• Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 7:58 AM

    Gone Fishing…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    gonefishing

    Any reasonable person watching last night’s debate knows that Hillary not only won, but exposed Trump as a bragging, blathering buffoon. Yet, even though some polls duly reflected this, some had Trump winning.

    Therefore, with those who polled for him in mind, here’s a little food for thought while I’m gone:

    Voters would do well to appreciate the difference between Hillary’s populist policies and Trump’s demagogic blandishments. After all, her policies are aimed at governing in the best interest of all Americans; whereas his blandishments are aimed at nothing more than getting him elected president — period!…

    I have given up wondering what it’s going to take for Trump’s supporters to come to their senses. Not least because they actually think he’s more honest and trustworthy than Hillary. This, despite reports by organizations like Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact, which show that Trump is the biggest liar in the history of presidential campaigns.

    Indeed, nothing betrays the surreality of this campaign quite like the media narrative casting Hillary as a pandering liar and Trump as a politically incorrect truth teller. After all, Politifact (June 29) rates 78 percent of the claims Trump makes as either false, mostly false, or pants-on-fire false; whereas it rates only 28 percent of those Hillary makes as such.

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

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

    I’ll be back on October 3.

    Related commentaries:
    Rant

  • Monday, September 26, 2016 at 7:12 PM

    Presidential Debate: Hailing the Dumbing Down of America

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I thought the media could do no more to champion style over substance in American politics. But the way they’re hyping the first debate of this presidential election has disabused me of that thought.

    confident_kennedyFor I am truly stupefied that TV reporters and commentators are encouraging viewers to determine who wins not by the answers they give but by how they look giving them.

    Indeed, no less a pundit than James Fallows of The Atlantic is encouraging viewers to watch this debate on Monday night … “with the sound turned off.” And everyone is citing the superficial precedent the media set by declaring JFK the winner of the first-ever televised presidential debate in 1960 simply because he looked better than his opponent, Richard Nixon

    Hence the manifest absurdity of pundits prescribing, with gleeful anticipation, that Hillary’s main objective should be “to get under Donald’s skin;” whereas Donald’s should be to just stand there and “look presidential.”

    Which means that, unless Hillary can get Donald to hurl tourette-like insults at her, she will lose. Her wordsmith answers to the critical questions facing the nation be damned.

    44043248

    And if Donald can get through the debate without acting like a spoiled, potty-mouthed brat, he will win. His word-salad answers to questions will be hailed as authentic, refreshing … entertaining.

    Incidentally, nothing betrays the manufactured suspense afoot quite like the media propagating the big lie that this debate will help over 100 million voters decide who gets their vote. After all, not only are reporters and pundits hyping it as mostly entertainment, but polls routinely show that over 95 percent of voters have already made up their minds. Frankly, any voter waiting for this debate to decide between Hillary and Trump is like an alcoholic waiting for the weekend to decide between staying sober or getting drunk … respectively.

    The science-fiction movie Idiocracy (2005) depicts an America 500 years in the future that has become so dumbed-down that intellectual and cultural Neanderthals are considered brainiacs and sophisticates. Well, truth is often stranger than fiction. And, in far too many ways, that future is now – as I have duly lamented in such commentaries as “On Syria (and almost every other issue) the American People Are Insolent, Ignorant Idiot,” September 10, 2013, “A Rant about Stupid Voters re Grexit, Brexit, the NRA, and Trump,” July 19, 2016, and “Polls Show Americans Are Too Stupid to Poll on Any Critical Issue,” September 14, 2016.

    So don’t be surprised if Trump “wins” the debate(s). But you should be shocked … and very afraid if he wins the election. I remain convinced, however, that, even in this “black swan” election year, the idiocy of Donald Trump as president-elect of the United States is too strange to come true.

    Related commentaries:
    On Syria and all issues
    Rant about stupid voters
    Polls show Americans are too stupid
    Media
    Obama and black voters
    Black-swan year

    * This commentary was originally published on Saturday, September 24, at 8:42 a.m.

  • Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 7:42 AM

    These Children Are Our Future… God Help Us

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-8-18-48-pm

    This also explains why relying on millennial voters is like holding onto quicksilver.

  • Friday, September 23, 2016 at 7:57 AM

    Police Shootings of Black Men Trigger Violent Street Protests … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Tensions have resurfaced this week in the wake of another round of black men being shot by police.

    The shootings of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have served only to fuel the simmering unrest seen nationwide since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

    They’re not the only stories of police-related violence unfolding in the United States. Developments in stories out of Boston, Baltimore and St. Louis could serve to further stoke the nation’s anger.

    (CNN, September 22, 2016)

    screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-8-34-02-am

    Honestly, the groundhog-day nature of these shootings and protests is such that I see no point in commenting anew. Instead, I refer you to such commentaries as “5 Policemen Murdered: America Beware the Dallas Effect,” July 8, 2016, and “Baltimore Apes Worst of Ferguson,” April 28, 2015.

    390-sunday-0306-1

    I will only reiterate this plaintive plea for protesters to appreciate the persuasion and effectiveness that come with non-violent protests:

    No case of police brutality justifies looting and vandalism. Period. The cause for anger and frustration among blacks today pales in comparison to that which Blacks endured during the Civil Rights Movement. Yet the only barbarism on display during protests back then came not from black marchers looting and vandalizing stores, when they weren’t taunting the police, but from white cops willfully attacking them as they marched peacefully and non-violently.

    Is there any wonder that people (black and white) have as much contempt for these marauding black protesters today as they had for those mauling white cops back then?

    (“Commemorating Selma, Recognizing Ferguson: Never Forget, Never Again!” The iPINIONS Journal, March 8, 2015)

    This plea is especially poignant in light of tomorrow’s opening of the African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, DC.

    Protesters and police alike would do well to take guided tours – to walk in the shoes of those who managed to overcome police brutality that was actually systemic not merely episodic. And I hope the poetic justice (and irony) of this museum opening under the auspices of the first black president of the United States is not lost on them.

    Related commentaries:
    Commemorating Selma
    Dallas effect
    Baltimore to Ferguson
    Killing of Michael Brown
    DOJ: no civil rights charges in Brown case
    Michael Brown no angel

  • Friday, September 23, 2016 at 5:56 AM

    ‘Brangelina’ Divorce: Who or What Will Angie Do Next?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    brad-pitt-angelina-jolie-divorce-announcement-rumors-net-worth-kids-pic-2 screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-10-47-19-am

    Unsurprisingly, news of the end of this celebrity relationship is providing as much fodder for gossip as news of its beginning did.

