• Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 6:21 AM

    NBA Commissioner Gives Racist Sterling the Death Penalty

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA. Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices; he may not be present at any Clippers facility; and he may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions.

    As for Mr. Sterling’s ownership interests, I will urge the Board of Governors to exercise its authority to force the sale of the team and I will do everything in my power to make sure that happens.

    (CNN, April 29, 2014)

    I am pleased that, in meting out this punishment, which included a maximum fine of $2.5 million, Commissioner Silver did what I called on him to do (in my April 26 commentary below) to the letter.

    f55a83792ae0938998b10827692242e3.576x324x1But I am also heartened that, while announcing this punishment, Silver evinced the tortured spirit I indicated he would feel. This was especially evident when he stressed throughout his opening statement how “personally outraged [and] distressed” he was, as well as when a reporter asked him later to comment on the fact that he and Sterling are both Jews.

    That said, I have only a few points to add:

    • I took a little flak this morning for lambasting Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for propagating the view that forcing Sterling to sell his team was not the way to go because it would constitute a “slippery slope.” But nothing vindicates my dismissing Cuban as an “attention-seeking buffoon” quite like him tweeting the following about-face at 2:19 this afternoon – even before Silver completed his opening statement:

    I agree 100% with Commissioner Silver’s findings and the actions taken against Donald Sterling.

    But, trust me, Cuban is not the only defender of Sterling’s ownership interest who will be making this about-face. It’s just that none of them will be quite so brazen and shameless in doing so. What’s more, when (emotional) bidding inflates the value of the Clippers to well over $1 billion, all owners will be guided by their vested interest in ensuring that the sale goes through. After all, if the Clippers were sold for $1 billion, even the Mavericks would have to be valued at $1.5 billion … at least.

    • Having punished Sterling so severely, Silver has given himself a much stronger hand to discipline players for unsportsmanlike conduct on the court, as well as conduct unbecoming off the court. It seems every player in the league is hailing him today as a great leader; but notice has been served.
    • Much has been made of the millions Sterling donated to Black charities over the years. Well, here’s how one of California’s tech billionaires can earn himself (Mark Zuckerberg) or herself (Sheryl Sandberg) public goodwill beyond measure: Make a public pledge to compensate any charity that wants to cleanse itself of Sterling’s tainted largesse any amount it chooses to return to him.

    This, coupled with his NBA banishment, should effectively excise his racist DNA from public life.

    Good riddance, Mr. Sterling.

    * This commentary was originally published on Tuesday at 4:21 pm

  • Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    Mavericks Owner Cuban Offers Self-Incriminating Defense of Racist Sterling

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    How many people are bigoted in one way or the other in this league? I don’t know. But you find one, all of a sudden you say well, you can’t play favorites being racist against African-Americans. Where do you draw the line?

    (Huffington Post, April 28, 2014)

    This, in essence, is how Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, defended the ownership interest of Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers.

    Rockets Mavericks BasketballIn fairness to Cuban, I should stipulate that he routinely demonstrates that there’s nothing he would not do or say for attention. This is why cameras spend almost as much time on him as they do on players whenever his Mavericks are playing. Frankly, only Donald Trump is a bigger attention-seeking buffoon.

    But if Cuban does not know where to draw the line in this case, then every Black who plays for him, as well as every Black who cheers for his team, should draw that line for him.

    Evidently, he has no problem associating with a racist like Sterling because he thinks every NBA owner should be entitled to spew such racist bile in private. For Cuban, ownership entitles Sterling to speak of his Black players as if he were a nineteenth-century plantation owner and they his slaves.

    Except that he’s now reinforcing the unsettling fears about closeted-racists masquerading as White bosses, colleagues, and friends that I alluded to in my original commentary on this Sterling mess:

    Let me hasten to clarify that the takeaway from this story should not be Sterling’s pathetic, hypocritical, misogynistic, chauvinistic, and racist admonition to his girlfriend. It should be what his admonition betrays about the insidious strain of covert racism that runs so blithely through this ostensibly non-racist White man … and others like him (We have to wonder now, don’t we?).

    (“NBA Owner to GF: Your Photos with Blacks, Including Magic, Embarrass Me,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 27, 2014)

    Michael JordanCuban has put the NBA and Michael Jordan, its only Black owner, in an untenable position. After all, there’s little difference in the level of disgust one should have for a racist like Sterling and that which one should have for anyone so ignorant, arrogant, and insensitive as to publicly defend him.

    It speaks volumes that Mercedes-Benz, CarMax, Virgin America, Sprint, Amtrak, Corona, CarMax, Red Bull and many more corporations have decided to blackball Sterling’s team. They did so because they clearly know where to draw the line when it comes to associating with an owner like him. That Cuban does not damns him more than he appears to appreciate. But he has now given his sponsors and advertisers just cause to blackball him too.

    Finally, for anyone who thinks Cuban has a valid point, know this: Arguing that Sterling should not be forced to relinquish ownership for expressing racist bile he thought would remain private, is every bit as specious as arguing that Nixon should not have been forced to resign for conspiring to pervert the political process because he thought his incriminating words would remain private.

    It is a given that people are entitled to their private thoughts, no matter how repugnant. But, once those thoughts become public (regardless of how), we have a duty to draw a red line. Because only this will convey, in no uncertain terms, that some thoughts so offend all notions of our common humanity that those who hold them should enjoy no position of honor or respect (as a private citizen or public official) in our society. Period!

    Related commentaries:
    Michael Jordan…Donald Sterling

  • Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    SEC Lawyer Admits Big Dogs on Wall Street Untouchable

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 9.09.30 PMI’m on record lamenting that law enforcement officials were no more interested in stopping illegal gambling on Wall Street than Captain Renault was in stopping it in Casablanca.  Which is why I greeted this damning admission with indignant indifference:

    A trial attorney from the Securities and Exchange Commission said his bosses were too ‘tentative and fearful’ to bring many Wall Street leaders to heel after the 2008 credit crisis….

    (Bloomberg, April 8, 2014)

    rajb-300x223Well, except that his bosses were all gung-ho for bringing “token” prosecutions:

    Am I the only one who wonders why prosecutors labeled this Sri-Lankan American – who looks blacker than any African American I know – as literally ‘the face’ for all of the white-collar crooks on Wall Street whose shenanigans caused the global financial crisis of 2008?

    Meanwhile, everybody knows that rank criminality and dishonesty among (predominantly white) casino croupiers masquerading as investment bankers – much of it having to do with misrepresenting their exposure to sub-prime mortgages – caused this crisis. And the whole world is still reeling from, and paying for, it.

    Yet not a single banker has been arrested.

    (“Raj Rajaratnam: a Wall Street Crook Goes to Prison…Finally,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 13, 2011)

    Frankly, I can muster no more outrage for the Mafia Dons who manage Wall Street firms like gambling syndicates; or for the craven cops who fear/protect them.

    Related commentaries:
    Raj

  • Monday, April 28, 2014 at 6:39 AM

    UPDATE: Michael Jordan on Racist Tirade by Owner of NBA’s LA Clippers

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    imagesMichael Jordan is the only Black majority owner in the NBA. He owns the Charlotte Bobcats. As entertaining as I found him as a player, however, I held nothing but contempt for Michael as a person. Not least because his refusal to speak out on racial issues of the day suggested a craven willingness to associate even with the grand wizard of the KKK if that would promote his brand or line his pockets.

    I remember well back in 1990 when Black Harvey Gantt tried to unseat White Jesse Helms, the notoriously Dixie-whistling, overtly racist Republican senator from North Carolina. Naturally, Gantt sought Michael’s endorsement. Michael refused, insisting rather infamously, “Republicans buy sneakers too.” Gantt lost. Now, can you imagine Barack Obama asking Oprah to endorse him in 2008 and having Oprah refuse, insisting that Republicans watch her show too?

    This is why, despite everyone from Shaq to President Obama speaking out against Sterling’s racist comments (and Kobe saying he would strike if he were a Clipper), I did not expect Michael to utter a single word. I felt certain he would want to avoid alienating fellow NBA owners and White fans who hold similar views.

    Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 5.31.30 PMThis, after all, would’ve been entirely consistent with the contempt he showed as a player for matters of race. But it would also have been consistent with the contempt he has shown since then as a peddler of his retro Air Jordans – even refusing to speak out when poor Black kids actually died trying to get their hands on one of his obscenely priced sneakers.

    Imagine how heartened and encouraged I was, therefore, when I read the following statement Michael issued this afternoon damning Sterling in no uncertain terms:

    There is no room in the NBA — or anywhere else — for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed. I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport. In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level.

    (The Associated Press, April 27, 2014)

    Of course, this change might only reflect his perverse regard for the mercenary prerogatives that exist between NBA owner and NBA player. Or is that between master and servant?

    Whatever the case, with Michael joining the ranks of those of us calling for Sterling’s ouster, I am now convinced, more than ever, that it’s not a matter of if the NBA will force him out, but when.

    In the meantime, I would be even more heartened and encouraged if prominent White folks, especially professional athletes, joined the chorus of Blacks condemning Sterling. It clearly speaks volumes that none of the NBA’s White owners seem outraged enough to do so….

    Related commentaries:
    NBA owner tells GF stop associating with Blacks

    * This commentary was originally published on Sunday at 4:39 pm

  • Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    NBA Owner to GF: Your Photos with Blacks, including Magic, Embarrass Me

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Making celebrities of idiots who say or do things that have no socially redeeming value has become a defining feature of social media. Far worse, though, is the way mainstream media now cover these idiots as if their ignorant rantings and contrived antics are truly newsworthy.

    This was brought into distressing relief over the past few days when President Obama’s historic trip to Asia had to compete for media coverage – even on NBC – with some deadbeat, redneck Nevada rancher who reportedly feels entitled to graze his cows on federal land free of charge and thinks Blacks were better off during slavery.

    Whereas, but for the media making him a cause celebre, U.S. Marshals would have set him straight with no national fuss, leaving only his unfortunate friends and neighbors to suffer his asinine thoughts about the welfare of Blacks. (I refuse to dignify him by mentioning his name, let alone commenting any further.)

    042514-donald-sterling-large-launch-v4-3On the other hand, having the owner of a major American enterprise, like an NBA team, spout similar thoughts about Blacks is clearly newsworthy. Therefore, I fully expect all media to have a field day covering the (alleged) rantings of the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, which went viral yesterday. I’m convinced it’s him, and shall proceed accordingly.

    Here, courtesy of TMZ.com, is just a little of the racist admonition he was caught on tape giving, ironically enough, to his half-Black, half-Hispanic girlfriend. She, evidently, has the embarrassing habit (for him) of publishing Instagram photos of herself in the company of Black people:

    It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people…

    You can sleep with [black people] … you can bring them in, you can do whatever you want; the little I ask you is not to promote it on that [Instagram] and not to bring them to my games.

    Don’t put [Magic Johnson] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me … and don’t bring him to my games.

    This really does not require much comment. I gather that Magic has reacted by saying he will not attend another Clippers game as long as Sterling is team owner. But, as long as he’s team owner, that should be the least of it.

    Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 6.26.05 PMHere are three things that should happen, immediately:

    1. Magic should call for an outright boycott by all Clippers fans. I’m sure most Whites are just as outraged but, like Magic, no self-respecting Black should support a team with an owner so racist he doesn’t even want Blacks in his arena. And I urge Magic to do so before Rev. Al Sharpton turns this sympathetic cause into yet another self-aggrandizing spectacle.
    2. Team leaders Chris Paul and Blake Griffin should organize a strike. No playoff game is worth playing for an owner who clearly thinks of his Black players as nothing more than glorified (and overpaid) slaves.
    3. The commissioner should forfeit his ownership with fair compensation in the interest of the NBA. (The commissioner of Major League Baseball set an instructive precedent by prevailing upon Marge Schott to sell her interest in the Cincinnati Reds after she was caught making similarly offensive anti-Semitic and anti-Asian comments.)

    Frankly, these are no-brainers. After all, here’s what I called for when Donald Trump began spouting his semi-racist rantings about Barack Obama:

    I urge all of the rich folks he depends on to patronize his eponymous resorts and buy up his eponymous condominiums to begin shunning him – just as they would a half-baked racist like David Duke. I urge this especially of the Black Hollywood and sports stars he likes to feature as extras in his one-man freak show.

    Trump is entitled to say whatever he likes. But, at the very least, he should suffer truth and consequences for accusing this country’s first Black president of being a Kenyan Muslim – who has perpetrated ‘the biggest con in U.S. history.’

    CBS fired Charlie Sheen from One and a Half Men for hurling anti-Semitic remarks at a TV producer; NBC should feel even more compelled to fire Trump from The Apprentice for hurling racist remarks at the president of the United States.

    So, here’s to this fiendishly thin-skinned huckster having his trademark words thrown back in his face: Trump, you’re fired!

    (“Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2011)

    No matter how this Sterling mess unfolds, I’d be shocked and dismayed if he still has his his NBA team or his Black-Hispanic girlfriend this time … next week.

    But let me hasten to clarify that the takeaway from this story should not be Sterling’s pathetic, hypocritical, misogynistic, chauvinistic, and racist admonition to his girlfriend. It should be what his admonition betrays about the insidious strain of covert racism that runs so blithely through this ostensibly non-racist White man … and others like him (We have to wonder now, don’t we?).

    Not to mention the slave master-like contradiction inherent in Sterling fearing mortal embarrassment by having his Black-Hispanic girlfriend post pictures of herself with Blacks online, yet proudly showing off this Black-Hispanic girl like a trophy wife everywhere he goes. Except that, with his nineteenth century-plantation mentality, he probably sees no greater contradiction in this than White slave masters saw in routinely sleeping with their Black female slaves.

    Incidentally, he’s 80; she looks 25. This says all one needs to know about the kind of woman she is, which I suppose makes betraying her sugar daddy of four years in this fashion not principled or personal, just business.

    article-2614157-1D62F93D00000578-828_634x417In any event, I would be remiss not to note that my Jewish friends are particularly distressed that this Jew has been caught spewing racist bile that would make even a neo-Nazi wince. Especially given that section of the audiotape where Sterling is heard rationalizing his racism by declaring that in Israel White Jews treat Black Jews like dogs. 

    This gives a sense of the Solomonic challenge Jewish commissioner Adam Silver faces in sanctioning Sterling in a manner that not only respects his ownership rights, but also satisfies the justifiably outraged Black players who constitute almost 80 percent of the NBA. 

    basi450(Yes, Silver bears an uncanny resemblance to the pitchfork-holding husband in Grant Wood’s classic painting, “American Gothic.”) 

    Also, the irony is not lost on me that this racial flare up comes on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling this week that it’s perfectly legal for states to ban affirmative action based on race in college admissions. 

    But this irony pales in comparison to this flare up coming right in the midst of the NAACP advertising its intent to award Sterling a lifetime achievement award. This, despite his well-documented legacy of housing discrimination against Blacks and Hispanics as one of America’s most notorious slumlords, which speaks volumes about the NAACP’s administrative incompetence … or venality. It’ll be interesting to see, though, whether the NAACP moves faster than the NBA to wipe the egg off its face, which association with Sterling now represents.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published on Saturday at 5:17 pm

  • Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 7:45 AM

    Wait till China begins doing to its neighbors what Russia is doing to its…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    20140426_WWD000_0

  • Friday, April 25, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    South Sudan Continues Descent into Heart of Darkness

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last summer I joined the chorus of those heralding the birth of South Sudan as a new nation in Africa – fathered not by colonial masters but by Africans themselves. But I felt constrained to sound this cautionary note in a commentary presaging its independence day:

    What looms, however, may cause the southerners’ Independence Day, which they will mark on July 9, to turn into a pyrrhic celebration…

    I just hope and pray these southerners – who are composed of all kinds of Black tribes – can avoid the kind of tribal conflicts that continue to beset so many other countries in Africa.

