• Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 5:29 AM

    Bradley Manning ‘Not Guilty,’ but Still Faces Life in Prison?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Given media reports on his arrest three years ago, you’d think Army Pfc. Bradley Manning (25) posed a far greater threat to U.S. national security than Osama bin Laden. Recall that the government charged Manning with all manner of crimes, including the treasonous “aiding the enemy” for handing over hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks on a silver platter. This made him the biggest leaker of such information in U.S. history.

    Yet nothing demonstrates what fickle, ratings-driven whores media organizations are quite like the way they covered George Zimmerman’s trial like the “Second Coming,” but ignored Manning’s like the plague. This contrast was especially telling considering that both trials were unfolding at the same time.

    Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 3.28.02 PMBut, unlike political pundits who (to a man/woman) coat-tailed the media’s hysterical coverage of his arrest, I thought claims about Manning aiding the enemy were much ado about nothing from day one.

    In fact, here’s how I pooh-poohed his notoriety and predicted his fate, most recently, in the context of the hysterical coverage now surrounding NSA leaker Edward Snowden:

    Nothing indicates how fleeting, inconsequential, and costly Snowden’s notoriety will be, and rightly so, quite like the fates that have befallen Bradley Manning and Julian Assange for their “WikiLeaks” of U.S. diplomatic secrets:

    • Their leaks have had practically no impact on U.S. foreign policy.
    • Manning is being tried in virtual obscurity, and faces even greater obscurity if/when he’s sentenced to life in prison.
    • And Assange is already in a de facto prison, hiding out, as he is, in Ecuador’s embassy in London since last August as a fugitive from justice…

    To be clear, just as it was with Manning, the United States must protest damage to national security in this case. It must do so not only to establish probable cause for arresting and prosecuting Snowden, but also to provide whatever deterrence it can for all of the other misguided nerds out there who might be thinking of emulating his method of revenge … for their 15 minutes of infamy.

    (“Ignorance Prevails re: NSA Spying and Snowden Leaking,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 13, 2013)

    Mind you, if Manning and Snowden had acted like true whistleblowers (i.e., by turning over their classified documents to freedom-of-information advocates in the United States), I would have championed their cause. But they chose instead to conspire with foreign agents and governments (whose mission, arguably, is to undermine U.S. national security). This is why I have no sympathy for them and think they should both rot in jail.

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

    So where’s the outrage?

    (“Another Sign Afghanistan is a Lost Cause,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 29, 2012)

    images-1I insert this quote here to affirm my solidarity with Manning’s declared intent to stir public debate on, if not to incite public outrage over, the absolute folly of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, I felt like a latter-day John the Baptist preaching this message in the wilderness for years.

    Here, for example:

    These wars have converted multitudes of peaceful Muslims into jihadists who welcome the opportunity to sacrifice their lives in bin Laden’s holy war. Moreover, these jihadists have demonstrated that they are just as committed to (and capable of) killing Americans (in Iraq and Afghanistan) as President Bush is to ‘routing them out … one by one.’ And it doesn’t take a genius in military war strategy to figure out who will win this asymmetrical war (especially on their turf).

    (“Please spare us the al-Qaeda obituaries,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 5, 2005)

    And, more prophetically, here:

    All indications are that the die has been cast for this so-called “good war.”

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

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

    (“‘Without (or even with) More Forces, Failure in Afghanistan is Likely,’” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2009)

    Iraq-Afghan-wars-led-US-towards-economic-crisisIncidentally, I hope I can be forgiven for feeling somewhat vindicated by an ABC News/Washington Post poll (dated July 26, 2013), which found that – after nearly 12 years, 2,239 dead, and $650 billion – two-thirds of Americans now think the war in Afghanistan was not worth it. And I suspect that – after over 10 years, 4,488 dead, and $815 billion – even more Americans now think the war in Iraq was not worth it….

    All the same, we can’t have useful idiots (like Manning) leaking U.S. military and diplomatic secrets to transparency fanatics (like WikiLeak’s Julian Assange) based solely on their conscientious objection to the way military commanders are conducting U.S. wars. For obvious reasons, such leaks (no matter how well-intentioned) are naive and untenable – especially when one considers that fanatics like Assange seem to think that no government is entitled to keep any secret.

    That said, given media reports on yesterday’s verdict in Manning’s case, you’d think he got off scot-free. Whereas, even though he was acquitted on one count of “aiding the enemy,” he was convicted on 20 related counts, including 6 for espionage. And if you’re wondering about the apparent inconsistency here, it might be helpful to know that violations of the Espionage Act do not necessarily require proof of any harm done to U.S. citizens or interests.

    In other words, the military judge determined that he’s neither the mercenary traitor his critics decried, nor the heroic whistleblower his supporters hailed. He’s just a cyber thief who betrayed his military service in the most irresponsible, destructive and cowardly way possible.

    But, lest you think his acquittal on that sensational charge of aiding the enemy amounts to any kind of vindication, the sobering reaction of Manning’s spymasters at WikiLeaks should disabuse you of this thought. For here’s what they tweeted just moments after the judge read her verdict:

    Bradley Manning’s convictions today include 5 [sic] counts of espionage. A very serious new precedent for supplying information to the press.

    Far from getting off scot-free, Manning now faces up to 136 years in prison, which means he could still rot in jail – as I predicted he would … and think he should.

    Meanwhile, the irony is not lost on me that his acquittal on aiding the enemy might just make it easier for the government to secure Snowden’s extradition from Russia. After all, this acquittal (coupled with Attorney General Eric Holder’s public declaration last week that, just as it was in Manning’s case, the United States will not seek the death penalty for Snowden) undermines the claim that no leaker can get a fair trial in the United States.

    Never mind the brazen hypocrisy inherent in Snowden making this claim from Russia; or for that matter, Julian Assange making it from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he’s hiding-out from unimpeachable Swedish justice stemming from allegations of rape and sexual assault. Which, incidentally, means that news organizations quoting Assange on democratic freedoms is rather like churches quoting a pedophile priest on religious virtues.

    images-3At any rate, I shall end by reiterating my informed belief that it’s only a matter of time before Snowden follows Bradley into the American criminal-justice inferno:

    Putin does not have, and never had, any intention of granting Snowden (permanent) political asylum. Not least because, far from regarding Snowden as the hero he fancies himself, I suspect Putin sees him as a traitorous rat. After all, Putin is a former KGB spy who prides loyalty to country above all else…

    So, besides being perceived as a traitor to his country, Snowden personifies this kind of geeky spycraft for which Putin cannot disguise his contempt. And as much as he is undoubtedly reveling in the humiliation Snowden has caused, Putin fully appreciates what special punishment he’d want to mete out to any Russian spy who does to him and Russia what Snowden has done to Obama and the United States.

    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. But who can blame this self-important smart ass for wanting to be exiled in Westernized Hong Kong instead of Sovietized Moscow…?

    Putin clearly has no use for Snowden…

    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)

    Stay tuned….

    In the meantime, I cannot reiterate and stress enough how patently absurd it is that leaks by these two nincompoops are inciting such hysteria and handwringing over the government’s perfectly legal and reasonable efforts to keep the American people safe. Especially when one considers that the intelligence gathering and surveillance methods the government uses are no more intrusive than those companies like Google and Amazon use to profile people for commercial purposes.

    Of course, as soon as another 9/11 hits (and it will) most Snowden-loving, NSA critics will be questioning why the government did not do even more intrusive eavesdropping and surveillance to prevent it.

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  • Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 6:19 AM

    Helen Thomas, ‘Dean of the White House Press Corps,’ Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    There’s no denying that Helen Thomas was a pioneer in journalism: Most notably, she was the first woman to become a chief White House correspondent, and the first female member of the Gridiron Club – the oldest and most prestigious journalistic organization in the world.

    Perhaps even more impressive, though, was her professional longevity, during which time she occupied a privileged, front-row seat for press conferences by every president from Kennedy to Obama.

    The Gridiron Club announced that Thomas died on Saturday after being “sick for a long time.” She was 92.

    As it happens, I wrote what I considered to be her obituary three years ago under the somewhat irreverent but wholly warranted title, “Helen Thomas Ends Celebrated Career With Foot in Mouth,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 10, 2010. Therefore, I shall suffice to reprise it here.

    _______________

    Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine… Remember, these people are occupied. And it’s their land. It’s not German, it’s not Poland. [The Jews] should go home … move to Poland, Germany, and America and everywhere else.

    helenc1-300x299This is how Helen Thomas, veteran White House reporter and columnist for Hearst newspapers, responded when a reporter from RabbiLive.com asked her to comment on the state of Israel.  It is particularly noteworthy that she made these comments at a White House celebration of Jewish Heritage on May 27, 2010.

    Unsurprisingly, her comments incited near-universal outrage in Washington when they were published over the weekend. Yesterday White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs called them “offensive and reprehensible.”

    I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians… They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.

    (Helenthomas.org, June 4, 2010)

    Also, unsurprisingly, her non-apology apology was not enough to save her job.  Hearst duly prevailed upon her, after Gibbs’s official rebuke, to retire, effective immediately.

    I cannot help noting, however, that this outrage over her comments is laced with a strain of disingenuousness. After all, the 89-year-old Thomas has been roundly celebrated throughout her 50-year career at the White House for her acerbic, intemperate and brazenly biased reporting.

    helenb-300x213In point of fact, she never missed an opportunity during White House press conferences to imbue her questions about the Middle East with an anti-Israel taint.

    In this case, her age notwithstanding, nobody doubts that she fully understood the genocidal implications of suggesting that Jews should go home to Poland and Germany, where six million Jews were exterminated. Not to mention her ignorant, Ahmadinejad-like protestation that the Jews have no right to even exist in the Middle East.

    Yet, despite her antic reporting, or perhaps because of it, Thomas was accorded the incomparable honor of presiding front and center as the Dean of the White House Press Corps. This was so even after she retired as a reporter for U.P.I. and began writing strictly opinion pieces for Hearst in 2000.

