• Saturday, May 30, 2015 at 7:10 AM

    Great Wall of China 2.0

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 6.50.06 PM

    The United States has spotted a pair of mobile artillery vehicles on an artificial island that China is building in the South China Sea, a resource-rich stretch of ocean crossed by vital shipping lanes, American officials said.

    China’s construction program on previously uninhabited atolls and reefs in the Spratly Islands has already raised alarm and drawn protests from other countries in the region, whose claims to parts of the South China Sea overlap China’s.

    (New York Times, May 29, 2015)

  • Friday, May 29, 2015 at 6:54 AM

    FIFA – Soccer’s Federation of Imbeciles, Fraudsters & Autocrats

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is soccer’s international governing body – whose hallowed mission is to govern “For the Good of the Game.”

    m_150528tt

    This is why the scandal that has it reeling these days reeks of such betrayal of trust.

    FIFA president Sepp Blatter has told an emergency meeting of football’s governing body he will not quit, amid growing political pressure over a corruption scandal.

    Seven top FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich on Wednesday, among 14 people indicted by U.S. prosecutors.

    UK PM David Cameron urged Mr. Blatter to resign but Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed him for a fifth term.

    (BBC, May 28, 2015)

    Let me hasten to disclose that I’m only a quadrennial fan of this purportedly “beautiful game.” Then again, we now know that FIFA is far more about dirty politics than wholesome soccer. Which is why I feel entirely qualified to comment.

    casablanca145Truth be told, the only time I ever bother to watch (mere snippets of) soccer matches is during the World Cup. Yet even I had read enough over the years about FIFA’s venal practices to react to breaking news of these arrests with informed insouciance. Or, to paraphrase Casablanca’s Captain Louis Renault: I was shocked, shocked to learn that bribery was going on there!

    Hell, the only thing missing from the Swiss round up of the usual suspects was the prime suspect himself, Sepp Blatter.

    Before news of these arrests, I suspect the only thing most people knew about FIFA is that it sanctioned the spectacle of Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup. Of course, this makes about as much sense as the IOC sanctioning the spectacle of Kuwait hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics. Clearly, the only reason for members doing so in both cases would be to “honor” the millions they took in bribes.

    But frankly, the most interesting, though hardly surprising, aspect of this scandal is the way Putin inserted himself in the midst of it:

    President Vladimir V. Putin sought to transform the burgeoning scandal over corruption in soccer’s international governing body into an extension of the confrontation between Russia and the West on Thursday, accusing the United States of global overreach…

    Mr. Putin called the arrests of top FIFA officials in Zurich, Switzerland, on Wednesday ‘another blatant attempt by the United States to extend its jurisdiction to other states…’.

    (New York Times, May 28, 2015)

    The leader doth protest too much, methinks….

    000aa810-642Meanwhile, just weeks ago, Blatter was taking autocratic pride of ownership in FIFA. In fact, so much so that, instead of making a case for his re-election to a fifth term as president, he declared that his “manifesto” of accomplishments over 17 years should make his re-election automatic.

    Nevertheless, during his address to  formally open FIFA’s congress today (ahead of tomorrow’s election), Blatter outacted Captain Renault himself. For he claimed to be utterly “shocked, shocked” to learn that so much bribery had taken place, for so many years, right under his nose.

    Then, demonstrating the chutzpah for which he is so well known, Blatter insisted that nobody would be more dedicated to and capable of rooting out the corruption that has brought his organization into such disrepute than he.

    Alas, nothing indicates how endemic that corruption has become quite like those who know FIFA best predicting that, despite what should be his fatally compromised and untenable position, he’ll be re-elected.

    Blatter will convince the majority to vote for him… but he has already lost, FIFA has already lost.

    (UEFA chief Michel Platini, BBC, May 28, 2015)

    20150420033930_70251Indeed, I suspect even the imperious and impervious Blatter is sensible enough to realize that his leadership of FIFA is doomed – given that the only people coming to his defense are African kleptomaniacs and this increasingly paranoid, delusional and dangerous Russian dictator.

    But you know what they say about birds of a feather…. And nothing binds them quite like their imperial sense of entitlement to presidencies … for life.

    NOTE: The venality of FIFA executives is surpassed only by the hypocrisy of corporate sponsors — who dropped Tiger Woods just because he had extramarital affairs with over 15 women, but are standing by Blatter even though he concocted a bribery scheme that scored over $150 million.

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 8:44 p.m.

  • Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 6:37 AM

    LeBron Wins Second Chance to Become a Real Champion

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    lebronc-204x300You’re probably wondering why a “second chance.” After all, LeBron James led the Miami Heat to consecutive NBA Championships in 2012-13.

    Well, here is an excerpt from “LeBron Abandons Cleveland for Miami,” July 13, 2010, which explains why even he must have realized that none of those championships will really matter when he looks back on his NBA career.

    ____________________

    [H]e will surely win in Miami – given that the triumvirate of LeBron, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade has the same potential to dominate during the playoffs as other championship triumvirates like Dr. J, Moses Malone, and Maurice Cheeks of the 76ers and Michael, Bill Cartwright, and Scottie Pippen of the Bulls.

    The only question for LeBron is: What price victory?

    After all, what made winning a championship so sweet for Dr. J and Michael has to have been finally winning on a team with which they suffered so many years of playoff frustration.  Not to mention the unbridled pride and joy they brought to longsuffering fans in cities that, in the case of Philadelphia, had not won an NBA championship in almost two decades, and in the case of Chicago, had never won at all.

    By contrast, I fear that winning for LeBron will be bitter sweet. Not least because instead of being hailed as a basketball savior in Miami, where the Heat won a championship just years ago (in 2006), he’ll be regarded as nothing more than a hired gun who was brought in to help them win a few more.

    Even worse, no matter how many championships he wins in Miami, he will be forever haunted by the fact that he abandoned not just his team but his childhood home to do so.

    My sense is that LeBron’s plumed ego will make it difficult for him to cope with being treated like a courtier instead of worshipped like a king.

    ____________________

    Sure enough, LeBron proved my sense right last year, when he came to his senses and took his talents back to Cleveland. Therefore, I hope I can be forgiven the suspicion that my commentary on him leaving in the first place had something to do with his return.

    BsRqwFGIIAAoqQ8

    It is noteworthy that LeBron had a far better shot at winning more championships and making more money if he stayed in Miami. This made his going home all the more poignant, if not inspired.

    Meanwhile, even though they might pretend otherwise today, almost every analyst thought LeBron would suffer a season of frustration, trying to lead a Cleveland team of young players with no chance of making it to the playoffs, let alone the finals.

    Which is why it’s truly a testament to his talents that he has defied them all:

    LeBron James scored 23 points, Kyrie Irving returned after missing two games and the Cleveland Cavaliers reserved a spot in the NBA Finals with a 118-88 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night to win the Eastern Conference title.

    It will be the fifth straight visit to the league’s showcase event for the inimitable James, who returned to Cleveland after four years in Miami to try and end this city’s championship drought dating to 1964…

    Other players have won more championships, but none has ever done it for his ring-starved home region.

    (The Associated Press, May 26, 2015)

    But completing this daring and daunting season with an improbable championship won’t be easy – especially against a Golden State Warriors team that had the most wins during the regular season and is led by the Stephen Curry, the league’s reigning MVP. Nonetheless, I’m betting he and the Cavs can….

    So here’s to LeBron being “worshipped like a king” in Cleveland, instead of treated like a hired gun in Miami.

    NOTE: For some incomprehensible reason it has become fashionable for fans to celebrate national championships by going on property-destroying rampages. But, after Ferguson and Baltimore, I pray fans in Cleveland do not follow fashion.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 6:47 AM

    U.S. Defense Secretary Rebukes Iraqi Cowards. VP Biden Apologizes?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Remarkably, U.S. politicians act as if Americans have a greater duty to govern, defend, and sustain Iraq than Iraqis themselves. Only this explains their reaction to thousands of Iraqi troops fleeing Ramadi to escape hundreds of ISIS fighters last week. For, instead of damning these Iraqi cowards, U.S. politicians blamed U.S. commanders for not being there, on the ground, to stiffen their spine.

    ISIS fighters riding in a convoy-a_0

    To be fair, the United States spent 12 years, lost 4,491 soldiers, and wasted $2 trillion trying to build a Jeffersonian democracy in the heart of the Middle East. I suspect a despairing wish to validate or vindicate this tragic record of futility is what motivates these politicians.

    The problem is that they seem afflicted by the same delusion that compels a drunken gambler – who has already lost everything except the clothes on his back – to play one more hand, hoping against hope for a reversal of fortune.

    Not to mention the warmongering neo-cons agitating for U.S. boots back on the ground. They seem oblivious to the fact that Iraqi Sunnis and Iranian Shiites fought an eight-year war during the 1980s, and have been baying to go at it again ever since … if only meddlesome Americans would get out of their way. I say, get out of their way, America!

    In fact, ever since the days of shock and awe in 2003, I have been agitating for America to leave holy warriors in Iraq and across the Middle East to their own devices – as I did in such commentaries as “The Shotgun Convention of Sunnis, Shias, & Kurds to Frame an Iraqi Constitution,” August 22, 2005. Here, for example, is an excerpt from “Civil War in Iraq Is at Hand,” March 20, 2006.

    ____________________

    When the truth is plain to see, there’s nothing more irritating than some idiot trying to convince me otherwise. But the consequences for me in such cases have never been anything to lose sleep – let alone my life – over. Alas, the same cannot be said for the families of loved ones serving in Iraq. Because they must suffer far more than irritation when idiots – up and down the chain of command in the Bush Administration – try to convince them that reports of Iraq being a lost cause are not true…

    Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. And, if I were gullible enough to take President Bush and his salute-and-obey generals at their word, I would have expected to see Yankee Doodle-inspired parades in the streets of Baghdad – as grateful Iraqis fête U.S. military and civilian personnel with ‘rose petals and air kisses’ for their liberation. The truth, of course, is that neither U.S. personnel nor most Iraqis dare walk the streets of Baghdad for fear of being caught in the crossfire of civil-war factions battling for control of this and other cities all over Iraq.

    But, imagine the absurdity, indeed the tragedy, of Ayad Allawi, the man the U.S. Congress hailed as the Abraham Lincoln of Iraq just sixteen months ago, now proclaiming that stabilizing Iraqi is a lost cause, yet having Oval-office generals like Bush and VP Cheney trying to convince him and the world otherwise.

    ____________________

    I agitated for this cause notwithstanding that leaving would violate the famous, even if apocryphal, Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it!

    Powell_anthrax_jbcNo doubt you recall the then secretary of state, Colin Powell, invoking this rule to give pause to America’s march of folly into Iraq. This fateful irony, of course, is that he ended up making the case for immediate recourse to war. Specifically, during his infamous UN address in March 2003, he presented what he claimed was proof Iraq possessed WMDs … only to have that proof prove bogus after the die was cast.

    In any event, even though America broke Iraq, it could never own Iraq. More to the point, given all America has invested trying to put Iraq back together again, I hereby invoke this Humpty Dumpty rule: If you spend ten years trying to sow seeds of democracy and nothing blooms, you can stop trying, without loss of face or favor, especially if those you’re trying to democratize are continually shooting your people in the back, literally. But I digress….

