The iPINIONS Journal


  • Monday, June 18, 2018 at 6:53 AM

    US Open: Tiger Woods Becoming the Hugh Hefner of PGA Players

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt you recall the sensational way Tiger Woods’s wife famously burst their marital bubble. It happened around Thanksgiving Day in 2009 – when she reacted to breaking news about his cheating by taking one of his irons to his hide, and then to his car. I joined in the tabloid revelry with “Tiger’s Wife Serves Him a Fat Lip for Thanksgiving,” November 29, 2009.

    Fatefully, Tiger decided the best way to save his marriage was to take time off the PGA tour for a stint in sex rehab. I thought that was a big mistake. I suggested at the time that, if anything, he should have given a one-off “Oprah-style confessional” and continued his career without missing a, er, stroke.

    Fans will readily forgive him of course. But winning tournaments in his inimitable fashion is the only way to eradicate bacchanalian images of his private life from public consciousness – even if not from the tabloids.

    (“Tiger Escapes to a Safe Haven,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 14, 2009)

    Except that, less than two years later, I was already venting frustration with his “Waiting-for-Godot” comeback (to win majors). I did so in commentaries like “Tiger! Tiger! Losing Fight,” August 15, 2011, which included a prescient observation and prediction.

    ____________________

    It is impossible to resist engaging in pop psychology to explain why he can’t even buy a win these days. Apropos of this, I cannot help remarking on how delusional Tiger sounded on Friday after what had to have been the most humiliating performance of his professional career:

    It’s a step back in the sense I didn’t make the cut but a giant leap forward in the sense that I played two straight weeks healthy.

    (BBC Sport, August 12, 2011)

    A giant leap forward? Hell, if merely staying healthy, physically, for two straight weeks is a giant leap forward, then actually winning another major might take a miracle. …

    But it’s plainly disingenuous for Tiger to suggest that chronic injuries have prevented him from winning. For this is belied by the fact that he not only seemed just fine throughout his winless 2010, but actually won his ‘last’ major, the 2008 US Open, while in obvious pain caused by a knee injury. …

    One does not have to be a trained psychologist to diagnose that Tiger’s problems are more mental than physical. Because it’s self-evident that the public humiliation he endured following that domestic incident, which exposed his Charlie-Sheen like penchant for prostitutes, sapped him of the self-esteem and confidence that not only fueled his game, but instilled self-defeating fear in other players.

    Unsurprisingly, the media have focused on the fact that he lost his wife and a half billion dollars in divorce payments and commercial endorsements. It’s arguable though that an even greater loss was the mental strength that gave him that invincible swagger, but which depended so much on reverence from fans and fellow players alike. …

    That a physically fit Tiger announced after missing the cut that he won’t play another tournament until November is testament to how mentally vulnerable he has become. Indeed, one can be forgiven for thinking that he’d rather nurse his wounded pride than risk another ignominious cut.

    Except that this avoidance strategy will only make his performance anxiety more acute. And, given his now notorious sexcapades, how’s that for irony of ironies…?

    I am convinced that Tiger is losing his very pubic fight to recapture his mojo simply because he cannot get that public humiliation out of his mind. And each humiliating loss will only make him more anxious about playing his next tournament. …

    Tiger is 35. So he can probably compete, physically, for another five years. But if he still hasn’t won his 15th major by this time next year, then I fear he will never be able to compete well enough, mentally, to dethrone Jack Nicklaus as the king of the majors with 18 wins.

    ____________________

    Sure enough, he hasn’t won a major since that incident nine years ago. And those were arguably the back nine of his most productive years as a pro.

    All the while my lay diagnosis precluded me from having any sympathy for the show he made of blaming his streak of futility on chronic injuries. I refer you to attesting commentaries such as “For Tiger, Bad Play Causes ‘Pain,’ Not Vice Versa,” August 7, 2014, and “Tiger’s Back, but His Back Won’t Let Him Play?! Puhleeze,” February 6, 2015.

    In fact, by his own admission, Tiger entered last week’s US Open as healthy as he has ever been and, I suspect, as healthy as he will ever be. That’s why this latest cut is the cruelest and most telling of them all.

    The missed cut is Tiger’s second straight at a U.S. Open (2015) and his second of the season. … It’s just the eighth missed cut of his career as a pro at major championships but his fifth in his last seven majors.

    (CBS Sports, June 15, 2018)

    He is now 42. But I felt nothing but pity when he tried to rationalize his failure. This included upbraiding a reporter for failing to see any flash of the once-dominant Tiger in his lackluster two rounds at Shinnecock Hills.

    To be fair, this tournament marked the 10th anniversary to the day of his last major win – at this very tournament no less. That he found himself rationalizing yet another cut, instead of hoisting another trophy, probably accounted for his testy defensiveness.

    But, if he thought that reporter was being impertinent, imagine what he thought when he read what critically acclaimed sports journalist Pat Forde wrote about his play. Forde did so in a Yahoo! Sports column titled “Tiger Woods Living in Denial Following Brutal US Open” June 15, 2018. The title says it all, but his column includes echoes of what I’ve been saying about Tiger’s play since 2011:

    In Tiger’s head, he’s just a tweak away from being the best player in the world again. Out here in the real world, the evidence to the contrary continues to pile up. …

    This was a setback for the comeback, and it was impossible for anyone to watch Tiger Woods play Thursday and Friday and envision him winning more majors.

    I should clarify here that, notwithstanding the above, I’m on record declaring my belief that Tiger will win again; and not just some rinky-dink tournament, but a major. The problem is that Tiger himself made surpassing Jack’s 18 majors the standard by which we should judge his career.

    Tiger knows better than anyone that he will not be able to fully redeem his professional reputation until he wins another 5 majors (i.e., from among the Masters in April, US Open in June, British Open in July, and PGA Championship in August).

    (“Tiger Won…Finally,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 5, 2011)

    Therefore, it won’t do for him to catch lightning in a bottle just one more time. He has to catch it 5 times (or 4 at the very least) for anyone to credibly suggest that he is the GOAT. Mind you, to put this quest for the holy grail of his sport into perspective, most players would be happy to end their careers with just two majors.

    That said, there is one abiding consolation: Tiger is still the biggest draw – not just in Golf but in all sports. I conceded this point in “Golf: More about Tiger than the Game Itself,” July 25, 2014, “The Masters: All about Tiger Even When He Was Losing,” April 15, 2013, and, topically enough, in “The US Open: Tiger, Tiger, Tiger!” June 17, 2008, which includes this admission:

    If Tiger Woods is not playing, I’d rather watch paint dry than watch Golf.

    True to form, I stopped watching this year’s tournament when Tiger missed the cut. Brooks Koepka (28) won for … the second major in his six years on the tour. Which means that, if he’s lucky, he might have 4 when he’s 34, and 6 when he’s 40 and already halfway through his back nine.

    But nothing demonstrates how Tiger once dominated the game quite like the fact that he already had 14 majors when he was just 32 in 2008. Because, of all the players on the tour, Phil Mickelson (48) comes closest to Tiger with just 5. And I hasten to note that Mickelson has completed the back nine of his most productive years too. But, unlike the Sisyphean Tiger, he’s playing just for the heck of it at this point. Only that explains this:

    A remarkable sequence on Hole 13, where Phil Mickelson was assessed a two-stroke penalty for hitting a moving ball and ended up making a 10 on the hole. …

    After performing this inexplicable move on the 13th green, Phil spent the rest of his round laughing his ass off.

    (SB Nation, June 17, 2018)

    In any event, Tiger’s fellow players can be forgiven for propagating the hype that flashes of his bygone greatness are preludes to coming attractions. After all, so long as there’s even a glimmer of hope of Tiger recapturing his faded glory, every tournament he participates in will be sold out, ensuring each of them of commensurate winnings.

