The iPINIONS Journal

  • Sunday, July 22, 2018 at 4:49 PM

    British Open: Tiger Prowls but Comes Up Short … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last weekend, Serena Williams won unprecedented praise despite coming up short at Wimbledon. It was her second Grand Slam tournament after giving birth last September.

    But I found the praise a curious thing, which compelled this allusion to Tiger Woods:

    Like Woods, Williams could become resigned to playing on her laurels, continually pleasing fans and earning praise based solely on the fading hope that she will go all the way in the next tournament and finally recapture old glory.

    (“Wimbledon: Serena Lost. It’s Patronizing BS to Say She Won,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 14, 2018)

    Granted, that the media gave Woods more coverage than any other golfer at this week’s British Open was not surprising. After all, they found long ago that Woods is ratings gold – even when he’s languishing among the worst players on the course.

    But this does not excuse or explain sports commentators giving Woods more praise than any other golfer.

    Early on, Woods brought back memories of majors gone by [and] was good enough to [hold] the solo lead on a Sunday in a major for the first time in half a decade. …

    It wouldn’t last. Woods went double bogey-bogey over the 11th and 12th holes, including a sprayed shot that bounced off a fan, and he fell two strokes off the lead.

    (Reuters, July 22, 2018)

    In fact, he finished tied for 6th place with two other players. Yet, as it was with Williams, even the post-tournament praise was such that you’d think he had finally won that 15th major, which has eluded him ever since his fateful break from the tour nine years ago.

    Unfortunately, the media’s obsession with Woods robbed Francesco Molinari of much of the coverage he deserved for winning his first major championship. This, even though both players came into today’s final round with an equal chance to win: Molinari was just one shot ahead of Woods 207-208, was paired with him, but outplayed him head-to-head to finish 276-279.

    Then again, this kind of robbery has become par for the course on the PGA Tour whenever Woods plays.

    Related commentaries:
    Serena … Wimbledon
    Tiger Woods US Open

  • Sunday, July 22, 2018 at 8:17 AM

    Top Aides Confronted Trump for Siding with Putin … and Got Trolled

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The A-list advisers Trump appointed to his cabinet represented the one redeeming feature of his presidency at the outset.

    Most notably, the prevailing wisdom was that the triumvirate of James Mattis at Defense, Rex Tillerson at State, and H.R. McMaster at National Security would provide the kind of safeguard for the Trump administration that training wheels provide for kids’ bicycles.

    But that now seems like decades ago. That Mattis is the only A-lister still serving speaks volumes about how determined Trump has been to have his way. The result has been such chaos and incoherence, you’d be forgiven for thinking that, instead of Make America Great Again, Trump’s MAGA stands for Make America Go Apeshit.

    Trump’s latest temper tantrum came last week in the wake of his universally criticized summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It stemmed from his treasonous siding with Putin over his own intelligence agencies with respect to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

    That compelled the following, which the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday under the headline “Pence, Bolton, Kelly confronted Trump in Oval Office about Russia comments”:

    Top aides gathered to convince the president to issue a rare walk-back of the comments he’d made raising doubts about U.S. intelligence conclusions of Russian election interference as he stood alongside Vladimir Putin.

    Except that the story evoked more gallows laughter than reassuring praise because everyone knows Trump’s script.

    Sure enough, after initially playing along, the congenitally temperamental Trump made a mockery of their confrontation. Specifically, he trolled them by tweeting his intent not only to stand alongside Putin again (and vent their mutual distrust of American institutions) but to do so at the White House to boot.

    The White House announced Thursday that Vladimir Putin has been invited to Washington this fall, even as leaders in Washington tried to fully understand what happened when President Trump and the Russian leader met earlier this week in Helsinki. …

    As the late afternoon tweet landed, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats was on stage at the Aspen Security Forum in the middle of an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who broke the news to him. Coats, clearly surprised, took a deep breath.

    (The Washington Post, July 19, 2018)

    Frankly, this would be laughable if the foundations of American democracy, to say nothing of national security, were not at stake. I mean, Trump is behaving like a teenage girl who was reprimanded by her parents for sneaking out for a booty call with a notorious bad boy. And she responds by sneaking that bad boy into her bedroom … and ends up pregnant.

    And so it goes: Na-nana-naa-nah! 

    Related commentaries:
    Trump-Putin Helsinki

  • Saturday, July 21, 2018 at 7:06 AM

    So how is your family’s summer vacation going…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    But why travel anywhere when you (and especially your kids) can enjoy mobile devices right there … at home: #staycation?

  • Thursday, July 19, 2018 at 7:53 AM

    Oh Right, the World Cup: Vive la France!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In “Trump, May, Macron: Don’t Bomb Syria. Withdraw World Cup from Russia!,” April 11, 2018, I pledged to boycott this World Cup. I honored that pledge.

    But I cannot resist sharing the following about France’s 4-2 victory over Croatia’s in Sunday’s final match:

    Immigrants, sons of immigrants and grandsons of immigrants bonded together with scions of families that have been French for generations, all for the rouge, blanc et bleu. And for only the second time, France is the World Cup champion.

    About two-thirds of Les Bleus’ roster included players with immigrant backgrounds, a mini-United Nations of soccer talent.

    (France24, July 16, 2018)

    What’s more, I cannot think of a more compelling rebuke of the worldwide assault on immigration, which no less a person than US President Donald Trump has triggered. Can you?

    And, who knows, this result might induce other European countries like Austria and Hungary to liberalize their immigration and naturalization policies. This, instead of following the trend of countries like Croatia and Portugal of recruiting black athletes as hired guns to help raise their national flags at international sporting events.

    Related commentaries:
    Withdraw World Cup
    Trump’s immigration policy

  • Tuesday, July 17, 2018 at 7:12 AM

    Helsinki Summit: Trump Hails Russian Propaganda over American Intelligence

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    At a joint press conference today, President Trump doubled down on his belief in President Putin’s denial that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

    This, despite his own intelligence agencies, which includes the CIA, FBI, and NSA, saying that Russia did, and the Mueller investigation indicting 12 Russian agents for orchestrating that meddling.

    ‘I have — I have confidence in both parties,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.’

    (The Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2018)

    Of course, as the Journal insinuated, Trump of all people knows full well that denials from liars are always strong and powerful.

    Bipartisanship is as rare in Washington these days as virtue. But Trump siding with Putin on this existential issue — on the world stage no less — provoked bipartisan outrage in spades. It began with Trump’s own Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats immediately rebutting and rebuking his betrayal as follows:

    We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.

    (USA Today, July 16, 2018)

    But nobody expressed the Democrats’ outrage quite like John Brennan, the former head of the CIA:

    Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???

    — John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018

    And nobody expressed the Republicans’ outrage quite like John McCain, US senator and bona-fide war hero:

    Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate.

    (CNN, July 16, 2018)

    To be fair, though, nobody should be shocked. After all, Trump telegraphed for years everything he did in Europe last week. Notably, this included stabbing UK Prime Minister Theresa May in the back over her beleaguered Brexit negotiations, extorting “pledges” for increased defense spending from NATO members, and standing shoulder to shoulder with Putin as they insulted US intelligence. I duly commented in “Trump Abroad: Mooning NATO, Droning Britain, Spooning Putin,” July 12, 2018.

    But frankly, I have nothing but contempt for the American politicians who are rushing to TV cameras to express how “shocked, shocked” they are. And I have nothing but pity for the European politicians who are asking today the question I posed the morning after willful Americans elected this mendacious buffoon, namely: “WTF President-elect Donald J. Trump? America. What. Have. You. Done.” November 9, 2016.

    To be clear, the following excerpts explain why I am too informed to be shocked and too indignant to be outraged by this latest manifestation of Trump’s “treasonous” behavior.


    • From “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker!” April 8, 2011:

    Nothing demonstrates that his clownish foray into presidential politics is just for personal ego and financial enrichment quite like previewing his campaign platform by speaking more like a right-wing radio shock jock than a politician. …

    That he is fashioning himself as a born-again conservative – after supporting mostly liberal causes for much of his life – indicates that he’s only doing what is good for Trump, not what is good for his country. …

    It’s one thing for Trump to be huffing and puffing all over the media about how he would demonstrate that he has far bigger balls than Obama; i.e., by acting on the world stage like a bull in a China shop (pun intended). It’s quite another for this preternaturally self-obsessed shyster to be propagating racially divisive claims about Barack Obama being an African who perpetrated the biggest scam in history by getting elected president of the United States.