    File photo of U.S. President Bush delivering speech to crew aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham LincolnThe point is that, if President Bush had withdrawn all troops after declaring “Mission Accomplished” on May 1, 2003, he would have spared the United States ninety percent of the wasted years, blood, and treasure cited above.

    In the “Mission Accomplished” speech Bush should have delivered, he could have said that he’s ordering the immediate withdrawal of all combat troops because, while they can liberate Iraqis from their dictator, U.S. troops cannot impose democracy upon them.

    Meanwhile, Iraq is a country beset by general administrative incompetence, endemic corruption, and sectarian strife. It is mired in a culture of dependency so pathological that local leaders are still looking to Americans to not only clean up their messes, but fight their battles too.

    In fact, Iraq’s surreal state of affairs has become so absurd that Iranians are now calling Americans cowards. Ironically, like U.S. politicians, they also blame U.S. commanders for standing by and watching as U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi soldiers hightailed it and ran from ISIS fighters in Ramadi last week. This, after standing by and watching as “their” Iraqi soldiers did the same in Mosul last June.

    Don’t get me started on the absurdity of U.S. commanders claiming to be “shocked, shocked” by the fecklessness of Iraqi soldiers. After all, these soldiers displayed similar cowardice in 2003, when they hightailed it and ran from the battlefield, thereby enabling invading U.S. troops to look like they were on a military parade to honor Saddam Hussein, instead of a military offensive to overthrow him.

    Beyond name calling, though, there’s the more consequential spectacle of Iraqi leaders now looking to Iranian-trained Iraqi militias to fight existential battles against ISIS fighters – battles U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers seem unable or unwilling to fight. Got that?

    Fallen Soldiers Honored On Memorial Day At Arlington National CemeteryThis is why, apropos of hope, I had a glimmer of it on Sunday, when U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter (center) finally called this spade a spade:

    What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight … they vastly outnumbered the opposing forces, and yet the failed to fight…

    We can give them the training, we can give the equipment, but we obviously can’t give them the will to fight…

    We can participate in the defeat of ISIL, but we can’t make Iraq run as a decent place for people to live … only the Iraqis can do that.

    (CNN, May 24, 2015)

    Unfortunately, within hours of Carter’s rebuke, VP Joe Biden made it clear that, instead of signaling an American awakening, Carter was just going rogue:

    Vice President Joe Biden is reassuring Iraq’s government of U.S. support in the fight against the Islamic State group, telephoning Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi with thanks for ‘the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces’ one day after Defense Secretary Ash Carter questioned the Iraqi military commitment.

    (Washington Post, May 26, 2015)

    Even though a billion times more tragic, this is every bit as foolhardy and indulgent as a school principal telephoning the mother of a failing student to reassure her that he’s doing well.

    In explaining his policy towards Cuba, Obama ridiculed his critics by invoking the Einsteinian definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Therefore, he of all people should appreciate how insane it is for the United States to keep trying to “make Iraq run as a decent place for people to live.” After all, the United States has been trying to no avail to do just that for over twelve years now.

    NOTE: Carter’s authoritative, albeit belated, rebuke pertains to Afghanistan as well, notwithstanding Biden’s apology.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, May 26, 2015 at 5:36 AM

    Holy Matrimony! Catholic Ireland Becomes Trailblazer for Gay Rights

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 11.04.28 AMThis might seem a surreal joke, but Ireland has become the first nation in the world to legalize gay marriage in a national referendum.

    Ireland’s citizens have voted in a landslide to legalize gay marriage, electoral officials announced Saturday — a stunningly lopsided result that illustrates what Catholic leaders and rights activists alike called a ‘social revolution.’

    (The Associated Press, May 23, 2015)

    Mind you, the pope himself appeared to bless this seminal event almost two years ago.

    Pope Francis replied, when asked about the Vatican’s alleged ‘gay lobby,’ that while a lobby might be an issue, he doesn’t have any problem with the inclination to homosexuality itself: ‘Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?’ he said.

    (National Catholic Reporter, July 29, 2013)

    Such sublime, passive-aggressive expression of his moral authority led CBS News to run a March 15 report under the headline, “Pope Francis after 2 years: A revolution at the Vatican.” No doubt the outcome of this referendum is “stunning.” But it seems wholly consistent with this pope’s revolutionary mission.

    Of course it is a curious thing that, despite the pope’s apparent blessing, leaders of the Irish Catholic Church mounted a holy crusade against this referendum. Except that these are the very leaders who the pope has publicly criticized for showing more devotion to the traditions and practices of their religion than to the word and spirit of the Almighty God.

    Cardinal Keith O'Brien and Reverend Monsignor Stephen RobsonMore to the point, this liturgical dissonance is thrown into sharp relief when one considers that their traditions and practices include condemning homosexuality while:

    1. engaging in homosexual/pedophile acts themselves.
    2. providing indulgences for priests who sexually abuse (aka rape) little boys.
    3. knowing full well that a “gay cabal” has always wielded dogmatic power in their Holy Curia – as even I have duly noted in such commentaries as “Pope Confesses: There’s a Gay Cabal in the Vatican,” June 13, 2013.

    This infernal legacy of sodomitic hypocrisy accounts not only for the “hidden exodus of Catholics becoming Protestants,” but also for the growing disconnect even between Church leaders and die-hard members, which the outcome of this referendum reflects.

    Still, as much as I laud what the Irish have done, I fear they have set an untenable and misguided precedent. After all, the right to marry is as fundamental as any human right. And, as the late Justice William Brennan (of the U.S. Supreme Court) might have opined, it offends all notions of fundamental fairness, which is essential to the very concept of justice, for members of any group to have the exercise of their fundamental rights subject to a referendum.

    For example, it does not offend in this regard to have a referendum on whether Scotland should leave the UK, or whether the UK should leave the EU. For not only is there no fundamental right at stake, but the result would affect everyone in the country … equally.

    Mildred_Jeter_and_Richard_LovingBy instructive contrast, if the right to marry across racial lines had been put to a referendum in the United States during the 1960s, the vote against interracial marriage would have been as decisive as the vote for gay marriage in Ireland was on Friday.

    Thanks to the luck of the Irish, the ends justified the means in their case. But it’s far more preferable to have fundamental rights codified by legislatures and/or affirmed by courts – as nineteen other countries, including South Africa, Uruguay, and The Netherlands, have done with respect to gay marriage.

    Incidentally, in the United States, gay marriage is legal in 37 states: 26 by courts, 8 by legislatures, and only 3 by referendum. But, as the fight for abortion rights demonstrated, denying citizens in any state any fundamental right, which citizens in other states enjoy, presents all kinds of constitutional challenges.

    It just so happens that the U.S. Supreme Court will hand down a consolidated ruling on several gay-marriage cases (cited as Obergefell v. Hodges) this summer. I predict it will be a unanimous ruling in favor of the fundamental right to marry nationwide, relying heavily on the precedent the Court set in Loving v. Virginia, U.S. Supreme Court, 1967:

    Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man [and woman],’ fundamental to our very existence and survival… To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial [or gender or sexual orientation] classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.

    For the reasons stated, I urge members of any minority group demanding legal recognition and protection of their fundamental rights to seek recourse in the courts, not at the ballot box. Accordingly, with this procedural reservation, Ireland’s referendum on gay marriage is

    Affirmed.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 3:13 PM

    Egypt Sentences Morsi to Death; Exposes Fecklessness of U.S. Middle East Policy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Alas, Mohammed Morsi seems fated to become a martyr for the cause of democracy in the Middle East.

    He became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in June 2012. But army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi deposed him in July 2013 – in a coup that was, ironically, almost as popular as the student protests that ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

    Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 11.00.03 AMTrue to form, Sisi then effectively elected himself president in June 2014. And now his military-appointed court has sentenced Morsi to death.

    Whether Morsi committed any high crime or misdemeanor that warranted a coup (no matter how popular) is debatable. What is not, however, is that his death sentence signals a winter of discontent for Egyptian democracy, which budded with so much hope during the Arab Spring.

    I’m sure neither student protesters nor the Western leaders who championed their cause ever imagined events unfolding in Egypt as they have over the past four years. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find another Western commentator who expressed concerns about what the Arab Spring portended – as I did … in real time.

    With all due respect to the protesters, the issue is not whether Mubarak will go, for he will. (The man is 82 and already looks half dead for Christ’s sake!) Rather, the issue is who will replace him. And it appears they have not given any thought whatsoever to this very critical question.

    The devil Egyptians know might prove far preferable to the devil they don’t. Just ask the Iranians who got rid of the Mubarak-like Shah in 1979 only to end up with the Ayatollah — whose Islamic revolution they’ve regretted (and have longed to overturn) ever since….

    (“Army Pledges No Force Against Protesters,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 1, 2011)

    Sure enough, here – from “Egypt’s Arab Spring Spawns Military Dictatorship,” March 25, 2014 – is how Morsi’s sectarianism and Sisi’s authoritarianism have vindicated my concerns.

    ___________________

    Recall that, even though democratically elected to succeed Mubarak, Mohammed Morsi proved such a bigger devil that the very pro-democracy protesters who ousted and imprisoned Mubarak returned to their protesting ways and soon ousted and imprisoned Morsi.

    Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 1.40.56 PMExcept that getting rid of Morsi begat General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who is proving yet an even bigger devil. Not least because he’s using mass show trials and other more brutal measures to politically cleanse Egypt of all traces of the Muslim Brotherhood. Reports are that he has imprisoned over 19,000 members since seizing power last summer and is now systematically executing those who held leadership positions.

    Frankly, Sisi is ruling Egypt in a manner that makes Mubarak and Morsi look like Boy Scouts. Which is why nothing vindicates my early criticism of pro-democracy protesters quite like the fact that, after commandeering Tahrir Square to get rid of Mubarak and Morsi, they are now conspicuously MIA. Granted, these erstwhile democratic revolutionaries are sensible enough to appreciate that Sisi would probably do to them what Chinese leaders did to pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.

    ____________________

    Therefore, what I find most noteworthy about Morsi’s death sentence is the way it exposes the double standard, if not hypocrisy, inherent in the way Western governments deal with leaders in the Middle East.

    In this case, you’d expect President Obama to be – not only leading a chorus of those condemning Sisi, but also marshaling support to impose coordinated sanctions against his regime. Indeed, it speaks volumes that Obama has his secretary of state, John Kerry, over in Asia today – not only condemning North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for executing yet another member of his leadership team, but also marshaling support (most notably China’s) to impose even more sanctions against his regime.

    ‘(Kim’s) leadership (is) one of the most egregious examples of reckless disregard for human rights and human beings anywhere on the planet,’ [Kerry] said, citing what he called ‘grotesque, grisly, horrendous public displays of executions on a whim and a fancy by the leader’.

    (Reuters, May 18, 2015)

    To be fair, Obama has issued pro-forma statements condemning the mass trials and death sentences that have defined Sisi’s nascent rule. In fact, he made quite a public show in October 2013 of suspending military aid to Egypt to protest Sisi’s coup and the bloody crackdown that followed.

    Unfortunately, Obama made a mockery of all that by quietly resuming military aid in March, despite there being no noticeable change in Sisi’s authoritarian rule.

