• Friday, July 31, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    Moderate Muslims Too Busy Fighting Each Other to Fight Extremists

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Nothing has bedeviled U.S. nation-building efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq quite like the determination of Sunnis and Shiites to fight each other instead of Islamic jihadists.

    Now, Turks and Kurds are fighting each other instead of ISIS, thereby complicating ongoing efforts in Iraq and bedeviling efforts to prevent Syria from becoming the Somalia of the Middle East (i.e. a failed state).

    Turkish tanks shelled a Kurdish-held village in northern Syria overnight, wounding at least four fighters, according to Kurdish forces and a monitoring group.

    In a statement, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said Turkish tanks hit its positions and those of allied Arab rebels in the village of Zur Maghar in Aleppo province, Syria.

    (The Guardian, July 27, 2015)


    Turkey began bombing PKK [Kurdish] camps in northern Iraq last Friday in what government officials have said was a response to a series of killings of police officers and soldiers blamed on the Kurdish militant group…

    Turkey’s NATO allies have expressed unease about the operations aimed at the PKK, since the Kurds have been a crucial ally in the fight against Isis both in Syria and in Iraq.

    (The Guardian, July 29, 2015)

    In other words, fighting Islamic jihadists is becoming the military equivalent of building the Tower of Babel. I get why God confounded mankind’s unity of purpose to build a “stairway to heaven.” But I don’t get why He’s confounding our unity of purpose to defeat religious terrorists.


    Not that the moderate-Muslim foot soldiers we’re relying on have shown much willingness or ability to fight this good fight, mind you:

    An al-Qaida affiliate abducted an American-trained rebel commander and seven of his fighters in northern Syria just days after they deployed in the war-torn country.

    The mid-week kidnapping is seen by analysts as a setback to Washington’s effort to shape an insurgent force able to combat Islamic State extremists, and it is likely to complicate plans for a safe zone in northern Syria currently under discussion between U.S. and Turkish officials.

    (Voice of America, July 30, 2015)

    Honestly, I’m not sure which makes more of a mockery of U.S. efforts: U.S.-trained and equipped Syrian fighters allowing themselves to be kidnapped by al-Qaeda fighters, or U.S.-trained Iraqi and equipped fighters fleeing like cowards from ISIS fighters.

    Which obliges me to reprise this instructive take from “Demystifying ISIS: Case against Obama’s Bush-lite War on Terrorism,” September 10, 2014.


    I’m on record offering the following at the only strategy to combat Islamic extremists

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

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

    With respect to the latter, I’ve maintained that it’s best to leave warring factions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria to their own devices, sufficing only to warn whichever one emerges as the governing authority that it will suffer a Taliban-like fate too if it harbors terrorists within its borders.

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


    Frankly, after tragic and costly lessons in Afghanistan and Iraq, one can hardly blame Americans for wanting to have nothing to do with a war on terrorism that seems more like an internecine conflict among Muslims … dating back a thousand years.

    This is why the only redeeming feature of America’s feckless efforts in this respect is that Obama has, thus far, resisted goading by warmongering Republicans to deploy U.S. combat troops to Iraq/Syria. Not least because those troops would be as likely to be shot in the back by allied Iraqi and Syrian fighters as taken out by ISIS fighters … using the sophisticated American weapons U.S-trained Iraqi fighters left behind when they hightailed it and ran from the battlefield.

    What a godforsaken mess!

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  • Thursday, July 30, 2015 at 8:54 AM

    Harper Lee, Dr. Seuss, et al: the Mercenary Phenomenon of Newly Discovered Masterpieces

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 8.38.41 PMHere is how I decried the practice of exploiting gullible fans by releasing songs recorded and shelved long ago as newly discovered masterpieces:

    When producers raised the curtain on Michael Jackson’s much-hyped performance, in hologram form, at last month’s Billboard Music Awards, far from being thrilled, I was just creeped out.

    But it occurred to me that, if they could make it appear like Michael had risen from the dead to perform live on stage, they could probably make it sound like he had risen from the dead to record new songs in studio too. This would surely put a new spin on the dubious practice of selling ‘previously recorded but unreleased songs’ after a singer’s death. After all, the reason most songs remain unreleased is that the singer thinks they suck.

    Now, though, not only can technology make Michael’s voice sound better than it ever did, but the executors of his estate can hire writers to pen songs that do that digitally enhanced voice justice.

    (“More Proof Michael Was Not “Gone Too Soon,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 20, 2014)

    The above explains why, far from cheering, I jeered earlier this year when Harper Lee’s publisher announced plans to publish a newly discovered prequel/sequel to her, To Kill a Mockingbird.


    I could not help thinking this publication would be far more about easy money (for publisher and agent) than literary acclaim (for Lee). Hence my commentary, “Harper Lee: To Milk a Mockingbird,” February 5, 2015, which includes the following excerpt.


    Having read about the dubious provenance of this sequel, I just feel like jeering.

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

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

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


    Sure enough, now comes this all too predictable announcement:

    Go Set a Watchman, the long-lost follow-up to Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird, doesn’t come out until tomorrow but the news is already a flurry of headlines about yet another possible Lee novel out there, in the same mysterious safe-deposit box in Alabama where Watchman’s pages were found — although the details of the discovery are still unclear….

    (“To Overkill a Mockingbird,” Vanity Fair, July 13, 2015)

    No sh*t!

    Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 10.46.07 AM

    Naturally, not wanting to miss this gravy train, the estate of Theodor “Ted” Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) soon announced plans to publish long-lost manuscripts, which were reportedly discovered under equally dubious circumstances:

    Dr. Seuss long ago passed from the scene but old manuscripts by the beloved children’s author keep turning up.

    Random House Children’s Books said Wednesday it will publish a recently discovered manuscript with Dr. Seuss sketches, called What Pet Should I Get?, on July 28.

    The publisher plans at least two more books based on materials found in 2013 by his widow, Audrey Geisel, and his secretary in the author’s home in the ritzy seaside neighborhood of La Jolla in San Diego.

    (USA Today, February 18, 2015)

    arts-graphics-2006_1168637aGiven this trend, it can only be a matter of time before the estate of Truman Capote announces plans to publish a long-lost sequel to his bestseller, In Cold Blood – complete with a cockamamie story about how it was newly discovered.

    Not to mention the crying shame of J.K. Rowling doing the same. After all, with the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, her seventh in the series of Potter books, she gave fans a Shermanesque pledge that Potter would be nevermore.

    In an interview to promote the launch of the latest Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, [Potter star Daniel Radcliffe] told MTV news that he’d received a text from Rowling promising him that she would write no more Potter stories, after he expressed dismay at the idea of yet more Potter films in an earlier interview.

    (The Guardian, November 17, 2010)

    Yet, no sooner had she milked this publication, by magically transforming it into two blockbuster movies, than she announced plans for the brazenly craven Pottermore. With this “exciting new website with Sony” and her Harry Potter Shop, Rowling began prostituting what little literary merit her Potter books have; so much so that the peddling of Potter-related merchandise is now such that would make Disney green with envy.

    50-shades-of-potterOh, did I mention she’s coming out with Harry Potter and The Cursed Child next year? No doubt she was quick to assure Radcliffe that she’s not betraying her personal promise to him because this is just a play. Like I said, shameless….

    Frankly, this milking phenomenon has become so mercenary that, as fanciful as it might seem, I would not be the least bit surprise if Rowling actually announces plans to publish 50 Shades of Potter – “aimed at the series’ maturing audience….”

    Alas, the Barnumesque maxim, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” has never been truer than it is today. Indeed, only this explains why a clown like Donald Trump is dominating the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination by doing nothing more than peddling unrefined, self-aggrandizing bombast as refreshing, self-fulfilling leadership.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, July 29, 2015 at 7:23 AM

    NFL on Brady’s Appeal: He Cheated, then Lied, and then Obstructed Justice

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The NFL didn’t budge on Tuesday. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, five weeks after hearing Brady’s appeal over the Deflategate issue, kept his suspension at four games.

    (Yahoo! Sports, July 28, 2015)

    roger-goodell-nj-lawmakers-firedIn “NFL Investigation: Brady’s a Liar and a Cheat,” May 7, 2015, I not only declared my belief that Tom Brady is as guilty as sin, but urged Goodell to make an example of him to protect the integrity of the game.

    But I had no idea Brady’s consciousness of guilt was such that he obstructed the Deflategate investigation the way Richard Nixon obstructed the Watergate investigation. In fact, given reports that he destroyed critical cellphone evidence “on or shortly before” the day he met with the special investigator, he really left Goodell no choice.

    ‘The evidence fully supports my findings that (I) Mr. Brady participated in a scheme to tamper with the game balls after they had been approved by the game officials for use in the AFC Championship Game and (2) Mr. Brady willfully obstructed the investigation by, among other things, affirmatively arranging for destruction of his cellphone knowing that it contained potentially relevant information that had been requested by the investigators,’ Goodell wrote in his ruling.

    ‘All of this indisputably constitutes conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football.’

    (Washington Post, July 28, 2015)

    In other words, it appears Brady used the cellphone at issue for only four months, as this scandal was unfolding, to orchestrate the cover up of his cheating. Then, like a common criminal, he destroyed it – complete with its reported 10,000 text messages – to cover his tracks.

    Frankly, this ill-fated ploy vindicates my assertion that he should have been banned from playing in February’s Super Bowl and suspended for an entire year.

    Mind you, I would find Brady a little more credible if he could prove that he destroyed and replaced his cellphone at least four times (representing his four, now suspect, Super Bowl wins), after using it for only four months, at any point during his sixteen years in the NFL, before November 2014. After all, even if he made a practice of destroying and replacing cellphones every year, for whatever reason, he would have done so at least fifteen times. It might also help if he could explain why he did not migrate data, including text messages, the way most people do when they replace their cellphones.