    But, in the meantime, Tiger is becoming to PGA players what Hugh Hefner became to LA playas: the most popular guy in the game who everyone knows can’t play/do it anymore.

    Related commentaries:
    Tiger’s wife
    Tiger escapes
    Tiger, Tiger … losing fight
    The Masters
    Bad play causes pain
    Back won’t let him play
    Tiger won… finally
    Golf more about Tiger
    U.S. Open: Tiger

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 7:07 p.m.

  • Friday, June 15, 2018 at 8:23 AM

    American Media, for the Sake of the Republic, Hire Cartoonist Rob Rogers Today!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A veteran editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was fired Thursday after he and the newspaper’s management clashed over some sketches critical of President Donald Trump.

    (Huffington Post, June 14, 2018)

    Mind you, management never had a problem when this equal-opportunity critic was submitting sketches critical of others, including President Barack Obama, during his 25 years with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This is why its manifest intent is to help execute Trump’s dictatorial agenda to squash political dissent.

    Therefore, I urge you to boycott this newspaper as if it were being managed by Neo-Nazi propagandists.

    Hang in there Rob.

  • Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 8:49 AM

    French Open: Nadal Questions Equal Pay. Williams Ducks Sharapova

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Rafael Nadal won his 11th French Open on Sunday. But he double faulted on celebrations when he served up reportedly sexist and politically incorrect opinions on equal pay for men and women in Tennis:

    Female models earn more than male models and nobody says anything. Why? Because they have a larger following. In tennis too, who gathers a larger audience earns more.

    (CNN Bleacher Report, June 11, 2018)

    Except that Nadal is right.

    What’s more, he has an even stronger case. Because here is the argument I have been making for over 10 years:

    I have some ambivalence over the fact that Wimbledon organizers finally decided to follow the politically correct fashion at the other Grand Slams of awarding equal pay to women players for unequal work.

    Because, as a proud (and principled) feminist, I am sympathetic to the argument that until women play the best of five sets (like men do), instead of the best of three, they should not be paid the same amount in prize money. After all, women must run the same 26.2-mile marathon, and complete the same chauvinistically named Iron Man triathlon, to earn equal prize money. Therefore, why not require them to play the same best of five sets to earn equal prize money in Tennis…?

    (“Hail to 4-time Wimbledon Champ Venus Williams,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 9, 2007)

    Of course, Nadal’s point poses an unassailable exception to this rule: If the women’s best of three matches generate at least 40 percent more revenue at Grand Slam tournaments than the men’s best of five, that would justify equal pay.

    Apropos of which, there’s no gainsaying that the bottom line, not sexism, explains why not a single woman appears on the current Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid athletes. For context, Serena Williams is No. 1 among female athletes, earning $27 million in 2017. But some obscure basketball player is ranked No. 100 among male athletes, earning $47 million.

    More to the point, I would bet good money that, if you listed the top-5 professional sports you watch on a regular basis, those that feature women exclusively (e.g., women’s Boxing, Basketball, Golf, or Soccer) would not make it. You might want to consider how this contributes to the unequal pay at issue, especially if you’re a woman.

    Enough?

    Meanwhile, here is why I usually feel so alone when I’m watching women’s Tennis – when women and men play outside the four Grand Slams on separate WTA and ATP tours, respectively:

    I’ve been quite unabashed in expressing my preference for women’s Tennis. Because, frankly, not only is the women’s game almost as powerful as the men’s (with Venus hitting 125 mph serves), but their fierce baseline strokes – during relatively long rallies – are also far more titillating to watch than the one big serve that now characterizes men’s Tennis.

    (“Hail to 4-time Wimbledon Champ Venus Williams,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 9, 2007)

    As it happens, this tournament marked Williams’s return to Grand Slam competition after maternity leave. And she was cruising through the rounds until she withdrew just hours before her fourth-round showdown with Maria Sharapova, citing a pectoral injury.

    As has become customary, they added fuel to the media hype by volleying pre-match barbs. Their barbs on this occasion centered on petty, locker-room gossip about Williams, which Sharapova memorialized in her autobiography. I won’t dignify the tabloid fodder they provided by repeating any of it here.

    Suffice it to know that I think the back-and-forth got into Williams’s head. Specifically, Sharapova’s defiance in the media and apparent resurgence on the court caused Serena to question whether she was fit enough to beat her on this occasion.

    Mind you, she had beaten Sharapova in 18-consecutive matches coming into this French Open. Yet I suspect her nerves made her decide that it was better to play for sympathy in the media than risk losing to Sharapova on center court.

    That said, am I the only one who thought it was a mistake for Williams to wear that black catsuit throughout this tournament? She claims she had to do so for some spurious medical reason. But, far from looking like Cat Woman, she looked like the Michelin Man … attired blackly.

    Bad look, Serena.

    NOTE: Sharapova flamed out in the very next round. Perhaps William’s withdrawal lulled her into a false sense of invincibility. Simona Halep ended up defeating Sloane Stevens for the women’s championship.

    Related commentaries:
    Hail to … Venus
    Hail, Serena, GOAT

  • Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 9:12 AM

    Trump Strikes Potemkin Nuclear Deal with Kim Jong-un

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I feel obliged to reiterate my contention that Donald Trump holding a summit with Kim Jong-un is only as historic as the infamous one Neville Chamberlain held with Adolf Hitler. And, like Chamberlain’s “peace in our time,” Trump’s “everybody can now feel much safer … sleep well tonight” will live in infamy. Because, just as Hitler never ended his military aggression, Kim will never end his nuclear program.

    Not to mention the manifest folly of hailing Trump for diffusing fears of nuclear conflagration on the Korean Peninsula. After all, he himself ignited those fears with his juvenile insults and reckless threats, which included calling Kim “Rocket Man” and threatening to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea, respectively. The proverb of the infernal arsonist claiming credit for putting out his own fires comes to mind.

    I also feel obliged to reiterate this admonition I gave 12 years ago in “Why Do World Leaders Even Give North Korea’s President the Time of Day,” October 4, 2006.

    ____________________

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

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

    Even if Kim possesses nuclear weapons – as he professes, like Saddam Hussein, he will use them on his own people to maintain absolute grip on power before launching a preemptive attack on South Korea, let alone on his useful boogeyman, the United States. And, it is far more likely that fanatical Taliban sympathizers in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) would share nuclear technology or even nuclear weapons with terrorists before the devoutly hedonistic Kim does. …

    Cold War tensions between the US and Soviet Union never provoked leaders of either country to violate the universally accepted nuclear doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). Likewise, no matter how much North Korea provokes tensions with the United States, we have good reason to believe that Kim would never dare violate that doctrine. …

    The US and other world leaders should quit coddling him every time he throws a temper tantrum.

    ____________________

    Like father, like son

    That said, not since George W. Bush said he trusts Russia’s Putin has a president of the United States seemed so stupid and naïve as Trump seemed today, when he said he trusts North Korea’s Kim:

    I do trust him, yeah. … I think that he really wants to do a great job for North Korea. I think he wants to de-nuke.

    (ABC News, June 12, 2018)

    Of course, Putin really wanted to do a great job for Russia too. And he has – wielding as he now does the kind of totalitarian control over Russia that would make Joseph Stalin green with envy.

    Frankly, the only thing Trump has to show from this summit is a historic photo op; whereas Kim can show that the leader of the free world has not only normalized his reign of terror but given him license to reign on.

    ‘Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed’ by the leaders of North Korea against their own people, the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights declared Monday in a report that goes on to accuse that nation’s communist regime of ‘crimes against humanity.’

