• Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 5:25 PM

    In Sick Bay…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    flu1

    Dear Readers

    I received (and I truly appreciate) all of your inquiries over this past week. Unfortunately, I was in no condition or position to publish this notice any sooner.

    I am clearly much better and hope to be back with regular commentaries on Monday … or Wednesday at the latest.

    Thanks again for your concerns and well wishes.

    ALH

  • Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 8:36 AM

    Facebookers rebrand GM

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-05-24 at 8.34.39 AM

  • Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    Phew! Putin’s army on Ukrainian border now marching towards home

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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    Related commentaries:
    Russia gobbling up Ukraine

  • Friday, May 23, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    Mark Cuban Is More Idiot than Bigot

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    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.

    (“Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban Offers Self-Incriminating Defense of Racist Sterling,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 29, 2014)

    mark-cuban-destroyed-espn-talking-head-skip-baylessI gather many of you did not fully appreciate the disdain I expressed for Cuban in this earlier commentary. Well, like Sterling exposing more of his stupefying racism every time he speaks, Cuban is exposing more of his stupefying egocentrism every time he speaks:

    On Wednesday, he made a few remarks about bigotry that in light of the Donald Sterling scandal caused a bit of an uproar…

    In an interview with Inc. magazine at a business conference in Nashville, Tennessee, the Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire entrepreneur talked about his own bigotry.

    ‘If I see a Black kid in a hoodie and it’s late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street….’

    (CNN, May 22, 2014)

    Of course, the killing of hoodie-wearing Trayvon Martin triggered a national discourse that many hoped would disabuse Whites of their ignorant racial presumptions. Unfortunately, it appears Cuban learned nothing from that discourse.

    Not to mention that, if Cuban comes across “a Black kid in a hoodie and it’s late at night” in his neighborhood, that kid would probably be one of the millionaire players on his team approaching to hug, not to attack, him.

    dallas-mavericks-owner-mark-cubanIn any event, you’d think a purportedly intelligent NBA owner like Cuban would zealously avoid reinforcing ignorant racial presumptions, especially in light of the NBA’s Sterling problem.

    Except that, as my opening quote indicates, Cuban is such an attention whore that, just as he can’t bear to see his players get all the attention during NBA games, he can’t bear to see Sterling get all the attention during this NBA controversy; notwithstanding that it’s about Sterling’s own racist rantings. His need for attention is really that pathological … and pathetic.

    For the record, he promptly apologized to Trayvon Martin’s parents … for what little that’s worth.

    Related commentaries:
    Cuban defense of Sterling

  • Friday, May 23, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    More Websites Banning Public Comments

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    National Journal said Friday that it would ‘join the growing number of sites that are choosing to forgo public comments on most stories.’ Editor-in-chief Tim Grieve wrote that negative user comments on its website have “cheapened” and “debased” the reader experience.

    ‘For every smart argument, there’s a round of ad hominem attacks — not just fierce partisan feuding, but the worst kind of abusive, racist, and sexist name-calling imaginable,’ he wrote.

    (Huffington Post, May 16, 2014)

    Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 9.17.15 PMActually, I disabled the comments feature on this site years ago. Far too many visitors were using it to either publish comments that had nothing to do with my commentaries or hurl insults at other readers (you know, the ignorant and juvenile snark that seems standard fare on Twitter and Facebook). Not to mention those who commented anonymously or under fake names because they didn’t have the balls to stand by, or the brains to defend, their comments.

    Incidentally, anonymity is the lifeblood of internet trolls. Allowing people to post anonymous comments is like allowing a cancer to metastasize.

    Let me hasten to clarify that visitors can still share comments, including criticisms, through my Contact feature. Many do, and I do my best to reply to as many of them as possible.

    But I’m not surprised that it has taken other sites so long to disable theirs. For the dirty little secret is that sites not only tolerate trolls who publish drivel in their comments section, but even engage them because trolls help generate ad revenues.

    This was never an issue for me because I established from the outset that this site would be an ad-free zone. All the same, I empathize with the National Journal and the growing number of sites now lamenting that their comments section, for so many visitors, has become a license to shrill.

  • Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    Military Coup in Thailand … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Even a benign (i.e., popular and bloodless) military coup is not only inherently inconsistent but also politically untenable in a democracy. After all, no matter the extent of Thaksin’s corruption (highlighted by an insider’s deal where he allegedly sold his family’s stake in a state telecommunications company to Singaporeans for $1.9 billion), constitutional provisions were in place to either impeach him or vote him out of office at elections that were due within months.

    Of course, given that, throughout their 74-year democracy, Thais have changed their government by coups as often as by elections, I suppose it’s no surprise that even former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai seems resigned to military coups as an oxymoronic staple of Thai democracy…

    Even though martial law has been declared, it’s reasonable to expect that democracy will soon be restored and all will be well in Thailand … until the next military coup….

    (“Thailand’s Benign Military Coup…,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 20, 2006)

    _75026468_75026466Given the above, I’m sure you’ll forgive me for dismissing today’s military coup as little more than a Groundhog-Day event:

    Thailand’s military has announced it is taking control of the government and has suspended the constitution. In a TV statement, army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha vowed to restore order and enact political reforms…

    The coup follows months of political turmoil in Thailand.

    (BBC, May 22, 2014)

    5d08a8ba96b303a1bd383b2b557d37e3_20060609_mgo_i20_446Accordingly, I refer you to “Thailand’s Never-Ending Asian Spring,” December 2, 2013. Because in it I delineated the untenable state of affairs that, for years, have had the country’s two main political factions paralyzing government functions – with Yellow Shirts invariably resorting to street protests to wrest political power from democratically elected Red Shirts.

    Having said that, I can hardly blame Thailand’s military for feeling even more emboldened these days given the foreboding, if not sanctioning, precedent the Egyptian military set:

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

    The problem, however, is that in almost every case where this strategy has been deployed (e.g. in Pakistan and Burma) the military ends up overstaying its welcome … by years, if not decades.

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

    600_thai_1I felt compelled to comment just months ago, in “Egypt’s Arab Spring Spawns Brutal Military Dictatorship,” March 25, 2014, on the grave consequences of governing by street protests or military coups, which are still playing out in Egypt.

    More to the point, notwithstanding public protestations, President Obama and other Western leaders supported Egypt’s army chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, when he mounted his military coup against his country’s democratically elected government. Therefore, Thailand’s army chief can be forgiven for thinking that they will support him too – no matter how dismayingly.

    And so the chickens continue coming home to roost.

