Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 6:12 AM
The first round-the-world solar powered flight has been completed, after the Solar Impulse aircraft touched down in Abu Dhabi.
Bertrand Piccard piloted the plane for a final time, steering it safely from the Egyptian capital Cairo to the UAE.
He has been taking turns at the controls with Swiss compatriot Andre Borschberg, with the mission aiming to promote renewable energy.
(BBC, July 26, 2016)
The entire world seems beset either by the spectacle of politics (like the U.S. presidential campaign) or by the scourge of terrorism (like yet another ISIS-inspired attack in France yesterday). Therefore, even though historic, this solar-powered flight might seem quaint and inconsequential.
Indeed, I am constrained to distinguish this kind of environmental activism from the environmental evangelism of celebrities like Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio, which I’ve been decrying for years as follows:
To hear these rich folks lamenting about the depletion of the ozone, the increasing gap between haves and have nots, and the almost criminal waste of non-renewable energy, one would think they jet-pooled to Davos on ethanol-fueled airplanes; whereas they all flew in on gas-guzzling, air-polluting private jets.
(“Attendees Emit More CO2 than Solutions at Davos World Economic Forum,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 29, 2007)
The number of private jets landing in east Switzerland’s main airports is expected to jump by a third this month as world leaders, executives, and entrepreneurs descend on Davos for the annual World Economic Forum.
Last January, 1,389 private planes flew into Zurich…
(London Telegraph, January 20, 2016)
Am I the only one who thinks this smacks of catholic indulgences?
After all, these celebrities routinely pollute the environment with their profligate carbon footprints. Yet they routinely receive not only public absolution but public adulation because they contribute to or raise funds for environmental causes.
Incidentally, if you don’t know Davos from Timbuktu, suffice it to know that private jets polluting the pristine skies of Davos with carbon toxins is rather like cruise ships polluting the pristine waters of the Caribbean with human waste.
In any event, this first round-the-world flight took 500 hours, covered 25,000 miles, and was completed in 17 stages between March 9, 2015 and July 26, 2016. But it is every bit as pioneering as that famous first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903, which took 59 seconds and covered 852 feet.
And the significance of this latest feat increases beyond measure when one considers its implications for transformative uses of solar energy.
Therefore, here’s to Piccard and Borschberg being celebrated alongside other pioneers of both flight and energy. More to the point, so that we may truly “live long and prosper,” I urge you to do all you can to heed Piccard’s admonition (courtesy of yesterday’s edition of the Taipei Times):
We should never accept the world polluted…
The future is clean, the future is you, the future is now, let’s take it further.
More CO2 than solutions…
Monday, July 25, 2016 at 5:19 AM
I was in the vanguard of those calling on the IOC to ban the entire Russia team from the Rio Olympics. I argued in “Track Officials Ban Russians from Rio Olympics for Doping,” June 18, 2016, that:
I suspect Track and Field athletes are being punished for the sins of Russian athletes in every other sport. After all, it beggars belief to think that Russia used systemic doping to enhance the performance of these athletes, but left those in every other sport to rely on their natural abilities.
Therefore, I felt vindicated when a WADA-commissioned report found that the Russian government had been orchestrating a “vast doping program” across all Olympic sports for years – with unprecedented success during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Never mind that this only confirmed the informed assertions I made last year in “In Putin’s Russia Even Athletics Is a Criminal (Doping) Enterprise,” November 9, 2015.
More to the point, following this report, practically every sports commentator began calling on the IOC to ban all Russian athletes. As it happens, though, I speculated in my June 18 commentary that members of the IOC might be too compromised to follow through.
I followed up with this cautionary note in “Clarion Call to Ban All Russian Athletes from Rio Olympics for Doping,” July 18, 2016:
Putin probably has each IOC member on videotape accepting millions in bribes to award Russia the Sochi Olympics. If so, it would amount to professional suicide for the IOC to defy/betray him in this spectacular fashion.
This is why I would be pleasantly shocked if it bans all athletes without offering some way for Putin’s Russia to save face.
[The IOC] stopped short Sunday of imposing a complete ban on Russia from the Rio de Janeiro Games, assigning individual global sports federations the responsibility to decide which athletes should be cleared to compete…
The IOC rejected calls from the World Anti-Doping Agency [WADA] and dozens of other anti-doping bodies to exclude the entire Russian Olympic team following allegations of state-sponsored cheating.
Russia’s track and field athletes have already been banned by the IAAF, the sport’s governing body, a decision that was upheld Thursday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and was accepted by the IOC again on Sunday.
(Associated Press, July 24, 2016)
Given this, I am now more convinced than ever that the members of the IOC are venal cowards. Only this explains their decision to recuse themselves by punting this seminal decision off to the governing body of each sport.
On the other hand, given the WADA report, the credibility of each sport now depends on its governing body following the IAAF by banning all Russian Athletes. In which case, this IOC decision might only delay the inevitable.
Except that, despite the ban, the IAAF invited Russian athletes to show proof that they lived and trained outside Russia for an extended period and repeatedly passed independent (i.e., non-Russian) doping protocols. Reports are that two Track and Field athletes have done just that. I expect the governing bodies of other sports to extend similar invitations.
All the same, Russia will claim persecution and feign indignation. But there’s no denying that the IOC’s failure to issue a complete ban allows it to save face. The difference between athletes being banned and the state being banned means everything for Russian pride and Putin’s fate.
But am I the only one who foresees the damning humiliation if only 50 athletes are deemed clean enough to march under the Russian flag during the Opening Ceremony? Especially so if over 500 athletes marching under the American flag follow them, and nearly as many marching under the Chinese flag precede them. In which case Russia’s IOC victory might prove more pyrrhic than its jingoistic president realizes.
Of course, as the FIFA scandal exposed, the governing bodies of far too many sports are so rife with corruption, I fear this humiliation might prove more wishful thinking than a reality.
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 12:57 p.m.
Saturday, July 23, 2016 at 5:41 AM
President Erdogan unleashing his inner Dr. Frankenstein to excise ‘cancer’ of Turkey’s coup plotters
Prognosis? Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Turkey’s parliament backed emergency measures Thursday giving authorities broad powers to pursue alleged supporters of a failed coup, even as the government said it has rounded up nearly 10,000 people since the attempted military takeover…
The strengthened hand for authorities — with tens of thousands of others under scrutiny or suspended from their jobs — came amid further signals of more crackdowns to come…
[President Recep Tayyip Erdogan] described a ‘virus’ within the Turkish military and state institutions that had spread like ‘cancer.’
(Washington Post, July 21, 2016)
Ominously, Erdogan withdrew Turkey from the European convention on human rights this week; no doubt telegraphing his intent as much as preempting squeamish complaints about abuses of human rights and civil liberties.
Not to mention the hypocrisy in Erdogan now censoring or shutting down the very mainstream and social-media platforms that enabled him to summon flash mobs to thwart tanks in the streets, which clearly saved his ass.
NOTE: Erdogan’s NATO ally, Barack Obama, is being conspicuously silent. This, despite the clear and present danger of Erdogan turning Turkey’s democracy into a dictatorship. Whereas his putative mentor, Vladimir Putin, is being conspicuously supportive. This, because he knows that, if Erdogan can get away with doing so in Turkey, he surely can in Russia — if any group dares try to mount a coup.
Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 6:27 AM
Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman whose outsider campaign has both galvanized millions of voters and divided the Republican Party, is the 2016 GOP presidential nominee.
The New Yorker’s embrace by the Republican National Convention (RNC) marks a remarkable moment in U.S. political history and validates a campaign that shattered precedent, defied pundits and usurped the GOP establishment.
(CNN, July 19, 2016)
It has become as pointless as it is redundant to denounce the big lies that characterize Donald Trump’s black swan presidential campaign. And denying the undeniable fact that his wife plagiarized Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech at the RNC’s Hate week on Monday night is the least of them.
His campaign motto seems to be: Deny, deny, deny until a lie becomes the truth!
Except that his campaign lies even when the truth is plain for all to see. Therefore, voters should consider what lies a Trump presidency would propagate when the cover-up would be virtually guaranteed behind closed doors at the White House.
Frankly, far from law and order, everything about Trump’s life and campaign portends fraud and disorder. More to the point, his “Make America Great Again” schtick suggests that he wants to emulate the halcyon presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon — complete with all of the petty slights and dirty tricks..
For now, though, the Orwellian way the RNC turned truth on its head last night warrants dishonorable mention. The highlight of this dystopian revelry came when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie blithely betrayed his bona fides as a former federal prosecutor.
