• Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 6:04 AM

    Time to Partition Iraq? No Sh*#!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 9.15.14 PMRichard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, which promotes itself as “an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource to help people better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries.”

    Unsurprisingly, Haass is a mainstay on TV talk shows, providing purportedly visionary and authoritative commentary on all manner of political developments across the globe. Such was the case on Sunday—when he appeared on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS to discuss the internecine struggle between Sunnis and Shiites. This, of course, is the struggle that has been threatening for millennia to blow not just Iraq but the entire Middle East asunder.

    Here is how Haass replied when Zakaria asked about partitioning Iraq — where the United States remains hostage to so many vested interests — as a panacea:

    Iraq is effectively breaking up … [into] an Iranian Shia version of Iraq … a Kurdish Iraq [and] a Sunni Arab tribal Iraq.

    And I think to the United States the real question is, when do we give up the game?

    Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 4.41.11 PMExcept that, almost a decade ago, some of us declared partition the inevitable consequence of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It was self-evident that Sunnis (who compose twenty percent of the population) and Kurds (who compose seventeen percent) would never consent to be governed by a central government dominated by Shiites (who compose sixty percent). This is why we urged the United States to “give up the game” of nation building among them way back then.

    I fail to understand (not that Bush’s critics have even bothered to explain) how changing control of Congress or firing Rumsfeld will improve conditions on the ground in Iraq. And it’s probably too late to execute what I thought was the only way to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure and form a viable federal government: Namely, to implement a Marshall Plan (a la post WWII Japan) under martial law enforced by the ‘several hundred thousand U.S. troops’ the truly visionary Gen. Eric Shinseki said would be needed in postwar Iraq.

    I fear the only hope now is to partition the country into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni zones and leave them to defend their own borders and barter (or fight) for a share Iraq’s oil wealth.

    So, here’s to the triumph of opportunistic politics over failed military strategies.

    (“At Last, Rumsfeld Becomes a Casualty of the Iraq War,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 9, 2006)

    Alas, I fear it’s too late now to partition Iraq. Not least because this was only feasible when the United States wielded de facto colonial authority over the entire country and could compel sectarian leaders to the table.

    But the new, Shiite-dominated government has not only kicked the United States out, but invited Iran in. And, Iran is now wielding the kind of influence the United wasted thousands of lives and nearly a trillion dollars to acquire.

    Crooked-mullahs-520x245More to the point, the last thing the Persian Mullahs who rule Iran want is for their Shiite brothers to cede any part of Iraq to Sunnis Arabs. But, to better appreciate Shiite enmity towards Sunnis, consider that the only people these Mullahs hate more than Jews are the Sunni royals who rule Saudi Arabia.

    It’s complicated; which explains why cocksure, warmongering neo-cons—who goaded Bush into invading Iraq—are the only ones criticizing Obama for not having simple military strategy for dealing with the mess in the Middle East. You’d never know that these are the same folks who stirred up the hornet’s nest of sectarian violence the world has been trying in vain to contain ever since.

    Abdullah, Nayef bin Abdul Aziz al-SaudAgain, Sunnis and Shiites are waging a never-ending struggle for the soul (and control) of Islam. Their latest bone of contention stems from the belief among Iranians that Saudis have been proselytizing a medieval and perverse form of Islam called Wahhabism, which has inspired nobody but jihadi terrorists who find salvation in ISIS/al-Qaeda-style crusades.

    In any event, I cannot overstate that the United States should leave the warring Islamic factions across Africa and the Middle East to their own devices. It should merely warn whichever one emerges as the governing authority that it will suffer a Taliban-like fate too if it harbors terrorists within its borders.  In other words, with apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien:

    One Drone to find them all, One Drone to watch them,

    One Drone to bomb them all, and from the skies contain them,

    In the Land of Babylon where the Dark Ages loom.

    All else is folly, including Johnnies-come-lately (like Haass) now playing visionary pundits on TV.

    Related commentaries:
    Casualty of war

  • Monday, March 30, 2015 at 5:09 AM

    Amanda Knox Not Guilty and Free … Finally

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    So much media coverage attended the trial and conviction of Amanda Knox six years ago that commentators fairly described it as the most sensational since the trial and acquittal of O.J. Simpson.

    amandab-234x300Here is an excerpt from “American Student Amanda Knox Guilty of Murder in Italy,” December 9, 2009, in which I registered my take.

    __________________

    The local media had a starring role in this show trial, parroting the prosecutors’ alternating theories of the crime as unimpeachable facts. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that Amanda’s jurors, who were never sequestered, convicted her after only 14 hours of deliberation…

    Notwithstanding this verdict, however, it smacks of an unseemly mix of arrogance and hypocrisy for everyone from pundits to politicians in the United States to be hurling self-righteous indignation at the Italian justice system.

    After all, one would be hard-pressed to find a judicial system that is guilty of more egregious miscarriages of justice than America’s: There are of course the more notorious cases like O.J. and the Duke Lacrosse players. But I’m thinking here of its shameful legacy of convicting, and in some cases executing, Blacks for crimes they did not commit.

    Therefore, instead of criticizing the jurors and condemning the Italian justice system, Amanda’s supporters would be well-advised to just pray that Italy’s appellate courts do in this case what they’ve done in many others, namely, overturned guilty verdicts that offended all notions of justice.

    __________________

    Unfortunately for Amanda, the rollercoaster appellate process – which saw one tribunal overturn her conviction, only to have another reinstate it – soon surpassed the egregiousness of this initial verdict.

    390-knox-0327Except that this made the Italian Supreme Court’s intervention inevitable. And, as the excerpt above indicates, the ruling it handed down on Friday came as no surprise.

    A tearful Amanda Knox said she is glad to have her life back after an eight-year legal drama that gripped the United States, Britain and Italy.

    Knox made a brief statement after Italy’s Supreme Court overturned her murder conviction late Friday.

    She was prosecuted after the semi-naked body of British student Meredith Kercher, 21, her throat slashed, was found in November 2007 in the apartment the two women shared.

    (CNN, March 28, 2015)

    Unfortunately for Amanda, again, this Supreme Court decision got relatively scant media coverage. In fact, most networks gave it mere seconds during their wall-to-wall coverage of rank speculation and pop psychoanalysis masquerading as breaking news on the crash of that Germanwings plane in the Alps four days earlier.

    Indeed Knox can be forgiven the all too familiar lament about having news of her unjust conviction blared across front pages, but news of her just acquittal buried in back pages.

    Anyway, case closed!

    Related commentaries:
    Knox guilty

  • Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    Stay out America! ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Houthi just factions in neverending struggle for soul of Islam

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    20150328_wwd000

  • Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 7:28 AM

    Why pilots commit suicide-mass murder? Surely only God knows

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 8.15.24 PM

  • Friday, March 27, 2015 at 6:27 AM

    BBC to ‘Top Gear’s’ Clarkson: You’re Fired!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 6.59.26 AMRecall that Jeremy Clarkson reportedly gave defenseless Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon a mind-boggling twenty-minute tongue lashing, before raining down a torrent of physical blows on him. All this just because the hotel where they were shooting on location had only cold food available, instead of the sizzling steak and crisp chips he expected to be served.

    Yet no less a person than News Corp Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch led the chorus of those venting consternation that the BBC would even countenance sacking Clarkson. Murdoch, of course, is a pied piper in the vast wasteland television has become … and social media ever was.

    Rupertmurdoch_main_1455345aHere is the viral tweet he tweeted on March 24 to advance his latest ignoble cause:

    How stupid can BBC be in firing Jeremy Clarkson? Funny man with great expertise and huge following.

    But Clarkson’s supporters, especially those blaming his victim for the fallout, should appreciate that what Murdoch is saying is as morally repugnant as saying that it was stupid of the Baltimore Ravens to fire Ray Rice for beating up his then fiancée Janay Palmer. After all, Rice was not only their leading rusher, and indispensable to any chance of repeating their 2012 feat as Super Bowl champions; he was easily their most popular player.