    Of course I appreciate why Hearst had to let her go, but it reeks of hypocrisy that so many of her colleagues are pretending to be “shocked, shocked” by her comments. For this would be like Hollywood producers pretending to be shocked if Betty White were to let rip a profane sexual joke on TV that finally offends all notions of public decency. After all, they have helped her become celebrated in her dotage for acting like a drunken sailor.

    It’s too bad Thomas’s trailblazing career as a female journalist has ended in this ignominious fashion. Not least because, given her age, this episode will now figure prominently in her obituary.

    Farewell, Helen.

  • Monday, July 22, 2013 at 6:35 AM

    PSA: ‘Ban College Football’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On May 18, 2012, I watched an Intelligence Squared (IQ2) debate on the motion, “Ban College Football,”

    UnknownMalcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker staff writer and author of such bestselling books as Blink and The Tipping Point, and Buzz Bissinger, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the bestselling book Friday Night Lights, argued for the motion; Tim Green, Football commentator and former (college and NFL) player, and Jason Whitlock, nationally acclaimed sports columnist, argued against it.

    It wasn’t even close. Gladwell and Bissinger won by riffing on two unassailable and obvious points, which I proffer in my own words as follows:

    1. College Football is a big business that exploits (mostly Black and poor) kids for what amounts to slave labor – complete with academic degrees that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
    2. College Football is not just contrary but counterproductive to the declared mission of every institution of higher learning. After all, this sport consists primarily of players giving and receiving blows that cause repetitive brain trauma (or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). Which is as contrary and counterproductive as educating kids by having them repeatedly bang their heads against the wall in their classroom, no?

    Alas, it would not surprise me in the least if you’ve heard nothing about this. Frankly, you’re far more likely to hear news reports (or read tweets) on what is said on an episode of Honey Boo Boo than on what is said during an IQ2 debate.

    Unknown-2This is why I was so encouraged when I saw Gladwell reiterate many of his debate-winning points on yesterday’s episode of Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN.

    Here, for example, is the brilliant parallel he drew between Michael Vick’s dog-fighting hobby, which incited so much public outrage, and College Football – pointing out the self-righteous hypocrisy involved:

    I mean you take a young, vulnerable dog who was made vulnerable because of his allegiance to the owner and you ask him to engage in serious sustained physical combat with another dog under the control of another owner, right?…

    We take young boys, essentially, and we have them repeatedly, over the course of the season, smash each other in the head, with known neurological consequences.

    And why do they do that? Out of an allegiance to their owners and their coaches and a feeling they’re participating in some grand American spectacle.

    But as persuasive as Gladwell’s points about the neurological (and psychosocial) impacts undoubtedly are, I find the universal principle of quantum meruit (i.e., getting paid for services rendered) even more so. Not least because, if college students are old enough to assume the risks of going to war, surely they are old enough to assume the risks of playing professional Football, no?

    On the other hand, here’s how I presaged the points Gladwell made not just during his appearance yesterday, but even during his debate last year:

    There’s nothing amateur about College Football. It’s a multibillion-dollar business for Christ’s sake!  More to the point, the people generating its revenues are not the college presidents, athletics directors, or coaches who, incidentally, make millions of dollars in salary and endorsement deals. Instead, they are the poor black athletes whose raw talent colleges exploit to pack 100,000 fans into their stadiums on game day.

    I have always felt that it’s tantamount to modern-day slavery for colleges to recruit poor and, all too often, uneducated Black athletes just to play Football (considering they rarely get an education) and not compensate them for their services…

    The hypocrisy inherent in this is beyond shameful. Colleges should be required to compensate student athletes in direct proportion to the way owners of professional Football teams compensate their players.

    (“Reggie Bush Forfeits Heisman Trophy,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 16, 2010)

    Unfortunately, my iPINIONS plea for these kids to get equitable pay resonated even less than Gladwell’s IQ2 plea for them to be spared brain damage.

    Therefore, I can only hope that with more appearances on network TV, Gladwell will prick public consciousness to the point where colleges using kids for gladiatorial sport becomes at least as morally reprehensible as Vick using dogs for the same.

    images-2In the meantime, I should clarify that I would readily endorse banning High-School and Pee-Wee Football for the same reason we don’t allow underage kids to do many things that are even less harmful.

    Too bad if colleges would then have to spend the first semester teaching them the basics of the game. But if the Army can turn new recruits into lean, mean fighting machines in six weeks, surely colleges can turn freshmen into lean, mean playing machines in six months.

    At least this way, the brains of little kids would have a good eighteen years of growth before being subjected to the bashing that causes so many players neurological problems later in life.

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  • Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 6:55 AM

    Trayvon Hoodie Okay for Obama; but Not for MLK

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It was poignant enough when President Obama declared last year that the racially profiled and murdered Trayvon Martin could have been his son.

    imagesBut this poignancy increased exponentially when he declared the following yesterday – during a remarkably personal and heartfelt reflection on the Zimmerman verdict and the legacy of racism that gave rise to it:

    You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son.  Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago…

    (Whitehouse.gov, July 19, 2013)

    Then, as only this first Black president of the United States could do, he put the dark shadow of race that hovered over the Zimmerman trial into the following context:

    When you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away.

    There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store.  And that includes me…

    I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida and it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.

    (Whitehouse.gov, July 19, 2013)

    UnknownThat said, I fully appreciate why Obama has no problem identifying with Trayvon – even to the point of wearing the hoodie that has become a symbol of the prejudicial assumptions Whites make about Blacks, which led to Trayvon’s death. But it’s taking this symbolism too far to be superimposing hoodies on images of Martin Luther King Jr.

    There are more than enough historically accurate symbols associated with MLK’s struggles against these prejudicial assumptions without defiling his image in this way. I just wonder why it’s his publicity-seeking, right-wing niece, Dr. Alveda King, and not any of his children who are speaking out against this misuse….

    Finally, civil rights activists are leading hundreds of marches/rallies across America today pursuant to a clarion call for a “Justice for Trayvon Martin National Day of Action.” If previous ones are any guide, these will seem more like vigils or funeral processions than political protests – with emphasis more on pleading for justice than venting anger.

    If at all possible, I urge you to participate – especially if you’re White.  After all, this Trayvon tragedy is far more about the propensity of Whites to engage in racial profiling than the propensity of Blacks to engage in criminal behavior.

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  • Friday, July 19, 2013 at 5:13 AM

    Rhythmic Gymnastics: Not Only an Olympic Joke, but Corrupt Too?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    imagesI ruffled many more tutus than I anticipated last year when I dismissed Rhythmic Gymnastics as follows:

    I upset fans of Equestrian Eventing by declaring in my Day 3 commentary that it should not be an Olympic sport. Well, fans of Rhythmic Gymnastics should prepare to get their tutus ruffled; because I hereby declare that it is even more underserving of Olympic accreditation.

    Frankly, as I watched no less a person than defending Olympic Champion Yevgenia Kanayeva of Russia in the Individual All-Around today, I got the impression I was watching auditions for the female lead in a live performance of the Kama Sutra.

    Mind you, some of the rhythmic positions she got into demonstrated beyond all doubt that she’s quite athletic. It’s just that her performance, as well as the admittedly less erotic performances of her fellow competitors, seemed more suited for the Cirque du Soleil than the Olympics.

    (“London Olympics: Day 13,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 9, 2012)

    201208090735273262984-p2Yet it seems I might’ve been too accommodating in my assessment of this performance art masquerading as an Olympic sport. For an unfolding scandal involving the certification of judges is giving the impression that those who judge Olympic competition in Rhythmic Gymnastics are little more than glorified madams, and the gymnasts … their “girls.”

    With its sparkles and hair scrunchies, rhythmic, as it is called by its followers, can look more like modern dance-meets-small-town circus than a traditional Olympic competition.

    ‘This sport is very ill … it’s poisoned from head to toe…’ [Worse still] judging issues in Rhythmic Gymnastics are almost as prolific as doping issues in Cycling.’

    (New York Times, July 16, 2013)

    Enough said?

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  • Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 5:11 AM

    Boycott Olympics Over Snowden? Don’t Be Stupid!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Obama should consider boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia if the Cold War-era foe gives asylum to Edward Snowden, Sen. Lindsey Graham told The Hill on Tuesday.

    ‘I would. I would just send the Russians the most unequivocal signal I could send them,’ he said.

    (The Hill, July 16, 2013)

    The problem with America (and the world) today is that nobody in government can keep a secret. The members of the Navy’s Seal Team 6, who purportedly took blood oaths to keep secret their identities and activities, couldn’t wait to betray both, and each other, after taking out Osama bin Laden.

    And exercising self-restraint in this Twitter age is tantamount to self-asphyxiation (and not of the autoerotic kind). Why else would erstwhile respectable men – like former GE Chairman Jack Welch – be tweeting things for the world to read that they would never even let slip in polite company?

    It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Eric Snowden demonstrated this inability to keep secrets in spades by revealing almost all of America’s national security secrets. And Senator Graham is now demonstrating this inability to exercise self-restraint by suggesting nothing less than a “nuclear option” to settle a relatively petty standoff between America and Russia over Snowden.

    imagesNo doubt you’re aware that Snowden has been “trapped” in the transit area of the Moscow airport ever since Chinese authorities prevailed upon him on June 23 to get the hell out of Hong Kong. According to no less a person than Russian President Vladimir Putin, he is trapped because the United States has threatened unbearable reprisals against any country that dares to grant him asylum.

    In fact, the United States showed just how deadly serious its threats are when it forced a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales home from Russia on July 3 to land in Austria based solely on suspicion that Snowden was on board. He was not.

    images-1Nevertheless, the presidents of Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia have all seized this opportunity to reassert their countries’ collective status as America’s perennial pain in the ass by granting Snowden asylum. Putin himself has signaled his willingness to grant Snowden asylum; provided that:

    If you want to stay, please, but you have to stop your political activities. We have a certain relationship with the U.S., and we don’t want you with your political activities damaging our relationship with the U.S.

