• Tuesday, December 30, 2014 at 7:09 AM

    Princess Diana’s Lover Insinuates Prince Harry Is His Son

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In the interest of full disclosure:

    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)

    Frankly, the Windsors are to democracy what the Kardashians are to celebrity: a farcical sideshow. How fitting, then, that the Windsors provide just as much fodder for tabloids as the Kardashians.

    Granted, this latest tidbit just rehashes the suitably tabloid story about Princess Diana’s lover, James Hewitt, being Prince Harry’s biological father. That it has gone viral, however, suggests that it remains as titillating as ever.

    But the naked truth is that this story would not titillate so abidingly if Harry did not look, and behave, so much like Hewitt….

    Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 8.56.41 PM

    In any event, here is how I reveled in the first round of this royal scandal almost 10 years ago:

    They say the fruit does not fall far from the tree. And, in Harry’s case, that might be more telling than he (and other members of the royal family) may want to know. After all, given Charles’s eye for the matronly Camilla, Harry’s eye for [buxom blondes] suggests he might be a bad apple from a very different tree.

    Indeed, it now appears that Hewitt, the once-dashing cavalry officer who taught the young prince to ride horses, had more to do with Harry’s breeding than we realized.…

    (“Prince Harry: More like His Mummy’s Lover than Putative Daddy,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 3, 2005)

    2449910900000578-0-image-a-27_1419717046971Meanwhile, Hewitt has spent much of the years since Diana’s death in 1997 competing with her former butler, Paul Burrell, to see who can exploit his relationship with her the most for personal gain. In fact, time and time again Hewitt has shown that, even though a former Army officer, he’s no gentleman. No time more so than in 2003, when he incited worldwide outrage for trying to peddle love letters Diana wrote to him for £10 million

    But Hewitt’s trump card has always been his entitlement to play his Harry-Daddy card. And his participation in a forthcoming play, which purports to expose some of the darkest secrets surrounding the life and death of Princess Diana, has him playing it now for all it’s worth:

    A new play about Princess Diana ‘suggests that James Hewitt could be Prince Harry’s father’…

    Jon Conway’s Truth, Lies, Diana is a ‘factional’ drama that purports to ‘uncover secrets about Diana and her death, that the establishment have tried to keep hidden’.

    In one scene … Hewitt says: ‘Diana and I started our relationship more than a year before Harry was born. Now that doesn’t prove that I am his father. It’s just the … inconvenient truth.’

    (The Independent, December 29, 2014)

    Mind you, the Windsors are a very litigious bunch – as they demonstrated two years ago by suing a French tabloid for publishing pictures of the now very royal Kate with her still very common breasts in full view.

    0041E38500000258-0-image-m-34_1419771578461At the very least, they never shrink from spewing royal contempt at stories that cast aspersions on their fairytale image – as they did just yesterday by rebuking the forthcoming biography of Billy Tallon, who served the queen mother for more than 50 years. Not least because the biographer has Tallon, who died in 2007, spilling all kinds of palace secrets, including about the queen mother spending the last 20 years of her life meandering in a state of drunkenness or dementia. She died aged 101 in 2002.

    This is why one could be forgiven utter stupefaction over the fact that they have not taken legal action or spewed contempt to stop Hewitt’s mischief making – not only about cuckolding the future king, but also about fathering his second son.

    queen_elizabeth_prince_charlesBut I submit that the Windsor’s have been well-advised that litigation is not an option … because they can’t handle the truth, which a simple DNA test could reveal.

    Not to mention Harry’s vested interest in living with Hewitt’s mischief making but retaining his royal perks and privileges; as opposed to being exposed as a bastard prince and losing the same. (It might be helpful to recall that the Queen stripped his mother of her royal title for failing to honor her duties as Prince Charles’s long-suffering wife and mother of the heir, and a spare … even if he’s illegitimate.)

    I submit further that they have been well-advised that getting into a public spat with Hewitt would be worse than wrestling with a pig. After all, one can always wash away any record of the latter; whereas the record of the former would last, to be rehashed and even dramatized, in perpetuity.

    No doubt Hewitt is a venal and cold-blooded SOB for exploiting his affair with Diana in this paternal fashion. That he’s in the position (or entitled) to do so, however, says more about her fairytale marriage that never was, and never should have been, than about him and his mischievous ways.

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  • Monday, December 29, 2014 at 6:29 AM

    Success of Obama’s Policies Confounding, Vexing, Defying Republican Critics

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The U.S. economy grew at a sizzling 5 percent annual rate in the July-September period, the fastest in more than a decade, boosted by strength in consumer spending and business investment…

    It was the fastest quarterly growth since the summer of 2003. It followed a 4.6 percent annual growth rate in the April-June quarter…

    The country is on track to have its healthiest year for job growth since 1999.

    (The Associated Press, December 23, 2014)

    Screen Shot 2014-12-24 at 8.33.26 AMIn fact, Obama’s domestic policies have led to the unemployment rate falling from 10 percent in October 2009 to 5.8 today, and the DOW Jones Industrial Average rising from 6,469 in March 2009 to a record of 18,053 at the close on Friday.

    And, perhaps most significantly, there’s his historic healthcare reform:

    Enrollments via the federally run Obamacare health insurance exchanges on HealthCare.gov surged leading up to a big deadline last week and reached almost 6.4 million after the first month of sign-ups, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday…

    ‘This law is working, and families and businesses and taxpayers are better off as a result,’ [Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said at a press conference Tuesday]…

    These private health insurance plan enrollments as of Dec. 19 are in addition to the almost 10 million who have signed up … since last October.

    (Huffington Post, December 23, 2014)

    Ironically, nothing affirms the success of Obamacare, which Republicans denounced as socialism, quite like having Wall Street analysts singing its praises — as Citi Investment researcher Carl McDonald and others did in a November 21 report by Kaiser Health News.

    Meanwhile, his foreign policies (in particular, sanctions against Russia as punishment for annexing Crimea and fomenting unrest in Eastern Ukraine) have led to gas prices falling from an average high of $3.96 in May 2011, to an average low of $2.32 today (stemming from a fall in the price of a barrel of oil from a high of $145 in 2008 to $59 today). Not to mention the landmark agreement on climate change he negotiated with President Xi Jinping of China.

    Indeed, despite Chicken-Little reporters and pundits giving the impression that these are the worst of times, Obama can claim – without fear of contradiction – that he is the leader of a world that has never been freer, safer, healthier, or richer.

    Yet an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll (conducted December 10-14) found that 64 percent of Americans remain convinced that Obama is leading the country down the wrong track, which clearly vindicates my November 19 commentary, “Call It the Stupidity of the American People.”

    debtd-300x241More to the point, though, the undeniable success of his policies speaks volumes about the acute nature of Obama derangement syndrome among Republicans. After all, they are now vowing to redouble their efforts to make him a “failed president” — by, among other things, blocking appointments and passing legislation that either undermines or rolls back his policies whenever/wherever possible.

    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.

    (GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, FOX News, July 10, 2011)

    And Republican members of Congress are not the only ones afflicted by this syndrome:

    Controversial Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is stepping down after six years in office.

    The Republican, who was a staunch critic of President Obama and his administration, delivered one last parting shot at him before she left, branding him a ‘failed president…’

    Brewer, who was famously caught on camera wagging her finger in the president’s face on an airport tarmac, said she had no regrets over the interaction, which some saw as ‘disrespectful.’

    (Daily Mail, December 24, 2014)

    Unfortunately, with control of both houses of Congress and a Republican-leaning Supreme Court telegraphing its intent to affirm their efforts, Republicans have the best opportunity yet to vindicate their irrational contempt for this president. Evidently, their inherently flawed, but abiding, strategy is:

    [T]o let the bright lines shine; why give Obama any opportunities for bipartisan victories, on the theory that a failing president makes it harder for Democrats to argue for a third term [for Hillary].

    (Daily Best, November 4, 2014) 

    Frankly, one could be forgiven the impression that there’s a direct correlation between the success of Obama’s policies and the intensity of Republican efforts to undermine his presidency — the welfare of the country, especially its poor, jobless, and uninsured, be damned.

    110226_gingrich_clinton_dole_328_apBut just imagine how much better off the country would be, and how much higher Obama’s job approval would be, if Republicans were even half as interested in working with him as they were in working with Bill Clinton, despite their visceral hatred of him … too. By the same token, though, just imagine how much the Republican narrative (of trying to tar and feather Obama as the worst president in U.S. history) would resonate if Republicans were more successful in their efforts to undermine his policies.

