The iPINIONS Journal


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

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

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I think Ford should.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    If she does that, instead of becoming an asterisk in Kavanaugh’s record, she will be highlighted in the annals of US history among the likes of Anne Hutchinson, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Rosa Parks — all of whom dared to challenge institutionalized injustice masquerading as law and order.

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

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

    Related commentaries:
    Kavanaugh-Ford, Thomas Hill

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

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

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

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

    ____________________

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

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

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

    Putin had had enough of them both.

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

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

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

    ____________________

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

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

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

    (The New York Times, September 18, 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (VOA-Associated Press, March 7, 2018)

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

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

    (The Guardian, May 25, 2018)

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

    ____________________

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

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

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

    (CNN Money, March 12, 2018)

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

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

    ____________________

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

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

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

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

    (Daily Mail, September 6, 2018)

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

    Related commentaries:
    Litvinenko
    Yuschenko
    Int’l court
    Nemtsov
    The Skripals
    Pussy rioters
    slap on writs

  • Monday, September 17, 2018 at 11:28 AM

    Re Supreme Court: Kavanaugh-Ford Playing Thomas-Hill Roles. But a Different Ending Looms

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I headlined my September 5 commentary: “Kavanaugh’s Confirmation as Justice Will Be as Tainted as Trump’s Election as President.” More to the point, in it I declared that only an act of God could derail his confirmation to the US Supreme Court. Well, this might qualify:

    A California psychology professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school wants to cooperate with federal lawmakers considering the nomination, but doesn’t want to be part of a Washington ‘bloodletting,’ her attorney said on ‘Good Morning America’ Monday.

    Christine Blasey Ford wants to speak to investigators about her allegations, but she doesn’t want to become the next Anita Hill.

    (Good Morning America, September 17, 2018)

    Clearly, this is not the taint I had in mind, not least because I wrote that commentary before she came forward. But the irony cannot be lost on anyone that, if confirmed, a dark cloud of sexual assault will hover over Kavanaugh’s tenure, just as dark clouds of sexual assaults hover of Trump’s presidency.

    That said, Ford saying she does not want to become the next Hill is rather like saying she only wants to be a little pregnant.

    Frankly, this psychology professor had to have known that, by triggering this political fight against Kavanaugh, she would become just that. #ReversePsychology?

    Of course, Ford has far more going for her today than Hill had back then, most notably the zeitgeist of reckoning the #MeToo movement represents.

    More directly, though, she shared the trauma of this alleged event with her therapist years ago. And she passed an FBI-administered polygraph just last month. These alone make her credibility on the merits virtually unimpeachable.

    Meanwhile, Kavanaugh got 65 women to sign a letter saying that’s not the Brett they knew back in the 1980s, during communal hookups between his all-boys school and their all-girls school in Bethesda, Maryland. But their testimony has one obvious limitation, namely none of them can say today what happened behind closed doors back then between Ford and “stumbling-drunk” Kavanaugh.

    So we await the inevitable he-said, she-said hearing, during which he will play Thomas and she will play Hill.

    For the record, I believe her. But his drunken hijinks in high school (alone) should not be disqualifying. In fact, I would have given him a pass if

    1. He had issued a statement apologizing for the trauma he never realized he caused when he tried to have drunken sex with her at a party in high school; and
    2. No other women come out of the woodwork to accuse him of similar, more recent assaults.

    But he denied it:

    I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.

    (The New York Times, September 17, 2018)

    Incidentally, the shame (if not the guilt) is on him if he was too drunk to remember. But that does not mean that it did not happen. Ford says there was another stumbling-drunk boy in the room when Kavanaugh (or both) attempted to rape her. Unsurprisingly, “HeToo” denied it in that same Times report:

    ‘It never happened,’ [Mark Judge] said. ‘I never saw anything like what was described.’

    Mind you, Judge (with his central-casting name for any court scandal) has every incentive to do so. Indeed, their denials are all too understandable.

    Lest we forget, 16 women credibly accused Trump of sexual assault. He denied each one and got elected president of the United States. Only one woman is credibly accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Therefore, it’s reasonable for him (and Trump) to think he can deny this one and get confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States..

    This means that the issue is not what he did back then as a drunken teenager; it’s his credibility today as a sober judge. And, having watched the initial hearing on his confirmation, I know many Democratic senators had just cause to question his credibility even before Ford came forward.

    In fact, some accused him of perjury for trying to conceal the nakedly partisan role he played on Special Counsel Ken Starr’s team and in George W. Bush’s White House.

    Therefore, the only question now is whether this allegation proves a tipping point for two or more Republican senators. For it will take them breaking ranks to torpedo Kavanaugh’s confirmation, emulating the way Senator John McCain famously did to torpedo Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.

    As it happens, several senators have every incentive to do just that:

    • The six female Republicans in the Senate, most notably Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska: If they vote for Kavanaugh, in this age of #MeToo, they risk being pilloried as no better than the all-male, all-white Republican senators who chose to believe Clarence Thomas over Anita Hill.
    • The retiring male Republicans in the Senate, most notably Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona: They can finally back up their frequent criticisms of this mendacious, pussy-grabbing president by denying him this pick for the Supreme Court.
    • The wild card, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: He spent much of the past year making a mockery of his celebrated friendship with McCain by kissing up to Trump – a man McCain clearly felt was making a mockery of the office. Graham could use this vote not only to emulate McCain but also to seal his belated reversion to the days when he himself thought Trump was a certifiable “kook.” Not to mention that, with Mueller’s noose tightening around Trump’s presidency, Graham clearly has no reason to continue kissing his ass.
    • The X factor: I suspect more than a few Republican senators regret the partisan way Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader, refused for nine months to even hold hearings for Obama’s “consensus nominee”, Merrick Garland. They might see this Ford accusation as a reason/opportunity to break Washington’s partisan fever and make amends.

    Given all the above, there’s every reason to believe Kavanaugh’s confirmation is toast. And I am willing to bet good money that it is. It only remains to be seen if he withdraws his nomination before the Senate denies his confirmation.

    NOTE: Republicans are accusing Democrats of using Ford’s accusation to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation at the last minute. But these prevailing MeToo facts belie their accusation: Ford asked to remain anonymous, and Democrats had to honor that. It was she who decided on Sunday to finally come forward.

    Related commentaries:
    Obamacare
    Kavanaugh confirmation
    Garland no hearing

  • Monday, September 17, 2018 at 7:24 AM

    Viola Davis Regrets Portrayal of Black Women in ‘The Help’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Help was a box-office hit. It also won critical acclaim. This included Octavia Spencer winning an Academy Award (an Oscar) for Best Supporting Actress and the film winning a slew of other Academy Award nominations, namely Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Jessica Chastain, and Best Actress for Viola Davis (evidently everybody upstaged the other lead actress, Emma Stone, who was not even nominated).