    The point is that this guy just strikes me as an arrogant cheater and a pathological liar. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of legal hacks and PR flacks willing to enable and defend his pathologies for a handsome fee.

    AP Ravens Patriots Football

    Which brings me to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). It should leave Brady to his own devices … to protect its own integrity. That Patriots owner Robert Kraft accepted the team’s punishment without appeal is instructive in this regard. Many pundits accused him of throwing Brady under the bus. But Kraft did what was clearly in the best interest of his team and the league, honoring the unqualified maxim that no player is bigger than the game.

    By the same token, it behooves the NFLPA to act in the interest of the association and the league. The evidence of Brady’s guilt is beyond any reasonable doubt. And Goodell’s power to discipline him is beyond reproach.

    Therefore, standing by Brady – in his self-indulgent and futile efforts to salvage his reputation – will create an untenable and unsustainable expectation among other players; namely that the NFLPA will stand by them too, no matter how egregiously they cheat or what crimes they commit.

    Trust me folks, in a legal fight between Brady and Goodell … on this issue, Brady is bound to suffer a humiliating and costly defeat. Unfortunately, he’s too full of himself to realize it, and his hacks and flacks are raking in too much of his money to deflate his ego. But he would be well advised to cut his losses, accept the suspension, and let his supermodel wife help him lick his wounds behind closed doors….

    That said, I think it’s fair to assert that Tom Brady’s reputation in Football is (or should be) every bit as tarnished as Barry Bonds’ reputation in Baseball is (and should be). And to those who think this “golden boy” is too cool and good looking to be a serial cheater, consider yourselves every bit as gullible as those who thought the “all-American” Ted Bundy was too smart and good looking to be a serial killer. Granted, a harsh analogy, but the point is undeniable.

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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 5:17 p.m.

  • Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 6:48 AM

    69-Year-Old Lord Exposed as Britain’s Charlie Sheen

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Baron John Sewel, 69, will step down from his roles as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees in the British parliament’s unelected upper house following the Sun on Sunday’s publication of a sordid 45-minute video.

    The paper claims Sewel stripped naked for a drug-fueled sex romp at his London apartment during which he referred to Asian women as ‘whores’ and turned a framed picture of his wife face-down.

    The emergence of the film comes just a few days after Lord Sewel unveiled new powers to expel peers for bad behaviour, saying: ‘The actions of a few damage our reputation; scandals make good headlines.’

    (Daily Mail, July 27, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 4.23.27 PMThe above is how the media introduced most Britons to this coke-snorting, whore-shagging, colleague-slagging peer of the realm. Unsurprisingly, Sewel’s fellow peers in the House of Lords are lining up to give their best impression of Casablanca’s Captain Renault, making sure commoners know how truly “shocked, shocked” they are by his debauched behavior.

    They are condemning him for bringing the House into disrepute. I would concur – if only a litany of scandals hadn’t already damaged its reputation beyond repair.

    In his bestselling book, Parliament of Whores, P.J. O’Rourke ridiculed the scandalous behavior of members of the U.S. Congress. But, as the title suggests, he might have had the scandalous behavior of members of the UK parliament in mind.

    For example, with apologies to O’Rourke, here is an excerpt from “Parliament of Thieves,” May 24, 2009, in which I ridiculed the fact that virtually every member was bringing the House into disrepute.


    On Tuesday, in a resignation more historic and shameful than that of former U.S. President Richard Nixon, Michael Martin became the first Speaker of the British House of Commons in 300 years to be forced out of office — amidst increasingly indignant calls for his head.

    The high crimes and misdemeanors that incited these calls revolved around the fact that he presided over a ring of thieves in parliament that would make ‘Fagin’ green with envy.

    Specifically, Martin was responsible for ensuring the proper use of the Commons’ expense system. Yet he sat blithely by in his speaker’s chair as MPs pick-pocketed British taxpayers to fund such plainly improper things as mortgage payments on homes already paid for, porn films, horse manure, cleaning the moat of their country estate, glittering toilet seats, and even dog food.

    Who knew that the only swine flu Britons had to worry about was an epidemic of MPs feeding like pigs at the public trough….


    This brings me back to Lord Sewel – whose refusal to resign stems from his piggish wish to retain parliamentary privileges and continue collecting his £300-a-day allowance.

    Mind you:

    If these politicians were not lead vocals in a chorus of moral crusaders, I would not give their sexual escapades a moment’s thought. For the unadulterated pleasure of afflicting these hypocrites, however, I don’t even mind being bedfellows with a publicity-seeking hustler like Larry Flynt.

    (“DC Madam Outs Sen. David Vitter as a Faithful ‘John,’” The iPINIONS Journal, July 17, 2007)

    2AD7E49600000578-3174689-image-m-39_1437867527935In this case, by day, Sewel presides as chairman of the House of Lords’ Privileges and Conduct Committee — the body that monitors and enforces standards of behavior among peers. But, by night, he cruises as a dirty old man of such hedonic vices that would make Caligula blush. How thoughtful of him, though, to put that framed, bedside picture of his wife facedown before defiling their bedroom so unconscionably. Of course, one of her neighbors just couldn’t wait to spread this bit of schadenfreude masquerading as concern:

    ‘It’s a crying shame for his wife and daughters. What must they be going through? They always seemed to be a very nice, comfortably off family.’

    (Daily Mail, July 26, 2015)

    I wish her and their children well. But here’s to seeing him publicly hoisted by his own self-righteous petard.

    Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 11.42.14 AMMeanwhile, the tabloid fodder Sewel’s sexcapades is providing must come as a tremendous relief to the royal family — that other scandal-plagued British institution.

    After all, this is making the tabloid fodder the family’s secret 1933 film was providing just days ago seem like, well, ancient history. That film, you may recall, shows the Nazi-loving Edward VIII teaching his then adolescent niece, the future Queen Elizabeth II, how to properly perform the Nazi salute … like a good Hitler youth.

    Technology is continually exposing the seedy secret lives of British royals and aristocrats. But each scandal strengthens my contention that their perquisites, presumptions, and privileges should be relegated to the dustbin of history.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, July 27, 2015 at 6:37 AM

    Obama’s Historic Trip to Kenya

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On Friday, Barack Obama became the first sitting president of the United States to visit Kenya. For Kenyans, it was a long time coming. But Obama finally gave them the love and recognition they longed for since 2008, when Americans elected this “son of Kenya” president, making him the most powerful man in the world.

    Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 10.20.45 AM

    U.S. President Barack Obama received a rock star’s welcome during his first presidential visit to Kenya, the country where his father was born…

    Speaking outside the State House in Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday night, President Barack Obama criticized Kenya for its treatment of homosexuals…

    The U.S. president urged the nation’s leaders to continue to root out corruption, eliminate income equality and end tribal conflict and gender violence.

    (Daily Mail, July 26, 2015)

    2AD5C3D600000578-3174807-image-a-127_1437888965559Interestingly enough, for the Kenyan people — who showered him with unbridled affection and adulation — Obama must have seemed the personification of the parable of Joseph. For their leaders — who basked in his reflected glow but winced at his rebuke of their corrupt and oppressive leadership — he must have seemed the personification of the parable of the Prodigal Son.

    Except that I remember all too well Obama’s historic trip to Egypt in 2009, during which he must have seemed the personification of the same for the Egyptian people and their leaders, respectively.

    Yet, for all the hope he inspired back then (for everything from enjoying greater democratic freedoms to forging better relations with the West), Egyptians have little or even less to show for his having been there. So, Kenyans, beware….

    Meanwhile, Obama’s Republican critics hurled the same kinds of deranged criticisms during this trip as they hurled during his trip to Egypt. The way Obama championed American values, while criticizing African values, was as instructive as it was unprecedented:

    As an African American in the United States I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently. When you start treating people differently, not because of any harm they are doing to anybody but because they are different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode.

    (Reuters, July 26, 2015)

    Hell, he even risked offending the entire Continent by declaring that some hallowed African traditions have no place in the twenty-first century.

    Yet Republicans would have you believe that all he did was apologize for America … like he always does on trips abroad. They hung their specious criticisms on the we’re-not-perfect way Obama invariably alludes to America’s legacy of imperfections, especially on matters of race, to couch his criticisms of foreign countries.

    27247D6B00000578-3018142-image-a-26_1427730517208To his credit, Obama preempted/dismissed their criticisms by joking, during a toast to his hosts at a state dinner, that Republicans probably think he’s in Kenya searching for his birth certificate….

    Unfortunately, his critics are too self-righteous to appreciate that the only way to champion American values in developing countries, like Kenya, is to do so with a little dose of humility. In fact, the failure of previous U.S. presidents to empathize with people around the world incited such anti-American slogans as “cowboy diplomacy” and “Yankee go home.”

    For what it’s worth, as a native of a developing country, here is what I make of Obama’s outreach.

    Only those of us who have been on the receiving end of racial, religious and gender oppression and discrimination can possibly appreciate how liberating and validating it is for Muslims to have the leader of the world’s most powerful nation accord them such respect.

    This is why criticism of Obama’s speech is being vented mostly by white American men; in particular, by the narcissistic and arrogant ones who travel to foreign countries and become indignant when locals don’t speak ‘American.’

    (“Obama’s Historic [Cairo] Speech to Muslim World,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 5, 2009)

    So, if nothing else, Obama’s visit to Kenya will reinforce his presidential legacy of doing more than any other president to present a wholesome image of America: one that not only compares favorably with that of any other country, but also comports fairly with the heroic triumphs and tragic failures in its history.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. media had such a “slobbering love affair” with Obama that they covered his historic trip to Egypt like teenagers cooing about their first schoolboy crush. But they are so over him that they begrudged interrupting their obsessive coverage of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s schoolyard rantings to give just passing coverage to Obama’s trip to Kenya.