    This only reinforces the racial legacy of Blacks having to be twice as good as Whites to get the same amount of credit (i.e., the other side of affirmative action White folks are loath to acknowledge). Which constrains me to restate my contention that, if Republicans succeed in making Obama a failed president, far too many Whites would consider that reason enough not to vote for another Black to be president for another 100 years….

    In the meantime, here’s to more partisan gridlock, highlighted by Republicans doing all they can to foil implementation of signature initiatives — like healthcare reform, immigration reform, and normalizing relations with Cuba. These initiatives, coupled with a booming economy, seem bound to seal Obama’s legacy as a truly transformative president.

    But nothing could be more vexing to them than Republican-leaning polls showing that, despite their efforts, Obama’s job approval still matches that of their patron saint, the transformative Ronald Reagan, at this point in his presidency.

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  • Saturday, December 27, 2014 at 7:39 AM

    RIP Joe. You were so beautiful…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Singer-songwriter Joe Cocker, known for his distinct, bluesy voice and his heartfelt renditions of Beatles classics, died in his Colorado home on Monday following a battle with lung cancer…

    Cocker’s rendition of the Starr-sung Beatles classic “With a Little Help From My Friends” – later immortalized as the theme song from The Wonder Years – became one of his most enduring hits, along with covers of the Beatles’ “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” and Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful.” Cocker also scored a Number One hit in 1982 for his An Officer and a Gentleman duet with Jennifer Warnes, “Up Where We Belong,” which went on to win a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal as well as the Best Original Song at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.

    (Rolling Stone, December 22, 2014)

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  • Friday, December 26, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    A Black James Bond? No, Hell No!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    images (4)The latest batch of leaked Sony e-mails includes an exchange between executives on the prospect of Black actor Idris Elba playing James Bond – after Daniel Craig ends his stint. But, far from the embarrassment other leaks caused, this leak has incited near-universal excitement.

    What I find most interesting, however, is that it betrays earlier leaks, which outed these very same executives, especially Chairman Amy Pascal, as a bunch of closeted Hollywood racists. But this irony seems lost on those who are now all atwitter over Elba as Bond.

    Meanwhile, because Sony lawyer David Boies issued a desist-or-else threat, which, I assure you, has more bite than Kim Jung-un’s bark, no reputable news organization dares to publish the e-mails at issue. This is why we’re being treated only to reports about them:

    The Sony e-mail leak revealed a suggestion by executive Amy Pascal to bring in a new – and groundbreaking – face to star as the next James Bond: Idris Elba. With Daniel Craig’s days as 007 numbered in the movie’s franchise (he is contracted to shoot one more film), Elba as a replacement is a very huge, and possible, deal.

    (Vibe, December 24, 2014)

    splash-rush-1224Unsurprisingly, conservative shock jock Rush Limbaugh, the most popular radio talk-show host in the Western Hemisphere, seized this opportunity to go on a politically incorrect, ratings-generating, viral-making rant against the blackening of this iconic movie character.

    Equally unsurprising is that I might be the only Black person willing to publicly cast his lot with Limbaugh in this case. But, lest anyone thinks we are of like minds in any other respect, let me hasten to clarify with this excerpt from “Black Players Deny Limbaugh Membership in NFL Owners Club,” October 16 2009:

    In his 1996 bestselling book, Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, former comedian Al Franken, now the junior U.S. senator from Minnesota, exposed (with eviscerating humor) the galling hypocrisy and brazen lies that permeate the conservative gospel Rush Limbaugh preaches on his radio talk show every day.

    For example, even though thrice-divorced, Limbaugh never betrays any hint of appreciation for the hypocrisy inherent in his self-righteous fulminations on family values.

    Therefore, it is not at all surprising that, even though he belongs to the all-white Everglades Country Club, Limbaugh is now hurling moral indignation at those who rallied to deny him membership in the NFL owners club.

    All of which means that, despite surgical weight loss (no doubt in vain hope of pleasing his new 31-year-old girlfriend), Limbaugh (58) is still what Al Franken called him a few years ago: a big fat idiot.

    ___________________

    Incidentally, Limbaugh has since regained most, if not all, of the weight….

    Anyway, with that weighty clarification established, here in part is what he said about Elba playing Bond:

    James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming. He was white and Scottish…

    [N]ow [they are] suggesting that the next James Bond should be … a Black Briton (sic) … but that’s not who James Bond is and I know it’s racist to probably point this out.

    (E News, December 23, 2014)

    To be fair, Limbaugh spewed this half in jest, noting for emphasis (or laughs) that Elba playing Bond would be every bit as ludicrous as George Clooney playing Barack Obama or Kate Hudson playing Michelle Obama.

    Still, one must at least acknowledge the apples-and-oranges distinction between taking such cross-racial license with fictional characters like James Bond and doing so with non-fictional characters like Barack Obama.

    all_of_the_james_bonds_by_the3ninjakids-d5n8kwl

    Not to mention the ignorance Limbaugh betrays by insisting that only a Scotsman should play Bond. After all, of the actors who have played him, only Sean Connery, the original Bond, is in fact Scottish – in accordance with Fleming’s total concept.

    Ironically, it speaks volumes that even a self-professed Bond fanatic like Limbaugh seems oblivious to this fact. Because, in betraying this ignorance, he unwittingly demonstrates why, even with iconic fictional characters, it’s a lot easier (for obvious historical and cultural reasons) to draw red lines between black and white skin than between Scottish and English nationality or brown and blue eyes. The latter, of course, reflects the creative license producers took in casting Craig – whose relatively short stature also does not comport with Fleming’s total concept.

    Which brings me to the naiveté, if not fallacy, inherent in Elba thinking that there’s no difference between a Black playing Bond and a Brit playing him:

    I just don’t want to be the black James Bond. Sean Connery wasn’t the Scottish James Bond, and Daniel Craig wasn’t the blue-eyed James Bond, so if I played him, I don’t want to be called the Black James Bond.

    (NPR, September 28, 2011)

    Frankly, casting a Black actor would require too much suspension of disbelief for anyone who knows anything about the zeitgeist in which Bond was born, and still thrives. To say nothing of the wanton disrespect to Fleming’s oeuvre, or the insult to reasonable expectations of existing fans, it would entail.

    But, in the event vainglory compels him to play the role (as he seems all too eager to do), Elba should at least appreciate that whining about being called the Black James Bond would smack too much of wanting to have his cake and eat it too.

    Daniel_Craig__1609008a

    That said, I prefer to emphasize my opposition by noting that Idris Elba playing James Bond would be every bit as ludicrous as Michael Fassbender playing John Shaft, despite rumors that he might be anatomically correct for the part in at least one respect….

    What’s more, I refuse to believe, and Elba should be loath to affirm, that it is so untenable for Hollywood to create iconic Black characters that it has to cast Black actors to play firmly established White ones.

    The insult to Black pride inherent in this prospect should also give pause to those situational racists at Sony. For I can think of nothing more exploitative (in so many respects) than the inevitable marketing of the first Black James Bond as if he were worthy of as much “groundbreaking” acclaim as the first Black president of the United States.

    So, instead of playing along, Elba should at least challenge Sony executives to greenlight a Bond-like character for him to play. Indeed, if Hollywood has become so bereft of creativity, Sony executives could turn John Luther, the detective Elba popularized on TV, into a movie star to rival James Bond or Jason Bourne. Hell, they could even introduce him as John Luther 009, the mysterious, unnamed MI6 agent Fleming refers to in Thunderball. (Contrary to popular belief, agents 001 through 007 are already named characters….)

    But Elba as Bond? No, hell no!

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  • Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 7:21 AM

    Pope Rebukes Vatican, Redeems Himself

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Just last week, I condemned Pope Francis for denying the Dalai Lama’s request for an audience to appease the Chinese.

    Not since Peter denied Jesus, thrice, has there been a more craven (and venal) case of one holy man denying another.

    (“In Denying Dalai Lama, Pope more Politician than Pontiff,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 15, 2014)

    Well, I am happy to report that the Pope has now redeemed himself.

    Ironically, redemption came in the annual Christmas message he delivered yesterday before the Curia, the governing body of the Holy See that governs the worldwide Catholic Church.

    No doubt, when prelates congregated at the Vatican for this message, they expected to hear traditional words of good tidings and great joy. What they heard instead was an unprecedented rebuke of their pastoral temperament and ministrations, which Francis decried as the “15 Ailments of the Curia.”

    ap436940904363_slide-7a7d852a3e5fc4e2906cd228762f00df4c932ebc-s800-c85

    They were not amused.