Specifically, he framed his keynote address as a prosecutorial indictment against Hillary Clinton, and then whipped delegates into a frenzy, which had them baying for mob justice based on his recitation of trumped-up charges. Hell, the delirium in that convention hall was such that not even Christie seemed to appreciate the doublethink afoot.
Only this explains delegates for the law and order presidential nominee chanting, “Lock her up!” and “Hillary for Prison!” – without any regard for legal due process. (Send her to Room 101 in the Ministry of Love?)
Not to mention that this RNC show trial defied the inconvenient truth that no less a person than FBI Director James Comey had already given Hillary a get out of jail free card. Perhaps even you saw the famous press conference Comey held on July 5 to announce that, despite sensational allegations, the evidence is such that no reasonable prosecutor would even charge Hillary, let alone convict her.
But it’s a wonder this delirium did not inspire these Inner Party wannabes to start chanting the dystopian slogans:
War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength
Meanwhile, Big Brother Trump lorded over this consummation of mind control via a huge-screen video link, from atop his gilded tower in the New York metropolis – most of which he has these delegates convinced he built … from scratch.
Of course, he knew he had them months ago when he boasted that he could shoot someone in the middle of famed 5th Avenue, and these gullible fools would still support him. Hence, this self-proclaimed champion of the common man could not have looked more proud of himself as he preened down on them from above.
Alas, no member of the Never-Trump Brotherhood ran in and hurled a hammer at the screen to short-circuit his bloviating duckspeak….
On the other hand, it was evidently too much for Garry Marshall to watch his beloved character “Chachi” headline this triumphal display of mediocrity, stupidity, and mendacity. He suffered a stroke yesterday.
Famed director and producer Garry Marshall has died. He was 81 years old.
Marshall, who created some of the most popular 1970’s TV shows — including Mork and Mindy and Happy Days, and directed hit films like Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries — died Tuesday in a Burbank hospital.
(CNN, July 20, 2016)
In any event, the resistance is preparing for battle:
The American Civil Liberties Union sees constitutional problems with Trump’s proposals on immigration, American Muslims, torture and freedom of speech. ‘If implemented, Donald Trump’s proposed policies will spark a constitutional and legal challenge that would require all hands on deck at the ACLU…
Taken together, his policies and positions, if put into place, would violate the Constitution and federal and international law,’ says ACLU executive director Anthony Romero.
(ABA Journal, July 14, 2016)
Long live the (DNC-led) resistance!
Trump’s role as a father
Whenever I hear any sane, non-partisan person say anything positive about Trump, it invariably pertains to his role as a father. But even this stems from his propagation of a big lie to further his presidential ambition; you know, like his big lie about opposing the war in Iraq.
Unsurprisingly, he has enlisted his kids to share idealized recollections of the role he played when they were growing up. Unfortunately, their scripted recollections are at odds with their mother’s more credible account:
Ivana Trump is taking credit for rearing her three children with ex-husband Donald Trump, saying ‘I really raised them’…
‘I decided on their schooling and everything they did,’ Trump, who was married to the GOP presidential front-runner from 1977 until the early ’90s, says…
But after her kids turned 21 and were done with college, Trump says she “gave them” to her ex, telling him, ‘This is the final product — now it’s your job.’
(The Hill, February 12, 2016)
This explains why their recollections invariably have more to do with Trump as a business mentor than a loving father. What’s more, Trump himself often boasted about being a lousy father.
Even I recall the chauvinistic pride he took in telling radio host Howard Stern (yes, I went through that phase) that he had no time for raising kids. The why, of course, was the kicker: He was spending too much time building his empire, chasing women, and getting married and divorced, time and again (and might again — given the terminal humiliation his careless campaign caused his wife with that plagiarism faux pas on Monday).
Most fathers would be all too happy to say that their greatest and most prized achievement in life was raising the best kids in the world. By contrast, Trump’s own words suggest that, for him, this achievement would be building the best skyscrapers and golf courses; and he would risk biting his tongue if he said otherwise. So bear this in mind the next time you hear pundits parroting spin about how well his kids reflect on him.
To be fair, Trump took the same pride in telling Stern about how notoriously generous he was when it came to alimony and child support. And he never hesitated to use pictures of himself as a family man to promote his businesses….
Stupid voters … Trump…
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 12:07 p.m.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016 at 6:18 AM
As a chorus of prominent Fox News women have gone public defending Roger Ailes against the wave of sexual-harassment allegations sparked by former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit, the network’s biggest star, Megyn Kelly, has been conspicuously silent…
According to two sources briefed on parent company 21st Century Fox’s outside probe of the Fox News executive, led by New York–based law firm Paul, Weiss, Kelly has told investigators that Ailes made unwanted sexual advances toward her about ten years ago when she was a young correspondent at Fox…
Kelly’s comments to investigators might explain why the Murdochs are moving so quickly to oust Ailes.
(New York Magazine, July 19, 2016)
Close friends will attest that I have often decried the way all “prominent Fox News women” seem to abide a dress code that requires them to bare as much leg and wear as much makeup as possible.
Watching them, as I do on occasion for “fair and balanced” news reporting, I always get the sense that they look more like beauty pageant contestants than cable news reporters. What’s more, camera shots invariably reinforce the impression that tits and ass are every bit as important as brains and skills.
Frankly, their objectification is such that Fox News women are often barely distinguishable from the vaudevillian “Benny Hill foxes.” Hence, one can hardly blame Ailes for at least thinking of them, eponymously, as his Fox News foxes.
Far more troubling, though, is the rumor that he hired women based solely on whether or not he found them “f**kable.” After all, these allegations not only give credence to that rumor, but also make it impossible to watch Fox News women henceforth without wondering what sexual favors they performed to get, and are performing to keep, their jobs. What little professional credibility they had has now been shot
That said, I appreciate that the name Roger Ailes might mean nothing to you. Therefore, the way Brian Stelter, senior media reporter for CNN, framed his power and influence might help:
Ailes created Fox news: Ailes is Fox; Fox is Ailes…
[Fox News] is the public square for Republicans.
(CNN, July 19, 2016)
Of course, Cosby used to be NBC entertainment: Cosby was NBC; NBC was Cosby.
More to the point, the parallels in this unfolding scandal to the one that triggered Bill Cosby’s fall from grace are as unavoidable as they are instructive. Therefore, having commented so much on the predatory Cosby, I see no point in commenting too much on the predatory Ailes.
Instead, I shall suffice to highlight the following points:
- It is regrettable that it took Gretchen Carlson becoming a “disgruntled employee” to spark this legal probe. She filed her sexual harassment lawsuit mere days after Ailes fired her a few weeks ago.
- It is troubling that it took Carlson’s lawsuit for Megyn Kelly, arguably the most powerful woman in all cable news, to break her silence about the sexual harassment Ailes perpetrated against her.
- If Ailes sexually harassed Kelly, it defies logic to think that he did not do the same to many other women at Fox News, including some in the chorus now singing his praises. Sure enough, others are coming out of the woodwork to testify about the career-saving/advancing indignities they suffered.
- Like Cosby, Ailes denies everything. But, trust me, the Murdochs would not be moving to oust him, and he would not be negotiating his own downfall, if he had a leg to stand on.
- This lawsuit raises all kinds of questions about the nature and duration of the sexual harassment Ailes perpetrated. But my prurient interest does not extend to exploring or elaborating.
No doubt women across the professional landscape can relate all too well to these Fox News women when it comes to sexual harassment. Sadly, there is no guarantee that complaining in other cases will result in the kind of probe Carlson triggered. Which I suspect is why so many women handle or cope with sexual harassment in their own way.
A noteworthy case in point is that no less a person than feminist icon Anita Hill did just that; that is, until the private distress she suffered became public fodder during the nomination hearing for Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. And look how that turned out.
Meanwhile, Fox is reportedly trying to help Ailes save face with a $40-million golden parachute … as he falls from grace. Except that, after settling this and other lawsuits that are bound to follow, all he’ll be able to do with that golden parachute is cover legal fees and money damages. And that would serve him right.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 6:23 AM
I have been utterly stupefied lately by voters expressing remorse after getting exactly what they voted for. Not least because it was plain to see in each case what the fallout would be.
Cases in point:
- Greek voters buying the Syriza promise that they could have their euro and spend it too with respect to their country’s unsustainable debts; whereas they are now living under even more onerous debt-servicing conditions than ever before.
I warned it would be thus in such commentaries as “Greece a Tumor Growing in Europe,” May 15, 2012, and “EU Calling Greece’s Bluff … Finally,” June 29, 2015.
- British voters buying the Leave promise that they can leave the EU and retain all of the benefits but none of the burdens of membership; whereas they are now finding that their “special status” with the EU will be no more special than that of Turkey and India.
