The iPINIONS Journal

  • Thursday, November 16, 2017 at 7:42 AM

    Military Coup Ousts Mugabe in Zimbabwe

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, this could not have happened to a nicer strongman.

    Early Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo, Zimbabwe’s army chief of staff, denied on state TV that the military had overthrown longtime President Robert Mugabe, despite tanks in the streets and reports of explosions and gunfire. The ruling ZANU-PF party later tweeted that former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom Mugabe had ousted last week, had stepped in as interim president, and South Africa’s News24 reported that Mugabe, 93, is ‘preparing to step down.’

    The ZANU-PF account called Wednesday’s military takeover of the capital a ‘bloodless,’ and said Mugabe and his wife, Grace, are ‘detained and safe.’

    (The Week, November 15, 2017)

    Unfortunately, for the longsuffering people of Zimbabwe, this only portends more years of kleptocracy and oppression under general administrative incompetence. In other words, this country is fated to continue its 37-year malaise, which has seen it wither away from the breadbasket of Africa to a simple basket case. And it will continue thus – even despite the vesting efforts of its new superpower patron, China – which reportedly gave its blessing for this coup.

    The man believed to be behind the coup in Zimbabwe is the country’s recently sacked vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa – also known as ‘The Crocodile’.

    Mnangagwa, 75, is a notorious and much-feared figure in Zimbabwe, having led a vicious crackdown on opponents in the 1980s with the help of the dreaded North Korean-trained Fifth Army brigade. …

    His reputation for cruelty is so legendary that he was one of the few leaders of Zimbabwe known to drive around the country without security.

    (London Daily Mail, November 15, 2017)

    I have bemoaned Zimbabwe’s descent into the “heart of darkness” in too many commentaries to cite. They include “Zimbabweans Pray for Liberation from their Liberator, Robert Mugabe,” March 29, 2005, “UN Sanctions Mugabe’s Genocidal Rule,” May 14, 2007, “Zimbabwe: From Africa’s Breadbasket to Basket Case…,” December 5, 2008, “It’s Hail, Mugabe! … Again,” August 4, 2013, and “Zimbabwe’s Black Farmers: Bring Back White Farmers,” September 16, 2015.

    Which is why this de facto coup, especially with its air of déjà vu, warrants no further comment. Except that I feel obliged to note that most Zimbabweans will consider this a second liberation – no matter how pyrrhic.

    Meanwhile, say what you will about Fidel Castro of Cuba, at least he was shrewd and humble enough to step down on his own terms.

    By contrast, Mugabe now joins the rogue’s gallery of dictators like Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire who were unceremoniously overthrown. In this case, the ignominy includes the fact that the triggering event was this pussy-whipped old fool moving to install his “trophy” wife (52) as his successor.

    Now Mugabe has to pray he does not suffer the fate that befell dictators like Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, and Saddam Hussein of Iraq who fulfilled that famous proverb:

    He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.

    But, if his captors were shrewd, they would exile him to Morocco posthaste. Because, like his strongman comrade Sese Seko, Mugabe would probably die of disgrace there within six months.

    Finally, much is being made about President Jacob Zuma of South Africa vouching for democracy in Zimbabwe, despite this coup. But this is rather like the frying pan vouching for safety in fire. After all, newspapers have been replete for years with reports about the kleptocracy and oppression under general administrative incompetence that have characterized Zuma’s rule.

    As it happens, some of us warned of this foreboding symmetry:

    One wonders what could have prompted the ANC to emasculate Mbeki. … If he heeds the ANC’s recall … Zuma will become the next duly elected president.

    Then, I fear, he will do for South Africa what Mugabe has done for Zimbabwe.

    (“South African President Mbeki Forced to Resign … Hail Zuma,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 22, 2008)

    How telling then that Zuma is moving today to install one of his many wives as his successor … too.

    It took Zimbabweans 37 years to arrive at this fateful rendezvous with destiny. But South Africans witnessing events unfolding in neighboring Zimbabwe must be thanking God that:

    There but for the wisdom of Constitutional term limits, go we.

    Related commentaries:
    Zimbabwe’s black farmers
    South African President Mbeki
    Zuma doing to SA what Mugabe

  • Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 8:08 AM

    Rock Stars Geldof and Bono Damn Myanmar’s Suu Kyi as ‘Handmaiden to Genocide’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A few months ago, I damned Aung San Suu Kyi as the ‘godmother of ethnic cleansing.” I did not think then that anyone could damn her more. I was wrong.

    But I suppose it should come as no surprise that two acclaimed song writers have found more damning words:

    The Irish musicians Bob Geldof and Bono, as well as the other members of rock band U2, have attacked Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing her of complicity in the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people in the country.

    Geldof announced that he on Monday would hand back his Freedom of the City of Dublin because the award is also held by Suu Kyi.

    In a strongly worded statement, the Live Aid founder dubbed the Burmese Nobel Peace laureate a ‘handmaiden to genocide’ and said her association with the Irish capital ‘shames us all.’

    (Daily Beast, November 13, 2017)

    All the same, I hope it’s not gloating to note that I had the political consciousness and foresight to damn Suu Kyi four years ago for what Geldof and Bono are finally damning her today.

    In fact, I have written many commentaries decrying her fall from Nobel Peace laureate to … handmaiden to genocide. They range from “Even Fellow Nobel Laureates Now Condemning Myanmar’s Suu Kyi, the Godmother of Ethnic Cleansing,” September 14, 2017, to “Obama’s Historic Trip to Myanmar: Too Soon?” November 12, 2012. The latter includes the following excerpt, which provoked my initial dismay and indignation.


    The only meaningful step [military dictator] Thein Sein has taken towards democracy was to release Suu Kyi in 2010 from nearly 15 years of house arrest.

    But he has since co-opted this former ‘democracy icon’ into his political establishment – as leader of the loyal (i.e., powerless) opposition in parliament. Nothing demonstrates the extent to which he has co-opted Suu Kyi quite like her deafening silence while majority Buddhists continue their ethnic cleansing of minority Muslims. This, even in the face of the UN calling Myanmar’s Muslims ‘the world’s most persecuted people.’

    Yet, whenever challenged to explain her silence, the Buddhist Suu Kyi demurs, saying self-righteously that she is not taking sides to preserve her impartiality to help them reconcile. But just imagine how much worse the ethnic cleansing of minority Muslims by majority Hindus in India would have been if the Hindu Gandhi had not been so vocal in condemning it…?


    That said, President Trump returned last night from his 5-country, 12-day visit to Asia. He would want you to think that it was not just the longest but the most successful foreign trip any leader has ever undertaken in the history of the world.

    Except that, as I posited in “Trump Congratulates China for Raping US,” November 9, 2017, he would be hard-pressed to cite any real success. Granted, Xi threw him a bone by releasing three knuckleheads from the UCLA Basketball team who were caught shoplifting during a concurrent goodwill visit. But the measure of his fake success is limited to the extravagant ways authoritarian leaders stroked his ego … to make him feel like one of them.

    More to the point, critics across the political spectrum bemoan that the idle flattery they lavished on him induced the preternaturally narcissistic Trump to overlook their appalling human rights record. They contend that any other US president would have leveled unbridled criticism, especially against the likes of Xi of China, Duterte of the Philippines, and Suu Kyi of Myanmar. They are wrong.

    In fact, US history is replete with US presidents visiting authoritarian countries. And, far from leveling criticisms, they invariably propped up or kowtowed to a rogue’s gallery of US-friendly dictators – from African kleptomaniacs to Arab potentates. And they did this even without the ego-stroking inducement of idle flattery.

    A case in point is the historic visit none other than Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, made to Myanmar. The following excerpt – from the commentary cited above – attests to the cynical note I sounded about the way he blithely overlooked its appalling human rights record, which is compelling so many to damn Suu Kyi.


    I warned that her (personal and political) liberation would do little to facilitate democratic reform in Myanmar:

    What’s more, Thein Sein has shrewdly used Suu Kyi to curry favor with Western leaders/donors for whom the international celebrity she now enjoys is a political aphrodisiac. Obama, duly seduced, brought along $170 million in financial aid.

    Nonetheless, he rationalized his visit by claiming that it is not an endorsement of the government of Myanmar but an acknowledgement of the democratic path the country is now on (which will come as news to the hundreds of political dissidents still withering away in prison).