    The systematic use of rape, sexual violence and assault constituting torture has surged since the political coup led by President el-Sisi in Egypt, spreading beyond the confines of police stations and detention centres to officials openly assaulting people in the streets, at universities and people’s homes during raids, according to a new report.

    The International Federation for Human Rights’ (IDFH) latest report, which focuses on sexual violence committed since the Egyptian military takeover in July 2013, claims the documented sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, rape with objects, anal and vaginal ‘virginity tests’, electrocution of genitalia, sex-based defamation and blackmail by police, state and military personnel is being used to ‘eliminate public protest’.

    (The Independent – UK, May 19, 2015)

    President+Abdel+Fattah+al+Sisi+Egypt+Visits+u9WxvaFfrPwlIn fact, Sisi has made quite a public show of fraternizing with presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia – both of whom seem all too willing and able to serve as more enabling patrons of his authoritarian regime.

    Frankly, nothing indicates what little regard Sisi has for Obama’s political/democratic sensibilities quite like Sisi thanking Obama for resuming military aid by sentencing Morsi to death. What’s more, notwithstanding the alternatives Xi and Putin provide, Sisi can be forgiven thinking that Obama and other Western leaders would turn a blind eye to any reckless disregard he shows “for human rights and human beings” – just as they did with Mubarak throughout his 30-year dictatorship.

    (It might seem contradictory, but given the utter chaos that followed the toppling of Hussein in Iraq, Mubarak in Egypt, Kaddafi in Libya, and Saleh in Yemen, I clearly had/have just cause for conceding that “Perhaps Only Authoritarian Regimes Can Govern Arab Countries,” July 14, 2014.)

    couv-obama-sisiOf course, like his predecessors, Obama will rationalize his decision to help Sisi sustain his brutal dictatorship by spouting all kinds of specious ways military aid to Egypt serves America’s geostrategic interests. I submit, however, that the United States has no more to show for the tens of billions wasted propping up dictatorships in Egypt than it has to show for the hundreds of billions (to say nothing of thousands of lives) wasted nation building in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    This record of fecklessness is especially poignant with respect to Afghanistan, where Obama surged thousands of troops in 2009 in a misguided attempt to impose national law and order. Not least because some of us warned back then that it would prove the deadly and costly blunder it has turned out to be — as I did in “With or Even Without more Troops, Failure in Afghanistan Is Likely,” September 23, 2009.

    With respect to Iraq, I’m on record warning that ISIS poses no greater threat to the United States than the Viet Cong did. Further, that the media terrorize Americans more by broadcasting ISIS propaganda and threats than ISIS can ever do by actually attacking America.

    Here, for example, is how I warned – in “Demystifying ISIS: Case against Obama’s Bush-lite War on Terrorism,” September 10, 2014 – against the fool’s mission of deploying American troops to take on ISIS, instead of leaving Afghan and Iraqi fighters to fight their own battles.

    ___________________

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

    Screen-Shot-2014-11-11-at-9.09.04-PMWarmongers … have already goaded Obama into a Vietnam-style mission creep — given that the 300 troops he said in June were sufficient to protect embassy personnel in Iraq have already mushroomed to over 1000, not including an untold number of military ‘advisers.’

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

    Incidentally, Obama is making quite a show of seeking congressional authorization to train ‘moderate’ Syrian fighters as part of his war on terrorism strategy. But, consistent with the foregoing, nothing betrays the wishful thinking inherent in this quite like the shameful (and ultimately sacrificial) way thousands of U.S.-trained Iraqi troops threw down their U.S.-made weapons, abandoned their U.S.-made military vehicles, and hightailed it from just a few hundred poorly equipped ISIS fighters.

    ___________________

    Apropos of hightailing it, news is breaking as I write this that yet more U.S.-trained Iraqi troops are abandoning post. This time they are fleeing the city of Ramadi, with equally costly abandon, alongside tens of thousands of women and children, to escape advancing ISIS fighters. Their cowardly display of dereliction of duty even surpasses that of the captain of that sinking South Korean Ferry – who trampled over passengers a year ago to get on one of precious few life rafts to save his hide, while hundreds of women and children drowned right before his eyes.

    Of course, that these Iraqi troops are fleeing is hardly surprising. Nor, alas, is the fact that U.S. politicians (mostly Republicans) are reacting to this news by decrying the loss of Ramadi as if it were Texas, insinuating that the duty is now for American, not Iraqi, troops to retake it.

    All the more reason for Obama to reclaim a little of America’s moral high ground on the world stage … by letting China or Russia replace it: not only as the indulgent and long-suffering patron of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, but also as the compromised and self-sacrificing referee of sectarian/religious battles, which Muslims have been fighting amongst themselves for over a thousand years, and seem fated to continuing fighting for another thousand.

    MID_CoreEspecially given that oil-rich countries in that region now need to sell to America more than America needs to buy from them; and that aircraft carriers and other military assets (like drones) can protect and/or advance whatever strategic interest the United States has in that region (e.g., with targeted assassinations and by destroying terrorist training camps).

    If Shia Iran fears ISIS establishing a regional Caliphate, let Iran stop ISIS! If either Jewish Israel or Sunni Saudi Arabia fears Shia Iran developing nuclear weapons, let Israel or Saudi Arabia stop Iran! God knows, if we can live with a nuclear North Korea, we can live with a nuclear Iran. Not to mention that, notwithstanding Israeli paranoia or American narcissism, if Iran ever developed nuclear weapons and dared to use them, it would probably nuke Saudi Arabia before even setting its sights on Israel or the United States. Such is the nature of the internecine struggle within Islam that is the root cause of so much that bedevils U.S. Middle East policy….

    This is not the commentary to elaborate, but Jordan is the only country in that region that is worthy of the kind of aid the United States has been funneling to Egypt.

    As for Israel, America’s long-standing security guarantees should suffice without having to give it billions in annual grants masquerading as “loan guarantees.” Especially given that Israel uses so many of those billions to expand illegal Jewish settlements and keep Palestinians walled in Apartheid-like territories – as I have lamented in such commentaries as “Instead of Peace, Israel Settling for Apartheid,” May 1, 2014. Hell, the United States is still doing penance for the Indian Removal Act and its “Trail of Tears.” Therefore, you’d think it would be morally averse to be touting an “unshakable bond” with Israel, which is doing to the Palestinians what it did to the Indians….

    Trust me, America would be a lot safer if it limited its involvement with every other country in the Middle East to traditional diplomatic ties; instead of trying to navigate shifting alliances in religious/sectarian conflicts, to say nothing of fighting battles locals should be fighting for themselves.

    America was foolish to follow Russia down the rabbit hole into the quagmire that is Afghanistan…. Therefore, if either China or Russia is foolish enough to follow America down the rabbit hole into the cauldron that is the Middle East, I say let it. Because nothing would signal the triumph of American foreign policy in this respect quite like jihadi chants of “Death to China [or] Death to Russia” replacing those of “Death to America” across the region.

    Related commentaries:
    Arab Spring spawns
    Demystifying Daesh
    Israel Apartheid

    *  This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 7:14 a.m.  For technical reason, which I see no point in trying to explain, it never posted, and we could not sort things out until now (with one quote revised and updated ).

  • Sunday, May 17, 2015 at 4:33 PM

    ABC’s Stephanopoulos Still Serving as Clintons’ Political Hack…?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    During the mid-1990s, I was one of many worker bees at the D.C. headquarters of the Clinton-Gore Re-Election ’96 campaign.

    We all buzzed about trying, to no avail, to seem relevant to the political ambitions of the most powerful man in the world. Yet even I saw enough of the compromises and sacrifices (of self and others) that Bill and Hillary Clinton demanded of their staffers to become irretrievably disillusioned and disaffected. Not just with the Clintons, but with the polarized spectacle Washington politics had become. This spectacle actually made it seem credible when Hillary blamed her husband’s open and notorious indiscretions on a vast right-wing conspiracy to ruin them….

    clintonDM1410_468x668Apropos of which, Vincent W. Foster Jr. was perhaps the closest of all friends of Bill (FOBs) who rode on the Clintons’ bandwagon from Arkansas to Washington in 1993. Yet, within six months, he had become so disillusioned and disaffected he shot himself. But he left a note with this suicidal lament that, within six days at campaign headquarters, I understood all too well:

    Here, ruining people is considered sport.

    (New York Times, August 11, 1993)

    Not that I was ever suicidal, mind you…. It’s just that the irony inherent in Foster’s lament is that no two people played this sport better than Bill and Hillary. A fact many acclaimed writers – from Bob Woodward to Peggy Noonan and Richard A. Posner – have chronicled in comprehensive and salacious detail.

    1101940404_400But no writer evoked the disillusionment and disaffection Foster must have felt quite like George Stephanopoulos did (in confessional and redemptive tone) in his memoir, All Too Human: A Political Education (1999).

    He, of course, served as Bill’s right-hand man during his first presidential campaign and first term in office (1991-1996) … and survived. But the abuse he testified to, which I suspect only a battered woman could relate to, was such that Bill (the batterer) felt compelled to apologize to George in his memoir, My Life (2004).

    I have referred to George’s memoir on many occasions over the years to explain/justify my abiding antipathy towards Bill – as I did in “Exposing the Real Bill Clinton,” October 7, 2007.

    ___________________

    As his former trusted aide, George Stephanopoulos, chronicled in his memoir of disillusionment and disaffection with the former president, Bill Clinton is All Too Human. And, despite his good intentions (and good deeds), he is really just a petulant, spiteful, egocentric, greedy, manipulative, unfaithful, impeached and pathologically self-righteous redneck!

    But don’t take my word for it. Read former FBI director Louis Freeh’s eyewitness account of this man’s treachery in his (rebuttal?) memoir, My FBI (2005)… And, for good measure, read Lani Guinier’s equally revealing memoir, Lift Every Voice: Turning a Civil Rights Setback Into a New Vision of Social Justice (1998).

    She, you may recall, is the personal friend and Black Ivy League law professor who Bill publicly stabbed in the back. He did so just to pander to ‘right-wing conspirators’ who were smearing Lani as a quota queen, merely for recommending a voting system that would allow fairer representation of Blacks in government. Their cynical aim was to prevent Bill from appointing her to a key position in his Justice Department. It worked.

    ___________________

    But, trust me folks, for every George, Louis, and Lani who can tell horror stories about Bill, there is a Tom, Dick, and Mary who can tell similar stories about Hillary – as Sally Bedell Smith documents in For Love of Politics: The Clintons In The White House (2007):

    [S]he ‘frequently reduced her traveling aide to tears’ when the assistant failed to produce something Hillary needed.

    She had a temper, but instead of ‘making nice’ afterwards, Hillary withdrew in cool silence…

    [According to FOH Mary Mel French, who insists she cannot work for Hillary and keep their friendship], ‘That is why she has to have such a young [female] staff … they bow and scrape.’

    The point is that, given George’s familiarity with both Bill and Hillary, he should have developed such allergic contempt that being associated with them again – even if only by ten degrees of separation – would cause him to break out in hives.