    But I was in the vanguard of those who criticized its white-savior narrative. Here in part is how I pooh-poohed its acclaim back then in “The Help,” September 7, 2011.

    ____________________

    Am I the only one who finds it discouraging that the most celebrated relationships between black and white women in film are those which feature the former working as a domestic servant for the latter?

    Here we are, 72 years since Gone with the Wind first celebrated this hardly ‘ennobling’ relationship; yet people (mostly misguided, guilt-ridden white women) are flocking to the cinema to see it play out again. …

    I urge all of you who are reveling in the ante-bellum female bonding The Help depicts to reconsider how truly worthy this film is of the social praise and financial rewards you are heaping upon it.

    ____________________

    That is why I welcome this belated recognition and admission:

    Viola Davis revealed that she has some regrets about one of her Oscar-nominated roles. …

    What does weigh on her conscience, she said, is her role in The Help, which has been criticized for over-crediting white women for improvements in race relations, instead of placing more emphasis on the real heroes of the story, black maids like Davis’ character Aibileen. …

    ‘I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard,’ she said.

    (The New York Post, September 12, 2018)

    Of course, it’s notable that this is coming from Davis, not Spencer. Because I am cynical enough to wonder if Davis would be making it if she too had snagged an Oscar for portraying her stereotypical mammie.

    To be fair, though, both actresses redeemed their careers in subsequent films: Spencer with her Oscar-nominated performance in Hidden Figures (2017); and Davis with her Oscar-winning performance in Fences (2017).

    That’s a wrap!

    Related commentaries:
    The Help

  • Saturday, September 15, 2018 at 8:10 AM

    Hey ladies, is it okay to catcall if your assets are not really yours…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 8:38 AM

    Hurricane Florence: Media Hype Smacks of Rooting for Disaster

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    News outlets cover natural disasters purportedly as a public service. But there’s no denying that such coverage is a ratings boon for their bottom line – catering as it does to the perverse thrill of suspense that keeps us fixated on the hype of impending doom.

    [But] Americans are blessed with the technology, escape routes to inland shelters, and other emergency management resources to gauge and withstand hurricanes with virtually no loss of life.

    (“Run for Your Lives: Katrina’s Coming! Katrina’s Coming!” The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2005)

    Except that Americans living on the island of Puerto Rico during the presidency of Donald J. Trump proved a glaring exception. Because we now know that they might as well had been Haitians living on the island of Hispaniola. I commented on their unfolding fate in “Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico Catfished by Whitefish,” October 27, 2017:

    ____________________

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

    We’ve already seen that ‘Make America Great Again’ means having the federal government pay millions for Trump’s kids to travel the world doing business deals. Therefore, it should hardly surprise that it also means having the federal government pay hundreds of millions for his cronies to pull off the biggest kickback deal the world has ever seen. …

    Reports are that the money men behind Whitefish Holdings [who won the no-bid contract to restore electricity to Puerto Rico] donated huge sums to Trump’s presidential campaign. Which is why, for them, this contract is nothing more than kickback as payback. …

    [Not to mention] the sideshow within the sideshow that has characterized relief and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico. It has featured the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, famously kicking Trump’s ass for the Katrina-like incompetence and outright neglect, and the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, kissing it for whatever he can suck out of FEMA.

    ____________________

    That’s why this news should have come as no surprise:

    The official death toll from the hurricane that struck Puerto Rico in September last year has been increased from 64 to 2,975 – a 50-times jump that has sparked a new wave of criticism for the government response to the disaster. … Mr Trump himself said in early October 2017 that he was happy with the federal response to Maria, saying it compared favourably with a ‘real catastrophe like Katrina’.

    For comparison, deaths blamed on Hurricane Katrina in 2005 range from about 1,200 to more than 1,800.

    (The Independent, August 29, 2018)

    Trump promptly compounded his presidential neglect by insisting, even in the face of this news, that his government’s response to Maria was “an incredible, unsung success.”

    Even worse, this preternaturally narcissistic, gaslighting president took to Twitter this morning to assure the twits who follow him that this new death toll is fake news, which Democrats are propagating just to “make me look as bad as possible.” But this too should have come as no surprise. After all, this is the same delusional, malignant solipsist who issued this Orwellian decree just weeks ago:

    Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.

    (CNN, July 25, 2018)

    Of course, he also still insists that the investigation into Russia’s cyberattack on the 2016 presidential election is a Democratic witch hunt intended to delegitimize his presidency. This, despite the unanimous finding by his own intelligence agencies that Russia not only launched the attack but did so to help him get elected.

    In any event, my opening quote explains why I’ve become inured to, if not annoyed by, all the hysterics and histrionics that now attend hurricanes barreling towards the United States. This invariably involves people rushing to empty store shelves and reporters doing all they can to stoke fears and manufacture suspense, which includes reporting the same story over and over again like a ratings-conjuring mantra.

    Indeed, the reason the media hype hurricanes like reality-TV horror shows is that so many people tune in to watch them as such. I mean, who cares why a few nincompoops are defying orders to evacuate their coastal homes, which are bounded to get blasted.

    Yet no less a superstar than anchor Lester Holt of the NBC Nightly News could not resist descending like a media vulture where Florence is tracking to make landfall. There he treated us to interviews with these nincompoops as if they were NASA astronauts preparing to blast off to Mars.

    I shall spare you my indignant commentary on the absurdity of reporters ‘braving’ the elements to report on what is plain to see. …

    Frankly, only when flying debris decapitates one of these misguided storm chasers will everybody exclaim ‘what the hell was he standing outside in the midst of a hurricane for anyway!’

    (“Media Desperately Seeking Another Katrina but Finding Only Gustav,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 2, 2008)

    Nothing betrays their histrionics quite like the fact that these brave reporters see no need to stand in the midst of wildfires to report on that seasonal weather phenomenon.

    That said, I fully appreciate all the property damage hurricanes like Florence cause, as well as the real hardships they leave in their wake. Unfortunately, there’s nothing anyone can do to alter Mother Nature’s path or wrath. What’s more, there’s an element of chickens coming home to roost in her increasing fury, which stems from our mercenary and myopic contribution to climate change.

    Meanwhile, Super Typhoon Mangkhut is barreling towards the Philippines. So, as you revel in the media’s mercenary coverage of Hurricane Florence, please bear this in mind. Because that island nation has very little of the technology, escape routes, and resources that would enable it to limit this typhoon’s impact.