    Related commentaries:
    Thailand’s benign military coup
    Thailand’s never-ending
    Egypt’s Arab spring

  • Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 7:19 AM

    Russia and China Make Kindred Bedfellows

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    China signed a landmark deal Wednesday to buy Russian natural gas worth about $400 billion, giving a boost to diplomatically isolated President Vladimir Putin and expanding Moscow’s ties with Asia.

    (The Associated Press, May 21, 2014)

    I’ve been forthright in pointing out foreboding analogies between what Hitler did in Europe during the late 1930s and what Putin is doing in Europe today – as I did in commentaries like “Putin as Hitler, Crimea as Sudetenland,” February 26, 2014.

    It is in this vein that I proffer the analogy between Putin signing this gas deal with China and Hitler signing the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact with Russia. Not least because, like Germany and Russia back then, Russia and China have common cause in collaborating to counter what they see as Western powers imposing their political values, while forging economic ties and military alliances, all over the world.

    princes-charles-hitler-putinIncidentally, Prince Charles caused a diplomatic kerfuffle on Tuesday, during a state visit to Canada, when he too analogized Putin’s actions in Crimea to Hitler’s in Sudetenland. But reports focused far too much on Charles breaking protocol, which constrains royals from opining publicly on political matters. This, notwithstanding that his opinion in this case was shared in (what he thought was) a private conversation with an elderly polish refugee – whose family barely escaped Nazi occupation.

    Instead, they should have stressed that his observation was as much an indictment of Putin’s military aggression as it was a rebuke of European leaders for failing to stop him; that is, just as their predecessors failed to stop Hitler … before it was way too late.

    In any event, given the totalitarian way Russian and Chinese leaders govern at home and the mercenary way they conduct relationships abroad, it was only a matter of time before Russia and China struck this existential deal. But here, with respect to Syria, is how I characterized the fearful consequences a Russo-Sino axis portends:

    Russian and Chinese leaders are expressing solidarity with Assad because he happens to be emulating the brute force they have used, and intend to continue using, to hold on to power in their respective countries.

    (“Now Houla: Assad of Syria Continues to Massacre with Impunity,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 29, 2012)

    This is also why, when the rest of the world voted at the United Nations to condemn Russia for annexing Crimea, China abstained.

    That its own brutal dictatorship compels China to sit on the sidelines as democratic revolutions reform and reshape the Middle East demonstrates, yet again, why – even if it eventually supplants the U.S. as the biggest economy in the world – China will never replace the U.S. as the world’s only indispensable superpower.

    (“Libya: UN Approves No-Fly Zone [China Abstains],” The iPINIONS Journal, March 18, 2011)

    Indeed, I’m on record warning that Russia and China would veto a resolution calling for UN intervention even if a genocidal maniac like President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan were exterminating six million Christians the way Hitler exterminated six million Jews. The logical extension of their governing principles, at home and on the world stage, really is that self-interested and morally bankrupt.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin Visit In ChinaMind you, this is not to say that Russia and China will live happily ever after. They are forging nothing more than a marriage of convenience, and there are bound to be irreconcilable differences. Not least because both will continue vying to replace the former Soviet Union as the undisputed challenger to the United States in a return to a bipolar world of two super powers.

    In the meantime, I hereby call on the United Nations to amend its Security Council’s voting scheme to divest the veto power now vested in the five permanent members, namely, the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China.

    Instead, all Security Council resolutions should be based solely on a two-thirds vote of its full 15 members. This would prevent the spectacle of permanent members exercising their veto not on the merits of the resolution itself, but on how that veto might protect allies or advance their own hegemonic interests.

    At long last, a “United” Nations cannot and should not mean that one member can veto collective action by the other 192 members to, among other things, condemn Israel’s apartheid-like treatment of Palestinians or authorize military intervention to prevent crimes against humanity in places like Sudan and Syria.

    Related commentaries:
    Putin as Hitler….
    Now Houla
    Libya
    World condemns Russia, China abstains

  • Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 7:15 AM

    Forget Racist Donald Sterling, Designers Still featuring ‘All White Girls’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Tyson+Beckford+FashionWeekLive+Presented+Sephora+6YsD8Vw9kLklBlack male “supermodel” Tyson Beckford triggered a racial meme when he sounded off seven days ago on the fashion industry being dominated by White models:

    Out of all the industries I find … that fashion is very racist. This past season during Fashion Week, you might go to a show and it’s all White girls: not one Asian or Black or Latino girl was in it…

    It kind of makes that ethnic race of people feel like they’re not important or being catered to.

    (Huffington Post, May 15, 2014)

    beyonced-180x300Except that I sounded off seven years ago on this very topic, in similar fashion:

    I’m not too focused on how bone thin these bitches walking the runways at NYC’s Fashion Week are to notice how bone white they are also!

    One could be forgiven the impression that – since Alek Wek is busy promoting her extraordinary autobiography, and a semi-reformed Naomi Campbell is busy raising funds for flood victims – no other Black models are worthy of showing off the clothes of the world’s top fashion designers.

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

    beyonce1-267x300But I was so dismayed this trend continued virtually unchallenged that I felt constrained to sound off again four years later:

    It should go without saying that just because a black face appears on the cover of a fashion magazine … does not mean that there’s diversity in the fashion industry. Especially when that black face is most often half-white (like Halle Berry’s) or digitally whitened (like Beyoncé’s)…

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

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

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

    This is why I have two questions for Tyson and his female counterparts, including Jourdan Dunn and Chanel Iman:

    1. What took you guys so long to notice?
    2. Are you prepared to lead a strike by models (of all ethnicities) and call for a boycott by consumers (of all ethnicities) against the fashion industry for featuring all-White models – just as LeBron James and Chris Paul were prepared to lead a strike by players and urge a boycott by fans against the NBA for harboring a racist owner like Donald Sterling?

    In other words, put up, or shut up.

    That said, one of the things that truly distinguished the Abolition and Civil Rights Movements was the number of Whites who were in the vanguard of those agitating for equal rights. I am constrained to wonder, therefore, why Whites are so rarely in the vanguard of those agitating for racial justice these days.

    That White models are as conspicuously absent in the vanguard of those agitating for diversity in the fashion industry today as they are conspicuously present on the runways at fashion shows bears this out. Hell, it took Black superstar players threatening to strike to force the NBA to get rid of Donald Sterling, even though the League’s (practically) all-White governing committee of fellow owners knew of and abided his racist rants and practices for decades. (Michael Jordan became the only token-Black owner in 2010, when he bought the Charlotte Bobcats from the NBA’s first token-Black owner, Bob Johnson.)

    post-21801-1217456034-1There are notable exceptions, of course – even in the fashion industry. In fact, original White supermodels Stephanie Seymour, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schieffer, and Cindy Crawford set an instructive example years ago when they shocked the fashion industry by declaring that they would not walk the catwalk for any designer who did not include Black supermodel Naomi Campbell in his or her show. Their profile in courage was recounted in the September 2008 edition of Vanity Fair.