    This, of course, is just the latest manifestation of the pathetic state, well, of the Fourth Estate. I’ve been lamenting its declining state for years—as this excerpt from “Journalism Is ‘Having a Very, Very Pathetic Moment,’” November 13, 2013, shows.


    My pet peeve these days is the malpractice inherent in TV journalists wasting hours every day with idle-minded speculation about the 2016 presidential election – a full three years before any such speculation could possibly have any news value or relevance…

    ‘Tina Brown, outgoing editor of the Daily Beast and former editor of the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and Newsweek … told the audience of a THiNK conference in Goa, India, on Friday that she is basically done with journalism, which she said is currently having a ‘very, very pathetic moment’ and has turned into advertising in order to try to make a profit.’

    Welcome to the real world, Tina. After all, far from having a very, very pathetic moment, journalism has been in this pathetic state for years – as news programs interrupting reports on the crisis in Syria to bring viewers “BREAKING NEWS” on Lindsay Lohan’s latest arrest will attest. What’s more, I see no end in sight.


    Part-PAR-Par8237008-1-1-0Apropos of this, you’d never know it, but Obama made a historic trip to Ethiopia today, becoming the first sitting president to visit that country too. He is there primarily to discuss peace and security issues, particularly with respect to the ongoing civil strife in neighboring South Sudan and the regional scourge of al-Shabaab militants. No doubt this is why his visit is generating less fanfare there and even less media coverage here.

    But Obama will also become the first U.S. president to address the 54-member African Union. I just hope he has the good sense to appreciate the irony of lecturing African leaders about democracy and human rights on this occasion.

    After all, the Chinese built the AU’s extravagant new headquarters where he’ll be delivering this address.


    Not to mention it being a fitting metaphor for Africa’s geopolitical strategy of staying wedded to the politically staid United States, while having an open and notorious affair with the politically indulgent China.

    Mungu ibariki Africa.

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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 7:06 p.m.

  • Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 8:32 AM

    Smartest thing about smartphones? Exposing everyone from bad cops to closet racists…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 8.09.51 PM

  • Friday, July 24, 2015 at 7:17 AM

    Hail, Becky Hammon! First Female to Coach an NBA Team

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Becky Hammon continued to make history on Monday as she led the San Antonio Spurs to a NBA Las Vegas Summer League championship victory, becoming the first woman ever to do so…

    And that title [Summer League head coach] is just an extension of her day job – as an assistant coach on Gregg Popovich’s team in San Antonio. Which, yes, when she was hired last August, she was named the first full-time female assistant NBA coach.

    (Huffington Post, July 21, 2015)

    APTOPIX Suns Spurs BasketballI couldn’t be happier for Hammon. However, as giant a leap as this might be for her, it’s only one small step for gender equality in sports.

    In fact, prevailing gender inequality was on display just last month. That’s when FIFA made the women play on artificial turf for the World Cup. This, despite the women making informed and indignant protests about the risk of injury doing so entailed.. After all, competing in soccer on artificial turf is akin to competing in Judo on concrete slabs….

    By contrast, trust me folks, there would’ve been no Men’s World Cup last year if the men had to play on artificial turf. Granted, the discrimination against women in this case had a lot to do with the billions corporate sponsors have invested in men’s soccer.

    If FIFA’s male-dominated executive committee had due regard for women’s soccer, however, I’m sure it could have prevailed upon sponsors to donate the money necessary to ensure that, like the men, the women had natural turf to play on for their World Cup. I digress….

    The point is that it speaks volumes that we are hailing Hammon for coaching in the NBA’s Summer League, given that this is just Basketball’s version of Baseball’s minor leagues. Moreover, nothing betrays the chauvinism afoot quite like having a man as head coach not only of every NBA team, but of half of the WNBA teams as well.

    Meanwhile, Hammon has demonstrated that women are perfectly capable of coaching in the NBA. To think otherwise is as sexist as thinking Blacks are incapable of playing in the NHL is racist.

    For just as Blacks have proven that, if given the opportunity, they can play against the best hockey players, women would prove they can coach against the best NBA coaches too.

  • Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 7:18 AM

    Black Lives Matter? Sandra Bland Is an Example, Not a Martyr

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 5.25.12 PMYou have probably seen police dashcam video of the July 10 traffic stop that led to Sandra Bland’s arrest. Shockingly, she died of an alleged suicide in a Texas jail, under plainly suspicious circumstances, just three days later.

    I shall leave it to others to propagate racially motivated speculation about whether the manner of her death was really suicide or in fact homicide. I feel obliged to note, however, that many of those screaming bloody murder in this case are the same, self-appointed Black avengers who screamed bloody murder in the Michael Brown case. It took Black Attorney General Eric Holder to finally declare that their outrage – complete with unhinged looting and vandalism – was utterly baseless.

    I truly believe that “Black Lives Matter.” That’s why I’m more interested in preventing these Black tragedies than in rushing to execute the White cops involved in them. This is why I can think of nothing more constructive to say today than what I said after the killing of Michael Brown, which ignited the most animated public debate on police brutality against Black folks since the beating of Rodney King.

    Accordingly, here is an excerpt from “Why Chastise the Times for Describing Michael Brown as ‘No Angel?!” August 26, 2014.


    We’ve all seen far too many incidents of people resisting arrest – even wresting away a policeman’s gun and killing him – just because they fear being questioned or arrested … even for something as simple as petty theft.

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

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

    Instead of doublespeak that would make him a saint, those eulogizing Michael would honor his death far more by admonishing young Black men [and women as the case might be] against the deadly hazards of resisting arrest and defying authority … merely as a misguided badge of honor or rite of passage.


    Incidentally, liberals are fond of championing the right to disrespect the police. But what you need to know is that almost all of them live in communities where law and order is not an issue. Which is why their championing of this right amounts to little more than fomenting nimby anarchy.

    Apropos of this, the video makes clear that Bland copped a confrontational attitude from the moment White cop Brian Encinia approached her car and attempted to engage her in a very professional and polite manner. Obviously, her attitude does not excuse his failure to maintain his composure, especially given that his duty to be professional, no matter the provocation, was far greater than her duty to be civil. In fact, Encinia has been duly reprimanded and placed on administrative leave pending further disciplinary action. But nobody is suggesting that he was responsible, in any way, for her death.

    On the other hand, there can be no denying that, if Bland had returned Encinia’s professional approach with just a little civility (and cooperation), he might have issued her a ticket or let her off with just a warning. Either way, she would not have ended up in jail, dying under suspicious circumstances.

    All the same, her family and friends are understandably grief-stricken, and I fully appreciate why they are so incredulous. They are in my thoughts….

    55afb46f1800003d00376883Meanwhile, you have probably not seen reports on what happened when White cop Ray Tensing stopped Black motorist Samuel Dubose in Cincinnati on Sunday; reportedly, because his car was missing a front license plate. According to CNN, Dubose refused repeated requests for his driver’s license, as well as repeated requests to get out of his car.

    ‘There was a struggle at the door with Mr. Dubose in the vehicle and the officer outside the vehicle, and the vehicle sped away,’ Cincinnati police Lt. Col. James Whalen told reporters…

    Tensing fired one shot at the fleeing car, killing Dubose.

    (Huffington Post, July 22, 2015)

    So, just like Michael Brown, another Black man is dead simply because he refused to behave as we all should when stopped by the police.

    Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 7.39.10 PMBlack lives matter. Unfortunately, far too many Black activists seem more interested in proselytizing their nihilistic, anti-cop agenda than in protecting Black men – as much from each other as from White cops.

    This was brought into distressing relief at the liberal Netroots Nation conference in Arizona last weekend, when activists disrupted interviews with liberal Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley.

    They couldn’t care less what plans these candidates have for advancing the cause of social and criminal justice for Black folks. They were only interested in hearing Sanders and O’Malley chant their hollow rallying cry, “Black lives matter.” Period.



    July 29

    Officer Tensing charged with murder


    Initial media reports indicating that Dubose resisted arrest and endangered Tensing’s life were based solely on the latter’s police report. But video from the body camera he was wearing contradicts his report.

    Accordingly, here, in part, is how Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters damned Tensing as he announced a murder indictment against him during a press conference today:

    This is the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make — totally unwarranted…

    People want to believe that Mr. DuBose had done something violent towards the officer — he did not. He did not at all.

    (CNN, July 29, 2015)

    Having now seen the video myself, the murder indictment is entirely warranted. But this video also vindicates my abiding admonition that the best way for Blacks to survive traffic stops and other encounters with cops is to be far more cooperative than even slightly confrontational.

    I hasten to clarify that DuBose did nothing to provoke this shooting. But, like Sandra Bland, he clearly could have been far more cooperative….

    Incidentally, in “Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality (only against Black men?),” The iPINIONS Journal, August 12, 2014, I called for every police department in the country to make wearing body cameras as standard as wearing bulletproof vests.

    There’s no gainsaying that, but for the body camera in this case, Officer Tensing would not have been indicted.

    Meanwhile, lawyers invariably explain their decision to defend reprehensible defendants by citing the universally recognized rule that “everyone is entitled to a vigorous defense.” This, for example, is how Mark O’Mara explained his decision to help George Zimmerman get away with murdering Trayvon Martin.

    Audrey DuBose, Aubrey DuBose, Cleshawn DuBose, Terina Allen, Mark O'MaraThere is a critical difference, however, between a lawyer being appointed as a public defender of such defendants (which happens every day) and one choosing to play that role. The former does so as a professional duty; the latter, invariably, as a boon to his profession. I would bet my life savings, for example, that you had never heard of O’Mara before he chose to defend Zimmerman.

    This is why I am stupefied that the Dubose family retained O’Mara to help them get justice in this case. Never mind that, if he had any professional principles, O’Mara would have chosen to defend Tensing….