    (“South Sudan Secedes,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 9, 2011)

    President_Salva_Kiir_and_RiSadly, less than six months later, I was obliged to comment on South Sudanese cannibalizing each other:

    ‘Two weeks of fighting have left at least 1,000 dead and split the oil-producing country barely two years after it won independence from Sudan. It has also raised fears of an all-out civil war between the main Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups which could destabilize fragile East Africa.’

    I should note that South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, with his government troops comprised mostly of Dinka tribesmen, and sacked deputy president Riek Machar, with his rebel forces comprised mostly of Nuer tribesman, have dispatched delegations to peace talks in Ethiopia. But nothing indicates how fated those talks are to fail quite like both men also deploying more troops to escalate their civil conflict…

    (“South Sudan Descending into Heart of Darkness,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 30, 2013)

    Now comes this:

    The massacre in Bentiu, South Sudan [on April 15], has shaken even hardened humanitarian workers… Civilians were killed in the town’s main hospital, in a Catholic church and in the Kali-Ballee mosque…

    The rebels, who are largely from the Nuer ethnic group, allegedly killed non-Nuers, and Nuers who they believed did not support them.

    (London Guardian, April 23, 2014)

    40b53367-fe33-4248-8f48-54133283bade-620x372Clearly I have no cause to despair for Africans more than they despair for themselves. Yet I cannot help but look on with forlorn hope as chronic poverty and tribal/ethnic/religious conflict all over Africa make it seem like colonialism was the best thing that ever happened to that Dark Continent.

    Indeed, even though it might be too politically incorrect for many to concede, I suspect that the vast majority of us in the Caribbean look at the life of the average African — whose ancestors were not “harmed” by the European slave trade — and thank God that we are here, and not there.

    (“CARICOM Demand for Reparations Smacks of Extortion,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 4, 2013)

    20140426_MAP001_0Hell, even South Africa, the putative diamond in the rough, is becoming a political laughing stock and economic basket case under the leadership of Jacob Zuma. And simmering disillusionment and resentment are such that poor Blacks seem poised to do to rich Whites there what poor Blacks did to rich Whites in Zimbabwe.

    More to the point, Hutus and Tutsis (of Rwandan genocide infamy) proved that the barbarism Idi Amin personified was not the exception. Sadly, that barbarism seems to be rule given the number of genocidal rebel groups now menacing so much of Africa, including the National Liberation Forces in Burundi, Congolese Revolutionary Movement in DR Congo, Al-Shabbab in Mali, Boko Haram in Nigeria (who made news last week by raiding a school and kidnapping over 200 girls), West Side Boys in Sierra Leon, pirates in Somali, and Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda (who, despite the famous “#stopkony2012” crusade, remains as active as ever), to name just a few.

    But nothing crystallizes chronic African despair quite like the Black non-Muslim Sudanese who fled religious/ethnic persecution by Arab militiamen in Darfur being among those who were slaughtered in tribal conflict by Black non-Muslim rebels in Bentiu. How’s that for cruel irony.

    Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Black non-Muslim Mauritanians are choosing to remain displaced in a disbanded UN refugee camp in Senegal than return home because they fear Arab militiamen ethnically cleansing them the way Arab militiamen ethnically cleansed Black non-Muslim Darfurians in Sudan. Without UN protection and care, however, I fear it’s only a matter of time before the Senegalese, who are 95 percent Muslim, begin treating these Black non-Muslim Mauritanians like a cancer to be excised from their territory. And so goes the cycle of African despair.

    This is why I’d bet my life savings that, under sodium pentothal, every Black person born in America or the Caribbean would thank our lucky stars that neither Abraham Lincoln nor Marcus Garvey succeeded in “repatriating” Blacks to Africa. That a Black American is now the most powerful man in the world is a poignant personification of this fact.

    That said, it might be helpful to know that I was constrained yesterday to disabuse an American friend of the presumption that the barbarism on display in South Sudan’s civil war is uniquely African.

    I could have done so simply enough by citing the barbarism that attended everything from the Wars of the Roses to World War II (with its infamous Holocaust).

    But I sufficed to remind him of the barbarism America displayed by not only codifying slavery in its Constitution, but also fighting a bloody civil war because half of the country presumed a God-given right to enslave Blacks in perpetuity. I mean, what could be more barbaric than that.

    Related commentaries:
    South Sudan descending
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    Tweeting Kony to death

  • Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 6:46 AM

    Obama’s Visit to Japan Upstaged by Bieber’s Visit to Its War Shrine…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Obama is on a state visit to Japan. It’s the first by a sitting U.S. president in almost 20 years. Therefore, you’d expect the media to be covering each step he takes on Japanese soil as if he were John Glen walking on the moon.

    _71954032_dfa733fb-7765-42e0-916d-483f22bcd2e9Yet his visit is competing for coverage not only with Monday’s “offering” by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Japan’s controversial Yasukuni Shrine to its war dead, but also with Justin Bieber’s visit to the country, which duly included his own ill-advised pilgrimage to this Shrine … as a cool tourist attraction. Incidentally, I’m flabbergasted and dismayed that the mainstream media continually report on the antics and musings of this teenage twit, as if what he says and does is relevant to anyone except the equally mindless twits who follow him on Twitter.

    In any event, there’s simply nothing newsworthy about Abe, a hawkish nationalist, making this … offering. Even if he did so to signal his intent to put Japan on a war footing to prevent China from doing to its sovereign territory on the China Sea (i.e., annexing Senkaku Islands) what Russia did to Ukraine’s on the Black Sea (i.e., annexed Crimea).

    After all, Japanese leaders have been making pilgrimages to this Shrine during spring and autumn festivals, as well as on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender at the end of WWII, since it was first established in 1869. More to the point, Chinese and South Korean leaders have been hurling condemnations and hollow threats about these visits posing “extremely dangerous consequences” for almost as long.

    japanyakusuni-784678

    As it happens, I’ve been commenting on this annual ritual for a number of years now – as I did most recently in “Japan and China Stoking North Korea-like Tensions,” April 24, 2013. Here’s an instructive excerpt:

    These pilgrimages invariably incite militant outrage in China and South Korea – countries Japan invaded and/or occupied during that war and whose leaders decry these pilgrimages as a direct affront to their war dead…

    How do you suppose the Poles, French, and British would feel if German chancellors made a similar show of annual pilgrimages to a shrine to Germany’s war dead, including Adolf Hitler and other Nazi war criminals? Surely you are aware that the Japanese committed atrocities against the Chinese and Koreans that were very much in kind to those the Germans committed against the Jews and other Europeans during World War II, no?

    Yet, no matter how justified China and South Korea may be in their outrage, there has never been any real fear that the spat over Japan’s war shrine could escalate into full-scale war.

    ___________________

    diaoyu2On the other hand, apropos of war, it is newsworthy that Obama made a point of assuring Japan, and warning China, that the United States would honor its commitment to defend Japan if their backyard bickering over ownership of a chain of “resource-rich” islands in the South and East China Sea, which Japan now controls, becomes ballistic:

    The president assured Japan that the Senkaku Islands are covered by a long-standing bilateral security treaty that obliges America to come to Japan’s defense.

    ‘The policy of the United States is clear — the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of . . . the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security,’ Obama said in a written reply to the newspaper. ‘And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands,’ he said.

    (The Japan Times, April 23, 2014)

    Unsurprisingly, the Chinese reacted with even greater indignation over what they consider to be Obama’s “interference” in their territorial dispute with the Japanese than they did over Abe’s pilgrimage to the Yasukuni Shrine.

    The United States should reappraise its anachronistic hegemonic alliance system and stop pampering its chums like Japan and the Philippines that have been igniting regional tensions with provocative moves.

    This, in part, is the almost farcical statement of protest they issued yesterday through the China state news agency Xinhua. It actually smacks of the kind of rhetorical temper tantrums the North Koreans routinely throw just for international attention.