    Angelina Jolie broke the news to Brad Pitt that she wanted to end their two-year marriage and 12-year romance just days before filing for divorce…

    Though Pitt, 52, was aware that their marriage was in trouble, he was still ‘wrecked’ when Jolie told him of her plans two days before she filed divorce papers, marking irreconcilable differences as the reason for their split, says a source in his circle…

    Pitt, who had been in counseling ‘to try to figure out how to make things better’ for their six kids ‘begged [Jolie] to press pause’ and slow down the proceedings, says the Pitt source – not so that they could reconcile, but so they could move forward in a way that would both protect and prepare the kids for the massive upheaval that was to come.

    (People, September 22, 2016)

    Of course, Jennifer Aniston, the woman left scorned by their affair, can be forgiven her schadenfreude. She’s reportedly gloating that their split constitutes inevitable karma coming home to roost.

    38ad5eab00000578-0-image-m-6_1474529181221But, if quotes attributed to Aniston are true, her long-suffering pining for Pitt remains such that she cannot help casting him as a victim whom the notorious “groom raider” Jolie ensnared.

    Truth be told, however, I find it unseemly when “people” speculate about the irreconcilable differences that cause any couple to split up. This is why I never commented on Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s equally sensational divorce earlier this year.

    Mind you, many actors invite such speculation by marketing their marriages the way they market their movies. Jolie and Pitt are A-listers in both respects. Imagine getting tabloids to shell out millions for pictures of your newborn babies…?

    But, as I couldn’t care less who Angie will do, here is why I’m interested in what she will do.

    Since 2001, Jolie has been the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). During that time, she has visited UNHCR refugee operations in many of the poorest and emphatically unglamorous countries of the world (most notably starved, diseased and war-ravaged places in Africa).

    As an international celebrity, Jolie attracts throngs of media attention everywhere she goes. And this has proved a rather salutary fringe benefit for the UNHCR. Because, even though the refugees she greets are never the focus of media interest, at least their plight receives some heart-wrenching notice from her reflected glow.

    But beyond lending her celebrity status to this worthy cause, Jolie has also donated millions of dollars to UN relief agencies that are working to alleviate the suffering of poor people around the globe. Not since Audrey Hepburn has a bona fide do-gooder looked so damn sexy.

    (“Angelina Jolie: the UN’s Goodwill Never Looked So Good,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 14, 2005)

    In fact, I have chronicled her forays into public service over the years in such commentaries as “Celebrity-Obsessed World Has Made Actors and Rock Stars the Statesmen of Our Time,” May 23, 2005, “To Jolie and Pitt a Child Is Born … to Save Namibia?!” May 30, 2006, and “Latest Hollywood Trend: White Actresses Adopting Black Babies?” March 16, 2012.

    angelina_lara_croft2-620x412Hell, she even turned her concerns about developing breast cancer someday into a goodwill/public-service opportunity. Never mind that the “awareness” she wrought led to thousands of women electing to replace perfectly healthy breasts with perfectly fake ones … like hers.

    I denounced her self-enhancing mammary crusade in “Angelina Jolie’s ‘Heroic Decision’ to Get Breast Implants,” May 16, 2013, and “Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Beware the ‘Angelina Effect’,” October 1, 2015.

    More to the point, though, I suspect Jolie has been rehearsing much of her adult life for the role of Secretary-General of the United States. It’s even arguable that there was method training in the way she assembled her family to resemble a mini UN.

    Indeed, it’s instructive to note that Usain Bolt seems to think his diplomatic mission, as Jamaica’s goodwill ambassador, is to screw a woman in as many different countries as he can. Whereas Jolie seems to think hers is to play shadow general-secretary. Nothing demonstrates this quite like the “coven” of seasoned aides and advisors she’s enlisted to manage her ambassadorial brand.

    Mind you, the Republicans have set the bar so low with their nomination of Donald Trump for president of the United States, Jolie might consider running for this top job; you know, like Kanye plans to (SMH).

    screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-10-45-36-pmAs for Pitt, with Jolie filing for sole custody of their kids, he might have more time now to properly fulfill his goodwill mission.

    You probably know about his charitable foundation, Make It Right. He generated a lot of goodwill when he pledged to build eco-friendly homes in New Orleans for survivors of Hurricane Katrina. His foundation made similar pledges for displaced people in places like Kansas City and Newark.

    What you may not know is that most of those homes remain on the drawing board and many already built are turning out to be houses of cards.

    It’s uncertain if any potential homebuyers would even want the homes built by Make It Right, since the existing houses crafted by the foundation — many of them in Hurricane Katrina-stricken New Orleans — have been described as shoddy and slapdash.

    (Global News, July 28, 2016)

    Clearly, Pitt would do well to … make this right.

    Related commentaries:
    UN goodwill
    Celebrity-obsessed world
    Namibia
    Adopting black babies
    Breast implants
    Breast cancer awareness

  • Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 7:07 AM

    I’m Vindicated! Post Says ‘No Pardon for Edward Snowden’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    131030194121-erin-foreman-wall-nsa-spying-everyone-does-it-00022303-horizontal-large-galleryI’ve been calling for the United States to prosecute Snowden from the day news broke about his NSA theft. Commentaries like “Complaints about NSA Spying Are Schizophrenic … and Misguided,” June 8, 2013, “I Spy, You Spy, We All Spy,” July 2, 2013, and “From Spycraft to Stagecraft, Snowden Debuts as Putin’s Useful Idiot,” April 22, 2014, attest to this.

    Unfortunately, I’ve been suffering the slings and arrows of online trolls since my first commentary damning him to … jail.

    This is why I felt somewhat vindicated last week after Congress released a report damning him as a traitor who should be prosecuted. I duly hailed it in “Congress: Snowden’s a Liar and a Traitor Who Should Never Be Pardoned,” September 16, 2016.

    Alas, Congress has become so utterly bereft of credibility and respect, Snowden’s liberal advocates scoffed at my presumed vindication. One indignant reader even said I should be ashamed for feeling vindicated by a Republican-controlled Congress that seems hell-bent on turning America into a gun-crazy police state; his oxymoronic proposition notwithstanding.

    To be fair, I had already felt somewhat vindicated last year after notable public figures – like former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Microsoft Founder Bill Gatesechoed my call for Snowden to be prosecuted.

    But I finally have just cause to feel entirely vindicated. Because less than 24 hours after Congress released its report, the Washington Post published an equally damning editorial (on September 17).

    160630165319-obama-ottawa-780x439It, of course, is the paper of record for Western liberals; so much so that a liberal scoffing at a Post editorial is akin to an Evangelical scoffing at a Bible verse. Its Editorial Board acknowledged the role Snowden played in reforming the government’s practice of mass electronic surveillance, but insisted that:

    Whether Mr. Snowden deserves a presidential pardon, as human rights organizations are demanding in a new national campaign timed to coincide with the film, is a complicated question, however, to which President Obama’s answer should continue to be ‘no’…

    He also pilfered, and leaked, information about a separate overseas NSA Internet-monitoring program, PRISM, that was both clearly legal and not clearly threatening to privacy… Worse — far worse — he also leaked details of basically defensible international intelligence operations: cooperation with Scandinavian services against Russia; spying on the wife of an Osama bin Laden associate; and certain offensive cyber operations in China.

