The iPINIONS Journal


  • Thursday, May 24, 2018 at 5:06 PM

    Observing Memorial Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am going canoeing to be at one with nature, while meditating on the requirements for a purposeful life.

    But cultural brainwashing is such that you’d be forgiven for commemorating this solemn occasion by going shopping or to the beach.

    Still, remember to honor the troops whose “ultimate sacrifice” made this perverse holiday possible. And don’t forget to curse the politicians who made dead heroes of so many of them for vainglorious causes like the unjust (and patently unwinnable) wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria …

    NOTE: Not since 1968 has America entered a summer fraught with such simmering and combustible tensions. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, I suggest you tune in to CNN’s re-airing of its four-part series “1968” beginning Sunday night. Beware!

    Related commentaries:
    Stupid wars

    * pictogram courtesy of Seiksoon

  • Thursday, May 24, 2018 at 4:47 PM

    Trump Weasels Out of Ill-Fated Nuclear Summit with Kim of North Korea

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here in part is the plainly hypocritical way President Trump weaseled out of the nuclear summit with President Kim:

    Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.

    (CNN, May 24, 2018)

    Indeed, just weeks ago, both were talking about this summit like teenagers talking about their first date – complete with Trump publicly fantasizing about winning the Nobel Peace Prize and privately minting coins to mark the historic occasion.

    So what happened?

    Long story short, they both realized that, if they actually met, the only thing they would have in common is bad hair.

    Actually, the reason for this epic failure is that Trump was blinded by the prospect of doing something no other president was stupid to do, namely, to dignify Kim with a summit without him meeting significant pre-conditions. In fact, Trump was so giddy, he said yes to what amounted to a blind date.

    But anyone who knows anything about North Korea knew this summit was going to be either canceled or the worst in the history of international relations. Not least because Trump was insisting he was going to get Kim to give up his nukes, whereas Kim was insisting only a fool would think that.

    Is it any wonder Kim started ghosting Trump…? His increasingly cold shoulder included having his team fail to show up for discussions on summit logistics with Trump’s team, which was headed by a very perplexed and frustrated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

    And don’t get me started on the hapless-loser way Trump is blaming his purportedly jealous BFF, Chinese President Xi Jinping, for coaxing Kim into breaking things off with him. #MeanGirls!

    But this cold shoulder enabled Trump’s flunkies to finally prevail upon him to appreciate the disastrous implications of this fundamental disconnect. That’s why he seized upon this absurd pretext:

    North Korea slammed Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday, calling comments he made earlier this week ‘stupid’ and saying it’s prepared for a ‘nuclear showdown’ if ongoing talks with the U.S. fail.

    Choe Son Hui, a vice minister in the North Korean Foreign Ministry, called Pence a ‘political dummy’ for comparing North Korea to Libya, which abandoned its early-stage nuclear program at the U.S.’s behest, only to have its leader ousted and killed years later — with help from NATO-backed troops.

    (ABC News, May 24, 2018)

    That, folks, is the “most recent statement” he was referring to. Mind you, everything that vice minister said in her statement makes far more sense than anything Trump said in his Dear Kim letter.

    It’s laughable enough that Trump, the grand poobah of personal insults and nuclear threats, is using this third-rate insult as his pretext for canceling the summit.

    But nothing betrays his fake face-saving retreat quite like the fact that he wrongly attributed this statement to Kim. Imagine the international ridicule if Kim had cited an insult Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton hurled at his vice chairman as his reason for canceling.

    Not to mention that, if hurling insults and threats were so off-putting, Trump would not have agreed to this summit in the first place. After all, the insults he and Kim hurled directly at each other (e.g., Rocket Man and mentally deranged dotard, respectively) make those this lowly vice minister hurled at Pence seem like sweet nothings.

    Now Trump’s gaggle of cheerleading apologists are trying to spin this international farce as him wheeling The Art of the Deal. But anyone with half a brain knows that his Dear Kim letter was just his juvenile way of dumping Kim before (ghosting) Kim dumped him.

    Even worse, his national security advisers were probably too busy mending his bruised ego to get jilted Trump to wait a day or two before publishing this letter. That would have given Western journalists time to return safely from North Korea.

    As the world knows, Kim invited them to witness the destruction of one of his useless nuclear sites. He promoted this as a good-faith gesture pending direct negotiations with Trump. Therefore, he could easily have taken the timing of Trump’s letter as a humiliating betrayal, which would have justified turning those Western witnesses into hostages.

    Meanwhile, no less a person than Trump’s No. 1 frenemy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, is leading the world in castigating/trolling him:

    Kim Jong Un on his part did everything he promised to do, even blew up some tunnels on their sites and after this we hear the US cancelling the meeting.

    (CNN, May 24, 2018)

    All that was left was for Putin to add a Trumpian: #AmateurHour.

    Of course, this is the same Trump who foolishly withdrew the United States from NAFTA, the Climate Change accord, the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, and the Iran Nuclear deal without any alternatives in mind, let alone in place. He has already alienated every major US ally (with the notable exception of Israel). Now he’s doubling on his alienation of South Korea and Japan — both of whom have an existential interest in Trump striking the kind of nuclear deal with North Korea Obama struck with Iran, ironically enough.

    This is why leaders from London to Tokyo and all capitals between can be forgiven for thinking the United States is being led by, well, a mentally deranged dotard.

    NOTE: If you think Trump can’t possibly embarrass the United States any more than this on the world stage, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

    Related commentaries:
    North Korea nukes
    Iran nuclear deal

  • Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 7:53 AM

    Roman Abramovich, Russia’s Most Famous Oligarch, ‘Stuck’ in Moscow

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Russian President Vladimir Putin is continuing his smorgasbord of destabilizing activities in Western countries. The United States and European Union implemented economic sanctions that were supposed to humble and hobble him. But they appear to have only emboldened him.

    No doubt this is because, for nearly 20 years, Putin has lorded over a mercantile kleptocracy. It is predicated on him and a small group of oligarchs extracting wealth from Russia and investing/laundering it abroad. This means that they are practically inured to (broad) economic sanctions, which leave ordinary, innocent Russians to suffer the impact, disproportionately.

    But even I underestimated the extent to which Putin and his cronies are inured. Here, for example, is the hopeful way I wrote about this in “Fail, Putin! Only (More) Sanctions to Show for Meddling in US Election,” July 31, 2017.

    ____________________

    US sanctions are not just crippling Russia’s economy; they are cramping the jet-set lifestyle of the oligarchs he depends on to protect and sustain his kleptocracy.

    It speaks volumes that the richest Russians, including Putin himself, have more money in American banks than Russian ones. And US officials can make sanctions more targeted by requiring them to account for their ‘unexplained wealth.’ For this would prove every bit as incriminating as requiring drug lords to account for theirs. This is why Putin and his oligarchs are so susceptible to US sanctions.

    ____________________

    To be fair, I clearly thought the sanctions should be more targeted – not just to be more effective, but also to limit the disproportionate impact I referenced above. As it happens, I had cause to reinforce this point earlier this year after Putin ordered yet another hit on UK soil; namely the attempted assassination of ex Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia:

    Here’s to UK Prime Minister Theresa May making quite a show of targeting Russian oligarchs like Roman Abramovich, whose prized assets include the famous Chelsea Football Club. Because, trust me, these oligarchs would rather fund a palace coup against Putin than lose access to their billions in ill-gotten gains or, worse still, be forced to live permanently in Russia.

    Not to mention that this would do much to belie prevailing claims that London has become My Beautiful Laundrette for money launderers of all stripes – from business oligarchs to political despots and drug kingpins.

    (“Russia Taunting Britain with Brazen Assassinations,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 13, 2018)

    This is why I was so heartened when this latest hit proved too brazen even for the Trump administration:

    The Trump administration is unleashing additional sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin along with 12 companies they own or control. …

    The punitive actions are the latest escalating step by the US to punish Putin’s inner circle for interfering in the 2016 election and other ongoing aggressions across the globe in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria.

    (CNN, April 6, 2018)

    It took the May administration a little more time, but it is following suit with an even more targeted strategy:

    The UK has yet to renew a visa for Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch and owner of Chelsea football club, after it expired last month. …

    London-based Mr Abramovich [shocked government officials and business associates alike when he] left the UK [bound for Russia] after his investor visa expired.

    (Financial Times, May 20, 2018)

    And, lest you think oligarchs sensible enough to avoid getting stuck in Russia would escape this fate:

    Downing Street confirmed it was looking at individuals who were still in the UK and holding tier 1 visas [like Abramovich’s], which allow anyone who invests more than £2m in the British economy to stay for 40 months. …

    Applications can be rejected if officials believe the applicant is not in control of funds, money has been obtained unlawfully, or the origin of funds means granting a visa will not be conducive to the public good.

