• Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 7:03 AM

    First Lady Michelle, She Bangs

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt you recall the media sensation First Lady Michelle Obama caused last month when she debuted her new hairstyle on the eve of President Obama’s inauguration.

    Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 5.05.46 PMEveryone was singing its praises. I, on the other hand, sounded this discordant note:

    I’m not feelin’ it. It makes her look too much like a grown woman trying too hard to look young.

    Mind you, I considered this nothing more than relatively benign, tongue-in-cheek critique, which I appended at the end of a comprehensive review of the inauguration in Obama Inauguration: Take 2, The iPINIONS Journal, January 23, 2013.

    Yet, based on the tongue-lashing I received, you’d think I said she looked like a Black bimbo. Specifically, even more than questioning my taste, her defenders damned me to anti-Obama purgatory for ascribing to this serene lady the superficial motive of trying too hard to look young.

    Well, to all of them I say, eat this:

    This is my mid-life crisis, the bangs. I couldn’t get a sports car. They won’t let me bungee jump. So instead, I cut my bangs.

    (Huffington Post, February 19, 2013)

    For this is how Michelle herself affirmed my critique. What’s more, no less a person than style guru Karl Lagerfeld affirmed my taste as follows:

    Frankly, the fringe was a bad idea. It’s not good.

    (Vanity Fair, January 30, 2013)

    And in case you’re wondering, “fringe” is Karl’s French for bangs….

    More interesting, though, who would’ve thought this first lady would be the woman to destroy the sexist myth that midlife crisis is a pathetic malady that only affects egotistical men … with low T?

    At any rate, for the record, I adore Michelle. Nonetheless, I think any before-and-after comparison will attest to my view that she looked not only better but even younger without that fringe.

    So here’s to the “old” Michelle.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama inauguration

  • Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 6:58 AM

    Contradiction in Near-Death Experiences

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt you have heard all kinds of people waxing nirvanic about their near-death experiences. For obvious reasons, those getting the most attention are scientists and doctors who many seem to think give these experiences more credibility.

    outofbodyNever mind that these doctors are invariably promoting books for worldly gain as much as providing insight into life after death. Perhaps you’ve seen Dr. Mary Neal on TV selling her To Heaven and Back; or Dr. Eben Alexander III selling his Proof of Heaven.

    Not to mention that the vast majority of their peers insist that there is a biological/scientific explanation for most near-death experiences – as University of Cambridge neuroscientist Dean Mobbs duly noted in the September 12, 2011 edition of Scientific American.

    But let me hasten to clarify that I have no interest in questioning anybody’s religious or mystical experience. It’s just that it betrays all religious belief that anybody would struggle to hold onto this life when he or she has one foot in Heaven – already experiencing the eternal joy, peace, and happiness every religion promises.

    Which is why my only question to those who would have Doubting Thomases like me believe that they experienced this taste of Heaven is: then why are you still here?

    And I don’t mind confessing that my cynicism is informed, in part, by the heavenly conundrum Black-American blues and jazz composer Tom Delaney posed in his spiritual song “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, but Nobody Wants to Die.”

  • Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 7:04 AM

    Report on Gay Cabal in Vatican Forced Pope to Resign…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    There is no gainsaying that Pope Benedict XVI is abandoning the Vatican ship of state in troubled waters. It is bad enough that Cardinal Roger Mahoney and Archbishop Jose Gomez, Mahoney’s successor as leader of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest in the United States, are having a Cain and Abel-like struggle over the release of documents proving that, for decades, Mahoney actively covered-up for pedophile priests; or that is it becoming increasingly clear that this pope did little to hold officials like Mahoney to account for engaging in such cover-ups.

    Now comes this:

    The Italian media are reporting that Pope Benedict XVI resigned after receiving the results of an internal investigation, delivered in a 300-page, two-volume dossier, that laid bare a sordid tale of blackmail, corruption, and gay sex at the Vatican.

    The respected Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported Friday that the report stamped ‘Pontifical Secret,’ contained ‘an exact map of the mischief and the bad fish’ inside the Holy See.

    (USA TODAY, February 24, 2013)

    images-1Except that, if the results of this internal investigation came as such a shock to Benedict, it reflects a symptom – not of the physical frailties he cited as cause for his abdication, but of dementia.

    For here’s how he himself appeared to be condoning the machinations of gay priests while condemning the sins of pedophile priests (i.e., condemning the sin not the sinner) almost five years ago:

    I am deeply ashamed, and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future. I do not wish to talk at this moment about homosexuality, but about pedophilia, which is another thing.

    (Huffington Post, April 16, 2008)

    To be sure there is no determinative correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia. But the pope’s attempt to whitewash the enabling relationship between pedophile priests and the (gay?) church officials who covered-up their abuses constrained me to admonish him as follows.

    A gay cabal in the Vatican continues to indulge and cover-up the sexual exploits of gay priests, including abuse by pedophiles.

    (“The Pope Comes to America,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 16, 2008)

    Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 10.07.20 PMFrankly,  gay cabals have been making a mockery of every religious edict the Holy See has issued for centuries.

    The only difference now is that the stench of the pedophile scandal is causing even reporters to turn up their noses at everything that stinks in the state of the Vatican. I personally saw this play out just yesterday on CNN:

    After John Allen, the network’s Senior Vatican reporter, blithely remarked that he believes there really is a gay cabal in the Vatican, anchor Natalie Allen (no relation) asked how, given the insidious and pervasive nature of the corruption and sexual scandals, the Papal Conclave could possibly pick a new pope who is not tainted. But before he could answer, she quipped, quite irreverently, but instructively:

    The only way is to choose a nun….

    Tarcisio BertoneMeanwhile, nothing demonstrates how desperate the Vatican is to calm these troubled waters quite like the extraordinary step it took to issue a papal denunciation of reports about homosexual priests turning Vatican City into a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah:

    It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave … that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.

    (Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, Reuters, February 23, 2013)

    5cadb25ec4cd83062a0f6a706700d9eaExcept that no sooner had the Vatican issued this denunciation than the pope was obliged to accept the resignation of Britain’s top Catholic, Cardinal Keith O’Brien. He was forced to resign over allegations that he not only covered-up for pedophile priests, but also made inappropriate sexual advances on a number of seminarians under his charge in the early 1980s. He will become the first cardinal to be excommunicated from a Papal Conclave in church history.

    But the real issue here is not what political and sexual mischief goes on behind Vatican doors. Rather it is the cardinal hypocrisy inherent in a gay cabal – with unchecked religious power and authority – damning other homosexuals to Hell, and doing all it can in the meantime to deny them their basic civil rights. Self-abnegation is one thing, but this smacks of pathological self-hatred … reductio ad absurdum.

    Apropos of Hell, I pray God has reserved a special place there for pedophile priests and the church officials who enabled and covered-up their pandemic sexual abuse of little children. But I pray there is a place nearby for all gay clergymen, like Cardinal O’Brien, who  preach about the moral turpitude of homosexuality on Sunday morning after engaging in gay sex on Saturday night.

    Related commentaries:
    Pope comes to America
    Pope accused of harboring pedophile priests
    Abdication of Pope Benedict

  • Monday, February 25, 2013 at 12:15 AM

    And the Oscar goes to…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Well, first things first:

    The Host

    I say give the hosting gig back to Billy Crystal, permanently!

    (“2006 Oscars,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 6, 2006)

    article-2283948-1841A390000005DC-503_964x485This is how I felt about Billy Crystal until he returned last year to fill in for Eddie Murphy at the last minute. It may be that he just did not have enough time to prepare. But his staid performance was a tremendous letdown, which his botoxed face did little to uplift. This was brought into stark relief by Seth MacFarlane’s hilariously entertaining and irreverent performance tonight.

    In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, MacFarlane is the creator and voice behind the hit TV show, Family Guy, and the blockbuster movie, Ted. But just imagine a host delivering Richard Pryor-style stand-up lines, acting Steve Martin-style bits, and singing, well, Hugh Jackman-style show tunes.  McFarlane did all that, and then some….

    His Ted bit with Mark Wahlberg about the location of the post-Oscar orgy he knew A-listers were having and why it would be helpful for the Catholic Wahlberg to say he’s Jewish was ROFL funny!