    In fact, Mangkhut (with CAT 5, 157 mph winds) is bound to leave devastation in its wake that will be ten times worse than anything Florence (with CAT 2-3, 111 mph winds) leaves.

    NOTE: Typhoon is to hurricane as lorry is to truck. Which compels the Shakespearean allusion that a hurricane by any other name would devastate as much.

    Related commentaries:
    Katrina’s coming
    Hurricane Maria
    Finding Gustav

  • Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 8:16 AM

    Actually, Neo-Nazis in Sweden Have Nothing on Neo-Nazis Across Europe

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Much is being made about the historic gains a neo-Nazi party made in Sweden’s national elections on Sunday.

    The far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats who rose from the white supremacist and neo-Nazi fringe, saw their share of the vote rise from 12.9 percent in 2014 to 17.6 [which] represents the largest gain by any party in the Riksdag. …

    Both [Prime Minister Stefan] Lofven’s Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party bloc, as well as the opposition center-right Alliance won around 40 percent, well short of the required majority. …

    The speaker of parliament is expected to consult party leaders and ask the one most likely to succeed to then form a government.

    (Deutsche Welle, September 10, 2018)

    Mind you, the Sweden Democrats did not perform nearly as well as feared or hyped. But they will play kingmakers when efforts get underway to form a government. No doubt this in itself is troubling enough.

    After all, it’s arguable that these neo-Nazis are to Sweden today what the Nazis were to Germany in September 1930, when it won 18.3 percent in the Reichstag. In fact, the way the Sweden Democrats scapegoated migrants to make electoral gains is eerily similar to the way the Nazis scapegoated Jews to do the same.

    Except that, notwithstanding Italy’s Fascists, the Nazis were a glaring exception back then; the Sweden Democrats are not today. Because, when it comes to scapegoating migrants across Europe, the Sweden Democrats are mere bit players.

    For example, their neo-Nazi cohorts have made even greater electoral gains recently in places like Switzerland (29%), Austria (26%), and Denmark (21%). And, apropos of Italy’s neo-fascists, far-right parties scapegoated migrants so successfully earlier this year, they won enough votes among that country’s notoriously factionalized electorate to form a coalition government.

    Some [nationalist and far-right] parties have taken office, others have become the main opposition voice, and even those yet to gain a political foothold have forced centrist leaders to adapt.

    [T]his can be seen as a backlash against the political establishment in the wake of the financial and migrant crises.

    (BBC, September 10, 2018)

    In other words, just as Nazis in Germany exploited specious links between fallout from the 1929 Great Depression and Jews in their midst, neo-Nazis across Europe are exploiting specious links between fallout from the 2008 financial crisis and migrants in their midst.

    In fact, neo-Nazis in Hungary (20.2%) have forced that country’s (already) right-wing leader to even further, far-right extremes, so much so that his fellow EU leaders are taking the unprecedented step of censuring him for eroding democratic norms.

    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban confronts his critics Tuesday in the European Parliament on the eve of a vote to censure his right-wing populist government. …

    Budapest argues that its anti-migrant measures and defence of sovereign rights are in tune with the mood of European voters — who will elect a new parliament in Strasbourg next May. …

    Addressing the parliament ahead of Orban, Greek leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said: ‘Pro-European forces have a duty to stand side by side [to] not let Europe slide back to the past.’

    (Agence France-Presse, September 11, 2018)

    Incidentally, this EU censure procedure could take months. Moreover, any punishment the EU metes out will probably fall far short of stripping Orban’s Hungary of its coveted voting rights. This, despite widespread support for Tsipras’s clarion call to stand against rank populism masquerading as domestic policy.

    More to the point, though, Hungary has nothing on trailblazing Switzerland. For here is how I presaged the scapegoating afoot over a decade ago in “Think America’s Immigration Plan Is Racist and Unjust? Consider Switzerland’s,” September 13, 2007.

    ____________________

    Last week, Europeans were alarmed by a report in a leading UK newspaper, The Independent, on Switzerland’s draconian immigration laws. The letter and spirit of these laws are so patently racist and unjust that reporter Paul Vallely was compelled to pose this rhetorical question:

    Has Switzerland become Europe’s heart of darkness?

    Vallely reports that neo-fascism in this erstwhile ‘haven of peace and neutrality’ is becoming as prevalent amongst Swiss politicians as it is amongst Swiss skinheads. …

    Vallely is wrong, however, to suggest that this Swiss strain of the anti-immigration virus is a new phenomenon in Europe, which threatens to infect the rest of the continent. After all, over two years ago, I documented the draconian immigration laws nearly every other European country was implementing to block perceived dangers posed by the swarm of migrants crossing their borders. I did so in “The Plague of Haitian Migrants in the Caribbean,” March 31, 2005.

    Accordingly, Switzerland is not becoming Europe’s heart of darkness so much as it is beginning to manifest the dark heart that other European countries, including England, have been exhibiting in their dealings with immigrants for years. …

    That said, there’s no denying Switzerland’s assumption of the vanguard role in descending a new (anti-immigrant) iron curtain across Europe. But it behooves Hitler’s reformed bankers to consider the international ramifications of now becoming his political heirs.

    ____________________

    Therefore, with all due respect to the alarm neo-Nazis are causing in Sweden, the alarm they are causing in many other European countries is far more troubling.

    Many historians have played out the counterfactual history in which, instead of appeasing Adolf Hitler, EU leaders stand up to him. But I stand with Tsipras in calling on politicians to stand up to wannabe Hitlers like Viktor Orban (and even Donald Trump). Only this will preclude any possibility of historians playing out a similar counterfactual history about our times.

    In the meantime, nobody expects any European country to start putting African migrants in concentration camps, let alone gas chambers. Never mind that EU leaders are floating plans to concentrate repatriated migrants in processing centers somewhere in Africa, which could end up looking like Nazi concentration camps.

    Except that African leaders have developed a continental case of nimbyism. This is why it will be interesting to see how the world reacts when some EU countries begin herding migrants in trains (or on ships) to transport anywhere outside their respective boarders. This spectre comes to mind:

    The transport of a 3,000-ton load of normal garbage became a tale of a toxic cargo set loose upon the open seas. For five months, news helicopters recorded the barge’s every move, as it was turned away by scared government officials in six states and three countries. ‘The Barge to No Where.’

    (The New York Times, May 6, 2013)

    That said, I hasten to clarify that Jews who were scapegoated back then were German/European natives, whereas migrants by definition are not. I crystallized the import of this difference as follows:

    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)

    To be fair, some Europeans are welcoming them with open arms. Indeed, pictures abound of bikini-clad Spanish girls flirting with seafaring African migrants today the way Caribbean women might have flirted with seafaring Spanish explorers in the 15th century.

