• Sunday, August 31, 2014 at 5:11 AM

    For Too Many, ALS Bucket Challenge Just Another ‘Selfie’ Stunt

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Invisible Children’s entire campaign smacks of little more than a feel-good PR stunt (perhaps even a misleading ploy to raise funds for administrative rather than charitable purposes). In fact, I would wager a fair amount of my pride that if you were to ask Rihanna and any of her followers a week from today who Joseph Kony is, they would react as if you asked what the Higgs Boson is….

    (“Tweeting the Genocidal Joseph Kony to Death,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 8, 2012)

    The same, of course, can be said for the vast majority of those now dumping buckets of ice water over their heads. In other words, ask them what ALS stands for and they’ll probably think you’re referring to some new sports league.

    The point is that we live in a selfie age when even acts of charity are more about looking/feeling good than doing good.

    More to the point, even though this latest viral craze generated a spike in donations for ALS research, I would wager an ever greater amount of my pride that 90 percent of those who accepted the bucket challenge did not donate one red cent. After all, for them, this was just another selfie opportunity to say to the world, “hey, look at me!” Some women clearly saw it as a challenge to compete in a wet T-shirt contest, and gleefully affirmed the uplifting effect ice water has on you know what.

    No doubt it’s hard to imagine notorious bad boy Charlie Sheen setting an example for anyone to follow. Yet he did just that when, instead of a bucket of ice water, he dumped a bucket of cold hard cash over his head, and then announced that it amounted to the $10,000 he’s donating to the ALS Association.

    At least nobody expected those participating in the #invisible children and #bring back our girls viral campaigns to do anything except become aware of the plight of the victims involved. Mind you, as indicated in my quote above, for 90 percent of them, that awareness probably only lasted about as long as Chinese food satiates hunger.

    Incidentally, Boko Haram has not only ignored all viral pleas to “bring back our girls,” its genocidal thugs have mocked the fecklessness of those pleas by kidnapping more girls….


    On the other hand, the ALS Bucket Challenge is really predicated on people not just dumping water but donating cash. And, yes, it does matter that you participate not just by doing the former, but the latter even more so.

    Not to mention that all that wasted water could clearly be put to much better use – not just in perennially drought-stricken places like Ethiopia, but even in places like California….


    For the record, Forbes reports in its August 29 edition that, since this challenge went viral four weeks ago, it has raised just over $100 million. This is truly commendable, especially when compared with the $2.8 million the ALS Association raised during this same period last year.

    Except that, by contrast even more instructive than the example Charlie set, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) has raised an average of almost $60 million annually over the past 50 years. And it has done so by simply holding a 24-hour Labor Day telethon on TV (i.e., without the viral benefit of social media). What’s more, even after losing its superstar pitchman Jerry Lewis four years ago and reducing the broadcast to only two hours, the MDA’s telethon still raised over $50 million annually, and will probably do the same this Labor Day.

    Which raises the question: what challenge is the ALS Association going to rely on next year to raise comparable donations — given that the ice bucket challenge is already melting away into cyber oblivion … like #invisible children?

    All the same, I feel constrained to note that, despite the billions the MDA has raised, we seem no closer to a cure today than we were 50 years ago. Not to mention the tens of billions raised over the years to find a cure for cancer. The reason for this, of course, is that most researchers work for big pharmaceutical companies whose corporate mission is to develop expensive treatments, not to find cures. After all, a cure for them would be tantamount to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs….

    Nonetheless, we are clearly obliged to concede that there is as much merit in funding treatments for ALS as there is in funding them for cancer.

    Donate to the ALS Association: here

    Related commentaries:
    Boko Haram
    Tweeting Joseph Kony

  • Saturday, August 30, 2014 at 7:16 AM

    Ukraine: a New (Post-War) Germany in the Making

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


    Russian forces in two armored columns captured a key southeastern coastal town near the Russian border Thursday after Ukrainian forces retreated in the face of superior firepower, a Ukrainian military spokesman said.

    Plainly, Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken the measure of President Obama and found him to be no obstacle to re-creation of the Russian empire.

    Former assistant secretary of state Brian Hook observes: ‘Putin’s aggression is a direct challenge to the post-Cold War security order in Europe that America largely created.’

    (Washington Post, August 28, 2014)

    1f63baa7-c1f5-488e-89c1-102779c89efe.imgAll that’s left now is for Western powers and Novorossiya (“New Russia”) to decide where to draw the (official) line dividing East and West Ukraine.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has 40,000 to 60,000 troops revving up their tanks on Ukraine’s eastern boarder awaiting his order to invade … if civil unrest continues. Meanwhile, he has operatives all over eastern Ukraine spreading pro-Russian propaganda and fomenting that unrest.

    Therefore, it’s no wonder he’s winning – not just the hearts and minds of pro-Russian Ukrainians, but also the psychological war he has been waging against Ukraine’s pro-Western leaders ever since they ousted his puppet president, Viktor Yanukovych, three months ago…

    It’s clearly foolhardy for pro-Western leaders in Kiev to continue ordering troops to wage plainly feckless battles to retake government buildings in eastern Ukraine, which thugs have seized and claimed as property of their separatist pro-Russian republic. Nothing dramatizes this fecklessness quite like having old, basket-swinging, pro-Russian babushkas continually repel their military advances…

    By the same token, though, having stood by as Putin annexed Crimea (without firing a shot) and doing little now to help Ukrainians prevent him from annexing the rest of eastern Ukraine (with the proverbial one thousand little cuts), it’s equally foolhardy for Obama and other Western leaders to continue threatening Putin with economic sanctions … if he continues to do what he seems determined to continue doing.

    (“A Ukraine Divided Is the Only Way It Will Stand,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 6, 2014)

    Here’s to Cold War II then; or, as I warned from the outset of this conflict, to history repeating itself.

    But, apropos of which, just as their predecessors eventually got their shit together to thwart Hitler’s attempt to create a German empire, Western leaders will eventually do the same to thwart Putin’s attempt to re-create the Russian empire. And, just as Western powers defeated the Soviet Union in the first Cold War, they will defeat Novorossiya in this second one too.

    Related commentaries:
    Ukraine divided

  • Saturday, August 30, 2014 at 2:20 AM

    Canada: give me your draft dodger, your tax dodger, your selfish few yearning to have their American pie and eat it too

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


  • Friday, August 29, 2014 at 5:11 AM

    One Hair on One Israeli Soldier Worth more than All of Gaza?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    4B1C760A0CAA264CDD1049975963BAF6_787_442I feel obliged to note that Israel and Gaza agreed to another truce on Tuesday – with both sides insisting that it will prove more lasting than their eight previous ceasefire agreements. Alas, this might only mean that, in about two or three years, Gaza will be rocketing Israel and Israel will be bombing Gaza … yet again.

    Meanwhile, neither side has anything to celebrate. After all, despite 50 days of fighting, during which over 2000 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were killed and practically all of Gaza was destroyed, this latest chapter in their “Neverending Story” settled none of the contentious issues related to ownership and control of the Palestinian Territories.

    hamas-rockets.jpg_1718483346On the other hand, the merchants of war are licking their chops. After all, arms dealers can make a killing now resupplying Hamas with rockets to launch the next chapter, and even more resupplying Israel with bombs to retaliate in kind. Not to mention the windfall for contractors who get to rebuild Gaza … yet again.

    Incidentally, Israel is claiming “mission accomplished” by pointing to the 30-plus tunnels it destroyed all over Gaza, which were used for everything from smuggling contraband to launching attacks. But nothing will betray this military feat quite like Hamas leaders rebuilding them with even greater dispatch than rebuilding hospitals and schools.

    All of which means that Israel boasting of victory in Gaza will prove every bit as pyrrhic and foreboding as America boasting of victory in Iraq….

    4236109009That said, after Israel swapped 1000 Palestinian prisoners for 1 Israeli soldier three years ago, I took a lot of flak for commenting as follows:

    Such deals reflect the value Israeli leaders place on the lives of Israelis relative to Palestinians that is simply untenable. After all, it would seem more than fair to exchange one “high-value” Palestinian prisoner for two (dead) Israelis…

    Therefore, it strikes me as a perverse form of jingoism for the Israelis to agree to such a lopsided exchange. I can see how it feeds resentment among Palestinians for their soldiers to be regarded so cheaply. More to the point, I can see why Palestinians consider kidnapping such a good strategy to execute against the Israelis in their neverending war. (“To Israel, 1 Dead Israeli Is Worth 100 Living Palestinians,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 17, 2008)

    This is why I am not at all surprised by reports this week that the Israelis have just struck another deal with the Palestinians which calls for Israel to release 1000 Palestinian prisoners in return for one (still living) Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

    (“1 Israeli Worth 1000 Palestinians?!” The iPINIONS Journal, October 13, 2011)

    Significantly, nobody challenged the accuracy of the facts I asserted; nor, perhaps more telling, did anyone seem to appreciate that, inherent in these facts, is the sacrificial value Palestinian leaders place on the lives of Palestinians relative to Israelis.

    Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 1.17.07 PMBut it turns out I might have been too modest in my characterization of how little value Israeli leaders place on the lives of Palestinians. Because even I was shocked when, on yesterday’s edition of the BBC program HARDtalk, interviewer Stephen Sackur asked the Israeli minister of intelligence, Yuval Steinitz, to explain why a deputy speaker of the Knesset, Moshe Feiglin, would take such militant and jingoistic pride in declaring that:

    One hair on the head of an Israeli soldier is more precious than the entire Gazan populace.

    When Steinitz tried, unconvincingly to dismiss Feiglin as an irrelevant politician, Sacker persisted incredulously:

    What’s going on in Israeli politics when a senior Israeli politician can think that that reflects the views of the Israeli people. The view the international community gets is that you no longer value Palestinian life.

    Enough said?

    Except I feel constrained to note that I’m on record defending Israel against international double standards, which would see it hauled before the International Criminal Court for killing hundreds of innocent civilians in Gaza, even though the United States got a pass despite killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    images-3I also feel constrained to stress that the right of self-defense America claimed to go after al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan (who terrorized America with one spectacular attack in New York City on 9/11/2001) pales in significance when compared with the existential right Israel claimed to go after Hamas terrorists in Gaza (who have been terrorizing Israel with rocket attacks on a regular basis since 2001).

    My only issue with Israel’s retaliation against Hamas, which is similar to the one I had with America’s retaliation against al-Qaeda, is that it used the proverbial hammer, when a scalpel would have been not only more effective but less destructive (in terms of life and property).

    Israel’s spy agency, the Mossad, is known as much for its stealth surveillance as for its brazen assassinations. Therefore, wouldn’t it make far more sense for Israel to dispatch agents to surgically assassinate all of the men responsible for ordering these rocket launches, instead of continuing to bomb homes where so-called ‘Hamas militants’ are supposed to be hiding out?

    (“Groundhog-Day Flare Up Between Israelis and Palestinians,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 15, 2014)

    Related commentaries:
    1 Israeli worth 1000 Palestinians
    Groundhog-day flare up in Gaza
    Human shields vs. smart bombs

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 1:13 AM

    Girl (9) Kills Instructor Teaching Her to Shoot Uzi. Lesson Learned?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A 9-year-old girl at a shooting range outside Las Vegas accidentally killed an instructor on Monday morning when she lost control of the Uzi he was showing her how to use…

    In a similar incident in 2008, 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj shot himself to death with an Uzi at a Massachusetts gun show organized by a former police chief. The boy was with his father, an emergency room doctor, who bought him the gun for Christmas

    (Washington Post, August 27, 2014)

    charles-vacca-arizona-shooting-instructorParents have been warning their children about the dangers of playing with fire since time immemorial … for obvious reasons. But you know something has gone terribly wrong when parents themselves have to be warned about the dangers of teaching their children to play with guns … for even more obvious reasons.

    Yet America’s crazed and anarchic fascination with guns is such that this warning now seems necessary.

    Mind you, I would have a little sympathy if this (inherently irresponsible) instructor were teaching her to use a basic pistol or rifle. But a friggin’ Uzi?!

    The reason this happened, of course, is that her idiot parents probably think no child is too young to experience the full potential of her hallowed and unconditional Second Amendment right. But I wonder how they feel now about having to help a child this young deal with the trauma of killing someone so senselessly.

    I warned it would be thus:

    The United States is calling North Korea insane for threatening to launch ‘merciless’ nuclear strikes against it. Well, I suppose it takes an insane country to know one. After all, one can fairly call the United States insane for vowing to curb gun violence without making any reference to guns…

    Hell, at this rate, the NRA will soon be proselytizing such a mercenary interpretation of the Second Amendment that gun-loving Americans will be claiming the right not just to military-style assault weapons but to shoulder-fired missiles too.

    (‘This Gun-Control Debate Is Insane,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 5, 2013)

    US_Navy_100508-N-7367K-004_Children_visit_a_static_display_of_an_M-134D_Gatling_Gun_during_Seabee_Day_at_Naval_Construction_Battalion_Center_GulfportAll we need now is for some kid to misfire an M134 General Electric Minigun and kill everyone within range of 1000 yards:

    The minigun is one of the most dangerous weapons ever designed, with the capacity to fire up to 166 bullets per second. Amazingly, it is currently legal in the United States to own this military-grade machine gun because the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 stated that any fully automatic weapon constructed before that year was legal to own.

    (The National Memo, December 14, 2012)

    A gun for Christmas indeed; I fear they will never learn….

    Related commentaries:
    Gun-control debate

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 1:31 p.m.

  • Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 4:58 AM

    Richard Attenborough, Actor, Director, and Social Activist, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    1408918461220_Image_galleryImage_Mandatory_Credit_Photo_byTruth be told, I had no idea who Richard Attenborough was until Gandhi became an international blockbuster in 1982. This, I’m embarrassed to admit, despite Attenborough having an established career as an acclaimed character actor long before then. Hell, I only realized after he became the Oscar-winning director of Gandhi that he also directed one of my favorite war movies, A Bridge Too Far (1977).

    All the same, I read enough over the years to appreciate that Attenborough’s dedication to the motion picture arts and sciences was surpassed only by his dedication to charitable causes and social issues like childhood education:

    He passionately believes in education, primarily education that does not judge upon color, race, creed or religion. His attachment to Waterford is his passion for non-racial education, which were the grounds on which Waterford Kamhlaba was founded. Waterford was one of his inspirations for directing Cry Freedom (1987), based on the life of Steve Biko.


    Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 9.20.27 PMI finally developed some appreciation for his character acting when I saw him play the grandfatherly paleontologist in Jurassic Park (1993).

    But I felt moved to write this modest tribute based solely on my solidarity with the liberal politics of this “champagne socialist,” which compelled him to direct Gandhi and Cry Freedom.

    It speaks volumes that Gandhi’s haul of eight Oscars set a record for British films. But even more telling is its juxtaposition with the biopic of the only man who could be fairly considered Mahatma Gandhi’s twentieth-century peer, Nelson Mandela.

    After all, far from winning a comparable number of Oscars, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) received only one back-handed nomination (for Best Original Song), and it did not even win that, losing out to the cartoonish song from Frozen.

    This is not the place to delve too much into the reasons why Hollywood – after embracing Gandhi so abundantly – snubbed Mandela so niggardly. No doubt movie critics and political commentators alike would find just cause to cry racism.

    Attenborough-obit-1-master675-v2But it’s probably fair to assert that the primary reason had more to do with differences in cinematic skill and vision between the respective directors than with any difference in the heroic life story and liberation struggle each had to dramatize. Frankly, there’s probably no greater testament to Attenborough’s greatness as a director than the relative success of these two films.

    Even so, it’s arguable that his film Cry Freedom actually upstaged Mandela – weaving as it did the inspiring story of friendship between White journalist Donald Woods and Black anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko into a searing indictment of South Africa’s apartheid regime.

    I should not venture any further, lest I become one of those creepy, opportunistic eulogizers who have far too much to say about people they knew so little about. Indeed, the irony in this case is that I know far more about Attenborough’s brother David, whose engaging whisper as presenter of natural history programs has educated and thrilled me for years.

    Attenborough died on Sunday. He was 90.

    Farewell, Lord Attenborough.

  • Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    Why Chastise the ‘Times’ for Describing Michael Brown as ‘No Angel’?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    64f766f139448906abb098cb873aa86dWhen George Orwell warned of “newspeak,” he envisioned a dystopian state in which a “Big Brother,” like Russian President Vladimir Putin, would use it as a tool to limit and control freedom of thought … and speech.

    Therefore, I suspect even Orwell would be shocked and disappointed to see newspeak being used instead by members his latterday “Brotherhood” (in the relatively utopian United States, NSA spying notwithstanding) – not only to enforce politically correct speech, but also to chastise putative purveyors of political correctness for failing to tow the party line.

    This, alas, is the surreal dynamic that explains why the New York Times is catching hell for daring to describe Michael Brown, quite accurately, as “no angel:”

    An outrage plume is now settling over the New York Times over two words in a retrospective on the life of Michael Brown Jr., the victim of the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting whose funeral takes place today. Here’s the objection-producing [sentence], written by John Eligon:

    Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life.