    Which compels me to suggest the Academy give the hosting gig to Seth McFarlane, permanently! He was great! Except that his opening monologue was a bit too long … and enough of the Chris Brown-Rihanna jokes already.

    The Singing Performances

    Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 9.41.46 AMIronically, the singing performances at this awards show for acting put to shame those at the awards show for singing, the Grammys, which we were treated to a few weeks ago.

    Based on the praise I heaped on Adele in picking her to win the Oscar for Best Original Song, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I thought her flawless rendition of her theme song for Skyfall was the highlight. Except that Dame Shirley Bassey upstaged her, literally – not only by performing first but also by singing a truly stirring rendition of her theme song for Goldfinger. Which is why her standing ovation, which Adele did not evoke, was not just an homage to her longevity.

    Dame Bassey is what Adele, and every singer who’d rather be known more for how she sings than for how she looks, should aspire to become: a woman who sounds more beautiful than any woman could ever look.

    On a slightly sour note, I’m not sure how many more times Barbra Streisand can be billed as giving a “rare” live performance. To be fair, though, she demonstrated with her performance of “The Way We Were” that she’s every bit as talented as Dame Bassey. But every time I hear Streisand sing I can’t help thinking how remarkable it is that a person with such a bitchy reputation can sound so much like an angel.

    The Tribute to Musicals

    article-2283948-18429B8A000005DC-555_964x440

    Frankly, Hollywood is such a monkey-see-monkey-do industry that I fear the success of Les Misérables is going to spawn so many cinematic musicals that Broadway musicals might become extinct.

    Mind you, the only reason this musical was such a hit on screen is that the female and male leads, namely Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman, are A-list actors who just happened to be A-list singers too. After all, A-list actor Russell Crowe demonstrated in this same film just how badly producing musicals for the big screen with A-list actors who can’t sing could flop.

    Apropos of which, does anyone recall even seeing the cinematic musical Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor (2001)? Never mind wondering why it did not win an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

    slide_282793_2146402_freeWhich is why I could have done without seeing Catherine Zeta-Jones reprising an equally forgettable performance from the Hollywood version of Chicago.

    I say leave the musicals to stage actors … and on Broadway.

    Well, okay, so I really enjoyed the Hollywood version of Dream Girls with Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé. And Jennifer showed why with her performance of “And I Am Telling You.”

    The Tribute to Bond, James Bond

    I am as big a fan of the Bond films as anybody else, and I don’t mind admitting that Sean Connery is my favorite Bond. Perhaps this is because he played the role at a time when not just geopolitical intrigue but also cultural norms more closely resembled those Ian Fleming depicted in his novels.

    article-2283948-1841CDA0000005DC-32_964x494Still, as much as I enjoyed the mini retrospective of their films, they were clearly upstaged by Adele and Dame Bassey performing their Bond-themed songs.

    Incidentally, the biggest fake out (and perhaps disappointment) of the evening had to have been the onstage reunion of the cast from the Avengers. This, because there was so much media hype about a reunion of all of the actors who have played Bond that never happened.

    The Awards

    I really enjoy cinema. And I appreciate the attention the Oscars often give to good but relatively unseen films like Atonement. Unfortunately, with all due respect to critics and members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Academy), how much a film makes, not whether it wins an Oscar, is the generally recognized measure of its success.

    Indeed, it might surprise, if not disillusion, many of you to learn that studios covet an Oscar for Best Picture primarily because – as Sumner Redstone, the owner of Paramount, conceded in a moment of extraordinary candor – it guarantees millions more in box office receipts.

    (“My Review of the Oscars 2008,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 25, 2008)

    And surely even more disillusioning is the fact that winning an Oscar has more to do with crass political campaigning (i.e., bribery) than artistic merit. And there is no better campaigner in this respect than Harvey Weinstein, the master producer of Oscar-winning films, including last year’s The Artist, and The King’s Speech the year before that. To stack the deck this year, he successfully campaigned to get three of his films nominated for Best Picture, namely, The Master, Silver Linings Playbook, and Django Unchained.

    I invite you to check out my pre-Oscar picks with explanations in my Saturday commentary below.

    With that, the Oscar goes to:

    Daniel Day-Lewis, Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway, Christoph Waltz

    • Actor in Supporting Role: My pick was Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln.

    The winner was Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained.  What was great and unnerving about this first award of the evening is that nobody, and I mean nobody, predicted him.  Despite winning in this same category in 2010 for another Quentin Tarantino film, Inglourious Basterds, Waltz must have felt like an interloper. He exuded humility – bowing, literally, to favorites Jones and Robert De Niro to begin his terrific (and what had to have been truly impromptu) acceptance speech.

    But suddenly the favorites in all other categories must have developed upset stomachs….

    • Actress in Supporting Role: My pick was Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables.

    The winner was Anne Hathaway.  She has the reputation of being a pretentious bitch. But she gave one of the most gracious and eloquent acceptance speeches ever.

    Anyway, I’m sure the other favorites all breathed a sigh of relief. But we are already three friggin’ hours into this show and only two of the six awards anybody cares about have been presented…. This must be torture for nominees still waiting for their category to be called.

    • Best Original Song: My pick was Adele for “Skyfall.”

    The winner was Adele. Enough said? Well, except, take that, Dame Bassey! The Dame did not win for Goldfinger.… Moreover, I think Adele’s “Skyfall” has just replaced Streisand’s “The Way We Were” as the Oscars’ Best Original Song of all time.

    • Best Director: My pick was Steven Spielberg for Lincoln.

    The winner was Ang Lee for Life of Pi. So much for the favorites breathing a sigh of relief. This was almost as shocking an upset as Waltz winning Best Supporting Actor over De Niro and Jones….

    • Actress in Leading Role: My pick was Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook.

    article-2284045-18434DF2000005DC-643_634x480The winner was Jennifer Lawrence. Her shining moment was dimmed only a little by her falling flat on her face as she was walking on stage. It’s too bad she did not have the presence of mind to accept the pitying ovation graciously. But I love her otherwise refreshing, care-free personality, and she’s a very beautiful girl.

    • Actor in Leading Role: My pick was Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln.

    The winner was Daniel Day Lewis.  The first winner in any acting category to receive a universal and genuine standing ovation, and deservedly so!

    • Best Picture: My pick was Argo.

    The winner was Argo. But really, Affleck had 16 years to mature, not to mention having about 16 opportunities this awards season to perfect his acceptance speech; yet he sounded every bit like the giddy and excitedly incoherent kid he was 16 years ago when he and pal Matt Damon won Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting.

    Even worse, though, was what he said. He thanked his wife for spending the past 10 Christmases working on their marriage, saying that “it’s the best kind of work” for Christ’s sake. Which I suppose explains what happened to Jennifer Garner’s thriving acting career after she married him.  If this shockingly chauvinistic pig had more time he probably would have added that she enjoys staying at home in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant. Who knew?

    slide_282793_2147275_free

    At any rate, it was a terrific surprise having First Lady Michelle Obama present this award live from the White House…. But I still think she looks silly wearing those teenybopper bangs.

    • Best Dressed

    article-2283932-18410AE1000005DC-525_310x815article-2283932-18411BA4000005DC-571_310x813The winner of this most popular, even if unofficial, award was a tie between Jessica Chastain and Zoe Saldana:

    Jessica, who played the badass CIA analyst in Zero Dark Thirty, for pulling off that irresistible combination of looking like a Jessica-Rabbit babe who could also kick your ass; and

    Zoe, who played the equally badass warrior princess in Avatar, for doing a titillating job of making Bradley Cooper regret dumping her … again.

    That’s a wrap!

    Related commentaries:
    Oscars 2012

  • Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    The Oscars: My Picks

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’m on record stating rather emphatically how much I detest the Annual Academy Awards telecast. Because I have little regard for preening, pampered poseurs showing off their borrowed frocks and bling-bling as a prelude to a three-hour show – only six minutes of which anyone really cares about (i.e., the time it takes to present Oscars for best supporting actor and actress, best actor and actress, best director, and best picture)…

    And, remarkably enough, the host comedians do little to relieve the boredom of the interludes between these carefully spread-out moments.