    By contrast, here is what I urged the BBC to do:

    I applaud the BCC for promptly suspending Clarkson and canceling the show’s final two episodes of this season. I also appreciate it holding a full inquiry, which convenes today, to discover facts and grant him procedural due process. But, having already made quite a show of issuing Clarkson that final warning, the BBC has no choice now but to sack him…

    As entertaining as he admittedly is, however, Clarkson is no more indispensable to Top Gear than Sean Connery was to the James Bond…

    The BBC can ill afford to be seen coddling an unrepentant bully and “casual racist” like Clarkson after all of the reputational damage it suffered two years ago, when reports revealed that it had been coddling an equally unrepentant bully and serial pedophile like Jimmy Savile… for decades.

    So kudos to the BBC for putting the brakes on Top Gear; and here’s to it making sure that, when the show starts again, Clarkson is no longer one of the three presenters in the driver’s seat.

    (“BBC Puts Brakes on Top Gear,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 16, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 8.03.41 PMWell, here is how BBC Director General Tony Hall announced the organization’s fateful decision on this now notorious steak and chips “fracas:”

    It is with great regret that I have told Jeremy Clarkson today that the BBC will not be renewing his contract. It is not a decision I have taken lightly…

    There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.

    (BBC, March 25, 2015)

    Hear, hear!

    Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 7.36.05 PMAnd here’s to this arrogant brute now being formally charged with assault for causing Tymon to end up in hospital with a bloody, busted fat lip.

    Incidentally, many media commentators speculated that Hall would find some way to give Clarkson (yet) another pass – not just because of his “huge [Twitter] following,” but also because of their personal friendship. This is why Hall’s principled decision to sack him should be instructive – not just to media commentators in the United States, but also to the new head of NBC News, Andrew Lack.

    News of the talks, which bounced around media circles, prompted speculation that Lack, a good friend of Brian Williams, the exiled anchor of the network’s “Nightly News,” will push early to get the fact-challenged newsman back on the air.

    ‘Andy Lack wouldn’t come back without Brian, said a source friendly with both executives. ‘This is all about saving Brian.”

    (New York Post, March 3, 2015)

    Frankly, given the fatal blows Williams inflicted upon his own credibility, hosting a show like The Biggest Loser or a reboot of Truth or Consequences is the only TV role he’s now fit to play.

    Related commentaries:
    Top Gear
    Nightly News

  • Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 6:24 AM

    Yemen Falls Apart … Too

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yemen’s embattled president was pushed deeper into crisis Wednesday after fleeing a last-ditch refuge as advancing Shiite rebels seized a key air base to add another prize to their expanding territory.

    The whereabouts of Western-allied President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was not immediately clear.

    But any further disintegration of Hadi’s power would tip Yemen closer toward a civil war involving various factions, including a powerful branch of al-Qaeda.

    (Washington Post, March 25, 2015)

    No kidding!

    6144568756_12825d0f88_bHere, in part, is how I’ve been pooh-poohing every new strategy (i.e., troop deployment) President Obama has announced to combat Islamic terrorists (from Al-Shabaab in Somalia to ISIS in Syria).

    I urge you to listen carefully for anything that convinces you that his war on terrorism (against ISIS) will be any more successful than Bush’s ill-fated war on terrorism (against al-Qaeda). Just be mindful that JFK convinced the American people that his war on communism (in Vietnam) would be more successful than his predecessor Truman’s war on communism (in Korea). And beware that a stupid war by any other name (like “a counterterrorism operation”) would still prove as stupid….

    (“Demystifying ISIS: Case against Obama’s Bush-lite War on Terrorism,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 10, 2014)

    Nothing validates (or vindicates) my cynicism quite like ISIS actually growing in strength since Obama launched his master plan six months ago to “degrade and ultimately destroy” it.

    More importantly, here (also from “Demystifying ISIS…”) is what I’ve been proffering as the only sensible strategy Obama should execute – with respect not just to these rampaging terrorists, but also to the various factions in Afghanistan and Iraq that have bedeviled America’s ill-fated efforts at nation building for more than a decade.

    _________________

    I’ve been lamenting – in commentaries as far back as “The Shotgun Convention of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds to Frame an Iraqi Constitution,” August 22, 2005 and as recently as “Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds Fighting for Control of Iraq. Stay Out, America” June 19, 2014 – the folly of the United States acting as if it can either ‘win’ a war on terrorism or build a Jeffersonian democracy in the Middle East:

    With respect to the former, I’ve maintained that the best the United States can do is deny terrorists safe havens and disrupt their training and planning with vigilant drone surveillance and targeted preemptive strikes. After all, as it has demonstrated by doing this everywhere from Pakistan to Yemen, the United States does not need a coalition of the willing to do so.

    With respect to the latter, I’ve maintained that it’s best to rely on aggressive diplomacy (aka “soft power”) to affect [regime] change in the region. And if diplomacy fails, to leave warring factions to their own devices, sufficing only to warn whichever one emerges as the governing authority that it will suffer a Taliban-like fate too if it harbors terrorists within its borders.

    I put forward this strategy because, if the Afghans and Iraqis Americans spent over a decade training to govern themselves, defend themselves, and sustain themselves can’t stand on their own against a rag-tag bunch of Taliban fighters and rampaging ISIS/ISIL terrorists, respectively, then they deserve whatever fate befalls them. To say nothing of the dreadful spectacle of so many of those the U.S. trained either turning their guns directly on U.S. troops – in now notorious ‘green-on-blue’ killings, or using that training to professionalize the ranks of terrorist groups like ISIS.

    __________________

    yemen.map02

    This is why I hope I can be forgiven for just rolling my eyes in disgust when Yemen began falling apart a few months ago, despite Obama’s best efforts to portray it as his proverbial “city upon a hill” in the Middle East.

    Nothing damns Obama’s folly in this context quite like Yemen looking more like Iraq today. Recall that he hailed Yemen a few months ago for the type of successful counterterrorism partnership the United States is attempting to establish in Iraq.

    (“Obama’s Mission Creep in Iraq Channeling JFK’s Mission Creep in Vietnam,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 12, 2014)

    usa-isis-strike-deploy.siBut even I was dumbfounded that, even with the writing so clearly on the wall, Obama had hundreds of Marines still trying to put this Humpty Dumpty of a country back together again.

    Unsurprisingly, this set up the inevitable spectacle of these Marines retreating in the face of Shiite rebels (aka Houthis) in Yemen this week, in a manner embarrassingly similar to the way U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi soldiers retreated in the face of Sunni rebels (aka ISIS) in Iraq last year.

    6ee83bc2e3f46a0c710f6a7067009a98_r620x349In fact, the symmetry of this spectacle is such that fleeing Marines left behind even more sophisticated U.S. armaments for the poorly equipped Houthis to exploit than the fleeing Iraqis infamously left behind for ISIS to exploit.

    The Pentagon is unable to account for more than $500 million in U.S. military aid given to Yemen, amid fears that the weaponry, aircraft and equipment is at risk of being seized by Iranian-backed rebels or al-Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.

    With Yemen in turmoil and its government splintering, the Defense Department has lost its ability to monitor the whereabouts of small arms, ammunition, night-vision goggles, patrol boats, vehicles and other supplies donated by the United States. The situation has grown worse since the United States closed its embassy in Sanaa, the capital, last month and withdrew many of its military advisers.

    (Washington Post, March 17, 2015)

    Frankly, I couldn’t create such a conflagration of follies if I tried. All I can do is reiterate my call for Obama to leave the various Muslim factions across the Middle East and in parts of Africa to their own devices.

