The iPINIONS Journal


  • Sunday, November 11, 2018 at 8:52 AM

    In Observance of Veterans Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A colleague astonished me yesterday when she asked, “What’s the deal with that red flower?” Specifically, she wanted to know why Prince William, Kate Middleton, and so many other Brits are wearing a poppy on their lapels these days.

    For me, though, this was rather like a colleague asking, “What’s the deal with that pink ribbon?” You know, the one people wear throughout the month of October.

    For the edification of those of you who have no clue, people wear the poppy from late October to early November (primarily) to remember those who died in WWI. The peace treaty to end this war was reportedly signed at 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

    That’s why 11:11 is generally observed as Remembrance Day (or Armistice Day). [This year’s remembrance is especially noteworthy because it marks the 100th anniversary of the ending of that “Great War.”]

    poppies-toewer-of-london-1In recent times, however, Remembrance Day has been designated (secondarily) as a day to remember the dead from all wars, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    [Naturally, we thank all veterans for their service. But, on this centenary, the blacks who fought so heroically during World War I deserve honorable mention. Because nothing could have been more humbling and humiliating than fighting in Europe to “make the world safe for democracy,” only to return to find that America was still neither safe nor democratic … for black folks.]

    That said, the heroic poem “In Flanders Fields” was inspired by the death of one soldier during WWI. But it has evolved over the years into an elegy on all war dead. My primary school teacher taught me to recite it with the same reverence with which my Sunday school teacher taught me to recite “The Lord’s Prayer.”

    No doubt the cultural presumption this imbued explains my astonishment at my colleague’s ignorance. Never mind that I now struggle to recite both, which probably reveals as much about my encroaching senility as it does my evolving apostasy.

    IN FLANDERS FIELDS

    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place: and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe;
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high,
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    (John McCrae, 1915)

    NOTE: This commentary was originally published on 11:11:11. I’ve been reprising it ever since not only to honor all war dead, but also to commend the UK for its awe-inspiring tributes. They always serve as a poignant reminder of the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” that characterized the world wars.

  • Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 8:21 AM

    Democrats Take House. Republicans Hold Senate. Not Quite the ‘Restoration’ Hoped For…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    But this is enough to ensure Trump will finally learn that his lies, high crimes and misdemeanors have consequences. #Subpoena!

    That said, there’s no denying the disappointment in seeing so many high-profile, anti-Trump Democrats lose and so many high-profile, pro-Trump Republicans win. Because, no matter that winter is coming for him, Trump will hail these results as a vindication of his brand of divide-and-conquer politics.

    Related commentaries:
    midterms

  • Sunday, November 4, 2018 at 9:03 AM

    US Midterm Elections: It’s All About the VOTE…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    So forget all the annoying ads, campaign rallies, and political bitching. Time’s Up!

    I have never used this forum to tell people to vote, let alone how to. But I never want to experience the feeling I had the morning after the 2016 presidential election ever again.

    It was an utterly gutted feeling of anomie, which compelled me to write “WTF! President-Elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done.” November 9, 2016. But a profound feeling of regret soon replaced that. I suspect this was so not only because I took Hillary’ victory for granted but also because I did so little to ensure it.

    That’s why I’ve been doing all I can in the real world this time to get people to vote – and to vote early! It is also why I am using this forum for the first time to urge any reader who is eligible to get to the polls on Tuesday.

    You need only know that, if only a few people in a few key states had bothered to vote in 2016, we would have been spared the black-swan political nightmare that has been the Trump presidency.

    So get out and vote if you want politicians who will

    • Reclaim the character of this nation – so that truth and facts still matter.
    • Ensure that healthcare is a right for all, not just a privilege for a few.
    • Support the global effort to fight climate change.
    • Treat LGBTQ Americans like heterosexual Americans … in every respect.
    • Oppose the NRA and outlaw the assault weapons that have turned this country into a veritable war zone.
    • Reestablish the political, economic, and military alliances that gave rise after WWII to an unprecedented period of global peace and prosperity.
    • Advance gender equality – like granting pay equity, preserving abortion rights, and supporting the MeToo movement against sexual harassment.
    • Tame and check the dictatorial predilections of President Donald J. Trump.
    • Inspire hope not incite fear (or use gerrymandering and Jim Crow-style voter suppression to hold onto power).
    • Oppose all efforts (foreign and domestic) to foment divisions between Republicans and Democrats, which could have their politics ape that which have Sunnis and Shiites still waging a 1000-year schism.
    • Notify the world that America is still the greatest bastion and defender of democratic values; and that it is still that shining city on a hill for refugees yearning to breathe free (i.e., not a tent city built for their internment and deportation).

    For added effect, I arranged the first letter of those bullet points to spell out RESTORATION.

    But this should not diminish the importance of other issues related to things like race relations, Medicare, and drug (opioid) addiction. And I could go on, but you get the idea.

    Therefore, I shall end by respectfully submitting that you should want all of these things. But even if you want only one of them, you’d be well-advised to simply vote Democrat!

    Related commentaries:
    WTF!

  • Sunday, November 4, 2018 at 7:56 AM

    Trump Promised a Beautiful Wall. But…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    He’s delivering an ugly barbed-wire fence. Oh, and Mexico still ain’t payin’!

    As three separate migrant caravans slowly made their way north through Mexico on Saturday, newly arrived US troops worked to lay a barbed-wire fence along the Texas side of the Rio Grande. …

    ‘I saw that beautiful barbed wire going up,’ Trump said at a Saturday campaign rally in Montana. ‘Beautiful sight.’

    (New York Post, November 2, 2018)

    Except that he’s selling this bait-and-switch to the same suckers who he boasted would support him even if he shot someone on 5th Avenue in broad daylight. And, if you saw any of his rallies last week, you know those Trumpletons are buying it hook, line, and sinker.

    Related commentaries:
    caravan
    Trump bait-and-switch … suckers

  • Saturday, November 3, 2018 at 8:05 AM

    Political Amber Alert…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    (c) 2018 Chan Lowe

  • Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 7:49 AM

    Migrant Caravan Has Mattis Abandoning Military Principles for Trumpian Politics

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    An infectious feature of Trump’s presidency is the willingness of so many to abandon professional and personal principles to serve his amoral and often helter-skelter political agenda.

    Two of his Jewish advisers, Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, demonstrated this in spades. No doubt you recall the moment Trump informed the world that there were “very fine people” among the Neo-Nazis who marched through Charlottesville last year shouting “Jews will not replace us.”

    What you may not recall is that Cohn and Mnuchin were standing right there beside him … like religious Eunuchs.

    But, so as to not pick on Jews, I can also point to a Christian adviser, National Security Adviser John Bolton. Because he’s on record damning Russian President Vladimir Putin as the anti-Christ just days before Trump hired him. Now he’s breaking bread with Putin in Moscow – as if he is Putin’s most-favored disciple … after Trump.

    Such profiles in self-abnegating cowardice define Trump’s presidency. In fact, the Republican Party has abandoned practically all core principles (like fiscal responsibility, family values, and the rule of law) to serve at his pleasure. This is why it’s laughable to continue hailing it as the party of Ronald Reagan, let alone of Abraham Lincoln.

    Reagan often quipped that “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.” Well, many are saying the same about the Republican Party these days. Nationally acclaimed columnist Max Boot even chronicled his disaffection in the best-selling book The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right.