    • From “Trump Is Trump, Intelligence Is Intelligence, and Never the Twain Shall Meet,” January 6, 2017:

    It has become self-evident that Donald Trump and human intelligence are parallel forces of nature. The obvious reason for this is that Trump’s need to feed his ego — even in the face of brazen hypocrisy or imminent danger — knows no bounds. …

    [T]here’s agreement across all US intelligence agencies that Russia tried, in a variety of unprecedented and foreboding ways, to influence the outcome of that election. …

    The point is that, if you are still expressing shock and venting outrage over all of the ignorant, narcissistic, dishonest, puerile, thin-skinned, hypocritical, and dangerous things Trump says and does, the joke’s on you.

    To be fair, though, Trump never missed an opportunity throughout his presidential campaign to warn voters that it’s more important to him to preserve his ego than to ‘preserve the Union.’

    • From “The Week Trump Kissed Up to Saudi Arabia, Kissed Off Europe, and French Kissed the Philippines,” May 30, 2017:

    One of the many unseemly things about Donald Trump as president of the United States is his longing admiration for dictators. …

    Trump began insulting America’s European allies long before his arrival in Brussels on May 24. Therefore, it also came as no surprise when, on this occasion to reaffirm the ties that bind the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), his words reeked like a skunk at a garden party. …

    Trump did in two days what Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying to do for nearly two decades: He sowed discord in NATO – the greatest military alliance in the history of mankind and the unassailable guarantor of peace on the Continent of Europe since WWII.

    • From “Treasonous Trump Releasing Fake Memo to Frame FBI and Hide Russian Ties,” February 1, 2018:

    Forget The Manchurian Candidate! Trump is behaving like a Manchurian president. … Just imagine Trump’s tweets about treason if Obama had taken the word of any foreign leader over the unanimous word of the directors of US intelligence agencies. …

    And let me hasten to clarify the specious claim Trump and his enablers are making about Russia’s meddling not actually changing any votes. … [H]aving meddled to influence how so many Americans voted, the die was cast: Russia had no need to change the results.

    There’s no denying the reasonable suspicion that Putin has cast a spell on him. Specifically, that fear of Putin releasing compromising information has something to do with his antic presidential behavior.


    I told you so, no?

    I will only add that Trump led Republicans in ridiculing Obama for bowing (as a courtesy) before the king of Saudi Arabia, a longstanding US ally. Yet here we have Trump kissing (as an apostasy) the ass of the president of Russia, a longstanding US enemy.

    Unfortunately, accusing Republicans of rabid hypocrisy these days is rather like accusing jihadists of rabid religiosity. In both cases, I fear only Judgement Day will bring them to their senses.

    Actually, waiting for enabling Republicans – who control Congress – to back up their rhetorical outrage with legislative action would be like Waiting for Godot. So don’t hold your breath. Indeed, their spasms of outrage notwithstanding, here is what I texted to an old friend today:

    The only chance they have of redeeming themselves in this world is if Republican leaders drag Trump in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot him between the eyes.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump abroad
    WTF: President-elect
    Trump for president
    Mueller indictments
    Treasonous Trump
    Trump is Trump
    Trump kissed up

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 6:17 p.m.

  • Monday, July 16, 2018 at 7:34 AM

    Special Counsel Should’ve Indicted US Media along with Russian Hackers

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Justice Department announced indictments against 12 Russian nationals as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, accusing them of engaging in a ‘sustained effort’ to hack Democrats’ emails and computer networks.

    All 12 defendants are members of the GRU, a Russian federation intelligence agency within the main intelligence directorate of the Russian military, who were acting in ‘their official capacities.’

    (CNN, July 14, 2018)

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicting Russians for interfering in the 2016 election seems like a big deal. But it’s no more revealing or consequential than a Honduran prosecutor indicting President Trump for endangering the lives of immigrant children (with his inhumane border separation policy).

    This is why the only thing I find worthy of comment is the way this announcement prompted belated soul searching among news anchors, reporters, and commentators — many of whom this indictment implicates. Specifically, it details the propagating role they (and data mercenaries like Julian Assange of WikiLeaks) played in helping the Russians weaponize their hacked e-mails.

    This soul searching was particularly animated on Sunday’s edition of This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC. It featured Donna Brazilewho chaired the Democratic National Committee (DNC) when much of this hacking occurred. And it was truly gripping TV, watching her vent clearly pent-up outrage and frustration at the reporters on the panel.

    Most notably, Brazile accused them of aiding and abetting the Russians by blithely broadcasting the contents of the hacked e-mails. And, their soul searching notwithstanding, this shall redound to their eternal shame.

    After all, even Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was pleading for them to stop helping Russia tear the fabric of American democracy apart. Moreover, you’d think the putatively liberal news media would’ve been loath to undermine Hillary’s campaign. Because they knew full well that, in doing so, they were helping the Russians get Trump elected the 45th president of the United States.

    Alas, they were too interested in the ratings/views anything related to these hacked e-mails generated.

    In fact, I was among few commentators who bothered to sound any alarm. Here is how I did so in “Hey Media, Wikileaker Assange Is Still a Self-Promoting, Bail-Jumping Rape Suspect!” August29, 2016.


    Assange is sharing his hacked loot with any news organization prepared to facilitate his self-aggrandizing crusade. And far too many news anchors and political commentators are playing along — like disciples spreading his gospel. Whereas you’d think they would want to hide in shame after foraging through the e-mails of DNC staffers, then reporting and commenting as if they’re ‘shocked, shocked’ that those staffers were doing, well, as staffers do. …

    What’s more, all of the leaked ‘bombshells’ pertain to nothing more than mundane gossip, intrigue, griping, and backstabbing among and between those staffers and officials. Which explains why news anchors are reading these e-mails live on air as if they were nothing more than passages from Mark Leibovich’s 2014 bestseller This Town, which fairly lampoons Washington, DC as a veritable Peyton Place.

    Nonetheless, this is what is passing for ‘Breaking News’ every day now — as Assange leaks a new cache of hacked e-mails like manna from heaven for lazy, unconscionable and myopic journalists. But what do you think CNN, Fox News, the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian, and other news organizations would do if Assange were leaking hacked e-mails of their anchors and reporters — purportedly to expose bias in the media? The obvious answer only hints at why my disgust with the news media compelled me to write commentaries like “Journalism Is ‘Having a Very, Very Pathetic Moment,’” November 13, 2013.

    Remarkably, no news organization is bothering to question the prurient nature of Assange’s leaks. Worse still, none of them appear to have any qualms about facilitating his cybercrimes, which serve no compelling public interest and are devoid of any socially redeeming value.

    But I cannot overstate that, for every embarrassing or compromising e-mail hackers can hack from the accounts of Democratic officials, they can hack equally embarrassing and compromising e-mails not only from the accounts of Republican officials, but also from those of other political parties, civil servants, corporate employees, and private citizens … worldwide. …

    [T]he real story here is the media’s complicity in propagating hacked documents that do far more harm than good. For just as Assange will leak anything for attention, news organizations will broadcast any leak for ratings – even the national security of the country be damned.


    I appreciate the belated soul searching anchors, reporters and commentators are now undertaking. I just hope they come to terms with the willful role they played in helping Russia execute this Manchurian caper, which has saddled the world with a US president who seems beholden to Vladimir Putin above all else.

    But these useful idiots should spare us their indignant efforts now to get Trump to give Putin the riot act for this caper, including at today’s Helsinki Summit. After all, this is tantamount to prodding Trump to admit that his election was the biggest political fraud in the history of mankind.

    That said, it might be instructive to end this commentary the way I ended the one on the first indictment Mueller handed down:

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

    (“Mueller’s First Indictment Has News Media Reveling in Speculation,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 29, 2017)

    Related commentaries:
    border separation policy
    Hey, media
    Mueller’s first indictment

  • Saturday, July 14, 2018 at 7:39 PM

    Wimbledon: Serena Lost. It’s Patronizing BS to Say She Won.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Despite all the hype, if not the expectation, Serena Williams (36) did not even come close to winning this Wimbledon final. Angelique Kerber (30) of Germany defeated her handily in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.

    In the eyes of many watching on Saturday, Williams was still a winner. … [M]others who know what it feels like to come back from maternity leave … were quick to tweet how much Williams just being there meant to them.

    (Yahoo! June 14, 2018)

    I appreciate mothers of the world thinking they could relate. But there’s a simple reason why Williams recovered so quickly to compete again at this level: Unlike most mothers, she spent most of her life as a super-fit professional athlete; specifically, as one fully accustomed to training her body to recover from all manner of stress.

