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    U.S. Soldiers No More Trustworthy than Taliban Fighters?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The United States’ legacy there will be distinguished either by a terminally wounded national pride as American forces beat a hasty retreat in defeat (following the Russian precedent in Afghanistan), or by thousands of American soldiers being lost in Afghanistan’s ‘graveyard of empires’ as they continue fighting this unwinnable war (following America’s own precedent in Vietnam). More troops only mean more sitting ducks for Taliban fighters…

    Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and run ASAP; to let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and to rely on Special Forces and aerial drones to ‘disrupt and dismantle’ Taliban and al-Qaeda operations there.

    (“‘Without (or even with) more forces, failure in Afghanistan is likely,’” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2009)

    I have written many commentaries lamenting the way the United States is doggedly repeating in Afghanistan all of the mistakes of Vietnam – including committing battlefield atrocities that make U.S. soldiers look even more barbaric than the barbarians they were/are purportedly fighting to civilize (i.e., democratize).

    Therefore, it is hardly surprising that I now have just cause to draw damning comparisons between the recent massacre of unarmed civilians by a U.S. soldier in Panjwai, Afghanistan and the infamous massacre by U.S. soldiers of unarmed civilians in My Lai, Vietnam.

    For just as My Lai exposed how the never-ending quagmire and folly of that war caused such fatigue and (dis)stress that soldiers started going berserk; Panjwai has now done the same.  Moreover, just as My Lai proved to be the tipping point – not just when Americans began calling in earnest for the troops to come home but even when America’s Vietnamese allies began demanding they go home; Panjwai is proving to be the very same tipping point.

    In the meantime, nothing demonstrates how much this war has wounded American’s national pride quite like Marines being forced last week to disarm before entering a tent to hear a pep talk from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

    There’s no denying the irony, lunacy, and insult inherent in U.S. officials (political and military) fearing that, because one soldier went berserk and killed a bunch of Afghans, another might and kill the secretary. (Reports are that a commander on the ground issued the disarm order. But he clearly issued it to ease the anxieties of visiting political dignitaries like Panetta.)

    But every soldier must have resented the realization that this stupid and unwinnable war has so alienated them from “home sweet home” that their own commanders do not trust them any more than they trust Taliban fighters.

    Indeed, just imagine the untenable spectacle of U.S. military commanders now being so spooked by the specter of PTSD that the commander in chief, President Obama, can no longer risk greeting his own troops in the hermetically sealed confines of a U.S. army base if they are armed.

    Mind you these are the same troops Obama orders to risk their lives every day patrolling villages like Panjwai, where every kid with a smile on his face can be a Taliban decoy for the roadside bomb that has been set to blow them to smithereens.

    This folks is just one of the shameful legacies of the war in Afghanistan.

    I believe I have fairly well established in commentaries dating back to October 2006 that nobody has been and remains a more ardent supporter of Barack Obama than I. This is why it pains me to assert that his decision to escalate this war will prove as grave a military blunder as George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

    Related commentaries:
    U.S. soldier goes postal

    * This commentary was originally published on Sunday, March 18, at 9:42 am

  • Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, March 16, 2012 at 5:41 AM

    Latest Hollywood Trend: White Actresses Adopting Black Babies?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I resented it years ago when Madonna and Angelina Jolie appeared to be adopting Black babies as little more than a celebrity perk.

    Therefore, it does not surprise me that there’s growing resentment among Blacks over the recent adoptions of Black babies by Sandra Bullock (of The Blind Side), Kristin Davis (of Sex and the City), and Mariska Hargitay (of Law and Order SVU). Indeed, Blacks can be forgiven for thinking that this is just the latest Hollywood trend.

    But I only harbored my resentment for a minute before coming to the more enlightened view that:

    [I]t behooves Madonna’s critics – especially Black Americans – to atone for their collective sin of abandoning so many Black American children to foster care (to say nothing of showing absolutely no interest in the welfare of millions of abandoned babies in Africa) before casting stones at her…

    Because it is undeniable that, by adopting him, Madonna will do more for David, his village, and his entire country than the whole bunch of her sanctimonious critics combined.