    (“My Review of the 2008 Oscars,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 25, 2008)

    imagesThat said, here are my six picks, plus a bonus for best original song – because my pick in this category is a consummation so devoutly to wished:

    Best Actor – in Leading Role

    Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln because not since Michael Jordan played in his prime has any individual displayed such unparalleled talent in any field of endeavor as Day-Lewis has in acting. This will make him the first actor in history to win three Oscars in this category. For a little perspective, though, it might be helpful to know that Meryl Streep won her third last year for Best Actress, and that Katherine Hepburn won four.

    But Day-Lewis is so good that he could end up winning an Oscar for playing a role he initially turned down because he did not think he could do the character justice. Perhaps because he’s not American; notwithstanding that this has proved no stumbling block for a surprising number of foreign actors who have played American characters quite convincingly.

    Still, Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables deserves honorable mention for pulling off the improbable feat of both acting and singing like a first-rate performer, which is much more than I can say for his main co-star Russell Crowe – whose acting was an ode, but who sang like a toad.

    Best Actor – in Supporting Role

    Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln because, well, acting with Day-Lewis brings out the best performance in any supporting actor. To be fair, Jones is one of those character actors who – from his breakout performance in The Executioner’s Song (1982) – seemed destined to be hailed as an Academy Award-winning actor. As with Christopher Plummer last year, though, I never thought it would take so many years for him to fulfill this destiny. Jones finally won this same category in 1994 for The Fugitive. Lincoln should make him a two-time Academy Award-winning actor.

    Best Actress – in Leading Role

    Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook because, with all due respect to Lawrence, this is the only way members of the Academy will be able to recognize the truly Oscar-worthy performances of her co-stars Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

    Best Actress – in Supporting Role

    Ann Hathaway in Les Misérables for the same reason Jennifer Lawrence will win for her leading role. In this case, the indirect nods are to her co-star Hugh Jackman and director Tom Hooper – who, quite shockingly, was not even nominated for Best Director.

    Best Director

    Steven Spielberg for Lincoln only because, quite stupidly, the Academy failed to nominate Ben Affleck, the director of the sure winner for Best Picture, Argo. Mind you, this is not to suggest that Spielberg is not worthy; after all, he is almost to directing what Day-Lewis is to acting. (If there were an Oscar for the biggest snub, Affleck would win hands down.)

    Best Picture

    Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 1.00.43 PMArgo because it soared both cinematically and emotionally. Not to mention its not so subtle message to Iran that America is bound to win their game of Chicken over its nuclear program because America has the political intelligence to match its military might.

    Some critics are slamming Affleck for the artistic license he took in depicting parts of this thriller about the real-life CIA rescue of six American diplomats from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. They note, for example, that Iranian security forces did not uncover the caper at the very last minute and began firing at the getaway plane as it was taking off.

    Except that their criticisms are plainly misguided; not least because this is a movie based on real events, not a documentary film. In fact, Oscars are awarded for Best Documentary Feature precisely for this reason.

    What’s more, I wonder if these critics think The King’s Speech won Best Picture two years ago because everything depicted on screen was precisely as it happened in real life…? Not to mention that Spielberg took such artistic license in Lincoln, the only picture that stands any chance of upsetting Argo, that his factual errors make those Affleck committed seem as inconsequential as merely failing to dot an ‘i’. (For example, the two representatives from Connecticut did not vote against the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery as Spielberg depicts.)

    220px-Django_Unchained_PosterMeanwhile, given its compelling subject matter, Django Unchained deserves honorable mention. Because, like Argo, it soared emotionally but was so riveting cinematically that it was nominated for Best Cinematography as well; whereas Argo was not.

    I am all too mindful, however, that the main plot of this movie involves a Black cowboy outwitting and killing a bunch of White folks. Granted the Whites in this case are inhumane, slave-holding SOBs. Yet celebrating it in this context seems a bridge too far for the voting members of the Academy – who, according to the February 19, 2012 edition of the Los Angeles Times, are 94 percent White and 77 percent male.

    Apropos of critics, you’ve probably heard Spike Lee, the director of such “racially affirming” films as She’s Gotta Have It and Jungle Fever, spewing indignation about Django Unchained being “disrespectful to my ancestors” – as he is quoted saying in the December 21, 2012, edition of Vibe magazine. It speaks volumes about his professional integrity and intellectual curiosity, however, that he boasted about having no intent to ever see this film by (White) director Quentin Tarantino.

    But all you need to know is that Lee spewed equally vacuous criticism about the Academy Award-winning film The Color Purple by (White) director Steven Spielberg. Not to mention his demonstrably uninformed fulmination about Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood not including one Black soldier in his two films about Iwo Jima, namely Letters From Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers. The only plausible explanation for his criticism in each case is race-based envy and resentment. (I addressed Lee’s race-baiting ignorance in this latter respect more fully in “Spike Lee vs. Clint Eastwood Over No Blacks in War Movies,” June 10, 2008)

    All the same, for the record, please beware that criticizing Tarantino for having his White characters use the word “Nigger” too many times in Django Unchained is rather like criticizing Spielberg for having his German characters use the word “Vermin” too many times in Schindler’s List. The criticism in both cases reflects an insidious strain of political correctness that presumes even to rewrite history.

    Best Original Song

    “Skyfall” by Adele for Skyfall because, in this age, when style too often triumphs over substance (e.g., think how indispensable style is to the performances of singers like Lady Gaga and Nickki Minaj), she personifies the saving grace of pure, unadulterated talent. And she’s beautiful to boot.

    What’s more, I suspect her song had even more to do with making this Bond film the billion-dollar blockbuster it has become than Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” had to with making that eponymous Bond film the success it was.

    And the Oscar goes to…

    Related commentaries:
    2008 Oscars
    2012 Oscars
    Lee vs. Eastwood over Blacks in movies…

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Saturday, at 7:44 am

  • Friday, February 22, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    Why All the Outrage Over Horse Meat?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Like so many people, you probably recoiled with cultural indignation at reports this week about horse meat being sold all over Europe as beef.

    Horse+and+cowOf course it is wrong to mislabel horse meat as beef. But I would caution Americans to read the following before giving full vent to their holier-than-thou attitude in this respect:

    Oceana, an international ocean advocacy group, has released a report on national seafood fraud [in the United States], and the results are disconcerting. The report, which is one of the largest on seafood fraud to date, found that one-third of fish was mislabeled…

    For example, 84 percent of the white tuna samples were actually escolar, a species that is known to cause digestive issues for certain individuals.

    (Huffington Post, February 21, 2013)

    Moreover, is it any more disgusting to eat horse meat mislabeled as cow meat than it is to eat dolphin meat mislabeled as shark meat?  (Why do you think pods of tens of thousands of dolphins have been spotted swimming frantically off the coast of California in recent weeks?  Escaping the fishing nets of Alaska fishermen, perhaps…?)

    In any event, much of this indignation over horse meat reeks of hypocrisy and carnivore snobbery, both rooted in ignorance.

    After all, eating horses was (and is becoming again) as commonplace in France, a nation of gastronomes nonpareil, as eating pigs is in the United States.  Which makes all of the outrage over eating horse meat akin to barbarians accusing aristocrats of uncivilized behavior. (Oh, did you know that eating dogs is as commonplace in China as eating pheasants is in England.)

    Bon appetit…?

    Meanwhile, this “rumpus” over horse meat might cause the United States to reconsider lifting its ban on imports of EU beef, which the United States imposed in 1997 over concerns about mad-cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE). Just last year the Department of Agriculture recommended lifting it….

    For the record, suspicions prevailed in Europe about the ban being imposed in retaliation for the EU ban on imports of American beef,  which the EU imposed in 1988 over concerns about hormones used to treat American beef.

    All of which makes a compelling case for vegetarianism, no…?

    images

  • Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 7:51 AM

    CARICOM and its Groundhog Meetings

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I read with a mixture of dismay and bemusement about the goings-on in Haiti this week at the Twenty-Fourth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government. This Conference is the de facto central government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and is responsible for setting its policies.

    IMG_0666[1]

    Perhaps you’ve read reports on discussions the Heads had on redoubling integration efforts, strengthening regional crime and security measures, bolstering regional trade, preserving tax haven status consistent with extraterritorial demands from the United States, among other items.