    Mind you, I wanted Serena Williams to win this match as much as any fan could. But I’m calling double fault on sports fans and analysts alike who are making excuses for her, citing complications that attended child birth 10 months ago:

    • This ignores that Williams would not have been competing if she were not in shape to win. Indeed, I can cite her antic participation in last month’s French Open to support this fact. (I duly commented in “French Open: Nadal Questions Equal Pay. Williams Ducks Sharapova,” June 14, 2018)
    • This belittles the superior play Kerber displayed, which duly earned her this title. Not to mention that Williams managed to defeat many younger and seemingly fitter players to make it to this final match.

    So hail Serena, as I do, for still playing such competitive Tennis at an age when most of her peers have long-since retired. But please don’t deify her as some patron saint of mothers who are competing as top professional athletes.

    Unfortunately, Williams played into this deification by making a show of dedicating her run at this tournament “to all the moms out there.” But she’s hardly a pioneer in this respect. For example:

    Clijsters [had] daughter Jada Elle in 2008. But then the Belgian returned to the tour in 2009, winning the US Open in just her third tournament back. …

    She remains the only WTA player to win more majors with children in tow than without, picking up the 2010 US Open and 2011 Australian Open for four total career majors.

    (Baseline, April 20, 2017)

    This was Williams’s second tournament back. Therefore, she could still match Clijsters’s maternal feat by winning this year’s final Grand Slam, the US Open in early September.

    I just hope she’s not taking too much consolation in the outpouring of so much patronizing praise. Not least because it smacks of the kind of consolation Tiger Woods is taking these days for just making the cut at his golf tournaments.

    Indeed, like Woods, Williams could become resigned to playing on her laurels, continually pleasing fans and earning praise based solely on the fading hope that she will go all the way in the next tournament and finally recapture old glory.

    Serena Williams came back from pregnancy to make it to the finals of Wimbledon at almost 37 years old. That’s greatness. Despite the loss, she’s still the GOAT.

    — Everette Taylor (@Everette) July 14, 2018

    She was aiming to tie the all-time record in Grand Slam titles in tennis just *FOUR* events after her return from giving birth & having life threatening birth complications… A living Legend!

    — WTA Scores (@Scores_WTA) July 14, 2018

    If Clijsters received this kind of praise after her first two losses after having a child, she might never have won another Grand Slam title. Significantly, she retired in 2012 at the relatively young age of 29.

    But I hasten to point out that Williams clearly expects more of herself than her fans do:

    Within an hour of her defeat, Williams had turned her focus to just that, explaining, ‘I’m already deciphering what I need to improve on, what I need to do, what I did wrong, why I did it wrong, how I can do better — that whole madness that goes on in my mind.’

    (Washington Post, June 14, 2018)

    This is why I retain a glimmer of hope that she will emulate Clijsters by winning another Grand Slam or two with baby in tow.

    Related commentaries:
    French Open

  • Friday, July 13, 2018 at 5:04 PM

    After Mooning NATO, Trump Moons the Queen…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Alas, England, this is no breach. For the embarrassing truth is that this narcissistic Neanderthal thinks everything, including royal protocol, is all about him.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, July 12, 2018 at 7:38 AM

    Trump Abroad: Mooning NATO, Droning Britain, Spooning Putin

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Donald Trump is making his first visit to Britain today as president of the United States.

    More to the point, this is the second stop on what could be the most consequential foreign trip of his presidency. It began at a NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday and will end with a Putin summit in Helsinki on Monday.

    Unfortunately, anyone who knows Trump knew that each stop would just present another opportunity for him to bolster his norm-wrecking presidency. He proved this by spending much of the NATO summit demanding protection payments from fellow members – like a Mafia don demanding racketeering payments from business owners.

    But this kind of ignorant, gauche and reckless (bull-in-China-shop) behavior has become such a norm that it now evokes more gallows humor than serious concern. I’m sure I caught German Chancellor Angela Merkel rolling her eyes at one point during their meeting on the sidelines. This, when Trump’s cowardice allowed him to make only oblique reference to her face about putting the squeeze on NATO leaders to pay up.

    In any event, I decided that cartoon images would provide compelling commentary for each stop – fully mindful of the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Frankly, never before in the history of diplomacy has the foreign trip of a US president been worthy of little more than cartoonish ridicule: either we laugh at him, or he’ll make us cry.


    Despite his anti-NATO bluster, Trump will do nothing to undermine its effectiveness. Instead, this shameless, congenital huckster is taking credit for the deal Obama negotiated in 2014, diplomatically. It committed all members to allocating at least 2 percent of their respective GDPs to defense over a 10-year period.

    But perhaps General James Mattis, the US secretary of defense, should try disabusing Trump of his belief that Obama created NATO. Because this belief is probably the only reason Trump is trying so fiendishly to destroy it.


    Trump is the first US president who is so reviled in the UK that British authorities dare not allow him to set foot in the nation’s capital. Londoners are planning protests like none anyone has ever seen against any head of state visiting anywhere in history. This is why Trump will be helicoptered everywhere — far from the baying crowds.

    Most notably, he will be helicoptered to dinner with Prime Minister Theresa May at Blenheim Palace and tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle — both of which are far outside London and heavily fortified against protests.

    But there’s no denying the embarrassing extent to which the British government is going to protect the fragile ego of this US president. This is why Trump insisting that the British people like him a lot makes him look even more delusional than usual. And you can bet that, if any country, let alone an ally, felt it had to do the same for Obama, Trump would’ve been leading the carnival barkers damning him for making the United States look like a laughingstock.


    This image apes the kind of imagery that might have been cut from Brokeback Mountain for being just too homoerotic for general release. Lord knows Trump has shown time and again that he does not even want to know how to quit his Pootie.

    NOTE: Some of you are probably wondering why Trump retains so much support among his base, despite his record of incompetence and corruption — at home and abroad. Well, I explained why so many Americans fell for and continue to support a political shyster like Trump in “Polls Show Americans Are Too Stupid to Poll on Any Critical Issue,” September 14, 2016.

    Related commentaries:
    Americans are too stupid...

  • Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at 7:47 AM

    Miraculous Rescue of 12 Boys and Soccer Coach from Thai Cave

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Trump’s supporters hail him as the disrupter in chief. And, given the chaos and conflicts that define his presidency, he seems hell-bent on pleasing them at every turn. This, not least by championing a form of Darwinian nationalism not seen since the days of the Thirty Years’ War … 1618-1648.

    Only this explains his willful flouting of all democratic norms, reckless attempts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, clueless triggering of global trade wars, and (perhaps most concerning, if not suspicious) his selfish efforts to normalize US relations with Russia at the expense of relations with traditional allies like Canada and the EU.

    But the Thai cave rescue that played out over the past 18 days vindicates the world order Trump is so recklessly disrupting. Because it not only involved rescuers from all over the world, but captured as much interest in Washington, Paris, and Canberra as it did in Brasilia, Brazzaville, and Bangkok.

    More to the point, when news broke yesterday that this “mission impossible” was a complete success, the whole world enjoyed a moment of relief and normalcy from Trumpian distress and surreality, respectively.

    All 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped for more than two weeks deep inside a flooded Thai cave have been rescued. …

    British divers found the 13, hungry and huddled in darkness on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometres inside the complex, on Monday last week.

    After pondering for days how to get the 13 out, a rescue operation was launched on Sunday when four of the boys were brought out, tethered to rescue divers.

    (Reuters, July 10, 2018)

    But let us not forget that a Thai navy seal died during this rescue effort. This indicates the danger the trapped and their rescuers faced.

    That said, I would be remiss not to mention how the rescue of these 12 boys and their coach in Thailand harkens back to the rescue of 33 miners in Chile in 2010. The latter was equally riveting and, arguably, even more miraculous. After all, while these boys and their coach were trapped for 18 days, those miners were trapped for 69.

    But here is the cautionary note I sounded back then in “Chilean Miners Rescued,” October 13, 2010.


    One wonders how long the camaraderie they enjoyed underground will last. Not least because reports are that they spent their final hours together squabbling over who would have the seemingly dubious honor of being the last to be rescued. And, contrary to most reports, the motive here was not heroic sacrifice, but a calculated desire to bask in the glory, and enjoy the rewards, that would come with being recognized as the man who spent the longest time buried alive.

    But their camaraderie is bound to be tested when wives and family members begin exhorting each of them to grasp any media attention that might entail, or lead to, a financial windfall from, among other thing, appearances on talks shows, book deals, and product endorsements. It might have been all for one and one for all when they were trapped, but I suspect it’s going to be every man for himself now that they’re free. …

    All the same, none of this should detract from the truly heartwarming and life-affirming story these men have all lived to tell.