    Some Republicans used to reason that non-political members of the administration would serve as an antidote to this political apostasy. Most notably, they cited the triumvirate of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, FBI Director James Comey, and Defense Secretary James Mattis as the bulwark in this respect.

    But McMaster and Comey proved so resistant to this infection that Trump fired them. Which brings me to Mattis. Because his willingness to salute and execute Trump’s order to deploy troops to the US-Mexico border should dash all hopes in this last man standing.

    The White House’s decision to send more than 5,200 active-duty troops to the border with Mexico a week before the midterm elections has put the American military and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis squarely in the political crosshairs. …

    ‘This is a craven political stunt by President Trump ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, and a cynical capitulation by a secretary of defense who has prided himself on improving the readiness, focus, and lethality of the U.S. armed forces and who was once known as a no-nonsense warfighter,’ [wrote] Kelly Magsamen, a former top Pentagon official in the Obama administration.

    (The Washington Post, October 30, 2018)

    In fact, the Pentagon is deploying more troops to the border to fight hapless migrants than it has deployed in Afghanistan and Syria to fight ISIS terrorists. Never mind that the former is a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the military from enforcing domestic laws, including immigration laws.

    Of course, if Mattis mentioned that act, Trump would probably think this general was trying to bond over the kind of “locker room” talk we all heard on that infamous Access Hollywood tape …

    In any event, it’s hardly surprising that a notorious draft dodger like Trump would have no compunction about using military soldiers like political pawns. But you’d think Mattis would have prevailed upon him to see and avoid this manifest absurdity – if only to maintain the institutional integrity of the US military and show a little respect for the federal budget. Failing that, you’d think he would resign on principle.

    Instead, this Pentagon paragon is blithely helping Trump undermine confidence in and respect for the military, just as craven Republicans have willfully helped him do with the FBI and virtually every other democratic institution.

    Incidentally, it’s bad enough that the US military has been fighting unwinnable wars in the Middle East for the past 17 years. But Mattis is setting it up for unprecedented fecklessness with this “Operation Distraction.” Because he knows full well that soldiers will be constitutionally prohibited from laying a hand on any migrant, let alone forcibly arresting and detaining thousands of them.

    But nobody should be surprised that Mattis regards his duty to serve as absolute, making him robotically obedient. After all, despite signaling principled misgivings, he has been faithfully executing Trump’s illegal order to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military in any capacity.

    Three federal judges hearing separate cases issued injunctions against the ban last fall that cleared the way — in theory at least — for transgender recruits to start enlisting on Jan. 1.

    Since then, scores have applied — but it appears almost none are being accepted.

    (The New York Times, July 5, 2018)

    Frankly, in so many ways, Trump is misleading the country into the kind of shithole where he famously claimed banana republics wallow. Yet the only Republicans who have been willing to raise any alarm are those (like Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Jeff Flake) who have declared their intent to resign.

    Sadly, it takes having no political skin to lose for Republican leaders to show the kind of profiles in courage their predecessors showed. The latter not only condemned Richard Nixon’s amoral and often helter-skelter agenda but forced him to resign to boot.

    Related commentaries:
    migrant caravan must be stopped
    McMaster
    Trump draft dodger
    Kelly and Republicans Trump minions
    Access Hollywood
    unwinnable wars

  • Wednesday, October 31, 2018 at 7:17 AM

    Happy Halloween!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Tuesday, October 30, 2018 at 10:24 AM

    ‘Trump Radicalized More People than ISIS’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Julia Ioffe apologized immediately for that unfair jibe. But only willful amnesia can explain anyone not remembering that Trump has made many jibes that were far more unfair. And he has yet to apologize for any of them.

    Donald Trump has deemed a journalist for GQ Magazine a ‘sick woman’ after she made a comment that the president has ‘radicalized more people than ISIS’ while appearing on a CNN panel. …

    After walking back her comments on air, Ioffe reiterated her apology on Twitter, saying: ‘This has been a very emotional and painful time, but I absolutely should not have gone with such hyperbole on the air. I apologize.’

    (Daily Mail, October 30, 2018)

    I happened to be watching CNN when Ioffe made her comments. But what struck me most was the way the panel’s token trumpleton could barely contain his outrage. I knew then that FOX News and Trump would be chomping at the bit to use her comments to deflect from his far more outrageous comments, which include this sick jibe:

    In many respects, you know, they honor President Obama. He’s the founder of ISIS. …. He founded ISIS.

    (The New York Times, August 10, 2016)

    I was disappointed that nobody on the panel had the presence of mind to raise this wholly warranted, “what-about” reminder. After all, it’s beyond hypocritical for anyone to criticize Ioffe for accusing Trump of radicalizing more people than ISIS while failing to condemn Trump for accusing Obama of founding ISIS. #projection!

    In other words, if Ioffe is a sick woman, what does that make Trump? This is rather like the skunk accusing the rose of stinking up the garden, no?

    Incidentally, only this analogy explains Trump now calling Andrew Gillum, the black candidate for governor of Florida, a thief. Well, the reflexive racism that informs so much of what he says about black folks might have something to do with this name calling too.

    Related commentaries:
    Projection

  • Tuesday, October 30, 2018 at 7:34 AM

    Hamilton Clinches Title as Greatest F1 Driver of His Generation

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Lewis Hamilton is not as popular in the United States as LeBron James, Tom Brady, Bryce Harper, or even Alexander Ovechkin … yet. But he is more popular in nearly every other country than all of them. Keep this perspective in mind whenever you hear his name.

    Meanwhile, thanks to Hamilton’s charismatic dominance, Formula One racing is beginning to rival the popularity of other car-racing sports like NASCAR and IndyCar. If that seems farfetched, try to recall how popular Golf was before Tiger Woods’s charismatic dominance made it must-see TV.

    As it happened, I predicted a decade ago that Lewis would become the Tiger of his sport. And nobody can deny that he vindicated my prediction on Sunday.

    Hamilton went into Sunday’s [Mexican Grand Prix] needing just five points (in other words, a seventh-place or better finish) to clinch the title.

    Hamilton joins very elite company of [just two] five-time winners — Juan Manuel Fangio (1951, ‘54, ‘55, ‘56, and ‘57) and Michael Schumacher, who has seven, (1994, ‘95, 2000, ‘01, ‘02, ‘03, and ‘04).

    (SBNation, October 28, 2018)

    But I was still disappointed that he backed into this fifth championship – much as he backed into his first, namely by earning enough points to clinch the title but failing to win this race outright.

    It’s bad enough that his fourth place on Sunday left him off the podium. But he blew a golden opportunity to clinch the week before in the United States. He would have done so if he had won that race and his nearest rival, Sebastian Vettel, had finished no better than second. Vettel obliged; he finished fourth. Hamilton failed; he finished third.

    The point is that I wish he had clinched the title in dominant fashion in the United States. Because the boost to his and Formula One’s popularity here would have been immeasurable.

    Beyond this, imagine how disappointed you would be if you watched your team score 35 points in the first three quarters of the Super Bowl, and then spend the fourth quarter allowing the other team to score 21 unanswered points—only to back into victory 35-28.

    That said, I don’t want to rain too much (more) on Hamilton’s parade. In fact, I can think of no better tribute than to reprise a little of what I wrote after he won his first championship, when F1 was as popular in the United States as Curling.