    (“Madonna and Black Child: Why All the Fuss,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 18, 2006)

    There’s also this: Search any database of “waiting families” looking to adopt a Black child and you’ll find mostly White faces staring out at you.  And we know all too well the many socio-economic and cultural reasons why there are so many Black children in foster care and so few Blacks willing or able to adopt them.

    This is why I urge Blacks who resent Charlize Theron (of Monster) adopting a Black American child this week to put aside their racial prejudice just long enough to think of the best interest of this child.

    After all, even if she’s just a rich White girl who believes her money can satisfy her maternal instincts as readily as it can her material desires, Charlize will likely give this child the kind of life most kids in foster care (Black or White) can only dream of.

    By the way, the only people who can have any concern about these Black kids of White parents learning about Black culture are those who have been hiding under a rock for the past two decades. Because during this period Black culture became ubiquitous in and inseparable from the greater White culture.

    Not to mention that these kids are likely to be educated in such a way that they’ll end up knowing far more about Black history than most kids born into all-Black families. And, hey, Barack Obama turned out okay.

    Of course, that Charlize also happens to hail from South Africa is replete with such obvious ironies that they require no comment.

    NOTE: Though once taboo and even illegal, trans-racial and single-parent adoptions (especially by rich White women) have become relatively routine in the United States. No doubt to encourage Americans to adopt American babies instead of flying abroad to do so in places like China and Russia.

    Related commentaries:
    Madonna and Black child

  • Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 5:32 AM

    Jon Hamm Was Wrong … and Right about Kim Kardashian

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Whether it’s Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian or whoever, stupidity is certainly celebrated. Being a fucking idiot is a valuable commodity in this culture because you’re rewarded significantly… It’s celebrated. It doesn’t make sense to me.

    This was Mad Men star Jon Hamm playing social critic in an interview in the current edition of Elle (UK) magazine.

    Interestingly enough, it’s a reflection of the superficial groupthink that passes for public opinion these days that so many people are treating him like Rush Limbaugh’s mini-me. Specifically, they are drawing a moral and intellectual equivalence between Rush calling Sandra Fluke a “slut [and] a prostitute” and Jon implying that Kim Kardashian is “a fucking idiot.”

    No doubt they were both wrong: not necessarily for calling women vile names (after all, some women invite and deserve them), but for using vile names for these women that were so plainly unwarranted … in each case. If Jon had chosen Rush’s word “slut” to describe Kim, for example, he would not have been all that wrong.

    Instead, Jon was wrong for calling Kim an “idiot” because nobody can deny that it took considerable intelligence to parlay her slutty behavior into a multi-million dollar (family) business.

    I remind you that the only thing anybody knew about the Kardashians (i.e., before Kim used a sex tape as seed money to launch the Kardashian brand in the parallel universe of reality-TV and faux celebrity) was that her father Robert was one of the legal shysters who got O.J. off. Now, while you’re sitting like a couch potato and laughing at what so-called idiots they are, Kim and the Kardashians are laughing all the way to the bank.

    What’s more, Kim even demonstrated that a slut can have some class too when she responded to Jon’s diss on Monday (via her very lucrative, thousands-per-tweet Twitter page) as follows:

    I just heard about the comment Jon Hamm made about me in an interview. I respect Jon and I am a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that not everyone takes the same path in life. We’re all working hard and we all have to respect one another. Calling someone who runs their own businesses, is a part of a successful TV show, produces, writes, designs, and creates, ‘stupid,’ is in my opinion careless.

    By contrast, if Jon had any class he would have either let his interview speak for itself or apologize for the obvious offense his words caused her. Instead, he came across  as a little too full of himself when he offered this glib (Rush-like) non-apology apology:

    I don’t know Ms. Kardashian, I know her public persona. What I said was meant to be more on pervasiveness of something in our culture, not personal, but she took offense to it and that is her right.

