• Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 7:57 AM

    Happy New Year!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 8.05.17 AM

  • Tuesday, December 29, 2015 at 8:52 AM

    Steroids: Peyton Manning Caught on the ‘Dark Side’?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    CharlieSlyDelta2AlJazeera

    The Al Jazeera undercover probe, which was posted online early Sunday morning and aired on television later in the day, reported that Manning was given human growth hormone in 2011 while he was recovering from neck surgery…

    The report cited a man named Charlie Sly [who worked at the clinic where Manning received treatment and] allegedly spoke to an undercover reporter working for Al Jazeera.

    [The report] contends that steroids and other drugs were shipped to the home address of Manning in 2011 in the name of his wife, Ashley, so that his name was never attached to the shipments.

    (ESPN, December 27, 2015)

    I watched Al Jazeera’s “The Dark Side: Secrets of the Sports Dopers.” And, I must say, 60 Minutes could not have presented a more compelling report.

    Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 8.39.28 AMWhat’s more, lead reporter Deborah Davies has been all over TV defending it with conviction and credibility that would make Walter Cronkite proud.

    Many in the mainstream media are dismissing this report based solely on cultural bias and/or professional snobbery against Doha-based Al Jazeera. But these are the same biased snobs who dismissed Paris-based L’Equipe’s initial report on Lance Armstrong’s dark side in similar fashion.

    Meanwhile, not just die-hard fans but even seasoned analysts are rushing to defend Manning. Except that they are defending him by denouncing Charlie Sly as if his name alone should discredit everything he said. What, pray tell, do you suppose they would have insinuated about the credibility of “Deep Throat” in real time?

    Mind you, I get it: Finding out that Peyton Manning cheated in Football is rather like finding out that Jimmy Carter cheated on his wife. Never mind that having Tom “Deflategate” Brady defend Manning’s professional integrity is rather like have Vladimir Putin defend Bashir Assad’s democratic values.

    charlie-sly1-e1451185658356Their defense hinges on a video of Sly recanting his allegations. Except that, in it, he looks like a hostage reading ISIS propaganda in a hopeless bid to save his life.

    Remember, this poor fool had no idea he was being taped — as he boasted for hours about how his clinic facilitated Manning’s doping regimen. He is clearly desperate now to save his livelihood.

    Frankly, to believe Sly is lying takes a willing suspension of disbelief. Yet such is the emotional interest so many vest in superstar athletes that this disbelief has gone viral.

    mcgwired-700885In his own defense, Manning went before TV cameras to deny taking steroids. It is noteworthy that he did so with even greater indignation than other high-profile athletes, notably Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, who went before Congress to deny taking them.

    But, if those athletes could lie under oath, why couldn’t Manning lie … under lights?

    Jones is only the latest, though admittedly the most famous, professional athlete to be caught in a web of lies about steroid use. Unfortunately, her fall from grace will leave fans of every Olympic sport wondering, quite rightly, if Marion wasn’t clean, then who is…?

    (“Jones Admits Using Steroids…,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 12, 2007)

    Even before Manning’s Armstrongesque denial, I asserted in text messages to an old friend that there’s too much smoke in that Al Jazeera report for there to be no fire. More to the point, I warned that it would constitute consciousness of guilt if Manning throws his wife under the bus.

    Ashley-Manning-looks-up-to-her-husband-Peyton-Manning_original_crop_northSure enough, that’s exactly what he did. For here is the specious explanation he gave for those incriminating deliveries of steroids, which Sly says his clinic sent “all the time, all over Florida:”

    Any medical treatments that my wife received, that’s her business… Nothing that’s been sent to her or [that] my wife has used have I ever taken…

    I have my treatments that I do, she may have hers and that is her business.

    (Huffington Post, December 27, 2015)

    Ironically, Manning’s denial might be even more incriminating than Sly’s allegations. Not to mention that his wife would be hard-pressed to provide any legitimate reason for receiving steroids for her personal use.

    alg-clemens6-jpgIt might be helpful to recall that Baseball superstar Roger Clemens threw his wife under the bus too. He even had her make a public confession about being the only one in their home who took injections of human growth hormone.

    But what could be more incriminating than any player’s willingness to incriminate his wife to save his career?

    Manning is now threatening to sue. But I doubt he has the balls to follow through; never mind that Armstrong did, and he has just one.

    Far more telling, though, is that he has just retained Ari Fleischer. Fleisher served as press secretary for the George W. Bush White House. But he’s probably best known as the PR flak who helped McGwire finally tell the truth about his steroid use. Here’s to Manning’s guilty conscience getting to him a lot sooner than McGwire’s got to him….

    What’s more, Fleisher is part of a conspiracy of incestuous relationships working to protect Manning’s reputation. Members of that conspiracy include influential sportscasters like CBS’s Jim Nantz — who took imperious pride in dismissing this Al Jazeera documentary as a “non-story.” It also includes super agent Sandy Montag — who not only represents both Nantz and Manning, but also helped Fleisher establish his PR firm. Got that?

    In any case, Manning is playing out the final year or two of his career. Notably, a career in Football that has been as celebrated and accomplished as Armstrong’s was in Cycling. It’s a shame his now seems fated to end in a similar fall from grace. What fateful symmetry….

    That said, I’ve been in the vanguard of those calling for the legalization of all performance-enhancing drugs.

    Steroid use has flourished in Baseball and other professional sports pursuant to an open conspiracy among players and team owners. This, to feed the gladiatorial lust of fans who want to see stronger, faster athletic cyborgs perform for their atavistic enjoyment. And, of course, the more fans revel in their steroid-fueled feats of athleticism, the bigger the players’ contracts (and even bigger the owners’ bottom line) become.

    (“Barry Bonds Is a Steroid Junkie … Duh,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 8, 2006)

    This Al Jazeera report merely provides more compelling evidence to help us make the case for legalizing steroids in all professional sports. Only legalization will stop making liars and cheaters of naturally gifted athletes like Armstrong, Jones … and Manning.

    Related commentaries:
    McGwire, Palmeiro
    Deflategate
    Jones admits
    A-Rod steroid junkie
    Bonds steroid junkie

  • Wednesday, December 23, 2015 at 6:44 AM

    Merry Xmas!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    173298_600

    Dissing Jesus

    Suffer the little children … to come unto [Santa].

  • Tuesday, December 22, 2015 at 8:22 AM

    Failure to Communicate the Ironic Regret of Obama Presidency

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    For a little perspective, here is how acclaimed communication strategist Richard Greene rated President Obama as a communicator a few years ago:

    Barack Obama, at his best, in some ways is an even better orator than FDR or JFK and more accomplished than ‘The Great Communicator’ Ronald Reagan, a trained actor and Bill Clinton, by far the greatest one-on-one communicator in politics, if not the history of mankind.

    (Huffington Post, January 25, 2011)

    I agree.

    Yet, from the first year of his presidency, Obama has been trying in vain to explain why he gets so little credit for doing so much.

    Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 8.12.15 PMHe did it again yesterday, during an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep. In fact, CNN reported yesterday on six times during his presidency when Obama “blamed the message, not the policy,” for this abiding disconnect.