    Clintons-Again-NRD-600For example, he could not have been surprised that, even after leaving the White House, they continued to be dogged by shady financial deals and extramarital affairs. Or that they showed their true primary colors in 2008 – after Barack Obama began posing a serious challenge to their plans for the restoration of their “2-for-1” presidency. Perhaps you recall Bill venting such indignation (at what he dismissed as the uppity Obama’s “fairytale” campaign), he came across more like a racist than the White man Toni Morrison once hailed as the “first Black president of the United States.”

    You’d think they would’ve learned from 2008. But nobody knows better than George their congenital sense of entitlement. This is why they see nothing wrong with spending more of the billions they solicit for their Clinton Global Initiative on personal expenses than charitable causes. It is also why they are now preparing for a coronation instead of an election in 2016.

    Meanwhile, no former staffer has enjoyed more professional success since purportedly leaving/escaping the Clinton vortex than George. In fact, it was truly awe-inspiring to watch him transition over the past eighteen years from political hack to bona fide journalist – eventually working his way into the coveted anchor chair at not one but two of the most respectable news and current-affairs programs on TV, namely ABC’s Good Morning America and This Week.

    Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 9.08.18 PMAll of this explains why I find reports that he waded back into the Clintons’ political cesspool in recent years so utterly stupefying. Especially because he did so in ways that gave a journalistic hack like Geraldo Rivera just cause to impugn not just his journalistic integrity but that of ABC News as well.

    Geraldo Rivera sees a double standard at work in ABC News’ decision to stand by George Stephanopoulos after the network’s chief anchor apologized for failing to publicly disclose $75,000 in donations to the Clinton Foundation over the last three years.

    In a Facebook post Friday morning, Rivera claimed he was fired by ABC News in 1985 for making a $200 political donation and wondered why Stephanopoulos isn’t getting the same treatment.

    (Mediaite, May 15, 2015)

    maxresdefault (3)Frankly, nothing demonstrated how compromised George has become quite like him being forced to deliver a Clintonian apology for failing to disclose these donations.

    But, given that NBC News suspended anchor Brian Williams for lying about his journalistic exploits, ABC News must be feeling considerable pressure to suspend George for lying (by omission) about his donations. This damning complaint by author Peter Schweizer can’t help:

    I agreed to be interviewed, expecting a robust examination of my new book, Clinton Cash, and my reporting on the Clintons’ accumulation of massive personal wealth, cronyism and the lack of transparency surrounding the Clintons’ foundation.

    I expected probing questions, similar to the ones I’ve received from Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC, Chris Wallace on Fox News and Frank Sesno on CNN.

    What I did not expect — what no one expected — was the sort of ‘hidden hand journalism’ that has contributed to America’s news media’s crisis of credibility in particular, and Americans’ distrust of the news media more broadly.

    (USA Today, May 17, 2015)

    In fact, as I watched this interview, I thought a clearly exasperated George might end up asking Schweizer if he’s part of that vast right-wing conspiracy Hillary famously complained about. Except that even left-wing newspapers like the New York Times have reported similar misgivings about the Clintons’ foundation. So, despite all of the journalistic credibility and respect he has worked so hard to earn over the years, this one episode has exposed George as just a glorified Clinton political hack. He can’t quit them.

    Of course, like the New England Patriots standing by its hopelessly compromised quarterback, Tom Brady, ABC News might decide it has too much invested in a hopelessly compromised George to suspend him. Indeed, pulling George from covering the presidential campaign really would be tantamount to pulling Brady from playing in the Super Bowl.

    What’s more, George can be forgiven for thinking that, if Bill can get away with lying about extramarital affairs as president of the United States, he can get away with lying about charitable donations as anchor for ABC News.

    But there’s no denying that this episode has made road kill of his journalistic reputation; to say nothing of the mockery it has made of the principled reasons he delineated in his critically acclaimed memoir for cutting ties with the Clintons in the first place….

    He may still have a job, but he’s now a journalistic joke. You know, like Bill Cosby still has a job, but he’s a comedic laughingstock.

    Accordingly, we can add George’s name to the very long list of those who have sacrificed their professional integrity at the altar of the Clintons’ political ambitions and personal desires. Unsurprisingly, Washington journalists can barely contain the schadenfreude as they make a sport of trying to ruin him too. I just hope he’s made of sterner stuff than Vince Foster….

    NOTE: I fully intend to honor my pledge to write no commentaries on the 2016 presidential campaign. But, because enquiring minds want to know, I shall vote for anyone but Hillary in the Democratic primary. If she’s the nominee (and that’s no guarantee), I’ll hold my nose and vote for her. Because, as odious as she may be, she’s far more likely to pursue the progressive policies I favor (re: universal healthcare, living wages, more diplomacy less war, infrastructure development, progressive tax reform, appointments to the Supreme Court, et al.) than any Republican nominee.

    And, by the way, only a Black fool, with too little regard for or knowledge of Black-American history, would buy into the canard about not voting being a form of enlightened political protest.

    Related commentaries:
    Exposing real Bill

  • Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 12:23 PM

    French Forgiving Haitians like Germans Forgiving Jews

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    martelly_hollandeThe media are lauding President Francois Hollande for announcing that France will finally right one of history’s greatest wrongs by forgiving what remains of Haiti’s “independence debt.”

    In an address at the opening of the memorial and cultural centre in Guadeloupe on Sunday, Hollande said Haiti’s debt of US$81.2 million will be cancelled…

    Haiti, which became the world’s first black republic after winning its war of independence in 1804, agreed to pay the debt in exchange for official recognition from France in 1825.

    (Jamaica Observer, May 11, 2015)

    Mind you, the media lauded his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy five years ago, in the immediate aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake, for announcing the same.

    Haitian_Revolution

    More to the point, there’s this:

    Haiti’s current economic crisis and political turmoil have their roots in the ‘odious debt’ of 150 million gold francs (later reduced to 90 million), which France imposed on the newborn republic with gunboats in 1825.

    The sum was supposed to compensate French planters for their losses of slaves and property during Haiti’s 1791-1804 revolution…

    It took Haiti 122 years, until 1947, to pay off both the original ransom to France and the tens of millions more in interest payments borrowed from French banks to meet the deadlines.

    (Haïti Liberté’s Statement for the European Parliament In Support of Pan-Afrikan Society Community Forum (PASCF) Global Research, May 10, 2013)

    20131005_AMP002_0I suppose CARICOM countries should be thankful that, instead of becoming republics after the abolition of slavery (in 1833), we remained colonial territories for another 125-plus years. No doubt this is why, unlike France, Britain compensated its slave owners for their losses directly (in 1834). Never mind the moral hypocrisy in these countries compensating slave owners instead of those they enslaved.  (Even so, see below, in my “Ten-point rebuttal to demands for reparations,” why reparations for slavery are neither morally compelling nor legally feasible today.)

    Meanwhile, the entire world had a vested interest in seeing this new Black republic fail. This is why France was able to extract onerous payments from Haiti so easily. I commented on this racist conspiracy in “Haitian: Returning to Africa; Blaming the US and France?!” February 12, 2010.

    ___________________

    The U.S. and France led other nations in a conspiracy to ensure that Haiti would suffer crib death as a nation after winning independence in 1804.

    The Americans participated because they deemed it too politically untenable to have a nation of Black revolutionaries enjoying democratic freedoms in their backyard, while their young nation was still so dependent on the institution of Black slavery. Their hypocrisy had to have been palpable; but it clearly paled in comparison to the fear these Americans had of embers from the fires of revolt that liberated France’s Haitian slaves eventually igniting similar fires among their American slaves.

    The French participated merely to avenge their defeat by these Haitian revolutionaries – who, ironically, emulated the way American revolutionaries defeated the British … with the help of the French.

    ____________________

    America was founded on the principle that “all men are created equal;” France, on “the rights of man.” Yet the institution of slavery continues to haunt and render both founding principles hypocritical in so many ways.

    In any event, far from forgiving what remains of interest payments on Haiti’s independence debt, France should be begging Haiti for forgiveness … and paying restitution.

    On Reparations

    ccc-1

    At its March 2014 Inter-Sessional Meeting in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, CARICOM presented a “10-point plan for reparations.” Chief among its demands are a formal apology, right of return to Africa, debt cancellation, and, my favorite, PTSD therapy (I kid you not!).

    To rebut its plan, here are 10 points I’ve argued against reparations over the years — in such commentaries as “The Fatally Flawed Demand for Reparations for African Slavery,” Caribbean Net News, February 16, 2007.

    1. CARICOM is banking on public shaming and political pressure to compensate for shortcomings in its legal arguments. Corporations often settle cases (even frivolous ones) to avoid bad publicity. CARICOM’s craven strategy assumes that European governments will do the same. Except that this would only constitute a triumph of European paternalism and self-recrimination over Caribbean pride and self-responsibility—the “damning irony” be damned.
    2. The most sympathetic European and American leaders, most notably former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President Barack Obama, are on record opposing reparations. And it would strain credulity even for these two opportunistic politicians to “evolve” to the point of supporting reparations—if it became politically expedient to do so.
    3. CARICOM cannot establish proximate cause between the injustices complained of (i.e., slavery) and any harm any living Caribbean native has suffered.
    4. The U.S. government paid reparations for the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment precisely because claimants could establish this causal link. This is also why the UK government paid reparations for atrocities committed during colonial rule in Kenya; specifically, during its brutal suppression of the famous Mau Mau Rebellion.
    5. Apropos of proximate cause, it should be particularly instructive that Jews demanded and received reparations from Germany for “slave labor and persecution” suffered during the Holocaust. But they have not demanded reparations from Egypt for slave labor and persecution suffered during 400 years of slavery.
    6. Equitable justice would require CARICOM’s demand for reparations be offset by the objective benefits Blacks received during colonialism (most notably education and grounding in civil society), as well as post-colonialism (most notably foreign aid)—all of which might fairly be considered restitution payments.
    7. Even if politically incorrect, there’s probably no better argument against reparations than juxtaposing thriving development and good governance in former British colonies in the Caribbean with chronic strife and political skullduggery in Africa—not just in countries where (European slavery) never existed, but also in those where European colonialism gave way to African nativism, which has manifested most despairingly in continual tribal/ethnic conflict.
    8. CARICOM claims “Persistent racial victimization of the descendants of slavery and genocide as the root cause of their suffering today… [and] the primary cause of development failure in the Caribbean.” This is patently specious and makes a mockery of our regional pride as independent nations.

    Most former slave colonies in the Caribbean are now fairly successful middle-income countries, or better. On a PPP basis, the Bahamas has a GDP per head close to that of Spain or Italy. Barbados scores higher on the U.N. Development Programme’s human-development index than any of its much larger South American neighbours.

    (The Economist, October 5, 2013)

    1. President Obama has argued that the best form of reparations for slavery is government investment in education and employment opportunities that benefit poor Blacks. But the U.S. government could argue that the trillions it spent on social and welfare programs in Black communities, just since the 1960s, are more than enough to offset reparations for American slavery. The UK government could argue the same for British slavery—given the billions it spent during colonial rule and in foreign aid to CARICOM countries since then.
    2. Post-colonial Africa seems fated to loom amidst the continents of the world as a dark, destitute, diseased, desperate, disenfranchised, dishonest, disorganized, disassociated, dangerous and ultimately dysfunctional mess. So, notwithstanding slavery, Blacks born in America and the Caribbean should probably thank their lucky stars that neither Abraham Lincoln nor Idi Amin doppelganger Marcus Garvey succeeded in “repatriating” Blacks to Africa. In other words, thank God we are here and not there! 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.