    But, like the North Koreans’ temper tantrums, this Chinese reaction will amount to little more than sound and fury signifying nothing. Not least because, no matter how emboldened they might be by Obama’s refusal to go to war with Putin over Ukraine, the Chinese dare not test Obama’s treaty obligation to defend Japan (or Taiwan); just as Putin dares not test his treaty obligation to defend fellow NATO countries, including the Baltic ones that border Russia.

    Still, it’s an indication of the tightrope Obama is walking throughout Asia that he felt obliged to express disappointment over Abe’s pilgrimage in an overt attempt to appease the Chinese….

    U.S. President Obama in Tokyo for 3-day state visitOf course, all of this managing and placating of petulant and bellicose egos will be entirely worth it if Obama can return home with adequate assurances that Japan will sign on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (“TPP”) – a trade agreement among the United States, Japan, and 10 other Asian countries.

    If agreed – and there’s no guarantee given deeply rooted protectionism in Japan (especially for farmers and automakers) – the TPP would establish the biggest free trade area in history, accounting for 40 percent of global trade. Think NAFTA on steroids. This would be as much a crowning achievement for his presidential legacy in foreign affairs as passage of Obamacare is in domestic affairs.

    Related commentaries:
    Japan and China
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  • Wednesday, April 23, 2014 at 6:56 AM

    Supreme Court on Affirmative Action; Retired Justice on Gun Control

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Affirmative Action

    Weren’t the past 40 years of affirmative action intended to rectify the lingering consequences of slavery and Jim Crow? Never mind that white women and wealthy Blacks were the ones who benefited most….  Enough already!

    (“Senate Apologizes for Slavery; Blacks Say, ‘Show Us the Money (Reparations),” The iPINIONS Journal, June 19, 2009)

    130227203059-supreme-justices-horizontal-galleryThis quote might suffice to explain why I’m hardly surprised or dismayed by yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that Michigan can ban race as a factor in admissions to its public colleges and universities.

    But it’s important to note that, just as it did with gay marriage, the Court merely recognized the reserved right of each state to decide whether to ban or allow affirmation action.

    Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s controlling opinion for three justices took pains to say that the decision was a modest one.

    ‘This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved,’ he wrote, in an opinion joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. ‘It is about who may resolve it.’ [Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas concurred.]

    (New York Times, April 22, 2014)

    It’s also important to note that this ruling does not ban private colleges and universities, even in Michigan, from using race as a factor in admissions, or private companies from using it as a factor in recruitment, hiring, promotion, etc.

    Yet, given the reaction among Black activists and civil rights groups, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Court declared affirmative action unconstitutional.

    Granted, there has been a noticeable decline in the number of Blacks and Hispanics on campuses in the few states that have implemented similar bans on race as a factor in admissions. And yesterday’s Court ruling will undoubtedly embolden initiatives to ban affirmative action in other states.

    itshisfault-from-talk-onevietnam-org

    What’s more, I’m acutely mindful of the hypocrisy inherent in those who oppose affirmative action based on race, which schools have practiced for a few decades, voicing no opposition to affirmative action based on family ties or financial donations (aka legacy preferences), which they have practiced for a few centuries.

    > on October 10, 2012 in Washington, DC.But I’m convinced that cognitive dissonance – most notably recognition of the pragmatic value of diversity among students in classrooms and campus life – will overcome the backlash against affirmative action. Especially considering that, as indicated in my opening quote, schools can better achieve the goals of affirmative action by actively recruiting students based not on race but on class.

    In the meantime, states like Michigan, California, Texas, and Florida are bound to find that it’s in their enlightened interest to have more Blacks and Hispanics enrolling in colleges and universities than joining the ranks of the unemployed – with all the added burden on public services, not to mention the inevitable increase in crime, this entails.

    Actually, in many ways, opponents of affirmative action ape those of immigration reform – who, despite their opposition, recognize the indispensable contributions illegal immigrants make to the economy and concede the categorical imperative of assimilating illegal immigrants. Indeed, I can see public colleges and universities in these states pursuing diverse student bodies as a laudable goal while paying lip service to their state’s ban on affirmative action.

    Finally, lest you think someone forced right-wing Kool-Aid down my throat, it might be helpful to know that Justice Stephen Breyer, arguably the Court’s most liberal member, voted with the conservatives to uphold Michigan’s ban by a margin of 6-2. Liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself.

    Gun Control

    2nd-amendment-image.001When it comes to the most polarizing issues in America today, gun control ranks a close second to abortion rights.

    Unfortunately, where the debate on abortion rights hinges on an authoritative definition of when life begins, the one on gun control is hostage to mob-like passions. After all, intelligent minds can reasonably differ on the former; but it requires rabid intent to distort the plain meaning of the Constitution (for base political or crass commercial purposes … or both) for intelligent minds to differ on the latter.

    Here’s my take on gun control:

    The Second Amendment specifically refers to ‘A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.’ Obviously, this is because, when the Constitution was signed 225 years ago, the United States did not have the well regulated police forces, let alone the well regulated armed forces, it has today.

    It’s arguable therefore that the only reasonable reading of this amendment in today’s context is that the only people who should have the right to ‘keep and bear arms’ are those in law enforcement and the military (i.e., those actively involved in ensuring national security).

    Nevertheless, in deference to American culture, I am prepared to concede that congressional legislation granting citizens the right to keep and bear (at most) six-cylinder handguns and double barrel shotguns (for home protection) and single-shot rifles (for hunting) does not violate the spirit of the Constitution. But I would make it illegal for civilians to possess any other type of firearm or munitions. Period!

    The National Rifle Association (NRA) has perpetrated a brazen and unconscionable fraud on the American people by pretending to be arch defenders of their right to keep and bear arms. Because the NRA is just the lobbying arm of gun manufacturers, and its sole mission is to ensure that those manufactures have the right to sell as many guns of every type to as many people as possible. Period!

    (“The Second Amendment and Gun Control,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 19, 2012)

    1398128975000-XXX-130972-Stevens-03This is why I am so heartened, if not flattered, that no less a person than retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has effectively echoed my take.

    Specifically, he proposes amending the Second Amendment with just five words to further clarify its plain meaning. Here is his proposed amendment (with the five words underlined) followed by his explanation as reported in the April 13, 2014 edition of the Washington Post:

    ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

    Emotional claims that the right to possess deadly weapons is so important that it is protected by the federal Constitution distort intelligent debate about the wisdom of particular aspects of proposed legislation designed to minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns in private hands. Those emotional arguments would be nullified by the adoption of my proposed amendment.

    Again, the only people who will disagree with this take are rednecks and the right-wing politicians and NRA arms merchants who pander to them. Alas, I’m aware enough to know that we will live in a world free of nuclear weapons before we live in an America free of guns in the hands of private citizens … as framers of the Constitution clearly intended.

    Case closed.

    Related commentaries:
    Senate apologizes
    Gun control debate is insane

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 5:52 AM

    From Spycraft to Stagecraft, Snowden Debuts as Putin’s ‘Useful Idiot’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Foremost I should say that Edward Snowden strikes me as little more than a narcissistic, egotistical, publicity-seeking idiot who is to national intelligence what Kim Kardashian is to media celebrity.

    What’s more, he seems every bit the media whore she is, and is probably hoping that his NSA leaks will make him even more famous than her sex tape made her. I suspect the more we learn about him, the more this analogy will play out.

    (“Ignorance Prevails re NSA Spying and Snowden Leaks,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 14, 2013)

    Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a major news conference for Russian and foreign journalistsRussian President Vladimir Putin is becoming notorious for staging the kind of town-hall dog and pony shows only North Korean President Kim Jong-Un could emulate. Actually, watching Putin field plainly rehearsed questions from members of his captive audience is rather like watching Zubin Mehta conduct perfectly pitched notes from members of his orchestra.

    Perhaps you’ve heard that, during his annual town hall on Thursday, Putin finally admitted that Russian troops were in fact involved in fomenting the unrest he used as justification to annex Crimea. But I am stupefied that so many Western reporters and commentators are reacting as if this sounded a discordant note.

    After all, Putin making this admission is no more discordant than Mehta conducting his orchestra in a transition from adagio to scherzo. In other words, as abrupt an about face as Putin’s admission might appear, it was as predictable as the movements in a familiar symphony.

