• Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 5:19 AM

    A Black James Bond? Part II

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last year, leaked e-mails revealed that Sony executives are considering Black actor Idris Elba to play Bond after Daniel Craig ends his stint. Here, in part, is how I commented in “A Black James Bond? No, Hell No!” December 26, 2014. And please note the alternatives I proffered.

    ___________________

    Idris-Elba-James-Bond-600x937Frankly, casting a Black actor would require too much suspension of disbelief for anyone who knows anything about the zeitgeist in which Bond was born, and still thrives. To say nothing of the wanton disrespect to Fleming’s oeuvre, or the insult to reasonable expectations of existing fans, it would entail…

    I prefer to emphasize my opposition by noting that Idris Elba playing James Bond would be every bit as ludicrous as Michael Fassbender playing John Shaft, despite rumors that he might be anatomically correct for the part in at least one respect.

    What’s more, I refuse to believe, and Elba should be loath to affirm, that it is so untenable for Hollywood to create iconic Black characters that it has to cast Black actors to play firmly established White ones…

    Instead of playing along, Elba should at least challenge Sony executives to greenlight a Bond-like character for him to play…

    Indeed, if Hollywood has become so bereft of creativity, Sony executives could turn John Luther, the detective Elba popularized on TV, into a movie star to rival James Bond or Jason Bourne. Hell, they could even introduce him as John Luther 009, the mysterious, unnamed MI6 agent Fleming refers to in Thunderball. (Contrary to popular belief, agents 001 through 007 are already named characters.)

    But Elba as Bond? No, hell no!

    __________________

    Sir Roger MooreThat established, Roger Moore is easily my least favorite James Bond. Yet I felt in sympatico with him last month when Twitter trolls laid siege to his octogenarian élan. They did so because Moore dared to assert that no Black actor should ever play 007:

    Although James may have been played by a Scot, a Welshman and an Irishman, I think he should be English-English. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting idea, but unrealistic.

    (The Guardian, March 30, 2015)

    The obvious irony, of course, is that – even in saying this – Moore was too politically correct to say, “…he should be [White].” (English-English…?)

    Anyway, Live and Let Die is my favorite of Moore’s Bond films. Not because of the derring-dos he performed or the snarky one liners he delivered; but because of the tantric appeal of the Bond girl it featured, namely Jane Seymour as the very titillating ingénue Solitaire.

    Live_Mission_profile007

    More to the point, though, this film also featured the most interesting of all villains Moore’s Bond faced, namely Yaphet Kotto as the very menacing Mr. Big.

    How ironic, therefore, that no less a person than Kotto, who happens to be Black, came to Moore’s defense.

    Political correctness be damned, we have to stay with what is literally correct. [Bond] was established by Ian Fleming as a white character, played by white actors…

    Play 003 or 006 but you cannot be 007.

    (The Independent, April 9, 2015)

    I could not agree more with Kotto. Well, except that — as I duly noted in the excerpt above — Fleming established 003 and 006 as equally “English-English” characters.

    If Bond producers have any sense, this really should settle the matter.

    Stay tuned….

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 6:02 AM

    Baltimore Apes Worst of Ferguson

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 8.19.59 PM

    Violence and looting overtook much of West Baltimore on Monday, seriously injuring several police officers and leaving a store and several vehicles in flames.

    At least seven police officers were injured in a clash that began near Mondawmin Mall and spread toward downtown…

    Demonstrators pelted officers with rocks, bricks and bottles and assaulted a photojournalist…

    (The Baltimore Sun, April 27, 2015)

    The above describes the stillunfolding fallout from the killing of Freddie Gray, a Black man who died last week, after having his spine “nearly severed,” while in police custody in Baltimore, Maryland.

    But I’ve written too many instructive commentaries on the fallout from the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to count. Therefore, I fear writing another on this latest outbreak of misguided violence would be tantamount to beating the proverbial dead horse.

    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)

    Not to mention that, far from having anything to do with outrage over police brutality, the violence in this case was orchestrated – through social-media clarion calls – to act out scenes from The Purge, a movie about what happens when people are given free reign to commit any crime without fear of arrest.

    But imagine the mentality of knuckleheads using the menace of police brutality as a pretext to menace their own neighborhoods – by, among other things, looting and torching pharmacies and other businesses.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 6.57.33 PMWorse still, imagine the state of anarchy when you have a mayor responding to their wanton destruction as follows:

    We gave those who wish to destroy space to do so.

    (WJZ Baltimore, April 27, 2015) 

    This, believe it or not, is how Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake responded. Hell, one could be forgiven the suspicion that it was she who initiated that clarion call to “purge”. Talk about the insane running the asylum. Nothing indicates how surreal/absurd things have become in this respect quite like Black leaders propagating the fiction that it’s racist to refer to the thugs who looted stores and assaulted the police as … “thugs.”

    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. 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.

    (“Why Chastise the Times for Describing Michael Brown as ‘No Angel’? The iPINIONS Journal, August 26, 2014)

    But am I the only one who wonders how the parents of these wilding kids are going to feel when it dawns on them that their prescriptions – for hypertension and other stress-related maladies – went up in flames with that CVS Pharmacy…? I cannot lament too often this self-immolating feature of the violence and looting these so-called civil rights protesters are perpetrating.

    In any event, God help Baltimore: save it from its lawless youth … and clueless mayor.

    NOTE: Every time a White cop kills an unarmed Black man in the United States these days, the media stoke passions … to generate ratings. (Oh right, “Black lives matter!”) But it might help to bear in mind that, according statistics compiled by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, White cops kill many more unarmed White men than unarmed Black men on an annual basis. (So, White lives don’t matter?)

    Related commentaries:
    From Michael Brown to Walter Scott

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 8:13 p.m.

  • Sunday, April 26, 2015 at 9:34 AM

    Earthquake Devastates Nepal

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A powerful earthquake struck Nepal Saturday, killing [2,200 people and counting] across four countries as the violently shaking earth collapsed houses, leveled centuries-old temples and triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest. It was the worst tremor to hit the poor South Asian nation in over 80 years.

    (Al Jazeera, April 25, 2015)

    image.adapt.960.high.nepalquake6

    This earthquake registered a 7.8 magnitude at its epicenter just northwest of Kathmandu. But, sadly, its aftershocks will continue far and wide for years. Not least because Nepal’s economy relies heavily on tourists trekking across and climbing up its affected Himalayan mountain range.

    1000 (1)In point of fact, reports are that “an avalanche swept the face of Mt. Everest after the earthquake,” killing seventeen people and, ominously, trapping more than 1,000.

    In the meantime, millions have been displaced or left homeless….

    Earthquakes and other natural disasters should always remind us that there but for the grace of God… But there’s no denying that living in a relatively rich country increases one’s chance of surviving and recovering from such disasters tremendously…

    It’s bad enough that accident of birth can consign one to a life of chronic poverty. It just seems unfair that even the wrath of Mother Nature affects the poor so disproportionately.

    (“Killer earthquakes: First Haiti, now Chile,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 2, 2010)

    Frankly, beyond urging you to donate to relief and recovery efforts here, I see no point in commenting any further.

    My prayers and thoughts go out to all of the Godforsaken people affected … this time.

    Related commentaries:
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    Haiti

  • Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 2:37 PM

    Acknowledging and Commemorating the Armenian Genocide

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    ‘100 YEARS OF DENIAL’

    Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 11.01.42 AM

    Today is Armenian Remembrance Day. It commemorates the killing of approximately 1.5 million people in Turkey, by Young Turks, from 1915-23.

    Despite Turkey’s impassioned insistence that there was no genocide, instead labeling the Armenians as casualties of warfare and traitors who tried to bring down the Ottoman Empire, Armenians are making sure the legacy of those killed lives on. With only a small number of genocide survivors still alive, their kin are passing on the history in hopes that such a massacre will never happen again.

    (Huffington Post, April 21 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 11.24.38 AMIn fact, here’s to Steven Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation for not only ‘making audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses,” but also commemorating this 100th anniversary with “30 Days of Testimony to the Armenian Genocide” … beginning today.

    But imagine the international outrage (and backlash) if Germany had premised much of its diplomatic relations on lobbying countries to deny the Jewish Holocaust. Yet that’s precisely what Turkey has done with respect to the Armenian Genocide. (Which makes China premising much of its diplomatic relations on lobbying countries to deny the Dalai Lama seem rather innocuous, no?)

    U.S. President Obama shakes hands with Turkey's PM Erdogan after a bilateral meeting in SeoulEqually outrageous, though, is that ever since Turkey joined NATO in 1952, every Turkish leader has used its geo-strategic importance to prevail upon every U.S. president to collude in efforts to deny this genocide. But the greater is Obama’s shame. After all, as a presidential candidate, he made quite a show of promising to recognize the Armenian Genocide, just as he promised to recognize the Cuban government.

    This is why Obama’s collusion in this denial warrants as much condemnation as his initiative to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba deserves commendation.

    That said, I must confess that I’ve evolved on this issue. Here, in part, is what I wrote eight years ago – in “U.S. Congress Set to Condemn Turkey for Disputed Armenian Genocide,” October 15, 2007.