    I found particularly noteworthy their declaration of support for Antigua and Barbuda (Antigua) in its ten-year fight at the WTO against the United States, as well as their expression of “grave concern” about the four-year domestic quarrel the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is having with its constitutional parent, the United Kingdom.

    To the point, though, I was dismayed because I know all too well that, despite the seriousness of these matters, discussions on them among the Heads hold no real consequences. For nothing has distinguished CARICOM throughout its forty-year history quite like the failure of lofty words to find habitation in actual deeds.

    From day one, for example, the Heads spoke of the “free movement of skills and professional persons” as a founding, fundamental principle. Yet, since then, more discussions have been held at CARICOM meetings on ways to limit such free movement than on ways to facilitate it.

    cbji06022010Of course, I am mindful that my take on this legacy of futility is hardly authoritative. Therefore, I trust you will find it instructive to know that no less a person than Edwin Carrington, former Secretary-General of CARICOM (1992-2010), felt constrained to lament the following in June 2001 – more than 35 years into “the ongoing project we call the CARICOM Single Market and Economy” and its precursor, the Caribbean Free Trade Agreement:

    I am convinced that the dream which was shared by our predecessors of CARICOM being a people and a region united in a common bond promised a great deal which has not yet been achieved.

    (ANSA MACAL Breakfast, CARICOM Secretariat, June 22, 2001)

    In other words, despite decades of groundhog meetings like the one that was held in Haiti this week, Hell will freeze over before CARICOM fulfills its founding promise of regional integration. And all indications are that Carrington’s lament is as relevant today as it was when he made it 13 years ago.

    The current chairman of CARICOM and host of this meeting, Haitian President Michel Martelly, brought this into stark relief in his opening remarks as follows:

    I begin by quoting the problem of movement of persons and goods. Our countries are in a paradoxical situation: so close but yet so far!

    (Caribbean News Now, February 20, 2013)

    imagesFrankly, it speaks volumes of about this futility that the nations of Europe – with their warring history, many languages, and different cultures – have integrated their economies, but the nations of the Caribbean Commonwealth – with their common history, common language, and common culture (rooted in slavery) – have been unable to integrate theirs. (FYI: Haiti only became a full member in 2002, a year after Carrington’s instructive lament.)

    As it happens, I too have felt constrained over the years to lament this legacy of futility – as my catalogue of published commentaries on CARICOM will attest.

    But I am one who believes in cleaning up his own mess before complaining about that of others. Therefore, I shall note foremost in this context my lamentation about The Bahamas, the country of my birth, seeking more ways to opt out of CARICOM agreements than ways to codify the common bond among member states. (See, CARICOM’s CSME contra NAFTA, EU, Caribbean Net News, November 8, 2005.)

    I have been no less sparing, however, in my criticism of the virulent strain of myopic nationalism that has misled all member states to either cling to their former colonial master, the United Kingdom, or seek an equally dependent relationship with the world’s only superpower, the United States – both at the expense of forging greater regional integration:

    As regards the former, I have bemoaned the failure of far too many CARICOM countries to reject the UK Privy Council in favor of the Caribbean Court of Justice as the region’s court of final appeal. (See, No more Privy Council; take care of your own judicial mess, The iPINIONS Journal, October 8, 2009; and Idle-minded debate on Privy Council continues…, Caribbean News Now, July 1, 2011.)

    As regards the latter, I have observed that the reason the CARICOM Single Market and Economy remains a pipe dream is that each member state seems wedded to the prospect of deriving more economic benefit from bilateral deals with the United States (or China) than from any regional deal.

    IMG_7854Incidentally, this is why the most important person at this meeting was not any of the Heads, but the disarmingly solitary figure of the “special guest,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

    Which brings me to why I was bemused. For nothing demonstrates how hollow the words of these Heads are quite like those pronounced in support of Antigua in its fight against the United States. Because their words are clearly betrayed by the mere presence of Mr. Holder, the man directly responsible for executing America’s unilateral decimation of Antigua’s gambling industry, which in turn has devastated its economy. Forget the fox guarding the hen house; this is rather like other CARICOM hens inviting that fox in to have its way with Antigua. (See Antigua v. United States re: online gambling … continues? Caribbean News Now, February 1, 2013)

    Then there’s the patent misguidedness of the TCI looking to CARICOM to help it sort out its (still-dependent) relationship with mother England. After all, this is rather like a housewife looking to family members to help her sort out her relationship with her chauvinistic husband.

    Even worse is the TCI looking to CARICOM to repeal the UK-imposed VAT, which it claims will destroy its economy. After all, some of the most powerful CARICOM economies rely on VAT, and its sister nation of The Bahamas is planning to implement it there too. (See Turks and Caicos looking to CARICOM (et al) repeal VAT? Caribbean News Now, February 5, 2013)

    CARICOM…? What a regional farce!

    Related commentaries:
    CARICOM’s CSME
    No more Privy Council
    Idle-minded debate
    Antigua v. United States
    TCI looking to CARICOM

  • Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 6:51 AM

    Obama – Playing Golf, Hiding Tiger?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The White House press corps is being quite properly ridiculed for throwing a hissy fit over President Obama’s decision to ban correspondents from covering his round of golf with Tiger Woods on Sunday.

    images-3But Ed Henry, president of the White House Correspondents Association, is doing his best to defend their whining:

    This isn’t about a golf game… This is a fight for more access, period.

    (Politico, February 18, 2013)

    With all due respect to Henry, however, this can’t be about more access to Obama. Not least because correspondents have no constitutional right to any access, and every president has, for one reason or another, banned them in similar fashion.

    images-1Instead, this is about why Obama felt the need to play with Tiger only on the down low. After all, not since political survival forced Nicodemus to meet with Jesus only in the dark of night has a meeting between a politician and a notorious citizen been executed with such secrecy.

    Meanwhile, the media are replete with stories about this re-elected president being clearly unburdened by the need to pander or appease for political survival.

    Which is why I am so bemused by the prevailing view among political pundits that Obama ordered this press blackout because he did not want women to see him hanging out with such a notorious womanizer. Am I the only one who sees a contradiction here…?

    Obama-Clinton-golf-620x376Mind you, this is the same president who, at the height of last year’s campaign to get re-elected, granted the press unfettered access to cover his round of golf with no less a womanizer than former President Bill Clinton. This, above all, is why I am stupefied that Obama felt the need to hide away with Tiger the way he used to hide away with cigarettes – when he was still struggling to quit.

    Frankly, this should have been an occasion for national celebration: having the most famous politician in the world being treated to a round of golf (every president’s favorite game) by the most famous golfer in the world; especially given the improbable fact that they are both Black. I wish Obama had the balls to play it as such.

    Tiger does not deserve to be treated like a pariah. Unlike Clinton, he never betrayed a public trust. Moreover, notwithstanding his humiliating public apology, his infidelities were nobody’s business but his and his wife’s.

    So shame on Obama for playing golf but hiding Tiger; well, as if he were Tiger playing with mistress(es)….

    Related commentaries:
    Blaming Michael for Tiger’s infidelities

  • Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    Model: ‘I just won the genetic lottery’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Victoria’s Secret model Cameron Russell delivered an (ostensibly) self-effacing perspective on her profession at a Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference last October. TED posted her talk on its website last month. But, for some inexplicable reason, the mainstream media began reporting on it as breaking news last week.

    imagesHere, in part, is what she said:

    Hard work is not why I have been successful as a model… The most important part of my job is to show up with a 23-inch waist, looking young, feminine, and white. This shouldn’t really shock anyone … beauty and race and privilege get you a news story.

    (TEDxMidAtlantic, October 2012)

    She is right, of course: not only about the genetic lottery that enables her to have a very lucrative career as a model, but also about the superficial values that prizes beauty over brains. Indeed, apropos of the latter, despite the appearance of other notable speakers like former Secretary of State Colin Powell, the only reason most people will know anything about this conference is that model Cameron was there.

