The iPINIONS Journal

  • Monday, May 22, 2017 at 7:47 AM

    Roger Ailes, Sexual Predator Who Founded Fox News, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Roger Ailes, who shaped the images that helped elect three Republican presidents and then became a dominant, often-intimidating force in American conservative politics at the helm of Fox News until he was forced out last year in a sexual harassment scandal, died on Thursday morning. …

    ‘Fair and balanced’ was Mr. Ailes’s defining phrase for Fox News, along with another slogan: ‘We report. You decide.’ Though routinely mocked by liberal critics, who regarded the network as decidedly unfair and imbalanced, those words amounted to an article of faith for Mr. Ailes, who created Fox News with Rupert Murdoch’s money and guided it for two decades.

    (New York Times, May 18, 2017)

    Arguably, Roger Ailes was to cable television what Steve Jobs was to computer technology. Yet what little most people know about Ailes stems from the sexual harassment scandal that caused his fall from grace.

    There’s no denying his accomplishments as a pioneer of cable news. Unfortunately, this includes pioneering the phenomenon of “alternative facts,” which has turned public debate on everything into partisan echo chambers. Thanks to Ailes, forming America into “a more perfect union” has taken on the proverbial spectacle of building the Tower of Babel.

    But it would be karmic if his legacy were defined more by his sex scandal than Fox News. After all, it turned out that he ran this network more like a sultan lording over his harem than a CEO managing a corporation.

    This is why his passing is worthy of no greater tribute than reprising a little of what I wrote upon his firing. Accordingly, here is an excerpt from “Women Complain that Fox News Head, Roger Ailes, Has Dick for Brains,” July 20, 2016.


    Close friends will tell you 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 butts 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.’ This might explain why Ailes treated them, eponymously enough, like 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. …

    The parallels in this unfolding scandal to the one that triggered Bill Cosby’s fall from grace are as unavoidable as they are instructive.


    Incidentally, I honestly don’t know which of these two serial sexual predators was the more diabolical:

    • Cosby lured vulnerable actresses to his room with promises of making them stars, only to drug them. Then he had his way with them.
    • Ailes convinced vulnerable reporters to serve, practically, as his sex slaves. They serviced him in exchange for feature roles in his harem masquerading as a news network.

    Clearly, for any woman facing these two career paths, this would constitute the fabled choice between Scylla and Charybdis.

    It is also worth noting that Ailes was rewarded with a $40 million golden parachute for his alleged crimes; whereas jury selection begins today for Cosby’s trial on a battery of sexual assault charges.

    In any event, as Ailes’s victims emulated Cosby’s by coming out of the woodwork in droves, they confirmed my suspicion that the way a female reporter looked mattered more to Ailes than the way she worked:

    The View co-host Jedediah Bila, who previously worked at Fox News as a contributor and co-host, said that there were no pants in the wardrobe at the network, echoing the 2013 claims of former Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson that ‘pants were not allowed.’

    [Bila said] ‘You used to go into the room, and there were a bunch of dresses that you could choose from. I was told at one point I wasn’t allowed to wear orange because Roger [Ailes] doesn’t like the color orange.’

    (Media Matter, April 4, 2017)

    Ailes died from complications stemming from the head trauma he sustained when he fell in his Florida home on May 10. He was 77.

    Farewell, Roger.

    Related commentaries:
    Women complain

  • Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 8:04 AM

    WTF: Saudis Giving Islamophobic Trump the Royal Treatment…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Much is being made of the way the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is rolling out the red carpet for President Trump – complete with bells, whistles, and gilded displays that appeal more to a visiting Mideast king (i.e., Trump’s ego) than a US president.

    This might seem ironic, even self-abnegating – given Trump’s virulent anti-Muslim rhetoric. But there’s existential method to Saudi Arabia’s fawning pageantry:

    Among Gulf leaders, enthusiasm for Trump — who looks increasingly embattled at home — is driven by the desire for a like-minded partner in the oil-rich kingdom’s struggle against Iran, its main Middle Eastern rival. That, to Saudi eyes, overrides his record of anti-Islamic rhetoric on the campaign trail, and his attempt to bar some Muslims from entering the U.S. once he took office.

    (London Guardian, May 20, 2017)

    To be fair, Trump has already demonstrated that much of what he says is just hot air – even if he’s too clueless and self-absorbed to ever realize it. Therefore, the Saudis can be forgiven for paying his anti-Muslim shtick no mind at all.

    Not to mention that the Saudis (as godfathers of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups) have the blood of almost as many Muslims on their hands as the number of Muslims Trump is attempting to “bar.”

    Wahhabism is the source of all that is controversial about Islamic fundamentalism. Because this doctrine teaches that all who do not conform to their ascetic and jihadist religious practices are heathens and infidels.

    Members of the ruling Saudi Royal family are the world’s most ardent and influential devotees of Wahhabism. The Saudis insist that Wahhabis like Osama bin Laden are rare. But they cannot deny that terrorists of every stripe derive Jihadi justification and inspiration from the madrassas they fund worldwide.

    (“Bush’s Smiling Assassin Jailed — Indefinitely,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 2, 2005)

    It is also worth mentioning that the Saudis regard Syrian refugees as more of a plague to keep at bay than Trump does.

    But the primary reason for their Faustian displays is that Trump has shown no interest in balancing regional interests between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This, for them, stands in reassuring contrast to Obama’s fraught efforts to “reach out to Iran” — highlighted by the transformative deal he forged to halt its nuclear program. Hell, the Saudis are even inviting Trump to lecture their Shura Council on the true meaning of Islam, which is rather like the Americans inviting Putin to lecture their Congress on the true meaning of democracy.

    Accordingly, the highlight of Trump’s visit will be striking “the biggest arms deal in history” (reportedly worth $110 billion), as well as other business deals to make (corporate) America rich(er) again.

    Incidentally, I doubt Trump will emulate US presidents who wooed Saudi kings with PDAs worthy of school-girl crushes. After all, he doesn’t even show his wife that kind of affection. But his wheeling and dealing will more than make up for not holding hands and blowing kisses – like George W. Bush did so solicitously.

    The point is that, given the circumstances, the Saudis would be rolling out the red carpet even for the Devil – if they thought that would ensure not only their everlasting national security, but also their status as the sole guardians of Islam.

    Related commentaries:
    Bush and the Saudis
    Bush’s smiling assassin

  • Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 7:42 AM

    Special Prosecutor Appointed to Investigate Trump-Russia Ties. Checkmate!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Donald Trump telegraphed his intent to politicize the Department of Justice (DOJ) when he nominated his campaign hitman, Jeff Sessions, as attorney general.

    But even Republicans could not tolerate the stench of allowing Sessions to preside over DOJ matters related to alleged collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. The foreboding irony could not have been lost even on Trump.

    Sure enough, bipartisan pressure forced Sessions to recuse himself, ceding all authority on such matters to his deputy – career prosecutor Rod Rosenstein.

    That recusal clearly frustrated this Don’s intent to treat the DOJ like his mafia family. And FBI Director James Comey’s refusal to pledge loyalty to him only exacerbated his frustration. This explains the ham-fisted way he fired Comey last week.

    But Trump is sensible enough to know that having a special prosecutor investigate him is rather like having Elliot Ness investigate Al Capone: It. Will. Not. End. Well.

    No doubt this is why Trump has had all of his surrogates fighting against the appointment of one.

