• Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 6:37 AM

    A Royal Gripe about Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    6a00e551962103883300e553bc1c4b8833-800wiLast night I was declaiming on the artistic (as opposed to the commercial) merits of the latest Pink Floyd album, The Endless River, when a friend began rhapsodizing about the Rolling Stones and their pouty-lipped leader, Mick Jagger. The uncultured gall; I was not pleased.

    As much as I admire the Stones’ longevity, I’m no fan of their music. I’m more into Led Zeppelin and, of course, Pink Floyd. In fact, the Rolling Stones have always struck me as the sort of Boy Band Simon Cowell, the wizard behind One Direction, would have manufactured if he were around in the early 1960s….

    mick-jagger-lwren-scott-death-prediction-leadBut, more to the point of this gripe, I’m even less a fan of Mick Jagger. As it happens, the media have been reporting more on his personal life than his music lately. And the focus of that reporting has been the fallout from the death in March of his girlfriend, fashion designer L’Wren Scott.

    According to Forbes magazine, Mick has a net worth of $325 million. Therefore, it speaks volumes about the kind of relationship L’Wren had with her family that she left “everything, and I mean everything,” to him. Mind you, it probably speaks even greater volumes about the kind of mental stress, if not emotional duress, L’Wren was under that she committed suicide….

    Whatever the case, it was unseemly enough that Mick got embroiled in a fight with her family over her dead body and her $9 million estate:

    Jan Shane, the sister of deceased designer L’Wren Scott feels cheated by Mick Jagger after he opted to have the funeral of his long-time girlfriend moved to L.A. Unfortunately, Jan can’t do anything about where the body of her sister now rests but she has vowed to take the fight right to Mick for a share of L’Wren’s fortune and to reclaim some priceless family heirlooms.

    (Hollywood Life, March 27, 2014)

    Now come reports that he’s embroiled in yet another fight over money. This one has insurers going after him for attempting to claim millions for shows he canceled, ostensibly, to grieve L’Wren’s death. Never mind the paparazzi shots of him just weeks later grieving in the bosom of a fetching brunette — who bears an uncanny resemblance to a 20-something-year-old L’Wren.

    But Mick’s preening self-importance is such that he sees nothing ironical, if not hypocritical, about looking to her brother to help him substantiate his claim (or at least to not undermine it):

    The Rolling Stones are embroiled in a legal feud with insurance underwriters who refused to pay $12.7 million for a tour cancellation following the suicide of Mick Jagger’s girlfriend L’Wren Scott.

    The dispute came to light in court documents filed in the western U.S. state of Utah, where the insurers are seeking to speak to Scott’s brother to bolster their case against the rock legends.

    (Agence France-Presse, November 11, 2014)

    mick-jagger-black-daughterBased on these two stories, you could be forgiven the impression that, when it comes to money, Mick is one niggardly SOB. But this was brought into shameful relief for me years ago when one of his old girlfriends, former Black model Marsha Hunt, went public with her heartbreak over the way Mick tried to disown their love child to avoid paying child support.

    He even got embroiled in a bitter fight with Hunt – the reputed inspiration for the Stones’ 1971 hit “Brown Sugar” – after abject poverty forced her to file a series of paternity suits against Mick (in 1973 and 1978, when their daughter Karis was 7). And even then (as Hunt tells it in a September 26, 2008, interview with the Daily Mail), he did not begin treating the child as his until years later, when she was 12.

    How ironic, then, that it was this very love child who “saved him in his darkest hour:”

    Even by his frugal standards, it was a low blow — one that should have spelled the death knell for any relationship between father and daughter.

    How times have changed. For this week, that disowned daughter was very publicly his greatest support on the bleakest day of his life.

    Karis, 43, Mick’s eldest child, was firmly by her father’s side when they laid his long-term girlfriend L’Wren Scott to rest, after she was found hanged in New York on March 17.

    (Daily Mail, March 28, 2014)

    book-articleInlineAll of the above paints a pretty ugly picture of the character of this celebrated grandpa of rock and roll. And this is only the tip of the iceberg, given the scroll of his backstabbing and betrayal, which bandmate Keith Richards gripes about in his critically acclaimed 2011 autobiography, Life.

    But anyone who knows of my congenital aversion to British royalty will appreciate that I lost what little respect I had for Mick when he accepted a knighthood in 2002 … as if it were the crowning achievement of his life.

    I have long maintained that royalty makes a mockery of the universal principle that all people are created equal. Moreover, that a democracy that perpetuates royalty in the twenty-first century is almost as cancerous (and oxymoronic) as one that perpetuated slavery in the nineteenth.

    (“The Problem Is Not Kate’s Weight; It’s William’s Title,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 16, 2011)

    It is understandable, of course, that the royal family would think that knighting Mick would bestow upon it street cred so devoutly to be wished. What is not, however, is that he would betray the anti-establishment creed that made him a rock ’n roll legend just to put on royal airs. In fact, nothing indicates how venal this quid-pro-quo was quite like the Queen dispatching Prince Charles to knight Mick because she could not “stomach” doing so in light of the anti-monarchy views he used to express so proudly.

    Incidentally, David Bowie stands as a real rock star in this regard, having rejected solicitations to help the anachronistic royal family propagate its relevance by bestowing “honours,” strategically, upon genuflecting subjects….

    20130506-rolling-stones-306x306-1367856704But what makes Mick’s knighthood an even greater betrayal is that he accepted it without regard for the inherent disrespect the offer showed for his bandmates. After all, the international acclaim for which he was being recognized stemmed not from any individual achievement, but from his membership in the Rolling Stones. (At least the Beatles’ Paul McCartney can justify his solo knighthood by pointing to the considerable acclaim he won with his solo band, Wings.)

    Not that Keith was/is jealous, mind you:

    Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has hit out at bandmate Mick Jagger’s ‘ludicrous’ decision to accept a knighthood.

    Richards said he did not want to go on stage with someone wearing a “coronet and sporting the old ermine” and told the singer it was a ‘paltry honour’.

    ‘It sent out the wrong message. It’s not what the Stones is about, is it?’

    (BBC, December 4, 2003)

    But this is why, despite the tragedy that made Mick seem so vulnerable, I can muster no “Sympathy for [this] Devil.”

    download (6)That said, I feel constrained to note that this latest (and reportedly last) Pink Floyd album sucks. Frankly, it just shows why certain songs never make it onto platinum-selling albums. So be advised when you hear popular musicians promoting “previously unreleased” songs.

    I am, er, royally disappointed in this case because, unlike the executors of Michael Jackson’s estate, the members of Pink Floyd do not even need the cash this album will surely generate to pay off hundreds of millions in debts.

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  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    Ferguson Grand Jury Decides: Officer Wilson Walks

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Police Officer Darren Wilson — the suburban St. Louis patrolman who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in early August – will not face criminal charges in the controversial shooting death, a grand jury has decided. Wilson, who is white, became a national figure after he shot the black 18-year-old multiple times in broad daylight on a residential street….

    The decision was announced by prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch, who discussed the lengthy deliberation period of the grand jury citing consideration of differing witness reports as a one reason for the unusually long session.

    (Yahoo News, November 24, 2014)

    FergusonEven though I accept and respect the grand jury’s decision, I’m among those who are disappointed. Not least because the prosecuting attorney presented enough evidence, during his announcement just moments ago, to warrant indictment on at least one of the five charges.

    But I’m far more disappointed in those who are using this decision as an excuse to go on a rampage (vandalizing properties, looting businesses, and attacking the police, among other acts of wanton violence). It hardly mattered to these nincompoops that this might provoke the police to use – to stop them – the very deadly force Officer Wilson used to stop Brown; to say nothing of the utter contempt they’re showing for the plea Michael’s parents (and President Obama) made for peace in his name.

    I’m hardly surprised:

    Whatever the grand jury decision, it should not be used as an excuse to riot in the streets, which could only result in self-immolating destruction of businesses and public services the predominantly Black residents of Ferguson depend on for their daily sustenance.

    (“Is Ferguson Awaiting Grand Jury Decision or Lying in Wait to Riot,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 23, 2014)

    Of course the media, whose members seem to outnumber protesters, got what they wanted, namely, the riot they spent the past three months rooting for. Nothing betrays this quite like reporters donning anti-riot gear, giving the (ratings-generating) impression that they’re in the middle of a war zone.

    237BD50F00000578-2844491-image-14_1416906839501But frankly, given all I’ve already written on this case, I see no point in commenting any further. Therefore, I shall end where I began:

    It cannot be overstated that, instead of doublespeak that would make him a saint, those eulogizing Michael would honor his death far more by admonishing young Black men against the deadly hazards of resisting arrest and defying authority … merely as a misguided badge of honor or rite of passage.

    That said … notwithstanding his robbery or other bad acts, the killing of Michael Brown, as alleged, was unjustified; and Officer Wilson should be prosecuted for use of excessive force. Because, no matter what a person does to resist arrest, a policeman cannot shoot to kill if that person relents and no longer poses any threat of bodily harm. Period.

    (“Why Chastise the ‘Times’ for Describing Michael Brown as ‘No Angel’? The iPINIONS Journal, August 26, 2014)

    But, if I hear another political or civic leader calling for a “conversation on race,” I’m going to puke. Because — as I submitted in “Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality,” August 12, 2014 — nothing will do more to curb deadly encounters between the police and young Black men than requiring the former to attach cameras to their bulletproof vests and prevailing upon the latter to obey police orders.

    On a broader note, I shall take it as a sign of racial progress that we do not have split screens showing Michael’s supporters reacting in consternation to the grand jury’s decision and Wilson’s supporters reacting in jubilation. No doubt you recall the polarizing way split screens showed justice in Black and White when the court announced the jury verdict that allowed O.J. to walk….


    On the other hand, split screens showing Obama pleading for peace and people rioting in the streets suggest that there might be a greater gap in common sense among Blacks than any gap in racial attitudes between Blacks and Whites.

    There’s no denying, though, that scenes of Blacks vandalizing businesses in their own neighborhood (especially if egged-on by one or two opportunistic Whites) only reinforce racial stereotypes. But frankly, given all I’ve already written on crime in Black America (I even lamented that this case is more about lawlessness among Blacks than police brutality against them), I see no point in commenting any further.

    Meanwhile, you know Bill Cosby, who has spent so much time lecturing young Black men about behaving badly, is probably thanking them tonight for taking the media heat off him….

    Related commentaries:
    Awaiting grand jury or lying in wait
    Killing of Michael Brown

    * This commentary was originally published last night at 10:22 pm

  • Monday, November 24, 2014 at 6:36 AM

    Washington Turns on Franchise QB, RG3

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Nothing signaled the end of Robert Griffin III’s ill-fated stint as Washington’s starting quarterback quite like Dan Wetzel, the premier analyst for Yahoo Sports, writing a column on Wednesday under the headline, “RG3’s fall from grace as stunning as his meteoric rise to stardom.”

    6_3191595Of course, given that Washington fans were already not only booing RG3 but chanting for his backup, Colt (the real) McCoy, they hardly needed a sports analyst to justify their disaffection.

    Still, here in part is the professional “Dear John” Wetzel wrote:

    Less than two years ago some believed Robert Griffin III could change the way the United States was governed…

    RG3 was such an overnight superstar that when it came out that he – young, black, exciting – might be a Republican, political types wondered if he could serve as an outreach for the party into a pool of voters it rarely attracts….

    Two years later and Griffin probably couldn’t win a caucus in his own locker room.

    1385436560001-11-25-2013-49ers-Redskins2The final insult, even if not the final cut, came yesterday, when Washington fans were undoubtedly hoping against hope that he would mount a Peytonesque game-winning drive against San Francisco.

    Instead, with the ball on Washington’s own 7-yard line and only 59 seconds left, RG3 dropped back to pass – looking more like Herman Munster than his once-nimble self – and not only got sacked by one 49er but fumbled the ball right into the hands of another. Game over: San Francisco wins 17–13.

