The iPINIONS Journal


  • Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at 7:53 AM

    ‘Dying of Whiteness’ Explains Why Poor Whites Support Trump

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Unlike some commentators, I am loath to recommend books. Not least because I suspect I’m already pushing my luck by expecting you to read my commentaries.

    But I am recommending one today because it explains the cult of Donald Trump – just as Helter Skelter explains that of Charles Manson. And, understanding what makes the members of Trump’s cult tick is key to understanding the, well, helter-skelter state of American politics today.

    No doubt you recall him asserting the following about his supporters in the early days of his presidential campaign:

    You know what else they say about my people? The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. … Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?

    (RealClear Politics, January 23, 2016)

    Most sane people thought he was crazy. Yet he has demonstrated time and again that he had good reason to make that assertion. Hell, not even Manson could boast of having such loyal followers.

    As my headline indicates, Trump’s support depends on the self-abnegating folly of poor white folks continually voting against their obvious interests. Trolls have been targeting me for years for asserting that only one word explains this folly: racism. The author of this book asserts the same.

    But I hasten to admit that I am only recommending it because the author is not black like me. Not only is he white, but he grew from dirt-poor roots to boot.

    I cannot overstate how relevant this is. Because only someone like him can counter the whites who have channeled Trump, the projector in chief, in reflexively accusing me of racism for making this assertion. That this author is making it too clearly undermines their accusation.

    His name is Johnathan M. Metzl. And the full title of his book is Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland.

    The following is from a Publisher’s Weekly review on January 17, 2019:

    In this groundbreaking work, Metzl, physician [in psychiatry] and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, demonstrates the ‘mortal trade-offs’ white Americans make when they vote with the goal of restoring their racial privilege and end up endorsing ‘political positions that directly harm their own health and well-being.’ …

    [M]any white Tennesseans, Metzl writes, ‘voiced a willingness to die, literally, rather than embrace a law [Obamacare] that gave minority or immigrant persons more access to care.’

    Mind you, poor whites have always been willing to die even for illusory racial privilege. But Trump is the first president in US history to demonstrate a willingness to exploit their willingness.

    The priorities delineated in the FY 2020 budget he released last week is only the latest example:

    [M]ore than 51 million American households — 43 percent — are unable to afford basics such as food, transportation, and health care. Yet the Trump budget contains a devastating $220 billion cut over the coming decade to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s largest nutrition assistance program … massive cuts — $777 billion over 10 years — from repealing the ACA [Obamacare] and slashing Medicaid [which] could cause millions of people to lose their health care coverage.

    (Center for American Progress, March 11, 2019)

    This raises the question: Why would anyone in any of these (predominantly white) 51 million American households continue supporting Trump?

    With all due respect to Metzl, I’ve been grappling with this question for years. My commentaries on the phenomenon of poor whites voting against their own interest include “Trump for President?! Don’t Be a Sucker,” April 8, 2011, “On Syria (and almost every other issue) the American People Are Insolent, Ignorant, Idiots,” September 10, 2013, “In Defense of Obamacare Adviser’s Claim about Stupidity of the American Voter,” November 19, 2014, and “Trumpasites Already Gagging on the Lies and Promises They Swallowed,” January 30, 2017.

    But the following from “New Hampshire Primary Proved One-Third of Republicans Are Gullible Fools,” February 12, 2016, sums up this self-abnegating folly:

    Trump’s supporters are, for the most part, the same poor, uninsured white folks who are so ‘angry’ with Obama, they support rich, insured politicians who are hell-bent on repealing the healthcare Obama provided for them. They are the same blue-color, white folks who act as if they have more in common with a white-color billionaire like Trump than fellow blue-color blacks and Hispanics.

    The inexorable inference is that the poor whites who compose his base will continue supporting him not only if he shoots someone but even if his policies end up killing most of them. What seems to matter to them, above all else, is that they have a president who makes them feel like being a dirt-poor white is still better than being a filthy-rich black. White privilege does not get any more illusory than that.

    But, before you counter that millions of poor whites supported Obama, consider this from “Romney vs. Obama: Race (Still) Matters,” November 1, 2012:

    ____________________

    It’s an indication of how irrational this racism is that on everything from welfare to taxes Obama’s policies are far more beneficial to the tens of millions of whites who compose the majority of America’s poor. Yet polls indicate that the majority of them will be voting for Romney – whose policies not only favor the rich but, like his pledge to repeal Obamacare, threaten to make these poor whites even poorer. …

    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.

    ____________________

    Alas, this explains both the shock election of a racist like Trump and the sharp rise in racist attacks in recent years. And don’t get me started on the evangelical Christians among his base. For I cannot begin to explain the hypocrisy inherent in them showing abject loyalty to this two-legged golden calf. After all, a skunk has more regard for a garden party than Trump has for their professed values.

    More to the point, though, there seems no end to the willingness of poor whites to buy into the myth of returning to the good old days; namely, when their upward mobility was practically guaranteed. Trump’s MAGA promises are just the latest manifestation of this myth.

    Nothing demonstrates this quite like GM, Harley Davidson, and Carrier leading a growing list of corporations closing manufacturing plants in America to relocate overseas. Because this makes a mockery of Trump’s signature promise to bring such manufacturing jobs back to “America’s heartland,” where so many who support him are living lies of quiet desperation.

    Henry David Thoreau famously blamed “misplaced values” that ruled American society during the mid 1800s for this kind of desperation. He had no idea.

    Related commentaries:
    Projector in chief
    Gullible fools
    Romney vs. Obama
    evangelical Christians

  • Sunday, March 17, 2019 at 9:15 AM

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, March 16, 2019 at 8:25 AM

    Brexit, No Exit…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    British MPs have voted for a delay in the Brexit process for three months or more, after struggling to agree on what terms the UK should leave the European Union on 29 March.

    You might think, after months of division, infighting and uncertainty that surely, surely, this means everything will go smoothly from here.

    Well… no.

    (BBC, March 14, 2019)

    Related commentaries:
    Exit Brexit

  • Friday, March 15, 2019 at 8:47 AM

    A ‘Very Fine’ White Supremacist Massacred 49 Immigrants in New Zealand…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    You have every reason to fear that another one might be in your midst, lying in wait to do the same. I explained why in commentaries like “New Normal Comes to New York City…,” October 21, 2017, and “Norway’s Timothy McVeigh Perpetrates National Massacre,” July 23, 2011. The latter includes this excerpt:

    ____________________

    What far too many of us forget is that long before al-Qaeda terrorists struck the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in DC, a good ol’ American boy named Timothy McVeigh struck a government building in Oklahoma. This should have made it painfully clear that, when it comes to terrorism, we have as much to fear from domestic/Christian terrorists as from foreign/Muslim ones.

    Well, it seems this domestic form of terrorism has come to Norway. For preliminary reports are that a man as native to Norway as McVeigh was to the USA perpetrated what is being described as that country’s 9/11. …

    But let this be a reminder that we do not need al-Qaeda when one of ‘our own’ can visit such devastating terror – the worst gun rampage by a single man in history – upon us.

    ____________________

    Of course, the massacre in Las Vegas heads a list of the many other massacres non-Muslim terrorists have perpetrated since then. I duly commented in “Target Las Vegas: Another Mass Shooting in Gun-Crazy USA,” October 2, 2017.

    The point is that these massacres make a mockery of Western efforts to distinguish between hate crimes/mass shootings, which purportedly only whites perpetrate, and terrorist attacks, which purportedly only Muslims perpetrate. This is self-deluding and deadly, and I have decried it in many commentaries – most notably in “Islamists Terrorizing London…Again,” May 25, 2013.

    That said:

    Forty-nine [men, women, and children] have been killed and at least 20 wounded in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the incident as a terrorist attack and one of New Zealand’s ‘darkest days’.

    A [white] man in his late twenties was charged.

    (BBC, March 15, 2019)

    Honestly, I can think of no better commentary on or response to this massacre than these defiant and reassuring words Prime Minister Ardern offered:

    We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism [or] because we’re an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things: because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it. …

    You may have chosen us, but we utterly reject and condemn you.

    (CNN, March 15, 2019)

    As usual, world leaders rushed to phone in (or tweet) condolences and support. But it is self-evident that, for the first time in history, such an offer coming from the president of the United States rang hollow, and might even have seemed insulting. Not least because President Trump has shown time and again that he’s only concerned about violence and hate crimes when non-Whites (particularly illegal immigrants) perpetrate them against whites.

    It would have been understandable, even fitting, if Ardern had made a public show of snubbing Trump. But I suspect she’s too polite.

    The more salient point, though, is that everyone would’ve expected every one of Trump’s predecessors to offer the defiant and reassuring words Ardern did.

    Instead, we must face the troubling fact that the motivation for this terrorist attack is an ideological and logical extension of so much of what motivates Trump to “HATE” – an acronym for

    • hailing white nationalists (like the terrorist who perpetrated this mass murder) as “very fine” men.
    • advocating a travel ban to keep Muslims out of this country
    • talking about a border wall to keep Hispanics out of this country
    • elevating anti-immigrant rhetoric that demonizes migrants and asylum seekers as diseased, murdering “invaders” to the point of provoking and justifying violence against them.

    This trademark hate is why the blood of the Muslim victims of this white-supremacist terrorist attack is on the hands of this president of the United States.

    In any event, it’s only a matter of time before New Zealand begins the gun-control debate that invariably follows these massacres. Unfortunately, in America, they are always too partisan to be constructive — as I have decried in commentaries like “This Gun-Control Debate Is Insane,” April 5, 2013. But New Zealand’s will be all the more interesting given this:

    NZ has a firearm-related death rate of 2.66 per 100,000 people, per year[;] the US is almost 5 times that. And unlike in the States, gun legislation rarely becomes mired in the political fog, despite the fact that the country has a similar frontier mentality and outdoorsy culture to the US [including pride in unfettered ownership of all kinds of guns].

    [The application process for getting a gun is] a tremendous pain in the ass. But it’s a pain in the ass that appears to be saving lives.

    (The Seattle Globalist, August 6, 2016)

    In other words, no country seemed as able and willing to manage the rabid proliferation of guns without suffering the ravages of gun violence. But this massacre will surely cause New Zealand to undergo the kind of national soul searching sister country Australia underwent after a similar massacre in 1996.

    Australia’s resulted in banning all kinds of guns pursuant to the National Firearms Agreement — perhaps wittingly trolling the infamous National Rifle Association (NRA) with its initials. Whatever the case, the effect of the NFA remains indisputable:

    While 13 gun massacres (the killing of 4 or more people at one time) occurred in Australia in the 18 years before the NFA, resulting in more than one hundred deaths, in the 14 following years (and up to the present), there were no gun massacres.

