The iPINIONS Journal


  • 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, 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. After all, 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.

    Related commentaries:
    Kaepernick
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    Helsinki press conf

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

    In Murdering 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.

    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, which they insist was a Jewish conspiracy.

    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 from a major investment conference scheduled for next week in Riyadh like rats jumping off a sinking ship. 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.

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

    Gone Fishing

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Back on October 15

  • Monday, October 8, 2018 at 7:12 AM

    Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


    In fourteen hundred ninety-two
    Columbus sailed the ocean blue
    [Blah blah blah].

    Above is the course Christopher Columbus sailed on the misadventure that brought him to the Caribbean. He thought he had landed in “the Indies”; so, in typical European (imperial) fashion, he named the natives he met (oh right, “discovered”) there “Indians.”

    The rest, as we say, is HIStory.

    They would make fine servants. … With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

    (Medieval Sourcebook)

    This entry from Columbus’s own journal (allegedly) shows what he intended to do from the outset with the hospitable and unsuspecting Tainos who greeted him upon his arrival. It’s only one of the many reasons eminent historians are finally casting a critical, if not accusatory, eye at the hagiography his voyages have enjoyed throughout history.

    Here, for example, is how Howard Zinn frames this corrected version of history in A People’s History of the United States 1492-Present (August 2005):

    To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves – unwittingly – to justify what was done… The easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all) – that is still with us.

    Of course, Americans have been celebrating Columbus Day for centuries. Never mind that Congress did not declare the second Monday in October a federal holiday in honor of this sea-faring Italian until 1971. Other countries throughout the Americas followed suit.

    heroes2

    But many of those countries, most notably in the Caribbean, now designate this holiday, National Heroes Day, reflecting the cognitive dissonance scholars like Zinn are propagating.

    Interestingly enough, some cities in the United States are following suit:

    The Seattle City Council is replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the city.

    The resolution that passed unanimously Monday celebrates the contributions and culture of Native Americans and the indigenous community in Seattle on the second Monday in October, the same day as the federally recognized Columbus Day.

    (The Associated Press, October 7, 2014)

    Even Columbus, Ohio, perhaps his most famous namesake city, has decided to stop celebrating a holiday in honor of this genocidal adventurer.

    Meanwhile, some of us just consider Columbus a wanted man (i.e., to correct the historical record).

  • Saturday, October 6, 2018 at 3:49 PM

    Justice Brett Kavanaugh *

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In “Re Supreme Court: Kavanaugh-Ford Playing Thomas-Hill Roles. But a Different Ending Looms,” September 17, 2018, I delineated some of the principled and political reasons why I asserted that Kavanaugh’s confirmation was toast.

    And, the intemperate way he spewed bald-faced lies during his testimony only reinforced my assertion.

    Frankly, there was no fair way he could survive the credible MeToo allegation of sexual assault he faced. That’s why it took putatively fair-minded senators twisting logic, reason, and good old-fashioned common sense into pretzels to justify voting for him.

    For example, Ford testified that she is 100 percent certain that Kavanaugh is the man who sexually assaulted her. Yet these senators insisted that, even though they found her credible and believe something happened to her, they just don’t believe Kavanaugh is the culprit. This, of course, is as disingenuous as it is condescending.

    Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is heading to confirmation to the Supreme Court this weekend after two key undecided senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia — announced Friday that they would support his elevation to the high court, ending the most divisive confirmation fight in decades.

    With the Senate and the nation bitterly divided, Judge Kavanaugh’s future came to rest with four undecided senators: three Republicans — Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Ms. Collins — and one Democrat, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. But one by one, they let their positions be known.

    (The New York Times, October 5, 2018)

    Murkowski defied her party to vote her conscience; Manchin defied his to vote his career. But Kavanaugh only needed two of the four. He got three. In any case, I was wrong about the outcome: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (The more things change …).

    To be fair, though, Flake, Collins, and Manchin are merely acting according to the new norm in Washington, DC: say anything, do anything, or vote for anything to ensure your reelection – the welfare of the country be damned.

    Apropos of which, I admonished an old friend earlier today that he and his fellow Democrats are to blame for this outcome. Most notably because they seem to think that making a nuisance of themselves with flash-mob protests is more important than voting at the polls. Perhaps now it will finally dawn on them that elections have consequences.

    Meanwhile, Republicans seem to think that getting their way, by any means necessary, is as American as Apple Pie and Chevrolet.

    That said, Trump fooled Democrats once by surviving notorious allegations of sexual assault to make it into the White House. He has now fooled them twice by coaching his nominee to survive similar allegations to make it onto the Supreme Court.

    But this is far more serious than a case of fool Democrats once, shame on Trump, fool them twice, shame on Democrats. It’s about Trump and Kavanaugh standing for the proposition that the more credible any allegation against you, the more defiant your denial should be. Deny, deny, deny until you get your way, come what may!

    This invariably involves DARVO — an acronym psychologist Jennifer Freyd coined in a 1997 research paper titled, “Violations of power, adaptive blindness, and betrayal trauma theory”. It stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse [roles of] Victim and Offender. That’s pretty much what Kavanaugh and his Republican enforcers did, no?

    America’s only hope is for the women (including “college educated” Republicans) who found Professor Ford’s testimony so credible and compelling to lead a march to the polls in November, hell-bent on making Trump and his enabling Republicans pay. Instead of getting the message that their voices don’t count, I hope women seize this opportunity to send the message that, henceforth, men will suffer grave truth and consequences for ignoring them.

    In the meantime, though, Republicans can derive considerable consolation from the growing list of benefits their Faustian bargain with Trump has already delivered (e.g., Gorsuch, tax cuts, deregulation, and now Kavanaugh). And, like Trump, they clearly couldn’t care less about the Pyrrhic consequences, which include the Republican Party being damned (for enabling sexual predators the way the Catholic Church enabled pedophile priests), civic norms being eroded, and democratic institutions being undermined.

    Granted, nothing undermined confidence in, and respect for, the Supreme Court quite like the way it handed the presidency to George W. Bush with its ruling in Bush v. Gore 2000. And I’ve had just cause to lament in far too many commentaries since then about the justices ruling like little more than political pawns of the presidents who nominated them.