    But it’s plainly absurd for the media to be turning her into the Harriet Beecher Stowe of modeling. Not least because it smacks of brazen hypocrisy for Cameron to be condemning the genetics and racism upon which the beauty industry is built while at the same time “cashing out” on them – as she informs her audience, with no hint of irony, is exactly what she’s doing.

    article-2280449-17A8387D000005DC-740_306x600According to yesterday’s edition of the Daily Mail, she wanted to warn young girls that, even though “it’s awesome,” modeling is “not a career path.” Except that this is rather like Babe Ruth warning young Blacks (like Jackie Robinson) that, even though playing Baseball is an awesome career for Whites, racism precludes it ever being so for Blacks.

    giselebundchen_214259And given the regular feature in People magazine on celebrities, including supermodels, “caught” without makeup, who needs Cameron to inform them that no model looks in real life the way she looks in glossy magazines?

    To be fair, she said on CNN yesterday that she wanted to “tell an honest personal narrative of what privilege means.” Except that only Prince William lamenting the privileges of royalty could be more self-indulgent … and redundant.

    Meanwhile, Cameron seems very keen to let people know that she has a degree in economics and political science from Columbia University. But this only makes one wonder why a woman with her brains and preening social rectitude would settle for a profession that perpetuates the very superficial and racist notions of beauty she condemns.

    Frankly, the only thing shocking about skinny White bitches dominating the beauty industry is this skinny White bitch trying to have her cake and eat it too – by criticizing what she continues to benefit from so handsomely….

    In any event, she’s hardly the first person to decry the self-loathing inherent in celebrating tall, skinny, White women as the icons of beauty in a nation where short, fat, multiracial women are the norm. In fact, here’s what I was constrained to note six years ago in what I described as “my biannual rant against skinny models” strutting their dry bones during fashion week:

    I’m not too focused on how bone thin these bitches are to notice how bone white they are also!

    (“Fashion Model Fired for Being too Skinny? Hallelujah!” The iPINIONS Journal, September 12, 2007)

    But thanks for chiming in, Cameron. I hope your conscience is allowing you to get more beauty sleep now.

    Related commentaries:
    Fashion model … too skinny

  • Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    The Quayling of Marco Rubio…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Friday, February 15, 2013 at 7:47 AM

    Olympian Oscar Pistorius Now South Africa’s O.J. Simpson…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2013-02-14 at 9.35.26 AM

    South Africans woke up this morning to the truly shocking news that world famous Paralympian Oscar Pistorius (26) had been charged with murder.

    The double-leg amputee is claiming that:

    … he accidentally shot dead his model girlfriend at his luxury South Africa home when he mistook her for an intruder.

    (Mail & Guardian, February 14, 2013)

    Except that a number of local papers are reporting that neighbors heard Pistorius and FHM model Reeva Steenkamp (30) engaged in a “violent”  lover’s spat before hearing “shots” fired around 4am. This would clearly rebut his surprise-intruder defense. More incriminating still is that:

    Pretoria police spokeswoman Denise Beukes confirmed … they had been called to his home on several occasions since 2011 to deal with ‘allegations of domestic violence.’

    (Daily Mail, February 14, 2013)

    It is this alleged history of domestic violence that leads me to believe he murdered his girlfriend in the same kind of chauvinistic/jealous rage in which O.J. Simpson murdered his ex-wife. And it would be no surprise if ex-girlfriends come out of the woodwork now to testify about his abusive behavior, each implying that, but for the grace of God, she could have been the victim of this Valentine’s Day murder.

    a_bronze_figure_of_a_crouching_satyr_after_giambologna_possibly_german_d5328367hWhat’s more, my own suspicions about Pistorious’s manic personality led me to ridicule him after this blade runner’s surprising loss in the 200m at last summer’s Paralympic Games; incidentally, when everyone else was hailing him like a mythological satyr:

    What business did he have participating in the Olympics if he was not even good enough to win in the Paralympics? I even took perverse interest in the way Pistorius made a mockery of his highly touted sportsmanship by crying sour grapes about the length of the other runner’s blades after his loss….

    (“In Defense of NBC’s Olympics and Paralympics Coverage,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 14, 2012)

    Prosecutors are vowing to have him remanded without bail pending trial. But, consistent with my allusion to O.J., I fear his fame and irrepressible charisma will mislead jurors (or, in this case, the presiding judge) to nullify all incriminating evidence and acquit him too. For what it’s worth, I’ve read enough to believe that, like O.J., he is as guilty as sin.

    In the meantime, just as Hertz did with O.J., sponsors are wasting no time dropping Pistorius as the face of their company.

    More important, though, it is probably no exaggeration to say that Oscar Pistorius being charged with murder is more heartbreaking to people with disabilities than Lance Armstrong being charged with doping was to people with cancer. Pistorius is/was that big a hero and inspiration to millions around the world….

    NOTE: Just days ago Reeva published a tweet exhorting her fellow South Africans to wear a black band on Friday in solidarity with the fight to prevent rape and other violence against women. How ironic, then, that her own boyfriend is now the poster boy – not only for perpetrating such violence (against her), but also for the endemic gun violence that makes South Africa, on a per capita basis, even more violent than the United States.

    Related commentaries:
    In defense of NBC’s Olympics and Paralympics

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 9:14 am

  • Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 7:24 AM

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here’s a little trick to get you in the mood to give a big treat later tonight.

    happyvalentinesday-720151By the way, if your lover shows up for work tomorrow, that could only mean one thing:

    your treat was not big enough.

  • Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    State of the Union Address: ‘A Political Spectacle’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    article-2277857-178BABF7000005DC-428_634x406

    I have listened to enough State of the Union Addresses to know that they invariably amount to a triumph of style over substance.  And nothing demonstrates this quite like the most memorable thing about President Obama’s first address last year being not something he said, but a congressman yelling, ‘You lie.’

    (“2011 State of the Union Address,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 26, 2011)

    I have written many commentaries lamenting the “childish spectacle” politics in America has become. This is reflected in Republicans and Democrats doing everything from hurling schoolyard insults at each other to playing chicken over the budget with the country’s full faith and credit hanging in the balance.

    But it’s an indication of just how childish a spectacle politics has become that President Obama himself felt constrained to lament as follows in his second inaugural address just weeks ago:

    We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.

    (Washington Post, January 21, 2013)

    antonin-scalia-weird-hatThis is why I was so heartened when I read this morning that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed last night’s annual State of the Union (SOTU) Address as follows:

    It has turned into a childish spectacle. I don’t want to be there to lend dignity to it.

    (Huffington Post, February 13, 2013)

    Hear, hear!

    I am mindful, of course, that this is coming from a man who wore a Mickey Mouse cap to that very formal inauguration ceremony referenced above; that he sits on a court whose rulings these days seem borne of the same partisan divide that has turned Congress into such a childish spectacle; and that this is the 16th consecutive year (spanning Democratic and Republican presidents) Scalia has refused to lend dignity to this most august political spectacle of all, which probably says more about his temperament than the SOTU.

    In any event, apropos of the address itself:

    All presidents pad their addresses with feel-good proposals. And even the most popular presidents know that 95% of them will never be implemented.

    (“2007 State of the Union Address,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 24, 2007)

    Actually, in this respect, the president of the United States is rather like the president of a high-school senior class promising everything from better school lunches to more school holidays.

    And nothing adds to the spectacle in both cases quite like the president’s supporters greeting each promise with jubilant ovations while his opponents remain firmly seated on their hands; notwithstanding that the promise in question is something both sides favor, but which both sides know does not even stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of ever being fulfilled. Not to mention the patent absurdity of presidents repackaging the same SOTU address to deliver each year.

    This is why the spectacle of what Obama said last night was surpassed only by the spectacle of the way members of Congress reacted.  And, insofar as SOTU addresses are concerned, it has always been thus. Which is why, to preserve their own dignity, presidents should revert to the nineteenth century practice of just mailing it in.

    Related commentaries:
    2011 SOTU address
    2007 SOTU address

  • Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 6:47 AM

    The Abdication of Pope Benedict XVI

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

    (Pope Benedict XVI, BBC, February 11, 2013)

    article-2276884-17819829000005DC-859_634x765This, in part, is the papal announcement that shocked the world this morning. Here, for example, is how no less a person than the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, reacted during an interview on the NBC TODAY show:

    I’m as startled as the rest of you and as anxious to find out exactly what’s going on.

