• Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 6:57 AM

    Republicans: Beware, Obamacare more Trick than Treat

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 7.59.05 PM

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  • Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    Legalize Marijuana!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Just last week, Gallup released a poll showing that 58 percent of Americans think that marijuana usage should be made legal, which is the first time in U.S. history that more than half of Americans have expressed support for legalization.

    (Huffington Post, October 29, 2013)

    Of course, far more compelling are data repeatedly showing that drinking alcohol, which is legal, is not only more hazardous to your health, but also more likely to cause you to kill other people than smoking marijuana.

    A direct comparison of alcohol and cannabis [aka marijuana] showed that alcohol was considered to be more than twice as harmful as cannabis to [individual] users, and five times more harmful as cannabis to others (society).

    (‘Journal of Psychopharmacology,’ January 27, 2012)

    Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 8.07.07 AMApropos of harmful to society, I’ve been advocating decriminalizing the use of marijuana for as long as I can remember for the simple reason that, like prostitution, doing it is a (relatively) victimless crime.

    According to an October 19, 2010 report in Business & Law, legalizing drugs would save the U.S. government approximately $41.3 billion annually on expenditures related to the enforcement of prohibition and yield tax revenues of $46.7 billion based on tax rates comparable to those currently levied on tobacco and alcohol.

    Not to mention that it would release hundreds of thousands [mostly Blacks and Latinos] from prison who are now serving time not for drug violence, but merely for drug possession and use.

    (“Legalize Drugs!” The iPINIONS Journal, October 20, 2011)

    And, by the way, just as there was no direct correlation between ending Prohibition and binge drinking, there won’t be any between decriminalizing marijuana and bong chiefing….

    In the meantime, I repeat my lament that, ever since Prohibition (1919-1933), all reasonable people should have developed an instructive appreciation of this variation on George Santayana’s famous quote: those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    In this respect, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that North Korea is the only country where not just marijuana use, but its cultivation and sale are all legalized.

    Conspicuously, despite Jamaica’s vaunted reputation as a ganja paradise, use, cultivation, and sale are all illegal there. It is noteworthy, though, that its parliament began redressing this cultural anomaly just weeks ago by passing a motion to decriminalize marijuana.

    I should also note that medicinal use of marijuana is legal (or decriminalized) in many countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and some states in the United States, where recreational use is illegal.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 4:53 AM

    PSA: Parents Who Let Kids Drink Are Not All Irresponsible

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As attorney general, Douglas F. Gansler is Maryland’s chief law-enforcement officer. More importantly, he seemed destined to be its governor after elections next year.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 7.30.58 AMBut Gansler’s electoral prospect changed last week when a picture showing him in the midst of underage kids dancing and drinking at a “Beach Week” party went viral. It looks like a scene from Animal House.

    Mind you, I suspect most voters (parents and voting-age kids alike) would have shown empathetic support if Gansler had affirmatively explained that:

    The party came at the end of a weeklong trip Gansler and other parents helped organize and finance for a dozen boys [including his son] who had just graduated from the Landon School, a private school for boys in Bethesda.

    Written rules given to the teens who were staying at the house for the week forbade drinking ‘hard liquor,’ but included no such instructions about beer.

    (The Baltimore Sun, October 25, 2013)

    After all, not only are these beach week parties for recent high school graduates a widely observed tradition, but most parents (who drink) routinely let their kids (age 17-19) drink alcohol … under their supervision.

    Indeed, the only reason Gansler was snapped in the midst of this party scene is that he and other parents were doing all any responsible parent could do in the circumstances: acting as chaperones by enforcing a list of 13 agreed upon house rules that, ironically, seemed drawn up for a teenage slumber party. In addition to “no hard liquor or controlled substances,” those 2013 Beach Week Rules – Final included, most significantly:

    NO DRIVING! All car keys will be held by chaperones. Chaperones will drive when necessary.

    (Washington Post, October 25, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 6.43.21 PMUnfortunately, instead of defending his actions as those of a responsible parent, Gansler tried to deny the obvious, suggesting that he was “shocked, shocked” to learn that there was drinking going on:

    Perhaps I should have assumed there was drinking going on, and I got that wrong. There could be Kool-Aid in the red cups, but there’s probably beer in the red cups… I made a mistake.

    (Gansler Press Conference, Washington Post, October 24, 2013)

    But if he does not have the courage and integrity to defend the rules of his own home, he clearly does not have the courage and integrity to defend the laws of his state. He has certainly forfeited his moral authority to lead. He may have even forfeited his moral authority to parent….

    All the same, his cowardice presents a teachable moment for all parents. For I can’t imagine anything more damaging to a child’s character development than to see his parent telling boldfaced lies for financial, or even worse, political reasons.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 8.26.48 PMBut let me hasten to clarify that I am not condoning underage drinking. I am only asserting that it’s misguided and foolhardy for parents who routinely allow their kids to do so to pretend otherwise.

    After all, if a 17-year old can enlist in the army, with parental consent, to go off to war, why shouldn’t that 17-year old be allowed to drink alcohol, with parental consent, to have a good time?

    Gansler should have had the balls to tell the truth and suffer the consequences, just as any of us would want our kids to do. Again, chances are very good that doing so would have proved more of an electoral asset than a liability – with most voters thinking, there but for the grace of God go I.

    For the record, even though I believe all drugs should be decriminalized, I believe there’s a dispositive moral distinction between parents allowing their kids to use narcotics (including marijuana) and allowing them to drink alcohol. Not least because using narcotics is per se illegal; whereas drinking alcohol is only illegal in this case because an arbitrary and arguably hypocritical law makes it so for anyone under 21.

    The “age of consent” is fraught with all kinds of inherent inconsistencies. But when it comes to alcohol, my allusion above to serving in the military makes clear that setting it at 21, instead of 17, is patently untenable.

    I fully appreciate that law-abiding purists (especially MADD members) will find my take on underage drinking utterly irresponsible. But consider this: Like most people, these purists probably drive above the speed limit, which is per se illegal, every time they get behind the wheel.

    Therefore, how do you suppose they explain breaking this law so cavalierly to their kids? Especially given the definitive study by the NHMRC Road Accident Research Unit (1997), which found that risk of involvement in a casualty crash doubles with each 3mph over the speed limit….

  • Monday, October 28, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    Computer Glitches Undermine Obamacare, but Indict Republican Fare

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’m on record stating (as I did most recently on October 17 in “Republicans Grant 90-Day Reprieve from Economic Armageddon”) that everything from the 2008 financial crisis to the 2013 government shutdown seems pursuant to an open conspiracy to make America look like a dysfunctional Banana Republic.

    Why? To propagate a specious correlation between America’s waning influence and prestige around the world and the election of its first Black president, hoping to ensure that no Black would ever be elected president again. Never mind that the Republican politicians and conservative talking heads propagating this correlation are the only ones responsible for making America look like a dysfunctional Banana Republic.

    ted-cruz-mad-hatterToo cynical, you think? Well, what else do you think explains Republicans deciding just hours after Obama won the presidency that their number one objective is not to help make the country better, but to make him a failed, one-term president? What else do you think explains their pathological commitment to this objective being such that all Republicans want to do is repeal or defund the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), which guarantees 40-50 million of their fellow citizens the basic human right of affordable healthcare?

    This is all that counts for Republican political fare these days, notwithstanding the plainly urgent need to reach a comprehensive budget compromise with Democrats and pass legislation to create jobs, deal with illegal immigration, and rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure, among other things.

    Why? To deny Obama credit for the truly historic legislative achievement Obamacare represents. Period.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 12.06.22 PMWhich brings me to the horrendous rollout of the online Obamacare portal, healthcare.gov. I assure you, the irony is not lost on me that the “glitches” that have beset this website since it launched on October 1 have given Republicans fodder to propagate the fiction that Obama is presiding over a Banana Republic. But, as Obama himself conceded, if Obamacare were just this online portal, Republicans would be right to ridicule it as an abject failure.

    Obamacare is obviously so much more. And it’s an insult to the intelligence of every American, and an almost criminal disservice to the millions of uninsured, for Republicans to suggest otherwise.