    Washington is now 3-8 with no chance of making the playoffs. More to the point, though, according to ESPN’s game-by-game stats, RG3 is now 4-14 in his last 18 games dating back to the start of the 2013 season.

    washington-storyMeanwhile, nobody seems more dubious about him ever fulfilling his potential in the NFL than his own coach, Jay Gruden, For here is the startling stream-of-consciousness critique Gruden offered after RG3 led his team to a 27-7 loss against a the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 16:

    Robert had some fundamental flaws: his footwork was below average; he took three-step drops when he should have taken five; he took a one-step drop when he should have taken three, on a couple occasions, and that can’t happen; he stepped up when he didn’t have to step up and stepped into pressure; he read the wrong side of the field a couple times.

    So from his basic performance just critiquing Robert, it was not even close to being good enough to what we expect from the quarterback position.

    (Sports Illustrated, November 18, 2013)

    Folks, this is rather like an English professor at the University of North Carolina expressing abject disappointment and dismay over the fact that the most popular kid in his class can barely read or write. Which is why it was hardly surprising when Jimmy Johnson, the CBS Sports analyst and former Super Bowl-winning coach of the Dallas Cowboys, reacted to Gruden’s critique with this blunt obit:

    Robert Griffin is done in Washington

    (USA Sports, November 23, 2014)

    I warned it would be thus:

    To be honest, their new franchise player, quarterback Robert Griffin III (aka RG3), brought so much excitement, and engineered so much success, that I even harbored thoughts of abandoning my  hapless Eagles and their perennially hobbled franchise player, quarterback Michael Vick…

    I fear that, having been unable to take the Redskins back to the Super Bowl this year, RG3 will end up doing no more for them than Vick did for the Eagles (or the Falcons): provide boundless excitement when he plays, but hardly playing because of chronic injuries.

    (“Washington Redskins Come Up Lame … Again,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 7, 2013)

    But perhaps RG3 can derive some hope from the fact that fellow franchise QB Mark Sanchez had a similar experience in New Jersey, where he was “done” after four feckless seasons. Because, after being unceremoniously traded to Philadelphia, Sanchez is finally playing up to his highly touted potential, leading his new team to an enviable record so far this season of 8-3; New Jersey is languishing at 2-8.

    On the other hand, given that disqualifying Gruden critique, RG3 might just flunk out of the NFL the way his fellow Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Tebow, did. Remember him? I warned about him too:

    There is no denying that Tebow is the luckiest SOB to ever play the game of football. That, despite his mediocre talent, he led the University of Florida to two national championships (2007, 2009) and has led the Denver Broncos to more last-minute wins this season than some teams have experienced in franchise history are testaments to this fact.

    [T] hat Tebow beat out Kobe Bryant, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees to win a recent ESPN poll for “America’s favorite athlete” demonstrates again how exaggerated and misguided the hosannas to him really are.

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

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

    That said, I would be remiss not to restate my solidarity with those calling for Washington to stop merchandizing its racist nickname:

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

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

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

    (“Why is Washington Redskins Any More Acceptable than Washington Niggers … or Washington Hymies?” The iPINIONS Journal, October 19, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 10.47.47 PM

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  • Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    Is Ferguson Awaiting Grand Jury Decision or Lying In Wait to Riot…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [NOTE: In light of the way so much news this weekend focused on preparations for, as well as flare ups in anticipation of, this decision, I’ve decided to reprise this commentary, which I originally published on Thursday, November 20, at 5:18 a.m.]


    Ferguson has become a theatre of the absurd – complete with the-sky-is-falling reporters doing more to fuel the protests than to cover them, while using selfie-camera angels to ensure that they are featured as much as the protesters. There’s no denying that these protests would burnout overnight if the media lights, which have been inflaming them like adding fuel to fire, were suddenly turned off.

    And don’t get me started on the smattering of (White) professional protesters doing all they can to get arrested just to have another notch on their resume of civil disobedience.

    (“Why Are They Still Protesting in Ferguson? And Who Are They?” The iPINIONS Journal, August 19, 2914)

    darren-wilson-michael-brownBased on increasingly alarmist news reports, you’d think the whole country were sitting on a powder keg, waiting for a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, to deliver its decision on whether or not to prosecute White Officer Darren Wilson for killing Black teenager Michael Brown.

    More to the point, those reports give the impression that protesters are not awaiting that decision so much as laying in wait to go on a riotous rampage the likes of which America has not seen since 1992. That, of course, was when Los Angeles erupted in race riots after an all-White jury acquitted four White officers of the brutal beating of Black Rodney King.

    The problem, however, is that the media are not reporting news so much as stoking tensions to make rioting a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hell, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think rioting in the streets is now the generally accepted way to react to disappointing jury verdicts.

    To be fair, though, just this week a few commentators began echoing the critique of the media I began sounding months ago – as my opening quote attests.

    1408535931-media-circus-in-ferguson-after-peaceful-day-turns-into-chaos-missouri_5562423But nothing is more telling or damning in this context than the conspicuous failure of reporters covering Ferguson — like buzzards circling dying prey — to report that the grand jury could deliver a decision that Brown’s (predominantly Black) supporters would/should find wholly satisfactory. After all, I’m on record declaring my belief that Wilson should be prosecuted and that the grand jury will indict him accordingly.

    Except that this would then require all of Brown’s restive supporters to find some other pretext to vent their pent-up and stoked-up rage. I fear they will — even if it means celebrating in the riotous way mindless sports fans routinely celebrate their team’s championship. And they need only look to the way fans in San Francisco celebrated last month after their team won the 2014 World Series: by setting fires, vandalizing cars, shattering windows of businesses with rocks, defiling the walls of others with graffiti, and launching Molotov cocktails at police trying to restore law and order.

    Of course, if the media were providing fair and balanced coverage, they would’ve also reported that justice in this case might require the grand jury to decide that Wilson should not be prosecuted; especially if, as leaked evidence suggests, Brown assaulted him in a suicide-by-cop attempt to take away his gun. Likewise, apropos of what’s good for the goose being good for the gander, the media would’ve reported that deciding otherwise (i.e., that he should be prosecuted) could incite Wilson’s (predominantly White) supporters to take to the streets to vent their outrage.

    Meanwhile, reporters, behaving as if rioting is devoutly to be wished, are surpassed in their anxiousness only by local politicians, behaving as if rioting is a fait accompli.

    On Monday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) declared a state of emergency ahead of a grand jury decision that is currently determining whether to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown.

    The action activated the use of the National Guard, which was met with widespread concern from community members who are on edge and fear police crackdown — similar to the outcome from initial protests that occurred immediately following Brown’s death.

    [T]he National Guard has been ordered to assist local and state police to quell any potential violence that may result from the grand jury’s decision.

    (The Huffington Post, November 18, 2014)

    ferguson_0To be fair, though, given historical precedents, most notably the LA riots referenced above, one can hardly blame this governor for deploying additional reinforcements to quell any unrest.

    For my part, I can only reiterate:

    Those eulogizing Michael would’ve honored his death far more by admonishing young Black men against the deadly hazards of resisting arrest and defying authority … merely as a misguided badge of honor or rite of passage.

    That said, let me end by clarifying, again, that, notwithstanding his robbery or other bad acts, the killing of Michael Brown, as alleged, was unjustified; and Officer Wilson should be prosecuted for use of excessive force. Because, no matter what a person does to resist arrest, a policeman cannot shoot to kill if that person relents and no longer poses any threat of bodily harm. Period.

    (“Why Chastise the Times for Describing Michael Brown as ‘No Angel’”?! The iPINIONS Journal, August 26, 2014)

    imrsOf course, I appreciate that, just as news means nothing to reporters in Ferguson unless it heightens the suspense they’re manufacturing for riots, justice means nothing to protesters there unless it results in Wilson being arrested, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned … for a very long time.

    But, whatever the grand jury decision, it should not be used as an excuse to riot in the streets, which could only result in self-immolating destruction of businesses and public services the predominantly Black residents of Ferguson depend on for their daily sustenance. Not to mention the very likelihood that stoked-up confrontations with the police could easily result in more senseless loss of life.

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  • Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 6:45 AM

    Look what changing tides in corporate America ‘washed up’…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 1.59.08 PM

  • Friday, November 21, 2014 at 5:22 AM

    Kidnappings in Mexico as Ordinary as Gun Violence in America

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt the September kidnapping and alleged murder of 43 students in Iguala, Mexico, was a national tragedy. A tragedy the government compounded last week when it announced the arrest of a local mayor and his wife – who allegedly masterminded the kidnappings, as well as that of several local gang members – who allegedly executed the murders.

    Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 11.06.21 AMSadly, kidnappings have become such an ordinary feature of life in Mexico that news about this mass kidnapping did not move me to comment. (It’s like news about another bomb blast in Iraq.) Indeed, the only extraordinary thing about this incident is that the surprising and sustained protests it incited (the largest of which unfolded just last night) actually forced the police to investigate and make arrests.

    As it happened, though, here is how the Washington Post reported on this scourge in its August 14 edition – just weeks before the 43 students went missing:

    In Mexico, with its history of drug-war violence and corrupt police, kidnapping is an old story…

    Last year [2013], Mexico officially recorded 1,698 kidnappings, the highest number on record. [But] Fernando Ruiz Canales, a former kidnapping victim who now helps negotiate for the release of hostages, puts last year’s kidnapping total at 27,740, or 76 per day.

    And 2013 was a relatively safe year. For here is how the Huffington Post reported on kidnappings for 2012 in its October 3, 2013, edition:

    Mexico saw 105,628 kidnappings last year, according to a survey by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, a government agency. The statistics didn’t show much faith in law enforcement to address the problem – only 1,317 cases were reported to police…

    Kidnapping for ransom has become a common problem in recent years, in a country plagued by rampant organized crime financed by trafficking drugs….

    tamaulipas-number-1-in-kidnappings-pgr2In fact, for decades, kidnappings in Mexico have been as epidemic as gun violence in America.

    Which is why I fear this tragedy in Iguala (and all the protests it incited) will have about as much impact on kidnappings in Mexico as that elementary school shooting in Newtown (and all the protests it incited) had on gun violence in America: zero. Not least because, just as collusion between politicians and gun manufacturers undermines all efforts to curb gun violence here, collusion between politicians/policemen and drug cartels undermines all efforts to curb kidnappings there.

    The only reason I’m bothering to comment now is that I was utterly stupefied yesterday, when no less a person than a Mexican-American colleague expressed concern about the ongoing protests in Mexico making the problem of kidnappings seem much worse than it is. Recommending he go home and read Charles Bowden’s book Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Field (2010) was all I could do to contain my stupefaction.

    My heart goes out to all of those affected by this and other kidnappings in Mexico; just as it continually goes out to all those affected by gun violence in the United States.

  • Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 6:52 AM

    In Defense of Obamacare Adviser’s Claim about Stupidity of the American Voter

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber is being publicly excommunicated and excoriated for committing what constitutes a cardinal sin in Washington these days: telling the unvarnished truth. And, miraculously, his sin has inspired Democrats and Republicans to unite in their joint (and several) condemnation of him.

    For the uninitiated, Gruber was as much the architect of Barack Obama’s healthcare reform as Karl Rove was of George W. Bush’s neo-con agenda.

    obama11_c0-43-1024-639_s561x327Yet no less a person than Obama himself is leading the chorus of those condemning Gruber:

    He ‘never worked on our staff,’ President Obama said this weekend in Brisbane, Australia, (even though Gruber was paid almost $400,000 by his administration, is the intellectual author of the individual mandate and met in the Oval Office with Obama and the head of the Congressional Budget Office to pore over the bill). ‘I don’t know who he is,’ Nancy Pelosi declared on Capitol Hill (even though she repeatedly cited him by name  during the Obamacare debate).

    (Washington Post, November 17, 2014)

    This is why the Democrats’ effort to throw him under the bus is so brazenly hypocritical. But what’s even more contemptible is that they are doing so simply because he admitted that, in drafting the signature legislation of Obama’s presidency, he and fellow architects had to take into account the growing bane of American politics: the stupidity of the American people.

    Democrats began disowning him last week after Republican operatives flooded the media with old video clips of Gruber blithely stressing and reinforcing this point. Here, for example, is what one clip shows him saying about their strategy for ensuring passage of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare):

    The lack of transparency is a huge political advantage [and] the stupidity of the American voter … was really, really critical for the thing to pass.