    Sure enough, that rescue brought all of the media attention and infighting I warned about. I duly lamented in “Chilean Miners and the Spoils of Fame,” October 15, 2010. Alas, I fear it’s only a matter of time before this rescue brings forth same, including post-traumatic stress that could hamper the mental, physical and social development of many of these kids.

    Nevertheless, there’s no denying the shot in the arm it provided. Indeed, the global effort this rescue entailed seemed what the doctor ordered to help us cope – politically, emotionally, and psychologically – with the global malady that is Trump’s wrecking ball of a presidency.

    I fully appreciate how polarizing and combustible everything seems today. And there’s also no denying the damage Trump is doing to Western political institutions and military alliances.

    But I remain convinced not only that the United States will survive him, but that the US-led world order, which has shepherded nearly 75 years of unprecedented peace and prosperity, will survive him too.

    So enjoy this good news for all it’s worth. After all, Trump is on the move in Europe today, and wherever he goes reckless disruption follows, which invariably dominates media coverage worldwide.

    Related commentaries:
    Chilean miners
    spoils of fame
    Treasonous Trump

  • Tuesday, July 10, 2018 at 7:38 AM

    Happy Independence Day Bahamas!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Bahamas Flag V3

    The Bahamas celebrates 45 years of independence today. I heartily join in hailing our motto: “Forward, Upward, Onward Together” … my Bahamaland!

    We are a relatively young nation of only 377,000 people. Yet not even the hegemony of the United States can chasten our national pride.

    Except that this Promethean pride cannot disguise the mockery we are making of our “independence.” After all, we are still pledging allegiance to the British queen as our head of state, and appealing to the British Privy Council as our court of last resort. Whereas surely, after all these years, we should be referring to Her Majesty as nothing more than a fairy godmother, and limiting appeals to a Supreme Court of The Bahamas.

    I’ve been pleading the latter case for years to no avail, including most recently in “For Independence Sake, Caribbean, Abolish Privy Council,” February 1, 2016. And, with all due respect to the Caribbean Court of Justice, I’ve always maintained that there’s no point in ridding ourselves of a colonial arbiter of our legal fate, only to subject ourselves to a regional one.

    Then, alas, there’s the silly way we look aping the royal pretensions and appurtenances of our former colonial masters. My pet peeve in this regard is having to wear those stupid white wigs in court. I decried this folly for the sake of my profession in “Hey, Tony, What’s Up with the Brothers Wearing White Wigs,” March 2, 2007.

    But this shame is surpassed by the contempt I have for compatriots who covet British honorary titles; you know, like Sir before their names or OBE after them. I decried this putting on airs for the sake of all former British colonies in “Australia Bans British Honors. Other Commonwealth Countries Should Too,” November 3, 2015.

    Remarkably, the subjugating contradiction inherent in coveting such titles seems lost on most of our people. Not to mention that these “queen’s birthday honours” are often based more on a bribe given than any merit earned. I ridiculed this corrupt practice twelve years ago this week in “Pardon Me, Sir, but How Much Did You Pay for Your Knighthood,” July 14, 2006.

    As it happened, the London Daily Mail threw this covetousness into shameful relief two years ago today. Specifically, it published a report on Dominican-born Baroness Scotland – who now serves as Commonwealth general secretary – under the banner headline “Stop Posing as a Knight, Palace Warns ‘Baroness Brazen’ Sidekick,” July 10, 2016. That report spoke volumes.

    In any event, the time has long since passed for us to sever the umbilical cords of colonialism. We should be standing proud as a people – beholden only to ourselves, and completely free of British pretentiousness.

    Only then would we be able to take unencumbered pride in our independent song, “March On, Bahamaland.”

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  • Monday, July 9, 2018 at 7:37 AM

    Colonial Ties Have Europe in Knots Over African Migration

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Sadly, the tragedy of African migrants dying in the Mediterranean Sea has become even more commonplace than the tragedy of American blacks dying in encounters with the police.

    According to the International Organization for Migration, 1,412 migrants lost their lives on the latter-day Middle Passage – from Africa to Europe – just this year (as of July 5). This brought the tally for whom the bell tolled to 9,586 since 2014, when this crisis reached the tipping point … of no return.

    Frankly, there seemed (indeed seems) no end to Africans fleeing their homes to be free. Here is how I bemoaned this (with apologies to Shakespeare) in “Europe’s Migrant Crisis: Sowing Seeds of Unintended but All Too Foreseeable Consequences,” September 7, 2015:

    Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

    So too will Africans take to the sea;

    All changing place with those who went before,

    In droves these poor souls will continue to flee.


    ‘Europe’s migrant crisis can be solved only in Africa,’ President Macron said in Nigeria yesterday. … ‘We need more Africans to succeed in Africa. … These people, given the magnitude of this wave, cannot be accepted, at least, not all of them.’

    (The Times, July 6, 2018)

    Surely no self-respecting African would disagree. The problem is that African leaders are the ones who created the conditions that caused this crisis. Yet all they’re offering to solve it are hollow words.

    This was the case following a recent emergency AU summit at which they established an African Observatory for Migration and Development to coordinate response:

    ‘Africa should not just react to decisions taken outside. We should have our own narrative,’ Mr Bourita, Morocco’s foreign minister, told the BBC.

    To curb migration, African states needed to invest in young people, who were ‘an energy’, Mr Bourita said.

    (BBC, July 7, 2018)

    Except that African leaders are not even reacting to the decisions European leaders are taking to combat this crisis. For a little perspective, just imagine the eye-rolling exasperation in the United States if El Salvador’s foreign minister were quoted saying that Central American states needed to invest in young people to curb migration to the United States.

    There’s no explaining this shameful salutary neglect by African leaders. But here is how I have expressed my 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)

    Which raises the question: Why are European leaders trying so much harder to solve this crisis than their African counterparts? Put another way: When are African leaders going to finally relieve their European counterparts of the presumptive “white man’s burden” that rationalized European (and American) imperialism throughout the late 19th and early 20th century?

    Nothing betrays this neocolonial burden quite like the political capital German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spent. Most notably, her attempts to treat millions of African migrants humanely had her fending off threats not just to bring down her coalition government, but also to blow the European Union asunder.

    Arguably, xenophobia and racism blind her European colleagues to the potential benefits of assimilating young Africans to compensate for Europe’s rapidly aging population.

    I commented on how she and they have coped (and are coping) with the challenges of African migration in “Europeans Erecting Fences to Maintain Good Relations with African Neighbors,” October 8, 2005, “Migrant Invasion Causing Humanitarian Remorse in Germany,” September 28, 2015, “Merkel Betraying Migration Policy that Won Her ‘Person of the Year’,” December 21, 2015, and “Truth about Viral Image of (Another) Syrian Boy,” August 24, 2016.

    Unfortunately, EU leaders have been vacillating for years between assimilating and repatriating these “tired …poor … tempest-tost” Africans. This was the case following a recent emergency EU summit at which they produced yet another wishy-washy resolution:

    EU leaders agreed Friday controlled migrant processing centers would be set up on a voluntary basis to help distinguish between legitimate asylum seekers and undeserving migrants, who will be turned back.

    Under the agreement, the locations of the screening centers will be in countries where migrants first arrive, but it’s not yet clear which countries will host the centers. Nations in northern Africa were previously mentioned as possible sites.

    (UPI, June 29, 2018)

    “Nations in northern Africa … mentioned as possible sites”? Talk about a no-brainer!

    It is truly remarkable that European leaders have been so averse to acting pursuant to the elemental proverb of teaching Africans to fish instead of continually feeding them – no matter how paternal/neocolonial that might seem.

    Which brings me back to African leaders. Because only a symbiosis of European colonial guilt  and African umbilical dependence explains why migrant processing centers were not set up in Africa years ago. Specifically, I submit that it’s because

    • Europeans remain guilt-ridden over their colonial exploitation of Africa; and
    • Africans remain hell-bent on blaming their former colonial masters for everything, including tribal conflicts, corruption, amorality, and general administrative incompetence, which make so many African nations a living hell.

    I feel obliged to assert here that I am not only of African descent but of colonial heritage to boot. This means that I am among those with unique standing to decry this crisis and demand African leaders do more – if only as a matter of racial and continental pride.

    Alas, I’ve been decrying and demanding for years to no avail. More to the point, as indicated above, I’ve done so in too many commentaries to count. But other notables include “Lampedusa Tragedy Highlights Europe’s ‘Haitian’ Problem,” October 7, 2013, “African Migrants Turning Mediterranean Sea into Vast Cemetery,” February 12, 2015, “World Refugee Day,” June 20, 2017, and “Africans Selling Africans as Slaves … Again,” December 18, 2017.