    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday there is ‘no need’ for a special prosecutor to investigate alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 election or ties to the Trump campaign, pushing back on mounting Democratic calls for one in the wake of James Comey’s firing.

    ‘There is no need for a special prosecutor. There are two congressional committees and the FBI is conducting their own review,’ Spicer said at Monday’s press briefing.

    (Fox News, May 15, 2017)

    Meanwhile, Trump has been projecting consciousness of guilt with his constant whining that all allegations about his ties to Russia is just “fake news.” Remarkably, his whining sunk to a new low today as he delivered the commencement address to cadets at the Coast Guard Academy. They will soon be facing the deadly challenges of interdicting narco and human traffickers. But, instead of inspiring their courage to do so, Trump spent much of the address venting self-pity about the media – highlighted by this epic woe-is-me whine:

    No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.

    (New York Times, May 18, 2017)

    A less narcissistic politician would’ve been all too mindful that history is punctuated with wrongfully imprisoned and assassinated politicians who were “treated worse or more unfairly” – obviously. But this whining comes from the man who spent much of Obama’s presidency feeding the media birther nonsense about this first black president being “the biggest fraud in US history.” But I digress …

    As it happens, I was in the vanguard of those calling for a special prosecutor:

    I can only reiterate my forlorn hope that Republican politicians will stand up to Trump (beginning with a clarion call for a special prosecutor) – just as they stood up to Nixon, and thereby precipitated his downfall.

    (“Channeling Nixon, Trump Fires FBI Director,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 9, 2017)

    Well, Trump’s worst nightmare has just come true, and he can thank his firing of Comey for triggering it:

    The Justice Department has decided to appoint a special counsel to investigate possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian officials seeking to meddle in last year’s election, according to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

    Robert Mueller, a former prosecutor who served as the FBI director from 2001 to 2013, has agreed to serve in the role, Rosenstein said.

    ‘In my capacity as acting attorney general I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter,’ Rosenstein said in a statement.

    (Washington Post, May 17, 2017)

    Incidentally, President Obama hired both Mueller and Comey as FBI directors. Therefore, he can be forgiven a little schadenfreude over Trump being hoisted by his own petard – given all this appointment portends.

    Trust me, all you need to know about Mueller is that he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Comey in 2004 – in the midst of America’s most famous Constitutional crisis since Watergate. That was when the Bush White House tried to coerce an incapacitated Attorney General John Ashcroft into rubber-stamping a NSA surveillance program.

    Comey, serving then as acting attorney general (as Rosenstein is now), and Mueller, serving then as FBI director, believed one key aspect of that program was unconstitutional. So they rushed to Ashcroft’s hospital room and prevented Bush’s chief of staff from getting Ashcroft to sign off, both having threatened to resign if he did.

    In other words, Trump fired Comey only to end up with his avenging twin – over whom he has no authority, control, or influence.

    That said, with past being prologue, it could take months, if not years, for Mueller to complete his investigation. Alas, congressional committees will continue their dog-and-pony investigations, and Trump will continue to tweet; hence no reprieve from the political grandstanding and media hysteria that have characterized their investigations and dogged his presidency, respectively.

    But rest assured that, unlike Trump’s hopelessly compromised DOJ, Mueller and his team of special prosecutors will hold to account anyone who colluded with Russia. As it was with Nixon’s enablers, I fully expect many of Trump’s to end up in prison.

    Of more interest, this team will finally uncover the extent to which Trump’s (financial) ties to Russia explain his antic bromance with its mercurial president, Vladimir Putin, as well as his antic loyalty to the venal Michael Flynn. Not to mention that Mueller is bound to subpoena Trump’s tax returns and depose him – posing even greater legal jeopardy for him than special prosecutor Ken Starr posed when he deposed Bill Clinton.

    This is why I plan to refrain from any further commentary on this aspect of the Trump presidency until Mueller completes his investigation. Frankly, his appointment came not a moment too soon. After all, this is just day 118 of 1460 and I’ve already had enough of his presidency.

    In the meantime, I shall derive some consolation from my declared expectation that disgusted and disillusioned Republicans will force Trump to either resign or be impeached long before his last 100 days. The evidence Mueller’s team gathers on Trump’s financial conflicts and misdeeds will be instrumental in this respect. Incidentally, no matter the evidence, Mueller will not indict Trump on criminal charges; although he might give Trump the Nixon kiss of death by naming him an “unindicted co-conspirator.”

    For more on this fated end to his presidency, I refer you to “Retiring Republican Jason Chaffetz Could Be Trump’s Worst Nightmare,” April 22, 2017.

    Related commentaries:
    Channeling Nixon
    First 100 days
    Republican Chaffetz

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 9:02 p.m.

  • Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at 7:53 AM

    Trump Sharing Classified Info with Russians Forces McMaster to Spicer Himself

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

    The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

    The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.

    (Washington Post, May 15, 2017)

    Frankly, nobody should be surprised that Trump revealed this information as he was boasting recklessly (i.e., going off script) about the “great intelligence” he has on ISIS. Mind you, he got this intelligence from the same intelligence community (IC) he spent his entire presidential campaign ridiculing as inept – continually reminding the world of their mistaken claims about WMDs in Iraq.

    Moreover, nobody should be surprised if or when he does something like this again, perhaps with even deadlier consequences. Which is why, in the interest of national security, it behooves the IC to think twice about briefing this congenital fool on highly classified information.

    That said, it is becoming as certain as night follows day that everyone who works for the Trump presidency will end up a laughing stock – eminently worthy of being lampooned on Saturday Night Live.

    No doubt you recall the lying fool White House Spokesman Sean Spicer made of himself the day after Inauguration Day. That’s when he wasted his first press conference trying to convince the world that the size of the crowd at Trump’s Inauguration was bigger than the crowd at Obama’s. This, despite pictures everywhere outside the White House showing the opposite.

    And, practically every day since then, one or another of Trump’s surrogates has made a fool of himself or herself in similar fashion – none more notoriously so than his counselor Kellyanne Conway.

    Now comes Lt. Gen. McMaster, reputably the “Army’s smartest officer,” trying to convince the world that the classified information Trump revealed was no big deal.

    White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster just emerged from the White House to declare that The Washington Post’s story about Trump giving highly classified information to Russia ‘as reported, is false.’

    But the rest of McMaster’s statement made clear he wasn’t actually denying the report. And his entire brief statement — punctuated by McMaster walking away without taking shouted questions — speaks volumes.

    (Washington Post, May 15, 2017)

    Not to mention that McMaster knows full well that, immediately following that meeting with the Russians, White House staffers rushed to clean up the mess Trump created. This involved alerting relevant members of the IC that the highly classified information at issue had been compromised.

    Of course, McMaster’s “non-denial denial” was damning enough. But it speaks even greater volumes that he emulated Spicer by fleeing his press conference without taking a single question from the press. As it was with Spicer (after his fateful post-Inauguration press conference), I fear it will be all downhill for McMaster’s character and credibility from this day forward.

    Despite my informed cynicism, I never imagined this celebrated Army officer would be guilty of this kind of Dereliction of Duty.

    NOTE: I cannot overstate how stupefying it is that so many people have been so willing to sacrifice their personal integrity and professional reputation at the altar of Trump’s ego. This has been one of the more incomprehensible travesties of the Trump phenomenon.

    God help them … us.

    Related commentaries:
    Russians dupe Trump

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 8:37 p.m.