    Ha!

    Related commentaries:
    Switzerland immigration
    African migrants
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  • Tuesday, September 11, 2018 at 7:43 AM

    The Tragedy Is That We’ve Forgotten the Real Triumph of 9/11…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
    Commemorating 9/11 vs covering hurricane

  • Monday, September 10, 2018 at 8:50 AM

    #MeToo Reckoning Claims Head of CBS, Les Moonves

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    CBS Corporation announced on Sunday that chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves is departing the company, effective immediately. Moonves’ exit comes hours after The New Yorker published accounts from six women with allegations of sexual assault or misconduct, following allegations by six other women in July. …

    A financial exit package for Moonves [of $120 million] will be withheld pending the results of an ongoing investigation into the allegations against him.

    (CBS News, September 9, 2018)

    With all due respect, this latest reporting is as anticlimactic as Moonves’s belated firing. Because here is what I wrote back in July about his fate in “#MeToo: After Firing Charlie Rose, CBS Must Fire Les Moonves!” July 30, 2018.

    ____________________

    Frankly, this investigation is just a formality. Because, as it did with Harvey Weinstein, The New Yorker has provided all the BOD needs – in this age of #MeToo – to do the right thing.

    Unsurprisingly, this analogy extends to claims that, as chairman and CEO, Moonves presided over the same kind of culture of sexual harassment at CBS that prevailed at The Weinstein Company. This caused the latter to file for bankruptcy in the wake allegations against Harvey. Therefore, board members at CBS are surely anxious to excise the cancer Moonves represents.

    Not to mention the precedent CBS has already set by firing its star anchor Charlie Rose for behavior that seems relatively tame by comparison.

    ____________________

    Alas, CBS is still stringing Moonves’s victims along. For this is all they’re doing by holding out the prospect that he will get at least $100 million of his $120 million golden parachute. And this, despite the fact that, if ever a CEO deserved a hard landing after getting the boot, it’s Moonves.

    Specifically, reports are that CBS and Moonves agreed to donate $20 million to organizations championing the #MeToo movement. Further, that CBS will hold the remaining $100 million pending the outcome of its ongoing investigation. Which raises the question:

    • If the ongoing investigation finds Moonves as guilty as reported, if not more so, will CBS donate the remaining $100 million to the movement?

    Again, it’s patently clear that, in addition to affirming allegations already reported, this investigation will only uncover more damning incidents of Moonves’s predatory sexual behavior.  This is why, far from getting that remaining $100 million, he’ll be lucky if he doesn’t get arrested (like Harvey Weinstein) before all is said and done. Which raises another question:

    • How does his wife Julie Chen — who co-hosts The Talk and hosts Big Brother both on CBS — continue living with this disgraced predator, especially given her public support for the movement … before it outed him?

    In any event, the #MeToo reckoning continues. Stay tuned …

    NOTE: We now know that thousands of Catholic priests went through life using their religious authority to sexually abuse little boys (and girls). Therefore, nobody should be surprised to learn that thousands of Hollywood honchos went through life using their star power to sexually assault powerless women.

    Related commentaries:
    MeToo Charlie Rose

  • Sunday, September 9, 2018 at 8:56 AM

    US Open: Serena’s Upset with Umpire Overshadowed Naomi’s Upset of Her

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Naomi Osaka beat her idol, 6-2, 6-4, to win her first Grand Slam title. But all anybody will remember was Williams’ emotional outburst on the court, where she got hit with a game violation in the second set [for, cumulatively, receiving coaching, demanding the umpire apologize to her, breaking her racket, and calling the umpire a thief].

    (New York Post, September 8, 2018)

    Truth be told, when I saw Williams melting down midway through the second set, I had flashbacks from her epic meltdown at this same tournament in 2009, under eerily similar circumstances. Back then, getting a foot fault triggered a volcanic eruption at a lowly lineswoman, during which she infamously threatened to “take this f***king ball and shove it down your f***king throat.”  I commented in “Serena Snaps … at US Open,” September 15, 2009.

    I was so braced for a repeat that I immediately began texting an old friend to commiserate. (He is easily the biggest Williams fan on the planet.) Except that Serena was more serene this time. What’s more, she had a legitimate complaint.

    The chair umpire should not have penalized her a whole, hard-fought game, especially at such a critical point in the match. Not to mention that men routinely say and do far worse. And umpires hardly ever give them a warning, let alone penalize them a whole game – a point Williams pleaded to the tournament referee to no avail. #DoubleStandard!

    Mind you, I was convinced Williams was toast even before her “emotional outburst.” Osaka was outplaying her that much throughout the match. Indeed, I suspect even Williams knew she was losing it before she lost it.

    This was hardly her finest hour on the court. Calling the umpire a thief — no matter how justified her outrage — was plainly ill-advised. Not least because it provided fodder for detractors who would like to dismiss her as a lucky, androgynous thug, instead of hailing her as the GOAT and a good role model for young girls everywhere. You know, you can take the girl out of the ghetto, but …

    Except that Williams soon redeemed herself (for this and all previous outbursts). Because, despite still visibly seething with anger and fighting back tears when the trophy ceremony began, she coached her fans, who composed 99 percent of crowd, to stop booing and give Osaka her due. They obliged.

    Unfortunately, the deed was done. For never before in the history of sports has a winner looked so crestfallen and unappreciated. And neither Serena’s comforting hug nor the winner’s check (for $3.8 million) did anything to lift Osaka’s fretful countenance.

    This should have been the happiest day of her life. Yet it must have been dispiriting enough that she had just upset her childhood idol on the biggest stage in Tennis. But, incited by that idol’s meltdown, the crowd was now treating her like a villain, which was clearly too much for the 20-year-old Osaka to properly process.

    Meanwhile, it could not have been lost on Williams that this was the second time, since returning from maternity leave, she squandered an ideal opportunity to pad her record-setting 23 Grand Slam titles. She knows she’s on the cusp of such opportunities becoming few and far between. Not to mention that there seems to be an assembly line of one-slam wonders waiting to deny her that 24th and 25th Grand Slam, which would take her pass Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24. I suspect this realization fueled her outburst.

    Nonetheless, as I wrote after she squandered that first opportunity, Williams shows none of the resignation Tiger Woods does these days. For he seems perfectly content to play on his laurels; you know, reveling in praise based solely on the fading hope that he will go all the way in the next tournament and finally recapture old glory. By contrast, she seems as determined as ever to win. She proved as much during her post-match interview, saying she’s going to study tapes of this match to pick up on some new tricks the young Osaka showed her.