    Therefore, instead of venting my prideful concerns and frustrations anew, I shall suffice to reprise an excerpt from “African Migrants (Still) Turning Mediterranean Sea into Vast Cemetery,” June 1, 2016. It highlights the symbiosis that is propelling the waves of African migrants who are washing up on European shores … in sequent distress.


    For pan-African reasons, I have focused on African migrants fleeing chronic privation and predation across the Dark Continent. …

    Given that reports on this crisis over the past 18 months have smacked of Groundhog Day, this excerpt from “African Migrants Turning Mediterranean Sea into Vast Cemetery,” February 12, 2015, now seems prescient:


    This latest tragedy affirms my foreboding that the bobbing crucible at sea will never deter Africans from trying to escape their living hell at home.

    The slogan ‘African solutions for African problems’ has gained considerable currency in recent years. Well, no African problem needs an African solution more than living conditions that compel so many Africans to migrate, come what may. The abiding shame is that African leaders show no interest in even trying to solve this problem.

    Meanwhile, European leaders are accusing each other of not doing enough to rescue African migrants adrift at sea, fleeing the abject misery African leaders have wrought.

    Indeed, no less a person than Pope Francis has entreated all European leaders to do more — the enabling spectre of neo-colonialism be damned. Here, according to Reuters, is the edict summoning their noblesse oblige, which he issued during an address before the European Parliament on November 25, 2014:

    We cannot allow the Mediterranean Sea to become a vast cemetery.


    Only ending never-ending conflicts and chronic economic stagnation in the countries of origin will end this migrant crisis.

    This is why I remain convinced that the most humane and effective way to deal with it is to provide safe havens in those countries. And it behooves European leaders to coordinate with Arab and African leaders to do so by any means necessary – even if that means enforcing naval blockades. This might seem farfetched, but it makes far more sense than European countries building Berlin-style walls – as Hungary and others are doing – to keep migrants out. I elaborated on this in “Europe’s Migration Crisis…,” September 6, 2015.

    All the same, I’m acutely mindful that people have been migrating in similar fashion for similar reasons since time immemorial. What’s more, I readily admit that, if I were living in one of the countries of origin affected, I too would be migrating to Europe … by any means necessary.

    Finally, I cannot overstate the comeuppance this crisis portends for Europeans — who are reacting to these Arab and African migrants with such hysterical xenophobia and racism. After all, Europeans used to hurl self-righteous criticisms at Americans for reacting to Haitian and Hispanic migrants the same way. I elaborated on this in “Europeans Erecting Fences to Maintain Good Relations with African Neighbors,” October 8, 2005.


    God help them –Europe’s good samaritans and Africa’s poor migrants alike.

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  • Wednesday, July 4, 2018 at 7:34 AM

    Happy Independence Day!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 7.32.49 AM

    But God help America as more and more Americans become slaves to social media and begin pledging allegiance to … themselves.

  • Tuesday, July 3, 2018 at 8:36 AM

    Protests in Iran, Nukes in North Korea Expose Trump as Hypocrite and Laughingstock … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Iran called for calm on Sunday after protests in a southern city over water shortages turned violent overnight with reports of police shooting at demonstrators who attacked banks and public buildings. …

    A number of protests have broken out in Iran since the beginning of the year over water, a growing political concern due to a drought which residents of parched areas and analysts say has been exacerbated by mismanagement.

    (Reuters, July 1, 2018)

    Many are drawing comparisons between the way the Trump administration is dealing with these protests, which erupted months ago and have persisted ever since, and the way the Obama administration dealt with similar protests, which erupted and persisted throughout 2009.

    Here in part is how I distinguished them in “American-Style Protests Erupt in Iran,” January 2, 2018.


    Iran is more like America than most Americans, including President Donald J. Trump, realize. …

    But I am heartened that Rouhani is reacting there much as Obama reacted here. Specifically, Rouhani is

    • acknowledging that protesters have legitimate grievances;
    • defending their right to protest; and
    • calling on them to vent their frustrations without recourse to violence (i.e., of the kind that attended protests in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland).

    Moreover, his enlightened reaction stands in commendable contrast to the repressive way government officials reacted in 2009. Back then, Iranians mounted similar protests over the reelection of Islamic hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I duly commented in “Iranians Protest Ahmadinejad’s Re-ordination,” June 15, 2009.


    That said, I hasten to point out that Iran is not experiencing a belated coming of the Arab Spring. Interestingly enough, these Iranian protesters have more in common with Americans protesting in Michigan today for clean water than with Egyptians who protested in Cairo in 2011 for political rights.

    Four years of protests, petitions, lawsuits, monetary donations, bottled water distribution, pipe replacements, as well as scientific testing and Environment Protection Agency involvement, have not stopped the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

    The Michigan city residents and activists protested Wednesday outside the state’s capitol building for help and recognition that their water problems persist.

    (NewsOne, April 11, 2018)

    This is why Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could be forgiven for trolling Trump by calling on Americans to overthrow their incompetent and corrupt government.

    In any event, it’s worth calling out the way the Trump administration is reacting to these protests. After all, despite criticizing the Obama administration for failing to “support” Iranian protesters in 2009, this administration is merely aping celebrities who think tweeting support is the same as rendering it (e.g. remember #BringBackOurGirls, #StopKony?).

    Here, for example, is how President Trump is presuming to distinguish himself in this context (from Obama):

    Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time.

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018

    But Iranians know that only fools would take comfort in this presidential promise. And they probably just rolled their eyes when his VP pounded his chest and threw shade at Obama with this Trumpian tweet:

    As long as @RealDonaldTrump is POTUS and I am VP, the United States of America will not repeat the shameful mistake of our past when others stood by and ignored the heroic resistance of the Iranian people as they fought against their brutal regime …

    — Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 1, 2018

    Again, the Trump administration has done nothing to support these Iranian protesters except publish feckless, self-aggrandizing tweets. By contrast, here is a more objective assessment of the support Obama rendered when faced with similar protests:

    When protests took place in Iran in 2009, Obama did raise concerns about violence and called for the right of protesters to be respected, but he also argued that by getting involved in the situation, the United States, given the historical baggage of its past interference in Iranian politics, would only make matters worse. …

    The Obama administration subsequently worked to impose the most punitive global sanctions ever imposed on Iran, a step his supporters say so damaged the Iranian economy that its leaders were forced back to the negotiating table.

    (CNN, January 1, 2018)

    Except that Trump is the only politician in the history of politics who shows no compunction whatsoever when it comes to

    • lying about the record of other politicians;
    • blaming other politicians for his mistakes;
    • taking credit for the accomplishments of other politicians; and
    • doing things he criticized other politicians for doing.

    A topical example is the way he spent years criticizing every US president – from Clinton to Obama – for allowing North Korean presidents to play them for fools with deals to denuclearize. Well, after staging his made for reality-TV summit with Kim Jong-un, Trump tweeted the following:

    Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. … Sleep well tonight!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) Jun 13, 2018

    Mind you, for him and his brain-dead followers, Trump tweeting “mission accomplished” made it real. This is why all that was left was for him to tweet, “Now give me my Nobel Peace Prize!

    Except that:

    U.S. intelligence officials, citing newly obtained evidence, have concluded that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile, and instead is considering ways to conceal the number of weapons it has and secret production facilities, according to U.S. officials.

    The evidence, collected in the wake of the June 12 Summit in Singapore, points to preparations to deceive the United States about the number of nuclear warheads in North Korea’s arsenal as well as the existence of undisclosed facilities used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs, the officials said.

    (The Washington Post, June 30, 2018)


    It was bad enough that Kim pushed Trump around at their summit as if this US president were really nothing more than a bloviating dotard. But this Post report only affirms my contention in “Trump Strikes Potemkin Nuclear Deal with Kim Jong-un,” June 12, 2018; namely that, despite his claims about being the master of The Art of the Deal,

    This dope was duped.

    Drop the mic.

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  • Monday, July 2, 2018 at 8:52 AM

    Mexicans Voted for López Obrador to Confront Trump…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    That is, as much as they voted for him to combat violence and corruption.

    Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador won Mexico’s presidency in a landslide victory on Sunday, setting the stage for the most left-wing government in the country’s democratic history. …

    Pledging to eradicate corruption and subdue drug cartels with a less confrontational approach, Lopez Obrador will carry high expectations into office, while his efforts to reduce inequality will be watched closely by nervous investors.

    (Reuters, July 1, 2018)

    The best way to put this shift in Mexico’s leadership into context is to allude to the seismic shift the Catholic Church made in 2013 when it elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio – who became Pope Francis. As it happens, Obrador (a.k.a. AMLO) is every bit as charismatic as Francis and intends to revolutionize Mexican politics every bit as much as Francis “intended” to reform Church practices.