    It is from “Hamilton Becomes the Youngest Ever and First Black F1 Champion,” November 3, 2008.

    ____________________

    I am proud (and relieved) that Lewis Hamilton, a 23-year-old Briton of Caribbean (Grenadian) heritage, redeemed himself yesterday by clinching this year’s Formula One championship in the final race of the season at Interlagos in Brazil.  This means that he has now fulfilled the incredible promise of becoming not only the youngest but also the first black world champion in F1 history. …

    Incidentally, if you don’t know Formula One from Formula 409, please take note:

    F1 car racing is a sport that requires the steady hands of a surgeon, the daring skill of a jet fighter, and the physical stamina of a marathon runner. Moreover, no sport can match the sustained thrill and nail-biting suspense one gets from watching those drivers navigate the zigs, zags, and hairpin-turns of a Grand-Prix racetrack as they jockey for position at speeds exceeding 200 mph! …

    Naturally, given the uncanny similarities in racial background and precocious talent between Hamilton and Tiger Woods, the barons of Hamilton’s sport are banking he’ll do for F1 what Woods has done for Golf.

    ____________________

    Congratulations, Lewis!

    Hamilton now faces the daunting challenge of winning 3 more F1 titles to surpass Schumacher’s record-setting 7. But his (hedonistic and often reckless) lifestyle gives one pause to wonder if it will cause him to fail – just as Tiger’s appears to have caused him to fail his equally daunting challenge of winning 4 more Golf majors to surpass Jack Nicklaus’s record-setting 18.

    Woods was 33 when he won his 14th major in 2008. I would have bet my life savings back then that he would surpass Nicklaus by 2018. Yet he remains stuck at 14.

    Hamilton is 33. And, given the way he won 5 championships over the past 10 years, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect him to win 3 more over the next 6-10.

    Still, the Woods precedent prevents me from vesting anything more than cynical hope in Hamilton winning this ultimate race. I wish him well.

    Related commentaries:
    Hamilton’s first
    Hamilton’s fourth
    Tiger Woods

  • Sunday, October 28, 2018 at 10:21 AM

    Now White Racists Are Shooting Jews

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and at least three handguns, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue Saturday morning, killing at least 11 congregants and wounding four police officers and two others. … [This was reportedly the deadliest attack on Jews in US history.]

    Critics of President Trump have argued that he is partly to blame for recent acts of violence because he has been stirring the pot of nationalism.

    (The New York Times, October 27, 2018)

    I hasten to reiterate this admonition to all media, which simply cannot be overstated:

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

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

    I simply cannot overstate that broadcasting everything about these shooters does nothing to stop more shootings. In fact, providing wall-to-wall coverage only incentivizes the next loser to plot his day of infamy.

    Yet media outlets provide it every time — complete with interviews that seem more about providing folks their 15 minutes of fame than getting any useful information. But that’s only because they know they’re catering to some perverse interest far too many people have in their wallowing coverage.

    So please, when these shootings occur, take two minutes to learn the facts, and then turn your TV to a channel on arts, gardening, sports, or something else. Because only low ratings will compel the media to cover these mass shootings more responsibly.

    That said, media coverage is surpassed in its thoughtlessness only by people flooding social media with trite and often self-centered offers of condolences. Nothing damns this age of narcissism quite like people making the condolences they offer all about them.

    Far worse, though, is having NRA-supporting politicians join this virtual procession of sympathizers. Because their condolences only add insult to grief. After all, if they (notably President Trump and Republicans) had any real sympathy for victims of gun violence, they would ban all assault weapons.

    Instead, they would have you believe what NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said one week after the Newtown mass shooting, which left 26 dead, including 20 children:

    The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.

    (CBS-DC, December 21, 2012)

    Of course, that’s just the mantra the NRA propagates to brainwash people into buying more guns. I have decried this in many commentaries, including “‘Under the Gun’ Appeals to Common Sense of NRA Members. Good Luck with That…” May 16, 2016, and “Target Las Vegas: Another Mass Shooting in Gun-Crazy USA.” October 2, 2017. But, trust me, no armed guard can stop a psycho hell-bent on perpetrating a mass shooting, especially if that psycho is using an assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine.

    On the other hand, there’s no denying that many lives would be saved if a would-be shooter has easy access only to single-shot rifles (e.g., for hunting) and hand guns with low-capacity magazines. For example, if today’s shooter had only a hand gun instead of an assault weapon, he might have killed 4 but certainly not 11 (or more). Not to mention that he would not have been able to pin down responding officers (with their own big guns), even wounding four of them.

    Meanwhile, this shooting is eerily similar to the one another white racist perpetrated in 2015 at the Emanuel African Methodist Church in South Carolina – complete with similar registering of condemnation, outpouring of sympathy, and holding of kumbaya vigils. But that showed that not even a racially motivated massacre, which killed nine people who were worshiping God, could imbue these politicians with enough moral compunction and political courage to defy the NRA.

    Fuse all of that with the rhetorical license no less a person than President Trump is giving to neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and other hate-filled psychos, and you have the tinderbox that is the United States of America today. It is no accident that an unprecedented spike in hate speech, hate crimes, and general racist tomfoolery has attended his presidency.

    This has included whites calling the cops on blacks for doing all kinds of ordinary, legal things … like sitting by the pool in their own apartment complex. But things like that pale into insignificance when compared with increasing incidents like another white racist targeting and killing two black people in a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky on Wednesday. This, after he tried to emulate that South Carolina shooter by targeting a black church nearby. But, by an act of God, its parishioners were locked safely inside.

    The point is that, between coverage of this synagogue shooting and the mail-bombing terror that dominated coverage for days before it, the media were too preoccupied to dedicate much coverage to the Kroger shooting.

    Think about that … as most of us wait like sitting ducks for the next one. I say “most of us” because it’s only a matter of time before some blacks and Jews begin doing to white sitting ducks what some whites have been doing to us for too long.

    NOTE: I am stupefied by the many young Americans who say they have nothing to vote for in the midterm elections now underway. For, at the very least, they should know that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun (from shooting up schools, churches, and other places) is to vote against Republicans — whose pro-NRA policies would put that gun in his hand. #VoteDemocrats!

    ENDNOTE: I have written many commentaries damning the media for exploiting everything from political gaffes to tragic events for ratings, including most frustratingly “Hey Media, Wikileaker Assange Is Still a Self-Promoting, Bail-Jumping Rape Suspect!” August 29, 2016. But nothing incites my indignation quite like the trick of news anchors bemoaning the coarsening of public debate while reporting ad nauseam on the treat of Trump’s brazen lies, juvenile insults, and lunatic conspiracies.

    They are throwing this into stark relief in these last days of campaigning; most notably, by giving ten times more coverage to his scaremongering lies than to Barack Obama’s inspiring truths. .

    Related commentaries:
    Newtown
    Under the gun
    Vegas, Gun-crazy USA
    serial mail bomber….
    Wikileaker Assange

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Saturday, at 5:26 p.m.

  • Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 7:30 AM

    Thank God most of the ‘best people’ Trump hired refuse to do what he wants…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This cartoon riffs off the spectacle of Trump continually whining on TV and social media about people he hired refusing to do what he wants. Never mind that what he wants them to do is often illegal or ill-advised.