    (EW, March 14, 2012)

    Frankly, based on their exchange, he seems a bigger idiot than he thinks she is.

    On the other hand, Jon was right about the way reality-TV is dumbing down our culture. And it’s clear that he only cited Kim for the same reason one might only cite Lady Gaga to make a point about the way singers are becoming more famous for the distractions they create off stage than for the songs they sing on stage. (Thank God for Adele!) Jon could very easily have cited, for example, the celebutarts (Snooki) and celebuturds (The Situation) of The Jersey Shore.

    Ironically, that people are only talking about his incidental insult of Kim and not about this more salient point reflects the cultural stupidity he decried. But Jon is by no means alone in decrying the popularity and influence of people like Kim. For here is what yours truly wrote in this respect years ago:

    [T]he Salahis’ perverse celebrity explains why a father would risk his 16-year-old daughter’s life by having her sail around the world alone, or why another would blow hot air to the police about his 6-year-old son flying off in a homemade balloon, all just to appear on reality-TV. In fact, reality-TV has made celebrity so commonplace that the proverbial 15 minutes of fame only serves as an audition now for the season or two of fame these common folk now covet.

    (“White House Gate-Crashers Now Stars of Reality-TV,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 21, 2010)

    And again here:

    [O]ne of the two Lakers ejected for committing a flagrant foul was Lamar Odom. But, unlike the other player, he probably did it as much out of frustration as out of some perverse attempt to create more ratings-grabbing fodder for Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the  reality-TV show on which he appears as a two-bit player alongside his wife Khloe Kardashian.

    Yes folks, our social values have become so screwed up that it’s entirely credible to assert that a multimillionaire basketball player would willfully demean himself and undermine his team on the court just to boost ratings for his reality TV show.

    (“Jackson Resigns After Lakers Swept…,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 10, 2011)

    Beyond this, though, that the ratio of people who know all about this spat between a “clown for hire” and a celebutart but nothing about this week’s state visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron is 1000 to 1 speaks volumes about the extent to which the cult of celebrity has so twisted our national interests.  (FYI, Leonardo DiCaprio endeared himself to critics of our celebrity-obsessed world when he was quoted in the March 12, 2012 edition of The Sun saying that “Actors are really just clowns for hire.”)

    All the same, it’s a reflection of how fleeting faux celebrity is that nobody seems to have noticed that Jon also damned Paris Hilton. And considering that Paris is probably seething with combustible envy over Kim getting all of this attention, this flashback is for her:

    It’s a sad commentary on the state of world affairs that the diplomatic initiatives of a rock star or Hollywood actress are taken more seriously than those of a seasoned statesman. But that is the perverse reality… Alas, worshiping celebrities is not merely the avocation of giddy teenage girls; because world leaders seem equally enthralled by these latter-day performing saints…

    Now if we can only get Paris Hilton to take-up the cause of nuclear non-proliferation.

    (“Celebrity-Obsessed World Has Made Actors and Rock Stars the Statesmen of Our Time,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 23, 2005)

    That’s a wrap.

    Related commentaries:
    Rush Limbaugh humbled
    Kim files for divorce
    White House gate-crashers
    Jackson resigns
    Celebrity obssesssed world

  • Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 5:57 AM

    March Gladness: My Picks for the NCAA (Women’s) Final Four

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    From linsanity to bracketology….

    I am disappointed that, after filling out the men’s brackets, the sports-fanatic and politically savvy Obama did not take a few minutes to have ESPN broadcast him filling out the women’s brackets as well. Of course this assumes that women’s college basketball would have even figured in his consciousness or in that of the ESPN producers on this occasion.

    Indeed, I’m willing to bet that if you were to find ten sports fans who dutifully filled out the men’s brackets, at least nine of them would concede that they did not do the same for the women’s.

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

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

    Sorry girls….

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

    That was three years ago. And, sadly, little has changed since then. Except that I suppose women should be glad that President Obama reserved a few minutes after filling out the men’s brackets this year to fill out the women’s too.