I warned it would be thus in such commentaries as “Brexit: Forget Leaving, Britain a Greater EU Contagion If It Remains,” June 22, 2016, and “Brexit: Britain Exits, the Die is Cast,” June 24, 2016.
- Ohio voters buying the NRA promise of an open-carry law guaranteeing peace and security; whereas they are now being terrorized by so many gun-toting wackos that the police chief has asked the governor to suspend the law.
I warned it would be thus in such commentaries as “The Second Amendment and Gun Control,” December 19, 2012, and “’Under the Gun’ Appeals to Common Sense of NRA Members. Good Luck With That,” May 16, 2016.
- American voters buying the Trump promise to “Make America Great Again;” whereas they are now finding that he has triggered a virtual civil war within the Republican Party and will likely trigger the same in the country at large … if elected president.
I warned it would be thus in such commentaries as “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker,” April 8, 2011, and “Republicans Bewailing Trump as Their Nominee…,” June 8, 2016.
This last and most important case warrants a little more venting….
Foremost, I urge American voters to bear this contagion of voters’ remorse in mind, especially as you watch that Trump-brand infomercial masquerading as the 2016 Republican National Convention play out in Cleveland this week.
American voters would do well to appreciate the difference between Hillary’s populist policies and Trump’s demagogic blandishments. After all, her policies are aimed at governing in the best interest of all Americans; whereas his blandishments are aimed at nothing more than getting him elected president – period!
But, frankly, it’s a toss up whether Trump will get Americans to emulate the Greeks and Brits by voting their insecurities, prejudices, and fears; or whether Hillary will get them to defy this year of the demagogue by voting their common sense.
What is certain is that, if they gamble on Trump, he will be the only winner. But any voter with half a brain must consider it a big tell that Trump is having family members headline every night of this convention.
Granted, this reflects his unbounded narcissism, which will be on display as he breaks convention protocol to appear on stage every night himself. But it also reflects the fact that no distinguished or self-respecting leader in the Republican Party wants anything to do with his nomination.
It speaks volumes in this respect that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the former presidential candidate, has declared his intent to use Trump’s nominating convention not to endorse Trump, but to remind voters why he (Cruz) would have been a better nominee.
Mind you, this is the same Cruz who, just months ago, was taking cheap shots at Trump by calling him a “serial philanderer.” Not to mention truly damning him as follows:
This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.
(NBC News, May 3, 2016)
Perhaps most telling, though, is the writer’s remorse Tony Schwartz is suffering today. He just happens to be the ghostwriting brains behind The Art of the Deal – the book Trump claims contains the blueprint for his business success and will serve as the same to “Make America Great Again.”
I put lipstick on a pig. I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is. I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.
(The New Yorker, July 25, 2016 Issue)
So voters, beware! Stupid is as stupid does.
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 7:01 p.m.
Monday, July 18, 2016 at 6:29 AM
On June 18, a month ago today, I published “Track Officials Ban Russians from Rio Olympics for Doping,” in which I argued that athletes in other sports had to be doping too.
I suspect Track and Field athletes are being punished for the sins of Russian athletes in every other sport. After all, it beggars belief to think that Russia used systemic doping to enhance the performance of these athletes, but left those in every other sport to rely on their natural abilities…
Hence the spectre of saving national face, which the image-is-everything Putin is undoubtedly more interested in doing than saving any innocent athlete’s career. Except that he might have to order all Russian athletes to boycott the Rio Olympics to do so. Because bribing the IOC to overrule the IAAF would win him nothing but fool’s gold.
Antidoping officials from at least 10 nations and 20 athlete groups are preparing the extraordinary step of requesting that the entire Russian delegation be barred from the Summer Olympics over allegations of a state-sponsored doping program…
The antidoping officials and athletes were expected to pressure Olympic leaders on the matter as soon as Monday — less than three weeks before the opening ceremony in Rio. They were waiting for the results of an investigation into claims published in The Times of a state-sponsored doping program conducted by Russian officials at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
(New York Times, July 16, 2016)
As it happens, I presaged this corrupt state of sports in “In Putin’s Russia Even Athletics Is a Criminal (Doping) Enterprise,” November 9, 2015.
Russia led the republics of the old Soviet Union in boycotting the Olympics in 1984 for plainly political reasons. It would be quite ironic, and represent a historic fall from grace, if Russia were banned from the Olympics for purely ethical reasons today.
Except that, as I insinuated in my June 18 commentary above, Putin probably has each IOC member on videotape accepting millions in bribes to award Russia the Sochi Olympics. If so, it would amount to professional suicide for the IOC to defy/betray him in this spectacular fashion.
This is why I would be pleasantly shocked if it bans all athletes without offering some way for Putin’s Russia to save face.
Saturday, July 16, 2016 at 10:14 AM
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport Saturday morning and declared the attempted coup against his government to be a failure, but also a ‘gift from God…’
He vowed to ‘clean up’ the armed forces and ‘eradicate’ those who had operated aerial forces against his government. As of Saturday morning, nearly 3,000 people have been rounded up, ranging from foot soldiers to senior officers, Reuters reported.
(Huffington World Post, July 16, 2016)
According to the Turkish prime minister, 161 people (including 20 coup plotters) are dead, 1,440 injured. He failed to mention, however, that thousands of judges and other civil servants – who clearly had nothing to do with this coup – have been either suspended or arrested.
When news of it broke yesterday, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a single commentator condemning this coup, especially early on when it seemed a fait accompli.
They rationalized it as due comeuppance for the democratically elected Erdogan – who they claimed was ruling Turkey more like a sultan than a president. They also cited his fraternization with Islamists as evidence of his betrayal of the global fight against ISIS and its eschatological ideology; and his Islamization of Turkey’s secular culture to make it more like Saudi Arabia’s.
Truth be told, almost every criticism ever hurled at him is true. But none of it justifies a coup.
Ironically, Erdogan gave credence to claims that he is a paranoid conspiracy zealot – who is unfit to lead– when he immediately blamed Fethullah Gulen for masterminding this coup. Gulen is a progressive Turkish cleric and former Erdogan ally who is now living in exile in Pennsylvania. He categorically denies any involvement in or knowledge of this coup attempt.
But Erdogan’s fixation on settling scores, no matter how irrational, explains why so many Turks took to the streets to defend democracy, not to support him. Except that, if they thought he was a dictator in democratic garb before, they have just emboldened him to reveal his true colors – with all of the repression of civil liberties that portends.
But what I found most interesting was the way the 2013 military coup in Egypt figured so prominently in the expert commentary. In fact, as I listened to commentators criticize Turkish President Erdogan for provoking this coup, I got the sense they were reading from transcripts of commentators criticizing Egyptian President Morsi for provoking that coup.
The only saving grace for the United States came when President Obama issued a belated statement calling on the Turkish people to support their democratically elected government. Never mind that he hedged his bets by carefully avoiding any mention of support for Erdogan himself. No doubt, if the coup succeeded, he would have hailed the military for fulfilling the democratic will of the people; you know, like the military did in Egypt.
By contrast, my immediate denunciation of the Turkish coup plotters was surpassed only by my excoriation of these commentators. I ended up ridiculing the former as misguided and inept for failing to execute the first stage of any military coup, namely, arresting the leader; and decrying the latter as shortsighted and hypocritical for making a mockery of universal democratic values.
Above all, though, I could not help thinking of this coup attempt as Obama’s tacit support for the coup in Egypt coming home to roost. Here’s why:
Obama is effectively calling on the Egyptian military to guarantee the protesters’ democratic aspirations. Ironically, he and other Western leaders seem to believe that the best way to transition from Mubarak’s dictatorship to democracy is by installing a de facto military dictatorship.
The problem, however, is that in almost every case where this strategy has been deployed (e.g. in Pakistan and Burma) the military ends up overstaying its welcome … by years, if not decades.
(“Crisis in Egypt: the End Game,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 4, 2011)
Sure enough, the post-Mubarak fallout in Egypt has developed exactly as I feared. I have lamented each step in such commentaries as “Egyptians Continue March Back to the Future,” December 20, 2013, “Egypt’s Arab Spring Spawns Brutal Military Dictatorship,” March 25, 2014, and “Egypt Sentences Morsi to Death; Exposes Fecklessness of U.S. Middle East Policy,” May 20, 2015.
In fact, Egypt is more of a dictatorship today than it ever was under Mubarak. Yet its relationship with the United States is as good as it has ever been. This, despite Egypt’s democratically elected president now withering away in prison under a death sentence.
This is why these Turkish coup plotters could be forgiven for thinking that, if they were as successful as their Egyptian counterparts, it would only have been a matter of time before the United States embraced them too. This, even if Turkey’s democratically elected president were then withering away in prison under a death sentence … too.