    (Washington Post, August 25, 2014)

    brown-robberyMind you, the Times goes on to duly report on some of the well-documented reasons why Michael was, in fact, no angel. Most notably, it cites that he was caught on tape committing a strong-arm robbery just minutes before getting shot; that he “dabbled in drugs and alcohol;” and that he had a well-earned reputation as a neighborhood bully.

    This is why the politically correct police are resorting to Orwellian doublespeak, charging speciously that the Times would not have described Michael as “no angel” if he were White.

    It’s noteworthy, though, that if they’re playing the race card against this “old grey lady” of liberalism, well, they might even play it against a proud (but principled) Black man like me. Indeed, nothing betrays the inherent absurdity of their charge quite like their attempts to substantiate it by contrasting the way the Times described Michael with the way it described Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh and Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – as if it would’ve been better to describe Michael as a terrorist than as no angel.

    More to the point, listening to his avengers and eulogizers yesterday, you would’ve gotten the impression that they wanted the Times to describe him as an angel, which of course is the textbook manifestation of newspeak.

    But, if/when the Times caves under this “Room 101” backlash, I recommend it corrects those offending words with the two words I dared to use in one of my related commentaries to describe Michael, namely, “menacing thief:”

    The more distressing absurdity for me is political activists like Rev. Al Sharpton making Michael, an alleged menacing thief, the face of the fight against police brutality – just as political activists like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made Rosa Parks, a woman above reproach, the face of the fight against segregation.

    (“Why Are They Still Protesting in Ferguson? And Who Are They? The iPINIONS Journal, August 19, 2014)

    Frankly, anyone tuning in to his nationally televised memorial service could have been forgiven for thinking that Michael actually belongs in the pantheon of young civil rights martyrs, alongside Emmett Till and James Earl Chaney.

    Bv66zfFCIAAakSj.jpg-largeMeanwhile, none of national leaders eulogizing Michael bothered to reinforce the most salient lesson everyone, especially young Black men, should learn from his death.

    That lesson, of course, is that distrust of the police, no matter how warranted, does not give anyone the right to resist arrest or engage in visceral confrontations with them. Sadly, Michael learned this lesson the most tragic way. But nobody can deny that he would still be alive if he had not resisted arrest – complete with blows that reportedly landed the arresting officer in hospital.

    (Incidentally, what do you suppose Rev. Sharpton and others would be saying if he had wrested Officer Darren Wilson’s gun from him, as Michael was allegedly trying to do, and shot him dead…?)

    lead_largeIn any event, I fear the lesson too many black men are learning from this tragedy is that they can resist arrest – so long as they shout the newfangled slogan, “hands up, don’t shoot” while doing so. Clearly, this will only lead to more of them ending up like Michael.

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

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

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, August 25, 2014 at 6:15 AM

    Just What ‘Fifty Shades…’ Movie Needs: a Bad Scientific Review

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    rs_634x897-140125082042-634.Mr-Grey-Will-See-You-Now-50-Shades.jl.012514_copyNothing betrays what cynical and exploitative regard the producers of Fifty Shades of Grey have for loving relationships quite like their scheduling the release of this movie for “Valentine’s Day 2015.”

    But they could not have anticipated the “premature” release of a scientific study on the deleterious psychosocial impact the Fifty Shades phenomenon is having on middle-aged women:

    Women who read Fifty Shades of Grey are more likely to have abusive partners and eating disorders, according to academics concerned about the blockbuster novel’s impact.

    A study at Michigan State University found it was linked to ‘unhealthy behaviours’, including binge drinking, unsafe sex and other risks associated with being in an ‘abusive relationship’.

    Lead researcher Dr Amy Bonomi … argued the bestseller was ‘perpetuating dangerous abuse standards’, romanticising a plot where the lead female character becomes ‘disempowered and entrapped’.

    (The Independent, August 23, 2014)

    Now bear in mind that this study is based on scientific observations of women behaving like teenagers on a wild ecstasy trip after reading the novel. So just imagine what rabid (i.e., overdosing) effect watching the movie might have on their senses….

    Of course, I’m no movie critic; nor am I a women’s health scientist. Yet here’s an excerpt from “Fifty Shades of Grey: Mainstreaming Kinky, Abusive Sex?” which I wrote over two years ago (on April 20, 2012), when erstwhile sensible women were swooning about this novel providing all kinds of titillating ideas to spice up their sex lives:

    I have to begin with a disclaimer: I did not read this book. I just listened in utter stupefaction a few days ago to female friend who did as she shared why Fifty Shades of Grey, by author E. L. James, is all the rage.

    No doubt my friend would declare herself an unabashed feminist. And she has never struck me as the submissive type when it comes to sex.

    This is why I was so taken aback when she expressed how captivated and stimulated she became as she read about the sadomasochistic relationship that plays out in graphic fashion between the main characters in this novel: the virginal, eager to please Anastasia Steele and her emotionally scarred and domineering Sugar Daddy, Christian Grey…

    I was troubled by the almost self-righteous way my friend rationalized the emotional and physical abuse Christian repeatedly inflicts upon Anastasia by saying it was all consensual (i.e., that that’s what she wanted). Really? I’m all for a little rough sex, but jeez…

    Given the way she so blithely related to the submissive, if not degrading, way Anastasia behaves, I asked my friend to explain why she not only condemned Chris Brown for beating up Rihanna but, more to the point, then condemned Rihanna for going back to him … for more.

    I also asked if she’s not at all concerned that the popularity of this novel might undermine the signature feminist argument that men who get off on the psycho-sexual abuse so often depicted in porn are being conditioned to act out that abuse in their personal relationships. For surely it must follow that women (especially impressionable teenage girls) who get off on the psycho-sexual abuse depicted in this book are being conditioned to accept this abuse in their personal relationships.

    Trust me, she’s a brilliant woman. But I am still waiting for a comprehensible, credible reply….


    Fifty-Shades-Grey_021625895742-2Now, given the scientific findings of this study at Michigan State University, I hope I’ll finally be forgiven my indignant dismay at so many women waxing orgasmic in public over this trashy, irresponsible novel. Never mind the truly dismaying fact that so many women would need a scientific study to teach them a life lesson as simple as: if you play with fire, you will get burned.

    More important, though, to the women who made Fifty Shades such a phenomenal bestseller, please do not compound this prurient spectacle by making it a blockbuster movie too. Instead, get a sex toy! And, please, act your age by keeping reviews about what it does for you to yourself.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 7:50 AM

    Media Fueling Protests in Ferguson as much as Covering Them

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


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

    (“Why Are They Still Protesting in Ferguson? And Who Are They,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 19, 2014)

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 6:36 AM

    Germans Exposed as Spying Hypocrites. Others Will Be Too…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    674383-131024-merkelHere, in part, is how I pooh-poohed – in “I Spy, You Spy, We All Spy,” July 2, 2013 – the moral indignation Germans (and other Europeans) hurled at the Americans after Snowden’s leaks revealed that the NSA routinely spied on them, including Chancellor Angela Merkel:

    The Europeans are ‘shocked, shocked,’ and are expressing feelings of profound betrayal:

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

    The Americans are wiping egg off their faces, but do not seem too worried. Indeed, no less a person than President Obama dismissed European outrage as little more than the pot calling the kettle black…

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

    0,,17762669_303,00Well, now comes the inevitable hoisting of the high-minded Germans by their own petard, and I hope they’ll forgive the universal schadenfreude it excites:

    The German government faced an angry reaction from Turkey and accusations of hypocrisy from its own opposition on Monday after media reports that its intelligence agency [the BND] spied on its NATO ally.

    The reports also said the agency had listened to the phone calls of two U.S. secretaries of state – the kind of activity for which Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticised Washington.

    Turkey summoned the German ambassador and called for a full explanation following a Spiegel magazine report that the BND foreign intelligence agency had been spying on Turkey for years and identified Ankara as a top surveillance target in an internal government document from 2009.

    (Reuters, August 18, 2014)

    Of course, this comeuppance will not be complete until revelations show that the BND also spies on Germans every bit as much as the NSA spies on Americans (i.e., pursuant to my anti-Snowden declaration, “I spy, you spy, we all spy”). But it’s only a matter of time — given this disarming admission by the former French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, which duly affirmed my declaration:

    Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don’t have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous.