    (The Australian Gun Buyback, Harvard Bulletins, Spring 2011, Issue 4)

    With that, I will only add two recurring laments, which I fully appreciate are becoming like trees falling in the woods …

    The first is from “Massacre in Omaha,” December 7, 2007:

    ____________________

    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? Isn’t it clear to see, especially in this age of instant celebrity, why some loser kid would find this route to infamy irresistible?

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

    ____________________

    Nothing vindicates this lament quite like this Christian terrorist livestreaming his massacre of Muslims on social media, and the mainstream media recklessly propagating it – complete with readings from his white-nationalist, anti-immigrant manifesto as if it were the friggin’ Holy Bible.

    Trust me, no matter their feigned outrage, news anchors are all too happy to stoke fear, which images, videos, and rantings related to these massacres invariably cause. This, simply because they know that nothing boosts revenue-generating ratings quite like doing so. (Nothing is better for gun sales too — as the NRA touts unashamedly.)

    And, of course, boosting revenue-generating hits is the reason social-media companies do so little to block these images, videos, and rantings, despite their claims of doing all they can to do so.

    But this vindication also extends to the way New Zealand authorities are holding news conferences to do little more than pat themselves on the back, as well as to the way news organizations there are featuring lucky survivors regaling us with tales of their harrowing heroics.

    The point is that the record is clear: Wallowing, wall-to-wall media coverage does nothing to stop these attacks. It only incentivizes the next loser to plot his day of infamy.

    The second is from “London 7/7 Terrorist Attacks,” July 8, 2005):

    It must be understood that, no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing law-enforcement officials can do to prevent such attacks.

    God bless those in New Zealand who have been affected. But let us not forget that there but for the grace of God go you and I.

    [Note: Beware the galvanizing effect this attack will have on Muslim jihadists. Because it is bound to continue the march of folly towards the Huntingtonian Clash of Civilizations, which I have written about in commentaries like “Avenging Jihadists Attack ‘Charlie Hebdo,’” January 8, 2015.]

    Related commentaries:
    New normal…   New Zealand earthquake…   Norway’s McVeigh…   Las Vegas
    Islamists terrorizing…   Charlottesville neo-Nazis…   7/7 terror attacks in London
    Massacre in Charleston…   Massacre in Pittsburgh…   Massacre in Omaha
    Gun-crazy USA…  Gun-control debate…  Massacre at Virginia Tech…   Avenging Jihadists

  • Thursday, March 14, 2019 at 7:23 AM

    ‘Varsity Blues’ Exposes Deviant Strain of Affirmative Action for Rich White People

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is a narrative ripped from a Hollywood script, and, fittingly, it includes actors.

    The wealthy parents [among the 50] charged in the conspiracy to get their children into elite schools were more than just the 1 percent. They had connections at the highest levels, and when the ordinary benefits of extreme wealth failed to shape their children into elite college material, prosecutors said, they turned to William ‘Rick’ Singer, the man authorities say presided over a scheme to facilitate cheating on admission tests and bribery of college coaches to help children of wealthy parents get into prestigious universities.

    (The Washington Post, March 13, 2019)

    The media are covering this as the biggest school scandal in US history. But, after policemen book the last person involved, I suspect that dubious distinction will still belong to the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, which unfolded between 2009 and 2015. It involved 178 educators correcting answers on standardized tests at 44 schools and affected as many as 50,000 students. But nearly all involved were black; therefore, few in the media cared.

    Even so, the only reason for the sensational coverage they’re giving this scandal is that two, B-list celebrities are among those charged: Felicity Huffman, whose fame peaked during the 2000s on Desperate Housewives; and Lori Loughlin, whose fame peaked during the 1990s on Full House.

    Alas, media interest reflects the celebrity-obsessed world in which we live today. The only reason I’m commenting is to pooh-pooh the presumed importance of this story.

    Frankly, this is about as newsworthy as Special Counsel Robert Mueller reporting that, in addition to lying to the American people, obstructing justice, and using his public office to promote his private businesses, President Trump has also been taking bribes from dictators to support their dictatorial regimes. This would come as a surprise only if you were living in a Cistercian monastery for the past two years.

    The point is that the bribes these rich folks paid to get their kids into college is only a deviant strain of the affirmative action other rich folks take.

    I’m acutely mindful of the hypocrisy inherent in those who oppose affirmative action based on race, which schools have practiced for a few decades, voicing no opposition to affirmative action based on family ties or financial donations (aka legacy preferences), which they have practiced for a few centuries.

    (“Supreme Court on Affirmative Action…,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 23, 2014)

    This will never change because private colleges depend too much on rich donors to fund the endowments that enable them to hire the faculty and build the facilities that make them so … elite.

    But it’s elementary that this white affirmative-action route is how trust-fund dummies like Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner got into “all the best schools.” Trump is now threatening to sue any school that releases his transcripts. No doubt this is because his grades would show that he was not qualified for admission in the first place.

    Not to mention the college admissions consultants who, for the rich, are as indispensable as nannies:

    For prices up to $1.5 million, parents can buy a five-year, full-service package of college admissions consulting from a company in New York City called Ivy Coach.

    The service — all of it legal — begins as early as eighth grade, as students are steered toward picking the right classes and extracurriculars to help them stand out from the crowd. Then comes intensive preparation for the SAT or ACT, both ‘coachable exams,’ explained Brian Taylor, the company’s managing director, followed by close editing of college essays.

    ‘Is that unfair? … Yes. But that’s how the world works.’

    (The New York Times, March 13, 2019)

    This is why the real indictment in this case is that, despite all the resources at their disposal, these parents raised such dumb, lazy, and untalented kids. Only this explains why no amount of donation was enough to induce elite colleges to accept them the old-fashioned way, and no amount of coaching was enough for them to get in the nouveau-riche way.

    The 50 charged are reportedly only a fraction of those involved. This means that America’s elite colleges are littered with these bribery coeds.

    But it has always been thus; in fact, I can personally attest that I encountered a few at Williams College decades ago.

    Meanwhile, viral memes on social media are mocking the irony of these parents for spending millions and risking prison. Because, evidently, many of their kids only “wannabe” Instagram influences like Kylie:

    Making matters worse, [Loughlin’s daughter] Jade seems far more interested in influencing than in actually attending college. … Last year, she had to post an apology video after coming under fire for proclaiming in a vlog, ‘I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend … I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.’

    (New York Magazine, March 13, 2019)

    Of course, the greater irony is that Jade is probably so narcissistic, she’ll resent her parents for the rest of their lives for getting caught and turning her into an Instagram laughingstock.

    Incidentally, it’s noteworthy that, far from cheating to get her into college, Kylie’s parents didn’t even bother to make her complete attendance at high school. Instead, they allowed her to get a high-school diploma through homeschooling while pursuing her career on social media. And this has been very good for Kylie. She’s 21 years old and already worth $1 billion.

    So why bother with classes and extracurriculars when social media and cosmetics (including surgeries) will do? God help us.

    [Note: Many of those indicted in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal were sentenced to years in prison. It’ll be interesting to see how those indicted in this one fare. This, especially in light of state and federal criminal justice reforms, which, among other things, are intended to redress disparate impacts in the sentencing of blacks and whites for similar crimes.]

    Related commentaries:
    special counsel Mueller
    affirmative action
    Trump hiding transcripts

  • Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at 7:53 AM

    PM Netanyahu Hails Israel as ‘Only for the Jewish People’… And Rep Omar’s the Problem…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is the homeland ‘only of the Jewish people,’ in a new jab at the country’s Arab minority ahead of April’s election. …

    Arabs comprise about 20 percent of Israel’s 9 million residents. They have full citizenship rights but have faced decades of discrimination.

    (The Associated Press, March 10, 2019)

    The way Donald Trump used norm-busting, xenophobic, and race-baiting rhetoric to win the 2016 US presidential election shall live in infamy. Even worse, though, is the way he inspired politicians across the globe to begin using similar rhetoric to similar effect.

    Therefore, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Netanyahu is just the latest. Except that he was using such rhetoric long before Trump began strutting and fretting his stuff upon the political stage.

    Granted, Trump’s rhetoric seems to know no bounds. But even he never dared to say America is the home only of the white people. So it’s unfair to say that Netanyahu is aping him.

    All the same, I must beg your indulgence here because this compels a digression …

    Most Americans should have become inured to Trump’s incendiary rhetoric long ago. Yet he managed to inflame passions again on Friday when he casually slurred all Democrats as follows:

    The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They’ve become an anti-Jewish party.

    (The Washington Post, March 8, 2019)

    He reportedly doubled down on this shameless slur at a fundraiser later that night:

    The Democrats hate Jewish people.

    (Axios, March 10, 2019)

    Remarkably, this kind of Orwellian doublespeak is becoming a defining feature of Trump’s public statements (i.e., his tweets and utterances). Everyone knows that most Jewish people are Democrats who vote mostly for Democrats. He knows that too, which is why his slur is tantamount to calling them self-hating Jews.

    But it speaks volumes about Trump’s psychopathology that he has no qualms about telling the biggest lies to people who he knows know better and expecting them to believe him. I doubt even Adolf Hitler had such brazen gall.

    Trump is a friggin’ laughingstock. I cannot overstate this. Whenever I do, however, I feel obliged to concede that the joke is on us. He is the most powerful man in the world, after all. But his presidency is so potentially catastrophic, if we don’t laugh at him, we’d be wracked with chronic worry.

    This is why the most interesting thing about Trump’s pathological lies is the pathological way Republicans defend and support them. In fact, I would not be surprised to learn that the Jews at that fundraiser simply nodded or applauded approvingly.

    For Trump, though, they would have been just like the Jews in his cabinet who stood beside him, like religious eunuchs, when he infamously complimented the neo-Nazis who marched through Charlottesville. Recall that he said there were some “very fine people” among them. This, despite the fact that they were all carrying tiki-torches and chanting anti-Semitic slogans.

    Enough.

    Except to say that, as outrageous as he is in this respect, Trump still has nothing on Netanyahu. Because this prime minister of Israel has used xenophobic and race-baiting rhetoric to win every one of his four previous elections.

    I duly denounced him in commentaries like “Netanyahu Deporting Blacks to Preserve White Character of Jewish State,” January 4, 2018, and “Israel Votes to Become More Like Apartheid South Africa,” March 18, 2015, which includes this reference to the trademark election rhetoric at issue:

    ____________________

    Election Day in Israel yesterday was full of surprises; none more so than the desperate declarations and exhortations Bibi Netanyahu made to get his supporters to the polls.

    He not only declared that there will never be a Palestinian state as long as he’s prime minister, but also exhorted right-wing Jews to help him stay in power to honor this declaration:

    The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going in droves to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses.