    Incidentally, the film the Post refers to is an eponymously titled paean to Snowden directed by conspiracy nut Oliver Stone.

    The Board goes on, but you get the idea. I would only add that I’m on record decrying the chilling effect the Snowden-imposed NSA reforms have wrought and the damage his leaks have caused. I refer you to such commentaries as “NSA Reform: From the Frying Pan into the Fire?” June 4, 2015, and “More Evidence Snowden Leaks Undermining Global Security,” June 16, 2015.

    Edward Snowden Speaks Via Video Conference At Launch Of Campaign Calling On Obama To Pardon HimMeanwhile, Snowden’s advocates doggedly refuse to acknowledge the unpardonable hypocrisy inherent in him fleeing to a veritable police state like Russia. They’re the ones who produced his video pleading for Obama to pardon him.

    Except that, in it, Snowden looks like a cross between an ISIS hostage pleading for his life and a cyber thief grappling with consciousness of guilt … and leaker’s remorse. But their self-righteousness is such that the irony of this video, as well as that of his place of refuge, seems completely lost on both Snowden and his advocates.

    As it happens, I warned — in “I Said Putin Would Hand Snowden Over. I Was Wrong,” October 25, 2013 — that Snowden would suffer this fate. Not least because it is the same fate other useful idiots suffered after betraying their country and seeking refuge in Russia. Which is why I was hardly surprised when his initial pleas gave me reason to write “Snowden Wants In from the Cold,” March 4, 2015.

    In any event, the Post’s call for Obama to reject his plea for a presidential pardon means that Snowden will either spend the rest of his life withering away in the cold in Russia or rotting away in jail in America. But I can think of nobody more deserving of such a Hobson’s choice.

    Related commentaries:
    Congress
    We all spy
    Complaints about NSA
    Spycraft to stagecraft
    NSA reform
    Snowden wants in

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2016 at 9:12 AM

    Obama’s UN Farewell

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    _63108676_63108675Obama delivers his final address to the UN General Assembly today. Unfortunately, his recitation of achievements during his tenure as leader of the Free World will be undermined by the persistence of too many crises that have defied, even made a mockery of his leadership.

    Those crises include the menace of North Korean nukes, the intensification of sectarian conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the de facto world war brewing in Syria, the Muslim and African migration now threatening to blow Europe asunder, to say nothing of Brexit, and the Putinization of Russia and its “near abroad.”

    Hell, given the way Iran is menacing U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf and abetting genocide in Syria, even Obama’s signature nuclear deal compels one to wonder whether it was worth the price.

    Therefore, I suspect delegates will show even less interest in his address than I might in a pastor’s homily on the virtues of abstinence.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been dismissing the feckless talking shop these UN gatherings have become for nearly a decade – as such commentaries as “World Leaders Blow Hot Air as UN Confab…,” September 26, 2007, attest. Alas, plus ca change….

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, September 20, 2016 at 8:24 AM

    WTF! Obama Says It Would Be a ‘Personal Insult’ If Blacks Don’t Vote for Hillary…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    19campaign-master768Evidently, even President Obama has become afflicted with Trumpitis.

    For only this explains the conceited and crass clarion call he issued to blacks on Saturday night. The occasion was a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation gala in Washington, DC.

    With Democratic leaders increasingly worried about a lack of passion for Hillary Clinton among young black voters, President Obama is rolling out a new and more personal campaign message: ‘It’s about me.’

    The president told African-Americans this weekend he would consider it a ‘personal insult’ if they did not vote for Mrs. Clinton, implicitly putting his name on the line as his former secretary of state struggles to replicate the coalition that delivered him victories in 2008 and 2012.

    (New York Times, September 18, 2016)

    When I first saw Obama saying this, my visceral offense was tempered by the thought that he was caught up in the emotion of the moment, and simply misspoke. But then I received an e-mail from him yesterday not only repeating it but asking me to donate to Hillary’s campaign. I suspect every registered black voter received the same.

    Frankly, this reeks of Trumpian arrogance; you know, the arrogance that makes Donald Trump feel entitled to say he can kill someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters would still vote for him. Except that the arrogance Obama is displaying is even more galling.

    After all, he so takes black voters for granted that he feels entitled to assign to Hillary the passion they have for him. Can you imagine Bernie Sanders feeling so entitled that he could pimp off his supporters to her…?

    Apropos of galling, Obama is issuing this perversely self-interested call to blacks who are mostly worse off today – by almost every socio-economic metric – than when he took office nearly eight years ago. This is plainly manifest in daily headlines about the scourge of drugs and gun violence (black on black and blue on black), in the midst of chronic poverty, in black communities across the country. And too often innocent black kids, trying to get an education in sub-standard schools, are the ones ensnared by drugs or caught in the crossfire. I lamented this cursed fate with respect to ‘Chiraq” in “Tayshawn Lee: Excuse Me, but Which Black Lives Matter,” November 5, 2015.

    To be fair, blacks like talk-show host Tavis Smiley and Professor Cornel West have been lamenting trends in this respect since the third year of his presidency. But their lamentations have been laced with too much personal resentment to resonate in the minds of Obama-loving black folks. I wrote about this in “Professor Cornel West’s Racist Psychobabble about President Obama,” June 1, 2011.

    910obamaSure enough, most blacks are reacting to this clarion call as if Obama were a messiah resurrecting them, Lazarus-like, from the dead. No less a black leader than Reverend Al Sharpton hailed it on Sunday morning as the “shot in the arm” Hillary’s campaign needs to show signs of life.

    But I find it a personal insult – as patronizing as it is gratuitous. And I’m actually more interested in protecting Obama’s legacy than in electing Hillary.

    In fact, my support for Obama dates back to 2006, when johnnies-come-lately like Sharpton were supporting Hillary and dismissing him as an uppity Negro. Back then I was the one issuing a clarion call to blacks in such commentaries as “It’s TIME: Run Obama, Run! October 24, 2006, and “BET Founder Executes Black-on-Black Hit [on Obama] for Hillary,” January 15, 2008.

    More importantly, it’s worth noting that blacks compose only 12 percent of the electorate, whites 69. Therefore, just as Obama needed many more whites than blacks to win his elections, he needs many more of them to protect his legacy.

    But can you imagine Obama issuing this clarion call to whites at a celebrity gala in Hollywood…? He wouldn’t dare. He respects them too much….

    Meanwhile, it’s patently obvious that white voters are the ones who need a shot in the arm to support Hillary. Which is why it would make more sense if Bill Clinton were issuing this clarion call to working class whites in swing states.