    __________________

    For decades, the U.S. has lauded Turkey as a NATO ally (even more reliable than France), and as a decidedly pro-Western Muslim country that shares its democratic values…

    But now Turkey’s political leaders and, more troubling, its military generals are warning of irreparable harm and dire consequences — if Congress passes a resolution condemning Turkey for the alleged genocide of 1.5 million Armenians during WWI. These could include disrupting critical operations at Incirlik and disregarding America’s standing request to refrain from attacking Kurdish ‘terrorists’ across the border in Northern Iraq…

    [E]ven if the genocide at issue is an historical fact (and I’ve read enough to believe that it is), the U.S. has no compelling interest in passing this political resolution…

    [D]espite longstanding resistance, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan insists that his government now welcomes a thorough examination of this festering historical wound. Moreover, that if the facts conclude that a genocide was committed, he is prepared to accept full responsibility on behalf of all Turks…

    So why is Congress going ahead with this resolution, which is scheduled for a floor vote ‘sometime before November 15’, despite the clear and present damage it poses? (Not to mention the absurdity of its members making a proclamation about events that occurred during World War I, when the vast majority of the people they represent barely know what occurred during World War II.)

    Nancy-Pelosi_3_1Alas, the reason is as venal and simplistic as the prime minister insinuated. After all, despite being ‘strongly urged’ against it by a bipartisan group of former Secretaries of State, including Madeleine K. Albright, James A. Baker III, Warren Christopher, Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Alexander M. Haig Jr., Henry A. Kissinger, Colin L. Powell, and George P. Shultz, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful and influential member of Congress, is determined to whip up support amongst clueless Democrats to pass this resolution.

    And she’s doing so merely to honor an old campaign pledge to the ‘persuasive’ Armenian lobby that represents a critical mass of Armenian-American voters in her home state of California.
    Accordingly, as far as Pelosi is concerned, U.S. military interest in, and political goodwill towards, Turkey be damned. Because the undying will of California’s Armenians to settle this historic score, at least in the U.S. Congress, must be done…?

    ___________________

    pg-24-kim-k-2-reutersIncidentally, the Kardashians, arguably the most famous people in the Armenian diaspora, made a state visit to their homeland earlier this month. Pelosi’s political pandering/opportunism is such that I’m surprised she didn’t tag along to bask in their reflected glow. But I digress….

    I now believe that – just as Germany duly acknowledged the Jewish Holocaust and suffered the political and legal consequences (including monetary reparations and property reclamations) – Turkey should duly acknowledge the Armenian Genocide and suffer the political and legal consequences too … whatever they entail.

    Accordingly, I urge Obama to seize his last opportunity as president — on the occasion of the 101st commemoration in 2016 — to end this tail-wagging-the-dog-charade, and call this spade a spade. Not least because, with U.S. soldiers now playing a more advisory role in Afghanistan, Turkey no longer holds any significant leverage over their operations there. Never mind that the United States could have called Turkey’s bluff years ago — given that Turkey has always needed U.S.-led NATO more than vice versa.

    Meanwhile, the United Nations passed a resolution in 1948 declaring the atrocities at issue genocide. Alas, France and Russia are among far too few countries that have followed suit. No doubt most are waiting for the United States, which, despite Pelosi’s best efforts, has yet to do so.

    I urge you to visit Shoah’s Armenian archive here.

    Related commentaries:
    U.S. Congress Armenian genocide

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 3:49 pm

  • Friday, April 24, 2015 at 5:17 AM

    Dr. Oz: more Wizard than Physician

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    We are surprised and dismayed that Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons would permit Dr. Mehmet Oz to occupy a faculty appointment, let alone a senior administrative position in the Department of Surgery.

    (CBS News, April 16, 2015)

    I was not surprised last week when a group of prominent doctors called on Columbia University to fire Dr. Mehmet Oz. This opening quote is from the letter they sent to Dr. Lee Goldman, Columbia’s Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine. Most notably, they cite Oz’s mercenary “disdain for science and evidence-based medicine” as he peddles quack treatments and cures to hook TV viewers.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 6.48.02 PMNor was I surprised yesterday when Oz betrayed what an incorrigible quack he is by using his show to defend his quackery. For, instead of citing any scientific basis for the health benefits he touts, he presented himself as a victim of professional bullies trying to stifle his constitutional right to freedom of speech.

    Except that, just last summer, Senator Claire McCaskill indicted Oz in similar fashion. Significantly, the occasion was a congressional hearing on protecting consumers from snake oil salesmen making false and misleading claims about weight-loss products.

    Here is what was, perhaps, their most telling and damning exchange:

    McCaskill: I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true… When you have this amazing megaphone, why would you cheapen your show?… The scientific community is almost monolithically against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles’.

    Oz: My job, I feel on the show, is to be a cheerleader for the audience. And when they don’t think they have hope, when they don’t think they can make it happen, I want to look everywhere including alternative healing traditions for any evidence that might be supported to them (sic).

    (C-SPAN3, June 17, 2014)

    Now I ask you: Do you think anyone would be tuning in to his show if it were called The Mr. Oz Cheerleading Show for Fat People…? No, the reason he’s getting away with this brazen form of exploitation is that he holds himself out as a doctor on his Dr. Oz Show – with all the duties and expectations doing so entails. This, notwithstanding the disclaiming wizardry his name implies….

    Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 6.58.17 PM

    Frankly, Columbia should have fired Oz based solely on his congressional testimony. For Oz can say nothing to bring its Faculties of Health Science and Medicine into greater disrepute than the gibberish he muttered during this hearing.

    More to the point, Oz is clearly violating his Hippocratic Oath; to say nothing of ruining his professional reputation. And claiming that he passionately believes in the products he peddles only adds insult to the harm he’s causing.

    But let me hasten to clarify that McCaskill’s righteous indignation had nothing to do with Oz’s commendable advocacy for better labeling of genetically modified organisms in food (aka GMO foods), which I fully support.

    That said, I just happened to preempt the denunciations of his fellow doctors and McCaskill by denouncing Oz in “Dr. Oz in Fat Suit?! Why Not in Blackface, Doctor? February 5, 2014.

    ______________

    article-2550121-1B23858300000578-247_636x382I expected better of Dr. Oz. Not least because he knows or should know that skinny people pretending to be fat for a few hours is probably even more insulting to fat people than skinny people hurling fat jokes at them. And the psychosocial harm done by having no less a person than this highly reputable doctor ape them like this is immeasurable…

    What’s more, if he were truly interested in fat people’s real-life experiences, and not just in his TV ratings, Oz would’ve outfitted one of them with hidden cameras to garner authentic reactions from the public. Again, just imagine the public condemnation if he had donned blackface ‘to experience first-hand what it’s really like’ for Black people to be stopped and frisked on the streets or racially profiled in high-end stores.

    Accordingly, I accuse Dr. Oz of violating his Hippocratic Oath with his fat-suit gimmick. Especially because one does not have to be a wizard to know that he was thinking far more about his TV ratings than about any patient’s health.

    __________________

    drphil-shape-upMeanwhile, you’d think Oz would have learned from the hit Dr. Phil took 10 years ago. Back then, disaffected fans sued him for misleading and defrauding them with his “Shape Up!” diet program – complete with the same kinds of useless weight-loss products Oz is peddling today. Dr. Phil ended up paying $10 million to settle all claims. And, to his credit, he never asserted any free-speech right to peddle his products.

    Indeed, it speaks volumes that neither censure by the Senate nor excommunication by his colleagues has chastened Oz. In point of fact, he has become so enamored of his growing fame (and fortune), he probably thinks mere jealousy is motivating other doctors to ruin him.

    This is why, just as it was with Dr. Phil, it will take a lawsuit by disaffected fans to get Oz to stop peddling weight-loss products that take more weight off their pocketbooks than their bodies.

    In the meantime, here’s to more doctors coming out of the woodwork to accuse him of “disdain for science and evidence-based medicine” – as a group of his fellow members of the Columbia faculty did just yesterday. For this will likely have the same impact on his career as so many women coming out of the woodwork to accuse Bill Cosby of rape is having on his.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 5:03 AM

    Michael Eric Dyson vs. Cornel West: Mania in Academia

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Gore Vidal vs. William F. Buckley Jr. shocked the world in the late 1960s, when Vidal began shooting holes in the intellectual blimp that kept Buckley’s ego afloat. What’s more, the hype and blows that attended their political debates rivaled those that attended heavyweight bouts between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

    dyson_westWell, not since then has there been a bout of wits between two public intellectuals as the one now brewing between Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West. Both men earned their academic credentials as peripatetic professors at some of America’s most prestigious universities: Dyson at Brown, Georgetown, and Penn — to name a few; West at Princeton, Harvard, and Yale. But, arguably, both are known today far more for their social commentary (primarily on Race Matters) than for their academic scholarship.

    West is the more famous (or infamous) of the two, having spent much of the past decade doing little more than regaling TV audiences (as opposed to university students) with stream-of-consciousness riffs on one facet or another of the Black experience. But in recent years, he has been lacing his riffs with condescending, self-righteous and often hypocritical insults – aimed not only at other Black intellectuals, but also at the first Black president of the United States. These insults finally provoked Dyson to begin shooting holes in the intellectual blimp that has kept West’s ego afloat.