    (The Telegraph, October 27, 2013)

    Enough said? Because you don’t want me to get started on all of the pro-Snowden nincompoops railing against the NSA for spying to keep them safe, while uttering nary a word against companies like Google and Facebook for even more pervasive spying … just to sell them stuff.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    Why Are They Still Protesting in Ferguson? And Who Are They?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    family-medical-examiner-discuss-autopsy-20140818-160143-440Unsurprisingly, calls for the arrest of Officer Darren Wilson only became more restive yesterday, after lawyers for Michael’s parents released results of an autopsy they commissioned, which show that Wilson shot him at least six times.

    More importantly, here’s the truly poignant way these lawyers used CNN’s coverage of their release to reinforce his mother’s (understandable) anger and frustration:

    What else do we need to give them to arrest the killer of my child?

    But those demanding justice for Michael seem to be doing so in a parallel universe. After all, despite dealing with cases of far more national importance (like prosecuting terrorists), everyone at the Justice Department seems focused on justice for Michael. Nothing betrays this focus quite like no less a person than Attorney General Eric Holder ordering a third, federal autopsy and promising to visit Ferguson this week to pay his respects and meet with Michael’s avengers in person.

    Obama Delivers Remarks At National Peace Officers Memorial ServiceNot to mention President Obama using his bully pulpit – on more than one occasion – to give voice to their concerns; albeit in a fair-and-balanced manner that most of them are too insolent and ignorant to appreciate. Indeed, these protesters seem oblivious to the fact that Obama is not their granddaddy’s president; Holder is not their granddaddy’s attorney general; and Capt. Johnson is not their granddaddy’s Bull Connor.

    For what it’s worth, I’m on record predicting that Wilson will be charged with use of excessive force in some degree … and rightly so.

    Therefore, with the wheels of justice already grinding at an unprecedented rate for Michael, you have to wonder why people are still protesting in Ferguson. Because, frankly, their shouts of “no justice, no peace” ring hollow – given that they seem so intent on perverting the course of justice and disturbing the peace. Only this intent explains why they defied a 12-to-5 a.m. curfew just to provoke confrontations with the police.

    Protesters gesture as they stand in a street in defiance of a midnight curfew in FergusonNever mind reasonable suspicions that the only people engaging in confrontational protests are unemployed thugs – who can afford to march up and down the streets all day, and wreak havoc at night … as a smokescreen to loot. I suspect they’ve never felt so important and influential, and I shudder to think what untenable precedent they’re establishing….

    After all, these protesters are having such anarchic sway that they’re aping the spectacle of inmates running the asylum:

    In a news conference about 1:20 a.m. Monday, Johnson said Sunday’s unrest began at 8:25 p.m. when police responded to reports of gunshots near Canfield, the street where Brown was killed. At 8:56 p.m., hundreds of protesters marched toward a police staging command post in a parking lot near a Target…

    ‘There were multiple additional reports of molotov cocktails being thrown, police were shot at, makeshift barricades were set up to block police, bottles and rockets were thrown at police,’ Johnson said. ‘Based on these conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response.’

    (Washington Post, August 18, 2014)

    Now bear in mind that the Johnson being quoted here is none other than Capt. Ronald Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. He, you recall, is the law-enforcement officer who the governor sent into Ferguson to lead efforts to quell these confrontations between protesters and police – not only because Johnson grew up there, but because he’s Black.

    10046701 11mo081514Sure enough, protesters initially greeted Johnson with hosannas, which he seemed to revel in as he marched the streets with them, looking like a proverbial Black Moses leading his people to the Promised Land. Johnson even stood up in a packed church on Sunday and apologized for Wilson. But he uttered nary a reproachful word about all the rioting, or about the brazenly provocative practice of protesting in the streets throughout the night. He may have even unwittingly encouraged these mindless protests when he ended his homily by saying that he looks forward to seeing folks back out there.

    No doubt this explains the look of personal disappointment, if not humiliation, on Johnson’s face as he gave his news conference, emulating the White police chief he replaced by bemoaning the ongoing wanton lawlessness and defending the ongoing police crackdown. Even worse, the protesters who greeted him like Moses are now – just 72 hours later – treating him like Judas….

    But perhaps nothing indicates how much the inmates are running this asylum quite like the governor responding to protesters defying the curfew by hastily lifting it. Never mind the contradiction, or potential for even greater turmoil, inherent in the governor simultaneously deploying the National Guard to do what Johnson and his state police have clearly failed to do: restore, and maintain, law and order.

    leadfergusonThe irony, of course, is that, when protests erupted in Ferguson 10 days ago, most Americans were more shocked by images of local policemen looking like U.S. soldiers than by images of protesters looting and vandalizing local businesses. Now real soldiers (looking more White than Ferguson’s practically all-White police force) are riding in to the rescue? But, far from shocking, this blurring of the line between law enforcement and the military did not even surprise me:

    As I channel surfed the wall-to-wall coverage of the manhunt for the one who got away, the only things I saw moving were thousands of policemen looking like an invading army of Robocops as they went about the seemingly impossible task of searching house-to-house to find their man.

    (“Manhunt for Marathon Bombers Turning Boston into Theatre of the Absurd,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 19, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 11.53.17 AMApropos of which, Ferguson has become a theatre of the absurd – complete with the-sky-is-falling reporters doing more to fuel the protests than to cover them, while using selfie-camera angels to ensure that they are featured as much as the protesters. There’s no denying that these protests would burnout overnight if the media lights, which have been inflaming them like adding fuel to fire, were suddenly turned off.

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

    But the more distressing absurdity for me is political activists like Rev. Al Sharpton making Michael, an alleged menacing thief, the face of the fight against police brutality – just as political activists like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made Rosa Parks, a woman above reproach, the face of the fight against segregation.

    Moreover, not enough people are stressing the instructive fact that marches during the Civil Rights Movement evoked so much sympathy and respect because they were marked by the police attacking the marchers, not by the marchers attacking the police … and looting, which in this case is evoking nothing but racial animus and contempt. What’s more, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single day of protest back then that had people taking to the streets at night … for obvious reasons.

    With that, I shall end this commentary on the manufactured outrage the killing of Michael Brown has wrought by reiterating my plea for young Black men to stop making confrontations with the police and resisting arrest rites of racial passage in America today. But, if they insist on doing so, I have no problem with the police (even White ones draped in military garb) using any means necessary to restore, and maintain, law and order.

    There would be fewer of these fatal encounters between Black men and White cops if more (unemployed) Black men became cops to police their own communities. I mean, am I the only one who was struck by the contrast between the Black men looting and vandalizing and the predominantly White cops trying to restore, and maintain, law and order in this predominantly Black community…?

    In fact, this suburb of St. Louis, Ferguson, is almost 70 percent Black, yet it’s being served by a police force that’s over 95 percent White. Perhaps, instead of leading St. Louis Blacks in hackneyed chants of “No justice, no peace,” Reverend Al Sharpton should turn and shout at them “Stop looting! Police!”

    (“Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 12, 2014)

    Related commentaries:
    Manhunt for marathon bombers
    Michael Brown was a thief
    Killing of Michael Brown

  • Monday, August 18, 2014 at 6:54 AM

    Jimmy Had Billy; Bill Had Roger; Now Barack Has Mark…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In an uncanny bit of political symmetry, every Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson has had a brother who seemed hell-bent on embarrassing him or exploiting his presidency for all it’s worth … or both.

    CartersJimmy Carter had to cope not only with his brother Billy’s hillbilly bon mots, which made Jimmy’s political sound bites seem like religious platitudes, but also with Billy’s shady business ventures, which included leading a delegation to do business in Libya because, as he famously said, “there is a hell of a lot more Arabians than there is Jews [sic].”

    7aclinton_t440Bill Clinton had to cope not only with his half-brother Roger’s conviction on drugs charges, which stood in mocking contrast to Bill’s famous line about trying marijuana “but I didn’t inhale,” but also with Roger thanking him for using a presidential pardon to erase his criminal record by making a public spectacle of lobbying him to do the same for his drug-dealing buddies.

    Incidentally, all indications are that Hillary will have to cope twofold if she succeeds Obama in 2016. Because she has two brothers, Hugh and Tony, who tried to exploit their brother-in-law’s presidency as much as Roger tried to embarrass him.

    Most notably, they tried to leverage Bill’s presidency to establish a $100 million business importing hazelnuts from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Unfortunately, the Georgian partner they chose was a major political rival of the Georgian president – who the United States happened to be aggressively wooing away from having any affinity for, or association with, Russia.

    Mark-with-his-brother-Barack-Obama11-e1391035124677Now Barack Obama is having to cope not only with his half-brother Mark’s version of the Obama family story, but also with Mark dissing much of Barack’s own version of that story, which he told in his 1995 bestseller, Dreams From My Father.