    Pope Francis issued a blistering critique Monday of the Vatican bureaucracy that serves him, denouncing how some people lust for power at all costs, live hypocritical double lives and suffer from ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s’ that has made them forget they’re supposed to be joyful men of God…

    Francis started off his list with the ‘ailment of feeling immortal, immune or even indispensable:’

    Then one-by-one he went on: being vain; wanting to accumulate things; having a ‘hardened hear;’ wooing superiors for personal gain; having a ‘funereal face’ and being too ‘rigid, tough and arrogant,’ especially toward underlings — a possible reference to the recently relieved Swiss Guard commander said to have been too tough on his recruits for Francis’ tastes.

    (The Associated Press, December 22, 2014)

    Amen.

    7d74f0a02c678e12af0f315cba6170a2.560x538x1Granted, this expansion of the “seven deadly sins” is a far cry from the “95 theses” Martin Luther published in 1517 on nepotism, usury, indulgences, and other clerical abuses, which inspired the Protestant Reformation. Still, it easily constitutes the most damning internal critique of the Catholic Church since then.

    What’s more, I’m sure the putative princes among the prelates (aka the cardinals) never felt more dressed down than when this pope scolded them – not only for behaving like teenage girls, but for being possessed of their mean girl mentality as well.

    That said, how’s this for a confessional: My cynicism was such that I did not think Francis stood a snowball’s chance in Hell of ushering in any of his venerated changes, which he preached about during the honeymoon days of his pontificate.

    The prevailing wisdom is that Bergoglio chose Francis as his papal name because he intends to return the Church back to its basic mission of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted — in honor of St. Francis of Assisi who was a bone fide champion of the poor…

    Is Pope Francis going to instruct the Curia to redistribute what remains of the Church’s ostentatious wealth, after settling child-sex abuse cases, to caring for the poor? I don’t think so…

    He might instruct the cardinals (aka the ‘princes’ of the Church for Christ’s sake) to follow his example by giving up their fancy apartments, cooks, and chauffeured limousines.  But I suspect cardinals will be even less willing to follow the pope’s instruction in this respect than lay Catholics have been to follow the cardinals’ instruction with respect to contraception.

    Of course, that the pope is only doing what Jesus would indicates how much leaders of the Catholic Church have perverted and corrupted their holy mission.

    (“Habemus Papam: Hail Francis,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 13, 2013)

    But he has already proven me wrong in many respects. Most notably, he has:

    • Rebranded Catholicism as a religion of shepherds tending to their flock; as opposed to one of priests looking for boys to … pluck.
    • Appointed bishops to key positions to help transform the ethos of the Curia – from a Machiavellian pursuit of power and status, to a monastic dedication to worship and service; and
    • Created a new Secretariat for the Economy to ensure that, even if some high priests want to continue living like princes, regular and comprehensive audits will prevent them from using church money to do so.

    scolaExcept that this compels even me to pray for Francis, especially mindful as I am of alleged plots to assassinate the pope:

    Claims of a bizarre plot to assassinate Pope Benedict XVI are reverberating through Italy in what observers say signals the latest twist in an increasingly cutthroat internal Vatican power dispute…

    Labelled ‘strictly confidential for the Holy Father’, the detailed letter reports several conversations that Cardinal Paolo Romeo, the archbishop of Palermo, allegedly had with Italian businessmen in Beijing on a trip last November during which he predicted the pope would die within 12 months and suggested his replacement would be Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan.

    (London Guardian, February 10, 2012)

    Scola the Italian is still waiting to be made il papa. And, at 73, time is running out….

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  • Monday, December 22, 2014 at 6:23 AM

    Winnie Claims ‘Nelson Swindled and Betrayed Me’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, I don’t see how anyone with any common sense can still think I was wrong to denounce Winnie years ago.

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

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

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

    (“Who the Hell Does Winnie Mandela Think She Is?!” The iPINIONS Journal, July 3, 2013)

    242F769500000578-0-image-a-2_1419095227430I have written many commentaries lamenting Winnie’s metamorphosis from the putative mother of South Africa to its version of Ma Barker (think Mafia donna). But even I was shocked and appalled four years ago, when she publicly damned Mandela as a money-grubbing sellout who had let all Black South Africans down.

    Here is an excerpt from “Nelson Mandela Is a Traitor and an Albatross,” March 9, 2010, in which I put her unforgivable betrayal into context:

    Truth be told, there was always a disconnect between Winnie Mandela’s behavior and the Joan-of-Arc vestments she wore during the last throes of Apartheid rule in South Africa…

    But anti-Apartheid supporters in the West overlooked her intemperate, boorish, and even murderous ways because we considered her a rebel with a cause…

    In any event, I suspect most of us were finally disabused of all hope that she would ever reconcile her behavior with those vestments, when it became clear that neither marriage to a freed Nelson Mandela nor the Black rule for which she struggled so heroically was enough to satiate her promiscuous political ambition.

    Therefore, it was clearly just a matter of time before spiteful bile came pouring out of this woman scorned – presumably not only by Nelson (who divorced her in 1996), but also by the new Black leadership (which has refused to honor her as the ‘mother of the nation’ in ways she no doubt expected).

    Well, here comes the bile. It flows from an interview conducted by Nadira Naipaul (wife of internationally acclaimed Trinidadian writer V.S. Naipaul), excerpts of which were published yesterday in the London newspaper The Evening Standard.

    Here are just some of the things Winnie is now saying about Mandela – a man who, by all accounts, wore the vestments of a political saint and savior as well as any mortal ever could:

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

    Mandela let us down… I cannot forgive him for going to receive the Nobel with his jailer de Klerk. Hand in hand they went.

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

    Except that the torrent of criticism I’ve received for daring to denounce Winnie has been almost as dismaying as her record of misdeeds, which incited my commentaries.

    Mind you, it would be one thing if that criticism were limited to snarky tweets from twits, which so often pass for public debate these days. But having informed friends and colleagues among those criticizing gave me pause.

    Which is why I wonder what these more formidable defenders of Winnie’s reputation have to say now that she’s pissing all over Mandela’s grave … while claiming title to it.

    ANCYL President Malema gestures during his appearance at the Johannesburg courtAfter all, she’s not only continuing her scorched-earth quest for the international fame, dynastic family, and personal fortune she forfeited decades ago; she’s also serving as godmother to political thugs (calling themselves Economic Freedom Fighters) who are doing all they can to turn South Africa into the dysfunctional mess neighboring Zimbabwe has become:

    Just one year after his death, Nelson Mandela’s controversial ex-wife Winnie is launching a vicious legal battle, saying the former South African president swindled her out of her rightful inheritance – 250 acres of his ancestral homeland that includes his final resting place…

    Accusing Mandela of ‘land fraud’ and ‘betrayal’, the case will inflame tensions right to the top of the country’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC).

    Last week, launching her legal bid to have the land returned to her, she claimed the transfer to Mandela was carried out ‘under a cloud of darkness and secrets’ and that, although she expected nothing from his will, she did not expect to be cheated out of what was ‘rightfully’ hers.

    (Daily Mail, December 21, 2014)

    Alas, with Winnie competing with his children and grandchildren to profit off his legacy, I fear Nelson Mandela may never rest in peace.

    But I rest my case.

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  • Saturday, December 20, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    The Tsar Wears No Clothes…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Saturday, December 20, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    The Sony Chicken Picture Show…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Friday, December 19, 2014 at 8:05 AM

    Boycott Sony (and Other Studios Too)!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This boycott is not about some silly movie, The Interview, which ends with the exploding head of North Korea’s tin-pot dictator, Kim Jung-un.

    • boycottIt’s about Sony making a mockery of America’s vaunted and enviable freedoms – of speech and expression – by pulling it under dubious threats from anonymous hackers.
    • It’s about major theater chains, like Regal, AMC, and Cinemark, doing the same by deciding not to run it even if Sony had the balls to release it.
    • It’s about other major studios, like Universal, Warner Bros, and 21st Century Fox, doing the same by refusing to sign a petition (being circulated by no less a star than George Clooney) in support 0f Sony’s right to release it. This, of course, betrays the foreboding fact that these studios would cave in under similar threats too.
    • It’s about these studios being so willing to make a mockery of our freedoms that Paramount even denied permission for appropriately defiant movie theaters to re-release its 2004 comedy Team America, which parodies Jung-un’s father in similar fashion. They would have you believe they’re willing to do so because they are concerned about hackers blowing you up in the theater – “9/11-style. As if implementing more security measures is as foreign to them as implementing more democratic freedoms is to Kim Jung-un. Whereas, in truth, they’re doing so in a venal, cowardly, irresponsible and, ultimately, self-defeating effort to “protect shareholder interests” and spare themselves the embarrassment more leaked e-mails would inflict. Indeed, if they did not fear hackers leaking more e-mails by top executives dissing A-list actors and reveling in racist banter, which is clearly bad for business, far from caving in, Sony and theater chains would probably be welcoming these threats as good box office promotion….