    I see no point in commenting on who landed what blows during the earlier rounds of this bout. Not least because they smack of the contrived blows one sees on reality TV shows like The Real Housewives of Atlanta. But then came the punch Dyson threw this week, which left Howard Cosell’s famous exclamation – “Down goes Frazier, down goes Frazier!” – ringing in my ear.

    lede_art_d1It took the form of an April 19 “scholarly” hit piece in The New Republic, which Dyson telegraphed with this damning, exhaustive headline, “The Ghost of Cornel West: President Obama betrayed him. He’s stopped publishing new work. He’s alienated his closest friends and allies. What happened to America’s most exciting black scholar?”

    No doubt Dyson stunned him with his many jabs about West betraying his professorial duty to “publish or perish.” But the knockdown blow had to have been his assertion that the aggrieved nature of West’s social commentary these days makes him more like “a woman scorned” than a public intellectual.

    Foremost, Dyson notes that even the wrath of an angry God cannot compete with that of an angry West, whose love for President Obama has clearly turned to hate. This excerpt highlights how Dyson set him up, and then knocked him down.

    __________________

    He has accused Obama of political minstrelsy, calling him a ‘Rockefeller Republican in blackface’; taunted him as a ‘brown-faced Clinton’; and derided him as a ‘neoliberal opportunist’…

    West remained allied with Obama until he took the White House and, in football parlance, faked left and ran right. ‘[Obama] posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit,’ West complained…

    It is a sad truth that most politicians are serial rhetorical lovers and promiscuous ideological mates, leaving behind scores of briefly valued surrogates and supporters [but] West felt spurned and was embittered.

    _________________

    Mind you, what imbues this round with such compelling pathos is the obvious personal pain Dyson infuses with each punch. One got a sense, for example, that there was no love lost between Vidal and Buckley. By contrast, Dyson readily admits feeling hurt and dismayed when West began ridiculing him as a Black sellout with no more intellectual integrity than the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

    This is why (and please forgive my mixing analogies) reading Dyson vs. West evoked the same emotions I experienced watching Larry Holmes vs. Muhammad Ali. Specifically, there was a palpable sense that neither Dyson nor Holmes took any pleasure in having to publicly humiliate the man he idolized. More to the point, I felt almost as pained reading Dyson’s piece as I suspect he felt writing it….

    Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 4.46.11 PM

    All the same, Dyson had to have known that critiquing “the most exciting Black American scholar ever” in this comprehensive fashion would trigger considerable backlash. And, sure enough, he’s feeling it. In fact, he wore the strain of it all on his face during an otherwise collegial interview – with fellow professor Marc Lamont Hill (of Columbia University) – on Tuesday’s edition of HuffPost Live.

    Incidentally, I recommend watching this defensive interview as highly as I recommend reading his hit piece. But what struck me most about the former is the way Hill practically pleaded with Dyson to explain why he struck out (or back) at West so publicly. For this betrayed the prevailing, irrational notion – even among Black intellectuals – that what goes down in Black America should stay in Black America.

    Remarkably, ignoring the very public potshots West has taken at so many notable Blacks, Hill posited that such a public spat between Dyson and West might undermine the ability of Blacks to work together for their collective advancement. But, having already punctured West’s ego, Dyson probably thought better of lecturing Hill on the precedents W.E.B Du Bois vs. Booker T. Washington and Malcolm X vs. Martin Luther King Jr. set.

    Instead, here is how Dyson addressed the backlash from Blacks who, like Hill, seem to think that, no matter how warranted his critique might be, he should not have made it so publicly:

    [T]he public character of what we’re doing here is vital and necessary because the lessons that can be learned, either from my mistakes, either from my flaws, either from my failures and professor West’s are instructive to other people, who will then learn…

    Black America has had a certain kind of complicity … in West’s vitriol that needs to be called into question as well.

    I could not agree more.

    In fact, the only issue I have with anything Dyson has said in this context is his assertion that nobody in Black America has shown his intellectual courage to publicly criticize West. He duly acknowledged that two White public intellectuals, namely Larry Summers and Leon Wieseltier, beat him to the punch. But Dyson went so far as to challenge Hill to “show me your critique of Cornel West.”

    Embarrassingly, Hill did/could not meet this challenge: either because he took it as just a rhetorical point, or because he had nothing to show. But I do.

    Here is an excerpt from “Professor Cornel West’s Racist Psychobabble about President Obama,” June 1, 2011, which shows that I beat Dyson to the punch too. And bear in mind that Dyson admits he only decided to counter West’s ad hominem attacks on Obama and others after West began directing similar attacks at him.

    ___________________

    I have never bought into the delusional conceit about there being Black issues that should never be aired in ‘public’… I should also hasten to disclose that I share the professor’s progressive political leanings, which puts us both far to the left of Obama on the ideological spectrum.

    That said, I disagree with the professor’s criticism of Obama’s political agenda. And I take profound exception to the way he’s infusing this criticism with psychobabble about the president’s race consciousness.

    His criticism stems from what he considers to be the president’s failure to address the concerns of poor and working people… This, of course, is easy for the professor to proffer from the ivory tower he inhabits at Princeton University; not least because, unlike the president, he has no constitutional responsibility to ensure that his words and policies promote the general welfare of all Americans. Not to mention that the surest way for Obama to have doomed his presidency from day one would have been for him to focus on the concerns of poor and working people, instead of doing all he could to rescue the U.S. economy from the brink of a second great depression

    Whatever legitimacy his criticism about the president’s political agenda might have is completely undermined by this:

    [Obama is] a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats… I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free Black men… It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a White man with black skin…

    He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want….

    (truthdig.com, May 16, 2011)

    I wish I could begin by expressing shock and dismay that a Black person of the professor’s stature and influence would speak – on the record no less – so irresponsibly, disrespectfully, and ignorantly about any other Black person, let alone one who is the president of the United States…

    But, truth be told, this psychobabble reflects nothing more than the Black-on-Black racism that has beset Black consciousness in America since the days of slavery…

    AP10072918240[T]he professor’s personal feelings were hurt because the president showed that he was not impressed by his criticism, not intimidated by his intellect, and not flattered by his support.

    But this seems too petty a slight to cause even this peacock of a professor to turn on Obama; especially since he could soothe his bruised ego with the mollifying fact that he’s just one of many self-important critics who Obama has left seething with indignation after their encounters with him…

    More to the point, the professor must realize that holding a grudge against the president for [perceived slights] is not only unfair, but inherently self-immolating…

    Because I can think of no political, cultural or racial explanation, I have to conclude that the professor’s criticism of Obama’s political agenda, as well as his psychobabble about the president’s race consciousness, stems from a confluence of personal slights. What is certain, however, is that the way he’s dealing with this is  doing more to betray the professor’s presumed intelligence than it’s doing to undermine Obama’s presidency.

    __________________

    Welcome to the team, Prof. Dyson.

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  • Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 7:03 AM

    Doonesbury Slams Charlie Hebdo

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am an unabashed liberal. But I can’t tell you how often my ideological comrades upbraid me for proffering discordant views on controversial issues. Such was the case earlier this year, when I sang out of tune with their chorus of support for the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists.

    I reasoned in “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie,” January 14, 2015, that:

    I see little difference between Charlie Hebdo publishing anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic cartoons and the KKK publishing racist … and anti-Semitic propaganda. They both peddle hate speech that offends all reasonable notions of free speech.

    Therefore, imagine how vindicated I felt earlier this month, when no less a person than Gary Trudeau sang in tune with moi.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 7.25.29 PMHere is how the Daily Beast reported, in its April 10 edition, on how he finally chimed in on whether it’s nobler in this case to be, or not to be – Charlie.

    Garry Trudeau, the Pulitzer Prize-winning satirical cartoonist behind Doonesbury, says his fellow satirists at Charlie Hebdo ‘wandered into the realm of hate speech…’

    ‘Free speech … becomes its own kind of fanaticism,’ Trudeau also reportedly said, adding that the job of satirists is to punch up, not punch down.

    Incidentally, if his name means nothing to you, suffice it to know that Trudeau comes as close to being the conscience of modern-day liberalism as the pope comes to being the conscience of modern-day Catholicism. Oh right, did I mention that Pope Francis preempted him by singing in tune with me too:

    To kill in the name of God is an aberration.

    [However], if [a close friend] says a swear word against my mother, he’s going to get a punch in the nose. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.

    (TIME, January 15, 2015)

    TrudeauBut, with all due respect to the pope, Trudeau’s voice is far more relevant because he’s a cartoonist too. His pulpit, of course, is the critically acclaimed Doonesbury strip, where, until February of this year, he had been delivering daily sermons, disguised as social and political humor, for over 40 years.

    It speaks volumes that Trudeau sounded this rebuke while accepting the George Polk Career Award for outstanding achievement in journalism, becoming the first cartoonist to win this distinction. For this award effectively acknowledged his preeminence among cartoonists worldwide.

    So, trust me folks, Trudeau rebuking cartoonists for propagating hate speech is the secular equivalent of the pope rebuking cardinals for committing, well, a cardinal sin.

    Amen … again.

    Related commentaries:
    Pope rebukes Charlie Hebdo
    je ne suis pas Charlie

  • Monday, April 20, 2015 at 5:46 AM

    RIP Thailand Democracy…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The death of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and dealings of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma have dominated the news coming out of Southeast Asia thus far this year. Actually, you could be forgiven for thinking that Western media place a quota on coverage from this region, and that reports on these two developments consumed practically all of it.

    1000Yet, with all due respect to Yew and Suu Kyi, the arrest of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand has been the most interesting development.