    Never mind that the overriding theme of Obama’s version is that what little he knew about his absentee father came from family folklore and mythology, which, like any kid, he took at face value. He hardly knew the man, after all. More to the point, he recounts in poignant fashion having most, if not all, of his “dreams” dashed upon learning the sober realities of his father’s alcohol-fueled abuses and professional shortcomings.

    But nothing betrays Mark’s intent to exploit his brother’s fame quite like the fact that he only began using the Obama name after Barack became a global phenomenon and the presumptive president of the United States. Such was his (understandable) contempt for his and Barack’s Kenyan father that, for all of his adult life, he used only his Tanzanian stepfather’s name, Ndesandjo.

    In fact, Mark had so utterly disowned everyone associated with the Obama name that, in remarking on his decision to sever ties, Barack quotes him in Dreams saying the following:

    I don’t feel much of an attachment [to Kenya]. Just another poor African country… You think that somehow I’m cut off from my roots … Well, you’re right.

    NDESANDJO-book-cover-AN-OBAMAS-JOURNEY-Aug-5-2014This is why Mark’s counter-narrative is as specious as it is spiteful. Yet he’s now peddling his third volume since Obama’s election in 2009. Significantly, his latest, An Obama’s Journey: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery Across Three Cultures, is far more noteworthy for what he writes about the “factual errors” in Obama’s Dreams than for what he writes about his self-discovery. Whether this one will finally be a bestseller is probably immaterial to him. Because his motive for writing seems as old as that which motivated Cain to smite Able: jealousy and resentment.

    After all, his (now-famous) brother shows little interest in having any kind of relationship with him – perhaps even giving the impression that he sees in Mark all the sins of their father that he’d just as soon forget he ever learned about. Mind you, if Barack were just a law professor, Mark would probably be showing even less interest in having any kind of relationship with him. But, given their circumstances, Barack’s disinterest must be all the more galling for Mark considering that, by all accounts, their Kenyan father’s two marriages to White, liberal American women produced two boys who now bear a striking resemblance, right down to their mannerisms.

    To be fair, though, Obama probably knew even less, first hand, about his half-brother growing up than he knew about his father. Meanwhile, Mark concedes, or boasts, that he didn’t even know Barack’s name before they first met in 1988. And he can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times they’ve had “very awkward, cold meeting[s]” since then.

    Yet there’s enough fodder about their relationship, even in the public domain, for a sibling rivalry of, well, Biblical proportions. That Barack is the president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, seems reason enough to incite visceral jealousy and resentment in Mark. Not least because the ambitious Mark is just an English teacher in China, having relocated there, of all places, after losing his job as an IT technician in the United States. Therefore, what else could he do to seem as good as, if not better than, his brother than to bring Barack down a few pegs by “exposing” him as a fantasist and a fabricator?

    Interestingly enough, Mark may have unwittingly given some insight into his self-righteous and self-serving motivation when he said the following during an interview for the March 23, 2014 edition of the South China Morning Post:

    It’s funny… In Dreams, Barack says sons often spend their lives trying to achieve their father’s dreams or correct their errors. That polarity defines my relationship with Barack. I’ve been trying to correct the issues I experienced with my father my whole life. Barack, on the other hand, has been achieving my father’s goals and dreams.

    NOTE: Barack has a number of other alleged half-brothers and half-sisters. However, none of them seem as determined as Mark is to embarrass him or exploit his presidency.

  • Saturday, August 16, 2014 at 7:10 AM

    ‘Gentle Giant’ Michael Brown Was a Big Thief…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I took a lot of intra-racial flak for not eulogizing Michael in my original commentary as an innocent victim of yet another racist police shooting. The (my-race-right-or-wrong) guardians of Black pride took exception to my pointing out that this kid would not have been shot if he had cooperated with the arresting officer; that is, instead of not only resisting arrest, but getting into a friggin’ scuffle … allegedly.

    Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 1.32.53 PM

    Well, now comes the breaking news about Michael being caught on video robbing a store just minutes before he was shot:

    In a shocking twist to the killing which sparked riots in St Louis, Missouri over the last few days, the officer investigating the convenience store robbery also attended the scene of the shooting and said the suspect and Brown were the same person…

    In the grainy images, a large black man wearing a light-colored shirt, distinctive shoes, a red baseball hat and khaki shorts is seen assaulting a clerk and then stealing cigars.

    A photograph of Michael Brown’s lifeless body, taken minutes later in the street, shows that he was wearing a light grey shirt, the same shoes and khaki cargo shorts.

    (Daily Mail, August 15, 2014)

    Let me hasten to clarify that, even if Michael were a murder suspect, this policeman, who has now been outed as Officer Darren Wilson, had a duty to hold fire as soon as Michael threw his hands up (in the “universal sign of surrender”) … allegedly. And this duty would have applied even if Michael resisted initially and landed a few blows during their scuffle. This is why, especially now that the FBI is on the case, Wilson will surely be charged for using excessive force in some degree.

    Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old ManBut the release of this video must have come like a punch in the gut to anyone who eulogized Michael as a “gentle giant.” Not least because it not only shows him stealing cigarettes, but also strong-arming a middle-aged store clerk – who looks half his size – to make his getaway.

    The Trayvon Martin lawyers are probably chief among those nursing gut-wrenching concerns today. After all, they offered to represent Michael’s parents because they clearly felt his death would incite similar notoriety and evoke similar sympathy. But, deep down inside, these lawyers must surely know that, if the video in Trayvon’s case showed him stealing instead of buying skittles and iced tea, his killing by (cop wannabe) George Zimmerman would not have incited nearly as much notoriety, and even less sympathy. I’m sure Trayvon’s parents are wary about his legacy being diminished by association with Michael’s….

    No doubt this is why these crusading lawyers are now leading a chorus of those chanting that, by releasing this video, the police are attempting to assassinate Michael’s character.  (What little character any menacing teenage thief could have, I suppose.)

    Finally, with all due respect to my critics, this video vindicates my decision not to join the procession of those making a martyr of Michael. In fact, I saw this as more of a teachable moment; specifically, to impress upon young Black men what tragic consequence could unfold if they choose (viscerally as they often do) to confront, instead of cooperate with, the police. Because there’s no denying that, if Brown had cooperated, he would still be alive – even if stewing in jail.

    Meanwhile, nothing indicates how infected with marauding fools this Black community is quite like looting returning as a feature of “peaceful” protests in Ferguson last night. This effectively dashed naive hopes that appointing a (token) Black as interim chief of this Black community’s White police force would induce young Black men to stop looting and vandalizing their own community. It’s too shameful and disheartening for words … on all sides.

    Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 10.29.42 AM

    Related commentaries:
    Killing of Michael more about resisting arrest

  • Friday, August 15, 2014 at 1:49 AM

    Petty Politics (and Homophobia) Bedeviling Equal Rights for Women in The Bahamas

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In 2002 voters in The Bahamas rejected a national referendum “to change the Constitution to eradicate language that made men superior to women” – as the February 12, 2012, edition of the Nassau Guardian framed the issue. I was so shocked and dismayed that I wondered aloud if we were vying to become the new Taliban paradise, given that the United States had just bombed to smithereens the one that thrived in Afghanistan.

    But I then had cause to put my shock and dismay on the record in 2009, when the government proposed legislation to ban marital rape:

    This proposed legislation has incited such widespread moral outrage that one might think Bahamians were living in a Taliban paradise. Indeed, this condemnation exposes the fact that Christian fundamentalists, in many respects, are every bit as fanatical as Islamic fundamentalists.

    Of course, much violence has been visited upon women in the name of Christianity.  And none has been more insidious than marital rape sanctioned by the misogynistic edict that a woman must always obey her husband’s sexual commands … unconditionally.

    (“Banning Marital Rape in The Bahamas,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 14, 2009)

    This is why I am not at all surprised that a toxic mix of political ignorance and moral outrage is bedeviling the Bahamian government’s attempt to hold a second referendum to grant women equal rights.

    pLqCWGBJadRSJnH-556x313-noPadSpecifically, for almost two years now, the government has been trying to move a series of bills through Parliament before putting them to a referendum. As the Guardian reported (on October 3, 2013), these amending bills are primarily intended to:

    • Amend the citizenship provisions of the Constitution to achieve full equality between men and women with respect to the acquisition and transmission of Bahamian nationality; and
    • Expand the definition of discrimination in Article 26 to include discrimination based on “sex” as a prohibited ground so that women would be able to enjoy the same level of protection from discrimination that men already enjoy.

    Never mind the reasonable interpretation that Article 15 already grants women the fundamental rights and protections this referendum purports to grant, with its express provision that:

    [E]very person in The Bahamas is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, that is to say, has the right, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex [to] life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law [etc.].