    This compels one to wonder why today’s White supermodels Giselle Bundchen, Adriana Lima, Bar Rafaeli, Candice Swanepoel, and Kate Upton have not made a similar declaration. I doubt they are more racist; or that they have less affinity for Black models like Jourdan and Chanel than Stephanie & co. had for Naomi. Perhaps they are just more narcissistic and selfish … like so many people are these days.

    Whatever the case, it’s important for Giselle & co. to appreciate that, just as LeBron & co. showed they have the power to force a racist like Sterling out of the NBA, they can show they have the power to feature more diversity in the fashion industryThey can do so by demanding that photographers, stylists, booking agents, and designers do more to work with non-White models in everything from print advertisements to product endorsements and major fashion shows.

    Related commentaries:
    Fashion model fired
    No Blacks

  • Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 7:03 AM

    Snowden/Greenwald Profiting off NSA Leaks. NSA Spying in The Bahamas…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Glenn_Greenwald_No_Place_to_Hide-581x386Glen Greenwald was all over the media last week promoting the first of what he undoubtedly hopes will be many books mined from the NSA data Edward Snowden leaked to him. His book is titled No Place to Hide, but the irony seems lost on Greenwald that it is belied by the fact that Snowden found a place to hide … in Russia.

    For the record, let me hasten to reiterate that:

    I too would be championing Snowden’s professed cause if he had taken his treasure trove of NSA secrets to a reputable newspaper, like the New York Times or Washington Post, instead of entrusting it to a news hustler like the then-obscure lawyer/journalist/blogger Greenwald.

    Recall that Snowden initially claimed his only mission was to inform the American people about the NSA’s surveillance activities. Well, with apologies to George W. Bush, he had just cause to declare, ‘Mission Accomplished,’ six months ago.

    Moreover, rather than fleeing like a fugitive, Snowden could have become a confidential informant (like a latter-day Deep Throat), continued on with his seemingly idyllic life in Hawaii, and left it to his newspaper of choice to expose all of the secrets that are fit to print … in a manner that does not compromise national security.

    Instead, this narcissistic, self-righteous, naive and self-appointed arbiter — not only of what metadata the government can collect, but also of what documents it can classify as top secret — conspired with Greenwald to make his face every bit as famous as his leaks. In the process he wittingly (or unwittingly) handed the ‘NSA’s crown jewels’ over to America’s two most-formidable adversaries, China and Russia, on a silver platter. No Chinese or Russian spy could ever have achieved such a feat – even in his wildest dream.

    (“Judge Ruling on NSA Spying…,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 18, 2013)

    imagesTo be fair, Snowden insists that he has not shared one iota of NSA data with agents of any foreign government, and he dares anyone to cite a single case where his leaks have gotten anybody killed.

    The problem is that, even if Snowden disclosed more to China and Russia than he did to Greenwald, neither of them would ever admit it. On the other hand, even if terrorists derive no direct benefit from his published leaks, they might still claim they did as part of their psychological warfare against Western countries.

    But frankly, Snowden insisting that he’s not a traitor is rather like Donald Sterling insisting that he’s not a racist. More to the point, Greenwald insisting that he’s providing a public service by publishing NSA secrets reeks of similar incredulity and disingenuousness.

    This is why I am so stupefied and dismayed that Greenwald is not being more pilloried in the media for peddling NSA secrets, which have compromised national security and undermined foreign relationships,  than Sterling is for venting racist comments, which have brought the NBA into disrepute. Continuing from my commentary “Judge Ruling on NSA Spying…” quoted above:

    Nothing infuriates me more than watching Greenwald spew self-righteous indignation at anyone who questions the propriety, ethics, and national-security implications of his and Snowden’s crusade. After all, the only thing Greenwald is doing now is peddling his country’s national secrets like a street vender selling hotcakes…

    Just imagine the windfall Greenwald is enjoying or counting on – having convinced some misguided, open-society do-gooder to donate $250 million for him to set up his own online portal to trade on the million-plus bits of NSA documents he keeps teasing/threatening to release from his journalistic quiver. And if you don’t think Snowden himself expects to be greatly enriched by this enterprise, then you probably think people rob banks for charitable purposes…

    In any event, I challenge anyone who supports Snowden and Greenwald to explain how peddling U.S. top secrets, the way Chinese peddle pirated Apple products, furthers any constitutional or journalistic cause. Frankly, Benedict Arnold will go down in the annals of American history as having nothing on these two shysters.

    Oh, I neglected to mention the inevitable movie rights:

    Shaken or stirred?  Glenn Greenwald’s new book on NSA leaker Edward Snowden is bound for the big screen — and it’s set to be produced by the same team behind the James Bond franchise.

    Sony Pictures Entertainment just snapped up the movie rights to Greenwald’s ‘No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State,’ Variety reports, with 007 producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli signed on.

    (The Washington Post, May 14, 2014)

    Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 6.53.56 AMThis makes a mockery of the freedom of the press; such rank commercialization of state secrets under the pretext of journalism should be criminalized.

    Never mind the brazen insult inherent in making any comparison between James Bond, who spied for his country, and Edward Snowden, who spied against his. I cannot overstate that, as alluded to above, Snowden has more in common with a traitor like “Tailor” in John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy than with a patriot like Bond in Ian Fleming’s novels.

    I asserted early on, in “I said Putin Would Hand Over Snowden. I Was Wrong,” October 25, 2013, that Snowden’s leaks were/are doing far more to aid America’s enemies than inform the American people. Here is an excerpt:

    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…

    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:

    ‘Kim Philby, the most successful of the Cambridge spies, tried to drink himself to death in Moscow because he was disillusioned with communism and tortured by his own failings, his last wife has said in an interview.’ (London Guardian, March 30, 2011)

    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.

    _________________

    images-1Therefore, I suppose I should feel somewhat vindicated that a growing number of non-government security experts are now expressing similar misgivings about Snowden (and his mercurial enablers like Greenwald, the Guardian, and Washington Post):

    Some experts even believe Snowden may have been working for Russia or China all along without knowing it.