    According to U.N. investigators, ‘the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.’

    (NPR, February 14, 2018)

    This Nazi-grade barbarity is why none of Trump’s predecessors would even talk to Kim; that is, unless he committed to “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization” (CVID) and ending these crimes against humanity.

    Incidentally, Obama made Iran jump through these CVID hoops to reach the nuclear deal he brokered. Yet Trump ridiculed that deal as the worst in the history of mankind. Now, in trademark Trumpian fashion, he’s trying to spin the deal he just struck with North Korea as the best, notwithstanding that Obama’s is to prime steak as his is to Swiss cheese.

    But don’t get me started on the way Republican politicians and conservative pundits are turning themselves into intellectual pretzels trying to defend this historic feat of appeasement. Suffice it to know that, if Obama had done what Trump just did, congressional Republicans would have initiated impeachment proceedings, accusing Obama of betraying not just national security but American values to boot. And they would not have shown him the courtesy of waiting until he landed back on US soil to do so.

    As it happens, I began beating this dead horse long before Trump was even elected. I refer you to such commentaries as “Evangelicals Supporting Trump Like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016, and “Now Chief of Staff Kelly ‘Spicers’ Himself for Trump re Sgt. La David Johnson,” October 20, 2017.

    Remarkably, Trump has shown time and again that there is nothing he would not do, nor any principle he would not sacrifice, for his own self-aggrandizement and glorification. (No doubt he has visions of Trump hotels framing North Korea’s decaying skyline and Trump golf courses defiling its virgin countryside….)

    Here, for example, is how I decried his epic flip-flop on China – swinging from accusing it of raping the United States to praising it for doing so:

    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. …

    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.

    (“Trump Congratulates China for Raping US,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 9, 2017)

    Apropos of which, Kim knew all he had to do was to stroke Trump’s ego. This he duly did by telling him that he’s doing something no other US president was able [while thinking stupid enough] to do. That’s all it took for Trump to give Kim everything he wanted and demand nothing (of any substance) in return.

    Frankly, only delusions of grandeur explain his wrecking-ball approach to US alliances that have been the bedrock of a peaceful world order since World War II. He threw this into tectonic relief last weekend, when he willfully wrecked a G7 meeting in Canada.

    Donald Trump has left the G7 network of global cooperation in disarray after he pulled the US out of a previously agreed summit communique, blaming the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau whom he derided as ‘dishonest and weak’.

    The US president, who arrived at the summit in Canada late and left early to fly to Singapore to prepare for his summit with Kim Jong-un, shocked fellow leaders with a bellicose press conference on Saturday in which he attacked the trade policies of other countries.

    (The Guardian, June 9, 2018)

    And so he ignited a trade war with America’s most trusted allies as foreplay to signing a slapdash nuclear deal with America’s most deceptive enemy? #Dope!

    Then came the wrecking ball he took to America’s longstanding alliance with South Korea with this shock-and-awe declaration:

    Donald Trump has unexpectedly vowed that the US will end ‘war games’ on the Korean peninsula, as he said America is ‘prepared to start a new history’ with North Korea after holding a historic summit with Kim Jong-un.

    (The Telegraph, June 12, 2018)

    In other words, in exchange for Kim’s patently specious promise to de-nuke, Trump agreed to dismantle the military alliance that has kept North Korea’s military aggression in check since the end of the Korean War. Worse still, he made this agreement without even discussing it with the president of South Korea, affirming the Trump doctrine, which The Atlantic quoted a White House official (in its June 11 edition) saying is:

    We’re America, bitch!

    But perhaps nothing betrayed how thoroughly he caved quite like Trump parroting Kim’s propaganda. Specifically, he indignantly referred to these joint US-South Korea (defensive) military exercises (to be “ready to fight tonight”) as provocative war games.

    Despite their own provocative military maneuvers throughout the region, North Korea and China have always decried these exercises, which have been conducted for decades, as a regional military threat.

    To be fair, Trump insists that this does not mean withdrawing all US troops from South Korea. But leaving them there under these new terms would be tantamount to turning them into little more than terracotta warriors.

    Trust me, Kim and his totalitarian allies, most notably the leaders of Russia and China, are the only ones who think this summit was a success. In fact, President Xi Jinping wasted no time in signaling China’s intent to lead efforts at the United Nations to normalize trade relations with North Korea.

    This not only undermines but makes a mockery of Trump’s threat to continue “maximum pressure” with economic sanctions until Kim cries uncle. #DopeWasDuped!

    Related commentaries:
    Why do leaders give Kim time of day
    Fire and fury
    Trump leading from behind
    Evangelical leaders
    Kelly Spicers Himself
    Kim cuckolds Trump
    China raping US

    * This commentary was originally published on Tuesday, June 12, at 8:47 a.m.

     

  • Monday, June 11, 2018 at 7:13 AM

    African American Museum Paying Trumpian Homage to Oprah. Shame!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I could not have been prouder when the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in September 2016 on the hallowed Mall in Washington, DC. That it opened under the auspices of the first black president of the United States made the occasion seem providential.

    In fact, I was so proud, I became a Charter member and was among the huddled masses who couldn’t wait to tour it. It was everything I expected, and more. But, as with all major museums, you’d do yourself a disservice if you limit your tour to just one visit.

    The NMAAHC has 12 exhibitions – with features ranging from heartrending yet uplifting stories of slavery to prevailing and entertaining contributions to culture. And each is filled with so many images and artifacts that one could spend an entire visit in just one exhibition and still fail to take in all it offers.

    Which brings me to the Museum’s first special exhibition, which opened on Friday:

    For 25 seasons and 4,561 episodes, ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ reflected and influenced American society.

    Join us for an exploration of the life and impact of @Oprah Winfrey in our special exhibition, ‘Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture.’

    — Smithsonian NMAAHC (@NMAAHC) June 4, 2018

    My problem with this honor is very simple: there are too many black Americans who have had far greater impact on American history and culture than Oprah.

    I readily concede that Oprah is a cultural phenomenon. And she is probably the most charitable black American in the history of the United States, which I duly hailed (and defended) in “Criticisms of Oprah’s School for African Girls Are Unwarranted,” January 8, 2007.

    But an exploration of her life and impact would show that her signature TV show did more to help white women be their best selves than to advance black people – politically, economically or even culturally.

    And her pioneering Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) showed no greater race consciousness – as this damning rebuke attests:

    Does Oprah’s network need more diversity? Many African-American women seem to think so, including Black Entertainment cofounder Sheila Johnson, who says that Winfrey should ‘open her circle a bit more,’ and blogs such as Hello Beautiful and Clutch, which have complained bitterly about the absence of black faces and voices.

    (Newsweek, January 30, 2011)

    Indeed, what does it say about this black pioneer that her most recognizable protégés are three white men, namely Dr. Phil McGraw, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Nate Berkus, and one white women, namely Suze Orman?

    But let’s face it, her life is already such an open book, the only thing worth exploring is her polyamorous relationship with Gayle and Stedman, which I have done in commentaries such as “Oprah Presents: The Greatest Love Story?” February 25, 2005, “Oprah Protests ‘I’m Not Gay!’ (Too Much, Methinks),” July 19, 2006, and “The Golden Globes (Oprah and MeToo),” January 8, 2018.

    Meanwhile, this celebration of our celebrity-obsessed culture betrays what no less a person than President Obama proclaimed is the prevailing mission of this Museum:

    As Americans, we rightfully passed on the tales of the giants who built this country … but too often we ignored or forgot the stories of millions upon millions of others who built this nation. … By knowing this other story, we better understand ourselves and each other. It binds us together and reaffirms that all of us are American.