    In any event, the government appointed a Constitutional Reform Commission that waged a yearlong “public education campaign” to impress upon voters the existential importance of codifying these amendments.

    Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 9.03.40 PMUnfortunately, political mischief and religious dogma have so undermined this campaign that the government seems poised, yet again, to postpone the enabling referendum, which is scheduled for this November. If it does, extraneous objections, of one form or another, will have postponed it for the fourth time, given previous postponements: from June 2013 to November 2013 to June 2014.

    To appreciate a little of the pettiness involved, consider that members of the ruling party championing this latest effort are from the same party (the Progressive Liberal Party) whose members betrayed the effort in 2002 referenced above. And, presumably as payback, members of the opposition party maneuvering to betray this year’s effort are from the same party (the Free National Movement) whose members championed the effort in 2002.

    Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 9.00.32 PMIn other words, it has been and remains more about petty party politics than women’s equal rights.

    Given this tortured background, if the ruling PLP were serious about ushering in gender equality, it would have done so by an Act of Parliament (i.e., without pursing this fraught process of amending the Constitution).

    Not to mention that it offends all notions of fundamental rights and fairness for the government to hold a referendum on whether Bahamian women should enjoy the same constitutional rights and protections Bahamian men already enjoy.

    Mind you, the Constitution of The Bahamas does not expressly discriminate against women (e.g., the way the Constitution of the United States discriminated against Blacks) such that constitutional amendments would be necessary to correct an “original sin.” It just does not include “sex” in the Article 26 at issue – a long with “race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, or creed” (as it does in Article 15) – as a personal attribute that should not give rise to any form of discrimination.

    But any fair and just interpretation of Article 26 by a competent court would hold that sex/gender is plainly implied. For example, the U.S. Constitution does not include the term “same sex.” Yet the Supreme Court ruled that its provisions necessarily imply that same-sex marriage is as fundamental a right as traditional marriage…

    This is hardly the forum to delve any further into constitutional provisions, especially given that minds far more brilliant than mine can interpret them differently – as members of the U.S. Supreme Court demonstrate with distressing regularity these days. Therefore, I shall suffice to proffer that, because the Constitution does not expressly prohibit equal rights for women, no act of Parliament granting women those rights can be deemed to alter or violate it.

    In fact, it is instructive that the Equality Act of 2010 did not violate the Constitution of the United Kingdom, and the Fair Pay Act of 2009 did not violate the Constitution of the United States. No referendum was needed in either case.

    Perhaps even more instructive is that the United States has been trying since 1923, to no avail, to amend its constitution (with an Equal Rights Amendment) to guarantee equal rights for women. Yet acts of Congress over that time have slowly but surely redressed every case where the laws of the United States discriminated against women, such that nobody can gainsay that American women enjoy more equal rights than women anywhere else in the world today. (More famously, acts of Congress did the same with respect to civil rights for Blacks. They would still be living in Jim Crow America if their equal rights were dependent on a national referendum.)

    Meanwhile, apropos of the spectre of postponement or outright cancellation, here’s the ominous, and arguably predictable, note the government sounded just days ago:

    Whether we have a referendum or not, the prime minister has always said that we would not go to a referendum without general agreement between the parties…

    If it becomes clear for us that there is not unanimity, then we will not proceed with the referendum.

    (Nassau Guardian, August 9, 2014)

    Ominous, and arguably predictable, because this is akin to the Obama Administration declaring that it will not proceed with a bill granting women unqualified rights to abortions … if there is not unanimity between Democrats and Republicans. Duh.

    Ranford PattersonWhat’s more, there’s a very high probability that voters will reject this latest referendum too, if it were ever held. Nothing telegraphs this quite like religious leaders hijacking the national debate, mostly by hurling ignorant fulminations about equal rights for women being dependent on what the meaning of ‘sex’ is.

    I doubt, for example, that those voicing the loudest objections are even aware of the differences between “sex” (biological/sex organs) and “gender” (cultural norms/masculine, feminine). Gender is the more debatable term. But the irony is that this referendum would have been less controversial if the proposed expansion of the definition of discrimination included discrimination based on “gender” instead of “sex” as a prohibited ground.

    As it stands, religious leaders are reading into the term ‘sex’ an expansion of the constitutional definition of discrimination based on ‘sexual orientation.’ Specifically, they fear the proposed update to Article 26 will provide homosexuals the same level of protection from discrimination heterosexuals already enjoy.

    But the prevailing absurdity of this whole exercise is brought into eye-rolling relief when one considers that even the U.S. Constitution (as amended) does not prohibit discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation. This is why legislatures have been enacting laws to redress these omissions on a state-by-state basis – based on local religious and cultural norms.

    Alas, such norms in The Bahamas militate against our pandering parliament following suit by enacting LBGT laws, let alone our homophobic people doing so by passing a referendum.

    More to the point, in a country where religious leaders proselytize homophobia as an article of faith, this (mis)reading of the language in the tabled bills is spreading faster than the gospel at Pentecost. And whenever religion enters the house, reason hightails it out the back door.

    ag0379Frankly, one could be forgiven for thinking that this referendum is more about marriage for gays than equal rights for women.

    In any case, whether by using the word sex or gender, whether by an act of Parliament or referendum, it is a categorical imperative that the laws of The Bahamas provide women the same rights, privileges, and protections men enjoy. Period.

    Accordingly, I urge all Bahamians to support this referendum, bearing in mind that, if only every female voter realized and acted upon her enlightened interest, it would pass in a landslide.

    Related commentaries:
    Banning marital rape

  • Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 1:31 AM

    NBA Closes Sale of Sterling’s Clippers

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 8.08.49 AM

    Here’s what I wrote the day after TMZ aired audiotapes of Donald Sterling sabotaging his ownership, the way Richard Nixon sabotaged his presidency:

    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.)…

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

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

    Sure enough, just 48 hours later, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced his determined intent to forfeit Sterling’s ownership. And, perhaps to show that he meant business, Silver banned him from any further association with the LA Clippers, “effective immediately.” I duly praised his announcement in “NBA Commissioner Gives Racist Sterling the Death Penalty,” April 30, 2014. Oh, he lost his girlfriend too.

    26396523.sfOf course, Sterling lived up to his reputation as a litigious fool by filing all kinds of legal complaints in a vain attempt to retain ownership. And legal trolls polluted social media with all kinds of specious arguments supporting this fool’s errand. Ignorant of the basics of franchise law, they proffered the notion that the sanctity of Sterling’s property rights precluded Silver’s declared intent.

    But I never doubted for a moment that this NBA saga would play out just as I scripted. Accordingly, here now, the final scene:

    Donald Sterling is officially out as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, ending a nearly four-month effort to oust him after racially insensitive comments were made public.

    The sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion closed Tuesday, the NBA announced in a news release. The purchase agreement closed after a California court issued a written order affirming that Sterling’s wife, Shelly, has the legal authority to sell the team on behalf of the Sterling Family Trust.

    (CBS Sports, August 12, 2014)

    The End

    Related commentaries:
    NBA owner to GF
    NBA commissioner

  • Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 1:13 AM

    Preening Deceit of “Brilliant” People with Fake PhDs

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    One of my pet peeves is the person who insists on using the honorific title “Dr” after receiving an honorary PhD. But even more galling is the person who insists on using this title after buying one from a diploma mill. Most galling of all, however, is the person who insists on using this title after doing nothing more than including a PhD as an academic achievement on his embellished resume.

    3248500135I know of far too many putatively distinguished people who dared to do the latter. And, ironically, having spent so much time perfecting the art of intellectual deceit, these academic fraudsters often give the impression of being far more intelligent than anyone with an earned PhD.

    Perhaps this is why, even after one is exposed, people are more inclined to continue hailing him as “brilliant,” instead of acknowledging that they were taken for fools. This appears to the be case among South Africa’s elites, who once took national pride in the academic achievements of acclaimed parliamentarian “Dr” Pallo Jordan.

    A ‘humiliated’ Pallo Jordan has resigned from Parliament and the ANC’s national executive committee to avoid further ‘deceit’, following revelations that he misrepresented his academic qualifications…

    No evidence could be found that Jordan, who goes by the title ‘Dr,’ had received an honorary doctorate…

    On Monday, the ANC in Parliament was first to break the silence on Jordan’s mysterious PhD and other qualifications, which he claimed were bestowed on him by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, among others, saying it fully supported the ‘intellectual giant’.

    ‘Jordan was one of the ANC’s greatest products, a public intellectual par excellence and a consummate historian…,’ said [ANC caucus spokesman Moloto Mothapo].