    Of course, with all due respect to Powell and Sessions, Trump has tried most notoriously to no avail to get FBI Director Christopher Wray to investigate Hillary Clinton and other Democrats for all manner of unspecified crimes. Indeed, Bok might have included a third caricature of Wray sitting outside that office with a bubble of Powell and Sessions saying to him, “We hear you’re part of the never-Trump, pro-Hillary deep state.”

    Unfortunately, Trump’s supporters appear all too willing to compensate for the frustrations the few principled people he hired are causing. After all, the misguided serial mail bomber – who terrorized so many high-profile Democrats and CNN this week – is just the latest of them to act out his incendiary rhetoric.

    For, even as president, Trump has continued to hold campaign rallies at which he stokes mobs into a frenzy with slogans like “lock her up” and “Republicans create jobs, Democrats create mobs.” And yes, they are too stupid to appreciate the baying hypocrisy, and he is too amoral to care.

    Related commentaries:
    serial mail bomber….

  • Friday, October 26, 2018 at 4:12 PM

    Serial Mail Bomber Arrested. And, Duh, He’s a Trumpleton!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Next to the pro-Trump stickers plastered all over the white van authorities believe belongs to Cesar Sayoc are the names and photos of dozens of prominent Democrats and media figures — former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, former first lady Michelle Obama, former attorneys general Eric Holder and Loretta E. Lynch and filmmaker Michael Moore. There’s also a sticker declaring: ‘CNN Sucks.’ …

    Authorities on Friday arrested Sayoc and identified him as a suspect in the sprawling mail-bomb scare. … Sayoc has been charged with five federal crimes, including transportation of explosives and threats against former presidents, and faces up to 58 years in prison if convicted.

    (The Washington Post, October 26, 2018)

    I suspect I’m not the only one who breathed a sigh of relief when news broke of this arrest. Not only because it signaled the end of the terror this bomber was inflicting, but also because he turned out to be just the kind of Trump-supporting lunatic you’d expect him to be.

    We can imagine all too well the political hay this rabble-rousing president of the United States would have made of this arrest if Sayoc turned out to be a Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or any kind of Democratic supporter. Even worse if he turned out to be a black or Hispanic one to boot

    That said, with all due respect to “innocent until proven guilty,” he will be convicted.

    But, notwithstanding the wall-to-wall coverage the media are dedicating to his arrest, I do not think it warrants any further comment. It would also be too sadistic to watch Trump’s defenders immolating themselves intellectually as they try in vain to deny any correlation between this serial bomber and Trump’s incendiary rhetoric.

    Related commentaries:
    Serial bomber

  • Thursday, October 25, 2018 at 8:47 AM

    Hey Voters, There’s a Serial Bomber on the Loose Right Here in America…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    So forget that migrant caravan on the move down there in Mexico…?

    Another suspected bomb was found in New York City on Thursday morning as a manhunt was under way for a serial bomber targeting high-profile Democrats [including former U.S. President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder] and CNN, less than two weeks ahead of elections that could alter the U.S. political landscape.

    The latest device was addressed to actor Robert De Niro, according to CNN. …

    (Reuters, October 25, 2018)

    Donald Trump has normalized the politics of distraction and projection, sowing dangerous divisions he’s too ignorant, myopic, and narcissistic to care about. Accordingly, I cannot repeat this Trumpian phenomenon enough:

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

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

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

    After all, before Trump, everyone would be condemning these unprecedented assassination attempts and expressing sympathy for those targeted. Instead, right-wing Republicans are insinuating that they are just part of a ploy by some left-wing Democrat to suppress Republican votes in the midterm elections, which are already underway. Never mind this prevailing fact:

    You’re seeing a national effort by the Republican Party to try to restrict voting rights [of blacks and Hispanics], and it’s playing out in states all across the country.

    (NPR, October 23, 2018)

    This kind of shameful, blame-shifting, gaslighting tactic (of turning facts and reality upside down) defines the Trump presidency. It is what had Republicans insisting that Democrats were using allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh as a ploy to derail their political agenda. In other words, Kavanaugh was the target, Christine Blasey Ford the assassin.

    In fact, the enmity between the two parties is such that Republicans are deploying the militaristic term “false flag” to propagate their insinuation in this case. Of course, the irony is that, we’re living in such absurdist, Orwellian times, they could be right.

    Specifically, it would be all too fitting for some left-wing idiot to think that sending pipe bombs to Trump’s most-high profile critics would detract from that migrant caravan, which Republicans were cynically hailing as “manna from heaven” to feed their midterm prospects. Sure enough, given their blanket coverage of these pipe-bomb deliveries, you’d never know the news media were covering that caravan just days ago as if millions of migrants were about to invade the United States.

    Moreover, even that idiot would’ve been shrewd enough to know that everyone would consider some right-wing nut the prime suspect; hence distraction and projection, sowing dangerous divisions not seen since the North and South were laying the predicate for the Civil War.

    But, no, I don’t think we’re experiencing the sparks of a looming civil war. This is just a more menacing continuation of the corrosive effect Trump’s presidency is having on every facet of public life. It will inevitably manifest in all manner of politically motivated violence, including more of this kind of domestic terrorism. And I fear it will take a generation or two for this country to recover from the political ravages of this Trumpian interregnum.

    Apropos of which, I will end with this pithy observation:  Before Trump, any president in this situation would have made a public show of reaching out to his predecessors – not only to inspire public confidence but also to show presidential camaraderie.

    But Trump showed long ago that he just wants to rile up the base instincts of his political base, and that he couldn’t care less about camaraderie with former presidents … of any party.

    More to the point, evidence of the dangerous behavior he inspires (or incites) abounds. Consider this, for example, from just days ago:

    A Florida man accused of groping a passenger on Southwest Airlines told an FBI agent after his arrest that the ‘President of the United States says it’s OK to grab women by their private parts,’ according to a criminal complaint.

    (CNN, October 23, 2018)

    As for the camaraderie, here is my take on this curious feature of his presidency:

    Trump seems determined to be the first to alienate his predecessors so much that they all shun him like the plague. Mind you, it would probably suit the congenitally insecure Trump well to complete his entire term without even a phone call, let alone personal contact, with any of them. His tweets give the impression that anything Obama related is like kryptonite to his presidency.

    (“Trump’s First Year Ends with Government Shutdown,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 20, 2018)

    In any event, here’s to this serial bomber being interested only in terrorizing (whatever his lunatic motives) without killing.

    In the meantime,

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, October 24, 2018 at 7:06 AM

    Christians Proselytizing Fake Dead Sea Scrolls as Gospel. Duh

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    My abiding belief is that the Dead Sea Scrolls provide no greater insight into the life and times of Jesus Christ than the Shroud of Turin provides into his looks. The latter proselytizes the manifest absurdity that he had features that were more Aryan than Semitic.

    I commented on the debunking of such Christian myths nearly a decade ago in “Shroud of Turin Shrouded in Fraud,” October 7, 2009.

    ____________________

    It is noteworthy that, even though leaders of the Catholic Church were too sensible to ever buy into this forgery, they could not resist exploiting it by claiming that the Shroud is a ‘powerful reminder of Christ’s passion.’