    I hasten to clarify that, despite warmongering media reports, none of their sectarian fighting has ever posed any threat to the national security of the United States. Indeed, let us not forget that Sunni Iraq and Shia Iran fought an eight-year war during the 1980s, which most Americans were not even aware was going on.

    RTR4UPPL-1024x664Again, the United States should deploy Special Forces to those regions only to protect areas of vital strategic interest, like Saudi oil production and international shipping lanes.

    This is why I was so dismayed on Tuesday, when Obama compounded his 2009 decision to surge more troops into Afghanistan by announcing a one-year extension of their deployment at the behest of new Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. After all, and I cannot belabor this point, it is abject folly to think that 10,000 U.S. troops can do a better job of training Afghan troops in one year to defend their country from Taliban fighters than 100,000 U.S. troops did in ten years.

    Apropos of folly, nothing is more so than the United States trying to prevent Shiite rebels from overthrowing a hapless Sunni president in Yemen, while the putatively powerful and predominantly Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia sat idly by – right across the border – with a military arsenal worth hundreds of billions just becoming sand infested. This is why I was so heartened yesterday, when the Saudi ambassador to the United States announced that his country has finally begun launching military strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

    sunni-vs-shiaIncidentally, it might be helpful to know that eighty-five percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are Sunnis. Therefore, if Sunni Saudi wants to forfeit leadership of them to the marauding band of Sunni psychopaths – who are now trying to form a medieval Caliphate in Syria and Iraq, what business is that of the United States? Moreover, if Sunnis want to forfeit the soul (or political control) of Islam to the fifteen percent of Shias, led by Iran, again, what business is that of the United States?

    Except, of course, that there’s probably no conflict on planet Earth defense contractors and their congressional pawns would not declare of strategic interest to the United States. For this is how they justify the unconscionable amount of taxpayer dollars budgeted each year to feed the frankensteinian military industrial complex, which former President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned about over 50 years ago. Hell, you could be forgiven for thinking that every politician who comes to Washington pledges as an article of faith that what’s good for defense contractors is good for U.S. national security.

    Mind you, I still urge the United States to use its good offices and regional influence to try to broker peace between Sunnis and Shias, just as it has been doing to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Notwithstanding that the prospect for peace in the former case (with shifting alliances among far too many Muslim clans to count) is probably even dimmer than in the latter.

    In any event, this would/should not require military intervention of any kind. Only misguided neo-imperialism and unconscionable corporate greed would necessitate that.

    Related commentaries:
    Demystifying ISIS
    Obama mission creep

  • Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 7:34 AM

    Germanwings Clipped in the Alps

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A German jetliner en route from Barcelona, Spain, to Düsseldorf, Germany, plunged from the sky on Tuesday and slammed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.

    Helicopters and rescue personnel swarmed into the remote, rugged area in southeastern France after the crash but found no signs of life. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said none of the 144 passengers and six crew members survived.

    (New York Times, March 24, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 7.26.29 AMTrue to form, armchair pilots, investigators, and terror experts are treating us to all kinds of idle speculation about what happened to this flight. Never mind that they are still trying to explain what happened to MH370 one year ago.

    Granted, the aim of all media in covering tragedies like this is not to inform so much as to entertain … for ratings.

    Meanwhile, none of this will mean anything to the loved ones of those who perished. Nor will any of it do anything to prevent future air disasters, which invariably result from the infinite capacity of humans to commit catastrophic errors in the skies.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.

    NOTE: Despite the recent spate of airline disasters, flying remains a far safer mode of transportation than driving.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 9:07 AM

    Black Women Dominate at NCAA Division 1 Swimming Championships?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    simone-manuel-lia-neal-start

    Thirty years ago, when I was struggling to make my mark in NCAA Division III swimming, I could not have imagined a day when black swimmers (men or women) would be dominating Division 1.

    Manuel_-Simone-FR-Manuel-Stanford_TBX_0431Yet that day has come:

    African-American swimmers took the top three finishes in a single event at the Women’s Division 1 NCAA Championship this weekend, a feat recognized by the national governing body of swimming in the United States with a celebratory tweet.

    Freshman phenom Simone Manuel of Stanford set an NCAA, American, U.S. Open, Championship and Pool record when she clocked a time of 46.09 in the Women’s 100-yard Freestyle; Manuel’s Stanford teammate Lia Neal came in second place with a time of 47.13 … the University of Florida’s Natalie Hinds [came in third] with a time of 47.24.

    (NBC Sports, March 23, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 9.51.51 AMI could not be more proud. And I don’t mind admitting that my best time in the 100-yard Freestyle would not have been good enough to even qualify for the final in their event, let alone win a medal.

    Of course, pioneering black swimmers like Enith Brigitha, Maritza (Correia) McClendon, Anthony Nesty, Anthony Ervin, Cullen Jones, and Alia Atkinson (of Jamaica!) dispelled the myth that blacks can’t swim long ago.

    But this is an historic occasion worthy of celebration and, frankly, deserving of far more mainstream media coverage than it’s getting.

    No doubt coverage of their feats at Rio 2016 will more than compensate. I can’t wait!

    Black women can’t swim? They used to say white men can’t jump. Ha!

  • Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 8:45 AM

    Elton John Exposes Flimsy, Fleeting Nature of #Protests

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Elton John, after calling for a boycott against Dolce & Gabbana, was photographed carrying a Dolce & Gabbana shopping bag into a Los Angeles recording studio March 16, according to CBS News. John was spotted with the shopping bag after he had sworn on his Instagram account that he’d never wear anything from the designers again, blasting them for their comments on gay couples adopting and babies born by in vitro fertilization.

    (Inquisitr, March 22, 2015)

    26BC657D00000578-2999023-image-a-8_1426612088498Therefore, John’s a hypocrite? Not quite.

    Elton John and his partner David Furnish have two children who were born through surrogacy. Dolce & Gabbana dismissed children born this way as “synthetic.” Naturally, John found this slight so unforgivable, he called for a boycott against them. More to the point, I am convinced he will back up his hashtag protest with real-life action, the shopping bag notwithstanding.

    By contrast, far too many people, especially celebrities, make a show of joining online protests, but show no interest in how those protests play out in real life.

    Remember when the #StopKony2012 viral campaign made expressing concern for the “invisible children” the LRA kidnapped an article of our shared humanity?

    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 or 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)

    MichelleObamaBringBackOurGirlsIn fairness to viral poseurs like Rihanna, no less a person than Michelle Obama has participated in equally flimsy, fleeting hashtag protests.

    Remember when the #BringBackOurGirls viral campaign made expressing concern for the schoolgirls Boko Haram kidnapped an article of our shared humanity? Well, Michelle figured as prominently in that campaign as Rihanna did in #StopKony2012. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a single real-life utterance from Michelle demanding their return since making quite a show of tweeting her support almost a year ago.

    Sadly, we live in a world today where social media have made imaginary friends and hashtag protests like the real thing.  Which is why, apart from losing a few celebrity clients (who probably never paid for their stuff anyway), I don’t think #BoycottDolceGabbana will have any real impact on sales for fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana….

    Of course, even gay men are entitled to hold traditional views – no matter how seemingly hypocritical or self-abnegating:

    ‘You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be. Dolce said. ‘I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.’

    (NPR, March 16, 2015)

    But we are equally entitled to boycott Dolce & Gabbana for holding such views. And I would, if  – for some unforeseen reason – I were ever inclined to buy their stuff.

    Related commentaries:
    Tweeting Joseph Kony

  • Monday, March 23, 2015 at 5:46 AM

    Lee Kuan Yew, the World’s Most Admired Authoritarian Leader, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Lee Kuan Yew, who founded modern Singapore and was both feared for his authoritarian tactics and admired for turning the city-state into one of the world’s richest nations, died Monday…

    The country’s first and longest-serving prime minister, Lee guided Singapore through a traumatic split with Malaysia in 1965 and helped transform what was then a sleepy port city into a global trade and finance center.