    1. In October 2010, he said the American people were not crediting his policies for rescuing the economy from the brink of another Great Depression because he was “not advertising properly what was going on.”
    2. In July 2012, he said the biggest mistake of his first term was not realizing that doing a good job was not enough. Evidently, he had to feed the American people feel-good stories too.
    3. In September 2013, he said Congress failed to support his plan to launch airstrikes against Syria because it “wasn’t packaged properly for lawmakers.”
    4. In November 2013, he said the American people were angry that Obamacare was forcing them to change their health plans because he “failed to communicate the realities of the law.”
    5. In November 2014, he said Republicans took over both houses of Congress because he spent too much time “implementing policies instead of selling them.”
    6. In December 2015, he said the American people are anxious about his strategy to defeat ISIS because he has “failed to highlight the plan’s successes.”

    In other words, his abiding regret has been his failure to communicate. Not for want of trying, mind you; after all, what I wrote in January 2010 about his ironic self-criticism in this respect has obtained throughout:

    The very articulate Obama has spent more time speaking directly to the American people than any other president in the first year of his presidency. In fact, in “Obama’s First Year: By the Numbers,” CBS news documents that he gave 411 speeches, comments and remarks; 158 interviews; 42 news conferences; and 23 Town Hall meetings.

    This begs the question: What the hell does Obama think he was talking about all year – if not about core values like good jobs and healthcare, and about fixing the economy and reforming health insurance coverage to match up with those values?

    (“Obama: What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 26, 2010)

    In other words, Obama has just been making excuses for the American people’s failure to comprehend.

    In fact, from the first year of his presidency, Obama has had an enviable record of accomplishments, which I’ve hailed and delineated in such commentaries as “2014 Midterm Elections: Republicans and the Triumph of Irrational Exuberance,” November 5, 2014.

    Screen-Shot-2014-12-30-at-6.26.52-PM

    Hell, thanks to his policies, gas is now under $2 dollars; unemployment is 5 percent; the stock market has more than doubled; the economy has fully recovered; and, despite all the political and media fear mongering, ISIS has managed only one lone-wolf attack in San Bernardino, which, to be honest, could easily have been mistaken for just another shooting rampage in gun-crazy USA. I could go on, but you get the point.

    Frankly, if any other president had this record, communicating it wouldn’t be an issue. The American people would be singing his praises.

    Therefore, only willful ignorance, born of rabid partisanship or liberated racism, explains why so many refuse to acknowledge Obama’s accomplishments. And only willful ignorance in spades explains why so many think a race-baiting megalomaniac like Donald Trump would make a better president. Incidentally, the foreboding is not lost on me that “irrational exuberance” describes Trump’s presidential appeal perfectly.

    Today, we look back with moral indignation at the racism Jackie Robinson faced integrating Major League Baseball. Years from now, people will look back the same way at the racism “post-racial” Obama faced integrating the U.S. presidency. How’s that for irony…?

    In any event, I hereby urge Obama to stop making excuses for this ignorance. For even these ignoramuses will miss him when he’s gone.

    Related commentaries:
    Failure to communicate
    2014 Midterms

  • Monday, December 21, 2015 at 12:36 PM

    Harvey’s Miss Universe Gaffe Godsend for Miss Philippines and Miss Colombia

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 12.30.52 PM

    The Miss Universe contestant from the Philippines is this year’s winner, but for one brief moment Sunday evening, it appeared as if it might be a repeat win for Colombia.

    Colombia contestant Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo was already wearing the crown as this year’s Miss Universe when host Steve Harvey returned to apologize.

    Harvey said it was his mistake and that he would take responsibility for not correctly reading the card, which said that contestant Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach of the Philippines was this year’s winner and Colombia was actually the first runner-up.

    (Associated Press, December 21, 2015)

    Unsurprisingly, mainstream and social media are now replete with mocking, even racist comments on Harvey’s universal gaffe.

    2F8A996D00000578-0-image-a-27_1450668064679Granted, the world has not seen such a brain-dead spectacle since, well, the 2007 Miss Teen USA. That’s when a judge asked Miss South Carolina why so many Americans can’t even locate the USA on a map. The southern beauty proceeded to demonstrate why by wandering all over the map, ending up somewhere in Iraq with her incomprehensible response.

    What nobody seems to appreciate, however, is that, but for Harvey’s gaffe, 90 percent of the people commenting today would not have even known this pageant happened yesterday. I am Exhibit A.

    In fact, most pageants make news these days not for the beauties they showcase, but for the scandals they cause; hence my commentary, “Want to ‘Win’ Miss USA? Make a Fool of Yourself,” June 20, 2013.

    But, no, Harvey did not allow pageant organizers to use him as a dupe just to generate this post-pageant media sensation. He’s too proud for that. He just fu*ked up!

    Of course, nothing generates interest quite like public humiliation. Therefore, organizers are probably eager to have Harvey host again next year. No doubt they’d get better ratings if only a fraction of the people reveling in his gaffe on social media actually tune in. Never mind that these viral rubberneckers would be watching just to see him commit another one.

    My heart goes out to Miss Colombia. But it’s absurd to think she deserves to share the crown just because she was a victim of Harvey’s gaffe.

    After all, Miss Philippines was a victim too, having the crowning moment of her life botched in this embarrassing fashion. Never mind that the media attention she’s getting today is easily the most she’ll get during her entire reign.

    2F8ADA4100000578-3368439-image-a-200_1450679643013As for Miss Colombia, she should just wipe away her tears and move on to a career peddling her beauty. At the very least, this could include a stint as a lookalike or body double for Sofía Vergara. The resemblance, in looks and background, is simply uncanny!

    Frankly, the real story is the number of feminists who chimed in as much to condemn all beauty pageants as to pile on poor Steve Harvey.

    To them, I repeat this:

    I’ve been trying for years, to no avail, to get my feminist friends to see the contradiction inherent in their opposition to beauty pageants. They continually insist that, like prostitution, these pageants degrade women and only reinforce traditional notions of male chauvinism.

    My more evolved and consistent view is that, like prostitution, beauty pageants reflect the choices feminists fought so hard for women to be free to make. This is why I see nothing wrong with fully liberated and intelligent women choosing to be prostitutes (whose profession should be decriminalized) or beauty queens. It is also why I accuse my feminist friends of engaging in an ironic form of paternalism by hurling indignation at women who make these choices.

    (“Miss Angola Wins Miss Universe,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 14, 2011)

    Congratulations, Miss Philippines!

    That said, I feel obliged to note that none of the contestants from my Caribbean Commonwealth made the Top 10, along with eventual winner Miss Philippines, first runner-up Miss Colombia, and second runner-up Miss USA. Mind you, we have some of the most beautiful women in the universe. It’s just that beauty pageants don’t rank too high among their extracurricular activities.

    ariana-miyamoto-nagasaki-1920

    Still, I was pleasantly surprised to see a Black beauty from Japan, of all places, showing and strutting her stuff upon the stage among the finalists.

    Way to go, Ariana Miyamato!

    Related commentaries:
    Miss Universe
    Want to win

  • Monday, December 21, 2015 at 5:43 AM

    Merkel Betraying Migration Policy that Won Her ‘Person of the Year’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Just months ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to assimilate as many Syrian refugees as can make it to Germany. She won near-universal praise for doing so.

    Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 6.51.28 PMI, however, sounded this sobering, foreboding note:

    Unsurprisingly, liberal Germans are greeting this first wave of migrants with banners, cheers, and food. But don’t be surprised if these same Germans are hurling xenophobic epithets at sequent waves a few months from now — as predictable strains/conflicts, especially with respect to gainful employment and welfare benefits, become manifestly untenable.

    (“European Migration Crisis: Sowing Seeds of Unintended, but all too Foreseeable Consequences,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 6, 2015)

    Therefore, I was not at all surprised when, just weeks later, the backlash began. I duly commented in “Migrant Invasion Causing Humanitarian Remorse in Germany,” September 28, 2015.