    To put it into context, here are excerpts from just a few of the many commentaries I’ve written over the years on Thai politics:

    ___________________

    • From “Thailand’s Benign Military Coup…,” September 20, 2006:

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

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

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

    • From “Thailand Suffers Another Coup – This Time by an Angry Mob,” December 3, 2008:

    After months of protests – growing so formidable in size and nihilistic determination that not even the country’s vaunted military could squash them – the court ruled yesterday that Prime Minister Somchai’s governing coalition committed electoral fraud. Then, affirming mob rule, the court banned him from politics.

    So here’s to hoping that Thailand’s third prime minister this year can prove beyond all doubt that he not only thoroughly hates Thaksin but is also completely loyal to the king. Otherwise the protesters are bound to return to the streets.

    • 200883561From “Thailand’s Never-Ending Asian Spring,” December 2, 2013:

    Frankly, Thais seem caught in a vicious cycle of people’s coups…

    This is why, when Thaksin’s sister Yingluck became prime minister in 2011, instead of hailing her as the latest in my pantheon of women leaders taking over the world, I remonstrated [that] the Yellow Shirts would not stand by and allow Thaksin to rule over them again – by proxy from exile in Dubai. Especially because Thaksin seems to believe that his little sister’s top priority should be forcing the government to grant him amnesty and return the $1.2 billion in assets it confiscated after he fled…

    Even though the Groundhog-Day events unfolding there today are eminently newsworthy, I hope I can be forgiven for having nothing more to say. Instead, I shall end with this ominous bit of reporting yesterday by the BBC:

    Thai protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban says he has met PM Yingluck Shinawatra and given her two days to ‘return power to the people’…

    The protesters had declared Sunday the decisive ‘V-Day’ of what they termed a ‘people’s coup’.

    They say Ms. Yingluck’s Administration is controlled by her brother, exiled ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra, and they want to replace it with a ‘People’s Council’.

    • Finally, from “Military Coup in Thailand … Again,” May 22, 2014:

    I [have already] delineated the untenable state of affairs that, for years, have had the country’s two main political factions paralyzing government functions. The Yellow Shirts [with the blessing of royalist elites, the military, and judiciary] have continually resorted to street protests to wrest political power from democratically elected Red Shirts [Thaksin loyalists whose supporters are mostly peasant farmers and blue-collar workers].

    ____________________

    17888450-06BF-495F-AC4D-9B492BB69C6E_cx0_cy5_cw0_mw1024_s_n_r1

    Given that context, here now is the coup de grace. Thailand’s military leaders are finally doing to Thaksin’s puppet sister what they’ve longed to do to the master himself (i.e., ever since he chose exile instead of their military justice in 2008).

    Thailand’s former premier Yingluck Shinawatra has been ordered to stand trial on charges of negligence over a bungled rice subsidy scheme, in a case that could see her jailed for up to a decade.

    The decision is the latest legal move against Yingluck – Thailand’s first female prime minister and sister of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra – that could spell the end of her family’s political dominance.

    The Shinawatras, or parties allied to them, have won every Thai election since 2001.

    (London Guardian, March 19, 2015)

    I fear Yingluck’s show trial, which is scheduled to begin on May 19, will put the nail in the coffin of Thai democracy … for at least a generation.

    Mind you, I have no doubt that her brother was a crook who amassed billions with brazenly corrupt schemes. But the Yellow Shirts (whose months of street protests forced her ouster in May 2014) and the military-appointed legislature (whose retroactive impeachment just weeks later led to the criminal charges for which she’s now being prosecuted) have not shown one scintilla of evidence to justify their actions.

    Nothing betrays their political motivations quite like Thailand’s attorney general prosecuting Yingluck for doling out farm subsidies. After all, governments in Europe and the United States do this routinely. Incidentally, with evidentiary and procedural motions, her show trial is unlikely to begin until early next year.

    Screen-Shot-2012-11-24-at-10.10.22-AM-300x239Meanwhile, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Western leader who has uttered a single word of support for Yingluck, let alone of condemnation against the military rulers. President Obama’s silence is particularly shameful in this regard. After all, he’s on record lecturing military rulers in neighboring Burma about the categorical imperatives of democratic governance. Not to mention the public show he made of the mutual affection he and Yingluck shared during his historic state visit a few years ago.

    It seemed Thailand was bursting with national pride last week when President Obama made it the first stop on his historic trip to Southeast Asia.

    And no Thai seemed more impressed and adoring than (female) Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. So much so in fact that opposition forces threw cold water on the national celebration by practically accusing her of treason for behaving more like a teenage girl meeting Justin Bieber than as one head of state greeting another.

    (“Thai PM’s Flirting with Obama Incites Riots?” The iPINIONS Journal, November 26, 2012)

    Alas, apropos of my references to Burma, I fear that, like Aung San Suu Kyi, it will take Yingluck wasting away in prison for years, coupled with a Nobel Prize for becoming democracy’s latest darling martyr, for Western leaders to consider her a cause celebre.

    In any event, Thailand’s military leaders will undoubtedly do all they can now to emulate what Burma’s (and Egypt’s) military leaders have done: implement cosmetic reforms (to provide the veneer of democracy) and hope they suffice to preempt Western censure and sanctions. And they’ll get away with it too.

    NOTE: I suspect even Suu Kyi would begrudgingly admit that it’s better to be disillusioned with the slow pace of political reforms than imprisoned as a martyr for them.

    Related commentaries:
    Thailand’s benign military coup
    The Ukrainians
    Thailand’s never-ending
    Coup again
    PM flirts with Obama

  • Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    Common Core

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.

    (corestandards.org)

    Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 7.54.03 PM

    You’d think only flat-earth conservatives would oppose testing to ensure students meet these standards. After all, they would even swear on the Holy Bible that evolution is junk science, but creationism (rebranded as intelligent design) is scientific fact.

    Yet, in their provincial opposition to Common Core standards, these conservatives have common cause with anti-vaxer liberals. Of course, these liberals would swear on the Yoga Bible (yes, there is such a thing) that meditation, not medication, eradicated polio.

    These strange bedfellows are all idiots. The only thing that concerns me about them is that they’re rearing innocent children to live by the misguided notion that it’s better to have beliefs, no matter how ignorant, than to know facts, no matter how informed.

  • Friday, April 17, 2015 at 8:44 AM

    Remembering the Chibok Girls (and Boys)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am still nursing the virtual wounds real friends inflicted after reading yesterday’s commentary, in which I dismissed the social media they revel in as “a vast wasteland of cultural hedonism.” Never mind that they ended up making my point. For they had nothing to say when I asked follow-up questions about their enthusiastic participation in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

    That, of course, was the viral campaign to rescue the 250-plus Nigerian schoolgirls Boko Haram terrorists kidnapped a year ago this week.

    Alexa-Chung-Cara-Delevingne-Bring-Back-our-girlsBut here, in part, is how I pooh-poohed the self-flattering, self-serving and self-delusional hashtag posts it generated:

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

    Yet Kony and his child soldiers remain as menacing today as they were back then.

    Therefore, I hope folks bear this in mind; that is, if they aren’t too busy tweeting about the outrage du jour to wonder about the real-world impact of the ‘#BringBackOurGirls2014’ viral campaign.

    (“Alas, Kidnapping Schoolgirls Is the Least of African Crimes against Humanity,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 7, 2014)

    And here is how I doubled down on my cynical take eight months later, when acclaimed Nigerian cartoonist Tayo Fatunla published a cartoon of a child writing a letter asking Ebola “to pay the entire Boko Haram a visit:”

    The point for me, of course, is that his letter/prayer couldn’t be any less effective than a bunch of American celebrities – who couldn’t tell Boko Haram from an Arab Harem – posting #BringBackOurGirls selfies.

    (“On Second Thought, Ebola Might Be Good for Some Africans,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 8, 2014)

    nigeria-abubakar-shekau-boko-haramSure enough, here is what all of that outpouring of hashtag activism has done to bring back those girls:

    On Tuesday, the first anniversary of the kidnapping, President-elect Buhari said in a statement ‘We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown’…

    Not one student has been rescued….

    (Huffington Post, April 14, 2015)

    images (11)I shan’t bore you with the sectarian and geopolitical reasons Nigerian authorities have failed to rescue them. To say nothing of the dispiriting fact that Boko Haram terrorists have kidnapped hundreds more since then; or that they have kidnapped almost as many boys….

    The point now is that these rampaging Islamic terrorists are brazenly defying all boots-on-the-ground efforts to stop them, making a mockery of patently feckless protests on social-media.

    I am often accused of being too cynical. But my accusers can never cite a single case where my cynicism proved unwarranted.

    Moreover, as I found with my friends, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person, who tweeted #BringBackOurGirls, who can show that her concern for them extended beyond that tweet.

    Mind you, I don’t mean to suggest that there’s anything any of us can do to really help them or stop the kidnapping of others. Sadly, there isn’t….

    Migrants MediterraneanThis brings me to the desperate journey so many Africans are taking to free themselves from chronic predation and strife.

    I just hope the damning irony is not lost on any proud African that, 50 years after decolonization, hundreds of Africans (men, women, and children) are risking their lives, practically every day, to subjugate themselves to the paternal mercies of their former colonial masters in Europe.