    Truth be told, though, unless you’re among the elite who live in gated communities and drive around in armed and armored motorcades, you really had no reason to vote for candidates from the two political parties that have ruled Mexico for the past 84 years, namely the International Revolution Party (PRI) 1934-2000 and 2012-2018, and the National Action Party (PAN) 2000-2012.

    After all, thanks to them, life in far too many parts of this country is no different from life in more violent and corrupt regional “shitholes” like El Salvador and Honduras. I lamented this in such commentaries as “Kidnappings in Mexico as Ordinary as Gun Violence in America,” November 21, 2014.

    Except that Obrador has been running for president as a socialist godsend for 18 years, to no avail. And this is hardly the first time violence and corruption have been defining issues. I commented on the first of his quixotic campaigns, as leader of his newfound Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), in “The Fat Lady Is Singing for Mexico’s López Obrador,” August 30, 2006.

    But the (orange) elephant in the race this time was President Donald J. Trump. Specifically, because he is treating Mexicans with the kind of hostility nobody has ever imagined, let alone seen.

    It was shocking enough that Trump premised his presidential campaign on building a border wall. But he has now ordered border agents to rip children from the arms of parents who dare cross that border illegally. I decried this in “Separating Immigrant Children from Their Parents. This Is America … Too!” June 20, 2018.

    This is why it was so shrewd for Obrador to cast himself as the anti-Trump. Because this alone must have compelled many Mexicans to vote for him – if only as a matter of national pride.

    Indeed, Obrador’s “Mexico First” agenda rivals Trump’s “America First” agenda. He even matched Trump’s (idle) threat to tear up NAFTA – in this case, to make it better for Mexican workers. Not to mention his bombastic and politically incorrect rhetoric, which often made Trump seem civil.

    More importantly, like Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez before him, Obrador is championing the kind of democratic socialism I admire. Imagine what the United States would be like today if Americans had elected Bernie Sanders instead of Donald Trump in 2016 – and I’m alluding to politics and policies not temperament and tweets.

    Unfortunately, it did not take long before I was decrying the mockery Chávez was making of democratic socialism – as commentaries from “Bolivia’s Woes Expose Chávez’s Socialist Counter-Revolution as Little more than a One-Man, Three-Ring Circus,” September 7, 2006, to “Chávez’s Chavismo: More Robbing Hoodlum than Robin Hood,” August 12, 2015, and “Venezuela Finally Awakens from Chavismo Dream,” December 9, 2015, attest.

    I fear that, like Chávez, Obrador is fated to fail when it comes t0 eradicating corruption, alleviating poverty, and reducing inequality. Not that he’ll be misguided by the kind dictatorial or messianic ideations that doomed Chávez, mind you.

    Obrador will find Constitutional and Congressional constraints, which protect the vested interests of the establishment, vexing enough. But he will find it nearly impossible to fulfill his signature promise to combat the violence that is driving so many Mexicans to cross the border. Not least because his quixotic nature is such that Obrador thinks he can strike the kind of peace deal with Mexico’s thriving drug cartels that President Santos struck with Colombia’s beleaguered FARC guerillas.

    Incidentally, Colombians not only rejected that deal in a referendum, but they elected Ivan Duque just weeks ago (on June 18) – who is as committed to tearing up that FARC peace deal as Trump was to tearing up the Iran nuclear deal. I decried their misguided vote for continuing warfare in “What the FARC! Colombians Reject Landmark Peace Deal,” October 4, 2016.

    But it speaks volumes that the cartels have killed more Mexicans over the past 10 years (with virtual impunity) than the more than 50,000 Americans the Viet Cong killed over 20 years in Vietnam. And it behooves Obrador to appreciate that over 130 politicians were among the 29,000 the cartels killed just last year.

    Actually, in some respects, Obrador will be able to commiserate with Trump – who is finding it equally impossible to fulfill his signature promise to build a wall to prevent illegal immigration across the US-Mexico border. Of course, Trump could also tell him how vexing it will be to renegotiate NAFTA to increase benefits for the Mexican workers who form his base.

    Frankly, it would not surprise me if, at the end of Obrador’s one, six-year term, Mexico looked much like the violent, corrupt, and bankrupt basket case Venezuela is today. As indicated above, different forces will conspire to make it so. But to see what Obrador’s presidency portends, I refer you to “Venezuela’s Death Spiral of Recession, Protest, and Repression,” April 24, 2017.

    For now, though, the looming Mexican standoff between Obrador and Trump will animate hemispheric politics. And Trump’s unpopularity is such that I suspect as many Americans as Mexicans want to see Obrador win it.

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  • Saturday, June 30, 2018 at 7:07 AM

    Hey, Anti-Trumpers – Protesting in June Means Nothing if You Don’t Vote in November

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Thursday, June 28, 2018 at 4:52 PM

    Thanks to European Union, Turkey Ratifies Erdogan’s Dictatorial Rule

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt there was more media hype this time about a potential upset. But Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reelection was as guaranteed on Sunday as Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s was on Sunday, March 18, 2018.

    Turkey’s long-standing leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won a new five-year term after securing outright victory in the first round of a presidential poll. …

    He will now assume sweeping new powers, won in a controversial referendum last year.

    (BBC, June 25, 2018)

    As it happens, I commented on that referendum in “Hail, Erdogan! Latter-Day Sultan of Turkey,” April 19, 2017. Ominously, it included the following:

    If you harbored any doubts about … Erdogan’s dictatorial predilections, the referendum he orchestrated on Sunday should disabuse you of them. …

    I fear this referendum has effectively put that struggle for democracy out of its misery. Ironically, only a (successful) military coup can save Turkish democracy now.

    But the best way to understand what Erdogan’s reelection portends for Turkey is to look at what Putin has done (and is doing) in Russia. Because Erdogan now has the constitutional powers to truly rule Turkey like a latter-day sultan, emulating the way Putin has been ruling Russia like a latter-day czar for years.

    Frankly, the most interesting thing about Sunday’s election is that it vindicated Erdogan’s moves in recent years to shun Western values and alliances. After all, as he began his rise to power 15 years ago, he embraced them so solicitously that Western leaders took pride in pointing to Turkey as a beacon of democracy in the Muslim world.

    Except that there was always one glaring inconsistency: Despite Erdogan’s embrace, European leaders seemed determined to deny Turkey’s application for EU membership.

    I am convinced that this denial explains why Turkey seems more aligned with Russia than any Western country today. But this is not the forum to elaborate too much. Therefore, I shall suffice to share an overview.

    When asked about Turkey’s effort to join the European Union by the French newspaper Le Figaro, [Cardinal Ratzinger, soon to be Pope Benedict XVI] answered, ‘Turkey always represented another continent during history, always in contrast with Europe.’ …

    The former Cardinal Ratzinger seemed to see the entry of Turkey [a Muslim nation] into the EU as a threat to the Christian tradition inherent in Western Europe.

    (NBC News, March 9, 2006)

    I don’t mind confessing that I vented political and moral outrage back then in such commentaries as “The Pope Apologizes! Proving He’s Not Only Fallible but also Gullible,” September 19, 2006, “Like Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Pope Benedict XVI Lands in Turkey,” November 29, 2006, “German Opera Decapitates Muhammad (Too), Despite Muslim Protests,” December 20, 2006, and “The Pope Comes to America,” April 16, 2008.

    As the first title indicates, I vented because the pope never apologized for consecrating a religious litmus test to deny Turkey membership in the EU. Instead, he apologized for offending bellicose Muslims by daring to criticize Mohammad’s exhortation for them to use the sword to “coerce conversion.”

    Meanwhile, purportedly secular European countries were using this religious test to deny Turkey. Never mind that they were doing this while putting the majority-Muslim nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the Stabilisation and Association process towards full membership.

    In fact, this contradiction, if not hypocrisy, informed my outrage. But I soon realized that EU leaders were just using religion as a pretext for their political concerns about Erdogan’s nascent dictatorial predilections.

    The problem, however, is that EU leaders already had a long history of coddling Muslim dictators like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia – both of whom made Erdogan look like a Jeffersonian democrat.

    Complicating matters, then US president George W. Bush was welcoming Erdogan to the White House in the same spirit of friendship in which he was welcoming the UK prime minister. And each of his successors did the same.

    The point is that one could hardly blame Erdogan for resenting the way EU leaders were embracing Turkey as a geo-strategic and military ally (as the only majority-Muslim member of NATO) while shunning it as a political and economic member of their union. But his resentment must have increased from a simmer to a boil after so many of them gave tacit approval when the tumult of the Arab Spring sprung in Turkey.