    (New York Times, July 15, 2013)

    The problem of course is that, given where Snowden is and how impossible it is now for him to control the dribble of damaging political disclosures he set in motion, any leader offering to grant him asylum is rather like the frog offering to carry the scorpion across the stream if the scorpion promises not to sting it….

    Which brings me back to Graham and the standoff between America and Russia. Trust me folks, the reason this senator is just like another twit tweeting something that would’ve been better left unsaid (or said only in private) is that Putin does not have, and never had, any intention of granting Snowden (permanent) political asylum. Not least because, far from regarding Snowden as the hero he fancies himself, I suspect Putin sees him as a traitorous rat.

    1373561202000-AFP-521279297-1307111248_4_3After all, Putin is a former KGB spy who prides loyalty to country above all else. And he remains so sensitive/paranoid about keeping state secrets that, according to a report in the July 11, 2013 edition of Izvestia, he ordered the KGB successor agency, the FSB, to return to the Soviet days of transcribing top secrets via typewriter and storing them as paper documents in old-fashioned filing cabinets.

    Duly spooked, Putin is probably thinking, ‘lets see those NSA computer geeks try getting inside those cabinets – instead of sitting on their butts in the United States and surveilling every computer screen and eavesdropping on every phone call in the world.’

    So, besides being perceived as a traitor to his country, Snowden personifies this kind of geeky spycraft for which Putin cannot disguise his contempt. And as much as he is undoubtedly reveling in the humiliation Snowden has caused Obama, Putin fully appreciates what special punishment he’d want to mete out to any Russian spy who does to him and Russia what Snowden has done to Obama and the United States.

    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. But who can blame this self-important smart ass for wanting to be exiled in Westernized Hong Kong instead of Sovietized Moscow…?

    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. In which case, if threatening an Olympic boycott were even a remotely sensible thing to do, surely it would have been more effective to have Obama do so on a private line for Putin’s ears only, instead of having some two-bit senator do so in this very public and jingoistic fashion.

    images-2In any event, Putin will let this standoff play out pursuant to Russia’s (political) interests. This might include granting Snowden temporary asylum to bring him in from the cold (of the no-man’s land in the Moscow airport) and under Russia’s/Putin’s direct jurisdiction. It might even include negotiating a prisoner swap. But there seems little doubt that Putin will eventually hand Snowden over to his “American partner” on a silver platter.

    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.

    Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are much more important than the squabbles around the activities of the security services.

    (New York Times July 17, 2013)

    nsa-surveillance-politicsAll of which is why Graham’s chest-thumping threat about boycotting is not only ignorant and misguided; it’s mischievous and self-defeating.

    But, above all, the last thing either Putin or Obama wants is to even raise the specter of another tit-for-tat boycott of Olympic Games: Putin – because this would render his showcase games utterly meaningless and relatively worthless without American participation, especially because the UK and other European countries would likely join in such a boycott; and Obama – because this would only further undermine his hope-and-change motto by crushing the hopes and aspirations of American athletes, and give credence to the Republican narrative about his presidency being little more than a retread of the failed, malaise-inducing presidency of Jimmy Carter.

    Carter, you recall, triggered the first and only tit-for-tat boycotts in Olympic history when he ordered a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, ironically, to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Russians/Soviets retaliated, purely as a matter of geopolitical and ideological principle, with a boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

    Now, having said all that, there is one major x-factor, which has been bedeviling and vexing Western leaders for years:

    Putin is trying to reclaim Russia’s (superpower) sphere of influence in the world by, among other things, warning Russia’s former satellite states against joining NATO (even though all of them — led by Poland — seem determined to defy him); trying to affect the make-up of East European governments (as he did, to no avail, in Georgia and Ukraine); and forming bilateral relationships with rogue states to counter America’s influence (like selling advanced military equipment to North Korea, Syria, Libya, Cuba and Venezuela).

    (“Putin, a Soul Mate Scorned,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 3, 2005)

    In fact, I am all too mindful that Putin is on record lamenting the disintegration of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”—notwithstanding two world wars, the Holocaust, or even Stalin’s purging of over 20 million of his fellow Russians. And it may be that he is so pathologically, maniacally and diabolically determined to put his humpty dumpty back together again that he would seize any opportunity to hinder, humble, or humiliate America – no matter how self-defeating – just to make it feel like a fait accompli.

    So, despite his mind telling him to continue his efforts to “reset” U.S.-Russia relations for twenty-first century cooperation, which would certainly include turning over Snowden just as the Obama Administration has turned over Russian fugitives, his heart might be longing too much for the halcyon days of twentieth century Cold War.

    UnknownBut, if Putin’s (Cold War) heart prevails, American Olympians (who wish) could kill two birds with one stone by prominently displaying the gay-pride rainbow flag on their clothing whenever possible during the Games. This would enable them, on the one hand, to give Putin a retaliatory poke in the eye for granting Snowden asylum and, on the other, to express solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Russians who are being subjected to new anti-gay laws.

    I especially urge athletes (from every country that supports gay civil rights) who take the medal podium during these Games to participate. They can do so by making a show of taking a small gay-pride flag out of their pockets, after the playing of the winner’s national anthem, and waving it proudly for the world (and Putin’s homophobic Russia) to see.

    In other words, dare Czar Putin to have them all arrested for spreading “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” And dare the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to sanction them all for violating its rule against “proactive political or political demonstration.” I assure you, as far as Olympics protests go, this will emulate the famous Black-power salute two Black-American athletes made during the Mexico Games in 1968 to protest racial discrimination in the United States.

    Accordingly, I call upon gay activists in every country participating in these Winter Games to ensure that every athlete on their national team has one or more of these small flags to participate in this silent but poignant protest.

    I appreciate of course that this won’t do for gay activists who are calling for an outright boycott, proselytizing fears that these laws might ensnare gay athletes from other countries too. But such fears are patently unwarranted, and insisting on a boycott will do nothing but stigmatize LGBT people as the cause for jeopardizing the Olympic dreams of all athletes, LGBT ones too. Far better to let the IOC prevail upon Russia to repeal these anti-gay laws.

    But if boycotting is a must, I’m all for a global boycott against Russian products like Stolichnaya vodka, which some gay activists are championing. Such targeted boycotts against corporate interests might also prove far more effective – just as they did in forcing revolutionary change in South Africa’s Apartheid (anti-Black) laws.

    Related commentaries:
    I spy, you spy, we all spy

  • Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 5:32 AM

    Don’t Blame Israel for Repatriating Africans!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The flak Israel is getting for repatriating Africans who entered the country illegally is as unfair as it is uninformed.

    Israel has launched a forced repatriation of Eritrean migrants that amounts to a grave violation of their human rights because of the risk of persecution in their reclusive homeland….

    (Reuters, July 16, 2013)

    F121011MS35-635x357Human rights groups are insisting that Israel should grant political asylum to some 60,000 Africans who have crossed its “porous border” with Egypt since 2006. And they are insinuating that Israel’s declared intent to repatriate them is tantamount to it doing to these Africans what Russia did to Jews during its anti-Semitic pogroms throughout much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

    But this flak is unfair – not least because any claim of hypocrisy in this context is belied by the fact that Russia persecuted and expelled Jews who were not only legal residents, but native Russians. Whereas, none of the Africans at issue have any legal right to reside in Israel. And far from persecuting them, Israel is repatriating them with $1,500 each to help them resettle in places like South Sudan (i.e., not necessarily back home in Eritrea).

    images-1The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees deems it a violation of human rights for signatories like Israel to repatriate asylum seekers who claim credible fear of persecution. In this case, the Eritrean migrants allegedly fear punishment back home for deserting their “indefinite” military service.

    Again, Israel has been going out of its way to resettle them elsewhere. So, technically, it is not committing any human rights violation.

    But if there were any real regard for international conventions, these Eritrean refugees would not have made it all the way across Sudan and Egypt into Israel in the first place. What’s more, no international law can require Israel to grant asylum to an unlimited number of refugees from every police or failed state in Africa.

    Just imagine, for example, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans escaping and migrating across China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia into Singapore. Do you think any human rights group would be arguing that Singapore (or any of these other states) is bound by international law to assimilate them? I don’t think so.

    Except that the pathology of paternalism towards Africa is such that its people are still regarded as infantile savages who the world must care for; that is, when it’s not intervening to stop them from killing each other.

    I submit, however, that a small country like Israel should be not be obligated to care for Africa’s wretched refuse of oppressed masses yearning to breathe free. And can you think of a more damning indictment of life in post-colonial Africa than Eritreans seeking refuge – not in another of its 53 countries, but in Israel…?

    Of course, African refugees end up in countries throughout Europe too; notwithstanding that repatriation policies they encounter there make Israel’s seem positively charitable by comparison – as I duly noted in “Think America’s Immigration Plan Is Racist and Unjust? Consider Switzerland’s,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 17, 2007.

    Not to mention how favorably Israel’s repatriation of these African refugees compares with the way the United States refused entry to Jewish refugees who were fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939. This, despite America’s vaunted and self-proclaimed status as a perennial beacon to asylum seekers. I see no point in elaborating on the boomerang, and ultimately tragic, transatlantic voyage these Jews took aboard the S.S. St Louis. If you’re unfamiliar with this “Voyage of the Damned,” I urge you to Google it.

    cd7407ba-b89e-49a5-b084-5f245a175cb0This brings me to why the flak Israel is getting is so uninformed. Because any insinuation of racism (or indeed unfair treatment) is belied by “Operation Moses” – Israel’s covert evacuation of African Jews from Sudan for resettlement in Israel to escape famine in 1984; and “Operation Solomon” – its equally covert evacuation of almost 15,000 African Jews from Ethiopia for resettlement in Israel to escape a looming civil war in 1991.

    And let’s face it, the Israelis have enough of a challenge trying to prevent Palestinians (with their claim of a sacred “right of return”) from turning Israel into another Arab state, without having to worry about non-Jewish Africans creating demographic problems as well.

    But frankly, given their tortured, itinerant history, who can blame these modern-day Israelites for doing everything humanly (and humanely) possible to ensure that nothing (think Iranian nukes) and nobody can threaten their ownership and control of their Promised Land.