    (“African Migrants Turning Mediterranean Sea into Vast Cemetery,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 12, 2015)

    Indeed, the greater irony is that this middle passage they’re taking today — freely as migrants, is eerily similar to the Middle Passage their forebears took centuries ago — shackled as slaves. Not to mention the fateful symmetry between the African chiefs who sold fellow Africans back then as slaves, and Boko Haram terrorists who are selling them today as sex slaves/child soldiers.

    Therefore, who can blame Africans for fleeing? After all, every menace – from pestilence to genocide – suggests that Africa is fated to wallow as a dark, destitute, diseased, desperate, disenfranchised, dishonest, disorganized, disassociated, dangerous and, ultimately, dysfunctional mess. I mean, just imagine the existential spectacle of Blacks in South Africa, arguably the richest country on that continent, waging xenophobic warfare against Blacks from other Sub-Saharan countries over menial jobs.

    By the way, admonishing migrants not to flee conditions so dire is like telling occupants not to flee a house on fire. Moreover, what’s causing migrants to flee is akin to a hellish inferno, which I fear no immigration policy or rescue operation can ever put out.

    But I warned it would be thus:

    As tragic as this event was, political dysfunction, economic stagnation, and civil strife on the Dark Continent are such that Africans will continue to risk life and limb to seek a better life. For, just as no legal barrier or risk of drowning in the Caribbean Sea has stemmed the tide of Haitian migrants setting off for America, no legal barrier or risk of drowning in the Mediterranean Sea will stem the tide of African migrants setting off for Europe.

    (“Lampedusa Tragedy Highlights Europe’s ‘Haitian’ Problem,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 7, 2013)

    Which compels me to end with the greatest irony of all: despite (or, dare I say, thanks to?) the centuries of slavery and discrimination our forebears endured, Blacks throughout the Americas cannot help but look on Africa today and say, there but for the grace of God….

    Related commentaries:
    Kidnapping schoolgirls
    Ebola
    Lampedusa

  • Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 6:43 AM

    France Bans Skinny Models

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’ve been railing for years against trend-setting, skeletal models strutting their dry bones on runways across the fashion world. This is why I was so heartened earlier this month when France enacted legislation to ban them from runways in Paris.

    skinnyc-778677Here is a little of my abiding lament:

    By today’s standards, former supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Tyra Banks – even at their most starved and bulimic (runway) weight – would be relegated to the Lane Bryant prêt-à-porter show. Because that’s where plus-size models strut their stuff for women who, from the haughty perspective of most NYC fashionistas, lack the ambition and discipline it takes to be thin, and therefore beautiful.

    (“Skinny Models (Still) Reign at New York’s Fashion Week,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 6, 2007)

    Here is how France intends to impose more salutary standards:

    France will ban excessively thin fashion models and expose modeling agents and the fashion houses that hire them to possible fines and even jail, under a new law.

    (Reuters, April 3, 2015)

    Now if only the United States, Italy, and other countries would follow fashion. Especially considering that Israel had sufficient concern for the welfare not just of the models walking the runways, but of the young girls trying desperately to emulate them to enact similar legislation years ago. This, as opposed to merely encouraging fashion houses to adhere to “voluntary codes of conduct.”

    o-LIYA-KEBEDE-570But France is hardly without sin in this respect. After all:

    We don’t know if we should be happy or sad to share that Liya Kebede has landed the May 2015 cover of Vogue Paris, because it marks the first time in five years that a Black model has graced the cover of the glossy.

    (Huffington Post, April 15, 2015)

    This constrains me to reprise this note:

    I’m not too focused on how bone thin these bitches are to notice how bone white they are also!

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

    2795DE6C00000578-3039528-So_sexy_Emily_Ratajkowski_covers_her_sizeable_assets_with_her_ha-m-94_1429089840494Meanwhile, increasingly influential stars like Emily Ratajkowski (23) are blithely blurring lines, with Instagram images, between women who like showing off their thin bodies and those who like looking like adolescent girls.

    For some inexplicable reason it seems Emily thought she looked fat in the Robin Thicke/Pharrell Williams video that made her an overnight sex symbol. But frankly, it’s disturbing to see this grown woman looking like a prepubescent girl with lips pouted with collagen and boobs inflated with silicone.

    In virtually all of her pictures, she seems to be channeling Nabokov’s Lolita — posing wantonly for men who get off on kiddie porn. Sadly, there’s nothing any government can do to counter this viral trend.

    Thank God for the Rubenesque, selfie-obsessed Kim Kardashian…? Go figure.

    Related commentaries:
    Skinny models
    Model fired

  • Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 5:27 AM

    Chomsky Slams Google Spying, Useless Twitter

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    noam-chomsky-un-principles.siMIT professor emeritus Noam Chomsky is arguably the most accomplished thinker in America, if not the world, today. Whatever one thinks of Wikipedia, it fairly describes Chomsky as an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician, political commentator, social justice activist, and anarcho-syndicalist advocate.

    That established, Chomsky shared “his views on the current media landscape” in an April 14 interview with Byline Boston. Much of what he shared would have been familiar to The Chomsky Reader. But this was my first time reading his take on two controversial issues, which have caused me considerable flak over the years.

    images (10)My take on Google:

    Private companies like Target, Amazon, Google, and Facebook routinely do far more spying on Americans to sell them stuff than the NSA does to keep them safe… Never mind the folly in predicating the necessary and inherently furtive business of espionage on the shifting winds of public opinion.

    (“Obama Announces Cosmetic NSA Reforms,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 18, 2014)

    Chomsky’s take:

    With Google, and others of course, there is an immense amount of surveillance to try to obtain personal data about individuals and their habits and interactions and so on, to shape the way information is presented to them. They do more [surveillance] than the NSA.

    This vindicates my contention that Edward Snowden is a dangerously misguided fool, who would’ve performed a far greater public service by exposing Google’s spying, not the NSA’s.

    My take on Twitter:

    Twitter has about as much redeeming value as Twinkies. [T]he mainstream media are no better than Hostess in this respect. Because the contrived tweets (i.e., junk thoughts) of self-promoting buffoons like Trump would never enter public consciousness, let alone public discourse, if networks like FOX did not routinely report them as BREAKING NEWS.

    (“Why I Hate Twitter,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 1, 2013)

    Frankly, I maintain that 99 percent of all social media involves peddling or living virtual fantasies, instigating or egging on manufactured conflicts, hurling ignorance or insults for attention, and/or promoting oneself or a product for cold, hard cash. Reportedly, Kim Kardashian attempted to ingratiate herself with President Obama by getting her millions of online followers to support his re-election campaign. Unsurprisingly, she failed.

    Because, to the extent they even exist, her voyeurs and trainee narcissists have no real interest in anything of any real importance in the real world.

    Chomsky’s take:

    I don’t look at Twitter because it doesn’t tell me anything.

    Trust me folks, a liberal can hope for no greater affirmation than Chomsky has given me on these two issues.

    Related commentaries:
    Christopher Hitchens
    NSA reforms
    Twitter

  • Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 5:38 AM

    Madonna Kiss Causes Drake to Retch…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I was never a fan. But anyone who knows anything about Madonna’s singing career knows that it has always been more about theatrics than music. It speaks volumes, for example, that she won more critical acclaim for Sex, a 1992 coffee table book of soft-porn photographs, than she has for any of her albums.

    27905FEE00000578-0-image-m-6_1429020383460This explains why she chose to generate buzz at the 2003 Video Music Awards by staging a kiss with (then ingénue) Britney Spears, which she knew would upstage the performance of her iconoclastic song, “Like a Virgin.” Sure enough, the only thing anybody remembers about her performance is that kiss. Which, perhaps, explains why she kept doing it.

    Therefore, it was hardly surprising that: Oops! … she did it again at the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Sunday. But the young performer this time was rapper Drake, arguably the most popular artist in the music industry today. Never mind that this kissing schtick makes her look like a pitiful, Norma-Desmondesque vampire squid sucking fame from rising stars to vivify her own….

    Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 12.26.59 PMUnfortunately for her, instead of pretending to be aroused by the kiss (i.e., according to the script), Drake retched in apparent disgust.

    His ‘horrified’ reaction to Madonna making out with him onstage during a performance at Coachella caused a media storm…

    What the single mom didn’t see was that when she was finished, the musician looked horrified, even wiping his mouth.

    (Daily Mail, April 14, 2015)

    Mind you, I suspect Madonna wouldn’t have been too bothered if the twits who trolled her about this had ridiculed her about having bad breath or being a sloppy kisser.

    But media reports indicate that most of them ridiculed the 56-year-old singer for behaving like a perverted, sex-crazed chaperone at a high-school prom.

    I shan’t dignify any of their tweets by quoting them here. Besides, as I seem to be of a dying breed – who avoids social media, well, like a vampire avoids daylight, you probably know more about their profane and puerile tweets than I do.

    Alas, the greater shame is that Madonna responded … in kind. No doubt she was humiliated by the impression that her kiss stimulated nothing in Drake but acid reflux. And Drake only compounded her humiliation by insisting that his reaction reflected nothing but shocking delight.

    madanna-grammys-outfitBut this serves her right. Because she should’ve known that it was only a matter of time before her all-about-sex schtick began repulsing rather than arousing….

    Which is why it behooves young female performers – who seem hell-bent on following Madonna’s career path – to take heed. Indeed, I even gave Madonna fair notice four years ago – in “MTV Video Music Awards,” August 30, 2011 – that it would come to this.