    (Gruber, CSPAN, March 11, 2010)

    gruberOn the other side, the Republicans’ effort to paint him as a political fraudster is as disingenuous as it is ignorant, which, alas, defines almost every Republican criticism of Obama, his policies, and anybody associated with him … or them.

    In this case, those clips merely show Gruber stating what has been a fact of American politics for over 100 years.

    For example, H.L. Mencken was arguably the most admired and accomplished journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American life and culture, and scholar of American English in U.S. history. Yet Mencken’s dismay, with what he might have called the stupidity of the American voter, caused him to lament as follows:

    No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor [more to the point] has anyone ever lost public office thereby.

    (Chicago Daily Tribune, September 19, 1926)

    I’m no Mencken, but even I have had cause to lament the same in such commentaries as “On Syria and almost Every Other Issue, the American People are Insolent, Ignorant Idiots … and Their Congressional Representatives are Pandering, Pusillanimous Pussies,” September 10, 2013.

    PP79.1261 Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)More to point, here is how I echoed Mencken’s estimation of “the great masses of the plain people” with respect to the very legislation Gruber was referencing:

    Nothing indicates how much delusions of despair are undermining Obama’s presidency quite like poor, unemployed and uninsured (White) folks, who depend on food stamps for their daily bread, opposing his healthcare reform (aka Obamacare).

    They are doing so because they too have bought into the Republican ‘big lie’ that this reform, which Republicans like former President Nixon once championed, will turn America ‘into a socialist state like Europe [sic].’  (Polls routinely show that the vast majority of those who oppose Obamacare actually approve of its provisions.) Idiots!

    (“Delusions of Despair Undermining Obama’s Presidency,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 21, 2012)

    Stressing and reinforcing this point, the American digital media company Vox reported on November 15 that 50 percent of the American people think the unemployment rate is 32 per cent. It’s 5.8. So bear this in mind the next time you hear a politician invoking the “will of the American people” – as if it were some divine ordination.

    In which case, the real sin here is not what Gruber said about the stupidity of the American voter. Instead, it’s the way Democrats and Republicans are now falling all over themselves to disown and exploit him, respectively, for craven political gain.

    For, to paraphrase Mencken, no politician in America, so far as I know – and I’ve googled key words as well as polled historians on this – has ever lost a debate or an election by pandering to the stupidity of the American people.

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    The American people are insolent, ignorant

  • Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 6:47 AM

    Bill Cosby’s (all too belated) Fall from Grace

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last February, Bill Cosby – ‘America’s favorite TV Dad’ (and faithful husband) – escaped prison when prosecutors investigating allegations of sexual assault concluded that they did not have sufficient evidence to convict him, beyond a reasonable doubt, at trial.

    But no one thought that was the end of the story…

    Lawyers for his accuser filed motion in court for 10 more women to give evidence of similar sexual assaults that Cosby allegedly perpetrated against them too…

    This case seems likely to typecast him forever as a predatory sexual wolf despite his (trademark) sheepish grin.

    (“10 More Women Accuse Bill Cosby of Sexual Assault … Rape,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 23, 2005)

    s-BILL-COSBY-largeAs this quote indicates, I became convinced almost a decade ago that Cosby paid off many women over the years to uphold his wholesome “Dr. Huxtable” (or Dr. Jeckyll) image.

    I deduced, however, that, as part of the deal, he required each of them to sign a confidentiality agreement promising to keep their mouths shut, in perpetuity, about the dirty “Mr. Coz” (or Mr. Hyde) side of his character. After all, even a self-righteous, arrogant rapist like Cosby (is alleged to have been) would’ve been wary about leaving any of his victims as a “loose end” that could cause him public embarrassment and/or professional work.

    1416229824088_Image_galleryImage_Barbara_Bowman_one_of_BilYet he seems to have done just that; now that chick is coming home to roost:

    Bill Cosby raped me. Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my story?

    This was the sensational and poignant headline that greeted readers in the November 13 edition of the Washington Post. It accompanied Barbara Bowman’s personal account of how Cosby groomed her (when she was just 17) with lavish gifts and promises of acting stardom, and plied her with gut-retching drugs, all to have his way with her.

    Incidentally, I’m constrained to note here that there’s something particularly perverse and pathetic about a man drugging a woman into a catatonic stupor to have sex with her, especially when that woman might’ve been perfectly willing to have sex with him without being drugged. More to the point, I’d bet that, with a little grooming, 9 out of 10 of Cosby’s victims would’ve been perfectly willing to have sex with him (and for reasons having nothing to do with his sexual charms).

    To be fair, Bowman claims that she fell hostage to a confusing quest to reconcile the genial old man – who posed as a professional father figure, with the dirty old man – who treated her like a high-paid call girl. But she shared enough details to give the impression that a vulnerable (and all too familiar) combination of star-struck awe, lack of financial resources, and overriding ambition might also explain why she kept going back to Cosby for more….

    Hannibal-Buress-Calls-Bill-Cosby-Rapist-VideoOn the other hand, as my April 2005 commentary cited above indicates, there’s nothing new about her claims, or about many other women making similar claims. Indeed, what gives Bowman’s story its poignancy is not just the predatory behavior (she alleges) Cosby exhibited, but the prevailing indifference the media exhibited to that behavior.

    But nothing indicates what impenetrable walls she ran into, when she finally decided to go public, quite like Gloria Allred — that perennial legal avenger of all wronged women — refusing to even speak to her. Such was Cosby’s reputation as a sacred cow … back then.

    We now live in a Twitter age, however, when even rank gossip on social media, especially about putative sacred cows, invariably ends up in the mainstream media. This was brought into stark relief last month, when a video of stand-up comedian Hannibal Buress riffing off rape allegations against Cosby (during an October 16 performance) went viral online. The mainstream media duly lapped it up by running breaking news reports about Bowman’s decades-old allegations.

    Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 6.51.45 AMNot to mention that it seems de rigueur these days for people to say online things they’d never say in polite society. Cosby experienced this last week when he invited his Twitter followers to “meme” his famous Dr. Huxtable character. Because tweets like “you’re a serial rapist” were among the kindest people hurled back at him.

    Ironically, more than anything else, this ill-advised and ill-timed foray into self-promotion on social media signaled the beginning of Cosby’s fall from Grace. For it must have been troubling enough that this stunt forced him to cancel promotional appearances in the mainstream media with everyone from Queen Latifah to David Letterman.

    But the nail in the coffin of his Dr. Huxtable fame had to have been the cringeworthy exchange that occurred last weekend, during what he clearly expected would be a “safe” radio interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

    Cosby and his wife Camille were promoting the 62 truly impressive pieces of African and African-American art they loaned to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art for a recently opened exhibition, which runs through 2016.

    ae1cf8dd0ab844b9bf71be570d5851a4-bfdd31a26f554447affac4c980e70d41-4Unfortunately, no doubt reflecting why he canceled earlier TV interviews and foreshadowing things to come, every mention of their radio interview focused almost exclusively on what he said (or refused to say) about these rape allegations.

    To his credit, radio host Scott Simon prefaced the inevitable and unavoidable question, which hovered over the interview like a big black cloud just waiting to burst, by voicing displeasure with his obligation as a news reporter to ask about the rape allegations.

    Except that, when he finally asked it, Cosby responded with finger-wagging silence. Simon persisted, asking Cosby again if he had any response to Bowman’s allegations. Cosby persisted, wagging his finger in a manner that conveyed disgust, disappointment, and despair … in sequent toil.

    This obliged Simon to wrap their awkward, but very telling, exchange as follows:

    SIMON: [You are] shaking your head no. There are people who love you who might like to hear from you about this. I want to give you the chance.


    SIMON: Alright. Camille and Bill Cosby… Thank you both.

    This is what has become of America’s favorite Dad and advertisers’ favorite pitchman. But, truth be told, Cosby is probably well-advised to keep his mouth shut at this point. Because there’s nothing he can say to prevent or even diminish the fallout from these rape allegations; and, even though it would make great TV, confessing to Oprah about what inner devil made him do it would do little to rehabilitate his image (as Lance Armstrong can duly attest).

    Meanwhile, here’s why things will only get worse for him:

    Another woman [publicist and journalist Joan Tarshis] has accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault….

    ‘Through the haze I thought I was being clever when I told him I had an infection and he would catch it and his wife would know he had sex with someone; but he just found another orifice to use’…

    She said the time is right for her to come forward with Cosby’s other alleged victims.

    (Washington Post, November 17, 2014)

    Even more ominously, after his NPR interview went viral, Bowman revealed that other women are preparing to come out of the woodwork to share eerily similar claims about the M.O. Cosby used for decades to perpetrate serial sexual assaults. This could make the bimbo eruption that made Tiger Woods an international laughing stock seem like a tempest in a teapot – complete with a woman or two coming out with false claims against Cosby in a desperate attempt to garner those Warholian 15 minutes of fame.

    Just bear in mind that, if 20 women come out with credible stories, they probably represent less than 10 percent of women who have equally credible stories but are still too embarrassed (or too sensible) to enter this Cosby maelstrom. Not to mention what it says about Mr. Coz’s dark side that the women who, to date, have come out are all White….

    Unfortunately, because of statutes of limitation, it’s doubtful that any of these rape allegations will trigger a criminal investigation, let alone an arrest and prosecution. Besides, that Cosby paid off so many of his alleged victims (directly or indirectly) means that their credibility as witnesses, for legal purposes, is hopelessly compromised.

    In any event, I suspect it’s only a matter of time before Cosby undergoes a metamorphosis from father figure to tar baby in the eyes of commercial advertisers. This would force NBC to abort development of a sitcom in which he’s scheduled to make a celebrated return to TV next year as America’s favorite (Gran)dad. Hell, it would not surprise me if public outrage forces the Smithsonian to discontinue its exhibition of his African and African-American art….

    Frankly, media coverage of Bill Cosby as a serial rapist could prove every bit as deadly to his career in entertainment as media coverage of Anthony Weiner as a serial sexter proved to his in politics.

    But if you’re inclined to feel any sympathy for Cosby, don’t! After all, if just one of these women is telling the truth, Cosby should’ve spent most, if not all, of the past 30 years in prison, not on TV or on stage. Especially considering that the following quote from his 1969 comedy album titled, appropriately enough, It’s True! It’s True!, could fairly be read as an unwitting statement of his consciousness of guilt:

    You know anything about Spanish Fly… you put some in her drink, man … ahhhhhh … Spanish Fly is groovy. Yeah boy … any time you see a girl: Wish you had some Spanish Fly boy….

    bill-cosby_1420356iFinally, given my allusion above to Tiger Woods, I should note that his wife had enough dignity and self-respect to divorce him. Mind you, none of the women Tiger had extramarital affairs with ever accused him of rape.

    By contrast, Cosby’s wife seems determined to continue standing by her man:

    I gave up some time ago trying to reason why purportedly liberated women, like Camille Cosby and Hillary Clinton, stand by men who humiliate them.

    The ardent feminist in me would like to think this simply reflects their evolved understanding that marriage is about a lot more than (sexual) monogamy. But it may be that they are riding so high on the power trip these marriages afford them that they couldn’t care any less how much their husbands betray traditional notions of fidelity (or legality?).

    (“The Hypocrisy of Eliot ‘Ness’ Spitzer’s Assignation with a Prostitute,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 11, 2008)

    Enough said.

    Related commentaries:
    The hypocrisy
    A serial rapist

  • Monday, November 17, 2014 at 6:38 AM

    Earth to Media: Stop Broadcasting Terrorist Propaganda

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    ISIS_claims_to_have_killed_Peter_Kassig_2254360000_9619314_ver1.0_640_480It speaks volumes about the media’s amoral code of conduct that they transitioned a few days ago, with nary a pause, from reporting on the Rosetta spacecraft landing on Comet 67P, to broadcasting the latest recording from the Daesh/ISIS leader calling his foot soldiers to arms. They punctuated the latter today with lurid wall-to-wall coverage of a video showing “Jihadi John” spewing more terrorist propaganda and beheading more hapless victims.

    Alas, the simple fact is that, if it inspires, terrorizes … or bleeds, it leads.