  • Monday, May 15, 2017 at 6:47 AM

    Erasing Records to Whitewash Steroids from Track and Field Is Absurd

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In a ‘revolutionary’ new proposal, European Athletics has recommended that all track and field world and European records set before 2005 should be removed from the record books.

    It would mean Mike Powell’s long jump world record, Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 100-meter and 200 -meter world records and Britain’s Paula Radcliffe’s marathon world record would be scrapped. …

    Seb Coe, president of the sport’s governing body — the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) — told reporters the report was a ‘step in the right direction [towards] winning back credibility in this area.’

    (CNN, May 2, 2017)

    Frankly, this makes about as much sense as the Soviet Union erasing discredited politicians from old photographs, hoping to give the regime more credibility. The governing bodies of sports might think they can get all athletes to compete clean. But this is as naïve as the Catholic Church thinking it can get all priests to live celibate lives.

    As it happens, I’m on record questioning the integrity of many of the records this proposal would affect, most notably those of Florence Griffith-Joyner (Flo-Jo).

    Florence Griffith-Joyner set the world record of 10.49 in the women’s 100m in 1988. But it seems unfair to hold today’s sprinters to that standard. Because if the sophisticated tests we have today were available back then, I suspect they would have revealed that Flo-Jo fueled her way to that record on performance-enhancing drugs.

    Moreover, no matter the autopsy report, it strains credulity to think that such drugs did not contribute to her early death at the very young age of 38.

    (“London Olympics: Day 8,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 4, 2012)

    Then, of course, there’s the prevailing suspicion that steroids fueled every record any athlete from the Soviet Union or East Germany set back then.

    Nonetheless, this proposal would impose too broad a punishing brush. After all, why should the steroids Flo-Jo might have taken to set the 100m in 1988 taint the record the presumptively clean Hicham El Guerrouj set in the 1500m in 1998?

    Incidentally, the IAAF claims that 2005 is the year of reckoning because that’s the year it began retaining samples for future testing – as more sophisticated techniques evolve.

    Carl Lewis is the greatest Track and Field athlete since Jesse Owens – with all due respect to Usain Bolt. But Lewis would readily admit that, after drugs cheat Ben Johnson defeated him on the world stage, he derived little consolation from receiving Johnson’s forfeited gold medal in relative obscurity.

    Winning in this belated, forfeited fashion cannot possibly compensate for being robbed of the thrill of victory that comes with winning (in the arena) at the Olympics or World Championships. Not to mention the fame and fortune the latter brings lesser-known athletes.

    Besides all that, the self-evident truth is that, no matter the testing or sanction, athletes will always cheat to gain a competitive advantage. And, as the Russian government demonstrated, many of them will have unlimited resources and technical expertise to aid them in doing so.

    This is why I maintain that decriminalizing all performance-enhancing drugs is the only way to deal with them in sports.

    Policing drugs in professional sports is not only Orwellian; it’s utterly futile. After all … athletes have always, and will always, do or take anything that might give them a competitive advantage. And if what they do or take poses no harm to anyone except themselves, who cares?!

    This enlightened attitude towards performance-enhancing drugs would have precluded the ‘scandals’ that now threaten the professional careers of Tour de France Champion Floyd Landis and Olympic (100m) Champion Justin Gatlin; to say nothing of sparing them international ridicule as pathetic liars and cheaters.

    (“A Plea for Landis, Gatlin, et al: Legalize Drugs … Especially in Sports,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 3, 2006)

    We should leave it to fans to assess the integrity of each sport in this enlightened context. And I suspect their verdict will be positive in each case:

    Steroid use has flourished in Baseball and other professional sports pursuant to an open conspiracy among players and team owners. This, to feed the gladiatorial lust of fans who want to see stronger, faster athletic cyborgs perform for their atavistic enjoyment. And, of course, the more fans revel in their steroid-fueled feats of athleticism, the bigger the players’ contracts (and even bigger the owners’ bottom line) become.

    (“Barry Bonds Is a Steroid Junkie … Duh,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 8, 2006)

    Related commentaries:
    London Olympics
    Doping strikes Usain Bolt
    Bonds steroid junkie

  • Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 8:12 AM

    My New Book

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Book review: The iPINIONS Journal – Commentaries on the Global Events of 2016

    by Anthony L. Hall

    Reprinted from Caribbean News Now

    Published May 12, 2017


    Reminding us that yet another year has passed, Caribbean News Now op-ed columnist Anthony Hall embarks on his twelfth annual retrospective compendium of insights and observations on the major events of our times with the publication of his latest edition – The iPINIONS Journal – Commentaries on the Global Events 2016 – which covers his usual wide range of subjects, conveniently ordered by region and topic.

    His subject matter is as eclectic as ever and, of particular interest to Caribbean readers, are his comments on:

    The election of the first female premier in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where with a population of just over 30,000 it took almost 12 hours longer to announce Election Day results than it took the USA, with a population of well over 300 million.

    • The failures of CARICOM, which have “become so notorious that talking about them incites more contemptuous laughter than lawyer jokes”.

    • Obama’s landing in Cuba, which should rank alongside Nixon’s opening to China in the annals of world history.

    • The Bahamas holding an unnecessary referendum to decide whether men and women should enjoy the same constitutional rights, primarily with respect to citizenship, when the constitution already prohibits any form of discrimination.

    • What the FARC, as Colombian voters reject a landmark peace deal, demonstrating an unhinged willingness to vote against enlightened national interest.

    • Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet playing wannabe dictator by suing a local broadcaster, in order to silence any voice critical of his leadership.

    As Hall notes, by any measure, 2016 was an annus horrendous, illustrated among many other events by WTF! President-elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done – the triumph of white nationalism over multiculturalism/globalism – and Brexit – Britain exits, the die is cast, and the rise of Britain’s Iron Lady 2.0.

    The commentaries in this twelfth volume cover these and all other major events of 2016 and serve as a provocative, informative, and entertaining antidote to 140-character tweets, which no less a person than US President Donald J. Trump would have us believe constitute informed public debate these days.

    As always, regional iconoclast Hall tackles all of these topics and many more in his latest volume with his trademark confidence, flair and humour.

    Highly recommended reading.

    The iPINIONS Journal – Commentaries on the Global Events of Our Times: Volume XII, 587pp, is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble (including an e-book version for just $0.99) and all other major booksellers.

  • Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 7:48 AM

    Trump Demanded Oath of Loyalty from FBI Director

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Only seven days after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president, James B. Comey has told associates, the F.B.I. director was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one dinner with the new commander in chief. …

    The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.

    Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge.

    (New York Times, May 11, 2017)

    No surprise then that Trump was thinking of firing Comey “for a long time.” In fact, he admitted as much in a series of incriminating TV interviews this week.

    But what is so troubling is not that this wannabe dictator demanded an oath of loyalty from the FBI director. Rather, it’s the unavoidable inference that the vice president and every other member of his cabinet duly gave it, pledging loyalty not to the Constitution but to Trump.

    Which compels me to reiterate this fearful analogy:

    If you’ve ever wondered how so many German politicians became Hitler-saluting fascists, you need only look at how so many Republicans are becoming Trump-saluting bigots. …

    The phenomenon of Donald Trump says far more about the American people than him. They clearly want to be entertained by the disruptive spectacle he creates and couldn’t care less about the offensive and invariably self-aggrandizing things he, er, tweets or does.