    More to the point, this family could have chosen from a national pool of thousands who have not prostituted their legal services the way he has. Not to mention unwittingly rewarding O’Mara now by giving him a chance not only for professional redemption, but also for a big windfall from the millions in civil damages even a first year lawyer is capable of winning in this case.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, July 22, 2015 at 7:57 AM

    Planned Parenthood: Peddling Fetal Body Parts…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am unabashedly pro-choice. I have no moral qualms about women having the legal right to abort an unwanted pregnancy.

    But, as with every right, this one is not absolute; nor should it be. Because, just as the right to free speech does not entitle one to shout fire in a crowded theater, the right to an abortion should not entitle one to have late-term abortions (i.e., after the 24th week) – except to protect the health of the mother.

    This sensibility explains why I am so shocked and appalled by the secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood doctors talking shop over lunch, which have just gone viral. For they show these doctors discussing “less-crunchy techniques” for aborting fetuses to better harvest their “body parts” for sale. Even worse, they are doing so with such blithe spirit, they might just as well be discussing less-destructive techniques for salvaging planks of wood from an abandoned property.

    download (30)Here, for example, is what Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services Dr. Deborah Nucatola can be seen and heard saying … in between bites of crisp salad and sips of red wine:

    A lot of people want intact hearts these days, because they’re looking for specific nodes…

    We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part.

    (FNC’s Special Report with Bret Baier, July 14, 2015)

    Yet I hasten to disassociate myself from the right-wing nutjobs who are accusing Planned Parenthood of abusing its charitable status to profit from abortions. Not least because:

    The full, unedited video they cite as evidence shows a Planned Parenthood executive repeatedly saying its clinics want to cover their costs, not make money, when donating fetal tissue from abortions for scientific research.

    (FactCheck.org, July 21, 2015)

    In fact, I fully support the kind of embryonic stem cell research President Obama authorized by executive order just months into his presidency. But the operative word here is “embryonic.” What’s more, my understanding is that stem cells are now far more preferable than fetal tissue for biomedical research.

    14370740783036-e1437233816736Notwithstanding my sensibilities or provocative headlines, however, it cannot be overstated that there is nothing illegal or even unethical about Planned Parenthood donating fetal tissue for research purposes – even for costs.

    At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does — with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards. There is no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood. In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.

    (Planned Parenthood.org, July 14, 2015)

    Still, the macabre nature of the videos at issue compels me to assert that, if a woman wants to have an abortion, she should be required to have it well before the third trimester. More to the point, fetuses aborted long before viability would draw a red line between discussions about donating fetal tissue and those about donating body parts. Not to mention that twenty weeks should provide more than enough time for a woman to weigh the pros and cons of terminating her pregnancy.

    article-1238612-07B47D96000005DC-760_233x423Incidentally, this is why it is as incomprehensible as it is unconscionable that the District of Columbia and seven states, including Colorado, New Jersey, and Vermont, have no restrictions whatsoever on when a woman can have an abortion. I mean, forget the ignorant and irresponsible practice of using abortions as contraception, how does one reconcile women who take the morning after pill (aka Plan B One-Step) with those who get late-term abortions for non-emergency reasons…?

    That said, I feel obliged to share just a little of my abiding disgust with anti-abortion crusaders like the ones who entrapped these Planned Parenthood doctors:

    If their right-to-life protestations had any moral consistency, conservatives would be every bit as zealous about abolishing the death penalty as they are about abolishing abortions. Not to mention the hypocrisy inherent in the juxtaposition of their moral crusade on behalf of fetuses of every type with their political aversion to the welfare of crack babies and other disadvantaged children.

    (“Obama Lifts Restrictions on Funding for Stem Cell Research…,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 10, 2009)

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  • Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at 7:43 AM

    After Fifty-Four Years, Cuba Reopens Embassy in Washington

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    2015-07-20T145919Z_1_LOP000H6H8KTR_RTRMADP_BASEIMAGE-960X540_USA-CUBA-EMBASSY-FLHere in Washington, DC, we endure pomp and ceremony for every mundane occasion imaginable. This is why the unsung nature of yesterday’s reopening of the Cuban embassy seemed almost as surreal as it was historic.

    Actually, if you don’t live or work here, you could be forgiven for having no clue how this historic event unfurled. After all, it had to compete for media coverage with the three-ring circus that is the fight for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. And that fight just happened to take on a truly surreal spectacle in recent days.

    Specifically, ringmaster Donald Trump drew attention to his draft-dodging days by claiming that John McCain is no war hero. He claims this because McCain was shot down on his twenty-third bombing mission over Hanoi during the Vietnam War. But I digress….

    This reopening was a long time coming.

    One bitter holdover of the Cold War slipped into the history books at 12:01 a.m. Monday, when the United States and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations. For the first time since severing ties in 1961, they reopened embassies in each other’s capitals.

    Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla traveled to the Cuban Embassy in Washington to raise his country’s flag, an event that Cuban government officials said would be broadcast live on the island’s state-run TV.

    (CNN, July 20, 2015)

    So here’s to this new day!

    download (29)That said, you’ve probably heard politicians – who remain beholden to die-hard Miami Cubans – denouncing President Obama’s decision to re-establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba.

    Unbridled conceit and arrogance among Miami Cubans explain their support for continuing the embargo … until kingdom come if necessary. Nothing betrays this quite like them presuming that — once the Castro brothers die off — they’ll be able to return to Cuba to inherit the political power and social privileges they or family members abdicated decades ago. And they presume this prerogative without any regard for the Cubans who have been toiling at home, waiting for their opportunity to govern their country.

    Except that, at this rate, a well-indoctrinated Elian Gonzalez will be Cuban dictator before Miami Cubans are disabused of their antic pining for their paradise lost.

    (“Dancing on Fidel Castro’s Grave Is Not Only Unseemly; It’s Premature,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 2, 2006)

    article-2521403-1A0215B700000578-741_964x649But all you need to know to dismiss their protestations is that these are the same politicians who hailed former President Reagan’s decision to nurture diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.

    castro-obamaAfter all, whatever human rights violations they claim make Cuba unworthy pale in comparison with human rights violations that should have made the Soviet Union even more so. Frankly, if they had any political or moral integrity on this issue, these anti-Cuban politicians would’ve been protesting U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba’s erstwhile benefactor with as much passion as they are now protesting its diplomatic relations with Cuba. But there’s no record of any politician showing any such profile in courage.

    By contrast, here are quotes from two previous commentaries that attest to my political and moral integrity on this issue, to say nothing of my prescience.


    • From “European Union Lifts Sanctions against Cuba. United States Will Follow … Eventually,” June 23, 2008:

    Advocates for America’s puerile, inhumane and hypocritical policy towards Cuba invariably cite Fidel Castro’s dictatorship as justification for sustained hostilities. But all one has to do is cite China – with whose dictators the U.S. courts a very beneficial relationship – to dismiss this justification as demonstrably specious…

    Long before his first trip to Cuba in 1998, Pope John Paul II decried America’s policy towards Cuba as ‘oppressive, unjust, and ethically unacceptable…’ He pronounced that ‘imposed isolation strikes the people indiscriminately, making it ever more difficult for the weakest to enjoy the bare essentials of decent living, things such as food, health and education.’

    • From “Fifth Summit of the Americas: Managing Expectations,” April 17, 2009:

    I am convinced that, if re-elected, Obama will seal his legacy by … normalizing relations with Cuba.


    This is a truly transformative political development. In fact, it’s arguable that Obama’s opening to Cuba is as significant as Nixon’s to China.

    Viva Cuba!

    Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 4.14.30 PM

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  • Monday, July 20, 2015 at 7:19 AM

    Chattanooga Massacre Shows NRA Is Lone Wolf’s Best Friend

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    _84354373_9f3d47ed-2cf2-46e5-804d-2dcdd21bfca7 (1)Pursuant to the new normal, another “lone wolf” opened fire on a military recruitment center in Chattanooga on Thursday, killing four marines and one midshipman.

    The gunfire came in rapid bursts, too many shots to count, a witness said…

    Within hours, a picture began to emerge of the shooting suspect, a 24-year-old Kuwaiti-born electrical engineering graduate. The gunman also was killed.

    (The Tennessean, July 17, 2015)

    No doubt you’ve seen politicians of every stripe all over TV since then, waxing indignant about what law enforcement needs to do to prevent such attacks.

    nra-300x230But it’s an indication of the influence and immunity the NRA has purchased that no politician dares to mention, let alone condemn, the role it plays in facilitating such attacks. Which is rather like waxing indignant about the ravages of tobacco without condemning the tobacco lobby.

    Meanwhile, it is self-evident that there is nothing law enforcement can do to prevent lone-wolf attacks. What’s more, all of the media profiling and psychoanalyzing that invariably follow them only incentivize and embolden other lone wolves to follow fashion. This is why I refuse to even publish their names….

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

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

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

    Am I the only one who sees the foolhardy and self-defeating nature of this kind of media attention? Moreover, why does the public need to know about every lead the FBI gets and every dot it’s trying to connect? Instead of peddling and propagating fear, the media should be educating the public about the existential imperative to say something if you see something.

    On the other hand, it is equally self-evident that there is something politicians can do to limit the carnage such attacks cause. What’s more, that something can be summed up in two words: gun control.

    Apropos of which, the argument I proffered in “The Second Amendment and Gun Control,” December 19, 2012, might be instructive.


    The Second Amendment specifically refers to ‘A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.’ Obviously, this is because, when the Constitution was signed 225 years ago, the United States did not have the well regulated police forces, let alone the well regulated armed forces, it has today.

    It’s arguable therefore that the only reasonable reading of this amendment in today’s context is that the only people who should have the right to ‘keep and bear arms’ are those in law enforcement and the military (i.e., those actively involved in ensuring national security).