    The reason for this shock, of course, is that this is the first time in almost 600 years (since 1415) a pope has abdicated. What’s more, the world witnessed his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, defying his decaying body (and mind) to hold on until his last breath. Which is why Catholics may be forgiven their astonishment, if not disappointment, that (although 85) this relatively healthy pope is “giving up.”

    Nonetheless, let me hasten to clarify that I do not think this announcement was prompted by any of the public (pedophile and other) scandals that have plagued the church in recent years, or by any personal failing that has fatally compromised the pope’s moral authority. For if harboring a pedophile priest was not sufficient to disqualify him from being elected pope in the first place, I can’t imagine any scandal or failing that would compel him to abdicate.

    The Pope, in his position as bishop of diocese of Munich, harbored a known pedophile priest, who continued his predatory sexual abuse of little boys under the Pope’s pastoral supervision.  This, of course, is exactly what the Pope condemned American bishops for doing a few years ago.

    (“Pope Accused of Harboring Pedophile Priest,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 16, 2010)

    Instead, I think this is nothing more than the sensible, responsible, and admirable decision of a man who never bought into the fiction of papal infallibility as much as his predecessors did.

    CWHis abdication will take effect on February 28, 2013.  At which time the College of Cardinals will convene to elect a new Bishop of Rome (aka the pope).

    As it happened, within minutes of Pope Benedict’s announcement, a well-orchestrated campaign seemed already in full swing to ensure that his successor hails from either Africa or South America. Which makes sense of course; not least because these are the two continents where the church is not only experiencing the most growth, but also retaining the most relevance.

    Indeed, the cardinals choosing another White European as pope in these circumstances would be, well, as cardinal a political sin as the Republicans nominating a Tea Partier for president in 2016.

    Mind you, my regard for the political sense or sensibility of cardinals and Republicans alike is such that it would not surprise me at all if they both commit this sin. Not least in the case of the cardinals because Vatican operatives will surely point out that, precisely because Africans and Latinos are the fastest growing demographics in the church, there clearly is no need to pander to them. By contrast, given the attrition rate among North Americans and West Europeans, Vatican operatives might consider it more politically shrewd to elect a pope from one of these two regions.

    And trust me, despite all of the religious rhetoric about cardinals being guided by the Holy Spirit, the election of a pope is every bit as political as the election of a president.  It’s just that all of the campaigning for pope is done behind closed doors … in what is called a conclave.

    What’s more, notwithstanding its notorious inaccuracies, Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons does not do justice to the naked political machinations involved in this process. Indeed, it speaks volumes that the pope’s own butler, Paolo Gabriele, was so dispirited by the administrative incompetence, backstabbing, and graft within the curia that he leaked the Vatican papers last year for the same principled reason Daniel Elsberg leaked the Pentagon papers in 1971: to expose corrupt, immoral, and illegal practices within the institution he loved, hoping this would lead to reforms. Alas, the Vatican papers also revealed that neither Benedict nor his predecessor did much of anything to reform those practices.

    All the same, for what it’s worth, I believe the “Holy Spirit” will move the cardinals to elect a Latino before they elect a Black. And in doing so, that a Black beat a Latino to the presidency of the United Sates will figure prominently (i.e., politically).  But, alas, the following will figure even more so:

    African Catholics are growing in number and are almost as faithful to the Catechism of the Catholic Church as Pope John Paul II was himself. Therefore, the selection of an African Cardinal as the next Pope would seem divinely inspired…

    Most informed commentators on Vatican politics agree that Cardinal Arinze is qualified in every respect … except that he’s Black. And, I fear that even the more catholic Catholics of the world are not ready to kiss the hand (and feet) of a Black man as their Holy Father.

    (“Black Pope = Black Smoke?” The iPINIONS Journal, April 6, 2005)

    Still, here’s to hearing – before Easter Sunday on March 31 – those immortal words, habemus papam!

    Related commentaries:
    Pope harbored pedophile priest
    Black pope
    Pope on condoms
    Beatification of Pope John Paul II

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 1:30 pm

  • Monday, February 11, 2013 at 8:16 AM

    Yes, Obama Should Drone American Terrorists Too!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Anyone who harbored any delusion about Republicans/conservatives having a monopoly on political stupidity had to have been disabused of it last week. Because Democrats/liberals sounded every bit as stupid when they began hurling criticisms at President Obama for his drone strategy.

    Their criticisms stemmed from a leaked memo showing that Obama’s Justice Department provided the same kind of legal cover for the targeted assassination of American-born terrorists (aka the drone memo) that Bush’s Justice Department provided for the enhanced interrogation of terrorists (aka the torture memo).

    Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 7.13.58 AMLiberals were particularly outraged because the drone memo indicated that, when it comes to his alleged “kill list,” Obama should make no distinction between Americans like Anwar al-Awlaki and Adam Gadahn – who travel overseas to join al-Qaeda or some other anti-American terrorist group – and foreigners.

    Granted, on first impression, one might see refreshing consistency in liberals criticizing Obama with the same political indignation with which they criticized Bush for allegedly violating the Constitution. Except that their criticisms in both cases are uninformed and dangerously naïve.

    With respect to Bush:

    Until Obama leads the country through eight years without another terrorist attack, I am going to accept President Bush’s word that the enhanced interrogation methods and techniques he approved [including waterboarding, renditioning, and droning] were absolutely indispensable in foiling numerous attacks and saving thousands of American lives.  The proof is in the pudding…

    ‘And frankly, I don’t give a damn if, by some subjective application of international law, those methods and techniques amount to torture. After all, it beats the alternative!

    (“CIA Memogate: Protecting Americans or Betraying American Values?” The iPINIONS Journal, April 23, 2009)

    And with respect to Obama:

    Even though I am probably among the most liberal of Obama’s supporters, I agree wholeheartedly with all of his flip-flops in this respect. Indeed, I even admonished fellow liberals that it is politically naïve and hypocritical to ridicule former VP Dick Cheney’s dire warnings about canceling Bush’s war-on-terrorism tactics.

    (“Obama Angers Liberals by Governing Just Like Bush,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 14, 2009)

    images-1Based on all of the war-on-terror precedents Bush set, it smacks of cannibalizing one’s own for liberals to be criticizing Obama for following those precedents … to keep us safe. Not to mention that they have no legal basis whatsoever for asserting that an American who joins the ranks of al-Qaeda is entitled to the same rights of due process as any American on U.S. soil. In those circumstances, that American terrorist automatically forfeits all such rights.

    Can you imagine any sane American criticizing President Roosevelt for ordering the killing of a few American Nazis overseas during World War II? Because of the Spielberg film, Lincoln, President Lincoln is very topical. So forget American terrorists on foreign soil, should he have been criticized for ordering the killing of over 250,000 Southerners without due process during the Civil War…?

    More to the point, consider this:

    What if a drone commander informs President Obama that a drone armed with hellfire missiles has in its sights the terrorists who attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last year on 9/11, but that an American not on his kill list is camped out with them? And what if their camp were located in the elevated hinterlands of Yemen where Special Forces would be on suicide mission if they were sent in to capture them?

    blog_drone_missileFrankly, I can’t imagine any sane liberal criticizing Obama for ordering that commander to open fire. And there is clearly nothing “arbitrary or capricious” – as the ACLU contends – about killing an American who has not only sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda, but actually traveled abroad to join its ranks.

    But the idea that this president, the commander in chief of the United States, should have to tell that drone commander to hold fire while he seeks (what could only be rubber-stamp) approval from some civilian judge – who knows nothing about the activities of this American terrorist – is too plainly stupid to be worthy of any further comment.

    All the same, let me hasten to clarify that Obama is not above criticism in this context. Because my unbridled support for droning terrorists wherever he finds them has always been tempered – not by legal qualms but by political hypocrisy:

    I wish Obama would stop using Clintonian spin to explain his adoption of Bush’s policies.  After all, there is no difference between what he’s arguing today and what Bush argued throughout his presidency was a national-security need to keep CIA enhanced interrogation techniques cloaked in secrecy.