    (The Washington Post, September 24, 2016)

    Truth be told, the only thing that explains this special exhibition is Oprah’s status as the NMAAHC’s top donor. She reportedly donated $21 million for its founding.

    Because no serious historian would even include Oprah on a list of the top 25 most influential black Americans of all time. And that list would include women like Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Harriet Tubman – who most Americans wanted to be the first women (black or white) to grace the US currency, namely the $20 bill.

    This is why I respectfully submit that Frederick Douglas should have been the first black American this Museum honored with a special exhibition. As it happens, I alluded to this in “Tubman, Truth, MLK on Currency Is Fine. But What about Douglas? And Remember Geronimo?” April 15, 2016:

    I appreciate why American leaders (black and white) are continually honoring Martin Luther King Jr. – who led the march for black civil rights. In doing so, however, they are continually overlooking Frederick Douglas – who led the fight to free blacks from slavery.

    In ‘Mall at Last, Mall at Last, Thank God Almighty a Black Is on the Mall at Last,’ November 14, 2006, I delineated why Douglas’s heroic biography and leadership make him eminently worthier than MLK.

    Frankly, instead of this special exhibition, the NMAAHC should have kept Oprah in her place (i.e., “where the fun begins” in the permanent Community galleries among other notable black entertainers).

    Related commentaries:
    Criticisms of Oprah
    Greatest love story
    Oprah not gay
    Golden Globes
    Tubman…Douglas currency

  • Friday, June 8, 2018 at 12:21 PM

    Trump Presidency Fueling Suicides…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The deaths this week of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain highlight the epidemic of suicides in America. And, given the celebrity-obsessed nature of our culture, I fear their suicides might make it seem “cool” for other tortured souls to do the same.

    To be fair, suicides were increasing at an alarming rate for years before the nation developed an opioid-like addiction to dystopian antics of Donald J. Trump. But talk about adding fuel to fire.

    I mean, am I the only one who suspects there’s a correlation here? (The government has yet to publish statistics for 2017 – the first full year of his presidency.)

    It’s bad enough that media coverage of his lunatic rantings is so pervasive, we can’t even watch professional sports for a little escape. But every time he opens his mouth, he makes me feel like I’m living in such a surreal world, even I just want to … escape. #Anomie

    Thank God I am hopeful enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. #Impeachment! #2020! And, I am patient enough to get there.

    But if – for whatever reason – you are feeling like you’re not, I urge you to seek professional help, which is so readily available these days.  (Call this hotline for immediate refuge: 1-800-273-8255)

    That said, I feel compelled to note that expressing condolences in this age of social media has become as perfunctory as saying hello to a stranger. Even worse, those who tweet/post condolences seem far more interested in drawing attention to themselves than in comforting the loved ones of the dead.

    This is why I decided years ago to limit condolences upon the deaths of famous people to those who were either pioneers in their field or had a profound impact on my life. And, as creative a designer as Spade was and as entertaining a peripatetic cook/storyteller as Bourdain was (I’m a big fan of his Parts Unknown TV series), neither qualify … for me.

    But don’t get me started on the manifest absurdity of people taking to social media to express personal condolences upon the deaths of family and friends. And you wonder why the most “connected” kids in the history of mankind feel so disconnected, they are committing suicide at a rate higher than that of any other demographic.

  • Friday, June 8, 2018 at 7:29 AM

    Washington Capitals Defeat Vegas Golden Knights for Hockey Stanley Cup

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    After a nail-biter of a finale, the Stanley Cup is coming to Washington for the first time in the Capitals’ 44 seasons. From captain Alex Ovechkin’s gaptoothed grin in Las Vegas to the thousands of delirious fans in downtown Washington, the moment encapsulated years of disappointment, hurt and anticipation — all of it corked, shaken and unleashed.

    (Washington Post, June 7, 2018)

    I readily admit that I am no Hockey fan. But this is all about civic pride. Not to mention that it marks the first national championship for any Washington sports team since 1992, when the Redskins won the Super Bowl.

    This is why everyone who lives and works in the Washington metro area is beaming today.

    Congrats, Caps!

  • Thursday, June 7, 2018 at 12:34 PM

    Nations Participating in Russia’s World Cup Endorsing Putin’s Rogue Behavior

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The first matches of the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 kick off a week today. But, if I were half the international “influencer” Kim Kardashian has become, those matches would be kicking off not in Russia but in England or France.

    Perhaps you’re aware that President Vladimir Putin has turned Russia into a rogue state by, among other things:

    • annexing Crimea and fomenting unrest in Ukraine;
    • meddling in democratic elections across Europe and in the United States;
    • aiding and abetting the Syrian dictator in repeatedly gassing his own people; and
    • ordering the assassination of many Russian dissidents on UK soil.

    But recall that it only took Russia invading Afghanistan for Western nations to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Therefore, based on that precedent, I thought Western leaders would seize the opportunity to boycott this World Cup.

    I reasoned, however, that it would be unfair to punish the athletes, even Russian ones, for the misdeeds or decisions of their political leaders. This is why I wrote “Trump, May, Macron: Don’t Bomb Syria. Withdraw World Cup from Russia!” April 11, 2018. It includes this predicate for replacing Russia as host.

    ____________________

    Putin is a proud man. He also happens to take almost as much pride in Russia’s standing as a powerhouse in the ‘Wide World of Sports’ as he does in its standing as a military superpower. This explains why he bent over backwards to circumvent an IOC ban on Russian athletes competing in the Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games.

    Except that there’s no denying the blow to his pride of watching Russian athletes compete under a neutral flag. But Putin must have rationalized that this was a small price to pay for the state-sanctioned doping he pulled off during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. After all, he sanctioned this doping because his pride could not even countenance the United States or any Western country winning the jingoistic medals count at his Olympics.

    Given this, nothing (and I mean nothing) would wound Putin’s pride more than Western powers leading an effort to replace Russia as host of this summer’s World Cup (June 14 – July 15). There would be no face-saving way to circumvent or rationalize that national shame.

    ____________________

    Unfortunately, most Western nations would probably be more inclined to snub the United States than Russia these days. Because, since writing that, Trump has only compounded his alienation of those nations by imposing tariffs on their exports.

    Of course, he began this alienation in the early days of his presidency by undermining long-established political and economic ties (e.g., threatening to withdraw from NATO and NAFTA) and insulting their leaders (e.g., refusing to shake hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to the White House and accusing British Prime Minister David Cameron and his successor Theresa May of wiretapping him during his presidential campaign).

    In “US Intelligence Report on Russian Hacking of Presidential Election,” January 7, 2017, I argued that Trump smacks of a Manchurian president. This, because he seemed determined not only to alienate traditional allies while cultivating traditional enemies, but also to undermine the integrity of every institution that has made the United States the beacon of democratic governance for over 225 years.

    The point is that, instead of leading them to replace Russia, Trump has provoked Western nations to embrace it as host. The irony is that, while Putin is preparing to preside over the World Cup (and all the fraternal goodwill that entails), Trump is cowering in Washington, wondering whether it’s safe for him to travel to erstwhile BFF countries like England (for a state visit in July) and Canada (for a G7 meeting this weekend).

    All that’s left is for one of many disaffected European countries to submit a UN resolution to relocate its headquarters from New York City to Beijing (or Shanghai). Trust me, Trump has so debased and devalued America’s standing in the world (with his crude leadership and jingoistic policies) that it would probably pass overwhelmingly.

    In any event, I shall boycott this World Cup – in my own modest but principled way – by suspending my tradition of publishing daily commentaries on matches.