    In any case, here are my picks:

    Related commentaries:
    Women’s championship

  • Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 5:48 AM

    U.S. Soldier Goes Postal in Afghanistan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt it’s a tragedy that a U.S. soldier marched into an Afghan village on Sunday and slaughtered 16 people in their sleep; especially so because among the casualties were nine children, including a two year old. But there’s something perversely American about this shooting rampage. After all, people (even soldiers) “going postal” like this in the United States has become almost as American as Baseball and Apple Pie.

    Granted, this is hardly what President Bush had in mind when he set out in 2001 to remake Afghanistan in America’s image.  But there’s no denying that U.S. soldiers are no closer to winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people (let alone establishing a Jeffersonian democracy) today than they were 10 years ago.

    Meanwhile, just as they did after other notorious incidents recently (namely, soldiers pissing on the bodies of slain Afghans and others torching copies of the Quran), the Taliban are already doing all they can to incite Afghans to take revenge on U.S. troops, many of whom are stationed throughout the country like sitting ducks.

    Americans often wonder with righteous indignation why it is so easy for the Taliban to manipulate so many (illiterate) people in Afghanistan this way. But surely the greater wonder is why it is so easy for right-wing Republicans to manipulate so many (purportedly literate) people in America this way. After all, a recent poll by Public Policy Polling showed that over 80 percent of voters in Mississippi either think President Obama is a Muslim or are not sure if he is the Christian he has repeatedly professed to be. But I digress….

    The point is that this latest incident is causing even war-hawk Republicans like Newt Gingrich to openly question why the hell U.S. troops are still there…?

    I think it’s going to get substantially worse, not better, and I think that we are risking young men and women in a mission that may frankly not be doable.

    (Gingrich, CNN, March 11, 2012)

    No shit! But I was warning it would be thus long before Obama decided to escalate this patently unwinnable war. And nothing proves how foolhardy and deadly his decision was quite like tolls showing that more than two-thirds of the almost 2,000 troops who have died in the killing fields of Afghanistan since 2001 have died in just the three years since the “Obama surge” in 2009.  And for what?!

    The United States’ legacy there will be distinguished either by a terminally wounded national pride as American forces beat a hasty retreat in defeat (following the Russian precedent in Afghanistan), or by thousands of American soldiers being lost in Afghanistan’s ‘graveyard of empires’ as they continue fighting this unwinnable war (following America’s own precedent in Vietnam). More troops only mean more sitting ducks for Taliban fighters…

    Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and run ASAP; to let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and to rely on Special Forces and aerial drones to ‘disrupt and dismantle’ Taliban and al-Qaeda operations there.

    (“‘Without (or even with) more forces, failure in Afghanistan is likely,’” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2009)

    Again, that was over two years ago folks. Which means that I cannot be among those Obama is now dismissing as reckless for advocating a “rush to the exits that could endanger America’s interests.” Frankly, he seems to channel Sarah Palin whenever he’s asked to explain exactly what American interests are being served by having so many troops there. In fact nothing is more reckless than sending a soldier with obvious signs of PTSD back into a war zone for a fourth tour of duty – as was reportedly done with the soldier in this case.

    What’s more, I’m on record warning as early as September 18, 2006 (in Afghanistan: Snatching Defeat from the Hands of Victory) that America’s misadventure in Iraq had allowed Taliban fighters to regroup to such a degree that they had become more than capable of terminally undermining all U.S. efforts at nation building in Afghanistan.  Yet here we are….

    All of which begs the question … again: why is America continuing to suffer these kinds of indignities, to say nothing of the loss of life and treasure, for a cause that is making its misadventure in Vietnam seem beneficial, prudent, and honorable?

    (U.S. Apologies Add Insult to Folly of Afghan War, The iPINIONS Journal, February 23, 2012)

    Despite this, 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain insists that U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan for 100 years if that’s what it takes to “complete the mission.”