    Ironically, his rationalization for awarding Myanmar his presidential imprimatur smacks of that which the Nobel committee proffered for awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009; namely, not for brokering any peace, but for the potential he had for doing so. The oppressed people of the world, especially the Rohingyas and Palestinians, are still waiting for him to realize his Nobel potential.


    Alas, Obama never realized that potential as president – for all kinds of perennial geopolitical reasons. But there’s no excusing his failure – as private citizen – to join Geldof and Bono in the chorus of famous people now damning Suu Kyi.

    Related commentaries:
    Even fellow nobel
    Trump congratulates Russia
    Bob Geldof

  • Monday, November 13, 2017 at 7:21 AM

    Zuckerberg Designed Facebook ‘Like’ an Addictive Opioid

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    So, with all due respect to Karl Marx, who needs religion when the masses have Facebook…?

    It turns out that your brain on Facebook is like an egg in a frying pan. This, in effect, is what none other than Facebook founding president Sean Parker has confessed:

    The unintended consequences [is that] it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other [and] God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.

    The thought process that went into building these applications … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’ …

    That means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.

    (CBS News, November 9, 2017)

    Except that this is rather like a drug kingpin (or the head of a big pharmaceutical company) confessing about the unintended consequences of the dopamine-triggering drugs (or opioids) they peddle.

    No doubt this is why CEO Mark Zuckerberg felt compelled to inject this “timely” observation from his presidential listening tour:

    [Zuckerberg] said the extent of the US opioid crisis was the thing that surprised him the most during his travels throughout America this year.

    ‘The biggest surprise by far is the extent of opioid issues, it’s really saddening to see,’ Zuckerberg said during a live Facebook broadcast from the University of Kansas.

    (CNBC, November 10, 2017)

    Frankly, given Parker’s confession, this observation reeks of hypocrisy and cynicism in equal measure. And I’m not even alluding to reports that Facebook makes more money from illegal adds for opioids than it does from fake ads for Russian trolls.

    In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking this broadcast was just Zuckerberg’s Trumpian way of deflecting from the brain damage Facebook is causing by pointing the finger at opioids. Mind you, one can hardly blame him for thinking that if Russian President Vladimir Putin could use Facebook to get Trump elected president of the United States, then he could easily use it to get himself elected.

    But there’s no denying Parker’s contention that social media (like Facebook and Twitter) are just as hazardous to your health as opioids (like fentanyl and heroin).

    Many are commending him for speaking out. I, however, just see him as a Johnny-come-lately – given commentaries like “Why I Hate Twitter,” February 1, 2013, “Facebook Friends?! Try Facebook’s Guinea Pigs,” July 8, 2014, “Hey Moron, Personal Tweet Is … an Oxymoron,” March 6, 2015.

    For a sense of my abiding indignation, here is an excerpt from “Keep Your Selfies to Yourself…Puhleeease! April 7, 2014.


    A selfie is not just about adoring one’s own reflection like Narcissus; it’s more about taking a picture of that reflection to publish for all the world to see. But am I the only one who rues the cognitive dissonance that has turned self-obsessed showoffs from laughingstocks into standard-bearers of what is now not only acceptable but required public behavior?

    Nothing irritates me in this context quite like the way people convey every private sentiment — from condolences to birthday greetings and romantic love — only by tweeting or facebooking it for everyone to read. …

    I do not think social media are utterly without redeeming value. … It’s just that, all combined, [that value] probably accounts for less than 10 percent of what is posted daily. Whereas the other 90 percent seems borne of a pathetic neediness or insecurity, which causes people to make fools of themselves by posting selfies for no other reason than the vain hope of eliciting idle flattery.

    Remember when there was no greater social nuisance than the Dad who showed off pictures of his newborn child (even to complete strangers) – as if it were the most beautiful thing God ever created? Well that Dad is social wallflower compared to the twit who posts selfies – as if she were the most beautiful thing God ever created.

    Frankly, this culture of unbridled narcissism and oversharing has become like a metastasizing cancer that is eroding all traditional notions of personal discretion and public decency. This cannot be a good thing, especially for the self-esteem of young girls. After all, they were already suffering untenable body-dysmorphic triggers from images of models in glossy magazines. Now, thanks to photo-shopping apps, ordinary girls on social media are setting similar, unattainable standards of beauty … and fame. …

    But here’s a PSA for those of you who seem as addicted to chasing “likes” as junkies are to chasing the dragon:

    Your friends and followers are too socially correct to tell you what an embarrassing bore your selfies – to say nothing of your banal thoughts, snarky comments, and hackneyed aphorisms – have become. You are clearly as clueless about the perennial truth that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ as you probably are about the economic theory of ‘information asymmetry.’ And I gather ‘unfriending’ and ‘unfollowing’ are tricky propositions.

    Therefore, take it from me, your friends and followers would really appreciate it if you’d spare them the annoying social obligation of having to tell you (every friggin’ day) how witty you are, or how beautiful you look. This, especially when you insist on posting selfies in which you look like a Russian babushka selling borscht who thinks she’s a VS model selling lingerie. Really, get over yourself!


    Meanwhile, Parker’s confession does not even address the white elephant on Facebook’s platform. It, of course, is the pandemic of fake news; you know, of the kind that infected last year’s US presidential election, which caused so many of its brain-dead users to vote for Donald Trump.

    I commented on this socio-political “black swan” in “‘Unlike’ Facebook for Facilitating Trump’s ‘Post-Truth’ Run to the White House,” November 18, 2016.

    In any event, I hope at least some of Facebook’s 2 billion users have enough brains left to “Like” (and heed) Parker’s sobering admonition.

    But it behooves all consumers of social media to appreciate the Orwellian nature of the anti-social behavior all networks foster, namely compelling users to continually stare down at personal digital assistants (i.e., smartphones that make so many users dumb people).

    Related commentaries:
    Hate Twitter
    Hey Moron
    Facebook guinea pigs
    Keep your selfies
    Unlike Facebook

  • Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 7:41 AM

    Islanders know the rich who shelter their money ‘offshore’ couldn’t care less what happens onshore

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 4:52 AM

    In Observance of Veterans Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


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

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

    For the edification of those of you who have no clue, people wear the poppy from late October to early November (primarily) to remember those who died in WWI, which began 100 years ago this year. The peace treaty to end this war was reportedly signed at 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

    This is why 11:11/11 is generally observed as Remembrance Day (or Armistice Day).

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

    Of course, my astonishment at my colleague’s ignorance might just reflect my cultural bias, which stems from this:

    “In Flanders Fields”, which was inspired by the death of one soldier during WWI, has evolved over the years into an elegy on all war dead.

    My primary school teacher taught me to recite it with the same reverence with which my Sunday school teacher taught me to recite “The Lord’s Prayer.” (Alas, I now struggle to recite both, which probably reveals as much about my encroaching senility as it does my evolving apostasy.)


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

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

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

    (John McCrae, 1915)

    NOTE: This commentary was originally published on November 11, 2011. I reprise it yearly not only to honor all war dead, but also to commend the UK for its awe-inspiring tribute: It features 888,246 long-stem ceramic poppies (one for each of the British and Colonial soldiers who died in that war, and all of them planted in moat formation around the Tower of London, row on row). The tribute is a poignant reminder of the “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” that characterized the world wars.

  • Thursday, November 9, 2017 at 7:38 AM

    UPDATE: Trump Congratulates China for Raping US

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here is what Trump said on the campaign trail last year, which thrilled Republican voters as much as it must have angered Chinese leaders:

    ‘We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country, and that’s what they’re doing.’…

    Sunday marks the first time in this campaign that Trump has used the term ‘rape’ to refer to what he views as China’s dominance in trade with the US.

    (CNN, May 2, 2016)

    And here is what he said in Beijing today, which thrilled Chinese leaders as much as it should anger all Americans:

    I don’t blame China. After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for benefit of their citizens? I give China great credit.

    (CNN, November 9, 2017)

    Of course, Trump himself is an alleged rapist. Therefore, it probably comes more naturally than some might think for him to blame the victim and hail the rapist.

    But, as I telegraphed in my related commentary, idle flattery could get this narcissist to sell out his mother. Therefore, it’s no surprise that being feted with such pomp and circumstance got him to sell out his country with this historic flip-flop.

    Indeed, I wish a reporter had the balls to ask Trump this question:

    Mr. President, besides having your ego stroked, what has this state visit done to advance America’s national and regional security interests, especially with respect to the clear and present danger posed by North Korea’s nuclear missiles?

    Because, I assure you, his reply would be as garbled as Daffy Duck trying to explain the Theory of Relativity.