    ‘It is possible for a person to have met someone who is empathetic to their cause, who might give them some ideas, without them even knowing that is how they recruit,’ said Richard Bejtlich, a chief security strategist at the cyber-security giant FireEye.

    He added that Snowden ‘falls into the useful idiot model’, that passively helped the Russians and Chinese without being given specific instructions.

    (Daily Mail, May 16, 2014)

    I cannot overstate the universal truth that all countries spy, or try to spy, the way the United States does—as I delineated in “I Spy, You Spy, We All Spy,” July 2, 2013. Indeed, what Churchill said of Western democracy can be said, in essence, of American spying: it appalls and unnerves me to think that America is spying on me; except that it appalls and unnerves me even more to think that other countries (like China and Russia) are too.

    In which case the only purpose Snowden and Greenwald could have at this point for continuing to serialize NSA secrets is to inflict as much reputational damage on the United States as possible and, of course, to make themselves as rich and famous as possible. It is immaterial to them that, in doing so, they are sowing discord between the United States and friendly nations.

    Except that this is having the Orwellian effect of making some of those nations think that there’s really no principled or qualitative difference between being allied with the United States or with Russia (or China, especially with China wooing them like the non-judgmental Sugar Daddy the United States never was).

    The irony, of course, is that Russia’s equivalent of the NSA is busy eavesdropping not only on every word Snowden says on the phone and every key he strokes on his PDA or computer, but also on every word says or sound he makes in the “safe house” Putin built for him. Fool.

    But even those who would still accord him hero worship worthy of James Bond must concede that Snowden’s leaks will have the sadly foreseeable consequence of crushing the democratic aspirations of people in places like Russia and China. After all, totalitarian regimes everywhere are not only using his leaks, but also pointing to his refuge in Russia to brainwash their people — through state-controlled mainstream and social media — into thinking that the United States, the purported beacon of democracy, is even more of a police state than they are: how’s that for doublethink.

    NSA recording every phone call in The Bahamas

    I know firsthand the prevailing suspicion in The Bahamas, my birthplace, that workers at the state telephone company (BATELCO) routinely eavesdrop on our phone calls. Mind you, their only reason for doing so is to pick up idle gossip.

    Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 4.13.52 PMThis is why Greenwald’s latest blog post, “Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in The Bahamas,” The // Intercept, May 19, 2014, evoked little more than quizzical indifference.

    Here, in part, is what he disclosed as a shocking breach of Bahamian sovereignty:

    Beyond a desire to bust island pot dealers, why would the NSA choose to apply a powerful collection tool such as SOMALGET against the Bahamas, which poses virtually no threat to the United States?

    The answer may lie in a document that characterizes the Bahamas operation as a ‘test bed for system deployments, capabilities, and improvements’ to SOMALGET. The country’s small population—fewer than 400,000 residents—provides a manageable sample to try out the surveillance system’s features.

    A breach? No doubt. Shocking? Hardly. Frankly, Bahamians should be less surprised or angered by the U.S. government recording their phone calls (for security reasons) than they are by Google recording their internet searches (for commercial reasons).

    But I know my “bigetty” fellow Bahamians will want to cuss me out — not only for airing our dirty laundry like this, but also for not calling on the Bahamian government to stop the U.S. government from spying on us.

    They would do well to recall, however, the hissy fit the Brazilian government threw after Greenwald disclosed that the NSA was eavesdropping on Brazilians, including the president. Because misguided national pride caused President Dilma Rousseff to reject President’s Obama’s invitation for an historic state visit to the United States, which amounted to nothing more than Brazil cutting off its nose to spite its face.

    So I urge my fellow Bahamians to be cautioned, if not instructed, by the ‘Serenity Prayer.’ After all, if the American government can’t stop the Chinese government from spying on Americans … and vice versa, the Bahamian government doesn’t have a prayer of stopping the American government from spying on Bahamians. And this is a case where even feigning outrage for local political purposes, as so many governments (like Brazil’s) are wont to do, can unwittingly aid Snowden and his Russian CONTROL in inflicting unwarranted reputational damage on the United States – our only indispensable ally in so many respects.

    NOTE: This is my last commentary on Snowden and all his NSA leaks have spawned; that is, until news leaks from Russia about him ending up dying much as Philby did: discarded, destitute, and disillusioned. In which case my opening line to his obit will be, I told you so.

    Related commentaries:
    Judge ruling
    Complaints about NSA

  • Monday, May 19, 2014 at 6:36 AM

    Help! Floods Have Balkan Streets Looking Like Venetian Canals

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I readily concede that you can be forgiven a little compassion fatigue. After all, mainstream and social media have been replete recently with heartrending stories about wildfires destroying homes in California, ethnic conflict causing death and starvation in South Sudan, religious conflict causing death and destruction in the Central African Republic, and simmering civil war threatening to tear Ukraine apart, not to mention the despairing search for kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria and the even more despairing search for missing Flight MH370 in the Southern Indian Ocean.

    And these do not represent even 10 percent of the places around the world where people are suffering unspeakable natural and man-made disasters today.

    People evacuate in a boat in the flooded town of ObrenovacTherefore, I raise concerns about the historic floods now leaving a path of destruction throughout the Balkans advisedly. Reports are that three months of rainfall in just three days triggered landslides that left vast areas looking like “a huge muddy lake, with houses, roads and rail lines submerged” and caused the mighty Sava to overflow its banks, leaving the streets outside Belgrade looking like the canals of Venice.

    Alas, those landslides are also unearthing hundreds of thousands of land mines all over Bosnia, giving deadly meaning to the idiom: chickens coming home to roost….

    As of this writing, the death toll across the region had risen to 44.

    ‘What happened to us happens not once in 100 years, but once in 1,000 years.’ Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said at a government meeting broadcast live on Serbian television.

    (The Associated Press, May 18, 2014)

    Evacuees from Serbian town of Obrenovac are seen lying on beds in a shelter hall in BelgradeMind you, the Italian prime minister was saying much the same two years ago, when floods of Biblical proportions were causing similar destruction in idyllic places like Tuscany and Venice. Indeed, I remember pictures showing the famed Piazza San Marco looking more like Lake Como.

    I share this to offer hope to those suffering Mother Nature’s wrath in the Balkans today.  But I know all too well that disasters or even massacres befalling people elsewhere mean little to the people who are losing their livelihoods, if not their lives.

    This is why Serbians, Bosnians, and Croatians must be heartened to know that the EU and Russia have put aside their differences over Ukraine to coordinate massive relief efforts. And the United States, Israel, and Turkey are among the many other countries that have pledged hundreds of millions for recovery and rebuilding.