    In other words, I am convinced that keeping and bearing six-cylinder handguns and double-barrel shotguns (for home protection) and single-shot rifles (for hunting) violate the letter of the Second Amendment. But I would concede that the right to keep and bear them could be consistent with its spirit. This is why I would make it illegal for civilians to possess any other type of firearm or munitions. Period! …

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


    nrab-300x205In this case, if a ban on assault weapons and limit on magazine clips were in effect, the death toll might have been one instead of five. After all, if this lone wolf only had access to a handgun, instead of the assault rifles he used, there would have been no “gunfire … in rapid bursts, too many shots to count.” More to the point, the marines would have had a chance to duck and run for cover.

    Unfortunately, the words “gun control” have become as sacrilege in American politics as the words “democratic freedoms” have in Russian politics.

    Only this explains why President Obama could not even get Congress to pass legislation requiring universal background checks on all firearm sales, let alone legislation banning the sale of assault weapons. This congressional obstructionism makes a mockery of the national outpouring in the wake of the December 2012 lone-wolf attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School, which killed twenty children and six adults.

    Nobody is more mindful of the venality and hypocrisy of the NRA. Yet even I did not think we’d be here, nearly four months after Newtown, facing the prospect of not having enough congressional support to pass even universal background checks. Especially given that, according to a Quinnipiac poll published this week, ninety-one percent of the American people favor such checks.

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


    Hence the manifest absurdity of marines at military recruitment centers – who are prohibited from bearing arms – having to worry now about some psycho legally purchasing assault rifles to hunt them down like sitting ducks.

    Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 10.15.55 AMAn absurdity made farcical, incidentally, by redneck vigilantes now showing up at these centers – bearing military-style assault weapons and vowing to protect the unarmed recruiters.

    In any event, the American people accept gun violence these days as readily as American politicians accept NRA donations. Therefore, it seems pointless to get too emotionally or politically exercised about the growing scourge of mass shootings – whether perpetrated by ISIS sympathizers or American psychos.

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  • Saturday, July 18, 2015 at 9:41 AM

    Why All the Hoopla about Pluto When Mars Proved Such a Cosmic Dud…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    nh-plutosurfaceJust years ago, scientists deemed Pluto so irrelevant, they reclassified it as a “dwarf planet.” Today, those same scientists are hailing it as the biggest thing in the solar system.

    In addition to soaring ice mountains, Pluto’s mixed bag of terrains includes smooth plains that are crisscrossed by enigmatic troughs, photographs from NSAS’s New Horizons mission show.

    ‘When I saw this image for the first time, I decided I was going to call it not-easy-to-explain terrain,’ said Jeffrey Moore, the leader of the geology, geophysics and imaging team for New Horizons, which visited Pluto this week.

    It has been an ecstatic few days for the scientists, who are puzzling over features they never expected.

    (New York Times, July 17, 2015)

    More to the point, just months ago, scientists were waxing ecstatic about another galactic feat. I sounded a curious, cautionary and cynical note back then in “Rosetta’s Comet Mission: the Robot Has Landed. Great. Now What?” November 13, 2014. Today, that note might resonate with you.


    Given their jubilation (with high-fiving, backslapping, and hugging all around), you’d think they had in fact discovered signs of life out there … somewhere.

    But I, for one, remember all too well the jubilation that attended, not just some robotic probe, but man landing on the Moon. And I am hard-pressed to cite ways in which that landing has lived up to the hype and hope it inspired. Not to mention that I’m still recovering from all of the disillusionment man’s robotic missions to Mars caused…

    I just think that, given the feat of landing a man on the Moon almost 50 years ago, scientists would do well to be a little more humble about feats that amount to little more than high-wire, robotic acts in space. Especially if those feats, in and of themselves, do little to advance man’s ongoing quest to either discover signs of other life in the universe, or find out more about the origins of our planet … ourselves.


    Accordingly, after they finish congratulating themselves … again, I urge these scientists to tell us what great leap for mankind these images New Horizons is now beaming back from Pluto represents. After all, I’m still waiting for these same scientists to tell us what great leap for mankind similar images (and surface samples) Pathfinder, Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Rosetta beamed back over the years from Mars represented.

    And, while they’re at it, they might also tell us what all their fuss last November, after landing the Rosetta spacecraft on some comet, was all about….

    Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 9.55.26 PM

    Again, color me cynical; but I suspect Pluto the dog will prove more significant in the history of mankind than Pluto the planet.

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  • Friday, July 17, 2015 at 7:39 AM

    It’s High Time to Legalize Drugs

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 10.15.55 PMDon Winslow is the bestselling author of such crime and mystery novels as Savages. He is currently enjoying critical acclaim, as well as commercial success, with his latest novel, The Cartel, which chronicles the myriad reasons the War on Drugs has been a tragic failure.

    Of course, one can imagine all too well the “pornography of violence” and epidemic of corruption he depicts. Not to mention the cloying effect reading this novel might have on anyone familiar with nonfiction books by the late Charles Bowden, notably A Shadow in the City: Confessions of an Undercover Drug Warrior (2005) and Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields (2010).

    In any event, nothing dramatizes the futility of the War on Drugs quite like Mexican authorities allowing Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to escape from a maximum-security prison, for a second time, last weekend. This, after U.S. authorities helped them track and capture him just a year ago; and despite the fact that the Department of Justice describes him as the world’s most powerful drug lord. He heads the Sinaloa Cartel, which is arguably the shrewdest, richest, and most violent drug cartel in history.

    image (4)Mind you, his escape has been a godsend for sales of The Cartel. Not least because it includes a fictionalized account of El Chapo’s then notorious first escape in 2001.

    Yet I suspect Winslow will use a significant percentage of his royalties to support the campaign to end the War on Drugs. Especially because he demonstrated his commitment to this cause when he purchased a full-page ad in the June 28 edition of the Washington Post.

    It took the form of “An Open Letter to Congress and the President,” in which he pleaded for them to legalize drugs. He argued that, at the very least, this would save the billions wasted each year fighting this “unwinnable” war, while generating billions in revenues by taxing drugs at the same rate as tobacco and alcohol. He summed up his plea as follows:

    The War on Drugs is not only futile, it is wrong. The answer is legalization. The only way to win is to stop fighting.

    hqdefault (4)Not surprisingly, Winslow got (and is still getting) lots of media attention.

    But I fear his plea to legalize drugs will prove no more effective than that of far more acclaimed and politically connected authors like William F. Buckley Jr.

    Here, in part, is how Buckley pleaded, way back in the summer of 1995, for the New York Bar Association to use its good offices to help legalize drugs:

    We are speaking of a plague that consumes an estimated $75 billion per year of public money, exacts an estimated $70 billion a year from consumers, is responsible for nearly 50 percent of the million Americans who are today in jail, occupies an estimated 50 percent of the trial time of our judiciary, and takes the time of 400,000 policemen — yet a plague for which no cure is at hand, nor in prospect…

    It is outrageous to live in a society whose laws tolerate sending young people to life in prison because they grew, or distributed, a dozen ounces of marijuana…

    I would hope that the good offices of your vital profession would mobilize at least to protest such excesses of wartime zeal … and perhaps proceed to recommend the legalization of the sale of most drugs, except to minors.

    (The National Review, February 12, 1996)

    As it happens, I have been in the vanguard of this campaign all of my adult life. And I don’t mind admitting that I could never proffer a plea as compelling as Buckley’s, although not for want of trying – as the following excerpts from just a few of my commentaries attest.


    From “Landmark Healthcare Decisions by U.S. Government,” June 12, 2005:

    Consider that every year 435,000 people in the United States die from tobacco use. (Cigarettes kill more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal drugs combined.) And, conversely, that there’s not a single documented case of anyone dying from marijuana use.

    So what, pray tell, could be the rationale for the geniuses on the Supreme Court to rule that allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes would be hazardous to our health?

    133259-132933From “Former Mexican President: Legalize Drugs!” October 20, 2011:

    Former Mexican President Vicente Fox has been making news all year: not only by blaming insatiable demand in the United States for the drug-related violence that has turned Mexico into a veritable war zone, but also for declaring that the legalization of production, transit, and sale of all prohibited drugs is the only way to fight the so-called ‘war on drugs,’ which both countries have been fighting to no avail since 1971…

    Frankly, ever since Prohibition (1919-1933) all reasonable people should have developed an instructive appreciation of this variation on George Santayana’s famous quote, namely: that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it…

    So I welcome Fox. I just wish he had the balls to come on board when he was president from 2001 to 2006. Because his voice would have carried a great deal more political weight back then.

    From “Legalize Marijuana!” June 5, 2012:

    When it comes to progressive laws in the United States it is axiomatic that as California goes, so goes the nation. This was the case when it legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 1996.  (Seventeen states, including Washington, DC, have followed suit.)

    Therefore, it is very noteworthy that New York is assuming this vanguard role in decriminalizing possession of marijuana for personal use (i.e., not necessarily for medicinal use)… Not to mention the benefit to Blacks and Hispanics who compose the vast majority of those routinely prosecuted and incarcerated for possession of small amounts of marijuana…

    As one who has been advocating for the decriminalization not just of marijuana but of all drugs, I welcome this second baby step along this progressive road (legalizing medicinal use being the first). I only hope that, in this case, as New York goes, so goes the nation.

    From “Obama on Marijuana,” February 6, 2014:

    Just as I was always certain Obama was a closeted supporter of legalizing same-sex marriages, I’m certain he is a closeted supporter of legalizing marijuana too. Not least because he’s intellectually honest enough to appreciate that only rank moral hypocrisy (and vested interest in the prison industrial complex) can explain why alcohol – with its many harmful and, in far too many cases, deadly effects – is legal, but marijuana – with its relatively mild and, in very many cases, medicinal effects – is illegal.