    Meanwhile, Trump has embarrassed and demeaned the United States like nobody has ever seen before. For this has to be the first time in history that a US president traveled to the capital of a foreign adversary and lavished it with praise for “raping” the United States.

    Mind you, this is the same Trump who spent much of his campaign ridiculing Obama as weak for traveling abroad and “apologizing for America.” IDIOT!  #kowtowinghypocrite #treasonous #MakeAmericaMissObama (MAMO)

    Related commentary:
    Trump in China

  • Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 8:27 AM

    China, Next Stop on Trump’s Traveling Circus through Far East

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Trump begins his state visit to China today. He will pay lip service to the threat of trade war with China, but the threat of nuclear war with North Korea will dominate all talks.

    Except that anyone who knows anything about the nature of this threat knows that these talks will amount to much ado about nothing. The only reason North Korea has nuclear weapons is that it furthers China’s geo-strategic interest. To understand the Chinese checkers-like moves afoot, just think how improbable it would be for Mexico to do the same, namely to develop nuclear weapons and continually threaten to annihilate China without the consent, if not the cooperation, of the United States.

    Frankly, it speaks volumes about China’s perfidy that it sees politically redeeming value in having North Korea as a menacing nuclear power. As this country’s indispensable lifeline (i.e., its primary supplier of food and energy), China clearly feels immune to its threats, which have bedeviled China’s regional adversaries, including the United States, for decades.

    Moreover, while those adversaries have been wasting time and resources contending with those threats, China has been busy executing its plan to dethrone the United States as the most powerful nation in the history of the world.

    I’m on record telegraphing these moves in commentaries like “America’s Trump vs. North Korea’s Jong-un: the Ultimate Reality-TV Show,” August 9, 2017, “‘Leading from Behind’: Trump Depending on China to Protect US from North Korea,” April 21, 2017, and “Trump at UN General Assembly like Obama at KKK Rally,” September 18, 2017, which includes this overview:

    Thanks to leaks from Trump’s White House, the entire world now knows Obama warned him that North Korea’s nuclear program poses a clear and present danger, which the United States must deal with as a matter of life and death. Yet the first thing Trump did as president was to make a public show of begging, brown-nosing, and then badgering China to protect the United States from North Korea. …

    But … Chinese President Xi Jinping was playing him for a fool with empty promises to keep Jong-un in check. Which, of course, was easy to do because this US president is as susceptible to idle flattery as an ugly teenage girl. Xi was the first foreign leader to exploit that insecurity. Others have been queuing up ever since to do the same.

    But you don’t have to take my word for it. Because here is how no less an authority than the Los Angeles Times previewed this state visit yesterday:

    Expect the good times to continue when Xi figuratively rolls out an ultra-wide red carpet to host Trump in Beijing — a ‘state visit-plus’ in the words of the Chinese ambassador to the United States.

    The Chinese, much like the Japanese and South Koreans on the first two stops of Trump’s five-nation Asia tour, believe the gilded treatment is the best way to play to Trump’s ego and disarm him, and thereby blunt his demands that China open up its economy and take a harder tack against North Korea, according to experts and former government officials.

    Xi can be forgiven for feeling even more emboldened to play Trump like a chump given this:

    Xi Jinping has been consecrated as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong after a new body of political thought carrying his name was added to the Communist party’s constitution.

    The symbolic move came on the final day of a week-long political summit in Beijing – the 19th party congress – at which Xi has pledged to lead the world’s second largest economy into a ‘new era’ of international power and influence.

    ‘The congress unanimously agrees that Xi Jinping Thought … shall constitute [one of] the guides to action of the party in the party constitution,’ a party resolution stated.

    (London Guardian, October 24, 2017)

    Alas, Xi has in Trump a willing dupe who would happily cede America’s global leadership to China only to have his fringe base in the Republican Party consecrate him in similar fashion.

    Spoke to President Xi of China to congratulate him on his extraordinary elevation. Also discussed NoKo & trade, two very important subjects!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2017

    But China’s moves are not going unnoticed, and, despite Trump, I predict it will not go unchecked.

    The US military officials in the region warn that China’s ultimate goal is to become dominant by slowly making changes to the international order. China will use the laws it likes, ignore the ones it doesn’t and eventually other nations will have to adapt, thereby re-setting the rules in China’s favor.

    ‘China is on a path to win without a fight,’ one official said.

    (NBC News, November 1, 2017)

    Again, Xi’s is presiding over a China that is slowly but surely eclipsing the United States. The following puts this supplanting eclipse into context:

    Nixon landing in China in 1972 was like Columbus landing in The Bahamas in 1492; whereas Trump landing in China in 2017 is like Churchill landing in Washington in 1942.

    In other words, no matter Trump’s begging and/or badgering, China will deal with North Korea on its own terms. Unfortunately, this might mean waiting until war breaks out between North Korea and the United States before China plays its hand.

    But, for now, like the king did for his state visit to Saudi Arabia, 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. And Trump expecting Russia to help the United States with North Korea is even more foolhardy than Netanyahu expecting Iran to help Israel with the Palestinians.

    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?)

    That said, I feel obliged to reiterate this warning from “World Beware, China Calling In (Loan-Sharking) Debts,” February 3, 2010.

    This episode should serve as a warning to all countries around the world that are not just lapping up China’s largesse, but heralding it as a more worthy superpower than the United States. After all, China is spitting imperious and vindictive fire at the rich and mighty United States over a relatively insignificant matter like meeting with the Dalai Lama. So just imagine what it would do to a poor and weak country in a conflict over a truly significant matter.

    Apropos of that, there’s this curious thing, which all non-white world leaders, especially those throughout Africa and the Caribbean, might want to beware of:

    Obama always spoke of China with respect. Yet when he hosted Obama, Xi showed Obama unprecedented disrespect.

    Knowing Trump, he probably reminded Xi of this as they had a laugh at Obama’s expense:

    Donald Trump said Monday that he would have left the G-20 summit in China over a logistical flap that left President Obama disembarking Air Force One onto a plain metal staircase.

    ‘They have pictures of other leaders who are … coming down with a beautiful red carpet. … It’s a sign of such disrespect,’ [Trump said].

    (Washington Post, September 5, 2016)

    By instructive contrast, Trump always spoke of China with disrespect. Yet Xi is showing Trump unprecedented respect.

    Perhaps Xi is just performing a Chinese version of the parable of the prodigal son. But it’s one of those things that make black people go, hmmm.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump vs. Jung-un
    Leading from behind
    General Assembly
    Hong Kong
    World beware

  • Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 8:21 AM

    ‘Paradise Papers’ Out Elizabeth II as Tax-Dodging Queen

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and a key ally to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are among the 120 rich and powerful people who are mentioned in the Paradise Papers, a new release of data about offshore tax havens and obscure financial dealings.

    The Paradise Papers are a massive trove of 13.4 million records — many of which were leaked from the offshore law firm Appleby, which was founded more than 100 years ago and operates in places ranging from Bermuda and the Cayman Islands to the Isle of Man, Mauritius, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

    Reflecting millions of loan deals, financial statements, emails and other documents, the data reveals how specialty firms handle the money of wealthy individuals, families and corporations.

    (NPR, November 6, 2017)

    Forgive me, but this is one of those occasions when “Breaking News” obliges me to say, almost in exasperation, I told you so.

    The following excerpt from “Leaked ‘Panama Papers’ Affirm more than Reveal Offshore Banking Secrets,” April 6, 2016, explains why.


    This is hardly news, let alone ‘Breaking News’: Leaking the Pentagon Papers was a bombshell because they revealed that the US government was lying about the nature of its involvement in Vietnam. Leaking the Panama Papers is not because they merely affirm what is generally known about offshore tax-dodging and money-laundering schemes.

    Not to mention the truly rare insights the ‘Swiss Papers’ provided in this regard just a year ago. …

    I’m on record commenting – in ‘Unlike NSA Leaks, HSBC Leaks Actually Serve Public Interest,’ February 10, 2015 – on the rogue’s gallery of tax dodgers and money launderers this investigation outed. More to the point, many of the names that popped up in the Swiss Papers are popping up in the Panama Papers too.

    Alas, in this age of Twitter and Snapchat, even news of the discovery of life on Mars would probably trend for only a day, before the next trending topic knocks it out of public consciousness. …

    Russian President Vladimir Putin can be forgiven for thinking he’s ‘the main target of Panama Papers leak’ – as the New York Daily News headlined its sensational report on Monday.