    Novak Djokovic (4-R) poses for a photo with a banner reading "#support Serbia and Bosnia"Still, I urge you to do whatever you can to help those affected.

    With all due respect to the International Red Cross, the most direct and reliable way to donate funds is probably through Serbian Tennis player Novak Djokovic’s charitable foundation: here.

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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 2:16 pm

  • Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    Indians Vote to End Gandhi-Nehru Dynasty

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    America often boasts of being the oldest democracy, but India is the largest and most participatory.

    Image:India demonstrated this in awe-inspiring fashion over the past five weeks as 550 million voters, representing 66.4 percent of the electorate, participated in a general election. By comparison, only 121 million voters participated in the 2012 U.S. general election, representing just 57.5 percent.

    No less impressive, though, is that India conducted this massive democratic exercise with none of the administrative incompetence, vote rigging and/or partisan violence that attend elections in so many developing countries.

    That said, the major issues in this election were the same as they are in elections in most democracies these days: economic growth and better governance.

    In this case, the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) campaigned on the aspirational principles of self-empowerment and entrepreneurship, appealing to India’s 100 million newly registered voters – most of whom are young and urban. The ruling alliance, led by the National Congress Party (NCP), campaigned on its settled principles of social welfare and party loyalty, appealing to India’s older, rural and poorer voters.

    This of course is hardly the forum to delve into the issues or the results. Therefore, suffice to know that the BJP won a landslide victory, winning an outright majority (as of this writing) of 284 seats in India’s 543-seat parliament. The NCP suffered its worst defeat in history, winning only 44.

    narendra_modi_rise_bjp_apThis means that the BJP’s charismatic leader, Narendra Modi (63), will become the next prime minister. Alas, a dark cloud is raining down criticisms on his electoral parade about his brand of Hindu nationalism. They stem from his failure in 2002, when he was leader of the regional state of Gujurat, to stop religious riots which saw Hindus slaughter more than 1000 Muslims with relative impunity.

    Yes, you can be forgiven for thinking that the 1947 Partition of India precluded even the possibility of such sectarian violence. But Indians need only look across the Bay of Bengal to see the violence that besets Myanmar (where national leaders seem politically disposed to stand by as majority Buddhists slaughter minority Muslims) to appreciate what portends if Modi and the BJP are as tolerant as national leaders of Hindus slaughtering Muslims as they were as regional leaders.

    In any event, such was the universal nature of the blame ascribed to Modi for that 2002 massacre that the Bush administration banned him from traveling to the United States.

    But that was then – as President Obama telegraphed yesterday afternoon when he joined other heads of state in calling Modi to offer congratulations and, no doubt, extend invitations for state visits to forge mutually beneficial friendships.

    Rahul-Gandhi-PTI-Aug6On the other hand, this means that the NCP’s dynastic leader, Rahul Gandhi (43), has suffered a defeat as humiliating as it is historic. After all, this result is as much a rejection of the Gandhi-Nehru family who have dominated Indian politics since the 1920s as it is a rejection of the NCP that has ruled India virtually every year since Independence. (A BJP-led alliance ruled from 1998 to 2004.)

    Indeed, Modi knew well what he was doing when he peppered his stump speeches with derisive references to Rahul as the “feudal prince” who felt himself entitled to be king. For it is clear to see how this would have resonated not only with young voters – who know more about Rihanna and Justin Bieber than they do about Indira and Rajiv Gandhi (let alone Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru), but also with poor voters – who are as frustrated with the stagnant economic growth as they are disillusioned with the rampant political corruption that have dogged NCP rule for much of the past decade.

    Hell, such was the shocking disregard for the Gandhi family that Rahul barely won re-election in his home constituency.

    Apropos of which, and with all due respect to Modi, it is the end of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, not his election as prime minister, that is the most significant outcome of this Indian general election. Here’s the more authoritative way historian Ramachandra Guha summed this up:

    The larger sociological shift is that Indian society is becoming more democratic and less feudal, less deferential to family privilege. It’s possible that Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi [his younger and more charismatic sister] cannot revive Congress, because India has moved on.

    (New York Times, May 16, 2014)

    I wish Modi and his BJP all the best. Especially considering the vested interest all Western democracies have in seeing democratic India surpass totalitarian China in all indicators of national success. Moreover, even though they clearly enjoy more personal freedoms than the Chinese, Indians must surely hope the BJP can create the kind of personal (and national) wealth for them that the Communist Party has created for the Chinese.

    Finally, Modi seems set for a period of honeymoon euphoria that makes that which Obama enjoyed look tepid (notwithstanding the rock star reception he received in places like Cairo and Berlin). But this only means that the realities of governing India could result in disillusionment far worse than that which Obama had to contend with once the realities of governing America set in. It behooves Modi to bear these inevitable realities in mind.

  • Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    College is not the path to success it used to be…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And the debt most students pick up along the way is the least of it.

    May 20, 2013

     

  • Friday, May 16, 2014 at 7:39 AM

    Obama Was Embarrassed by Nobel Peace Prize? Good!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Jagland_and_ObamaAs the following attests, I was in the vanguard of those deriding and criticizing the Norwegian Nobel Committee for awarding President Obama the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize:

    You’d be hard-pressed to find a more ardent and hopeful supporter of President Barack Obama than me.  But I think this award is … well … a bit much.

    For no matter the rationalization, there’s no denying that the Nobel Committee awarded it – just nine months into his presidency – not for what he has done, but for who he is.

    ‘Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future… [He has ushered in] a change in the international climate.’ (The Norwegian Nobel Committee)

    Indeed, the irony is not lost on me that the committee awarded him not for doing anything to prevent climate change, but for changing the climate with what amounts to hot air…

    Which brings me to this final word about the Norwegian cabal behind the Nobel Prize: It is naïve to think that politics do not govern its purportedly merit-based selections.

    (“Obama Awarded (Affirmative Action) Nobel Peace Prize,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 10, 2009)

    images-1Therefore, I was relieved when I read yesterday that no less a person than Obama himself was deriding and criticizing the Committee behind closed doors at the White House. For here’s how The Associated Press reported on the way Rahm Emanuel, his then chief of staff, poured scorn on the Norwegians for raining on Obama’s historic parade up 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with what could only be described as a Nobel PR stunt:

    A senior Norwegian diplomat says his country’s former ambassador to the United States was given a verbal lashing by Barack Obama’s chief of staff when the president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.

    Morten Wetland said Thursday the ambassador, Wegger Stroemmen, was approached by Rahm Emanuel, now Chicago’s mayor, who accused Norway of ‘fawning’ to the newly elected U.S. leader.