    (The Jerusalem Post, March 18, 2015)

    Imagine the outrage (national and international) if Mitt Romney had done something like this on Election Day in 2012 (i.e., exhorted white voters to get to the polls because black voters were going in droves, putting his plan to ‘take back our [white] government’ in danger…).

    ____________________

    But, as it is with Trump, the election (and continual re-election) of Netanyahu says more about his voters than him. For the shame is on them for blithely voting for men who exhibit political traits that make them more akin to Adolf Hitler than Thomas Jefferson.

    This brings me to the outrage and consternation Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is causing by continually peddling anti-Semitic tropes. Most notably, she has tweeted about Jews being the money men behind Republican support for Israel and insinuated that Americans who lobby for that country harbor dual loyalty.

    It is noteworthy that Omar is not just a freshman but one of the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan is the other who rode in on the Democrat’s “blue wave” in 2018. The point is that Omar’s inexperience and Muslim faith made censuring her more complicated than censuring an old anti-Semite like white Republican Congressman Steve King.

    This explains the generic resolution the Democratic-controlled Congress settled on last week:

    The resolution condemning ‘hateful expressions of intolerance,’ which passed the House by an overwhelming 407-to-23 vote Thursday afternoon, was as much a statement of Democrats’ values as their factionalism. Caught in the middle was Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who worked for days to quell the internal uproar that erupted after a freshman Democrat, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, insinuated that backers of Israel exhibit dual loyalty.

    (The New York Times, March 7, 2019)

    But I suspect Omar couldn’t be more pleased with herself. Because,

    • like Trump, she seems more interested in disrupting norms and getting attention than in doing her job (namely representing the interests of her constituents – many of whom, ironically enough, just happen to be Jews).
    • like Trump, she knows that the easiest way to disrupt norms and get attention is to continually shock political consciousness offend public decency.
    • like Trump, she appears to have zealous supporters for whom she can do or say no wrong:

    [T]hough many constituents, including some Muslims, saw Ms. Omar crossing a line and trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes, others, including members of the district’s Jewish community, said they were offended only by what they perceived as partisan, even racist, attacks on their congresswoman for legitimate criticisms of Israel.

    (The New York Times, March 8, 2019)

    Of course, given how well bigoted rhetoric and tropes have worked for Trump, one can hardly blame Omar for using them. Again, though, she’s like an understudy among politicians on the world stage who are doing the same.

    As it happens, I agree with her constituents. Not least because no less an American Jew than Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz provided exculpatory reference during a debate against MIT Professor Noam Chomsky on the topic “Israel and Palestine After Disengagement: Where Do We Go from Here?”

    C-SPAN televised it on December 11, 2005, and I watched the whole thing. I had cause to reference their debate later that week in “The Iranians Are Begging for It. The Israelis Should Give It to Them!” December 15, 2005. Here is why it’s exculpatory:

    After 90 minutes of provocative but surprisingly ad hominem exchanges, neither one of these brilliant men ceded an inch of rhetorical territory for the sake of peace. …

    At least Dershowitz acknowledged that their respective intransigence reflects the curious fact that American supporters of Israel (like him) tend to be more Jewish than the Israelis, and American advocates for a Palestinian state (like Chomsky) tend to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians.

    This clearly raises the question: How is Omar’s insinuation that American supporters of Israel have dual loyalty any more anti-Semitic than Dershowitz’s acknowledgment that American supporters of Israel tend to be more Jewish than Israelis?

    Having said all that, I’d be remiss not to share the following points on the forthcoming Israeli election:

    • Like Trump, Netanyahu is banking on his political rhetoric distracting voters from looming criminal indictments, which pose a far greater threat to his career, if not his freedom, than the Arab Israelis he’s scapegoating.
    • I don’t think his tradecraft scapegoating is going to work this time because he has never faced a more formidable opponent than Israeli war hero Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party. Gantz demonstrated this during a recent national address when he
    1. called on Netanyahu to do the honorable thing and resign in light of the Israeli attorney general’s decision to indict him for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust;
    2. made a mockery of Netanyahu’s fawning embrace of Trump by accusing him of being just like Trump, namely a pampered, trust-fund coward blustering as a Mafia don.

    Oy Vey!

    Related commentaries:
    Trump’s psychopathology
    Charlottesville
    Deporting blacks
    Israel apartheid south Africa
    Iranians are asking…Israelis

  • Monday, March 11, 2019 at 7:37 AM

    Cops Escape Charges for Killing Another Black Man, Stephon Clark. Upsetting but Justified.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The menace of police officers killing (unarmed) black men has become a tragic feature of American life. Unfortunately, the way black activists react to these killings not only compounds but actually reinforces this feature.

    Notably, they rush to make martyrs of these dead black men. This perverse ritual invariably has them

    • leading street protests – complete with chants of “Black Lives Matter!” and “No Justice, No Peace!”
    • demanding state and federal authorities prosecute the officers involved
    • laying the predicate for multimillion-dollar lawsuits, which can seem intended as much to extort local municipalities as to compensate the families involved.

    The point is that these activists do and say far too little to help other black men avoid similar martyrdom. Even worse, they appear to have a prevailing political/mercenary interest in cleaning up after these tragedies.

    By contrast, I’ve been like a biblical John the Baptist preaching about what black men should do to survive their encounters with the police. I formulated my message in “Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality (only against Black Men?),” August 12, 2014.

    Arguably, his killing remains the most infamous of these fatal encounters. Here in part is what I preached in that commentary:

    ___________________

    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 feared being questioned or arrested … even for something as simple as petty theft.

    You’d be hard-pressed to cite a case that resulted in fatality, where the victim followed the few general rules we should all follow when dealing with the police. Those rules, which form the acronym “Dodge” (as in bullets), are:

    1. Do not run.
    2. Obey commands. (Wait for the police to explain why you’re being stopped before politely posing any objections, concerns, or questions you may have.)
    3. Do not resist being frisked or handcuffed.
    4. Get the encounter on video. (Wait for the police to approach and make clear that you’d like to reach for your phone; i.e., avoid any sudden move that might make some trigger-happy cop’s day.)
    5. End the encounter civilly. (Not only might this spare another black man a racial-profiling stop (e.g., for DWB), it might make that cop less trigger happy during his next encounter with the next black man.) …

    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 the predominantly white cops trying to restore law and order in this predominantly black community…?

    In fact, this suburb of St. Louis, Ferguson, is almost 70 percent black, yet it’s being served by a police force that’s over 95 percent white. Perhaps, instead of leading St. Louis blacks in hackneyed chants of “No justice, no peace,” Reverend Al Sharpton should turn and shout at them “Stop looting! Start policing!”

    ___________________

    This is why I find breaking news about the police killing of yet another unarmed black man so distressing. However, when I learn that the victim was resisting arrest, my distress invariably turns to anger.

    On the other hand, when I learn that the victim was complying according to my rules, my distress turns to despair.

    Nonetheless:

    My ‘golden rule’ is that black men would survive 99 percent of these encounters if they just obey police commands. Unfortunately, far too many choose instead to resist arrest — pursuant to some misguided (black) badge of courage. When a policeman is placing you under arrest (no matter how unwarranted you might think that is), it should not take him (and others) wrestling you to the ground to get handcuffs on you.

    I readily concede that, in one percent of these encounters, obeying commands would not guarantee survival. The viral video of the killing of Philando Castile demonstrated this … in black and white. But this is the exception, not the rule. Which is why it’s plainly foolhardy to resist arrest because obeying commands only offers a 99 percent chance of survival.

    (“Three White Cops Kill Two Black Men…,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 3, 2017)

    This bring me to the case of Stephon Clark. Here is how I commented on his killing in “Stephon Clark and Alton Sterling – Police Killing (Sometimes) Justified,” March 27, 2018:

    ____________________

    Nobody can deny that resisting arrest led to the death of Stephon Clark. … I am frustrated and dismayed that more people aren’t preaching to black men about the tragic folly of resisting arrest. After all, this clearly makes more sense than preaching to the police about the presumed fairness of holding fire, especially in what they perceive as life-and-death situations. …

    I have nothing but contempt … for lawyers and activists who rush in to make dubious martyrs of them. This, instead of admonishing other black men to do the right things to avoid ending up like them. Nobody wanted Clark dead. But I’m sure none of the (black) people whose cars he vandalized and burglarized considers him a martyr for any worthy cause.

    Not to mention that, for those lawyers and activists, justice is more about getting their cut from civil settlements than getting any cop thrown in jail. And that’s not me just being my cynical self:

    Al Sharpton is all about the Benjamins, a daughter of police chokehold victim Eric Garner claims in a bombshell videotape.

    (The New York Post, February 24, 2015)

    ____________________

    I did not proclaim these killings “sometimes” justified to be provocative. Because the record plainly shows that both state and federal authorities almost always find them so.

    Which brings me to the long-awaited, but all too predictable, finding in this Clark case:

    Two Sacramento police officers won’t face criminal charges for the fatal shooting of a black man following a chase that ended in his grandparents’ yard and started a series of angry protests that roiled California’s capital city, the county’s top prosecutor announced Saturday following a nearly yearlong investigation.

    Schubert said the evidence, including their reactions captured on body cameras, supported the officers’ statements that they thought Clark was pointing a gun. It turned out Clark was holding only a cellphone.

    (The Associated Press, March 3, 2019)

    Unsurprisingly, black activists reacted to this announcement with stale cries about Clark holding only a cellphone. This, while willfully ignoring the more glaring and consequential fact that, if he did not run in the first place, the police would have had far less cause to suspect that his cellphone was a gun.

    Still, to reinforce the point that not every police shooting is justified, I’ll share this rather timely development:

    A fired Florida police officer was convicted Thursday of manslaughter and attempted murder in the fatal shooting of a stranded black motorist in 2015.

    Nouman Raja, 41, faces life in prison for fatally shooting musician Corey Jones, 31, who was waiting for help for his broken down SUV on the side of a South Florida highway when he was killed by Raja.

    (NBC News, March 7, 2019)

    Finally, this denouement from “Alton Sterling Latest Black Man Shot Dead … While (or for) Resisting Arrest” July 7, 2016:

    ____________________

    [N]othing 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.

    ____________________

    [Note: You’d be forgiven for thinking that the police kill more black Americans than any other group. In fact, according to an investigative report in the October 2016 issue of In These Times, they kill Native Americans at an even higher rate. Except that Native Americans do not have media-savvy activists like Al Sharpton or protest movements like Black Lives Matter to force similar coverage and compensation when the police kill one of their own.]

    Related commentaries:
    Killing black men
    Killing of Michael Brown
    Alton Sterling
    body cameras

  • Saturday, March 9, 2019 at 8:12 AM

    Hey, it’s not just drugs, alcohol, and social media. You can become addicted to exercise too …

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, March 8, 2019 at 7:23 AM

    International Women’s Day: ‘Men Should Be Barred from Politics’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Men have been making a mess of politics since time immemorial. Therefore, this turnabout would be not only fair play but also consistent with the Einsteinian imperative to stop the insanity that defines politics worldwide.