    Putin had repeatedly denied sending any forces to Crimea ahead of the March referendum there that eventually led to the region’s annexation by Russia.  Putin said the troops were deployed to protect Russian-speaking citizens in Crimea.

    ‘Of course we had our servicemen behind the self-defense units of Crimea,’ Putin said during an annual televised call-in with the nation on Thursday. ‘We had to make sure what is happening now in eastern Ukraine didn’t happen there.’

    (The Associated Press, April 17, 2014)

    And don’t forget that, in addition to this brazen denial, he also repeatedly denied having plans to annex Crimea … until he did. But all of this is just Putin orchestrating what any student of history would recognize as the Big Lie – of the type Hitler orchestrated to justify his aggression and which I presaged in “Putin as Hitler; Crimea as Sudetenland,” February 26, 2014.

    imagesThis is why the far more noteworthy part of this staged farce was NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s command performance. For, like the useful idiot I predicted he would become, Snowden duly played his part by asking Putin if Russia spies on its citizens the way the United States does.

    ‘We don’t have a mass system of such interception, and according to our law, it cannot exist’…

    Putin said that Russian Special Forces did use surveillance to thwart terrorists and criminals, but that it was regulated.

    ‘Our special services, thank God, are strictly controlled by the society and by the law and regulated by the law,’ he concluded.

    (Russia Today, April 17, 2014)

    Yet, remarkably, try as he did to distinguish his government’s surveillance from Obama’s, Putin unwittingly conceded that the difference was just a matter of degree. Indeed, what is truly ironic and laughable about his response is that it’s precisely how Obama has been responding to questions about America’s NSA program ever since Snowden leaked classified details about it:

    My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances…

    You’ve got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And you’ve got Congress overseeing the program – not just the intelligence committee and not just the judiciary committee, but all of Congress had available to it before the last reauthorization exactly how this program works.

    (CBS News, June 18, 2013)

    Therefore, how can anybody deny that, by taking up refuge in Putin’s Russia, Snowden has made a mockery of his one-man crusade against governments using all resources at their disposal to spy on their citizens? Especially given that everybody knows Russia is practically a police state compared to the United States.

    Frying-Pan-into-FireFrankly, it’s arguable that, with respect to speaking out against the prevalence of government surveillance, Snowden has done nothing more than jump from the frying pan into the fire. This fact seems to be finally dawning on him. Because reports over the weekend indicate that Snowden is sulking with resentment over Putin using him in this fashion to propagate such boldfaced lies.

    NSA leaker Edward Snowden instantly regretted asking Russian President Vladimir Putin a softball question on live television about the Kremlin’s mass surveillance effort, two sources close to the leaker tell The Daily Beast.

    ‘It certainly didn’t go as he would’ve hoped,’ one of these sources said…

    And so the leaker quickly decided to write an op-ed for the Guardian to explain his actions and to all but label Putin a liar for his televised response.

    (The Daily Beast, April 20, 2014)

    Except that this is rather like a woman moving in with a notorious pimp, and then sulking with resentment over him using her to perform sex acts for money.

    Of course, the problem for Snowden is that, in fleeing to Russia to escape justice in America, he effectively gave Putin the power to treat him the way a pimp treats his prostitute. And complaining now that Putin is no different from Obama is meaningless because:

    a) state-controlled media will allow Russians to hear only what Putin wants them to hear from Snowden; and

    b) Westerners will quite rightly dismiss his whimpering criticisms of Putin as just Snowden performing another scripted propaganda stunt masquerading as free speech.

    In any event, I think Snowden has exhausted his 15 minutes of fame. Therefore, the following excerpt from “I Said Putin Would Hand Snowden Over. I Was Wrong,” October 25, 2013, will serve as my denouement on his NSA leaks as well as my good riddance to him:

    Putin is using him as a stick to poke in the eye of the United States. Indeed, he appears to be grinning inside like a Cheshire cat every time he tries to convince the world that this American had to flee to Russia to escape political persecution back home … in America…

    Snowden seems destined to emulate British double agent Kim Philby, who defected to the Soviet Union in 1963 and lived there (in Moscow) free of reprisals until his death in 1988. It is instructive to note, however, that this fabled “Third Man” lived out almost all of his 25 years in relative obscurity and penury, and not without palpable regret…

    So don’t be surprised if a disillusioned Snowden ends up drinking himself to death too. After all, Philby’s Russian spymasters had just cause to treat him like a national hero, yet he still felt like little more than a Western mascot almost from day one.

    By contrast, Snowden’s Russian wards have no reason to treat him like anything but a traitorous rat. Not least because Putin is a former KGB spy who prides loyalty to country above all else…

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

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

    __________________

    Well, except that I feel obliged to note that, from the outset of this crisis, when pro-Western mobs ran Putin’s puppet Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych out of the country, I urged Obama and other Western leaders to heed the lessons of history. I pointed out in the above-referenced “Putin as Hitler; Crimea as Sudetenland” that this meant ignoring Putin’s words (i.e., the Big Lie) and preventing his military aggression by any means necessary.

    Alas, just as their predecessors did with Hitler, these Western leaders have done little more than appease Putin. Which means that, instead of paying a relatively small price to stop him now, they will have to pay a much bigger price to stop him later. Like I said, penny wise and pound foolish.

    Related commentaries:
    Bill Gates Snowden no hero
    Putin as Hitler
    Ignorance prevails
    Hand Snowden over

  • Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 7:52 AM

    Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel Laureate and Political Journalist, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    garcia_marquez1I’ve read enough about Gabriel García Márquez (Gabo) to know that he was that rare writer who was as critically acclaimed as he was commercially successful. That he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 and enjoyed J.K. Rowling-like book sales attest to this.

    Yet how fitting in this age of Twitter that most people, including those who should know better, are eulogizing this “greatest writer in the Spanish language since Cervantes” as if he wrote only one novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

    Worse still, the vast majority of those eulogizing him probably know no more about his works than they do about Stephen Hawking’s. I remember well in the late 1990s when, oddly enough, people wanted to appear both hip and intelligent. It seemed de rigueur back then to rave about the brilliance and insightfulness of Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

    Yet, whenever I asked people to elaborate on what made this book so compelling, I was invariably met with the kind of doe-eyed stutter one gets from a child trying to explain that it wasn’t him who ate the cookies … with his mouth full. I’m not sure what it says about me that I had no difficulty admitting that I found his sojourn into black holes and quarks so friggin’ inscrutable I did not get beyond the first few pages.

    The point is, if you were to ask anyone waxing literary about the greatness of One Hundred Years of Solitude to elaborate, chances are very good that, after some trite fluff about magical realism, you too will get that very telling doe-eyed stutter. And don’t bother asking about his lesser-known works because chances are you’d be lucky to even get the title of any of them.

    I should disclose here that this celebrated novel was among others, including No One Writes to the Colonel and The Autumn of the Patriarch, I was required to read for a comparative literature course I took in college. Yet, just as it was when pretending to be impressed by Hawking’s writing was in vogue, I have no difficulty admitting today that Gabo’s writing did not leave much of an impression on me. Love in the Time of Cholera, arguably his second most popular novel, had yet to be published.

    Interestingly enough, though, as a bit of a lark, a close friend has been urging me for years to read Memories of My Melancholy Whores. I’m not sure why she thinks I would be more impressed by, or able to relate to, this particular novel. But I might finally read it as a way of paying my last respects.

    article-2607250-1D2B030D00000578-897_634x433Having said all that, what I found most interesting about Gabo’s life were the political realities that, on the one hand, forced him to flee his native Columbia, while on the other, won him the admiration and affection of world leaders like Bill Clinton. Most notably, Gabo was an uncompromising leftist, which no doubt explains why the likes of Fidel Castro were so solicitous of his political imprimatur.