    (The Guardian, May 21, 2018)

    In other words, just as I suggested, Russian oligarchs now have some ‘splainin’ to do. And I hasten to point out that a disproportionate number of them just happen to be based in the UK.

    Rachel Davies, head of advocacy at Transparency International, says the group has found £4.4 billion worth of UK property that is owned with suspicious wealth, a fifth of it owned by Russian individuals.

    (The Irish Times, March 24, 2018)

    Fatefully, this gives May’s Britain considerable asymmetrical power over Putin’s Russia. Nothing betrays this quite like the Kremlin’s whining, trolling response to this new crackdown:

    Russia accused the UK of treating its oligarchs ‘dishonestly.’ … Russian business executives face ‘various manifestations of unfair and unfriendly treatment,’ said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Vladimir Putin, the president.

    (Financial Times, May 21, 2018)

    Talk about “gaslighting” …

    Incidentally, targeting Abramovich is doubly strategic because he is Putin’s most-favored oligarch. Therefore, this hits as close to home as any strategy could without targeting Putin himself.

    What’s more, all Western-based oligarchs must be pondering this question:

    Whether it’s better to stand with Putin (in Moscow) and lose not just their coveted Western lifestyles but access to billions laundered through Western banks and vested in Western properties, or betray Putin (in London), cop a plea, and risk ending up on the growing list of dead Russians who dared to do so?

    Talk about “the rub” …

    But no group is more deserving of this dilemma than these oligarchs. It is their inevitable day of reckoning for the Faustian bargain they struck with Putin at the expense of the long-suffering Russian people.

    Which leads me to end with this pithy take on the venal and menacing nature of Putin’s Russia:

    Every country has its own mafia. In Russia, the mafia has its own country.

    (The Huffington Post, May 21, 2018)

    This is what renowned chess grandmaster and Russian dissident Garry Kasparov said at a recent PutinCon-style conference in New York City. And yes, he fears his days are numbered.

    But this take, which he’s been sharing lately, echoes what I’ve been sharing for years in commentaries like “Putin Reforming Russia in His Own Image,” March 25, 2005, “Hail Putin, Again,” September 26, 2011, and “In Putin’s Russia Even Athletics Is a Criminal (Doping) Enterprise,” November 9, 2015.

    Related commentaries:
    fail Putin sanctions
    Skripal assassinations
    Reforming Russia
    Corruption in Russia
    Hail Putin
    Putin’s Russia

  • Monday, May 21, 2018 at 8:17 AM

    Everything Trump Praises Fails. Airline Safety Just the Latest Thing

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Trump has a notorious habit of variously taking credit for successes he had little to do with and praising things, only to see them fail.

    For example:

    • He took credit for Ford’s decision to keep a manufacturing plant in Kentucky instead of moving it to Mexico. But then Ford announced that it never intended to move the plant in the first place.
    • He took credit for Japanese company Softbank’s decision to invest billions of dollars and create thousands of jobs in the United States. But then news reports revealed that Softbank made that decision when everyone, including Trump, thought Hillary would be the next president.
    • He took credit for gas prices being the lowest in 10 years last summer – when the national average was $2.23. But then that average started rising. It’s now at $2.92, and is bound to rise well above $3.00 this summer. Not to mention that, contrary to Trump’s claim, it fell well below $2.00 at points during Obama’s presidency.
    • He praised the historic profitability of his casinos, only to see them end up in bankruptcy.
    • He praised the retention of manufacturing jobs at Carrier, only to see them end up in Mexico.
    • He praised the Republican-controlled Congress for repealing Obamacare, only to see Republican Senator John McCain kill that effort with his famous thumbs down.

    Which brings me to this deadly confluence: He took credit in January for an unprecedented stretch of airline safety, only to see the praise he lavished on commercial aviation result in an unprecedented spate of airline crashes.

    Trump on Tuesday appeared to claim that his policies in his first year in the White House resulted in the commercial aviation industry posting its safest year ever in 2017 — though the U.S. had gone years without a U.S. commercial airline fatality before he took office.

    ‘Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation,’ Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. ‘Good news – it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!’

    (Politico, January 2, 2018)

    Sure enough, to paraphrase the aphoristic title of Rick Wilson’s book, Everything Trump Touches Dies, everything Trump praises fails:

    Almost 200 people have been killed in a spate of passenger plane crashes in the first three months of this year, after a fatality-free 2017 for commercial jets.

    While it’s impossible to draw comparisons to any of the recent aviation accidents, questions have naturally resurfaced over air safety and why it’s been such a bad start to 2018 for flying.

    (The National UAE, March 14, 2018)

    And things only got worse after that, which included last week’s crash of a Boeing 737 soon after takeoff from Havana airport. The entire crew of 6 and 104 passengers died (3 survived).

    But no less troubling was the catastrophic engine failure last month of another Boeing 737 soon after takeoff from Philadelphia airport. That resulted in a female passenger being sucked halfway out a broken window and later dying from her injuries.

    And that came less than a week after the most disastrous airline crash in decades, namely, the April 11 crash of an Algerian airplane soon after takeoff from the Boufarik air base. The entire crew of 16 and 247 passengers died.

    Granted, this last crash was not of a commercial airplane; it was not even an American one. But this only shows that the curse of Trump’s praise knows no bounds.

    Incidentally, in Everything Trump Touches Dies, Wilson chronicles and derides the way the Republican Party, evangelical Christians, military generals, and a host of erstwhile respectable political operatives sacrificed their professional reputation and good name at the altar of Trump’s imperial ambitions.

    I have done the same in many commentaries, notably in “Evangelicals Supporting Trump like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016, and “Trump Sharing Classified Info with Russians Forces [General] McMaster to Spicer Himself,” May 16, 2017.

    Frankly, never before in the history of politics have so many sacrificed so much for so little.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Sunday, May 20, 2018 at 2:03 PM

    Harry Marries Meghan in Historic Swirling of British Royal Family

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, I couldn’t care less about this wedding. In fact, you couldn’t have paid me enough to get up at 8 this morning, let alone at 4, to watch this royal spectacle.

    I have vented antipathy to royalty and all its appurtenances in many commentaries, including in “Homage to Royal Wedding,” April 28, 2011, when Will married Kate, and “Australia Bans British Honours. Other Commonwealth Countries Should Too,” November 3, 2015.

    This is why the only positive thing I can say about this occasion is that Meghan Markle will make the British monarchy more relevant to the times; in fact, more so than anyone who married into this anachronistic institution since Victoria married Albert in 1840. Sorry, Fergie.

    But erstwhile liberated women did her no favors with their cooing all over TV in recent days, especially because they came across like Kardashian groupies previewing Kylie’s latest pop-up shop. I found them particularly oxymoronic when they began hailing Meghan as a feminist icon for deciding to walk down the aisle partly by herself.

    After all, the only reason she decided to do so is that her father became too humiliated to show his face after he was caught selling out his royal connections to the tabloids. This, even before his daughter had sealed the deal.

    Mind you, no self-respecting feminist would ever marry/buy into this old-fashioned, Cinderella-style fairy tale.  After all, it’s a patent affront to the very concept of not just gender equality but liberal democracy to propagate the fantasy that any little girl can grow up to marry a white prince. A fantasy that, notwithstanding Meghan, seems a cruel joke where little black and brown girls are concerned. But I digress …

    I just hope Meghan has better coping skills than Diana. But I have grave misgivings. Not least because she seems more interested in straddling racial lines than in acknowledging that, for all intents and purposes, she’s black. I duly decried her self-righteous delusions in “Like Barack Obama, Meghan Markle Is Black. So Why Is She Passing,” November 28 2017.

    The “swirl” is easily the most interesting thing about Harry and Meghan’s marriage. Too bad it’s the thing everybody, including Meghan, wants to highlight the least. Only this explains reporters and commentators dutifully referring to her as biracial/mixed race. Do you recall any of them ever referring to Obama as such?

    It also puts a different light on her declared distress over the epic failure of her white father to show up. Because this meant that the only evidence of her racial makeup on display for the world to see was the proud black face of her devoted mother, Doria Ragland.

    Incidentally, don’t let the black bishop and black choir Meghan enlisted to perform at the church fool you. Because, of the hundreds invited to the reception, you could probably count the blacks (like Serena Williams and Idris Elba) on the fingers of one hand. And I know Harry invited at least two of them.

    Actually, not since George Clooney married Amal Alamuddin has a purportedly cosmopolitan celebrity wedding been so provincially lily white. And yes, I heaped scorn on their wedding too in “Clooney Nuptials Show Saturday Weddings as Segregated as Sunday Services…?” September 27, 2014.