    The problem of course is that targeting Putin as a kleptomaniac is about as consequential as targeting Trump as a demagogue. Nothing indicates this quite like the litany of reports over the years that have outed Putin as the biggest political crook in history … all to no avail. I have decried his immunity/impunity in this respect in many commentaries – from the ‘Putinization of Russia…,’ November 2, 2006, to ‘Ukraine’s Orange Revolution Turns ‘Red,’’ February 25, 2014. …

    The US Tax Code has become riddled with so many tax-avoidance loopholes, they render most tax-haven schemes redundant. To say nothing of the fact that states like Delaware and Nevada now compete with (offshore) tax havens when it comes to incorporating shell companies to hide cash. Shamefully, as ‘fallout’ from the banking crisis demonstrated, the scandal is that it’s perfectly legal for the rich in America to avail themselves of all kinds of schemes to avoid taxes, hide assets, and get richer.

    Mind you, law firms are still doing for non-American clients in these tax havens what Mossack Fonseca is accused of doing for its clients in Panama. Indeed, if Putin’s moneymen only laundered two of his forty billion in ill-gotten gains through Panama, chances are that they laundered similar amounts through other tax havens like Hong Kong; you know, spreading the wealth (and risk) around. Moreover, the BBC reports that tax havens hold up to $30 trillion in undisclosed accounts.

    Hence, it’s only a matter of time before leaks from the Luxembourg Papers, the Singapore Papers, the Turks and Caicos Papers, et al. become global headlines. …

    Until then, bear this in mind: During Leona Helmsley’s notorious trial for tax evasion in 1989, one of her employees testified to her abiding belief that, ‘Rich people don’t pay taxes. Only poor people pay taxes.’ Trust me, folks, this revealed the perversely entitled motto that far too many rich people still live by.


    This Helmsleyian aphorism bears highlighting. Because it explains why, despite such leaks and the embarrassment they cause, nothing will change. After all, the rich regard tax avoidance as an article of faith. And venal politicians abound who are willing to ensure laws exist that enable the rich to do so, the cheating of their respective treasuries, let alone taxpaying citizens, be damned.

    Which brings me to the Paradise Papers now making headlines. They too amount to little more than tabloid fodder. For they mostly reveal the self-evident truth that celebrities (like Bono and Lewis Hamilton) and corporations (like Apple and Facebook) are no different from crooks (like political despots and drug lords) who hide their money offshore.

    Granted, I relish the prospect of congressional/parliamentary committees and special prosecutors imputing guilt to politicians like President Trump and members of his Cabinet who have been caught doing the same. This stems from incriminating tidbits about his commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross. He reportedly has billions tied up in undisclosed entanglements, which have him doing business with sanctioned Russian companies and oligarchs, including no less a person than Putin’s son-in-law.

    But, my title notwithstanding, I even couldn’t care less that these papers outed Queen Elizabeth II as a tax dodger. After all, what’s the point of being the queen of tax havens like Bermuda and Cayman Islands if “one” can’t reap the same, wholly legal tax-dodging benefits one’s lowly lords (like the infamous Michael Ashcroft) do.

    Not to mention that Her Majesty deigned to begin paying taxes in 1992 only to quell restive resentment among her subjects over the opulent lifestyle of some lesser royals. Which is why this sovereign is probably cursing her embarrassment with that common saying: no good deed goes unpunished.

    Frankly, the only thing I find newsworthy about this latest leak is that it appears Putin has more money invested in US companies than Trump.

    Behind one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent investors, Yuri Milner, was hundreds of millions of dollars in Kremlin funding. The documents show that Mr. Milner’s investment in Twitter relied on money from VTB, bank controlled by the Russian state. One of his most significant investors in Facebook relied on funding from Gazprom Investholding, another government-controlled institution.

    (New York Times, November 5, 2017)

    Then again, it’s hardly surprising that Putin’s portfolio is so deep and diverse given this:

    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made waves this week when he briefly unseated Bill Gates as the wealthiest person in the world, according to Bloomberg’s tracker. The two US tech titans are jockeying for the lead at around $90 billion each. But according to Hermitage Capital Management CEO Bill Browder, they’re nothing compared to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose personal fortune Browder ‘believes’ to be $200 billion.

    (Fortune, July 29, 2017)

    Of course, no bank robber would deposit his loot in a bank he robbed. This explains why Putin has invested in American companies instead of Russian ones. Besides, thanks to his fleecing, he knows full well that the bottom line of Russia’s biggest companies is as fake as the news his trolls peddle through Facebook and other social media.

    Related commentaries:
    Panama Papers
    Special Russia prosecutor

  • Sunday, November 5, 2017 at 6:48 PM

    Oh Donna: Hillary’s ‘Slave Girl’ Singing Tales of Freedom

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’m not Patsey the slave. Y’all keep whipping me and whipping me and you never give me any money or any way to do my damn job. I am not going to be your whipping girl!

    This is the dramatic way Donna Brazile claims she chastised Hillary’s campaign “hacks” for trying to feature her in their version of 12 [Months] a Slave.

    She details the frustrations and indignities of her sojourn in Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House. It will be published on Tuesday. But this quote, from a review in Saturday’s edition of the Washington Post, provides a telling insight:

    Former Democratic National Committee head Donna Brazile writes in a new book that she seriously contemplated replacing Hillary Clinton as the party’s 2016 presidential nominee with then-Vice President Biden in the aftermath of Clinton’s fainting spell, in part because Clinton’s campaign was ‘anemic’ and had taken on ‘the odor of failure.’

    In an explosive new memo Brazile details widespread dysfunction and dissension throughout the Democratic Party, including secret deliberations over using her powers as interim DNC chair to initiate the removal of Clinton and running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) from the ticket after Clinton’s Sept. 11, 2016, collapse in New York City. …

    Perhaps not since George Stephanopoulos wrote All Too Human, a 1999 memoir of his years working for former president Bill Clinton, has a political strategist penned such a blistering tell-all.

    No doubt everything Brazile details about the Democratic Party (DNC) is true. It bears noting, however, that this is the same DNC Barack Obama commandeered to win two presidential elections.

    This is why I am convinced that Brazile is just using the DNC as a foil for her disaffection and disillusionment with Hillary Clinton. Interestingly enough, the Post alludes to this with its analogy to Stephanopoulos’s dissatisfaction and disillusionment with Bill Clinton. Indeed, just as Brazile harbored mutinous thoughts about replacing Hillary with Biden, I suspect Stephanopoulos harbored the same about replacing Bill with Gore. But I digress …

    The point is that one can draw a straight line between the dysfunction and dissension that attended Bill’s beleaguered presidency of the 1990s and that which attended Hillary’s beleaguered campaign of 2016. And the precipitating cause all along was the imperious presumptions of the Clintons and their enabling courtiers, not the infuriating bureaucracy of DNC.

    Brazile betrays this fact by spending most of her memoir recounting – with as much righteous contempt as prosecutorial zeal – “Hillary Clinton’s secret takeover of the DNC.” Frankly, any reasonable reader would conclude that she was indicting Hillary for rigging the Democratic nomination process. This ranged from Hillary prevailing upon the DNC to schedule debates to maximize her advantage to treating staffers as little more than her personal aides. The latter led to the notorious scandal of Brazile herself feeding Hillary a question ahead of a CNN town hall debate.

    Yet Brazile insisted on today’s edition of ABC’s This Week – hosted by none other than George Stephanopoulos – that she found no evidence of rigging. This reminds me of that infamous news conference, which then FBI director James Comey held on July 5, 2016:

    He delineated all of the reasons Hillary should be indicted for using a personal e-mail server. Yet Comey insisted at the end that “no reasonable prosecutor” would indict her.

    Not to mention that Bernie Sanders spent most of the Primary Season accusing Hillary of rigging the nomination process, but to no avail. And, whether she intended it or not, Brazile’s memoir has Senator Elizabeth Warren, herself a wannabe president, leading a chorus of progressive Democrats now accusing Hillary of the same.

    In any event, I have written many commentaries damning Hillary (and Bill). They include “With Hillary, the Truth Depends on Catching Her in a Lie,” March 26, 2008, “Bill Clinton Loses Title as America’s First Black President,” May 13, 2008, “‘Hillary Is a Lesbian’?” February 19, 2016, “WTF: Bill Meets Privately with Attorney General Loretta Lynch,” July 1, 2016.