    Accordingly, this is my first and last commentary on the World Cup Russia 2018.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump, May, Macron withdraw
    US intelligence
    Treasonous Trump Manchurian president
    2014 Brazil World Cup
    2010 South Africa World Cup
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  • Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 7:09 AM

    No More Swimsuit Competition for Miss America? WTF!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I feel obliged to begin with this prevailing disclosure about beauty pageants:

    It’s dismaying enough that women are still blithely competing in beauty pageants that should only appeal to 1950s male chauvinist pigs. But it’s downright pitiful that they are perpetuating the notion that the only woman worth crowning is a beauty who pretends she has no brains.

    (“Want to ‘Win’ Miss USA? Make a Fool of Yourself…,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 20, 2013)

    In other words, these pageants have always been too much about beauty and not enough about brains. But the remedy is not to make them too much about brains and not enough about beauty, which abolishing the swimsuit competition would do. Frankly, pledging to judge Miss America based on “inner beauty” is as patently disingenuous as claiming to watch porn for artistic purposes.

    Organizers should either abolish beauty pageants or include features that prize beauty and brains in equal measure. And swimsuit competitions (sans stilettos) would be entirely consistent with that progressive change.

    That said, I have been among far too few men championing the #MeToo movement. I’ve done so in many commentaries, including “This Hurricane Harvey Harassed Hollywood Hotties for Decades,” October 6, 2017, “USA Gymnastics Sex-Abuse Shame: Gabby Victim-Blames Aly and Outrages Simone,” November 20, 2017, “The Golden Globes (Oprah and MeToo),” January 8, 2018, and “New York AG Schneiderman, #MeToo Crusader, Facing Reckoning Too,” May 8, 2018.

    Therefore, I hope this gives me standing to caution against conflating women who sign up for pageants, which include swimsuit competitions, with those who are victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Because I suspect that is precisely what is afoot.

    Nothing betrays this quite like the fact that the woman spearheading this “overhaul” of the Miss America pageant competition is none other than Gretchen Carlson, the slayer of boss hog Roger Ailes and doyenne of the #MeToo movement.

    The Miss America pageant will no longer feature a swimsuit competition, ending a tradition widely criticized as misogynistic as the event tries to move toward more inclusion.

    ‘We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance’ … Gretchen Carlson, the new chair of the Miss America Organization, announced Tuesday.

    (Huffington Post, June 5, 2018)

    As it happens, I have also been among far too few men decrying the way women willfully objectify themselves with stilettos functioning as shoes. I’ve done so in many commentaries, including “No Heels for ‘Wonder Woman,’ Thank You Very Much!” June 15, 2017, and “Burning Bras, Still Wearing Heels. Feminism’s Unfinished Work,” January 15, 2014, which includes this observation:

    I hope it’s not betraying some unwritten man code of secrecy to inform women that, far from enhancing their beauty, sophistication, style, and grace, high heels only make them look like teetering sex objects. …

    It’s a reflection of the addictive high women get on heels that – even when they’re barefoot (or wearing flats) – they invariably perch themselves on the balls of their feet to simulate those missing high heels, especially when taking photos. How brainwashed is that?

    And so I agree, there’s no need for women to parade around on stage in bikinis and high heels. But why throw out the baby with the bath water? As indicated above, just throw out the heels!

    After all, if you’re not judging women on their “outward appearance” … as well, then you’re just presenting a self-righteous version of other talent competitions like American Idol, America’s Got Talent, or … Jeopardy. Besides the fact that only women (and transgenders?) would be eligible to compete in this new Miss America, what would be the difference?

    This contest presumes to crown a woman who is not just beautiful but also talented and intelligent. The beauty of that, of course, is that the winner might not be the most beautiful, the most talented, or the most intelligent woman. But she would be the fairest representation of the well-rounded person all women should aspire to be.

    What, pray tell, is misogynistic about that?

    Meanwhile, this overhaul overlooks the bias inherent in thinking that excluding the swimsuit competition will make Miss America more inclusive. It seems Miss America’s new “all-female leadership team” is just trying to skirt chauvinistic stereotypes of what beautiful women in swimsuits should look like.

    Alas, the irony seems completely lost on them. Because they seem unaware that models like Ashley Graham and Hunter McGrady have been making a mockery of those stereotypes for years – even while wearing body paint masquerading as swimsuits. And, if encouraged/invited, I’m sure curvaceous women like them would be happy to compete for the title of Miss America.

    Of course, the irony of ironies is that today’s most liberated and influential women make millions posing in just swimsuits (or less) on social media. For example, it pains me to acknowledge that more women want to be like Kim Kardashian than Michelle Obama.

    As fate would have it, Kim herself remarked on the absurdity of her crowning achievement at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards just last night. Here is the refreshingly self-deprecating joke she made while accepting her CFDA “top influencer” award:

    I am surprised that I am winning a fashion award when I am naked most of the time.

    (Vanity Fair, June 5, 2018)

    Yet the Miss America organization thinks canceling its swimsuit competition will have an empowering impact on the tens of millions of young girls Kim influences every day. Ha!

    But, if they must, the “progressive” fuddy-duddies who now run the show should replace that competition with their version of Top Chef or The Great British Bake Off. After all, cooking and baking competitions are almost as popular on TV these days as sporting events. (LOL)

    In any event, I say – with curvy beauties like Ashley and Hunter firmly in mind –

    There she is, Miss America…

    Related commentaries:
    disclosure pageants
    Hurricane Harvey
    USA gymnastics
    NY Ag
    Gretchen Carlson
    Burning bras
    Wonder Woman
    Kim prison reform

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 5:22 p.m.

  • Monday, June 4, 2018 at 8:21 AM

    Kim Cuckolds Trump by Inviting Assad … Courting Putin

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s demeaning enough that President Trump plans to travel all the way to Singapore just to “get to know” the genocidal dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

    But it seems Kim is willfully insulting Trump. For only this explains Kim making such a show of fraternizing with the genocidal dictator of Syria, Bashir al-Assad, with whom Trump is engaged in “kinetic” hostilities.

    After all, this is rather like Roosevelt traveling all the way to Casablanca in 1943 not to strategize with Churchill, but to fraternize with Antonescu (of Romania).

    Not to mention that this is the same Trump who ridiculed President Obama as a disrespected laughingstock when Chinese President Xi Jinping failed to roll out the red carpet for his state visit.  Trump insisted that, if any world leader ever disrespected him like that, he would order Air Force One to return home immediately.

    But it’s arguable that no world leader has ever disrespected any US president more than Kim is disrespecting Trump. And he’s in this untenable and hypocritical position all because of his delusional bid for a Nobel Peace Prize.

    President Bashar al-Assad of Syria plans to visit North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, the North’s state-run news media said on Sunday. …

    If Mr. Assad were to visit Pyongyang, it would be the first time that Mr. Kim hosted a meeting with another head of state in the North Korean capital.

    (The New York Times, June 3, 2018)

    Trust me, none of Trump’s predecessors would have been so stupid as to find himself in this position. In fact, each of them shunned overtures from Kim and his father to participate in the kind of nuclear circus Trump is now orchestrating with Barnumesque zeal.

    And none of them would have countenanced the kind of rolling humiliation Kim is subjecting Trump to, not least because none of them had Trump’s habit of putting lipstick on a pig and calling it Miss America.

    But Kim must think Trump is little more than a doormat masquerading as a shrew. For only this explains Kim making quite a show of entertaining overtures from Trump’s superpower frenemies, namely Xi of China and Putin of Russia.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin invited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to travel to Russia in September. …

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who visited Pyongyang last week, passed the North Korean leader an invitation from Mr Putin to visit Russia during its Eastern Economic Forum, which is held in Vladivostok every year.