    While I’m at it, let’s get this straight also: The few Hollywood A-listers  (like Clooney) who showed up were there because of the royal family. Trust me, before she started dating Harry, B-lister Meghan couldn’t get an invitation to the Academy Awards, let alone the famed post-Oscar parties where A-listers schmooze and unwind. Go ahead, search the Red-Carpet archives. You’ll see she’s nowhere to be found. A latter-day Grace Kelly she is not.

    In other words, Meghan earned her professional and social status the old-fashioned way: she married it. How feminist is that?

    In any event, here’s to the married couple. May they live happily ever after … despite the odds.

    Good luck, Meghan.

    Related commentaries:
    royal wedding
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    * This commentary was originally published on Saturday, May 19, at 8:38 a.m.

  • Friday, May 18, 2018 at 7:39 AM

    Ebola Redux

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    What is it about the continent of Africa that it suffers the worst not only of man’s inhumanity to man, but also of Mother Nature’s wrath?

    After all, no continent has been more beset by genocidal wars and political corruption on the one hand, and by drought and disease on the other. This led me to coin the alliterative lament (in one of my first commentaries on March 7, 2005) that Africa too often features among the continents of the world as a dark, destitute, diseased, desperate, disenfranchised, dishonest, disorganized, disassociated, dangerous and, ultimately, dysfunctional mess.

    Alas, this latest outbreak of Ebola only affirms the Dark Continent’s dubious distinction in these respects.

    (“Ebola,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 9, 2014)

    That outbreak in 2014 killed nearly 12,000. But thank God a white American (a missionary) got infected early on. Because that made combating this virus an international cause celebre, which compelled the American government to dispatch all kinds of human, medical, and military resources to the Ebola front in West Africa.

    The decision to involve the military in providing equipment and other assistance for international health workers in Africa comes after mounting calls from some unlikely groups — most prominently the international medical organization Doctors Without Borders — demonstrating to the White House the urgency of the issue.

    (The Washington Post, September 7, 2014)

    There’s no denying that, without those resources, the number killed would easily have doubled or tripled.

    Unfortunately, here we go again.

    Congo has confirmed a case of Ebola in Mbandaka, a city of 1.2 million, marking the first urban case in the latest outbreak, which is now the most serious since the epidemic that raged across West Africa between 2014 and 2016.

    Ebola is much harder to contain in urban areas, so this development compounds the risk of contagion. The World Health Organization’s lead response official called the new confirmed case “a game changer.”

    (The Washington Post, May 17, 2018)

    The only question now is how many Africans will die before a white American (or any white Westerner) gets infected. Because I fear it will take another case like that for the US and other Western governments to dispatch similar resources to help Congo contain this contagion.

    According to the WHO, this outbreak has killed 23 … and counting.

    That said, I would be remiss not to lament the continental shame inherent in Africans still needing outsiders to solve African problems. After all, they are now nearly 60 years removed from the days of colonialism.

    Yet every year since, for one reason or another, some African country has presented itself on the world stage as still “the white man’s burden.” Granted, that proverbial white man has been looking more Asian than Western lately.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, May 17, 2018 at 7:43 AM

    Catalonia Dreamin’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’ve been commenting on Catalonia’s fight for independence for years. My commentaries range from “Catalonia: Spain’s Kosovo Problem,” October 1, 2012, to “Catalonia Continues Sisyphean Climb Towards Independence,” October 2, 2017.

    The latter includes this defining observation:

    ____________________

    Catalonia held an independence referendum yesterday. But only the Einsteinian definition of ‘insanity’ explains why.

    It’s bad enough that legal prohibitions and political machinations rendered it invalid. But this referendum followed similar referendums in 2009 and 2011, mass independence rallies in 2010 and 2012, a parliamentary declaration of sovereignty in 2013, a self-determination referendum in 2014, and a referendum masquerading as regional elections in 2015.

    Catalonia held them all to no avail.

    Yet came Sunday – complete with the Spanish government daring Catalonia to hold another referendum. Except that this aped the feckless spectacle of the US government daring North Korea to launch another missile.

    ____________________

    Sure enough, despite that record of futility, Catalonia’s parliament elected pro-independence candidate Quim Torra as president last week.

    Torra has promised to draft a constitution for a future Catalan Republic and restore regional laws that were suspended by Spanish courts in the wake of Catalonia’s October 1, 2017, independence referendum in which about two million Catalans voted to secede from Spain. …

    Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has warned Article 155 of the constitution, which Madrid used to impose direct rule on Catalonia, ‘could be used again if necessary’, if the region’s next government does not adhere to Spanish law.

    (Al Jazeera, May 14, 2018)

    Torra and Catalonia’s former President Carles Puidgemont were all smiles when Torra traveled to Berlin for a symbolic passing of the gold-medal presidential sash. But I’m sure Rajoy finds nothing amusing about this idiomatic rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic. After all, Catalans merely replaced their pro-independence former president with his hand-picked puppet.

    Incidentally, the fugitive Puigdemont is sitting on pins and needles while a German court considers whether to extradite him to face charges of corruption. It ruled last month that he should not be extradited on the more serious charge of rebellion. But, once back in Spanish custody, the pretext the German court used for extraditing him will be moot.

    In any event, my serial homage to Catalonia is replete with instructive references to separatist movements in regions like Serbia’s Kosovo, Iraq’s Kurdistan, Italy’s South Tyrol, Belgium’s Flemish and Walloon, China’s Uyghur, and even Spain’s own Basque.

    But perhaps the best way to explain the ill-fated nature of Catalonia’s fight is to pose this question: What do you suppose would happen if a Texas referendum to secede from the United States passed and its legislature then proceeded to draft a new constitution and implement laws pursuant to that referendum?

    The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a 2006 letter that ‘if there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.’

    (PBS News Hour, May 4, 2017)

    Granted, the Spanish fought their Civil War not over secession but over national control. What’s more, their 1978 constitution codified the aspirations of regional communities for some degree of self-governing autonomy (a.k.a. “state of autonomies”). But Article 2 also resolved

    the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation.

    This is why Catalonia has no greater chance of ever becoming independent from Spain than Texas has of becoming independent from the United States.

    ¡Ya basta! ¡Dejen de pelearse!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at 4:30 PM

    Happy Ramadan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at 3:28 PM

    Israel Christens US Embassy in Jerusalem

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    But, in doing so, it sacrificed religious pride for political gain. Now it has neither.

    An evangelical pastor who former presidential candidate Mitt Romney denounced as a ‘religious bigot’ delivered a prayer at the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on Monday. …

    Romney criticized the choice of a man who has said all Jews will go to hell to deliver a blessing in Israel. Jeffress is the leader of a Dallas-area Baptist church and a spiritual adviser to Trump.

    (The Guardian, May 14, 2018)

    Of course, Pastor Robert Jeffress is the same religious bigot who infamously condemned Romney’s Mormon religion as “a heresy from the pit of hell,” and Islam as “a cult … that promotes pedophilia.”

    But it’s one thing for a congenital racist like President Trump to tap Jeffress as his spiritual adviser. It’s quite another for a Zionist like Prime Minister Netanyahu to allow this notorious anti-Semite to even set foot in Israel, let alone deliver a keynote prayer to bless the fulfillment of a Jewish prophecy.

    As it happens, though, only biblical prophecy explains this antic accommodation:

    I’ll spare you my sermon on the ‘biblical’ alliance between these two polarizing religious sects. Suffice it to consider the condescension/bigotry inherent in these Christians deeming it an article of their faith – not only to protect Jews (whom they hail as ‘God’s chosen people’), but also to convert them to Christianity to ensure they make it into Heaven. Never mind the contradiction inherent in God needing self-professed evangelicals to convert his chosen people for this rapture.

    (“Alas, Bush Still Being Misled/Goaded by Cheney,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 4, 2015)

    All the same, there’s no denying the religious humiliation Trump forced Jews to swallow so that his religious adviser could bless this political “promise made, promise kept.” After all, an evangelical leader delivering the keynote prayer at the opening of this embassy in Israel is tantamount to a KKK leader delivering the keynote address at the opening of a monument to MLK in South Africa.

    Trump should be condemned for sending Jeffress. But Netanyahu should be condemned even more for receiving him.

    Meanwhile, it seems a cruel joke for anyone to assert that God had anything to do with this patently fraught occasion. For nothing betrays this quite like a viral picture juxtaposing a smiling Ivanka Trump, Israel’s guest of honor, with dying Palestinian children, which The New York Daily News memorialized with the caption,

    Daddy’s Little Ghoul

    Not to mention that Israeli soldiers killed these little children as they were protesting not for a (new) national capital but for the national homeland God promised Palestinians back in the Bible days … too.

    Monday became the bloodiest day since the campaign of demonstrations began seven weeks ago to protest Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza. …

    By late in the evening, 58 Palestinians, including several teenagers, had been killed and more than 1,350 wounded by gun fire, the Health Ministry said. Israeli soldiers and snipers used barrages of tear gas as well as live gunfire to keep protesters from entering Israeli territory.