    In fact, whites are even more indispensable to securing Hillary’s election than blacks are to protecting Obama’s legacy. Not to mention that, if Hillary garners the same percentage of the white and black vote Bill garnered in 1996 (44 and 84 percent, respectively), she would win this election handily.

    In any event, it’s foolhardy for Obama to stake his legacy on Hillary’s election. Moreover, it’s wrong for him to cheapen black loyalty to him by insinuating that it would mean nothing unless blacks support her.

    I would be remiss, however, to end this rebuke without acknowledging the culpability of white Republicans. After all, their defiant, if not racist, determination to make Obama a failed president had a lot to do with his presidency falling far short of its hopes and promises for black Americans. But this hardly entitles him to treat their loyalty as his fungible currency.

    Accordingly, I urge him to cease and desist with this “it’s-about-me” clarion call forthwith.

    Related commentaries:
    Chiraq: Tayshawn Lee
    Run Obama run
    Prof West psychobabble
    Black-on-black hit
    Birther and opportunistic black politicians

  • Monday, September 19, 2016 at 7:37 AM

    Alas, Peasant Protests No Germination of ‘Chinese Spring’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-10-16-17-pmActually, peasant protests in China are no more a portent of political revolution than worker strikes in America are.

    Chinese police fired rubber bullets at villagers and arrested 13 people on Tuesday in an overnight crackdown to suppress demonstrations in a southern fishing village that became internationally known five years ago for protesting land seizures. Police stormed into the village of Wukan in the southern province of Guangdong and arrested leaders of ongoing demonstrations in their homes.

    ‘The whole of Wukan village is under siege from police,’ one female resident, who declined to give her name, told the Guardian.

    (London Guardian, September 13, 2016)

    The media reported this protest and crackdown as breaking news. Except that similar protests have been erupting every day for decades – not just in Wukan but in villages across China.

    In fact, a similar protest and much deadlier crackdown in Dongzhou eleven years ago moved me to write “Gap Between Rich and Poor in China Is Sowing Seeds of Resentment and Terminal Unrest,” December 22, 2005. Here is an excerpt.

    __________________

    The irony is that the great proletarian revolution Karl Marx predicted for capitalist societies is brewing in communist China. Specifically, urban sprawl is supplanting rural areas and further alienating poor farmers (who have seen only hardship from this economic boom). These simmering tensions between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ will inevitably cause China to implode.

    15_china3_glImages depicting village riots, which are erupting all over China, must be taken surreptitiously. Because, even though they allow more freedom of commerce these days, Chinese leaders still forbid freedom of the press.

    Yet one can get a sense of these simmering tensions from reports by China’s own ministry of propaganda. For it confirmed earlier this year that the ‘number of riots has risen sharply in China, reaching more than 70,000 in 2004 and developing into a major concern for the government.’

    _________________

    Frankly, the only thing that has changed since then is that social media have enabled protesters to share their perennial plight in more vivid and moving color … and in real time.

    360_china_protest_0221Still, my hope for democratic change in China remained such that I harbored delusions of a Chinese Spring doing across China what the Arab Spring was doing across the Middle East.

    As everyone from Mubarak to Gaddafi found out, once people overcome the fear of oppression, it’s only a matter of time before they are willing to kill (or die) for their freedom.

    Of course, the sheer number of disenfranchised and dispossessed people affected makes it prohibitive even for the amoral Communist Party to emulate either the Syrian regime by crushing them militarily or the Saudi regime by placating them financially.

    This means that, instead of the mass non-violent democracy protest that was so easily crushed in 1989, Tiananmen Square 2.0 is bound to be a bona fide, bloody revolution. Which makes the allusion to Jasmine seem like a macabre joke….

    (“Jasmine Revolution Simmering in China,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 19, 2012)

    But it turns out that, unlike the Tiananmen protesters, these peasant protesters are not yearning for democratic freedoms. They just want land rights, cleaner air, and, ironically, less of the corrupt governance that has attended introduction of Western-style capitalism throughout their villages.

    I failed to appreciate this; the media failed to report it.

    8858900120_3a9985933d_o_copyWhich is why, despite protests rising to as many as 200,000 a year (or over 500 every day), reports about them portending doom for Communist Party rule are greatly exaggerated.

    China is clearly exploiting the tenets of capitalism that give rise to the wealth of nations. But it is retaining its totalitarian form of government, which controls the means of production. This makes Chinese-style capitalism formidably barren when it comes to the seeds of destruction Marx warned about.

    In any event, like its democracy protesters, China’s peasant protesters are unlikely to ever get what they want. The only silver lining is that more of them are surviving their protests.

    Related commentaries:
    Gap between rich and poor
    Jasmine revolution

  • Saturday, September 17, 2016 at 8:39 AM

    Opportunistic Black Politicians Denounce Trump’s Self-Aggrandizing Birther Admission

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-11-07-13-am

    Members of the Congressional Black Caucus fiercely criticized the way Donald Trump delivered his brief admission Friday that President Barack Obama was born in the United States, saying it was insufficient and demanding an apology for Trump’s years-long push of ‘birther’ claims.

    ‘This is a disgusting day,’ said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat from North Carolina and chair of the CBC … ‘Trump is a disgusting fraud.’

    One by one, members tore into Trump, calling him an array of names including ‘hater,’ ‘bigot’ and ‘racial arsonist.’

    (CNN, September 16, 2016)

    congressional-black-caucusNo doubt what most members find so galling and appalling is that Trump’s three-sentence, thirty-second admission contained two brazen lies:

    1. He blamed Hillary for birtherism, which is like Adolf Hitler blaming Franklin Roosevelt for Nazism.
    2. He sought praise for finally admitting what has always been true, which is like Lance Armstrong seeking praise for finally admitting that the people he destroyed to protect his doping lies were actually telling the truth.

    500xBut every American should be outraged by the way this warmongering draft dodger used war veterans as props to make his weak admission look strong. Not to mention the outrageous way he staged this admission at his new DC hotel and used the press to promote it, but refused to answer a single question – like, Why now, Mr. Trump?

    All the same, these black politicians are no more worthy of praise for finally denouncing Trump than Trump is for finally admitting the truth. After all, some of us were denouncing Trump in even more meaningful ways over five years ago.

    Here, for example, is what I wrote in “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker,” April 8, 2011.

    ____________________

    We all knew that Trump was a self-aggrandizing buffoon. But he has now exposed himself as a self-deluding racist as well.

    This is why I urge the rich folks he depends on to patronize his eponymous resorts and buy up his eponymous condominiums to begin shunning him – just as they would a half-baked racist like David Duke. I urge this especially of the Black Hollywood and sports stars he likes to feature as extras in his one-man freak show.

    Trump is entitled to say whatever he likes. But, at the very least, he should suffer truth and consequences for accusing this country’s first black president of being a Kenyan Muslim who has perpetrated ‘the biggest con in U.S. history.’

