The iPINIONS Journal


  • Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 8:22 PM

    #TakeMineToo

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

    Dear Mr. President:

    Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.

    Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.

    Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.

    A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.

    Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.

    If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.

    (Courtesy of The Washington Post)

  • Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 11:22 AM

    Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Billy Graham was hailed as the pastor to presidents of the United States. In a similar vein, Aretha Franklin could be hailed as the singer for presidents, singing as she did at the inauguration of more presidents (namely Carter, Clinton, and Obama) than any other performer in US history.

    Not to mention the respect the nation showed by selecting her to sing at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Even George W. Bush recognized her unique and pioneering role by awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2005. Notable among her many achievements is the fact that she was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

    I love her voice and enjoy singing along with her songs. Yet I confess, I never saw her perform live.

    She threw this missed opportunity of a lifetime into tearful relief on December 6, 2015, when she performed “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” for the Obamas and songwriter Carole King at the Kennedy Center Honors. Because she gave me goosebumps as I watched her performance weeks later on TV. But I felt profound envy when I saw her bring President Obama to tears as he watched her performance live.

    The Queen of Soul, as she was coronated in the 1960s, leaves a sprawling legacy of classic songs that includes “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “Baby I Love You,” “Angel,” “Think,” “Rock Steady,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Freeway of Love,” along with a bestselling gospel catalog.

    Her death follows several years of painstakingly concealed medical issues, which led to regular show cancellations and extended absences from the public eye.

    (USA Today, August 16, 2018)

    Despite the Obama envy I shared above, I am not one for the self-adulating sentiments/platitudes that always flow when famous people die. But all media will be awash in it; that is, until the next shiny object from Trump’s Twitter, Omarosa’s book/tapes, or Mueller’s investigation relegates Aretha to the viral dustbin.

    In any event, I shall end this modest tribute by noting how fitting it is that Aretha died on the day Madonna is celebrating her 60th birthday. After all, no two performers personified the triumph of gimmick over talent in the music industry more than Madonna and Aretha, respectively.

    Franklin died of pancreatic cancer this morning at her home in Detroit. She was 76.

    Farewell, Aretha.

    Related treat:
    Aretha at Kennedy Center

  • Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 8:04 AM

    Defending Freedom of the Press

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Nearly 350 news organizations are set to publish editorials on Thursday pushing back against Donald Trump’s attacks on the media and defending freedom of the press.

    The publications are participating in a push organized by the Boston Globe to run coordinated editorials denouncing what the paper called a ‘dirty war against the free press’.

    (The Guardian US, August 15, 2018)

    It occurred to me that I can do my small part by sharing this excerpt from “A Free Press Needs You” – The New York Times’s contribution to this coordinated push back:

    ____________________

    As the founders believed from their own experience, a well-informed public is best equipped to root out corruption and, over the long haul, promote liberty and justice.

    ‘Public discussion is a political duty,’ the Supreme Court said in 1964. That discussion must be ‘uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,’ and ‘may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.’

    In 2018, some of the most damaging attacks are coming from government officials. Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don’t like are ‘fake news’ is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the ‘enemy of the people’ is dangerous, period.

    These attacks on the press are particularly threatening to journalists in nations with a less secure rule of law and to smaller publications in the United States, already buffeted by the industry’s economic crisis. And yet the journalists at those papers continue to do the hard work of asking questions and telling the stories that you otherwise wouldn’t hear. Consider The San Luis Obispo Tribune, which wrote about the death of a jail inmate who was restrained for 46 hours. The account forced the county to change how it treats mentally ill prisoners.

    Answering a call last week from The Boston Globe, The Times is joining hundreds of newspapers, from large metro-area dailies to small local weeklies, to remind readers of the value of America’s free press. …

    We’re all in this together.

    ____________________

    You can do your small part by expanding your consumption of news and current events beyond screaming, click-bait headlines on social media. Take a few minutes to read reports and commentaries from a variety of sources. And do not hesitate to check people when you hear them parroting the blatant lies and misleading statements President Trump and his enablers inject into the bloodstream of public debate every day.

  • Wednesday, August 15, 2018 at 7:53 AM

    Confirmation! ‘Pedophile Priest’ Is Redundant

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Lately I am finding that I’ve already written all I care to on many topics. Chief among them is the cardinal crime of child sexual abuse (as well as the brazen hypocrisy of homosexual indulgences) in the Catholic Church.

    I cite in this regard such commentaries as “Pope Accused of Harboring Pedophile Priest,” March 16, 2010, “Justice Begins for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church…,” June 23, 2012, “Pope Confesses: There’s a Gay Cabal in the Vatican,” June 13, 2013 (which vindicated perverse symmetries I’d been making between Vatican City and the biblical city of Sodom and Gomorrah), and “Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Pope’s Adviser Damns Papacy,” June 29, 2017.