    (The New York Times, May 14, 2018)

    This in part is why Israel is becoming even more isolated on the world stage than North Korea. More to the point, it can only take foolish pride in having just the United States, Guatemala, and Paraguay recognize Jerusalem as its capital. Which compels me to reiterate this abiding dynamic:

    Netanyahu seems to think Israel can get by with a little help from its friends — even if those friends compose just a small faction of Christian fundamentalists and neo-cons on the lunatic fringe of US Republican Party.

    (“Netanyahu’s Call for Jewish Exodus more Sharpton than Moses,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 23, 2015)

    Related commentaries:
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  • Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 8:42 PM

    This Is My Nineteenth Motherless Mother’s Day…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And, much to my annoyance, I’ve been hearing “sorry for your loss” every Mother’s Day since.

    US President Woodrow Wilson designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in 1914. Which compels the question: Did people fail to properly honor mothers before then?

    More to the point, though, Wilson’s proclamation should have no bearing on the natural instinct to show mothers the love and appreciation they are due … every day.

    This is why I never participated in the condescending commercial contrivance that is Mother’s Day – even when my mother was alive. She never complained, but that’s probably because she had 16 other children who did.

    But nothing informed my aversion quite like knowing that Anna Jarvis lived to regret it. To honor her mother’s wish, she launched a campaign in 1905 for this day “to honor the best mother who ever lived, yours.” That campaign led to Wilson’s proclamation nine years later.

    Except that:

    Jarvis couldn’t stand the idea of people spending so much money on extravagant flower arrangements, sappy greeting cards and overly priced chocolates. … Her protests [against this commercialization of Mother’s Day] escalated to arrests for public disturbances. …

    Jarvis died in a sanitarium in 1948.

    (CBS News, May 13, 2018)

    Of course, it’s all too easy to see why she ended up there. After all, that commercialization she was protesting now accounts for nearly $25 billion in sales for every Mother’s Day. In other words, Jarvis had to be insane to think she could stem that unsentimental tide of “human progress.”

    In any event, it only compounds my annoyance when people presume that I miss my mother more acutely on this day than any other. But I always felt this was too personal for public comment. That is, until I came across Mary Cella’s “I’m So Sorry for My Loss” in today’s edition of The New York Times.

    Mind you, she does not vent my disdain for the commercialization that defines Mother’s Day. (A disdain I have for others like Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day … and Christmas Day too.) But Cella waxes cynical enough on one truly perverse aspect of Mother’s Day, so much so that I thought her piece worth recommending.

    Her title speaks volumes, but I suspect one has to be a motherless child to really get it. Therefore, I hope the following lines are illustrative and enticing enough without giving away too much:

    This is my ninth motherless Mother’s Day, and while I still feel a little that people who take their mom out to brunch to celebrate are bragging, I’d like to assure you all that I’m fine.

    The worst part of losing my mom is the fact that she’s no longer alive. … About the 100th worst part is how uncomfortable most people get when I tell them my mother is dead.

    (The New York Times, May 12, 2018)

    So please spare me (and yourself) the faux and annoyingly belated condolences.

    And the motherless children say, Amen!

  • Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 8:08 AM

    Bless you, Melania

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Ms Trump took centre stage [Monday] to launch her ‘Be Best’ public awareness campaign to help children, including discouraging cyber bullying.

    Her choice of issues had earlier raised eyebrows given US President Donald Trump’s use of Twitter to attack his political opponents.

    (ABC News, May 7, 2018)

    Apropos of raised eyebrows, twits trolled her for agreeing to lift heavily from the companion pamphlet Michelle Obama used for her FLOTUS campaign.

    You’d think she would’ve been loath to do so given the flak she got for infamously plagiarizing her 2016 RNC speech from Michelle’s 2008 DNC speech.

    It has become as pointless as it is redundant to denounce the big lies that characterize Donald Trump’s black-swan presidential campaign. And denying the undeniable fact that his wife plagiarized Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech at the RNC’s Hate week on Monday night is the least of them.

    His campaign motto seems to be: Deny, deny, deny until a lie becomes the truth!

    (“Trump’s Law and Order Doublespeak Has RNC Raving and Roiling,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 21, 2016)

    But I suspect lies and entitlements are so commonplace in her life that she’s just doing what entitled liars do.

    Meanwhile, the irony seems completely lost on the Trumps that, while Donald is trying to undo everything Barack did, Melania is trying to copy everything Michelle did. The awkward public displays of affection between the Trumps are telling enough. But this dissonance towards the Obamas speaks volumes about the state of their marriage.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump’s law and order

  • Friday, May 11, 2018 at 7:19 AM

    Nicholas Kristof, the Martin Luther of Journalism…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It might seem preposterous to even suggest that any journalist is as much the conscience of journalism as Martin Luther was of Catholicism. But Nicholas Kristof might be worthy of such praise.

    Kristof is a New York Times columnist and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes – for reporting (1990) and commentary (2006). Therefore, his voice is every bit as respected and influential as Luther’s was.

    More to the point, Kristof’s “Our Addiction to Trump” indicts his profession in 2018 much as Luther’s “Ninety-five Theses” indicted his religion in 1517. Here are just a few lines from the former, which should compel the kind of soul searching among journalists the latter compelled among Catholics.

    News organizations, especially cable television channels, feed off Trump — like oxpeckers on a rhino’s back — for he is part of our business model. …

    I worry that our national nonstop focus on Trump is helping to usher America into a hole: a Trump obsession. …

    That’s pathetic.

    (The New York Times, May 5, 2018)

    Yet, with all due respect to Kristof, this smacks of an opioid addict reflecting on his addiction, during a moment of sobriety … before taking his next hit. And blaming Trump for this addiction is rather like that addict blaming fentanyl … after years of using everything from marijuana to heroin.

    It shall redound to his profession’s eternal shame that neither he nor any of his peers had the presence of mind to preach about the wrongfulness of their Trumpian addiction before it became an epidemic.

    This is why I hope Kristof will forgive me for suggesting that, if he’s a latter-day Martin Luther, then I’m a latter-day John the Baptist. Because I actually had that presence of mind.

    As testimonials, I refer you to such timely and holistic sermons as “Journalism Is ‘Having a Very, Very, Pathetic Moment,’” November 13, 2013, “CNN Boss Is What’s Wrong With Journalism Today,” May 10, 2014, and “Humping Trump Exposes News Anchormen as Worse than Used Car Salesmen,” May 2, 2016, which includes the following seminal excerpt.

    ____________________

    I was in the vanguard of those decrying this tabloidization of the news. Not because it exploits primal fears and desires; but because it betrays the news media’s role as a public trust. …

    Which brings me to the news media’s mercenary coverage of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Remarkably, they report every thing he says as “Breaking News”, especially the Tourrete-like insults he hurls at other candidates. …

    The news media have become so focused on chasing profits that chasing news has become a distraction. Only this explains the networks and cable news channels abandoning coverage of Obama’s historic trip to Cuba to cover Trump’s umpteenth campaign rally. …

    Media bosses will honor this Faustian bargain. This, even though they know full well that a Trump presidency ‘could destroy the country.’ CBS President and CEO Les Moonves summed up this mercenary coverage in Barnumesque fashion as follows:

    It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS…

    The money’s rolling in and this is fun.

    (The Hollywood Reporter, February 29, 2016)

    His corporate glee stands in dismaying contrast to GM CEO Charles Wilson’s patriotic vow (in 1953) that what was good for America was good for General Motors and vice versa. It also indicates how much the fourth estate has lost its way.

    ____________________

    Amen?

    Related commentaries:
    Pathetic moment
    CNN boss
    Humping Trump..

  • Wednesday, May 9, 2018 at 7:42 AM

    Iran Nuclear Deal: Trump’s Withdrawal Is Explosive…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In fact, reports are that Trump’s announcement of his decision to withdraw triggered explosions within hours:

    Syria on Tuesday said Israel carried out an attack on a military base south of Damascus, which was used by Iranian forces. …

    The [Israeli] military said it identified what it said was unusual movements of Iranian forces in Syria, and it believed those forces were preparing for an imminent retaliation against Israel.

    (Haaretz, May 9, 2018)

    Frankly, the die was cast. Here in part is how I explained why in “Netanyahu Bombs with Latest Bombshell Presentation on Iran,” May 2, 2018.