    Yet I reiterate my plea that:

    The only people who need to know about these beheadings at this point are the loved ones of the godforsaken beheaded. What’s more, notwithstanding the media, President Obama can help quell the hysteria by expressing his condolences privately, instead of issuing pubic statements — full of angst and outrage signifying nothing — after each of them.

    (“Stop the ‘Breaking News’ about Beheadings Already!” The iPINIONS Journal, October 4, 2014)

    I get that my plea must make me seem every bit as hapless as the victims referenced above. But I remain hopeful that, at some point, someone far more influential than I will incite public outrage against these media nincompoops – who are not only abusing their freedom of the press, but also betraying their abject venality by propagating terrorist propaganda so blithely.

    I mean, can you imagine any news outlet in the United States or Britain broadcasting Nazi propaganda during WWII, the way all news outlets in these two countries are broadcasting Daesh/ISIS propaganda today…?

    Unfortunately, we live in a Twitter age of such promiscuous, indiscriminate and surreal media practices that it seems perfectly normal for our own media to be helping the enemy perpetrate psychological warfare against us. What else explains the media shielding us from the epithets of racists, but bombarding us with the taunts of terrorists?

    mhtop (1)

    I can’t be the only one who sees that broadcasting audio-visual press releases from terrorists serves no public interest whatsoever. Not to mention that, instead of conveying coded messages for sleeper cells to launch coordinated attacks (as some media outlets insinuate for greater terrorizing/ratings effect), these releases are far more likely to incite disaffected and often disturbed lone wolves to seek their 15 minutes of infamy by launching indiscriminate attacks.

    Therefore, I entreat you to help me convey this anti-terror message to the media:

    • We do not need to know their names (which should spare you the professional terror of having to pronounce them);
    • We do not need to see their menacing faces or gruesome videos; and
    • We do not need to hear their press releases;
    • All we need is to know that Obama and his coalition of the willing are killing more and more of them before they can kill any more of us.

    Related commentaries:
    Stop broadcasting beheadings already

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 3:48 p.m.

  • Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 8:40 AM

    China-U.S. Landmark Agreement More about Clean Air than Climate Change

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am convinced that all of the preaching about global warming is just hot air. Of course the planet is getting warmer (although only by a sweltering 1°F every 100 years … ouch?). Moreover, I have no doubt that humans (especially Americans) are marginally to blame. But I also have no doubt that this warming is simply due to natural climate variations (i.e., a cyclical phenomenon).

    (“My Final Word on Global Warming,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 8, 2006)

    aptopix-china-us-obamaChina pulled a Shanghai surprise this week at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit, when it announced a bilateral agreement with the United States to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

    As my opening quote indicates, however, this agreement is a good thing not because it advances man’s Sisyphean attempts to control Mother Nature (i.e., by stopping polar caps melting and sea levels rising). It’s a good thing because it will enable China’s 1.3 billion people to breathe cleaner air (even as its tired, poor, huddled masses continue their political “yearning to breathe free”).

    la-me-gs-new-cheaper-co2-capture-discovered-20-001After all, China has almost as many coal-burning smokestacks fueling its economic growth as the United States has coffee-brewing Starbucks fueling its people’s get up and go.

    What’s more, instead of the United States’ idealistic approach to reducing carbon emissions, China has made clear its intent to emulate Canada’s more pragmatic approach, which maintains that:

    The work to reduce carbon emissions must be done without damaging [Canada’s] fragile economic recovery [or China’s enviable economic growth].

    (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, November 14, 2014)

    This distinction is important to appreciate because global-warming alarmists, like Al Gore, have been drowning out the inconvenient truth that, even though it is the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gasses, China is fast becoming the world’s leading producer of clean, renewable energy (e.g., from solar, wind, and hydro sources). One should also appreciate the distinction between countries implementing policies borne of alarmist fears about destroying the planet (which the United States represents), and those implementing policies borne of due regard for the exhaustible resources the planet provides for the benefit of mankind (which China represents).

    Not to mention the hypocrisy inherent in Western countries lecturing China about the greenhouse gasses its factories emit in the process of producing everything from cheap phones to cheap toys for Western consumption….

    More to the point, though, here’s just a graphic illustration of why all of the warnings about climate change smacks of such hot air:


    NOTE: When global cooling (“Global Cooling? Yes!” The iPINIONS Journal, October 21, 2008) made global warming a patent absurdity, global-warming alarmists began branding their evangelical mission as climate change. Except that fighting climate change is ultimately every bit as futile as fighting old age.

    Related commentaries:
    March to save planet
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  • Friday, November 14, 2014 at 7:08 AM

    ‘Jesus Was Married…Had Two Sons…and Was Never Crucified’?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 9.48.56 PMNo doubt the authors of The Lost Gospel, a new book making the claims asserted in the headline above, expected it to incite sales-generating outrage.

    Unfortunately, the daily swill of viral tweets, videos, and pictures has so desensitized the entire world that these seemingly outrageous claims about Jesus Christ have not even made it into the enviable stream of trending topics. Topics, incidentally, which range from sublime images of a spacecraft landing on a comet, to photoshopped images of a champagne glass teetering on the surgically enhanced butt of Kim Kardashian.

    Not to mention that, for growing multitudes, religion is becoming irrelevant and alienating in equal measure – with Islam being hijacked by head-chopping jihadists, Judaism by land-grabbing Zionists, and Christianity by child-molesting priests.

    All we need now is for a prominent religious historian, like Karen Armstrong, to produce research showing that Jesus had more wives than the 40 who the Mormon Church finally admitted this week honored, served, and obeyed its founder, Joseph Smith. Or, better still, that those twelve disciples were in fact Christ’s lovers; which is not so far-fetched given Pope Francis’s recent confession that a cabal of homosexuals wield organic influence within the Vatican.

    All institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

    (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and of Fabulous Theology, 1794)

    Nevertheless, as the son of a preacher man, I feel a special obligation to comment on scholarship that challenges the Christian beliefs so many of my loved ones adhere to with the conviction, even if not the bloodlust, of a Muslim Jihadist.

    1415825947071.cachedMind you, I do not do so as a defender of the faith; after all, I’m inspired more by the polemical writings of Paine than by the canonical writings of Mark, Mathew, Luke, or John. And don’t get me started on those of the brazen fabulists who wrote the “Old Testament.” Indeed, I digress….

    A new book based on an ancient manuscript claims Jesus Christ was not crucified…

    The book is based off a translation of an Aramaic manuscript found inside the British Library.

    Professor Barrie Wilson and writer Simcha Jacobovici claim the text reveals secrets to Jesus’ family life, including his marriage to Mary Magdalene, the names of their two children, assassination attempts on both their lives and Jesus’ connection to powerful political figures in the Roman Empire.

    (International Business Insider, November 12, 2014)

    Frankly, it’s bad enough that promotion for this book is drowning in the viral sea of trending topics. But the cardinal sin is that it reveals no secrets.

    Which makes Wilson and Jacobovici, who should know better, even more mercenary than FOX News commentator Bill O’Reilly, who claimed that his Killing Jesus (2013) presented all kinds of new facts about this Biblical event. Whereas, in fact, his book simply added to the cottage industry of “direct-to-the-the-public pseudoscholarship” on the greatest story ever sold. An industry, incidentally, which dates back to, well, the writing of the “Four Gospels of the New Testament.”

    20031222_400More to the point, though, bona-fide scholars have been debunking Christian orthodoxy about Jesus Christ for centuries – as the cover story for the December 22, 2003, edition of TIME magazine, titled “The Lost Gospels,” duly attests.

    Some scholars, like French historian Constantin Francois Chasseboeuf de Volney, have posited, quite persuasively, that Jesus is a completely mythical character – no different from other mythical characters like Hercules and Agamemnon.

    Interestingly enough, the aforementioned Paine asserts in “The Age of Reason…” that the miraculous birth, crucifixion, and ascension of Christ “sprung out of the tail of … heathen mythology.” Alas, given the way this heathen mythology, masquerading as divine theology, still governs so much of our daily lives, Paine heralding the 1790’s as the age of reason was clearly premature….

    Other scholars, like Iranian-American professor of religion Reza Aslan, have posited that the historical Jesus was far more compelling than the mythical Jesus portrayed in the Bible.

    In point of fact, the Jesus Aslan portrays, in Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (2013), strikes one as having more common cause throughout the ages with the likes of Patrick Henry than Martin Luther.

    davincicodeholybloodholygrailFor my part, I began my Doubting Thomas questioning about Jesus’ family life many years ago after reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which is arguably a prequel to (if not a blueprint for) more popular books like The Da Vinci Code.

    I read Holy Blood, Holy Grail in the mid-1980s, and remember vividly proselytizing its fascinating claims amongst friends because I thought it gave credence to my ingenuous apostasy.

    I especially relished challenging Christian fundamentalists in my family with ‘proof’ that, although Jesus might have been a saint, celibacy was not one of his virtues (and, what better justification can there be for one’s own promiscuity, eh…). Because Holy Blood, Holy Grail asserts that Jesus not only ‘had carnal knowledge’ of Mary Magdalene, but also fathered children with this woman who Catholic dogma insists was nothing more than a ‘harlot’ (whore).

    (“Holy Blood, Holy Grail v. The Da Vinci Code,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 28, 2006)

    I not only wrote this almost 10 years ago, but cited the affirmation I found decades earlier in Holy Blood, Holy Grail for my abiding doubts about the generally accepted account(s) of Jesus’ family life.

    This is why, far from acclaim for their scholarship, the authors of The Lost Gospel barely qualify for entry into the academy of those who question whether the Bible contains the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the life of Jesus Christ.

    Finally, to be fair, leaders of the Catholic and Protestant Church maintain that Jesus was (as the Bible says) the celibate son of God. What’s more, they denounce any claim to the contrary as just the work of mischief-making heretics.

    Except that these are the same Catholic leaders who not only denounced claims about the epidemic of child-sex abuse among priests, but are still engaged in a conspiracy to cover up that abuse; and the same Protestant leaders who continue to propagate, as objective truth, the fairytale about God creating man and woman in some Garden of Eden.

    So who ya gonna believe…?

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 6:39 AM

    Rosetta’s Comet Mission: the Robot Has Landed. Great! Now What?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Rosetta_s_mission_to_a_cometToday, scientists at the European Space Agency hailed the successful landing of their Rosetta Spacecraft’s robotic probe (named Philae), after a 10-year journey, on a comet (named 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko), which is hurtling through space, 317 miles from Earth, at 41,000 mph: a first for mankind, and very impressive indeed.

    Given their jubilation (with high-fiving, backslapping, and hugging all around), you’d think they had in fact discovered signs of life out there … somewhere.

    But I, for one, remember all too well the jubilation that attended, not just some robotic probe, but man landing on the Moon. And I am hard-pressed to cite ways in which that landing has lived up to the hype and hope it inspired.

    Not to mention that I’m still recovering from all of the disillusionment man’s robotic missions to Mars caused:

    I don’t get it. Curiosity only traveled where many other rovers (namely, Pathfinder, Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity) have gone before. And each one of them merely proved what earthbound astronomers have known for decades; namely, that our closest neighbor in Milky Way galaxy is nothing but a desolate, volcanic, uninhabitable mass. And, yes, it’s covered in red dust.

    Meanwhile, scientists estimate that there are over 500 million planets in our “galactic habitable zone” alone. And there are supposedly billions of other galaxies in the universe. So why, pray tell, all the jubilation, to say nothing of the billions wasted trying to breathe life into this dead planet? And here’s a news flash folks: if NASA thought there was even the remotest chance of its rover encountering life on Mars it would not be beaming images back live for all the world to see!

    (“Mars … Again?” The iPINIONS Journal, August 7, 2012)

    Clearly, as I’m no rocket scientist, you might be inclined to dismiss my cynicism in this case as utterly without merit.

    Except that, here is the similar note I sounded two years ago, when scientists at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Geneva (CERN) hailed what was arguably an even greater feat: discovery of the holy grail of science, the God particle:

    Higgs boson (aka the God particle) was the theoretical missing link that explains (or should explain) the DNA – not just of our universe, but of others that might be out there…

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

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

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

    And here – in a report published just days ago, making it as coincidental as it should be instructive – is the cynical note the very scientists who hailed the Higgs boson discovery back then are sounding now:

    Scientists raise doubts about Higgs boson discovery; say it could be another particle. Was all the Higgs hoopla a bit premature?