    But it’s easy to see how Republicans winning this battle for the soul of the Court marks the metaphorical nail in the coffin of its presumed impartiality and independence.

    Incidentally, it is noteworthy that Kavanaugh will be the second sitting justice with a black cloud of sexual misconduct hovering over his head, thereby compromising his black robe. But, like Justice Thomas, I suspect Justice Kavanaugh will weather that cloud and the permanent asterisk it will put next to his name with indignant pride.

    Apropos of Bush, it is also noteworthy that he lobbied aggressively behind the scenes for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Many people found this a betrayal of the apparent friendship he has developed with the Obamas, especially given the apparent dislike he harbors for the Trumps (well, Donald at any rate).

    This, of course, is patently absurd. After all, Kavanaugh was one of Bush’s most trusted presidential advisers who shares his political values. I mean, can you imagine Barack Obama refusing to lobby for David Axelrod in similar circumstances because of the apparent friendship he has developed with the Bushes?

    But I suspect Bush’s affinity runs even deeper. Because, like Kavanaugh, he spent much of his youth going on drunken, rabble-rousing benders, which probably included a few sexual assaults – even if HeToo can’t remember. So when he sees Kavanaugh, a fellow Yale frat boy, struggling through the crucible of his MeToo reckoning, Bush probably cannot help thinking “there but for the grace of God go I.”

    More to the point, he must think that, if he can be reformed and redeemed enough to make it into the White House, Kavanaugh surely can to make it onto the Supreme Court.

    In any event, conservatives are clearly salivating at the prospect of having their way in the courts for a generation. No doubt it’s only a matter of time before they finagle cases for their Supreme Court to roll back abortion rights, gay rights, voting rights, and environmental, financial and other regulations. This, while finagling others to expand religious “liberties,” corporate interests, and presidential power, privileges and immunities.

    But God forbid one or two of the Court’s five conservatives should suffer an untimely death during a Democratic presidency. Because that’s all it would take to defeat the political jihad conservatives embarked on today. Just sayin’ …

    God help America.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 6:09 p.m.

  • Saturday, October 6, 2018 at 8:34 AM

    From jailbreak to shark bait…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Thursday, October 4, 2018 at 7:41 PM

    Cristiano Ronaldo Gets MeToo Red Card for Alleged Rape

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably the most famous athlete on the planet. This is why one woman accusing him of rape is generating more global news coverage than 10 (or more) accusing Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein of the same ever did.

    Kathryn Mayorga says the Portuguese footballer, who plays for Italian club Juventus, raped her [at a Las Vegas hotel in 2009] while she repeatedly screamed no. …

    After the attack, according to the lawsuit [filed in Nevada on Friday], Ronaldo apologized, ‘stating he was sorry, he was usually a gentleman.’ She claims she received $375,000 in exchange for her silence.

    (BBC, October 2, 2018)

    Mind you, video from the night in question shows Mayorga dirty dancing with Ronaldo and gazing longingly at him. It all looked like foreplay before she accepted an invitation to his penthouse suite for more hardcore action. This is why, if nothing else, her lawsuit reinforces the absolute prerogative to say no, especially if your dream of flirting with a celebrity crush is suddenly turning into a nightmare of being sodomize … anally.

    In any event, Mayorga is just the latest woman whose MeToo awakening emboldened her to hold her seemingly invincible rapist to account. But she’s not looking to have him prosecuted. Instead, she’s just looking to void her gag order and get more money from Ronaldo – who is probably ten times richer today than he was in 2009.

    Of course, as Cosby found out, settling a rape allegation civilly does not immunize one against being charged criminally … even decades later. And, sure enough, Las Vegas SVU is already investigating.

    The Las Vegas Police Department announced it has reopened a sexual assault case from June 13, 2009 involving a woman named Kathryn Mayorga, who alleged in a lawsuit reportedly filed on Friday that soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo attacked her in a Las Vegas hotel room the same day.

    (Sports Illustrated, October 1, 2018)

    This does not bode well for him. And it does not help that Ronaldo seems to think he can pull a Donald Trump by dismissing Mayorga’s allegation as “fake news”. Come to think of it, he seems possessed of the same kind of predatory predilection that makes Trump feel entitled to grab women by the pussy. But nothing betrays his bad judgment quite like Ronaldo buying an $18 million unit in Trump Tower in 2015 (birds of a feather…?).

    Meanwhile, other “victims” are bound to come out of the woodwork. Never mind that TheyToo will probably be interested only in extorting him for cash to keep his dirty little secrets.

    But Ronaldo is already paying dearly for this alleged rape, and it extends far beyond the hit his reformed family-man image is taking.

    Cristiano Ronaldo was left off Portugal’s national team squad for a pair of upcoming matches, the decision coming Thursday as the soccer great fights rape allegations in the United States.

    (TIME, October 4, 2018)

    And it’s only a matter of time before this allegation begins to hit where it really hurts:

    Cristiano Ronaldo faced growing heat Thursday from sponsors over a rape allegation in the United States after Nike and video game maker EA Sports expressed concern about the conduct of the soccer superstar. …

    In June, Forbes, which has a long record of quantifying the earnings of the world’s richest people, estimated that Ronaldo made an annual $108 million, with salary and winnings netting the player $61 million and endorsements a further $47 million.

    (The Chicago Tribune, October 4, 2018)

    Nike’s concern is particularly noteworthy. After all, this is the same Nike that stood by Kobe Bryant when he faced a similar allegation in 2003 and Tiger Woods when he faced that infamous sex scandal in 2009, the same fateful year of Ronaldo’s alleged rape.

    Given that kind of support, Ronaldo can be forgiven for thinking he would have to be tried, convicted, and sentenced to life for Nike to drop him, especially given this:

    Cristiano Ronaldo has agreed to a new lifetime contract with sports giant Nike that will earn him an astonishing $1.25 billion.

    (The New York Post, November 9, 2016)

    ¡Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, October 4, 2018 at 6:37 AM

    Re $20 Bill: Trump Sides with White Slave Owner Over Black Abolitionist… Duh

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As President Trump boasted of his administration’s accomplishments at a campaign rally Monday in Johnson City, Tenn., he also touted something he hasn’t done: replace Andrew Jackson’s portrait on the $20 bill with a likeness of [Harriet]Tubman, the African-American icon who ran the Underground Railroad that helped Southern slaves escape to freedom in the North.