    (“Obama Angers Liberals by Governing Just Like Bush,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 14, 2009)

    I even agree with liberals who complain that Obama is killing far too many innocent women and children (as “collateral damage”) with his drone strategy.

    I am mindful, however, that those innocents would not be killed if the men in their lives were not using them, in effect, as human shields. More significant, though, is the hobson’s choice of pulling the trigger or sparing those women and children – thereby allowing the terrorists who hideout in their midst to live another day either to plan more attacks against innocent Americans or, God forbid, to carry them out.

    But here again, I can’t imagine any sane liberal criticizing Obama for choosing to take them all out before they take out any American (soldier or civilian).

    Finally, it would be remiss of me not to also mention the hypocrisy inherent in Republicans who championed Bush’s war-on-terror tactics, including drone strikes, now criticizing Obama for using those same tactics.

    This, in part, is why I decided long ago that looking for moral consistency in politics is even more foolish than looking for love in all the wrong places.

    So drone away Obama!

    Related commentaries:
    Obama angers liberals
    CIA memogate
    Republicans are praying

  • Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    Forget ‘Change’ when it comes to War on Terror. Bush had it just right.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    20130209_wwd000

    In case Bush’s gallows humor escapes you, “clean up after me” refers to the fact that Obama has killed thousands more terrorists (and innocent civilians) using the same drone strikes he once condemned Bush for using.

    More on The Drone Hypocrisy on Monday…..

  • Friday, February 8, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    Ed Koch, the Acerbic yet Affable Mayor of NYC, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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    Such was his public persona that it is arguably a compliment to remember Edward I. Koch as the P.T. Barnum of politics. Which is why it was so surreal watching him being accorded a serene state funeral in New York City on Monday – complete with a eulogy by former president Bill Clinton.

    To be fair, that the New York Times dedicated an unprecedented amount of space on February 1 to his obituary is testament to the acclaim he achieved and the legacy he left behind.

    koch-obit-image2-articleLargeNo politician has ever seemed as at ease in the slums of Skid Row as he was in the boardrooms of Wall Street, and his uppermost concern in both places was always, “How’m I doin?”

    No less significant is that Koch is generally credited with leading the city from the brink of bankruptcy when he was first elected in 1978, to pinnacle of finance when he left in 1989.

    As it happened, though, I lived in New York City for six of those years (1984-90).  And what I remember most is that Koch seemed to be fiddling as political corruption, racial strife, and HIV/AIDS engulfed the city:

    • The Times duly notes that the series of indictments and convictions for bribery, extortion, perjury and conspiracy, which affected various government agencies and led to the downfall of two of Koch’s top supporters, constituted “one of the worst corruption scandals in city history.”
    • For most New Yorkers, five incidents epitomized the racial strife:
    1. A White cop shooting to death a 66-year-old Black woman, Eleanor Bumpers, pursuant to a simple eviction order in the Bronx.
    2. A pack of White teenagers hounding to death a Black teenager, Michael Griffiths, in Howard Beach.
    3. Another pack of White teenagers attacking and shooting another Black teenager, Yusuf K. Hawkins, in Bensonhurst.
    4. A Black teenager, Tawana Brawley, falsely accusing six White men, including cops, of raping her. (It is noteworthy that none of the men were ever even arrested).
    5. The police forcing false confessions out of five Black and Latino teenagers for the brutal assault and rape of the (White) Central Park jogger. (By contrast, it is noteworthy that, after spending over a decade in prison, the “Central Park Five” were all released after DNA evidence and the true confession of a serial rapist proved their innocence.)
    • It is impossible to exaggerate the hysteria surrounding the spread of HIV in New York City during Koch’s tenure. Therefore, it smacks of a journalistic whitewash that the Times dedicated so few lines in its obit to what it quite properly referred to as his “slow, inadequate response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.” What’s more, given prevailing suspicions about Koch being a hermetically closeted homosexual, one can understand why gay activists condemned him as a Judas Iscariot who did not want to be associated in anyway with gays during these early days of this deadly disease.

    Listen, there’s no question that some New Yorkers think I’m gay, and voted for me nevertheless. The vast majority don’t care, and others don’t think I am. And I don’t give a shit  either way!

    (Koch, New York magazine, April 6, 1998)

    a_560x375There seems little doubt that this confluence of political corruption, racial strife and HIV/AIDS fatally undermined Koch’s efforts to win re-election to an historic fourth term in 1989. Not to mention 12 years of familiarity breeding some measurable degree of contempt.

    But it speaks volumes about the nature of the alienation of affection among New Yorkers that he was defeated in a Democratic primary by David Dinkins – a relatively unknown city politician who went on to become the first and only Black to serve (for just one term) as mayor of New York City.

    Koch (aka “Hizzoner”) never married (and was never linked romantically to any man or woman). He was plagued by medical problems in recent years, and finally died of congestive heart failure at New York Presbyterian/Columbia hospital a week ago today. He was 88.

    Farewell, Ed.

  • Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    Playing ‘Black’ to Win Oscars, Looking ‘White’ to Feel Pretty…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Aside from appealing to Hollywood’s fondness for Black-Mammy characters, I honestly don’t get this… Sixty-seven years after Hattie McDaniel became the first Black to win an Oscar for playing a Mammy in Gone With the Wind, one would’ve thought Black actresses would be recognized for more dignified roles.

    (“And the Oscar Goes To,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 25, 2007)

    I recall being dismayed and bewildered in equal measure by the flak I got for casting Oscar-winning prospects for Black actresses in this antebellum light.

    Well, I trust I’ll be forgiven for feeling thoroughly vindicated when I read about no less a person than Viola Davis  (of The Help) liberating herself professionally as follows:

    I’m tired of playing a maid.

    (CNN, February 6, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 6.48.56 PMOn the other hand, I was not at all surprised by the even greater flak I got for daring to write the following about Black women trying to look White (a la Nicki Minaj with her fake blonde wig) for mass appeal:

    Unless non-White women stop doing all they can to look White, this racist trend will continue.

    For starters, Black women can stop covering up their natural hair with wigs made of White women’s hair. Indeed, why should White fashionistas hire Black models to appeal to Black women who just want to look White? I find nothing more unattractive and pathetic than a Black woman sporting a long, blonde wig … unless it’s for Halloween.

    On the other hand, if these women exhibited more pride in their ethnicity, their purchasing power would compel the arbiters and gatekeepers of fashion to feature women who look like them (even with nappy hair and dark skin) in magazines and on the runways.

    (“No Blacks Please, We’re Fashionistas,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 15, 2011)

    Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 5.03.57 PMAlas, I felt somewhat less vindicated when I read about no less a person than, voila, Viola explaining why she showed up on the red carpet at the Academy Awards sporting her natural hair.

    He’s been saying to me, ‘I’m tired of the wigs. I’m tired of the rags on the head at night.’ So I finally took the wig off and did it for him. Then I happened to go to a magazine shoot and they said ‘I love the hair!’ And I said, ‘okay, no problem.’

    (Real Times Media, January 8, 2013)

    Kudos to her husband for finally prevailing upon her to get rid of the wigs. But it’s dismaying that she still needed a (White?) fashionista at a magazine shoot to assure her that her natural look was “okay.” And Viola is no shrinking violet. In fact, from all outward appearances, she’s the kind of “strong Black woman” who imbues us with so much racial pride.

    But her burn-the-wig story is just a superficial illustration of the negative impact pervasive and indoctrinating images of White women as icons of beauty has on the self-esteem of Black women….

    All the same, here’s to more Black (and White) men telling Black women that we are tired of the wigs! They might get rid of them just to please us. But, eventually, the arbiters and gatekeepers will validate their natural look by featuring more and more of them as icons of beauty (without retouching their features to look White).

    Before you know it, White women will be not only tanning their skin but also coarsening their hair to look Black.

    Related commentaries:
    The Oscar goes to
    No Blacks please

  • Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 7:25 AM

    American Jews more Pro-Israel than Jews in Israel?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It was truly surreal watching Republicans interrogate Chuck Hagel about his support for (or loyalty to) Israel during last week’s Senate hearing on his nomination to serve as defense secretary. In fact, Israel figured so prominently that I felt moved to title my commentary on the hearing, Was Hagel Nominated as Defense Secretary for the U.S. or Israel?