    But in “ABC’s Stephanopoulos Still Serving as Clintons’ Political Hack…?” May 17, 2015, I presaged Brazile’s lament and the Post’s allusion to Stephanopoulos.


    During the mid-1990s, I was one of many worker bees at the D.C. headquarters of the Clinton-Gore Re-Election ’96 campaign.

    We all buzzed around trying to seem relevant to the political ambitions of the most powerful man in the world. Yet even I saw enough of the compromises and sacrifices (of self and others) Bill and Hillary Clinton demanded of staffers to become irretrievably disaffected and disillusioned. …

    No writer evoked [this] disaffection and disillusionment … quite like George Stephanopoulos did (in confessional and redemptive tone) in his memoir All Too Human: A Political Education (1999). …

    But, trust me folks, for every George … who can tell horror stories about Bill, there is a … Mary who can tell similar stories about Hillary. …

    But nobody knows better than George their congenital sense of entitlement. This is why they see nothing wrong with spending more of the billions they solicit for their Clinton Global Initiative on personal expenses than charitable causes. It is also why they are now preparing for a coronation instead of an election in 2016. …

    I shall vote for anyone but Hillary in the Democratic primary. If she’s the nominee (and that’s no guarantee), I’ll hold my nose and vote for her. … Only a black fool, with too little regard for or knowledge of Black-American history, would buy into the canard about not voting being a form of enlightened political protest.


    It was an open secret that Bill and Hillary felt entitled to realize their 2-for-1 presidential ambitions.

    But, insofar as those ambitions are concerned, her loss to Donald Trump was the final nail in the coffin. Brazile’s memoir is just pouring dirt over it.

    Related commentaries:
    Bill meets Loretta
    Bill first black pres
    Hillary Dems like slaves
    Hillary truth depends

  • Saturday, November 4, 2017 at 8:54 AM

    America Attacked: Both Roosevelt and Bush Retaliated; but Trump Is Just Trying to Fake It

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The president and first lady Melania Trump participated in a wreath laying ceremony inside the USS Arizona Memorial in honor of the more than 2,400 Americans who died in the attack by Japan. In a somber moment, the two then tossed white flower petals onto the sunken USS Arizona, and stood back to view the underwater battleship as the petals drifted away.

    (ABC News, November 4, 2017)

    President Roosevelt reacted to that infamous attack by declaring the nation at war with Japan. #AmericanPresident!

    Of course, Bush famously did the same re whack-a-mole terrorists. #ChristianCrusader!

    Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal … said that ‘Russia is a dangerous adversary who attacked the United States. I’d argue to you that it was an act of war by an enemy…’

    (New Republic, July 17, 2017)

    President Trump is reacting to this infamous attack by declaring that “it’s fake news.” #RussianPuppet!

  • Friday, November 3, 2017 at 8:49 AM

    ‘Haley to UN General Assembly: US Does Not Fear Isolation’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Ambassador Nikki Haley blasted the United Nations Wednesday in a defiant speech to the 193-member General Assembly before it adopted a resolution calling for an end to the US economic embargo on Cuba. …

    ‘This assembly does not have the power to end the US embargo. … To those who are confused as to where the United States stands, let me be clear: the American people have spoken … they have chosen a new president, and he has chosen a new ambassador to the United Nations.’

    (Miami Herald, November 1, 2017)

    The title to this commentary is from a McClatchy report on the Trump administration’s regressive relations with Cuba. But it speaks volumes about the delusional arrogance that guides Trump’s approach to most international matters.

    For example, only the delusional arrogance inherent in claiming no fear of isolation explains his administration withdrawing the United States from the

    • Trans Pacific Partnership
    • Paris Climate Accord
    • Iran Nuclear Deal, and
    • UNESCO.

    Frankly, this administration is taking foolish pride in not just isolating the United States, but relegating it to the kind of pariah status usually reserved for countries like North Korea.

    You’d be forgiven for thinking that Trump wants to see international goodwill relegated to the dustbin of history – along with concepts like diversity, immigration, and political correctness. I have remarked on many occasions that he seems to think that hurling insults and insisting on having his way is the best way to win friends and influence people.

    For example, in “‘Leading from Behind’ – Trump Depending on China to Protect US from North Korea,” April 21, 2017, I ridiculed him for variously badgering and begging China to help with North Korea, and then tweeting temper tantrums over China’s refusal to do so.

    Actually, Chinese President Xi Jinping has made little effort to disguise his contempt for Trump – who is

    • as susceptible to idle flattery as a fifteen-year-old girl
    • as inclined to juvenile taunts as a ten-year-old boy, and
    • as prone to temper tantrums as a five-year-old child.

    Xi’s contempt was clear from their interaction when they met in Florida in April, and will probably be even more so when they meet in Beijing next week.

    Truth be told, Trump’s lying, boasting, and general buffoonery have become so notorious, most world leaders now treat him more like an international mascot than the reputed leader of the free world. I was already remarking on the laughingstock he had become in “Russia, China, North Korea Making Trump Look Like a Chump,” March 7, 2017. So when you hear Donald Trump boasting about rallying his fellow world leaders to confront North Korea or Iran, beware that it has about as much resonance as Harvey Weinstein boasting about rallying his fellow Hollywood producers to combat sexual harassment.

    (Have you noticed the defensive way Trump projects about others making the United States an international laughingstock? It would be laughable if it were not so serious.)

    Now his administration is effectively declaring that the UN is only relevant when it resolves to do America’s bidding. No doubt other member states harbor similar delusions. But at least they have enough common sense to pay lip service to the UN – even as they willfully defy its resolutions.

    More to the point, though, no nation has more vested interest in all nations respecting the authority and imprimatur of international organizations than the United States; not least because it is a founding member of practically all of them.

    What’s more, no nation relies more on international cooperation to further its national interests. The “coalition of the willing” former President George W. Bush built for “America’s invasion” of Iraq stands as a glaring example. But such cooperation is indispensable on a range of other matters. The wonder is that Trump has yet to figure this out.

    Indeed, it defies common sense for his administration be withdrawing, as delineated, when it needs international cooperation to

    • redress trade imbalances
    • combat ISIS
    • curb nuclear proliferation, and
    • Make America Great Again.

    Mind you, Haley’s bluster about US isolation is probably no more reasoned than Trump’s bluster about, well, everything.

    For example, on Tuesday, a terrorist mowed down eight people in New York City. On Wednesday, Trump blustered about shipping that terrorist to Guantánamo Bay (Gitmo). Yet on Thursday, he tweeted:

    Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system.

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 2, 2017

    It’s important to appreciate the backdrop. After all, with the notable exception of Israel, most countries called on the United States to close Gitmo over a decade ago.

    Five independent United Nations human rights experts today called on the United States to immediately close the Guantánamo Bay detention centre following three suicides there, citing a report they issued three months ago alleging inhuman conditions amounting to torture and the ‘profound effect’ on detainees’ mental health.

    (UN News Centre, June 14, 2006)

    Of course, Trump would have you believe that he suddenly performed some statistical analysis, which showed that Gitmo serves as little more than a black eye on the face of the United States. Never mind that his predecessor, Barack Obama, spent the eight years of his presidency citing those very statistics, which he did to no avail in pleadings for the Republican-controlled Congress to close Gitmo.

    Incidentally, those same human rights experts marked the 14th anniversary of Gitmo (on January 11, 2016) with an Open Letter to the United States. In it, they warned that

    Impunity only generates more abuses.

    I fear the Trump Administration’s declaration of isolation presumes this kind of impunity. And it will not only generate more abuses at Gitmo but transform the United States from a force for good to one for ill on the world stage.

    Obama ended up using his executive authority to normalize relations, which included releasing many Gitmo prisoners and easing many restrictions on Americans traveling to and doing business in Cuba.

    This brings me back to the embargo. It is noteworthy that Israel is the only country to vote with the United States in opposing this latest UN resolution. Because, ever since its founding, Israel has acted on the world stage as if it can do anything, as long as it has the backing of the United States. Now it appears the US is acting as if it can too, as long as it has the backing of Israel.

    Meanwhile, both the United States and Israel seem oblivious that countries are queuing up to pay homage to China as the “indispensable nation” the United States used to be … until its stupid voters elected Trump as president. Never mind that jumping even from Trump’s America to Xi’s China is tantamount to the proverbial jumping from the frying pan into the fire, which I warned about in commentaries like “China Buying the Global Influence Russia and US Fighting For…,” October 19, 2016.