    In a new paper that has raised eyebrows around the world, an international team of scientists says there is no proof that the particle whose discovery was confirmed last year by physicists at CERN is the long-sought Higgs boson….

    (Huffington Post, November 10, 2014)

    1415809881979_Image_galleryImage_Rosetta_LandingTherefore, I hope I can be forgiven a little vindication amidst all of today’s jubilation.

    More to the point, though, I just think that, given the feat of landing a man on the Moon almost 50 years ago, scientists would do well to be a little more humble about feats that amount to little more than high-wire, robotic acts in space. Especially if those feats, in and of themselves, do little to advance man’s ongoing quest to either discover signs of other life in the universe, or find out more about the origins of our planet … ourselves.

    Finally, for good measure, just imagine how misguided and misleading it would be if the “inhabitants” of some other planet landed a lazy chair-size probe in the middle of the Sahara Desert, and extrapolated from images it beamed back to them facts about Earth and its inhabitants….

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 1:19 p.m.

  • Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 6:58 AM

    Obama’s Mission Creep in Iraq Channeling JFK’s Mission Creep in Vietnam

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I urge you to listen carefully for anything that convinces you that his war on terrorism (against ISIS) will be any more successful than Bush’s ill-fated war on terrorism (against al-Qaeda). Just be mindful that JFK convinced the American people that his war on communism (in Vietnam) would be more successful than his predecessor Truman’s war on communism (in Korea). And beware that a stupid war by any other name (like “a counterterrorism operation”) would still prove as stupid….

    (“Demystifying ISIS: Case against Obama’s Bush-lite War on Terrorism,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 10, 2014)

    download (5)President Obama made quite a show on September 10 of announcing his grand strategy to combat Daesh terrorists. Not because they were attacking (or even plotting to attack) the United States mind you, but because they were killing fellow Muslims in the latest crucible of Islam’s thousand-year sectarian war.

    Here in part is how I pooh-poohed his strategy (hours before he formally announced it) in my commentary cited above:

    Warmongers … have already goaded Obama into a Vietnam-style mission creep — given that the 300 troops he said in June were sufficient to protect embassy personnel in Iraq have already mushroomed to over 1000, not including an untold number of military ‘advisers.’

    If the Afghans and Iraqis Americans spent over a decade training to govern themselves, defend themselves, and sustain themselves can’t stand on their own against a rag-tag bunch of Taliban fighters and rampaging ISIS terrorists, respectively, then they deserve whatever fate befalls them. To say nothing of the dreadful spectacle of so many of those the U.S. trained either turning their guns directly on U.S. troops — in now notorious ‘green-on-blue’ killings, or using that training to professionalize the ranks of terrorist groups like ISIS.

    Incidentally, Obama is making quite a show of seeking congressional authorization to train ‘moderate’ Syrian fighters as part of his war on terrorism strategy. But, consistent with the foregoing, nothing betrays the wishful thinking inherent in this quite like the shameful (and ultimately sacrificial) way thousands of U.S.-trained Iraqi fighters threw down their U.S.-made weapons, abandoned their U.S.-made military vehicles, and hightailed it from just a few hundred poorly equipped ISIS fighters.

    By the way, the reason I pooh-poohed it with such foreboding indignation is that, despite his protestations to the contrary, I knew when Obama announced his 300-troop redeployment in June that he’d be redeploying more … and more – as I cynically argued in “Why Have 300 Troops When 3000 Will Do?” June 20, 2014.

    Now comes this:

    President Obama authorized Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday to send up to 1,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, roughly doubling the force the United States has built up since June to fight the Islamic State militants who control much of Iraq and Syria.

    The announcement of a major increase in the U.S. force in Iraq deepens U.S. involvement in a messy regional conflict that officials are warning may last for years. The White House said it would request $5.6 billion for the military campaign against the Islamic State, including $1.6 billion to train and equip Iraqi troops.

    (Washington Post, November 7, 2014)

    obama-kennedy-350Hence my analogy to Vietnam; after all, Obama is conducting the vietnamization of this conflict by the book (i.e., emulating JFK’s original march of folly in textbook fashion). And all indications are that, even though not nearly as formidable a fighting force as the Viet Cong, Daesh terrorists will prove every bit as vexing and unconquerable (their greatest weapon being their fanatical ideology of anti-Western hatred).

    Hell, even the warmongering former Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, is voicing misgivings about this fight:

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reflected on his days of service in the Vietnam War in a radio interview on Tuesday, Veterans Day. McCain, a former naval aviator and prisoner of war, voiced concern that the U.S. may be heading down a similar path in Iraq and Syria as it did in Vietnam.

    (Huffington Post, November 11, 2014)

    Yet nothing damns Obama’s folly in this context quite like Yemen looking more like Iraq today. Recall that he hailed Yemen a few months ago for the type of successful counterterrorism partnership the United States is attempting to establish in Iraq.

    Except that:

    ‘This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years,’ Obama said on Sept. 10, in a marquee speech outlining his strategy to combat the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria.

    Now the administration is conceding that one of those bright spots may go dark, which could serve as further ammunition for critics who say Obama has mishandled the volatile region.

    On Thursday, a leading general said that Yemen – which has been a ready and willing ally in the United States’ drone war against al Qaeda – may soon fall off the list of U.S. partners, a consequence of a brewing civil war in which the Obama administration has been loath to involve itself, and that most U.S. media has largely ignored.

    (Huffington Post, November 7, 2014)

    Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 9.09.04 PMBut never mind history repeating itself; because, frankly, it takes a willful suspension of disbelief for Obama to think that 1500 troops and $5 billion will be enough to train and equip Iraqi troops in a 10 months, when 150,000 troops and $1.5 trillion proved insufficient to do so in 10 years.

    How fitting, though, that he chose to double down on this latest march of folly into war on the very weekend when the entire world was marking the futile loss of blood and treasure World War I wrought.

    Happy Veterans Day? Try Hapless Veterans Day!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, November 10, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    Berlin Wall 2014: Mr. Gorbachev, Take Back that Speech!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 3.28.57 PMEvidently, many people were seized with shock and dismay yesterday as they listened to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev deliver his keynote speech at a forum marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    The Germans invited him, of course, because he played such a pivotal role in facilitating the peaceful reunification of Germany after the fall. But this is precisely why they might’ve expected Gorbachev to use the occasion to urge Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama to emulate the statesmanship he and George H. W. Bush Sr. demonstrated back then to facilitate the peaceful reunification of Ukraine today.

    Instead, Gorbachev delivered an anti-Western diatribe that one could be forgiven for thinking was written by Putin himself. He seemed primarily interested in chastising the West for dancing on the grave of the Soviet Union, ignoring the inconvenient truth that his Glasnost and Perestroika policies did more than anything else to bury it:

    The world is on the brink of a new Cold War…

    Euphoria and triumphalism went to the heads of Western leaders. Taking advantage of Russia’s weakening and the lack of a counterweight, they claimed monopoly leadership and domination in the world, refusing to heed words of caution from many of those present here.

    The events of the past few months [in Ukraine] are consequences of short-sighted policies, of seeking to impose one’s will and faits accomplis while ignoring the interests of one’s partners.

    (Huffington Post, November 8, 2014)

    Except that Gorbachev blaming the West for stoking tensions that could lead to Cold War II, is rather like former German President Paul von Hindenburg  (1925–34) blaming the Allied countries for stoking tensions that led to World War II.

    Russia-tanksBut nothing betrayed what a propaganda hit piece this was quite like his conspicuous refusal to mention Crimea once in the 2,305 words he delivered. After all, what most defines “the events of the past few months” is Russia imposing its will and faits accomplis to annex Crimea and foment pro-Russian secessionism in Eastern Ukraine, ignoring treaty obligations it entered into with Ukraine and the United States to respect that country’s sovereignty.

    Mind you, I’m on record criticizing the West for many of the geopolitical grievances Gorbachev cited … from what is so plainly Putin’s neo-Stalinist perspective. Most notably, given the disbandment of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, I thought it smacked of rubbing defeat in the face for the U.S.-led NATO to not only remain in force, but also enlist so many members of that old Pact into its ranks.

    I also warned (in commentaries like “Catalonia: Spain’s Kosovo Problem,” October 1, 2012) that the adhesive way the West facilitated Kosovo’s breakaway from Serbia (in 2008) would set an untenable precedent. Sure enough, Russia cited that very precedent for the adhesive way it facilitated South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s breakaway from Georgia (just months later), and Crimea’s from Ukraine (earlier this year).

    Not to mention the untenable precedents the United States set by leading coalitions of the willing (to do its bidding) on military misadventures everywhere from Iraq to Libya and Syria. Imagine the outrage in the West if Russia had done the same. Indeed, this scenario compelled me to float the argument that “Putin Took Crimea More Out of Resentment and Fear than Imperial Ambition,” March 24, 2014.

    1415529914452.cachedThis is why my criticisms of Russia have stemmed, foremost, from the brazen steps Putin has taken to roll back all of the democratic freedoms Gorbachev himself implemented; and only secondarily, from the very measured steps he has taken to reconstitute as much of the old Soviet Union as possible.

    I coined the term ‘putinization’ to describe Putin’s neo-Stalinist tactics, which were (and are) clearly aimed at neutralizing all political dissent, quashing all civil liberties, and making him a latter-day Czar.

    (“Hail Putin,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 3, 2007)

    Incidentally, with all due respect to Gorbachev, the steps Putin took in this latter case constrained me almost 10 years ago to declare that “the world is on the brink of a new Cold War,” which tit-for-tat sanctions between the West and Russia over Ukraine prove is already full blown. What’s more, instead of whining about NATO expansion, Gorbachev should have acknowledged that Putin’s military expansion into Ukraine has only justified the fears that compelled so many former republics of the Soviet Union to seek the protection (from Russia) that NATO membership guarantees.

    Beyond this, I refer you to related commentaries – dating as far back as “President Putin Reforming Russia in His Own Image,” March 25, 2005, through “Cold War Redux: Friendship Over between Russia and the United States,” May 5, 2006, and “The Putinization of Russia Extends to Georgia,” November 2, 2006, to as recently as “Hello1937 – Putin Turning Russia Back to Stalin Days,” June 13, 2012, and “Int’l Court Declares Putin a Liar and a Thief,” July 29, 2014, to name just a few.

    Interestingly enough, Gorbachev himself is on record decrying Putin for taking Russia back to the future. Here, for example, is how the March 6, 2009, edition of CBS News characterized his views:

    In some of his strongest criticism of his successors, Mikhail Gorbachev has likened Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party to the worst of the communists he once led and helped bring down, and said Russia is today a country where the parliament and the judiciary are not fully free.

    This is why so many were utterly stupefied that he was speaking in Berlin yesterday more as a Putin apologist than as the only Soviet leader the West thought they could do business with. But I knew better.

    After all, what few political pundits, let alone ordinary Westerners, seem to know is that, even though he intended his Glasnost and Perestroika policies to introduce democratic freedoms, Gorbachev never imagined they would lead to the breakup of the Soviet Union. Moreover, even as he was criticizing Putin for systematically rolling back those policies at home, he was applauding him for reestablishing Russia’s Cold War sphere of influence throughout the former republics of the Soviet Union (aka the near abroad).

    Never mind that having to resort to military force to win friends and influence neighbors makes Russia look more like a pathetic regional bully (akin to North Korea with more nukes) than a respected global power in league with the likes of China and the United States. Or that the reputation Putin has manufactured as a strong leader is belied by the fact that, but for the Soviet-era nukes he commands, he’d be no stronger than the tin-pot dictators who lorded over kleptocracies throughout post-colonial Africa.

    But here is what is perhaps the most interesting point of all:

    2009-03-20, Joe Biden empfängt Gorbatschow im Westflügel des Weißen Hauses, dem Amtssitz des Vizepräs., Obama auch daPutin is on record damning the breakup of the Soviet Union as the greatest catastrophe of the twentieth century (notwithstanding two world wars, and far too many genocides). Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that Gorbachev is regarded in Putin’s Russia with about as much esteem as Benedict Arnold is in the United States.