    ___________________

    Most performers seem to think the key to success is looking and behaving in a way off stage that makes what they do on stage seem almost irrelevant: Exhibits B: Nicki Minaj (or, for you older folks, think of all of the off-stage exhibitionism that rendered the music of artists like Grace Jones and Madonna irrelevant).

    By sterling contrast, Adele not only sings like an angel, she might just be the music industry’s saving grace. Unfortunately, this industry has so little to do with musical talent these days that Adele performing on any music awards show is rather like Andrea Bocelli performing on So You Think You Can Dance.

    ____________________

    To be fair, though, some twitterers are defending Madonna against what they decry as sexist/ageist abuse. Except that, if Mick Jagger ever detracted from his performance of “Brown Sugar” by making out with a Taylor Swift, I’m sure twits would troll him in similar fashion.

    Related commentaries:
    MTV
    Lady Gaga

  • Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 5:42 AM

    Clarion Call for Body Cameras to Check Bad Cops

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Police Officer Fatal ShootingGiven media coverage of the killing last summer of Eric Garner in New York, New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, coupled with coverage of the killing last week of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina and Eric Harris in Tulsa, Oklahoma, you could be forgiven the impression that White cops think they are licensed to kill unarmed Black men; not least because these are hardly the only such incidents that occurred over this period.

    But you should be encouraged that former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has added his very influential voice to the chorus of those calling on police departments across the country to require officers to wear body cameras.

    Here is how the New York Post reported on his belated conversion in this respect in its Sunday edition:

    Kelly had been skeptical about cops being fitted with cameras, claiming the devices might make the officers reluctant to take necessary, decisive action.

    But Kelly said he rethought his position after shocking video emerged of Officer Michael Slager shooting Coast Guard veteran Walter Scott in the back after a traffic stop earlier this month in North Charleston, SC.

    ‘It has changed my mind [Kelly said] because we have to assume that this officer would not act the way he did if, in fact, he had a body camera that was recording.’

    ralg-sharpton-kelly-jpgI could not agree more.

    Law enforcement leaders like Kelly and civil rights activists like Al Sharpton are proposing a host of measures to monitor and, hopefully, control police behavior, especially when dealing with Black men. Conspicuously absent from their proposals, however, is any measure that addresses the need for Black men to control their behavior, especially when dealing with White cops.

    By contrast, here is what I proposed — in this excerpt from “Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality (only against Black Men?),” August 12, 2014.

    ___________________

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

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

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

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

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

    [Not to mention that] there would be fewer of these fatal encounters between Black men and White cops if more (unemployed) Black men became cops to police their own communities.

    ___________________

    0 (6)I hope law enforcement leaders and civil rights activists take heed. But, more than them, I hope Black men do. After all, it’s arguable that, in every one of these cases, if the Black suspect had not resisted arrest, he would not have been shot, let alone killed. So, please, let’s be wary of making martyrs of them.

    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. This will only lead to more of them ending up like Michael….

    (“Why Chastise the ‘Times’ for Describing Michael Brown as ‘No Angel’? The iPINIONS Journal, August 26, 2014)

    In the meantime, though, nothing makes the case for cameras as proposed quite like:

    • North Charleston prosecutors charging Michael Slager (the cop who killed Walter Scott) with first-degree murder as soon as a bystander’s video of his shooting went viral; and
    • Tulsa prosecutors charging Robert Bates (the “reserve” sheriff’s deputy who killed Eric Harris) with second-degree manslaughter as soon as police dash-cam and body-cam videos of his shooting went viral. This, incidentally, despite the 73-year-old Bates claiming that it happened only because he mistook his gun for his taser.

    NOTE: I’m all too mindful that these notorious incidents of police brutality reinforce the self-immolating fiction in Black culture that all cops are pigs. A fiction, incidentally, that finds its most indoctrinating expression in popular rap music. Therefore, getting young Black men not only to see cops as heroes, but to join their ranks might be as challenging as finding a cure for cancer.

    Nonetheless, just as researchers never cease in their fight to rid the human body of cancer, we must never cease in our fight to rid Black culture of this (anti-cop) fiction.

    Related commentaries:
    Killing of Michael Brown
    Why chastise the Times

  • Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    Summit of Americas: Obama Teasing CARICOM; Testing Cuba; Trolling China

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    caricom-us_summit2015 (1)

    It was a curious thing to see Jamaicans hailing Barack Obama on Thursday more like a returning “son of the soil” than a visiting president of the United States. Even more curious was seeing CARICOM leaders jostle like UWI students for a photo op.

    960x540But don’t get me started on the way Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller made such a public show of courting him as if he were her long lost love.

    Alas, it falls to me, yet again, to disabuse my regional compatriots of their reflected glory. Not least because it speaks volumes that Obama planned this trip as little more than a stopover on his way to the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

    More to the point, here is the admonition I sounded — in “Obama Elected U.S. President and World Celebrates ‘Change,’” November 7, 2008 — just seventy-two hours after his historic election.

    ___________________

    Racial pride aside, those in the Caribbean who are heralding Obama’s election as the dawn of a new day in our relations with the United States are in for a rude awakening. After all, given the two wars, an unprecedented economic meltdown, and other priorities he has to contend with, chances are that the Caribbean will not even figure in President Obama’s consciousness during his first term; except perhaps when he’s fantasizing about a vacation from the daily grind of his presidency.

    But even if he manages to turn his attention to us, it would probably only be to cripple our banking industry by closing ‘loopholes’ in the U.S. tax code that allow American corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid taxes. They do this, of course, by using the offshore accounts that define our tax-haven status and generate critical revenues for our regional economy.

    On the other hand, we can retain hope that Obama will honor his promise to ‘normalize’ relations with Cuba.

    ___________________

    And here is how I reinforced this admonition — in “Fifth Summit of the Americas: Managing Expectations,” April 17, 2009 — after Obama participated in his first summit.

    ___________________

    It is noteworthy that, even though G-20 leaders met primarily to deal with the ongoing global financial crisis, dealing a blow to offshore banking in the Caribbean (and other tax havens) was their only notable accomplishment…

    U.S. President Obama poses with leaders of the Caribbean islands during an official photo session at the 5th Summit of the Americas in Port of SpainAs much as President Obama seems prepared to listen to all grievances at this weekend’s Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, only a fool would entertain hope that he will offer any change to soften this G-20 blow…

    I urge CARICOM leaders to refrain from badgering him about lifting the 50-year embargo against Cuba. Instead, they would make a far more constructive contribution to this summit by announcing a date certain by which they will complete our 50-year effort to integrate our economies.  Especially because this would give us a far more respected and influential voice in future discussions on hemispheric issues – from free trade to drug trafficking…

    Besides, I am convinced that, if re-elected, Obama will seal his legacy by lifting the embargo and normalizing relations with Cuba.  But, where I have advocated for this cause as a categorical imperative, I’m not sure CARICOM leaders fully appreciate what lifting the embargo augurs for our zero-sum regional economy. Be careful what you wish for…?

    So, what’s the point of this Obama-centric summit?

    Well, there is something to be said for welcoming the first Black president of the United States to our shores with open arms. But frankly, we shouldn’t expect much more than style and symbolism from Obama’s presidency.

    Ironically, I suspect history will judge George W. Bush a far more helpful president to CARICOM countries – in terms of foreign aid and economic policies – than either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.

    ___________________

    The point is that one would be hard-pressed to cite any meaningful benefit that has redounded to member countries as a direct result of Obama’s policies. Not to mention that, during a town hall meeting in Jamaica, Obama betrayed the hollowness of his political interest in the Caribbean by citing the hackneyed parable about teaching people to fish, instead of giving them fish. After all, not only do we islanders know how to fish; citing a parable about removing all trade barriers to U.S. markets for our catch would’ve been more encouraging.

    D1705LD1Moreover, pursuant to the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, the IMF and World Bank have doled out billions in debt forgiveness to sister countries like Ghana, Bolivia, and Nicaragua in recent years. Therefore, you’d think Simpson-Miller would’ve induced/seduced Obama to get these U.S.-led financial institutions to grant similar debt forgiveness to Jamaica. After all, this country’s economy has been wiggling in the quicksand of IMF-imposed austerity for decades, during which time the IMF has blithely extracted debt payments at the expense of its sustainable development.

    This is not the forum to delve any further. Instead, I highly recommend the documentary film Life and Debt, which the Guardian of London hailed (in its February 27, 2003, edition) as “incisive in its examination of how IMF and World Bank policies, determined by G-7 countries, led by the U.S., impact on poor countries.”

    hqdefault (2)But here is a teaser, courtesy of the Guardian’s review:

    The late Michael Manley, then the leftwing leader of the People’s National Party, who served two terms as prime minister in the 1970s, was rudely awoken to the realities of international finance. ‘In Washington they just looked at us and said, ‘No, no, no. Your inflation last year was 18% and we are not allowing you to lend to your farmers at 12%. You must charge 23%.’’

    This brings me to the Seventh Summit of the Americas, which convened in Panama on Friday. Frankly, Obama’s handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro at the opening ceremony generated so much media coverage, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was planned as the most important item on the summit’s agenda.