    But even I did not anticipate the way Merkel reacted to this backlash. That she began making compromises is one thing; after all, politics is the art of compromise.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday she wanted to ‘drastically decrease’ the number of refugees coming to Germany, signaling a compromise to critics of her open-door policy from within her conservatives on the eve of a party congress.

    (Reuters, December 13, 2015)

    That she began scapegoating multiculturalism is quite another; after all, assimilating refugees fosters multiculturalism, naturally:

    Those who seek refuge with us also have to respect our laws and traditions, and learn to speak German. Multiculturalism leads to parallel societies, and therefore multiculturalism remains a grand delusion.

    (Huffington Post, December 14, 2015)

    Mind you, I would understand if Merkel cited concerns about increased violence, or fears about terrorism, for her compromise. But it makes no sense for her to pledge to assimilate these refugees if she were really concerned about them breeding untenable multiculturalism.

    4788To be fair, though, railing against some phantom concept of multiculturalism has been Merkel’s delusional pet peeve for years.

    ‘Attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany have utterly failed’, Chancellor Angela Merkel says.

    She said the so-called ‘multikulti’ concept – where people would ‘live side-by-side’ happily – did not work, and immigrants needed to do more to integrate – including learning German.

    (BBC, October 17, 2010)

    No shit!

    But listening to her rail against it in light of her own pledge beggars belief. You’d think Merkel had never heard of the multiculturalism that defines no less a country than the United States. Not to mention that the only parallel societies Europe and the United States have to fear are the ones that exist between rich and poor classes, not Muslim and non-Muslim cultures.

    Therefore, instead of building fences to keep migrants out, Europe should be emulating the way the United States assimilates them. Not least because they will continue migrating to Europe just as they continue migrating to the United States … come what may.

    trudeaujpg.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxThis testimonial from the newly elected prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, is instructive:

    We know in our bones that Canada was built by people from all corners of the world who worship every faith, who belong to every culture, who speak every language.

    We believe in our hearts that this country’s unique diversity is a blessing bestowed…

    We know that our enviable, inclusive society didn’t happen by accident and won’t continue without effort.

    (CBC, October 21, 2015)

    Trudeau has pledged to assimilate 25,000 Syrian refugees. I completely agree with him on the virtues of multiculturalism and the diversity it fosters. With respect to these refugees, however, I remain convinced that the best thing countries like Canada can do is to help create and defend a safe haven for them in Syria. I refer you to my September 6 commentary quoted above for details.

    In any event, Merkel pandering to the right wing of her party on multiculturalism smacks of Donald Trump pandering to the right wing of his on immigration. This is clearly not the kind of leadership that won her universal praise just months ago.

    Indeed, apropos of remorse, this fascistic-sounding Merkel must fill the editors at TIME magazine with lots.

    Related commentaries:
    Migration remorse

  • Saturday, December 19, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    The Putin-Trump Bromance

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Listening to Republicans swoon over his leadership, you could be forgiven for thinking they wish Putin were president of the United States. Granted, this swooning probably reflects their partisan/racial hatred of Obama more than their love of Putin.

    But there’s no denying a totalitarian ideation that makes far too many Republicans swoon over cocksure leaders who shoot first and ask questions later. Only this explains their election of George W. Bush and their flirtation now with Donald J. Trump.

    (“ISIS Blows Hole in Putin’s Rank as Most Powerful Person Alive,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 7 2015)

    Donald Trump has made no secret of his man crush on Vladimir Putin. My despairing wish to see his ego punctured is such that I hoped his crush would prove unrequited.

    Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 8.15.19 PM

    Therefore, imagine my dismay yesterday when Putin proved it’s entirely mutual. For here is how he stroked Trump’s ego … more than even Trump himself could:

    There is no doubt that he is a very bright and talented man… [H]e is an absolute leader of the presidential race.

    (New York Times, December 17, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 9.22.51 AM

    Frankly, only God knows what to make of this Putin-Trump bromance. The only comment I care to make comes from the seminal line in Thomas Paine’s first “American Crisis” essay, which he published on this very day in 1776:

    These are the times that try men’s souls.

    I must note, however, that Trump is not the first Republican leader to man crush on Putin. Remember George W. Bush’s embarrassing infatuation? Claiming he looked into Putin’s soul, Bush even insinuated their bromance was heavenly inspired … until it hellishly expired.

    Hence this serious note about their ménage-à-trois bromance:

    2553_600When Bush first strutted his stuff upon the presidential stage, many of us thought he was a joke. But Bush had the last laugh.

    So for those of you who think Trump is a joke, I give you Masha’s timely lament … and fair warning:

    When Putin came to his first term … nobody [in Russia] actually thought that this is serious. Everybody was joking about it…

    Everybody [is] joking about Donald Trump now, but it’s a very short way from joke to sad reality when you have a really crazy president speaking about breaking every moral and logic norm.

    (Huffington Post, December 18, 2015)

    Masha, of course, is the most vocal member of the celebrated Russian rock band, Pussy Riot. Her point is that Putin is clearly having the last laugh too.

    This is why once bitten, twice shy does not adequately convey the danger of thinking of Trump as just a joke.

    Indeed, another more ominous analogy might be more apropos. For many have wondered how Hitler got so many ordinary Germans to become his “willing executioners.” Well, Trump is showing just how at rallies where he whips his supporters into all manner of xenophobic and racist frenzy, preying with every fulmination on their irrational fears of persecution and misguided sense of nationalism. “Never again”? I wouldn’t bet on it.

    God help America.

    Related commentaries:
    Isis blows hole in Putin
    Pussy Riot

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 8:20 p.m.

  • Thursday, December 17, 2015 at 2:24 AM

    ‘Zuma Must Fall!’ Cry, South Africa

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Zuma_Must_Fall_pla_3528180b

    People in Pretoria, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg took to the streets, insisting that corruption has worsened in South Africa since Zuma came to power in 2009…

    President Zuma caused nationwide anger last week when he dismissed Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with Desmond van Rooyen. The move resulted in an immediate dip of the country’s rand currency against the US dollar.

    (International Business Times, December 16, 2015)

    Frankly, I warned South Africans against electing Zuma in the first place – as such commentaries as “Mbeki vs. Zuma for ANC Leadership,” December 17, 2007, and “South African President Mbeki Forced to Resign… Hail Zuma?!” September 22, 2008, attest. And I’ve been bemoaning his leadership ever since – as such commentaries as “South Africa Betraying Its Values,” May 13, 2011, and “Zuma Doing to South Africa What Mugabe Did to Zimbabwe,” December 12, 2015, attest.

    Therefore, these protests are belated at best. What’s more, the outrage that gave rise to them seems more self-interested than public-spirited.

    After all, the tipping point for thousands of middle-class South Africans came last week, after a fickle cabinet shuffle caused a dip in the value of their stock portfolios and bank accounts. By contrast, the tipping point for millions of poor South Africans came years ago, after the ruling ANC showed no greater interest in providing basic services than the ousted Apartheid regime did.

    Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 8.45.56 PM

    In fact:

    When the African National Congress stormed to power in South Africa’s first free multi-racial election in 1994, the poorest citizens of the country had high hopes that freedom would soon be followed by prosperity.

    A decade later, that has proved to be a forlorn hope. Instead, the poor have got poorer while a super-rich elite of politically connected businessmen and women has accumulated vast wealth.