    ____________________

    Netanyahu betrayed no hint of humility or regret when he addressed the UN General Assembly in 2012, or when he addressed a joint session of the US Congress in 2015. On both occasions, his patented intent was to goad President Barack Obama into invading Iran the way he goaded Bush into invading Iraq. …

    Which brings me to his latest presentation in this regard. And it should surprise nobody that it stressed creativity as much as it strained credulity. …

    But Netanyahu finally has in Trump a US president who is all too willing to be goaded, provided it’s done with a slobbering dose of flattery. No doubt this is what motivated Netanyahu to mint Temple coins hailing Trump as the second coming of Emperor Cyrus the Great. …

    Sure enough, Trump is the only leader among the p5+1 signatories to the Iran nuclear deal who found Netanyahu’s presentation credible. … Netanyahu couldn’t care less … because he clearly formatted and orchestrated his PowerPoint presentation to provide Trump, the p1 leader, a colorable pretext to ‘rip up the deal.’

    And Trump wasted no time signaling to Netanyahu ‘mission accomplished.’

    ____________________

    With that, queue the useful idiot:

    President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the landmark nuclear accord with Iran Tuesday, declaring he was making the world safer in restoring harsh sanctions. But he also dealt a profound blow to allies, deepened his isolation on the world stage and revived doubts about American credibility in the most consequential foreign policy action of his presidency.

    (The Associated Press, May 8, 2018)

    A few points:

    • Trump based his withdrawal on Netanyahu’s specious claim that Iran poses a clear and present danger of developing nuclear weapons. This, despite his appointed heads of US intelligence agencies insisting not only that Iran poses no such danger but also that Netanyahu based his claim on demonstrably outdated information.
    • Trump is cynical and foolish enough to assert that, given how wrong US intelligence agencies were on Iraq’s WMDs, nobody can blame him for finding Netanyahu more credible on Iran’s nuclear program and Putin more so on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
    • Trump has no “Plan B” for this withdrawal – just as he had none for withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Paris Climate Accord, or the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). Because Plan A in each case was to repeal or undermine one of Barack Obama’s signature achievements – the consequences be damned, even if, in this case, that means another military march of folly in the Middle East.

    This last point is worth reinforcing. As it happens, I expounded on the pathetic and, arguably, racist reason behind it in “Trump Decertifying Iran Nuclear Deal more MALO than MAGA,” October 13, 2017.

    ____________________

    Trump’s my-way-or-the-highway attitude towards international relations is isolating enough. But he’s turning friends into enemies by repeatedly calling all parties to this deal with Iran ‘incompetent fools’ (a.k.a. clinical projection). This, of course, is utterly baffling; not least because he’s expecting these same parties to join him not only in renegotiating a new deal with Iran, but in negotiating a similar deal with North Korea. …

    There’s no denying the dark force that is provoking nearly everything Trump does. That force is the enviable legacy of his predecessor, Barack Hussein Obama. In fact, nothing has defined Trump’s beleaguered presidency quite like his unabashed efforts to nullify or undermine Obama’s achievements.

    Frankly, whatever Trump’s ambition to Make America Great Again (MAGA), it is no match for his pathological intent to Make America Loathe Obama (MALO). Only this explains his Mad-Hatter efforts to repeal and replace (or failing that to undermine) Obamacare, President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

    In any case, it’s impossible to overstate the danger inherent in Trump decertifying this Iran nuclear deal, Obama’s signature foreign-policy achievement. … But, as it was with healthcare, climate change, international trade, and others:

    Trump’s executive orders seem drafted to either whitewash or undermine Obama’s accomplishments. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking that Trump has predicated his presidency on vindicating his birther conspiracy; you know, the one he peddled about Obama being an illegitimate interloper (a.k.a. an uppity African) who does not belong among the ranks of American presidents, certainly not in the top 10 as Obama seems destined to be ranked.

    (“Trump’s First 100 Days,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 1, 2017)

    Congressional Republicans have been goading and enabling Trump in his Faustian quest to effectively decertify Obama’s presidency. But no Republican has had anything on Netanyahu with respect to goading and enabling him to rip up the Iran nuclear deal.

    Nonetheless, I am certain that, just like Obamacare, this deal will remain in force.

    ____________________

    Sure enough, all of the other signatories responded to Trump’s withdrawal by declaring their intent to stick with the deal, leaving him even more isolated on the world stage than ever before. More to the point, the joint statement of rebuke his European allies issued is the kind they usually reserve for Russian President Vladimir Putin:

    It is with regret and concern that we, the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, take note of President Trump’s decision to withdraw. … Together, we emphasise our continuing commitment to the JCPOA [Iran nuclear deal]. …

    We urge the US to ensure that the structures of the JCPoA can remain intact, and to avoid taking action which obstructs its full implementation by all other parties to the deal.

    (Gov.uk, May 8, 2018)

    This leads me to note that the only reason Iran struck this deal in the first place is that Obama persuaded the leaders of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, and Russia to coordinate sanctions, which crippled the country’s economy. Therefore, nothing betrays how misguided Trump’s Faustian quest is quite like him thinking he can force these leaders to reinstate those sanctions, despite their now declared and vested interests in not doing so.

    The trade war he’s fighting with China is foolish enough. Now Trump is threatening to impose sanctions against all signatories to this deal if they continue doing business with Iran.

    Specifically, he would leverage the dollar as the global/reserve currency to frustrate or prohibit business transactions with Iran. But this would only breed resentment from London to Beijing. Moreover, it would hasten the day when a different currency (like the euro or yen) rivals, if not supplants, the dollar as the preferred currency of international business. . #IsolatedIdiot!

    But one can hardly blame the other signatories for forging ahead without him. After all, Trump has become so toxic, the mayor of London is trying to ban him from making a state visit, the Bush family banned him from Barbara’s funeral, and Senator John McCain — who has asked former presidents George W. Bush and Obama to speak at his funeral — has declared his dying wish to ban him too.

    Meanwhile, his withdrawal will leave Putin to exercise even greater superpower influence in the Middle East than he does now through Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.

    Frankly, the recklessness of Trump’s dealings with Iran is surpassed only by the hollowness of his dealings with North Korea. Nothing betrays the latter quite like his narcissistic need to frame everything he does as historic.

    For example:

    • His predecessors decided for political reasons to shun North Korean leaders. Yet Trump is trumpeting his impulsive decision to meet this one as an unprecedented breakthrough worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.

    (Note: US presidents had no qualms about meeting Soviet leaders during the Cold War. This forever precluded any US president from citing any principled reason for shunning the leader of any other country. This is why I commended Obama for meeting with the leaders of Iran and Cuba, but condemned him for refusing to meet with the leader of North Korea. It’s just that Trump betrays ignorance and conceit in equal measure by hyping his meeting with Kim variously as the biggest diplomatic event in the history of mankind and as a WWE death match that is bound to generate the biggest ratings in the history of television.)

    • His predecessors negotiated the release of several Americans being held in North Korean prisons. Yet Trump is trumpeting the pending release of three this week as a diplomatic feat nobody thought possible.

    (Note: Kim deserves more condemnation than praise for (his habit of) releasing hostages as bargaining chips. Not to mention that he still has the blood of American Otto Warmbier dripping from his hands.)   

    I elaborated on his delusional follies on this front most recently in “Freezing Nuke Tests is ‘Mission Accomplished’ for North Korea, Not Triumph for US,” April 21, 2018.

    In any event, as my title indicates, this withdrawal will lead inexorably to Trump doing in Iran, willfully, what Bush did in Iraq, unwittingly. Because, notwithstanding good-faith promises to do so, Iran now has no legal obligation to abide the terms of the deal. And Trump cannot (be allowed to) stand by as Iran develops nuclear weapons under the noses of the other signatories, which is the self-fulfilling fear he and Netanyahu have been stoking from the day it was signed.

    Mind you, this hollow man probably has no clue. But, with apologies to T.S. Eliot:

    This is the way the deal ends

    This is the way the deal ends

    This is the way the deal ends

    Not with a whimper but a bomb.

    Related commentaries:
    Netanyahu bombs
    more MALO than MAGA
    projection
    Winter Olympians
    North Korea

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 6:53 p.m.

  • Tuesday, May 8, 2018 at 8:53 AM

    New York AG Schneiderman, #MeToo Crusader, Facing Reckoning Too

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) announced his resignation on Monday, just hours after a shocking report in The New Yorker detailed four of his former romantic partners’ accusations of physical abuse.

    On Monday, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam went on the record to say that Schneiderman, 63, ‘repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent.’ In one instance, Manning Barish said Schneiderman told her that ‘if you ever left me, I’d kill you.’

    (The Huffington Post, May 8, 2018)

    You might be inclined to brand Schneiderman the biggest hypocrite in the history of New York politics. But anyone who knows anything about its politics would beg to differ.

    After all, one of his predecessors, Eliot Spitzer (January 1999 to December 2006), became notorious for getting hoisted by his own petard. As it happened, this crusader against prostitution was serving as governor, his next job up the food chain, when he was exposed. I duly commented in “The Hypocrisy of Eliot ‘Ness’ Spitzer’s Assignations with Prostitutes,” March 11, 2008, and “Spitzer Resigns, His Call Girl ‘Kristen’ Outed,” March 13, 2008.