    ‘Andrew Jackson, who continues to be on the $20 bill, you know that,’ Trump said. ‘I’m a big Andrew Jackson fan.’

    (Yahoo! News, October 1, 2018)

    Of course, nobody should be surprised that Trump opposes having a black woman replace a white man on any dollar bill. He is, after all, the unapologetic racist who called for the execution of the Central Park Five, championed birther claims against Barack Obama, and supported the white nationalists from Charlottesville.

    More on point, there’s this (and please focus on the message not the messenger):

    In Unhinged, Manigault Newman describes the deliberation over a new figure on the twenty-dollar bill. She wrote that Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin told her, ‘it’s not something I’m focused on at the moment.

    Manigault Newman wrote that she then pushed the decision to Trump, who reportedly replied, ‘You want me to put that face on the twenty-dollar bill?’

    (Business Insider, August 14, 2018)

    But I digress …

    The point is that, just a few years ago, the whole country was hailing the prospect of replacing Jackson with Tubman. Here in part is how I hailed it in “US Putting Woman on Wrong Dollar Bill,” June 22, 2015.

    ____________________

    Truth be told, paper currency is falling into such desuetude, the media hype surrounding this belated and patently misguided honor seems contrived. It’s rather like hailing the appointment of a Native American as Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service; that is, now that e-mails and instant messaging are all the rage.

    All the same, I feel I owe you my two cents’ worth. …

    It’s unfair for the Treasury to honor Harriet Tubman (or any other woman) by dishonoring Alexander Hamilton. And it hardly matters if she joins or replaces him. Here are just three of many reasons why:

    1. Hamilton never owned slaves.
    2. He was the first Treasury secretary of the United States.
    3. Most relevant, he did more than any other American to create the US central banking system – complete with founding the Bank of New York in 1784, which provided a cash-strapped US government its first loan just five years later. …

    Instead, as the ‘Women on 20s’ campaign proposes, it’s fairer to honor Tubman by dishonoring Andrew Jackson, whose face now graces the $20 bill. Here are just three of many reasons why:

    1. Jackson owned slaves. He also nearly wiped out Native Americans in the Southeastern United States, highlighted by forcing thousands of Cherokees on the ‘Trail of Tears’ – which makes the Bataan Death March look like a Sunday stroll – as the White man’s solution to their ‘Indian problem’.
    2. He pioneered the patronage system that seeded corruption in US politics.
    3. Most relevant, he tried more than any other American to destroy the US central banking system – complete with attempts to discard paper currency in favor of coins as the only legal tender. …

    Clearly, as between these two founding fathers, Jackson is more deserving to be dishonored in this fashion. Not to mention the sexist slight inherent in putting a woman on Hamilton’s $10 bill; after all, it has only half the circulation (or common use) of Jackson’s $20 bill.

    ____________________

    That said, elections have consequences. This is just the latest in a litany of Obama-hating, norm-busting ways Trump is throwing this truism into dismaying relief. And trust me, Trump knows full well that offering to put Tubman on the proverbial “phony $2 bill” only compounds his insult.

    But, by the same token, Obama had eight years to make this historic change. Which compels me to wonder why, if it’s such a good idea, he didn’t make it.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, October 2, 2018 at 10:41 AM

    Tsunami Devastates Indonesia … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt you recall the earthquake that struck Indonesia in 2004, triggering a tsunami that killed over 230,000 people.

    Government officials promised back then to devise a foolproof-warning system to ensure deadly tsunamis would never again wash up on so many people unawares.

    Sure enough, another earthquake struck Indonesia on Friday, triggering another tsunami.

    The Indonesian government has defended itself against accusations it issued inadequate safety warnings as a powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami.

    The 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit Sulawesi island on Friday causing three-meter-high (10 foot) waves to surge over parts of its northwestern shore, with groups of people caught on the coastline, apparently unaware of the danger.

    (CNN, October 2, 2018)

    Frankly, only the grace of God prevented this tsunami from claiming just as many lives.

    The number of people known to have died in Indonesia in Friday’s earthquake and tsunami has risen to 1,347, disaster response officials say. …

    Police are guarding shops against looters as people desperately search for food, fuel and water. …

    The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs says there are nearly 200,000 people in urgent need of assistance, about a quarter of them children.

    (BBC, October 2, 2018)

    As it happens, CNN is already reporting that the death toll is bound to rise … significantly. To appreciate what this portends, recall that President Trump gave his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria last year an “A”. He based that perverse pat on the back on initial reports that only 16 people died in Puerto Rico, which took the most direct hit. But we now know that nearly 3000 people ended up dying there.

    That said, I will only add this for further context:

    Earthquakes and other natural disasters should always remind us that there but for the grace of God. … But there’s no denying that living in a relatively rich country increases one’s chance of surviving and recovering from such disasters tremendously. …

    It’s bad enough that accident of birth can consign one to a life of chronic poverty. It just seems unfair that even the wrath of Mother Nature affects the poor so disproportionately.

    (“Killer Earthquakes: First Haiti, now Chile,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 2, 2010)

    Of course, the Trump administration’s salutary neglect of Puerto Ricans upended this assertion in tragic fashion. Truth be told, post Katrina, nobody thought any hurricane relief-and-recovery effort could be so haphazard and incompetent.

    Meanwhile, most people in the United States seem more concerned about how much beer a supreme court nominee drank in high school 36 years ago than they are about how many people are dying from this latest tsunami today. Which makes me wonder if it’s unfortunate or fortunate timing that Anthony Bourdain is featuring the gastronomic wonders of Indonesia on this Sunday’s episode of his hit CNN series, Parts Unknown.

    What is clearly unfortunate is that, as with Trump’s norm-busting antics at home, we’re becoming numb to the devastating and lasting effects of natural disasters abroad.

    Nonetheless, there are myriad ways you can donate to relief and recovery efforts in Indonesia. I urge you to: Help!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, October 1, 2018 at 8:09 AM

    Trump Loves Kim. Kim Loves Nukes. And Never the Twain Shall Greet.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    At a rally in West Virginia on Saturday night, President Trump confessed that he has a schoolgirl crush on North Korean President Kim Jong Un:

    Now they’ll say, ‘Donald Trump said they fell in love. … so unpresidential.’ … [I]t’s so easy to be presidential … but instead of having 10,000 people outside trying to get into this packed arena, we’d have about 200 people standing there.