    Of course, anyone who knows Rahm’s consigliore style knows that “fawning” was not the only f-word he used. More importantly, though, the way he reportedly laid into that Norwegian ambassador debunks the prevailing view that the congenitally self-possessed Obama was exhibiting false modesty (or blowing more hot air) when he reacted to news of his Nobel Peace Prize as follows:

    To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize.

    (New York Times, October 9, 2009)

    barack_obama_and_rahm_emanuel_in_the_oval_officeNever mind the truly humbling fact that Obama has done little over the past five years to be any more deserving today than he was back then; or that, instead dispatching Rahm to berate the Norwegians, he could have refused to accept the prize.

    If he had done so, he would have imbued his presidency with the kind of moral authority even the pope would envy and placed himself in the more admirable company of just two, arguably even more transformative figures, who refused to accept (of their own volition): North Vietnamese negotiator Lu Duc Tho – who exposed the vaingloriousness of men like U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat, Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by refusing to accept a prize for negotiating a peace that had yet to materialize; and French writer John-Paul Sartre – who dismissed the prize as a self-righteous imprimatur that would undermine the integrity of his writing.

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  • Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 6:47 AM

    Another Mining Disaster: this Time in Turkey

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 5.20.54 PMNo doubt Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan thought he was doing the right thing today when he cleared his schedule and rushed to a coal mine in Western Turkey, where an explosion and fire had just killed 274 workers and trapped another 100 or so – all of whom are now feared dead.

    But it’s hardly surprising that grief-stricken relatives and co-workers pelted his motorcade with rocks as he was leaving, or that people have taken to the streets all over the country to vent more anger than grief. After all, Erdogan is making it painfully clear that he’s more interested in defending his administration against claims that it ignored repeated warnings about mine safety than in acting as the nation’s comforter in chief:

    ‘We as a nation of 77 million are experiencing a very great pain [but] explosions like this in these mines happen all the time. It’s not like these don’t happen elsewhere in the world,’ he said, reeling off a list of global mining accidents since 1862.

    (The Huffington Post, May 14, 2014)

    _74841369_52be672f-c48f-40e3-99d3-b831b830ceeaErdogan is clearly no Bill Clinton, or even Barack Obama, when it comes to helping his nation grieve. But, as my title indicates, there’s no denying the truth of what he said about explosions like this happening elsewhere, including in the United States.

    In fact, here’s what I was constrained to observe in 2010, after a similar explosion trapped 155 workers in China:

    I heard an American mining expert on CNN asserting that Chinese authorities are so hell-bent on mining coal to fuel China’s booming economy that they couldn’t care any less about enforcing standards to ensure a safer work environment for miners. The implication being that American authorities put safety first by exerting far more rigorous oversight.

    But this jingoistic expert seemed completely oblivious to the fact that the United States has its own record of mining tragedies, including one in Utah in 1984 that killed 27 and another in West Virginia in 2006 that killed 12…

    But, in addition to demonstrating the inherent dangers of mining, this latest tragedy in the United States confirms that the motto of ‘profits over safety’ applies as much here as it does in China.

    (“Coal Mine Tragedies in China and the United States,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2010)

    And who can forget the drama that played out for 69 days later that same year in Chile, after a collapsed mine trapped 33 workers.

    Which is why, even though his remarks came across as cold-hearted, Erdogan should be forgiven for trying to put this tragedy into perspective.

    Incidentally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, logging is far more dangerous than mining — with an average of 127.8 per 100,000 loggers dying each year in work-related accidents. Mining did not even make the list of 10 deadliest jobs, which included farming, truck driving, and fishing.  How’s that for a little perspective.

    Having said that, I’m acutely mindful that any condolence I offer now might come across as equally cold-hearted. Nevertheless, my heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to all families and co-workers affected.

    NOTE: I think even CNN will concede that this disaster marks the end of global interest in the fate of missing flight MH370, especially coming on the heels of saturation media coverage of stories about those kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls and the racist rantings of Donald Sterling.

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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 4:33 pm

  • Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    Sen. McCain, Channeling Donald Sterling, Shows again Why He Was Unfit to Be President

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    iojpoijppiguThe following excerpt – from “Checkmated on Crimea, Obama Plays for Rest of Ukraine,” March 7, 2014 – reflects the kind of criticism I’ve been leveling against John McCain for years for displaying a rash and bellicose temperament that is unbecoming of a U.S. senator, let alone a U.S. president:

    A number of you have asked in recent days what I think of U.S. politicians like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham accusing Obama of being weak and having a “feckless” foreign policy. Suffice it to know that, if it were up to these warmongering fools, U.S. troops would now be dying by the hundreds trying to do in Iran, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine what they tried to do in Iraq.

    Thank God that, unlike George W. Bush, Obama is strong enough to base U.S. foreign policy on what is in the national interest instead of on what will impress neo-con war hawks. Not to mention that, listening to them, you’d never know Obama has killed many more real al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, in places like Pakistan and Yemen than Bush killed during his misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the biggest (and most tragic) mistake of Obama’s presidency was allowing politicians like McCain and Graham to goad him into “surging” more troops into Afghanistan to serve as little more than sitting ducks for Taliban fighters.

    But their unwitting championing of Putin as a more admirable leader than Obama betrays the fact that far too many Republicans hate their president more than they love their country. Which is why they will say or do anything to undermine his presidency — the welfare of the country be damned.

    ___________________

    gal-john-mccain1-jpgExcept that McCain has always enjoyed such hero worship in public life that my criticisms have invariably been decried as political blasphemy. This, notwithstanding that his reputation as a national war hero is based solely on the recklessness and/or incompetence he displayed as a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, which resulted in him getting shot down and spending most of that war in a prison camp.

    (He’s fond of citing, as a badge of honor, the recklessness and/or incompetence that resulted in him graduating at the bottom of his class from the Naval Academy at Annapolis.)

    missing-Nigerian-girlsIn any event, McCain vindicated every criticism I’ve ever leveled against him yesterday when he declared what he would do if he were president about the hundreds of schoolgirls Nigerian thugs kidnapped a month ago:

    ‘I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without permission of the host country,’ McCain told The Daily Beast Tuesday. ‘I wouldn’t be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan,’ he added, referring to the president of Nigeria.

    Of course, it’s not exactly a surprise that McCain holds this view. He’s been a long-time advocate for increased U.S. military activity in crises around the globe — from Syria to Ukraine.