    ____________________

    Hence, instead of hurling feckless insults at Trump, members of the Congressional Black Caucus would be far more worthy of praise if they launched a coordinated campaign with Latinos, Muslims and white progressive to boycott every business that bears his name.

    In other words, dare people to cross picket lines protesting racism, xenophobia, and misogyny to line this huckster’s pockets with their money. I doubt any self-respecting person would … and fewer people would attend his racist rallies, which masquerade as campaign events.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump for president

  • Saturday, September 17, 2016 at 7:27 AM

    Exploding Smartphones Sending a Message…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Alas, like Wile E. Coyote, most users will never get it.

    screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-9-15-40-pm

    Samsung voluntarily recalled the models after a spate of serious malfunctions, but the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has now demanded the return of the potentially dangerous devices.

    According to Samsung, the problem affects 2.5 million phones globally, including one million in the US.

    (Sky News, September 16, 2016)

  • Friday, September 16, 2016 at 8:16 AM

    Congress: Snowden’s a Liar and a Traitor Who Should Never Be Pardoned

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Edward Snowden made news this week with a plea for a presidential pardon that was as arrogant as it was pitiful.

    I have taken a lot of flak over the years for repeatedly denouncing him. Here are excerpts from just three of the commentaries I’ve written in this regard.

    __________________

    • 16nsa-master768From “Complaints about NSA Spying Are Schizophrenic…and Misguided,” June 14, 2013

    Edward Snowden strikes me as little more than a narcissistic, egotistical, publicity-seeking idiot who is to national intelligence what Kim Kardashian is to media celebrity.

    What’s more, he seems every bit the media whore she is, and is probably hoping that his NSA leaks will make him even more famous than her sex tape made her.

    Not to mention the idiocy inherent in Snowden seeking political asylum in China to protest a lack of government transparency in the United States. At least the spies who betrayed their country during the Cold War had a reasonable expectation that a political and ideological Shangri-La awaited them in the Soviet Union…

    All of which is why this NSA story is really all about the leaker, not his leaks. And with their hysterical and overblown coverage, the media are willingly, willfully, and wantonly making him into an international cause celebre who, in his deluded mind, has the two most powerful nations in the world fighting over him. Indeed, Snowden probably finds being in this hot seat positively ecstatic, if not priapic….

    • screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-10-36-15-pmFrom “Ignorance Prevails re NSA Spying and Snowden Leaking,” June 14, 2013

    Americans complaining about the government spying on them is rather like Kim Kardashian complaining about the paparazzi taking pictures of her…

    In this Information Age, tech companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, and WikiLeaks are masters of the universe. But they have created a schizophrenic human species — whose members share everything about everything, yet claim to be zealous about their privacy.

    Only this explains the growing national outrage over the government’s National Security Agency (NSA) monitoring their promiscuous and indiscriminate digital footprints. But there’s no explaining why these nincompoops think it’s okay for tech companies to spy on them to sell them stuff, but not okay for the NSA to do so to keep them safe.

    Not to mention how they blithely give up truly sensitive personal information for the convenience of buying stuff with credit cards. After all, records collected from such transactions make the generic phone records the NSA collects seem even less intrusive than a traffic cop’s speed gun.

    But all we need is for terrorists to pull off another 9/11. For the same people venting outrage about government surveillance today will be venting even greater outrage over the government’s failure to monitor the footprints of those terrorists (i.e., connecting the dots).

    • And from “Judge’s Ruling on NSA Spying…,” December 18, 2013

    I too would be championing Snowden’s professed cause if he had taken his treasure trove of NSA secrets to a reputable newspaper, like the New York Times or Washington Post, instead of entrusting it to a news hustler like the then-obscure lawyer/journalist/blogger Greenwald.

    Recall that Snowden initially claimed his only mission was to inform the American people about the NSA’s surveillance activities. Well, with apologies to George W. Bush, he had just cause to declare, ‘Mission Accomplished,’ six months ago.

    Moreover, rather than fleeing like a fugitive, Snowden could have become a confidential informant (like a latter-day Deep Throat), continued on with his seemingly idyllic life in Hawaii, and left it to his newspaper of choice to expose all of the secrets that are fit to print … in a manner that does not compromise national security.

    Instead, this narcissistic, self-righteous, naive and self-appointed arbiter — not only of what metadata the government can collect, but also of what documents it can classify as top secret — conspired with Greenwald to make his face every bit as famous as his leaks. In the process he wittingly (or unwittingly) handed the ‘NSA’s crown jewels’ over to America’s two most-formidable adversaries, China and Russia, on a silver platter. No Chinese or Russian spy could ever have achieved such a feat – even in his wildest dream.

    __________________

    Well, here’s to official vindication. It takes the form of a 36-page report by the House Intelligence Committee, which summarizes years of congressional investigations into the nature and effect of Snowden’s leaks.

    Evidently, Snowden’s plea compelled the members of that committee to send President Obama a unanimously signed letter urging him not to pardon Snowden:

    ‘We urge you not to pardon Edward Snowden, who perpetrated the largest and most damaging public disclosure of classified information in our nation’s history,’ the bipartisan letter said.

    Mr. Snowden is a ‘serial exaggerator and fabricator,’ who is ‘not a whistle-blower’…

    ‘Snowden caused tremendous damage to national security, and the vast majority of the documents he stole have nothing to do with programs impacting individual privacy interests — they instead pertain to military, defense and intelligence programs of great interest to America’s adversaries,’ the report said.

    (New York Times, September 15, 2016)

    I rest my case.

    Related commentaries:
    Snowden leaks undermining global security

  • Thursday, September 15, 2016 at 5:26 AM

    It Should Be Treason for US Media to Abet Russian Hackers

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Don’t get me started on their blithe hypocrisy in reporting on Hillary’s e-mails…

    What do you think FOX News, the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian, and other news organizations would do if Assange were leaking hacked e-mails of their anchors and reporters – purportedly to expose bias in the media? The obvious answer only hints at why my disgust with the news media compelled me to write commentaries like “Journalism Is ‘Having a Very, Very Pathetic Moment,’” November 13, 2013.

    Most importantly, though, few news organizations are bothering to report on the damaging nature of Assange’s leaks. And none of them appear to have any qualms about facilitating his cyber crimes, which serve no compelling public interest and are devoid of any socially redeeming value.