    To be fair, though, one can hardly blame other world leaders, most of whom are finely lubricated weathervanes, from bowing towards Xi.

    It’s bad enough that Trump forfeited his preeminent leadership by acting like a puppet on the string of Russia’s wannabe superpower(ful) Vladimir Putin. But Xi just emulated Putin by having the Communist Party Congress enshrine him as president for life.

    Whereas, far from serving two beleaguered and politically emasculated terms, Trump will be lucky if the US Congress does not impeach him before the end of his first.

    Related commentaries:
    Iran nuclear deal
    Leading from behind...
    Trump like chump
    Trump at UN
    Trump in Saudi Arabia
    China buying influence

  • Thursday, November 2, 2017 at 7:58 AM

    World Series: Houston Wins … as Much for City as for Team

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Houston, we have a winner!

    In the franchise’s 56th season, the Houston Astros are finally champions after closing out the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 5-1 win in Game 7 of what was a thrilling World Series from start to finish. …

    The Dodgers, who won a Major League-best 104 games this season, eventually got one run in the sixth inning on a run-scoring single from Andre Ethier off Morton, but otherwise they were almost comically incapable of capitalizing on base runners, stranding 10 over the course of the game.

    With the Astros finally winning a championship, there are seven teams left that have yet to win a World Series: The Tampa Bay Rays, the Seattle Mariners, the Texas Rangers, the Washington Nationals, the Milwaukee Brewers, the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies.

    (New York Times, November 2, 2017)

    With all due respect to Los Angeles (and those other perennial losers), hurricane-ravaged Houston had a far greater need for this jolt of pride. Trust me, there’s no exaggerating the therapeutic power of sports.

    Congratulations, Houston!

    Related commentaries:
    Hurricane Harvey

  • Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at 6:11 PM

    ‘New Normal’ Comes to New York City: Using Trucks for Acts of Terror

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Eight people were killed [and 11 were injured] when a man drove 20 blocks down a bike path beside the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon before he crashed his pickup truck, jumped out with fake guns and was shot by police officer, the authorities said.

    Federal authorities were treating the incident as a terrorist attack and were taking the lead in the investigation, a senior law enforcement official said. Two law enforcement officials said that after the attacker got out of the truck, he was heard yelling, ‘Allahu Akbar,’ Arabic for ‘God is great.’

    (New York Times, October 31, 2017)

    Most Americans wouldn’t know it, but this new normal reached a tipping point over a year ago. That’s when a terrorist used a truck to run over pedestrians in Nice, France, killing 86 people.

    On that occasion, I wrote “Carnage in Nice: France Attacked … Again,” July 15, 2016. I ended it by noting that the Groundhog-Day spectre of these attacks is such that I can do no better than to reprise this commentary for all future attacks.



    With all due respect to the victims of this latest terrorist attack, the operative word in my title is “Again.”

    After all, whether here in the United States or over in Europe, Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, terrorist attacks have become a fact of life … the new normal.

    In any event, I presaged these attacks in “World Beware: French Riots Affect Us All,” November 8, 2005. In it, I highlighted the disaffection, disillusionment, and discrimination (racial and religious) that make young Muslim men so susceptible to radicalization. Never mind the chickens-coming-home-to-roost factor stemming from the invasion of Iraq, which spawned the “one thousand Bin Ladens” former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned about.

    For a little perspective, it might be helpful to think of the so-called War on Terror like the War on Drugs, and to appreciate that we can be no more successful waging the former than we’ve been waging the latter. Nothing demonstrates this quite like the way terrorism has forced us to change our way of life – with our liberal democracies becoming more like barricaded police states every day. We all know about the Chicken-Little security measures at airports. But have you noticed that municipalities are reinforcing streets with 10 unsightly bollards for every 1 street lamp?

    Yet, if it seems like we are helpless in the face of such terrorist attacks, it’s because we are. I’ve been bemoaning this for over a decade:

    It must be understood that no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing our governments can do to prevent such attacks. That Americans reacted yesterday as if those explosions went off in Washington or New York should compel Westerners to focus on calming our collective nerves, instead of fretting about (or worse, trying to figure out) the motivation for and timing of terrorist attacks by Islamic fanatics.

    (“7/7 Terror Attacks in London,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 8, 2005)

    Many criticized President Obama for years for ordering American troops to do too little to “defeat the terrorists.” By contrast, they hailed President Putin last September for ordering Russian troops to “bomb the hell out of them.”

    russia-620958Except that 100-plus attacks in Western cities just this year (mostly by radicalized lone-wolf terrorists) make patently clear that this bombing is doing nothing to defeat them. In fact, all Putin has to show for nine months of bombing, from the air and sea, is such indiscriminate death and wanton destruction, terrorist leaders can fairly assert that he is responsible for killing more innocent men, women, and children than they.

    Sadly, it did not take long for me to decry that “Bombing ISIS Smacks of Masturbatory Violence,” November 18, 2015.

    Mind you, I’m not saying we should just lie back and take their attacks. To the contrary, I’m on record advocating targeted drone strikes, aggressive surveillance, and enhanced interrogation to keep terrorists at bay as much as humanly possible.

    Notwithstanding the misguided backlash Snowden’s NSA disclosures have wrought, [Western countries] must allow their respective intelligence services to use all means necessary to surveil and apprehend the would-be terrorists amongst us before they act out their jihadist fantasies. Otherwise, we will terrorize ourselves to death if we keep reacting to every [terrorist attack] as if it were another 9/11.

    (“Gunman Terrorizes Canada. Keep Calm and Carry On,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 23, 2014)

    But don’t get me started on xenophobic and racist policies like banning or profiling Muslims. After all, the record of terrorist attacks in this country is such that we clearly have far more to fear from born-and-bred American terrorists than from any Muslim braving the two-year vetting process to sneak in and launch attacks.

    On the other hand, the media could help if they stop providing wall-to-wall coverage of the fallout from such attacks. After all, such coverage to a terrorist is like a binge to an addict. And, notwithstanding all of the experts rehashing their anti-terror talking points, it does absolutely nothing to help prevent, or protect us from, future attacks.

    I don’t know why the media always reward these psychopaths by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds.

    You’d think … we would have figured out by now that the best way to discourage them is by focusing our attention on the victims and limiting what we say about the [terrorists] to: May God have mercy on your soul as you all burn in Hell!

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

    Of course, media barons know this all too well. It’s just that they would rather exploit macabre, rubbernecking interests for ratings (their repetitious brain-dumbing, emotion-numbing content notwithstanding) than deny terrorists their incentivizing fix.

    Therefore, the only thing we can do to help save ourselves is turn off the TV and pay respects to victims with a prayer, making sure to note that:

    There but for the grace of God (go I).

    But nothing would affirm and embolden national spirits quite like those of us not directly affected getting on with life in the face of these attacks. This includes the police processing the scene and municipal workers cleaning it up post-haste.

    Incidentally, it would also help if politicians would stop using every terrorist attack to burnish their leadership bona fides; you know, the way Mayor Rudy Giuliani used 9/11.

    All else, including posting sympathy hashtags on social media and projecting national flags on landmarks, is folly.

    NOTE: There is now a Groundhog-Day spectre to these attacks and reaction to them. Which is why they have become no more worthy of comment than another drive-by shooting in ‘Chiraq.’ Therefore, I shall suffice henceforth to reprise this commentary, taking care of course to acknowledge the targets and victims of future attacks.


    With that, I fear it’s only a matter of time before (Muslim) terrorists using cars to kill becomes as commonplace as (white) terrorists using guns (as was the case in Las Vegas just weeks ago). And, as the attack in Nice demonstrated with foreboding terror, cars can easily rival guns and bombs when it comes to wreaking carnage.

    All the same, the following points of annoyance bears repeating:

    • Media should stop treating every attack like another 9/11. Nothing is more annoying in this respect than their wall-to-wall coverage, featuring reporters pouncing on terrorized eyewitnesses like hyenas on stranded gazelles.
    • Police should stop holding news conferences to do little more than pat themselves on the back. Nothing is more annoying in this respect than them touting their Potemkin-like “show of force,” which their robocops always perform after these attacks.
    • Politicians should stop treating terrorist attacks as opportunities to demonstrate legacy-sealing leadership. Nothing is more annoying in this respect than the way they propagate the fallacy that mass killings by whites are just horrific crimes, but mass killings by Muslims are “acts of terror.”
    • President Trump should stop publishing his chest-thumping, knuckle-dragging, brain-dumbing tweets of defiance. Nothing is more annoying in this respect than knowing that he actually thinks terrorists are more afraid of his tweets than they are of the police. LAME IDIOT!