    (IOL News South Africa, August 12, 2014)

    “A public intellectual par excellence” is probably an unwitting way of acknowledging that Jordan wanted the instantaneous acclaim that comes with having a PhD, without having to endure the laborious study required to actually earn one. Which is why, as skilled as he and other intellectual fraudsters become at appearing highly educated, there’s usually no there there (with apologies to Gertrude Stein).

    For example, most of them thrive on holding forth on any subject – even presuming to lecture holders of real PhDs on their areas of expertise. But if you had the presence of mind, as well as the knowledge, to examine any of them on their assertions, you’d see an “intellectual giant” morph into a two-year-old trying to explain why that wasn’t his hand you caught in the cookie jar.

    I see no point in commenting on what motivates academic fraudsters; except to note that it takes a ballsy form of psychopathology to claim unearned PhDs these days, when technology puts verifying such claims at anyone’s fingertips.

    a-top-norwegian-bureaucrat-lied-about-being-a-registered-nurse-and-having-two-degrees-she-was-sentenced-to-14-months-in-prisonBut, when they’re exposed the way Jordan has been, the very least they can do is have the decency to “go to ground” … to be heard from nevermore. That, however, should only be the beginning of their comeuppance. Their misrepresentations constitute a fraud upon their employers and the public, after all. Therefore, they should face criminal charges as well.

    This is why, instead of allowing Jordan to slink away in shame, South African authorities should punish him, the way Norwegian authorities punished politician Liv Løberg two years ago for embellishing her resume with claims about being a registered nurse and having two advanced degrees. They sentenced her to 14 months in prison and fined her 1 million NOK.

  • Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 6:53 AM

    Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality (only against Black Men?)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 10.38.45 PMLet me assert from the outset that police brutality is all too common in the United States.

    For example, according to the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project, from April 2009 to June 2010, there were 5,986 reports of police misconduct; 382 fatalities linked to police misconduct; and $347.5 million spent in settlements and judgments related to police misconduct.

    Ironically, increase in police-brutality cases occasioned implementation of one of America’s most famous policing strategies, namely, New York City’s “zero tolerance” policy. For the more this policy led to dramatic reductions in everything from felony murder to the menace of squeegee men, the more aggressive NYC cops became in stopping and frisking people – based not on probable cause but racial profiling.

    But only God knows why some incidents of police brutality, even among cases that result in fatalities, incite street protests (and the media attention they attract like moths to a flame), while others don’t.

    st-louis-riotMore to the point, only God knows why some of these (mostly peaceful) protests end up in riots of the kind we saw raging two nights ago:

    A candlelight vigil for an unarmed man who was fatally shot by police turned ugly, with crowds looting and burning stores, vandalizing vehicles and taunting officers who tried to block access to parts of a predominantly black suburb of St. Louis…

    The tensions erupted after a candlelight vigil Sunday night for 18-year-old Michael Brown, who police said was shot multiple times Saturday in a scuffle with an officer.

    (The Associated Press, August 11, 2014)

    I hasten to clarify, though, that not every fatal shooting by the police of an unarmed man is a case of police brutality. We’ve all seen far too many incidents of people resisting arrest – even wresting away a policeman’s gun and killing him – just because they fear being questioned or arrested … even for something as simple as petty theft.

    Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to cite a case that resulted in fatality, where the victim followed the few general rules we should all follow when dealing with the police. Those rules are:

    1. Do not run;
    2. Follow instructions calmly (i.e., no sudden moves that might spook a nervous or trigger-happy policeman);
    3. Wait for the police to explain why you’re being stopped before politely posing any objections, concerns, or questions you may have;
    4. If instructed to turn around to be frisked or handcuffed, comply without uttering a word; and
    5. Save any disagreements or arguments you may have for the courtroom or your civilian complaints review board, which is the only time and place to resist arrest.

    This is why, even though the policemen who beat the crap out of Rodney King deserved to be prosecuted, (most of) that beating would have been avoided if King were not drugged out of his mind and, therefore, unable to follow simple police instructions.

    eric-choke-hold-police-mainThis is also why, contrary to popular opinion, 43-year-old Eric Garner bore some blame for his own death. Garner, of course, was the unarmed Black “gentle giant” who died, openly and notoriously, from a chokehold by a White cop on Staten Island last month. But, had he not resisted arrest, there would have been no chokehold, or the sub-standard EMT care that followed. And the kicker is that he reportedly resisted simply because he did not want to be arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes … again.

    But the cop involved should lose his badge (i.e., he should face disciplinary action for using a tactic, that chokehold, that he knew or should have known was banned by NYPD regulations).

    beatingIn contrast to these gray-area cases of police brutality, the beating of 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock was black and white. Pinnock, of course, was the unarmed Black woman who a White cop pummeled on the side of a Los Angeles freeway last month, reportedly, because he wanted to protect her from wandering into oncoming traffic.

    Of course, the facts are still out in this suburban St. Louis case. But it’s worth noting that video evidence was critical in establishing the facts in all cases referenced above. Therefore, any video of this encounter, whether shot by the police or civilian bystanders, will be critical.

    But if the facts establish that a policeman shot Michael point blank while – far from resisting arrest – he had his “hands up,” then this policeman should be prosecuted for murder, and Michael’s parents awarded due compensation.

    On the other hand, if they establish that Michael got shot while resisting arrest, which allegedly included trying to wrest the policeman’s gun from him, then this policeman should have our understanding and Michael’s parents … nothing more than our sympathy.

    Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 10.49.15 PMIncidentally, it’s worth noting the direct correlation between police officers either wearing video cameras or videotaping every stop on dash cam and the dramatic decline not only in complaints by civilians, but also in use of force by the police. Frankly, it seems a no-brainer that every police department should make wearing video cameras as standard as wearing bulletproof vests.

    Meanwhile, the usual Black lawyers and activists are already doing all they can to turn this into another race-based spectacle, like the Trayvon Martin case. (They are probably cursing comedian Robin Williams for sucking up so much media coverage with yesterday’s breaking news of his death, ironically, by suicide borne of depression….)

    But I urge the media to help counter the prevailing narrative of cops as the mortal enemy of Black men by featuring Black leaders, like former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who have been entreating Black men to behave as follows:

    When you’re faced with an officer who is trying to do his job and get to the bottom of something this is not the time to get in an argument with him.

    (“Colin Powell Weighs In on Arrest of Prof. Skip Gates,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 29, 2009)

    St-LouisThat said, I shall end with a few key points:

    • No case of police brutality justifies looting and vandalism. Period. The cause for anger and frustration among Blacks today pales in comparison to that which Blacks endured during the Civil Rights Movement. Yet the only barbarism on display during protests back then came not from Black marchers looting and vandalizing stores, when they weren’t taunting the police, but from White cops willfully attacking them as they marched peacefully and non-violently. Is there any wonder that people (Black and White) have as much contempt for these marauding Black protesters today as they had for those mauling White cops back then?
    • It’s instructive that Michael’s mother condemned those involved for rubbing “salt in the wound” of her grief. Because, like most sensible Black people, she has nothing but contempt for the idiots who pillage community stores (for items like clothing, hair products, and malt liquor) and then burn the buildings to the ground … in a plainly self-immolating attempt to get back at the police. Not to mention how these opportunistic riots only reinforce the stereotype of Black young men as wilding savages who can only be tamed by force, including police dogs, batons, chokeholds and, ultimately, bullets.
    • There would be fewer of these fatal encounters between Black men and White cops if more (unemployed) Black men became cops to police their own communities. I mean, am I the only one who was struck by the contrast between the Black men looting and vandalizing and the predominantly White cops trying to restore, and maintain, law and order in this predominantly Black community…? In fact, this suburb of St. Louis, Ferguson, is almost 70 percent Black, yet it’s being served by a police force that’s over 95 percent White. Perhaps, instead of leading St. Louis Blacks in hackneyed chants of “No justice, no peace,” Reverend Al Sharpton should turn and shout at them “Stop looting! Police!

    Related commentaries:
    Arrest of Skip
    Colin Powell weighs in

  • Monday, August 11, 2014 at 8:27 AM

    Haitian Déjà vu: Corruption, Violence, and Dysfunction

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s easy to forget how promising Haiti’s future seemed when Jean Bertrand Aristide was elected in 1990. But, after 14 years of providing more political drama than national development, Aristide was escorted into exile on the paternal wings of the U.S. Marines…

    Aristide’s national ambition seems to be for his people to live in chronic poverty … with dignity…

    Perhaps Haiti is fated to loom amidst the islands of the Caribbean just as Africa is amidst the continents of the world – as a dark, destitute, diseased, desperate, disenfranchised, dishonest, disorganized, disassociated, dangerous and, ultimately, dysfunctional mess.