    Hence, it might just be that delivering this anti-Western speech was his way of attempting to redeem himself, if not his legacy, in the eyes of his Putinized compatriots. For only this explains why an erstwhile statesman like Gorbachev would so willfully play the role of skunk at Germany’s national celebration this weekend.

    If you think about it, this is rather like former British Prime Minster Tony Blair – who played a pivotal role in brokering peace between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland – being invited to speak at an anniversary celebration of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and delivering an anti-German diatribe about Germany flexing economic muscles in Europe, the way it once flexed military muscles, in ways that threaten to blow the EU asunder. Got that? In other words, just as peace in Northern Ireland has nothing to do with growing dissension in the EU, the fall of the Berlin Wall has nothing to do with growing tensions between the West and Russia.

    In any event, I suspect Gorbachev will find no redemption at home, and the welcome mats that once greeted him throughout the West will now be few and far between.

    Related commentaries:
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    Putinization of Russian extends to Georgia
    Int’l court

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 12:31 p.m.

  • Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 7:23 AM

    On second thought, Ebola might be good for some Africans…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall



    I find this illustration so poignant because it gives the impression that the boy could also be kneeling at his bedside praying with an equally aggrieved look.

    The point for me, of course, is that his letter/prayer couldn’t be any less effective than a bunch of American celebrities – who couldn’t tell Boko Haram from an Arab Harem – posting #BringBackOurGirls selfies….

    Related commentaries:
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  • Friday, November 7, 2014 at 6:48 AM

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    berlin14-1This weekend, Germany will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. But every country in the West should be doing so too.

    After all, it led not only to the reunification of Germany, but also to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the (first) Cold War.

    Frankly, the tumbling of the Berlin wall (on November 9, 1989) was as glorious and transformative as the bombing of the Twin Towers (on September 11, 2001) was murderous … and transformative. But, just as commemorating that fateful event on 9/11 requires little comment, celebrating that delightful event on 11/9 requires little comment too.

    Therefore I shall suffice to celebrate this anniversary by highlighting two German words.

    foiTAkBSPrH7QAbQKZLqVNyMAccording to the website of German Missions in the United States:

    After the fall of the wall, the word Wendehals was used to describe East Germans whose political convictions did a 180-degree turn during reunification.

    Clearly, this word could also be used to describe people still living under totalitarian regimes in countries like China, Russia, Zimbabwe, and Cuba … if the walls of their oppression were suddenly torn down.

    Except that, unlike East Germans, I don’t think any of them would need Begrüßungsgeld (“welcome money”) to pull a 180-degree turn on their respective state-imposed ideology.

    All the same, here’s to that historic day in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

    Ich bin ein Berliner!

  • Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 6:38 AM

    Supercookies? Yes, Eat Up

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Verizon and AT&T have been quietly tracking the Internet activity of more than 100 million cellular customers with what critics have dubbed ‘supercookies’ — markers so powerful that it’s difficult for even savvy users to escape them.

    The technology has allowed the companies to monitor which sites their customers visit, cataloging their tastes and interests. Consumers cannot erase these supercookies or evade them by using browser settings, such as the ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ modes that are popular among users wary of corporate or government surveillance…

    There was surprise among security researchers and privacy activists in the days after the Electronic Frontier Foundation, based in San Francisco, first tweeted about the practice on Oct. 22, calling it ‘terrible’ and citing an article in Advertising Age from May. Several news organizations have since reported the news.

    (Washington Post, November 5, 2014)


    larger-14-MOBILE-phones-cookies1Folks, I know I come across as thinking I’m intellectually superior in some of my commentaries. But you would too if you were obliged to comment on the talking points of clueless hacks media outlets routinely present as experts on politics, sports, and every topic in between.

    You might think, for example, that the esteemed Washington Post reported “there was surprise among security researchers and privacy activists” because it verified that these experts had no way of knowing what tech companies like Verizon and AT&T were up to.

    Except that even I knew, and I’m no security researcher or privacy activist.

    Here is the cautionary note I sounded on this topic almost five years ago, long before Edward Snowden became the self-appointed patron saint of privacy:

    You’d better pray you are never prosecuted or sued for anything. Because not only Big Brother but even your civil adversary could compel Google to turn over all of the searches you made when you thought nobody was watching.  And just think how embarrassing or compromising it would be to have some of those search terms come under public scrutiny – no matter how innocent your explanation.

    So if you’re planning to cheat on your spouse, or to do something even worse, don’t search Google for guidance because you might as well be talking to your local gossipmonger, or to the police. And if you think you can un-Google your most compromising searches, think again…

    By the way, it’s not just Google. Because you’d be shocked at the spying and eavesdropping your employer, your Internet Service Provider, your local supermarket, or even your favorite (naughty) website engages in to keep track of your emails, purchases, preferences and … peccadilloes. And all of them blithely use that information for their own commercial purposes, but would rat you out just as blithely at the mere hint of prosecution or civil litigation.

    (“Beware: Google Declares ‘Nothing’s Private,’ The iPINIONS Journal, December 8, 2009)

    139617_600And here, because I mentioned him, is why I thought the alarm Snowden sounded with his NSA leaks was as traitorous as it was redundant:

    You are probably aware that President Obama appointed a commission to recommend cosmetic changes to the NSA programs. But he only did so to avoid having to point out how stupid the American people are for buying into Snowden’s self-righteous and misguided outrage. After all, the NSA collects metadata for the sole purpose of trying to keep them safe.

    By contrast, these outraged nincompoops are showing nary a concern about tech companies tracking every move they make online for the sole purpose of trying to sell them stuff. Which makes the open letter Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and AOL sent to Obama last week complaining about NSA surveillance a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    (“Judge Ruling on NSA Spying Amounts to Judicial Selfie,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 18, 2013)

    Enough said?

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 5:54 AM

    2014 Midterm Elections: Republicans and the Triumph of Irrational Exuberance

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


    I’ve coined the term “irrational intelligence” to define that which informs people to do and say plainly ignorant things … with the conviction of a genius (or a saint).

    article-1213056-0666E255000005DC-603_634x438Think, for example, of people who say that President Obama is an incompetent leader whose socialist policies have ruined the economy. (Incidentally, polls indicated that the state of the economy was the most important issue facing voters this cycle.) Those people couldn’t care any less that Obama has in fact done more to reinforce America’s capitalist system than any president in recent history, which includes implementing policies that have facilitated record gains on Wall Street.

    I also feel constrained to note here that, despite all the (purely-for-ratings) media hype, the Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate only means more congressional gridlock (i.e., now that they control both chambers of Congress).

    After all, Republicans won’t be able to enact any of their wacko pledges, like repealing Obamacare, because Obama retains the power to veto any legislation. But they will have more power to continue what they’ve been doing from day one of his presidency: obstructing key items on Obama’s progressive agenda, like comprehensive immigration reform.

    And, lest you forget, here is how no less a person than then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky betrayed the real goal of their gridlock agenda on the July 10, 2011, edition of FOX News:

    Well that is true, making Obama a one-term President is my single most important political goal along with every active Republican in the country.

    For his part, Obama has pledged to respond to greater Republican obstructionism by doubling down on his use of executive powers to move the country forward, wherever possible.

    This is why one can fairly sum up the results of these midterm elections with the idiom, plus ça change. It is also why I couldn’t care any less who won or lost any race in particular.

    us-president-barack-obamaThat said:

    I’m not on the ballot this fall. But make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.

    (CNN, October 6, 2014)

    This was how Obama touted his policies as campaigning entered the final stretch. And, to any rational mind, it made perfect sense for him to do so.

    After all, among other salutary accomplishments, “these policies:”

    • rescued the economy from the brink of another Great Depression and set it on course for years of sustainable growth;
    • led to a halving of the fiscal deficit and more than doubling of the stock market;
    • provided healthcare coverage for millions of uninsured Americans;
    • cut the ranks of the unemployed almost in half;
    • mandated pay equity for women, marriage equality for gays, and minimum wage for all; and
    • stopped the hemorrhaging of American blood and treasure by ending unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Surely these undisputed accomplishments must compel any rational mind to consider how much better still life in America would be if Republicans hadn’t decreed that any compromise with this president would be tantamount to treason.

    Meanwhile, they have become possessed of such jihadist ideology that Republicans appear unable to even conceive of congressional Democrats obstructing a Republican president’s agenda the way they have obstructed Obama’s. And, given the truly enviable state of affairs in the United States today (notwithstanding media-driven irrational despair), one shudders to think what Republicans will do to vindicate McConnell’s triumphal clarion call to “turn this country around,” which is only slightly more politically correct than their good-ole-boy call to “take our country back.”

    On the other hand, apropos of those congressional Democrats, Obama had just cause to expect that, even if political strategy compelled them to keep him at arms length, they would be hailing his accomplishments.

    clinton-bill-2014-campaign-485x333But such was the irrational intelligence that informed most campaign rhetoric this fall that Democrats were competing with Republicans not only to treat him like a tar baby, but also to shun his policies, well, like the Ebola virus. This alone is why they deserved to lose control of the Senate and the most seats in the House since WWII. I mean, is it really any wonder over 65 percent of eligible voters (mostly Democrats and Independents) decided to eschew the dog and pony show candidates put on this fall…?

    Frankly, all that was left was for Democrats to begin aping Republican flat-earthers by campaigning for creationism (or “intelligent design” – as right-wing zealots call it … irrationally enough) to be taught in schools as historical fact, and evolution as junk science.

    You’d have thought Democrats would welcome the opportunity to run on Obama’s policies, while heaping scorn on the Republicans’ obstructionist policies that were designed to do nothing but undermine Obama’s – the welfare of the country be damned. Except that, as one mysterious White House official might say, far too many Democrats are “chickenshit” politicians who will do and say anything – no matter how irrational – that they think will induce their invariably ignorant constituents to vote for them….

    2014-11-03-NBC-NN-Midterms4Only this explains no less a person than David Axelrod, Obama’s most celebrated adviser, declaring – on Sunday’s edition of NBC’s Meet the Press – that “it was a mistake” for Obama to tout his policies as he did. This signaled Axelrod’s belief that Democrats were right to play along with the zeitgeist of irrational intelligence by shunning Obama’s policies too.

    But nothing betrays this surreal, oxymoronic state of American politics quite like Noam Scheiber, Obama’s most celebrated critic, confessing on the same day – in “My Book Argued That Obama ‘Fumbled the Recovery.’ Here’s What I Got Wrong,” New Republic, November 2, 2014 – that criticisms of Obama’s policies have been proven wrong:

    My mistake was to assume Obama’s errors were strategic ones — errors that would doom the economy to years of slow growth and brutally high unemployment. In fact, most were not.

    What’s more, Scheiber notes that Obama’s policies overcame Republican obstructionism to compare favorably not only with those of other world leaders who had to deal with the 2008 financial crisis, but also with those of his predecessors, like Ronald Reagan, who had to deal with financial crises that were not nearly as grave.

    Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 6.26.52 PM

    Again, only the delirious appeal of irrational intelligence explains why so many voters bought (hook, line, and sinker) the Republican narrative about Obama and his policies being the worst thing to happen to the United States since Nixon and Watergate.

    Hell, their alternative universe provided such fertile ground for growing Republican support that some candidates even argued that Sarah Palin would’ve done a better job than Obama has as president. And only in this universe would you have found poor miners in West Virginia and rich bankers on Wall Street singing the same blues about Obama’s policies; notwithstanding that his policies have done more to benefit such disparate groups as miners and bankers than those of any other president since FDR.

    I’m on record lamenting the irrational intelligence that informs the support so many poor White people give Republican candidates. Nothing is sadder (or more irrational) in this context than these poor suckers railing against Obamacare – even though Obamacare provides the opportunity of a lifetime for them to get comprehensive healthcare.

    And don’t get me started on the ignorance inherent in voters complaining about Washington gridlock, but voting for Republican candidates who openly pledge to do little more than create more gridlock; or in voters decrying Obama as an incompetent leader, but sputtering Daffy Duck-like gibberish when they’re challenged to explain what makes him so….