    The prevailing view had been that pro-democracy protesters across the Muslim world were targeting (and overthrowing) de facto dictators like Bashir al-Assad of Syria and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Therefore, the democratically elected Erdogan could be forgiven for feeling unfairly targeted.

    I channeled his understandable resentment in “Turkey’s Erdogan No Different from Syria’s Assad…?” June 2, 2013. The following excerpt highlights what I thought was the unfairness inherent in targeting him.


    What is most interesting about the belated Arab Spring unfolding there today is that opposition/rebel forces are attempting to overthrow this regime for the same reasons opposition/rebel forces overthrew the regime in Egypt. …

    Except that Erdogan has as much moral and constitutional right to ignore opposition/rebel yells for him to resign as Obama has to ignore Tea-Party Republicans yells for him to resign. Not least because, unlike Mubarak, Gaddafi, and Assad, Erdogan was truly democratically elected. …

    In fact, nothing is preventing Obama from parroting calls for Erdogan to resign quite like the long-standing allies in the Muslim world who are already accusing him of betrayal for throwing Mubarak under the bus. Because the last thing Obama can afford, geo-strategically, is for them to accuse him of doing the same to another Muslim ally.


    Of course, as fate would have it, Erdogan survived that spring of street protesters only to face a summer of coup plotters a few years later. More to the point, his resentment towards EU leaders must have increased to a rolling boil when Putin showed him more support than any of them.

    This is why nobody should have been surprised when Erdogan reacted to this coup attempt more like an Eastern-style dictator than a Western-style democrat. I duly lamented and warned in “Turkey: Bungled Coup Fails. Grave Purge Begins,” July 16, 2016.


    When news of it broke yesterday, you’d have been hard-pressed to find commentators condemning this coup, especially early on when it seemed a fait accompli.

    Instead, they rationalized it as due comeuppance for the democratically elected Erdogan – who they claimed was ruling Turkey more like a dictator than a president. They also cited his fraternization with Islamists as a betrayal of the global fight against ISIS, and his Islamization of Turkey’s secular culture as a betrayal of the Western values they once hailed this Muslim country for adopting.

    Truth be told, almost every criticism ever hurled at him is true. But none of it justifies a coup. …

    President Obama issued a belated statement calling on the Turkish people to support their democratically elected government. Never mind that he hedged his bets by carefully avoiding any mention of support for Erdogan himself. No doubt, if the coup had succeeded, he would have hailed the military for fulfilling the democratic will of the people; you know, like the military did in Egypt.

    By contrast, my immediate denunciation of the Turkish coup plotters was surpassed only by my excoriation of these commentators: I ridiculed the former as misguided and inept for failing to execute the first stage of any military coup, namely, arresting the leader; and decried the latter as shortsighted and hypocritical for making a mockery of universal democratic values.


    Sure enough, Erdogan began executing a Stalinesque purge (with all due respect to Putin). To date, it has seen tens of thousands arrested and over 150,000 schoolteachers, police officers, judges, and other civil servants fired. I duly commented in “President Erdogan Unleashing His Inner Dr. Frankenstein to Excise the ‘Cancer’ of Turkey’s Coup Plotters,” July 23, 2016. It includes this observation on the transformation of alliances afoot:

    Erdogan’s NATO ally, Barack Obama, is being conspicuously silent. This, despite the clear and present danger of Erdogan turning Turkey’s democracy into a dictatorship. Whereas his putative mentor, Vladimir Putin, is being conspicuously supportive. This, because he knows that, if Erdogan can get away with this in Turkey, he surely can in Russia — if any group dares try to mount a coup.

    Of course, nothing vindicates this observation quite like Erdogan consolidating dictatorial powers that would make even Putin green with envy. Hell, he might even think he could simply issue decrees eradicating the Armenian Genocide from history and disabusing Kurds of their ambitions for independence, and have it all be done. I bemoaned his ‘L’etat c’est moipowers in the April 19, 2017, commentary quoted above.

    The only issue now is whether his reelection makes Erdogan feel so secure that he can mirror the way Turkey straddles East and West by playing Eastern powers (notably Russia and China) off against Western powers (notably Europe and United States) to further Turkey’s military, economic, and diplomatic interests; or whether his resentment remains so acute that, like his new BFF Putin, he’d rather seize any opportunity to undermine Western values and alliances – no matter the cost.


    The leaders of Turkey and Russia pledged Tuesday to restart key energy projects and roll back sanctions, seeking to rebuild ties as Turkey looks beyond its NATO partners for support following a failed coup attempt last month.

    (The Washington Post, August 9, 2016)

    Mind you, if Western leaders were not tied up in so many geo-political hypocrisies, they would be free to execute the categorical imperative of kicking Turkey out of NATO, especially given the precedent they set by kicking Russia out of the G7. After all, Turkey lurching towards dictatorship is bad enough, but its fraternizing with Russia smacks of real betrayal.

    Not to mention the fateful monkey wrench of having Donald Trump now as the leader of the free world. After all, this US president seems to have greater affinity for de facto dictators like Putin and Erdogan than for any of his democratic allies in Europe.

    Related commentaries:
    Hail, Erdogan
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    Pope comes to America
    German opera Muhammad
    Turkey’s Erdogan
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  • Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at 7:47 AM

    Court Ruling on Travel Ban Affirms Justices Are Just as Tribal as Politicians

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I pointed out in my June 24 commentary below that there’s nothing new about the tribalism that now defines life in America.

    I cited many commentaries in which I lamented how this became a defining feature of political debates. But I could have cited just as many with respect to judicial decisions on most hot-button issues (like those related to abortion, immigration, guns, homosexuality, and race), which present clear tribal/ideological litmus tests.

    Here, for example, is how I lamented this feature in “Supreme Court Rules Voter ID Laws OK,” October 18, 2014:

    Neither this decision, nor its breakdown along partisan lines, should surprise anyone who knows anything about the ‘politics’ (as opposed to the legal reasoning and judicial precedents) that inform this Court’s rulings. For the one thing that distinguishes this Court is that the justices Republican presidents nominated invariably vote on the side of issues that affirms conservative ideology; whereas those Democratic presidents nominated invariably vote on the side that affirms liberal ideology.

    This is why I used the death of arguably the most ideological justice in the history of the Court to write its epitaph as a judicious and non-tribal institution:

    Conservatives and liberals on the Supreme Court have devolved into little more than glorified hired guns for the Republican Party and Democratic Party, respectively. This is why Republicans will consider it an article of faith to obstruct confirmation of any Obama nominee. After all, if appointed, this justice would tip the balance of the Court towards affirming Democratic (a.k.a. liberal) politics.

    (“Antonin Scalia, Pugnacious Justice of the US Supreme Court, Is Dead,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 14, 2016)

    Incidentally, a dismaying feature of rulings that fall along party lines is the way justices strain credulity, and even defy their intellect, to rationalize political dogma. Which brings me to today’s ruling on President Trump’s controversial (Muslim) travel ban:

    The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that President Trump has the authority to ban travelers from certain majority-Muslim countries if he thinks it is necessary to protect the United States, a victory in what has been a priority since Trump’s first weeks in office and a major affirmation of presidential power.

    The vote was 5 to 4, with conservatives in the majority and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing the opinion.

    (The Washington Post, June 26, 2018)


    In fact, I can think of only two hot-button issues in recent times where this tribalism (i.e., ideology rather than reason) was not determinative: One was the Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of Obamacare; the other was its ruling on legalizing same-sex marriages. I duly hailed these judicial anomalies in “Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare … Again; Will Legalize Same-Sex Marriages … Too,” June 25, 2015, and “Supreme Court Rules Same-Sex Marriages Legal Nationwide,” June 26, 2015, respectively.

    This is why today’s ruling on Trump’s travel ban came as no surprise. This, especially given the open and notorious Gorsuch stunt Republicans pulled to stack this Court in their favor. I decried it in “Nomination of Gorsuch to Supreme Court Affirms Politicization of Judiciary,” February 2, 2017.

    For the record, though, here is how I commented on this travel ban in “Nordstrom Rejects Trump Brand. Court Overrules His Travel Ban,” February 10, 2017.


    Honestly, I couldn’t be less interested in joining the gam of sharks bloviating on this topic. Not least because it was clear from the outset that it amounted to nothing more than fodder for lawyers to engage in sound and fury, signifying nothing to do with keeping America safe. …

    Of course, Trump has been the bloviator-in-chief in this regard. And, with trademark bluster, he is threatening to take court rulings against his ban all the way to the Supreme Court. But I suspect he’ll just have his lawyers redraft the executive order to have no practical impact on immigration whatsoever.