    I share that to explain why I’m giving this latest development short shrift, despite its damning nature:

    More than 1,000 children — and possibly many more — were molested by hundreds of Roman Catholic priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses, while senior church officials took steps to cover it up, according to a landmark grand jury report released Tuesday.

    The grand jury said it believes the ‘real number’ of abused children might be ‘in the thousands’ since some records were lost and victims were afraid to come forward. The report said more than 300 clergy committed the abuse over a period decades.

    (The Associated Press, August 14, 2018)

    It’s important to stress that this report indicts clergy who abused children in only six of Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses. Because there are 145 dioceses in the United States. And I would bet my disillusioned soul that similar reports would indict as many clergy in every one of them, hence the inherent redundancy of pedophile priest.

    This is why the shocking truth is that the real number of abused children must be in the millions. And this charge on the heavenly scroll accounts only for abuses in the United States.

    Think about that …

    Meanwhile, I cannot look at any Catholic priest without suspecting that he is either a predatory pedophile or a closet homosexual. What’s more, I cannot help thinking that popes and bishops have countenanced or enabled the sexual abuse of children because they were/are either predatory pedophiles or closet homosexuals themselves.

    Only this explains the religious way church leaders have covered up the sexual predation and indulgences of priests … since time immemorial. And it is self-evident that no secular sanction (whether imprisoning priests or fining the Church) will exorcise these demons from this Body of Christ.

    Frankly, despite their moral protestations, the pope and other leaders must deem pedophilia and homosexuality time-honored rites of communion.  Alas, the fallacy of celibacy is surpassed in its deceitfulness only by words that proceed from the mouths of Catholic priests.

    Moreover, these putative men of God cannot believe God exists. They must reason that, if he did, he would have stopped priests from systematically abusing children long ago. After all, what God would allow this criminal sex cult (which smacks of a fusion between Nxivm and the Church of Scientology) to flourish as a holy church in his name.

    Think about that …

    Incidentally, prosecutors made quite a show of presenting this grand jury report. But legal technicalities (statutes of limitation) bar them from prosecuting all but two of these priests for raping thousands of boys (and a few girls).

    By interesting contrast, those same statutes of limitation also barred these same prosecutors from prosecuting Pennsylvanian Bill Cosby for raping tens of women. Except that, in one case, they were not barred.

    That is why, when he’s sentenced next month, Cosby will be spending the rest of his life in prison, and then an eternity in Hell – where he’ll rendezvous with all predatory priests who got off scot-free.

    Related commentaries:
    Pope accused
    Justice begins
    Pope confesses
    scandal damns papacy
    Bill Cosby

  • Tuesday, August 14, 2018 at 7:41 AM

    The Oscars Cutting Fat to Attract Viewers

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have been shunning the Academy Awards telecast for years. Here in part is why:

    I’m on record stating how much I dislike the annual Academy Awards show (the Oscars). Because I have little regard for preening, pampered poseurs showing off their borrowed frocks and bling-bling as a prelude to a [nearly four-hour] show — only six minutes of which anyone really cares about (i.e., the time it takes to present Oscars for actor and actress in a leading role, actor and actress in a supporting role, best director, and best picture). …

    And, remarkably enough, the host comedians do little to relieve the boredom of the interludes between these carefully spread-out moments.

    (“My Review of the 2008 Oscars,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 25, 2008)

    This is why I was somewhat heartened last week when the Academy announced plans to speed up the Oscars. Never mind that those plans will do nothing to make it more entertaining.

    To address the concerns of those who find the show to be too long and boring (thanks largely to the current existence of 24 competitive awards, of which the general public only cares about a few) … the board has ‘committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours.’ … This will be achieved partly by ‘present[ing] select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined).’

    (The Hollywood Reporter, August 8, 2018)

    Except that this is woefully belated and still inadequate. After all, even a commitment to cut the telecast to three hours will still leave it twice as long as it should be.

    Frankly, the Academy should know better than to think its telecast can hold viewers’ attention longer than Hollywood blockbusters like The Expendables, Avengers: Infinity War, and Black Panther, which average 2.5 hours.

    Apropos of which, it also announced a new category for “Outstanding Popular Film,” purportedly to end its institutional prejudice against blockbusters. This would be in addition to the traditional, and presumably more meritorious, category for Best Picture.

    Hit movies rarely go on to become Oscar best picture winners, reflecting a difference in taste between moviegoers and film industry professionals. In the past 30 years, only four movies were named best picture while topping box office charts [namely The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Titanic (1997), Forrest Gump (1994), and Rain Man (1988)].

    (The New York Times, March 4, 2018)

    But the Academy is clearly banking on this new category luring people who love blockbusters to watch the Oscars. Which, I suppose, is rather like Major League Baseball finally admitting blacks – even as it continued to treat them like second-class citizens.