    Alas, irrational intelligence prevails in politics today as surely as irrational exuberance prevailed on Wall Street during the Dot.com (bubble) days of the 1990s.

    B08zhknIMAAtpWNThe effect of the former played out like a tragic comedy recently, when the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, tried to quarantine a perfectly healthy nurse (in a tent in the parking lot of a hospital – with no heat, no running water, and just a Port-a-Potty to relieve herself) just because she had been treating Ebola victims in West Africa:

    Rational intelligence dictated that he should have been far more concerned about the tens of thousands of New Jersey residents walking around with the flu – each of whom posed a far greater danger to public health than this nurse. But irrational intelligence, which dictated that it was politically expedient to treat her like a leaper, prevailed.

    It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Republicans won, despite irrational promises to, among other things:

    • repeal Obamacare;
    • return to the failed trickledown economics of cutting taxes for the rich and cutting benefits for the poor; and
    • waste in Syria the same amount of blood and treasure the United States wasted in Iraq.

    The American people deserve what they will surely get. Which only leaves me to square this vicious circle by noting how fitting it is that Mitch McConnell, the politician who personifies Republican obstructionism, has been duly rewarded with a promotion to Senate majority leader.

    Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 9.33.08 PM

    I would be remiss, however, if I did not comment on the dramatic contrast between the messianic popularity Obama enjoyed in 2008, when he was first elected, and the diabolic unpopularity dogging him today, as he ends his career in elective politics with a thorough shellacking of his Democratic Party. Nothing punctuated this apparent fall from grace quite like McConnell’s Democratic challenger in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, deeming Obama so politically toxic that she refused, more than thrice, to say (on the campaign trail and in debates) if she voted for him. Indeed, as I referenced above, the one bipartisan feature of these midterm elections was the way both Republican and Democratic candidates blithely maligned Obama.

    But I warned it would be thus:

    I’m on record stating my suspicion that many Whites voted for Obama in 2008 more as a gesture of racial absolution than of political faith. These AP findings bear that out. And having thusly absolved themselves of their sins of racism (with this one, historic act), many of them now feel liberated to give way to their racial prejudices without fear of being called racists.

    (“Romney vs. Obama: Race (Still) Matters,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 1, 2012)

    Yet, notwithstanding all of the above, voters informed by rational intelligence should not despair … too much. Because, by the next election cycle in 2016, Republican politicians will have reaped the discord and dysfunction they sowed to such degree that even Republican voters will be seeking out candidates who not only boldly champion Obama’s policies, but also proudly embrace Obama himself.

    Hey, HOPE springs eternal….

    Hillary-Clinton-NC_3085849bBut this allusion to 2016 constrains me to note that Bill and Hillary Clinton might be the biggest losers this election cycle. After all, Democrats embraced them with as much alacrity as they shunned Obama.

    Which is why it’s humbling enough that not a single Democrat they endorsed in a truly competitive race won. But that they could not even help incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor hold onto his seat in their home state of Arkansas must give them pause about Hillary’s presidential prospects.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, November 4, 2014 at 6:56 AM

    Netanyahu Is a ‘Chickenshit’ Prime Minister!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Meet the Press - Season 67Jeffrey Goldberg is the critically acclaimed correspondent for The Atlantic, America’s top news and ideas magazine.

    His October 28 report, “The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relationship Is Officially Here,” set political and media tongues a wagging from Washington to Jerusalem and all points in between. And nothing in his report caused more wagging than Goldberg quoting a White House official dissing Benjamin Netanyahu as a “chickenshit” prime minister:

    ‘The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,’ the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. ‘The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat: he’s got no nuts.’

    Netanyahu obama israelSuch is Goldberg’s reputation, however, that nobody questioned the credibility of his reporting. Instead, the viral meme it spawned focused on the open and mutual contempt the Obama and Netanyahu administrations have developed for each other. Most notably, Janet Daley, the equally acclaimed correspondent for The Telegraph, lamented (on Saturday’s edition of the BBC’s Dateline London) that his reporting exposes a “new low” between these two notoriously dysfunctional allies.

    Except that Goldberg’s purportedly groundbreaking report broke no new ground. Frankly, heralding an official crisis in the relationship between the United States and Israel is rather like heralding an official crisis in the marriage between Bill and Hillary Clinton.

    Like the Clintons’, crises have dogged the relationship between the United States and Israel from day one. And the causes have had as much to do with American contempt for Israeli arrogance as with Israeli contempt for American ignorance.

    The only reason Goldberg’s report seemed so insightful and controversial is that, like that of teenage girls, the memory of most people in politics and the media these days is limited to the latest viral tweet (or selfie). After all, the “crisis in U.S.-Israel relationship” became so grave 24 years ago that – far from some anonymous adviser privately dissing the Israeli prime minister – no less a person than the then U.S. secretary of state, James Baker, publicly threatened outright divorce.

    Here is how I referenced that “official” crisis four years ago, when yet another one erupted over Israel undermining U.S. efforts to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians by building yet more settlements in the disputed territories:

    It might be instructive to recall that [Israel’s] unbridled contempt for America’s efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations provoked [James Baker] way back in 1990 – as secretary of state under former President George H.W. Bush – to issue the following iconic reprimand during congressional testimony:

    ‘Everybody over there should know that the telephone number for the White House is (202) 456-1414. When you’re serious about peace, call us!’

    And to back up his words, Baker threatened to withhold loan guarantees unless Israel promised not to use the funds to settle Russian Jews in the (Palestinian) West Bank. Not so widely reported, however, was the undiplomatic language he used in a less formal setting a couple of years later, when Baker reportedly said, ‘Fuck the Jews; they don’t vote for us anyway.’

    (“Israel Talks about Settlements the Way Iran Talks about Nuclear Weapons,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 15, 2010)

    Clearly, if that crisis 24 years ago did not cause any material change in the patently dysfunctional relationship between the United States and Israel, nothing will.

    1524589152The fact is that these two countries are wedded by what Obama himself has often vowed is an “unbreakable bond.” A bond, incidentally, that has as much to do with evangelical support for Israel in the United States, despite any president’s warranted frustrations, as it has to do with existential appreciation for the United States in Israel, despite any prime minister’s unwarranted impudence.

    More to the point, though, this bond explains why Israel continually behaves like a trophy wife who knows that she has a rich and powerful husband who will not only give her anything she wants, but be there for her no matter how often she disappoints, or even betrays, him. This, in a nutshell, explains the nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

    netanyahu_bombAs for Goldberg’s celebrated report, here is why I hope I can be forgiven for thinking that his main points about the breakdown in relations between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations seem the result more of plagiarism than reporting, especially with respect to his “scoop” about Netanyahu being a chickenshit:

    The chutzpah of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu never ceases to amaze me…

    I am simply stupefied by the way he has been publicly goading Obama – almost from day one of his presidency – to stop Iran [from developing nuclear weapons] before it enters some amorphous ‘zone of immunity’ (presumably where North Korea resides)…

    All of his talk about red lines and red lights is just a red herring. If Netanyahu wanted to attack Iran today, nobody would stop him.

    Except that this arrogant SOB would rather sit on his moral high-horse (playing the Holocaust card) and declaim falsely about Obama dictating when and how he should act to defend Israel’s national security interests. All the while he’s presuming to dictate to Obama when and how he should act to defend America’s national security interests with respect to Iran: talk about brass ones…

    It is noteworthy that Netanyahu is being supported in his rhetorical misadventure by the same coalition of crusading dunces (namely, Jewish Zionists, Christian fundamentalists, and new-world-order neo-cons) who goaded Bush into attacking Iraq. Not to mention that they have all been issuing Chicken-Little warnings about Iran being just months away from going nuclear since the 1990s….

    (“Obama Dissing Israeli PM Netanyahu?” The iPINIONS Journal, September 12, 2012)

    On the other hand, having a prominent American Jew like Goldberg reporting so favorably on Obama’s efforts to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is bound to cause a crisis of leadership for Netanyahu. Not least because the irrefutable takeaway from his report is that Netanyahu is a petty-minded political coward – who’d rather pander to right-wing nuts (in Israel and the United States) than take the bold steps necessary to make peace.

    Sure enough, even his die-hard supporters are beginning to have second thoughts about Netanyahu’s leadership:

    An editorial in the leading American Jewish newspaper should be read by Prime Minister Netanyahu as a serious warning…

    A lead editorial in The New York Jewish Week, the flagship American Jewish newspaper, center to center-right in orientation, with many thousands of Orthodox Jews among its readers and an ardently pro-Israel editorial line, bluntly asks whether the Israeli government has become unmoored from reality.

    (The Atlantic, October 31, 2014)

    imagesWhat’s more, I readily concede that Goldberg reporting on Netanyahu as a chickenshit will probably do far more to put this Israeli prime minister’s Texas-size ego in check than my commenting on him as a Chicken Little.

    But I trust I’ve vindicated my assertion that there is nothing groundbreaking in Goldberg’s report. Especially given that I’m also on record – in many other commentaries like “Netanyahu, Obama’s Iago; Iran, His Desdemona,” October 2, 2013 – delineating why White House officials have just cause to dismiss Netanyahu as a chickenshit.

    Enough said?

    Except that I’m mindful, even if Goldberg is not, that the public humiliation inherent in prominent people dismissing him as a chickenshit might provoke a “man” like Netanyahu to take rash action to prove his manhood. I suspect, however, that his imperious ego makes Netanyahu immune to public humiliation. Indeed, the fabled concept of “the emperor wears no clothes” probably suits him just fine.

    Related commentaries:
    Israel talks about settlements
    Obama dissing Israeli PM
    Obama’s Iago

  • Monday, November 3, 2014 at 6:13 AM

    People of the Caribbean, Beware of Minister Farrakhan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Minister Louis Farrakhan began preaching about Black empowerment and self-reliance long before President Barack Obama was born. And, based on his appearance at last week’s crusade in Jamaica to mark the 19th anniversary of his Million Man March, the eighty-one-year-old Farrakhan will probably be preaching about the same long after Obama leaves The White House.

    video-farrakhan-on-jamaicas-indeUnfortunately, his message has become so distinguished by hollow rhetoric and financial schemes that one could be forgiven the impulse, in his case, to shoot the messenger. In other words, Farrakhan speaks like a shaman (offering panaceas for all that ails Black people everywhere), but he behaves like a con man (competing with lotteries to rob poor Blacks of what little they have). Only this explains why he hustles more for money at Black political rallies than Pete Rose does at Baseball trade shows. Not to mention his Final Call online store, which is like the Wal-Mart of inspirational and self-help quackery….

    This is why (in his mind, heart, and soul) Farrakhan is more snake-oil salesman, like Reverend Ike, than Black empowerment preacher, like Malcolm X.

    I should disclose here that I am a disaffected fan, having been thoroughly disillusioned by his rhetoric and profoundly swindled by what will go down in history as his most notorious and profitable scheme, the Million Man March. Therefore, I speak from experience when I admonish my Caribbean compatriots in Jamaica and elsewhere to take everything Farrakhan says with a pinch of salt.

    He claimed (in an interview published in the October 20th edition of Jamaica’s oldest newspaper, The Gleaner) that he decided to mark this anniversary in Jamaica “because both of his parents were from the Caribbean” (his father from Jamaica; his mother from St. Kitts). But I suspect he decided to do so because people all over the United States have become so wise to his rhetoric and schemes that he had to go abroad to break up his fallow ground. So, Jamaica, be not proud.

    In any event, given Farrakhan’s MO of sowing the same seeds everywhere he goes and hoping they fall on fertile ground, I have decided to mark this 19th anniversary with the same commentary I wrote to mark the 10th – followed by closing remarks on his visit to Jamaica.

    I wrote “Millions More Movement (and that’s millions more dollars, not people…fool!),” on October 17, 2005. More to the point, I did so as one who heeded Farrakhan’s call to join his original Million Man March (in October 1995), only to become so disillusioned, disaffected, and duly disgruntled that I marked that 10th anniversary more as a recovering victim than as an enabling follower.