    Apropos of which, consider this: would you stop paying your car insurance if, because of computer glitches, you had to go down to the local DMV to pay your premiums in person? Of course not! You would do whatever is required to pay them. After all, those glitches would have no bearing on the underlying benefits your car insurance provides.

    Therefore, why, pray tell, would any sensible person deprive herself of the underlying benefits health insurance provides just because computer glitches are forcing her not to go anywhere, but merely to sign-up on the phone from the comfort of her home?

    Yet to listen to Republicans waxing triumphant because of these glitches, you’d think Obama had conceded that Obamacare itself was an abject failure. Continuing the analogy, this would be akin to all insurance companies conceding that, due to computer glitches, they can no longer sell car insurance. Imagine the folly inherent in that.

    What troubles me about this folly, though, is the extent to which erstwhile sensible people are buying into their anti-Obama(care) narrative. This is especially so with respect to poor, uninsured (White) people. Again, to complete the analogy, it is so self-defeating as to be inhuman for anyone to forego health insurance just because of some temporary computer glitches.

    On the other hand, it’s hardly surprising that a few insured, fair-weather Democrats are buying into it hook, line, and sinker:

    Several Democratic senators are calling on the Obama Administration to delay enforcement of the health care law’s individual mandate, joining their Republican colleagues in saying it would be unfair to penalize Americans for failing to buy insurance when the primary sign-up website doesn’t work…

    The Democratic dominoes began to fall quickly Wednesday, after Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., circulated a letter urging President Obama to extend enrollment beyond March 31, 2014.

    (FOX News, October 24, 2013)

    imagesNever mind that it is (and always was) a given that Obama would no sooner charge Americans a late-enrollment fee because of his computer glitches than AETNA would charge a late-premium fee if its computer glitches made timely payment practically impossible. Of course, one of the many reasons for Obamacare is that some insurance companies are so crooked and amoral, they would try to get away with it….

    But politicians are such opportunistic grandstanders that they would circulate a letter urging God to have the sun rise in the east and set in the west if they thought that would get them favorable media coverage….

    Still, nothing vindicates my take on this sideshow quite like last week’s congressional hearing. As expected, Republicans were reveling in the spectacle of getting the contractors involved in building the lemon of a website at issue to point the finger at each other.

    Their revelry was short-lived, however, for Democrats soon began hoisting them up by their own petards by reading into the record what they said about the Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors (aka Part D), which former President George W. Bush championed and signed into law in 2003.

    ‘This is a huge undertaking and there are going to be glitches. My goal is the same as yours: Get rid of the glitches,’ Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said on February 15, 2006…

    ‘Rather than trying to scare and confuse seniors, I would hope that we can work together as we go through the implementation phase to find out what is wrong with the program and if we can make some changes to fix it, let us do it and let us do it on a bipartisan basis,’ Barton pleaded during an Energy & Commerce Committee hearing on March 6, 2006…

    ‘Any time something is new, there is going to be some glitches,’ Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) said on April 6, 2006.

    (TPM, October 24, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 1.44.05 PMTheir hypocrisy was evidently too much for Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey to stomach. For here’s how he refused, with unbridled contempt, when the aforementioned Rep. Barton asked him to yield so that he could get in another Republican talking point about what an unprecedented, irredeemable, and hopeless mess healthcare.gov has made of Obamacare:

    Barton: Will the gentleman yield?

    Pallone: No, I will not yield to this monkey court or whatever this thing is.

    (C-SPAN, October 24, 2013)

    But, lest you think it was only mad-hatter, Tea-Party Republicans who were caught in this brazen vice-grip of hypocrisy, here’s how Sahil Kapur of TPM recounted the fateful words of no less a person than Speaker John Boehner in his October 24 memo:

    A few weeks into the launch of the most sweeping health care reform law in a generation, John Boehner declared that the implementation was a disaster.

    ‘The implementation, the Republican leader [now Speaker] said, ‘has been horrendous. We’ve made it far more complicated than it should be.”

    Boehner, of course, was talking about the rollout of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit – known as Part D.

    images-2That said, I fully expect that by next summer healthcare.gov glitches will seem like ancient American history. Moreover, by then so many Americans will have signed-up for Obamacare that even anti-Obama(care) darlings like the Black Dr. Ben Carson will be trying to whitewash their criticisms from the annals of history.

    Incidentally, it’s worth noting that this celebrated doctor (and unwitting Republican rabbit for the 2016 race for president) lost whatever political credibility he had, not to mention making a mockery of whatever Black consciousness he had, when he damned Obama’s efforts to provide healthcare (of all things) to tens of millions of poor Americans as follows:

    Obamacare is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.

    (Washington Times, October 11, 2013)

    bildeAnyway, after Obama made it clear during a Rose Garden address on Monday that nobody is more pissed off about these computer glitches than he, the White House announced that its “tech surge” of new experts will have the website fully repaired and functioning by the end of November.

    But I’m among those who find it utterly unacceptable that Obama has not fired anyone over the crisis of confidence these glitches have caused in the signature legislative achievement of his presidency.

    images-1Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius was ultimately responsible for building healthcare.gov; therefore, she should have resigned, on day one, when it became clear that trying to navigate this website was like trying to navigate the Cretan labyrinth.

    When she didn’t, Obama should have demanded her head on a silver platter … for all the world to see. Especially given the way he made such a public show of hiring IT specialist Jeff Zients to clean up the healthcare.gov mess she allowed to build up right under her nose.

    Alas, as I lamented to one of my old friends, Obama seems to think that it’s more important to fire lowly White House staffers (like Jofi Joseph) for tweeting snarky comments about his incompetent Cabinet secretaries than to fire those Cabinet secretaries for their incompetence.

    In fact, besides providing more fodder for Republicans to ridicule him as a weak and feckless leader, Obama’s failure to fire Sibelius is so indefensible that his former chief of staff, William Daley, was reduced to pleading (on Thursday’s edition of CBS This Morning) that there’s no point in firing her now because:

    That would be like firing Captain Smith on the Titanic after the ship hit the iceberg.

    Unfortunately, it seems lost on Daley that, as inadvertently damning as his analogy is, if Captain Edward John Smith had survived, justice would have demanded he be not only fired, but prosecuted.

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 6:49 am

  • Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 8:07 AM

    Seems there’s a ‘bug’ in America’s friends and family plan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Friday, October 25, 2013 at 5:35 AM

    I Said Putin Would Hand Snowden Over. I Was Wrong.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Putin clearly has no use for Snowden. But, as a perfectly understandable matter of form, he must avoid any appearance of caving in to American demands to return him immediately…

    There seems little doubt that Putin will eventually hand Snowden over to his ‘American partner.’ And I assure you, he has every intention of doing so well ahead of the Opening Ceremony for his Olympic Games. What’s more, he has probably already indicated as much to Obama.

    (“Boycott Olympics Over Snowden? Don’t Be Stupid!” The iPINIONS Journal, July 18, 2013)

    imagesWell, such a handover now seems like a pipe dream. For, far from using Snowden as a bargaining chip or goodwill gesture (i.e., for a diplomatic IOU), Putin is using him as a stick to poke in the eye of the United States. Indeed, he appears to be grinning inside like a Cheshire cat every time he tries to convince the world that this American had to flee to Russia to escape political persecution back home … in America.

    And it hardly helped matters when Obama famously snubbed him during September’s G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, and then forfeited an opportunity (because of the U.S. government shutdown) to make amends at the APEC forum in Indonesia earlier this month.

    Which is why this came as no surprise:

    Talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama are unlikely to take place this year…  [But, significantly,] Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said bilateral ties between Russia and the United States require ‘continuation of dialogue at the top level.’

    (Xinhua, October 22, 2013)

    In the meantime, Snowden’s NSA caper is continuing to wreak havoc on practically all of America’s other foreign relationships, despite Putin’s warning that:

    If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound coming from my lips.