    (The Daily Beast, May 13, 2014)

    Well, perhaps the early onset of dementia has robbed McCain of the awareness that Obama demonstrated this kind of decisiveness and strength when he sent in U.S. troops to get bin Laden without Pakistan’s permission. But Obama did so to get the man responsible for killing almost 3,000 American citizens. By contrast, a president McCain would be sending in U.S. troops as an international SWAT team everywhere, doing everything from fighting other countries’ civil wars to rescuing kidnap victims as in this case. Never mind that the United States acting as the self-appointed policeman of the world is every bit as outdated and discredited as the United Kingdom acting as the self-appointed colonizers of the African Continent.

    Let me hasten to clarify, however, that you should not be misled by the wanton (and arguably racist) disrespect McCain shows for Goodluck Jonathan, the democratically elected president of the most populous country in Africa. Because the most outrageous part of his declaration, by far, is the reckless disregard he shows for the lives of American soldiers – who he clearly thinks are as expendable as aerial drones.

    Frankly, John McCain is to Congress what Donald Sterling is to the NBA. Unfortunately, Congress does not have the institutional integrity that is compelling the NBA to get rid of Sterling.

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  • Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    Xscape! More Pedophile Charges Prove Michael Was Not ‘Gone Too Soon’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A 1987 Pepsi ad [during the making of which special effects set Michael’s hair on fire] is now being linked to more controversy as a child who worked on the commercial has filed a sexual assault complaint against the late singer last week in court…

    Two sources have said the complaint is sealed but revealed the man to be James Safechuck. Safechuck appeared in the 1987 Pepsi commercial and claims Jackson molested him for several years when starting when Safechuck was 10 years old.

    (The Huffington Post, May 13, 2013)

    Xscape-e1399945866114Yesterday Michael Jackson’s estate released Xscape. It’s the latest in what seems destined to be an endless (financial) stream of posthumous albums. But his die-hard fans could be forgiven suspicions that the latest filing of sexual molestation charges against him on Friday was timed to undermine sales.

    On the other hand, they should beware that anyone insisting Michael was not a pedophile is as willfully ignorant as V. Stiviano insisting Donald Sterling is not a racist.

    The facts this latest victim alleges are now all too familiar – complete with Michael grooming him not just with his parents’ giddy approval, but even in the full glare of public view. Five victims are now parties to the class-action lawsuit Wade Robson filed a year ago this month. But I have no doubt that many more will come out of the woodwork before this case is closed.

    Of course, more molestation charges are not the only career-killing fate Michael escaped by dying. After all, reports were that – with over $500 million in debt, the spending habits of a spendthrift billionaire, and his earning abilities vanquished by incapacitating drugs – he was facing the ignominy of court-mandated bankruptcy.

    When one juxtaposes these grave facts with the fact that his estate has generated over $275 million since his death, there can be no denying the timeliness of his death…

    So, ‘gone too soon’?  I don’t think so.

    (“Michael Jackson: Worth more Dead than Alive,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 28, 2010)

    All the same, I see no point in lamenting Michael’s well-documented perversions anew. Instead, I shall suffice to reprise “Proof Michael Jackson Was a Serial Pedophile…,” July 1, 2013, which I wrote last year when Robson … came out.

    ___________________

    HIStory+Past+Present+and+Future+Book+I+Disc+2+51FdwOB1aL_SS500_

    Based on HIStory, it might be helpful for die-hard fans to know that I’m on record hailing Michael Jackson as easily the most talented and exciting performer in the history of entertainment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Well, now comes my vindication; alas too belatedly:

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

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

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

    (Daily Mail, June 29, 2013)

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

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

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

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

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

    And again here:

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

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

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

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

    We shall see….

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

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

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

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

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

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

    imagesAnd again here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Finally, there’s this:

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

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

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

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  • Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 6:47 AM

    Russia Gobbling Up Ukraine: First Crimea, Now Donetsk … Next Odessa?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Pro-Moscow insurgents in eastern Ukraine declared independence Monday and sought to join Russia, undermining upcoming presidential elections, strengthening the Kremlin’s hand and putting pressure on Kiev to hold talks with the separatists following a referendum on self-rule.

    (Associated Press, May 12, 2014)

    DonetskWhile President Vladimir Putin gobbles up even more of Ukraine, Western leaders are fiddling tunes about the referendum not meeting their political and legal standards – as if that means anything to anyone in Russia or Ukraine.

    Not to mention that these are the same tunes they fiddled after Crimea held a rigged referendum, declared independence, and sought to join Russia. Now all that’s left is for Putin – who promptly annexed Crimea, despite saying he had no intention of doing so – to annex Donetsk, despite insisting that he has no intention of doing so.

    imagesAgain, Putin clearly intends to occupy and/or control as much of the former republics of the Soviet Union as Western leaders will let him get away with. The only question is at what point Western leaders will do anything to stop what he’s doing, instead of waiting in each case to slap him on the wrist (with more penny-wise, pound-foolish sanctions) after he has done it.

    He can certainly be forgiven for calculating that, even if he takes all of Ukraine, these same Western leaders will be anxious to normalize relations with him, after duly venting their outrage for posterity, if only to ensure Russia’s uninterrupted supply of oil and gas.

    This is why former republics that, like Ukraine, are not members of NATO have just cause to fear Putin doing to them what he’s doing to Ukraine. More to the point, assurance of support from Western leaders would mean even less than the paper Chamberlain’s assurance of support to Poland was written on — as Ukraine is finding out to its demise.

    And so history continues to repeat itself.…

    Indeed, on the cover of its May 3 edition, the European-based Economist magazine posed the galling question, “What would America fight for?” Whereas the far more relevant question is: What will Europe fight for?

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  • Monday, May 12, 2014 at 7:07 AM

    Michael Sam a More Worthy Jackie Robinson of Gay Athletes than Jason Collins

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Michael Sam drafted by St. Louis Rams_1399781961998_4587706_ver1.0_640_480Michael Sam made history (of sorts) on Saturday when the St. Louis Rams selected him in the seventh and final round of this year’s NFL Draft. But it’s important to keep his selection in context.

    Here, in this regard, is what I wrote earlier this year, when everyone hailing Sam today was hailing Jason Collins, after the Brooklyn Nets signed him as the first openly gay athlete in professional sports:

    Frankly, the Brooklyn Nets seem only interested in claiming historic symmetry with the Brooklyn Dodgers – who made history in April 1947 by signing Jackie Robinson as the first Black player in professional sports. The glaring difference, however, is that the Dodgers did not sign Robinson as a token Black, hoping to profit from whatever media coverage and public goodwill it generates. They signed Robinson to help them win Baseball games, which he did … and then some.