    Of course, this is the same trigger-happy senator who recently challenged the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, to tell the world how many more people will have to die in Syria before the United States intervenes there too.

    God help the people dying in Syria. But I challenge McCain to tell the American people how many more of their sons and daughters will have to die in Afghanistan before he realizes that they are being sacrificed for a lost cause….

    NOTE: It is curious, perhaps even craven that U.S. officials are offering more abject apologies to the “noble people of Afghanistan” without ever uttering the word “apologize”. No doubt this is because Obama does not want Republicans ranting all over the airways about how weak it makes America look for him to apologize for anything any American does – no matter how unconscionable.

    Related commentaries:
    Afghanistan: snatching defeat
    U.S. apologies add insult

  • Monday, March 12, 2012 at 5:51 AM

    March Madness: My Picks for the NCAA Final Four

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    To be honest, 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 following how teams are faring in the tournament brackets has become as obligatory for political/social/cultural commentators as it is for sports analysts.

    Indeed, it’s an indication of the sheer madness this tournament incites that President Obama makes an annual  show of filling out his brackets, and  this year (i.e., tomorrow) he’s dragging British PM David Cameron along to Dayton, Ohio to watch a first-round game.

    Poor Cameron, even though he will be like a veritable fish out of water, he’ll have to sit there and pretend to be having male-bonding fun with Obama: imagine a typical New Yorker being dragged along to watch a cricket match while drinking warm beer over in the UK….

    Anyway, here are my picks:

  • Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 7:17 AM

    WTF: Colts Release Peyton Manning?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Is there any wonder there’s no team loyalty left in professional sports?

    Hell, if the Indianapolis Colts can get rid of Peyton Manning after all he did – not just for the team but for the city as well, then who can blame a player like Baseball’s Albert Pujols for ignoring loyalty to the St. Louis Cardinals to sign with the team that offered him the most money. Think also of Basketball’s Michael Jordan leaving the Chicago Bulls and Football’s Bret Favre leaving the Green Bay Packers….

    In this case, despite all of his emotional tributes, the owner of the Colts made it clear during his farewell to Peyton this week that professional sports is all business: Implicit in his decision was his consideration that Peyton was forced to miss all of last season getting a series of neck surgeries; that, even though doctors have given him a clean bill of health, he’s now a relatively old 36; that not releasing him would have meant paying him a $28-million bonus; and that releasing him meant that the team could draft the top quarterback (Andrew Luck of Stanford) and begin its rebuilding under him this year.

    The bottom line is that the owner would rather have a younger player for less than half the price … loyalty to Peyton be damned – despite 14 years of service during which he raised the team’s market value by over $200 million, got the city to build it a new stadium, and took it to the Super Bowl twice (winning it all in 2006).

    But instead of being put out to pasture, Peyton made it clear during his surreal press conference with the Colts’ owner that he’s determined to continue playing. And nothing indicates how impressive he remains quite like the Denver Broncos being first in line to solicit his services. Which of course betrays just how little loyalty the Broncos have to its over-hyped quarterback Tim “tebowing” Tebow.

  • Friday, March 9, 2012 at 5:33 AM

    The Politics of Gas

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [T]he reason I use quotes from previous commentaries is to distinguish myself from all of the other pundits and commentators who will say anything to ‘look good’. What is particularly galling is that they have no qualms about saying something today that completely contradicts what they said just days ago. And they get away with it because most people these days have the intellectual memory of scatterbrained gnats.

    (Making Up Quotes to Look Good? The iPINIONS Journal, October 5, 2011)

    To listen to President Obama’s critics go on about his failure to reduce the price of gas, you’d think he was a closet Arab Sheik conspiring with OPEC to profit off America’s addition to foreign oil.

    Here, though, is how Obama dismissed their patently absurd criticisms  when questioned about high gas prices (at a national average today of $3.75) by FOX News’ Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry on Tuesday:

    Just from a political perspective, do you think the president of the United States going into re-election wants gas prices to go up higher? Is that … is there anybody here who thinks that makes a lot of sense?