    Related commentaries:
    Immigration…Switzerland

  • Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 5:24 AM

    Now Tyson Gay et al: Drugs as Rampant in Track as in Cycling

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    2010_8_14-2010_8_14_3_10_24-jpg-21842USA Today reported on Sunday that America’s fastest man, Tyson Gay, and virtually everyone on Jamaica’s Track team (except the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt) have tested positive for banned substances.

    But, after Marion Jones, if you’re still shocked to learn that any Track star is a cheat, you’d probably also be shocked to learn that Santa Claus is a fake.

    I was crestfallen… After all, despite my preternatural cynicism, which compels me to doubt protestations about steroid use by almost every other athlete, I actually bought her indignant and angry denials hook, line, and sinker.

    Jones is only the latest, though admittedly the most famous, professional athlete to be caught in a web of lies about using steroids. Unfortunately, her fall from grace will leave fans of every Olympic sport wondering, quite rightly, if Marion wasn’t clean, then who is…?

    (“Jones Admits Using Steroids: Why Marion, Why?” The iPINIONS Journal, October 12, 2007)

    What’s more, after Lance Armstrong, if you still believe any denial or explanation any athlete offers after  he/she gets caught taking performance-enhancing drugs, well, you’re just a gullible fool.  Indeed, nothing indicates how guilty Gay is quite like him withdrawing from next month’s showdown with Bolt at the World Championships in Moscow even before his second (“B”) sample is tested.

    No doubt he knows the only reason he has the fastest times in the world this year is that he upped his doping game. Which only makes him look all the more pathetic for attempting to shift blame with this oxymoronic explanation:

    I don’t have a sabotage story… I basically put my trust in someone and was let down. I know exactly what went on, but I can’t discuss it right now.

    (ESPN, July 14, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 6.59.51 PMWhat makes Gay’s fall from grace so telling is that he was the sport’s poster boy for clean athletes – even starring in the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s My Victory campaign to “preserve clean sport.” He now faces a two-year ban, which would effectively end this 30-year old’s career. Based on the USA Today report, Adidas, his primary sponsor, threw him away like yesterday’s newspaper.

    But Gay is not the only top American sprinter to test positive. After all, Justin Gatlin, the 100m 2004 Olympic Champion as well as the 100m and 200m 2005 World Champion, also tested positive in 2006.

    Frankly, if any part of these latest revelations stood the slightest chance of disappointing me it’s the involvement of so many of Jamaica’s top sprinters. But I was fully prepared even for this.

    For here’s how I shared my informed doubts about the way the tiny island nation of Jamaica was becoming as dominant in sprints as the entire African Continent has been in distances:

    I wonder if it’s a testament to their national training methods or the performance-enhancing ‘herbs’ they use to flavor their sports drinks that make these Jamaicans so incredibly fast….

    (“2008 Beijing Olympic Games – the Phelpsian Touch … Pure Gold,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 16, 2008)

    blake, bolt, shelley, vcbSince then, Veronica Campbell-Brown, the reigning 200m World Champion, and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the two-time and reigning 100m Olympic Champion, both tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. And let’s not forget that Yohan Blake, the reigning 100m World Champion and, most significantly, Bolt’s training partner, also tested positive (in 2009) for a banned substance.

    images-1Now comes this report about Asafa Powell, who helped Jamaica win gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Championships, Sherone Simpson, who won silver at the 2008 Olympics, and “three other unnamed Jamaican sprinters” all testing positive.

    This is why it can only be a matter of time before the lightning Bolt himself gets struck for taking performance-enhancing drugs. Incidentally, betraying his consciousness of guilt, Powell followed Gay’s lead by summarily withdrawing from next month’s championships, where he was scheduled to help Bolt defend Jamaica’s gold in the 4×100 relay.

    Apropos of which, I hope the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will now claw back all of the medals these Jamaicans won just as it clawed back all those Marion Jones won.  And this claw back should include forcing all members of their relay teams to forfeit their medals too.

    Finally, having read the above, you might be shocked to learn that I’m on record asserting that banning steroids is not the answer; on the contrary:

    Policing drugs in professional sports is not only Orwellian; it’s utterly futile. After all … athletes have always, and will always, do or take anything that might give them a competitive advantage. And if what they do or take poses no harm to anyone except themselves, who cares?!

    This enlightened attitude towards performance-enhancing drugs would have precluded the ‘scandals’ that now threaten the professional careers of Tour de France Champion Floyd Landis and Olympic (100m) Champion Justin Gatlin; to say nothing of sparing them international ridicule as pathetic liars and cheaters.

    (“A Plea for Landis, Gatlin, et al: Legalize Drugs…Especially in Sports,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 3, 2006)

    It’s just that I don’t think cheaters should ever prosper. But instead of continuing this backwards, cat-and-mouse game of trying to catch them, the fairer and more sustainable thing for organized (amateur and professional) sports to do is to simply lift their ban on all performance-enhancing drugs.

    And let’s be honest, sprinters on steroids are far more exciting to watch – as everyone from Ben Johnson to Marion Jones has demonstrated. Which is why the organizers of next month’s World Championships must be cursing their fate to have so many top sprinters withdrawing: either because they have already tested positive or because they fear testing positive….

    Related commentaries:
    Why Marion, Why
    Beijing Olympics
    Decriminalize drugs

  • Monday, July 15, 2013 at 6:24 AM

    George Zimmerman: ‘Not Guilty’ but Hardly Innocent

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The jury … will either find him guilty as sin, or its six ‘angry’ women will be hung.

    There’s simply no reasonable justification, even for this ‘all-White’ jury, to let this trigger-happy wannabe cop walk scot-free.

    (“Zimmerman Trial a Sensation Only Because Media Made It So,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 13, 2013)

    Unknown-3I clearly thought (perhaps hoped) that George Zimmerman would be found guilty of the vigilante killing of Trayvon Martin.

    In fact, I was convinced of his guilt beyond all reasonable doubt from the time I learned about the undisputed facts soon after Zimmerman committed this crime 17 months ago. Chief among those facts are that:

    • He harbored seething resentment about Black kids – who he damned as “assholes … fucking punks [who] always get away”  with burglarizing homes in his neighborhood.
    • He was a wannabe cop who was determined not to let this one get away.
    • He racially profiled Trayvon walking in his neighborhood, which also happened to be Trayvon’s.
    • He defied police instructions not to follow Trayvon.
    • He instigated the fatal fight with Trayvon by getting out of his car to confront this kid – who was actually running away in fear from what he described, in some of his last words, as the “creepy-ass cracka” stalking him.
    • And he shot Trayvon in the heart – instead of using his gun (if he had to at all) to fend off the kid, or to even disable him with a non-fatal shot, when he realized he was losing the mano-a-mano fight he instigated.

    But I was wrong. The jury has spoken, and I respect its verdict: Not Guilty! Not just of murder in the second degree, but even of the lesser-included charge of manslaughter.

    Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 11.45.04 AMTo get a little appreciation of why I thought this Florida jury would find him guilty, it might be helpful to know that, just months after Zimmerman killed Trayvon, another Florida jury found a woman guilty – not for killing anyone, but for merely firing warning shots (as I contend Zimmerman could/should have done) to fend off her physically abusive husband. She was convicted of attempted murder (despite also claiming self-defense) and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

    Oh, if you think it’s just a coincidence that this woman, named Marissa Alexander, is Black, think again.

    Enough said?

    landing_draft2-thumb-640xauto-3330Except that it would be remiss of me not to comment on the dark cloud that hovered over this case – from the time Zimmerman had Trayvon in his sights last year to the reading of the jury’s verdict last night. That cloud of course is the still determinative factor of race, which is the haunting legacy of America’s irredeemable original sin of Slavery.

    It was racially polarizing enough that Zimmerman, a White man, was being tried for murdering Trayvon, a Black teenager. Therefore, you could be forgiven for thinking the judge lit a fuse for inevitable racial combustion when she empaneled an all-White jury.

    Not to mention that newscasters reporting on (and the police preparing for) the potential for racial violence if Zimmerman were found not guilty was rather like weather forecasters reporting on the potential for damage if a looming hurricane were to make landfall. And the sound of disappointment in the voices of newscasters now that no (significant) violence has materialized is just as palpable as it invariably is in the voices of forecasters when all of their hype about the impending doom of the big one peters out.

    But everyone from Trayvon’s parents to perennially race-baiting activists like Reverend Al Sharpton deserve national commendation – not only for pledging (from day one and throughout) to respect the Zimmerman verdict come what may, but also for calling for peace and reconciliation in its aftermath.

    In any event, I hope all Whites who think this was a just verdict will take a moment to recall how they felt when that all-Black jury found O.J. Simpson not guilty of murdering two White people. By the same token, I hope all Blacks who think this was an unjust verdict will take a moment to recall how they felt. Because I suspect many Whites are feeling today the way most Blacks felt back then, and vice versa.

    Now, lest you think I’m drawing some racial symmetry in pursuit of poetic justice, let me hasten to clarify that an all-Black jury acquitting a Black O.J. was the exception to the rule in American history; whereas an all-White jury acquitting a White Zimmerman is merely abiding by the rule.

    images-1This is why Blacks may be forgiven their emotional double standards – given a criminal justice system that for decades, if not centuries, has allowed Whites to get away with murdering Blacks. After all, Trayvon is only the latest in a fateful litany that includes Emmett Till, Willie Edwards, James Chaney, Michael Donald, Michael Griffith, Yusef Hawkins, James Byrd Jr.

    Indeed, is it any wonder that their frustration finally combusted so spectacularly after an all-White jury found the four White cops who beat Rodney King within an inch of his life … not guilty?