    That said, one has to wonder if Naomi Osaka is the second coming of Serena Williams, who will dominate the game for the next decade or more; or if she’s just another one-slam wonder, like Sloane Stephens, who will soon fade away.

    I think Naomi is the former, and I look forward to watching her surpass Serena.

    Incidentally, it’s interesting that this biracial player is the first Japanese (man or women) to win a Grand Slam singles title. But, like I did, you’re probably wondering why she uses her Japanese mother’s last name instead of her Haitian father’s, whose name is Leonard Francois. Things that make you go hmmmm, no?

    After all, Osaka has lived in the United States since she was three years old, and holds dual US-Japanese citizenship. And reports are that her father has been as much a guiding force and paternal presence in her life as Serena’s was in hers.

    Well it turns out her father chalks this up to nothing more than common sense:

    • In homogeneous Japan, a biracial child stands a much better chance in life if she at least has a Japanese name; and
    • In competitive America, a Tennis player stands a much better chance of securing funding for training if she competes under the flag of a less competitive country like Japan. This, even though, like so many foreign athletes, she trains exclusively in America.

    Game. Set. Match. The Osakas!

    NOTE: Novak Djokovic plays Juan Martin Del Potro in the men’s final this afternoon. But I have about as much interest in men’s Tennis as most people have in women’s Basketball. Are you even aware that the Washington Mystics and Seattle Storm played game 1 of the WNBA finals on Friday? So no, I won’t be watching the men’s final, let alone commenting on it.

    Related commentaries:
    Serena snaps
    Post-baby Serena lost Wimbledon
    Hail, Sloane Stephens

  • Saturday, September 8, 2018 at 12:09 PM

    When world leaders aren’t playing Trump for a fool, they’re taking him for a joke

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, September 8, 2018 at 12:00 PM

    America’s blue wave has nothing on Europe’s black wave…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
    African migration

  • Friday, September 7, 2018 at 9:43 AM

    UPDATE: Rush to deny op-ed proves Trump demanded (and got) pledges of loyalty

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Gutless. Cowardly. Amateur. Laughable.

    Those were the words of choice as senior officials stepped forward one by one on Thursday to denounce the author of an anonymous op-ed claiming there is a ‘resistance’ within the Trump administration — and to make sure the president knew they didn’t write it.

    (The Washington Post, September 6, 2018)

    Sadly, these (27-and-counting) senior officials — with their Shaggy “It Wasn’t Me” denials — had already sacrificed their professional integrity and personal dignity at the altar of Trump. This is why they couldn’t care less if not just the Post but he himself were using those words of choice to describe them.

    Meanwhile, Trump took to the podium at a campaign rally last night and promptly proved that he is every bit the clueless and feckless president the op-ed portrays.

    Because, in addition to his usual word salad of self-aggrandizing boasts and self-pitying complaints, he called on the Times to out Anonymous in the interest of national security. Yet nobody – neither the baying supporters in the audience nor the graying publishers at the Times – took his call seriously … or literally.

    4:10 p.m.

    Who is Anonymous?

    An old friend persuaded me to play the parlor game of guessing the identity of the anonymous official who wrote that now-famous op-ed.

    I think it’s White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. Here’s why:

    1. It’s an open secret that she has been the most prolific leaker in Trump’s inner circle since days on the campaign trail;
    2. It’s also an open secret that she truly believes everything delineated in the op-ed; and
    3. Perhaps most crucially, her notoriously mischievous, anti-Trump husband, George Conway, probably convinced her that writing it was necessary not only to have a professional and social life in Washington after Trump, but also to preserve their marriage.

    Related commentaries:
    Anonymous op-ed

  • Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 7:08 AM

    Woodward’s ‘Fear’ and an Anonymous Op-Ed Show We Have Everything to Fear…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Bob Woodward’s charges that top national security staff find themselves compelled to protect the world from President Donald Trump should, in any normal time, precipitate an almost unprecedented national emergency.

    The revelations, in the veteran reporter’s new book, are so stark and shocking because they flesh out a narrative that the President’s critics have long advanced — that he is simply not fit, by intellect, temperament and knowledge, to be the most powerful man in the world.

    (CNN, September 5, 2018)

    With all due respect to the legendary Woodward, this quote explains why reading his book will be like running the final miles of a marathon, all 26.2 miles of which one is running round and round a 400-meter track.

    Frankly, the most interesting thing might be its title, Fear. Because so much of what Woodward reportedly details defies FDR’s famous proclamation that

    The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

    Specifically, the word “fear” captures

    • the feeling (sensible) citizens (of the world) have about what further damage Trump might do to us;
    • the feeling (most) Republican politicians have about uttering a word of criticism about Trump; and
    • the feeling Trump must have about what the Mueller and other criminal investigations might do to him.

    This is why the anonymous op-ed by “a senior Trump administration official” in today’s New York Times is stealing so much of Woodward’s thunder. Trust me, it is far more newsworthy … and consequential:

    We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

    That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office. …

    [S]uccesses have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

    (The New York Times, September 5, 2018)

    And this is the president who insists

    • “I alone” can fix all that is wrong with America;
    • “I alone” can negotiate trade deals; and
    • “I alone” can denuclearize not just North Korea but Russia too. #DelusionalIdiot!

    Trump has spent much of his presidency accusing a “deep state” of obstructing implementation of many of his reckless policies. But this op-ed is just the latest indication that he is just too delusional and arrogant to acknowledge that the members of that deep state are his own presidential appointees.

    After all, almost from day one of his presidency, we’ve been treated to accounts of such mutinies in everything from newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post to books like Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury and Omarosa Manigault Newman’s appropriately Unhinged.

    Not to mention White House staffers validating the op-ed’s claims of resistance (or subversion) by assuring Trump that they’re in hot pursuit of the writer but rolling their eyes in contempt as soon as he turns his back.

    Meanwhile, some of us are on record warning that his presidency would be thus – long before day one of his presidency. In my case, I refer you to such commentaries as “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker?” April 8, 2011, “I Can’t Hear, or See, or Say That Name [TRUMP] Without Spitting,” March 14, 2016, “Forget the Clinton Foundation. Shut Down the Trump Organization,” August 26, 2016, and “WTF! President-elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done.” November 10, 2016.

    Unfortunately, Trump has so normalized the shattering of democratic norms that officials in his own administration see nothing wrong with resorting to coup-like tactics to keep him in check. To be fair, though, they are merely acting pursuant to the rationale Republican leaders offered from the outset to justify support for Trump. In fact, those leaders reassured the world that “adults in the room” would deploy such tactics to limit fallout from his well-known amoral impulses.