    Here’s the bottom line with respect to gas prices.  I want gas prices lower because they hurt families … it’s a tax out of their pocketbooks, out of their paychecks. And a lot of folks are already operating on the margins right now.

    (Washington Post, March 6, 2012)

    Yet no critic has blamed Obama for high gas prices with more self-righteous indignation than Bill O’Reilly of FOX News.  And here is how he brazenly denied the obvious flaw in this blame during an appearance on The View just yesterday – as reported by MEDIAite:

    Joy Behar: Americans know that the prices have nothing to do with Obama it has to do with world affairs. Everybody knows that.

    O’Reilly: I don’t know that… I don’t know that….

    Except that here, courtesy of yesterday’s The Ed Show on MSNBC,  is what O’Reilly said in 2008 when rising prices were hurting the presidency of George W. Bush and undermining the campaign of his putative Republican successor John McCain:

    No president has the power to increase or lower gas prices. Those are market forces! It has nothing to do with the president. Yesterday oil hit a record high, and politicians can’t do a thing about it. The next time you hear a politician say he or she will bring down oil prices, understand it’s complete B.S. If Americans want lower gas prices, cut back. Sell those SUVs. Ride a bike when you can.

    Obama could not have said it better himself. But, as I wrote in my opening quote, gasbags like O’Reilly get on television and flatulate boldfaced, hypocritical lies for purely partisan political reasons. And, yes, they fully expect to get away with it every time.

    Let me hasten to clarify, however, that pro-Republican hacks are not the only ones who pollute the airways with noxious fumes. After all, the only reason O’Reilly gave that no-spin defense in 2008 is that pro-Democratic hacks were hurling the same patently absurd criticisms at Bush for failing to reduce the price of gas that Obama’s critics are hurling at him today.

    A pox on both their houses….

    Related commentaries:
    Making up quotes

  • Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 5:03 AM

    Tweeting the Genocidal Joseph Kony to Death?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It speaks volumes about the confluence of virtual reality and reality that erstwhile sensible people seem convinced that a one-day chain of celebrity tweets can do more to defeat Africa’s most brutal guerrilla fighter, Joseph Kony, than foot soldiers who have been on non-stop search-and-kill missions to get him for more than a decade.

    Specifically, much is being made in the media this week about the U.S.-based group Invisible Children deploying tweets to “bring an end to [Kony’s] Lords Resistance Army.” To this end, this once-obscure group is making headlines for enlisting celebrities like Taylor Swift and Rihanna to tweet pithy messages tagged “#StopKony2012” to their millions of followers.

    These tweets also link to a slick video that chronicles Kony’s crimes against humanity in propaganda fashion that makes Hitler seem sympathetic. However, for an audience whose attention span is limited to 140 characters or a 90-second video, I doubt more than a handful of people will bother to watch the entire 30 minutes of this Kony documentary.

    Frankly, Invisible Children’s entire campaign smacks of little more than a feel-good PR stunt (perhaps even a misleading ploy to raise funds for administrative rather than charitable purposes). In fact, I would wager a fair amount of my pride that if you were to ask Rihanna or any of her followers a week from today who Joseph Kony is, they would react as if you asked what the Higgs Boson is….

    Though, to be charitable, I suppose Invisible Children’s thinking is that if pro-democracy protesters could use Facebook to depose Mubarak, then idle-minded twitterers can use Twitter to “Stop Kony” (whatever that means).

    Except that Facebook was useful only insofar as it enabled people on the ground in Egypt to organize mass protests on a persistent basis, which ended up posing a direct, immediate, and demonstrably untenable threat to the Mubarak regime. Whereas, apart from placing Kony in the same black hole of public consciousness where Darfur and African famine reside, I don’t see the point of this Twitter campaign.

    For example, does anyone think a similar campaign would have helped in any way to bring an end to Osama bin Laden? I think not.