    (“Hey Media, Wikileaker Assange Is Still a Self-Promoting, Bail-Jumping Rape Suspect!” The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2016)

    It’s bad enough that useful idiots like Edward Snowden and Donald Trump are helping Russia’s neo-Stalinist leader, Vladimir Putin, propagate propaganda about the United States. But it portends national self-destruction that news organizations are helping him sow dismay, discord, and distrust in the country as well. Specifically, they are helping Putin’s cyber spies violate the privacy of ordinary citizens and public officials alike.

    screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-9-09-55-pm

    With respect to hacking ordinary citizens, news organizations are broadcasting hacked details of exemptions Simone Biles, Venus Williams, and her sister Serena obtained from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to take banned substances. This, notwithstanding that the substances at issue treat medical conditions, but do not enhance athletic performances.

    And don’t get me started on the utterly contemptible attempt by a wannabe superpower like Russia to demean and discredit these clean, hardworking and universally acclaimed athletes … who just happen to be black.

    Russian hackers — possibly the same group that compromised the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers — have made top American athletes their latest target.

    Joining an intercontinental dispute over sports doping, the hackers penetrated the World Anti-Doping Agency’s athlete database and publicly revealed private medical information about three of the United States’ most famous athletes: Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Simone Biles.

    (New York Times, September 13, 2016)

    What’s more, news organizations are doing this willfully. After all, they know full well that the Russians are only trying to propagate the false narrative that Western governments are no different from Russia’s when it comes to state-sponsored doping. But don’t get me started on Russia launching this utterly contemptible black-ops by targeting these three American athletes … who just happen to be black.

    Incidentally, this state-sponsored hacking of anti-doping agencies vindicates the call I made nearly a year ago to ban Russia from hosting any international event:

    WADA should enlist the governing bodies of all major sports to ban Russia from hosting any sanctioned competition, so long as Putin remains in power. Because, no matter their representations, officials in Putin’s Russia will never implement the reforms WADA deems are necessary to eradicate this systemic doping.

    (“In Putin’s Russia Even Athletics Is a Criminal (Doping) Enterprise,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 9, 2015)

    Significantly, this ban would preclude Russia from hosting the 2018 World Cup, which Putin is surely banking on using as an even bigger embezzlement and propaganda showpiece than his $50-billion 2014 Sochi Olympics turned out to be.

    la-1473880947-snap-photoWith respect to hacking public officials, new organizations are broadcasting details of hacked e-mails from the account of former Secretary of State Colin Powell. No doubt the Russians are hoping this causes the most damage.

    Powell has long been one of the high priests of the Washington establishment, staying quiet in this year’s raucous presidential campaign while tending to his reputation as a thoughtful officer and diplomat.

    But a hack of Mr. Powell’s email this week has ripped away the diplomatic jargon and political niceties to reveal his unvarnished disdain of Donald J. Trump as a ‘national disgrace,’ his personal peeves with Hillary Clinton and his lingering, but still very raw, anger with the Republican colleagues with whom he so often clashed a decade ago.

    (New York Times, September 14, 2016)

    In this case, news anchors are going so far as to perform dramatic readings of Powell’s private emails. Never mind that those e-mails contain nothing more than the kind of garden-variety bitching and gossip we all share, but would be mortified to have read on air as “breaking news.”

    Mind you, every anchor prefaces this reading by hailing Powell’s impeccable reputation … before trashing it as nothing more than political fodder. They clearly couldn’t care any less about the damage they’re doing to his political relationships and influence.

    screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-9-15-13-pmYellow journalism is as old as the republic itself. But when they codified the freedom of the press, the Founding Fathers could not have imagined American journalists blithely helping Russian spies — to not only undermine American democracy but also besmirch the reputation of American citizens.

    You can bet the NSA and CIA are retaliating. But not having Russian journalists do the bidding of American spies gives Russian spies a considerable advantage.

    Hence it behooves Congress to enact legislation banning news organizations from broadcasting hacked information and e-mails – unless they can identify the original source AND the leaked items serve a compelling public interest (i.e., not just ratings-generating prurient interests).

    While at it, Congress should enact a similar ban on news organizations turning losers who perpetrate mass shootings and other acts of terrorism into rock stars. I’ve been arguing for nearly a decade – in commentaries like “Massacre in Omaha,” December 7, 2007 – that such media coverage only incentivizes other losers to perpetrate similar acts. Turning hacked e-mails into soap-opera scripts provides an equally perverse incentive.

    The government has no greater duty than to keep the American people safe from harm. This obtains whether that harm is posed in cyberspace or physical space.

    Therefore, join me in calling on Congress to act pursuant to this most compelling national interest.

    Related commentaries:
    Snowden
    Wikileaker Assange
    Massacre in Omaha
    Russia state-sanctioned doping
    Putin turns Sochi

  • Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 2:37 PM

    Hillary and Trump Should Have a Military Doctor Perform Physicals

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-2-33-59-pmIf the health of these presidential candidates is so important, each of them should submit to a full physical examination by a military doctor selected from the active-duty physicians who serve in the White House Medical Unit. After all, these physicians will be responsible for providing health services to the new president (and her family).

    That same doctor should do both exams, have access to their medical records, and hold a press conference to report on and answer questions about their results.

    All else is folly.

    screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-2-43-49-pmDonald Trump showed this today by not only disclosing that his already discredited Dr. Feelgood performed his exam, but also revealing the results on the Dr. Oz reality-TV show.

    Harold N. Bornstein is the real name of Trump’s dubious doctor. Perhaps you recall the typo-ridden note in which he declared Trump the fittest presidential candidate in U.S. history. Trump, clearly no less delusional, promptly released it to the media, presuming it would excuse him from having to disclose his medical records.

    Sadly, Telepromter Don knows he can rely on cable networks to cover his antics as breaking news – no matter how patently absurd. And CNN played its enabling role today like his media puppet – complete with post-show interviews with Trump supporters gushing about how impressed they were by the purported results of his physical examination.

    I would be remiss not to note that the Trump phenomenon says far more about stupid Americans, and the ratings-driven news media that cater to them, than it does about him.

    But I’ve already written too many commentaries delineating and decrying this pathetic state of public affairs, including “Evangelicals Supporting Donald Trump like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016. The media spectacle his health has become is only the latest episode….

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 8:41 AM

    Polls Show Americans Are Too Stupid to Poll on Any Critical Issue

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’ve been lamenting prevailing ignorance among Americans for years — as my commentary “On Syria (and almost Every Other Issue) the American People Are Insolent, Ignorant Idiots,” September 10, 2013, attests.

    Their ignorance is such, in fact, that polling them on political issues is like polling athletes on medical ones. Only this clearly explains the phenomenon of Donald Trump – who is nothing more than a narcissistic huckster exploiting the P.T. Barnum maxim about fecund suckers.

    This is why I could have predicted the findings of “A Survey on Global Literacy,” which the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and National Geographic commissioned. They set out to determine “What College-Aged Students Know About the World” and copublished their findings in the September 2016 issue of the CFR newsletter.

    screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-8-23-39-am

    Here is the “shocking” highlight:

    Respondents exhibited limited knowledge of issues critical to the United States. Only 28 percent of respondents knew that the United States is bound by treaty to protect Japan if it is attacked; just 34 percent knew this about South Korea.