    More to the point, the nature of foolish pride is such that, no matter how willfully he betrays them or endangers us, these Trumpasites will be loath to ever admit they were wrong about him. This is especially the case with the Christian evangelicals who betrayed zealous adherence to moral rectitude (and sold their souls) to vote for him.

    (“Trumpasites Already Gagging on Big Lies and Outrageous Pledges They Swallowed,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 29, 2017)

    Related commentaries:
    Trump fires FBI director

  • Friday, May 12, 2017 at 8:06 AM

    Russians Dupe “Stupid” Trump and White House Staff

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Donald Trump spent much of his campaign ridiculing “stupid” American presidents and diplomats who, according to him, were always getting duped by their foreign counterparts.

    He insisted that the American people needed to elect him, a shrewd and savvy businessman, to put an end to this embarrassing trend.

    Of course, that his record of achievement for the “First 100 Days” is the worst in US history speaks volumes. But no American president has ever been so stupid as to fall for this:

    A photographer for a Russian state-owned news agency was allowed into the Oval Office on Wednesday during President Trump’s meeting with Russian diplomats, a level of access that was criticized by former U.S. intelligence officials as a potential security breach. …

    The administration official also said the White House had been misled about the role of the Russian photographer. …

    ‘We were not informed by the Russians that their official photographer was dual-hatted and would be releasing the photographs on the state news agency,’ the administration official said.

    (Washington Post, 10, 2017)


    Adding national insult to his stupidity, this all transpired after Trump refused to allow any American photographer into the Oval Office for this event.

    Reports are that Trump is “furious” at the Russians for leaking these pictures. No doubt because he has so much to hide – given his many suspicious ties to Russia. In this case, he clearly hoped there would be no pictures of him cavorting with the very Russians who Congress and the FBI are now investigating for colluding with his presidential campaign. I mean, really, how stupid can any American be?!

    Then, in typical fashion, Trump tried to cover up his stupidity with a tweet:

    Russia must be laughing up their sleeves watching as the U.S. tears itself apart over a Democrat EXCUSE for losing the election.

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 11, 2017

    The problem is that his attempts to deflect blame always seem so childish. In fact, he comes across like a five-year old, with cookie crumbs all over his face, trying to deflect blame after getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar. And this would be equally laughable if Trump were not the friggin’ president of the United States.

    More to the point, here is how I diagnosed this Trumpian pathology at the height of last year’s presidential campaign:

    The psychopathology afoot here is called projection. It is defined by people attributing to others traits, faults, and blame that inhere in themselves. And it explains almost every insult Trump has hurled at his opponents throughout this presidential campaign.

    So when you hear him calling other people crooked, insecure, weak, beholding to special interests, liars, etc., be mindful that he’s revealing self-conscious truths about himself, unwittingly.

    (“Forget the Clinton Foundation. Shut Down the Trump Organization!” The iPINIONS Journal, August 26, 2016)

    Incidentally, this projection manifested itself during an NBC interview today. That’s when this P.T. Barnum of a president accused James Comey of being “a showboat … a grandstander.” Never mind that everybody knows Comey as the preternaturally staid FBI director he fired in typically grandstanding fashion two days ago.

    In this case, “Russia must be laughing up their [sic] sleeves” as Trump stupidly undermines the functioning and shreds the integrity of every democratic institution. What’s more, he seems hell-bent on doing so in a vain attempt to claim the popular will Hillary won when she beat him by almost three million votes last November.

    That said, I am constrained to note that Trump also spent much of his campaign ridiculing Obama as a weak and feckless president who commanded no respect on the world stage. To support his contention, he often cited the way Russian fighter jets continually menaced US warships, as well as the way North Korea kept testing ballistic missiles and throwing American citizens in prison.

    Except that Russian fighter jets are still menacing US warships, and North Korea is still testing ballistic missiles and throwing American citizens in prison (adding a fourth just this week). Which must make Trump an equally weak and feckless president who commands no respect on the world stage, no?

    Not to mention the mocking lack of respect Russia showed by duping him with that White House caper referenced above. Yet, apropos of being weak and feckless, the only thing this reportedly furious (self-proclaimed) strongman did in response was fire off a pathetic tweet about last year’s presidential election.

    As it happens, tweeting is a curious feature of his projection. For Trump invariably tweets outrageous things to deflect media attention away from his many shortcomings, including a flair for brazen hypocrisy like this.

    Related commentaries:
    First 100 Days
    Forget the Clinton Foundation
    Channeling Nixon, Trump fires FBI director

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 6:26 p.m.

  • Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 7:24 AM

    Opposition FNM Torches Ruling PLP in The Bahamas

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In what is the worst defeat of a governing party in recent history, the Bahamian people landed a crushing blow to the Progressive National Party (PLP) at the polls on Wednesday [leaving them with only 5 of the 39 seats in parliament]. …

    Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis will be sworn in as prime minister today at 5 p.m.

    Outgoing Prime Minister Perry Christie suffered a painful loss in the constituency he represented for four decades [becoming] the first prime minister to lose his seat.

    (Nassau Guardian, May 11, 2017)

    Congratulations to Prime Minister-Elect Minnis and his FNM Party.

    Related commentaries:

  • Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 7:21 PM

    Channeling Nixon, Trump Fires FBI Director

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, I warned that Trump would channel Nixon in this impeachable fashion.

    FBI Director James B. Comey has been dismissed by the president, according to White House spokesman Sean Spicer – a startling move that officials said stemmed from a conclusion by Justice Department officials that he had mishandled the probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

    Comey was fired as he is leading a counterintelligence investigation to determine whether associates of President Trump may have coordinated with Russia to meddle with the presidential election last year.

    (Washington Post, May 9, 2017)

    This is not complicated folks. In fact, it might suffice to note that only one other president in US history had the authoritarian gall to fire the public officials investigating his alleged high crimes and misdemeanors. That president, of course, was Richard M. Nixon – who infamously justified his authoritarian behavior as follows:

    Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.

    (Frost/Nixon Interview, May 1977)

    I have repeatedly lamented the cognitive dissonance that has “normalized” Trump’s Orwellian lies and Nixonian behavior. It’s only in this context that it makes any sense for Trump to claim that he’s firing Comey for mishandling the probe of Hillary’s e-mails.

    After all, this is the same Trump who spent much of his campaign not only hailing Comey for his handling of that probe (notwithstanding his refusal to prosecute), but also making political hay of the damning findings Comey shared in his controversial July 5, 2016 news conference.

    Alas, brazen lies, contradictions, and hypocrisies have become routine features of his presidency – just as they were of his campaign. Indeed, firing Director Comey to restore public confidence in the FBI, as Trump claims, is every bit as Orwellian as throwing journalists in jail to protect the freedom of the press.

    This is why I can only reiterate my forlorn hope that Republican politicians will stand up to Trump (beginning with a clarion call for a special prosecutor) – just as they stood up to Nixon, and thereby precipitated his downfall.

    Here, for example, is what I wrote in “Intelligence Report on Russian Hacking of Presidential Election,” January 7, 2017.


    Trump’s continued, Manchurian-like deflection of blame from Putin’s Russia, while imputing it Democrats, constitutes one of many seeds already germinating for impeachment proceedings. And he has yet to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

    Speaker Paul Ryan is leading a chorus of Republican leaders in singing Trump’s praises. But their resentment over his bull-in-a-China-shop run to the White House is palpable.