    Even so, there can be no denying that Whites are more likely to riot and pillage after a championship hockey game than Blacks are to riot and pillage after an unjust jury verdict.  This, notwithstanding the thousands of cases that have provoked Blacks to mount protest marches over the years under the banner of “no justice, no peace.”

    article-2325038-19CBCB2D000005DC-714_634x427-300x202Finally, it might lend more credibility to my bona fides in this respect to note that, while most Blacks cheered when that all-Black jury found O.J. not guilty, I jeered. Alas, that same uncompromising principle (with respect to criminal justice and Race Matters) compels me to swim against the intra-racial tide again.

    Because while most Blacks (being led by the NAACP no less) are now calling for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file criminal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, I’m calling on the DOJ to stay out this case.  Not least because, as I indicated in my original commentary, “The Vigilante Killing of Black Teenager Trayvon Martin,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 12, 2012, a successful civil rights action could be sustained based solely on public outrage/pressure, not legal reasoning.

    I fully appreciate that this was the recourse Black supporters of Rodney King were forced to take to get justice for him. But, as systematic attempts by Whites to suppress the votes of Blacks in last year’s presidential and congressional elections attest, the NAACP and DOJ have far more consequential civil rights battles to fight.

    I stand with those who want to make the killing of innocent Black kids the civil rights cause of our times. But Zimmerman has nothing on Black men who kill Black kids every day in even more depraved and indifferent ways. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a single civil rights leader who has demanded the DOJ file civil rights charges to render justice in those cases.

    I say let Zimmerman’s fate take its course. For I suspect that, just like O.J., he will eventually get what’s coming to him. The last time I checked O.J. was rotting away in prison on a 33-year sentence stemming from a completely unrelated crime – for which he was probably (legally and factually) innocent.  How’s that for poetic justice….

    The Media

    images-3Given the racial polarization this case incited, you’d think it was the first one since O.J.s where race was a factor in the verdict, if not in the murder itself. Whereas, in fact, people commit racially motivated murders every day in the United States.

    But only God knows why some of them are deemed worthy of wall-to-wall media coverage. For example, according to the “FBI Uniform Crime Report,” Whites kill about 200 Blacks each year. Yet for some reason this trial became the media sensation.

    What is clear, though, is that the media invariably play a facilitating role in stoking public interest in certain trials. Why, for example, didn’t the media report on the obvious travesty of justice that befell Marissa Alexander last year — instead of doing so now only for provocative comparisons with the outcome in Zimmerman’s case?  Come to think of it, why didn’t the civil rights activists – who championed Trayvon’s cause – champion her arguably more sympathetic cause…?

    Not to mention their failure to champion the cause of Black 13-year-old Darius Simmons — who was gunned down in cold blood in his own yard in May 2012, right in front of his mother, by his next-door neighbor. After all, this neighbor happens to be White 76-year-old John Henry Spooner — a crotchety old bastard who wrongly suspected Darius of breaking into his home and stealing some of his other prized guns. And why aren’t the media reporting on Spooner’s trial on first-degree murder charges, which is currently underway in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? But I digress.

    I am convinced that if cameras were not allowed in the courtroom, and if cable stations were not providing obsessive coverage (complete with legal analysts sounding more like sports analysts), Zimmerman’s trial would not have been so racially polarizing.

    Unknown-2Which makes this an instructive occasion to reiterate my call for professional juries:

    The time for the American criminal justice system to empanel professional juries is long past due. Because it has become self-evident that presenting lay jurors with reams of evidence and endless pages of jury instructions, then sending them off to make a life or death decision (sometimes under extreme social duress), is every bit as foolhardy as giving a lay person a medical journal, then sending her off to perform brain surgery.

    Indeed, given this untenable premise, it’s really no wonder there have been so many cases where juries have returned verdicts that can only be described as gross miscarriages of justice.

    The only way to arrest this trend … is to select professional juries comprised of individuals who have the legal training to appreciate that ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ does not mean the absence of all doubt and who can make logical inferences and deductions from the evidence presented.

    (“The Case for Professional Juries: Proved Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 1, 2005)

    That said, I have no doubt that the ratings whores who drive media coverage will soon stimulate a much-needed release from this racial polarization by turning the public on to the imminent birth of Britain’s future king/queen. Never mind that this child will be “in waiting” (perhaps for as many as seventy years) until his/her great grandmother Elizabeth, grandfather Charles, and father William all finish their successional reigns. But if you have any reasonable doubt about the media getting over Zimmerman in a flash, try to remember the last time you saw or read a report on one-time media darlings Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias….

    By the way, Charles is probably wondering why his Mummy doesn’t do the decent thing and abdicate to make him king before his dotage, the way two European monarchs (in Belgium and the Netherlands) – both of whom are much younger than she – did earlier this year.

    But seriously, think about it folks: what does it say about Elizabeth’s self-importance if even the infallible pope can abdicate in favor of a younger pope without fearing the Catholic Church would crumble, but she can’t abdicate in favor of a younger monarch without fearing the British monarchy would?

    Ahhh – better already, no…?

    Related commentaries:
    Vigilante killing of Trayvon Martin
    Professional juries
    O.J. Simpson

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 2:21 pm

  • Saturday, July 13, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    Zimmerman trial is sensation ONLY because media made it so…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    134362_600

    For the record, the jury – that began deliberating his fate yesterday – will either find him guilty as sin, or its six “angry” women will be hung.

    There’s simply no reasonable justification, even for this “all-White” jury, to let this trigger-happy wannabe cop walk scot-free.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    Alas, the First Lady of France Is No Lady at All

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    With the latest media feeding frenzy over President Hollande’s love life, the French have utterly destroyed their enviable reputation for discretion in affairs of the heart.

    Here’s how I presaged this unseemly twist in their national character six years ago:

    So much for the reputed quizzical insouciance of the French when it comes to marital (or, more notably, extramarital) affairs. Because today every French newspaper is emblazoned with headlines about the intriguing split between Segolene Royal, the Socialist candidate I endorsed in last month’s French presidential election, and Francois Hollande, the leader of the Socialist Party.

    (“Segolene Royal and Francois Hollande Divorce French Style,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 19, 2007)

    However, where the French were titillated by prurient details about Hollande’s split, they are reacting to tabloid fodder about his ongoing love life like rabbits in heat.

    imagesHere, in part, is how I commented on this spectacle last year:

    As if to highlight the dramatis personae that will provide palace intrigue throughout his presidency, he announced … that he has no intent to marry his partner Valérie Trierweiler (r) — deriding marriage, in true socialist fashion, as a ‘bourgeois institution.’

    No doubt this will help Royal get over the understandable resentment and jealousy that must have stirred in her as she watched the younger woman Hollande dumped her for standing by his side when he became president.

    But Trierweiler must be wondering now about the security of her position in this ongoing ménage à trois . After all, not only could Hollande’s nomination make Royal the most powerful woman in France, Valérie is surely mindful that she (i.e., Royal) is also the only mother of his four children.

    So who’s resentful and jealous now? Karma’s a bitch: woof.

    (“New French President Nominates ‘First Partner’ as Speaker,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 18, 2012)

    Unsurprisingly, a number of French readers took umbrage at my casting their purportedly sophisticated attitude towards intimate relationships as a provincial American-style soap opera. Except that Trierweiler soon vindicated my cynical take:

    Based on the latest episode of As the Elysée Turns, it may be that I presumed too much about the discretion of the characters involved in this political ménage à trois. For the French media were replete with reports last week about the ‘blind jealousy’ that compelled Trierweiler to take to Twitter – just days before Sunday’s elections  – to declare her support not for Royal (Hollande’s declared nominee for president of the National Assembly) but for her (i.e., their) opponent.

    Just imagine the national spectacle/embarrassment if President Obama endorsed a candidate for House Speaker, and Michelle then took to Twitter to endorse that candidate’s opponent….

    (“Ménage a Trois Involving French President Heats Up,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 19, 2012)

    Valerie-Trierweiler-journaliste-et-compagne-de-Francois-Hollande-en-recherche-de-normalite_portrait_w858This compelled me to suggest that Trierweiler is a woman who cannot be trusted. I even opined that Hollande was wise not to marry her, and would be wiser still to get rid of her tout de suite. He did not; then came this:

    They say a week is a long time in politics, and in French politics it needs to be. France’s First Lady, Valérie Trierweiler, certainly had a lot to pack in during her working week, sleeping, as is alleged in a new book, with both François Hollande, the socialist president, and Patrick Devedjian, a Right-wing politician. Oh, and she was also married to her fellow Paris Match journalist Denis Trierweiler at the time.

    (The Irish Independent, October 16, 2012)

    Which prompted me to comment as follows:

    I always thought the notorious dalliances of French novelist and performer Colette was an anomaly among French women. But this documented scheming of First Lady Valérie will do much to disabuse me of that thought.

    If President Hollande did not have cause to dump this cunning and spiteful courtesan before, surely these revelations should compel him to do so now – if only to avoid becoming a national laughing stock, non?

    (“The Three Lovers of France’s First Lady Valérie Trierweiler,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 18, 2012)

    Of course, by this point you’d think my French critics would’ve been duly chastened. Instead, they not only found the report about Trierweiler’s three lovers incroyable; they dismissed my take on it as patently absurd.

    Here, in part, was my take:

    Given the ménage à trois  referenced above, one could be forgiven for thinking, as I did, that the philandering for which the French are famous stems from the quizzical insouciance French men have towards marital/sexual fidelity.

    So imagine my shock when I read reports this week that the philandering of no less a person than the new first lady of France proves that, as in most things, women are better at this too (or worse depending on your level of puritanism)

    (“The Three Lovers of France’s First Lady Valérie Trierweiler,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 18, 2012)

    Interestingly enough, it seemed lost on these critics that, by expressing moral indignation and defending Valérie’s honor, they were in fact destroying their enviable reputation for discretion (and sophistication) in matters of intimate relationships. After all, one would’ve thought the French would have greeted revelations about her three lovers as quintessentially, well, French.

    To be fair, their antic disposition was probably influenced by the public show their first lady made of suing for defamation the reporters who outed her as a woman of ill-repute. But then came this:

    French first lady Valérie Trierweiler was today forced to pay legal costs to a writer who accused her of being the ‘shared’ mistress of two married politicians.