    (UK Telegraph, February 1, 2004)

    More to the point:

    The ANC under [Zuma’s] aegis has sought to undermine the independence of the courts, the police, the prosecuting authorities and the press. It has conflated the interests of party and state, dishing out contracts for public works as rewards for loyalty — hence the bitter jest that the government is in hock to ‘tenderpreneurs’. This has reduced economic competitiveness and bolstered a fabulously rich black elite. As a result, too little wealth trickles down.

    (Economist, October 12, 2012)

    jacob-zuma-president-of-south-africa-11Nonetheless, I support the middle-class folks who protested today. But this pales in comparison with my support for the poor folks who have been protesting for years. Unsurprisingly, the former enjoyed great media fanfare; the latter has never had more than scant media coverage.

    In any event, I’m resigned to the fact that protesting Syrians will get rid of Assad before protesting South Africans get rid of Zuma.

    So cry on, comrades! Cry on….

    Related commentaries:
    Mbeki vs Zuma
    Mbeki forced to resign
    South Africa betraying
    Zuma doing to SA

  • Tuesday, December 15, 2015 at 5:57 AM

    Insults, Lies, and Slurs No Substitute for ‘Political Correctness’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Think of Donald Trump what you will. There’s no denying the unprecedented way he’s dumbing down and polarizing public discourse in America.

    Alas, never before has a public figure been respected so much for offending so many.

    Truth be told, I couldn’t care any less about this Trump phenomenon. Not least because I remain convinced that it will flameout in due course (i.e. well before next year’s presidential election).

    political_correctness_gone_madWhat concerns me is that his boorish way of ignoring the categorical imperatives of civil discourse might last much longer. After all, even erstwhile intelligent people are now aping his schtick – by flouting objective truth and common decency.

    So, to those of you who now hurl gratuitous insults, blatant lies, and/or racial slurs, purportedly because, like Trump, you don’t want to be politically correct, please beware:

    Speaking hard truths with unfailing politeness is the only way to rein in political correctness gone mad.

    Indeed, for you wannabe political leaders out there, instead of Donald Trump’s self-serving The Art of the Deal, I recommend Lee Kuan Yew’s public-spirited Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going.

  • Monday, December 14, 2015 at 6:11 AM

    Pioneer Climatologist Calls Paris Climate Deal ‘Bullsh*t’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In my December 2 commentary, “Paris Talks on Climate Change to Avert an Apocalypse? Hardly,” I likened pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions to pledges to fund disaster relief efforts.

    I cited unfulfilled pledges made in Kyoto in 1997 and Copenhagen in 2009 to support the former; unfulfilled pledges made after the Haitian earthquake in 2010 to support the latter. The point being that such pledges invariably amount to little more than, well, hot air.

    Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 10.35.18 PM

    This is why I was so incredulous as I watched hundreds of politicians, scientists, and environmentalists congratulate each other for pledges made in Paris last week.

    With the sudden bang of a gavel Saturday night, representatives of 195 nations reached a landmark accord that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change.

    The deal, which was met with an eruption of cheers and ovations from thousands of delegates gathered from around the world, represents a historic breakthrough on an issue that has foiled decades of international efforts to address climate change.

    (New York Times, December 12, 2015)

    Except that the fine print in this deal contains many of the same loopholes that made the Kyoto and Copenhagen deals not worth the paper they were written on.

    Frankly, I am dumbfounded by the willful suspension of disbelief that enabled so many intelligent people to hail yet another of these hollow deals. In truth, the word “cult” might explain it.

    4500-2Again, I cited unassailable facts, as always, to support my cynicism. Yet I know many of you will dismiss my take on this Paris deal as lacking standing, politically and scientifically. Not to mention those who consider it heretical for an avowed environmentalist, like me, to pooh-pooh any deal to combat climate change.

    Therefore, allow me to share James Hansen’s take. He’s the former NASA (rocket) scientist who is generally regarded as the “father of global awareness of climate change.” In other words, Hansen is to climate change as Oppenheimer is to atomic age.

    Arguably, Hansen has greater standing to declaim on the import and impact of this Paris deal than any of the politicians, scientists, and environmentalists who negotiated it. Yet here is how he not only gave credence to my cynicism, but made it seem too benign:

    It’s a fraud really, a fake. It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2Cwarming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’

    It’s just worthless words … no action, just promises.

    (Guardian, December 12, 2015)

    Enough said?

    Related commentaries:
    Paris talks

  • Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 7:07 AM

    Zuma Doing to South Africa What Mugabe Did to Zimbabwe…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have written many commentaries over the years decrying South African President Jacob Zuma’s corrupt and incompetent leadership.

    For example, here:

    One wonders what could have prompted the ANC to emasculate Mbeki. … If he heeds the ANC’s recall … Zuma will become the next duly elected president. Then, I fear, he will do for South Africa what Mugabe has done for Zimbabwe.

    (“South African President Mbeki Forced to Resign … Hail Zuma,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 22, 2008)

    Here:

    Rabble-rousing trade unionists (COSATU) and unreformed communists (SACP) have turned the ANC from a governing coalition into a band of pillagers. Therefore, Zuma enlisting them to intimidate his critics, like cartoonist Zapiro, should serve as a dire warning of what South Africa will become under his leadership.

    (“Zuma Issues Fatwa against Cartoonist Zapiro,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 22, 2008)

    20140510_WWD000_0

    And here:

    I lamented the wayward path the country was veering towards two years ago. In doing so, I cited Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s foreboding prayer about the ANC choosing an alleged rapist and thief as its leader. …

    I also invoked Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer’s political rebuke about the ANC betraying its values and losing its way.

    (“South Africa Betraying Its Values,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 13, 2011)

    12348141_1235387976488465_2656288364602509859_n

    Therefore, I was hardly surprised this week when even die-hard Zuma supporters began decrying his leadership too:

    South African President Jacob Zuma’s sacking of his respected finance minister in favour of a relative unknown has shocked investors and emboldened critics who say the 73-year-old is driving the economy to ruin. …

    Markets reacted unambiguously, with the rand plunging to a record low against the dollar.

    (Reuters, December 11, 2015)

    All I have left to say is, I told you so.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Friday, December 11, 2015 at 6:07 AM

    Hip-Hop Mogul Pens Fawning Letter Chastising/Cheering Racist Trump…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Exactly! His letter makes no sense.

    I am on record hailing Russell Simmons for his political activism in such commentaries as “Black Political Leadership in America Is Dead! Thank God for Hip-Hop Mogul Russell Simmons,” April 26, 2005. Notably, his activism includes chairing The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, whose “sole mission is to fight bigotry of all kinds.”

    usa-new-york-dark-knight-rises-premiereThis is why I’m so dismayed by his open letter to Donald Trump. Not least because it purports to chastise Trump for his racist diatribe against Muslims, but it reads like a plea to retain the perks of their friendship.

    Of course, Trump is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. And, remarkably, he has gained and sustained frontrunner status with a scorched-earth campaign, which features personal insults against his opponents and ignorant diatribes on the issues.

    His latest diatribe has him turning his xenophobic sights on Muslims:

    Trump called Monday for barring all Muslims from entering the United States…

    [He] previously called for surveillance against mosques and said he was open to establishing a database for all Muslims living in the U.S.

    (CNN, December 8, 2015)

    This, evidently, was a diatribe too far for Simmons. Hence his letter, which he published under the headline, “To my old friend Donald Trump, stop the bullsh*t.”