    Related commentaries:
    Haiti’s compassionate poseurs
    CARICOM demand
    Haitians returning to Africa
    Lampedusa tragedy

  • Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 7:21 AM

    Buddhists Religiously Cleansing Muslims in Myanmar

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A ship carrying hundreds of Rohingya Muslims sent out a distress call asking to be rescued Tuesday, saying they were abandoned by their captain without fuel and have been without food or water for three days…

    Most are trying to reach Malaysia… They have been prevented from disembarking, in some cases for two or more months, because a crackdown on human trafficking networks in Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh has sent agents and brokers into hiding. In some cases captains are abandoning their vessels, leaving men, women and children to fend for themselves.

    (The Associated Press, May 12, 2015)

    Bay_of_Bengal_map

    Unfortunately, the lack of media coverage is such that most people have no idea Asia has been grappling with a migration crisis that rivals Europe’s:

    The latter has seen tens of thousands of African migrants wash up on European shores (most notably Lampedusa’s) and untold numbers drown in the Mediterranean Sea. But the former has seen almost as many Rohingya migrants wash up on Asian shores (most notably Malaysia’s) and untold numbers drown in the Bay of Bengal.

    Indonesia Rohingya Boat PeopleMore to the point, like their African counterparts, the Rohingyas are fleeing all manner of persecution and privation, which, in this case, can be summed up in two all too familiar words: religious cleansing.

    Myanmar policy’s message to Muslims: get out…

    The Rohingya have faced discrimination for decades. They have been denied citizenship and evicted from their homes, their land has been confiscated, and they have been attacked by the military. After one such attack in 1978, some 200,000 fled to Bangladesh.

    (New York Times, November 6, 2014)

    As it happens, I’ve been in the vanguard of those calling for Western media and governments alike to show as much interest in and concern about Rohingya migrants as they’ve been showing in and about African migrants.

    Here, for example, is what I wrote in “Buddhist Monks Terrorizing Myanmar…,” August 14, 2013.

    __________________

    Reza Aslan I am not. But I believe I can assert without fear of contradiction that, more than any other religion, Buddhism has a reputation for inspiring peace, harmony, and non-violence.

    Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 10.28.29 PMThis is why reports last year about Buddhist monks behaving like Islamic terrorists struck me as utterly surreal. In fact, so much so that, instead of commenting on the contradictions inherent in their behavior, I commented on the failure of their de facto secular leader to condemn it:

    Nothing demonstrates the extent to which she has been co-opted quite like Suu Kyi’s deafening silence about the ongoing religious cleansing of minority Muslims by majority Buddhists. Especially given that the UN has called Myanmar’s Muslims ‘the world’s most persecuted people.’

    Yet when challenged to explain her silence, the Buddhist Suu Kyi demurred, saying self-righteously that she was not taking sides to preserve her impartiality to help them reconcile. But just imagine how much worse the religious cleansing of minority Muslims by majority Hindus in India would have been if the Hindu Gandhi had not been so vocal in condemning it?

    (“Obama’s Historic Trip to Myanmar: Too Soon?” The iPINIONS Journal, November 12, 2012)

    __________________

    MYANMAR-MILITARY-ARMED FORCES DAYThat was two and a half years ago, folks. Since then, Aung Suu Kyi has used her moral authority to seek political accommodation with Myanmar’s military rulers at the expense of religious freedom for its Rohingya Muslims.

    I wonder what my critics have to say about viral pictures of Suu Kyi sitting quite comfortably yesterday as a solitary figure among hundreds of military men as they presided over the hallmark of all dictatorships, the annual military parade. For there can be no denying that these pictures provide clear vindication of my informed cynicism.

    (“Aung San Suu Kyi Becoming Democratic Mascot of Myanmar’s Military Dictatorship,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 28, 2013)

    HE The Dalai Lama andrew duffApropos of moral authority, I hasten to note that the Dalai Lama has been far more forthright in condemning Myanmar’s devilish.

    Alas, it appears the Dalai Lama’s spiritual control over the behavior of Buddhist monks is no greater than his political control over the governing of Tibet (from where he has been exiled for over 50 years).

    For, despite his entreaties, Buddhists are continuing their crusade of religious cleansing against Muslims.

    (“Buddhist Monks Terrorizing Myanmar…,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 14, 2013)

    Suu Kyi’s lack of common cause with the Rohingyas is made all the more dismaying when one considers that she won the Nobel Prize for her struggle for democratic freedoms in Myanmar. For a little perspective, just imagine the shock and dismay if, after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela had agreed to serve in a parliament still controlled by Apartheid leaders, then stood by as Nguni people (who compose the majority of South Africa’s Black population) went on a tribal-cleansing crusade to rid the country of Venda and Sotho people….

    rohingya-burma-muslim-420x215In any event, I continue to hope against hope that the klieg light of media coverage will finally shine on Myanmar’s unfolding genocide. Especially given all of the media coverage Myanmar’s military leaders are buying to advertise newly developed tourist enclaves, which must have Cuba’s military leaders salivating to emulate.

    I am acutely mindful that African migrants are fleeing failing African states (most notably Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia), where leaders have no ability to enforce law and order, let alone prevent migrants taking to the Mediterranean Sea.

    Therefore, continual media coverage of their plight has done little to improve living conditions at home.

    But Rohingya migrants are fleeing this developing Asian nation, where leaders have the ability to prevent not only monks from waging their genocidal religious crusade, but also migrants from taking to the Bay of Bengal. What’s more, like China’s leaders, Myanmar’s would clearly prefer to rely more on economic growth (for which tourism is like water) than military force to sustain their authoritarian rule.

    Therefore, a little more media coverage of the Rohyingas’ plight would force Myanmar’s military rulers to act – if only to prevent damning media images of Muslims fleeing oppression from undermining promotional media images of foreigners visiting tourist sites.

    Related commentaries:
    Buddhist monks
    Suu Kyi becoming

  • Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 6:49 AM

    CBS, Is Lara Logan Finally Okay…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Women like Mary Roberts Rhinehart have been reporting from conflict zones since WWI (1914-1918). But it took women like Christiane Amanpour to finally shatter the glass ceiling among war correspondents during the Gulf War (1990-1991).

    article-0-0D92267A00000578-697_468x286Now the archives of print and TV news organizations are replete with reports by female war correspondents, including Marie Colvin, Janine di Giovanni, Arwa Damon, Alex Crawford, and others, which prove they are (and always were) wholly equal to the task – in every respect.

    Of course, the dangers inherent in reporting from conflict zones obtain whether the reporter is a man or woman….

    All the same, there’s no denying that everything from cultural norms to universal chauvinism present unique challenges and vulnerabilities for women reporters.

    lara-300x227The open and notorious sexual assault against CBS reporter Lara Logan, while reporting on the uprisings that attended Egypt’s Arab Spring, threw this into shocking relief.

    In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers…

    She is currently in the hospital recovering.

    (CBS News, February 15, 2011)

    Clearly, I couldn’t possibly relate to the trauma she experienced. But I could relate to her determination to return to work as soon as possible. Not least because, just as any woman could, any Black could empathize with her not wanting to give credence to gender stereotypes about female reporters not having what it takes to work in conflict zones. No woman in the vanguard of those debunking these stereotypes would want to be the first to let the side down.

    Nonetheless, I feared Logan’s determination would not serve her well in this case. More to the point, when I read that she was returning within weeks to this conflict zone – where she stood out like a stranded gazelle in the midst of a pride of lions – I cautioned her against doing so.

    I was wrong, however, to focus so much on her role as a mother:

    [This] suggests that she is psychologically disassociated not just from her body, but from her maternal instincts as well… I just find it more than a little peculiar that a mother would be so eager to get so far away from her practically new-born child to cover this story with all of the obvious dangers it entails.

    (“Egyptian Protesters Sexually Assault U.S. Reporter,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 18, 2011)

    Instead, I should have equated the trauma of a woman being raped with that of a man being tortured, noting that both cause post-traumatic stress disorders that would make returning to a conflict zone untenable.

    Alas, I later compounded my error with this, arguably, sexist suggestion:

    Lara is a very good reporter. But she will do well to limit her reporting to more prosaic topics from the relatively safe confines of the United States – as she did last night with her report for 60 Minutes on African game hunting … in Texas.

    (“’Sustained Sexual Assault’ on CBS Reporter by Egyptian Protesters,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 30, 2012)

    Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 3.48.51 PMThis is why I found the report Logan presented on Sunday’s edition of 60 Minutes as surprising as it was ironic.

    I found it surprising because, just weeks ago, she was still suffering such debilitating PTSD that she had to be re-admitted to hospital.

    CBS News 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan has been readmitted to a Washington, D.C., hospital, the network said on Tuesday, reportedly for complications stemming from the sexual assault she survived while covering Egypt’s political uprising in 2011.

    (Reuters, March 24, 2015)

    Incidentally, Logan made a widely reported return to work last June. This, after serving a nine-month mandatory leave – not for health reasons but for presenting a “faulty Benghazi report” in the fall of 2012 that gave the network a “black eye.” At the risk of claiming I told you so, many industry analysts attributed her ill-fated participation in that report to her determination to reclaim her enviable position on the team at 60 Minutes as soon as possible.

    I found it ironic because she reported on precisely the kinds of “soft news” (i.e., free of stress and/or danger – unlike Benghazi), which, even though unwittingly sexist, I suggested would suit her best – given her PTSD.

    Explorer Bob Ballard gives 60 Minutes Lara Logan a tour of the artifacts housed at the legendary Explorers Club in New York.

    (CBS News, May 10, 2015)

    Ballard became famous for discovering the RMS Titanic in 1985. Logan reported on his seafaring adventures these days to find some of the reported $1 trillion in sunken treasure resting in waters off American shores.

    Unfortunately, neither she nor 60 Minutes made any reference on Sunday to her hospital stay in March. Therefore, despite my efforts to find out, I don’t know if she recovered well enough to report this story, or if she taped it before suffering her (latest) relapse.

    Whatever the case, consider this my belated get-well commentary to Lara.

    Related commentaries:
    Sexual assault on Logan

  • Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 2:25 PM

    Russia Stages VE Day Parade. Except that…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Putin unwittingly shows the only reason Russia retains any relevance on the world stage….

    Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 1.24.39 PM

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

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

    Far from instilling fear in its enemies, real and pretend, these military parades began evoking little more than Monty-Pythonesque laughter long ago….

    Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 1.57.03 PM

    Indeed, I wonder at what point it finally dawned on Putin that his guest of honor was not impressed with his ridiculously phallic display.

    6715C946-D29F-4BFB-80AE-2FEFABABC6F6_mw1024_s_n

    Military vehicles move along Red Square in Moscow during the Victory Day parade

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Related commentaries:
    Russia flexing muscles

  • Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 6:36 AM

    Conservatives Shock the World (but Not Me) in UK Election

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The reason for the shock, of course, is that polls had Labour either winning or, at the very least, fighting the Conservatives down to the last seat.