    (Associated Press, July 1, 2013)

    article-2474635-18EF540700000578-371_634x427The latest mockery of his warning came this week when Snowden’s leaks forced the president of France and chancellor of Germany to join the heads of Brazil and Mexico in making quite a public show (to maintain street cred with their respective voters) of demanding personal explanations from Obama for U.S. intelligence agencies spying – not just on tens of millions of their citizens, but on them as well.

    But the leaders doth protest too much, methinks. Frankly, French President Francois Hollande pretending to be “shocked, shocked” by Snowden’s revelations smacks of acting worthy of Claude Rains as Captain Renault in Casablanca. And Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff canceling a state visit to Washington smacks of a triumph of political posturing for her next election over political performance for the annals of history.

    Not to mention that, if an Edward Snowden from any of the countries now hurling ethical indignation at the United States were to commit a similar betrayal, the world would find that they were/are doing the same thing, hence my July 2, 2013 commentary “I Spy, You Spy, We All Spy.”

    Apropos of which, Obama is duly taking their calls. But I have no doubt that what he’s saying to them in private is only a less diplomatic version of how he has been defending the United States in public ever since the London Guardian published the first of Snowden’s many (and seemingly endless) leaks. Namely:

    We should stipulate that every intelligence service — not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there’s an intelligence service — here’s one thing that they’re going to be doing: They’re going to be trying to understand the world better, and what’s going on in world capitals around the world. If that weren’t the case, then there’d be no use for an intelligence service.

    (Associated Press, July 1, 2013)

    And let’s face it, if America’s Big-Brother spying is as global as Snowden’s leaks indicate, then surely Obama knows full well the extent of the in-kind spying other countries are doing on him and his fellow Americans.

    Indeed, some of the reaction among these ostensibly outraged heads of state probably emanates from nothing more than envy over the degree and breadth of U.S. intelligence gathering, which evidently even extends to tapping their personal mobile phones.

    For what it’s worth, though, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney promised all heads of state on Wednesday that the U.S. is not and will not spy on them … anymore. Of course, any leader who believes that is a gullible fool. Moreover, it’s in the nature of the intelligence-gathering business that no president should ever comment on any specific aspect of it — no matter how provocative and politically compromising Snowden’s leaks.

    (This might be a good time for the United States to say to its allies, particularly in the Middle East, that it’s no longer acceptable to bash the United States in public to appease rabid anti-American factions in their populations, while continuing to solicit U.S. military and financial aid in private. No government should be deemed a U.S. ally if that government is too afraid or ashamed to embrace that alliance publicly.)

    Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 11.22.21 AMMeanwhile, Snowden is enjoying his honeymoon period in Moscow, being fêted, oddly enough, by Westerners his WikiLeaks paymasters are flying in to sing his praises.

    In a video released by WikiLeaks, Snowden is presented with the annual Sam Adams Award by former U.S. security officers.

    The video is believed to have been shot on Wednesday 9 October in Moscow at an undisclosed location, where Mr. Snowden was granted asylum in August.

    The award is named for a CIA analyst during the Vietnam War who accused the US military of deliberately underestimating the enemy’s strength for political purposes.

    (London Telegraph, October 12, 2013)

    Actually, Snowden seems destined to emulate British double agent Kim Philby, who defected to the Soviet Union in 1963 and lived there (in Moscow) free of reprisals until his death in 1988. It is instructive to note, however, that this fabled “Third Man” lived out almost all of his 25 years in relative obscurity and penury. It speaks volumes that he drowned his abiding sorrows in the bottles of alcohol that eventually killed him.

    Kim Philby, the most successful of the Cambridge spies, tried to drink himself to death in Moscow because he was disillusioned with communism and tortured by his own failings, his last wife has said in an interview.

    (London Guardian, March 30, 2011)

    kimphilbySo don’t be surprised if a disillusioned Snowden ends up drinking himself to death too. After all, Philby’s Russian spymasters had just cause to treat him like a national hero, yet he still felt like little more than a Western mascot almost from day one. By contrast, Snowden’s Russian wards have no reason to treat him like anything but a traitorous rat. Not least because:

    Putin is a former KGB spy who prides loyalty to country above all else…

    Not to mention the resentment Putin must be harboring over Snowden ending up in Russia only after his preferred Chinese spymasters extracted all they wanted out of and from him.

    (“Boycott Olympics Over Snowden,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 18, 2013)

    But don’t be surprised if national pride compels Obama to order the CIA or Seal Team 6 to take him out – even in/from Moscow – long before he surpasses Philby’s 25 years as a fugitive….

    In any event, that video of Snowden receiving an award for championing the freedom of the press, while living like a refugee in neo-Stalinist Russia, is rife with so much irony, if not hypocrisy, that it seems like a Monty Python spoof.

    Unfortunately, the far more troubling irony is that, thanks to Snowden, people all around the world are developing a view of Obama’s America as a greater violator of the freedom of the press, privacy rights of the individual, and other civil liberties than Putin’s Russia.

    Admittedly, this seems wholly consistent with Orwell’s dystopian world where war is peace, ignorance is strength … communism is capitalism. But I submit that we are still light years away from a world where not Russia (or China) but the United States, arguably the most free and transparent society in the history of mankind, can be fairly pilloried as the “perfect totalitarian state:”

    In which government monitors and controls every aspect of human life to the extent that even having a disloyal thought is against the law.

    (George Orwell, ‘1984’)

    I fully appreciate that millions now consider Snowden a heroic, whistle-blowing defender of freedom and democracy. But the ultimate irony is that he is a self-righteous narcissist who is nothing more than a useful idiot to (de facto and de jure) totalitarian regimes (like those in Russia and China) whose very existence depends upon the doublethink his leaks are now fostering, as well as systematic violations of the very civil liberties he presumes to be championing.

    More to the point, countries like Russia and China will only become more oppressive if they can propagate the perverse belief worldwide that they are just as democratic, transparent, and free as countries like the United States and United Kingdom. That would be truly Orwellian.

    In the meantime, even though Snowden will not cause much substantive damage to U.S. interest, there’s no gainsaying the unprecedented and incalculable reputational damage (and embarrassment) he’s causing….

    NOTE: All of these complaints about NSA surveillance will seem quaint and naive when terrorists pull off another 9/11-style attack either in the United States or in Europe. Then, I assure you, the very people now championing Snowden and damning Obama will be calling for even greater surveillance. For a little perspective, though, just bear in mind that Google, Amazon, and other commercial companies do more surveillance of your daily activities to sell you stuff than the NSA does to keep you safe. So get a friggin’ grip people!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 5:27 AM

    I Said Putin Would Pardon Pussy Riot. I Was Wrong.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 10.03.41 PMRussian President Vladimir Putin has been so lampooned for using staged heroics to boost his He-Man (Master-of-the-Universe) reputation that you’d think he would seize any opportunity to display a genuine human touch and, no less important, a self-deprecating sense of humor.

    An ideal opportunity presented itself in February 2012 when his thought police arrested three members of the female punk rock band Pussy Riot. They charged the trio with hooliganism for bum rushing the altar at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, reputedly Russia’s grandest house of worship, and belting out an anti-Putin chorus – complete with the ego-deflating lyrics, “Mother Mary, please drive Putin away.”

    For the record, I was not nearly as sympathetic to these Pussy Rioters as virtually everyone else in the West seemed to be. I thought they deserved to be arrested and punished, arguing in “Student Protesters Assault Prince Charles and Camilla” (December 13, 2010) that if it’s okay for England to arrest and jail the son of a Pink Floyd rock star for desecrating a national memorial, surely it’s okay for Russia to arrest and jail these punk rockers for desecrating a national cathedral.

    But here is how I thought Putin would/should deal with them, given the worldwide cause celebre their case became:

    Putin is on record declaring that these rioters should not be punished too harshly. Therefore, whatever he meant by that, I suspect he will pardon them when he finds it politically expedient to do so (i.e., so that he does not appear to be caving in to self-righteous outrage from Westerners).