    Here, in essence, is what he wrote:

    Over 30 plus years you have been an amazing friend; endorsing my books, coming to my shows, flying me on your planes, your helicopters, and even allowing my family members and myself to stay in your house in Florida many times. So, it kinda pains me to know that my public statements about your candidacy have strained or ruined our friendship…

    My friends, both Muslims and Jews, are saying there are so many comparisons between your rap and Hitler’s, and I cannot disagree with them, Donald.

    (Huffington Post, December 9, 2015)

    First of all, bemoaning strains in or ruination of a friendship via text is heartless enough. Therefore, it speaks volumes about the superficial and transactional nature of their friendship that Simmons did so via open letter. Not to mention that, by ending his letter with a wink about an invitation to Trump’s White House, Simmons betrayed whatever seriousness he intended.

    Beyond this, his lame attempt at public censure is, well, a year late and a diatribe short. After all, Trump’s record of fear-mongering, scapegoating, and race-baiting is such that I’ve been urging public figures, particularly Black celebrities, to denounce him for years.

    Here, for example, is what I wrote in “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker!” April 8, 2011.

    ____________________

    Donald Trump is nothing more than the P.T. Barnum of business: a huckster who thrives on the notion that ‘there’s a sucker born every minute’…

    trump2-300x189We all knew that Trump was a self-aggrandizing buffoon. But he has now exposed himself as a self-deluding racist as well.

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

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

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

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

    ____________________

    This is why the timing of his open letter reeks of petty self-interest:

    • When he slandered President Obama as a foreign impostor, why not then, Russell?
    • When he maligned Mexican immigrants as rapists, why not then, Russell?
    • When he vilified the Central Park Five as probably guilty of something else, why not then, Russell?

    You get the point.

    Clearly, I will not be joining the chorus of twits hailing him for publishing this letter. Instead of despairing about their friendship, Simmons should have had the balls to cut Trump off  long ago.

    Incidentally, by instructive contrast, both Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar published statements condemning Trump and defending their Muslim faith. Never mind that any such reply probably just dignifies Trump’s bile.

    Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 5.01.52 PMMeanwhile, Scotland joined the growing list of countries, corporations, and colleges severing ties with him. More significantly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not only joined the chorus of world leaders denouncing him, but also revoked his invitation for Trump to visit Israel later this month.

    With characteristic, delusional bluster, Trump claimed that he postponed the visit until after he’s elected president … to spare Netanyahu embarrassment. Except that Bill Cosby would be more credible claiming that he canceled his show until after he’s exonerated from 50-plus allegations of rape … to spare the networks embarrassment.

    In any event, it also speaks volumes that this frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination has become such a political pariah, he’s persona non-grata in every country in the Middle East, including Israel.

    Alas, the media couldn’t care any less. In fact, the only reason they give this billionaire more airtime than he could buy is that his scorched-earth schtick generates great ratings; you know, the kind Honey Boo Boo generated with her childhood hijinks.

    Therefore, beware that Trump’s popularity says far more about the mercenary media and stupid Republican voters than it does about Trump … or the United States.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 6:05 AM

    Venezuela Finally Awakens from Chavismo Dream

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    According to the February 13, 2014, edition of Business Insider, Venezuela sits on the world’s third largest energy reserves – valued at $34.9 trillion. This includes 297.6 billion barrels of oil – the most of any oil-producing country.

    Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.55.47 AMTherefore, it speaks volumes that 25 percent of Venezuelans live below the poverty line. Even those who live above it are plagued by chronic food shortages and electricity blackouts.

    Of course, we’ve seen this oxymoronic state of affairs before. After all, Africa is littered with countries rich in natural resources but mired in poverty.

    In any event, this excerpt – from “Chávez’s Chavismo: More Robbing Hoodlum than Robin Hood,” August 12, 2015 – gives an overview of the primrose path Venezuela took to arrive at this political and economic purgatory.

    __________________

    My socialist affinities are such that I used to be a big fan of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez… However, it did not take long before I began denouncing him as just another tin-pot dictator betraying the very socialist causes he championed – as such commentaries as “Bolivia’s Woes Expose Chávez’s Socialist Counter-Revolution as Little more than One-Man Three Ring Circus,” September 7, 2006, attest…

    Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.57.24 AMIt was hardly surprising that poor Venezuelans were protesting against chronic privation within a year of his death in March 2013…

    Few Venezuelans appreciated that Chávez was a bigger crook than any drug lord who ever menaced Latin America. Yet he earned his rightful place in the rogue’s gallery of dead kleptomaniacs, which includes everyone from Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier of Haiti to Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire/DR Congo and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Crime bosses like Al Capone and drug lords like Pablo Escobar had nothing on political dictators like these…

    His family and cronies have nothing to fear, so long as the man to whom he bequeathed the presidency, his crony in chief Nicolás Maduro, remains in office. But all bets are off, with respect to their ill-gotten fortunes and even their freedom, the minute any opposition leader assumes power.

    ____________________

    Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.58.39 AMWell folks, Venezuela just took a giant leap towards political and economic salvation. For the stunning results of Sunday’s legislative elections testify to the fact that it’s beginning to expiate the sins of Chavismo.

    Venezuela’s opposition party has claimed the majority of seats in the National Assembly in elections held Sunday, the first major shift in power in the legislative branch since the late President Hugo Chávez took office in 1999…

    This is the first time in 17 years that Chavismo has not won a nationwide election in Venezuela…

    President Nicolas Maduro took to the airwaves and announced that he accepted the loss of his majority, but pledged not to give up on the mission of deceased Hugo Chávez to create a socialist state.

    (CNN, December 7, 2015)

    Ominously, for President Maduro, there’s this:

    The victory hands the [opposition] MUD a ‘simple majority’ in the National Assembly, but this could change to a ‘qualified majority’ depending on the outcome of the remaining 22 seats.

    If the MUD goes on to win 100 seats it will be able to remove ministers from the presidential cabinet. If it manages to gain more than 111 seats, the coalition would wield enough power in the legislative body to dismiss Supreme Court Judges, reform the constitution and require a recall referendum of the national executive without having to collect the minimum quota of signatures required by the country’s constitution.

    (Caribbean News Now, December 8, 2015)

    Accordingly, I urge Maduro to negotiate blanket immunity (for himself and his family) in exchange for his immediate resignation. Because, as indicated above, all bets are truly off if he waits to lose the next presidential election – a result that now seems inevitable.

    Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.55.14 AMThat said, I feel obliged to note what Sunday’s legislative results portend for PetroCaribe. This, of course, is the scheme Chávez and Maduro devised to use Venezuelan oil to buy political favors throughout the Americas … at the expense of the Venezuelan people.

    Unsurprisingly, opposition leaders have long pledged – as an article of political faith – to end it. Not to mention that the fateful decline in oil revenues (from plummeting oil prices) exposed the vaingloriousness of this scheme long ago.

    More to the point, I saw PetroCaribe for the unsustainable diplomatic ploy it was from the outset – as this excerpt from “PetroCaribe: Let’s Look this Gift Horse in the Mouth,” June 30, 2006, attests.

    __________________

    PetroCaribe promises to ‘…contribute to the energy security, socioeconomic development and integration of the Caribbean countries, through the sovereign use of the energy resources.’

    I am loath to suggest that Chávez is selling snake, not crude, oil. But I have grave misgivings – not only about the viability of PetroCaribe as an alternative to the FTAA, but also about its potential as a reliable source of ‘discounted’ energy for Caribbean countries.

    Anyone who bothers to read the fine print will see that it’s less about regional energy and more about regional politics.  And, I fear, Caribbean citizens who expect PetroCaribe to deliver a steady supply of cheap fuel are bound to be disappointed.