    Although he could have remained in office for much longer, he stepped aside and handed over leadership of the ruling party, and the country, to a younger generation in 1990.

    (The Associated Press, March 23, 2015)

    i58nHNNlx3aMBetween the 1960s and 1990s, long before China became the “awakening dragon,” the talk of the global economy was of the “four Asian tigers,” namely, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore.

    But the Cambridge-educated Lee articulated such a cogent and pragmatic philosophy for national development – characterized by the very visible hand of authoritarian governance guiding free enterprise – that Singapore was easily the most dynamic and envied of the four.

    In fact, so much so that the father of China’s economic awakening, Deng Xiaoping, expressly decreed that China’s national development shall emulate Singapore’s:

    Singapore’s social order is rather good. Its leaders exercise strict management. We should learn from their experience, and we should do a better job than they do.

    (New York Times, August 9, 1992)

    Therefore, Lee’s greatest legacy may not be what he did for Singapore, but what he did for China. And could have done for Russia – if only Putin were more interested in developing its economy than in building his ego and lining his pocket.

    lee-kuan-yew-crying-national-tvWhat I find most impressive about him is that (a) unlike most strongmen of his generation, he had the humility and good sense to cede power of his own volition, and (b) he made it okay for political strongmen to cry long before a political iron lady felt she could even shed a tear.

    Granted, it remains debatable whether his were tears of joy or sorrow that day in 1965, when Singapore separated from Malaysia:

    The separation was the result of deep political and economic differences between the ruling parties of Singapore and Malaysia, which created communal tensions that resulted in racial riots in July and September 1964. At a press conference announcing the separation, then Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was overcome by emotions and broke down. Singapore’s union with Malaysia had lasted for less than 23 months.

    (Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819-2005)

    In any event, there’s no denying Lee’s indispensable role in helping Singapore not just survive but thrive as an independent and sovereign nation.

    pm-meets-obama-washington1The irony, however, is that Singapore’s new generation of leaders – headed (perhaps unsurprisingly) by Lee’s own son,  Lee Hsien Loong, as prime minister – are now looking to emulate Western democracies.

    And why not? After all, the United States has demonstrated – not just for a generation or two, but for more than two centuries – that political freedoms, property rights, competition, and transparency are absolutely necessary for sustainable development.

    Indeed, as impressive as China appears today, corruption, which is endemic and systemic, portends it doom. And, as for the Singapore model it has emulated, the Economist duly notes in its current issue that:

    Growth has become dependent on high levels of immigration, angering natives who feel the influx is suppressing their wages and making it impossible to get a seat on the tube… The Singapore model may prove unsustainable even in Singapore.

    Which is why the efforts underway to modify Lee’s model suggest that, far from being a “paragon of development,” Singapore really was never more than a “Pyongyang with broadband.”

    Lee died early this morning. He was 91.

    Farewell, Minister Mentor.

  • Saturday, March 21, 2015 at 8:42 AM

    Starbucks Now Offering Conversations on Race? No Thanks!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If I hear another political or civic leader calling for a “conversation on race,” I’m going to puke.

    (“Ferguson Grand Jury Decides: Officer Wilson Walks,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 25, 2014)

    But leave it to an old lady to explain what the only talk of Black and White at Starbucks should entail.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 9.31.08 AM

     

    Related commentaries:
    Ferguson grand jury

  • Friday, March 20, 2015 at 7:18 AM

    If Championing Michael Brown Was a ‘Mistake,’ Why Champion Martese Johnson?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    jonathan-capehart-cnnJonathan Capehart, the celebrated editorial board member and columnist at the Washington Post, was in the vanguard of those hailing Michael Brown as a Black martyr. Brown, you recall, was the unarmed Black teenager who White officer Darren Wilson shot in Ferguson, Missouri last August, triggering months of (often violent) protests under the galvanizing and racially polarizing slogans, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “Black Lives Matter.”

    Well, it seems last week’s DOJ report on this shooting, which damned the Ferguson police department but acquitted Wilson, triggered a conversion of sorts in Capehart. For here, in part, is the public confessional he wrote on March 16 under the born again-like title, “Hands up, don’t shoot was built on a lie”:

    We must never allow ourselves to march under the banner of a false narrative on behalf of someone who would otherwise offend our sense of right and wrong. And when we discover that we have, we must acknowledge it, admit our error and keep on marching. That’s what I’ve done here.

    The error, of course, was practically deifying a kid who got shot only after trying to wrest away the officer’s gun. To say nothing of the fact that he did this knowing full well that he had just committed a strong-arm burglary at a local convenience store.

    26C8A72600000578-3001555-image-a-93_1426732202444Unsurprisingly, on the one hand, Blacks – determined to not let inconvenient truths derail their political activism – are condemning Capehart. While, on the other hand, Whites – eager to cite any fodder that reinforces their racial prejudices – are commending him.

    But Capehart should be neither condemned nor commended. He should be questioned. After all, some of “us” were duly decrying the martyrdom of Michael Brown last August, when Capehart and far too many others were championing it. Here, in this respect, is an excerpt from “Why Chastise the Times for Describing Michael Brown as ‘No Angel’? August 26, 2014.

    ___________________

    The New York Times is catching hell for daring to describe Michael Brown, quite accurately, as “no angel”…

    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”…

    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…

    I fear that the lesson most young 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, or after failing to get the upper-hand. Clearly, this will only lead to more of them ending up like Michael…

    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 … merely as a misguided badge of honor or rite of passage.

    ___________________

    Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 4.30.36 PMWhich brings me to Martese Johnson, the subject of another Ferguson-like spectacle – this time in my home state of Virginia. Reports are that an intoxicated Martese, a 20-year-old Black student at UVA, became “agitated” after a local bar turned him away on St. Patrick’s Day (for presenting a fake ID, allegedly). Further, that he then became “belligerent” when a White officer tried to question him. This led to Martese getting his head bashed in on the concrete sidewalk when the police took him down to restrain him.

    Luckily, he’s not only okay; he’s well enough to experience the surreal honor of participating in campus rallies aimed at making him a Michael Brown-like martyr. Never mind that, had he had cooperated with the police, like any sensible, law-abiding citizen would, he would not have suffered a scratch.

    I feel obliged to note here that the facts about how and why Martese ended up face down on the concrete are very much in dispute. It would not surprise me in the least if it turns out that the officers used excessive force. But, if that DOJ report taught us anything, it’s that eyewitness testimony in these cases is often unreliable, even contrived. What is beyond dispute, however, is that even as two officers were trying to restrain him on the ground, Martese could be seen on viral video not only resisting, but also screaming racist profanities at them….

    slide_411584_5187492_compressedMeanwhile, I fear the untenable message it sends to young Black men to see a sober and suited Martese and his lawyer holding a press conference yesterday. Sure enough, they wanted to telegraph his intent to file a multimillion dollar lawsuit: on the one hand, against the White cops, for injuring him when they tried to restrain him; on the other hand, against his university, for failing to prevent him from drinking underage, getting drunk, and resisting arrest.

    Hell, playing this MO holds better odds than playing the Lotto.

    Frankly, the only redeeming thing about the Martese protests is that they seem to be confined to UVA’s campus and online hashtags. Of course, the latter means that they’ll be no more disruptive or effective than other hashtag protests like #Kony2012 and #BringBackOurGirls. Remember those?

    But at least these protests spare us the indignant way the Brown protests blocked traffic and flash mobbed stores, day in and day out for months, not just in Ferguson but in cities across the country.

    In an event, readers of the Washington Post are undoubtedly wondering what editorial position Capehart will champion in this case. In the meantime, even though I appreciate him confessing his sin, the public would be better served if he’d explain why he committed it in the first place.

    After all, it should not have taken a DOJ report for a critically acclaimed columnist like him to get that protesters marching back then, under the banner of ‘Hands up, don’t shoot,” were either woefully misguided or willfully ignorant.