    And let’s be clear, the harm alcohol causes to others ranges from drunken arguments that lead to domestic violence, to driving under the influence that leads to vehicular homicides.


    d1bbb8f87f1b1df391070bdb9face96b0a120dcbAlas, faith-based opposition, ignorance, and hypocrisy are such that pleading for politicians to legalize drugs is rather like pleading for priests to endorse abortions.

    Truth be told, the campaign to legalize drugs has proven every bit as futile as the War on Drugs – albeit not nearly as costly in terms of wasted blood and treasure. Indeed, “legalize-it” campaigners might be only slightly less naïve than Nancy Reagan was when she thought she could curb drug use by launching her “Just Say No” campaign.

    That said, I derive a little consolation from the executive actions President Obama is taking. They include commuting prison sentences of nonviolent drug offenders and championing legislation to redress the cruel and unusual sentencing of people to years, if not life, in prison for petty drug offenses. 

    Just yesterday, he drew worldwide media attention to this cause, which Winslow and Buckley never could, when he became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. And here, in part, is how he used the occasion to plead on behalf of the tens of thousands of young people serving patently unfair sentences:

    When they describe their youth and their childhood, these are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different than the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made. The difference is they did not have the kinds of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes.

    (New York Times, July 16, 2015)

    Hear, hear!

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  • Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 6:41 AM

    Kim Kardashian on ‘Rolling Stone’?! Is Nothing Sacred…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’ve been ranting for years about the way postings on social media offend all notions of decency, talent, intimacy, and intelligence. Such commentaries as “Why I Hate Twitter,” February 1, 2013, “Keep Your Selfies to Yourself … Puhleeease!” April 7, 2014, and “Facebook Friends? Try Facebook’s Guinea Pigs,” July 8, 2014, attest to this.

    Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 9.16.31 AMI didn’t think this kind of cultural decay could get any worse than MTV perverting its mission years ago by featuring more “reality TV” than music videos. But the real world of today, in which a no-talented, botoxed and siliconed woman like Kim Kardashian is more celebrated than Meryl Streep or Cindy Crawford ever was, makes The Real World seem worthy of Masterpiece Theatre.

    I hasten to clarify, however, that I don’t begrudge Kim and her family their success, no matter how contrived. On the contrary, I admire the zeal and esprit de corps with which they exploit the public’s insatiable lust for simple-minded, prurient fluff.

    No, my beef is with the putative guardians of mainstream media – who now troll social media for snarky tweets and photoshopped instagrams to broadcast as news. Which brings me to the latest edition of Rolling Stone magazine, featuring Kim Kardashian on its cover.

    In this case, though, I cannot possibly summon the outrage and commensurate profanity to match that which critically acclaimed singer/activist Sinead O’Connor summoned to properly decry this cover.


    What is this c–t doing on the cover of Rolling Stone? Music has officially died. Who knew it would be Rolling Stone that murdered it? Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh can no longer be expected to take all the blame. Bob Dylan must be f–king horrified. #BoycottRollingStone

    (The Independent, July 15, 2015)

    Unfortunately, calling for a boycott of Rolling Stone assumes that it still has readers who are more interested in talent than celebrity. In fact, this once-venerable magazine lost its way so long ago, I suspect the only people who read it these days are people who would vote Kim the most admired woman in the world. Only that explains this:

    Nothing was more distasteful and dismaying in this respect than seeing the Boston Marathon bomber on the cover of Rolling Stone, channeling the smug, self-satisfied look of rock icon Jim Morrison….

    (“PSA: Media, Stop Making Celebrities of Mass Murderers,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 1, 2015)

    In The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon famously noted that “bizarreness masquerad[ing] as creativity” proved a harbinger of things to come.

    God help us….

    Related commentaries:
    PSA media

  • Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 6:13 AM

    Obama Leads World to Historic Nuclear Deal with Iran

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 10.45.36 AMPresident Obama commanded special TV time this morning to announce a historic deal to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It was decades in the making (arguably dating back to 1979), but took his pragmatic and visionary leadership to finally seal it.

    Therefore, Obama was right to hail this deal as a transformative step towards global peace.

    Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States – together with our international partners [China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, plus Germany: aka the P5+1] – has achieved what decades of animosity has not: a comprehensive, long-term deal that will verifiably prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

    This deal shows the real and meaningful change that American leadership and diplomacy can bring – change that makes our country and the world safer and more secure…

    If it violates any aspect of this deal, sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy will snap back into place.

    (White House.gov, July 14, 2015)

    5275eab9-175d-45c0-bf48-816dba379a80-2060x1236It is also noteworthy that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed the motto of Obama’s presidency by hailing it as a “new chapter of hope.”

    Of course, the usual critics abound. Most notable among them are Israel’s warmongering prime minister and his band of useful idiots in the U.S. Congress.

    But all you need to know is that criticism of this deal makes even less sense than criticism of the historic agreement to normalize relations with Cuba.

    Netanyahu and congressional Republicans are raising alarms about this deal giving Iran access to hundreds of billions to spread terrorism throughout the Middle East. The problem, however, is that they are getting into bed with Saudi Arabia to do so.

    After all, whatever one thinks of Iran’s support for and funding of terrorist groups like Hezbollah, it pales in comparison with Saudi Arabia’s support for and funding of the spread of Wahhabism, the medieval form of Islam that gave rise to al-Qaeda and its demon spawn, ISIS. This glaring hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren’t so … nuclear.

    As it happens, I have written many commentaries over the years delineating why:

    a) Netanyahu is even less credible on Iran’s nuclear weapons than Trump is on Mexico’s illegal immigrants.

    Frankly, instead of trying in vain to rally the world to maintain crippling sanctions against Iran for fomenting terrorism, Netanyahu should be worried about former president Jimmy Carter rallying the world to impose sanctions against Israel for building (what Carter has decried as) an apartheid state, where Jews treat Palestinians the way Whites treated Blacks in Apartheid South Africa. Not to mention the fateful analogy one can draw between the geo-political damage Netanyahu is causing Israel with his bombastic pandering on this issue, and the socio-economic damage Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is causing Greece with his bombastic posturing on the Eurozone crisis.

    b) Congressmen trying to sabotage this historic deal are doing so for the same ignorant, shortsighted, irresponsible, spiteful, and partisan reasons they tried to sabotage Obama’s historic legislation on healthcare reform.

    But I see no point in venting indignation anew over their opposition. Instead, I shall suffice to mark this historic occasion by reprising excerpts from just a few commentaries, which show why even I had/have a more credible take on all issues related to Iran’s nuclear program than Netanyahu.


    From “Iran Keeps on Nuking…,” September 2, 2006, on why Iran has forfeited its sovereign right to develop nuclear weapons:

    [A]ny reasonable expectation that Iran will use its nuclear power for only peaceful purposes has been terminally undermined by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s serial threats to wipe Israel off the map.

    And, since he has given no indication that his threats are merely rhetorical, I think it would be as irresponsible and inhumane for the international community to allow Ahmadinejad’s Iran to develop nuclear weapons as it was for world powers to allow Hitler’s Germany to conquer most of Europe (and exterminate 6 million Jews) before they acted.

    From “Despite Drumbeat, Israel Will Never Attack Iran,” February 21, 2012, on why the Iraq war made war with Iran a march of folly too great to contemplate:

    No doubt the rhetoric now being hurled between the United States/Israel and Iran smacks of an unnerving echo of that which was hurled between the United States/Britain and Iraq before the ill-fated invasion of that country in 2003 – complete with UN nuclear inspectors (then and now) on a wild-goose chase to find weapons of mass destruction.

    The key difference, however, is that the indispensable party to this war dance with Iran is the pragmatic and prudent President Barack Obama; whereas, in the case of Iraq, it was the dogmatic and cocksure President George W. Bush. More to the point, unlike Bush, whose logic was to bomb first and seek peace later, Obama seems determined to seek peace first and bomb later … if necessary…

    I am convinced that, despite threatening to use military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the United States/Israel will never attack. Not least because the United States has to wonder if Iran is just playing a cat-and-mouse game with the world over its nuclear program for the same reason Iraq did over its WMDs: It’s far more important for its neighbors to think that it has weapons to destroy them than it is for the world to know that it has no such weapons.

    Not to mention that an attack on Iran would stir up a veritable hornet’s nest — ranging from $6-per-gallon gasoline to effectively kicking off World War III…

    Most important, though, I am convinced that, despite its rhetoric about wiping Israel off the map, Iran will never attack Israel. Not least for the same reason the Soviet Union/Russia has never attacked the United States: Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). And rest assured that if any country thought it was beneficial (politically or financially) to sell nuclear weapons to terrorists, North Korea would have done so years ago.

    From “Obama Dissing Israeli PM Netanyahu?” September 12, 2012, on why Netanyahu’s opposition to Obama’s efforts reeks of perfidy:

    I am simply stupefied by the way Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has been publicly goading Obama – almost from day one of his presidency – to stop Iran [from developing nuclear weapons] before it enters some amorphous ‘zone of immunity’ (presumably where North Korea resides)…

    All of his talk about red lines and red lights is just a red herring. If Netanyahu wants to attack Iran today, nobody’s stopping him.

    Except that this arrogant SOB would rather sit on his moral high-horse (playing the Holocaust card) and declaim falsely about Obama dictating when and how he should act to defend Israel’s national security interests. All the while he’s presuming to dictate to Obama when and how he should act to defend America’s national security interests with respect to Iran: talk about brass ones…

    [I]t is noteworthy that Netanyahu is being supported in his rhetorical misadventure by the same coalition of crusading dunces (namely, Zionists, Christian fundamentalists, and new-world-order neo-cons) who goaded Bush into attacking Iraq. Not to mention that they have all been issuing Chicken-Little warnings about Iran being just months away from going nuclear since the 1990s….