    (“Putin Gives Pussy Riot the Clamp,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 17, 2012)

    120817103149-pussy-riot-band-members-horizontal-galleryIn fact, I thought whatever sentence the judge finally rendered would be suspended (with Putin’s blessings) for time served. And sure enough one of them did receive a suspended sentence.

    Unfortunately, the other two, both of whom have young children, have been wasting away in Russia’s infamous penal colonies ever since their arrest. They were sentenced to two years in prison. And no pardon or relief now seems likely before their release date of March 2014, notwithstanding their complaints about “slave-like conditions,” which even periodic hunger strikes by one of them has done nothing to change.

    On October 18, the activist [Pussy Rioter Nadezhda Tolokonnikova] resumed her hunger strike, demanding to be transferred from Correctional Colony 14, where she was serving her sentence.

    (Pravda, October 23, 2013)

    I suppose it was too much to expect that Putin’s little man syndrome would allow him to act big….

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 5:37 AM

    Something About Hannah

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I took a lot of flak (as I seem to be doing a lot lately) for writing the following about Hannah Anderson, the teenager a family friend allegedly kidnapped after murdering her mother and younger brother:

    Friends will attest to my abiding belief that there was/is much more to this story than a murdering, psycho-obsessed, dirty old man trying to live out a Lolita fantasy in some perverted version of Into the Wild … in the wilderness of Idaho…

    She gave credence to my suspicions not just by sharing details of her ordeal in strikingly clinical, if not calculating, fashion, but by complimenting those details with post-kidnap selfies showing her looking like she did not have a care in the world and could not be happier…

    She was acting not like a teenage kidnap victim, but like her Disney namesake, Hannah Montana, interacting with her fans the way all teenage pop sensations do these days.

    (“Hannah Anderson, Rescued Kidnap Victim, Posts Cutesy Selfies to Help Her Grieve…?” The iPINIONS Journal, August 15, 2013)

    My detractors accused me of being not only insensitive to the purportedly grieving Hannah, but also clueless for not appreciating that most teenagers would grieve just as she did in similar circumstances.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 5.16.17 PMTheir indignant meme was that it was perfectly normal for Hannah to react the way she did: posting come-hither selfies and hosting chat forums within hours of being “rescued” from a murderous kidnapper and “learning” about her mother and brother’s death, and giving the impression that she felt more like a celebrity craving adoration than a victim seeking sympathy.

    Well, whatever the narcissistic grieving habits of teenage girls these days, my detractors will have to consider Hannah’s own family equally insensitive and clueless. Because here’s how they are now echoing my suspicions about Hannah’s “post-traumatic” behavior:

    Members of Hannah Anderson’s own family are confused by the 16-year-old’s behaviour in the aftermath of the brutal double murder and her kidnap, with one branding it, ‘downright disturbing’…

    [R]elatives admitted to being deeply troubled by Hannah’s apparent lack of grief and string of outlandish, often sexually precocious, postings on social media…

    ‘We haven’t seen her grieve at all; it’s not the Hannah we know … it’s downright disturbing.’

    This, according to a report in yesterday’s edition of the Daily Mail, is the way Hannah’s family members are finally breaking their silence – not for a quick buck on TV, but in a soon to be published book by author and criminal profiler Chelsea Hoffman.

    article-2470793-189EC8BD00000578-923_634x602Far more telling, though, is this:

    In her book Miss Hoffman examines Hannah’s own account of the events that led up to that day and its aftermath and the book points to what Miss Hoffman considers to be a myriad of inconsistencies and unanswered questions by which some of Hannah’s own relatives admit to being troubled.

    (Daily Mail, October 22, 2013)

    I’m not going to say, I told you so.

    Just stay tuned….

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 5:29 AM

    Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal in New Jersey!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I believe it is a self-evident truth that not allowing gays to marry is an even greater violation of the fundamental civil rights all citizens should enjoy than not allowing Blacks to vote.

    (“Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal in New York,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 27, 2011)

    797be16b-d9e1-4304-b5c5-c72e33e45709_james_pierre_C41G0409Yesterday New Jersey became the 14th state to allow same-sex marriages. Such was the anticipation of this fundamental civil right being recognized, at long last, that gay couples were getting married just seconds after the law took effect.

    Symbolically:

    At 12:01 a.m., couples in a handful of communities wed. In Newark, Mayor Cory Booker, in one of his last acts before joining the U.S. Senate in coming weeks, led a ceremony for seven gay couples….

    (Associated Press, October 21, 2013)

    I trust my opening quote makes clear why I have nothing but pity for self-righteous people who believe their church should determine whether their state should legalize same-sex marriages (i.e., the constitutional separation of church and state be damned). And I don’t mind admitting that this pity is tinged with racial shame over the number of Blacks who are spewing the same religious dogma to deny gays their civil rights these days that Whites spewed to deny Blacks theirs for centuries.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.54.02 PMIn a similar vein, I have nothing but contempt for pandering politicians like NJ Governor Chris Christie who think nothing of subjecting the civil rights of gays to a popular vote. After all, it’s as plain as black and white that, if theirs were subjected to a popular vote, Blacks would still be struggling for their civil rights….

    That said, even though I feel obliged to mark this occasion, I have already written far too many commentaries championing this “final” civil rights struggle to have much more to add.

    Therefore, I shall suffice to wish gay residents of New Jersey all the best as they take full advantage of the myriad benefits of marriage. Never mind that, just like heterosexual marriages, 50 percent of theirs will probably end in divorce too.

    Related commentaries:
    Supreme Court on same-sex marriage

  • Monday, October 21, 2013 at 5:43 AM

    Chief Prosecutor Condemns SA President Zuma and his ruling ANC

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    r356224_1638930Here is what I wrote six years ago after South Africa’s ruling ANC dumped Thabo Mbeki in favor of Jacob Zuma as party leader, thereby ensuring an ignominious end to Mbeki’s tenure as the country’s second democratically elected president:

    It’s an insult to Mbeki’s distinguished career of public service that he’s being so unceremoniously upstaged today by the man he fired as deputy president in 2005, after South African prosecutors made it clear that Zuma faced imminent arrest – not only for financial corruption but also for rape.

    Alas, despite his legal woes, the only people who seem to regard Zuma as a hopelessly compromised leader are South African elites and any non-South African with half a brain. In fact, after Zuma got off on rape last year, I was so certain it would come to this that I expressed my despairing hope for this country as follows:

    ‘Let’s hope the judge assigned to render the verdict in Zuma’s trial for corruption is more judicial than paternal… Because, with so much evidence arrayed against him, if he’s acquitted of corruption as well, Zuma – who is arguably a morally-bankrupt rapist and thief – will become South Africa’s next president in 2009.’

    (“Mbeki vs. Zuma for ANC Leadership,” December 17, 2007)

    Alas, Zuma got off on corruption too, and was duly elected president in 2009. But it was hardly surprising that his leadership inspired such unscrupulous political behavior that no less a person than Nobel laureate (for literature) and celebrated anti-apartheid activist Nadine Gordimer felt compelled to publicly condemn it:

    The original values of the ANC are being betrayed in many areas of our social life and our political life… I maintain the right to criticize my own party. I feel it’s a duty that we who are in the ANC must say what we think when the ANC does wrong….

    (HARDtalk, BBC, May 10, 2011)

    The problem is that far too few prominent Black South Africans share Gordimer’s sense of duty. The notable exception, of course, is Gordimer’s fellow Nobel laureate (for peace) Archbishop Desmond Tutu – who pleaded, indeed prayed, to no avail for ANC members to reject Zuma:

    They should please not choose someone of whom most of us would be ashamed. Our country deserves better… What is happening in the ANC?

    (BBC, December 15, 2007)

    4093293347This is why I was so heartened yesterday to read that Vusi Pikoli is now echoing Gordimer and Tutu’s lament. Pikoli is the former national director of public prosecutions who famously failed to convict Zuma of raping the daughter of a deceased ANC comrade, who lived in his home as a daughter.