    The once self-righteous Republicans enabling and defending Trump remind me of Catholic bishops who enabled and protected pedophile priests. Trump will probably perpetrate wag-the-dog machinations to divert attention from his Nixonian morass. But I doubt even that would bring these Republicans back to Jesus.

    (“Trump and the Poisoned Chalice of the Pardon Power,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 22, 2018)

    Accordingly, I hope Anonymous and his or her comrades in “the Resistance” are on guard today like never before. Because, pursuant to my pre-election warnings, when it comes to Trump rocking this ship of state, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

    Related commentaries:
    fire and fury
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 7:01 p.m.

  • Wednesday, September 5, 2018 at 8:17 AM

    Kavanaugh’s Confirmation as Justice Will Be as Tainted as Trump’s Election as President

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Justices Republican presidents [nominate] invariably vote on the side of issues that affirms conservative ideology; whereas those Democratic presidents [nominate] invariably vote on the side that affirms liberal ideology.

    (“Supreme Court Rules Voter ID Laws OK,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 18, 2014)

    These days, every nominee to the Supreme Court testifies that judges should serve as umpires who only call balls and strikes. But the growing record of partisan, 5-4 rulings in cases on hot-button issues (e.g., abortion, gay rights, affirmative action) makes a mockery of their testimony. For such cases are now defined by judges pitching and batting consistent with plainly political agendas. Indeed, I had cause to lament this just months ago in “Court Ruling on Travel Ban Affirms Justices Are Just as Tribal as Politicians,” June 26, 2018.

    This is why I’ve been arguing for years that the independence of the Supreme Court is a manifest fiction. Further, that conservative and liberal justices are little more than glorified hired guns for the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively.

    Yesterday’s partisan posturing and bickering masquerading as a hearing on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh only affirmed this. Little of it is worthy of comment. In fact, the title to this commentary speaks volumes.

    But here, as a justice might say, is the holding from all that was said:

    • Republicans colluded with the Trump administration to conceal unprecedented amounts of documents (90 percent of his public record according to whining Democrats), which Republicans fear could derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. This is rather like the way Russians colluded with the Trump campaign over hacked emails and fake social media accounts to facilitate Trump’s election to the White House, hence the title.

    Still, I thank God for Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Because only he had the balls to call BS on the bipartisan hypocrisy afoot.

    Echoing what I’ve been saying for years, he delivered an indignant diatribe in defense of this new norm, where Republican presidents appoint judges to legislate Republican policies from the bench and Democratic presidents appoint judges to legislate Democratic policies. Here (courtesy of C-SPAN) is how he summed up his “politicians-in-robesouting of all federal judges:

    You can’t lose elections and pick judges. If you want to pick judges, you better win.

    Perhaps you recall how Hillary pleaded to no avail that elections have consequences. She was referring to presidential elections of course. But Merrick Garland, President Obama’s “mcconnelled” Supreme Court nominee, would testify that congressional elections for control of the Senate have even greater consequences where the confirmation of federal judges is concerned. I commented on this polarizing phenomenon in such commentaries as “Obama Presents ‘Consensus’ Supreme Court Nominee, Merrick Garland,” March 16, 2016, and “Nomination of Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court Affirms Politicization of Judiciary,” February 2, 2017.

    That’s why those protesting against Kavanaugh would be well-advised to channel their efforts on getting people to vote for Democrats in November’s midterm elections.

    In the meantime, the show hearing resumes today and is slated to continue for the remainder of this week. There will be lots of political grandstanding; but none could be more shameless and self-serving than the way Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey pandered to poor farmers in the Midwest yesterday. He was clearly more interested in banking soundbites for his 2020 presidential campaign than in registering concerns about Kavanaugh’s record.

    That said, nobody doubts the Senate will confirm him – along the partisan lines that define virtually everything in America today. Indeed, anyone who knows anything about the process afoot knows that only an act of God will alter this outcome. This is why Democrats calling on Kavanaugh to ask for a delay so they can review more of his documents is as much a feckless political stunt as activists continually interruption his hearing.

    For the record, even though the subject of an inherently flawed process, Kavanaugh is no flawed nominee. He is eminently qualifiedto serve as a Republican hack on the Supreme Court.

    Kavanaugh unwittingly betrayed his partisan inclinations in this regard when a father — who lost his daughter in the Parkland school shooting — attempted to shake his hand during a break in proceedings. Video of the encounter shows Kavanaugh looking that father dead in the eye, refusing to shake his hand, turning his back, and then walking away — presumably holding that still-grieving father in contempt for daring to approach him.

    Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, September 4, 2018 at 7:51 AM

    Players Like LeBron and KD Can Never Be Among the Greatest…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And Clyde the glide takes my side. (That’s Frazier … with apologies to Drexler.)

    I took a lot of flak for pooh-poohing LeBron James’s (presumed) greatness after he made that fateful decision totake his talents to Miami.”

    Here is how I explained my disappointment and cast my judgement in “LeBron Abandons Cleveland for Miami,” July 13, 2010.

    ____________________

    It’s important to bear in mind that James’s all-consuming ambition to win a championship is the same ambition that motivated (and still motivates) all great NBA players: winning really is everything to them.

    And he will surely win in Miami. For the triumvirate of James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade has the same potential to dominate during the playoffs as other championship triumvirates like Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Michael, Bill Cartwright, and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls.

    The only question for LeBron is: what price victory?

    After all, finally winning on a team with which they suffered years of playoff frustration is what made winning a championship so sweet for superstars like Dr. J and Michael. Not to mention the unbridled pride and joy they brought to long-suffering fans in cities that, in the case of Dr. J’s Philadelphia, had not won an NBA championship in almost two decades, and in the case of Michael’s Chicago, had never won at all.

    By contrast, I fear that winning for LeBron will be bitter sweet. Not least because, instead of being hailed as a basketball savior in Miami, where the Heat won a championship just years ago (in 2006), he’ll be regarded as nothing more than a hired gun – who they brought in to help them win a few more.

    Even worse, no matter how many championships he wins in Miami, he’ll be forever haunted by the fact that he abandoned not just his team but his childhood home to do so.

    ____________________

    Again, the seminal point is that the Miami Heat was already a championship team. Therefore, it was hardly surprising when LeBron helped it win repeat championships in 2012 and 2013.

    But he learned soon enough that even the sweet taste of repeat NBA championships could not erase that bitter taste of abandonment. Only this explains him returning home to Cleveland … to do the right thing.

    Sure enough, it was back there, not in Miami, where he finally became a little more like Mike – the modern-day hallmark of NBA greatness. I duly hailed him for leading the Cavaliers to their first NBA championship in “NBA Finals: LeBron Delivers on His Promise to Cleveland, Finally,” June 20, 2016.