    Truth be told, far too many politicians and reporters treat pollsters like soothsayers these days. And no pollster cultivates this treatment more than Nate Silver – whose FiveThirtyEight analytics attained crystal-ball status at no less a newspaper than the New York Times.

    This is why today’s FiveThirtyEight headline, which greeted those who rely on his prognostications so religiously, must have constituted the biggest humble pie Silver has ever had to eat:

    What We Got Wrong In Our 2015 U.K. General Election Model

    Guardian Graphic - Election predicitionAnd, lest you dismiss this as just a presumptuous American pollster getting his just desserts, here is how the respected Guardian of London crystallized the prognostications of UK pollsters in a special report on January 28:

    Exclusive Guardian analysis of current polling suggests main two parties [Conservatives and Labour] are neck-and-neck and would have to create a multi-party alliance to form a stable government.

    Well, reality bites:

    David Cameron has promised to lead a government for ‘one nation’ and make ‘Great Britain greater’ as he returned to Downing Street as prime minister…

    Mr Cameron’s rivals Ed Miliband [Labour], Nick Clegg [LibDems] and Nigel Farage [Ukip] have all resigned after election disappointment…

    With all 650 seats declared, the Conservatives have ended up with 331 seats in the House of Commons, 24 more than in 2010 [and 5 more than they needed to form a government outright]. Labour have 232, the LibDems 8, the SNP 56, Plaid Cymru 3, UKIP 1, the Greens 1 and others 19.

    (BBC News, May 8, 2015)

    Having said that, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that a number of you inquired why I wasn’t writing any commentaries on the campaign — complete with my own prognostications about the results. So let me take this opportunity to share the decision I made, after the 2012 U.S. presidential election, to stop writing such commentaries.

    Perhaps the best way to explain this is to allude to a worker at a sausage factory deciding that, in order to retain any taste for hot dogs, he can no longer have anything to do with the grinding process of making them. I hope the image this conjures up is not too … distasteful; but you get the point.

    dave-sam-3_3297230bEven so, I observed enough of the campaign to exchange text messages with a few friends, in which I predicted the Conservatives would win. Far more interesting (and verifiable), though, is what I predicted 10 years ago about David Cameron as the Conservatives’ answer to Labour’s Tony Blair.

    This very English man has all the right stuff to be the next Prime Minister of England. His name is David Cameron. He was elected as the new leader of the opposition Conservative Party yesterday, primarily because he’s every bit as young (at 39), telegenic, impudent, and glib as current PM Tony Blair was when he was catapulted to the leadership of the Labour Party at the politically precocious age of 41.

    And, if they stick to their let’s-emulate-Labour’s-1994-to-1997 playbook (1997 being the year Blair upset incumbent PM John Major to win his first election), it’s very likely that the Conservatives will be returned to government – with Cameron moving into the Prime Minister’s residence at No. 10 Downing Street – after the next general elections.

    (“The Next British Prime Minister?” The iPINIONS Journal, December 7, 2005)

    Sure enough, much of the hindsight analyses political commentators are offering today attributes this “shocking” UK election result as much to Cameron’s formative decision to emulate Blair as to Miliband’s formative decision to disown him.

    As for what it all means (not just for the UK, but for the U.S. and EU as well), I suspect much of the same – notwithstanding the historic gains by the SNP or the looming referendum on the EU. After all, the reason the LibDems got so eviscerated is that they spent the past five years in coalition with the Conservatives acting as if there were no differences in policies between them.

    By the way, apropos of that referendum, am I the only one who thinks it reeks of hypocrisy that Eurosceptics in the UK are preparing to do to the EU, what they just begged and bribed Anglosceptics in Scotland not to do to the UK…? Which raises the existential question: will the EU be as desperate to keep the UK in its union, as the UK was to keep Scotland in its kingdom? I think not.

    Others will have much more to say about all this, and you might think I do too. But, in light of my 2012 decision, I couldn’t possibly comment … any further.

    Related commentaries:
    Next British PM

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 2:24 p.m.

  • Friday, May 8, 2015 at 9:44 AM

    NFL Deflategate Investigation: Tom Brady’s a Liar and a Cheat

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Ted Wells is the universally acclaimed attorney the NFL appointed to investigate the New England Patriots’ notorious Deflategate caper. It took Wells over 100 days, but he finally submitted his 243-page report this week.

    56063929But here is all you need to know about his findings:

    It is ‘more probable than not’ that star quarterback Tom Brady was ‘at least generally aware’ two Patriots employees had intentionally deflated balls…

    The report directly contradicts statements the former MVP made in a press conference on January 22, 2015. At the time Brady insisted, ‘I have no knowledge of any wrongdoing [and] I would never do anything to break the rules.’

    (Sports Illustrated, May 6, 2015)

    With due deference to Harvey Levin, I’m a lawyer. So trust me when I tell you that the plain meaning of these findings is that:

    • Brady induced, directed, and paid off Patriots employees to deflate footballs to his liking.
    • He knew that doing so constituted a flagrant violation of NFL rules.
    • Not since Bill Clinton lied about having “sex with that woman” has a public figure stood up in front of the entire nation and lied through his teeth – as Brady did about Deflategate on the eve of the Super Bowl on January 22.
    • Frenetic, anxious text messages between Brady and the two Patriots employees involved (one of whom they smugly referred to as “the Deflator”) leave no reasonable doubt that Brady was trying to ensure that they cover their asses and, above all, do not implicate him. These texts provide clear and convincing evidence of their consciousness of guilt; to say nothing of Brady’s refusal to grant Wells access to others that might prove even more incriminating.
    • And, perhaps most damning, it is “more probable than not” that Brady has been orchestrating this Deflategate caper since the beginning of his NFL career.

    Incidentally, bear in mind that Wells is presenting his report to a sports league, not a court of law. Therefore, any finding that it’s “more probable than not” that Brady is guilty as alleged is as damning as it gets.

    Which brings me to my report.

    It not only took me less than 100 hours to produce similar findings, but I recommended punishments for those involved that Wells’s report sustains, and which shall stand the test of time.  Here, for your edification and future reference, is an excerpt from what I wrote – in “New England Patriots Caught in Deflategate,” January 21, 2015 – after officials caught Brady and his ball boys red-handed during the AFC Championship game on January 18.

    ____________________

    The only question now is what penalties the NFL will impose for this latest act of cheating. This is the same team and personnel, after all, that the NFL penalized for illegally videotaping their opponents’ hand signals during a game in 2007.

    Indeed, the NFL should be guided by the fact that stripping the team of one first-round draft pick, fining it $250,000, and fining Coach Belichick $500,000 in that case had no deterrent effect. Of course, it should also be guided by the notorious misstep it made last year by initially giving Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice just a slap on the wrist for battering his then fiancée.

    But, consistent with my assertion about the Patriots factoring in such penalties as the cost of doing business, I think the NFL should:

    • Fire all support staff involved in deflating those game balls, immediately.
    • Strip the team of three times as many draft picks, and fine it ten times as much, as the NFL stripped and fined the Patriots for cheating with those videotapes.
    • Suspend Coach Belichick for one year without pay, immediately; despite his protestations that he knew nothing about it. He should have known, and his credibility is obviously suspect.
    • Suspend quarterback Tom Brady for one year without pay, immediately; especially in light of the way he initially laughed off the allegation as utterly preposterous. He clearly knew or should have known, and he benefited more than any other player from this cheating caper.
    • Place asterisks next to victories and quarterback stats this team accumulated during the Belichick-Brady era. This would consign them to the same kind of fate that will forever call into question the victories and stats associated with notorious cheaters like steroid-junkies Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez.
    • Deny Belichick and Brady entry into the NFL Hall of Fame for the same reasons Bonds, Clemens, and Rodriguez will never make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not least because of the unavoidable deduction that Belichick and Brady got away with cheating in similar fashion during far too many other games to countenance.

    Of course, immediate suspensions would bar Belichick and Brady from coaching and playing, respectively, in the forthcoming Super Bowl. But I can think of no better way for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to redeem his and the league’s reputation (after the Ray Rice debacle) than to impose immediate suspensions…

    If these suspensions make it easier for the Seattle Seahawks to win, it would constitute only a fraction of the poetic justice required to compensate for all the games, to say nothing of the three Super Bowls, the New England Patriots have won under the cheating leadership of these two arrogant schmucks.

    ____________________

    390-lupica-0507It’s time now for Commissioner Roger Goodell to put up or shut up about protecting the integrity of the game, especially by making NFL  punishments fit player crimes. But he would be terribly misguided if he heeds the counsel of eminent commentators like “Bonnie” Bob Costas.

    Because Costas appeared on the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt yesterday and declaimed that he’d be surprised if the NFL suspends Brady for a single game. This, even though Costas knows full well that the NFL would suspend a player for 10 games if he’s caught smoking weed.

    Mind you, a player who smokes weed in private is clearly not seeking to gain any unfair competitive advantage and, more importantly, is not bringing in the NFL into any disrepute. Whereas, one (a quarterback no less) who not only conspires to deflate footballs to gain an unfair competitive advantage, but then lies about it on national TV, is bringing the NFL into such disrepute even a lifetime ban is, arguably, fair and proportionate punishment.

    tom-brady-nfl-new-england-patriots-tom-brady-press-conference-850x560This is why it behooves the NFL to impose a punishment in this case that does not make a mockery of the NFL’s disciplinary rules. For nothing will bring the NFL into greater disrepute than giving Brady a slap on the wrist that smacks of the same kind of slap Goodell gave Ray Rice last year – before public outrage forced him to impose a harsher punishment.

    I’m on record (in my related commentary on January 21) calling for the NFL to suspend Brady for one year. But I stressed that his suspension should take effect immediate. I was all too mindful, after all, that even one year without pay would be a small price for him to pay after winning a Super Bowl and being named MVP to boot. Now the NFL seems bound to emulate the spectacle the SEC sanctioned two years ago, when it fined hedge fund manager Steven Cohen $1 billion (and imposed no jail time) for insider trading in securities that raked in nearly $10 billion. Clearly any cheater would take that risk any day.

    And, by the way, it hardly matters that Brady played even better in the second half of that AFC Championship game after the footballs were properly inflated. For this is rather like saying a Wall Street banker should not be punished for running a scheme to steal money – if he demonstrated later that he could make money the old fashioned way … by earning it.

    In any event, at the very least, Tom Brady’s cheating should taint his accomplishments in the NFL just as Barry Bond’s cheating has tainted his in the MLB.

    Not to mention what it says about Brady’s character that he’s allowing his Daddy to make a fool of himself by claiming that the NFL is framing his “good son.” Never mind that his Daddy was just parroting the plainly absurd defense Brady’s lawyer is proffering about the NFL perpetrating a sting to entrap him. What they’re claiming makes Hillary’s claim – about a “vast right-wing conspiracy” entrapping Bill in flagrante delicto with Monica – seem credible….

    The integrity of the game (or the ball, so to speak) is now in the NFL’s court (pardon the mixed metaphor). And, this time, it had better not punt….

    Related commentaries:
    Deflategate

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 11:44 a.m.

  • Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 4:34 PM

    Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn Call It Quits? Duh…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 3.12.00 PMAlas, Tiger is still making a spectacle of his private life … at the expense of his professional life.