    I have been advocating for this role reversal most of my adult life. I have also written many commentaries like “Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” October 14, 2010, which includes this teaser:

    ____________________

    We have enough data, as well as anecdotal evidence, from the way women have influenced the corporate world to make credible extrapolations. The correlation between more women holding positions of power and the implementation of family-friendly policies is undeniable in this respect. Therefore, it’s entirely reasonable to assert that, if more women held positions of power in politics, they would use their power more towards building up human resources than military armaments — just to cite one obvious example.

    Finland’s president, prime minister, president of the Supreme Court, as well as eight of its eleven government ministers are all women. Arguably, there’s a direct correlation between their positions and the fact that Newsweek rated this county the best place to live in 2010 — in terms of health, economic dynamism, education, political environment, and quality of life.

    ____________________

    Significantly, I wrote this many years before Donald Trump made women replacing men a categorical imperative. Time’s Up!  And, continuing to vindicate this trend, Estonia elected its first female prime minister on Sunday. What’s more, she will be governing under the auspices of the first female president – who this Baltic state elected in 2016.

    Meanwhile, there’s this very noteworthy stride:

    On Thursday, the most heavily female House of Representatives in U.S. history selected a woman as its leader for the next two years, setting a new high-water mark in the gender diversity of the House and Congress as a whole. …

    While there are a lot more women in the House, there are slightly fewer women in the House as a percentage of all of the members of that body. A quarter of the Senate is made up of women; 23.4 percent of the House is.

    (The Washington Post, January 3, 2019)

    We’ve come a long way, baby. But there’s still a long way to go.

    By the way, if you can make it to New York City for April 10-12, you should attend Tina Brown’s 10th anniversary “Women in the World Summit.” It is a

    convening of mighty women leaders, blazing activists and courageous movers and shakers who will move you with their provocative first-person storytelling and shake up your worldview.

    Here’s to shaking up politics wherever you are by electing women to rule.

    [Note: With all due respect to International Women’s Day organizers, I prefer the slogan “Let Shedom Reign!”]

    Related commentaries:
    women better, bar men

  • Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at 7:48 AM

    Republicans Abandon Faith and Values to Hail Trump as ‘Chosen by God’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Michael Steele is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. This is why the role he’s playing these days is so striking.

    He is wandering across the American media landscape as President Trump’s most earnest and prophetic critic. This latter description is particularly noteworthy because it compels allusions to John the Baptist.

    You see, Steele spends most of his time preaching to Republican leaders about the moral hazards of Trump’s presidency. This has him pleading in vain for them to act according to the principles of Christianity, family values, the rule of law, fiscal responsibility, and free trade. These, of course, were articles of their political faith before the advent of Trumpism, which makes a mockery of every norm of American political and civic life.

    (These Republicans are like members of the “Inner Party” in George Orwell’s 1984.)

    But nothing indicates why Steele might as well be preaching in the wilderness quite like Trump’s near 90 percent popularity among rank-and-file Republicans. This manifests in such absurdities as the poor among them hailing Trump for cutting the social programs they depend on to give tax cuts to the rich.

    (These Republicans are like Orwell’s “Proles” – whose minds are all too easily swayed by political propaganda, empty promises, and proverbial crumbs that fall from the tables of their Inner-Party bettors.)

    Republicans threw the fecklessness of Steele’s message into cult-like relief a few days ago:

    Trump’s ownership of the GOP was on vivid display again Saturday, when the president appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland, an annual gathering that has transformed into a raucous celebration of Trump, featuring propaganda-style art and a speaker who declared that the president was ‘chosen by God.’

    Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) publicly acknowledged [that] ‘The GOP is wholeheartedly accepting behavior and policies from Trump that would spark outrage from a Democratic president.’

    (The Washington Post, March 4, 2019)

    In other words, for most Republicans, Trump can do no wrong. Think about what that portends, folks …

    This flag-hugging, draft-dodging charlatan delivered a Castroesque, two-hour diatribe at that conference. He spent most of it

    • undermining the democratic institutions and alliances that formed the bases for an unprecedented period of world order and prosperity
    • hurling profanities at law-enforcement officials
    • maligning the country’s most respected war hero
    • bellowing one big lie after another about his morally bankrupt presidency.

    Therefore, imagine the dystopian spectacle of these law-and-order, evangelical Republicans hailing his every word with rapturous hosannas.

    The analogy that comes immediately to mind is that of giddy, lovesick teenagers at a boy-band concert. But the more appropriate one is the biblical parable of the lost Israelites worshiping a golden calf.

    Indeed, this CPAC was arguably the most distressing demonstration of how much Republicans have lost their way. Yet all the disillusioned Steele could do was bemoan their “celebration of the idolatry of Donald Trump,” which he did on Monday’s edition of Morning Joe on MSNBC.

    My heart goes out to him. Not least because I was calling out Republicans long before he embarked on his mission to rescue their party from the idolatry of this two-legged golden calf.

    In fact, here is what I wrote in “Evangelicals Supporting Donald Trump like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016:

    ____________________

    I know Evangelicals. As the son of an evangelical preacher, I grew up among them. So trust me when I say that, for any sober Evangelical, Trump is the very personification of Mammon.

    This, after all, is a man who takes diabolical pride in boasting that he never asks God for forgiveness because he’s without sin, he’s rich, and he’s like a god himself. He even boasts that The Art of the Deal, his book about the virtues of greed and the salvation of wealth, rivals the Bible. …

    The only thing that explains this willful suspension of their evangelical faith is the precedent the lost Israelites set in Bible times [namely the famous parable about them forsaking their religious faith and traditional values to worship a golden calf]. …

    It would be one thing if Trump troubled himself to show a little regard for their purported Christian faith and traditional values. But mean-spirited, bullying, even profane language is the feature attraction of his campaign rhetoric, which makes a mockery of that faith and those values. …

    Which is why Evangelicals are sacrificing their Christian faith at the altar of Trump’s political ambition. Moreover, they have ceded their moral authority to speak truth to power and champion family values until kingdom come.

    ____________________

    Mind you, some Republicans would have you believe they are guided more by patriotic ideals than religious zeal. But I have had just cause to challenge them too in commentaries like “Humping Trump Exposes News Anchormen as Worse than Car Salesmen,” May 2, 2016.

    ____________________

    Trump was probably right when he boasted that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, in broad daylight, and still get enough votes to win this nomination. … People, it seems, just want to be entertained — even in politics; and, the more gauche and scandalous the better. Hence the popularity of reality TV, the tabloidization of the news, and the rise of Trump — the impact on cultural development, or even the welfare of the country, be damned.

    Accordingly …  I am challenging prominent Republicans like Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, and members of the #NeverTrump movement — who have publicly damned Trump as dangerous and utterly unfit to be president — to make a public show of endorsing Hillary, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

    For, if ever there were a time to put love of country above loyalty to party, this is it; especially given reports that Trump’s signature trait is that he prizes loyalty not to country or party but to himself above all else.

    ____________________

    Unfortunately, far from showing profiles in courage, Republicans like Romney and Cruz have shown the kind of quisling acquiescence not seen since the dystopia of Adolf Hitler. Indeed, not since the German people lost their senses and embraced Nazism have so many sacrificed so much (at the altar of one man’s egomaniacal ambition) for so little. Which compels this proverbial allusion:

    • What does it profit a Republican to gain partisan judges and tax cuts but lose his party … and his soul?

    It took a world war for Germany to escape and recover from Nazism. It may not take a war for America to escape and recover from Trumpism. But I fear what looms may prove far worse:

    Political tribalism is tearing America apart. And Trump’s presidency smacks of a demonic force designed to have Republicans and Democrats ape the Sunnis and Shias who have been fighting for the soul of Islam for over 1000 years.

    (“Trump’s Insulting Tweet about Doug Jones, the Alabama Democratic Nominee, Reveals More about Trump,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 26, 2017)

    (These Democrats are like members of Orwell’s “Outer Party” – who are politically wired to rebel against tyranny.)

    More to the point, though, even if Democrats impeach Trump in Congress or defeat him at the poll, his presidency has already sown seeds of division and dysfunction that could harvest political thorns for a thousand years. I am convinced his black-swan presidency could prove that … disruptive.

    God help America.

    [Note: I could have cited parenthetical analogies throughout from Orwell’s Animal Farm. But I’ve found over the years that most book lovers have about as much appreciation for that book as cookie lovers have for animal crackers.]

    Related commentaries:
    Trump presidency overview
    Evangelicals
    Humping Trump
    Tribalism
    Trump’s American dystopia

  • Monday, March 4, 2019 at 7:15 AM

    Cry for Venezuela

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Venezuela’s interim president, Juan Guaido, has announced his intention of returning to his homeland [today] from Ecuador, a move that would likely result in his arrest by Venezuelan authorities. …

    Last weekend, Guaido coordinated a failed effort to bring aid from Colombia and Brazil into Venezuela, where security forces loyal to [President Nicolás] Maduro blocked the supplies [this, despite fear of starvation forcing millions to emigrate, and millions more to scavenge at home, for food].

    Maduro has described Guaido’s gambit as part of a US-backed plot to overthrow him.

    (Deutsche Welle, March 3, 2019)

    Truth be told, I have no more tears to shed. This, because I have decried the way Venezuela was weaving itself into the basket case it has become in far too many commentaries.

    Besides, my world view is such that I was simultaneously decrying the way other countries were doing the same, notably Haiti, Myanmar, Ukraine, North Korea, Yemen, the DR Congo, Zimbabwe, and South Sudan. A simple name search here will attest to this.

    Not to mention that the dysfunctional, violence-riven, hunger-stricken mess leaders have made of those countries makes the mess Venezuela’s leaders have made of this country seem like little more than spilled milk.

    Therefore, I see no point in joining johnnies-come-lately in shedding #tears over events unfolding in Venezuela today. As heart-rending as conditions are, they are the inexorable result of events I’ve been writing about for years. This is why I shall suffice to share excerpts from just two of my many commentaries.

    This first one is from “Chávez’s Chavismo: More Robbing Hoodlum than Robin Hood,” August 12, 2015. It gives an overview of the primrose path Hugo Chávez led Venezuela down to arrive at this 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. I did so in commentaries like ‘Bolivia’s Woes Expose Chávez’s Socialist Counter-Revolution as Little more than a One-Man, Three-Ring Circus,’ September 7, 2006. …

    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 François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier of Haiti to Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire/DR Congo, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. 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.

    ____________________

    Given the above, many hailed it as a tipping point six weeks ago when Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaido assumed power and declared Maduro illegitimate. No doubt it boded well that Guaido got the United States and nearly every country in the Western Hemisphere to support him. Never mind that his move triggered the looming prospect of civil war.