    (The Straits Times, June 4, 2018)

    And this comes in the afterglow of Kim traveling to China (on two occasions) to visit with Xi.

    Mind you, I find it utterly stupefying that these major world leaders are suddenly vying for Kim’s attention … as if he’s the homecoming queen each would like to take to the high-school prom. For more on this, I refer you to such commentaries as “North Korea’s Nuclear Tests Is Tail Wagging the US Dog … Again,” May 26, 2009, and “North Korea Craving Attention Dennis Rodman Can’t Give,” September 19, 2013.

    Even more stupefying, though, is that it seems “honorable” Kim can do nothing at this point to offend Trump. After all, he’s whining that he doesn’t like that his agreement to hold their “historic” summit has emboldened Kim to fraternize with his frenemies and enemies alike. Yet Trump is still chasing after him like a lovesick puppy.

    Kim has clearly tamed this shrew. #Cuck[old]Sucker!

    Related commentaries:
    Trump-Kim summit
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  • Monday, June 4, 2018 at 6:34 AM

    South Sudan: Africa’s Newest Nation Repeating Old Mistakes

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Natural disasters, like droughts and pandemics, are commonplace in Africa. As I write this, for example, drought is decimating East and Southern Africa while a new Ebola outbreak is raging across the Democratic Republic of Congo and threatening to spread beyond.

    Hell, you’d be forgiven for thinking that God is continually unleashing plagues to get one African leader or another to do the right thing. This, of course, dates back to the Ten Plagues he unleashed upon Egypt to get Pharaoh to free the Israelites from bondage.

    Unfortunately, since decolonization, African leaders have shown so little fear of the wrath of God, they make Pharaoh look like one of the meek just waiting (in vain) to inherit the earth. Only this explains why their man-made disasters, like tribal warfare and kleptocratic governance, make natural disasters look relatively harmless.

    This is why it seemed like a godsend seven years ago when a decades-old civil war in Sudan led to the creation of a new nation, South Sudan. Because this presented a proverbial tabula rasa upon which its leaders could build. More to the point, South Sudan could reap the benefit of lessons learned from all the wrongs that have beset the development of every other African nation.

    Sadly, it seems Africans will never learn. Because, just seven years later, it is self-evident that South Sudan is reaping nothing but a bitter harvest. It’s already indistinguishable from Africa’s most beleaguered nations, looking as it does like just another dark, destitute, diseased, devastated, disenfranchised, dishonest, disorganized, disassociated, dangerous, and ultimately dysfunctional mess.

    This year’s harvest was the smallest on record since South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, with the country producing only a fraction of its needs, according to the World Food Program.

    On top of that, peace talks have stalled and cease-fires have largely been ignored, which means the fighting has cut off some areas from emergency help. Aid workers have been targeted by government and rebel fighters alike, making food distribution increasingly difficult.

    (The New York Times, May 30, 2018)

    In fact, tribal warfare erupted in South Sudan almost from day one its independence. Now it’s creating yet another refugee crisis. And this one is making the crisis sectarian warfare in Syria created look like a well-organized protest march. To date, two million people have fled South Sudan and another two million remain internally displaced.

    And so it goes – from famine to war and all disasters in between – this new nation is aping all that went (and is still going) wrong with the other 53 nations in Africa.

    But I’ve already bemoaned South Sudan’s woeful fate too much. As it happens, the civil strife and looming famine the Times is reporting on today I presaged three years ago in “Millions in South Sudan Eating Leaves and Grass … Like Cows,” October 29, 2015.

    In it, I delineated my dismay at the sight of South Sudan presenting the same kind of humanitarian challenge Ethiopia presented nearly 35 years ago. Compounding this dismay, South Sudan seemed as dependent on the international community providing (live) aid to avert mass starvation as Ethiopia was back then.

    But, instead of venting dismay anew, I shall suffice to reprise (most of) that previous commentary. I suspect you’ll find it both informative and prophetic. This, especially regarding the warmongering and incompetent despots who – with all due respect to Mother Nature – are mostly to blame for these cycles of famine on the “dark continent.” And yes, I shall continue using that now-politically incorrect term because it fairly describes the myriad ways African nations have descended into the “heart of darkness” since decolonization.

    Without further ado, here is “Millions in South Sudan Eating Leaves and Grass … Like Cows,” October 29, 2015.

    *********

    For important context on this grazing tragedy, here is an excerpt from “South Sudan Descending into the Heart of Darkness,” December 30, 2013.

    _________________

    pic1I joined the chorus of those heralding the birth of South Sudan as a new nation in Africa – fathered not by colonial masters but by Africans themselves. But I felt constrained to sound this cautionary note:

    What looms, however, may cause the southerners’ Independence Day, which they will mark on July 9, to turn into a pyrrhic celebration…

    I just hope and pray these southerners – who are composed of all kinds of Black tribes – can avoid the kind of tribal conflicts that continue to beset so many other countries in Africa.

    (“South Sudan Secedes,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 9, 2011)

    Sure enough, their celebration was pyrrhic. Because here I am, less than three years later, feeling obliged to comment on South Sudanese cannibalizing each other.

    South Sudan’s army fought on Sunday with ‘White Army’ ethnic militia, accusing rebels of mobilizing the force despite its offer of a truce to end the conflict in the new country.

    Two weeks of fighting have left at least 1,000 dead and split the oil-producing country barely two years after it won independence from Sudan. It has also raised fears of an all-out civil war between the main Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups, which could destabilize fragile East Africa.

    (Reuters, December 29, 2013)

    Clearly there’s farcical irony (or is that tragicomedy?) in calling a bunch of black militiamen – who cover their faces with ash as insect repellant – a ‘White Army.’ Given their look and haunting tactics, one would’ve thought ‘ghost army’ would be more fitting. But I shall leave it to experts to comment on the socio-psychological legacy of colonialism their curious appellation reinforces.

    President_Salva_Kiir_and_Ri-300x114Instead, I shall suffice to bemoan this prescient/foreboding lament I sounded six years ago – in “Politics of Corruption in Kenya,” December 31, 2007 – when Kenya was on the precipice on a similar tribal/ethnic conflict:

    This sets up the all-too-familiar prospect of Africans resorting to tribal warfare to settle their political disputes… And those of us who are still hoping against hope for a political awakening in Africa cannot help but look on in despair as Kenya … descends back into the heart of darkness – where bloodlust gives rise to Idi Amins and Rwandan genocides.

    _________________

    That was two years ago, folks. And I’ve written several commentaries bemoaning the same since then, including “South Sudan Continues Descent into the Heart of Darkness,” April 25, 2014, and “’Another African Famine?! Nobody Cares!’ Then Call Me Nobody,” May 2, 2014. Significantly, I ended the latter with this abiding plea:

    I am truly humbled by the thousands of foreign aid workers (mostly White Americans) who, despite all of the challenges and frustrations, continue to march to the front lines to help combat everything from chronic poverty to the vicious cycle of tribal warfare.

    Hence, I can never tire of doing what little I can to support them and keep the humanitarian work they do in public consciousness. And, in doing so, I hope you don’t mind my taking a page from my Mummy’s playbook by trying to guilt you into donating (as I do) to their organizations, like UNICEFUSAID, Doctors Without BordersUN World Food Programme, and CARE.

    Therefore, it truly pains me that South Sudan continues to vindicate my worst fears – as this excerpt from a BBC Documentary “South Sudan’s Shattered Dream,” October 28, 2015, attests.

    __________________

    Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.32.56 PMAlmost four million people are facing severe food shortages, with thousands at risk of starvation, in South Sudan, in what has been described as one of the worst humanitarian crises.