    Therefore, don’t be surprised if they seize the first opportunity to impeach and replace him with Vice President-elect Mike Pence — who Republicans and Democrats alike consider far more fit to serve as president … for a litany of well-documented reasons. And, given Trump’s Nixonian inclination to punish his enemies, to say nothing of his Clintonian inclination to enrich himself, he is bound to provide all kinds of opportunities for them to do so.

    (“WTF! President-elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done.” The iPINIONS Journal, November 10, 2016)

    Mind you, Trump would be lucky if his presidency ends with impeachment. After all, he insinuated throughout his presidential campaign that Hillary’s would end with a “Second Amendment remedy” if she were elected.

    In any event, one cannot overstate the significance of Democrats and Republicans venting near unanimous support for the findings in this report, as well as for the categorical imperative of retaliating against Russia. Hence Trump really is “an island” — albeit one that can affect lives, for good or ill, on every continent of the world.

    Stay tuned, folks.


    I fear the worst is yet to come. But I’m convinced that, when all is said and done, Republican loyalty to country will trump loyalty to this president.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 8:12 AM

    Happy Teachers’ Day!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And a special thank you to Mrs. Judson – formerly of Pinedale Primary in Eight Mile Rock,

    Grand Bahama, Bahamas.

  • Sunday, May 7, 2017 at 4:01 PM

    UPDATE: With Macron, France Chooses Obama-Like Hope Over Trump-Like Fear

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron has decisively won the French presidential election, projected results say.

    Mr Macron defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen by about 66% to 34% to become, at 39, the country’s youngest president, the results show. …

    The BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris says this is the most remarkable success story of how a man who three years ago was utterly unknown to the French public, through sheer self-belief, energy – and connections – forged a political movement that has trounced all the established French political parties.

    (BBC, May 7, 2017)

    I said all I care to in my related commentary, “France’s Marine Le Pen, Putin’s Latest Democratic Honey Trap,” May 6, 2017.

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  • Saturday, May 6, 2017 at 7:18 AM

    France’s Marine Le Pen, Putin’s Latest Democratic Honey Trap

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron says it has been the target of a ‘massive hacking attack’ after a trove of documents was released online.

    The campaign said that genuine files were mixed up with fake ones in order to confuse people. …

    It compared it to the leak of Democratic Party emails in last year’s US presidential election that was blamed on Russian hackers.

    (BBC, May 5, 2017)

    It is not enough to merely compare this hack and leak with the infamous hack and leak that upended last year’s US presidential election. It is imperative to name and shame Russia’s Machiavellian president, Vladimir Putin, for ordering this political hit job.

    Further, we must point out that Putin’s aim is not just to “destabilize Western countries by undermining democratic elections.” For it’s decidedly to help the candidate he thinks he can manipulate (now Marine Le Pen, back then Donald J. Trump) and hurt the one he fears he cannot (now Emmanuel Macron, back then Hillary Clinton).

    But fool democracies once, shame on Putin; fool them twice, shame on us. Not this time, Pootie.

    He fancies himself the most powerful man in the world. But Putin is just North Korea’s Kim Jong-un with lots more nuclear weapons and oil money, which actually makes him the most reviled of all pariahs.

    Trust me, it galls him no end that he has to stoop to hacking democratic elections and bribing useful idiots to finagle the illusion of global respectability, especially given that former President Barack Obama always enjoyed that respectability in spades.

    In any event, Macron is expected to easily win the French presidential election against Le Pen tomorrow. I know, I know, Hillary was expected to easily win the US presidential election against Trump last November. But the French are too sophisticated to fall for this neo-fascist tramp, especially after seeing the way Putin trumped the Americans.

    Not to mention that the unprecedented fecklessness of the Trump administration has crested the wave of nationalist populism Le Pen and other Trump wannabes, like Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, were hoping to ride to power.

    Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a politician more obnoxious and odious than Trump, particularly a female one. But that’s Marine Le Pen.

    This stupid woman actually thinks there’s virtue in declaring that she only took millions from Putin to fund her campaign because every bank and every corporation in France refused to sully its reputation by associating with her.

    Incidentally, Obama took the extraordinary step of publicly endorsing Macron. This says all you need to know about his politics, just as Putin publicly endorsing Le Pen says all you need to know about hers.

    No doubt Obama is still smarting from the public humiliation he suffered when Putin’s Trump upset his Hillary. Therefore, Obama probably couldn’t resist this opportunity for an equally high-profile, high-stakes rematch.

    Vive la France!

    NOTE: America’s ingenious system of checks and balances has so circumscribed Trump’s Putinesque impulses that all Putin has to show for his hacking and leaking is Russia suffering even worse economic sanctions and irreparable reputational damage. This pyrrhic effect is clearly not what Putin meddled for. Yet I suspect that, even in failing to get Le Pen elected, his meddling will cause Russia to suffer even more in both respects — to the extent that’s possible at this point.

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  • Friday, May 5, 2017 at 7:07 AM

    Happy Cinco de Mayo

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that purportedly celebrates the victory of a ragtag band of 4,000 Mexicans fighters over 8,000 French soldiers on May 5, 1862.

    But this historic feat seems lost on most people of Mexican heritage in the United States. After all, they mark the occasion by celebrating their culture much in the same drunken and carousing way people of Irish heritage celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

    Cinco de Mayo tops St. Patrick’s Day, Super Bowl Sunday with U.S. beer drinkers.

    (Washington Times, May 4, 2015)

    Alas, the anti-immigrant presidency of Donald J. Trump has belittled and overshadowed all we have to celebrate about Mexican-American culture. In fact, thanks to his xenophobic fulminations, the immigration that has always been America’s strength now conjures up images of poor, menacing Mexicans swarming across the southern border.

    Meanwhile, the government’s own records show that, for the first time since the Great Depression, more Mexicans are leaving the United States voluntarily these days than entering illegally.

    Therefore, instead of continuing their indignant protests in support of their illegal brothers and sisters, perhaps my Mexican-American friends will now channel more of that energy towards celebrating their culture. And there’s no better way to do that than to use this holiday to remind Anglos of the things they all love about Mexico: tequila, Acapulco, tequila, Chichen Itza, tequila, los mariachis, tequila, Diego Rivera, tequila, Cancun, tequila, fajitas, and much more.

  • Thursday, May 4, 2017 at 2:41 PM

    Republicans Bunt then Claim Home Run on Repealing and Replacing Obamacare

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    House Republicans have passed their ambitious plan to repeal and replace Obamacare after several fits and starts, sending the measure to the Senate, where it is expected to be significantly revised.

    House Republicans will now head to the White House for a press conference.

    (ABC News, May 4, 2017)

    Everyone is hailing the passage of this bill in the House as if it were now the law of the land. This, despite the fact that anyone who knows anything about it knows that it is dead on arrival in the Senate. (If you don’t know how this legislative process works, I suggest you google “Schoolhouse Rock How a Bill Becomes a Law” to be informed — and entertained.)

    No doubt Republicans would like you think they merely promised to pass a bill in the House to repeal and replace Obamacare. In fact, they promised to eradicate it from the law books. Yet, as no less a person than Speaker Paul Ryan would readily concede, Obamacare is still the law of the land. Their promise is still far from being kept.

    This Baseball analogy might help:

    1. It’s the bottom of the first inning, there are already two outs (representing the two failed Republican efforts to pass this bill earlier this year), and Trump is batting third.
    2. He bunts to get on first base (today’s passage in the House), and everyone reacts as if his team had just won the friggin’ game – complete with a Rose Garden celebration at the White House.
    3. But then the cleanup batter (the bill in the Senate) strikes out and the first inning is all she wrote.