    More to the point, though, Guaido seems destined to end up like Morgan Tsvangirai. He was the duly elected president of Zimbabwe who had the kind of US-led support Guaido has today.

    Yet Tsvangirai spent most of his presidency living in exile or under house arrest at the behest of that country’s strongman, Robert Mugabe. The latter even included an embarrassing and self-abnegating stint as Mugabe’s prime-ministerial puppet.

    Which brings me to this second excerpt from “Venezuela Assassinates ‘Rambo’ Coup Leader,” January 25, 2018. It gives an overview of the current state of affairs:

    ____________________

    Venezuela might not be a ‘shithole country,’ but it’s certainly a basket case — so much so that it’s making Zimbabwe look like a paragon of political stability and economic sustainability. …

    Apropos of President Maduro remaining in office, I argued – in “Venezuela’s Death Spiral of Recession, Protest, and Repression,” April 24, 2017 – that there’s no way he can win a free and fair election. Further, that his fate depends on the military supporting his dictatorship the way it supported Chávez’s.

    I advised – in “Venezuela Finally Awakens from Chavismo Nightmare,” December 9, 2015 – that he would be wise to negotiate blanket immunity (for himself and his family) in exchange for his immediate resignation. Further, that he should let Chávez’s family and cronies suffer come what may.

    But Maduro seems determined to emulate not just Chavez’s 11 years in power, but Mugabe’s 37. …

    Still, no matter his sham talks, rigged election, or Trumpian delusion, Maduro must know his days are numbered. After all, his fate rests upon the favor of Venezuela’s military leaders.

    Except that they remained so loyal to Chávez because he rose from among their ranks. Maduro did not. Indeed, they probably see him as nothing more than a leftist ‘militant dreamer’ – who is to Chavismo what Steve Bannon is to Trumpism (Got that?).

    These military leaders must also know that, as long as Maduro remains in office, Venezuela’s economic death spiral will continue. He clearly enjoys ruling over a basket case. I doubt they enjoy serving in one.

    Therefore, instead of continuing feckless talks with him, opposition leaders should appeal to their nationalist/Chavismo pride to get them to ensure a free and fair presidential election, which would surely see Maduro ousted in a landslide.

    By the same token, instead of gambling with Venezuela’s fate, Maduro would do well to secure his own.

    We cry for you, Venezuela

    The truth is, he never loved you

    Despite Chavismo

    His revolution,

    He broke his promise

    Please find your senses.

    ____________________

    Significantly, hundreds of soldiers have reportedly deserted or defected. But you can infer from this second excerpt that I am surprised and dismayed military leaders remain so loyal to Maduro. For he will have no reason to go, as long as they do.

    Meanwhile, Trump is offering Guaido little more than trademark bluster with his saber-rattling rhetoric. He clearly does not have the cojones to launch military intervention to remove Maduro; you know, like the ones former President George H.W. Bush showed when he removed Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.

    Then again, there’s this curious thing: Maduro might be the only dictator on the world stage with whom Trump does not want to tango. This might be because Maduro did not get the dictator’s handbook for dealing with Trump, titled With Trump, Flattery Will Get You Everywhere.

    Unfortunately, far too many Venezuelans have yet to come to their senses. In fact, I fear half of the population would take up arms in a civil war to defend Maduro, whereas you’d think they would join opposition forces in a revolutionary war to oust him. After all, their dire circumstances are such that millions of them are scavenging for food – as I duly protested in “Trump Threatens Venezuela’s Dying Economy with Economic Sanctions,” July 19, 2017.

    So cry, this beleaguered country

    That said, many are wondering why Venezuela’s putative patron China is not doing more to help. Here is how Matt Ferchen, a scholar with the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, bemoaned China’s salutary neglect:

    There’s a sense that China actually believes and wants others to believe that… as a developing country, China understands and cares about the concerns of other developing countries.

    And here it watched as its developing-country partner, with which it had built up a special relationship, faced political, economic, and humanitarian crisis — and China’s done nothing.

    (Agence France-Presse, February 14, 2019)

    But here is how I presaged this neglect in “‘All the World Is at War’ Hardly Means World War III,” November 30, 2015:

    __________________

    You can be forgiven for wondering about China’s conspicuous absence from this fight [in Syria]. The reason is that China has so cultivated its self-serving and self-preserving policy of non-interference, it would not lift a finger to stop ISIS from conquering every country in the Middle East. This, so long as ISIS did not impinge on its sovereignty and was willing to supply its demand for oil.

    In other words, if China (instead of the United States) were the only world power capable of stopping the Nazis during WWII, Hitler would have realized his dream of turning all of Europe into a fascist paradise (e.g., free of Jews, blacks, and gays). This informs my abiding admonition about weak/poor countries, especially in Africa and the Caribbean, heralding China as a more worthy superpower patron than the United States.

    ____________________

    A pox!

    Related commentaries:
    Venezuela…, Haiti…, Myanmar
    Ukraine…, North Korea…, DR Congo
    Yemen…, South Sudan…, Zimbabwe
    Trump threatens
    All world is at war
    Flattering Trump

  • Saturday, March 2, 2019 at 8:57 AM

    Fighting Crime after the Green New Deal…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Ha! We should be so lucky.

    According to the February 23 edition of Vox, here’s the big deal about this Green New Deal:

    It refers, in the loosest sense, to a massive program of investments in clean-energy jobs and infrastructure, meant to transform not just the energy sector, but the entire economy. It is meant both to decarbonize the economy and to make it fairer and more just.

    Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the freshman sensation of this new Congress. Perhaps you know that she proposed this Green New Deal a few weeks ago. What you may not know is that her “new deal” is little more than a rebranding of old environmental protections and practices.

    Gaylord Nelson, a US senator from Wisconsin, proposed them way back in 1969. More to the point, those protections and practices inspired the clarion call for the inaugural Earth-Day rally in 1970.

    That Ocasio-Cortez has just cause to merely rebrand Wilson’s proposals betrays how elusive achieving his goals has been. And the increasing ravages of climate change actually make her proposals more exigent, if not existential.

    Still, my informed cynicism is such that I suspect she conjured up her goals as little more than a political stunt. But it’s an indication of Ocasio-Cortez’s (social-media) influence that Democratic presidential candidates, who should know better, rushed to endorse her Green New Deal as an article of political faith.

    I should also note that Ocasio-Cortez fuses Wilson’s Earth-Day proposals with former president FDR’s (Economic) New-Deal policies. In fact, her slogan is a political appropriation of FDR’s. Except that his slogan led to “a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms and regulations” that provided immediate “relief, reform, and recovery from the Great Depression.”

    Nobody expects Ocasio-Cortez’s to have that kind of immediate (and long-term) impact on the environment or economy. But there’s no denying the boosting impact it will have … on her career.

    Related commentaries:
    Earth Day

  • Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 8:37 AM

    Trump Is So Self-Absorbed, He Thinks Kim Is Equally Susceptible to Idle Flattery

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [S]ince their historic first meeting in Singapore last June, the two leaders have adopted a strategy of playing to each other’s ego with gushing and gratuitous adoration in pursuit of their aims.

    (The Washington Post, February 25, 2019)

    They actually take pains to show how much they’re in love. But, after Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga showed what that looks like at the Oscars on Sunday, nobody’s buying what Trump and Kim are selling:

    Trust me, despite all the media hoopla, this cartoon more accurately depicts the dangerous liaison at the heart of this week’s Trump-Kim Summit II in Hanoi, Vietnam:

    More to the point, here is why I knew it would prove every bit the Potemkin affair their first summit was in Singapore.

    At a rally in West Virginia on Saturday night, Trump announced that, while exchanging letters and holding their summit, he and Kim Jong Un ‘fell in love’ …

    Nothing betrays [the delusional, existential recklessness Trump’s protestation of love reflects] quite like North Korea’s foreign minister declaring mere hours before that rally that, no matter how much he strokes Trump’s ego, Kim will never go all the way. …

    In other words, Trump has a greater chance of getting Mexico to pay for that wall than he has of getting North Korea to even think about giving up its nukes.

    (“Trump Loves Kim. Kim Loves Nukes. And Never the Twain Shall Greet,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 1, 2018)

    Sure enough:

    President Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, abruptly ended their second summit meeting on Thursday after talks collapsed with the two leaders failing to agree on any steps toward nuclear disarmament or measures to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. …

    The premature end to the negotiations leaves the unusual rapprochement between the United States and North Korea that has unfolded for most of a year at a deadlock, with the North retaining both its nuclear arsenal and facilities believed to be producing additional fissile material for warheads.

    (The New York Times, February 28, 2019)   

    But it’s noteworthy that, while Trump flew off to take a cold shower back in America, Kim was smoking a cigarette and planning sightseeing tours around Vietnam.

    So who do you think is zooming who in their “brokeback” bromance…? Hint: One of them has now flown halfway across the world twice just to be catfished.

    Again, even I knew this summit was going to blow up in Trump’s face. Therefore, you might wonder why this master of The Art of the Deal had no clue. But the greater wonder might be why commentators (conservatives and liberals alike) are hailing him for “walking away from a bad deal.”

    Sadly, the latter merely reflects Trump’s Orwellian dumbing down of political debate – not just in America but around the world. These, after all, are the same commentators who bought into his self-aggrandizing folly of demanding praise for lowering nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which he himself was responsible for raising in the first place. Remember “fire and fury?”

    Now they’re buying into his self-aggrandizing folly of demanding praise for walking away from this deal, which no president with half a brain would have flown halfway across the world to (try to) “consummate” in the first place.

    Frankly, it is cringe inducing to watch Kim jerking Trump around so much. Most notably, he got this chump to

    • scale back joint US-South Korean military exercises
    • make a mockery of US intelligence agencies (again) by believing Kim’s line that he knew nothing about the infamous torture of Otto Warmbier hook, line, and sinker.

    And all Trump can say is that he got Kim to

    • stop testing nukes that no longer need testing (Reports are that Kim is actually increasing his arsenal. He figures that, as long as he continues stroking Trump’s ego, Trump won’t care how many nukes he develops.)
    • agree that he would stop calling Trump a dotard … if Trump stops calling him Rocket Man.

    The assbackwardness of the tail wagging the dog does not fully capture the perversity and ramifications of Trump’s ignominy.

    Finally, apropos of brain, his fixer Michael Cohen testified yesterday that Trump ordered him to threaten the heads of every school Trump attended with dire consequences if they ever released his transcripts. This, from the “con man” who insisted that the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency depended on him showing not just his birth certificate but his school transcripts to boot.

    That trademark hypocrisy aside, Trump clearly fears the public having documentary evidence that shows what is so plain to see, namely, that he’s a friggin’ moron.