    After tabloids exposed Tiger as a serial adulterer in November 2009, I wrote that he should let his game do the talking and limit public statements about his personal life to the minimum required to appease Nike, his most loyal and lucrative sponsor.

    What’s the point [of holding this press event]?

    I have to think that team Tiger has determined that it’s the least he can do to give his remaining sponsors, like Nike, as well as the organizers of the PGA Tour, the closure they need to welcome him back. Because it’s crystal clear that this outing will do nothing to rehabilitate his good name…

    Winning tournaments in his inimitable fashion is the only way now to eradicate bacchanalian images of his private life from public consciousness – even if not from the tabloids.

    (“Tiger Will Finally Speak, but What Will He Say?” The iPINIONS Journal, February 19, 2010)

    slide_312349_2787475_freeThis is why I was so stupefied when Tiger reacted to this scandal – by providing so much fodder, he seemed more interested in keeping up with Kimye on social media than in competing with golfers on the links.

    Nothing was more misguided and sensational in this respect than Tiger announcing his withdrawal from tournaments to enter rehab … for sex addiction; exactly the opposite of what I wrote he should do. A close second, though, was announcing his new relationship with Lindsey Vonn – as if they were just another wannabe-famous couple desperately seeking Twitter followers and manufacturing Facebook “Likes.”

    The point is that, since that fateful exposure in 2009, Tiger has made news far more for the goings on in his personal life than for the derring-dos that once defined his professional life.

    I lamented his metamorphosis: from a player whose predatory and invincible spirit psyched out his competitors even before his first swing, to one who courts public sympathy for his continuing failure to beat players he once dominated – as this excerpt from “For Tiger, Bad Play Causes ‘Pain’, Not Vice Versa,” August 7, 2014, attests.

    ___________________

    Don’t be surprised if bad play forces Tiger to withdraw … again. For his foolish and withering pride is such that he sees more glory in stories about how heroically he played before pain forced him to quit, than in stories about why a healthy Tiger can’t even buy a win these days.

    But all he needs now to shatter any hope of ever regaining his professional swagger is for his rehabbing, Olympic-skiing girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn, to dump him for not providing the [rehab and] redemptive inspiration she expected. Then, of course, there’s the simmering resentment he must be harboring as he watches the media hail Rory McIlroy the way they used to hail him.

    In short, what we are witnessing folks is the proverbial warning:

    Pride goeth before the fall….

    ___________________

    Sure enough, nothing confirms that Tiger has lost all sense of personal (and professional) pride quite like him coordinating with Lindsey to issue virtually identical statements on Sunday about their inevitable breakup — as if his die-hard golfing fans even care.

    They blamed the “hectic demands of our respective schedules,” which is laughable on its face. After all, they both knew from the outset that no two professional athletes have less in common, and more disparate demands on their time, than a golfer and a snow skier.

    Frankly, the more credible reason is that Lindsey just got fed up with Tiger’s excuses for his performance anxiety, which make a mockery of Nike’s motto to “Just Do It.” In other words, far from providing the inspiration and reflected glow she bargained for, Tiger was adding too much psychological baggage to her life with his public blathering about why he can’t reclaim his title as the top golfer in the world….

    w3-vonn-a-20150507-870x597Predictable media inquiries about their split brought this into stark relief just yesterday. For Lindsey, with countenance redolent of a relieved heart and triumphant spirit, left the media no choice but to report as follows:

    Lindsey Vonn brushes off Tiger Woods split, targets gold…

    ‘I don’t really want to talk about my personal life,’ Vonn said when asked about the rift with Woods during a press briefing in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

    (Agence France-Presse, May 6, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 11.30.50 AMWhereas Tiger, with countenance redolent of a broken heart and vanquished spirit, gave them more tabloid fodder to report as follows:

    Tiger Woods Says He Hasn’t Slept Since Breakup With Lindsey Vonn.

    ‘It obviously does affect me,’ he told reporters ahead of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. ‘I’m not gonna lie about that … I haven’t slept.’

    (Huffington Post, May 5, 2015)

    This, folks, is the denouement to their feminist version of The Taming of the Shrew; call it The Taming of the Player. And it’s made all the more poignant by the fact that, since hooking up with Tiger, Lindsey has rehabbed and recovered from injuries – far worse than any Tiger has complained of – to not only reclaim her title as the top skier in the world, but also be named the honorary ambassador for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

    Meanwhile, it’s plain to see that Tiger’s head remains so screwed up that he’s now courting public sympathy for losing even before his first swing at The Players Championship, the first round of which begins tomorrow.

    What a friggin’ spectacle! I just he has learned from his last breakup to not compound the mess he’s made of his personal life by making Oprahesque confessions about his sins and Clintonian promises to atone for them: TMI Tiger!

    Incidentally, the best thing that can happen to Tiger now is for his ex-wife Elin to give him a second chance. Because:

    a. she shuns media attention as much as Lindsey craves it; and

    b. she was the anchor in his life when he was winning all of those Major championships and giving the media nothing to report on but his spectacular play and boring talk … about golf.

    Hope springs eternal.

    Related commentary:
    Tiger will finally speak
    Tiger bad play

  • Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 6:55 AM

    U.S.-Style Racial Protests Erupt in Israel

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    White policemen beating (or even killing) minorities has become commonplace in the United States. But they would be loath to beat (and risk killing) a uniformed Black soldier here.

    Part-NIC-Nic6448475-1-1-0White policemen beating (or even killing) minorities has become commonplace in Israel too. But they appear to have no compunctions about beating (and risk killing) even a uniformed Black soldier there.

    A first protest in Jerusalem on Thursday was triggered by the emergence of a video showing two policemen beating a uniformed Israeli soldier of Ethiopian origin named Damas Pakada.

    Ethiopian Israelis claim their community has long suffered from police brutality and widespread discrimination.

    (Agence France-Presse, May 4, 2015)

    In fact, U.S.-style racial protests have been erupting in Israel for days now – complete with rolling clashes between the police and destitute, disaffected, disenfranchised and disillusioned Israeli citizens of African descent.

    Protesters, mainly whom are Israeli Jews of Ethiopian origin, shout slogans during a demonstration against what they say is police racism and brutalityBut I hasten to clarify that these protests are separate and apart from the “intifadas” (and interregnum uprisings), which aggrieved Palestinians have been waging, for decades, in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

    No less a person than former U.S. President Jimmy Carter likened this more notorious Palestinian struggle to that which Blacks waged in South Africa during Apartheid. I commented on racial protests in this Palestinian context in “Instead of Peace, Israel Settling for Apartheid,” May 1, 2014.

    That said, the simmering grievances among Blacks in Israel, which finally boiled over last week, are all too familiar. I cannot overstate this point. Hell, reports about Ethiopian (Black) Jews representing just three percent of Israeli children, but twenty percent of those incarcerated in juvenile prisons, seem almost plagiarized from perennial reports about Black children incarcerated in juvenile prisons across the United States.

    Of course, the reason these protests in Israel are so familiar is that, for decades, similar grievances have been simmering (and boiling over from time to time) among Blacks in the United States – as embering protests in Ferguson and Baltimore throw into stark relief. And, in recent years, similar grievances have been simmering (and boiling over from time to time) among Blacks in Europe – as the following excerpts attest.

    ___________________

    • From “World Beware: French Riots Affect Us All,” November 8, 2005:

    Reports are that young people in France’s African (Muslim) communities erupted in this nightmarish violence because they are fed up with chronic unemployment and feelings of (religious and racial) discrimination and social alienation. Indeed, just as young Blacks in America fought against the virulent racism their parents tolerated, it seems young Muslims in France are fighting against the caste-like presumption that they too will supply the cheap labor for rich Frenchmen their parents provided…

    [T]he riots in France should serve notice on other developed nations that have relegated the poor to ghettos, where crime and every order of vice pervade… These riots demonstrate what little spark it takes for the simmering grievances that define ghetto life to set cities ablaze and terrorize an entire country…

    There but for the grace of God….

    • From “Now London Is Burning,” August 9, 2011:

    [T]he police shot and killed a suspected Black ‘gangster’… This ignited a frenzy of rioting and looting the likes of which, alas, have become all too familiar.

    Indeed, this seems an uncanny repeat of similar riots that broke out in this very neighborhood in 1985, after the police shot and killed a Black woman during a search of her home. And those riots occurred only one week after the more infamous Brixton riots, which broke out after the police shot and killed another Black woman under very similar circumstances.

    Notwithstanding the alleged police brutality that triggers them, the reason riots continue to erupt in London is that political leaders fail to heed the categorical imperative to address the chronic unemployment, racial/religious discrimination, and social alienation that are the long-simmering sparks that give rise to these periodic combustions…

    I fully recognize that these riots reflect a poverty of values as much as a poverty of needs. But this is what distinguishes middle-class anarchists and yobs, who riot for opportunistic fun, from poor kids, who do so to vent a lifetime of privation, victimization, alienation, and utter hopelessness…

    This is why targeted and sustained socialization and assimilation programs in chronically poor neighborhoods (focusing on everything from mandatory extracurricular activities to mandatory job training) provide the only hope against these recurring riots. Or, in language UK political leaders will better understand, these amoral scavengers must be properly domesticated.

    ___________________

    All the same, these protests in Israel are unique in at least one respect that is worthy of comment.

    For, unlike Blacks in the United States, Blacks on the front lines there are not descendants of slaves Israel’s forefathers imported; and, unlike Blacks in Europe, they are not descendants of migrants from foreign countries Israel colonized.

    6a00d83451b71f69e2017616191ef7970c-400wiInstead, they are the offspring of African Jews who Israel – the purported homeland of all Jews – airlifted from chronic privation and strife in Africa as an article of religious faith. In fact, Israel made such a Pharisaic show of airlifting them that it opened itself to ironic accusations of racism two years ago, when it began repatriating non-Jewish Africans.

    Here, in part, is how I defended Israel back then:

    Any insinuation of racism (or indeed unfair treatment) is belied by ‘Operation Moses’ – Israel’s covert evacuation of African Jews from Sudan for resettlement in Israel to escape famine in 1984; and ‘Operation Solomon’ – its equally covert evacuation of almost 15,000 African Jews from Ethiopia for resettlement in Israel to escape a looming civil war in 1991.

    And let’s face it, the Israelis have enough of a challenge trying to prevent Palestinians (with their claim of a sacred ‘right of return’) from turning Israel into another Arab state, without having to worry about non-Jewish Africans creating demographic problems as well.

    But frankly, given their tortured, itinerant history, who can blame these modern-day Israelites for doing everything humanly (and humanely) possible to ensure that nothing (think Iranian nukes) and nobody can threaten their ownership and control of their Promised Land.

    (“Don’t Blame Israel for Repatriating Africans,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 17, 2013)

    Therefore, imagine my dismay when I learned that Israel was treating these “chosen” Blacks (aka sons of the Cush) no differently than the United States treated its legacy Blacks, or Europe its colonial Blacks. A dismay that only became more acute when I read a May 3 editorial in the Jerusalem Post. For it highlighted that Black Jews demonstrate their gratitude and loyalty to Israel by enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at a level of eighty-six percent, compared to White Jews – who enlist at just seventy-four percent.