    (Business Insider, September 30, 2018)

    Of course, it’s self-evident that it is not so easy for Trump to be presidential. If it were, he would be for more than just the few hours every month when his handlers manage to force-feed him presidential words to say. This is why, every time he acts presidential, news anchors marvel; you know, the way parents marvel every time their newborn does and says something new.

    And don’t get me started on the dereliction of duty inherent in Trump thinking that it’s more important to be entertaining (a la his role on The Apprentice) than to be presidential. But the American people have only themselves to blame. After all, his campaign was little more than an audition for them to elect him to entertain far more than to lead.

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

    North Korea’s foreign minister told the United Nations on Saturday continued sanctions were deepening its mistrust in the United States and there was no way the country would give up its nuclear weapons unilaterally under such circumstances.

    ‘Without any trust in the US there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first.’

    (Reuters, September 30, 2018)

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

    Granted, listening to Trump rhapsodize about how he has fallen in love, you’d never know he’s supposed to be getting Kim to denuclearize. More to the point, all it took was idle flattery for Trump to forget that this is the same Kim he denounced just a year ago as follows.

    Mr. Trump accused Mr. Kim of overseeing a regime that has starved its people, brutalized an imprisoned American college student who was returned home in a coma, and assassinated Mr. Kim’s older brother.

    ‘If this is not twisted enough, now North Korea’s reckless pursuit of missiles and nuclear weapons threatens the entire world,’ Mr. Trump said.

    (The New York Times, September 19, 2017)

    By all accounts, Kim is today in every way that same man – complete with his defiant intent to continue developing his nukes. Therefore, it’s a testament to how susceptible the narcissistic Trump is to flattery that he is now publicly declaring his (patently unrequited) love for Kim.

    Moreover, despite clear and convincing evidence that he’s in love with a monster, Trump has ordered his all-too-obsequious secretary of state to stage another summit … ASAP. The only thing that explains him doing so is that he is more interested in the (train-wreck, rubbernecking) ratings his PDA with Kim will generate than in any deal they might strike for Kim to denuclearize.

    Alas, Kim is just the latest world leader testing the proposition that, if you stroke his ego, Trump will let you get away with almost anything.

    Chinese President Xi will make sure Trump feels feted like the most important man to ever set foot in China. Because all leaders now know that, despite his ‘America First’ rhetoric, that’s all that really matters to Trump.

    More to the point, Trump made quite a show, during his address to the South Korean National Assembly yesterday, of demanding that China cut diplomatic ties with and economic supplies to North Korea. But Xi knows from experience that it only takes a little flattery to get him to forget these demands.

    Of course, North Korea will just dismiss him as certifiably insane for demanding it unilaterally disarm. (Or what, face more of his bluster about raining down fire and fury?)

    (“China, Next Stop on Trump’s Traveling Circus Through Far East,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 8, 2017)

    Again, I cannot overstate that everyone knew this about Trump long before want-to-be-entertained Americans elected him president of the United States. But I also argued from the outset of his presidency that things can only end badly when the bloom falls from the bromance he’s cultivating with strong men around the world.

    I delineated (some of) the many reasons why the election collusion/bromance between Putin and Trump was doomed to implode. The most notable reason for this looming day of reckoning is that Putin will finally realize that, despite his flirtation, Trump’s policies towards Russia (especially re Ukraine-related sanctions) will be no different than Obama’s.

    (“Putin Blames ‘Little Green Men’ for Syrian Gas Attack – as Bloom Comes Off His Bromance with Trump,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 12, 2017)

    Xi is already finding out that a woman scorned has nothing on this Trump spurned. Because Trump is now escalating a costly tariff war with him as if they’re engaged in nothing more than a schoolyard game of chicken.

    But God help Kim (and the rest of us) when Trump starts acting out after it finally dawns on him that Kim is spurning him too.

    Which is why Trump would do well to heed the advice I gave Obama in “North Korea to The World: Nuke Off!” December 13, 2012. I am more convinced than ever that this is the only sensible way to deal with the menace North Korea poses.

    __________________

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

    APEC

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

    Resolves that:

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

    All else is folly.

    __________________

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  • Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 6:56 AM

    Alas, as much as SA lifts up Mandela, it will never live down Zuma

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled at United Nations headquarters in New York. The country of South Africa donated the statue in commemoration of a 100-years since Mandela’s birth.

    (The Associated Press, September 24, 2018)

    No doubt Mandela deserves this honor. I just wonder why South Africa had to pay for it.

    The UN should have passed a resolution to fund it. After all, when he was alive, every nation claimed him as its own. But, at the very least, the African Union should have funded it as an all-Africa gift to the UN.

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  • Thursday, September 27, 2018 at 7:47 PM

    In Politically Assaulting Dr. Ford, Republicans Just Following Their P**sy-Grabbing Leader

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    After today’s hearing, I can think of no better way to explain Republican support for Kavanaugh than this:

    Not to mention the bullying way they discarded the female prosecutor they hired to question both Ford and Kavanaugh. Republican leaders hired her in a brazen and shameless attempt to prevent the all-white men on their side of the Senate Judiciary Committee from exposing their misogyny for all the world to see.

    But they couldn’t help themselves. Because Republicans ended up kicking her to the curb – unwittingly triggering allusions to the way Kavanaugh and his drinking buddy Mark Judge must have kicked the girls they drugged after ensnaring them in their “Devil’s Triangle.” But it was lost on nobody that Republicans did this as soon as it became clear that Kavanaugh was failing abysmally to defend himself.

    I will only add that Kavanaugh betrayed an utter lack of the judicial temperament required of any justice of the Supreme Court.

    I mean, it’s one thing for right-wing nuts like Alex Jones and Sean Hannity to dismiss Ford’s allegations as a Clintons-orchestrated, vast left-wing conspiracy against Kavanaugh. They claim Democrats are just using her as a pawn to deliver revenge served cold for his political hackery during the Ken Starr investigation and the George W. Bush administration. But it’s quite another for Kavanaugh himself to spew this unhinged, emotionally overwrought, and politically contrived nonsense.