    Here’s how he is now condemning the ANC for failing to declare Zuma unfit to lead South Africa after his acquittal(s):

    This was an illustration of the moral degeneration we face and I couldn’t understand why the ANC never charged the man internally for misconduct…

    I was disgusted [especially with female members who not only cheered as Zuma demonized his ingenuous accuser as a provocative slut but actually helped him do it]. Somebody should stand up and say, ‘Not in our name;’ I am saying that now.

    (South Africa Sunday Independent, October 20, 2013)

    Of course, Tutu stood up and said just that. But I welcome Pikoli and hereby entreat others, especially among the growing ranks of Black South African oligarchs, to stand up and say of Zuma’s morally-bankrupt (and incompetent) leadership, “No more in our name.”

    051313-global-south-africa-job-applicants-unemploymentI suspect, however, that “born-free” South Africans, whose aspirations are not restrained by abiding loyalty to the leaders who liberated the country, will rise up before prominent South Africans, whose sudden riches are depended upon that loyalty, stand up.

    After all, young South Africans are becoming just as disaffected, frustrated, and alienated with Jacob Zuma as young Egyptians became with Hosni Mubarak. Not least because, for them, South Africa’s Black economic empowerment policies seem more about ANC cronyism than employment/business opportunities.

    South Africa has the highest long-term youth unemployment rate among medium-income nations, with those between the ages of 15 and 24 accounting for 48.2% of those unemployed.

    (South City Press, June 16, 2013)

    Accordingly, I fear it’s only a matter of time before they engage in the types of civil unrest that characterized the Arab Spring. And, ironically, Mandela’s passing might serve as the catalyst for this second struggle for (economic) liberation.

    In which case I would only hope against hope that their African Spring proves far more successful … and less bloody.

    Related commentaries:
    Mbeki vs. Zuma

  • Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 7:02 AM

    Why is Washington Redskins any more acceptable than Washington Niggers … or Washington Hymies?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    costasSportscaster Bob Costas threw fuel on the fire that has been simmering for years over calls by the Oneida Indians (Native Americans) for Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, to change the team’s nickname.

    Here, in part, is what he said on Sunday during halftime of NBC’s very popular Sunday Night Football:

    Objections to names like ‘Braves,’ ‘Chiefs,’ ‘Warriors,’ and the like strike many of us as political correctness run amok. These nicknames honor, rather than demean. They are pretty much the same as ‘Vikings,’ ‘Patriots,’ or even ‘Cowboys…’

    Ask yourself what the equivalent would be, if directed toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or members of any other ethnic group.

    When considered that way, ‘Redskins’ can’t possibly honor a heritage, or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term; it’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent.

    (NBC Sports, October 13, 2013)

    Indeed, can you imagine an NFL team today being called the Washington Niggers; or, given Snyder’s Jewish heritage, the Washington Hymies…?

    Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 10.16.27 PM

    Frankly, I could not agree with Costas more.

    And, despite vowing to “never change the name of the team” – as Snyder is quoted saying in the May 10, 2013 edition of USA Today, I would bet it’s only a matter of time before political and commercial pressure force him to change it.

    Clearly Whites did not enslave Native Americans the way they did Black Africans. But their genocidal killing of Native Americans and confiscatory plundering of their lands were arguably far worse. And granting them licenses to operate casinos on the little reservations Whites deigned to leave them hardly compensates for all that.

    Therefore, the least Whites can do today is show them the same politically correct respect they show Blacks, no?

  • Friday, October 18, 2013 at 5:25 AM

    UPDATE: ‘Men Got Us Into The Shutdown, Women Got Us Out’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Many people (including a surprising number of women) called me patronizing and naïve for writing, among other things, the following about women making better politicians than men.

    I just believe a great deal of public good would be derived from a reversal of gender participation in politics at this point in the (his)tory of (man)kind – such that men and women are represented in inverse ratio, at every level, to what we have today.

    (“Men Should Be Barred from Politics,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 25, 2013)

    Members Of Congress Discuss New Legislation To Combat Sexual Assaults In MilitaryWell, here is how the (woman-founded) Huffington Post reported yesterday on the indispensable role women played in ending the government shutdown and saving the country from economic Armageddon:

    Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said on Wednesday afternoon that their female colleagues can take most of the credit for driving the compromise that is expected to temporarily reopen the U.S. government and raise the debt ceiling before Thursday’s deadline.

    ‘Leadership, I must fully admit, was provided primarily from women in the Senate,’ McCain said after the bipartisan deal was announced.

    Of course, given the way men were continually posturing and prattling on TV, you can be forgiven for thinking that women played no role in forging this compromise.  Which is just another reason for men in politics to just shut up and look strong.

    Enough said?

    Related commentaries:
    Men should be barred

  • Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    Republicans Grant 90-Day Reprieve from Economic Armageddon

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    660F3-tragicomedyIt seems fitting that a British paper, The Daily Mail, summed up better than any American paper the events that played out, like a Shakespearean tragicomedy, in Washington today:

    Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Texas Senator Ted Cruz have dramatically caved in to pressure, paving the way for a Democrat-led bill to pass and ensure the country doesn’t crash through its debt ceiling ahead of a midnight deadline.

    Boehner and his House caucus have walked away with nothing but humiliation, after a month of brinkmanship in which the Republicans were accused by President Obama of holding the White House ransom over Obamacare and their desired spending cuts.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 8.39.15 PMOf course, because of its pivotal role in the global economy, whenever politicians appear to be turning the U.S. economy into a train wreck, it becomes a worldwide rubbernecking event. And with politicians governing from one manufactured crisis to another every few months these days, this rubbernecking is becoming a regular event.

    But it’s important for everybody to bear in mind that the only reason Republicans forced this 16-day government shutdown, and risked the government defaulting on its debts for the first time in U.S. history, was to force Democrats to defund Obamacare. Never mind that Muslim Jihadists would have stood a better chance of forcing the College of Cardinals to denounce the Pope and renounce their faith.

    Accordingly, I shall suffice to reprieve just a few quotes from previous commentaries that explain why plainly delusional Republicans were (and remain) fully prepared to destroy the U.S. (and global) economy … just to deny poor Americans healthcare.

    From “Nutjob Republicans … Defeat Bailout Bill,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 1, 2008:

    This financial crisis is bound to hasten the demise of America as the world’s sole economic superpower…

    But am I the only one who finds it fateful that clueless (white) folks in Washington and on Wall Street are doing all they can to turn this country into a bankrupt Banana Republic just as voters are poised to elect the first Black president of the United States…?

    Interestingly enough, the media are replete with reports today about how this dysfunctional shutdown has caused/emboldened China to call for a “de-Americanized” global economy.

    From “Healthcare Reform Passes Milestone, The iPINIONS Journal, December 28, 2009:

    Republicans have calculated that it is far more important to oppose healthcare reform – in the vain hope of positioning themselves for big gains in mid-term elections next year, than it is to support it – in the salutary hope of providing millions of Americans a chance to gain healthcare coverage for life.

    From “S&P Downgrades U.S. Credit Rating,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 8, 2011:

    These born-again zealots would prefer economic Armageddon to what they have deluded themselves into thinking is Obama’s (Black-nationalist/Muslim-inspired) plan to turn America into a socialist, Greek-style Banana Republic.

    So irrational is their mission that one can be forgiven the suspicion that their dark, ulterior motive is to see America become so dysfunctional and humiliated under Obama’s leadership that Americans would not even consider electing another Black person as president for at least another 100 years.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 8.42.17 PMAnd from “Bob Woodward: Republicans Are Trying to Blackmail Obama,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 1, 2013:

    By forcing this government shutdown, these ‘wacko-bird’ Republicans are undermining what little credibility and influence their Party has at the federal level for a plainly unattainable goal (a classic case of rebels without a cause). Why? Because, all of their partisan talking points and political posturing aside, these are people who hate Obama(care) more than they love their country.

    Not to mention what a mockery their obsessive, delusional opposition to Obamacare (yes, Obama cares) makes of the most fundamental calling of their Christian faith, which, of course, is to help the poor. (In this case, it’s clearly too inconvenient for these Bible-thumping charlatans to ask: what would Jesus do?)