    Related commentaries:
    Michael Brown no angel
    Ferguson

  • Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 5:38 AM

    Russia Flexing Military Muscles: more Regional Bully than Global Superpower

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet and paratrooper units to go on full alert as part of snap military exercises in the Arctic … to include nearly 40,000 servicemen, 41 warships and 15 submarines.

    (Reuters, March 16, 2015)

    PUTINA chest-thumping feature of the relationship between nuclear powers (like Russia, China, and the United States) is the elaborate military exercises each performs as if conventional warfare between them were still probable.

    After all, they may engage in proxy warfare in places like Ukraine and Syria, or invade hapless nations – as the U.S. did in Iraq in 2003 and Russia did in Georgia in 2008. (Just yesterday Putin signed a treaty formally integrating South Ossetia into Russia, similar to the one he signed last year formally integrating Abkhazia, another pro-Russian breakaway region of Georgia, both of which his military gobbled up in 2008.)

    But Hell will freeze over before any of them triggers direct military conflict. And the reason can be explained in one, appropriately eponymous acronym: MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction).

    Which is why these military exercises have always been more about advertising for defense contractors (to feed the military industrial complex that has become a cannibalizing sector in their respective economies) than about preparing for national security. Manufacturing threats to justify military spending is as old as warfare itself.

    ria-6-1-10-russian-amphibious-assault-landing-ship-baltops-previewBut let me hasten to clarify that there’s nothing wrong with Putin ordering military exercises on Russian territory (including the disputed Crimea); not least because U.S. presidents routinely order similar exercises not only on American territory, but all over the world.

    Indeed, reports are that Putin ordered his snap exercises in response the U.S.-led NATO exercises Obama ordered to be conducted in the Baltics—Russia’s backyard.

    Incidentally, there’s also nothing wrong with China increasing its fleet of one aircraft carrier to twenty; not least because the United States has been deploying its fleet of twenty (aka flexing its military muscles) around the globe for decades.

    In fact, some version of this is bound to play out in decades to come. And it will be interesting to see if the European allies defying the United States today to join China-led financial institutions, which aim to rival U.S.-led ones like the World Bank, will defy the United States then to support China’s equal rights to patrol the High Seas. Especially if Chinese naval vessels begin making ports of call on former European colonies in the Caribbean, from whence the United States announced just this week its navy is abandoning patrols.

    I fear those European allies will be so indebted to China they’ll have no choice but to salute and abide. But I digress….

    The only issue I have with Putin’s military exercises is that he’s using them to extract economic concessions from the West.

    Russia has stepped up military activity to pressure EU leaders who are set to consider fresh sanctions against Moscow, Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said Tuesday.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered massive military manoeuvres on Monday, including the deployment of nearly 40,000 troops in the Arctic.

    (Agence France-Presse, March 17, 2015)

    Not to mention his shameless boast this week about being fully prepared to go nuclear last year if that’s what it took for him to take Crimea from Ukraine. Of course, this ignores the fact that, had he done so, pro-Ukrainian nuclear powers – like France, England, and the United States – would have no choice but to respond in kind.

    More to the point, though:

    Having to resort to military force to win friends and influence neighbors makes Russia look more like a pathetic regional bully (akin to North Korea with more nukes) than a respected global power in league with the likes of China and the United States… The reputation Putin has manufactured as a strong leader is belied by the fact that, but for the Soviet-era nukes he commands, he’d be no stronger than the tin-pot dictators who lorded over kleptocracies throughout post-colonial Africa.

    (“Berlin Wall 2014: Mr. Gorbachev, Take Back that Speech!” The iPINIONS Journal, November 10, 2014)

    nk3-300x217In other words, far from making Russia look strong, these maneuvers only make it look as feckless as Putin is reckless. What’s more, it might be an unwitting demonstration of his intent to use desperate military threats to extract sanctions relief that he invited North Korea’s boy leader, Kim Jung-un, to make the first foreign trip of his reign to Russia.

    The leader of North Korea is among 26 world leaders who have accepted invitations to Moscow to take part in celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany…

    (The Associated Press, March 17, 2015)

    Kim, after all, is heir to a presidential legacy that is defined by visceral threats to launch nuclear strikes (against manufactured foes as nearby as Seoul and as far away as Washington) to command world attention and extract economic concessions:

    When it comes to psychological warfare, this North Korean gnome is one Chicken Little who manages to jerk the world’s chain every time. Indeed, true to form, statements of concern from world leaders about what Jong-Il might do followed his antic declaration [about launching nuclear strikes] with Pavlovian predictability. Which, in turn, made me constrained to wonder why — given his record of idle threats — world leaders even give him the time of day?!…

    Well, evidently, like father, like son; because Kim Jong-un is now doing the same thing … for the same reason.

    (“North Korea Craving Attention Dennis Rodman Can’t Give,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 19, 2013)

    So, with all due respect to Karl von Clausewitz, Putin is now aping Jung-un in threatening war as just the continuation of trade negotiations by other means.

    I shall end by noting that, in writing about Putin’s Russia, I’ve been obliged to make many references to Jung-un’s North Korea. Of course, one of the hallmarks of Jung-un’s rule is the frequency with which he executes members of his inner circle to keep others in line. Whereas one of the hallmarks of Putin’s is the frequency with which he imprisons his critics.

    I’ve always been utterly stupefied by the fact that Jung-un is so deified that senior members of his military dictatorship would rather be executed, one by one, than conspire to assassinate this homicidal maniac; you know, the way Caligula’s Pretorian Guards conspired with senators and courtiers to assassinate him. Whereas members of Putin’s police/fascist state need not look all the way back to the demigods of ancient Rome to appreciate the categorical imperative of conspiring to stop him (i.e., before he turns Russia into a North Korean-style hermit kingdom).

    They need only look to the attempt by Nazi soldiers to assassinate Hitler, and make sure that, if they attempt the same on Putin, they succeed where those heroic Nazis failed.

    Related commentaries:
    Berlin Wall
    North Korea

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    Israel Votes to Become more like (Old) Apartheid South Africa

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Election Day in Israel yesterday was full of surprises; none more so than the desperate declarations and exhortations Bibi Netanyahu made to get his supporters to the polls.

    mideast-israel-electionFor he not only declared that there will never be a Palestinian state as long as he’s prime minister; he also exhorted right-wing Jews to help him stay in power to honor this declaration as follows:

    The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going in droves to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses.

    (The Jerusalem Post, March 18, 2015)

    Imagine the international outrage if Mitt Romney had done something like this on Election Day in 2012 (i.e., exhorted White voters to get to the polls because Black voters were going in droves, putting his plan to “take back our [White] government” in danger…).

    But it worked like a charm for Netanyahu. His right-wing government won a decisive victory. And, if you think he has any regret about the scaremongering and race-baiting means he took to this end, think again:

    Frankly, the best way to get my disdain for Netanyahu’s politics is to understand that there’s no event too farcical or solemn for him to exploit for political gain or self-aggrandizement. This exploitation invariably has him playing the Holocaust card, which is why he can be fairly thought of as little more than Al Sharpton’s political brother from another mother.

    (“Netanyahu’s Call for Jewish Exodus more Sharpton than Moses,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 23, 2015)

    That Netanyahu has now out-Sharptoned Sharpton, by playing his own version of the race card, probably says all one needs to know about his political character and leadership.

    26BF69FD00000578-3000224-image-m-9_1426664992823In any event, I’m on record declaring that I couldn’t care any less who governs Israel. My only concern is that, in voting for Netanyahu, Israelis have consigned their country, for the near term, to international pariah status worthy of South Africa at the height of the Apartheid regime.