    With all due respect to the growing list of women accusing him of sexual assault, this alone should be disqualifying.

    I rest my case.

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  • Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at 5:27 PM

    My Niece ‘Likes’ Malaysia PM Mahathir’s Take on China. Somebody Pinch Me

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As a rule, I ignore unsolicited suggestions for my commentaries. Family and friends would attest to this. I honestly cannot remember the last time I made an exception. But I am doing so today.

    From time to time, my twentysomething niece Emily shares video clips of her so-called life. But none of them has ever been remotely political.

    This is why I was so surprised a few days ago when she shared a clip of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. It featured him explaining his objection to China’s adhesive terms for investing in developing nations. Here is what he said:

    We welcome foreign direct investment [but] when it involves giving contracts to China, borrowing huge sums of money from China, and the contract goes to China, and China contractors prefer to use their own workers from China, use everything imported from China, even the payment is not made here, it’s made in China … that kind of contract is not something that I welcome.

    (The South China Morning Post, June 20, 2018)

    Emily found this “inspiring and so patriotic.” No doubt because it stands in instructive contrast to the humiliating way political leaders in the Caribbean (where she lives) devour Chinese foreign direct investments like manna from Heaven.

    She wanted to know what I thought. I was heartened: far more by her interest in Mahathir’s explanation, mind you, than by her interest in my thoughts. Emily is, after all, of a generation for whom #MeToo could easily refer to getting the latest photo-editing and filter app for Instagram.

    Suffice it to know that we had a terrific discussion on this topic last weekend. Nothing indicates how much we enjoyed it quite like our mutual agreement to take it from texting on WhatsApp to talking on iPhones.

    But it only occurred to me last night that I never mentioned that Mahathir’s explanation actually echoed what I’ve been writing for over a decade. I suspect I was too busy trying to cull, challenge, and channel her thoughts. And it was self-evident that she is not among my regular readers. This, however, did not give her any pause about suggesting I write about Mahathir.

    I demurred. But upon reflection, I felt obliged – if only to share my delight in the interest she showed in this topic.

    As it happens, though, I could have shared links to many commentaries in which I previewed Mahathir’s take on China. Most notable would have been a link to “China Putting Squeeze on The Bahamas. Your Country Could Be Next,” October 22, 2010, which includes the following excerpt on point.

    ____________________

    The Bahamas is having a precedent-setting dispute with China over a development agreement, which calls for Chinese men to compose the vast majority of workers on a $2.5 billion project (Baha Mar) that China is funding. …

    China is demanding that this small Caribbean nation issue permits for 8,150 foreign workers, which would amount to 71% of the labor force needed for this project; notwithstanding that The Bahamas is teeming with unemployed men (and women) who are willing and able to do the work.

    Of course, for over a decade now, China has been buying up influence throughout the Caribbean to enable it to exercise its economic, political, and, perhaps, even military power to further its national interests without question … let alone challenge.  And nothing demonstrated its modus operandi in this respect quite like the way it allegedly bribed (or attempted to bribe) every nation in the region to sever ties with Taiwan: almost all of them, including The Bahamas, duly complied.

    But the leaders of every one of these nations knew, or should have known, that, sooner or later, China would seek to use its influence in ways that were inimical to their national interests. And, lest anyone thinks I’m making too much of this, bear in mind that I had just cause to sound the alarm earlier this year in ‘World Beware: China Calling in (Loan-Sharking) Debts,’ February 19, 2010.

    There’s no gainsaying the principle at issue; namely, that no matter the developer or financier, the percentage of local to foreign workers on all development projects should be at least 70:30; i.e., in favor of local workers, not the other way around.

    ____________________

    By the way, China is accusing Mahathir of “anti-China bias.” But this gaslighting is rather like Britain accusing Kwame Nkrumah of anti-Britain bias for objecting to the mercantile way it exploited Ghana and other African colonies.

    After all, China is blithely doing today what Britain did during the halcyon days of colonialism. Unfortunately, nobody is standing up for African (or Caribbean) countries today the way Nkrumah did back then (or the way Mahathir is standing up for Malaysia today).

    That said, I’d be remiss not to share a little of this less inspiring aspect of Mahathir’s leadership:

    Anwar Ibrahim, the standard-bearer of Malaysia’s reform movement, was released from prison and granted a royal pardon Wednesday in one of the most dramatic developments since an opposition alliance scored a stunning win in national elections last week. …

    Anwar served as Mahathir’s deputy and finance minister in the 1990s before falling out with him during the Asian financial crisis, being sacked from the government and forming the Reformasi movement.

    Within weeks, Mahathir had him jailed on [trumped-up] charges of sodomy and corruption.

    (The Washington Post, May 16, 2018)

    I spared Emily this during our chat. But I am loath to champion only strengths in anyone’s leadership.

    To be fair, Malaysians expect Mahathir (92) to cede power to Ibrahim (70) in due course. I suspect this will be his way of making amends/restitution.

    But there’s no denying the implications of Ibrahim’s return to political leadership. Because his Mandela-like forgiveness and grace not only indicts Mahathir’s treatment of him but also indicates that Malaysia would have been better governed under his leadership.

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  • Tuesday, September 25, 2018 at 3:44 PM

    Cosby Gets 3-10 Years. He Got Off Easy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Bill Cosby was just escorted out of the courtroom after being sentenced. He was seen leaving in handcuffs after Judge Steven O’Neill denied him bail.

    ‘This is a serious crime he was convicted for …,’ the judge said.

    (CNN, September 25, 2018)

    Predictably, some black people are crying racism. But they are the same black people who were cheering justice after O.J. Simpson got away with double murder.

    Not to mention that, if he were not already behind bars, even Cosby would have winced at the blasphemy of his PR flak analogizing his prosecution to the persecution of Jesus Christ:

    ‘They persecuted Jesus and look what happened,’ [Andrew] Wyatt said. ‘Not saying Mr. Cosby is Jesus, but we know what this country has done to black men for centuries. … This has been the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States.’

    (The Huffington Post, September 25, 2018)

    Therefore, take it from this black man, they were wrong then, and they (especially Wyatt) are wrong now.