    With that, the Republicans’ cardinal promise to repeal and replace Obamacare is dead. Next inning: tax reform.

    And bear in mind folks, there are nine innings (other cardinal promises like building that wall), and there’s no reason to think their play will get any better as this game (the Trump presidency) progresses.

    Incidentally, for those of you who don’t know Baseball from Cricket, perhaps the proverbial warning about counting chickens before they hatch will do. That’s what these Republicans are doing with their gloating about repealing and replacing Obamacare.

    Not to mention sacrificing their vaunted fiscal rectitude at the altar of Trump’s ego. A rectitude, for example, that heretofore compelled them to demand cost and impact reports (a.k.a. CBO score) before voting on bills. And they are doing all this for what amounts to a pyrrhic legislative win — at best.

    Indeed, I’d say this vote today was much ado about nothing, but that would imbue the political farce afoot with too much honor.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 7:44 AM

    Three White Cops Kill Two Black Men…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    One cops a plea; Two walk scot-free.

    Hardly a week goes by these days without anti-Trump protesters taking to the streets. In fact, their protests so dominate public consciousness, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that anti-cop protesters were doing the same not so long ago – with the same regularity, but venting even greater outrage. “Black Lives Matter,” remember?

    Frankly, there seemed to be a blaze of white cops killing black men. But anti-cop protesters often seemed more interested in fanning the flames than seeking justice. This was the context in which I commented on two high-profile cases.

    I see no point in rehashing the facts involved. It’s just that, given the protest cries of “no justice, no peace,” the way the Department of Justice (DOJ) resolved these cases is instructive.

    Case No. 1 Walter Scott

    Here, for the record, is a little of what I wrote about this case in “Clarion Call for Body Cameras to Check Bad Cops,” April 14, 2015.


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    In the meantime, though, nothing makes the case for cameras as proposed quite like North Charleston prosecutors charging Michael Slager (the cop who killed Walter Scott) with first-degree murder as soon as a bystander’s video of his shooting went viral.


    Sure enough:

    More than two years after a North Charleston, S.C., police officer fired eight rounds to the back of a fleeing and unarmed black motorist whose burst of gunfire was recorded on video, the officer stood in a federal courtroom on Tuesday to plead guilty to charges that he violated the slain man’s civil rights.

    The plea by the officer, Michael T. Slager, assured a rare conviction of a law enforcement official for an on-duty killing, and it left him facing the possibility of life in prison for the April 2015 shooting of Walter L. Scott.

    ‘The Department of Justice will hold accountable any law enforcement officer who violates the civil rights of our citizens by using excessive force,’ Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

    (New York Times, May 2, 2017)

    Case No. 2 Alton Sterling

    Here, for the record, is a little of what I wrote about this case in “Alton Sterling Latest Black Man Shot Dead While (or for?) Resisting Arrest,” July 7, 2016.


    I’ve 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. …

    Too many black activists always seem more interested in political grandstanding than 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.


    Sure enough:

    The U.S. Justice Department has decided not to charge two white Baton Rouge police officers in the death of a black man whose fatal shooting was captured on cellphone video, fueling protests in Louisiana’s capital and beyond, The Associated Press has learned.

    Federal authorities opened a civil rights investigation immediately after the July 2016 police shooting that killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling outside a convenience store where he was selling homemade CDs.

    (Associated Press, May 2, 2017)

    Notwithstanding the resolution of the Walter Scott case, many might think the resolution of this case reflects the racist bent of the Trump DOJ. But I urge them to bear this in mind:

    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.e., when he announced that the Obama DOJ decided not to file civil rights charges against the white cop in that infamous case].

    I truly believe ‘Black Lives Matter.’ That’s why I’m more interested in preventing these black tragedies [by urging black men to stop resisting arrest] than in rushing to execute the White cops involved in them.

    (“Black Lives Matter? Sandra Bland Is an Example, Not a Martyr,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 23, 2015)

    That said, juxtaposing the violent protests that gave rise to these federal cases with the judicial whimper that resolved them speaks volumes. Particularly instructive in this respect is that cable news stations provided nary a mention of these resolutions. After all, they provided 24/7 coverage of those protests; never mind that they did so more as a ratings boon than public service.

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  • Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 7:55 AM

    Advisers Treating Trump Like that Crazy Uncle…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It behooves everyone else to do the same.

    Since day one of his presidency, we’ve been treated to the spectacle of Trump blurting out outrageous and erroneous statements of policy only to have one or another of his advisers correct him. This was the case, for example, when he said he would

    • Kick out NATO members who “can’t pay their bills”;
    • Rip up the nuclear deal with Iran;
    • Name China a currency manipulator;
    • Abolish the Export-Import bank;
    • Get Mexico to pay for his border wall;
    • Defund Planned Parenthood.

    In each case, his advisers prevailed upon him to flip-flop in favor of the more sensible policy. Sure enough, here is how this farcical dynamic played out again last weekend with respect to South Korea:

    South Korea said the United States had reaffirmed it would shoulder the cost of deploying the THAAD anti-missile system, days after President Donald Trump said Seoul should pay for the $1-billion battery designed to defend against North Korea.

    In a telephone call on Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, reassured his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, that the U.S. alliance with South Korea was its top priority in the Asia-Pacific region, the South’s presidential office said.

    (Reuters, May 1, 2017)

    Incidentally, Trump had pundits across the political spectrum in a state of utter bewilderment yesterday. This, after he declared that he would be “honored” to meet with North Korea’s menacing dictator, Kim Jong-un.

    But I have maintained for years that any president who meets with the repressive leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey cannot standoff on principle when it comes to meeting with the repressive leaders of other countries. Indeed, propagating the notion that US presidents only meet with leaders who have committed no human-rights abuses is as patently disingenuous as propagating the notion that the Olympics only permit athletes who have never taken steroids to compete.

    This is why I took exception when these same intellectually dishonest pundits excoriated Obama for declaring his willingness to meet with the repressive leader of Iran. Mind you, Obama wasn’t so stupid as to say he would be honored to do so. But stupid is as Trump does. (Just call him Forest Drumpf!)

    Then, of course, there’s the way Trump has his surrogates continually scrambling to clarify the stunningly stupid and often reckless things he says. This is especially the case with remarks that betray what I call his dictator envy. It refers to his untenable fondness for dictators, despots and demigods – like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the aforementioned North Korean President Kim Jong-un, respectively.

    I hasten to note here my unbridled contempt for TV commentators who are “making bank” by spinning into specious points the outrageous and erroneous things Trump says. Frankly, they are nothing more than political hired guns who couldn’t care less about the truth and consequences of their spin.

    Of course, if the producers of cable news had any concern for the integrity of public debate, they wouldn’t put these commentators on air to shoot their crap. Unfortunately, the zeitgeist today – in which the superficial and mercenary trends of social media predominate – is such that crap sells. This explains why Trump is president of the United States, after all.

    More to the point, everyone in politics seems interested only in making bank. This explains why only a handful of politicians seem bothered that Trump is turning nepotism into a virtue and the White House into a clearing house for his family businesses. Meanwhile, I had cause only yesterday to hail his “First 100 Days” as “mainly the feat of an idiot, full of lies and hypocrisy, accomplishing nothing.”