    In fact, one can fairly think of Palestinians in the occupied territories as the Blacks who wallowed in South African townships; Arab Israelis as the “Coloureds” who lived like “house niggers;” and right-wing Jews as the White Afrikaners who lived atop the Apartheid caste system.

    Ultimately, this election result means that, to avoid charges of rank hypocrisy (if not complicity), fair-minded world leaders must now shun Netanyahu’s government, just as they once shunned South Africa’s.What’s more, multinational corporations must now divest from Israel for the same humane and moral reasons they divested from South Africa.

    Although, to be fair, Arab leaders have been calling Netanyahu the racist spade he has now revealed himself to be for years. Moreover, even I am on record, in such commentaries as “Neverending Story: Territorial (Holy War) between Israelis and Palestinians,” January 3, 2009, pooh-poohing any prospect for peace. This result only vindicates my cynicism.

    That said, I have no doubt that right-wing Republicans in the United States will still embrace Netanyahu.

    2015-03-03T174326Z_01_WAS145_RTRIDSP_3_USA-ISRAELInstead of marveling at the means Netanyahu took to win re-election, however, reporters should challenge his Republican enablers to say if they have any regret about inviting him to address a joint session of Congress on Iran just weeks ago. After all, in light of Netanyahu’s Election Day declaration and exhortation, this now makes about as much sense as inviting KKK leader David Duke to address a joint session of Congress on race.

    I feel obliged, yet again, to register my disgust with Israel-can-do-no-wrong enablers in the U.S. Congress. Because, instead of supporting the wholly informed warning Secretary of State John Kerry issued to Israel on Monday about becoming an ‘apartheid’ state, everyone from Tea Party conservative Senator Ted Cruz to left-wing liberal Senator Barbara Boxer reacted as if he uttered words that were as anti-Semitic as Donald Sterling’s were racist.

    (“Instead of Peace Israel Settling for Apartheid?” The iPINIONS Journal, May 1 2014)

    I now feel obliged to ask, in disgust: what will it profit a man to win an election, but lose his soul?

    Alas, Netanyahu is one man who is clearly all too willing to find out.

    Related commentaries:
    Netanyahu’s call
    Israel apartheid

  • Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 5:07 AM

    Republicans Send ‘Mutinous’ Letter to Iran

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    European allies are joining the Obama administration in criticizing Republican congressional interjection into nuclear negotiations with Iran, saying that an open letter from Republican senators to Iranian leaders has been counterproductive and comes at a particularly sensitive time in the talks…

    The letter warned Iran that any nuclear agreement signed by Obama could be revoked ‘by the stroke of a pen’ by any future president, and that Congress could modify its terms ‘at any time.’

    (Washington Post, March 13, 2015)

    People of all stripes are criticizing this letter to Iran. Most notably, the above-cited edition of the Post quotes retired Major Gen. Paul D. Eaton damning it as “mutinous.”

    Mona Hoobehfekr (72 of 134)

    Yet few are mentioning what is most egregious and misguided about this letter, which is the utter contempt its signatories showed for leaders of the other P5+1 countries (i.e., the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France + Germany). After all, these leaders are indispensable parties not only to the ongoing negotiations, but also to the economic sanctions that forced Iran to the table in the first place.

    That said, it still speaks volumes that the only sign of bipartisanship in Washington these days is the criticism conservatives/Republicans and liberals/Democrats are hurling at the forty-seven Republican senators who signed this letter.

    It’s hardly surprising, of course, that liberals are denouncing it. What is surprising is that conservatives are matching their outrage – with the editorial board of The Plain Dealer summarizing the prevailing criticism on March 11 as follows:

    The magnitude of this disgraceful decision shows the degree to which partisanship has gobbled up rationality on foreign policy.

    2015-03-03T174326Z_01_WAS145_RTRIDSP_3_USA-ISRAELMind you, many of the conservative commentators criticizing this “disgraceful decision” are on record hailing the Republican leadership’s equally disgraceful decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on Iran two weeks ago.

    What’s more, the sole purpose for writing this letter is the same as it was for inviting Netanyahu: to defy or marginalize Obama’s presidential authority. This, notwithstanding that doing so would only clear the way for a march of folly into Iran that would make the war in Iraq seem like a mere skirmish.

    The point is that some of us have been decrying the partisanship that has been gobbling up rationality among Republicans, on practically all of Obama’s policies (foreign and domestic), since day one of his presidency. Even among the conservatives now venting outrage over this letter, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone explaining why so many Republican senators – who knew or should have known better – signed it.

    ap495302862877_wide-8b7947002ad55627adae9f974af650ef3ba1e9f9-s1100-c15

    It’s all too understandable that a Tea-Party senator like Tom Cotton of Arkansas took it upon himself to write this letter. He and fellow upstart Republicans, like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, seem to think they were elected only to pander to neo-con warmongers and right-wing nutjobs.

    Interestingly enough, Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed his letter and chastised him by noting that Cotton has only been in the Senate for sixty days. This is why it’s so stupefying that he got so many seasoned and putatively rational Republicans to co-sign, including no less a person than Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    But here is why I think they did:

    So irrational is their purpose that one could also be forgiven the suspicion that their dark ulterior motive is to see America become so dysfunctional and humiliated under Obama’s leadership that Americans would not even consider electing another Black person as president for at least another 100 years.

    Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has declared repeatedly, and quite unabashedly, that, ‘The single most-important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.’ (National Journal, October 23, 2010)

    That, folks, is what this is all about – not about creating jobs, or reducing the national debt, or maintaining America’s AAA credit rating, [or preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons].

    (“S&P Downgrades U.S. Credit Rating,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 8, 2011)

    There’s also no denying the mutinous common cause between upstart (or Tea-Party) and establishment (or Grand-Old) Republicans: The former want Obama to fail to vindicate their rhetoric about the incompetence of the big government they think he personifies. The latter want him to fail to vindicate their rhetoric about the incompetence of Obama himself. Or, to call a spade a spade:

    No less a person than (Black) Attorney General Eric Holder insinuated that only one word explains why Republicans would rather see their country fail than see Obama succeed: racism

    (“Obama Trumpets Obamacare Success … Despite Republican Sabotage,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 15, 2014)

    CBSmorning_4Granted, partisanship is nothing new in American politics. But no president in modern times has been subjected to more wanton congressional disrespect than Obama. After all, as much as Democrats hated Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, no Democratic congressman ever heckled them during their formal state of the union address; and no Democratic leadership ever invited a foreign leader to address a joint session of Congress in a manner designed to make the sitting Republican president seem irrelevant.

    More to the point, I dare anyone to point to a time in U.S. history when politicians so blindly and blithely abandoned long-held policy positions, to say nothing of common sense. Yet Republicans have done this, over and over again, in a vain effort to make Obama “a failed president” – the welfare of the country be damned.

    Hell, nothing demonstrates this quite like McConnell touting his experience and seniority as virtues during his re-election campaign last year, only to discredit both, and abandon his leadership position, by co-signing this plainly ill-conceived and ill-advised letter.

    mccain-obama-485x362And don’t get me started on Senator John McCain. He is arguably the most distinguished and respected Republican in Congress. Yet he excused his irrational decision to co-sign as follows:

    I saw the letter, I saw that it looked reasonable to me and I signed it, that’s all. I sign lots of letters.

    (Politico, March 10, 2015)

     

    Meanwhile, there’s the “lamestream media.” You’d think at least one reporter would have the journalistic balls to challenge Obama’s critics to explain why they’re more qualified to ensure Israel’s national security than:

    • The Israeli defense ministers who are on record (as noted in my February 23 commentary above) declaring that Obama has done more to ensure Israel’s national security than any other president in U.S. history.
    • The 180 Israeli ex-military chiefs who held a news conference (as reported in the March 1 edition of the Washington Post) not only to denounce Netanyahu’s congressional address as a brazen strategic blunder, but also to support Obama’s efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran.