    For these reasons, to say nothing of their untenable implications, I hereby call for a national boycott – not just of Sony’s movies, but of all movies … period!

    Do not set foot in a theater this holiday season. And stay away — not only until Sony reverses its decision and releases this movie, but also until other studios issue a public pledge never to cave in to such threats ever again.

    Let us show these spineless studios and equally spineless theater chains that they have far more to fear from indignant movie fans than from anonymous hackers (especially if their paymasters are in fact the humorless thugs who run North Korea – as the FBI now contends).

    Related commentaries:
    Crying shame: Sony

  • Friday, December 19, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    Putin Blames America for Russia’s Aggression

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Russian President Vladimir Putin’s year-end press conferences are becoming more like theatre performances every year.

    1298055019-spalding-gray

    In fact, I got the impression watching his three-hour show yesterday that it was worthy of actor Spalding Gray’s four-hour, one-man show, Swimming to Cambodia.

    Except that, there is probably more truth in Gray’s theatrical script than there ever is in Putin’s political spin.

    Russian President Putin attends his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow

    In this case, Putin strutted and fretted his hours up on the stage mostly blaming the United States for all that ails Russia. You know: a rouble plummeting in value, foreign companies competing with rich Russians to divest as much as quickly as possible, and falling oil prices making the economic foundation of his highly touted Novorossiya seem like quicksand.

    But Putin blaming the United States for Russia’s economic woes is rather like Nixon blaming the Soviet Union for Watergate.

    Remarkably, even when Putin blurted out a relatively factual and cogent argument, he promptly undermined it by weaving it into a larger theme that could only make sense in the parallel universe he’s trying to create in Russia.

    For example, here is what Putin said about the obscene amount of money the United States spends on military defense:

    The budget of our defense ministry for the next year has increased, in dollars it is about $50 billion. The Pentagon budget is almost 10 times bigger…

    [A]nd you want to say we are the aggressors?

    (Channel 4 News, December 18, 2014)

    I sympathize. In fact, here is how I presaged Putin’s main point years ago (albeit with respect to China, not Russia):

    American foreign policy has long been characterized by insidious hypocrisy and egregious double standards. And nothing demonstrates these features quite like the Bush Administration insinuating that China is becoming a regional and international menace because it has budgeted $45 billion in military expenditures for fiscal 2007. After all, Bush has budgeted $625 billion to feed America’s military industrial complex for this same year.

    (“Who Says America Is Concerned about China’s Booming Military,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 11, 2007)

    I disagree, however, with Putin’s insinuation that Russia’s comparatively small budget completely refutes any claim that it is an aggressor.

    For this is rather like a scavenging hyena devouring the carcass of a gazelle, then accusing a plant-eating elephant of doing so just because the elephant is, well, 1000 times bigger.

    What’s more, it was the undisputed record of Russia’s aggression (not just in Ukraine, but Georgia too) that forced the United States and Europe to impose the sanctions that are contributing so much to its economic woes.

    This is why Putin analogizing Russia to a big bear just feeding itself and protecting its territory was the most self-flattering and self-delusional part of his very self-indulgent media performance yesterday.

    The reality, of course, is that sanctions and the plummeting price of oil have him looking now like a preening czar wearing no clothes. Moreover, I fear that, like any bully, Putin will feel compelled to flex his military muscles (by picking on one of his weaker, non-NATO neighbors) just to cloak himself again in the aura of a superpower He-Man: beware Transnistria, Moldova, Georgia.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 7:04 AM

    A Crying Shame: Sony Pulls ‘The Interview’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 9.54.54 PMI must confess that I appreciated hackers exposing the racist banter Sony Chairman Amy Pascal and über producer Scott Rudin engaged in – as “Sony: Leaked E-mails Expose Big-Shot Hollywood Liberals as Closet Racists,” December 12, 2014, will attest.

    But I never thought those hackers were willing or able to do anything more than cause Sony endless embarrassment (by releasing more private e-mails) and financial woes (by pirating or spoiling unreleased films).

    download (8)Imagine my shock, therefore, when Sony pulled The Interview from distribution, citing manifestly incredible threats to blow up theaters if it did not:

    With theater chains defecting en masse, Sony Pictures Entertainment has pulled the planned Christmas Day release of The Interview.

    In announcing the decision to cancel the holiday debut, Sony hit back at the hackers who threatened movie theaters and moviegoers and who have terrorized the studio and its employees for weeks.

    ‘Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale – all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like,’ the statement reads.

    (Variety, December 17, 2014)

    To be clear, The Interview is nothing more than a slapstick comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as two wannabe reporters the CIA enlists to assassinate the president of North Korea, Kim Jung-un. But, if North Korea is making these threats, it would not be the first case of a different culture taking Western humor deadly serious….

    Mind you, I would understand a studio head, like Pascal, pulling a movie because hackers were blackmailing her (privately) with threats to release material even more compromising than racist e-mails (like a video of her pooch nuzzling her cooch, for example). Even so, though, you’d have to be a gullible fool to think that, by caving in to their demands, these hackers will spare you any further embarrassing leaks. Moreover, it strikes me as utterly preposterous to do so simply because anonymous hackers were hurling the kinds of Chicken-Little threats that have made North Korea a laughing stock on the world stage.

    Kim_Jong_Il_TANot to mention that the congenitally irreverent creators of South Park got away with portraying Jung-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, in an even more unflattering light in the 2004 marionette comedy, Team America: World Police. This, incidentally, is why I find these threats so incredible….

    Frankly, it’s far more likely that a disgruntled Edward Snowden-like insider is behind this hack and, for obvious reasons, is just routing blame to North Korea. And, it speaks volumes about the kind of propaganda North Korea thrives on that it is accepting this blame as if it were a national Christmas present.

    Whatever the case, this reaction by Sony and theater chains is as incomprehensible as it is unsustainable.

    After all, what happens if/when hackers issue similar threats against another Sony picture, or against that of a different studio? Beyond this, what happens if/when hackers threaten to blow up several NFL stadiums during Sunday games (simultaneously al-Qaeda style)?

    It’s plainly untenable to think that others would act in the cowardly, irresponsible, shortsighted, and, ultimately, self-defeating way Sony Pictures and theater chains have in this case.

    end

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 9:44 p.m.

  • Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Obama Takes Historic Steps Towards Lifting Cuban Embargo!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have written many commentaries on America’s 50-year embargo against Cuba. Here, for example, are excerpts from two of them in which I proffered the moral imperative for the United States to lift it.

    • fidelb-720814From “Dancing on Castro’s Grave Is Not Only Unseemly; It’s Premature,” August 2, 2007:

    Most of us in the Americas are acutely aware that Exhibit A for the patent double standards in U.S. foreign policy is not America’s relationship with Palestine; it’s America’s relationship with Cuba.

    Moreover, all fair-minded and progressive-thinking Americans lament that, for almost 45 years, U.S. foreign policy throughout this region has paid undue deference to a cabal of Cuban exiles in Miami – whose political sensibilities are guided by nothing more than their visceral, vindictive and, ultimately, self-defeating hatred of Fidel Castro.

    • And from “European Union Lifts Sanctions against Cuba. United States Will Follow … Eventually,” June 23, 2008:

    Advocates for America’s puerile, inhumane and hypocritical policy towards Cuba invariably cite Fidel Castro’s dictatorship as justification for sustained hostilities. But all one has to do is cite China – with whose dictators the U.S. courts a very beneficial relationship – to dismiss this justification as demonstrably specious…

    Long before his first trip to Cuba in 1998, the Pope [John Paul II] decried America’s policy towards Cuba as ‘oppressive, unjust, and ethically unacceptable…’ Specifically, he pronounced that ‘imposed isolation strikes the people indiscriminately, making it ever more difficult for the weakest to enjoy the bare essentials of decent living, things such as food, health and education.’

    More to the point, though, while other pundits were waxing either theoretical or completely hopeless about this prospect, here is the political predicate I posited for the United States to finally lift the embargo:

    I am convinced that, if re-elected, Obama will seal his legacy by lifting the embargo and normalizing relations with Cuba.