    It follows Ms. Trierweiler withdrawing her claim of defamation against Christophe Jakubyszyn, who exposed the 48-year-old’s extraordinarily colourful love life.

    (Daily Mail, July 9, 2013)

    hollande1I hope one does not have to be a lawyer to appreciate that the only reason for withdrawing a claim of defamation is fear of being hoisted on one’s own petard with the truth as an absolute defense.

    This compels me to reiterate that, instead of first lady, Trierweiler might more accurately be called the first courtesan of France. And the French appear to be thinking of doing just that:

    She is herself facing a legal action over claims that the taxpayer should not be supporting her lifestyle as the ‘president’s mistress.’

    Xavier Kemlin, a supermarket chain heir, launched the complaint earlier this year, saying: ‘It is scandalous that our taxes are being used to house, feed, upkeep and pay for the staff and travel of a lady to whom we have no legal obligation.’

    (Daily Mail, July 9, 2013)

    Quel scandale!

    Related commentaries:
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    Ménage a Trois

  • Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 4:51 AM

    The Bahamas Turns 40. Time to Grow Up!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Coat_of_arms_of_the_Bahamas.svg

    Today The Bahamas celebrates 40 years of independence. I heartily join in hailing our motto: “Forward, Upward, Onward, Together” … my Bahamaland!

    484419128We are a nation of only 320,000 people. Yet not even the political and cultural hegemony of the United States can chasten our national pride.

    But this is precisely why we make such a mockery of our “independence” by continuing to pledge allegiance to a British Queen – when we should be referring to Her Majesty as nothing more than our children’s fairy godmother; and by continuing to appeal to a British Privy Council – when we should be looking to our own Bahamas Supreme Court as our court of last resort.

    This latter dependence seems particularly juvenile; not least because our politicians behave like two-year olds throwing a temper tantrum every time Privy Council judges tame (i.e., deny) their bloodlust to have a Bahamian murderer executed. But, frankly, if each of the 50 states in the USA can assume the awesome responsibility of deciding whether or not to impose the death penalty, surely our nation can do the same … no?

    Incidentally, with all due respect to the Caribbean Court of Justice, I’m on record arguing repeatedly (most recently in “Idle-minded Debate on Privy Council Continues,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 30, 2011) that there’s no point in ridding ourselves of a colonial arbiter of our legal fate only to subject ourselves to a regional one.

    The point is that the time has long since passed for us to completely sever the umbilical cords of colonialism and stand proud as a people beholden and answerable only to ourselves.

    So, let’s truly “March On, Bahamaland.”

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 8:12 AM

    U.S. Leaving Afghanistan. No Shit !

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The United States is considering pulling out all its troops from Afghanistan next year, U.S. officials said, amid tension between the President Barack Obama’s Administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government.

    (Reuters, July 9, 2013)

    afghankarz-300x213I am pleased to see President Obama finally coming to his senses. But this raises the question: what has he accomplished by surging more troops into Afghanistan three years ago, instead of doing back then what he’s considering now?

    After all, some of us warned that he was just putting the blood of more American soldiers on his hands:

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

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

    (“‘Without (or Even With) More Forces, Failure in Afghanistan Is Likely,’” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2009)

    UnknownThere have been 2,083 American deaths in Afghanistan since 2001.  But almost 70 percent of those deaths occurred not on George W. Bush’s watch, but on Obama’s. Why Obama, why?

    I do not see how Obama can possibly justify the loss of life and waste of money that will occur over this period just for him to end up doing what President Nixon did in Vietnam: i.e., declaring victory and going home….

    (“Obama Escalates Afghan War; the ‘Die’ Is Cast on His Presidency,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 2, 2009)

    Enough said?

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  • Monday, July 8, 2013 at 6:38 AM

    Wimbledon: Murray Ends Britain’s 77-Year Drought

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Remarkably enough, though, Roger was/is not the story. For going into today’s final, all anyone in the media was reporting on or talking about was the prospect of his opponent Andy Murray becoming the first Briton to win this British Grand Slam since 1936 (a Cubs-like losing streak of 76 years).

    Alas, like a good Brit, he gave it a good try but came up short, losing in four sets 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

    Never mind that, had he won, all of my Scottish friends would have prevailed upon me to point out that, even though Wimbledon is played at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Andy is in fact Scottish, not English.

    (“Serena and Roger Triumph at Wimbledon, “ July 9, 2012)

    article-2357781-1AB3B52B000005DC-74_470x684Well, what a difference a year makes. In fact, after Andy avenged that crushing defeat by winning gold at the London Summer Olympics as well as top prize at the U.S. Open last year, everybody knew it was only a matter of time before he won this – the most prestigious of all four Grand Slams of Tennis.

    And so it was that Andy (26) ended Britain’s long national humiliation by defeating the world’s reigning No. 1 player, Novak Djokovic (26), in straight sets (6-4, 7-5, 6-4) for this year’s Wimbledon championship.

    article-2357781-1AB3C3A7000005DC-12_470x684But who knew Novak was so articulate (in English) … and gracious.  For here’s how this unabashedly proud Serb acknowledged Andy’s historic and nationalistic accomplishment:

    Congratulations to Andy. You absolutely deserved this win, you played incredible tennis.  Congratulations to his team. I know how much it means to them. I know how much it means to all of you guys and the whole country. Well done!

    (ESPN, July 7, 2013)

    Hell, I could not have said it better myself. Except that, given my sympathies with Scottish nationalists, I would have said “the whole Kingdom” – tongue firmly planted in cheek. After all, England and Scotland are still two separate countries.

    Which compels me to raise two points of potential contention:

    • Henman Hill

    ‘Henman Hill’ … is an area on the grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club where, during the annual Wimbledon tennis championships, crowds of people without show court tickets can watch the tennis matches live on a giant Television screen at the side of No. 1 Court.

    (Wikipedia)

    Unknown-1Tim Henman of course is the recently retired English player who never made Britain prouder than when he failed, heroically, to even make the Wimbledon finals, crashing out in the semifinals four times in his career (1998-99, 2001-02). And I suspect longsuffering Britons named this hill in his honor because they felt he had come as close to winning their national championship as any Briton ever would … in their lifetime.

    But if the All England Club Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club really wants to honor Andy for making Britain truly proud, it should officially rename Henman Hill, Murray Hill – for the Brit who actually, finally won!

    • Knighthood

    Unknown-2It’s only a matter of time before the English attempt to co-opt this Scotsman’s national pride by offering him a knighthood. Indeed, UK Prime Minister David Cameron – who watched this match with Scottish “First Minister’ Alex Salmon from the “royal box” – has already called for a day of national celebration.

    But, if Andy wants to make his fellow Scots truly proud, he would make a public show of rejecting it.

    Because it’s one thing for a Scotsman like Sean Connery to accept this monarchical honor (dressed in full Scottish kilt no less). After all, his claim to fame stems from playing an English spy (James Bond 007) on Her Majesty’s secret service. It’s quite another for one like Chris Hoy to accept it. After all, his claim to fame stems from his own heroics as an Olympic cyclist.

    So shame on you, Sir Chris. Not least because even famous Englishmen like Stephen Hawking, Danny Boyle, and David Bowie had the presence of mind and enough self-respect to utterly reject offers of knighthood as the frivolous, ingratiating and self-sustaining trapping of a fairytale institution.

    The Women’s Championship

    imagesAfter both Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams were upset in the early rounds, I lost all interest in the women’s draw. But it would be remiss of me not to note that Marion Bartoli (28) of France defeated Sabine Lisicki (23) of Germany in straight sets (6-1, 6-4) for the women’s championship.

    Even though Bartoli made it through to the finals without losing a single set, sports analysts are all writing off her ultimate triumph as an upset. The only reason for this, though, is that they all crowned Lisicki, quite prematurely, as the new Steffi Graf after her stunning victory over Serena in the fourth round.

    Work-pics1486Not to mention those who are crowning her the new darling of Tennis because of her Aryan looks….

    Apropos of which, it’s too bad most of the reporting on Bartoli’s win is about an English commentator speculating that her father must have told her that, because she is relatively short and fat (think the ugly duckling), she’d have to work twice as hard as someone like Maria – who is tall and thin (think the beautiful swan). Never mind that Bartoli’s brain – with its genius IQ of 175 that makes Einstein look like a dummy – will serve her well long after Tennis; whereas Lisicki’s beauty will probably fade long before she retires.

    I’m sure Venus and Serena fully expected to hear racist comments about their participation in this purportedly genteel sport. This might account for their reportedly antisocial (or guarded) disposition early in their careers. But I suspect Bartoli was not only surprised, but even crestfallen to hear such sexist comments about her participation.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 6:18 pm

  • Saturday, July 6, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    If democratically elected Morsi was not safe, you can’t blame others for being a little paranoid…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Friday, July 5, 2013 at 7:16 AM

    Egypt’s democratic military coup…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I find it curious that Obama is effectively calling on the Egyptian military to guarantee the protesters’ democratic aspirations. Ironically, he and other Western leaders seem to believe that the best way to transition from Mubarak’s dictatorship to democracy is by installing a de facto military dictatorship.

    (“Crisis in Egypt: the End Game,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 4, 2011)

    images-1On Monday Egypt’s military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave the country’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, 48 hours to reconcile his irreconcilable differences with opposition forces. Never mind that Morsi had even less chance of doing this than Mubarak had of striking an eleventh-hour compromise with these same forces before the military deposed him.

    This is why I find it so mind-boggling that, after reacting initially with justified defiance and righteous indignation, Morsi ended up looking just as feckless and fatally compromised as Mubarak did: offering a desperate plan at the eleventh hour for a government of national unity — with himself remaining as president.

    Alas, just as it was with Mubarak, this was too little, too late. And, like Mubarak, it’s probably only a matter of time before Morsi ends up on trial for all kinds of alleged crimes against the state.

    The Egyptian military has announced  the removal of Mohamed Morsi as president, presenting a roadmap for reconciliation in the country.