    That said, it is patently absurd that Judge O’Neill declared the practically blind, 81-year-old Cosby a “sexually violent predator” – who must register as a potential sex offender and receive counseling for the rest of his life. Surely even the predatory combination of Spanish fly and Viagra has its limits.

    In any case, I shall suffice to reprise what I wrote in “Bill Cosby, ‘America’s Dad,’ Guilty of Felony Sexual Assault,” April 26, 2018.

    ____________________

    I have written many commentaries on this sordid, tragic case. They include “10 More Women Accuse Bill Cosby of Sexual Assault…Rape,” April 23, 2005, “Bill Cosby Pays Off Woman Who Accused Him of Rape,” November 13, 2006, “Bill Cosby, a Serial Rapist?!” October 22, 2014, and “Crappy New Year to Bill and Camille Cosby!” January 4, 2016, in which I predicted this 80-year-old’s fate as follows:

    In truth, ever since he allowed himself to be deposed before settling [Andrea Constand’s] 2006 lawsuit, Cosby has been a jailbird walking. His accusers numbered more than fifty last week. That’s when a Philadelphia prosecutor finally issued a warrant for his arrest. …

    He’s facing ten years in prison, and deserves every bit of that time.

    I remarked in one of my commentaries that, for every one of Cosby’s victims who comes forward, there are probably ten who are too afraid or ashamed to do so. Bear that in mind as you read the following – from “Bill Cosby’s (all too Belated) Fall from Grace,” November 18, 2014 – which I shall let stand as my closing comment.

    If you’re inclined to feel any sympathy for Cosby, don’t! After all, if just one of these [62] women is telling the truth, Cosby should’ve spent most, if not all, of the past 30 years in prison, not on TV or on stage. Especially considering that the following quote from his 1969 comedy album titled, appropriately enough, It’s True! It’s True!, could fairly be read as an unwitting statement of his consciousness of guilt:

    ‘You know anything about Spanish Fly… you put some in her drink, man … ahhhhhh … Spanish Fly is groovy. Yeah boy … any time you see a girl: Wish you had some Spanish Fly boy.’

    Good riddance, Mr. Cosby!

    ____________________

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  • Monday, September 24, 2018 at 7:12 AM

    On Brexit Plan, EU to May: No Way!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    UK Prime Minster Theresa May met with EU leaders in Salzburg on Thursday to discuss terms for a Brexit deal. The setting was idyllic, perfect for the kind of schmoozing and cajoling she had in mind.

    More to the point, May reportedly thought her Chequers plan provided just what both sides needed to break up and still be friends … with benefits.

    Except that it went over like a lead balloon. Even worse, EU leaders made clear that it was her, not them.

    Theresa May was humiliated by all 27 EU leaders in Salzburg today as they rejected her Chequers plan as unworkable.

    The Prime Minister was left visibly furious after the French President Emmanuel Macron said Brexit had been sold to the British public by “liars” and that Mrs May must come up with “new propositions” if she wants to salvage a deal.

    Mrs May had gone to Austria expecting warm words of encouragement from her fellow leaders, but instead Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, said key parts of Chequers ‘will not work’ in a brutal assessment of Mrs May’s proposal.

    (The Telegraph, September 20, 2018)

    You might think this was an EU ambush motivated by spite. But, trust me, the humiliation May suffered was her own fault. Moreover, it had far more to do with UK arrogance and persistence than EU resentment and intransigence.

    In fact, May is just the latest UK prime minister trying to negotiate a relationship with EU leaders that smacks of cherry picking, or of the UK wanting to have its cake and eat it too.

    I’ve been denouncing, even ridiculing their efforts ever since I wrote “A Dead EU Constitution Resurrected as a ‘New Treaty’ Is Still a Dead EU Constitution!” November 13, 2007. But here in part is how I presaged May’s humiliation in “Brexit: Having Cake and Eating It Too or ‘Volunteering for Economic Vassalage,” July 24, 2018.

    ____________________

    Her [Chequers] White Paper is just a formal version of the idea May floated earlier this year for a ‘managed divergence’ from EU rules. But it should have been instructive that, according to the March 8 edition of The Economist, the EU dismissed it back then as cherry-picking that would undermine the single market.

    To be fair, though, in proposing her managed divergence, May was just doing what her predecessors did. …

    I’ve been decrying Britain’s ill-fated efforts to negotiate one-foot-in/one-foot-out deals with the EU for years. Therefore, I see no point in delving too deep into Brexit’s murky waters here.

    It should suffice to know that at least half of the Britons who voted for Brexit can’t even name the EU’s four ‘indivisible’ freedoms, namely the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people. This, despite the fact that Britain’s attempt to divvy up these freedoms (e.g., by cherry picking to allow goods but restrict people) has been the most animating feature of the Brexit debate.

    More to the point, this prevailing ignorance is why so many Britons, across the political spectrum, have been calling for a second referendum (a.k.a. a mulligan) before any UK-EU divorce settlement is executed. …

    Britain is fated to end up an island unto itself … marooned in the global sea by the foolish, ignorant pride Brexit reflects. Even worse, as Obama famously warned (and Trump hinted), it will find itself at the back of the line of weak and relatively poor countries trying to strike trade deals with the world’s biggest trading blocs, including the American-led NAFTA, the Chinese-led ACFTA, and yes, ironically enough, the German-led EU.

    ____________________

    And so Britain is finally facing the untenable but all-too-foreseeable consequences of voting for Brexit. It risks becoming a fantasy island unto itself – with loony Brexiteers screaming delusional chants at the moon about the sun never setting on their empire.

    Frankly, Britain’s only hope lies in taking one of two corrective courses:

    • a second referendum, which former Prime Minister Tony Blair is championing; or
    • a snap election – with support for or opposition to Brexit as the only galvanizing issue, which dismayed Brexiteers in May’s own party are championing – complete with a plan to oust her in favor of ousted foreign secretary Boris Johnson as their standard bearer.

    Stay tuned …

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  • Sunday, September 23, 2018 at 6:47 PM

    Tiger Woods Finally Wins One. But…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s one even he would concede doesn’t really count; based, that is, on the bar Woods himself set for career achievement.