    No sh#t! It is no more authentic than the hollow rock in which apparitions of Mary allegedly appeared in mid-19th century to a poor, 14-year-old girl. Yet this powerful reminder of Christ’s passion has turned the entire town of Lourdes into a holy shrine where Christians now make pilgrimages that rival those Muslims make to Mecca.

    That said, I hope my Christian family and friends will forgive me for spreading the scientific gospel that many of the beliefs, rituals, and vestments of modern-day Christianity have little to do with Jesus Christ, and even less to do with the Almighty God.

    ____________________

    My apostasy aside, here is the latest in what is becoming the second-greatest story ever sold:

    Five fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some of the Museum of the Bible’s most prized artifacts, were exposed as fakes on Monday and pulled from displays. …

    Doubts were raised as to the authenticity of the fragments held by the museum prior to its opening, due to a soaring increase in forgeries designed to fool wealthy American evangelical Christians. …

    The museum said it would swap the fakes with three other fragments (but even those may not be real).

    (The Huffington Post, October 23, 2018)

    Frankly, the only newsworthy thing about this report is the way it reinforces Trumpian regard for evangelical Christians as gullible fools.

    Indeed, one can hardly blame forgers for seeing evangelicals as easy marks. After all, with his brazen and demonstrable lies, Trump has proven that anyone can fool these religious suckers any day, including on Sunday.

    Amen.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, October 22, 2018 at 7:41 AM

    Despite Trump, This Migrant Caravan Must Be Stopped!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Don’t let your hatred of President Trump blind you to this fact.

    The caravan of migrants from Central America grew to roughly 5,000 Sunday, a massive group that stretched along this city’s main highway for more than a half-mile.

    They spoke in different accents, fleeing different disasters: joblessness in parts of Honduras, a mounting political crisis in Nicaragua, cities in Guatemala where they were sure their children would languish as they had.

    Now, they were traversing Mexico while President Trump tweeted about their journey, demanding that the migrants apply for asylum in Mexico before continuing north, threatening to close the U.S. border as Mexican authorities appeared to allow the caravan to proceed.

    (The Washington Post, October 21, 20118)

    In fact, Trump has threatened to deploy the military to stop these migrants in their tracks – if they make it to the US border. Except that his threat rings as hollow as his promise to get Mexico to pay for the wall, which was supposed to do what he’s now saying the military will.

    Not to mention his cut-off-nose-to-spite-face threat to cut aid to all Central American countries that failed to stop this caravan. After all, that would only worsen the conditions that gave rise to this mass migration in the first place.

    In any event, I suspect most of these migrants will end up huddling along the border. There they will lie in wait to cross illegally, praying they’re not apprehended and deported after internment in the United States.

    I hasten to clarify that I couldn’t care less for the racist and xenophobic Trump. On the other hand, I couldn’t care more for the huddled masses of asylum seekers caravanning towards the border.

    But I fully appreciate the categorical imperative Trump has to stop them. Because it’s untenable enough to have a few migrants sneaking across; but it poses an existential threat to have them doing so in caravans of thousands.

    After all, if they’re allowed to cross the border into heaven on earth with little or no trouble, every one of the tens of millions they left behind will soon be fleeing their hell on earth, in sequent caravans, too.

    This raises the question: Then what? And any Democrat who fails to provide a comprehensive and credible answer is being disingenuous. Never mind that this is a far cry from the dishonesty Trump displays on this and every other issue.

    For example, this mendacious buffoon is trying to convince Americans that this migrant caravan is a Democratic ploy to smuggle MS-13 gang members from Central America and Muslim terrorists from the Middle East into the United States.

    Both are demonstrable lies of course. But only a brazen and shameless liar like Trump would peddle the absurdity of terrorists flying from the Middle East to Central America, to join a migrant caravan, on a four-month, Death Valley-like walk to the US border, hoping Trump’s border agents will let them in, to carry out 9/11-style attacks.

    Any such terrorist would know that it’s far easier to fly into the United States on a tourist visa directly from the Middle East or any country in Europe. After all,

    For an increasing number of immigrants, illegal status arrives overnight, without a single step.

    In each year from 2007 to 2014, more people joined the ranks of the illegal by remaining in the United States after their temporary visitor permits expired than by creeping across the Mexican border.

    (The New York Times, March 6, 2017)

    Yet the willful ignorance of far too many Americans is such that many will believe him. Believe me!

    That said, I reiterate what I’ve been arguing for years, including most recently in “Separating Immigrant Children from Their Parents. This Is America … Too,” June 20, 2018.

    ____________________

    The only way to truly stem this tide is to marshal American resources (political, financial, and even military) to change conditions on the ground that are causing people to flee for their lives. …

    The best way to deal with a neighbor’s house on fire is not to build a wall around your house to keep that fleeing neighbor out; rather it’s to help that neighbor put out the fire, lest it engulfs the entire neighborhood. …

    It would be refreshing to have a US government offering direct assistance to help regional governments combat indigenous violence and provide basic services for their people, instead of trying to overthrow them. As part of this assistance, it could help those governments build, protect, and sustain safe havens within their respective borders, as well as launch public information programs to discourage people from thinking the reason America is a ‘Shining City on a Hill’ is that its streets are paved with gold (you know, all that glitters is not…).  …

    Ultimately, though, the only way to truly fix America’s inherently flawed immigration system is to kick Trump and his enablers in the ‘cult-like’ Republican Party out of office. Because only Democrats seem committed to comprehensive immigration reform. This would include not only a guest-worker program but also incentives for illegal immigrants now living in the shadows to assimilate, assimilate, assimilate!

    More to the point, such reform would practically end any need to cross the border illegally.

    Incidentally, only the congenitally ass-backward Trump would think that withholding aid from these poor countries – as he is threatening to do – would stop what he says are illegal immigrants ‘infest[ing] our country.’

    ____________________

    This June 20 commentary also references America’s mercantile policies and insatiable demand for illegal drugs, which are the root causes of Central America’s migration crisis.

    Unfortunately, Trump’s anti-immigrant, America-First policies have alienated most, if not all, Central (and South) American leaders. Therefore, they’d be forgiven for feeling as hostile towards the United States today as Fidel Castro felt at the height of the US-led embargo against Cuba.

    Most leaders would welcome such a Marshall Plan for their region of course. But nobody should be surprised if one or two of them prove all too happy to create the kind of trouble Castro caused for the United States when he launched the infamous Mariel boatlift.

    On April 20, 1980, the Castro regime announces that all Cubans wishing to emigrate to the U.S. are free to board boats at the port of Mariel west of Havana, launching the Mariel Boatlift. The first of 125,000 Cuban refugees from Mariel reached Florida the next day.

    The boatlift was precipitated by housing and job shortages caused by the ailing Cuban economy, leading to simmering internal tensions on the island.

    (History.com, “1980”)

    Still, I cannot resist sharing this abiding lament:

    The United States has wasted trillions of dollars over the past 17 years trying to change conditions that make Afghanistan and Iraq breeding grounds for jihadi terrorists. But imagine the salutary benefit if it had spent just one-third of that money changing conditions that make countries in Central America breeding grounds for wretched migrants.

    At the very least, the United States would not have caravans of “homeless, tempest-tost” souls marching towards the “lamp beside the golden door” that is the US border with Mexico.