    But perhaps it’s an indication of how far we’ve come that it took Spitzer two days to resign after news of his “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” transgressions broke, whereas it took Schneiderman just two hours.

    Meanwhile, I bemoaned the commonplace nature of such behavior in “Prosecutor Patronizing the Prostitutes He Prosecuted,” March 18, 2016:

    News about public figures crusading against prostitution by day, while patronizing prostitutes by night, has become commonplace.

    Their hypocrisy is such, however, that I can never tire of the schadenfreude I feel whenever one of them is hoisted by his own petard.

    On that occasion, I was commenting on the hypocrisy of Michigan prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III. But I could cite many more cases to vindicate my commentary, “Why Hypocritical Politician Is Becoming Redundant,” June 18, 2009.

    For the record, here is how I stated the principle behind the unbridled schadenfreude I feel whenever any of these hypocrites face their day of reckoning:

    If these politicians were not lead vocals in a chorus of moral crusaders, I would not give their sexual escapades a moment’s thought. For the unadulterated pleasure of afflicting these hypocrites, however, I don’t even mind being bedfellows with a publicity-seeking hustler like Larry Flynt.

    (“Sen. Vitter, Family Values Crusader, Outed as a ‘John,’” The iPINIONS Journal, July 11, 2007)

    So, good riddance to this latest crusading hypocrite! And, more importantly, here’s to #MeToo victims everywhere feeling emboldened to come forward and say to their abusers Time’sUp!

    That said, I’d be remiss not to note that Schneiderman was in the vanguard of the #MeToo movement as well as the “Resistance” against President Trump.

    For example, his was invariably the voice women referenced when hailing the importance of men publicly condemning the scourge of sexual harassment and assault. He sealed his bona fides by filing a landmark lawsuit against the poster boy for #MeToo reckoning, Harvey Weinstein.

    And it’s notable that Schneiderman not only extracted $25 million from Trump to settle claims arising out of his Trump University scam, but also joined forces with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to prosecute his “fixer” Michael Cohen — with all the legal jeopardy that poses for this inveterately corrupt president.

    Therefore, I appreciate fears that his downfall will affect the legal crusades he was waging. But similar fears abounded that Comey’s firing would affect the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s collusion with Russia and related matters. Those turned out to be unfounded; these will too.

    Indeed, it would not surprise me if the New York state assembly appoints a replacement who is even more committed to these crusades than Schneiderman ever was — professionally or personally. It’s encouraging in this respect that a woman, Barbara Underwood, will now serve as acting attorney.

    But poetic justice would be complete only if the assembly appoints a woman as his permanent replacement – pursuant to my clarion call that “Men Should Be Barred from Politics,” September 25, 2013.

    Related commentaries:
    Spitzer
    Patronizing prostitutes
    hypocritical politician
    Vitter family values
    Weinstein, Rose, other abusers
    Men should be barred

  • Monday, May 7, 2018 at 7:25 AM

    Justify Wins Kentucky Derby. But Horse Racing Is Still Unjustified

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I feel obliged to begin with a perverse confession.

    I find horse racing morally repugnant. But I love Audible books.

    Therefore, as I read the results of this race, I was seized with a wistful thought that the horse by that name should have won. I suppose the poetic justice in that would have mitigated the moral injustice inherent in this barbaric sport. But Audible ended up being just a “show” horse.

    That said,

    [Justify,] the highly touted 3-year-old colt ridden by Mike Smith and trained by Bob Baffert[,] ended a 136-year run since a horse won the Derby without having raced at age 2. With the so-called ‘Curse of Apollo’ reversed, Justify’s connections can now turn their sights toward a Triple Crown bid.

    (Yahoo Sports, May 5, 2018)

    Forget the curse of Apollo, Justify – who won by one of the largest margins in history – should fear the curse of Barbaro. This excerpt from “National Mourning for a Horse? Puh-leeese,” January 31, 2007, explains why.

    ___________________

    I don’t get the emotional attachment so many people have to this horse. Then again, it probably takes understanding the psychology at play in Peter Shaffer’s Equus to get it. But I think racing horses for sport has all of the redeeming social value of cockfighting (or, given the Michael Vick scandal, dogfighting).

    Therefore, I had no emotional interest in the life-and-death struggle of this race horse that had so many people holding vigil until he was euthanized on Monday.

    Barbaro, of course, was the latest winner of the Kentucky Derby — by one of the largest margins in history. His win had Equine mobs betting he would be the first horse to win the elusive Triple Crown since Affirmed did it almost 30 years ago (in 1978). Only eleven horses have achieved the dubious honor of galloping to victory in the three grueling Triple Crown races – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes – over a five-week period. …

    Unfortunately, at the start of the second race in this trifecta (last May’s 131st Preakness Stakes), Barbaro shattered his right hind leg. …

    I know enough about [horse racing] to know that – in almost every case – a horse suffering such an injury would have been shot on the spot (to put him out of his obvious misery). …

    But many regarded Barbaro as the second coming of Secretariat. In fact, this horse was so worshipped, it seemed everyone connected to or interested in horse racing wanted Veterinarians to take extraordinary measures to prolong his life.

    At long last, the Vets finally did on Monday what they should have done the day he was injured 8 months ago. Because all they ended up doing was prolonging Barbaro’s misery. …

    The sport of kings? Indeed. But so is fox hunting.

    ____________________

    Clearly, I’ve been beating this dead horse for years. My abiding hope is that fans will find the Barbaro precedent so unconscionable it will turn them off this sport.

    Racehorses are the victims of a multibillion-dollar industry that is rife with drug abuse, injuries, and race fixing, and many horses’ careers end at the slaughterhouse.

    (PETA.org)

    Unfortunately, reports are that 157,000 people braved unprecedented security on the wettest and muddiest grounds in history at Churchill Downs to watch this race. And millions more watched it on TV. Hope springs eternal …

    Meanwhile, American Pharaoh sapped the Triple Crown of much of its suspense when it finally succeeded Affirmed in 2015, breaking a 37-year streak of dashed hopes.

    Therefore, you’d think fans would be loath to buy into the Triple-Crown hype sports betting syndicates are propagating. Yet they are already getting their hopes up and wallets out as if Justify really is the second coming of Secretariat. #Suckers!

    Related commentaries:
    Barbaro
    American Pharoah

  • Saturday, May 5, 2018 at 8:07 AM

    Happy Cinco de Mayo

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

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

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

    (Washington Times, May 4, 2015)

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

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

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

  • Thursday, May 3, 2018 at 8:06 PM

    My New Book

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Review

    Reprinted from Caribbean News Now

    Published May 3, 2018

    By Ben Anson
    Caribbean News Now associate editor

    Around this time each year, Anthony L Hall, a weekly op-ed columnist for Caribbean News Now, delivers a collection of his frequently outspoken and controversial thoughts and opinions concerning the preceding political year and this year is no exception, with the publication of “The iPINIONS Journal Volume XIII – Commentaries on the Global Events of 2017”.

    As ever, Hall has weaved together a diverse list of themes, hugely varied and of the highest interest to anyone interested in global events and politics. Moving straight into it in his introduction, the author notes that he was tempted to focus almost entirely on US President Donald Trump – yet resisted.

    He goes on to explain how Trump has been such a centrepiece within world politics over the last year and how, in turn, this one man can affect the entire globe.

    Apart from his commentaries on Trump, Hall covers a truly extensive and varied set of topics covering all continents; his sections including Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas and, of course, a large part on the United States alone. This comes before he delves even further into The Globalsphere, Sports and Entertainment.

    Within his sections and chapters, there is much weighty material to digest, he displays sound writing on topics such as the Kenyan elections, Saudi women, military coups in Zimbabwe, wars in Afghanistan, Jerusalem, the Venezuelan situation, North Korea, Myanmar’s persecuted ‘Robingyas’, Prince Charles, Obama, Black Lives Matter, Trump and US mass shootings.

    In the Caribbean section, Hall looks at Obama ending the discriminatory wet foot, dry foot Cuba policy, also taking a close look at Cuba, focusing on what he describes as Trump’s hypocrisy on human rights – citing both Cuba and Qatar.

    Venezuela is also featured and, once again, he brings Trump into play with criticism of the US president’s “threats towards a dying economy by imposing economic sanctions”.

    Needless to say, it is certainly not material for any light reader as Anthony Hall displays his fine intellect and extensive knowledge on a seemingly endless stream of world issues.

    He states at the end of his introduction:

    “I hope that, for prosperity, this volume proves a reliable source for reflection on the most important and noteworthy events of 2017. And I hope these commentaries serve as a provocative, informative and entertaining antidote to social media postings. Never mind that no less a person than Donald Trump would have you believe that snarky tweets constituted informed public debate these days.”