    Ultimately, though, the best thing any public official can say after these attacks is:

    Related commentaries:
    World beware
    Brussels Paris San Bernadino et al
    Masturbatory violence
    Las Vegas

  • Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at 8:17 AM

    Happy Halloween!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 5:53 PM

    Mueller’s First Indictment Has News Media Reveling in Speculation

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A federal grand jury in Washington has approved the first criminal charges in the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference, two sources told NBC News, marking a significant milestone in an inquiry that has roiled Donald Trump’s presidency.

    Mueller’s Special Counsel’s Office will make public an indictment on Monday, a US official with firsthand knowledge of the process confirmed to NBC News, without disclosing the name of the target or the nature of the charges.

    Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn have been said to be key figures in Mueller’s probe, law enforcement sources familiar with the matter have told NBC News in the past.

    (NBC News, October 28, 2017)

    Alas, there is nothing newsworthy about the news media reveling in speculation. Indeed, you’d be forgiven the impression that rank speculation masquerading as breaking news is their stock-in-trade. This trend actually moved me years ago to begin writing commentaries like “Journalism Is Having a Very, Very Pathetic Moment,” November 13, 2013.

    Apropos of impressions, reporting on this sealed indictment is such that you’d think it alone will determine the fate of Trump’s presidency. But nothing could be further from the truth. Never mind no less a person than David Gergen, the eminence grise of Washington pundits, contributing to the speculative hype. He did so by intoning on Friday’s edition of AC360 that

    It certainly looks like the dam is starting to break now.

    Except that, if host Anderson Cooper had the presence of mind, he could have exposed the folly afoot. He only had to ask his 7-10 panelists to name the person indicted on the first criminal charges in the special counsel’s investigation into Watergate. I’d bet good money that, except for Gergen and Carl Bernstein, none of the pundits hyping this first indictment would have had a clue.

    For the record, a federal grand jury indicted E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy, and the other “Plumbers” on burglary charges on September 15, 1972. But many other dams had to break before Nixon finally resigned two years later, on August 9, 1974.

    That said, I’m all too mindful that refusing to speculate on this occasion is like refusing to smoke at Woodstock (or at Burning Man for you millennial readers). Not to mention that friends and colleagues around the world are reveling in this speculation as giddily as anyone in Washington.

    Incidentally, continuing the analogy, Trump ranting that Mueller’s investigation is a witch hunt is like a crazy uncle ranting that Woodstock is Devil worship. Moreover, Trump pleading that Republicans should “DO SOMETHING” will have about as much impact as that uncle screaming that the police should.

    Meanwhile, the consensus view is that either Michael Flynn or Paul Manafort is the target of this first indictment. I think it’s Manafort – for a variety of Ukraine-related reasons, which I’ve written about in commentaries like “Ukraine’s Orange Revolution Turns ‘Red,’” February 25, 2014, and “Leaked Panama Papers Affirm more than Reveal Offshore Banking Secrets,” April 6, 2016.

    But it might be helpful to recall that the first indictment in Watergate stemmed from the Plumbers’ third-rate burglary. That indictment had little to do with Nixon resigning to escape impeachment. In a similar vein, I suspect that the first indictment in this Russia probe will stem from Manafort’s money laundering, tax evasion, and/or other financial shenanigans. This indictment will have little to do with Trump eventually resigning or facing impeachment – on a battery of charges related to corruption and obstruction of justice.

    In other words, this first indictment might have little or nothing to do with Trump’s campaign colluding with Russia. But Mueller’s investigation could (and I predict will) still hand down indictments that have Trump’s fingerprints all over them. Indeed, I suspect Trump is trying desperately to project the presumption of guilt onto Hillary because he knows this all too well.

    Related commentaries:
    Special counsel
    Journalism pathetic
    Panama papers

  • Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 10:28 AM

    This cartoon sums up the Republicans’ surrender to Trump

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
    Trump’s Republican minions

  • Saturday, October 28, 2017 at 9:15 AM

    Puerto Rico Catfished by Whitefish

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency is investigating a controversial $300 million contract to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid, a no-bid award that has spotlighted the agency’s poor record of policing similar grants and drawn scrutiny from its watchdog.

    Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC, a Montana-based company that had just two full-time employees prior to beginning its work in Puerto Rico, was selected last week by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to lead the rebuilding of Puerto Rico’s hurricane-ravaged electrical grid with the expectation that the money would come from FEMA.

    (Bloomberg News, October 27, 2017)

    Frankly, nobody should be surprised that the shady business dealings that defined the Trump Organization are now defining the Trump Administration.

    And the canard of promising to investigate only adds insult to this simple and brazen case of corruption. After all, anyone can see why Whitefish got this contract:

    The Department of the Interior oversees FEMA; Trump’s secretary for this department is Ryan Zinke; and not only is Zinke from Whitefish, Montana, but he’s a friend of the founding partner of Whitefish Energy’s two-man front to boot.

    What’s more, as fleecing schemes go, this one would make even Trump green with envy. For, according to Business Insider, some of its provisions include:

    • $79.82 per person for food each day;
    • $332.41 per person for accommodations each day;
    • More than $40,000 for helicopter-related services;
    • It states that, ‘In no event shall [government bodies] have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements’;
    • And that the Puerto Rican government ‘waives any claim against contractor related to delayed completion of work.’

    If that isn’t incriminating enough, reports are that the money men behind Whitefish Holdings donated huge sums to Trump’s presidential campaign. Which is why, for them, this contract is nothing more than kickback as payback.

    Not to mention that Puerto Rico ended up with Whitefish despite public-spirted offers from many established electrical companies, including Tesla.

    The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.

    — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 5, 2017

    Meanwhile, thanks to Whitefish’s rag-tag band of line workers, over 80 percent of Puerto Rico remains without electricity.

    But hey, we’ve already seen that “Make America Great Again” means having the federal government pay millions for Trump’s kids to travel the world doing business deals. Therefore, it should hardly surprise that it also means having the federal government pay hundreds of millions for his cronies to pull off the biggest kickback deal the world has ever seen: #MAGA!

    This just proves what I warned about in commentaries like “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker,” April 8, 2011, and “Trump, Jared, and Ivanka Forgoing Salaries Is Just Another Bait and Switch,” April 3, 2017.

    Alas, the Americans who voted for him proved the Barnumesque quip about a sucker born every minute. This Whitefish catfish merely shows that there’s no limit to how much Americans can be played for suckers.

    That said, I’d be remiss not to comment on the sideshow within the sideshow that has characterized relief and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico. It has featured the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, famously kicking Trump’s ass for the Katrina-like incompetence and outright neglect, and the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, kissing it for whatever he can suck out of FEMA.

    But I suspect we will learn in due course that the governor’s kissing was more about getting kickbacks to line his own pockets than doing anything necessary to rebuild Puerto Rico. He’s venting fiscal indignation today. But if Rossello knew nothing about this contract, he would be guilty of gross nonfeasance. If he knew about it, or even had a hand in granting it, he would be guilty of gross misfeasance.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump, Jared, Ivanka
    Trump for pres? Don’t be a sucker
    Puerto Rico, Trump’s Katrina

  • Friday, October 27, 2017 at 7:22 PM

    Release of JFK Files – the Deepest Trumpian Rabbit Hole Yet

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The federal government just released thousands of documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

    After a chaotic last-minute review in which intelligence agencies lobbied against full disclosure, the White House said it would take more time to process and release thousands more documents that were also supposed to be made public. …

    ‘Since the good stuff has mainly been withheld for now — or forever — we are primarily looking for obscure clues and shiny objects,’ [said Larry J. Sabato, the founder and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia].

    (New York Times, October 26, 2017)

    I fully appreciate the conspiracy theories that haunt the assassination of JFK. Indeed, it is noteworthy that those who swear by them include the likes of filmmaker Oliver Stone and no less a person than U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry (yes, he’s JFK too). …

    I have read and seen enough to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted as a lone wolf when he assassinated JFK in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963; this, notwithstanding investigative oversights in the Warren Commission’s report. What’s more, I believe the forensics. They prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there was only one shooter, despite Stone famously mocking this “single-bullet theory” in his film, JFK.