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  • Saturday, October 20, 2018 at 8:21 AM

    Marriage: I am reliably informed that, alas, it invariably comes to this…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 7:35 AM

    Kanye, Trump America’s Most Suitable Heir

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Trump billed Kanye’s visit to the White House a week ago today as a summit to discuss urban development, vocational training, black unemployment (notably Colin Kaepernick’s), and criminal justice reform. Unsurprisingly, it was anything but.

    Here in essence is what Kanye said during a 10-minute, stream-of-consciousness rant in the Oval Office, which played out like the train wreck every news outlet knew would make for must-see reality-TV:

    There was something about putting this [MAGA] hat on that made me feel like Superman. …

    Trump is on his hero’s journey right now. He might not have thought he’d have a crazy mother-f***r like me (supporting him).

    (CNN, October 11, 2018)

    And we thought no black entertainer could ever embarrass our race again the way Sammy Davis Jr. did in August 1972, when he snuggled up to President Richard M. Nixon like a pet dog.

    There’s a famous photo of that fateful moment in US history. Most people find the unnatural look of Davis and Nixon’s embrace most telling. For me, though, it’s the natural look of utter despair on the face of the only other black person in the photo. It speaks volumes, especially when contrasted with the forced smile on the face of every white person, including Nixon himself.

    Davis spent the rest of his life seeking redemption from black folks for “The Hug” – as The Washington Post headlined a September 2003 retrospective on that seminal moment. But I don’t think the preternaturally self-absorbed Kanye will spend a single day doing so.

    Nothing indicates this quite like the way he followed his visit to the White House with – what had all the trappings of – a state visit to Uganda.

    Kanye West and Kim Kardashian … have been in Uganda since Friday, while West reportedly films a music video. … West grabbed lighthearted headlines by gifting [the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni] a pair of his Yeezy sneakers and referencing Jurassic Park. …

    But the celebrity couple came in for rather more serious criticism online for meeting with Museveni, who has been president since 1986 and has recently presided over an authoritarian crackdown against political opposition and homosexuality.

    (TIME, October 16, 2018)

    Of course, I doubt Kanye even knew Museveni’s name, let alone his abysmal political record, before setting his sights on Uganda. He duly betrayed this fact by spending most of his time regaling Museveni with more stream-of-consciousness blather; this time about how he can help Uganda “be like Wakanda.”

    But let’s face it, with Trump publicly declaring his love for a malevolent dictator like Kim Jong Un, how can anyone criticize Kanye for hobnobbing with a relatively benevolent one like Yoweri Museveni?

    Besides, Trump or another member of his administration causes national embarrassment or makes America an international laughingstock on a daily basis. This is a defining feature of his black-swan presidency. And, if sensible Americans don’t laugh as the world laughs at them, they’ll cry … and go mad.

    Meanwhile, we have all become numb to his norm-busting, eye-rolling antics. But did you ever think you’d see the day when a Saudi crown prince would order a barbaric and brazen hit on a journalist (for The Washington Post no less), and get a president of the United States to serve as his PR flak?

    Frankly, I can think of no bigger laughingstock than Trump spinning plainly absurd theories about what happened — all in a banana republic-like effort to cover up that murder. Yet this is the servile role the putative leader of the free world is now playing; and he’s doing so with emperor-wears-no-clothes gusto.

    That said, I cannot overstate this point: The joke that is the Trump presidency is on the suckers who voted for him and, alas, the rest of us who have to live through it.

    This means having to stomach the joke that is Kanye fraternizing with Trump, which makes his doing so with other heads of state seem perfectly normal.

    Mind you, America has a long and commendable history of celebrities using their influence to affect political change. One need only think of entertainers like Paul Robeson, Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, Marlon Brando, Harry Belafonte, and Jane Fonda, to name a few.

    Therefore, to be fair, Kanye is only doing what celebrities have always done. But there’s no denying the qualitative difference with far too many latter-day celebrities – who are clearly far more interested in burnishing their personal image than in solving political problems.

    I began commenting in this vein over a decade ago when Angelina Jolie and Bono were acting the way Kim and Kanye are today. Granted, Jolie and Bono were undoubtedly more informed and seemed more interested in affecting broad and lasting change.

    But here is how I decried this trend back then in “Celebrity-Obsessed World Has Made Actors and Rock Stars the Statesmen of Our Time,” May 23, 2005.

    ____________________

    It is a sad commentary on the state of world affairs that the political initiatives of a rock star or Hollywood actress are taken more seriously than those of a seasoned statesman. But that is the perverse reality when it comes to the global fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS and unconscionable poverty throughout the developing world.

    Only this explains the President of Sierra Leone drooling over Angelina Jolie last week as he promised HER immediate action on redressing human rights abuses in his country. This, after rejecting repeated appeals by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa to do just that!

    Only this explains Western leaders, including US President George W. Bush, fawning over rock star Bono earlier this year as they promised HIM debt relief for African nations. This, after rejecting repeated pleas by President Obasanjo of Nigeria (and even Nelson Mandela) to do just that!

    Or, on a more farcical but no less instructive note, only this explains the national crisis now brewing in Israel because the foreign minister’s wife was denied a chance to meet Madonna during her recent visit to the Holy Land.

    Alas, worshiping celebrities is not merely the avocation of giddy teenage girls; because world leaders seem equally enthralled by these latter-day performing saints.

    ____________________

    Of course, Jolie and Bono were only a foreshadowing of Trump and Kanye. More to the point, our celebrity-obsessed world today is defined by the alarming number of “stupid voters” who want their politicians to thrill, shock, and entertain rather than debate, legislate, and govern.

    This is why it is as quaint as it is disingenuous for the White House to insist that, after they left the Oval Office, Kanye challenged Trump on race and other polarizing issues over lunch. Because, if you believe that, you probably believed its spin that, after they left their joint press conference in Helsinki, Trump challenged Putin on cyberattacks during the 2016 presidential election over tea.

    Besides, everyone knows that, even if Kanye were serious and presented constructive ideas, Trump was just using him as a photo-op prop to trump up his support among black folks. The black pastors he made such a show of hosting months ago to discuss similar issues would readily attest to this.

    Nonetheless, apropos of who’s zooming who, I challenge you to name a more suitable heir to Trump’s America than Kanye. And, believe it or not, the only woman who would make a more popular first lady than Kim these days is her little sister Kylie.

    But I am hoping against hope that enough voters come to their senses to arrest this trend – of not just celebrating buffoons like Trump and Kanye but electing them to public office. Next month’s midterm elections will be very telling in this respect.

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  • Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 7:47 AM

    In Killing Khashoggi, Saudi Crown Prince Exposed His Perfidy and Trump’s Cupidity

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The prevailing feature of President Trump’s foreign policy is the way he courts world leaders with whom he has, or is scheming to establish, personal financial ties. Nothing betrayed this quite like the way he salivated at the prospect of striking deals with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un – deals that have nothing to do with nuclear weapons:

    President Donald Trump applauded North Korea’s ‘great beaches’ and said they would be a great location for condos and hotels. …

    ‘Boy, look at that view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo?’

    (Business Insider, January 12, 2018)

    Bear this prevailing feature in mind as you read the rest of this commentary.

    Turkish officials have an audio recording of the alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi from the Apple Watch he wore when he walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul over a week ago. …

    The writer, who has written critically about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS], vanished after he walked into the consulate on Oct. 2.