    But when fellow Latino and estranged friend Mario Vargas Llosa emulated him by winning the Nobel Prize, I could not resist using the occasion to mock Gabo’s reputed self-righteousness:

    It would be remiss of me not to admit the schadenfreude I experienced from the fact that the announcement of this award was probably greeted with quiet resentment by two of Vargas Llosa’s most notorious nemeses:

    One is Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez, his erstwhile best friend, whom Vargas Llosa gave a black eye in 1976 for reportedly counseling his wife to leave him after he (Vargas Llosa) had an affair.  The two men did not speak for over 30 years after that bout, and reports are that their relationship today is cordial at best.

    The other is former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro who became the target of Vargas Llosa’s poison pen after he renounced the leftist ideology he shared with old comrades like García Márquez to become one of the world’s most celebrated right-wing intellectuals … much to my dismay.

    (“Vargas Llosa Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 8, 2010)

    To be fair, apropos of his famous falling out with Vargas Llosa, it might just be that Gabo was also an uncompromising romantic:

    Shoot me. There is no greater glory than to die for love.

    (‘Life in the Time of Cholera,’ p. 82)

    A sentiment that rivals Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death!” No?

    Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos announces three days of national mourning for the death of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and that the national flag be flown at half-staff at all public institutions in BogotaMeanwhile, moments after Gabo’s death notice yesterday, Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos delivered a televised address to the nation in which he hailed him as “the most admired and cherished compatriot of all time” and then declared three days of mourning.

    In doing so, however, Santos might have, unwittingly and ironically, betrayed the kind of unrequited love Gabo famously made a virtue of in Life in the Time of Cholera. After all, unlike fellow exile Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who eventually made it back to his homeland of Russia, Gabo died not in his homeland of Columbia, where he is evidently so beloved, but in his adopted country of Mexico, where he lived from the early 1960s until his death.

    He reportedly suffered from dementia and other maladies in recent years and finally died on Thursday.  He was 87.

    Farewell, Gabo.

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 7:28 pm

  • Friday, April 18, 2014 at 5:19 AM

    My Good Friday Sermon

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I grew up the son of a preacher man. One of the things I found most dispiriting about this was having to listen to the same sermon over and over again, knowing full well that my Daddy expected me to be moved by the Holy Spirit anew each time.

    In fact, by the time I was ten, my mind, body and soul had become inured to “inspired” sermons from the pulpit, all of which I could parrot (almost verbatim) from my church pew. Only the wife of a vainglorious politician could possibly relate.

    Yet I never grew tired of the rituals that attended the Easter season. Indeed, I could never disguise the spirit of suspended animation that got me through it all — even as others affected the countenance each occasion warranted (i.e., by being appropriately maudlin on Good Friday to mourn the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and joyous on Easter Sunday to celebrate his resurrection).

    goodfridayNever mind that my animated countenance was due entirely to the anticipation of what fun Easter Monday would bring — as the first beach holiday of the year in the Caribbean Commonwealth.

    But oh the guilt I suffered for supplanting religious pathos with this hedonistic inspiration during Christianity’s holiest days!

    Thank God I deduced before my puberty was in full bloom that He will forgive me: Not only for my sinful thoughts, but also for the diabolical pleasure I derived from playing one of the soldiers who flogged Jesus Christ (as he crawled his way to Golgotha) in the passion plays our Church performed every Easter.

    Therefore, here’s my own Good Friday Sermon. I address it particularly to those Christian parents who will force their children to abide church services throughout this weekend just as my parents forced me to do when I was a child:

    God will forgive the little ones for not getting all worked up each year for the scripted homage to His son’s crucifixion and resurrection. He will even forgive them for not writhing with the Holy Spirit on cue at revivals, at which it seemed only the souls of mischievous children, not those of sinful adults, needed salvation.

    Moreover, He will not ruin their lives if the only spirit that moves them at Easter time is the one they hope will get them to the beach on Easter Monday; trust me!

    goodfridaybHowever, if you really must wallow in the macabre passions of the season, I suggest you buy the DVD of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and watch it tonight. Because, more than any Easter homily or play, this movie will evoke the funereal emotions and convey (in refreshing and entertaining fashion) the expiatory significance of these familiar words:

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

    (The Holy Bible, John 3:16)

    Amen.

    That said, it would probably surprise none of you to learn that the elders of my church damned me to Hell long ago for being a “backsliding reprobate.” But this had more to do with the Pharisaic standards that govern conduct in most churches than any unpardonable sin I may have committed.

    Indeed, I believe it is duly recorded on God’s Heavenly scroll that I am more spiritual, and live a more Christ-like life, than almost all of the tartuffes who bored me to distraction with their sermons in my youth!

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 5:55 AM

    Epidemic of (Female) Teachers Hooking Up with Students … is Benign

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 1.02.26 PMThis week yet another female high-school teacher entered the rogues’ gallery of those caught assigning select students assignations with them as extra-curricular activity. And, by the way, I find it more than a little curious that 99.9 percent of these educational rogues just happen to be White.

    A 29-year-old Polk County teacher was arrested Monday night on charges of having sex with a 17-year-old student during a four-month romance that involved a pregnancy and abortion, Lakeland police said.

    Jennifer Christine Fichter, an English teacher at Central Florida Aerospace Academy, told the boy’s mother that she was in love with her son and admitted to several sexual encounters, police said.

    (The Tampa Bay Tribune, April 15, 2014)

    Of course, Florida is not the only state where cougars posing as teachers are using high schools as fertile hunting grounds. For also this week:

    More than 100 city teachers, administrators and other school staffers have been caught in the last five years engaging in sexual or “inappropriate” relationships with students, The Post has learned…

    Social media and smartphones have fueled the epidemic of hookups, experts say, with teachers and students easily able to flirt under the radar of parents and colleagues.

    (New York Post, April 13, 2014)

    Alas, some of them are preying on kids in ways that smack more of pedophilia than cougar-like assignations:

    Caron Elizabeth Blanton, 34, of Mooresboro, North Carolina, handed herself in on Tuesday and was charged with three counts of indecent liberties with a child under age 16 and six counts of disseminating obscene material to a minor.

    Blanton resigned from her job as a sixth-grade science teacher at Burns Middle School in Lawndale late last week.

    (South Carolina Post and Courier, August 16, 2014)

    I’m on record proffering that, as epidemics go, this one is easily the most benign there ever was. Indeed, whatever “trauma” parents claim their boys suffered from such student-teacher assignations is far outweighed by the sexual education these lucky buggers must’ve acquired. In any event:

    Given that 16 is the age of consent in most states (30), I submit that if a teacher (male or female) has consensual sex with any student aged 16 or older, he/she should be fired and banned from teaching for life, but no criminal charges should obtain. However, if that teacher has sex with a student aged 15 or younger, he/she should be arrested and prosecuted on charges of statutory rape and related offenses…

    Now, anyone who says that 16-year-old boys will be psychologically damaged by having their sexual fantasies fulfilled by hot teachers either was never a 16-year-old boy or is just talking puritanical rubbish! After all, with an obliging teacher, no lesson could prove more educational, wholesome and, ultimately, useful for a teenage boy.

    (“Sexy Middle-School Teacher Gets Off after Blowing More than Schoolboy’s Mind,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 26, 2006)

    Clearly, to avoid even the appearance of favoritism, no teacher should be allowed to have in her class a student with whom she’s having a sexual relationship.

    Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 9.03.05 AMWhat’s more, I’m prepared to concede that it should be a firing offense for any teacher to become sexually involved with a student; such a relationship constitutes a flagrant violation of school rules, after all. But that teacher should not be criminally prosecuted.

    I mean, am I the only one who thinks constant exposure to violent video games has far more deleterious effects on the intellectual and emotional development of 16-year-old boys? Or that the same can be said for the effects constant exposure to photoshopped and invariably sexualized images of women in magazines has on 16-year-old girls?

    And let me hasten to clarify that, despite chauvinistic notions about girls being more prone to emotional damage than boys, I think a 16-year-old girl is every bit as capable as a 16-year-old boy of consenting to and coping with a sexual relationship with a high-school teacher.