    [Note: It is practically impossible to write about Trump without denouncing him as an international laughingstock. But, whenever I do, I feel obliged to concede that the joke is on us because he’s the president of the United States and leader of the free world.]

    Related commentaries:
    Trump loves Kim
    the Oscars
    Singapore
    fire and fury
    Michael Cohen testifies
    Trump’s birther nonsense

  • Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at 6:27 PM

    Cohen: Trump is a ‘Racist,’ a ‘Con Man,’ and a ‘Cheat’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And the pope is a pacifist, a holy man, and a catholic. This analogy sums up the obvious and anti-climactic nature of Michael Cohen’s overhyped congressional hearing.

    I watched enough to suggest that the following three sentences from his opening statement were the most interesting things anyone said all day:

    I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience. …

    Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. … Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the ‘greatest infomercial in political history.’

    (The Washington Post, February 27, 2019)

    Frankly, the Republicans seemed hell-bent on assassinating Cohen’s character and camouflaging Trump’s lies and misdeeds. In a truly remarkable moment, Cohen pointed out that they were doing in this hearing what he spent a decade doing, namely acting as Trump’s fixer.

    Alas, like Cohen used to be, the Republicans are so blinded by loyalty, the damning irony/hypocrisy inherent in this seemed completely lost on them. This was simply pitiful to see.

    No doubt this blindness also explains why ranking member Jim Jordan — his lips dripping with indignation and condemnation — asked Cohen how he could work for a racist like Trump. After all, Jordan has spent the past two years as the ring leader of Republicans who have unconditionally supported this racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, lying, bullying, incompetent (I-could-go-on) buffoon.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats seemed committed to rehabilitating Cohen’s character and laying the predicate to impeach Trump. This, even though impeachment was the word that dared not speak its name today.

    I have written many commentaries denouncing the myriad reasons Cohen had just cause to call Trump a racist, con man, and cheat. Unfortunately, these reasons are now so “normalized,” they strike most people as more high jinks and political incorrectness than high crimes and misdemeanors.

    This is why commenting anew (e.g., on birtherism, emoluments, and Stormy Daniels) would be redundant to the point of insulting.

    Related commentaries:
    Cohen, Manafort, Trump
    Birther
    Charlottesville
    Trumps getting richer
    Trump for pres? Don’t be a sucker
    Stormy Daniels

  • Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at 8:21 AM

    Zion’s Fall Should Lift Hopes for Paying College Athletes, but It Won’t

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Zion Williamson is Duke University’s freshman phenom. More to the point, he was on track to enter this year’s NBA Draft with professional potential and media attention not seen since LeBron James entered in 2003. Indeed, news headlines abound hailing Zion as the second coming of LeBron.

    This explains why not just everyone at Duke but Basketball fans everywhere reacted with a collective gasp of worry when Zion fell.

    It happened a week ago today during what was billed as the game of the NCAA season, featuring Duke against archrival North Carolina:

    Former President Barack Obama was there [and] tickets for the game were reselling for more than $3,000.00 — Super Bowl prices. …

    And then a mere 33 seconds into the game, on a routine play, Williamson dribbled near the foul line when his left leg buckled, his left blue-and-white Nike sneaker ripped apart at the seams and he tumbled to the floor, grabbing his right knee in pain.

    (NPR, February 21, 2019)

    That his Nike sneaker ripped apart was shocking enough. But that paled in comparison to the shock of watching Zion hobble off the court. Because nobody knew then if he would ever play another game in college, or play any in the NBA.

    Thankfully, reports are that he suffered a mere “Grade 1 knee sprain” from which he’s expected to fully recover long before draft day.

    In the meantime, though, Duke seems determined to squeeze every bit of indentured servitude out of him – the risk of career-ending injury be damned.

    As it happens, I had a text exchange with my old college roommate the morning after. I suggested that the mental injury Zion suffered might cause him to end up like Derek Rose – who himself was a college phenom.

    The Chicago Bulls drafted Rose as the first overall pick in 2008. But a mere left-wrist injury during his first season proved the harbinger of an “injury-filled career.” In fact, Rose has yet to live up to the potential he showed and attention he commanded when the Bulls drafted him – complete with media headlines hailing him as the second coming of Michael Jordan.

    That brings me to this latest round of media hand wringing:

    A freakish injury to Duke’s Zion Williamson … has instantaneously renewed a debate about the contradictions of the sport’s economic foundation, shining a harsh new light on the N.C.A.A.’s policy of amateurism and the influence of billion-dollar shoe companies.

    It also raised an important question: Should Williamson ever suit up for another college game?

    (The New York Times, February 21, 2019)

    The unqualified answer to that question is: No! But I fear Zion’s indentured servitude is such that

    • Duke will prevail upon him to continue playing.
    • He will feel a perverse obligation to do so.

    As for the debate his injury triggered, Saturday’s edition of Smerconish on CNN merits comment. Not least because it featured an interview with Joe Nocera, the Bloomberg business commentator and author of Indentured: The Inside Story of the Rebellion Against the NCAA (2016).

    Host Michael Smerconish cited his book as the controlling authority on the question: Should college athletes be paid? But Nocera’s book is little more than a “Drudge Report” on the insights and observations sports commentators have been making for years.

    Hell, even I preempted him with commentaries like “Student Athletes Make Billions (for Colleges) but Most Graduate Poor … and Dumb,” January 16, 2014, and “Reggie Bush Forfeits Heisman Trophy,” September 16, 2010, which includes this instructive excerpt:

    ___________________

    There’s nothing amateur about college Football. It’s a multibillion-dollar business for Christ’s sake!

    More to the point, the people generating its revenues are not the university presidents, athletic directors, or coaches who, incidentally, make millions of dollars in salary and endorsement deals. Instead, they are the poor, mostly black athletes whose raw talent colleges exploit to pack 100,000 fans into their stadiums on game day.

    I have always felt that it’s tantamount to modern-day slavery for universities to recruit poor and, all too often, uneducated athletes just to play Football and not compensate them for their services, especially considering they rarely get an education. …

    But this indentured servitude is made much worse by branding these poor players – who generate tens of millions for their respective universities – as cheaters for accepting a little cash on the side. Mind you, those offering the cash are often boosters just trying to make life easier for players to enable them to perform better. Not to mention that, if the NCAA were to penalize all college players who accept such gifts, there would be no college Football (or Basketball) worth watching.

    The hypocrisy inherent in this is beyond shameful. Universities should be required to compensate student athletes in direct proportion to the way owners of professional Football teams compensate their players.

    _________________

    All the same, I commend Nocera for adding his influential voice to clarion calls for the NBA to allow players to enter the draft straight from high school. After all, this would be tantamount to an emancipation proclamation from the indentured servitude at issue.

    As things stand, the NBA requires high-school players to wait at least one year before they’re eligible. This assures the NCAA of at least one year of their play without pay, hence the infamous one-and-done trend Zion is following.

    It’s just too bad the post-game talk was more about the way Coach John Calipari recruited the players on this national championship team than about the way they played. But I see nothing wrong with Calipari recruiting standout players who he knows are committed to no more than one year in college before heading to the NBA – the so-called ‘one-and-done’ trend.

    (“Kentucky Wildcats Win NCAA Basketball Championship,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 3, 2012)

    Still, I urge college Basketball players to do what I’ve been urging their Football counterparts to do: strike!

    [S]tar players on all NCAA Division 1 Football teams [should] organize a wildcat strike this fall and demand fair compensation for the services they provide. Then let the NCAA and university presidents make the unconscionable and utterly unsustainable argument that these kids should be forced to continue generating billions in revenues for them in exchange for nothing more than a college degree that, in most cases, is not worth the paper it’s written on.

    (“Death Penalty for University of Miami Hurricanes,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 23, 2011)

    Trust me, this is the only way to get the NCAA to end this indentured servitude and pay college athletes commensurate with the worth of their labors.

    Related commentaries:
    Reggie Bush forfeits
    Kentucky
    Death penalty
    graduate poor and dumb

  • Monday, February 25, 2019 at 8:03 AM

    And the Oscar Goes To…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    But first, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m obliged to share this from my commentary on the 2014 show:

    ____________________

    I’m never going to waste my time watching the Oscars ever again. Because it amounts to Chinese water torture for the producers to make us sit through nearly four hours of boring TV just to hurl four of the six most-suspenseful awards at us in the last four minutes of the show. The six, of course, are for best supporting actor and actress, best actor and actress, best director and best picture.

    No offense to screenwriters, cinematographers, makeup artists, et al, but it would be far more entertaining if they presented one of these six awards every 15 minutes and limited the entire show to two hours.

    ____________________

    In truth, I find it suffices to read reviews (complete with video highlights) the morning after. And I hope you’ll forgive me for sharing that every review since 2014 has vindicated my decision to tune out.

    To be fair, this year’s show was not as long as usual. Unfortunately, it was twice as boring. This stemmed in large part from winners in less popular categories (like costume design, production design, makeup and hairstyling) acting like dumbstruck potheads during their acceptance speeches.

    Ironically, the Academy intended to save time (and avoid this boredom) by presenting awards in many of these categories during commercial breaks. But, as I referenced in my original commentary above, Hollywood A-listers demanded equal airtime for their crew and support staff. And good for them, but the result was what it was.

    No doubt the Academy’s spectacular failure to land an A-list host did little to stem waning interest in this backslapping Hollywood gala. Thus, for the second-consecutive year, ancillary events created far more suspense than anything the actual show could deliver.

    (The event that sucked up much of the suspense last year involved speculation about which A-list actresses would grant accused #MeToo predator Ryan Seacrest a red-carpet interview. None of them did.)

    By the way, you’d think having no (middleman) host and getting right to the presentation of awards would have saved lots of time. Yet so many presenters  acted as if they were hosting, the show still ended up being far too long.

    Tina Fey actually presaged (and was guilty of) this when she, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph appeared to present the first award of the night:

    ‘Good evening and welcome to the one-millionth Academy Awards,’ Fey said. ‘We are not your hosts, but we’ll stand here a little too long so the people who get USA Today tomorrow will think that we hosted.’

    (USA Today, February 24, 2019)

    Meanwhile, many are marveling at the way Lady Gaga broke the boredom, in hair-raising fashion, when she and Bradley Cooper sang their Oscar-winning song “Shallow” from A Star Is Born. But what I wrote about (the old) Lady Gaga explains this marvel:

    Lady Gaga literally personifies the triumph of packaged and formulaic acts over talented performances. Which is rather a shame because this girl can sing.

    (“MTV Video Music Awards,” August 30, 2011)

    On a more sour note, social media are all atwitter about the chemistry that oozed between Cooper and Gaga. That’s called acting people.

    Indeed, I’m old enough to remember Cooper stirring similar juices when he starred with Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and with Amy Adams in American Hustle (2013). Kudos to him; the guy is just that good!