    According to a report published in October 2015, if immediate action is not taken, the country could face famine in a matter of weeks. Aid agencies are pleading with both government and opposition forces to respect the current ceasefire and give unrestricted access to the areas most in need. …

    It’s evening time, and Regina is busily preparing dinner for her family. I look into the pot to see what it is she is cooking and am astounded and shocked to find she is just using grass and leaves to feed her six children. It’s all she has.

    __________________

    Not to mention that an international commission of inquiry into alleged war crimes found that both government and rebel forces are perpetrating systematic torture, mutilations, rape, and forced cannibalism against the country’s hapless, starving civilians.

    The media are making much ado about the exodus of thousands of Syrians fleeing sectarian conflict. But they would have cause to make much more ado about the exodus of millions of South Sudanese fleeing ethnic conflict … if only chronic starvation did not prevent the South Sudanese from walking like the Syrians.

    In truth, all I can say at this point is: God help the godforsaken people of South Sudan.

    *********

    That reprise shared, I will end with this abiding lament.

    I just hope the damning irony is not lost on any proud African that, 50 years after decolonization, hundreds of Africans (men, women, and children) are risking their lives, practically every day, to subjugate themselves to the paternal mercies of their former colonial masters in Europe.

    (“African Migrants Turning Mediterranean Sea into Vast Cemetery,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 12, 2015)

    Sure enough, apropos of African migrants turning the Mediterranean Sea into a vast cemetery:

    More than 50 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean on Sunday

    The latest shipwreck is the most deadly in the Mediterranean since February 2 when 90 people drowned off the coast of Libya,

    (France24, June 3, 2018)

    It would not surprise me if some of the millions fleeing starvation and strife in South Sudan were among those who ended up in this watery grave.

    Related commentaries:
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    Ebola redux
    Live aid/Groundhog-day famine
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  • Saturday, June 2, 2018 at 8:19 AM

    Trump Holds Reality-TV Summit with Kim as Prep for Real Summit with Kim

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Kim Kardashian West met with President Donald Trump and other officials, including senior adviser Jared Kushner, at the White House on Wednesday to discuss prison reform.

    ‘It is our hope that the President will grant clemency to Ms. Alice Marie Johnson who is serving a life sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug offense,’ Kardashian West said in a statement Wednesday night.

    (CNN, May 31, 2018)

    But it’s self-evident that both Kims have assets Trump can’t handle … given his tiny hands.

    Apropos of which, did you see the size of that letter Kim had his vice chairman deliver to Trump yesterday?

    The look on his face suggested that Trump could not have been prouder. Not least because he could finally say to Obama mine is bigger than yours and actually be telling the truth.

    Never mind that world leaders respected Obama too much to think they could stroke his ego with this kind of idle flattery.

    But it worked. Because, after receiving that letter, Trump withdrew all of the preconditions he insisted Kim had to meet. Most notably, he said Kim had to make clear his intent to rid of all long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. Their summit was supposed to merely codify that intent. But nothing betrayed Kim’s real intent quite like this:

    Billing it as an exercise in transparency, North Korean officials invited international journalists to witness the detonation of their underground nuclear test tunnels at Punggye-ri — but intelligence has increasingly shown that the public spectacle may have amounted to little more than a show, according to US intelligence and international arms control officials.

    (CNN, June 1, 2018)

    Yet Trump is now giddily telling the world that he’s traveling all the way to Singapore just to get to know Kim a little better. #CatfishSucker

    In fact, he couldn’t wait to gush to reporters about his big, beautiful letter. This, despite unwittingly admitting moments later that he had yet to actually read it. Of course, for this priapically challenged knobhead, the size’s the thing.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Friday, June 1, 2018 at 8:47 AM

    UPDATE: Trump, Kim and Delivery of Two Letters

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Nobody should be surprised that Trump delivered his to Kim by reading it aloud on TV. After all, this P.T. Barnum of politics is all about the show — the consequences be damned.

    But it’s refreshing to see that Kim is delivering his to Trump by hand. Never mind that this is what any sensible leader would do.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that North Korean official Kim Yong Chol will travel to Washington to deliver a ‘personal letter’ from the rogue regime’s leader Kim Jong Un, while saying talks for a potential summit are moving in the ‘right direction.’

    Pompeo, after holding meetings with the visiting senior official in New York City, said the North Korean envoy will hand off the letter on Friday in D.C. It is presumably the formal response to President Trump’s letter last week canceling the summit.

    (FOX News, May 31, 2018)

    Granted, neither man is a statesman. But it speaks volumes that the president of North Korea is teaching this president of the United States the ABCs of diplomacy.

    It remains to be seen if Trump will compound his lack of diplomacy by publishing Kim’s reply on social media – even before fully reading it. As with everything else, he might need the members of his kitchen cabinet on Twitter and at Fox News to tell him how to read it and how to reply, in turn.

    That said, I cannot overstate the prevailing point of my original commentary. It is that, even if this “potential summit” happens, it will do nothing to bring about the “the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” — a US demand Pompeo reiterated after his meeting with Chol.

    But again, for Trump, the show’s the thing. What’s more, he’ll be able to spin the outcome (to his willfully stupid supporters) as the greatest diplomatic success since Thomas Jefferson negotiated the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803. Never mind that any outcome is bound to have Kim making promises to Trump that make the infamous ones Adolf Hitler made to Neville Chamberlain seem written on mosaic tablets of stone.

    To be fair, the intent of Kim’s duplicity is far more benign than Hitler’s. After all, he’s just using Trump to establish his status as a major player on the world stage. For this would enable him to extract all kinds of economic and political benefits.

    And it would hardly matter if a duly duped Trump continues his “maximum pressure.” Because he alienated the allies and trading partners he needs to do so with his unilateral withdrawal from NAFTA, TTP, Paris Climate Accord, and the Iran nuclear deal. And he’s now turning them into enemies with his tariffs on their exports to the United States. Frankly, at this point, I suspect the leaders of most of those countries would rather deal with Kim than him.

    Not to mention the way China and Russia are now falling over each other to be the kind of patron to North Korea the Soviet Union was to Cuba during the Cold War. #KimWinning!

    Related commentaries:
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    Trump as P.T. Barnum
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 7:40 p.m.

  • Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 6:41 AM

    Malaysian Airlines: Mystery of MH 370; Tragedy of MH17

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt you recall the mystery that began when Malaysian flight MH370 vanished into thin air en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014. It had 239 people on board.

    Truth be told, I felt certain international search teams would find it. The technology that enabled deep-sea explorers to find the wreck of the Titanic informed my certainty.

    Yet I could not resist positing that its passengers might either meet the real fate of Amelia Earhart, or play out the TV fate of the characters on the popular series, Lost.

    Nobody knows what became of it. …

    My own scenario follows the takeoff for the TV series Lost. All things considered, those on board should be so lucky. …

    (“Malaysian Airlines MH370 … ‘Lost,’” The iPINIONS Journal, March 14, 2014)

    This is why I am as dumbfounded as I am resigned that, despite four years of the most exhaustive, technically advanced search in the history of mankind, it has come to this:

    A privately funded underwater search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has ended in failure. …

    The decision to engage Ocean Infinity came after Australia, China and Malaysia ended a fruitless A$200-million ($159 million) search across a 120,000 square-kilometre (46,332 square mile) expanse of the Indian Ocean last year.

    (The Telegraph, May 29, 2018)

    In a word: lost.

    Still, the Malaysian government is offering grieving families hope against hope. Only this explains Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed marking the end of this second search with this Delphic statement:

    We have come to a stage where we cannot keep searching for something we cannot find. … If we find any new information, we may resume the search.