    Highly recommended reading for all those that wish to stay informed and knowledgeable on world events and politics.

    The iPINIONS Journal Volume XIII – Commentaries on the Global Events of 2017 is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

  • Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at 6:42 PM

    Netanyahu Bombs with Latest Bombshell Presentation on Iran

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a shameless, irrepressible charlatan. Only this explains his Chicken-Little warnings about Iran being within months of possessing nuclear weapons to wipe Israel off the map, which he’s been proselytizing for decades.

    Mind you, he warned about Iraq in similar fashion. Indeed, it’s arguable that no individual did more to goad President George W. Bush into that historic misadventure than Netanyahu. One need only recall his infamous testimony before the US Congress, which included this casus belli:

    There is no question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking, is working, is advancing towards to the development of nuclear weapons. Once Saddam has nuclear weapons, the terror network will have nuclear weapons.

    (C-SPAN, September 12, 2002)

    You’d think the galvanizing role he played would have chastened him. Not least because, in addition to finding no WMDs, US soldiers are still fighting and dying in Iraq: after 15 years, nearly 5,000 dead and 31,952 wounded Americans, nearly 600,000 dead and millions of wounded Iraqis, and over $1 trillion in US taxpayer dollars.

    Netanyahu and neo-con crusaders (in the United States and Israel) championed this war as an article of political and religious faith. No surprise, then, that they now insist, with righteous indignation, that such statistics reflect acceptable levels of collateral damage for a successful military intervention. Hell, military leaders even insist, with cold calculation, that the continuing killing of innocent civilians remains well below their “Non-Combatant Cutoff Value” (NCV).

    Our policy for last year … was to tolerate the death of 112 Iraqi or Syrian civilians per American.

    (The Los Angeles Times, March 31, 2017)

    But Netanyahu betrayed no hint of humility or regret when he addressed the UN General Assembly in 2012, or when he addressed a joint session of the US Congress in 2015. On both occasions, his patented intent was to goad President Barack Obama into invading Iran the way he goaded Bush into invading Iraq.

    Except that Obama was too smart and fair-minded to buy into Netanyahu’s existential zealotry. I commented on their oil-and-water dynamic in many commentaries, including “Netanyahu, Obama’s Iago; Iran, His Desdemona,” “October 2, 2013, and “Netanyahu’s a Putz for Branding Obama a Judas Over UN Resolution,” December 29, 2016.

    Which brings me to his latest presentation in this regard. And it should surprise nobody that it stressed creativity as much as it strained credulity.

    Netanyahu offered a robust defense Tuesday of a dramatic presentation in which he accused Iran of ‘brazenly lying’ over its nuclear ambitions, after claims that he had revealed nothing new. …

    Key documents pertaining to Iran’s nuclear development program, cited by Netanyahu on Monday, were acquired by the IAEA as early as 2005.

    (CNN, May 1, 2018)

    But Netanyahu finally has in Trump a US president who is all too willing to be goaded, provided it’s done with a slobbering dose of flattery. No doubt this is what motivated Netanyahu to mint Temple coins hailing Trump as the second coming of Emperor Cyrus the Great. I commented on this shameless manipulation just last week in “Natalie Portman ‘Boycotting’ Israel Approximates Paul Newman Boycotting South Africa,” April 25, 2018.

    Sure enough, Trump is the only leader among the p5+1 signatories to the Iran nuclear deal who found Netanyahu’s presentation credible. That is to say the leaders of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom plus Germany all dismissed it as just another one of his reckless political stunts.

    To be fair, Netanyahu couldn’t care less about those p4+1. Because he clearly formatted and orchestrated his PowerPoint presentation to provide Trump, the p1 leader, a colorable pretext to “rip up the deal.” And Trump wasted no time signaling to Netanyahu “mission accomplished.”

    Trump has praised … Netanyahu for coming forward with documents that the Israeli leader says shows Iran lied about pursuing nuclear weapons. …

    Mr Trump said that Mr Netanyahu’s claims about Iran show that he has been ‘100 per cent right’ about the nuclear agreement, and said that Iran’s behaviour is ‘just not an acceptable situation’.

    (The Independent, May 1, 2018)

    This, despite Trump’s own CIA director, secretary of state, and secretary of defense all conceding that he has no legal justification to rip up the deal.

    The information unveiled by Netanyahu with great fanfare on Monday has largely been known to American intelligence agencies for years. …

    [N]othing in the documents, which Netanyahu said were smuggled out of Tehran, has changed the American intelligence judgment that Iran is living up to its agreement not to restart a nuclear weapons program.

    (NBC News, May 1, 2018)

    Of course, this is the same Trump who found President Vladimir Putin’s denial about Russia meddling in the US elections more credible than his own intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia did. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that he would find Netanyahu more credible in this case – especially given how Netanyahu’s presentation flattered Trump’s blind faith in his own intelligence.

    Netanyahu seems to think Israel can get by with a little help from its friends — even if those friends compose just a small faction of Christian fundamentalists and neo-cons on the lunatic fringe of US Republican Party.

    (“Netanyahu’s Call for Jewish Exodus more Sharpton than Moses,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 23, 2015)

    Meanwhile, anyone who knows anything about the nuclear politics of the Middle East knows that, if Iran ever poses an existential threat, Israeli military leaders would prevail upon Netanyahu to execute the Begin Doctrine. That doctrine

    … asserts the fundamental need to prevent any of Israel’s enemies from obtaining nuclear weapons.

    (The Jerusalem Post, June 4, 2006)

    In fact, nothing belies Netanyahu’s Chicken-Little warnings quite like the precedents his predecessors set pursuant to this doctrine. Namely

    • In 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered the Israeli air force to destroy a nuclear reactor in Iraq.
    • In 2007, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered the Israeli air force to destroy a nuclear reactor in Syria.

    Now factor in the generally recognized fact that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that actually possesses nuclear weapons. Because only then will you have a little appreciation of the simmering resentment its Muslim neighbors harbor over Israelis behaving as if they really are God’s chosen people.

    Which raises the question, why is Netanyahu continually stoking irrational fears about an Iran nuclear program that does not exist?

    It is self-evident that his warnings have little to do with Israel’s national security. This is why I’ve been asserting for years that it’s pursuant to his vain, Machiavellian but ultimately cowardly attempt to goad the United States into ridding Israel of its primary geopolitical foe.

    I have argued this point in many commentaries, including “Despite Drumbeat, Israel Will Never Attack Iran,” February 21, 2012, “Netanyahu Is a ‘Chickenshit’ Prime Minister,” November 4, 2014, “Chutzpah: Israeli PM to Address US Congress,” January 23, 2015, “Netanyahu Condemns Framework for Peace with Iran as Path to War?” April 4, 2015, “Obama Leads World to Historic Nuclear Deal with Iran,” July 15, 2015, “Recognizing Jerusalem: Trump’s America and Netanyahu’s Israel against the World,” December 7, 2017.

    But this excerpt from “Obama Dissing Israeli PM Netanyahu?” September 12, 2012, sums up my take.

    ____________________

    The chutzpah of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu never ceases to amaze me. …

    I am simply stupefied by the way he has been publicly goading Obama – almost from day one of his presidency – to stop Iran [from developing nuclear weapons] before it enters some amorphous ‘zone of immunity’ (presumably where North Korea resides). …

    All of his talk about red lines and red lights is just a red herring. If Netanyahu wanted to attack Iran today, nobody would stop him.

    Except that this arrogant SOB would rather sit on his moral high-horse (playing the Holocaust card) and declaim falsely about Obama dictating when and how he should act to defend Israel’s national security interests. All the while he’s presuming to dictate to Obama when and how he should act to defend America’s national security interests with respect to Iran: talk about brass ones. …

    It is noteworthy that Netanyahu is being supported in his rhetorical misadventure by the same coalition of crusading dunces (namely, Jewish Zionists, Christian fundamentalists, and new-world-order neo-cons) who goaded Bush into attacking Iraq. Not to mention that they have all been issuing Chicken-Little warnings about Iran being just months away from going nuclear since the 1990s.

    ____________________

    In fact, if Netanyahu were a more courageous leader, he would have attacked Iran long ago, citing among other things its unabashed and unrepentant support for terrorist groups that continually menace Israeli citizens. Except that:

    The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars. …

    The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat: he’s got no nuts.

    (The Atlantic, October 28, 2014)

    That in a … er … nutshell is what his latest theatrical presentation is all about: protecting himself from political defeat.

    I would only add that Netanyahu might deem it necessary to launch a wag-the-dog war to protect himself from criminal prosecution. After all, state prosecutors are examining police recommendations for him to face trial on a litany of corruption charges stemming from a gift-for-favors scheme.