    From “Netanyahu, Obama’s Iago; Iran, His Desdemona,” October 2, 2013, on why Obama should be more wary of Netanyahu than the Ayatollah:

    [I]t cannot be lost on Obama that, if he had his way, Netanyahu would have already misled him down a primrose path to war against Iran – similar to the one neo-cons misled his predecessor, George W. Bush, down to war against Iraq 10 years ago.

    Mind you, this is not to say that I believe anything Rouhani says about Iran’s nuclear program. It’s just that if there were any truth in anything Netanyahu has said about it, Iran would have already done to Tel Aviv what the United States did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II….

    From “One Small Step Towards De-nuking Iran,” November 25, 2013, on why today’s deal is in fact anticlimactic:

    Iran struck an historic agreement today with the United States and five other major nuclear powers: namely, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the UK – all represented by their respective foreign ministers. It calls for Iran to temporarily suspend developing its nuclear program in exchange for these powers (specifically the United States) temporarily suspending (only some of) the sanctions that have been crippling Iran’s economy for decades.

    This six-month agreement is intended to provide both sides the good-faith basis to negotiate a permanent agreement to dismantle and destroy Iran’s capacity to ever develop nuclear weapons. If the parties fail to reach such an agreement, the United States vows not only to impose more onerous sanctions than ever before, but also to hold the Damoclean sword of military strikes over Iran to prevent it from taking steps towards undeniable “breakout nuclear capacity”…

    [H]ere is the hysterical way Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried it on behalf of the few leaders (most notably the king of Saudi Arabia) who seem hell-bent on trying to get Obama to lead a march of folly into Iran the way they got Bush to do in Iraq:

    What was reached last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake. Today the world became a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world made a significant step in obtaining the most dangerous weapons in the world.

    (Associated Press, November 24, 2013)

    The irony, of course, is that Netanyahu now seems every bit as unhinged and isolated as former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad always did. What’s more, it seems completely lost on him that he is striking an untenable alliance with Arab leaders who hate Israel as much as they fear Iran (pursuant to the Muslim world’s Sunni-Shia schism that dates back to the year 632).

    From “Republicans Send ‘Mutinous’ Letter to Iran,” March 17, 2015, on why congressional Republicans are delusional if they think the other parties to this deal are going to help them impose even more draconian sanctions if they somehow manage to torpedo it:

    Obama’s detractors should be forced to explain if they think the other P5+1 leaders (of China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, plus Germany) are just as naïve, incompetent, and untrustworthy as they insist Obama is for negotiating this deal. After all, his detractors would have you believe that Obama is so desperate for a deal to seal his presidential legacy that he’d have no compunction about striking one even if it ‘threatens the survival of Israel’ — as the eschatologically paranoid Netanyahu maintains.

    Whereas, in fact, Obama is ‘leading from in front’ by rallying these world leaders to endorse his strategy for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. This, ironically, is the kind of leadership that makes him finally worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize he won years ago…

    But talk about clueless: I don’t see how anyone who knows anything about this issue can watch Netanyahu say anything about it without seeing his nose grow longer than Pinocchio’s. And only pathological delusion can mislead Netanyahu into thinking he can stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons by, on the one hand, appealing to powerless carnival barkers in the U.S. Congress, while on the other hand, willfully defying not just Obama but all of the world leaders standing shoulder to shoulder with him.

    Finally, from “Netanyahu Condemns Framework for Peace with Iran as … Path to War,” April 4, 2015, on why the Soviet precedent belies opposition to dealing with Iran:

    Obama is getting near-universal praise for the comprehensive and detailed nature of this framework agreement. In fact, great expectations abound now that the parties will sign a final agreement in June against all (formerly intractable) odds.

    Predictably, the only notable naysayers are members of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition in the Israeli Knesset and members of the Israel-can-do-no-wrong caucus in the U.S. Congress…

    Meanwhile, both Netanyahu and Republicans seem willfully oblivious to the fact that no less a person than their political patron saint, former President Ronald Reagan, negotiated similar nuclear deals with the former Soviet Union — a country that not only vowed to wipe the United States off the map, but actually possessed the nuclear weapons to do so.


    19mag-republicans-master675Notwithstanding the above, Netanyahu and Republicans are conspiring to use congressional powers to prevent implementation of this deal, which they are denouncing as “a historic mistake.” Except that these are the same feckless doomsayers who conspired to no avail to use congressional powers to prevent Obama from even consummating this deal – complete with Netanyahu exhorting U.S. lawmakers to defy Obama during an extraordinary address before a joint session of Congress.

    This constrains me to point out that Republicans vowed from day one of Obama’s presidency to make him a failed, one-term president. Therefore, their opposition in this case probably has more to do with frustration over Obama’s continued success, despite their visceral obstruction, than with concern about the merits of this deal.

    In fact, it’s clearly driving Republicans mad trying to reconcile their narrative of Obama as a failed president with his record of accomplishments. After all, in addition to this nuclear deal with Iran, which represents a triumph of diplomacy over saber-rattling/war, those accomplishments now include such legacy items as:

    • Rescuing the country from the brink of a second Great Depression
    • Saving the auto industry
    • Ushering in landmark healthcare reform
    • Launching America’s clean-energy revolution
    • Championing same-sex marriages and other civil rights for gays and lesbians
    • Withdrawing U.S. troops from Vietnam-style quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan
    • Killing Osama bin Laden
    • Securing Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact in “pivot” to Asia
    • Normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba

    And he ain’t done yet, especially given historic steps he’s taking now to curb illegal immigration and reform America’s racist criminal justice system.

    So, albeit begrudgingly, even rabid, anti-Obama Republicans would have to concede that Obama has already racked up a record of accomplishments that rivals, if not surpasses, that of the putatively transformative president Ronald Reagan, their political patron saint.

    Enough said?

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 7:10 p.m.

  • Monday, July 13, 2015 at 3:21 PM

    Omar Sharif, Prodigiously Talented Prodigal Actor/Gambler, Is dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Omar Sharif was a man of whom it can fairly be said, courtesy of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth:

    Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.

    omar-sharif-dr-zhivago-513955684More to the point, paraphrasing another famous saying, never before in the history of film has an actor with so much talent ended up having so little to show for it. Frankly, it’s pitiful that all one can cite to commend his whole life is the supporting role he played in (Peter O’Toole’s) Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and the lead role he played in Doctor Zhivago (1965).

    Mind you, IMDb credits Sharif with playing 117 roles during his 61-year career. Yet, for all the posthumous accolades he’s receiving, the only acting awards he ever won were Golden Globes way back in the 1960s – for the roles referenced in the paragraph above, respectively.

    Here, for the most part, is why:

    He became an inveterate gambler, touring the casino tables of Europe, frittering away his fortune, which he had to replenish by taking uninspiring roles as the ‘foreign gentleman’ or ‘exotic lover’ in a string of forgettable films…

    He gave up roulette after losing £750,000 in a single night, but continued to leach money as only a gambling addict knows how…

    It wasn’t just lovers he sometimes behaved shamefully towards; he had a violent temper, once being arrested for smashing up a restaurant in Greece.

    (Daily Mail, July 10, 2015)

    In fact, Sharif’s bacchanalian behavior off screen became such tabloid fodder during the last decades of his life, it overshadowed any role he played (or had ever played) on screen. By way of analogy, you’d never know Lindsay Lohan was once considered the most promising actor of her generation, given the tabloid fodder her drug-addled behavior off screen has become.

    Not to mention how much good he could have done for underprivileged kids in his native Egypt if he had used his fame and just a fraction of his gambling losses to do for them what fellow actor Paul Newman did for seriously ill kids in America. (The Hole in the Wall Gang and Newman’s Own Foundation are just two of the latter’s charitable legacies.)

    This is why I felt so incredulous that public figures and personal friends were eulogizing Sharif for being an accomplished actor and admirable man in equal measure. Some of what I heard and read was replete with so much idle flattery, it bordered on idol worship. I could not help but think that people were confusing the few dashing characters he played with the reprobate character he was.

    ap116728088575Which brings me back to my Shakespearean allusion above. For, to his credit, Sharif performed his own version of “deep repentance” during the final years of his life; that is, by speaking with refreshing and disarming honesty about squandering his acting abilities just to live a decadent, depraved and dissolute life.

    Indeed, he seemed anxious to confess that he threw away the thing others thought was his saving grace “as twere a careless trifle.” Accordingly, he would probably be far more disdainful of than flattered by any posthumous accolade.

    I got the sense from interviews he gave that he regarded his as a misspent life others should learn from; not as a charmed life others should emulate. Yet the fatally flawed character of this man was such that he invariably undermined his apparent reckoning by admitting that, if he could do it all over again, he would not change a thing….

    Sharif died on Friday of the ravages of Alzheimer’s and a heart attack. He was 83.

    Farewell, Omar.

  • Sunday, July 12, 2015 at 4:55 PM

    Greek Referendum Proves a Poisoned Chalice

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Fellow liberals upbraided me last week for arguing – in “Hello … China? Greece Calling,” July 6, 2015 – that:

    a) Greek leaders were delusional for holding a referendum on Eurozone bailout terms (i.e., instead of humbly accepting them); and

    b) Greek protesters were hopelessly misguided for expecting a no vote to lead to anything but even greater misery.

    g_030415_piketty_krugman_stiglitzBut I could hardly blame my political comrades.

    After all, liberals far more acclaimed than I, most notably celebrated French economist Thomas Piketty and Nobel Prize-winning economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, were not only hailing the referendum as a brilliant political move, but also postulating that a no vote would be in the best economic interest of the long-suffering Greek people.

    Piketty has joined other economists in calling for Greece’s heavy debt burden to be restructured and says Greeks should vote no. In an interview with the French broadcaster BFMTV he described the deal proposed by creditors as ‘bad’. He also warned that expelling Greece from Europe would push it into the arms of Russia.