    But I gather some of you think it’s cute to insinuate that he and Gaga are having an off-screen affair. It’s particularly disheartening that their fellow actors, who should know better, are triggering viral memes in this respect.

    Because this shows disrespect not just for these consummate actors, but also for Cooper’s girlfriend Irina Shayk – who also happens to be the mother of his young child. Not to mention the inconvenient fact that Shayk could be seen sitting very proudly between Cooper and Gaga all night. So zip it!

    And the Oscar goes to:

    • Best Supporting Actor

    My pick was Mahershala Ali in Green Book. The winner was Mahershala Ali.

    • Best Supporting Actress

    My pick was Rachel Weisz in The Favourite. The winner was Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk.

    Incidentally, pictures from the telecast feature so many black faces, I got the impression I was reading about the NAACP Image Awards. I suppose this shows how determined producers were to whitewash #OscarSoWhite from Academy history.

    • Best Actress

    My pick was Olivia Colman in The Favourite. The winner was Olivia Colman.

    • Best Actor

    My pick was Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody. The winner was Rami Malek.

    • Best Director

    My pick was Alfonso Cuarón for Roma. The winner was Alfonso Cuarón.

    • Best Picture

    My pick was Black Panther. The winner was Green Book.

    This actually aggravates the pet peeve I cited in “My Picks” about directors like Cuarón winning this category only to see their films lose Best Picture.

    But, apropos of aggravation, that’s how I felt when I read about Spike Lee making a spectacle of himself. He reportedly threw a hissy fit after presenter Julia Roberts announced the winner in this category.

    Mind you, I get the racial indignation he must have felt. After all, even I threw shade at Green Book’s white-savior theme.

    More to the point, though, this was the second time one of Spike’s cutting-edge black movies lost to, what he clearly considers, an Uncle Tom-style movie. It was his BlacKkKlansman losing to Green Book this year; his Do the Right Thing losing to Driving Miss Daisy in 1990.

    And, that he had just won the first Oscar of his career for Best Adapted Screenplay evidently provided no consolation. One might also wonder how Spike would have reacted if my pick, Black Panther, had won.

    Whatever the case, his loss does not excuse the personal immaturity and professional disrespect he displayed.

    Related commentaries:
    And the Oscar goes – 2014
    My picks

  • Saturday, February 23, 2019 at 8:21 AM

    Kylie Captures the Emptiness of Social Media in a Snap…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Kylie Jenner has almost $1 billion in the bank and over 150 million fans ogling every image of her so-called life, which she posts on social media.

    According to a new report released by social media analytics firm, D’Marie Analytics, Jenner’s posts are now worth more than $1 million (£737,800) each. …

    This figure makes Jenner the ‘highest-valued influencer currently on social media’. …  Across each of her social media profiles … Jenner boasts a total of 154,775,091 followers.

    (The Independent, May 4, 2018)

    She often poses in narcissistic fashion. But her eyes betray a deep emptiness inside. Indeed, she rarely smiles. Never mind that is probably because she also fears the plaster she wears as foundation might crack, revealing her true face.

    Truth be told, lipstick on a zombie comes to mind when I see her perfectly airbrushed images. But it’s not complicated.

    She personifies a perverse version of the #MeToo social phenomenon. It manifests in far too many women thinking that, with the right photoshop app, they too can look and be “liked” like a super model.

    As it happens, I have written about this phenomenon in many commentaries, including “Facebook/Instagram ‘Like’ an Infectious Disease,” January 24, 2014, “Zuckerberg Designed Facebook ‘Like’ an Opioid,” November 13, 2017, “Confessions of Facebook/FAD Pushers Continue,” December 14, 2017, and “The False Reality of Social Media. Duh,” November 4, 2015, which includes this observation:

    [She’s] the poster girl for all that is so wrong with social media. Her fake lips, fake boobs, and fake butt are the signature traits of what passes for beauty these days. But her doe eyes betray how hollow she must feel inside.

    I pity Kylie, and her ilk. And, by the way, you are of that ilk if you’ve ever stared adoringly at the image on your smart phone as you snapped selfies to photoshop for social media. Just know that, like her, you are not impressing anyone … in real life.

    To be fair, in the image that provoked this commentary, Kylie is probably trying to convey sadness over viral gossip about her live-in BFF sleeping with her big sister’s baby daddy. Got that? (I won’t dignify the other stars of their modern-day freak show by naming them.)

    The problem, however, is that a browse of Kylie’s Instagram shows her looking equally empty in nearly every image.

    Incidentally, I know some of you will find this commentary mean. But, trust me, it’s complimentary when compared with the comments she invites trolls to hurl at every image she posts. Frankly, there has to be more than a little sadomasochism involved in continually publishing pictures of yourself and, effectively, begging people to tell you how beautiful you are each time.

    Because even the most self-obsessed narcissist must know that many will see this as an opportunity to trigger every insecurity you’ve ever had about your looks. Surely this is the cause of much of the anxiety and depression that is now pandemic among users of social media …

    In any case, I actually feel sad for Kylie. But my sadness is suffused with pity for this … “poor little rich girl.”

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, February 21, 2019 at 10:21 AM

    Smollett Lied, Others Died … for Viral Attention (and the $$ that Brings)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Over the past few weeks, many of you asked why I was “refusing” to join the chorus of those expressing sympathy for Jussie Smollett and outrage at his (phantom) attackers.

    No doubt this was because, like nearly everyone, you found this actor’s harrowing tale of racist and homophobic victimization so convincing. Indeed, it speaks volumes that no less a person than President Trump was leading that chorus, which included a who’s who of politics, entertainment, sports, and social media.

    Now comes this:

    More than three weeks after he alleged that he was the victim of a hate crime, actor Jussie Smollett has been arrested on suspicion of filing a false report about it, Chicago police said Thursday morning.

    Smollett faces a felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming he was attacked by two men, including one who was masked, in the early morning of January 29 in Chicago. He alleged they yelled racist and homophobic slurs, tied a rope around his neck and poured an unknown substance on him.

    (CNN, February 21, 2019)

    Truth be told, I smelled a rat from the outset. Close friends will attest as much. But there can be no greater evidence of my disbelief than my refusal to join that Smollett chorus.

    After all, nobody can accuse me of being hesitant to express my opinion on politically charged events of the day. That’s what I do here.

    But I pride myself on being assiduously informed and scrupulously fair-minded. This means that, despite my inclination to believe even #MeToo victims, I always reserve judgment until credible and corroborating facts allow me to chime in.

    It probably helps that I never felt the need to join the maddening crowd of twits on social media, where spewing baseless opinions and snarky comments (on everything) is the best way to win “likes” and influence “followers.” I have decried this dumbing down of public discourse in many commentaries, including “Why I Hate Twitter,” February 1, 2013.

    What’s more, I am old enough to remember the infamous Tawana Brawley case (which is why Reverend Al Sharpton would’ve been well-advised to keep his mouth shut in this case). And we all know that white folks (like Charles Stuart and Susan Smith) have a shameful history of falsely blaming blacks for their crimes, real and imagined.

    I refer you to the litany of racial hoaxes that Katheryn Russell-Brown documents in her book The Color of Crime: Racial Hoaxes, White Fear, Black Protectionism, Police Harassment, and Other Macroaggressions (1998).

    Mind you, this does not mean that I have always been right. But on those rare occasions when I was not, I never hesitated to fess up – as a search here of “I was wrong” will show.

    This is why I have little regard for those who rush to judgment based on little more than tribal passions. And that regard roils into contempt when they compound that rush by deleting posts and tweets in a vain attempt to avoid fessing up to their mistakes.

    That said, I have seen and read enough to believe that Smollett is a sick, misguided man. But this does not avail him of any diminished-capacity defense. Because, like my title indicates, he is just a feature creature of this age – in which there are no bounds to the things people do or say for attention.

    Meanwhile, Smollett has probably never been happier. And he can be forgiven for assuming that his high-priced lawyer, Mark Geragos, will do for him what he has repeatedly done for Chris Brown, namely get him off without doing any time.

    But justice would have Smollett serve “time-out” for at least half of the many years he faces for this and related crimes.

    Sadly, he probably couldn’t care less about the repercussions his sensational lies will have on real hate crimes against black, Jewish, and LGBTQ people, which are in fact on the rise. Case in point, the media are providing wall-to-wall coverage of this hoax while practically ignoring yesterday’s arrest of a white nationalist who was plotting to massacre thousands, most notably black and Jewish politicians and reporters.

    Even closer to home, Smollett probably couldn’t care less that he has now made a mockery of the positive and life-affirming role he plays as a beloved, openly gay man on the hit TV show, Empire.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, February 21, 2019 at 7:28 AM

    The Oscars: My Picks

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    With all due respect to critics and members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Academy), how much a film makes, not whether it wins an Oscar, is the generally recognized measure of its success. Especially considering that winning an Oscar is more the result of crass political campaigning than any assessment of artistic achievement.

    It might surprise, if not disillusion, many of you to learn that studios covet the Oscar for Best Picture primarily because — as Sumner Redstone, the owner of Paramount, conceded in a moment of extraordinary candor — it guarantees millions more in box office receipts.

    (“My Review of the 2008 Oscars,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 25, 2008)

    First, my annual lament:

    From the Golden Globes to the BAFTAS, the entertainment industry hands out so many movie awards, the Oscars are becoming more of an afterthought than a crowning achievement. Not to mention the sapping of suspense this backslapping season now entails.

    That said, it speaks volumes that the biggest suspense this year is not about any award. Instead, it’s about this still-unfolding spectacle:

    This year’s Oscars are still officially host-free for the second time in their 90-year history. …

    Kevin Hart was appointed to host the 2019 ceremony in December, but stepped down three days later in the wake of upset about homophobic comments he had made in the past. Before and after his departure, [four-time host Whoopi Goldberg] expressed interest in taking on a gig which few have been willing to consider.

    (The Guardian, February 20, 2019)

    Whoopi could be forgiven for thinking the Academy would hail her as Oscar’s white knight. But, given the homophobic and racist mess the Academy has made of this gig, everyone else would see her as Oscar’s black maid. It was barely acceptable for her to play a maid in Corina, Corina. It would be profoundly disappointing for her to play one at the Oscars.

    I like Whoopi. Therefore, I hope comedian Joy Behar, her co-host on The View, was being straight when she pooh-poohed the scuttlebutt about Whoopi hosting. She insisted that Whoopi is too sick to host her talk show, let alone the Oscars.

    Without further ado, here are my picks. As usual, I limit them to the six and only categories most people care about, with all due respect to others like Makeup and Hairstyling …

    • Actor in a Supporting Role

    Mahershala Ali in Green Book:  As it happens he won this same category in 2017 for Moonlight. That win made him the first actor with a legitimate shot at upstaging Denzel Washington as Hollywood’s most respected black actor.