    Related commentaries:
    Sexy middle-school teacher
    Doing teachers
    Student-teacher relationships okay

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 5:42 AM

    Phelps Comes Out of Retirement. Duh

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    phelps-1Michael Phelps made quite a show of declaring his intent to retire after the 2012 London Olympics. Here, for example, is a definitive exchange he had with Anderson Cooper on the May 8, 2012 edition of 60 Minutes, the most widely watched news program in the United States:

    Cooper: What happens if your mom, you know, after London, after 12 months goes by and says, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to go to Rio?’

    Phelps: We’ll go watch.

    Cooper: No chance you’d compete?

    Phelps: No. Once I retire, I’m retiring. I’m done.

    Except that:

    Sports history is replete with superstar athletes who vow to retire at the top of their game. Yet, just this year, Brett Favre joined the long list of those, including Michael Jordan and Mohammed Ali, who failed to do so.

    (“Jackson Resigns After Lakers Swept Out of Playoffs,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 10, 2011)

    phelps-jordan-jpg_184410What’s more, superstar athletes who come out of retirement invariably do little more than tarnish their legacies. Just ask Michael Jordan what he accomplished by doing so, for the second time, to play for the Washington Wizards. Because, in my humble opinion, all he did was make a mockery of his celebrated “Air Jordan” skills by playing like an old fart who could barely take off, let alone fly.

    Now Michael Phelps is demonstrating that it’s not enough for him to be remembered as the greatest athlete in Olympic history – with a record-setting haul of 22 medals (18 of them gold) that is bound to stand the test of time.

    Michael Phelps is coming out of retirement, the first step toward possibly swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

    The 22-time Olympic medalist will compete for the first time since the 2012 London Games at a meet in Mesa, Ariz., on April 24-26.

    Bob Bowman, the swimmer’s longtime coach, told The Associated Press on Monday that Phelps is entered in three events — the 50 and 100-meter Freestyles and the 100 Butterfly.

    (The Associated Press, April 4, 2014)

    As indicated above, however, I’m hardly surprised that Phelps is adding his name to the dubious list of superstar athletes who found life unbearable out of the limelight. But, because his fame is based primarily on his Olympic feats, Phelps seems more sympathetic in this respect. After all, he had/has to wait every four years to bask in the kind of glory an athlete like Jordan got to bask in every year of his career:

    Let’s face it, as acclaimed as Phelps is, like most Olympians, his fame seems limited to quadrennial fleets of fancy. Yet, even this kind of fame is so addictive that Phelps is already hinting at coming out of retirement to bask in more of it at the 2016 Rio Games.

    (“The Lolo Jonesing of Lindsey Vonn,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 4, 2013)

    michael-phelps_1507188cThat said, I hasten now to show that my allusions to Jordan’s career are as instructive as they are foreboding. For it’s arguable that Phelps coming out of retirement at 29 today is rather like Jordan coming out of retirement, for the first time, at 33 in 1996. He proceeded then to lead the Bulls to three more NBA championships.

    This is why I am not as dismayed with Phelps today as I was with Jordan when he came out of retirement, for the second time, in 2001 – as indicated above. More to the point, I fully expect Phelps to pad his haul of Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio Games. Indeed, I see he’s even heeding my advice to be more strategic, in light of his age, by swimming in just 2 to 4 events instead of 6 to 8, which should spare him a repeat of this scenario:

    Since being defeated at the outset in this energy-sapping and potentially ego-deflating event [the 400m Individual Medley] could ruin his chance at gold in every other event, it would not surprise me if Phelps decides to withdraw.

    (“Olympic Trials: Preview of Exciting Feats to Come,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 2, 2012)

    londona2-150x150Sure enough, he won the 400m Individual Medley handily at the 2008 Beijing Games, which augured well for his unprecedented eight gold medals: five in individual events and three in relays. But Phelps refused to withdraw from this energy-sapping event at the 2012 London Games and finished an ego-deflating fourth, which augured ill for a repeat of Beijing. Granted, he still ended up with a relatively impressive haul of six medals: two gold and two silver in individual events, and two gold in relays.

    But when he retires after Rio, which he will surely do, I urge him to stay retired and not follow Jordan’s ill-fated path of coming out of retirement a second time.

    Related commentaries:
    Jackson resigns
    Lolo Jonesing
    Olympic trials

  • Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 7:37 AM

    Obama Trumpets Obamacare Success … Despite Republican Sabotage

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Republicans are not going to like the New Yorker’s latest cover.

    The illustration nods to Obamacare’s recent victory, and shows President Obama feeding medicine to a little boy…

    Artist Barry Blitt told the magazine ‘I enjoyed drawing Ted Cruz, John Boehner, and Michele Bachmann as petulant children — and I especially wanted to draw an open-mouthed Mitch McConnell being spoon-fed his meds.’

    (Huffington Post, April 7, 2014)

    Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 10.11.55 AMPriceless!

    Recall that Republicans tried their damnedest last October to convince the American people that the rollout of the Obamacare website, healthcare.gov, was so incompetent and portended such doom that President Obama should do the honorable thing and resign.

    Therefore, who can blame Obama for making quite a show last week of announcing that, despite those infamous glitches with the website, Obamacare (officially, the Affordable Care Act) actually surpassed its March 31 goal of getting seven million poor Americans to join the ranks of the insured?

    Yet Blitt’s illustration highlights the fact that, instead of celebrating like sensible, patriotic Americans, Republicans reacted to Obama’s announcement as if he had trumpeted enrollment figures for his new socialist party.

    Now comes the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reporting this week that Obamacare will cost less and cover millions more than even the Obama Administration projected, making a mockery of Republican projections of doom and gloom:

    The Congressional Budget Office has released updated estimates on the Affordable Care Act’s impact on both the budget and the health insurance industry. The findings show that the president’s signature health care law is actually growing cheaper to implement, costing the government $5 billion less in 2014 than was previously projected…

    Twelve million more non-elderly people will have health insurance in 2014 than if Obamacare had not become law.

    (Huffington Post, April 14, 2014)

    To be fair, all of this good news must be a bitter pill for Republicans to swallow. Especially when you factor in leading economic indicators, which show the Obama economy continuing in strong and sustainable recovery mode.

    After all, they have staked their political fortunes for the 2014 congressional elections and 2016 presidential election on not just Obamacare but Obama’s whole presidency turning out to be an abject failure. And no Republican personified their perverse hope for failure more than the “open-mouthed” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – who sounded this treacherous clarion call:

    The single most important thing we want to achieve [as Republicans] is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

    (Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2010)

    Clearly, after failing in their mission to make him a one-term president, Republicans redoubled their efforts to make Obama a failed president. And nothing would signal success in this regard quite like undermining this signature legislative achievement of his presidency, which they have attempted to do, to no avail, by voting 54 times on measures ranging from repealing Obamacare in its entirety to defunding or delaying key provisions.

    All of their partisan talking points and political posturing aside, these are people who hate Obama(care) more than they love their country.

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

    (“Bob Woodward: Republicans Are Trying to Blackmail Obama,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 1, 2013)

    147003_600Meanwhile, Obama could only have exacerbated the bitter taste in their mouths by choosing this moment of triumph to give Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius the boot.

    After all, Republicans made quite a show of demanding her head last October when technical glitches with the rollout of healthcare.gov made that March 31 goal of signing up seven million people seem like a pipe dream. By waiting until now, Obama not only highlights how inured he is to the “nattering nabobs of negativism” Republicans have become, but also demonstrates that he will hold people accountable on his own terms … and in his own time.

    Kathleen Sebelius … is resigning, ending a stormy five-year tenure marred by the disastrous rollout of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

    Mr. Obama accepted Ms. Sebelius’s resignation this week, and on Friday morning, he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her, officials said.

    The departure comes as the Obama administration tries to move beyond its early stumbles in carrying out the law, convince a still-skeptical public of its lasting benefits, and help Democratic incumbents, who face blistering attack ads after supporting the legislation, survive the midterm elections this fall.

    (New York Times, April 10, 2014)

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

    6-19-Holder-300x200Indeed, at the National Action Network’s 2014 Convention in New York City just last week, no less a person than (Black) Attorney General Eric Holder insinuated that only one word explains why Republicans would rather see their country fail than see Obama succeed: racism.