    (The Guardian, July 3, 2015)

    Not surprisingly, the no vote was so decisive (at 61 percent) it seemed like an act of national defiance (or, from my perspective, one of cutting off nose to spite face).

    greece-debt-crisisWhich is why it seemed schizophrenic that, instead of using his plainly contrived result as leverage to extract more generous bailout terms (as he vowed to do), Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras convened an extraordinary session of parliament to plead for members to accept post-referendum bailout terms that are even more austere.

    What was the point of the referendum?…

    Roll forward seven days and Greece’s prime minister signed the very measures he had fought against. Corporate tax and VAT will rise, privatisations will be pursued, public sector pay lowered and early retirement phased out.

    (BBC, July 11, 2015)

    In other words, the Eurozone called Greece’s bluff, just as I predicted they would do – in “EU Calling Greece’s Bluff … Finally,” June 28, 2015. Even worse, Germany, the EU’s most influential member, deemed Greece’s ill-advised referendum such a petulant betrayal of trust that, instead of devising more bailout terms, it is reportedly drafting a “time-out” clause.

    EU finance ministers remain locked in a tense summit considering Greece’s future in the euro – but as Athens seeks to reassure members they can be trusted with yet another bailout, it has emerged the Germans have already put together plans for a temporary ‘Grexit’…

    The Greek government has vociferously denied the claim, but it is known German chancellor Angela Merkel remains unconvinced that their measures to tackle its debt will be enough to justify another bailout, while her finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said there were issues of trust.

    His words were echoed by Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Eurogroup president: ‘There is, of course, a major issue of trust: can the Greek government actually be trusted to do what they are promising to actually implement in the coming weeks, months and years?’

    (Daily Mail, July 11, 2015)


    [A]s Athens takes on the aura of Soviet Russia, with lines of people outside banks waiting to receive their daily cash allowance, some aid groups are seeing their supply channels narrow.

    (New York Times, July 11, 2015)

    _82192612_501ca151-01c4-46ff-bbf4-fda46b5cca5cThis quote only hints at how foolhardy Greece was for holding this referendum. But it clearly vindicates my assertion that any flirtation with Russia would be tantamount to jumping from the frying pan into the fire … with all due respect to Mr. Piketty.

    Indeed, if Greek leaders thought Putin could be their white knight, they would not have heeded the summons for all of them to appear in Brussels today to convince EU leaders that they are prepared, at long last, to behave like responsible adults.

    Eurozone leaders will fight to the finish to keep near-bankrupt Greece in the single currency on Sunday after the European Union’s chairman canceled a planned summit of all 28 EU leaders that would have been needed in case of a ‘Grexit.’

    But leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will be required to enact key legislation in parliament from Monday to start restoring the broken trust of his partners in the 19-nation currency union before they will agree to open negotiations on a third bailout, ministers said.

    (Reuters, July 12, 2015)

    Frankly, I cannot overstate how much this referendum has backfired … on the poor, misguided Greek people. If Tsipras had any self-respect, he’d resign.

    alexis-tsipras-angela-merkel-greece-germanyAfter all, he led his people to believe that it would empower him to extract concessions from EU leaders that would ease their economic burdens. In fact, the referendum has only increased their burdens. What’s more, it has given EU leaders just cause to treat Tsipras, quite rightly, like an unruly child: by not only making him eat his vegetables, but forcing him to don a dunce cap and go to the naughty corner to boot.

    Likewise, though, if the economists who championed this referendum had any self-respect, they would retreat to their ivory towers to eat lots of humble pie….

    Yet I am all too mindful that this Grand Guignol melodrama being played out today would be a fleeting European farce if it were not such a congenital Greek tragedy….

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, July 11, 2015 at 3:44 PM

    Hail, Serena! Queen of Ace

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 2.03.59 PM

    Serena Williams defeated Garbiñe Muguruza 6-4, 6-4 to win Wimbledon, the 21st grand slam title in her illustrious career…

    At this year’s U.S. Open, which begins in six weeks, she will attempt to win all four majors in the same calendar year, a feat not achieved since Steffi Graf did it in 1988.

    Williams now sits just behind Graf (who won 22) in total Grand Slam titles in the open era of tennis.

    (Huffington Post, July 11, 2015)

    Truth be told, I was almost more impressed by Serena’s post-match interview than I was by her on-court play.

    1436621345130_lc_galleryImage_Wimbledon_2015_tennis_chaWith respect to her play, she flirted with an epic choke. Specifically, Serena was leading 6-4, 5-1, and serving for the match. So anyone who knows anything about Tennis would’ve been forgiven for thinking at this point that it was just a matter of minutes before the umpire announced that now-familiar phrase, game, set, match, Miss Williams: 6-4, 6-1.

    Instead, she let Garbiñe break her serve … twice to win three consecutive games, bringing the second set to an improbable 5-4, before Serena regained her composure and broke back to win it 6-4. Incidentally, the timely aces she served throughout this match (12 in all) were instrumental, especially considering that they amounted to the exact number of points she appeared to give away during those three consecutive games.

    But this flirtation was particularly noteworthy for the way she maintained her composure. This is the same Serena, after all, who became so unnerved by a similar choking episode at the 2009 U.S. Open that she threatened to shove a tennis ball down the throat of an elderly lineswoman for making, what Serena thought, was a bad call.

    This brings me to her post-match interview. Wimbledon revels in its reputation as the classiest of the Grand Slams – complete with its all-white dress code and preening royal box. But nothing was classier at this year’s tournament than the way Serena reveled in victory:

    Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 8.04.38 PMFirst she endeared herself by jumping and pirouetting center court with unbridled joy. Then she thanked the appreciative fans and acknowledged her vanquished opponent with such charm, eloquence, and magnanimity, you’d think she were the most regal person to ever grace the All England Tennis Lawn and Croquet Club with her presence.

    Okay, so perhaps it was a bit much to see her carrying her winner’s tray around on her head, the way African women carry their laundry baskets (and practically everything else)….

    Still, I couldn’t be happier for and prouder of her.

    The Serena Slam [winning all four Grand Slam titles in a row] is one of the most amazing feats in sports, but some people are boring and like to pretend winning all four grand slam titles in a calendar year is any more impressive….

    (SB Nation, July 11, 2015)

    Whatever the case, here’s to Grand Slams 22, 23, 24 … and undisputed acclaim as the greatest female player of all time.

    140617175720-maria-sharapova-french-open-horizontal-galleryMind you, given the way advertisers are lavishing lucrative endorsements on Maria Sharapova, you’d think she were the one chasing this history. In fact, she’s heading into the sunset of her career still chasing after her sixth Grand Slam….

    Serena is clearly too classy these days to complain about this egregious (and arguably racist) oversight, which is all the more admirable considering the tens of millions of dollars it represents. But the rest of us should.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, July 11, 2015 at 3:17 PM

    NYSE crash, OPM hack stem from failure to update 20th-century computer systems

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 11.17.37 AM

    The deadline for installing secure operating systems on federal government computers will pass next month with the job incomplete, leaving hundreds of thousands of machines running outdated software and unusually vulnerable to hackers.

    Federal officials have known for more than six years that Microsoft will withdraw its free support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. Despite a recent rush to complete upgrades, an estimated 10 percent of government computers — out of several million — will still be running the operating system on that date, company officials said.

    That includes thousands of computers on classified military and diplomatic networks, U.S. officials said. Such networks have stronger defenses generally but hold more sensitive material, raising the stakes for breaches if they occur.

    (Washington Post, March 16, 2014)

  • Thursday, July 9, 2015 at 7:53 AM

    Malibu Billionaires Forced to Open ‘Private Beach’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    ALLEN & COMPANY'S 23RD ANNUAL MEDIA CONFERENCEHere, in part, is what I wrote ten years ago in “Attempts by Rich Snobs in California … to Keep ‘Trespassers’ from Public Beaches,” April 18, 2005. This, after entertainment mogul David Geffen finally realized that even billions can’t buy private access to public beaches.


    Some people live by the cynical motto that there’s nothing money can’t buy. Only this explains why anyone would attempt to use personal wealth to deny public access to public beaches.

    david geffen public beach access point

    For over twenty years, billionaire entertainment mogul David Geffen deployed an armada of lawyers to block public access to Malibu beach via the ‘public’ path that runs adjacent to his multimillion-dollar home. He maintained this uncivil disobedience despite promising (over 20 years ago) to allow ‘access for all’ in exchange for a special building permit to remodel that home.

    Well, it appears Geffen has decided that he’d rather allow beach bound riff-raff to traipse past his home than continue to fund beachfront investments for his mercenary lawyers. Because last week, he finally surrendered and ceded custodial care of the beach path to a non-profit organization acting in the public interest.


    This precedent clearly made him look like just another rich fool. Therefore, you’d think his billionaire neighbors would be loathed to follow it by trying to claim private ownership of public beach access too.

    Screen-shot-2015-07-06-at-10.06.24-AMExcept that it seems keeping up with the Joneses among billionaires includes competing to be the richest fool. Because now comes this from the July 7 edition of the Los Angeles Daily News:

    After a decade-long legal fight that pitted public access advocates against a wealthy homeowner who refused to build a path, the California Coastal Commission is officially opening a third walkway along the 1.5-mile Carbon Beach on Tuesday…

    Carbon Beach is renowned for its majestic shoreline and high net-worth celebrities and homeowners. Heavy-hitters include Larry Ellison, former chief executive of Oracle Corp.; Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Peter Morton; and entertainment mogul David Geffen.

    State law guarantees the public beach access up to the mean high tide line; but in areas like Malibu, many affluent and influential residents have taken extensive measures to keep beachgoers out of their sandy backyards.

    Meanwhile, it appears Geffen has finally had enough of riff-raff traipsing past his home to get to the beach. Because, according to the June 24 edition of entertainment trade magazine VARIETY, he has put his “Malibu compound” on the market for $100 million. And, aerial views only hint at why it’s probably a steal even at that price.


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