    ____________________

    chart6-1In effect, Chávez induced Caribbean leaders to stake the sustainable development of their respective countries on him ruling Venezuela and oil remaining above $100 per barrel … forever. And those suckers bought it.

    Now he’s dead and oil is $37.51….

    What’s more, punctuating the penny-wise, pound-foolish nature of their gamble, there’s this:

    Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said that the U.S. might be able to provide some ‘resources’ to the 17 countries that would be affected by the disappearance of the program, known as Petrocaribe, which began under the late President Hugo Chávez.

    But providing oil would be unlikely, forcing the countries that receive the subsidized petroleum from Venezuela now to find their supplies at world prices.

    (Miami Herald, December 9, 2015)

    Yeah, good luck with that!

    In the meantime, I hope Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, and Suriname will forgive me for saying, I told you so.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, December 7, 2015 at 8:44 AM

    Oscar Pistorius Guilty of Murder… Duh

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I must begin with a little rant about cable news networks. They do so much to annoy and dismay these days – with their beating-a-dead-horse coverage of any and everything – I invariably tune out after just a few minutes.

    Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 4.14.43 PMThis was the case on Friday when they began broadcasting reporters scavenging through the home of the husband and wife who perpetrated the San Bernardino massacre. Networks treated viewers to a feeding frenzy of two-legged hyenas reporting on this now dead couple’s junk mail, family photographs, refrigerated food, and children’s toys … as incriminating evidence.

    This ghoulish farce masquerading as breaking news only vindicated my damning commentary, “Journalism Is Having a Very, Very, Pathetic Moment,” November 13, 2013.

    But, perhaps for professional reasons, nothing annoys and dismays quite like cable news networks featuring legal pundits propagating partisan talking points as informed legal analyses. The watershed moment in this context came in 1995, when they made celebrities of lawyers who helped to turn coverage of the O.J. Simpson “trial of the century” into a farce.

    simpson_verdict_reactionNo doubt you remember the way legal pundits (Black and White) proffered specious nonsense about the pendulum of racial justice finally swinging in favor of Black defendants. Even if unwittingly, they appeared to be justifying the unseemly way far too many Blacks reacted with jubilation to news of O.J. getting away with double murder.

    Instead, these pundits should have limited their punditry to explaining why his (predominantly Black) jury should have found him guilty as sin.

    This brings me to the Oscar Pistorius trial, which played out in similar fashion last year. In fact, comparisons with O.J. began as soon as news broke of his arrest for murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. It wasn’t long before the media were treating us to headlines variously hailing and damning Pistorius as the O.J. of South Africa.

    judge-reads-pistorius-verdict-300x184The farce in this case, however, stemmed from legal pundits spending far too much time impugning the competence and ability of the judge, Thokozile Masipa. Instead, they should have limited their punditry to arguing the guilt or innocence of the defendant, Pistorius, and pleading for justice for his victim, Steenkamp.

    Alas, Judge Masipa vindicated their blather when she acquitted Pistorius of murder, opting to find him guilty only of the lesser charge of manslaughter. Incidentally, Pistorius had a trial by judge because South Africa abolished trials by jury in 1969.

    Here, in part, is how I commented – in “Oscar Gets Off on Murder…,” September 12, 2014 – on her verdict.

    _________________

    I object!

    For, with all due respect to Milady, it defies logic to find that a reasonable person cannot foresee that firing four bullets into a toilet stall would probably kill whoever is inside. Not to mention that this conduct comports with the textbook definition of depraved indifference for human life. And that’s murder … even in South Africa!

    Frankly, there’s no denying that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence to warrant a guilty verdict on at least one of the murder charges. Except that, evidently, Judge Masipa gave Pistorius the benefit not just of a reasonable doubt but of any conceivable doubt. Only this explains her finding of not guilty on all charges related to murder.

    But I shall leave it to legal pundits – who make a living prattling on about sensational cases and second-guessing rulings/verdicts – to elaborate on her judicial errors.

    ___________________

    O.J. SimpsonContinuing the O.J. comparisons, I hereby note that it took fourteen years for justice to finally catch up with O.J. Specifically, when a judge in Las Vegas sentenced him to 33 years in prison for burglary in 2008, she was finally making him pay for murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, (and her friend, Ron Goldman) in 1994.

    I duly heralded his poetic fate in “Justice Delayed, But Not Denied, for O.J. Simpson,” October 4, 2008.

    But it has only taken fourteen months for justice to finally catch up with Oscar. Specifically, when the justices of South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal vacated Masipa’s manslaughter verdict last week, they were finally making him pay for murdering his girlfriend in 2013.

    Paralympian Oscar Pistorius’ conviction for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp has been scaled up to murder from culpable homicide by South Africa’s top appeals court…

    At the original trial in September last year, Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that the state had failed to prove intent or ‘dolus eventualis,’ a legal concept that centers on a person being held responsible for the foreseeable consequences of their actions.

    ‘In these circumstances, the accused must have foreseen and, therefore, did foresee that whoever was behind the toilet door might die but reconciled himself to that even occurring and gambled with that person’s life,’ said [Supreme Court Judge Eric Leach].

    (Reuters, December 3, 2015)

    136833_54_news_hub_126623_656x500It is noteworthy that the justices took pains to avoid impugning Masipa’s competence and ability. But it would take willful blindness not to see that their appellate opinion did just that … in black and white. In fact, the best example of Masipa’s judicial competence and ability in this case was herdecision to grant the prosecutor’s appeal to have the Supreme Court review her verdict.

    Only six weeks ago, Pistorius won parole from the five-year sentence Masipa imposed for manslaughter. But he now faces a minimum of 15 years when she resentences him for murder early next year pursuant to order by the Supreme Court.

    Here’s to Masipa seizing this opportunity to redeem what little is left of her judicial reputation.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, December 5, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    Tower-of-Babel Bombing of ISIS…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    172468_600

    Lawmakers have voted to expand Germany’s role in the fight against ISIS…

    Germany’s post-World War II constitution hinders it in participating in battles on foreign soil…

    [Instead, it will] deploy high-tech intelligence jets over Syria and northern Iraq to help other countries’ forces pinpoint targets.

    (CNN, December 4, 2015)

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  • Friday, December 4, 2015 at 6:54 AM

    Mercenary Publisher Now Peddling Harper Lee’s ‘New’ Novel for $1,500?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In “Harper Lee: To Milk a Mockingbird,” February 5, 2015, I poured scorn on the media hype surrounding publication of Lee’s “newly discovered masterpiece,” Go Set a Watchman. Here is an excerpt.

    ___________________

    I enjoyed reading To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s classic 1960 novel about racism and criminal justice in early twentieth-century America, more than any other required reading in high school…

    harper-lee_3375655bTherefore, you’d think I would be among those cheering this week’s breaking news about the publication of Lee’s purported follow-up novel, Go Set a Watchman, about goings on in the lives of To Kill a Mockingbird’s main characters 20 years later. Except that, having read about the dubious provenance of this sequel, I just feel like jeering.

    To begin with, Go Set a Watchman is reportedly based on a completed manuscript Lee’s editor persuaded her to put aside in order to publish To Kill a Mockingbird. This alone raises far too many obvious, but now unanswerable, questions. Most notably: Why was Go Set a Watchman deemed unworthy of publication back then? And what has changed to make it worthy today … 55 years later?…

    It requires a willing suspension of disbelief to buy her story about suddenly finding what neither Lee nor Alice could for 55 years. And Lee’s publisher is probably banking on such willing suspension of disbelief among fans of To Kill a Mockingbird to peddle other ‘long-lost manuscripts’ — as the New York Times hails this one so disingenuously…

    I think the greatest literary fraud in the history of publishing is afoot, constituting a brazen betrayal and exploitation of one of America’s most beloved literary figures.