    By contrast, Collins got cut from the NBA last year because he was washed up, not because he “came out.” Accordingly, nobody should expect him to do anything but serve as the token gay in the NBA.

    Moreover, let’s not overlook that, by participating in this stunt, Collins denied Football player Michael Sam this acclaim of becoming the first openly gay player in professional sports.

    (“Gay Civil Rights: from Media Stunt in New York to Witch-Hunt in Uganda,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 26, 2014)

    That said, it’s hardly surprising that the White House led the chorus of those congratulating Sam and the Rams. Here, in part, is the statement it issued immediately after his selection:

    The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward today in our Nation’s journey. From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are.

    (ABC News, May 10, 2014)

    It’s also an indication of how popular Sam’s selection was that it was the most tweeted-about of the entire Draft, tallying over 100,000 tweets within 30 minutes of his selection.

    michael-samYet I feel constrained to note that he was the 249th of 256 players drafted. Even then, it took the NFL team from Missouri, the state where he played his college Football, to draft him. And it did so only after drafting nine other players in the earlier rounds. This is why it’s arguable that he would not have been drafted if the Rams had not taken pity on him.

    But let me hasten to clarify that there was nothing homophobic about other teams passing on Sam. After all, despite an impressive college career – highlighted by leading the Southeast Conference in sacks with 11.5 last season and being named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, he simply failed to impress, by all objective criteria, at the NFL Combine in February:

    Several bigger defensive ends have run faster, and some defensive tackles are faster, too.

    And that comes on the heels of yesterday’s performance in the bench press in which Sam managed just 17 repetitions of 225 pounds. That was the second-worst showing among defensive linemen, and plenty of non-linemen (including seven wide receivers) did better than that as well: if you’re not strong and you’re not fast, that’s not a good combination.

    (NBC News, February 24, 2014)

    Ironically, it’s probably fair to assert that the Rams drafted him only because he’s gay. Indeed, considering what a civil rights cause celebre drafting him had become, they can be forgiven for doing so as much to save face for their home state of Missouri as for his playing ability.

    thumbnail_2_b9826fe9_v2Having done so, though, the Rams seem determined to milk every ounce of public goodwill out of Sam off the field even if they cannot get much good play out of him on the field. Nothing demonstrates this quite like the way the team is already marketing/exploiting his selection more than that of all of its other, earlier selections combined.

    What’s more, team executives know that just having Sam on the sidelines will draw tens of thousands to the stadium (for the first time) and entice many more to buy Sam-related team merchandise because of its historic significance. Just imagine the commercial and sentimental value of any Jackie Robinson memorabilia from his rookie year of 1947.

    All the same, I hope Sam makes the final cut this fall – not as the NFL’s token gay, but as a bona fide player. Because there will be no gay pride in the Rams keeping him on the roster if he turns out be as big a bust during pre-season tryouts as he was during the combine.

    Incidentally, I am convinced that his homosexuality will pose no greater problem on the field in the NFL than it did in the NCAA, which of course was none at all! I am also convinced that he will face the kind of hazing the Miami Dolphins’ Richie Incognito famously meted out against teammate Jonathan Martin. But I expect Sam will be more of a “man” about it than Martin was, which he might have to show by punching a homophobe in the mouth.

    If he makes it, though, Sam should go down in history as the Jackie Robinson of gay athletes; Collins should be footnoted only for the media stunt he pulled.

    Capturing the moment … for HIStory

    140510-michael-sam-kiss-1938_bff83dcaf7f2f56f508fad4dbe8c245dIt’s hardly surprising that ESPN producers had TV cameras rolling to capture Sam’s reaction when he got drafted. And they must’ve felt like tabloid editors capturing the first shot of George Clooney kissing his new fiancée when they captured Sam reacting – not only by breaking down in tears, but also by kissing and embracing his boyfriend.

    Unfortunately, in keeping with standard social-media practice, no-name trolls are trying their damnedest to gain a name for themselves by publishing the most homophobic tweets about Sam’s kiss and embrace, the video of which has now gone viral. But, instead of condemning the nincompoops who seek infamy by publishing plainly offensive tweets, I urge you to condemn the mainstream-media outlets that continually give them the notoriety they seek; that is, by featuring their tweets and mugs as news – complete with feigned editorial indignation.

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  • Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    CNN Boss Is What’s Wrong with Journalism Today

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I never went to journalism school. But even I know enough about journalism to know that it is not giving people what they want. It’s giving them accurate and reliable information on events, issues, and trends to function as informed citizens.

    In short, journalism is more about informing than entertaining the public.

    0395a3f-1.cachedExcept that CNN chief Jeff Zucker begs to differ. For here’s how he defended his network’s month-long, 24/7 coverage of missing Flight MH 370, sounding more like the head of an entertainment than a news network.

    The audience has spoken and said that what CNN did was correct. The most important thing we pay attention to is journalism and the audience. We feel really good about the journalism and the audience continues to be there.

    (Huffington Post, May 10, 2014)

    In other words, Zucker couldn’t care any less that CNN’s endless coverage of speculation about UFO’s (unidentified floating objects) made its audience no more informed about this missing flight on day 30 than it was on day 3. He clearly thinks that, if people are stupid enough to be interested in speculation presented as news, give them speculation presented as news.

    What is really sad about Zucker’s ratings-driven journalism, however, is that all of his peers think the same way – albeit perhaps to a lesser degree:

    My disdain for what passes for journalism these days is well documented. And 60 Minutes, the reputed standard bearer of broadcast journalism, only reinforced my disdain on Sunday when public outrage forced it to issue a pathetic apology for reporting one man’s delusions of grandeur as facts…

    But my pet peeve these days is the malpractice inherent in TV journalists wasting hours every day with idle-minded speculation about the 2016 presidential election – a full three years before any such speculation could possibly have any news value or relevance. This malpractice is made brazenly hypocritical by the fact that these are the very same journalists who, just months ago, were presenting snarky, indignant reports about retailers promoting Christmas wares in August – a full three months before any such promotion would seem appropriate.

    (“Journalism is Having a Very, Very Pathetic Moment,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 13, 2013)

    So journalism is presenting what the masses want to see, not what is newsworthy to report. Which is why  Americans know more about what is going on with the Kardashians than the Ukrainians (who, by the way, are fighting a de facto civil war that could escalate into World War III).

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  • Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 7:15 AM

    South Africa Voted for More of the Same?! Crazy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    20140510_WWD000_0

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