    In winning his 80th PGA Tour event and first since 2013, Woods showed us the magic is still alive.

    The outcome of the 2018 Tour Championship was never in doubt on Sunday as Tiger Woods picked up his first victory since 2013. …

    Woods leveraged a rejuvenated body and fresh swing into a season I’m not sure anyone could have imagined — Woods himself included — at the start of the year.

    (CBS Sports, September 23, 2018)

    Except that we’ve seen this “Tiger’s back” hype before. In fact, it has played out on several occasions since his infamous fall from grace in November 2009. The point is that he hasn’t won another major since then.

    This is why what I wrote seven years ago in “Tiger Won … Finally,” December 5, 2011, remains as relevant today as it was back then.

    ____________________

    It is tempting now to assume that [today’s] triumph marks the restoration of Tiger as the king of golf. But, like I cautioned my old college roommate, a die-hard Tiger fan, one tournament win does not a dominant player make. And this is especially so if that tournament happens to be [a non-major]. …

    That said, I am as happy as any fair-weather Golf fan can be that Tiger won … finally. I just hope it helps him regain his trademark confidence, which does for his game what Samson’s hair did for his strength.

    His next tournament is another non-major scheduled for late January. But Tiger knows better than anyone that he will not be able to fully redeem his professional reputation until he wins another five Majors (i.e., from among the Masters in April, US Open in June, British Open in July, and PGA Championship in August).

    ____________________

    Ditto.

    Well, truth be told, Woods should probably lower that bar at this point. Because nobody in his right mind still thinks he has even a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning five more majors to eclipse Jack Nicholson’s 18.

    Frankly, he should consider it a crowning achievement if he wins just one more to end his historic challenge at 15. Unfortunately, for him and his fans, his next chance does not come until next year’s Masters … six months from now. And only God knows which Tiger, if any, will show up.

    On the other hand, with this 80th win, he has a real shot at eclipsing Sam Snead’s seemingly improbable 82. That would be no small feat. For a little perspective, consider that Phil Mickelson comes closest to Woods among current players in this respect. But he has only 43 Tour wins (and only 5 majors). And Woods has already won more PGA Tour events than his nemesis Nicholas, who ended his career with 73.

    That said, corporate sponsors, TV networks, and even fellow players are probably as happy to see Tiger winning again as this beleaguered superstar himself. Because it’s a given now that the more he wins, the more everyone in Golf gets paid. This fact cannot be overstated … and should not be underappreciated.

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  • Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 10:48 AM

    UPDATE! Ford v. Kavanaugh: To Testify or Not to Testify, That is the Question

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I think Ford should.

    Republicans are using their control of this confirmation process to compel Ford to testify on Monday, or be relegated to an asterisk in the record of Kavanaugh’s tenure on the Supreme Court. Ford is pleading for a delay to allow the FBI to investigate her accusation, just as it investigated Hill’s. And, contrary to Republican spin, that investigation took just three days.

    Meanwhile, Republicans are patting themselves on the back for offering Ford all kinds of options to testify: in private or in public, in California or in Washington, DC, so long as she does so before or on Monday (i.e., according to their damn-the-torpedoes rush … to confirm Kavanaugh). But she is quite rightly insisting that those options cannot, and must not, substitute for a proper FBI investigation.

    Unfortunately, as they have done from day one of Trump’s presidency, Republicans seem hell-bent on ignoring all precedents and norms. But this case is especially egregious.

    After all, they (and Kavanaugh) make quite a show of proclaiming their adherence to, and advocacy for, the rule of law. Yet they seem perfectly prepared to flout the very rules and procedures they championed in Hill’s case, which included not just an FBI investigation but the testimony of corroborating and exculpating witnesses too.

    Perhaps you’ve seen the juxtaposing video clips that have gone viral. They show Republican leaders saying, on the one hand, how proper and necessary it was for the FBI to investigate Hill’s accusation against Thomas, while on the other hand, how improper and unnecessary it is for the FBI to investigate Ford’s accusation against Kavanaugh.

    Not to mention the consciousness of guilt Kavanaugh is displaying by hiding behind these politically expedient contradictions. After all, if he were innocent, he would be demanding an investigation to clear his name. But I suspect he fears an investigation would only discover more Ford-like skeletons in his closet.

    The unfairness and hypocrisy afoot is beyond contempt. This is compounded by the fact that Ford has spent this week seeking a safe place to protect her family from intimidation, harassment, retaliation, and even death threats, while Kavanaugh has spent it hanging out at the White House getting tips on the best political spin for his defense.

    Incidentally, apropos of contempt, I have it in spades for most reporters. And they are duly showing why with their herd-like praise for the “restraint” Trump is showing by not trashing Ford. Because it says far more about them than Trump that they are praising him for behaving in this case as any normal person, let alone the president of the United States, should.

    Still, I urge Ford to rise, take the oath, and testify … in public and in Washington, DC. But she should use the occasion not only to plead her case against Kavanaugh but also to upbraid Republicans for having no qualms about using her – an alleged victim of sexual assault – as a prop in a show trial to advance their political agenda.

    Of course, the vast majority of them have already made clear they believe him, not her. To be fair, though, the vast majority of Democrats have already made clear they believe her, not him. This is why it’s so imperative for the FBI to present objective facts that would enable the few, fair-minded members on both sides to make an informed and pivotal decision on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

    But, trust me, after giving her comprehensive and compelling opening statement, which should include at least one reference to Merrick Garland, Ford can effectively fend off all Republican attempts to impeach her credibility with variations on this famous theme:

    Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

    (And, yes, there are men only on the Republican side of the Senate Judiciary Committee that would preside over this show trial.)

    The statement’s the thing wherein she’ll expose the hypocrisy of the Republicans and the guilt of the judge. If she does as I suggest, instead of becoming an asterisk in Kavanaugh’s record, she will be highlighted in the annals of US history among the likes of Anne Hutchinson, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Rosa Parks — all of whom dared to challenge institutionalized injustice masquerading as law and order.