    In fact, his legal jeopardy is so great, Netanyahu could end up in prison before his stooge Trump is impeached. Of course, the latter’s legal jeopardy stems from the unprecedented battery of high crimes and misdemeanors special prosecutor Robert Mueller seems bound to report to Congress.

    The point is that no Israeli attorney general would dare prosecute a prime minister while he’s orchestrating an existential war – even less so if he ends it as a bona-fide war hero: on guard, Iran.

    Related commentaries:
    Obamas Iago
    Netanyahu’s a putz
    Natalie Portman boycotting
    Recognizing Jerusalem
    Trump’s America, Netanyahu’s Israel
    Chutzpah
    Obama…historic deal
    Chickenshit
    Drumbeat
    Obama dissing

  • Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at 6:46 PM

    Trump’s (OJ) Caper on His Doctor Serves as Warning to His Fixer

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, the idiom “monkey see, monkey do” seems a fitting sub-heading for the alleged misdeeds of all the idiots involved.

    A New York doctor [Harold Bornstein] who served as President Donald Trump’s personal physician is alleging that Trump’s lawyer, bodyguard and an unidentified ‘large man’ raided his office for medical records.

    Bornstein said ‘the raid’ [in February 2017] made him feel ‘raped, frightened and sad.’

    (Huffington Post, May 1, 2018)

    I dare any lawyer to show how the facts in this case are different in any material respect from those that landed OJ Simpson and his co-conspirators in legal jeopardy. No doubt you recall OJ pleading that he felt he had a right to take back his own stuff (football memorabilia). That was his flawed justification for raiding and robbing his old acquaintance in a hotel room in Las Vegas.

    I suspect Trump and his co-conspirators felt the same way. More to the point, though, no man is above the law and every member of a conspiracy is equally guilty. Therefore, it does not matter if Trump was sitting in the Oval Office at the White House when this caper was going down.

    Dr. Bornstein said, ‘How would you feel if you cared for someone for 35 year and he came and robbed your office.’

    (CNN, May 1, 2018)

    Meanwhile, Michael “the fixer” Cohen seems a bit slow. So he might not have gotten the hint that the hit piece featured on the cover of this week’s National Enquirer telegraphs Trump’s intent to flip on him … before he flips on Trump.

    But reports on this Bornstein raid should make clear Trump’s intent even to him.

    Related commentaries:
    OJ Vegas caper
    Cohen

  • Monday, April 30, 2018 at 8:21 AM

    Top Winter Olympians Latest to Snub Trump

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Famous Americans have always snubbed US presidents to make political points. But never before in the history of this republic have so many snubbed any president the way they are snubbing Donald Trump.

    This trend began famously enough on the first day of his presidency. That’s when celebrities of every stripe boycotted his inauguration ceremony. This meant that the celebrity-obsessed Trump had to settle for a smattering of Z-listers; whereas so many A-listers attended Obama’s inauguration ceremony, it seemed like a mashup of the Oscars, Grammys, Emmys, Tonys, and ESPYs.

    But Trump is breaking the norm in this respect not just by the number of snubs but by his reaction to them. Because he often betrays an antic pining to be endorsed, admired, and even celebrated by famous Americans. Even worse, his reaction often involves embarrassing stunts to give the impression that their snubs do not wound his pride as much as they clearly do.

    Not to mention the boldfaced lies he continually tells to make himself seem far more popular than he is. Exhibit A: Trump is still insisting his inauguration crowd was bigger than Obama’s, which is about as laughable at this point as Danny DeVito insisting he’s taller than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    In “Kneeling, the Flag, and the National Anthem,” September 25, 2017, I wrote at length about the unprecedented humiliation of having everyone from professional athletes to corporate CEOs snub Trump. But here in short are just a few of the more notorious snubs that are defining his presidency.

    ____________________

    Britain

    America’s closest ally canceled a state visit for the first time in history because it feared untenable protests would greet Trump throughout.

    The decision averted the risk of public protests that had threatened to embarrass both Mr. Trump and Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May. …

    While Britons may pride themselves on their ‘special relationship’ with the United States, that does not appear to extend to its president.

    (The New York Times, January 12, 2018)

    In fact, this thin-skinned kakistocrat whined that he would not visit unless the British government could guarantee Britons would show him nothing but love. In other words, Trump needs reassurances that people will cheer him at public appearances the way his supporters do at campaign rallies. This makes the pledge of loyalty he demands of top officials in his administration seem modest.

    Media

    Trump flouted the presidential norm for a second-consecutive year by refusing to attend Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Like the British government, the organizers of this annual event could not guarantee he’d be shown nothing but love.

    Unlike his predecessors, Trump could not sit there and take any joke at his expense. Instead, this imperious pussy sent his female press secretary to take the shots, which comedian Michelle Wolf rifled off with … er … Trumpian abandon. For example:

    [Trump] loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a white nationalist is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend.’ Or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies man.’

    (The Washington Post, April 29, 2018)

    Lawyers

    Top lawyers refused solicitations to serve as his counsel, leaving Trump to settle for political hacks like Rudy Giuliani – who hasn’t set foot in a courtroom in decades.

    Athletes and CEOs

    Top athletes refused to attend White House celebrations of their accomplishments. To be fair, there’s nothing new about athletes boycotting the White House. By the same token, though, there’s nothing new about a president lying to the American people. The difference is that, with Trump, the number of snubs, like the number of lies, has grown to unimaginable levels.

    Top CEOs resigned en masse from his various business councils.

    So many CEOs resigned from Trump’s manufacturing council that he just disbanded it. …

    (Vox, August 17, 2017)

    Kennedy Center Honorees

    Kennedy Center honorees refused to attend the annual White House reception and top musicians rejected invitations to perform at the Kennedy Center ceremony – both to snub Trump.

    The White House announced in August that the Trumps would not be attending the annual gala after several honorees said they would boycott a Trump-hosted reception at the White House. Trump responded by bowing out.

    (The Washington Post, December 3, 2017)

    Mind you, this event is usually held under the auspices of the president of the United States. Therefore, it speaks volumes that this president had to bow out because honorees made clear they would find his presence too odious to abide. There’s no overstating the historic nature of this snub.

    Melania Trump

    Even his wife has made a show of repeatedly snubbing him by refusing to hold his hand in public, despite his sorry-dog efforts to get her to do so.

    Winter Olympians

    Another White House ceremony dedicated to American athletes will be severely under-attended this week thanks to the guy occupying the main bedroom at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. …

    Notable absences include [snowboarding phenoms Shaun White and Chloe Kim], alpine ski racing powerhouses Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin as well as the two first openly gay winter olympians, Gus Kenworthy and Adam Rippon.

    (USA Today, April 25, 2018)

    You can bet these superstar snubs annoyed Trump to no end. Not least because the relatively unknown faces of those who attended could not provide the high-wattage photo-op he wanted. On the other hand, he and his neo-Nazi supporters might have derived some consolation from the fact that those faces were all white.

    In any event, the number of A-list athletes boycotting this ceremony vindicates the following observation, which I made in “Sports Teams Snubbing Trump,” The iPINIONS Journal, Volume XIII, Commentaries on Global Events of 2017, p. 441:

    Never before in the history of the United States has a president been so odious that whole sports teams did not want to be caught dead within miles of the White House. …

    Trump is so unpopular that being invited to this White House is tantamount to being invited to a garden party by that proverbial skunk.

    ____________________

    That said, I’ve written a lot – in commentaries like Forget the Clinton Foundation. Shut Down the Trump Organization!” August 26, 2016 – about Trump’s habit of projecting his faults and shortcomings onto others (e.g., crooked Hillary, lyin’ Comey, dumb as a rock Mika, colluding Democrats). He often compounds this by heaping scorn on people whose admiration and attention he obviously craves (e.g., mainstream media, liberal elites, superstar athletes).

    This textbook psychological profile compelled him to stage a rally on Saturday in Washington, Michigan, where he knew the ignorant masses would show him the love he craves. He declared, to their gullible delight, that he’d rather be there than in Washington, DC, where he knew the informed elites would show him the contempt he dreads.

    He later tweeted that “the filthy comedian” – who told mean-spirited jokes about his female staffers – was an embarrassment to everyone associated with that White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. But this was just another case of projection. After all, this crude president – who gained infamy with his mean-spirited remarks about female journalists – knows that he is an embarrassment to everyone associated with the United States.

    Never mind that anyone who knows anything about Trump knows that he’d prefer the elites who celebrated Obama to the masses who idolize him any day … except on Election Day.

    Perhaps some of you recognize the ploy he pulled on Saturday from your days in middle school. You know, when the in-crowd made clear you didn’t belong and you reacted by telling anyone who would listen you didn’t want to hang with those losers anyway.

    Yet, remarkably, this is the level of psychological maturity that governs much of what this president of United States says and does. God help us!

    Related commentaries:
    Kneeling, the flag
    Forget the Clinton Foundation

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