    But the die was cast on his greatness. Indeed, which of these do you think is more worthy of being hailed as great:

    • a player who stays with his struggling team until he leads it to a championship; or
    • a player who abandons his struggling team to join a championship team (for a guaranteed championship ring) – even if he returns to that abandoned team and finally does what he should have stayed and done in the first place?

    I mean, can you imagine Boston’s Larry Bird taking his talents to Los Angeles for a guaranteed shot at a championship ring?  If he did, even that notorious betrayer, Benedict Arnold, would have nothing on him in the contempt files of Bostonians.

    Which brings me to Kevin Durant.

    He is the reigning MVP of the reigning NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors. Except that Durant abandoned his team, the Oklahoma Thunder (OKC), in 2016 to join the Warriors – who had just won its latest NBA championship in 2015. Therefore, it was hardly surprising when KD helped it win repeat championships in 2017 and 2018.

    This is why he is more like LeBron, and can never be like Mike. Donald Trump is creating all kinds of new norms in politics, where leaders pursue personal glory at all costs, the welfare of the country be damned. Arguably, LeBron created a new norm in professional sports, where players pursue championship rings at all costs, loyalty to any team be damned.

    The excerpt above makes clear how I feel about this if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them route to NBA championships. But I’m sure the flak I got for daring to pooh-pooh LeBron’s greatness stemmed from the fact that I had no standing – neither as a player nor as an analyst.

    This is why I was so gratified last week when no less a person than NBA Hall of Famer and TV analyst Walt “Clyde” Frazier pooh-poohed KD’s greatness. Not least because, in doing so, he echoed what I said about LeBron eight years ago:

    Durant, as great a player he is, I would still hold back because man, he joined a team that really didn’t need him. … [F]or him doing that I still don’t give him the full credit that he probably would’ve deserved if he stayed with OKC and won a title with that team.

    (NBC Sports, August 30, 2018)

    The only question now is whether Clyde would change his opinion if KD fully emulated LeBron by returning to OKC and finally delivering that championship he promised. Of course, that would mean abandoning it again for greener pastures if the struggle resumed – just like LeBron who has now taken his talents the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Incidentally, Clyde stayed with his struggling New York Knicks until he led it to its only two NBA championships (1970, 1973). Unfortunately, the team thanked him by trading him out to pasture in, of all places, Cleveland.

    In any event, having aped LeBron by selling his basketball soul for a championship ring (or two), the die is cast on KD’s greatness too. Accordingly, just as an asterisk should be placed next to LeBron’s name on the scroll of NBA greats, one should be placed next to Durant’s too.

    LeBron abandons Cleveland
    LeBron wins for Miami
    LeBron delivers for Cleveland

  • Saturday, September 1, 2018 at 8:19 PM

    Eulogizing Brave Father, Meghan McCain Whips Wimpy Trump

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Meghan McCain’s eulogy of her father evoked the kind of approving gasps not heard since the Earl of Spencer eulogized his sister, Princess Diana.

    She delivered a sustained assault on the petty politics of division and derision, which Senator McCain detested to his core but President Trump practices more and more. And she delivered it with fierce and dramatic indignation, which conjured in my apostate mind images of an Aryan dominatrix whipping a predator priest.

    Alas, she bewailed her/our loss for too long. Not least because she evoked all the approving gasp I could possibly muster at the outset with just two sentences, which made the telltale kill shot she delivered near the end seem trite:

    We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness. The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served. …

    The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.

    (CNN, September 1, 2018)

    But if you think anything Meghan or anyone else said today will have any impact on the self-deifying, self-deluding and self-dealing politics of the America of Donald Trump, this should disabuse you of that:

    This is why the best way for Meghan and others to honor her father’s memory is to encourage Americans to vote only for candidates who champion his political values. If only half of the voters mourning McCain do that, Trump will lose his bid for re-election in 2020 by the largest margin in US history.

    Of course, looming impeachment proceedings could force him to resign long before then … Not to mention that doing so would also see Democrats seize control of both houses of Congress from (Trumpleton) Republicans, and they’d probably hold that control for a generation or two.

    Finally, I’d be remiss not to note how out of character it seemed for the purportedly humble McCain to plan a five-day funeral worthy of a British monarch. It seemed no less so that millions of purportedly partisan Americans mourned his passing across party lines – as if he were their beloved hero, respectively.

    Given that, I’m inclined to think that the funeral of a more popular and revered public servant like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a.k.a. “the Notorious RBG”) could be even more regal, and the mourning even more bipartisan.

    Related commentaries:
    John McCain is dead

  • Thursday, August 30, 2018 at 8:11 AM

    Happy Labor Day … Weekend!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Après ça le deluge…

    Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 8.20.49 PM

  • Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 8:42 AM

    ‘Michael Jackson Is Worth More Dead than Alive.’ Duh.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Michael Jackson is reportedly earning more in death than he did when he was alive. …

    On Wednesday – what would have been the King of Pop’s 60th birthday – it was revealed that gross earnings since his death are thought to exceed $900 million. …

    But just months before his death, Jackson had said he and his three children – Paris, 20, Prince, 21, and Blanket, 16 – were like ‘vagabonds’ because he had debts of $500 million.

    (The Daily Mail, August 29, 2018)

    I hasten to clarify that the “Duh” in my title is not intended to convey any disrespect. Instead, it merely reflects the macabre reality I posited years ago in “Michael Jackson Is Worth More Dead than Alive,” October 28, 2018.

    This seems an occasion to reprise that commentary … in full.

    ____________________

    I took a lot of flak for asserting that Michael Jackson’s death was in fact timely. But here, in part, is how I justified my assertion:

    [T]he pathological self-loathing, predatory entitlement, and attention-grabbing antics that characterized his personal life were beginning to fatally undermine the appeal of his professional life. This is why, in an admittedly perverse sense, his death was timely. Not to mention how it plays into the legend of “only the good die young” (a la Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, et al) with which Michael was reportedly so fascinated. …

    [I]n the fantasy world he cultivated for himself, it was perfectly reasonable for Michael to go on million-dollar shopping sprees despite being effectively bankrupt; to undergo numerous plastic surgeries to change his Negroid features then insist that he looked white naturally; and to act as if sleeping with little boys is the most innocent and loving thing any man could do.

    (“Michael Jackson, the king of Pop, is dead,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 27, 2009)

    Michael was more than $500 million in debt at the time of his death. In fact, he seemed headed for bankruptcy. For no amount of revenues from concerts and record sales would have been sufficient to pay off his debts while keeping him in the expensive fantasy lifestyle to which he had become so blithely accustomed. And this was especially so given informed predictions that he would not have been able to complete all of the “This Is It” performances that were supposed to earn him a little reprieve.