    (“Fifth Summit of the Americas: Managing Expectations, The iPINIONS Journal, April 17, 2009)

    B5EqmhuCcAAIj6UWell, thusly re-elected, he is now vindicating my expectations, and sealing his legacy:

    Today the United States of America is changing it relationship with the people of Cuba … we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries…

    Consider that for more than 35 years we’ve had relations with China – a far larger country also governed by a communist party…

    To those who oppose the steps I’m announcing today … I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.

    (“President Obama Statement on Cuba,” C-SPAN, December 17, 2014)

    VbTms.AuSt.91Obama delineated the many steps he intends to take to implement this policy shift immediately, especially with respect to diplomatic relations, financial transactions, communications, travel … and trade.

    Out of respect, he urged Congress to come to its senses and pass legislation to formally lift the embargo. But this is no more necessary for Obama to normalize relations with Cuba than Congress coming to its senses and passing legislation to formally apologize for slavery was for President Lincoln to abolish slavery. (Congress finally apologized in 2008  – almost 150 years after Lincoln took his steps).

    For its part, Cuba agreed, among other things, to continue political reforms, release scores of political prisoners (from a list the United States provided), and allow Cubans unfettered access to the Internet.

    RUBIO-videoSixteenByNine540Unsurprisingly, Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is leading the chorus of those insisting that Cuba has not implemented enough democratic reforms to “deserve” normalized relations with the United States.

    But, as indicated above, all one has to do is challenge those folks to cite what reforms made China deserving, especially given that no less a person than Rubio himself voted just this year to support normalized relations with this unabashedly communist dictatorship.

    They exclaim that America is getting nothing in exchange.

    But, putting aside the imperial and mercantile arrogance inherent in this exclamation, all one has to do is challenge them to cite what benefits America has gotten in exchange for the 50-year embargo they still support.

    Frankly, (mostly White) Miami Cubans care more about continuing their legacy of hatred and resentment against the Castros than about ending the legacy of poverty and isolation (mostly Black) Cubans – who were too poor to escape – have endured.

    But, like Obama intimated, those who oppose normalizing relations with Cuba, after decades of the same old sanctions, fit the Einsteinian definition of insanity.

    That said, I would be remiss not to note that these are historic steps every president from Lyndon B. Johnson to George W. Bush wanted to, but dared not, take. Which is why, like healthcare reform, this milestone development demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt the boldness and effectiveness of Obama’s transformational leadership.

    Incidentally, anyone who thinks Obama is normalizing relations with Cuba just because it released two American spies probably also thinks he championed healthcare reform just to provide poor women easy access to abortions.

    140316-obama-putin-jms-1716_8738df87611b8c672fae8d824b332866No less noteworthy, though, is that this move makes fools of the pundits who have been ridiculing Obama – as an upstart playing checkers on the world stage against Vladimir Putin as a master playing chess.

    Not least because all Putin has to show for his ham-handed moves in Eastern Ukraine is history’s biggest money pit in Crimea, a national economy that is hurtling into recession, and Russia now as reviled and isolated, for all intents and purposes, as North Korea.

    vladimir-putin2All this has befallen his country as a direct result of Obama’s deft move to marshal European nations to join the United States in imposing crippling sanctions to punish Putin for his Hitlerian aggression. And, significantly, Obama did it without resorting to any of the Cold War rhetoric and bullying military maneuvers Putin has been relying on to make himself appear strong.

    Which brings me to the geostrategic timing of this move. After all, the truly humbling irony should not be lost on anyone that Obama is bringing Cuba in from the cold with one hand, while pushing its former Communist patron, Russia, out in the cold with the other hand. And, trust me, Cuba is eager to grasp America’s hand in friendship as it jumps from Russia’s Cold War sinking ship….

    In an address on Cuba-US relations broadcast on national radio and television on Wednesday, Cuban President Raul Castro said that US President Barack Obama’s decision to normalise relations between the two countries deserves the respect and acknowledgement of the Cuban people.

    (Caribbean News Now, December 17, 2014)

    So who’s the master now, bitches? Hell, this (chess) move might make Obama finally worthy of that affirmative-action Nobel Peace Prize he won five years ago. After all, Barack Obama normalizing ties with Cuba is, arguably, every bit as consequential as Jimmy Carter brokering peace between Egypt and Israel. No?

    Hail Obama!

    CARICOM-Single-Market-and-EconomyFinally, I feel constrained to remind my compatriots down in the Caribbean of this abiding fringe concern:

    I find it ironic, if not misguided, that CARICOM leaders traveled to Cuba – in an unprecedented show of unity amongst themselves and solidarity with the Castro regime – for this elusive purpose.

    After all, my call [to lift the embargo] was always tempered by my hope that a fully integrated CARICOM would be firmly established to compete economically (and politically) in the region with a Cuba unbound by the perennial restrictions the U.S. has placed on its growth…

    [T]he irony seems completely lost on our leaders that they were attending a summit to discuss economic ties with a country that not only poses a far greater threat to their economies than the global financial crisis, but also looms as yet another cause for more zero-sum infighting among themselves (in the absence of integration).

    (“CARICOM’s Ironic, If Not Misguided, Call to Lift Cuban Embargo,” Caribbean News Now, December 12, 2008)

    Alas, integrating our economies into a Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) seems even less likely today than six years ago, when I expressed this existential concern.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    Massacre in Pakistan Shows Muslims Suffer Most from Islamic Terrorism

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The entire world watched in horror on Monday as police stormed a café in Australia to take out one Islamic terrorist – who was holding 17 people hostage. Miraculously, despite all of the terror that incident inflicted, only two innocent people were killed.

    slide_389832_4720052_compressedNow, just a day later, comes this humbling reminder that, when it comes to Islamic terrorism, those who practice Islam have far more to fear:

    Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing at least 141 people, mostly children, before Pakistani officials declared a military operation to clear the school over.

    The overwhelming majority of the victims were students at the school, which instructs grades 1-10. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the assault and rushed to Peshawar to show his support for the victims.

    (The Associated Press, December 16, 2014)

    It speaks volumes, however, that American media are dedicating more coverage today to people now mourning in Australia than to people still wailing in Pakistan. Hell, even rank media speculation about another presidential matchup between a Bush (Jeb) and a Clinton (Hillary) is cutting into coverage of this massacre in Pakistan.

    To be fair, though, such terrorist attacks are nothing new in Pakistan; whereas this was the first such attack in Australia. In fact, Pakistan has suffered the equivalent of ten 9/11 terrorist attacks since, well, 9/11.

    President Asif Ali Zardari vowed to continue Pakistan’s fight against militancy while Taliban attackers laid siege to a police station in Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. ‘Terrorists violate both human and divine values by inflicting death and destruction on fellow human beings. They have no religion,’ he said.

    Zardari said that militant attacks had killed 35,000 people in Pakistan, 5,000 of them law enforcement personnel, and caused material damage totalling $67 billion.

    (The International New York Times, June 26, 2011)

    article-2875729-241B256A00000578-999_636x382It is particularly distressing that innocent women and children are so often the targets of Islamic terrorists, who proudly proclaim to kill in the name of Allah.

    Not to mention even more deadly Muslim-on-Muslim attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those now inflicting terror throughout several countries in Africa.

    In any event, the routine nature of this latest terrorist attack might explain the lack of sustained media coverage. After all, such attacks in Pakistan have become even more commonplace than school shootings in the United States.

    But, as I stated in my commentary on the terrorist attack in Australia, I see no point in commenting on the medieval, dogmatic and bloodthirsty ideology that evidently inspires these terrorists. What’s more, I fear law-enforcement authorities will prove no more capable of stopping terrorist attacks in Pakistan than they are of stopping school shootings here.

    Which is why all we can do is send our thoughts and prayers out to all those affected in this case.

    That said, I’m acutely aware that there’s nothing Islamic about terrorism. Islam, by definition, is “a religion of peace” after all.

    The problem, however, is that far too many political leaders in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have sanctioned all manner of terrorism, including the subjugation of women, in the name of Allah; while far too many religious leaders in those countries have failed to condemn it – out of fear, I suppose, of going to jail or losing their head.

    islam_religion_of_peace_022More generally, there’s the Taliban-like behavior far too many purportedly mainstream Muslims exhibit:

    Muslims have been engaged in what is fast becoming an ironic and perverse religious rite; namely, defending perceived offenses to Islam and the Prophet Muhammad by rioting, looting, and threatening to kill!

    Their latest acts of holy vigilantism were triggered – unwittingly, one assumes – by Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on a fourteenth-century Christian emperor’s (evidently perspicacious and prescient) condemnation of the fanatical worship the Prophet Muhammad inspires…

    It is undeniable that what most people see today of the religion Muhammad brought is precisely the evil and inhuman things Emperor Paleologos condemned over 500 years ago. And, the irony is not lost on many of us that the bellicose way Muslims have reacted to the Pope’s comments only affirms the emperor’s condemnation.