    And, who knows? She might even prick the conscience of a few Republican senators (especially the female ones), so much so that it compels them to vote with Democrats to torpedo Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

    In any case, I reiterate my contention that Kavanaugh’s nomination is toast. But, despite their pro-Kavanaugh posturing, it behooves Republican leaders to prevail upon Trump to withdraw this nomination long before Ford gets anywhere near Capitol Hill. After all, given the foreseeable fallout for Kavanaugh and the Republican Party, it would constitute political malpractice to allow her to testify.

    NOTE: It’s interesting that Ford’s lawyer has not seen fit to publish a more flattering photo of her, which would have been the PR thing to do. But not doing so might enhance the visual impact when she finally appears in person. And that’s no small consideration these days, when it’s almost better to look good than to be good.

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  • Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at 9:47 AM

    Pussy Riot: Russia’s ‘Vlad the Poisoner’ Strikes … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Vladimir Putin has been ordering hits on his Russian detractors for years. I began commenting on them over a decade ago in “Putin Probably Ordered the Hit. But No One Will Do Anything About It,” November 28, 2006.

    This excerpt highlights not only my cynical take on his abiding MO but also my prescient take on his presumed impunity.

    ____________________

    Doctors reported over the weekend that Litvinenko was poisoned by a fatal dose of a radioactive substance called Polonium 210, which Putin’s accusers claim ‘could only be found in government-controlled institutions’ in Russia. …

    The prevailing suspicion is that Putin targeted Litvinenko because he was becoming too credible in his criticisms of the Kremlin. Litvinenko fled for his life in 2000 – after accusing the FSB of killing over 300 Russians in 1999 in a Machiavellian scheme to frame and discredit Chechen rebels.

    Then he began publishing the findings of his high-profile investigation into what many suspect was a Putin-ordered hit on journalist Anna Politkovskaya last month. She herself was publishing too many inconvenient truths about that ‘Chechen conspiracy.’

    Putin had had enough of them both.

    Nonetheless, with all due respect to Scotland Yard and Interpol, no matter how probative the circumstantial evidence of Putin’s guilt, neither he nor his putative hitmen will ever be held to account for this murder. And everyone knows it.

    I coined the term ‘Putinization’ to describe the way Putin has been ruling Russia for years more like a criminal enterprise than a democratic country.

    Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Putin would order the assassination of a spy who, for all intents and purposes, he considered not only an insufferable critic but also a traitor.

    ____________________

    Sure enough, his latest hit bears all the hallmarks of his MO and impunity:

    German doctors treating a Pussy Riot activist who lost his sight, speech and mobility after spending time in a court in Moscow said on Tuesday that it was ‘highly plausible’ that he had been poisoned. …

    Pussy Riot, widely known as a punk band unsparing in its criticism of President Vladimir V. Putin and the Russian government, gained notoriety in 2012 when three of its members were sentenced to two years in prison on charges of hooliganism, leading to worldwide protests.

    (The New York Times, September 18, 2018)

    Somehow an NGO managed to have this activist airlifted to Berlin for emergency treatment. And, like the Skripals — who Putin targeted in London earlier this year, it appears he will survive this poisoning.

    But, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko will readily attest that the lingering effects can be both debilitating and unsightly. Putin targeted him even before he set his sights on Litvinenko. I duly commented in “Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko Falls from Hero to Zero in Eight Months,” September 15, 2005.

    Except that this hit betrays an insecurity Putin has never shown. As it happens, I even noted the fatherly sufferance he once showed for their antics in “Putin Gives Pussy Riot the Clamp,” August 17, 2012.

    I mean, it’s one thing to order hits on people who threaten his totalitarian rule, namely ex-spies, investigative journalists, and influential politicians. It’s quite another to target Pussy Rioters who just perpetrate feckless stunts. After all, this is rather like President Trump ordering hits on members of Black Lives Matter.

    On the other hand, this might affirm my assertion that, far from fearing any consequence, Putin would only become more emboldened with each hit. I saw no point in commenting on most of them over the years, but I did lament in such commentaries as “Int’l Court Declares Putin a Liar and a Thief (But He’s a Murderer Too),” July 29, 2014, “Fated Assassination of Russian Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov,” March 1, 2015, and “The Skripals, Et Al: Russia Taunting Britain with Brazen Assassinations,” March 13, 2018.

    The title to this most recent commentary speaks volumes. Because, truth be told, if Putin were not rubbing his murderous vengeance in Britain’s face, nobody in the West would be showing any concern for his targets in Russia. Hell, nobody seems to care what President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is doing in Turkey, which makes what Putin in doing in Russia seem Jeffersonian. And Turkey is supposed to be a democratic NATO ally.

    Meanwhile, Putin is not only gloating about past hits but warning about more to come:

    Those who serve us with poison will eventually swallow it and poison themselves.

    (VOA-Associated Press, March 7, 2018)

    The problem is that, ever since Litvinenko way back in 2005, British leaders have been appeasing Putin. Remarkably, they were all afraid of bursting the bubble Russian oligarchs were blowing up in London’s property market.

    By letting Putin’s allies launder their stolen fortunes, and hide them in our country, we are drawing a line under their crimes, and rewarding them for actions we should not be condoning. Do we really want Britain to be the Kremlin’s fence?

    (The Guardian, May 25, 2018)

    But here is how I urged Britain to renege on this Faustian bargain in “The Skripals…” cited above.

    ____________________

    Nothing would unnerve Putin more than squeezing the Russian oligarchs he relies on like Pretorian guards.

    ‘Every self-respecting corrupt Russian government official has a property in London’. …

    The government could use the Criminal Finances Act, a law approved in 2017, to force Russians who may be implicated in the attack, or have close ties to Putin, to explain how they purchased property in the UK.

    (CNN Money, March 12, 2018)

    Accordingly, here’s to 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.

    ____________________

    All of the above explains why this latest development is so seismic … and encouraging:

    Dozens of Russian oligarchs in Britain are set to have their assets seized in the wake of the Salisbury revelations.

    A Whitehall source said the National Crime Agency could target ‘more than 100’ foreigners with ‘unexplained wealth orders’ in the coming months. The majority are understood to be Russian.

    Police were given new powers at the start of this year to apply for the orders against foreigners in the UK suspected of having links to corruption or organised crime abroad.

    (Daily Mail, September 6, 2018)

    Here’s to Prime Minister May going where her predecessors feared to tread. Let the fire sale of Russian-owned properties in London begin …

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