    Here, for instance, is the cynical note I sounded in the above-referenced commentary in this latter respect:

    Reports abound that Michael fed his spendthrift habit in recent years by contracting to perform, collecting hefty advances, and then resorting to all kinds of ploys (often involving hospital visits) to avoid getting on stage. Indeed, despite reports of him rehearsing for his big comeback series of concerts, I am convinced that, having collected a hefty percentage of the advance ticket sales, he had no intention of actually performing.

    This, alas, is the road to financial ruin that Michael was on when he died. Then, of course, there’s the laughing stock he was becoming for using cosmetic surgery to turn himself into a (living) Madame Tussauds wax work.

    Therefore, when one juxtaposes these grave facts with the fact that his estate has generated over $275 million since his death, there can be no denying the timeliness of his death. More to the point, though, nothing confirms that Michael is worth more dead than alive quite like the following:

    Thanks to a lucrative catalogue, hit film and album sales, the late king of pop earned more in the last year than Lady Gaga, Madonna and Jay-Z, combined.

    (Forbes, October 25, 2010)

    In fact, his earnings were over four times more than that of the second person on the Forbes list of top-earning dead celebrities, Elvis Presley, whose estate raked in a relatively paltry $60 million during this same period of time.

    So, “gone too soon”? I don’t think so.

    I just wonder how “his” three kids will reconcile knowing that it took their father’s early death to ensure they would be able to continue living the fantasy lifestyle to which they too have become accustomed.

    ____________________

    Well, all indications are that those kids are having no difficulty reconciling his death with their trust-fund lifestyles.

    Ka-Ching!

    Related commentaries:
    MJ mystery
    MJ…is dead
    This Is It
    MJ worth more dead

  • Tuesday, August 28, 2018 at 9:53 AM

    UN Report: Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Laureate, Is Complicit in Genocide

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    History is littered with public figures who betrayed the public trust. But no betrayal has been more shocking and disillusioning than Aung San Suu Kyi’s complicity in genocide against the Rohingya.

    I have vented my own shock and disillusionment in such commentaries as “Aung San Suu Kyi Becoming Democratic Mascot of Myanmar’s Military Dictatorship,” March 28, 2013, “Buddhists Religiously Cleansing Muslims in Myanmar,” May 13, 2015, and “Nobel Peace Laureate Suu Kyi Courting Military Power at the Expense of Democratic Principles,” September 14, 2015.

    The last of these includes this instructive juxtaposition between of the way Nelson Mandela lived up to his Nobel acclaim and the way Suu Kyi is making a mockery of hers.

    ____________________

    It’s arguable that Nelson Mandela of South Africa was the only political leader who commanded more universal admiration and respect over the past 50 years than Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (a.k.a. Burma).

    Of course, they seemed bonded by an uncompromising commitment to democratic principles, which they honored by spending 27 and 15 years as political prisoners, respectively.

    Except that, after talking the talk, Mandela began walking the walk from the day he was finally released in 1990. By contrast, Suu Kyi seemed to be walking pursuant to a Faustian bargain with her military jailers from the day she was finally released in 2010.

    I decried the conspiracy of silence in the Western media as Suu Kyi and her military cohorts sat by as Buddhist monks began religiously cleansing Myanmar of Muslims. … I am so heartened that the BBC is finally beginning to echo the questions I raised years ago about Suu Kyi’s commitment to democratic principles. …

    Just imagine how disheartening it would’ve been if Mandela began preparing South Africa for its first democratic elections by presiding over the ethnic cleansing of whites – not just from his African National Congress party, but from the entire country.

    ____________________

    This is why I was heartened when Suu Kyi’s fellow Nobel laureates began condemning her. I duly hailed them in “Even Fellow Nobel Laureates Now Condemning Suu Kyi, the Godmother of Ethnic Cleansing,” September 14, 2017, noting on point that:

    It’s an indication of how much goodwill Suu Kyi has lost that calls to rescind her 1991 peace prize have gone viral. Unfortunately, the Nobel Committee is on record declaring that it has no process or precedent for rescinding prizes.

    But I remained mindful that no amount of pubic condemnation or stripping of prizes would constitute just punishment for her complicity in genocide. This is why I am even more heartened by this all too belated development:

    Myanmar’s military has been accused of genocide against the Rohingya in Rakhine state in a damning UN report. …

    They found that the military were ‘killing indiscriminately, gang-raping women, assaulting children and burning entire villages’ in Rakhine, home to the Muslim Rohingya, and in Shan and Kachin. …

    The UN report criticised Aung San Suu Kyi’s passive role over the past year. ‘[She] has not used her de facto position as head of government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events in Rakhine state,’ it said.

    (The Guardian US, August 27, 2018)

    Her disheartened critics continually bemoan how Suu Kyi has fallen from grace. But this spares her the punishment she deserves. Instead, they should be calling on the International Criminal Court to charge her with conspiracy in this genocide. At the very least, the UN should target her along with the military generals in sanctions on Myanmar that make those it imposed on rogue states like North Korea seem benign.

    Yet, past being prologue, I fear it’s only a matter of time before the UN publishes an equally damning report on another genocide, which the world stood by and allowed to unfold. Apropos of this, here is how I dismissed the haunting regret of past leaders of the free world, as well as the preening disinterest of the current one, in “South Sudan: Another Genocide Developing in Africa,” December 19, 2016.

    ____________________

    Former President Bill Clinton expressed haunting regret for doing nothing as years of ethnic cleansing developed into ‘all-out ethnic civil war’ in Rwanda on his watch.

    President Obama expressed similar regret on Friday: not only for doing nothing as years of sectarian strife developed into all-out religious civil war in Syria, but also for doing nothing as years of ethnic cleansing developed to the brink of all-out ethnic civil war in South Sudan. But at least Obama draws the appropriate moral equivalence between these two humanitarian catastrophes.

    After all, far too many of those damning him for failing to intervene in Syria have never damned him for failing to intervene in South Sudan … or anywhere else in Africa beset by similar humanitarian catastrophes.

    That said, I’m all too mindful that regrets never saved anyone. But, given that President Trump seems congenitally incapable of such feelings, he is unlikely to ever express any if/when civil war degenerates into genocide in South Sudan … or anywhere else.

    ____________________

    Alas, the entire world reacts to Trump’s daily tweets as if they were greater crimes against humanity than the mass murder, rape, and pillaging the UN documented in its Rohingya report.

    Meanwhile, with each unfolding genocide, the post-Holocaust clarion call of “never again” rings more hollow. But still I cry, freedom!

    Related commentaries:
    Holocaust museum rescinds prize
    South Sudan

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