    (“Pope Benedict Committed No Sin with Comments on Muhammad, and He Should Not Apologize,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 16, 2007)

    Perhaps most troubling of all, though, there’s the prevailing suspicion that the country’s notoriously perfidious Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, the ISI, cultivated the jihadi menace the “Pakistani Taliban” has wreaked with impunity for decades. And, that the ISI did so simply to undermine the enviable influence India and the United States wield throughout the region, including in Pakistan itself.

    For these reasons, I’m obliged to note that there might be a little reaping what you sow in Muslim-on-Muslim violence … in the name of Allah.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, December 15, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorizes Australia

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A gunman who claims to have four bombs is holding up to 20 people hostage in complete darkness at a café in Sydney’s financial district…

    The siege began at 10am (local time) when [the lone wolf] – who was previously known to both Sydney police and media – entered the Lindt cafe in Martin Place carrying a pump-action shotgun.

    Shortly afterwards, hostages were seen holding a black flag with white Arabic text similar to those displayed by Islamic State.

    (Sky News, December 15, 2014)

    2411FADA00000578-2873855-image-a-71_1418657623776The “Breaking News” is that police stormed the café after nearly 17 hours of futile negotiations. Never mind that negotiating with a Muslim terrorist is like swimming in quicksand.

    Reports are that, in the conflagration that ensued, the gunman and two hostages were killed, and several others injured. But it would not surprise me to learn that the police did all of the killing and injuring – given what seemed like the thousand rounds of bullets they fired just to kill this one, lone wolf.

    Meanwhile, the opportunity clearly presented itself numerous times throughout this standoff for a sniper to take him out with one bullet….

    In any event, this obliges me to repeat my view that, post 9/11, it’s almost always better to take one’s chances by fighting back as soon as one of these situations arises. For example, I can’t imagine terrorists attempting to hijack an airplane today and having all passengers just cower in fear and let them have their way.

    240DDFC100000578-2873855-Terrified_customers_and_employees_were_among_those_standing_with-a-41_1418607805775The same categorical imperative applies to terrorists attempting to hijack a café or any other place of public accommodation: think not to flee in fright, but to stay and fight! And this should be the case especially if it’s just one “lone wolf” against many able-bodied men (and women).

    This reflexive action of fighting back (as most of us would if a stranger suddenly slapped us in the face) would probably have the effect of shocking the terrorist into such paralysis that it would be as if he were hit by a stun gun.

    That said:

    It must be understood that no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing our governments can do to prevent such attacks. That Americans reacted yesterday as if those explosions went off in Washington or New York should compel Westerners to focus on calming our collective nerves, instead of fretting about (or worse, trying to figure out) the motivation for and timing of terrorist attacks by Islamic fanatics.

    (“7/7 Terror Attacks in London,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 8, 2005)

    And:

    I don’t know why the media always reward these psychopaths by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds.

    You’d think that – given the record of these psychotic and vainglorious episodes… – we would have figured out by now that the best way to discourage them is by focusing our attention on the victims and limiting what we say about the [terrorists] to: May God have mercy on your soul as you burn in Hell!

    (“Massacre in Omaha,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 7, 2007)

    Finally:

    I feel obliged to repeat my wonder that such attacks are so relatively rare. Not to mention my oft-stated and abiding fear that only God will help if/when [Islamist groups] deploy not a lone wolf, but packs of wolves to open fire at airports, shopping malls, and/or sports stadiums in the United States (a la Westgate shopping mall in Kenya).

    (“Lone-Wolf Gunman Terrorizes LAX,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 5, 2013)

    My thoughts and prayers go out to all Australians, especially to the families of those directly affected.

    Until the next one then….

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  • Monday, December 15, 2014 at 6:51 AM

    In Denying Dalai Lama, Pope more Politician than Pontiff

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    m_140909ttI have repeatedly denounced world leaders for refusing to meet with the Dalai Lama out of fear of incurring the wrath of China:

    Western leaders have made a mockery of their condemnation of the brutal crackdown on Tibetan monks by heeding China’s warning against meeting with the Dalai Lama in any official capacity. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeased the Chinese by refusing to meet with him at No. 10, choosing instead to meet only at the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This enabled Brown to claim that he was meeting the Dalai Lama ‘in a spiritual rather than political capacity.’

    (“Punishing China for Its Brutal Crackdown on Tibet? Hardly…,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2008)

    I have also lamented that, in each case, nothing but greed for Chinese money explains the hypocrisy inherent in world leaders shunning His Holiness.

    Pope-on-planeBut I never thought I would have cause to denounce Pope Francis as the latest world leader to appease China in this respect. Not least because of the precedent his predecessor Benedict XVI set by granting the Dalai Lama an audience in 2006.

    What’s more, this Pope has cultivated an ascetic reputation based not only on denouncing money as the root of all kinds of evil, but also on living a lifestyle of such Christian modesty, he has shamed many of the putative princes of the Catholic Church (aka the Cardinals) into giving up their imperial appurtenances.

    Yet, now comes this:

    Pope Francis has denied a private audience to the Dalai Lama because it could harm the Holy See’s already fraught relations with China, the Vatican said on Friday.

    The request was declined ‘for obvious reasons concerning the delicate situation’ with China, a Vatican spokesman said…

    The Dalai Lama, in Rome for a meeting of Nobel Peace Prize winners, told Italian media he had approached the Vatican about a meeting but was told it would not be possible.

    (Reuters, December 12, 2014)

    Frankly, not since Peter denied Jesus, thrice, has there been a more craven (and venal) case of one holy man denying another.

    Not to mention the mockery this makes of the mission of this pope’s own Pontifical Council for Interreligious dialogue. After all, just last month, Francis made quite a show of greeting Orthodox and Muslim leaders in Istanbul, and the Vatican hosted a conference on family values in Rome with “leaders from across the religious spectrum,” including Jews … and Buddhists.

    The Worship of MammonWhich constrains me to ask: what does it profit a pope to gain favor with China, but lose favor with God? Especially given that worshipping Mammon instead of God is China’s de facto state religion.

    Sadly, the only thing that explains the hypocrisy inherent in Francis denying the Dalai Lama is that, after decades of corruption at the Vatican bank, The Holy See’s fleeced and tainted finances are forcing it to sell not just its sovereignty to China, but its soul to boot:

    It came as no surprise to me when China began demanding that countries utterly shun the Dalai Lama pursuant to its national interest. Hell, it had become so empowered that it felt entitled to place this demand even on the United States, which (in a profound case of geopolitical irony) had since become China’s biggest debtor nation.

    (“South Africa Joins the Ranks of Countries ‘Selling Its Sovereignty to China,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 3, 2014)

    Meanwhile, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera caused all kinds of consternation last week, when it reported that Francis believes animals will go to heaven. But, when he arrives at The Pearly Gates, I fear Francis will have some ‘splainin’ to do for denying the Dalai Lama.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    My flu shot doesn’t work?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    You may not be in the clear this flu season, even if you’ve already been vaccinated…

    Health officials say this year’s flu vaccine isn’t working as well as expected. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 52% of recent flu samples were not a good match for the current vaccine…

    According to the CDC, the virus has mutated, making the flu vaccine less effective and it’s too late to make any adjustments to the vaccine.

    (FOX News, December 11, 2014)

    Er, what’s up, Doc? When did getting “the right shot” become such a crap shoot…?

    157313_600

  • Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 7:43 AM

    UPDATE: Sony Chairman Amy Pascal Buying Racial Indulgences…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    After weathering one of the most embarrassing days in her career, during which her racially insensitive remarks were disseminated on the Internet, Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal is ready to begin the ‘healing process,’ and reached out to the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

    ‘I’m being proactive,’ the executive tells The Hollywood Reporter. ‘And I want to accept responsibility for these stupid, callous remarks.’

    (Hollywood Reporter, December 12, 2014)

    Except that, if she takes this path to (presumed) racial absolution, Black folks will think Pascal is not only a closeted racist but a shameless cynic to boot.

    jackson-pascal-sharpton-split

    After all, we know all too well that these venal reverends would grant racial indulgences to the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, in a minute, for an extortionate fee, er, contribution (to slush funds operated by Jackson’s practically defunct Rainbow Coalition and Sharpton’s notoriously indebted National Action Network). Pascal knows this all too well … too.