    Beyond this, Obama’s critics should be forced to explain if they think the leaders of Russia, China, Germany, France, and the UK are just as naïve, incompetent, and untrustworthy as they insist Obama is for negotiating this deal. After all, his critics would have you believe that Obama is so desperate for a deal to seal his presidential legacy, he’d have no compunction about striking one even if it “threatens the survival of Israel” – as the eschatologically paranoid Netanyahu maintains.

    Never mind that Obama is “leading from in front” by rallying these world leaders to endorse his strategy for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. This, ironically, is the kind of leadership that makes him finally worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize he won years ago.

    Which raises these four (damningly rhetorical) questions:

    1. Do Netanyahu and his band of enablers in the U.S. Congress believe that Putin of Russia, Xi of China, Merkel of Germany, et al. are doing so just to ensure Obama’s presidential legacy … or to threaten Israel’s national survival?!
    2. What makes Netanyahu and his band of enablers in the U.S. Congress think that they can torpedo this deal and then get these world leaders to endorse their ill-fated plan to either sanction or bomb Iran into oblivion?
    3. Why was it okay for Reagan to negotiate a deal with the Soviet Union not to use its nuclear weapons, but not okay for Obama to do so with Iran not to develop them?
    4. Why would anyone on planet Earth believe that these congressional yahoos — who couldn’t even negotiate a gun control agreement with the president of the United States — would be able to negotiate a nuclear weapons agreement with the grand ayatollah of Iran?

    In any event, for the record, I can assure you that:

    • A future president will revoke foreign aid to Israel before she revokes a nuclear deal with Iran.
    • Congressional Republicans will have about as much success modifying the terms of such a deal as they’ve had modifying the provisions of Obamacare (i.e., none whatsoever).

    Related commentaries:
    S&P downgrades
    Obama trumpets

  • Monday, March 16, 2015 at 5:52 AM

    BBC Puts Brakes on ‘Top Gear’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Top Gear is a British TV show that road tests cars of all types – from Italian Ferraris, British Rolls Royces, and German BMWs to French Citroëns, Russian Ladas, and American SUVs. The premise is to see if the cars perform as their manufacturers claim.

    topgearuk

    But this is hardly a show just for car geeks – a point the Monty Python-like repartee and driving hijinks of its three presenters (James May, Jeremy Clarkson, and Richard Hammond) make hilariously clear at every turn. It boasts 350 million viewers in 170 countries. I’m a big fan.

    Alas, Top Gear has a Keith Olbermann problem: its most charismatic and engaging presenter on-screen (i.e., Clarkson) is an abusive and impolitic jerk off-screen. Olbermann, of course, is ESPN’s most charismatic and engaging presenter. But this sports network suspends him for bad behavior off-screen as often as it promotes him for good performance on-screen.

    Affirming this analogy, the March 10 edition of the New York Times catalogued some of the ways Clarkson established his reputation as the show’s enfant terrible.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 9.50.44 PMMost notably, he’s on record demeaning Mexicans as “lazy, feckless [and] flatulent;” ridiculing the gastroenteritis that affects millions of chronically poor Indians living in unsanitary conditions; and singing the nursery rhyme “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe,” complete with that familiar racial epithet – not unlike those students at Oklahoma University who were expelled last week for singing an equally racist fraternity song.

    In fact, Clarkson’s record of shameful behavior was such that, after video of him singing that nursery rhyme went viral, the BBC felt compelled to announce that it had given him a “final warning.”

    Now comes this:

    The millionaire presenter is said to have verbally abused then ‘smacked’ the producer in the face in the ‘dust-up’ over being offered a ‘cold platter’ instead of a 8oz steak and fondant potatoes…

    Top Gear’s co-stars Richard Hammond and James May looked ’embarrassed’ and were forced to sit with him to ‘calm him down’…

    ‘He was saying: ‘This is not f***** good enough … typical of the f****** BBC; you’re going to lose your job over this, I’ll make sure of it.”

    (Daily Mail, March 13, 2015)

    I applaud the BCC for promptly suspending Clarkson and canceling the show’s final two episodes of this season. I also appreciate it holding a full inquiry, which convenes today, to discover facts and grant him procedural due process. But, having already made quite a show of issuing Clarkson that final warning, the BBC has no choice now but to sack him.

    korean-air-heather-choIt might be helpful to recall that the “heiress of Korean Air,” executive vice president Cho Hyun-ah, not only lost her job, but is now sitting in prison for assaulting a lowly steward in similar fashion. Remarkably, she erupted in a “nut rage” last December when he tried to serve her macadamia nuts in a bag instead of on a platter.

    The fate that befell her should be instructive. But I suspect the BBC is just doing, in effect, what Clarkson is:

    I’m having a nice cold pint and waiting for this to blow over.

    (The Sun, March 12, 2015)

    Clearly, far from the humility and contrition Cho demonstrated, Clarkson is behaving as if he should be applauded. He seems to be banking on the 350,000 of his 4.8 million Twitter followers who signed a “#BringBackClarkson” petition making BBC executives think they must – institutional integrity be damned. (Such is the impudent support he inspires that B-B-C standing for Bring-Back-Clarkson became a trending meme.)

    Never mind the likelihood that 90 percent of his Twitter followers have probably never even watched his TV show. Like most twits, they probably just enjoy his snarky, obnoxious, but often-funny tweets.

    Mind you, this online petition should have about as much influence on the BBC as that “#BringBackOurGirls” petition had on Boko Haram. But, given the way social media influence mainstream media these days, the BBC might be more concerned about avoiding viral protest than about protecting its corporate reputation.

    269B3C3D00000578-2992920-image-a-9_1426254213186Not to mention the perverse reality of other, less scrupulous networks salivating at the prospect of hiring Clarkson if/when the BBC fires him. A reality he seems to be reveling in with trademark arrogance.

    As entertaining as he admittedly is, however, Clarkson is no more indispensable to Top Gear than Sean Connery was to the James Bond. In other words, if the BBC were to put another witty, acerbic Brit in Clarkson’s seat, the show would continue to go, perhaps even grow. More importantly, by doing so, the BBC would protect and preserve its institutional integrity.

    The way Lester Holt replaced the purportedly indispensable Brian Williams in the anchor chair at NBC Nightly News provides an instructive analogy. There has been no measurable drop in ratings since NBC suspended Williams a month ago, after he was exposed as a serial liar.

    (Yes, prime minister, your children’s hearts should be spared. David Cameron chimed in on the fallout from Clarkson’s “fracas,” supporting him rather supinely by whining that his children would be heartbroken if the show itself were canceled.)

    What’s more, though, the BBC can ill afford to be seen coddling an unrepentant bully and “casual racist” like Clarkson. After all, it is still recovering from the reputational damage it suffered two years ago, when reports revealed that it had been coddling an equally unrepentant bully and serial pedophile like Jimmy Savile … for decades.

    So kudos to the BBC for putting the brakes on Top Gear; and here’s to it making sure that, when the show starts again, Clarkson is no longer one of the three presenters in the driver’s seat.

  • Sunday, March 15, 2015 at 8:23 AM

    Shooting Police to Protest Police Brutality in Ferguson, Mo? Idiots.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Protesters flip over a Ferguson police car in FergusonIt was only a matter of time:

    Two police officers were shot and seriously injured early Thursday near the Ferguson, Mo., police headquarters, an incident that occurred amid ongoing protests in the city.

    Just hours earlier, the Ferguson police chief had announced his resignation, a decision that came in the wake of a blistering report from the U.S. Department of Justice. Federal investigators said last week they determined that the city’s police force and court system were racially biased and predatory.

    (Washington Post, March 12, 2015)

    In fact, that “blistering report” forced the city manager and several other employees to resign as well.

    Moreover, federal authorities have declared their intent to hold Ferguson in practical receivership. It shall remain thus while they implement reforms to redress the systemic, race-based abuses that caused such simmering (and now imploding) resentment among Black residents.