    [Republican Senator] Cruz personified the ironic phenomenon of the American who acts more like a Zionist than any Jew in Israel – treating, as he did, any hint of criticism Hagel has ever uttered about Israel as if it were tantamount to blasphemy against the almighty God.

    (“Was Hagel Nominated as Defense Secretary for the U.S. or Israel,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 31, 2013)

    Yet, when all is said and done, the only credible reason Republicans will be able to offer for opposing Hagel’s nomination is that he had the effrontery to assert that too many American lawmakers do the bidding of the “Jewish” lobby without any regard for the likely negative impact on prospects for peace in the Middle East.

    pro-israel-aipac

    Never mind that Hagel’s assertion is based on the self-evident truth that Israel has become as sacred a cow in American politics as Mom, apple pie … and guns. (It speaks volumes that many pundits are now referring to the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC as the “NRA of American foreign policy.”)

    Israel has become thus because a) influential Evangelicals (a.k.a. Christian Zionists) consider its security key to their salvation; b) politicians of every stripe consider pandering about its security key to their election; and c) American Jews have inordinate media power and contribute more to political campaigns than any other demographic group … by far.

    As it happens, like Hagel, I have been as unabashed in criticizing Israel’s role as a de facto apartheid government in Palestinian territories as I have been in supporting America’s role as the de facto guarantor of Israel’s security.

    The difference of course is that the backlash I’ve sustained for daring to criticize Israel pales in comparison to that which has been raining down on Hagel ever since Obama nominated him a month ago. Except that in both cases the backlash in America is rendered moot by the resonance such criticisms have always had in Israel.

    Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 8.55.35 PMWhich brings me to the unimpeachable support Dror Moreh, the acclaimed Israeli director of the Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers, provided last week in this respect.

    I was initially drawn to Moreh when I heard him assert on Friday’s edition of Hardball on MSNBC that leaders of both the Israeli military and intelligence service (the gatekeepers) have more confidence in the way President Obama is dealing with Israel’s sworn enemies than in the way their own prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu, is dealing with them.

    Not least because his assertion resonated with what I wrote in Obama Dissing Israeli PM Netanyahu? The iPINIONS Journal, September 12, 2012:

    Top military officials in Israel seem more in synch with the geo-strategic steps Obama is taking towards military confrontation with Iran than with the war-mongering steps Netanyahu is urging him to take.

    It also resonated with the way I called Republicans out during last year’s presidential campaign, including in this same commentary, for propagating the notion that Obama was “throwing Israel under the bus.” Because they knew full well that no less a person than Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, was all over U.S. television at the same time declaring that military co-operation between the United States and Israel has never been “deeper” and more committed than under the Obama Administration.

    But, during another interview on his U.S. media tour, Moreh went to the heart of what motivates AIPAC and causes so many Americans to act more Jewish than Jews in Israel (like him):

    There is something that I felt while I am here in America, that most of the majority of the Jewish population here are cherishing Israel…

    They don’t understand that we are going towards an apartheid country. By not criticizing it, by accepting everything Israel does politically and especially towards the conflict, they are damaging their own goal, to protect the state of Israel as a safe haven for them.

    (Huffington Post January 29, 2013)

    Now that’s an internecine fight I dare not get in the middle of. Thankfully, after that quote, all that’s left for me to add is, Amen!

    Related commentaries:
    Was Hagel nominated
    Obama dissing Netanyahu

  • Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    TCI looking to CARICOM (et.al.) to repeal VAT?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    For a number of reasons I have been loath in recent years to comment on political developments in my mother country of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). I am doing so today only in response to an inordinate number of urgent entreaties for me comment on the fight between our local leaders and British overseers on the implementation of the value-added tax (VAT) in our country.

    I stand in solidarity with all TCIslanders who want to wrest greater control of our domestic affairs from the British.

    Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 8.34.27 PMBut I fear our newly elected leaders are manifesting the same kind of political immaturity and administrative incompetence that doomed their predecessors. Exhibit A is the misguided appeal these new leaders are making to CARICOM to prevent the British from implementing VAT.

    After all, Misick and his cronies wasted lots of time and money making a similar appeal to prevent the British from suspending the constitution.

    CARICOM and Latin America will offer nothing but democratic platitudes; the United States will do well to give them the time of day; the EU will remind them that the UK is just doing the EU’s bidding; Africa will greet them with, “Who…Where?”; Russia is busy trying to manage its own neo-colonial ties in Syria; ditto France in Mali; and China is too spooked by the specter of hypocrisy to tell any country how to conduct its affairs (domestic or foreign).

    So who they gonna call? Ghostbusters?!

    Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 8.31.34 PMIn the meantime, it behooves local leaders to appreciate that real leadership is not the TCI finance minister speaking off the top of his head during parliamentary debate on Friday about possible alternatives to VAT.

    Real leadership is this minister presenting parliament with an alternative bill on taxes – complete with all of the adequate assurances of fiscal soundness, fairness and sustainability the FCO demands, and TCIslanders deserve.

    images-3Incidentally, local leaders complaining about the British failing to properly consult with them on VAT is rather like (Tea-Party) Republicans complaining about the Obama Administration failing to properly consult with them on debt: in both cases, those complaining seem to think that proper consultation must result in the unconditional adoption of 100 percent of their ideas.

    Not to mention that the British offered over six months of consultations, and our leaders have had well over 18 months to come up with a feasible alternative.

    Again, this smacks of the same kind of administrative incompetence and immaturity Sir Robin Auld cited in his seminal report. For it is as childish as it baseless for local leaders to be throwing temper tantrums about not being properly consulted or not having enough time.

    Like the old government, our new government is willfully mischaracterizing the British government’s constitutional duty to ensure good governance and sound fiscal management as a neo-colonial conspiracy to “keep us subjugated.” Never mind that I’ve been calling our local leaders’ bluff on this canard for years. Notably, I challenged no less a person than Misick to stop scapegoating the British and hold a referendum on independence. After all, he made quite a show of promising to do so, and the British have always promised to facilitate it.

    I congratulate Premier Misick on this historical accomplishment [of becoming our country’s first premier]. More importantly, I encourage him to lead in such a way as to inspire the spirit of independence in our people, not as a jingoistic badge of honor but as a self-actualizing and sustainable fact of life. After all, our pending referendum should not question whether we want (or are prepared for) our independence so much as present us with the opportunity to declare it!

    (“Hail Premier Misick!” The iPINIONS Journal, August 11, 2006)

    Ironically, if he had honored his promise to bring independence to the TCI, Misick would not be facing trial on corruptions charges today. But I digress.

    In any case, instead of taking us for fools while making fools of themselves, local leaders would serve our country far better by doing one of two things:

    1. Stop making ignorant and quarrelsome claims about the Governor behaving like a dictator. The Governor has done nothing our Constitution does not authorise him to do, which is more than one can say for local leaders who are trying to repeal a law the Constitution grants them no power or authority to repeal. Instead, they should engage the Governor and his UK superiors in constructive dialogue to earn the respect and confidence that would move them to devolve more powers; or
    2. We are still dependent on the British; therefore, it must strike all sensible TCIslanders as oxymoronic that our leaders continually behave as if we are an independent nation. If they wanted to show truly bold and inspired leadership, their first bill in this new parliament would have been one calling for independence, not one begging the British to repeal VAT. Perhaps now they should make their second bill a call for independence. (I’m sure the British would be just as determined to facilitate that as they are to implement VAT.)

    All else is folly.

    The British Government is proposing VAT as the fairest way to generate reliable revenue streams to fund government programs. Our new government is not only opposing it, but acting as if defeating VAT would automatically generate similar revenue streams.

    Intelligent minds can differ on whether VAT is good for the TCI. But it’s demonstrably specious for local leaders to insist that VAT will destroy our economy when VAT is providing fair and sustainable revenues in regional countries like Antigua, Barbados, and Jamaica.

    Barbados’ former Prime Minister and eminent Caribbean Statesman, Owen Arthur, has described value-added tax (VAT) as the best option for the Caribbean region in the age of trade liberalization.

    (Tax-News, London, 12 August 2010)

    I agree.

    Related commentaries:
    Hail Misick

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