Good luck, Turkey! Your struggle for democracy is far from over….
Friday, July 15, 2016 at 8:04 AM
The vicious Bastille Day attack in the French city of Nice that killed at least 84 people was an act of terrorism, France’s President Francois Hollande said early Friday.
The driver, identified as a 31-year-old French Tunisian, crashed his truck into a crowd of people who were watching fireworks. He plowed the vehicle-turned-weapon forward for more than a mile before police shot him dead, Agence-France Press reported. The truck was loaded with “arms and grenades” Region President Christian Estrosi said, but some of them were fake.
(Huffington World Post, July 15, 2016)
With all due respect to the victims of this latest act of terror, the operative word in my title is “Again.”
After all, whether here in the United States or over in Europe, Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, terrorist attacks have become a fact of life … the new normal.
As it happens, I presaged these attacks in “World Beware: French Riots Affect Us All,” November 8, 2005. In it, I highlighted the disaffection, disillusionment, and discrimination (racial and religious) that make young Muslim men so susceptible to being radicalized to riot and perpetrate acts of terror. Never mind the chickens-coming-home-to-roost factor stemming from the invasion of Iraq, which spawned the “one thousand Bin Ladens” former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned about.
For a little perspective, it might be helpful to think of the so-called War on Terror like the War on Drugs, and to appreciate that we can be no more successful waging the former than we’ve been waging the latter. Nothing demonstrates this quite like the way terrorism has forced us to change our way of life – with our liberal democracies becoming more like police states every day.
If it seems like we are helpless in the face of such acts of terror, it’s because we are – as I’ve been bemoaning and warning for over a decade:
It must be understood that no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing our governments can do to prevent such attacks. That Americans reacted yesterday as if those explosions went off in Washington or New York should compel Westerners to focus on calming our collective nerves, instead of fretting about (or worse, trying to figure out) the motivation for and timing of terrorist attacks by Islamic fanatics.
(“7/7 Terror Attacks in London,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 8, 2005)
Many criticized President Obama for years for ordering American troops to do too little to “defeat the terrorists.” By contrast, they hailed President Putin last September for ordering Russian troops to “bomb the hell out of them.”
Yet 100-plus terrorist attacks just this year make patently clear that this bombing is doing nothing to defeat them. In fact, all Putin has to show for nine months of bombing, from the air and sea, is such indiscriminate death and wanton destruction, terrorist leaders can fairly assert that he is responsible for killing more innocent men, women, and children than they.
Sadly, it did not take long for me to decry that “Bombing ISIS Smacks of Masturbatory Violence,” November 18, 2015.
Mind you, I’m not saying we should just lie back and take their attacks. To the contrary, I’m on record advocating targeted drone strikes, aggressive surveillance, and enhanced interrogation to keep terrorists at bay as much as humanly possible.
Notwithstanding the misguided backlash Snowden’s NSA disclosures have wrought, [Western countries] must allow their respective intelligence services to use all means necessary to surveil and apprehend the would-be terrorists amongst us before they act out their jihadist fantasies. Otherwise, we will terrorize ourselves to death if we keep reacting to every terrorist-inspired shooting as if it were another 9/11.
(“Gunman Terrorizes Canada. Keep Calm and Carry On,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 23, 2014)
But don’t get me started on xenophobic and racist policies like banning or profiling Muslims. After all, the record of terrorist attacks in this country is such that we clearly have far more to fear from born-and-bred American terrorists than from any Muslim braving the two-year vetting process to sneak in and launch attacks.
On the other hand, the media could help if they stop providing wall-to-wall coverage of the fallout from such attacks. After all, such coverage to a terrorist is like a binge to an addict. And, notwithstanding all of the experts rehashing their anti-terror talking points, it does absolutely nothing to help prevent, or protect us from, future attacks.
I don’t know why the media always reward these psychopaths by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds.
You’d think … 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 [terrorists] to: May God have mercy on your soul as you all burn in Hell!
(“Massacre in Omaha,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 7, 2007)
Of course, media barons know this all too well. It’s just that they would rather exploit macabre, rubbernecking interests for ratings (their repetitious mind-dumbing, emotion-numbing content notwithstanding) than deny terrorists their incentivizing fix.
Therefore, the only thing we can do to help save ourselves is turn off the TV and pay respects to victims with a prayer, making sure to note that:
There but for the grace of God (go I)….
But nothing would affirm and embolden national spirits quite like those of us not directly affected getting on with life in the face these attacks. This includes the police processing the scene and municipal workers cleaning it up post-haste.
Incidentally, it would also help if politicians would stop using every terrorist attack to burnish their leadership bona fides; you know, the way Mayor Rudy Giuliani used 9/11.
All else, including posting sympathy hashtags on social media and projecting national flags on landmarks, is folly.
NOTE: There is now a Groundhog-Day spectre to these attacks and reaction to them. Which is why they have become no more worthy of comment than another drive-by shooting in ‘Chiraq.’ Therefore, I shall suffice henceforth to reprise this commentary, taking care of course to acknowledge the targets and victims of future attacks.
Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 1:21 PM
One of the many things that distress me about politics in America today is the extent to which erstwhile intelligent people spew out viral talking points as informed thought.
This herd-like mentality was on full display yesterday. That’s when commentators across the political spectrum began parroting the same condemnation of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her comments on the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump.
Here is a little of what she said to the New York Times on Sunday:
I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president…
[My late husband would say] it’s time for us to move to New Zealand.
And here is a little of what she said to CNN on Monday.
He is a faker… He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns?
Frankly, it’s distressing enough that the news media are facilitating the spectacle Trump is making of his presidential campaign – complete with reporting on his vice presidential selection as if it were nothing more than a political version of his reality TV show, The Apprentice.
But the Times, the Pied Piper of political thought, gave Trump far more credibility than he could ever earn, when it published an editorial yesterday under the headline “Donald Trump Is Right About Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” Except that it’s ironically fitting that it premised this editorial on the following misstatement of facts:
Justice Ginsburg’s comments show why their tradition has been to keep silent…
All of which makes it only more baffling that Justice Ginsburg would choose to descend toward his level and call her own commitment to impartiality into question. Washington is more than partisan enough without the spectacle of a Supreme Court justice flinging herself into the mosh pit.
“His level,” of course, is the ignorant regard Trump showed for judicial independence and American citizenship a few weeks ago. That’s when he went on a 72-hour rhetorical bender about Gonzalo Curiel, the U.S. District Court judge who is presiding over his ongoing Trump University fraud case.
Trump insisted that American-born Judge Curiel is “a Mexican” who cannot possibly be impartial. This, despite evidence to the contrary and Newt Gingrich, his most popular VP candidate/apprentice, entreating him to hold his tongue.
Ginsburg has hardly descended toward this level — with all due respect to the Times. More to the point, it is hardly surprising that Trump reacted to her comments with egomaniacal and thin-skinned bluster:
Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot – resign!
([email protected], July 13, 2016)
For good measure, Trump (70) added that Ginsburg (83) owed him, the Court, and the country an apology….
What is surprising, however, is that the Times was so wrong about the tradition of Supreme Court. For it would have you believe that Ginsburg betrayed a code of conduct, which keeps justices as beyond proverbial reproach as Caesar’s wife when it comes to partisan politics. Yet nothing betrays this belief quite like years of decision after decision falling along partisan political lines; none more so than their infamous decision in Bush v. Gore 2000.
Hell, even I have had cause to lament the manifest politicization of the Court, which put paid long ago to any pretense of justices being above politics:
Neither this decision, nor its breakdown along ideological lines, should surprise anyone who knows anything about the ‘politics’ (as opposed to the legal reasoning and judicial precedents) that guide this Court’s rulings. For the one thing that distinguishes this Court is that the justices Republican presidents nominated invariably vote on the side of issues that affirms conservative ideology; whereas those Democratic presidents nominated invariably vote on the side that affirms liberal ideology.
(“Supreme Court Rules Voter ID Laws OK,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 18, 2014)
This is why the only tradition that is relevant in this latest politics-versus-courts contretemps is the one that has continually shown that presidential elections have consequences….
Beyond this, nothing undermines the Times’s rebuke of Ginsburg quite like a Supreme Court tradition that, in fact, has seen justices not only speak out about politics, but actually run for political office, including the presidency itself.
John Jay, the first Chief Justice … ran twice for elected office without resigning from the Supreme Court…
The most famous Justice-turned-candidate was Charles Evans Hughes [who] left the Supreme Court in 1916 to challenge Woodrow Wilson for the White House… eventually became Secretary of State [and in 1930] returned to the Court as Chief Justice of the United States.