    A fed-up Attorney General Eric Holder is accusing congressional critics of launching ‘unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive’ attacks on him and the Obama administration.

    ‘Forget about me [specifically]. Look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a [Republican] House committee,’ Holder told the crowd. ‘What attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?’

    (ABC News, April 10, 2014)

    Mind you, Republican talking heads, deploying reverse psychology, would have you believe that, far from being disrespected, Obama and Holder are benefiting from affirmative action-like, liberal media bias. Except that I doubt Obama would think he got a pass from the putatively liberal Washington Post with its Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, which made his administration look even more secretive than Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon’s.

    But just imagine Holder’s righteous indignation at having Whites who can be fairly judged racists accusing him of “playing the race card” — as if he were no different from (the reformed) Reverend Al Sharpton….

    Of course, for far too many Republicans, it would seem a natural fate for the first Black president to preside over what they claim are the worst years in U.S. history. Their ulterior motive or misguided hope being that this would ensure no Black is elected president (or appointed attorney general) for at least another 100 years.

    Enough said?

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  • Monday, April 14, 2014 at 7:38 AM

    The Masters Without Tiger Is like The Heat Without LeBron

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Tiger Woods announced Tuesday that he has undergone a successful microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve that has been hurting him for several months…

    The procedure was successful, but Woods will be unable to play in the Masters Tournament, instead requiring rest and rehabilitation for the next several weeks…

    The goal is for Tiger to resume playing sometime this summer.

    (tigerwoods.com, April 1, 2014)

    GOLF-US-MASTERS-FINALNo doubt die-hard Golf fans enjoyed watching Bubba Watson win his second green jacket yesterday at The Masters, Golf’s first Major of the year. But, with all due respect to Bubba, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth (who almost bested Tiger by becoming the youngest player to win this tournament), and all other noteworthy contenders, millions didn’t bother watching because Tiger did not play.

    There was a feeling around The Masters that the absence of Tiger Woods might not hurt as much as expected… Television viewers apparently had a different opinion.

    ESPN’s first-round telecast was down 800,000 viewers to a record low of 2 million. That’s the lowest … in the seven years the network has been broadcasting the Masters.

    (ESPN, April 11, 2014)

    I expected it would be thus.

    Here:

    It’s an indication of how much Tiger Woods dominates professional Golf that, even when he’s not playing well, he’s still the only golfer anybody is interested in watching or talking about.

    This manifested in Technicolor last weekend – when the highlight of The Masters was not the play of those atop the Leaderboard, but the controversy that erupted over Tiger’s violation of an arcane rule.

    (“The Masters: All about Tiger Even When He Was Losing, “ The iPINIONS Journal, April 15, 2013)

    tigerwoodsAnd here:

    I understand why professional golfers are chagrined to hear that the popularity of their sport is due as much to shrewd marketing (to yuppies as the course to take for corporate success) as to their skillful and entertaining play.

    There can be no denying, however, that Tiger Woods transcends the corporate image of this sport. After all, his athletic bearing alone makes him something of a phenomenon amongst professional golfers and country-club shakers alike; his Horatio-Alger personal story makes him as American as apple pie; and his charismatic play makes him as irresistible to watch as Michael Jordan was when he played Basketball.

    Indeed, I don’t mind admitting that, despite its career-boosting hype, I have never swung a golf club, let alone played a round of golf…. Yet I’m as big a fan of the game as anyone else – whenever Tiger hits the links.

    (“Tiger Wins British Open … Again,” July 24, 2006)

    It’s really that simple folks: Tiger makes even what for millions of us is the boring game of Golf exciting.  So here’s to a speedy and successful recovery, Tiger.

    We miss you. Golf misses … needs you.

    I should have added that no group will be happier to see him back on the links than his fellow players. Because, even though he routinely kicks their butts, they all have Tiger to thank for the millions in their bank accounts.

    (“Tiger’s Back on the Prowl, um, er, for Golf Titles that Is,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 12, 2010)

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  • Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    Forget Gisele! Who’s that hot chick behind her?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    article-2602887-1D09B3C500000578-356_634x1135

    ‘Biker chic: Gisele Bundchen channelled 1970s New York by wearing a leather jacket and, big boots and dark shades in the city today’

  • Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    Businesses think $10.10 minimum wage is too much. Really?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 8.13.16 PM

  • Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 7:03 AM

    WTF: Colbert to ‘Late Show’?! Woody Allen Casts Whites Only?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The CBS Television Network today announced that Stephen Colbert, the host, writer and executive producer of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Colbert Report, will succeed David Letterman as the host of THE LATE SHOW, effective when Mr. Letterman retires from the broadcast.

    (CBS, April 10, 2014)

    Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 7.35.10 PMFolks, Steven Colbert hosting THE LATE SHOW as himself is like Bozo the clown entertaining a birthday party without his familiar makeup and costume.

    This is a big mistake – no matter how funny the real Colbert is. He has done such a good job of acting as if the right-wing nut on The Colbert Report is who he really is that, every time he appears, the audience will expect him to act the way that Colbert would and say what that Colbert would; especially given that he will still look the way that Colbert would.

    This really is like Jon Stewart suddenly trying to anchor the CBS Evening News. That dog won’t hunt.

    Indeed, this was brought into foreboding relief last year when Colbert returned to his home state of South Carolina to campaign for his sister’s congressional bid. She was pitted against the state’s disgraced former governor, Mark Sanford, who became a national laughing stock when he tried to explain going AWOL while in office by saying that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail; in fact, he was on a romantic rendezvous with his mistress down in Argentina. Yet voters were apparently so confused by Colbert campaigning as himself — but acting, sounding, and looking so much like his buffoonish TV character — that they thought his sister’s campaign was just a big joke. She lost, badly.

    But my real beef is that CBS refused to break the tradition of casting only White guys to host these plum late-night shows. Okay, so Arsenio Hall returned to his hosting gig recently. But he appears to have fallen into a TV black hole. The point is that, with all the truly witty and intelligent female comedians working today, like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Chelsea Handler, you’d think the purportedly liberal executives at CBS would’ve … tapped one of them.

    Woody AllenMeanwhile, apropos of casting Whites only, what’s with Woody Allen featuring only White actors in his play, Bullets Over Broadway, which opens tonight?  It’s clearly his artistic prerogative. But you’d think a play that has so much to do with Harlem’s famous Cotton Club would feature more than just one token Black … as an extra. After all, even though it catered to “Whites-only,” this club routinely featured the most famous Black musicians of the Jazz Age in which the play is set:

    ‘Everyone’s white at Woody’s Cotton Club and in the gangster numbers,’ says our well-placed Broadway insider. ‘Casting was considering a big-name African-American actor for the play, but Woody passed because he just got the idea that a Black gangster wouldn’t be good. One man wasn’t asked back and then was told it was Woody who didn’t want any Black gangsters.’

    (The Daily News, April 10, 2014)

    I’m sure Woody would insist that casting Whites only in this play (or in his movies for that matter) does not make him a racist. Except that this is a man who insists that seducing and then marrying girlfriend Mia Farrow’s daughter (for whom he was a father figure since she was 10) does not make him a pervert; never mind suspicions that he’s also a pedophile who molested his and Mia’s seven-year-old daughter.

    WTF indeed.

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 7:44 pm

  • Friday, April 11, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    Stabbing Rampage at Pennsylvania High School

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    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 since Columbine – 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 shooter to: May God have mercy on your soul as you burn in Hell!

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

    High School StabbingsGiven the above, the only thing noteworthy about the stabbing rampage at a Pennsylvania high school on Wednesday is that it wasn’t a shooting rampage. After all, just imagine the casualties if this unhinged 16-year-old kid was firing two pistols instead of wielding two knives. Better still, imagine a country where “stabbing rampage” replaced “shooting rampage” in public consciousness.

    That he wounded 21, but killed nobody, demonstrates how any legislation that limits access to firearms with high-capacity magazines would save lives.

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