    That said, many commentators are suddenly parroting the crazy-uncle allusion. But here is how I made it several weeks ago – as I explained the implications of this farcical dynamic between Trump and his advisers:

    Such blunders are becoming a feature of his presidency. This is why political and business leaders worldwide are beginning to treat him like a crazy uncle, who is liable to say anything. Instead, they are looking to his cabinet secretaries to explain official US policies.

    (“Hail, Erdogan – Nouveau Sultan of Turkey,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 19, 2017)

    Beyond this, the world should thank God for the constitutional checks and balances that limit the damage a crazy president like Trump can do. But, to be fair, it bears stressing that he was sensible enough to appoint smart advisers to correct his congenital blunders.

    As it happens, though, he had his beleaguered surrogates scrambling again yesterday. This, after he claimed that the Civil War would have been averted if only, instead of the “Great Emancipator” Abraham Lincoln, the “tough,” slave-holding, Indian-killing Andrew Jackson were president.

    It’s fairer to honor Tubman by dishonoring Andrew Jackson, whose face now graces the $20 bill. …

    Jackson owned slaves. He also nearly wiped out Native Americans in the Southeastern United States, highlighted by forcing thousands of Cherokees on the “Trail of Tears” – which makes the Bataan Death March look like a Sunday stroll – as the White man’s solution to their “Indian problem.”

    (“US Putting Woman on Wrong Dollar Bill,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 22, 2015)

    Trump has made quite a show of hailing Jackson as his historical mentor, much as Obama hailed MLK as his. Except that Trump appears to have nothing more than soundbite interest in Jackson, which is the kind of interest he shows in most things. Because just browsing the very entertaining Jackson biography, American Lion (2008), would have disabused him of such glaring ignorance. Especially given that it was written by Jon Meacham, one of the TV pundits he treats like political tutors.

    In any event, resigned indignation with these dynamics of his presidency would spare us venting pointless outrage every time Trump acts like that crazy uncle; you know, the one who is always speaking with absolute authority and complete conviction on things he knows nothing about.

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  • Monday, May 1, 2017 at 8:03 AM

    Trump’s First 100 Days…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is mainly the feat of an idiot, full of lies and hypocrisy, accomplishing nothing.

    In fact, Donald Trump became a billionaire and the most powerful man in the world by telling big lies and being brazenly hypocritical. He calls it his “flexible” strategy for success.

    In truth, this nouveau fascist figured out long ago that the bigger the (repeated) lie, the more likely people are to believe it; and the more brazen the hypocrisy, the more likely they are to accept it.

    This is why I cannot overstate that the Trump phenomenon says far more about his supporters than the man himself. Not to mention the long-term danger inherent in so many of them aping and thereby ‘normalizing’ his self-aggrandizing, mendacious, boorish, sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist (etc.) behavior.

    (“Rant about Stupid Voters…,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 19, 2016)

    But it behooves those of us who know better to resist the cognitive dissonance afoot. This is especially incumbent upon those in the mainstream media – who are now blithely reporting and commenting on his big lies without even bothering to mention the most salient point, namely, that they are big lies.

    This was thrown into stark and infuriating relief yesterday. Frankly, I could barely contain myself as I watched anchors on every network – from Fox to CNN and even the BBC – read the following drivel not only as factual but also as breaking news:

    North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2017

    None of the anchors bothered to point out that, foremost, North Korea disrespected the wishes of the United States and its blowhard president. In other words, this launch was that country’s fat gnome of a president, Kim Jong-un, giving the defiant middle finger not to the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, but to the American president, Donald J. Trump.

    After all, it was Trump who made a public show of warning the menacing Jong-un to “behave.” Moreover, it was Trump who dispatched an “Armada” to the Sea of Japan, off the Korean Peninsula, to prevent North Korea from launching more missiles.

    Having done so, he should have reacted to Jong-un’s defiance with deadly and direct reprisals for, in effect, crossing his red line. Especially given the way he ridiculed Obama mercilessly for failing to mete out reprisals after Syria’s Assad crossed a similar red line so infamously.

    Instead, Trump reacted with nothing more than that weak and feckless tweet, compounding his big lie about who was being disrespected with brazen hypocrisy. Trump often led Republican carnival barkers in ridiculing Obama for “leading from behind.” But there’s probably no clearer example of a US president leading from behind than the childish and sycophantic way Trump is trying to goad Xi to protect the United States from a menacing North Korea.

    Again, lies and hypocrisy are Trump’s MO. Alas, there’s no denying the success they have wrought, making a virtue of his congenital incompetence. It’s no wonder then that they have become pathological traits.

    For example, by all objective criteria (from polling data to legislative record), Trump’s “First 100 Days” have been the lest successful in US history. Yet this shyster is peddling this big lie:

    I truly believe that the first 100 days of my administration has been just about the most successful in our country’s history.

    (, April 28, 2017)

    In fact, one need only refer to his pre-election “Contract with the American Voter,” in which he delineated his “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.” He got a right-wing justice onto the Supreme Court. But this is the only part of that 28-point contract he can fairly boast about honoring.

    So far, however, Trump has kept only six of the 103 promises he made during the campaign, according to Politifact. All were unilateral actions [executive orders] that didn’t require approval by Congress.

    (San Francisco Chronicle, April 29, 2017)

    Of course, Politifact won the Pulitzer Prize for its political fact-checking. Therefore, its finding that only four percent of Trump’s public statements are true is noteworthy. This means that he tells an average of four whoppers a day, which must make him the biggest liar of any politician in US history.

    True to form, he compounded his big lie about the success of his presidency with the brazen hypocrisy inherent in dismissing the first-100-days marker as “a ridiculous standard.”

    Incidentally, no politician cites polling data that favor him or news stories that flatter him more than Trump. And no politician dismisses polling data that do not favor him or news stories that do not flatter him as rigged and fake, respectively, more than him.

    The latter explains why Trump began dismissing this long-recognized presidential marker. For he began doing so only when it became clear that, despite practically begging his team for legislative wins, his first 100 days would end today with no significant legislative achievement; you know, like building that wall, repealing and replacing Obamacare, reforming the tax code, or implementing immigration reform.

    Never mind that he contradicted himself, as he invariably does, by scheduling a rally in Pennsylvania tonight to tout his accomplishments — complete with “alternative facts.” Trust me, if he had real accomplishments to tout, he would have done so at tonight’s annual White House correspondents’ dinner. But he’s too thin-skinned to face the facts about his lack of success or to take a joke at his expense.

    Which brings me to his open and notorious flip-flops on everything from naming China a currency manipulator, withdrawing from NAFTA, and ripping up the Iran nuclear deal.

    Remember when he used to deride the Electoral College as a “disaster” that makes a “laughing stock of our nation”? He insisted that presidents should be elected based solely on the popular vote. Then, after losing the popular vote to Hillary by millions, he began shamelessly extolling the Electoral College as a “genius” invention of the Founding Fathers.

    But none of his flip-flops is more egregious than his whining now about how difficult everything is. After all, he spent his campaign selling gullible voters snake-oil promises about how easy it will be for him (and him alone) to fix everything. Actually, this flip-flop makes about as much sense as a 90-pound weakling boasting that it would be easy for him to lift 500-pounds and then, after failing to even budge it, saying he didn’t realize it would be so heavy.

    Then there’s his unprecedented use of “executive orders,” which constitutes just another example of his brazen hypocrisy. After all, Trump spent much of Obama’s presidency accusing him of acting like an “imperial president” for using executive orders for “power grabs of authority.”