    After all, any redraft would necessarily end up merely restating provisions of the ‘extreme vetting’ the Obama administration put in place years ago. Arguably, this explains why, despite all of Trump’s fear-mongering rhetoric, no terrorist has been able to use the refugee stream to perpetrate an attack in the United States on Obama’s watch.


    Sure enough, lawyers ended up redrafting his travel ban to the point where the “version 3.0” the Court ruled on today bears little resemblance to the original, which Trump vowed as a presidential candidate to implement:

    ‘Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,’ he said.

    (The Washington Post, December 7, 2015)

    In fact, this version of Trump’s travel ban

    • does not even mention Muslims;
    • affects less than five percent of the worldwide Muslim population;
    • includes the non-Muslim pariah nations of Venezuela and North Korea as patent foils; and
    • allows people from the seven countries affected to enter the United States if they can show they pose no terrorist threat, which presumably 99 percent of them would be able to do.

    Not to mention the most salient fact that none of the many terrorists who have carried out attacks in the United States since 9/11 came from any of the seven countries this version 3.0 targets. Indeed, nothing betrays Trump’s misguided animus and specious concerns about national security quite like the fact that Saudi Arabia, where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from, in not affected.

    Like I said from the outset, a controversy, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Mind you, listening to Trump gloat, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Court ruled today that he can ban all Muslims as he fantasized along the campaign trail.

    But you don’t have to take my word. Because here is how CNN reported today on Trump himself admitting just weeks ago that this ban is much ado about nothing:

    On June 5, Trump said the Justice Department should seek a ‘much tougher version’ of the ‘watered down, politically correct version’ that was submitted to the Supreme Court.

    And since only a portion of the ban will go into effect – limiting people from six majority-Muslim countries with no US connection from entering the US — it’s essentially a watered-down victory for his ‘watered down’ travel ban.

    Which is why the most significant thing the Court did today was affirm my contention that its rulings on hot-button issues have much more to do with political affiliation than legal reasoning.

    I rest my case.

    Related commentaries:
    voter ID
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    Court overrules travel ban
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    * This commentary was originally published on Tuesday, June 26, at 6:43 p.m.

  • Sunday, June 24, 2018 at 8:49 AM

    Tribalism and Dysfunction of American Politics

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here in part is how The Economist explained this tribalism and dysfunction in a recent issue (on May 24) under the heading “The primeval tribalism of American Politics.”

    No longer able to fathom how their partisan rivals can hear, and also see, think and say the things they do, Americans are increasingly liable to consider them lesser beings. …

    No wonder Republicans and Democrats cannot bring themselves to make the compromises upon which the healthy functioning of American democracy depends.

    You’d be forgiven for thinking this has everything to do with the black-swan phenomenon that is the Trump presidency. But you’d be wrong.

    After all, I’ve been lamenting this descent into tribalism and dysfunction for years. In fact, party orthodoxy had already become so toxic six years ago that even the notion of compromise among Republicans was tantamount to political heresy. Here is how I decried this in “The Will of the American People? Really?” July 11, 2012.


    No less a person than Speaker John Boehner betrayed their new jihadist approach to politics just weeks after Republicans won control of the House in November 2010.

    He did so during the December 12, 2010, edition of 60 Minutes, when Leslie Stahl stated that ‘surely governing means compromising,’ and then asked why he was so unwilling to say that he and the Republicans would be willing to compromise with Obama and the Democrats. Boehner replied:

    ‘We are doing the will of the American people. As for compromise, I utterly reject the word.’

    This, in a nutshell, explains why we’ve been treated over the past two years to the spectacle of Washington gridlock over every piece of legislation, including those merely extending policies Republicans once supported.


    That said, it’s arguable that this tribalism and dysfunction led inexorably to the election of Donald J. Trump. And there’s certainly no gainsaying that he exacerbates both every time he opens his potty mouth.

    Indeed, the causes for lamentation in this regard have been unprecedented, so much so that one had to look to perennial schisms elsewhere for guidance. I found mine in the sectarian conflict Sunnis and Shias have been (and still are) waging for the soul of Islam – as I did here:

    This is just the latest front in the political warfare Republicans and Democrats are now waging, which is beginning to ape the religious warfare Sunnis and Shias have been waging for over a thousand years. And I fully appreciate the cycle of vengeance that is motivating Democrats to do to Trump’s nominee what Republicans did to Obama’s.

    (“Nomination of Gorsuch to Supreme Court Affirms Politicization of Judiciary,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 2, 2017)

    And here:

    Political tribalism is tearing America apart. And Trump’s presidency smacks of a demonic force designed to have Republicans and Democrats ape the Sunnis and Shias who have been fighting for the soul of Islam for over 1000 years.

    (“Trump’s Insulting Tweet about Doug Jones, the Alabama Democratic Nominee, Reveals More about Trump,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 26, 2017)

    The most obvious consequence of this tribalism and dysfunction has been the inability of Congress to enact meaningful legislation. But the most obvious feature has been the coarsening and dumbing down of public debate.

    Nothing betrays the latter quite like the way so many erstwhile respectable people – from pastors to actors – are objecting to Trump’s debasing of public discourse by debasing public discourse themselves.

    Only this explains Robert De Niro taking to the stage at the Tony Awards earlier this month and blurting out, in Tourette-like fashion, “F*ck Trump!” Unsurprisingly, the assembled members of his tribe gave him a rousing round of applause as they all reveled in their echo chamber. And only this explains Peter Fonda tweeting last week that someone should kidnap and rape Trump’s son Baron to show Trump how cruel separating immigrant children from their parents is. #TwoWrongs…?

    In her critically acclaimed book, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations (2018), Amy Chua of the Yale Law School argues that American exceptionalism will help Republicans and Democrats bridge the tribal divisions that have plunged countries like Iraq and Syria into internecine warfare. Further, that at the center of this exceptionalism is the harmonizing concept of the American Dream.

    Except that – from the Civil War of the 1860s to the race riots of the 1960s – history teaches that this center cannot hold. In fact, I fear the divisions that gave rise to those conflicts will pale in comparison to looming divisions, which the browning and Islamising of America portend.

    This is why the proverb of the Tower of Babel might serve as a more instructive precedent. Here is how staff at the Bible Study Tool explained it on their site on February 11, 2016:

    The Babylonians wanted a tower that would ‘reach to the heavens’ so that they could be like God and that they would not need Him. …

    God did not like the pride and arrogance in the hearts of the people. God caused the people to suddenly speak different languages so they could not communicate and work together to build the tower.

    And here is my takeaway:

    • Pride and prejudice are motivating Trump and his supporters to execute their America First policies. This is no different from the pride and arrogance that motivated the Babylonians to build their tower.
    • Trump declares that he alone can fix all that is wrong (not just with America but the entire world) and boasts about never asking God for anything, let alone forgiveness. This is no different from the Babylonians thinking they no longer needed Him.
    • Everyone agrees that the tribalism of American politics is leading to increasingly combustible animus and dysfunction. This is no different from tribalism of Babylonian languages that blew that ancient kingdom asunder.

    We are already being treated to the balkanizing spectacle of members of the nationalists/Republican tribe being heckled at and kicked out of restaurants that belong to members of the resistance/Democratic tribe. I fear this is only a small indication of things to come (e.g., like the Department of Justice moving to execute Trump’s clarion call to lock up his political opponents and critics alike; you know, the way his pal Putin has his minions do in Russia).

    In the meantime, Trump and the enabling members of his tribe are normalizing all kinds of uncivil and unseemly behavior in American politics. And, as De Niro and Fonda indicate, members of the opposing tribe seem determined to react in kind.

    Perhaps, like far too many Americans, you interact online only with people who share and reinforce your political views. But just imagine the dystopia offline if we all began basing personal, professional, and social relationships on party affiliation.

    And, if your religious bias compels you to dismiss my Sunni-Shia precedent, consider “The Troubles” that beset Northern Ireland for decades. That schism had nationalists/Catholics and unionists/Protestants aping their Muslim brothers … until they came to their senses with the Good Friday Agreement.

    In any event, as Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, famously warned:

    A house divided against itself cannot stand.

    NOTE: The name Amy Chua should be familiar to you – even if you can’t quite place it. She gained international acclaim in 2011 for her bestselling book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I was so impressed that I commented in “More Mothers Should Be Tiger Mothers,” January 21, 2011.

    Related commentaries:
    black swan election
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  • Saturday, June 23, 2018 at 8:41 AM

    Trumpasites (keep) gagging on promises and lies they swallowed…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Not to mention this:

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