    Meanwhile, only 30 percent knew that the constitutional authority to declare war rests in the legislative branch of the U.S. government.

    Mind you, with all due respect to the CFR and National Geographic, Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” surveys found long ago that far too many college students can’t even name the three branches of government, or recognize the vice president of the United States.

    screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-8-55-40-amBut my dismay in this respect was never more acute than in the years following America’s 2003 invasion of  Iraq. Because polls routinely showed, on the one hand, that Americans were gung-ho in their support, while on the other hand, that most of them could not even locate Iraq on a map.

    Not to mention that they were brazenly clueless about the irresolvable conflict between Sunnis and Shias for the soul of Islam, which made invading Iraq a patent march of folly.

    In any event, I welcome the authoritative light the CFR and National Geographic are now shedding on this national disgrace. More to the point, I urge you to bear their findings in mind the next time you hear politicians invoking the will of the American people, or pundits citing opinion polls to advance their arguments.

    For the record, I took the 10-question survey, and scored 100 percent. Go to www.cfr.org to test your (basic) knowledge … if you dare.

    Related commentaries:
    On Syria
    Ignore the polls

  • Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 6:37 AM

    ‘Underground Airlines’ Is White Privilege Appropriating Black Slavery for Entertainment

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Fiction doesn’t interest me at all. I haven’t read a novel since Lorna Doone.

    I meant to read Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea when it came out, but I didn’t… I’m not interested in being diverted from my own life.

    That was Andy Rooney, America’s most lovable and quotable curmudgeon, from his commentaries, Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit (2009). His point, which he often reiterated on 60 Minutes, was that fiction could never compete with real life when it comes to genres like mystery, horror, satire, romance, science, and history.

    920x920-2Which brings me to Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters.

    [It] is an alternate-history novel with a terrifying conceit at its heart. The book is set in a country that largely resembles the contemporary United States. There are references to CNN, search engines, Starbucks and UPS, but there is one significant difference: In Winters’s novel, slavery is still legal in a quartet of Southern states.

    (Washington Post, July 1, 2016)

    This book revolves around the psychotic, naval-gazing blather of its narrator and protagonist. He is a black fugitive slave hunter who is coping with the angst, hypocrisy, and betrayal inherent in returning runaway slaves to their masters.

    I submit, however, that a book that revolves around the mercenary, self-aggrandizing sermons of Mark Burns would be far more interesting. He, of course, is the black Republican preacher who is coping with the angst, hypocrisy, and betrayal inherent in capturing black voters (or “souls”) for the demonstrably racist Donald Trump. And this is “real life.”

    Nonetheless, if you’re really into being entertained by the black struggle to survive slavery and overcome its legacy of racial oppression, I suggest you visit the new Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. It officially opens on September 24, and I guarantee you’ll be entertained as well as educated by the displays.

    2016ak11_221

    Frankly, Underground Airlines, which takes such crude license with its “re-imaginings,” especially of black culture, has nothing on the real history of black America.

    I should disclose here that a terrific friend gave me this book recently. It is noteworthy that she shares my progressive politics … and happens to be white. That she thought I would find it an interesting read compelled this public commentary.

    As it happens, I lost interest in alternate/counterfactual books decades ago, after reading a number of what-if novels (e.g., there seemed to be a cottage industry back then re-imagining what if the Nazis had won).

    In fact, like Rooney, I believe it is self-evident that truth is not only stranger but more interesting than fiction…. Surely this year’s U.S. presidential campaign is Exhibit A in this respect. After all, it has been replete with developments, antics, and gaffes that are more the stuff of political lampoons.

    Truth be told, I find nothing entertaining about re-imagining what if slavery were never abolished in the “hard four” states, and Jim Crow remained in effect in the others. And it would make no difference if the author of this counterfactual sojourn were black instead of white….

    What might be entertaining is re-imagining what if blacks did to whites what whites have done to blacks – in almost any historical context. Re-imagine, for example, seafaring Africans enslaving Europeans, developing a United States of Africa (which is every bit the superpower America is today), and leaving Europe to develop into the partitioned and balkanized mess Africa has become.

    You probably know that a number of books have re-imagined some version of this alternate history (e.g., Lion’s Blood, Blond Roots, even Kindred – with its time travel motif). But none of them has been as critically acclaimed as Underground Airlines.

    Incidentally, do not confuse this book with Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, which is based on the all too real “inhumanity” of slavery….

    But am I the only one who thinks all of these fictional allusions to and bastardization of the Underground Railroad must have Harriet Tubman rolling over in her grave?

    NOTE: The person who gave me this book is still a terrific friend.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Sunday, September 11, 2016 at 7:23 AM

    9/11: It’s Been 15 years. Time to Move On

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-22-38-pm

    I applaud NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg for decreeing this week that henceforth the area where the twin towers were destroyed shall no longer be called ‘Ground Zero,’ but shall revert back to its original name, The World Trade Center.

    But, in addition to this, I urge him to decree that henceforth the city shall no longer mark this day, every year, by wallowing in the plainly contrived ceremony of reading all of the names of those who perished on 9/11…

    Instead, families directly affected should be left alone to grieve in their own way. But I suspect many of them moved on with their lives long ago and will feel no need to do so.

    This 10th anniversary seems a good time for the rest of the country to move on too…

    (“Time to Move On,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 11, 2011)

    Frankly, nothing vindicates my title quite like Walmart using this year’s 9/11 commemorations to promote soft drinks; you know, the way Chrysler uses dead Presidents’ Day to promote ram trucks.

    screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-8-14-57-pm

  • Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 8:13 AM

    Hail to the Chief: Obama Halts North Dakota Pipeline on Native Lands

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    10pipeline1-master768

    Over the past few weeks, thousands of Native Americans from 200 tribes across the country traveled to North Dakota to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux as human shields. They were determined to prevent bulldozers from excavating near tribal lands for passage of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline, which they feared would not only damage ancestral cultural sites but also endanger drinking water.

    But the governor seemed no less determined to ensure the Dakota Access; so much so that he dispatched the National Guard to help local police remove the Native Americans – by force if necessary.

    Sure enough, the local sheriff telegraphed ominous signs of things to come. He had his police sic dogs on these Native Americans last weekend, aping the infamous way Birmingham Commissioner Bull Connor had his police sic dogs on blacks civil rights marchers in 1963.

    Evidently, this governor clearly couldn’t care less about the shameful and untenable comparisons to the infamous “Trail of Tears” this removal would have triggered.

    s4daplprotestBut these Native Americans telegraphed ominous signs of their own. They made clear that they’d rather fight and shed blood than flee and shed tears, making comparisons to the Battle of Bighorn more apropos.