    Saudi Arabia has said it had nothing to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance, without explaining or offering evidence of how the writer left the consulate and disappeared into Istanbul with his fiancée waiting outside.

    (Haaretz, October 14, 2018)

    With all due respect to the murdered Khashoggi, the most disheartening thing about this story is the venal, gaslighting and Manchurian way Trump is providing political cover for MBS.

    President Trump raised the possibility on Monday that ‘rogue killers’ were behind the disappearance of a Saudi dissident journalist as the kingdom prepared to admit Jamal Khashoggi was killed in an interrogation gone wrong. …

    The new explanation served to shield [MBS] from any blame.

    (The New York Times, October 15, 2018)

    Mind you, this is the same president who, out of the other side of his mouth, threatened “severe punishment” if it turned out the Saudis were responsible. Well, according to reliable reports, they detained Khashoggi after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancé, Hatice Cengiz. MBS then dispatched a 15-man hit squad not just to silence Khashoggi’s irritating criticisms “for good,” but to bone-saw him into small parts – presumably to fly out in diplomatic pouches.

    Incidentally, am I the only one who sees eerie parallels between the 15 Saudis who executed this assassination in Turkey and the 15 Saudis who executed the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States? Oh right, the Saudis deny they had anything to do with 9/11. They insist it was a Jewish conspiracy. This is why only cupidity explains Trump’s Jewish Mideast envoy, Jared Kushner, fraternizing with MBS as if he were literally a brother from another mother.

    In any event, it does not matter what cockamamie explanation the Saudis conjure up. Because, even if the whole world sees the Saudis on tape executing this hit, Trump will never make good on his threat. And here is his mercenary reason for allowing the little Saudi tail to wag the big American dog:

    Saudi Arabia — and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me … $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.

    (The New York Daily News, September 4, 2016)

    Trump always hastens to make the deceptive claim that he has no financial ties to Saudi Arabia. That’s probably a lie. But the American people have yet to learn the truth because this artful dodger has steadfastly refused to man-up and release his tax returns.

    More importantly, though, Saudis might be more invested in his real estate holdings in the United States and elsewhere than even he is, which could make the Trump Organization little more than subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. The only problem is that Russian oligarchs own so much of him too, they might take exception …

    Apropos of which, given the little we do know about Saudi investments in his businesses, it follows that Trump is covering for Saudi Arabia for the same reason he covered (and is still covering) for Russia, namely to protect his personal interests – national interests be damned. And remember, this is also the same president who raised the possibility that China or some 400-pound loser on his bed in New Jersey was behind the cyberattack on the 2016 presidential election.

    Not to mention that Trump is once again making a mockery of his own intelligence services. After all, reports are that they informed him, within days of Khashoggi’s disappearance, that this was an intentional Saudi hit job – even if brazenly botched.

    But, just as he willfully defied intelligence briefings to propagate President Putin’s fatuous denial about that cyberattack, Trump is doing the same to propagate MBS’s equally fatuous denial about this hit. His obvious strategy is to deny, deny, deny until he gets his way, come what may! No doubt he’s reassuring MBS that this strategy can help him weather this allegation of murder, just as it helped Brett Kavanaugh weather several allegations of sexual assault.

    Of course, this is just the latest case of Trump betraying not only his role as leader of the free world but also the democratic values America has always championed.

    Indeed, it speaks volumes that this hit job is causing US businessmen to boycott Saudi Arabia. For starters, they are withdrawing — like rats jumping off a sinking ship — from a major investment conference scheduled for next week in Riyadh. This stands in stark contrast to the way Trump is trying to stay constructively engaged; you know, the way Reagan stayed constructively engaged with South Africa’s Apartheid regime throughout his presidency, despite growing boycotts.

    As it happens, European leaders wasted no time prevailing upon their respective delegations of politicians and businessmen to withdraw. In fact, they are continually filling the void Trump’s failure of leadership is leaving on the world stage. Unfortunately, he couldn’t care less about the spectacle or hypocrisy of having America lead from behind in this and many other cases (e.g., re trade, climate change, and human rights).

    But the real issue here is not whether Trump will whitewash the murderous misdeeds of this Saudi dictator, the way he has done (with redolent envy) those of other dictators like Putin of Russia, Erdogan of Turkey, and Duterte of the Philippines. Nor is it the unwitting license Trump gave MBS to order this hit by continually decrying the press as the “enemy of the people.”

    The real issue is whether his Republican enablers in Congress will back up their words of outrage with action – like imposing North Korean-type sanctions on Saudi Arabia … and then joining with Democrats to impeach Trump!

    They should do this as a categorical imperative to show that America will continue to champion its democratic values. This, no matter how hell-bent Trump is on making a mockery of them – in this case by blithely selling out all America has stood for on the world stage for a few billion dollars in arms sales.

    Frankly, Republicans should also be motivated by the fact that the Saudis clearly have no respect for the United States, and even less for Trump. Unfortunately, he is either too stupid or too craven or both to care.

    But the reason bipartisan outrage has even Republican senators calling for MBS to resign is that they know the Saudis could’ve explained exactly what happened within hours. This makes all the Saudi talk about conducting a transparent and comprehensive investigation a cynical farce. And getting Trump to play along, as the world watches in utter stupefaction, makes that all the more galling.

    Incidentally, sanctioning the Saudis will not address the greater imperative for the American people to come to their senses and utterly reject Trump and the way he has undermined democratic institutions and debased political discourse – complete with his juvenile insults masquerading as tough talk. They can serve notice in this respect by voting Trump’s Republican enablers out of office in next month’s midterm elections.

    Finally, lest you think MBS should be forgiven this one egregious act, you should know that this is the same crown prince who

    • Launched a misguided war in Yemen (in March 2015) that is making the one George W. Bush launched in Iraq (in March 2003) look like a drive-by shooting.
    • Led a regional embargo against Qatar (in June 2017) that is proving every bit as hypocritical and ill-fated as the one JFK led against Cuba (in February 1962).

    NOTE: MBS did this for no credible reason other than to silence Al Jazeera, Qatar’s relatively progressive TV station. He claimed that Qatar was aiding and abetting terrorists. And, as in this case, he got Trump to parrot his propaganda; that is, until Trump’s military advisers informed/reminded him that Qatar not only hosts the forward headquarters of US Central Command but provides critical support in the US fight against ISIS.

    Even more interesting, though, is that the Turkey that now claims to have caught the Saudis red-handed executing Khashoggi is the same Turkey that jumped to Qatar’s defense back then. In fact, Turkey’s own strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, publicly denounced MBS’s embargo as “inhumane and against Islamic values.”

    • Ordered all Saudis to boycott Canada just because it dared to criticize his arrest of Saudi women’s rights activists. This included ordering over 8,000 graduate students in August to return home immediately.
    • Invited hundreds of Saudi ministers, businessmen, and princes to a meeting at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh in November, summarily convicted them on trumped-up charges of corruption, and extorted billions as the price for their release.
    • Held the prime minister of Lebanon hostage for weeks to extort God knows what from him.
    • Dismissed claims about presiding over an ostentatiously corrupt regime by quipping, with no hint of irony or self-awareness, that

    ‘I’m not Gandhi or Mandela.