    Unsurprisingly, in this age of Twitter, when most people have the political memory of hungry gnats, far too many reporters and pundits appeared to have forgotten Obama’s truly historic handshake with Castro at Mandela’s memorial in South Africa in December 2013. But you knew the media were more interested in style than substance when the following statement by Castro, which is as obvious as it is inconsequential, began competing with this handshake as the top news story of the summit:

    ‘I have told President Obama that I get very emotional talking about the revolution,’ Castro said through a translator, noting that Obama wasn’t even born when the U.S. began sanctioning the island nation. ‘I apologize to him because President Obama had no responsibility for this.’

    (The Associated Press, April 11, 2015)

    20150412_CUBA_US-slide-G63C-jumbo-v2All the same, there’s no denying the importance of the United States not just allowing Cuba to attend this summit for the first time in its 20-year history, but also agreeing to a truly historic meeting between Obama and Castro to finalize terms for the ongoing process of normalizing relations. No doubt you recall the, well, revolutionary way they heralded this process in simultaneous addresses to their respective nations last December.

    Reliable media reports indicate that Obama will announce, any day now, that he’s removing Cuba from America’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism. This, of course, is rather like a corrupt criminal justice system finally releasing a petty thief, who has been languishing on death row for over thirty years … for a murder he did not commit. Nonetheless, this means that Cuba will now be able to join, and benefit tremendously from, a host of international financial and political institutions.

    But, in the shadows of media klieg lights, this summit will be marked far more by Obama’s determined intent to reclaim his country’s moral and political authority throughout the Americas, which both China and Venezuela have usurped, to varying degrees, in recent years.

    Apropos of this, Obama took pains, during the aforementioned town hall meeting in Jamaica, to acknowledge the hegemonic, and often hypocritical, way America once exercised its superpower throughout the region. What’s more, he pledged that, henceforth, America’s economic largesse would come without paternalistic conditions, which seemed designed as much to impose cultural values as to stimulate economic growth.

    This new approach will surely be music to the ears of leaders across the globe – who have not only been lapping up China’s largesse, but extolling its “no political interference” way of doing business.

    Moreover, in some areas, Obama is already putting America’s money where his mouth is. For example, touting America’s newfound clout as the world’s biggest oil producer (as reported by in the July 4, 2014, edition of Bloomberg News), his trade officials have been aggressively pitching market-driven alternatives to Venezuela’s politically motivated PetroCaribe. PetroCaribe, you may know, is the cheap energy scheme the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez devised to buy political influence among the leaders of Caribbean countries.

    xin_28204061807290002780310Except that the prophetic drop in the price of oil this year, coupled with chronic corruption, has left President Maduro’s Venezuela struggling to honor its obligations to supply cheap energy to its citizens, let alone to those Chávez co-opted abroad. The Wall Street Journal highlighted the looming crisis this portends in a December 5, 2014, headline as follows:

    An Ailing Venezuela Trims Oil Diplomacy: Caracas Slashes Shipments of Discounted Crude to Its Partners in the Caribbean and Central America Who Depend Heavily on the Subsidies

    Mind you, 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, duly 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. After all, there’s nothing in this agreement that provides such a guarantee.

    __________________

    Still, Obama has a lot of catching (and making) up to do – as this excerpt from the New York Times,China Buys Inroads in the Caribbean, Catching U.S. Notice,” April 7, 2012, makes abundantly clear.

    ___________________

    A brand new $35 million stadium opened here in the Bahamas a few weeks ago, a gift from the Chinese government…

    Dominica has received a grammar school, a renovated hospital and a sports stadium … Antigua and Barbuda got a power plant and a cricket stadium, and a new school is on its way…

    China’s economic might has rolled up to America’s doorstep in the Caribbean, with a flurry of loans from state banks, investments by companies and outright gifts from the government in the form of new stadiums, roads, official buildings, ports and resorts in a region where the United States has long been a prime benefactor.

    ______________________

    Except that, here again, I had already been trying for years to get the United States to take notice. More than that, though, I had been trying to get Caribbean countries to appreciate that the conditions China places on its financial investments could undermine their sovereignty every bit as much as the conditions the United States placed on its financial aid.

    Here, for example, is what I posited in “China Buying Up Political Dominion in the Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean,” February 22, 2005:

    What happens if China decides that it is in its strategic national interest to convert the container ports, factories and chemical plants it has funded throughout the Caribbean into dual military and commercial use? Would these governments comply? Would they have any real choice? And when they do comply, would the U.S. then blockade the entire region – as it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis?

    Now, consider China making such strategic moves in Latin America or Africa where its purportedly benign Yuan diplomacy dwarfs its Caribbean operations. This new Cold War could then turn very hot indeed….

    xi-jinping-and-perry-christie-bahamasAnd here is how I felt constrained to comment just five years later in “China Putting Squeeze on The Bahamas. Your Country Could Be Next,” October 22, 2010:

    China is demanding that this small Caribbean nation issue permits for 8,150 foreign workers, which would amount to 71% of the labor force needed for this project; notwithstanding that The Bahamas is teeming with unemployed men (and women) who are willing and able to do the work.

    Of course, for over a decade now, China has been buying up influence throughout the Caribbean to enable it to exercise its economic, political, and, perhaps, even military power to further its national interests without question … let alone challenge. And nothing demonstrated its modus operandi in this respect quite like the way it allegedly bribed (or attempted to bribe) every nation in the region to sever ties with Taiwan: almost all of them, including The Bahamas, duly complied.

    But the leaders of every one of these nations knew, or should have known, that, sooner or later, China would seek to use its influence in ways that were inimical to their national interests…

    To those who may have thought that China would be a more benign hegemon than the U.S., I offer [this] instructive cliché:  better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

    In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see if the United States can defeat/bankrupt China in their burgeoning superpower battle to buy political influence in countries throughout the Americas (and across the globe) with infrastructure investments. You know, the way it defeated/bankrupted the Soviet Union in their superpower battle to buy similar influence with military armaments. Clearly the latter could prove far more salutary for developing countries.

    And, given the precedent the Cuban missile crisis triggered, it’ll be particularly interesting to see if Cuba aligns itself more with China (as a substitute Sugar Daddy for the former Soviet Union) than with the United States.

    NOTE: You’ve probably heard Republicans yelping about Congress retaining ultimate authority to lift the embargo. But Obama enjoys such comprehensive authority to constructively engage Cuba that, by the time he leaves office, formally lifting the embargo is likely to be anticlimactic/symbolic at best.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 6:05 AM

    South Africans: from worshiping Cecil Rhodes to idolizing Jeremy Clarkson…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 5.57.46 AM

    And One Direction…?

    Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 6.02.09 AM

    WTF!

  • Friday, April 10, 2015 at 6:57 AM

    My New Book!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Book review: The iPINIONS Journal – Commentaries on the Global Events of 2014

    by

    Anthony L. Hall

    Not content to remind us each year in the Spring of the sometimes distressingly swift passage of time, we now have to figure out where an entire decade went to with the publication of Caribbean News Now op-ed columnist Anthony Hall’s tenth retrospective compendium of insights and observations on the major events of our times.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 8.13.52 PMHall’s latest look back — The iPINIONS Journal – Commentaries on the Global Events of 2014 — covers his usual wide range of subjects, conveniently ordered by region and topic, making it easy for the reader to refer to particular sections and items of interest.

    As Hall points out in his introduction, the topics are as eclectic as ever. They include the hope of Arab Spring giving way to the terror of ISIS; the Sochi Olympics; the United States normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba; the hacking of Sony Pictures; the disappearance of Flight MH370; the Crimea as the Sudetenland of our times; the ex-communication of NBA owner Donald Sterling; the scourge of Ebola; the killing of Michael Brown; the World Cup; the outing of Bill Cosby as a serial rapist, allegedly; and in memoriams, to name a few.

    The latest volume includes such geo-political topics as:

    Africa and the Middle East: Uganda’s gay witch-hunt, and the US presence in Afghanistan – Out with a whimper.

    The Americas and the Caribbean: Petty politics (and homophobia) bedeviling equal rights for women in The Bahamas, and Obama takes historic steps towards Cuba.

    Asia: Japanese harpooned by western cultural bias and Hong Kong protesters raise spectre of Tiananmen Square 2.0.

    Europe: The serial ménages à trois of French President Hollande and Putin blames America for Russia’s aggression

    United States: Obama: Succeeding against all odds and Snowden’s NSA mischief continues.

    Other major topics are the Globalsphere, Sports, Entertainment, Potpourri, Public Service Announcements, and In Memoriam, including of regional note Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier (Haiti) and Myles Munroe (Bahamas).

    As always, Hall tackles all of these topics and many more in his latest volume with his trademark confidence, flair and humour as a regional iconoclast, notwithstanding his expressed fear that, when most people now read a 147-character tweet and think they know everything, publishing 500-word commentaries is becoming rather like building horse-drawn carriages … when most people were interested in driving Model Ts.

    “As usual I hope my commentaries serve as a provocative, informative, and even entertaining antidote to the re-tweeted snark and partisan talking points that pass for social commentary these days. And I hope that, for posterity, this volume proves a reliable source for reflection on the most important (and popular) events of 2014,” Hall says.

    He certainly achieves this objective and more.

    Highly recommended reading.

    The iPINIONS Journal – Commentaries on the Global Events of Our Times: Volume X, 670pp, is now available at Amazon (including an e-book version for just $3.99) and all other major booksellers.