    In a televised statement on Wednesday, Egyptian military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that the plan calls for the temporary suspension of the constitution and the institution of a technocrat government.

    Tahrir Square, where thousands of people had gathered during the day, erupted in celebrations as soon as the news was announced.

    (Associated Press, July 3, 2013)

    images-2With speed and precision that would make any military dictatorship green with envy, the army placed Morsi under house arrest, rounded up all high-ranking members of his ruling Muslim Brotherhood, and confiscated all of their communications and media facilities.

    But those celebrating today are delusional if they think Morsi’s Islamist supporters are going to let them have their way. For this coup seems bound to incite an insurgency. And Egyptians need only look at the living Hell life in Iraq has been for the past decade to know what that would portend.

    In the meantime, I don’t blame President Obama for keeping his distance. And he should stay out of it as long as the military contains the violence and does nothing to compromise America’s multi-billion investment in maintaining peace between Egypt and Israel.

    p070313ps-0459After all, this is the only reason successive U.S. presidents propped up the dictator Mubarak for 30 years. In other words, the United States is far more interested in peace along Egypt’s boarders than in democracy within them. And it will support a military dictator as readily as a democratically elected president to further that prevailing interest.

    Exhibit A in this respect is America’s abiding, if not intimate, support of the plainly undemocratic rule of the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia. That image of President George W. Bush looking like a lovesick teenager as he kissed then strolled along holding hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah speaks volumes….

    Frankly, Obama should let the Egyptians sort out their own internal political mess … by any means necessary; just as he is now letting the Iraqis, Syrians, Turks, Brazilians, Kenyans (and soon will be letting the Afghans) do. For imagine what a foolhardy and unsustainable precedent it would set if Obama made the United States responsible for resolving such political strife wherever it erupts.

    Incidentally, I hope I can be forgiven for taking a little credit for coining the phrase “never-ending revolution” in “Egyptian Revolution Part II,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 14, 2011. Because the forces behind the overthrow of Morsi are insisting that, despite looking like a coup and acting like a coup, what the army did yesterday was just in furtherance of their original revolution (i.e., “revolution 2.0”).

    Egyptian liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said on Wednesday that the Arab Spring revolution of 2011 had been relaunched by the announcement of an army-sponsored roadmap which removed Islamist President Mohamed [Morsi].

    (Reuters, July 3, 2013)

    images-3Except that, alluding to another metaphor, a coup by any other name still stinks as much. But ElBaradei is engaging in political sophistry to avoid calling this military intervention a “coup” for the same reason Obama is: if it is deemed a coup, the United States would be legally obligated to withdraw the billions that funds/feeds the Egyptian army….

    Far more important, though, is what happens if/when the next democratically elected president fails to meet unrealistic expectations for political reform and economic development?

    Or, in the first instance, what happens if, despite efforts to purge them, members of the Muslim Brotherhood emerge victorious from the next round of presidential and parliamentary elections…? After all, secular protesters have proven that, while they are great at stoking military coups, they suck at running political campaigns. Revolution 3.0…?

    That said, Westerners should look in the mirror before looking down their noses at the political mess now unfolding in Egypt. Indeed, it is instructive that President Obama highlighted America’s “improbable experiment in democracy” today in his annual July 4th address.

    For this should remind folks that it took the United States, the undisputed beacon of Western democracy, over 150 years to even begin to live up to its democratic ideals. What’s more, those years included a bloody civil war and racial strife that makes the sectarian strife plaguing fledgling democracies in places like Afghanistan and Iraq seem like neighborly spats.

    By contrast, Egypt’s has been grappling with its improbable experiment in democracy for only one year. And it can clearly do a lot worse than mount a bloodless coup (or two) along the way.

    So give Egypt a friggin’ break !

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was published originally yesterday, Thursday, at 9:06 pm

  • Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    Happy July 4th ! Keep hope alive folks…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    Who the Hell Does Winnie Mandela Think She Is?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have no doubt that when the time finally comes, South Africans will put on a state funeral for Nelson Mandela that will make those Catholics put on for dead popes seem modest and irreverent. And the least of it will be the who’s who among world leaders queuing up to pay their last respects.

    But this will stand in glaring contrast to the way these same South Africans have disrespected him during these last years and days of his life. And it is particularly disheartening that his family members are responsible for most of this disrespect.

    Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 9.02.07 PMHere, for example, is what I felt moved to write earlier this year in “Is Nothing Sacred? ‘Being Mandela’ – The Reality-TV Show?” The iPINIONS Journal, March 18, 2013:

    I wonder why the granddaughters of Nelson Mandela, easily the most revered and dignified politician in the world today, would want to sully his good name by having the Mandelas try to keep up with the Kardashians…

    I can think of no socially redeeming value in the Mandelas airing their dirty laundry on TV… And God forbid they cast Mandela as a feature player (in Weekend-At-Bernie’s fashion) in their faux story lines to boost ratings.

    And here’s what I felt moved to follow up with just weeks ago in “It’s Time To Let Mandela Go,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 10, 2013:

    My abiding regard for him has compelled me to repeatedly lament the way everyone from family members to politicians have been treating him more like a national mascot than an elder statesman in recent years…

    I am among those hoping – not necessarily for him to die, but for him to be spared any more indignities…

    So here’s to letting Mandela go.

    ay_113152878Alas, it seems Mandela is proving too great a self-aggrandizing prop for some to let him go. Which brings me to his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela–Mandela. Because nobody has done more to bask in the god-like reverence that has attended the ongoing, worldwide vigil for him than she.

    Most notable in this respect is the way she has assumed the role of protecting him from photo opportunists like a lioness protecting her cub from mercenary poachers.

    This was on full display just days ago when she publicly chastised no less a person than South African President Jacob Zuma. His offense was publishing pictures of his visit in April with Mandela – when the former president was recuperating at home after his latest rush to hospital:

    I honestly cannot put in words how hurt the family was. It was one of the most insensitive things for anyone to have done.

    (Winnie Mandela, SA Sunday Times, June 30, 2013)

    But, demonstrating that she is truly no respecter of persons, she did not even give President Obama a chance to offend (her?) the way Zuma did, For, according to the June 28 edition of the Wall Street Journal, even though Obama went out of his way to state that, “I don’t need a photo op,” Winnie still prevented him from visiting Mandela (who is now back in hospital) during his state visit last week (June 28-30).

    images-2The problem of course is that, in playing this overzealous role (as mother protector and devoted spouse), she has relegated Mandela’s current wife, Graca Machel, to a role as little more than hospital bed nurse.

    Just years ago one would have been forgiven for thinking that Winnie would be praying now for Mandela to hasten to his grave. After all, here is the (woman-scorned) way she was publicly damning him as a money-grubbing sellout back then – when he had already withdrawn from public life and was in no position to defend himself:

    This name Mandela is an albatross around the necks of my family. You all must realise that Mandela was not the only man who suffered. There were many others, hundreds who languished in prison and died.

    Mandela did go to prison and he went in there as a young revolutionary but look what came out.

    Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically we are still on the outside. The economy is very much “white”.

    I cannot forgive him for going to receive the Nobel with his jailer de Klerk. Hand in hand they went. Do you think de Klerk released him from the goodness of his heart? He had to. The times dictated it, the world had changed.

    Mandela is now like a corporate foundation. He is wheeled out globally to collect the money.

    (London Evening Standard, March 8, 2010)

    images-1In “Nelson Mandela Is a Traitor and an Albatross?!” The iPINIONS Journal, March 9, 2010, I duly criticized Winnie as not just a Peter the denier, but a Judas the betrayer for unleashing this wholly unwarranted diatribe against him.

    Not to mention that Mandela found her conviction for kidnapping, as well as credible accusations of everything from serial infidelity to embezzlement, so disloyal and “insensitive” that he not only divorced her in 1992 (just two years after getting out of prison), but also fired her from her deputy Cabinet post in the ANC.

    Yet today Winnie would have the world believe that none of this ever happened, and that she and Graca are simply Mandela’s two loving and devoted wives – as if, like Zuma, he is a practicing polygamist. Whereas nothing could be further from the truth – notwithstanding that tribal custom entitles him to have more than one wife … from his tribe.

    8318159This is why I am so stupefied that most South Africans do not find the public persona she’s affecting ironic, if not a hypocritical national disgrace.

    Meanwhile, in that infamous Zuma photo op, which is the last image we have of Mandela, it looks like his spirit left his body long ago. But this has not stopped his loved ones from continually remarking on what a fighter he is  – as if this were ever in doubt. Except that it seems distressingly clear that it is not he who is fighting to stay as much as it is his loved ones who are refusing to let him go.

    This was brought into sad relief when Winnie insisted just days ago that they would rather keep Mandela in hospital on life support (in a vegetative state) than let him die naturally. Notwithstanding it being a matter of public record that spending his last days in his ancestral home of Qunu was for him a consummation devoutly to be wished….

    Which brings me to this last, grave spectacle:

    While Nelson Mandela is fighting for his life in a Pretoria hospital, members of his family are fighting each other, in a feud which is being played out in lurid details in the local media.

    Several family members have taken his eldest grandson, Mandla, to court in a bid to exhume three of the former president’s children, so they can be reburied in the family graveyard in Qunu, where Mr Mandela wants to be laid to rest.

    And the battle over the exhumations is a sign of much deeper divisions within Mr. Mandela’s large and complex family – his three wives, six children, 17 grandchildren and 12 surviving great-grandchildren.

    (BBC, July 1, 2013)

    Mind you, the only reason for this dispute is that he who controls the Mandela graveyard controls the tourist dollars they all expect will come from pilgrimages to it. Add to this spectacle the way his family members had already begun fighting over his financial legacy and you’ll get a small sense of why I fear that, after he’s dead and buried, it will still be a long time before Mandela can finally rest in peace.

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  • Tuesday, July 2, 2013 at 7:20 AM

    I Spy, You Spy, We All Spy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    images-1According to Edward Snowden’s latest rolling disclosures, when it comes to international spying, the United States targets allies like France and Germany as readily as it targets frenemies like China and Russia.