    (Xinhua, May 30, 2018)

    That said, I hasten to clarify that the fateful mystery of MH370 has nothing to do with the shameful tragedy of MH17.

    Here in part is the informed speculation I offered about the latter in “MH17: Another Malaysian Flight Falls from the Sky,” July 18, 2014.

    ____________________

    Despite his denials, Russian President Vladimir Putin has clearly been inciting and supporting (pro-Russian) Ukrainian separatists pursuant to his agenda to reclaim Russia’s ‘sphere of influence.’

    I asserted from the outset that his strategy is fraught with geopolitical peril. Nothing demonstrates this quite like yesterday’s breaking news implicating those separatists in the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, killing nearly 300 innocent men, women, and children. Not to mention that Ukrainian separatists using Russian missiles to down this airplane (even if from mistaken identity – as seems to have been the case) must now be seen as a foreshadowing of countries like Iran and Cuba using even deadlier Russian weapons to cause far greater damage … and casualties.

    ____________________

    This is why I felt more vindicated than surprised last week when investigators published evidence that explained this tragedy.

    The announcement by international investigators that they have uncovered evidence of Kremlin culpability in the shooting down of flight MH17 is a development of significance, and comes at a time when relations between Russia and the West are in one of the worst states since the days of the Cold War. …

    Not only had the BUK missile system come from across the Russian border, they say, but it has been narrowed down to the 53rd anti-aircraft brigade based in Kursk.

    (The Independent, May 24, 2018)

    Case closed.

    Of course, congressional Republicans will impeach Trump before any international tribunal prosecutes Putin.

    Therefore, I fear the loved ones of those who perished in the tragedy of MH17 will have no greater “closure” than the loved ones of those who vanished in the mystery of MH370.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at 7:41 AM

    Danica Patrick Ends Train Wreck of a Career with Crash at Indy 500

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The media hype that occasioned Danica Patrick’s debut on the IndyCar circuit rivaled that which occasioned Tiger Woods’s on the PGA tour. Except that, where Woods wasted no time living up to his hype, Patrick seemed fated never to live up to hers.

    In fact, I found her results so pedestrian that, just three years after her debut, I was already dismissing her as little more than a “ring girl” for her sport. Here in part is how I shared my disappointment and disillusionment in “Danica Patrick Finally Wins IndyCar Race,” April 22, 2008.

    ____________________

    I know many of you consider car racing a sport only simple-minded, beer-drinking, tobacco-chewing rednecks could enjoy. But this reflects your ignorance far more than it does any lack of sophistication among the fans of this sport.

    After all, IndyCar racing is a sport that requires the steady nerves of a surgeon, daring skills of a jet fighter, and physical stamina of a marathon runner. And no sport can match the non-stop thrill, nail-biting anxiety, and death-defying excitement one gets from watching those cars zoom around that track – jockeying for position at an average speed of over 220 mph … for 500 miles!

    Now add to these exhilarating dynamics Danica Patrick – all 5’1”, 100lbs of her in full racing armor – and the world’s most watched sporting event (with over 300,000 in the stands) is injected with a level of human interest that transcends sport.

    Indeed, when Patrick made her debut on the all-male Indy racing circuit in 2005, I was among the ardent feminists heralding her as the Tiger Woods of her sport. In fact, I thought her performance in that year’s feature race, the Indianapolis 500, was so promising that I wrote the following:

    What a debut Patrick made! Because, after racing in such dramatic fashion – by skillfully navigating through a number of harrowing crashes, leading the race on several occasions (including at lap 190 of 200) and finishing 4th out of 33 of the world’s best drivers – Patrick easily surpassed her media hype and demonstrated beyond doubt that a woman is equal to any man when it comes to the sport of auto racing.

    Therefore, imagine how disappointing it has been for me to watch her turn into the Anna Kournikova of this sport, namely a babe who competes more to win commercial ads than car races.

    ____________________

    That was 10 years ago. I appreciate that many of you probably have no idea what Anna Kournikova was to tennis. Therefore, a more familiar analogy might be to say that Danica Patrick became to racing what Kim Kardashian is to acting.

    In fact, the victory I hailed back then turned out to be the only one of Patrick’s career. This, despite her 116 starts on the IndyCar circuit and 191 on the NASCAR circuit. Frankly, her switch to NASCAR smacked of a mid-career crisis. I suspect it began dawning even on Patrick that she was proving herself as little more than a ring girl for IndyCar racing.

    Meanwhile, fans know that she DNFed the majority of races during her career. Indeed, it’s noteworthy that she crashed out of her final NASCAR race, February’s Daytona 500. Because that makes the way she finished her final IndyCar race on Sunday seem all the more fitting:

    Patrick crashed on Lap 68 of the Indianapolis 500 in her first IndyCar race since 2011 and the race she chose to end a career where she was the highest-finishing woman in the Indianapolis 500 (third in 2009) and the Daytona 500 (eighth in 2013).

    Patrick was obviously devastated her career ended with her worst career finish in eight Indianapolis 500 starts.

    (ESPN, May 27, 2018)

    Mind you, she probably couldn’t care less about results at this point. After all, for years now, she has seemed perfectly happy to have people recognize her more as the GoDaddy commercial spokesmodel than the GoDaddy IndyCar driver. Not to mention the way she flaunts her new role as a bona-fide WAG, namely, the Instagram-posing girlfriend of superstar NFL quarterback Aaron Rogers.

    Alas, this makes hailing Danica Patrick as an icon of IndyCar racing even more specious than hailing Megan Markle as an icon of new age feminism.

    Incidentally, Australian driver Will Power powered to the winner’s circle in the 102nd running of this most famous of all car races. This, with all due respect to F1’s Monaco Grand Prix.

    As it happened, F1 had the 76th running of that race on Sunday too. And, irony of ironies, another relatively unknown Australian driver, Daniel Ricciardo, won. Of course, where ratings in America are concerned, F1 is to IndyCar as Premier League is to NFL.

    Unfortunately, the Monaco Grand Prix has become so predictable (i.e., boring) – with few opportunities for thrilling passes – that positions in the starting grid almost always translate to results. Sure enough, Ricciardo (who had the highly determinative pole position), Sebastian Vettel, and Lewis Hamilton had the top-three starting positions, respectively. And that’s how they finished.

    In any event, on behalf of all fans of IndyCar and NASCAR racing, I say thanks for the drive-by and good riddance, Danica.

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  • Thursday, May 24, 2018 at 5:06 PM

    Observing Memorial Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

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

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

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

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    * pictogram courtesy of Seiksoon

  • Thursday, May 24, 2018 at 4:47 PM

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

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

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

    (CNN, May 24, 2018)

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

    So what happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (ABC News, May 24, 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (CNN, May 24, 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

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

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

    ____________________

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

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

    ____________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (CNN, April 6, 2018)

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

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

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

    (Financial Times, May 20, 2018)

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

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

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

    (The Guardian, May 21, 2018)

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

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

    (The Irish Times, March 24, 2018)

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

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

    (Financial Times, May 21, 2018)

    Talk about “gaslighting” …

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

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

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

    Talk about “the rub” …

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

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

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

    (The Huffington Post, May 21, 2018)

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

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

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  • Monday, May 21, 2018 at 8:17 AM

    Everything Trump Praises Fails. Airline Safety Just the Latest Thing

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

    For example:

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

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

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

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

    (Politico, January 2, 2018)

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

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

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

    (The National UAE, March 14, 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Sunday, May 20, 2018 at 2:03 PM

    Harry Marries Meghan in Historic Swirling of British Royal Family

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Good luck, Meghan.

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

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