    (“Remembering JFK,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 21, 2013)

    In other words, the only people who believe in JFK conspiracies are the kooks who take to all conspiracies like moths to flames. Indeed, their belief in those related to JFK is probably surpassed only by their belief in the conspiracy about the government hiding aliens at Area 51.

    Related commentaries:
    Area 51

  • Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 8:19 AM

    Saudi Arabia Promises to Repent for Extremist Ways; Will Build $500m City as Restitution

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Arguably, successive kings of Saudi Arabia have had the blood of Americans on their hands. Most notable of course is the blood of those who perished on 9/11.

    This is why it’s so perplexing that successive presidents of the United States have been so willing to not just shake but hold the hand of these Saudi kings. Most notable of course is former President George W. Bush.

    Here in part is how I commented on this perplexing feature of US foreign policy in “The Bushes and the Saudis: Elusive (Financial) Ties That Actually Bind,” April 28, 2005.


    The Saudis are

    • doing nothing to lower gas prices;
    • remaining defiantly undemocratic, despite Bush’s democracy crusade;
    • demanding the US downsize its military bases in Saudi Arabia to appease Islamic Jihadists;
    • continuing to fund Wahhabi Madrassas, which teach hatred and destruction of America as a core subject; and
    • showing no concern over their Saudi connection to 9/11, namely that Bin Laden and the majority of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

    Therefore, one has to wonder what benefits they provide to remain exempt from American reprimand, sanction, or usurpation. Indeed, the mysterious nature of this relationship only deepens when one considers that the Saudis depend on American security guarantees for their survival. After all, this precludes using oil as leverage to resist the democratic changes Bush has demanded of and imposed upon other nations.


    Given that, you’ll understand why I am so intrigued by this:

    Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday said Saudi Arabia would ‘return’ to a ‘moderate Islam that is open to all religions’ – comments likely to rile staunch conservatives in the Gulf kingdom.

    The crown prince also announced Saudi Arabia would ‘eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts’, saying the country was not like this in the past.

    ‘We are returning to what we were before … we will not waste another 30 years in dealing with extremist,’ the 32-year-old heir to the throne said.

    (Al Jazeera, October 24, 2017)

    The timing of this Islamic conversion is shrouded in mystery. Not least because successive US presidents had vowed to inspire it to no avail.

    This is why the mystery of why now is surpassed only by the mystery of why President Trump has yet to claim credit for it. Incidentally, the picture of Trump (seemingly) bowing before this crown prince, in the Oval Office no less, makes me chuckle. After all, Trump ridiculed former President Obama as weak and a national embarrassment for bowing before the Saudi king during his state visit over there.

    It also speaks volumes that this conversion comes on the heels of the great leap for women’s rights, which I celebrated with a little cynicism in “Saudi Women Granted Right to Drive. Hooray…?” September 27, 2017.

    All the same, I pray Salman is as committed to Saudi Arabia’s conversion as he is to this:

    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans to build a new city on the Red Sea coast, promising a lifestyle not available in today’s Saudi Arabia as he seeks to remake the kingdom in a time of dwindling resources.

    The prince said the city project, to be called ‘NEOM,’ will operate independently from the ‘existing governmental framework’ with investors consulted at every step during development. The project will be backed by more than $500 billion from the Saudi government, its sovereign wealth fund and local and international investors, according to a statement released on Tuesday at an international business conference in Riyadh.

    (Bloomberg, October 24, 2017)

    How’s that as for making restitution for past misdeeds? Indeed, it’s noteworthy that this mega-city will extend into Jordan and Egypt. At 10,231 square miles, it will be 33 times the size of New York City.

    If he accomplishes these twin feats, Salman could go down in history as doing for Saudi Arabia what it took Suleiman the Magnificent and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to do for Turkey (notwithstanding the regressive whims of wannabe Sultan Erdogan).

    For the record, most Saudis enjoy living a Western lifestyle when they’re outside Saudi Arabia. But they revert to living it in the closet when they’re at home. I think Salman is championing this conversion to spare Saudis the hypocrisy of doing so. Not to mention that the routing of Islamists across the Middle East must have inspired abandoning the ship of Wahhabism as a categorical imperative.

    But 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.

    Related commentaries:
    The Bushes
    Women right to drive
    Sultan Erdogan

  • Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 8:38 AM

    Sen. McCain Needles Trump as ‘Bone Spur’ Draft Dodger

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    One of the perverse features of Donald Trump’s malignant narcissism is the shameless way he engages in projection.

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

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

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

    This glaring mental defect is just one of the many reasons I felt compelled to write “WTF! President-elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done.” November 9, 2016.

    As it turned out, Trump targeted no less a person than Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for the most outrageous manifestation of his projection during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.

    (Chicago Tribune, July 18, 2015)

    In other words, just as projection compels Trump to call people liars to deflect the fact that he’s a pathological liar, it compelled him to call McCain a loser who is no war hero to deflect the fact that he’s a loser who dodged the Draft.

    After he graduated from college in the spring of 1968, making him eligible to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, he received a diagnosis that would change his path: bone spurs in his heels.

    The diagnosis resulted in a coveted 1-Y medical deferment that fall, exempting him from military service as the United States was undertaking huge troop deployments to Southeast Asia, inducting about 300,000 men into the military that year.

    The deferment was one of five Mr. Trump received during Vietnam.

    (New York Times, August 1, 2016)

    This, of course, is the same Trump who has boasted about

    • getting better training for war at his high-school military academy than draftees got at boot camp; and
    • being a jock of all sports.

    Indeed, by all accounts, Trump was such a picture of health, he could have served as the poster boy for all Vietnam Draft dodgers.

    Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that McCain seized a recent opportunity to puncture Trump’s self-inflated ego. It came during an interview as part of a retrospective on the “Vietnam War: 50 Years Later.”

    One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.

    (C-SPAN3, October 18, 2017)


    Except that the sociopathic Trump has no shame or feelings. Only this explains his trolling the grieving widow of another bona-fide war hero, Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger a few weeks ago.

    That said, it is far more socially redeeming to note that McCain thinks the current volunteer system is better than the Vietnam-era Draft. I disagree. Not least because poor whites and minorities still compose the vast majority of the 1.3 million Americans serving in the armed forces.

    Significantly, those serving amount to only 0.4 percent of the population. This in part is why I’ve been in the vanguard of those calling on Congress to reinstate the Draft.

    I am merely proffering the self-evident truth that politicians would be more circumspect about sending Americans to war if their loved ones were obligated to serve.

    Meanwhile, generals are complaining that they do not have enough troops to execute their missions; volunteers are being forced to endure extended tours of duty; and recruitment is so anemic that the military is lowering its (physical and educational) standards for enlistment to fill its ranks (promoting 42-year-old mothers as lean, mean fighting machines?).

    (“Support the Draft to Prevent Stupid Wars,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 14, 2007)

    Accordingly, nobody should be surprised that so many members of Congress are blithely admitting they had no clue the United States had troops deployed in Niger. In fact, if pressed, they’d have to admit being clueless about this too:

    On any given day, the operators are deployed across about [53] nations [in Africa]. …

    According to a report to Congress by General Thomas Waldhauser, who heads the US Africa Command, American forces have a notable presence in Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda and Kenya.

    Officially, the United States only has one military base in Africa — Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.

    (Agence-France Presse, October 21, 2017)

    On the other hand, anyone who has any interest in the welfare of Africa, or knows any US soldier deployed there, would have known about these deployments. I not only knew, but hailed them:

    When Bush launched the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) – America’s first military mission focused on Sub-Saharan Africa – he insisted that ‘AFRICOM will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote goals of development, health, education, democracy and economic growth.’ …

    Bush is only seeking to use AFRICOM in Africa the way his predecessors have used NATO in Europe since World War II, namely, as a stabilizing force for regional security, development, diplomacy and prosperity.

    (“AFRICOM: No Good Deed Bush Does Goes Unpunished,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 10, 2008)

    More to the point, though, just imagine the damning disconnect inherent in this prevailing ignorance among members of Congress – not just about who serves, but about where they’re deployed.

    In any event, given the lessons of Vietnam, a reinstated Draft should allow no deferment for any reason whatsoever. After all, even if a draftee has bone spurs, he/she could still serve in thousands of non-combat roles, including those in administration, finance, transportation, maintenance, and catering.

    In fact, the Army Corps of Engineers’ ongoing relief mission in Puerto Rico has demonstrated in spades the need for truck drivers.

    Related commentaries:
    WTF! Trump president-elect
    Sgt. La David Johnson
    Forget the Clinton Foundation
    Support the draft

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