    Luckily, for both sides, when high noon on the prairie fields was at hand, President Obama intervened. He ordered all federal agencies involved in the pipeline to bring construction to a halt.

    The federal government on Friday temporarily blocked construction on part of a North Dakota oil pipeline, an unusual intervention in a prairie battle that has drawn thousands of Native Americans and activists to camp and demonstrate…

    The Justice Department and other agencies called for ‘serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.’

    The tribe in a statement called the federal order ‘a game changer.’

    (New York Times, September 9, 2016)

    20110921-keystone-xl-pipeline-protestTrust me, given the cause celebre this pipeline has become, it will not be built as planned … so long as Obama is president. After all, his administration has been so loath to approve the more infamous XL Keystone pipeline because doing so would betray his celebrated campaign promise to “be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil.”

    When fully connected to existing lines, the 1,100-mile (1,770 km) Dakota Access pipeline would be the first to carry crude oil from the Bakken shale, a vast oil formation in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada, directly to the U.S. Gulf.

    It would carry oil from just north of land owned by the tribe to Illinois, where it would connect with an existing pipeline.

    (Reuters, September 9, 2016)

    But the money at stake is such that the coalition of oil barons and labor leaders will get it done. This might mean digging a semi-roundabout to avoid the tribal lands at issue, or waiting for a more business-friendly Hillary Clinton (or Donald Trump) to give the go ahead (on this and the XL) … come what may.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 7:13 AM

    Alas, Syrian Peace Plan No. 44 Will Fare No Better…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have already explained why no peace is at hand in such commentaries as “U.S. and Russia Strike Deal to Avert U.S. Bombing Syria … for Now,” September 16, 2013, “Bombing ISIS Smacks of Masturbatory Violence,” November 18, 2015, and “Putin’s Bush-lite Declaration of Mission Accomplished in Syria,” May 19, 2016.

    Yet here they go again, like a husband assuring his battered wife that the beating will stop:

    The US and Russia announced on Friday that they had agreed to impose a ceasefire in Syria and, should it hold, to coordinate military operations against terrorist groups in the country.

    The agreement was reached after marathon talks in Geneva led by [John Kerry, the US secretary of state] and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and announced in a joint news conference.

    Mr Kerry said the truce would begin on Monday, to coincide with the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr, and that he hoped it would lead to talks to ultimately ‘end the conflict’.

    (London Telegraph, September 9, 2016)

    Yeah, good luck with that.

    20160910_wwd000

    Related commentaries:
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  • Friday, September 9, 2016 at 6:53 AM

    Groundhog Day: North Korea Tests Nukes. World Explodes with Outrage … Time and Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 8.35.35 AM

    North Korea is commanding world attention again, after testing another nuclear bomb earlier today. Duly spooked, leaders from China to America are reacting like alarmed parents chastising an unruly child for playing with fire, for the umpteenth time.

    South Korean President Park Geun-hye called it an act of ‘self-destruction’ showing the ‘maniacal recklessness’ of leader Kim Jong-un. The US warned of ‘serious consequences’.

    China’s foreign ministry said Beijing was resolutely opposed to the test and urged North Korea to avoid further action that would worsen the situation.

    (BBC, September 9, 2016)

    The Groundhog Day reference in my title refers to the fact that these leaders have been reacting with similar alarm to similar tests for years, most recently in January. They invariably impose sanctions, which North Korea invariably accepts as more reward than punishment.

    And so the kabuki nuclear dance begins again – complete with world leaders denouncing Jong-un as insane. But Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Therefore, those calling Jong-un insane would do well to look in the mirror.

    In any event, commensurate with the Groundhog Day nature of this “international nuclear crisis,” I shall suffice to reprise “North Korea Craving Attention Dennis Rodman Can’t Give,” September 19, 2013. It is as relevant today as it was back then.

    __________________

    North Korean President Kim Jong-Il is a temperamental and insecure man. Only this explains his habit of making nuclear threats from time to time. Whenever he does, he commands the international attention he craves so pathologically and extorts the aid his people need so desperately…

    When it comes to psychological warfare, this North Korean gnome is one Chicken Little who manages to jerk the world’s chain every time. Indeed, true to form, statements of concern from world leaders about what Jong-Il might do followed his antic declaration with Pavlovian predictability. But one wonders why — given his record of idle threats — world leaders even give him the time of day?!

    (“Why do World Leaders Give North Korea’s President Time of Day,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 4, 2006)

    nk3Evidently, like father, like son; because Kim Jong-un is now doing the same thing … for the same reasons. Specifically, with the international media now obsessed with goings on in Syria, and with a state visit by the American clown Dennis Rodman not generating the kind of attention he craved, Jong-un has resorted to this:

    Steam has been seen rising from North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear facility, suggesting that the reactor has been restarted.

    (BBC, September 12, 2013)

    This, of course, is the nuclear reactor his father agreed to shut down in 2007 with considerable fanfare as part of a disarmament-for-aid deal.  Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that, given the economic straits his country is in (again), Jong-un is playing the nuclear card to incite fear and extort more concessions:

    His perverse calculation is that a successful launch [or, in this case, producing more plutonium to make nuclear weapons] will give him a much stronger hand to extort (with threats to attack South Korea or sell nukes to terrorists) tons more money and food when he returns to the negotiating table for patently disingenuous talks about dismantling his nuclear program. And, past being prologue, he’s right.

    (“North Korea Commanding World Attention … Again,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 13, 2012)

    images-1That said, it’s noteworthy not only that President Obama seems less inclined than his predecessors to cave in to these patented threats, but also that Jung-un seems less inclined than his predecessors to open fire on South Korea to give credence to them.

    Whatever the case, here is what I proposed, in “North Korea to The World: Nuke Off!” December 13, 2012, as the only sensible way to deal with this little unruly nation:

    Obama should convene a coalition of the willing among Asia-Pacific countries (APEC) to forge agreement on the following resolution, which, significantly, would not be subject to a UN-style veto by any country (namely, China or Russia):

    APEC

    • Recognizing that the United Nations is unable or unwilling to stop North Korea from violating its resolutions (most notably, res. 1718 against conducting nuclear tests or launching ballistic missiles) with impunity;
    • Finding that these violations pose an untenable threat to the Asia-Pacific region;

    Resolves that:

    1. Instead of continuing the feckless practice of bribing North Korea with cash, oil and food to get it to stop these violations, APEC shall henceforth impose the severest possible sanctions, unilaterally;
    2. If, either as a result of misfire or deliberate intent, any of North Korea’s missiles even threatens any APEC country, the United States shall lead the bombardment of all of its nuclear and missile facilities until they are incapable of even setting off firecrackers, let alone launching nuclear missiles.

    All else is folly….

    __________________

    So, until the next dance….

    Related commentaries:
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    NK commanding attention
    NK craving attention

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