    ____________________

    Unsurprisingly, some among the publish-or-perish literati poured scorn on me for doing so.

    But her publisher’s latest mercenary scheme should vindicate my cynical take and denigrate this publishing fake.

    Her publisher is offering a special edition of Go Set a Watchman for $1,500.

    HarperCollins Publishers announced Wednesday that 500 collector’s editions are available — leather bound with gold foil stamping, inside a velvet-lined cloth box. HarperCollins told The Associated Press that Lee, 89 and in frail condition, signed the books during the past few months.

    (Associated Press, November 30, 2015)

    How does this brazen exploitation of Harper Lee not constitute elder abuse…?

    In any event, just imagine the scandal if, just months after publishing her final Harry Potter book, J.K. Rowling’s publisher began peddling signed collector’s editions … for thousands of dollars.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 8:42 AM

    San Bernardino: Another Day, Another Shooting in Gun-Crazy USA

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Alas, gun violence has become so commonplace in the United States that reacting to it has now descended into gallows humor.

    Only this explains Reddit compiling a list of every mass shooting this year, which now stands at 355, under the subreddit heading “Guns Are Cool.” (A mass shooting is defined as any shooting that results in four or more people being killed or wounded.)

    390-suspect-1202Only this explains the Huffington Post reporting on the latest shooting yesterday in San Bernardino, California, which killed 14 and wounded 18, with this sobering headline:

    There Have Been More Mass Shootings This Year Than There Have Been Days: 355 mass shootings in 336 days … and counting.

    And only this explains President Obama reacting with this feckless and resigned lament:

    [W]e have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in world.

    (CBS News, December 2, 2015)

    But nothing puts the crazy nature of gun violence in the United States into perspective quite like this “politifact,” courtesy of the August 27, 2015, edition of the New York Times:

    More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history…

    There have been 1,516,863 gun-related deaths since 1968, compared to 1,396,733 cumulative war deaths since the American Revolution.

    Think about that folks. Then ask yourself why the NRA is not considered a far greater threat to this country than ISIS.

    The NRA propagates a constitutional justification for the rabid proliferation of guns, which are specifically designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible. But this is even more specious than the religious justification ISIS propagates for the rabid proliferation of terrorism.

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

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

    splash-reax-1202Incidentally, I applaud the New York Daily News for calling out Republican politicians for continually rushing to offer prayers for the victims of gun violence, while continuing to legislate what the NRA propagates. Here is the pithy, provocative headline it emblazoned over its entire front page today:

    God isn’t fixing this.

    Now if only the media would neutralize their anti-Muslim headlines about radical Islamic terrorism. They can do this by screaming headlines about radical Christian terrorism every time a Christian goes on a rampage, especially given that Christians commit over 95 percent of the mass shootings that terrorize this country.

    More to the point, unless advocates for gun control can raise more money to defeat these venal politicians than the NRA raises to elect them, Congress isn’t fixing this either. After all, Republicans are now so committed to championing NRA propaganda, they argue — with a straight face — that even legislation that merely prevents certifiably insane Americans from buying assault weapons would violate the fundamental liberty of all Americans.

    Even more reprehensible, though, is the way gun merchants salivate after every shooting tragedy:

    ‘The gun business was very much accelerated based on what happened after the election and then the tragedy that happened at Sandy Hook,’ said Ed Stack, the chief executive of Dick’s Sporting Goods, a leading gun and ammunition retailer…

    ‘You can see after a tragedy, there’s also a lot of buying,’ said Jeff Buchanan, the chief financial officer of Smith & Wesson.

    (Daily News, December 3, 2015)

    n-AMERICA-GUN-large300I have waxed indignant about gun violence in too many commentaries over the years to comment on this latest fusillade much further. Indeed, how can outrage be anything but contrived now that gun violence has become as American as Apple pie?

    Accordingly, I shall end with these few points:

    • Just as Jihadi Muslims terrorize fellow Muslims more than anybody else, gun-loving Americans terrorize fellow Americans more than anybody else. So, who’s calling who fanatics?
    • Political quibbling over labeling gun violence a mass shooting or terrorism amounts to a perverse distinction without a difference.
    • The venality of politicians is surpassed only by that of journalists, who provide obsessive media coverage of mass shootings more to generate ratings (by preying on fears) than to inform.

    I don’t know why the media always reward these psychotic people by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and on the front page of every major newspaper … worldwide, and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds. Isn’t it clear to see, especially in this age of instant celebrity, why some loser kid would find this route to infamy irresistible?

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

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

    Until the next shooting then; but, to be true to myself, I shall refrain henceforth from commenting.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 11:43 AM

    Paris Talks on Climate Change to Avert an Apocalypse? Hardly…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    World leaders are meeting in Paris this month in what amounts to a last-ditch effort to avert the worst ravages of climate change. Climatologists now say that the best case scenario — assuming immediate and dramatic emissions curbs — is that planetary surface temperatures will increase by at least 2 degrees Celsius [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] in the coming decades.

    This may sound like a small uptick, but the implications are profound. Rising temperatures will destroy plant and animal habitats, and reduce yields of important food crops. More people will be exposed to the ravages of flooding and drought.

    (Huffington Post, November 30, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 7.22.39 AM

    Listening to talks at this Paris conference, which convened yesterday, you could be forgiven for thinking the clear and present danger the world faces is climate change, not Islamic terrorism.

    Except that, to anyone who knows anything about the global effort to combat climate change, their rhetoric must seem more Chicken Little than clairvoyant. After all, much of what world leaders are saying in Paris today parrots what their respective predecessors said in Kyoto almost 20 years ago.

    iceU.S. Vice President Al Gore is the self-anointed prophet/alarmist of climate-change. Here is the dire warning he issued in 2006.

    Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world’s scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.

    (climatecrisiscoalition.org)

    Gore also famously prophesied in 2008 that the North polar ice caps would disappear in five years. In reality, 2013 saw those ice caps expanding:

    Arctic sea ice extent is increasing… For October 2015 [it] averaged 2.98 million square miles…367,000 square miles above the record low monthly average for October that occurred in 2007.

    (National Snow & Ice Data Center, November 4, 2015)

    Incidentally:

    The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets.

    [It] was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997.

    (UNFCCC.int/Kyoto-protocol)

    I have written many commentaries over the years championing enlightened environmental practices over apocalyptic climate rhetoric. In doing so, I invariably cited the American conservation movement, which dates back to the 1890s, as well as the Earth Day practices it sprouted back in the 1960s – as this excerpt from “Happy 39th Earth Day, April 22, 2009, attests.

    __________________

    earth-day-5RsThe environmental practices this day inaugurated have become so routine and universal that the symbolic replenishing of Earth’s natural resources — by planting trees — now seems trite, if not contrived. Granted, to hear all of the alarmist talk about climate change, you’d think it was Al Gore who transformed public consciousness in this regard only years ago with sermons from his environmental bible, Earth in the Balance.

    But this celebration of and deference to Earth’s natural wonders should be distinguished from Gore’s convenient truths about climate change; so-called truths which include using fake images of melting glaciers in his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” just to scare people.