    (60 Minutes, March 19, 2018)

    Unfortunately, I became convinced long ago that, when Trump said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and lose no support, he was thinking not just of stupid, morally bankrupt supporters, but also of craven, morally bankrupt congressmen.

    I cannot lament or stress enough that having this irredeemable creep as president of the United States says more about the people (especially white women and so-called Evangelicals) who voted for him than it does about Trump. After all, his racism, schoolyard bullying, misogyny, mendacity, sexual predation, shady financial dealings, political amorality, and other flaws — too numerous to list — were on continual display during his presidential campaign.

    This is why I fully expect Trump to have his venal way by limiting any “punishment” for this murder to little more than token sanctions against the “rogue killers” – all of whom MBS will be all too happy to offer up as sacrificial lambs.

    That said, I am ashamed to admit that, if MBS had limited his misdeeds to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries (like Qatar and Yemen), even I would’ve given him a pass. My abiding thought was a pox on all their Mideast countries. After all, Turkey’s Erdogan makes MBS look like a boy scout when it comes to stifling democratic freedoms, especially freedom of the press.

    Indeed, there’s every indication that, instead of attempting to hold MBS to account, Erdogan is using intelligence gathered about this murder to extort financial concessions from him. In other words, for the right price, Erdogan will be all too happy to play along with MBS and Trump’s spin about rogue killers.

    No matter how Salman fares at home, it will certainly help abroad that, unlike his predecessors, he has a face that could easily warm a billion non-Muslim hearts. I wish him well.

    (“Saudi Arabia Promises to Repent for Extremist Ways,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 26, 2017)

    But ordering this hit on Khashoggi in Istanbul smacks of flying too close to the sun. Accordingly, far from wishing him well, I am now wishing MBS gets burned.

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  • Monday, October 15, 2018 at 7:42 AM

    Frederick Douglass Is the ‘Greatest Figure America Has Ever Produced’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have been making this claim for decades. It’s based primarily on the fact that Frederick Douglass personified both the contradictions and promises that define America’s founding documents. And he did so like nobody else has or ever could.

    Unfortunately, even black historians have been so indoctrinated with white historiography, they invariably try to qualify my claim as follows:

    You mean the greatest (black) figure … don’t you?

    But no, I mean, and have always meant, the greatest figure, period!

    This is why I’ve felt so dismayed over the years as I watched Douglass suffer one historical slight after another. It’s bad enough that white historians (and politicians) rarely accord him even an honorable mention when discussing the greatest Americans. But it smacks of fratricide that black ones accord him little more.

    Only this explains why Douglass was never the obvious choice when it came to honoring the first black American with, among other things, a

    • picture on a postage stamp (Booker T. Washington)
    • national holiday (Martin Luther King Jr.)
    • monument on the National Mall (MLK)
    • picture on any dollar bill (Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth being considered)

    And don’t get me started on the new National Museum of African American History and Culture choosing the life and times of Oprah Winfrey for its first special exhibition. I decried the museum’s myopic and craven choice, as well as Oprah’s self-adulating and self-indulgent acceptance of it, in “African American Museum Paying Trumpian Tribute to Oprah. Shame!” June 11, 2018.

    No wonder, then, that TIME did not include Douglass on its definitive list of “The 100 Most Significant Figures in History,” which it published in 2013. The top five, in order, were Jesus, Napoleon, Muhammad, William Shakespeare, and Abraham Lincoln. But the list also included such notable Americans as George W. Bush (#36), Joseph Smith (#55), and Grover Cleveland (#98).

    Of course, Martin Luther King Jr. is often hailed as the greatest (black) figure America has ever produced. But there are many compelling reasons to hail Douglass as such. Here is how I delineated some of them in “Mall at Last, Mall at Last, Thank God Almighty a Black Is on the Mall at Last,” November 14, 2006.

    ____________________

    • Douglass was born in slavery; MLK was born in freedom.
    • Douglass spent his formative years on a plantation scrapping with his master’s dogs for food to eat; MLK spent his in relative luxury dining with America’s black elite.
    • Douglass taught himself to read and write; MLK attended America’s best schools, including Morehouse College and Boston University.
    • Douglass escaped from slavery, settled in the North, and began his political activism by leading challenges to segregation laws, which were as strictly enforced in the Antebellum North as they were in the Deep South; MLK graduated from university, settled in the South, and began his political activism by accepting calls to lead blacks – who had already begun the now-seminal Montgomery Bus Boycott.
    • Douglass had no peer among blacks in the fight to end slavery; MLK had Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X – whose message of self-defense and black nationalism resonated more with young blacks (for whom ‘by any means necessary’ was far more liberating and empowering than ‘I have a dream’).
    • Douglass lived long enough (to age 77) not only to see his dream of abolition fulfilled, but also to become a professional man (as a US Marshall and recorder of deeds), an international statesman (as US Ambassador to Santo Domingo and Haiti), and a political champion for yet another cause (women’s suffrage); MLK died too soon (at age 39) not only to see his dream of racial equality fulfilled, but also to pursue any ambition outside of the black liberation struggle.
    • Douglass’s published works on the fight for freedom from slavery are voluminous; MLK’s on the struggle for black civil rights are modest by comparison. (I refer you to articles from one of Douglass’s many newspapers, The North Star, and to his autobiographies Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass — an American SlaveMy Bondage and My Freedom, and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. It might also interest you to know that eyewitness accounts, by the likes of famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, suggest that Douglass was every bit the orator MLK was. Having read the text, I suspect his “What to the slave is the 4th of July?” (1852) was even more provocative and inspiring than MLK’s ‘I Have A Dream’ (1963).

    __________________

    Alas, I cannot help Douglass get the recognition (and honors) he deserves. I just don’t have the political or literary influence.

    Which brings me to Adam Gopnik and his essay in the October 15, 2018 issue of The New Yorker. It’s titled “The Prophetic Pragmatism of Frederick Douglass” and has this defining and intriguing subtitle:

    He escaped from slavery, and helped rescue America.

    As I read it, I felt like I did when I was in grade school and my big brothers were fending off schoolyard bullies for me. As a critically acclaimed novelist, reporter, lecturer and social critic, Gopnik has the kind of influence I lack. He has always struck me as a more sober, less acerbic Christopher Hitchens …

    In any event, I strongly recommend you read and share this essay. Because the more you do, the more likely Douglass will get his due.

    As it happens, Gopnik ended his essay by juxtaposing Douglass’s biography with that of no less a person than Abraham Lincoln. In doing so, he mirrored the juxtaposition of Douglass and MLK’s I cited above.

    Here’s a little Gopnik teaser:

    Lincoln remains the saint of American democracy, yet his ascent from the backwoods to the White House was, for all its rigors, a far easier ride. …

    In his legacy as prophetic radical and political pragmatist, in the almost unimaginable bravery of his early journey and the resilience of his later career, in his achievements as a writer, activist, crusader, intellectual, father, and man, the claim that [Douglass] was the greatest figure that America has ever produced seems hard to challenge.

    There’s no denying that Gopnik’s essay amounts to an authoritative vindication of my assertion. Accordingly, I rest my case.

    Hail, Douglass!

    Related commentaries:
    Oprah exhibition
    The Mall at last
    Woman on dollar bill
    Gopnik: Prophetic … Douglass
    Christopher Hitchens

  • Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 8:22 AM

    Gone Fishing

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Back on October 15

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