    Obama-Ferguson-FoxIncidentally, it speaks volumes that no less a person than President Obama commented on this report by observing that the “racially biased and predatory” policies it cites are not unique to Ferguson. Policies, I remind you, that had everyone from the White cop on the beat to the White judge in court treating Blacks as nothing more than sources of revenue (i.e.,by routinely ticketing and arresting them on trumped-up charges just to extract fees and fines).

    It was also astute of Obama to give notice to other predominantly Black cities with predominantly White police departments that his DOJ could be investigating them next.

    Apropos of which, anyone who knows anything about DOJ investigations could or should have anticipated these forced resignations and federal oversight. Hence the forlorn question I posed months ago, when federal authorities first announced their intent to investigate policing in Ferguson:

    Why are they still protesting in Ferguson? And who are they?

    Frankly, given the misguided and disruptive nature of their ongoing protests, man-bites-dog headlines about protesters opening fire on the police were inevitable.

    Ferguson Mayor James Knowles announces the resignation of Police Chief Thomas Jackson during a press conference in Ferguson, MissouriIt’s understandable, for example, that they now feel emboldened to demand the head of the mayor too. But they could do so in a far more orderly and sympathetic fashion by organizing a recall, instead of taking to the streets, invariably at night, which only disrupts traffic, frustrates local businesses, and attracts mischief-makers like moths to a flame. Not to mention that it was the DOJ’s report, not these protests, which forced those resignations.

    This compels me to reiterate:

    No case of police brutality justifies looting and vandalism. Period. Not least because the anger and frustration among Blacks today pale in comparison to that which simmered among Blacks during the Civil Rights Movement. Yet the only barbarism on display during their protests 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?

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

    Better still, I offer this take on an instructive quote from MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963:

    Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 9.34.25 AM

    Sadly, these protesters, who claim to be engaged in a new civil rights movement, are just making a mockery of the precedent MLK and others set.

    What’s more, the “internal violence of spirit” among so many of today’s shortsighted and narcissistic protesters is such that it seems impossible to separate the wheat (those truly interested in nonviolent protest) from the chaff (those only interested in creating mischief).

    Meanwhile, I fear media coverage is only fueling their antics. Therefore, henceforth, I shall do my part by publishing no more commentaries on this tragic but all too common episode in the life of Black America.

    Related commentaries:
    Ferguson

  • Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 5:49 AM

    Alecia Lightbourne-Morris (aka My Aunt Titt) Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Growing up in The Bahamas, I was always aware that I belonged to an uncommonly large extended family – composed of men and women who command a great deal of attention and respect. For a shy boy like me, this had many (vicarious and fringe) benefits.

    But my shyness also meant that I participated as little more than a potted plant at family gatherings. Yet there was benefit in this too; not least because it allowed me to observe (and be entertained by) everybody else.

    Oh the things I observed…. But this is not the occasion or place for all that.

    I share the above only to recall fond memories of observing my Aunt Titt interacting with family members of her generation much as I did with those of mine.

    Not that she was a potted plant too, mind you. No, she was far too beautiful. If anything, she participated more like an elegant floral centerpiece: admired and talked about, but somehow beyond approach (or reproach) … and shy.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 6.36.50 PM

    Of course, even if I weren’t so shy, the “generation gap” was such back then that getting to know an aunt or uncle consisted primarily of them picking up where the preacher left off in church, throwing in a question or two about school to show a little personal interest. No doubt this concept will seem alien to kids of today – who see their parents competing daily with aunts and uncles to be their best friends. But those were the days … .

    The point is that, as fond as I was of Aunt Titt, I cannot say I ever really “knew” her. Alas, this holds true for all of my aunts and uncles.

    To be fair, though, it did not help that I left The Bahamas in my mid-teens. After all, this not only stunted opportunities for me to branch out during family gatherings, but also meant that I wasn’t around when that generation gap began closing … even in my family.

    Nonetheless, what I can say is that, based on the little interaction I had with all of my aunts and uncles, Aunt Titt was easily the most endearing. And this had everything to do with the fact that, unlike the others, she seemed genuinely more interested in talking to me than in preaching at (or patronizing) me.

    It’s probably self-evident that I have long since overcome my boyhood shyness. In fact, so much so that family elders have come to expect me to say things, especially inconvenient truths, that get their knickers all in a twist.

    Accordingly, I hereby disclose that most (if not all) of my seven sisters and seven brothers always regarded Aunt Titt’s husband, Uncle Nat, as the coolest of our fourteen aunts and thirteen uncles. I, however, always regarded her as such.

    Indeed, I was so inspired by her unassuming willingness to bridge that generation gap that I made a point of showing the kind of interest in my nieces and nephews (no matter how unrequited) she showed in me.

    That said, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the trials and tribulations my Aunt Titt endured with unfailing equanimity and grace. Which is why I shall end this modest tribute with homage to the religious faith that sustained her throughout her life:

    “The Old Rugged Cross”

    On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
    The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
    And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best
    For a world of lost sinners was slain…

    So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
    Till my trophies at last I lay down;
    I will cling to the old rugged cross,
    And exchange it someday for a crown.

    Aunt Titt finally laid down her burdens on February 25 in Freeport, Grand Bahama, when she died from the ravages of stomach cancer. She was 68.

    Farewell, sweet aunt.

  • Monday, March 9, 2015 at 6:04 AM

    ‘The Search for MH370: One Year On’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A year ago this week, the media were regaling us with 24/7 reports on the historic scope of search-and-rescue efforts to find this missing flight. Never mind that their reports consisted of little more than rank speculation – complete with references to pings, beacons, and floating debris, all of which served no purpose other than to heighten the suspense.

    On the other hand, I revealed my fears in the title to my commentary, “Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 … ‘Lost’,” March 14, 2014.

    Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 10.35.44 AMWell, it seems I was all too prescient, even if a little too irreverent:

    ‘Good night Malaysian three-seven-zero’…

    On March 8, 2014, at 1:19 a.m., someone spoke those last words from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to air traffic controllers before the Boeing 777 vanished.

    A year later, searchers have no new clues as to where it went with 239 people on board.

    (CNN, March 7, 2015)

    Lost.

    Related commentaries:
    MH370

  • Sunday, March 8, 2015 at 3:11 PM

    Commemorating Selma, Recognizing Ferguson: Never Forget, Never Again!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    BloodySundayConfrontation_022013

     

    390-sunday-0306

     

    No doubt images from Bloody Sunday are as indelibly seared in America’s national consciousness as those from the Kennedy assassination. And, in each case, a picture is truly worth a thousand words.

    Therefore, instead of adding yet more words, I shall suffice to reprise excerpts from two previous commentaries.

    The first is from “Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality,” August 12, 2014. Especially because many consider this killing as much a tipping point for a new civil rights movement as Bloody Sunday was for the original one.

    ___________________

    Not every fatal shooting by the police of an unarmed (Black) 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…

    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…

    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?

    __________________

    The second excerpt is from “Why Chastise the Times for Describing Michael Brown as ‘No Angel?!” August 26, 2014. Especially because, with all due respect to protest slogans like “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” and “Black Lives Matter,” nothing will do more to save Black lives than drumming the following message into the heads of Black kids. But also because of the killing in Wisconsin, just last night, of yet another unarmed Black kid, Tony Robinson (19), by yet another White cop … after this kid, like Michael, reportedly not only resisted arrest but attempted to wrest the cop’s gun away.

    __________________

    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 … merely as a misguided badge of honor or rite of passage.

    __________________

    We shall overcome? Yes we can….

    Related commentaries:
    Killing of Michael Brown
    DOJ: no civil rights charges in Brown case
    Michael Brown no angel

    * This commentary (just pics) was originally published yesterday, Saturday, at 7:10 a.m.

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