(National Constitution Center, September 2, 2015)
And they are not the only ones whose extracurricular activities belie this purported tradition of justices keeping silent. Indeed, Justice Clarence Thomas (68) has emulated the late Justice Antonin Scalia by giving judicial speeches laced with so many right-wing talking points, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Trump culls them for his political speeches.
Just years ago, for example, Thomas insinuated that the only reason Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the United States is that:
[He] was approved by the elites and the media, because anybody they didn’t agree with, they would take apart.
(Huffington Post, May 3, 2013)
Mind you, he was commenting not on a presidential candidate, but on a sitting president. Here is how Mother Jones reported — more accurately on his comments than the Times reported on Ginsburg’s — that same day:
It is unusual for sitting Supreme Court Justices to make public criticisms of sitting presidents. ‘Clarence Thomas seems more interested in becoming a Fox commentator than preserving the integrity of the Court, says Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California School of Law. ‘Justices should not take pot shots at the president. It’s beneath the dignity of the court.
But nobody called on Thomas to resign over his plainly biased comments. Moreover, I suspect it never even occurred to him that his psychological projection (about Obama being an ” Uncle Tom”) obliged him to recuse himself from any case.
Therefore, given this legal history, you’d think putative legal historians – like Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington Law School – would know better than to claim Ginsburg’s comments are unprecedented.
[E]lectoral politics have long been off-limits for sitting judges, including justices. They are expected to refrain from telling us their opinions – in part because they are expected to be above such considerations but also because they rule on cases that have a strong political content. And all presidents have lots of business before the Supreme Court.
In fact, Toobin declared Ginsburg’s comments so egregious that, if there were another contested election or, god forbid, if a Trump administration were a party in any matter before the Court, she would “certainly have to recuse herself.”
Alas, this patently uninformed and misguided narrative has gone viral. The Wall Street Journal even added insult to Trump’s assault yesterday – by urging Ginsburg’s fellow justices to:
Stage an intervention to make way for someone who knows how a judge is supposed to behave.
Never mind that Justice Stephen Breyer (77) probably gave the Journal cover to do so when he offered this disingenuous bon mot to CBS News:
If I had an opinion, I would not express it.
She may regret creating this distracting fuss; not least because it has provided so much enabling fodder for Trump’s dystopian presidential campaign.
But Ginsburg is right about him. Her critics are wrong about her. And, trust me, she will never recuse herself over this contrived nonsense … come what may.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at 6:17 AM
The U.S. will slow the pace of its troop drawdown in Afghanistan, leaving 8,400 troops there when President Barack Obama completes his term, Obama announced Wednesday in a blunt acknowledgment that America will remain entangled there despite his aspirations to end the war.
In a statement at the White House, Obama said the security situation in Afghanistan remains ‘precarious’ and the Taliban a threat roughly 15 years after the U.S. invaded in the aftermath of 9/11.
(ABC News, July 6, 2016)
I readily admit that I endorsed Barack Obama (in “It’s Time: Run Obama Run,” October 24, 2006) because I wanted him to become the first black president of the United States. But I was also motivated by the fact that he premised his campaign on pledges – not only to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, but also to avoid getting the country entangled in other stupid wars.
Sadly, within the first year of his presidency, I had cause for disappointment and disillusionment. And since then, I have written far too many commentaries chronicling Obama’s serial betrayal of his solemn pledges.
- “Without [or even With] More Forces, Failure in Afghanistan Is Likely,” September 23, 2009
- “Obama Escalates War in Afghanistan; the Die Is Cast on His Presidency,” December 2, 2009
- “Obama’s Misguided War in Libya,” April 4, 2011
- “U.S. Apologies Add Insult to Folly of Afghan War,” February 23, 2012
- “Another Sign of America’s Lost Cause in Afghanistan,” March 29, 2012
- “Perhaps Only Authoritarian Regimes Can Govern Arab Countries,” June 11, 2014
- “Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds Fighting for Control of Iraq. Stay Out, America!” June 19, 2014
- “Demystifying ISIS: Case against Bush-Lite War on Terrorism,” September 10, 2014
- “Obama’s Mission Creep in Iraq Channeling JFK’s Mission Creep in Vietnam,” November 12, 2014
- “Bombing ISIS Smacks of Masturbatory Violence,” November 18, 2015
This list is not nearly complete; and it won’t be when I add to it below. For now, with respect to this latest instance of betrayal, it might be helpful to recall the show Obama made in June 2011 of announcing his intent to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan. Here, in part, is how I commented back then in “Obama’s Withdrawal Plan … a Tragic Joke,” June 22, 2011.
This is only making a joke out of the farce the war in Afghanistan has become. It has been a misguided, costly and unwinnable mess for years.
Just as it was in Vietnam, the presence of U.S. troops is only delaying the day of reckoning when local factions will fight it out among themselves for control of their own country. So the sooner the U.S. gets out of the way the better. Not to mention the lives and money an immediate withdrawal would save.
In any case, the war in Afghanistan today is more about Obama’s Faustian ambition (i.e., he does not want to be the president who loses this unwinnable war) than about U.S. national security…
The blood of every troop who has died (and will die) because he decided to escalate this war instead of ending it in 2009 is on his hands.
Actually, it has been patently obvious for more than a decade now that the United States will never build Afghanistan into a country that can govern and defend itself. Therefore, the following development, which was widely reported as “shocking,” was in fact hardly surprising:
The Taliban have a significant footprint in Afghanistan… They probably either control or heavily influence about a half of the country.
(New York Times, April 19, 2016)
Meanwhile, ISIS has established an equally significant footprint in Iraq. More to the point, it speaks volumes about the futility of America’s nation-building efforts there that, thirteen years later, it is still doing this:
The United States is stepping up its military campaign against Islamic State by sending hundreds more troops to assist Iraqi forces in an expected push on the city of Mosul, the militants’ largest stronghold, later this year.
(Reuters, July 11, 2016)
With respect to wasted blood (as documented by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University):
- 2,357 U.S. troops died, and 26,000 civilians were killed, in Afghanistan March 2003 – April 2015
- 4,489 U.S. troops died, up to 165,000 civilians were killed, in Iraq March 2003 – April 2015
(I am acutely mindful that other “body counts” have civilian totals that are considerably higher – with some estimating the human cost of America’s invasion of Iraq alone at over one million civilian deaths.)
With respect to wasted treasure (as reported by Reuters on October 1, 2015):
According to calculations at the end of last year by the Financial Times and others, the war had already cost almost $1 trillion (less than the $1.7 trillion spent on Iraq, but still staggering).
The official responsible for scrutinizing spending, U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko, says that, adjusted for inflation, efforts at development in Afghanistan have now cost more than the Marshall Plan to reconstruct post-World War Two Europe.
Yet what does the United States have to show for all of this blood and treasure? An Afghanistan no more able to defend itself today (as indicated above) than it was when nation-building efforts began 15 years ago; and an Iraq where suicide bombers are doing to Iraqi marketplaces what IEDs used to do to U.S. Humvees.
The death toll from Sunday’s suicide bombing in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has risen to 250, the Iraqi government says, making it the deadliest such attack since the 2003 US-led invasion.
A lorry packed with explosives was detonated in the Karrada district while families were shopping for the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.
So-called Islamic State (IS) has said it carried out the suicide attack.
(BBC, July 6, 2016)
Which raises the question: Why should the United States be any more willing to keep troops stationed in Afghanistan to defend it from the Taliban than it was to keep them stationed in Vietnam to defend it from the Viet Cong? Especially given that the spread of communism posed a far greater existential threat to the United States back then than the spread of jihadism poses today. Hell, we have more to fear from the mercenary ideology of the NRA than the religious ideology of Islamic Jihad.
Mind you, it would be one thing if U.S. troops were serving as a bona fide stabilization force to help locals rebuild their country – as was the case in Germany and Japan after World War II. But there are almost as many hostile forces (in both Afghanistan and Iraq) lying in wait to attack them today, as there were when U.S. troops first invaded – all those years ago.
More troops only mean more sitting ducks.
(“Without [or even with] more troops, failure in Afghanistan is likely”, The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2009)
From day one of his presidency, I have been entreating Obama to learn from the mistakes JFK and LBJ made by refusing to completely withdraw U.S. troops from the plainly unwinnable war in Vietnam.