    All of which suggests to me that, far from feeling humiliated or learning their lesson, Republicans are just regrouping to fight this same Obamacare/debt ceiling “good fight” another day. That day will come in early February 2014 when the “can” today’s agreement kicked down the road will need another congressional kick.

    And so it goes….

    Related commentaries:
    Healthcare reform
    S&P downgrades
    Blackmail Obama

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 9:40 pm

  • Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 5:42 AM

    PSA: Unmask Your Woman Before You Tell Her She’s Beautiful

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    During October 2013 the BBC’s 100 Women season will seek to shine a light on life for women in the twenty-first century – the risks, challenges and opportunities they face every day, in every country.

    And we want our global audiences to tell us what they think.

    (BBC, October 4, 2013)

    Well, I’ve already chimed in with relatively serious commentaries on women using the fear of breast cancer as a pretext for getting boob jobs (October 8) and women making better politicians than men (October 10). Therefore, I shall do so just once more with a relatively light one on yesterday’s 100 Women report, which posed the question: “What does it feel like to be airbrushed?”

    Every few months, one tabloid or another publishes images of celebrity women “caught” in public without their makeup.

    6a00d8341bfae553ef014e8c003d3b970d-800wiThe implied notion is that a woman walking around without makeup provides as much fodder for ridicule and shame as one walking around with a trail of toilet paper hanging from her panties. And, regrettably, the mocking crowd (of mostly liberated women deriving guilty pleasure) who buy these tabloids never fail to affirm this notion.

    Is this what the feminist tome, Our Bodies, Ourselves, has wrought…?

    After all, who would’ve thought the liberation inherent in the sexual revolution and feminist movement would devolve into a self-abnegating farce, where women themselves consider it a “brave decision” to go out in public without makeup.

    article-2459732-18BD056B00000578-682_636x524For only this farce explains why even a naturally beautiful woman like Carmen Electra would think nothing of making this pathetic and pitiable confession on national TV:

    To be honest … I don’t know if it has to do with insecurities or just what I love, I haven’t quite figured that out yet but being on national Television with a little mascara and a little on the lip I feel so naked. I am almost more comfortable posing in Playboy naked than not wearing makeup.

    (Daily Mail, October 14, 2013)

    Frankly, twenty-first century etiquette about makeup seems right out of The Weird World of Victorian Etiquette, when:

    Women had a duty to look beautiful at all times but they must also ensure that ‘…they make it look like there was no effort at all…’ It was also proper etiquette for the woman to always wear her hair up unless in the privacy of the bed chamber.

    The instructive irony, of course, is that etiquette about makeup these days is such that not just Carmen but far too many women would rather expose their naked bodies instead of their naked faces in public. This indicates the perverse extent to which even women of undeniable natural beauty and professional success depend on makeup for their self-esteem.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 8.36.57 AM

    Which is why, given this existential dependency, it is arguable that peddlers who get women hooked on beauty products are an even greater menace to society than peddlers who get them hooked on drugs.

    Except that, at least with peddlers of drugs, there’s truth in advertising. By contrast, peddlers of beauty products exploit the willing suspension of disbelief among women who continually buy stuff that never makes them look as advertised (invariably by models airbrushed beyond perfection).

    Yet I have no doubt that, in a moment of makeup sobriety, any self-respecting woman would readily scoff at paying thousands of dollars to maintain as fake a public face as humanly possible. But, as it is with any junky, such moments of sobriety are always too fleeting to lead to any change in behavior.

    So perhaps the time has come for truly liberated women to lead a new revolution for women under the banner “Our Faces, Ourselves,” calling on women not to burn their bras but to ditch their makeup.

    For what it’s worth, I would be irretrievably turned off if the difference between the way a woman looks the first time we go to bed and the way she looks after washing her face the next morning were like night and day.

    (“Airbrushed Models Banned in UK. Hallelujah!” The iPINIONS Journal, July 29, 2011)

    In fact, men could be good foot soldiers in this new revolution by encouraging every woman they know to wear a little less makeup each day – until the image they see in the mirror right after their morning shower imbues them with far more pride and self-esteem than the one they (used to) see after painting on their daily mask.

    And those of you still in the dating game can do even more by asking your date to take off all of her makeup (along with her spanx and fake hair) before you make love for the first time.

    But beware, because the novelty of having a man express a desire to make love to her instead of her made-up avatar might prove too … suspicious. Specifically, instead of being turned on by your disarming interest, she might just think you’re a pervert with a fetish for bonking ugly (i.e., makeup-free) women.

    So be prepared to do all you can to reassure her that, far from enhancing her beauty, her makeup is only covering it up.

    Related commentaries:
    Airbrushed models

  • Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 5:17 AM

    African Leaders Defy ICC to Defend Kenya’s Kenyatta

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have duly commended the mission of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to bring perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes to justice.

    But I have also questioned why ICC prosecutors appear to be racially profiling African leaders. After all, Africans are the only ones who have been indicted since this first-ever permanent international criminal court was established in 2002.

    It is noteworthy that the ICC elected Bensouda, an African woman from The Gambia, as chief prosecutor by consensus in December 2011. For there is no gainsaying that it did so primarily to counter the growing perception that it is a court of White men sitting in biased judgment against Black men.

    (“No (Equitable) Justice in ICC Prosecuting Kenya’s Kenyatta,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 25, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2013-10-14 at 8.07.23 AMTheir self-evident racial profiling came into stark relief last year when the ICC indicted Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta. They charged him with crimes against humanity stemming from tribal warfare that erupted there after national elections in 2007.

    To be fair, the ICC has been considering whether to open formal investigations into cases stemming from crimes committed in a few places outside of Africa. Most notable are war crimes “committed by all sides” in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.

    But given the bilateral agreements NATO members struck with Afghanistan to exclude their soldiers from the Court’s jurisdiction, the only perpetrators the ICC would even have any authority to prosecute are Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters….

    Of course, it’s one thing for an international court (namely, the Special Court for Sierra Leone) to indict a diamonds/drugs warlord turned president like Charles Taylor of Liberia; it’s quite another to indict Kenyatta. After all, he’s not only the son of a man who is arguably even more revered throughout Africa than Nelson Mandela, he’s now the sitting, legitimately elected president of Kenya.

    This is why it came as no surprise when the African Union convened an extraordinary session last weekend to decide whether member states should withdraw en masse from the ICC’s jurisdiction.

    Here, in part, is how Kenyatta framed the (self-serving) issue:

    The ICC has been reduced into a painfully farcical pantomime, a travesty that adds insult to the injury of victims. It stopped being the home of justice the day it became the toy of declining imperial powers.

    (BBC, October 12, 2013)

    In the end, the AU merely resolved that, henceforth, no African head of state shall appear before any international court.

    This clearly fell short of the outright rejection of the ICC that many leaders sought and Kenyatta clearly hoped for. But it certainly provides the cover he needs to ignore the ICC summons for him to appear in The Hague next month (on November 12) for the opening of his trial.

    I wagered it would be thus:

    I am willing to bet my life savings that President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta will never set foot in The Hague; and, if convicted in absentia, he will never serve a day in jail. Honestly, all things considered, who could blame him if he proceeded now to use his position as president, as well as prevailing anti-ICC sentiment throughout Africa, to shield himself from arrest?

    (“No (Equitable) Justice in ICC Prosecuting Kenya’s Kenyatta,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 25, 2013)

    What’s more, there seems little doubt that his AU immunity will extend not just through the remainder of this term, which runs to April 2018, but also through a second five-year term, given that his re-election as Kenya’s head of state seems guaranteed.

    Meanwhile, because China and Russia have already undermined so much of the influence Western powers like the United States and France once wielded throughout the Dark Continent, Kenyatta should have no fear of being arrested if he travels outside Africa.

    After all, the last thing these “declining imperial powers’” want is for member states of the African Union to harbor towards them the same kind of enmity member states of ALBA (the Bolivarian alliance Venezuela and Cuba founded in 2004) have towards the United States.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-14 at 10.30.44 PMNot to mention that the strong, decisive leadership Kenyatta demonstrated in dealing with last month’s terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last month earned him a de facto get-out-of-jail-free card as far as most Western leaders are concerned. But only God knows how ICC prosecutors are going to finesse a politically expedient outcome for his deputy William Ruto, whose trial commenced in The Hague last month, and is proceeding unaffected by this AU resolution….