    On the other hand, the folks at Invisible Children should take hope from President Obama’s decision (reported in the October 14, 2011 edition of the Washington Post) to deploy U.S. Special Forces to assist local forces in their ongoing hunt for Kony.

    In the meantime, lest I come across as just a bystander pooh-poohing Invisible Children’s efforts, what follows is a reprise of If You Think Idi Amin Was Evil, Meet Joseph Kony. I wrote it six years ago (on March 27, 2006), when this genocidal maniac was committing the worst of his crimes and the Ugandan people would have welcomed the moral and financial support now being orchestrated ostensibly on their behalf.

    ____________________

    Guerrilla warfare has been as commonplace (and un-newsworthy) in Africa over the past three decades as suicide bombings have become in Iraq over the past three years. And, tragically, it is not an anomaly for children to be on the front lines of the bloody struggles that have made Africa the most war-ravaged continent in the world.

    (I lamented in Genocide in the DR Congo: Rwanda With a Vengeance, The iPINIONS Journal, April 6, 2006 the plight of child soldiers who must kill or be killed in the ongoing insurgency in DR Congo.)

    Therefore, it is truly a testament to the venality of Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony that his name incites revulsion and fear that most Africans have not experienced since, well, the brutal reign of former Ugandan President Idi Amin 30 years ago.

    Kony is a former altar boy who, in 1987, assumed the mantle of messianic leadership in the Lords Resistance Army to continue their rebellion against the Ugandan government, which has raged now for 20 years.

    Unlike most rebels (like Jonas Savimbi of Angola or Laurent Kabila of Zaire) – who at least claimed a political mission to liberate their people from government oppression – Kony wants to turn Uganda into a Taliban-style state based not on Sharia law, but on strict adherence to the Ten Commandments – all ten of which he violates every day….

    Actually, Kony’s so-called army is to Uganda what the Medellin drug cartel is to Columbia: an organized group of thugs who have successfully co-opted every facet of life in a small area of a big country. In this case, Kony has become the Carlos Escobar of the Ugandan town of Lira.

    But where drug lords intimidate, bribe, and kill government officials to help facilitate their illicit trade, Kony kidnaps, tortures, and kills innocent children (as young as 10). Those who survive his pederastic initiation “become soldiers in his army and then go on to kidnap, torture, and kill other children” in this cycle of unspeakable depravity that has plagued Northern Uganda for almost two decades.

    In fact, The Lancet medical journal reports that, over this period, Kony’s gang has kidnapped an estimated “20,000 children to serve as fighters, porters and sex slaves.”

    All too often we blame the legacy of colonialism for the problems that beset so many countries in Africa. Yet it is undeniable that kleptocracy (e.g., Nigeria), ethnic rivalries (Rwanda), and pandemic incompetence are far more to blame. Moreover, nothing in the annals of European colonialism can account for what Kony is doing to fellow Africans in Uganda, what Robert Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe, and what Charles Taylor did in Liberia.

    I first read about Joseph Kony about 10 years ago. But it wasn’t until I read a cautionary exposé on him by Christopher Hitchens in the January 2006 issue of Vanity Fair that I got a real appreciation for the depth and scope of his atrocities. However, I’m not so naïve as to think that anything Hitchens or I write about Kony will have any impact on his rampaging activities in Lira. But for those who struggle with feelings of inefficacy in the face of such inhumanity, here’s what you can do:

    A very reputable NGO in Gulu provides safe houses for the children of Lira who walk miles to sleep there every night to avoid being kidnapped from their homes by Kony’s night bandits. I urge you to google “night commuters” to read more about these children and to see how you can help fund their safety until Kony is captured or killed….

    NOTE: Here’s a Ugandan boy’s drawing of a Lord’s Resistance Army attack on his village. Unfortunately, such images comprise the nightmares of Ugandan children as much as images of playing sports comprise the dreams of American children:

    Related commentaries:
    If you think Idi Amin was bad, meet Joseph Kony
    Genocide in DR Congo

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