    After all, the original Earth Day ushered in conservation and greening trends that have led to cleaner air, more potable (lead-free) water, and a much less polluted environment. Whereas, by Gore’s own admission, there has been ‘no improvement in the fight against climate change’ since he began prophesying about global warming.

    ____________________

    Americans are fond of declaring themselves exceptional. But there’s nothing exceptional about the human desire to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

    Therefore, just as Americans became environmentally conscious only after fully reaping the benefits of industrialization, the Chinese, Indians and peoples of other developing nations will undoubtedly do the same. Beijing is the smog capital of the world today. But, as recently as twenty years ago, this dubious distinction still belonged to Los Angeles.

    Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 7.23.01 PMFrankly, instead of trying to combat climate change, world leaders would do more to save the planet by championing, among other things, Earth Day initiatives to curb deforestation, promote a plant-based diet, limit drilling for oil and gas, improve public transportation, ban plastics, and criminalize unethical trade in wildlife – all of which are causing all manner of life-sustaining plant and sea species to race towards extinction. Indeed, you’d be far more informed about just how much earth is in the balance by watching Discovery Channel’s Racing Extinction, which premieres on December 2, than by listening to all of the hot air coming out of this Paris summit.

    Not to mention that President Obama’s leadership in negotiating this Paris Protocol seems fated to be undermined, just as President Clinton’s was with respect to the Kyoto Protocol. After all, the Republican-controlled Senate voted 95-0 against ratifying the protocol Clinton signed, and this Republican-controlled Senate seems even more hell-bent against ratifying any protocol Obama signs.

    On Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans suggested last week that the GOP-led chamber must approve the Paris deal, or it will withhold billions that the U.S. has pledged, as part of the pact, to help poor countries reduces their carbon output.

    ‘Congress will not be forthcoming with these funds in the future without a vote in the Senate on any final agreement as required in the U.S. Constitution,’ Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and 36 other GOP senators said in a letter to Obama.

    (FOX News, November 28, 2015)

    It’s noteworthy that Republican President George W. Bush reinforced the Senate’s vote against ratification by withdrawing the United States from the Kyoto Protocol entirely in 2002. And Republican presidential candidates are making quite a show of deriding the Paris talks, while vowing to rollback many regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions, which Obama enacted by executive order.

    Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 11.16.55 AMOf far greater significance, though, is the role the leader of the world’s biggest polluter, China, is playing in Paris. For President Xi Jinping is straddling divisions between rich and poor nations, which reared their heads in Kyoto, bedeviled attempts to set new goals in Copenhagen (2009), and seem likely to do the same in Paris. This, even with toxic smog (from smokestacks of coal-burning power plants) descending like fog almost daily over his mainland.

    As always, those divisions revolve around poor nations demanding “climate justice,” which would require rich nations to bear the cost of the carbon emissions poor nations believe will be the unavoidable by-product of their ongoing development.

    Interestingly enough, many are citing the landmark agreement the United States and China struck to curb carbon emissions as a galvanizing pivot towards reconciling these divisions. Here in part is how I commented on it in “China-U.S. Landmark Agreement More about Clean Air than Climate Change,” November 15, 2014.

    ____________________

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

    12prexy-hp-03-master675[T]his agreement is a good thing not because it advances man’s Sisyphean attempts to control Mother Nature (i.e., by stopping polar caps melting and sea levels rising). It’s a good thing because it will enable China’s 1.3 billion people to breathe cleaner air (even as its tired, poor, huddled masses continue their political ‘yearning to breathe free’).

    After all, China has almost as many coal-burning smokestacks fueling its economic growth as the United States has coffee-brewing Starbucks fueling its people’s get up and go…

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

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

    __________________

    I cannot overstate that China is making Earth Day-like investments in renewable energy not pursuant to some global treaty (even though, unlike the United States, it duly ratified Kyoto), but because its people are beginning to demand cleaner air.

    What’s more, Xi has nothing to lose economically, but everything to gain politically, by straddling divisions between rich and poor nations in Paris. Not least because there’s a glaring loophole in China’s bilateral agreement with the United States – as there was in the Kyoto Protocol and is bound to be in this Paris Protocol. Namely, despite being the world’s biggest polluter and fast becoming its richest economy, China (and other developing nations) will not be obligated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for a decade (or more).

    Even so, this loophole is the least of many concessions poor countries are trying to extract from rich countries, arguing at every conference that the latter not only caused but benefited from greenhouse gas emissions during the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, which is the primary cause of global warming today. More to the point, while rich countries are framing these talks as mankind’s last chance to save the planet from the ravages of climate change, poor nations are framing them as the rich countries’ latest attempt to impose do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do restraints on their economic development.

    [U]nlike the top two emitters, the United States and China, India has balked at committing to major carbon reduction targets, instead vowing to double coal production by 2020.

    It argues stricter emissions targets would compromise efforts to boost living standards of more than a quarter of its 1.2 billion population which lives in poverty.

    [India] also called on wealthy countries to support the developing world in dealing with the effects of climate change, including the increasing frequency of floods, drought and erratic monsoons.

    (New Delhi TV, November 23, 2015)

    climate-session-minister-opening-delivers-conference-bourget_2e4eaf98-97d0-11e5-b4f4-1b7a09ed2ceaIn fact, some developing nations are demanding developed nations pay reparations (amounting to hundreds of billions) for the environmental damage their development caused, which all nations are now being forced to cure.

    This is why, even though the politics of climate change will compel all world leaders to sign the Paris Protocol, the economics of climate change will compel most of them to ignore their commitments.

    Not to mention that:

    • Whatever they agree to in Paris will not be binding on any of the signatories.
    • Even if, like Kyoto’s, the terms were legally binding, they would not be enforceable.
    • It’s beyond naïve to expect world leaders to honor pledges to combat a potential disaster like climate change – given their vainglorious habit of dishonoring pledges to deal with unfolding disasters like the Indonesian tsunami and Haitian earthquake.

    That said, it might be helpful to know that, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the planet warmed by 1.53 °F (0.85ºC) from 1880 to 2012. Therefore, it’s arguable that, even accounting for population growth, as China leads developing nations in emulating developed nations with Earth Day-like practices, climatological prophecies about the planet warming by as much as 6°F over the next 100 years (with all of the apocalyptic consequences that would entail) will probably never be fulfilled.

    Indeed, the IPCC duly notes that natural variations or cyclical phenomena like La Niña, which tends to cool the global atmosphere, have caused, and will continue to cause, “occasional pauses” in warming … of indeterminate lengths.

    Which brings me to my abiding take on global warming/climate change.

    I’ve written far too many commentaries on this topic to count. Unfortunately, they’ve done little more than lump me together with the ‘heretics’ trying to temper increasing alarms about climate change with calming facts about environmental protection and conservation.

    Therefore, on behalf of all proud heretics in this respect, let me hasten to clarify that, while acknowledging climate change as a fact but hardly an existential threat, we have maintained that there are many “Global Priorities Bigger than Climate Change” – as the critically acclaimed Danish environmentalist, Professor Bjorn Lomborg, proffered in his now seminal TED talk in 2005.

    (“March to Save the Planet? Get Real!” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2014)

    The above should affirm my solidarity with the India-led camp of developing nations. But such commentaries as “Global Warming or Just Hot Air,” February 16, 2005, and “Return of the Polar Ice Caps. I Told You So!” September 12, 2013, will attest to my vanguard support for their side in the ongoing global effort to combat climate change.

    Related commentaries:
    Earth Day
    March to save planet…?
    China-US agreement
    Save planet vs. save economies

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 8:23 a.m.

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