    * Republished courtesy of Caribbean News Now – syndicator of my weekly columns.

  • Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 5:48 PM

    Boston Marathon Bomber Guilty! No S#!+

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The jury returned its verdict this afternoon:

    Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 21-year-old who admitted he and his brother bombed the 2013 Boston Marathon, has been found guilty on all 30 counts against him, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and bombing of a public place.

    The jury of five men and seven women deliberated for roughly 11 hours over two days before reaching a verdict. Tsarnaev displayed no reaction as it was announced.

    (Huffington Post, April 8, 2015)

    140410-bostonclock-explosion-inline_324925319053c9bef195bf73c6fb9312Of course, there was never any doubt this jury would find him guilty. Yet the media spent most of its wall-to-wall-coverage of his trial manufacturing suspense.

    Likewise, there is no doubt this same jury will sentence him to death. Yet the media is already manufacturing suspense about that too. He killed three and maimed over 260. But, thanks to media hype, from the day he was captured, every member of that jury probably sees him no differently than they saw Osama bin Laden.

    On the other hand, if perpetrating the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 does not make him eligible for this punishment, what’s the point of having the death penalty?

    I did not plead for his life as much as I argued for the abolition of the death penalty. If his execution serves any sensible purpose, I hope that it intensifies the debate on whether the specious penal purpose of the death penalty justifies the corrosive effect it has on our humanity and morality.

    (“Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams Executed!” The iPINIONS Journal, December 13, 2005)

    Boston Marathon BombingFar better, I say, to let convicted murderers/terrorists rot away in prison … in obscurity. This would at least spare the criminal justice system the farce inherent in an appellate process so convoluted and dilatory that convicts sentenced to death often spend the rest of their lives on death row … waiting to be executed.

    Gary Alvord, a Florida man who was sentenced to death for strangling three women, died in May 2013 — of natural causes. He had been on death row for nearly 40 years.

    (The Economist, February 3, 2014)

    In any case, the most significant thing about this conviction is that it belies, once again, all of the arguments Republicans have been proffering to oppose President Obama’s initiative to close Guantanamo Bay. From day one of his presidency, Obama has maintained that U.S. courts have the capacity and competency to prosecute all inmates being held there. What’s more, U.S. courts have continually demonstrated as much:

    In 2008, the Justice Department submitted a budget request citing ‘319 convictions or guilty pleas in terrorism or terrorism-related cases arising from investigations conducted primarily after September 11, 2001.’

    The NYU Center on Law and Security conducted its own comprehensive study and came up with yet a higher number.

    ‘If you had every single terrorism-related prosecution since 9/11 and you wanted to know the convictions, there would be 523,’ says the center’s director, Karen Greenberg.

    (NPR, February 11, 2010)

    Mind you, these are the same Republicans who — with their warmongering support for the invasion of Iraq — stirred up the hornet’s nest of terrorism that is now stinging countries all over the world. Yet they are now hurling warmongering rhetoric at Obama’s diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, showing no concern whatsoever about stirring up another hornet’s nest of terrorism.

    Therefore, I fear Republicans are unlikely to learn from this case. Which means that these self-appointed guardians of America’s national security, national purse, and international reputation will continue their cravenly political opposition to Obama’s principled initiative to close Guantanamo Bay. This, notwithstanding that, by doing so, they’ll just create more enemies for the United States and cause it to continue incurring unnecessary costs and reputational damage.

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  • Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 7:56 AM

    UConn – NCAA Women’s Basketball Champions … Again!  

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Instead of commanding network coverage in primetime like the men’s championship, the women’s was relegated to cable last night, which guaranteed only a fraction of the viewership. TV executives wonder why they can’t get better ratings for the fledgling women’s professional league – the WNBA. Well, it might have something to do with the way they keep dissing women’s college Basketball in this fashion.

    Moreover, what does this disparate coverage say to female college athletes, as well as to young girls, who we encourage to have the same interest in sports as young boys…? Frankly, it says that chauvinism, sexism, and discrimination against women in sports not only still exist but are blithely tolerated.

    Sorry girls….

    (“NCAA Women’s Championship,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2009)

    I won’t stop beating this dead horse until (male) TV executives stop their sexist practice of airing the men’s championship on network TV, while relegating the women’s to cable. And let me hasten to note that they’d be compelled to do so if more women showed more active interest in watching women’s Basketball….

    1397011881003-USP-NCAA-Womens-Basketball-Championship-Game-Notr-008That said, the media made much ado on Monday night about the Duke Blue Devils winning their fifth men’s championship since 1991.

    Well, last night the UConn Huskies won their third consecutive women’s championship, defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 63-53. It wasn’t pretty, but neither was the men’s championship game. After all, both Duke and Notre Dame won with final scores in the 60s, which is around the number of points some NBA teams score in the first half of their games.

    Still, this was UConn’s tenth championship since 1995. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Duke!

    I don’t usually comment on coaches because the media give them far too much of the credit their players deserve, and schools/corporate sponsors give them far too much of the money their players earn.

    But I feel obliged to make an exception for Geno Auriemma, UConn’s head coach for the past thirty years.

    All of UConn’s championships have come under head coach Geno Auriemma. Auriemma’s 10 titles are tied with former UCLA men’s coach John Wooden for the most all-time by a college coach.

    Connecticut has never lost a championship game in its history.

    (Sports Illustrated, April 7, 2015)

    genpExcept that what I find most interesting about Auriemma is not the way he coaches women’s Basketball, but the way he advocates for it:

    I just know there wouldn’t be this many people in the room if we were chasing a women’s record. The reason everybody is having a heart attack the last four or five days is a bunch of women are threatening to break a men’s record, and everybody is all up in arms about it…

    If we were breaking a women’s record, everybody would go, ‘Aren’t those girls nice, let’s give them two paragraphs in USA Today, you know, give them one line on the bottom of ESPN and then let’s send them back where they belong, in the kitchen.’

    (ESPN December 20, 2010)

    You probably were never aware of that insightful rant. Or, for the matter, this more recent one about the men’s game:

    I think the game is a joke… As a spectator, forget that I’m a coach, as a spectator, watching it, it’s a joke… Every coach will tell you that there’s 90 million reasons for it.

    (Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2015)

    As it happened, ESPN featured a profile of Auriemma last night, during which an interviewer asked him to expound on everything from climate change to race relations. I found what he said about the latter particularly worthy of comment. Because, after venting righteous frustration with all of the national conversations on race, which have done so little to improve race relations, Auriemma explained the persistence of racism in America by looking right into the camera and declaiming, with pontifical sincerity, that:

    America must have the most ignorant people in the world.

    Is it any wonder so many women have enjoyed playing their level best for Auriemma over the years? This man clearly has no patience for any kind of bullshit.

    Congratulations UConn!

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    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 6:09 AM

    Duke – NCAA Men’s Basketball Champions … Again!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    article-3028358-27563AD700000578-837_636x382In what was, frankly, a relatively lackluster game, Duke defeated Wisconsin 68-63 to win this year’s NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament.

    With this national championship, their fifth since 1991, the Duke Blue Devils have officially become to NCAA Basketball what the New York Yankees are to MLB Baseball: the team we love to hate.

    Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Badgers haven’t won a national championship since … 1941. Therefore, one can understand why their players felt they had a rendezvous with destiny this year.

    ncaa-duke-wisconsin-final-basketballPerhaps this explains why, when a reporter asked them to choose one or two words they would want their tournament opponents to use to describe them, they replied as follows:

    ‘Resilient’ and ‘disciplined,’ replied two of the players. ‘Unselfish’ and ‘tough,’ answered two others.

    Then came Kaminsky. ‘White guys,’ he deadpanned.

    (USA Today, April 3, 2015)

    That, of course, is Frank Kaminsky, their star, seven-foot center.

    I wanted Wisconsin to win. I must confess, however, that I derive some consolation from being spared taunts by my White friends about a Wisconsin team of mostly White guys schooling a Duke team of mostly Black guys in Basketball.

    I should clarify that Kaminsky was engaging in the kind of politically incorrect trash talk that is generally recognized and accepted in Basketball. Indeed, this was the perversely collegial spirit with which (Black) Andrew Harrison muttered in frustration at (White) Kaminsky, “Fu*k that nigga,” during a press conference—after Wisconsin schooled his Kentucky Wildcats in their Final Four game. No harm intended, no foul given—as Kaminsky himself duly declared..

    Accordingly, in this same collegial, trash-talking spirit, I hereby note that, in addition to schooling those Wisconsin White guys on the court, Duke’s Black guys could probably school them in the classroom too. Ouch!

    On the other hand, it’s simply classless for U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill to be leading Wisconsin fans in complaining about Duke emulating the one-and-done system Kentucky popularized:

    Congrats to Duke, but I was rooting for team who had stars that are actually going to college & not just doing semester tryout for NBA.

    (Twitter, April 6, 2015)

    In fact, I detected racist indignation in the way Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan squeezed sour grapes all over Duke’s victory by whining that he doesn’t play that “rent a player” scheme.

    I, of course, am on record decrying big-time Division 1 sports (like Basketball and Football) as a form of indentured servitude. This is why I was in the vanguard of those calling either for the NCAA to compensate players or for the NBA to allow them to be recruited right out of high school … you know, the way the Army recruits them.

    Anyway, congratulations Duke!

    dukewins111_635x250_1428378444

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