    Incidentally, I am also dismayed that the American media dedicated more coverage over the past few days to the inevitable breakup of Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn’s relationship than to this story. To say nothing of the coverage they dedicated to the birth and naming of William and Kate’s daughter.

    netanyahu_APMore importantly, though, White Israelis aping the racism of White Americans and White Europeans in this context smacks of a cardinal sin. I readily concede, however, that – if America’s founding fathers could codify their racism – Israel’s leaders might be forgiven their attempts to gentrify theirs.

    To be fair, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the beating of the Black IDF soldier that triggered these protests, and assured Black Jews that those responsible will be held to account.

    Except that this is the same prime minister who, just two months ago, was:

    • Exhorting White Jews to rush to the polls to prevent Israeli citizens of Arab descent from playing a pivotal role in national elections.
    • Issuing a clarion call to European (White) Jews to come home – based on irrational fears of anti-Semitism in Europe and pursuant to his plan to offset the growth of citizens of Arab and African descent in Israel.

    I duly condemned him on both accounts in “Netanyahu’s Call for Jewish Exodus more Sharpton than Moses,” February 23, 2015. More to the point, his exhortation and clarion call not only betray the institutional racism that gave rise to the beating of that uniformed Black soldier, but also explain why Black Jews are bound to regard his assurance in this case with existential skepticism.

    Meanwhile, here is how the Jerusalem Post echoed (in a May 4 editorial) what I cited as the categorical imperative upon Israel to assimilate these Black Jews:

    We brought Ethiopian Jews home, but now we must make them feel at home, for their sake as well as ours.

    Blacks in Israel should not hold their breath, however. After all, editorials have been championing the categorical imperative of assimilating Blacks in the United States for nearly 150 years.

    Therefore, until the next trigger sets off racial protests there … and over here….

    Related commentaries:
    Israel Apartheid
    World beware: French riots
    Now London
    Repatriating Africans
    Netanyahu’s call

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 4:35 p.m.

  • Monday, May 4, 2015 at 5:16 AM

    Alas, Bush Still Being Misled/Goaded by Cheney…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    cheney-meet-the-pressWhenever former VP Dick Cheney criticizes President Obama’s foreign policies, he comes across like a condemned man pleading for political absolution; no time more so than with respect to Iraq.

    Never mind that his criticisms are invariably about as credible as those of an arsonist criticizing the way firemen are putting out the inferno he ignited.

    Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 6.19.56 PMBy contrast, nothing became the Bush presidency quite like George W. flying off into the sunset:

    I don’t think it’s good for the country to have a former president undermine a current president; I think it’s bad for the presidency for that matter.

    (Washington Times, November 16, 2014)

    His commendable silence has seemed a form of penance for the mortal sin of his presidency, namely the invasion of Iraq. Maintaining it augured well for his political absolution … someday.

    Not to mention reports that this silence was also Bush’s way of disassociating himself from the fiendishly unrepentant Cheney. They are reportedly no longer on speaking terms because Bush blames Cheney for misleading/goading him (Iago-like) into committing that mortal sin.

    This is why it seems an act of incomprehensible recidivism (aka backsliding) for Bush to begin hurling monkey-see-monkey-do criticisms at Obama too.

    Former President George W. Bush has delivered an unusual attack on President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, arguing that Obama has demonstrated naiveté and bad judgment.

    Bush, addressing Jewish Republican donors in Las Vegas Saturday night, said the United States needs to show it can keep its promises and he argued against lifting sanctions against Iran at this time.

    (U.S. News & World Report, April 27, 2015)

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. It speaks volumes, though, that – even in his post-presidency – Bush seems unable to resist pandering to Zionist Jews and evangelical Christians. I’ll spare you my sermon on the “biblical” alliance between these two polarizing religious sects. Suffice it to consider the condescension/bigotry inherent in these Christians deeming it an article of their faith – not only to protect Jews (whom they hail as “God’s chosen people”), but also to convert them to (or religiously cleanse them for) Christianity to ensure they make it into Heaven….

    In any event, the irony seems completely lost on Bush that, in criticizing Obama’s policies on Iran, he’s jumping in front of a warmongering parade composed of:

    …the same coalition of crusading dunces (namely Jewish Zionists, Christian fundamentalists, and new-world-order neo-cons) who goaded Bush into invading Iraq.

    (“Obama Dissing Israeli PM Netanyahu?” The iPINIONS Journal, September 12, 2012)

    mission-accomplish-BESTIndeed, as if to remind us what a gullible political dunce he was (and still is), Bush decided to weigh in on Iran when most sane people were commemorating the twelfth anniversary of his infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech on Iraq.

    After all, in the years following that cruelly premature and misleading speech (on May 1, 2003):

    • 149,053 civilians were killed, compared to about 7,412 prior to the speech;
    • 4,637 coalition troops were killed, versus 172 prior; and
    • $758 billion was wasted, versus $57 billion prior.

    The figures above are courtesy of a Huffington Post report headlined, “‘Mission Accomplished’ Was 12 Years Ago Today,” on May 1, 2015. But, given what he accomplished in Iraq, it’s sad that Bush does not have enough sense to appreciate that he’s the last person on earth who should be advising Obama on Iran.

    130315_jeb_bush_cpac_ap_605I urge him to crawl back into his post-presidency hole to continue the penance of silence that was serving him so well; if not for his own sake, then for his brother Jeb’s.

    Jeb, of course, is running to be elected president in 2016. Ironically, I suspect he’s doing so in a vain attempt to redeem the family name George W. tarnished so irreparably.

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  • Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: Evil Triumphs … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    28443C8100000578-3066024-image-a-10_1430652789316

    As the inquisitive, mischievous son of a preacher man, I was always testing my Daddy’s faith. Never more so than when I asked, with angelic sincerity, why God allows evil people to triumph over good people. He had no real answer for me back then, and I doubt he’d have one for me today.

    Therefore, I’m hardly surprised that God did not answer my prayer for the good Pacquiao to triumph over the evil Mayweather in this fight:

    Floyd Mayweather outboxed and outmaneuvered Manny Pacquiao to claim a unanimous points victory in the most lucrative boxing match in history Saturday, taking his unblemished professional record to 48-0 and cementing his place as one of the greatest fighters of all time.

    ‘I was a smart fighter, I outboxed him,’ said Mayweather, shaking off boos from the crowd which was unimpressed with his defensive style.

    (CNN, May 3, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 9.19.19 AM

    Of course, one can hardly blame so many in the arena for booing. After all, they paid a veritable fortune for what amounted to watching these fighters play a chess match.

    Except that, by definition, the outcome of everything in the gambling mecca of the world is a crapshoot. Not to mention that these same suckers will be front and center for the next “fight of the century.”

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  • Friday, May 1, 2015 at 7:19 AM

    Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather: Good vs. Evil…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 11.58.47 AMIt’s hardly surprising that Saturday’s fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather is being hyped as the biggest in Boxing history. But, to be fair, the reported $400-million purse they’ll be splitting between them justifies the hype.

    Several readers have contacted me to inquire about my interest in and pick for this fight. This excerpt from “Márquez Knocks Out Pacquiao, ‘the Best Fighter Ever,’” December 12, 2012, should explain a lot in this regard.

    ___________________

    I was not at all surprised when Pacquiao looked more like the journeyman fighter everyone thought Márquez was fated to be. In their three previous fights, Pacquiao won two split decisions and the other ended in a draw. That Márquez knocked him out in this one vindicates my suspicion that the outcome of their previous fights had more to do with judges buying into Arum’s promotional hype than Pacquiao’s performance in the ring.

    This humiliating loss was the second-consecutive one for Pacquiao. More importantly, though, it demonstrated why Pacquiao has ducked every opportunity to fight the undefeated (43-0) Mayweather – who, incidentally, dominated Márquez in their one fight in 2009.

    Apropos of which, you can be forgiven for having no clue that there was (and perhaps still is) as great a demand in the Boxing world for a Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight as there has been for any fight in history. But there can be no doubt now that Mayweather would put an even bigger ass whoopin’ on Pacquiao than Márquez did on Saturday night.

    If I were Mayweather, though, I would not even dignify Pacquiao by stepping into the ring with him at this point. In fact, Pacquiao might want to have a heart-to-heart chat with Roberto Duran for insight on the ignominious fate that awaits him if he does not retire, immediately.

    Meanwhile, does anybody know who the world heavyweight champion is these days?  Does anybody care…?

    ____________________

    Ironically, Wladimir Klitschko defended his heavyweight title for the eighteenth time on Saturday night at Madison Square against challenger Bryant Jennings.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 10.31.30 AMBut nothing indicates what little interest this fight generated quite like Sunday papers providing far more coverage of the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, to say nothing of the Nepalese earthquake, than of this fight. Did you even know about it…? I digress….

    The point is that I would have been as excited as any Boxing fan if this Pacquiao-Mayweather fight were happening in 2009. But it’s years late … even if not dollars short.

    Apropos of which, my disregard for Pacquiao’s boxing these days is surpassed only by my disrespect for Mayweather’s lifestyle. For chances are that the only thing most people know about Mayweather stems not from how he displays his Boxing skills in the ring, but from how he flaunts his personal wealth on social media.

    Floyd-Mayweather-twitter-cars-jet-mainIndeed, most of you — who probably know how many million-dollar mansions, exotic cars, and expensive watches Mayweather owns — probably have no clue how many fights he has won. For the record, he’s 47-0.

    But it’s one thing for him to celebrate his first big payday by frolicking in millions of dollars on his bed. It’s quite another for him to not only continue doing so after every fight, but begin posting images of every indulgence of his look-at-me-I’m-so-rich life on social media for all the world to see. Never mind that he studiously avoids sharing images of the battered faces of women he gets off on abusing, having been convicted five times for battering four different women.

    This, of course, is far more damning of the voyeuristic/prurient interests of the millions who follow him than of Mayweather’s ostentatious/abusive lifestyle. To say nothing of the corporate sponsors and advisers who would countenance anything he does, as long as they can continue reaping profits as members of his The Money Team (TMT).

    Mind you, I fully appreciate that, but for Mayweather’s postings on social media (complete with vine videos of him “making it rain” dollar bills at one strip club after another), there would probably be less interest in and prize money for his fights than Klitschko’s. And, like all of the Toms, Dicks, and Harrys thriving on reality TV theses days, Floyd knows this all too well.

    Indeed, even influential commentators are denouncing Mayweather as an abuser of women, while doggedly lobbying for a ringside seat to watch this fight. By instructive contrast, I won’t even support this serial abuser by forking over the $100 to watch on pay per view, let alone the $10,000 or more to watch ringside. I’ll read about it the morning papers — just as I do every other overnight spectacle/tragedy.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 10.59.09 AM

    In any event, and with all due respect to the promoters, I see this as a fight between “good” Pacquiao as the self-professed Christian crusader, and “evil” Mayweather as the self-styled mammon forager. And, in such a fight, what mortal dare root for mammon?

    Accordingly, here’s to Pacquiao so humiliating him in the ring that Mayweather dare not show his smug face, to say nothing of his obscene and profligate wealth, on social media ever again. And may God help him, because – as I delineated in my excerpt above – Pacquiao does not stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of beating Mayweather on his own.

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    * This commentary was originally published on Monday, April 27, at 3:33 p.m. 

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