    (“Haiti’s Living Nightmare Continues…Unabated,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 7, 2005)

    2797277As this quote indicates, I never understood why Aristide was ever hailed as a political messiah – not just by Haitian followers too poor and uneducated to know any better, but also by American patrons too self-interested to care about the consequences of stroking his messianic ego.

    But even I never thought the devil Haitians knew in Jean Claude Duvalier would prove better than the devil they got in Jean Bertrand Aristide. Yet, according to Haitian authorities, this seems to have been the case:

    Former president Jean Bertrand Aristide is being prohibited from leaving Haiti as law enforcement authorities probe allegations of corruption, misappropriation of public funds and drug trafficking during his 2001-4 presidency, immigration officials have confirmed.

    Aristide and several of his former colleagues have been accused of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from the State through his organisation, Aristide for Democracy Foundation and other organisations.

    (Jamaica Observer, August 8, 2014)

    apa_Doc_and_Baby_Doc_Duvalier__public_doman_Incidentally, better the devil in Duvalier because he never posed as anything but the heir to his daddy’s brutal, money-grubbing dictatorship. Whereas Aristide professed to be a saint, which makes his alleged abuses all the more devilish. No?

    But nobody who knows anything about the messianic Aristide believes that he’s going to subjugate himself to the Haitian judicial process … without attempting to incite a holy war. In fact, reports are that his Lavalas disciples fired the first salvos a few nights ago, when gunfire erupted outside the home of the judge who had the effrontery to sign off on this probe against him.

    Meanwhile, as my opening quote also indicates, I never held much hope that Haiti would ever govern itself in a manner worthy of its pioneering status as the world’s first Black independent nation. But at least these days it can cite the example being set by no less a country than the United States, the world’s oldest democracy, for the dysfunction it’s now suffering.

    Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 8.36.04 AMAfter all, just as opposition congressmen have been doing everything possible to undermine Obama’s presidency (the welfare of the country be damned), opposition senators have been doing everything possible to undermine Martelly’s:

    A group of Haitian senators, opposed to the administration of President Michel Martelly, continue to block an electoral process that is crucial for Haiti’s democratic future, as any failure to hold the elections will cause Parliament to become totally dysfunctional by the beginning of next year, and may plunge the Caribbean country in a deep political crisis likely to jeopardize its social and economic development goals.

    (Caribbean News Now, August 2, 2014)

    Apropos of déjà vu, it’s easy to forget how promising Haiti’s future seemed when Martelly was elected in 2011. But frankly, I’m not only weary of commenting any further, I see no point in doing so.

    Except that I feel obliged to admit that, despite my chronic cynicism, even I am disillusioned by these latest developments with respect to Aristide. Here’s why:

    In a deft and enlightened move, Martelly declared from the outset of his presidency that he wanted to make peace – not just with Aristide but with every other former Haitian leader as well. To this end he made quite a public show today of meeting with both Aristide and Baby Doc.

    Implicit in this of course is that he will discourage any attempt to prosecute Baby Doc, and that Aristide will now be loath to challenge the legitimacy of his presidency. Beyond this, Martelly’s move is deft and enlightened because it lays the foundation for the kind of political certainty that is sine qua non for the foreign direct investments Haiti will need to rebuild.

    (“Haiti Reconciles with Baby Doc Duvalier…?” The iPINIONS Journal, February 9, 2012)

    Well, so much for all that, eh.

    Related commentaries:
    Haiti’s living nightmare
    Aristide returns
    Haiti reconciles

  • Saturday, August 9, 2014 at 7:24 AM

    How long before Edward Snowden becomes as irrelevant as Julian Assange? Remember Assange…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall



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  • Friday, August 8, 2014 at 6:52 AM

    The Russians Strike Back … with Fruits and Vegetables?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Obama-Putin1_2592981bPartisan critics routinely cite Obama’s decision to announce a date certain for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan as evidence of his military incompetence and political naiveté. More to the point, they invariably juxtapose this disregard for Obama with reverential regard for Russian President Vladimir Putin – as if the former is to the latter as Darius III was to Alexander the Great.

    Therefore, I wonder what these critics make of Putin’s decision to announce a date certain for ending the sanctions he just imposed against the West:

    Russia retaliated on Thursday for Western sanctions against Moscow, announcing that it was banning imports of a wide range of food and agricultural products from Europe and the United States, among others. The move raised the level of confrontation over Ukraine with measures that seemed likely to affect Russian consumers at least as much as European farming.

    Dmitri A. Medvedev, the prime minister, announced that Russia would ban all beef, pork, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia and Norway for one year.

    (Washington Post, August 7, 2014)

    After all, if Obama undermined his military warfare against the Taliban by announcing a date certain to withdraw troops, hasn’t Putin undermined his economic warfare against the West by announcing a date certain to end sanctions…?

    Mind you, given that Russians have become as dependent on Western food as Americans used to be on Mid-eastern oil, Putin probably had to announce a date certain to make his sanctions more palatable to Russians than they are punitive to Westerners.

    Apropos of oil, I’m on record (in “Checkmated on Crimea, Obama Plays for Rest of Ukraine,” March 6, 2014) ridiculing Europeans for dithering over levying punitive sanctions against Russia for annexing Crimea. They feared Putin would retaliate by cutting off Russian oil and gas supplies to Europe. I scoffed, however, that Putin would be cutting off Russia’s nose to spite its face if he did.

    In a similar vein, the only thing Putin is doing by banning these food imports is returning Russians to the old Soviet days, when fruits and vegetables were considered bourgeois Western indulgences. If that isn’t cutting off nose to spite face, nothing is.

    08sanctions-master675But Putin is clearly sensible enough to appreciate that imposing these sanctions indefinitely would constitute a blunder ten times worse than Prohibition. Nothing betrayed this quite like him dispatching Medvedev, his heretofore unseen and unheard prime minister, to announce them.

    Poor Medvedev: he looked more like a POW reading Western propaganda than a Russian second in command announcing plans for a retaliatory strike. More to the point, though, his face, not Putin’s, will now be associated with this self-denying folly. And his will be the face Russians target when their longing for these banned foods triggers their political wrath….

    Alas, on a far more ominous note, reports are that Putin is redeploying troops on the Western front.

    Mind you, I suspect he’s only doing this as a military feint – knowing full well that an actual invasion of Ukraine, no matter his pretext, would be even more self-defeating than his ban on Western food.

    2014-04-18T133017Z_1_CBREA3H11J300_RTROPTP_2_SHELL-RUSSIAUnfortunately, Putin has proved himself such a spiteful, bullying, rabble-rousing strategist that I fear he may have blustered and boxed himself into a corner, leaving him no choice but to invade Ukraine in a genocidal attempt to save face. In other words, in checkmating the West on Crimea, Putin may have checked himself:

    Putin’s propaganda has done such a terrific job of convincing Russians that Westerners are undermining their culture at home and threatening the safety of fellow Russians in former republics of the Soviet Union, the credibility of his presidency now depends on backing up his neo-Stalinist rhetoric with avenging military action.

    (“Checkmated on Crimea, Obama Plays for Rest of Ukraine,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 6, 2014)

    That said, here’s all you need to know about the major powers vying to be respected as the world’s most influential nation today:

    • The United States has deployed troops to Iraq to provide humanitarian relief and protection for hundreds of thousands of non-Sunnis Iraqis (mostly Yazidis and Christians) who have fled their homes to escape religious cleansing by rampaging jihadists calling themselves ISIS/ISIL;
    • Russia has deployed troops to threaten full-scale invasion of Ukraine because it believes it has a geopolitical right to determine that country’s leadership; China has deployed troops to every continent, disguised as foreign laborers, as part of its 100-year plan to dominate the world economically … then militarily; and Europe is engaged in an untenable balancing act, trying to appease all three … at once.

    Who gets your respect?

    Does it matter to you, as much as it does to me, that the Russians would be hard-pressed to cite a single instance in modern history where they provided humanitarian aid (through government agencies or NGOs) that was not directly pursuant to their own political, economic and/or military interests? At least the Chinese can cite their “health diplomacy,” which has seen as many Chinese doctors go to Africa over the years on medical missions as American priests have gone on religious ones. But why, for example, didn’t it occur to the Russians to redeploy some of the troops now menacing Ukraine to provide the humanitarian aid and protection for those displaced Iraqis the Americans felt it was their (“exceptional”) burden to bear … yet again?

    Related commentaries:
    Checkmated on Crimea
    Int’l court declares Putin a liar
    Everyone’s blaming Putin, but

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