His failure to do so warrants every American asking Obama the prophetic question John Kerry (then a 27-year-old Navy veteran) famously asked about that war. He did so during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971:
How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
Of course, neither George W. Bush nor Barack H. Obama will ever admit that he sent troops to their deaths for a mistake. Never mind that Rick Reyes (a former U.S. Marine Corporal) echoed Kerry’s disillusionment, albeit less famously, on behalf of thousands of soldiers. He did so during testimony before this same committee on April 23, 2009 – with no less a person than Senator John Kerry (D-MA) serving as Committee Chairman:
We weren’t fulfilling our objective of capturing terrorists, but instead creating enemies out of civilians…
How can you tell the difference between the Taliban and Afghan civilians? The answer is that you can’t; it all stopped making sense.
But no leader is more in denial in this respect, and probably has more to answer for, than former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair (456 UK troops died in Afghanistan, 173 in Iraq). This was thrown into pitiable relief a week ago today when he met the press to respond to the long-awaited Chilcot report on the war in Iraq.
The report found that Blair willfully ignored the risks of invading to help Bush fulfill his neo-con crusade to rebuild the Middle East in America’s image.
Blair rejected the Chilcot inquiry’s criticisms of his decision to lead Britain to war in Iraq in 2003, but expressed ‘sorrow, regret and apology’ for some mistakes he made in planning the conflict.
(London Guardian, July 6, 2016)
Frankly, no matter the political spin or crocodile tears, there’s no denying that every coalition troop who died in Afghanistan (particularly after the overthrow of the Taliban in November 2001) and in Iraq (particularly after the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003) died in vain.
In addition to the commentaries bulleted above, I sounded alarms in many others about America’s military adventurism in the Middle East.
- “Meanwhile, Over in Afghanistan: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory,” September 18, 2006
- “Support the Draft to Prevent Stupid Wars,” March 14, 2007
- “Secretary Gates: Invading Afghanistan and Iraq was Insane,” March 1, 2011
- “U.S. Military Finally Calling for Political Solution in Iraq,” August 14, 2015
- “Obama Continues Vietnam-Style Mission Creep in Iraq (Afghanistan and Syria),” April 20, 2016
And, with all due respect to Blair’s contention about the benefits of hindsight, none of my alarms required that perspective.
Alas, Obama’s decision to keep America mired in never-ending sectarian conflicts in the Middle East makes plain that my alarms have all been in vain.
Never mind that Obama saying the security situation in Afghanistan “remains precarious” (and in Iraq even more so) is rather like saying the climate condition in Antarctica remains hazardous. And his boasting about having fewer troops in war zones today than there were when he took office makes even less sense than a teenager boasting about being only a little bit pregnant.
But his decision to ape Bush by propping up congenitally corrupt and inept governments in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly at the expense of so much American blood and treasure, shall constitute an eternal blot on his legacy.
Granted, no president can be expected to fulfill all of his campaign pledges. But no supporter could have expected Obama to become the first president to keep U.S. troops deployed in war zones over two full terms. The fateful irony cannot be lost … even on him.
In so many ways, the peace prize the Nobel Committee awarded him in 2009 is coming home to roost. As it happens, I scoffed at it back then, rather presciently it turns out, in “Obama Awarded (Affirmative Action) Nobel Peace Prize,” October 10, 2009.
Finally, I cited, quoted, or referenced so many previous commentaries above because this will be my last on America’s Sisyphean efforts to variously fight and manage never-ending sectarian conflicts in the Middle East.
Failure in Afghanistan is likely…
Obama escalates war in Afghanistan…
Obama’s war in Libya…
America’s lost cause…
Obama’s mission creep…
Obama mission creep…
Military solution in Iraq…
Invading Afghanistan and Iraq…
Monday, July 11, 2016 at 11:27 AM
Theresa May is set to become the UK’s next prime minister after Andrea Leadsom pulled out of the contest to become Conservative Party leader.
The timing of the handover of power from David Cameron looks set to be after PM’s questions on Wednesday.
Mrs Leadsom, who campaigned to leave the EU, said the UK needed ‘strong and stable government’ and that Mrs May was ‘ideally placed’ to implement Brexit.
(BBC, July 11, 2016)
I hasten to clarify that I hail her as an iron lady not because she’s another woman, but because she possesses all of the no-nonsense traits that made Margaret Thatcher such a formidable leader. Except that, given the political minefields she navigated to arrive at this position, she might be made of steelier stuff; hence, the steel lady?
Of course, Thatcher was a little too heartless for my bleeding heart. Therefore, I hope May does not feel that showing strength requires her to suppress natural empathy with the weak and downtrodden….
In any event, her rise provides further vindication of my abiding belief that the world would be a much better place if more women than men were heads of state. Indeed, I’m on record writing, only a little in jest, that “Men Should Be Barred from Politics,” September 25, 2013. But I’ve been championing this cause for years — as the following attests:
In light of the recent trend set by Angela Merkel of Germany and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Bachelet’s election would be encouraging to those of us who welcome the seepage of womanpower through the crevices of political and corporate governance around the world…
Here’s to ‘the fairer sex’ – not only as indispensable guardians of home and hearth, but also as invaluable (and capable) stewards of the ship of state!
(“Cracking the Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 12, 2005)
But nothing would tip the velvet in this respect quite like the United States electing Hillary Clinton its first female president this November.
So here’s to the fairer sex (i.e., more fair-minded). “You’ve come a long way, baby,” is slowly but surely becoming a reality.
Sunday, July 10, 2016 at 9:29 AM
The Bahamas celebrates 43 years of independence today. I heartily join in hailing our motto: “Forward, Upward, Onward, Together” … my Bahamaland!
We are a relatively young nation of only 377,000 people. Yet not even the political and cultural hegemony of the United States can chasten our national pride.
The Bahamian government threw this into tragicomic relief yesterday – when it showed the U.S. government that two can play the “travel advisory” card:
The Bahamas has issued a rare travel advisory for its citizens visiting the U.S., recommending particular care for young men in cities affected by tensions over recent police shootings.
The advisory warns citizens to not get involved in protests and avoid crowds.
It comes after two black men were shot dead by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, and five officers were killed at a protest in Dallas.
(BBC, July 9, 2016)
But this Promethean pride is precisely why we make such a mockery of our “independence” by continuing to pledge allegiance to a British Queen — when we should be referring to Her Majesty as nothing more than our children’s fairy godmother; and by continuing to appeal to a UK Privy Council as our court of last resort — when we should be appealing to a Bahamas Supreme Court.
I’ve been pleading the latter case for years to no avail, including most recently in “For Independence Sake, Caribbean, Abolish Privy Council,” February 1, 2016. With all due respect to the Caribbean Court of Justice, however, I’ve always maintained that there’s no point in ridding ourselves of a colonial arbiter of our legal fate, only to subject ourselves to a regional one.
But don’t get me started on how silly we look aping the royal pretensions and appurtenances of our former colonial masters. This includes everything from wearing those stupid white wigs in court, which I lamented on behalf of my profession in “Hey, Tony, What’s Up with the Brothers Wearing White Wigs,” March 2, 2007, to coveting titles like “Sir” and “Dame,” which I decried on behalf of all former British colonies in “Australia Bans British Honors. Other Commonwealth Countries Should Too,” November 3, 2015.
I mean, how is it that so many of our people see no self-abnegating contradiction in coveting such titles. Not to mention that they are often based more on a bribe given than any merit earned. I ridiculed this corrupt practice ten years ago this week in “Pardon Me, Sir, but How Much Did You Pay for Your Knighthood,” July 14, 2006.
Yet the London Daily Mail had cause to report on it just today – with respect to no less a person than Baroness Scotland, head of the Commonwealth, and an Antigua-Barbuda envoy – in “Stop Posing as a Knight, Palace Warns ‘Baroness Brazen’ Sidekick,” July 10, 2016.
The point is that the time has long since passed for us to completely sever the umbilical cords of colonialism and stand proud as a people … beholden and answerable only to ourselves, and free of pretentious British honours.
Only then will we be able to take unencumbered pride in our independent song, “March On, Bahamaland.”
Saturday, July 9, 2016 at 9:41 AM
I have despaired — in such commentaries as “Lone-Wolf Gunman Terrorizes Los Angeles,” November 5, 2013 — not only about how a lone gunman can wreak unspeakable terror, but also about how impossible it is to stop lone wolves from doing so. This has been borne out on far too many occasions, including just weeks ago in Orlando, where a lone gunman plunged the entire nation in mourning after he killed 49 people in a gay nightclub.
But reporting on this latest act of terror dramatized this despair in almost tragicomedy fashion. After all, even the most reputable news organizations initially reported that four gunmen perpetrated the shooting rampage in Dallas. Some even featured news anchors pointing to aerial views of how each sniper was perched atop surrounding buildings and picking off cops like sitting ducks.