    But only God knows why so many White folks think kissing Jackson’s or Sharpton’s brass ring will wash away the stain of their racism in the eyes of all Black folks. (Come to think of it, at least Rev. Jesse “Hymietown” Jackson can commiserate….)

    download (7)Remember the spectacle radio shock jock Don Imus made of himself in this respect? And I don’t think Imus even has (or had) a racist bone in his body. That he referred to women on the Rutgers Basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” – not in private to one person, but on live radio to millions – would seem to indicate as much.  Never mind that that was a pretty accurate description of at least a couple of their players….

    Of course, neither the reverends nor Pascal could care any less about the insult this path (of least reflection) poses to the racial pride of any self-respecting Black. After all, I don’t know anyone who thinks either one of these race-baiting charlatans wields racial authority over even a few Blacks, the way the pope wields moral authority over more than one billion Catholics.

    Which is why Amy’s penitence will amount to little more than Jackson and Sharpton using moral suasion to extract as many (proverbial) pieces of silver from her as possible. And don’t be surprised if, pursuant to the racial indulgences they dispense, Sony makes quite a show of announcing the hiring of minorities; even though we all know this will amount to nothing more than Sony putting a nominated bagman for each reverend on its payroll.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 6:33 p.m.

  • Friday, December 12, 2014 at 4:07 AM

    Sony: Leaked E-mails Expose Big-Shot Hollywood Liberals as Closeted Racists

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    23F9046800000578-2869917-image-m-5_1418306455431Chattering classes – from Los Angeles to Cannes and all points in between – are all atwitter today about putative Hollywood liberals coming across like Tea Party racists in e-mails, which “anonymous” hackers leaked as part of their ongoing vendetta against Sony Pictures.

    What has so many White liberals expressing “shock, shock” (i.e., instead of looking in the mirror), is an exchange between Sony Chairman Amy Pascal and über producer Scott Rudin, in which they revel in the stereotypical view that Blacks could, if not should, only be interested in films about Blacks … preferably by Blacks.

    maxresdefault

    Except that, in this case, they were trying to determine what films would be appropriate to discuss over dinner with no less a person than the eminently cultured, Ivy-League educated, and Black president of the United States. Yet, after bandying about “Blacks-only” movies like Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave:

    The pair then keep (sic) going, listing as many current films starring Black actors as they can name, including Lee Daniels’ The Butler and two Kevin Hart movies, Think Like a Man and Ride Along … ‘I bet he likes Kevin Hart,’ says Rudin at one point.

    (Daily Mail, December 11, 2014)

    It’s a wonder they did not damn Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever with this faint praise, or suggest that he might prefer popeyes instead of popcorn with his movies … and watermelon of course.

    Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.52.35 AMBut, if you are genuinely shocked by this insight into the “deeply rooted” racist views of White liberals, I am constrained to share this excerpt from “Obama-Day Tuesday: BET Founder Executes Black-on-Black Hit for Hillary,” January 15, 2008:

    As Sen. Ted Kennedy – who recently referred to a Republican Black female judge as an ape – can attest, White liberals will never pay a political price for insulting Blacks – who are either too stupid to realize they’re being insulted or don’t care, or both…

    What is even more disappointing, however, is that Blacks like BET’s Bob Johnson open wide and swallow their pride even when Hillary’s White liberal supporters make racist remarks about Obama: as was the case, for example, when Andrew Cuomo dismissed his campaign strategy in New Hampshire as “shucking and jiving”; and when Bob Kerry insinuated that Obama is a Muslim who was educated at a Jihadist madrassa in Indonesia, even though he knew these were bold-faced lies. Not to mention, just last week, when her husband Bill dismissed the very premise of Obama’s campaign, namely his opposition to the Iraq War, as an uppity fairy tale.

    Incidentally, please don’t be fooled by these political assassins – who hurl stink bombs, and then issue patently cynical statements clarifying or apologizing for their remarks. Also, in this respect, bear in mind that no two people show more indignant sincerity when lying or spinning for political expediency than Bill and Hillary Clinton. And, as between the two of them, Bill has nothing on Hillary.

    120517030533-stanley-obama-story-topTherefore, do not wait to see if their leaked racist e-mails will forced these White liberals to issue perfunctory and plainly disingenuous apologies.

    Wait to see if Obama will coddle them (either tacitly by saying nothing or overtly by accepting their apologies), the way fawning Black liberals like Johnson have always done; or if he will publicly condemn them (by upbraiding them Sista-Soulja style), the way proud Black liberals like me will always do.

    Moreover, beware of the likelihood that e-mail exchanges (to say nothing of private conversations) of this racist nature flow between far too many White liberals — not only in politics and entertainment, but in every context imaginable. But, for a little more insight into Hollywood liberals, consider this about their most celebrated member, George Clooney:

    Alas, it speaks volumes that, almost 50 years later, America not only remains as segregated on Sunday during church services, but seems equally so on Saturday during social occasions. This was brought into stark relief today when pictures of George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin’s wedding party went viral on social and mainstream media.

    But let me hasten to clarify that I really couldn’t care any less who White folks invite to their nuptials. It’s just that, if a putative Hollywood liberal like George can have a wedding party as lily-White as his apparently was, then we must face the sad fact that the wedding hour on Saturday might be the second most segregated hour of America.

    (“Clooney Nuptials Show Saturday Weddings as Segregated as Sunday Services,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 27, 2014)

    Mind you, to be fair to George, his Lebanese mother-in-law would probably have had it no other way…. Still, as Arsenio Hall might say, ‘things that make you go, hmmmm.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama-day Tuesday
    Clooney nuptials
    Racism worse under Obama…

    UPDATE 

    Hollywood big shots apologize

    Less than two hours after I published the above, the Huffington Post published the following (at 1:45 p.m. EST) under the headline “Scott Rudin & Amy Pascal Apologize After Racially Insensitive E-mails About Obama Leak”:

    Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin have apologized after racially insensitive e-mails they sent to each other leaked online as part of a massive hack of Sony Pictures.

    ‘The content of my e-mails were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am,’ Pascal said in a statement provided to the Huffington Post

    In a statement to Deadline.com, Rudin said that while the emails were private correspondence between friends that were ‘written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity,’ he understood the notes were out of line.

    No shit.

    This might seem like a script right out of Hollywood. But I can’t make this stuff up folks.

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 12:07 p.m.

  • Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 6:42 AM

    On CIA Torture: I Was Wrong

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    An exhaustive, five-year Senate investigation of the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects renders a strikingly bleak verdict of a program launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, describing levels of brutality, dishonesty and seemingly arbitrary violence that at times brought even agency employees to moments of anguish.

    The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee delivers new allegations of cruelty in a program whose severe tactics have been abundantly documented, revealing that agency medical personnel voiced alarm that waterboarding methods had deteriorated to ‘a series of near drownings’ and that agency employees subjected detainees to ‘rectal rehydration’ and other painful procedures that were never approved.

    The 528-page document catalogues dozens of cases in which CIA officials allegedly deceived their superiors at the White House, members of Congress, and even sometimes their own peers about how the interrogation program was being run and what it had achieved [‘curveballs’].

    (Washington Post, December 9, 2014)

    Inquisition Tortures

    The above is an overview of the damning indictment the Senate Intelligence Committee laid out against the CIA in a report released yesterday.

    But I should add that, in addition to waterboarding and rectal rehydration/feeding, which involved pureeing food and force-feeding it up the rectum of detainees, CIA interrogation methods included:

    • sleep deprivation for as long as 180 hours (while standing or being frog marched naked);
    • all manner of extreme sensory deprivation; mock executions;
    • standing on broken legs and being hog-tied and strung up in all kinds of stressful/painful positions for inhumane lengths of time; and
    • marathon interrogation sessions (using all manner of threatening language, including threats to rape and kill detainees, and to do the same to their children and mothers).

    And bear in mind that the CIA subjected to these methods far too many detainees who not only had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11, but were not even members of al-Qaeda.

    It is particularly noteworthy that, in a Congress where positions on every issue fall along partisan lines, this report enjoys bipartisan support – with Democrats represented by chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, and Republicans by former presidential nominee and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

    More to the point, though, this report makes such cogent, compelling, and comprehensive reading that I feel compelled to admit that I was wrong to express such categorical support for the interrogation methods it indicts.

    Here, for example, is what I wrote after Obama ordered the CIA to end these interrogation methods just days into his presidency in January 2009:

    Obama’s presidency is now doomed if terrorists pull off another 9/11-style attack. Especially because this would stand in damning contrast to one of the only redeeming features of Bush’s purportedly failed presidency, namely, that he protected the American people from such an attack.