    Sadly, my testimony is as relevant today as it was on that seminal anniversary. But it should serve as a cautionary tale for any Jamaican or other Caribbean national who was or becomes inspired by Farrakhan’s words – especially on such issues as economic empowerment and lotto-like delusions of reparations for British slavery.


    “Millions More Movement…”

    Minister Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam (NOI) marked the 10th anniversary of their Million Man March (the March) by calling Black men, women, and children to the National Mall again on Saturday to launch their Millions More Movement (the Movement). But, considering that I am still in despair over dashed hopes and broken promises from the March, I thought it would be too politically masochistic to join the Movement.

    However, thanks to C-SPAN, I could not resist tuning in from the comfortable home my Caribbean work ethic and unparalleled opportunities in America have enabled me to own. And it saddens me to affirm that what I saw of Saturday’s activities only vindicated my decision not to dignify this occasion with my presence.

    (It seems appropriate to note here that fellow Caribbean native Wyclef Jean delivered the most instructive and useful message of the day. Feigning self-deprecation, he begged the crowd to excuse his perfect English as he shared his immigrant story of coming to America at the age of 10 and working several jobs at once (“the way we West Indians do”) to get by. He ended his story by declaring this self-evident truth: that if he could achieve such stellar success in America, then there was no reason why every Black American could not do the same! Unfortunately, speaking such obvious truths was not on the Movement’s agenda for this day, as every other speaker … made patently clear.)

    millionmore-300x173Farrakhan is easily the most articulate, visionary, inspiring, provocative, dynamic and intelligent public speaker in America today (as he has been for decades). But many of us who have been energized and moved by his anti-establishment polemics have come to realize that Farrakhan is little more than a performer who delivers speeches full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, and then is heard from no more … until his next curtain call.

    For example, in March 1995, Farrakhan led an army of one million Black men in a spirited denunciation of White supremacy. More importantly, he exhorted Blacks to atone for their self-inflicted maladies and for the serial failures of Black leadership. Of course, the irony that his failures are paramount in this respect was completely lost on him.

    Yet he exuded such infectious majesty on that occasion that even pedestrian Black leaders delivered speeches about self-help, Black empowerment, and personal responsibility with such eloquence that one might have mistaken them for historical Black luminaries like Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglas, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. But none of them reached the rhetorical heights where Farrakhan’s rhetoric soared – from the opening of his speech until he ended it with this, now trademark, pitch:

    Now brothers, the last thing we want to say, we want to develop an Economic Development Fund… Inside of one month, we would have over $100 million. And in one year, we would have $1 billion … which means that no Black organization will be accountable to anybody outside of us… How many of you would like to see all our Black organizations free?

    A task force will be formed … to make sure that the things that we say today will be implemented… [W]e want an outside accounting firm to come in and scrutinize every dollar that was raised from your pockets to make the Million Man March a success… We will come back … and we will account for every nickel, every dime, every dollar…so that you can trust. I put my life on this.

    To rob you is a sin. To use you and abuse you is a sin. To make mockery of your love and your trust is a sin. And we repent of all sin and we refuse to do sin anymore.

    (Courtesy of C-SPAN, October 16, 1995)

    I am ashamed to confess that I not only bought every word Farrakhan uttered back then, but also contributed to his phantom Economic Development Fund (EDF). And I derive no consolation from having enough sense not to contribute to his equally dubious Economic Exodus (slush?) Fund.

    The point is that, based on my research and inquiries, Farrakhan did not implement any of the Black empowerment initiatives he outlined or fulfill any of the fiduciary promises he made (that is, if any of them were ever intended to be). Frankly, it shall redound to his eternal shame that Farrakhan did, in fact, use and abuse the trust we vested in him and (did) make a mockery of the love we bestowed upon him as a leader who, we hoped, would create a “third force” to compel the American establishment to address the concerns of the poor and powerless.

    Therefore, watching events unfold on Saturday, I had an appalling sense of déjà vu as speaker after speaker delivered essentially the same words I heard 10 years ago. Only this time, instead of projecting the aura of historical Black luminaries mentioned above, they looked and sounded more like second-rate actors spouting off hackneyed lines about Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq. And, instead of professing atonement for their own sins, they were blaming President Bush for everything from causing the levee breaks in New Orleans to cutting back their welfare checks.

    Indeed, what I watched, from my 1995 vantage point, smacked of a bunch of thieves returning to the scene of their greatest heist and trying to pull off a similar heist a decade later. Specifically, one of the longest speeches on Saturday was a shameless (but decidedly shameful) solicitation for money by one of Farrakhan’s boosters. In what must be a patented NOI version of Three Card Monte, he entertained the crowd with jokes (like a Saturday night comedian) and threw them a few religious platitudes (like a Sunday morning preacher), all while coaxing them to put their “Benjamins [100 dollar bills] in the receptacles” (like an everyday street hustler).

    (These receptacles were conveniently placed all over the Mall and guarded like Fort Knox by NOI praetorian guards. But it speaks volumes about Farrakhan’s intent that this was the first political rally on the hallowed Mall at which organizers had receptacles to collect cash instead of trash…?)

    To deliver Saturday’s pièces de résistance (think Sermon on the Mount), Farrakhan descended the steps of the Capitol like a deus ex machina (Black Moses) – escorted by his personal security detail from the Fruit of Islam (FOI) – and wowed the longsuffering crowd with vintage farrakhanisms.

    The highlight (or, depending on your vantage point, the most irresponsible part of his speech) was his call for a separate Black United States of America comprised of “Black, Brown, Red and Poor people.” Never mind that Brown and Red people would probably be inhibited by reasonable suspicions about Blacks treating them in a Black United States just as Whites treated Blacks in the United States.

    Still, Farrakhan went so far as to detail the ministries he envisioned, including those for Agriculture, Education, Trade and Commerce, Defense, Information and Religion. And he promised that his Black United States of America (presumably with him as the Black George Washington) would forge economic and political solidarity with a United States of Africa and a United States of Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Intriguing stuff … until one realizes that it’s merely a repackaging of the grand platform for the “global advancement of Black people” he presented 10 years ago. But to perfect his recidivism, Farrakhan sounded the end of this speech with his familiar refrain:

    Now brothers [and sisters] we need money.

    Only, instead of using the pretext of an EDF, he announced the founding of a National Skills Bank where millions of Black people – who wish to contribute to his borrowed vision of a Pan-African world – could register their names “for a small deposit of $20? and donate “as many Benjamins as you can.” (Farrakhan even pulled a $100 bill out of his pocket at this point and held it above his head so that there could be no confusion between Benjamins and Georges [one dollar bills] when these new suckers make their deposits.)


    As for the “millions” who attended, you can believe NOI counters or your lying eyes…

    Of course, I won’t be at all surprised if – 10 years from now – Farrakhan has nothing of substance to show for all of his talk about the Movement. And I suspect many other Black men who joined his Million Man March are now just as cynical. Not least because aerial shots – juxtaposing the one million men who heeded Farrakhan’s call in 1995, with the smattering of men, women and children who heeded his call on Saturday – provide irrefutable evidence that many of us have become justifiably disillusioned with Farrakhan’s hollow rhetoric and financial schemes, and no longer want to be associated with him.

    (Listening to speaker after speaker on Saturday marveling at the mirage of “millions” in attendance and suggesting that DC authorities might deliberately undercount them for political reasons, one could not help thinking that NOI disciples were propagating a Big Lie about the size of the crowd for their own political reasons.)

    But before too many people register (i.e., pay) to be used, abused, and mocked yet again, I urge all Black people of conscience (especially journalists) to demand the financial reports, which Farrakhan promised in 1995 would be forthcoming on an annual basis to ensure fiscal transparency and good governance of his EDF. And, to help frame our demands in this regard, here are just a few threshold questions I would ask Farrakhan to answer, if I had the chance:

    1. What is the name of the “outside accounting firm” you promised would audit all of the EDF’s operations and use of resources, and can you have that firm publish a comprehensive (or money for value) audit online as soon as possible?
    2. You indicated in 1995 that “in one year, we could have $1 billion” in the EDF. What amount did you have after one year, and what is the total amount collected to date?
    3. One of the most dramatic and “uplifting” moments during your speech in 1995 was when you said that, with so much money in the EDF, you would have your board “call in Myrley Evers Williams and ask her, what the budget of the NAACP is for this year? $13 million? $15 million? Write a check.” How many checks, and in what amounts, Minister Farrakhan, did your EDF write to the order of the NAACP or other minority organizations over the past 10 years?
    4. At your rather less attended and less celebrated Million Family March in October 2000, you called on 1 million families to donate $100 each for your NOI to fund economic development in blighted Black cities all over America. What cities have since benefited from those funds?
    5. In a similar vein, please name three ongoing concerns (whether businesses, development projects or community outreach programs), which have been funded by seed money from the EDF and fill you with the most pride?
    6. When framing your solicitations for donations, you invariably profess an interest in helping Black and poor people of all races, religions, and creeds. Therefore, what has your NOI done to better the lives of non-Muslim Black Americans – besides selling them recordings of your sermons, speeches, press conferences, and, it seems, every other word that has ever proceeded out your mouth? [NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, I purchased many of Farrakhan’s recordings before I came to my senses in the late 1990s – a few years after the Million Man March.]

    Meanwhile, if purported civil rights leaders – like (the fathering babies out of wedlock) Rev. Jesse Jackson and (chronically indebted) Rev. Al Sharpton – had any credibility or clout left, they would’ve silenced Farrakhan long ago by raising these questions in the public interest. Instead, there they were on Saturday, shadowing Farrakhan, hoping to bask in his reflected glow….

    Finally, I feel constrained to note that, at one point in his speech, Farrakhan ridiculed the $40 billion debt relief African Heads of State negotiated a few months ago with G8 countries. He posited that, because England alone had exploited more than a trillion dollars from the African Continent, this purported relief was, in fact, an insult (implying, of course, that the Africans are too ignorant or provincial to recognize this).

    Except that his logic raises the following question:

    Farrakhan is on record claiming that White Americans amassed trillions of dollars by exploiting Black Americans for centuries as slave and cheap laborers. Therefore, never mind debt relief, how much have Farrakhan and other enlightened Black Americans negotiated in reparations from White Americans?

    The answer, of course, is nothing! Which is why Farrakhan’s advice for African debt relief (or Caribbean reparations) should ring every bit as hollow as his plan for a separate Black United States of America.


    Closing remarks

    Again, I wrote this “Millions More Movement…” commentary in October 2005. Yet I fully expect the concerns I raised back then to resonate with any Jamaican who has now sobered up from the intoxicating spell Farrakhan reportedly casted over Jamaica during his recent visit.

    Beyond that, I fully expect anyone who reads my testimony to agree that Farrakhan’s hollow rhetoric and financial schemes are surpassed in their brazenness only by his sociopathic ego. For only this explains how he remains so unaffected by the inevitable disillusionment, disaffection, and disgruntlement his rote message causes.

    mmm-jamaica_hmlf_10-28-2014This is why I am so dismayed that the Jamaican media greeted and treated Farrakhan more like a Black Moses than a prodigal son.

    Of course, he is the purportedly chosen leader who established an “exodus” fund to liberate Black people everywhere from (the legacy of) bondage. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that he aped Moses, not by demanding to let his people go, but by intoning that the Queen must go. Never mind that Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller herself is among many Jamaican leaders who have been intoning the same for years. But such is his political arrogance and self-righteousness….

    To be fair, though, Farrakhan did a lot of preaching to Blacks in the Caribbean about becoming self-reliant and independent of their former slave masters in Europe. The problem, however, is that he has been preaching to Blacks in the United States about becoming self-reliant and independent of their former slave masters in America for over 50 years. And even I now understand why his message always fell, and continues to fall, on fallow ground where 99 percent of Black Americans live their daily lives.

    I am convinced that his message won’t find much fertile ground in the Caribbean either. I just fear that many Caribbean nationals will suffer far greater disillusionment and lose far more money than I did before they come to their senses about the unrepentant Minister Louis Farrakhan and his phantom Nation of Islam.

    Related commentaries:
    Millions More Movement

    * This commentary was originally published on Friday, Oct. 31, for my weekly syndicated column at Caribbean News Now

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