    Unsurprisingly, the Europeans are “shocked, shocked,” and are expressing feelings of profound betrayal:

    The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and French president, François Hollande, demanded quick explanations from Washington about disclosures by the Guardian and Der Spiegel that U.S. agencies bugged European embassies and parliament buildings. Berlin stressed there had to be mutual trust if trade talks were to go ahead in Washington on Monday.

    (London Guardian, July 1, 2013)

    The Americans are wiping egg off their faces, but do not seem too worried. Indeed, no less a person than President Obama dismissed European outrage as little more than the pot calling the kettle black. For here is what he said yesterday during a joint press conference with President Kikwete in Tanzania – the last leg of his six-day African tour, which included Senegal and South Africa:

    I think 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 from sources that aren’t available through the New York Times or NBC News…

    And I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders… If I want to know what [any European leader] is thinking, I will call.

    (whitehouse.gov, July 1, 2013)

    Secretary of State John Kerry duly echoed Obama’s dismissive sentiments.

    imagesTruth be told, except for stoking idle anti-Americanism in some European countries, I am convinced that these disclosures will have no material impact on U.S.-EU relations. Not least because Europeans threatening to abandon bilateral trade agreements with the United States over spying is even less credible than the United States threatening to do the same with China over human rights.

    But as much as I agree with Obama, his response raised this White House press-like question:

    Mr President, if, as you assert, you and all heads of state are the “end users” of the intelligence your respective spy agencies gather, and if, as you assert, all each of you has to do to know what the other is thinking is to call, then what, Sir, is the point of all of the friendly spying going on between the United States and its allies?

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  • Monday, July 1, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    Proof Michael Jackson Was a Serial Pedophile; His Brothers Venal Parasites

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    HIStory+Past+Present+and+Future+Book+I+Disc+2+51FdwOB1aL_SS500_Based on HIStory, it might be helpful for die-hard fans to know that I’m on record hailing Michael Jackson as easily the most talented and exciting performer in the history of entertainment.

    That said, here’s a little of what I wrote when prosecutors finally put Michael on trial for being an open and notorious groomer and sexual abuser of little boys:

    In a rather pathetic attempt to delay or escape his trial for sexually molesting a little boy, Michael Jackson failed to show up as required in court yesterday. The judge immediately issued a warrant for his arrest – telling Michael’s lawyer that he’s fed up with Michael’s prima donna antics…

    It is clear beyond all reasonable doubt that Michael is a mentally unbalanced, absurdly egocentric, self-destructively narcissistic and unrepentant corrupter of little boys who fascinates more today as a walking freak show than he ever did as the King of Pop!

    Michael’s grip on reality remains tenuous at best. His Neverland, never-grow-old schtick has, frankly, grown old. And, it may soon dawn on him (perhaps even before the end of this trial) that the only way to ensure his Peter-Pan legacy is to “Beat It”…

    (“Michael Jackson Cops a Sick Plea,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 11, 2005)

    And here’s a little of what I wrote when, thanks to an O.J. (criminal) jury, he got off:

    Given his apparent nature, it’s only a matter of time before Michael begins sleeping with little boys again…

    I believe enough is known about Michael’s unnatural predilection for the intimate company of little boys to convince me that he is a pedophile. And we need only recall that after he was forced in 1993 to payout over $20 million for sleeping with a little boy, his lawyer Johnnie Cochran declared (in unwittingly incriminating fashion) that – even though he did not molest the child – Michael learned a very costly lesson not to sleep with little boys again.

    Except that he didn’t. After all, he not only continued to do so, but did it more often and more boldly. And now that he probably feels his perverted behavior has been vindicated in a court of law, I suspect his molestation of boys will become even more egregious.

    (“Michael Jackson: Not Guilty! But Hardly Innocent…,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 14, 2005)

    michael-jackson-pic-rex-689721922I’m sure it would surprise none of you to learn that Michael’s fans reacted to my calling him a pedophile the way Beliebers would react if I called Justin Bieber the talentless, overhyped little twerp that he is.

    But what I found truly surprising was the number of erstwhile reasonable grown-ups who actually believed that there was nothing sexual about Michael’s predilection for having slumber parties and sleepovers with little boys. Not to mention all of the parents who thought nothing of prostituting their children for these occasions….

    Well, now comes my vindication; alas too belatedly:

    Michael Jackson paid $35 million in hush money to at least two dozen young boys he sexually abused over 15 years, it has been alleged.

    Sunday People has published explosive ‘secret FBI files’ suggesting the King of Pop groomed and molested children from at least 1989, despite his insistence he was just spending time with them.

    The damning files claim the deceased popstar was a ‘pedophile’ who watched porn while assaulting a boy, molested a famous child star, fondled a child’s genitals in his private cinema and groped another child whose mother wasn’t ‘bothered’ by it.

    (Daily Mail, June 29, 2013)

    Frankly, all that’s left now is for child stars like Macaulay Culkin (Home Alone) and Emanuel Lewis (Webster – who Michael used to carry around on his hip like his chimp Bubbles) to join famed choreographer Wade Robson in coming out about the years Michael spent grooming and molesting them….

    But this seems a good time to address the other big lie Michael lived. This one also pertained to his relationship with children. Except that, instead of lying about sexually abusing them, he lied about giving birth to them.

    Here’s a little of what I’ve written about this:

    The most manifestly troubling aspect of Michael’s personal life was his role as a father. In addition to many other Freudian questions, I wonder about the psychological impact on his three lily-white children of having this Black man (notwithstanding his appearance) insist that he is their biological father. Just imagine the psychological defect (self-hatred?) or physical dysfunction that led Michael to choose the sperm of a White man, instead of using his own (or that of a Black man) to inseminate the (White) surrogates who gave birth to his designer babies.

    (“Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, Is Dead,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 27, 2009)

    And again here:

    Nothing is more pathetic than watching his siblings on TV going on about how these kids look just like Michael – seemingly unaware that surgically or cosmetically altered features (like his pointed nose, bleached skin, and long wig) cannot be inherited.

    (“52nd Annual Grammy Awards,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 1, 2010)

    article-0-1A8B5DD7000005DC-211_634x476Unfortunately, there was nothing in those FBI files about the true biological father of Michael’s three children. Therefore, only DNA will provide the vindication I am certain will eventually come.

    In the meantime, I found Matt Fiddes’s claim that he is the biological father of Michael’s son Blanket so convincing that I duly commented on it in “The Kid (Blanket) Is Not (Michael’s) Son,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 24, 2012. And just last week the London Daily Mirror reported that Michael actually admitted British actor Mark Lester (“Oliver” in the original Oliver Twist) is the biological father of his daughter Paris and son Prince.

    We shall see….

    Meanwhile, the Jacksons are suing concert promoter AEG in Los Angeles for $40 billion. They are claiming that its executives saw Michael as a potential cash cow; that they literally drove him to death with their unforgiving rehearsal regime for the scheduled 50 performances of his “This Is It” concerts; and that they failed to properly supervise Dr. Conrad Murray and were negligent in hiring him to care for Michael in the first place – as if Michael were still the child performer he was 40 years ago.

    But here is what I wrote specifically about this wholly foreseeable tragedy:

    Michael was considered a shrewd businessman who reportedly earned over one billion during his lifetime. Yet he was such an unconscionable and irresponsible spendthrift that he died almost half a billion in debt.

    Reports abound that Michael fed this habit in recent years by contracting to perform, collecting hefty advances, and then resorting to all kinds of ploys (often involving hospital visits) to avoid getting on stage. Indeed, despite reports of him rehearsing for his big comeback series of concerts, I am convinced that, having collected a hefty percentage of the advance ticket sales, he had no intention of actually performing.

    Therefore, it shall remain one of the greatest ironies, if not mysteries of his life that, for a man who claimed to be happiest when performing, Michael did so much during the last years of his life to avoid being on stage. His last concert performance was in 1996….

    (“Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, Is Dead,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 27, 2009)

    imagesAnd again here:

    This film will do far more to seal his legacy (and make him a legend) than the 50 shows he was scheduled to perform ever could.

    Because as brilliant as he undoubtedly would have performed in a few of them, the inescapable and wholly warranted fear is that, inevitably, his patented off-stage antics would have detracted too much from his stellar on-stage performances.  Not to mention that, after 10 shows, the novelty would have worn off, and his (aging and frail) body might have given way.

    This is why I am left with the admittedly perverse feeling that, even though ‘a comet blazing across the evening sky, [Michael was not] gone too soon….’

    (“’This Is It’ Reinforces My Conflicted Feelings About MJ,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 29, 2009)

    I will only add that it’s an indication of what venal parasites Michael’s brothers are that, on the one hand, they are suing AEG for his wrongful death, while on the other hand, they are still performing their Michael-less hits for AEG. Which, incidentally, is rather like the Rolling Stones performing their hits without Mick Jagger. Who’d want to see that?! But is it any wonder Michael spent the last years of his life trying to avoid his brothers like the plague…?

    The Jacksons won’t get anything near $40 billion of course. But they will win their lawsuit (i.e., if AEG does not wise up and settle before it goes to an O.J. (civil) jury)….  If there is a God, however, these FBI files will embolden all of the children Michael molested to come out of the woodwork to sue the Jacksons/his estate for every dime they collect from AEG … and then some.

    Finally, there’s this:

    You’re probably wondering why the FBI would have files documenting Michael’s molestation of dozens of little boys and refuse to turn them over to state prosecutors in Los Angeles. Well, it might be helpful to know that the FBI keeps files on virtually every public figure in the United States.  And where the FBI regularly shares those files with federal prosecutors, only God knows what it would take for the FBI to share them with state prosecutors. Yes folks, law-enforcement agencies really are that territorial.

    But, apropos of God, if you think there’s something immoral about the FBI having such files on a pop star and refusing to turn them over to prosecutors, just bear in mind that the Catholic Church had/has similar files on hundreds, if not thousands, of pedophile priests and has steadfastly refused to turn them over.

    Talk about a special place in Hell — for Michael and them….

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