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

    And frankly, I don’t give a damn if, by some subjective application of international law, those techniques amount to torture. It certainly beats the alternative!

    (“CIA Memogate: Protecting the American People or Betraying American Values,” The IPINIONS Journal, April 23, 2009)

    Foremost, my conversion is informed by the fact that I am far more impressed by Obama preventing another 9/11 for six years without torturing people, than I am by Bush doing so for seven years by torturing people. Not to mention that Obama’s six years without such an attack fatally undermines the Bush-era argument that torturing terror suspects was necessary to keep America safe.

    mccain_senateBut, in light of this fact, I was also moved by McCain’s restatement of his longstanding opposition to these interrogation methods. Here, in part, is how he delivered it, like a veritable testimony, on the Senate floor following yesterday’s release (and bear in mind that he’s a former POW who was himself tortured in Vietnam):

    I believe the American people have a right – indeed, a responsibility – to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values…

    I know that victims of torture will … say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering… Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored…

    But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which this report makes clear were neither in the best interests of justice nor our security nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend.

    (C-SPAN, December 9, 2014)

    Some argue that disclosing these secrets will alienate America’s friends and embolden its enemies. Except that this rings hollow in light of the secrets Wikileaks and Edward Snowden disclosed; to say nothing of those the CIA itself disclosed in June 2007 with the declassification of its “Family Jewels,” which included revelations about assassinating foreign leaders, wiretapping journalists, reading private mail to and from China and the Soviet Union, and undermining anti-war activists. Not to mention that hostage-beheading terrorists hardly need incitement to unleash more jihadist rage against Americans.

    To be fair, Republicans on the Committee issued a rebuttal report, in which they maintain not only that the indicted methods do not constitute torture, but that they were indispensable in protecting the United States from another 9/11 attack. In fact, all defenders insist the CIA’s interrogation methods cited in this report do not constitute torture because the Bush Administration signed off on them. The incriminating irony seems lost on them that this is rather like Nixon insisting the activities cited in the particulars of impeachment against him do not constitute high crimes and misdemeanors because he, the president, ordered them.

    Alas, as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might say, the “known knowns … known unknowns … and unknown unknowns” inherent in claims and counterclaims in this respect are such that partisans will be debating the efficacy of these interrogation methods till kingdom come. But I refer you to a November 20, 2005, article in the Los Angeles Times, headlined “How the U.S. Fell Under the Spell of ‘Curveball’, to get a sense of just how willing the CIA is to make exaggerated claims about the efficacy of plainly flawed intelligence … even if the consequence is war (hint: Iraq’s WMDs).

    All the same, I would be guided in this not by what current CIA Director John Brennan says (even though it speaks volumes that he’s littering his defense of the agency with words like “regret … mistakes…abhorrent…unknowable…moving on.” Instead, I would be guided by what former CIA Director David Petraeus says:

    Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. That would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary.

    (ThinkProgress, May 5, 2009)

    In the meantime, I’d rather stand with Feinstein and McCain in defending American values against the presumptions and practices documented in their report, than with those who see nothing wrong with these presumptions and practices, presumably because, for them, America can do no wrong. Indeed, their rebuttal makes one think that these Republicans would argue that the internment of Japanese Americans was indispensable in helping the United States win World War II.

    Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 7.47.24 AMExcept that, while I’m in this confessional mood, I should also confess to developing grave concerns about Obama’s drone policy, which is killing thousands of innocent Muslims in a “clean-hands” effort not to interrogate, but to execute terror suspects. Frankly, it takes a willful suspension of common sense to think that killing terror suspects in drone strikes, with all of the collateral killing and property damage that entails, is more conscionable than torturing them at “black sites,” no matter how morally repugnant the methods used.

    All I can say is: God help Obama’s legacy when a Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee publishes a comprehensive report on his drone policy.

    For the record, I think it’s better to use CIA operatives to infiltrate terror groups to disrupt operations and provide actionable intelligences for Special Forces to capture high-value terror suspects: those captured should be interrogated using the reportedly more humane and effective FBI or Army Field methods; those who resist should be killed in direct combat fashion. But drone strikes should be reserved for clearly identified terrorist training camps or terrorists mobilized in combat formation away from civilian areas.

    In other words, if terrorists are hiding out in residential neighborhoods, where capturing them would entail too much risk, then surveil them until they can be captured or killed under more acceptable conditions.

    poar01_guantanamo0805That said, I agree with Obama that it would serve no national interest to prosecute the interrogators who tortured terror suspects on orders from their CIA handlers.

    After all, those handlers not only gave the interrogators a wink and a nod; but, by keeping Congress and the White House (where these methods were initially green lighted) “in the dark,” they also gave that which all politicians covet in such cases, plausible deniability.

    Moreover, nothing in this report impeaches the prevailing assertion that the sole intent of those implicated (from the interrogator in the field to the president in the White House) was to extract actionable intelligence for one noble purpose: to keep the country safe … no matter how demonstrably misguided that purpose might seem in hindsight.

    So here’s to learning from history, as well as from our own mistakes.

    Related commentaries:
    CIA memogate
    Obama droning terrorists
    CIA family jewels

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 6:22 a.m.

  • Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    Racism Worse Under Obama? Yes, but…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    7-10-12-obama-cedar-rapids-t1lrgMany people are expressing shock, dismay, and disillusionment that racism in the United States has worsened since Obama’s purportedly post-racial election in 2008.

    President Barack Obama had hoped his historic election would ease race relations, yet a majority of Americans, 53 percent, say the interactions between the White and Black communities have deteriorated since he took office, according to a new Bloomberg Politics poll. Those divisions are laid bare in the split reactions to the decisions by two grand juries not to indict White police officers who killed unarmed Black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.

    (Bloomberg News, December 7, 2014)

    Ironically, no black American has been the target of this racist awakening more than President Obama himself (as old viral memes like “You lie,” “show me your birth certificate,” and “he’s a Muslim socialist” duly attest).

    Meanwhile, this (ironic) racial narrative is trending to such degree that I caught commentators on the BBC program, Dateline London, discussing it on Saturday.

    Except that I’m not sure why people are so “shocked, shocked” by this phenomenon (of Obama’s election giving White folks license to express “deeply rooted” racism):

    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)

    On a more local level, Whites who voted for a White man with a Black wife to become mayor of the country’s largest city, New York, New York, probably feel doubly “liberated.”

    20141204-garner-protest-west-st-petrsvab-5092-676x450

    Nonetheless, the greater irony is that, given this phenomenon, reactions to these grand jury decisions are not nearly as split along racial lines as the media would have you believe. You need only look at the media’s own coverage of ongoing protests – from New York to California – to see, with your own eyes, the multiracial nature of the protesters involved.

    ferguson-620x400Frankly, based on the “split reactions” to the O.J. Simpson verdict, reactions to these decisions seem more kumbaya than polarized.

    On the other hand, as shocked you might be by people feeling more “liberated to give way to their racial prejudices,” this is no cause for dismay or disillusionment. After all, the more people express their racism, the more likely it is that someone, perhaps even you, will disabuse them of it.

    In fact, this is the kind of daily, honest, person-to-person conversation on race we should welcome; instead of that phony, politically expedient claptrap politicians are always blathering about every time the media inflame racist passions.

    Moreover, these police shootings and grand jury decisions should not mislead us to believe that America is regressing to the bad old days of Jim Crow and race riots. Nor should they force the police into contrived (re)training programs to learn how to stop shooting unarmed Black men (especially given FBI statistics showing that they shoot more unarmed White men).

    POLICE_PROTESTS_CALIFORNIA_CANB103-2014DEC09_053105_561.jpgRather, I repeat, these shootings and decisions should teach people that they are not entitled to resist when the police are trying to arrest them. What’s more, when they’re not blocking city streets and chanting “Hands up, don’t shot,” “I can’t breathe,” and “Black lives matter,” it behooves those protesting to help young Black men learn this existential lesson. Because failure to do so will only result in more thugs with no respect for authority – who feel entitled to prey on others … until they get arrested (or shot) by the police we call upon to protect us from them.

    In the meantime, and this I repeat too, I urge more Blacks to seek careers in law enforcement to help redress the racial spectacle of all-White policemen policing Black neighborhoods like “invading armies;” I urge the police to wear body cameras (to demonstrate and vindicate their professionalism); and I urge cities to establish civilian review boards — complete with the power to refer any police shooting to an independent prosecutor — in order to effectively police the police, instead of leaving it to the police to police themselves.

    All else is folly, especially those “die ins” and commando street marches, which are just traffic fatalities waiting to happen.

    Related commentaries:
    Ferguson, NYC grand jury decisions

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