    Finally, I fully appreciate that the record of African despots and warlords getting away with all kinds of crimes against humanity has led even pan-Africanists to take neo-colonial comfort in subjecting Africans leaders to the jurisdiction of the ICC.  And the irony is not lost on me that African and Caribbean leaders are the ones who lobbied hardest for the establishment of the ICC.

    All the same:

    I urge you to bear in mind that nobody called for the racist fiends who ruled the United States from slavery to Jim Crow to be hauled before any international criminal court for the systematic crimes against humanity they committed (or orchestrated).

    Therefore, I submit that, just as America has done since its founding, African countries should be left alone to figure out how to prosecute and imprison (if called for) any leader who commits an impeachable offense [including crimes against humanity].

    (“International Criminal Court Has Lost All Credibility,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 5, 2013)

    Related commentaries:
    Corruption in Kenya
    Conflict in Kenya
    Grand coalition
    Kenyatta indicted
    No equitable justice
    ICC lost credibility

  • Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:30 AM

    Government shutdown a pretext to capture terrorists…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 9.34.02 PM

    In two operations in Africa nearly 3,000 miles apart, U.S. military forces went after two high-value targets over the weekend.

    One operation took place early Saturday in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, when members of the elite U.S. Army Delta Force captured Abu Anas al Libi, an al Qaeda operative wanted for his alleged role in the deadly 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

    In the second raid, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs in southern Somalia targeted a foreign fighter commander for Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked with al Qaeda, according to a senior Obama administration official.

    (CNN, October 6, 2013)

    Great! Two down, 2002 high-value targets to go.

    Alas, at this rate, the government will have to be shut down for a quarter century just to get them. Moreover, we all know that the capture of each high-value target spawns at least two more … high-value targets to capture. And so it goes….

  • Friday, October 11, 2013 at 5:41 AM

    Kwame Kilpatrick, Detroit’s former ‘Hip-Hop’ Mayor, Sentenced to 28 years

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last summer, on July 18, Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. And the political corruption recounted here explains why:

    ‘While the city’s finances foundered, Kilpatrick was shaking down contractors, ensuring that a pal got millions in city work and turning a nonprofit fund to help struggling Detroiters into a personal slush fund, according to evidence at his five-month trial.

    ‘He created a ‘pay-to-play’ system for the provision of city goods and services, which compromised vast swaths of city government, including the water and sewer system, the convention center, the pension system, casino developments and recreation centers,’ prosecutors said in a court filing last week. ‘City government essentially became up for grabs for the right price.’

    (The Associated Press, October 10, 2013)

    imagesThat he godfathered crimes for which 34 other people have been convicted is the most damning indication that Kilpatrick ran the city like a veritable crime syndicate.

    A jury convicted him in March on federal racketeering, fraud, extortion, and tax crimes, for which the judge sentenced him to 28 years in prison yesterday. But it’s easy to forget that his fall from grace began in 2008 with revelations about a Clintonian extra-marital affair, which ended with him resigning (only to avoid an even more humiliating recall) and copping a plea to charges related to his thuggish attempts to cover it up. Back then the judge sentenced him only to a few months in jail….

    Still, nothing became Kilpatrick in public life quite like the way he was forced to leave it:

    Kilpatrick has defied near-universal calls (including a 7-1 vote of the City Council) for him to resign…

    He seems to be hoping against hope that an O.J. jury will acquit him… No doubt this is why he has taken every opportunity in recent weeks to cast himself as the victim of a judicial system designed to keep Black men like him down…

    Never mind that 99% of the people calling for his head on a platter are Black. And, moreover, that the system in this case is personified by none other than Kym Worthy – a very capable prosecutor who just happens to be Black…

    Therefore, here’s to the end of his political career.

    (“Indictment of Detroit’s ‘Hip-hop’ Mayor…,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 25, 2008)

    It’s worth remembering, though, that many were touting Kilpatrick to become the first Black president of the United States when Barack Obama was still toiling away as a community organizer in Chicago.

    Except that:

    Kilpatrick always struck me as more of a wannabe gangsta rapper than a trend-setting politician.  Therefore, it seems fitting that he will now have some jail time to enhance his street cred.

    Good riddance Kwame!

    (“Kilpatrick Cops a Plea…and Resigns,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 5, 2008)

    So here’s to the people of Detroit for refusing to be played by this … playa.

    Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 6.40.14 PMBut it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the oft-cited similarities between Kilpatrick supporting his lifestyle of the rich and famous on public funds and Michael Misick, the former premier of my mother country, the Turks and Caicos Islands, doing the same.

    Because it seems the fulfilling of a karmic symmetry that, as the 43-year-old Kilpatrick heads off to prison (effectively for the rest of his life), the 47-year-old Misick is withering away in a prison cell in Brazil.

    He’s awaiting extradition back home to face trial on corruption charges that make the crimes Kilpatrick committed seem like the petty thievery of a juvenile delinquent.

    Which is why he’s bound to suffer a similar fate. And, I say, good riddance to him too.

    Related commentaries:
    Kilpatrick cops a plea
    Indictment

  • Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 5:11 AM

    Hooray! Obama Nominates Janet Yellen to Head the Fed

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    From day one of my commentaries I’ve been a one-man cheerleading team encouraging the strides women are taking to rule the world … with the same compassionate and humanistic instincts with which they’ve always ruled the roost at home.

    We have enough data, as well as anecdotal evidence, from the way women have influenced the corporate world to make some credible extrapolations. The correlation between more women holding positions of power and the implementation of family-friendly policies is undeniable in this respect. Therefore, it’s entirely reasonable to assert that if more women held positions of power in politics they would use their power more towards building up human resources than military armaments – just to cite one obvious example.

    Indeed, it’s arguable that there’s a direct correlation between the fact that Finland’s president, prime minister, president of the Supreme Court as well as eight of its eleven government ministers are all women, and the fact that Newsweek rated this county the best place to live in 2010 – in terms of health, economic dynamism, education, political environment, and quality of life.

    (“Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 14, 2010)

    Screen Shot 2013-10-09 at 9.47.23 PMThis is why I could not have been more gratified yesterday when President Obama nominated Janet Yellen as chairmanwoman of the Federal Reserve. When confirmed she will become not just the first woman to hold this position in the Fed’s 100-year history, but also what is globally recognized as “the most powerful and influential banker in the world.”

    I appreciate of course that most of you have no more interest in what the Fed does than in what CERN does. Exactly.

    But it might interest you to know that, as Fed chairwoman, Yellen will have even more power than Obama has to affect inflation, unemployment, and mortgage rates, as well as to determine how much you will pay for all kinds of goods and services.  And I, for one, will sleep a lot better knowing that that power will be vested in her instead of her rival, Larry Summers.

    Also, if you’ve heard outgoing chairman Ben Bernanke delivering his semi-annual monetary policy reports to Congress, you know that he (like all of his all-male predecessors) seemed to regard the Fed’s function as little more than manipulating statistics, data points, and trend lines. No doubt this is why, listening to him (and them), you could be forgiven for thinking that the aim of these policy reports was just to sound as much like an inscrutable Oracle as possible.

    By contrast, Yellen is already on record validating my take on the qualitative difference she (or any woman) as chair would bring not only in determining Fed policy but also in delivering its semi-annual reports. Here, for example, is what she said in a keynote speech at a conference sponsored by the AFL-CIO and the IMK Macroeconomic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. on February 11, 2013:

    These are not just statistics to me… When you’re unemployed for six months or a year, it is hard to qualify for a lease, so even the option of relocating to find a job is often off the table. The toll is simply terrible on the mental and physical health of workers, on their marriages, and on their children.

    Ironically, perhaps her nomination just reflects the traditional view that a woman would be better suited to wean the U.S. economic off the Fed stimuls it has been milking for so many years. But the only thing that would have me cheering louder for Yellen’s nomination is if it were a female, instead of a male, president of the United States who made it….