Now comes this:
A U.S. Army reservist who served in Afghanistan, embraced militant black nationalism and professed a desire to ‘kill white people’ has been named by authorities as the lone gunman in a sniper attack on police in Dallas that left five officers dead.
Authorities said on Friday the suspect, identified as Micah Johnson, 25, was killed by a bomb-carrying robot deployed against him in a parking garage where he had holed up, refusing to surrender during hours of negotiations with police.
Thursday night’s bloodshed, which shattered an otherwise peaceful protest denouncing two fatal police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota this week, added a new layer of apprehension to emotional national debates over racial injustice and gun violence.
(Reuters, July 9, 2016)
Therefore, given the unprecedented carnage this lone wolf caused, the national mourning he evoked, the wall-to-wall coverage he commanded, and the political hysteria he incited, I cannot overstate this abiding fear:
God help us if al-Qaeda ever decided to emulate this feat by coordinating 10 similar [shootings], at 10 football stadiums, in the 10 biggest cities in America, all on a typical Saturday in the fall, when they’re packed with over 100,000 people watching college football games. Not only would the carnage be 1,000 times more devastating, but based on the reaction to this terrorist attack, law-enforcement authorities would have to lockdown not just the airports as they did on 9/11, but the entire friggin’ country, no?
(“Manhunt for Bombers Turning Boston into Theater of the Absurd,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 19, 2013)
With that, until the next mass shooting/bombing, my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of these latest victims.
Friday, July 8, 2016 at 8:33 AM
Snipers shot and killed five police officers ‘ambush-style’ during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, according to Dallas police Friday. At least six other police officers and one civilian were also injured in the deadliest day for police in the U.S. since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown said early Friday three suspected snipers were in custody and police were still in negotiations with another suspect, who was being uncooperative and at times exchanging gunfire with officers in a parking garage.
Local media reported that the suspect involved in the standoff later died.
(Huffington Post, July 8, 2016)
Blue Lives Matter! Or is it still too politically incorrect to say that…?
And don’t let it go without notice that David Brown, the impressive Dallas police chief – who is liaising so effectively with the public, is a black man.
In any event, there’s no denying the correlation between this ambush and Facebook videos showing white cops killing black men in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis this week. Not least because the snipers only targeted white cops. But this unhinged reaction shows how easily a few misguided idiots can make a mockery of national outrage against police brutality.
It speaks volumes in this regard that, mere hours after leading national condemnation of white cops for killing black men, President Obama had to trample over his still-resonating words as follows:
I speak for every single American when I say that we are horrified over these events, and that we stand united with the people and the police department in Dallas … Let’s be clear: There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement.
(White House.gov, July 8, 2016)
Clearly, no person in his right mind can think that launching guerilla warfare against cops is the way to deal with the continuing menace of police brutality. Never mind that this shooting could have been as motivated by Islamic jihad as by racial vengeance.
And, with all due respect to the usual talking heads on TV:
If I hear another political or civic leader calling for a ‘conversation on race,’ I’m going to puke.
(“Ferguson Grand Jury Decides: Officer Wilson Walks,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 25, 2014)
Talking about the issues of race will do no more to prevent future incidents like this than talking about them after the beating of Rodney King, the fallout from Katrina, or the killing of Michael Brown has done. It is despairingly self-evident that far too many political leaders are all too willing to engage in all talk but not action.
Action, for instance, like implementing gun control, community policing, and other measures that would actually make a difference. With respect to gun control, only gun merchants and their political stooges would deny that limiting personal ownership of guns to single-action firearms would greatly reduce the impact of gun violence in America.
In point of fact, chances are very good that at least four of those five cops would still be alive if the gun involved in this shooting rampage were a single-action handgun instead of a military-style assault rifle.
I have delineated these measures in many commentaries, including “Ending Mandatory Minimum Sentences; Reforming Stop and Frisk,” August 13, 2013.
That said, I am loath to get started on how social media incentivize misfits to perpetrate these atrocities as much as they desensitize voyeurs whose prurient interests turn them into viral sensations.
Making the police wear body cameras for deterrent and investigative purposes is one thing. But I’m not sure what redeeming social value there is in watching viral clips of cops going rogue, or of lone wolves (or a rag-tag bunch of psychopaths) out-gunning and gunning down policemen who are trying to protect and serve … with honor.
What is certain is that, thanks to the NRA, the capacity to perpetrate wanton gun violence is now a fact of life (aka “a new normal”) in gun-crazy USA. Moreover, if the Ferguson effect led to increased violence in poor, black communities across the country (as the FBI director famously lamented), just imagine what the Dallas effect will lead to….
But who needs to fear the specter of ISIS, when insidious racial crisis can trigger this?
Meanwhile, with all kinds of protesters planning to disrupt the political conventions later this month, anyone who remembers the summer of ’68 can be forgiven for being afraid, very afraid. Perhaps nothing is more foreboding in this respect than the attention-seeking protesters who appear only interested in provoking violent confrontations with the police.
Mind you, it’s not as if they do so in a misguided attempt to further a noble cause. Because their only discernible aim seems to be getting arresting selfies (figuratively and literally) to post on Facebook, which is the very definition of rebels without a cause. Of course, they know all too well that the more lurid or provocative their image or video, no matter how contrived or staged, the more people are to “Like” them (aka “clickbait”), thereby conferring the attention they seek.
But nothing indicates how tragically misguided these protests can be quite like the shooters in this case targeting the Dallas police department. After all, it is one of the most exemplary departments in the country in terms of institutional reforms, diversity, including black leadership, and community relations. Not to mention this:
There would be fewer of these fatal encounters between black men and white cops if more (unemployed) black men became cops to police their own communities. I mean, am I the only one who was struck by the contrast between the black men looting and vandalizing and the predominantly white cops trying to restore, and maintain, law and order in this predominantly black community…?
(“Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality (only against Black Men?),” August 12, 2014)
Regardless, it cannot be overstated how oxymoronic it is to engage in marauding and murderous violence, especially against the police, to protest wholly legitimate grievances about police brutality. But, evidently, these nincompoops couldn’t care less.
All the same, we really are teetering on the precipice of violent racial conflicts not seen since then. It is particularly noteworthy that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, seems every bit the embodiment of and cause for such conflicts today as the governor of Alabama, George Wallace, was back then.
But add to this long-simmering white vs. black cauldron the acute grievances of Mexicans and Muslims, and you get a sense of what unrest portends … if cooler heads do not prevail.
Which brings me to no drama Obama. Because all of this restiveness compels me to reprise the way I pooh-poohed talk about his election in 2008 ushering in a post-racial era:
I’m not sure why people are so ‘shocked, shocked’ by this phenomenon (of Obama’s election giving White folks license to express ‘deeply rooted’ racism)…
I’m on record stating my suspicion that many Whites voted for Obama in 2008 more as a gesture of racial absolution than of political faith. These AP findings bear that out. And having thusly absolved themselves of their sins of racism (with this one, historic act), many of them now feel liberated to give way to their racial prejudices without fear of being called racists.
(“Romney vs. Obama: Race (Still) Matters,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 1, 2012)
I submit that this sense of white racial absolution explains everything from Republican obstruction in Congress (from day one of his presidency) to the unprecedented rise in NRA membership and the seemingly inexplicable phenomenon of Donald Trump.
God help us.
Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 9:33 AM
The U.S. Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation Wednesday into the videotaped police killing of a black man who authorities say had a gun as he wrestled with two white officers on the pavement outside a convenience store.
Alton Sterling, 37, was confronted by police on Tuesday after an anonymous caller said he had threatened someone with a gun outside the store, where he was selling homemade CDs, authorities said.
In a cellphone video taken by a community activist and posted online, the two officers pinned Sterling to the ground, someone yelled, ‘He’s got a gun! Gun!’ and gunfire erupted moments later.
(Associated Press, July 6, 2016)
I have seen the video. And, like the infamous Eric Garner video, it shows Alton Sterling resisting lawful police commands pursuant to an arrest.
Of course, black activists will blame a trigger-happy cop without mentioning Sterling’s role in triggering his own death. And, as it was in the killing of Michael Brown, his defenders will blithely ignore the crime Sterling allegedly perpetrated, which caused someone to call the police in the first place.
But the video shows enough for me to assert that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will be hard-pressed to file charges for a clear violation of Sterling’s civil rights.
Those who took to the streets to avenge Trayvon’s death will not see this DOJ decision as justice served. I am all too mindful that they are the same protesters/rioters who took to the streets to avenge the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
But this Zimmerman decision should temper their equally restive demands for the DOJ to file charges against White officers Wilson and Pantaleo – who killed Brown and Garner, respectively. After all, even a civil rights agitator like Rev. Al Sharpton must concede that, if the facts in the Zimmerman case ‘did not meet the high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution,’ the facts in these two other cases don’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of meeting it.