    Now Trump is on pace to sign more executive orders than any president in US history. Never mind that his successor could spend her first 100 days signing executive orders to nullify his, just as he did to nullify so many of Obama’s.


    But, for the sake of not just America but the whole world, I urge reporters and commentators to call out Trump on his lies and hypocrisy at every turn. Because he’s banking on them getting tired of doing so. I also urge you, my loyal readers, to never miss an opportunity to call out his die-hard supporters on them too.

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    Trumpcare vs Obamacare...

    * I interrupted my fishing trip to write and publish this commentary on Saturday at 9:43 a.m. I trust it’s obvious why I couldn’t wait until today.

  • Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 9:02 AM

    Gone Fishing

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Back on Monday, May 1

  • Monday, April 24, 2017 at 8:08 AM

    Venezuela’s Death Spiral of Recession, Protest, and Repression

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Despite having the world’s largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela has suffered for several years from high inflation, rampant crime and a shortage of basic goods.

    The protests taking place across the country were expected to be the biggest in three years, putting extra pressure on President Maduro to negotiate with the opposition and find a way of easing the country’s economic crisis. …

    Elections are not due until 2019, but the opposition says the country is on the verge of collapse.

    (BBC, April 19, 2017)

    The democratic protests dominating life in Venezuela today are all too reminiscent of those that dominated life in Egypt six years ago. This is why nobody should hope for a political awakening to spring from the former, given what sprang from the latter.

    Specifically, far from harvesting the democratic freedoms hoped for, the protests in Egypt ended up harvesting an even more repressive dictatorship. I chronicled this fateful irony in many commentaries, including “Military Savior a Bigger Devil than Mubarak,” November 22, 2011, “Egypt’s Arab Spring Spawns Brutal Dictatorship,” March 25, 2014, and “Sisi Completes Egypt’s Vicious Circle by Releasing Mubarak,” March 24, 2017.

    Egypt is now in a terminal winter of discontent. I fear the protests in Venezuela will end up harvesting the same — or worse.

    [Twenty-two] protesters have died, President Maduro’s government is accused of using torture on protesters to obtain false confessions of ‘terrorism,’ and evidence of police abuse is circulating on social media. Despite the clampdown, the protests in Venezuela haven’t stopped since the end of March.

    (Caribbean News Now, April 20, 2017)

    Frankly, Maduro seems determined to make up in ruthlessness what he lacks in Chavismo – the charismatic cult of personality that enabled his mentor, Hugo Chávez, to balm his repression with a veneer of popularity.

    Claiming he has “eroded democracy,” opposition forces are demanding Maduro step down. It speaks volumes in this regard that Venezuela has so abandoned democratic values, it has gone from championing Cuba’s readmission to the Organization of American States (OAS) to threatening to withdraw its own membership. The latter, no doubt, to preempt being kicked out for the same reasons the OAS kicked out Cuba in 1962.

    The Organization of American States is the world’s oldest regional organization. … [It] brings together the [35] nations of the Western Hemisphere to strengthen cooperation on democratic values, defend common interests and debate the major issues facing the region and the world.


    Unfortunately, Maduro seems hell-bent on ruling Venezuela – even if that means killing protesters (emulating the infamous way Chinese leaders eventually squashed Tiananmen Square protesters) and nationalizing foreign companies (as he did with a GM plant last week).

    In short, he will turn Venezuela into the Zimbabwe of South America before he releases his death grip on power.

    Five years ago, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of sub-Saharan Africa; today, it is a basket case of starving people. Five years ago, there were 4000 white-owned farms in Zimbabwe; today, there are only 400 – mostly unproductive – farms left.

    (“Zimbabweans Pray for Liberation from their Liberator – Robert Mugabe,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 29, 2005)

    I should add, as a cautionary note, that Zimbabweans have been protesting for nearly 30 years for the democratic freedoms Venezuelans are protesting for today.

    I also cannot resist noting that Maduro is so desperate to forge foreign alliances, he hailed the election of “comrade” Trump. He even contributed $500,000 from government funds to Trump’s inauguration coffers in a, well, Trumpian attempt to curry favor. This, while most Venezuelans are finding it difficult to buy food, water, and medicine.

    Of course, millions are finding that investing in this Trump presidency is like investing in a pyramid scheme. Everyone from obscure Americans to famous Russians can ruefully attest to this. Seizing that GM plant last week suggests that even Maduro has come to this realization.

    In any event, there’s clearly no way Maduro can win a free and fair election in 2019 (or whenever he deems it advantageous to orchestrate one). He can only hope the Venezuelan army supports his dictatorship the way it supported Chavez’s. But in “Venezuela Finally Awakens from Chavismo Nightmare,” December 9, 2015, I warned that Maduro would be a fool to bank on this.


    We’ve seen this oxymoronic state of affairs before. After all, Africa is littered with countries rich in natural resources but mired in poverty.

    This excerpt – from “Chávez’s Chavismo: More Robbing Hoodlum than Robin Hood,” August 12, 2015 – gives an overview of the primrose path Venezuela took to arrive at this political and economic purgatory.


    My socialist affinities are such that I used to be a big fan of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. … However, it did not take long before I began denouncing him as just another tin-pot dictator betraying the very socialist causes he championed – as such commentaries as “Bolivia’s Woes Expose Chávez’s Socialist Counter-Revolution as Little more than One-Man Three Ring Circus,” September 7, 2006, attest. …

    It was hardly surprising that poor Venezuelans were protesting against chronic privation within a year of his death in March 2013. …

    Few Venezuelans appreciated that Chávez was a bigger crook than any drug lord who ever menaced South America. Yet he earned his rightful place in the rogue’s gallery of dead kleptomaniacs, which includes everyone from Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier of Haiti to Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire/DR Congo and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Crime bosses like Al Capone and drug lords like Pablo Escobar had nothing on political dictators like these. …

    His family and cronies have nothing to fear, so long as the man to whom he bequeathed the presidency, his crony in chief Nicolás Maduro, remains in office. But all bets are off – with respect to their ill-gotten fortunes, and even their freedom – the minute any opposition leader assumes power.


    Accordingly, I urge Maduro to negotiate blanket immunity (for himself and his family) in exchange for his immediate resignation.


    Alas, the messianic Chávez really brainwashed poor Venezuelans with his Robin-Hood rhetoric; so much so that, having worshipped him as a god, many are now abiding his handpicked successor as the “son of god.” And Maduro is exploiting this for all it’s worth, including enlisting and arming them to fight (unarmed) opposition forces – just as Chávez used to.

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he will expand the number of civilians involved in armed militias, providing guns to as many as 400,000 loyalists. …

    The Bolivarian militias, currently at approximately 100,000, were created by the late Hugo Chavez to assist the armed forces in the defense of his revolution from external and domestic attacks.

    (Fox News, April 18, 2017)

    In fact, Chávez’s legacy is the all too foreseeable failed state Venezuela is becoming. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote a famously mocking homage to another fame-hungry crusader for the poor, Argentina’s messianic Eva Perón. I can think of no worthier homage to Chávez than paraphrasing it:

    We cry for you Venezuela

    The truth is he never loved you

    Despite Chavismo

    His revolution

    He broke his promise

    Please find your senses.

    Related commentaries:
    Egyptians march back to future
    Egypt Arab Spring
    Egypt vicious circle

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