    Granted, Washington followed up his Oscar for a supporting role in Glory with one for a leading role in Training Day, whereas Ali is still playing second fiddle (never mind that it’s a piano he plays so well in this “controversial” movie). But Washington had twelve years between his two wins. Ali has had only two. So, forget Washington, because we might be comparing Ali to Daniel Day-Lewis and other three-time winners of Oscars for leading roles before the curtain falls on his career.

    • Actress in a Supporting Role

    Rachel Weisz in The Favourite: Because, well, she’s my favorite!

    Rachel Weisz [is] an actress who can probably thrill me by simply reading the ingredients from my favorite cereal box on screen. …

    I’ve enjoyed Rachel in a number of movies, but my cinematic infatuation was not consummated until I saw her in The Constant Gardener. This infatuation has only deepened with The Whistleblower; this, notwithstanding her recent marriage to Daniel Craig, a.k.a. James Bond 007 … lucky bugger.

    (“‘The Whistleblower’, The iPINIONS Journal, August 5, 2011)

    Enough said?

    • Actress in a Leading Role

    Olivia Colman in The Favourite: Because, even though playing the lead, she spent most of this movie basking in Weisz’s reflected glow.

    But seriously, even though that diss happens to be true, Colman’s performance is eminently worthy. Mind you, most members of the Academy will probably vote for her based more on her role in The Night Manager (and on very tantalizing previews of her role in season 3 of The Crown). This, thanks to Netflix making movies and drama series more appealing for actors and more accessible for fans than Hollywood could have ever imagined.

    • Actor in a Leading Role

    Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody: Because it’s probably the last chance the old white men who dominate the ranks of the Academy will have to pretend to be hip. After all, I’d bet good money that, before this movie, the only “Queen” most of them knew of was from European royalty or their weekend trysts.

    As for Malek’s over-the-top performance, the best way I can describe it is to say that Rami Malek is to Freddie Mercury as Alec Baldwin is to Donald Trump. This, with all due respect to what Christian Bale is to Dick Cheney in Vice, which deserves honorable mention.

    • Directing

    Alfonso Cuarón for Roma: All I can say is that not since Steven Spielberg has a director demonstrated such astonishing and compelling range. Indeed, it is noteworthy that, just as Spielberg’s signature movies range from E.T. the Extra Terrestrial to Schindler’s List, Cuarón’s range from Gravity to Roma – complete with cinematic similarities that are equally spellbinding.

    Alas, Cuarón seems bound to continue the Oscar oddity of a director winning in this category only to see the movie he directed lose in the Best Picture category.

    • Best Picture

    Black Panther: Because the Academy wants to show that a blockbuster action film can win. After all, it is still reeling from the scandal it caused last summer when it proposed creating a wholly separate category for such “popular” films:

    The Academy is clearly banking on this new category luring people who love blockbusters to watch the Oscars. Which, I suppose, is rather like Major League Baseball finally admitting blacks – even as it continued to treat them like second-class citizens.

    Unsurprisingly, Academy traditionalists are panning this change as pandering to mob interests, while blockbuster producers are panning it as awarding a consolation prize.

    (“The Oscars Cutting Fat to Attract Viewers,” August 14, 2018)

    Apropos of other categories, you probably recall the industry-wide protest that forced the Academy to ditch its plan to award certain Oscars during commercial breaks.

    After mounting pressure from Academy members, The Motion Picture Academy announced it has reversed an earlier decision to cut four award presentations from the live Oscars telecast. …

    In a statement on Friday, the officers of the Academy’s board of governors said it ‘has heard the feedback from its membership regarding the Oscar presentation of four awards – Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling,’

    (MSN Entertainment, February 16, 2019)

    Well, that came on the heels of a similar protest that forced it to ditch its plan for this separate category for “Outstanding Popular Film.” But who knew the contest for Oscars could be as political and intense as the fight for civil rights, eh?

    Oh, given Black Panther’s mostly black cast, this choice would also help the Academy put a nail in the coffin of #OscarSoWhite protests. Incidentally, this is why Green Book which is about a black pianist despite its white-savior theme — will give Black Panther a run for its money.

    Stay tuned …

    Related commentaries:
    Rachel Weisz
    Cutting the fat

  • Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at 7:41 AM

    Eighty Percent of Catholic Priests Are Gay. No Surprise Then That a ‘Gay Cabal’ Rules the Vatican.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Some of the most senior clerics in the Roman Catholic church who have vociferously attacked homosexuality are themselves gay. …

    Eighty percent of priests working at the Vatican are gay, although not necessarily sexually active, it is claimed in the [new] book, In the Closet of the Vatican.

    (The Guardian, February 12, 2019)

    Alas, this only affirms the litany of commentaries I’ve written on the Catholic Church. But I cannot stress enough the clear distinction between gay priests and pedophile priests.

    Granted, church leaders have invariably shown little regard for this distinction. I insinuated why this has been the case in “Confirmation! Pedophile Priest’ Is Redundant,” August 15, 2018:

    ____________________

    I cannot look at any Catholic priest without suspecting that he is either a predatory pedophile or a closet homosexual.

    What’s more, I cannot help thinking that popes and bishops have countenanced or enabled the sexual abuse of children because they were/are either predatory pedophiles or closet homosexuals themselves.

    Only this explains the religious way church leaders have covered up the sexual predation and indulgences of priests … since time immemorial. And it is self-evident that no secular sanction (whether imprisoning priests or fining the Church) will exorcise these demons from this Body of Christ.

    ____________________

    That said, this book about gay priests only compounds revelations about pedophile priests that have had the church mired in scandal since the 1990s. Theodore E. McCarrick happens to personify both scandals/sins. This is why his unprecedented defrocking just days ago seems so fitting — perhaps even contrived:

    Pope Francis has expelled Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, from the priesthood, after an expedited canonical process that found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over decades. …

    It appears to be the first time that a cardinal or bishop in the United States has been defrocked, or laicized, from the Roman Catholic Church, and the first time any cardinal has been laicized for sexual abuse.

    (The New York Times, February 16, 2019)

    Unfortunately, the church appears unwilling to atone for these institutional sins, or for the hypocrisy and cover up that occasion(ed) them. Nothing betrays this quite like the pope decreeing the following as just punishment for this serial abuser of boys and fornicator of men:

    McCarrick (88), who stepped down from active ministry this summer after credible allegations of sexual abuse of seminarians and children, has moved to a home for priests in Kansas to live out a ‘life of prayer and penance,’ as directed by the Vatican.

    (National Catholic Reporter, September 28, 2018)

    Frankly, this is like Germany sentencing an 88-year-old neo-Nazi to live out his remaining years at a Florida retirement home … paid for by the German government.

    In fairness to Germany, though, nobody would be able to claim that it spent decades not just covering up but enabling that neo-Nazi’s crimes, whereas this is precisely what the Vatican did for McCarrick (and thousands of other priests and “princes” of the Holy Roman Catholic Church). But I digress …

    As it happens, I detonated this book’s “explosive” findings with this pithy analogy from “Signaling End Days for Catholic Church, Pope Decrees No (More) Gay Priests,” December 23, 2018:

    The Catholic Church without gays would be like the NBA without blacks.

    For the record, the NBA is 75 percent black.

    I am also constrained to note that “not necessarily sexually activesmacks of Bill Clinton’s artful dodge when prosecutors asked if he was having sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky:

    It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

    Again, I am no recent covert among the secular heretics now calling out this religious hypocrisy. Because I can refer you to such commentaries as “Francis Shows Papal Fallibility on Homosexuality, October 5, 2015, “Hey, Why Should Priests Be the Only Gays Welcomed in the Catholic Church?” October 18, 2014, “Pope Confesses: There’s a Gay Cabal in the Vatican,” June 13, 2013, and The Pope Comes to America,” April 16, 2008.

    The last of those includes this prescient charge:

    A gay cabal in the Vatican continues to indulge and cover up the sexual exploits of gay priests, including abuse by pedophiles.

    I damned the church in these commentaries primarily for its hypocritical conspiracy regarding homosexuality. But my archives will show that I damned it in many more for its criminal conspiracy regarding pedophilia.

    Incidentally, given what I wrote about priests fathering children just two weeks ago – in “Priests Who Rape Boys More Forgivable than Those Who Rape Nuns…?” February 7, 2019 – this revelation seems, well, an uncanny coincidence:

    The Vatican has revealed that it maintains secret guidelines for priests who father children despite their vows of celibacy.

    Vatican spokesman [Alessandro] Gisotti told CNN that … under the secret rules, a priest who fathered children was requested to leave the priesthood and ‘assume his responsibility as a parent, dedicating himself exclusively to the child.’

    (CNN, February 19, 2019)

    Except that there are reports about priests refusing to even acknowledge paternity or using the Vatican’s well-trodden pedophile protection program to escape responsibility. Not to mention the open secret that, for much of the twentieth century, the church funneled thousands of children of unmarried Catholic mothers (no doubt including nuns) into oblivion through its many adoption factories masquerading as convents.

    Meanwhile, Francis is convoking a worldwide conference of bishops tomorrow to discuss ways of protecting children from sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

    But, like every other conference, this will amount to nothing more than a pontifical farce. Because the only way to protect children from predatory priests is to prosecute not only the abusers but the bishops and other church leaders who fail to report their crimes as well.

    In other words, the Vatican should abandon the pretense of punishing pedophile priests, which usually involves moving them from one parish to another only for them to abuse again. Instead, it should send bishops on a truly holy mission to inform Catholics everywhere that they have a moral duty to report any sexual abuse not to the church but to the police.

    In a similar vein, the only way to utterly cleanse the church of the hypocrisy surrounding homosexuality is for the Vatican to abandon the pretense of celibacy. Instead, it should allow priests to marry (women or men).

    Which brings me to “It Is Not a Closet. It Is a Cage.” This was the banner headline for a lengthy feature in Sunday’s edition of The New York Times. The sub-heading read as follows:

    Gay catholic priests speak out. The crisis over sexuality in the Catholic Church goes beyond abuse. It goes to the heart of the priesthood, into a closet that is trapping thousands of men.

    Thus we’ve come full circle. But I would feel a lot more sympathetic if gay priests were not complicit in systematically covering up and enabling the exploits of pedophile priests. Not to mention that reports abound about gay priests thriving in sub-cultures from Rome to Bangkok and all major cities in between, so much so that they make hedonists from the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah look chaste. So cry me a friggin’ river!

    By the way, the cage their pedophile brethren might complain of is like the Serengeti – where they are the lions roaming free and boys are the gazelles sitting like ducks for their plucking.

    The inquisition rest … my Lord.

    Related commentaries:
    confirmation
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