    NOTE: The second most powerful and influential banker in the world is arguably the head of the IMF. And she just happens to be Christine Lagarde of France, whose selection I heartily cheered here two years ago. You go … girls!

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  • Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 5:23 AM

    Higgs Boson Nobel Prize Based More on Hope than Accomplishment

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    higgsbosonbHere, in part, is how I threw cold water on giddy celebrations last year after scientists announced their discovery of the elusive Higgs boson (aka the God particle):

    Watching scientists behave at Wednesday’s news conference announcing this discovery like little girls at a Justin Bieber concert indicates what a big deal they think it is…

    But, frankly, not since the 1988 publication of A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes by physicist Stephen Hawking has there been so much media hype about a subject few people know anything about…

    Whatever benefits it might lead to at some point in the distant future, I suspect this discovery will have about as much impact on our daily lives as the prehistoric discovery of Halley’s comet.

    (“The God Particle? Hardly,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 7, 2012)

    Which is why I suppose I should be humbled, if not humiliated, by this news that broke yesterday:

    Physicists Francois Englert of Belgium and Peter Higgs of Britain won the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their theoretical discoveries on how subatomic particles acquire mass.

    Their theories were confirmed last year by the discovery of the so-called Higgs particle, also known as the Higgs boson, at a laboratory in Geneva, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

    (The Associated Press, October 8, 2013)

    British physicist Peter Higgs (R) speaksI readily admit that I’m probably to physics what Sarah Palin is to politics. But I am all too mindful that this is the same Nobel Foundation that awarded Barak Obama the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples … especially in the Muslim world.”

    Because, if Englert (left) and Higgs do for science what Obama has done for peace, chances are very good that, four years from now, the Nobel Foundation will be suffering another case of … conferrer’s remorse.

    After all, Obama effectively watched the germinating, blossoming, and withering of the Arab spring from the sidelines and has precious little to show for all of his efforts to strengthen cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. Not to mention that his bombing and deposing of Col. Muammar Gaddafi spawned a reign of Islamic anarchists who now seem hell-bent on making peace a pipe dream not just in Libya but throughout the entire African Continent.

    In point of fact, here’s the sobering admonition no less a person than Sir Peter Knight, president of Britain’s Institute of Physics, offered amidst all the celebration of this Higgs boson discovery:

    [There’s] still much we don’t know about particles – this is only the beginning of a new journey. We have closed one chapter and opened another.

    (The Telegraph, July 4, 2012)

    Therefore, with all due respect to these great scientists, this Nobel Prize seems based more on the substance of things hoped for than on the evidence of things discovered. But perhaps this God particle will help them reverse engineer the Big Bang that created the Universe; so they can develop one super-atomic bomb that can destroy it…?

    Meanwhile, are you aware that the Nobel Foundation did not deem Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent efforts to win independence for Indians worthy of its Peace Prize; yet deemed Yassar Arafat’s violent efforts to secure a homeland for Palestinians eminently worthy…?

    Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 7.13.27 PMScreen Shot 2013-10-08 at 9.40.19 PMHell, all it needs to fatally undermine its credibility is to award this year’s Peace Prize on Friday to Russia’s neo-Stalinist president, Vladimir Putin, for defying the world by propping up his Middle-Eastern puppet, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    This, notwithstanding that Assad has not only gassed over 1000 of his own people to death, including over 400 children, but also bombed over 100,000.

    On the other hand, the Nobel Foundation would go a long way towards reclaiming some credibility if it were to award this prize to a 16-year-old Pakistani, Malala Yousafzai, for fighting for the right of Muslim girls to an education (even after defying a near-fatal assassination attempt by the Taliban).

    Not least because her fight is every bit as inspiring and Nobel worthy as Gandhi’s was….

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  • Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 5:17 AM

    The Breast Cancer Awareness Angelina Wrought: More about Implants than Cancer

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Never mind that this awareness is now so mainstream that every football player was sporting the symbolic color pink somewhere on his uniform during Sunday’s NFL games – with some players even wearing pink shoes.

    angelina-jolie-covers-time-magazine-after-mastectomy-225x300But there’s no gainsaying that the focus of this awareness these days is more on women like Angelina Jolie who have prophylactic breast surgeries (aka boob jobs) than on those who have breast removal surgeries to actually prevent cancer metastasis. In fact, oncologists are referring to the alarming number of women with no symptoms of breast cancer who are having double mastectomies for cosmetic implants as “the Angelina effect.”

    (Why not skip the mastectomies and just get boob jobs like normal women? Probably because the pretext of cancer operates like a form of Munchhausen syndrome for these wannabe breast cancer survivors….)

    Indeed, the media have been hailing Jolie, without any hint of irony, as some patron saint of breast cancer survivors, which was the effect of TIME magazine making her elective surgery the cover story for its May 27, 2013 edition.

    But here, in part, is how I pooh-poohed their beatification of her:

    Alas, in our celebrity-obsessed culture, having an A-lister like Jolie do so somehow makes it okay, perhaps even fashionable…

    Jolie did not opt to remain au naturel (i.e., flat chested). Now that would have been heroic, and truly worthy of media beatification. Instead, she got a boob job … too.

    Which raises the question: why hail Jolie as the patron saint of breast-cancer survivors when all she did was elect to look like every other actress in Hollywood who makes a living by showing off the most titillating fake breasts money can buy?

    (“Angelina Jolie’s ‘Heroic Decision’ to Get Breast Implants…? The iPINIONS Journal, May 16, 2013)

    Well, you can just imagine the hate mail this incited. Except that there’s also no gainsaying the superficial regard far too many women now have for this radical surgery:

    We’re seeing a large number of women requesting a preventive mastectomy for peace of mind, women who’ve been diagnosed but don’t have a genetic predisposition so wouldn’t benefit.

    These are patients who say, ‘Can you do for me what Angelina Jolie had done?’ They’re on the increase.

    This was Professor Kefah Mokbel, of the London Breast Institute, being quoted in an October 3, 2013 report in the New York Post.

    angelina_lara_croft2-620x412-300x199But, with all due respect to the notion of getting some “peace of mind,” it seems far more likely that “More women [are] requesting double mastectomies” (as the headline to this report declared) only because:

    It’s better to look good than to feel good.

    Moreover, they are no doubt hoping to be complimented after surgery with:

    You look mahvalous!

    (With apologies to actor Billy Crystal who made these two lines famous with his parody of Fernando Lamas on Saturday Night Live during the mid-1980s.)

    In any event, my cynicism is more properly vindicated by this research finding at the University of Minnesota, which was presented at the 2013 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons:

    Women who have a healthy breast removed over fears they might later develop breast cancer may not improve their survival rate, according to new research.

    (Daily Mail, October 7, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 8.16.13 AMWhich raises the question: if, like Jolie, you had the BRCA gene but no trace of breast cancer, would you opt for a double mastectomy even though your life expectancy might improve by no more than six months, as this research found…?

    Meanwhile, it must have been some boob, with silicone implants for brains, who called for a “No Bra Day” this Sunday, October 13. After all, most women I know have natural breasts and go to church on Sundays. And none of them would be caught dead strutting into church with their girls jiggling like two mounds of breast-plated jello.

    On the other hand, such is the imposing conceit of women with fake boobs that they see nothing wrong with drawing attention even from the word of God with bra-less breasts, which titillate the way breasts once did only with the help of bullet bras … right?

    Finally, to put this elective-mastectomy-for-boob-job craze into perspective, the National Institutes of Health estimates that 300,000 people in the United States die from obesity each year. But this, according to NIH estimates, is more than five times the number of those who die from breast cancer (40,000) and ovarian cancer (15,000) … combined.

    Yet I don’t recall TIME magazine publishing a cover story on the “Roker effect” – about the alarming number of people rushing out to get gastric bypass surgery after NBC’s popular weatherman Al Roker publicized his….

    Ergo, with homage to Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

    [Vanity], thy name is woman!

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