(“DOJ: No Charges Warranted in Zimmerman Case,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 25, 2015)
Here, the initial shot seems justified. But, after discovering all facts and circumstances, the subsequent three or four shots might amount to use of excessive force….
Whatever the case, I feel obliged to reiterate the following life-saving admonition from “Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality (only against Black Men?),” August 12, 2014.
Not every fatal shooting by the police of an unarmed man is a case of police brutality. We’ve all seen far too many incidents of people resisting arrest – even wresting away a policeman’s gun and killing him – just because they fear being questioned or arrested … even for something as simple as petty theft.
Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to cite a case that resulted in fatality, where the victim followed the few general rules we should all follow when dealing with the police. Those rules are:
- Do not run.
- Follow instructions calmly (i.e., no sudden moves that might spook a nervous or trigger-happy policeman).
- Wait for the police to explain why you’re being stopped before politely posing any objections, concerns, or questions you may have.
- If instructed to turn around to be frisked or handcuffed, comply without uttering a word.
- 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.
In light of the critical role smartphone videos play in encounters with the police these days, I should add a new second rule:
- Hit record (or, better still, live stream) as soon as you’re stopped and let the policeman know from the outset that you’ve done so. (Clearly, if you’re not alone, it would be better to have a passenger do this.)
This will likely put both you and the policeman on your Ps and Qs (doubly so if he’s wearing a body camera); more importantly, it will ease suspicions and fears, on both sides, and lessen the likelihood of these encounters turning hostile.
Incidentally, it speaks volumes about this phenomenon of white cops shooting black men that you’d be hard-pressed to find a case where a white female cop was implicated. I am also acutely mindful that following these rules to the T is no guarantee against police brutality, or worse. But there’s no denying that doing so gives you the best possible chance of surviving potentially deadly encounters with the police.
That said, too many black activists always seem more interested in political grandstanding than in saving lives. If this were not so, they would spend more time admonishing black men against resisting arrest, while they’re alive, than fueling riots and pleading to the DOJ, after they’re dead.
Not to mention the insult they cause to the real martyrs for civil rights by treating black men who resist arrest as such.
Incidentally, it is noteworthy that Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been under a decades-old DOJ mandate to diversify its police department. And it is making commendable progress:
At the beginning of the current academy, the 81st, which began in late April, 41 percent of the recruits were white, 48 percent were black and 11 percent were another race. In the 80th academy, which began last June, the recruits were about one-third white and two-thirds black, according to Police Department data.
(Louisiana Advocate, May 22, 2015)
The DOJ has either secured consent decrees or issued mandates for other, mostly white police departments, which serve mostly black communities, to do the same. Notably, Ferguson, Missouri, where white cop Darren Wilson killed black teenager Michael Brown, is one of them.
I should also clarify that nothing I’ve ever written about these cases should imply any belief that white cops are licensed to kill black men who resist arrest.
To the contrary, in “Clarion Call for Body Cameras to Check Bad Cops,” April 14, 2015, I cited the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, and Eric Harris in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as two of far too many examples where similar shootings were wholly unjustified. Sure enough, the cop in the former case is awaiting trial in the fall for murder; the cop in the latter case was sentenced last month to the maximum four years in prison for second-degree manslaughter. But these prosecutions do not mitigate the fact that resisting arrest is always like playing Russian roulette….
Meanwhile, it’s only a matter of time before lawyers extract millions from the city of Baton Rouge to compensate Sterling’s family for his death. You might think this provides a deadly incentive for black men to keep resisting arrest. But I couldn’t possibly comment.
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 3:43 p.m.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016 at 7:26 AM
Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at 2:48 PM
The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said on Tuesday that the bureau would not recommend criminal charges in Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information, lifting an enormous legal cloud from her presidential campaign, hours before her first joint campaign appearance with President Obama.
But Mr. Comey rebuked Mrs. Clinton as being ‘extremely careless’ in using a personal email address and server for sensitive information, declaring that an ordinary government official could have faced administrative sanction for such conduct.
To warrant a criminal charge, Mr. Comey said, there had to be evidence that Mrs. Clinton intentionally sent or received classified information — something that the F.B.I. did not find.
(New York Times, July 5, 2016)
I was wrong.
I wagered in my July 1 commentary that Hillary would be indicted. And, sure enough, as Director Comey delineated the findings of her extreme carelessness, I was feeling vindicated. But then he said she betrayed no criminal intent….
Mind you, everything he said reinforced my abiding belief that, in setting up her personal email address and server, Hillary’s clear intent was to avoid oversight by the Obama Administration. Not least because she wanted to maintain contact with people of dubious reputation (like Sidney Blumenthal); notwithstanding that they were people who brought her husband’s administration and her family’s “charitable” foundation into disrepute, or that Barack Obama made her promise to keep them at arm’s length if he appointed her secretary of state.
In any event, F.B.I. agents recommending no criminal charges and DOJ prosecutors declaring their intent to oblige will provide fodder for endless partisan debate. But I see no point in participating.
Instead, I shall suffice to note that I understand all too well why Comey asserted that no “reasonable prosecutor” would indict in these circumstances. To be fair, Comey took pains to debunk any hint of political interference or influence – no doubt compelled by the now infamous tarmac meeting between Hillary’s husband Bill and his boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Moreover, he insisted that a thorough review of all case files showed that the F.B.I. has never recommended charges based on similar facts.
Still, remarkably, Donald Trump is right; the system is rigged. Except that, unremarkably, it is rigged in the way prosecutors routinely give rich, white folks a pass for alleged crimes for which they routinely prosecute poor, black folks. Therefore, I probably should have known better than to think they would make an example of Hillary.
Sorry, Bernie … Joe.
Bill Clinton meets Loretta Lynch…
Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at 6:07 AM
Elie Wiesel, the Auschwitz survivor who became an eloquent witness for the six million Jews slaughtered in World War II and who, more than anyone else, seared the memory of the Holocaust on the world’s conscience, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan.
It was this speaking out against forgetfulness and violence that the Nobel committee recognized when it awarded him the peace prize in 1986.
(New York Times, July 2, 2016)
Therefore, it is yet another indictment of public consciousness that his death did not evoke the emotional outpouring recent celebrity deaths did. In my case, this might be because the only way Wiesel figured in my life was, ironically, in the context of my decrying the “forgetfulness and violence” he spent his life trying to prevent.
Neither the sublime admonitions of Elie Wiesel nor the celebrated entreaties of George Clooney [will] prevent a single person from being slaughtered in Darfur.
(“Save Darfur Rally: Full of Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing!” The iPINIONS Journal, May 2, 2006)
To be fair, nobody seemed more mindful of how doomed we are to repeat the mistakes of the past than Wiesel. For, even though unwilling to concede the possibility of another Holocaust, he continually bemoaned man’s inhumanity to man (e.g., in places like Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, and Bosnia) as evidence of the recurring Night he famously wrote about.
Incidentally, man does not require the cover of armed conflict (whether caused by nationalism, sectarianism, tribalism, or racism) to perpetrate this inhumanity – as Wiesel himself could attest:
‘ ‘Psychopath’ — it’s too nice a word for him,’ Mr. Wiesel said in his first public comments on Mr. Madoff and the Ponzi scheme he is accused of perpetrating on thousands of individuals and charities, including the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity…
Mr. Wiesel’s charity lost $15.2 million, and he and his wife, Marion, lost their life savings. ‘This was a personal tragedy where we discovered all of a sudden what we had done in 40 years — my books, my lectures, everything — was gone,’ said Mr. Wiesel.
(New York Times, February 26, 2009)
The irony is too rich for words….
In any event, given that human events always defied all Wiesel championed, it might seem a contradiction that he won the Nobel peace prize. Except that it makes perfect sense when one considers that Barack Obama won the peace prize in 2009 for nothing but the hope for peace, which human events have since duly defied.
Meanwhile, there’s no accounting for the media dedicating ten times more coverage to the death of Muhammad Ali, the self-proclaimed “greatest,” than to the death of Elie Wiesel, a universally acclaimed great man. Then again, this is the same media that routinely dedicates ten times more coverage to terrorist attacks in cities in the West than to terrorist attacks in cities in the Middle East.
I know Wiesel decried the latter even more than I did – in such commentaries as “Global Outpouring for Paris Makes Beirut Feel ‘Forgotten,’” November 16, 2016. But his modesty was such that I doubt the former will have him rolling over in his grave.
We may be doomed to learn too little from the mistakes of the past. But we would be wise to never forget Wiesel.
He was 87.
Monday, July 4, 2016 at 7:34 AM