    Unsurprisingly, Academy traditionalists are panning this change as pandering to mob interests, while blockbuster producers are panning it as awarding a consolation prize. I couldn’t care less either way. I still won’t be watching.

    On the other hand, one can hardly blame action-movie stars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, and Chris Hemsworth for celebrating. Because, without this “special” category, their movies would not have a snowball’s chance in Hell of ever winning an Oscar. This, despite the notable exception of movies like Rocky and Gladiator. Now if only the Academy would create a new category for “Outstanding Popular Actor/Actress” … too.

    In any event, just as admitting blacks got more sports fans to watch Baseball, these changes should get more movie buffs to watch the Oscars; and that’s the ticket!

    Related commentaries:
    The Oscars

  • Sunday, August 12, 2018 at 11:39 AM

    Aping Zimbabwe, South Africa Expropriating White Farms to Give to Blacks

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Corruption, incompetence, lawlessness, and the spectre of racial retribution are driving South Africa into the same dysfunctional shit hole where Zimbabwe has been festering for the past 30 years.

    I have lamented this fateful symmetry in many commentaries, most notably in “South Africa ‘Betraying Its Values’,” May 13, 2011, “Zuma Doing to South Africa What Mugabe Did to Zimbabwe,” December 12, 2015, and “South Africa Replaces Corrupt Zuma with Captured Ramaphosa,” February 16, 2018.

    More to the point, though, I have continually warned it would be thus – as the following excerpts attest:

    ____________________

    • From “Zimbabweans Pray for Liberation from Their Liberator – Robert Mugabe,” May 29, 2005:

    To the relief and exultation of restive blacks, Mugabe announced sweeping land reforms in which his government would seize the ‘farms of white colonialists to give to landless peasants and the veterans of the war of liberation’. Unfortunately, like his independence blueprint for black empowerment, Mugabe’s land reforms have been an abject failure:

    Five years ago, there were 4000 white-owned farms in Zimbabwe; today, there are only 400 (mostly unproductive) farms left. Five years ago, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of sub-Saharan Africa; today, it is a basket case of starving people. …

    Instead of seizing white farms, it would have made far more sense to impose (price and production) controls on them pursuant to the national interest. White farmers would have complied. What’s more, Mugabe could have spun this as a form of nationalization consistent with his plan for black empowerment.

    • From “Zuma Issues Fatwa against Cartoonist Zapiro,” December 22, 2008:

    Rabble-rousing trade unionists and unreformed communists have turned the ANC from a governing coalition into a band of rebels. Therefore, Zuma enlisting them to intimidate a political cartoonist should serve as a dire warning of what South Africa will become under his leadership.

    • From “Julius Malema: President Jacob Zuma’s Mini-Me,” August 18, 2011:

    [T]he country Mandela liberated is becoming just another dysfunctional African kleptocracy under Zuma’s rule. Which, alas, is dashing great expectations that it would become the Dark Continent’s beacon of democracy, economic development, and black empowerment. …

    Misguided blacks who took out their subsistence frustrations on white farmers in South Africa were incited to do so by the many misguided blacks who did the same in neighboring Zimbabwe … pursuant to official government policy.

    • From “Massacre at South Africa’s Lonmin Marikana Mine,” August 17, 2012:

    It’s hardly surprising … that these poor, uneducated South Africans have now resorted to rabble-rousing tactics to get better wages and other benefits: President Zuma himself led them to believe that these are the least to which they were entitled from day one of his presidency. But we have seen the inevitable consequences of his brand of mindless populism play out (in the extreme) in Zimbabwe. …

    Zuma’s rhetoric led thousands of poor black miners to believe they were entitled to strike and use similar tribal weapons/tools to extract more than a doubling of their wages from rich white mine owners and their token black shareholders, most notably Cyril Ramaphosa. …

    The analogy to Zimbabwe is instructive. Because just as that country was a thriving producer of farm products before similar strife turned it into a basket case, South Africa is now risking its status as the world’s leading producer of platinum being irreparably harmed.

    • And from “Wither South Africa,” April 10, 2017:

    [South Africa] is in the death throes of becoming a Zimbabwean mess. …

    Having robbed the treasury, wrecked the economy, and scandalized the people, South Africa’s rapacious leaders are now setting their sights on the last repast of all pseudo nationalists: white-owned land. …

    South Africa is on an inexorable descent into the heart of darkness.

    ____________________

    As it happened, some of my South African friends led the chorus of those who dismissed my warnings with resolute indignation, so much so that I often felt like a latter-day Cassandra. But this latest, vindicating instance of South Africa aping Zimbabwe should finally convince even my indignant friends of their validity:

    The ANC has targeted 139 selected farms that they plan to expropriate without compensation in the coming weeks as it moves to make good on its commitment to test out section 25 of the Constitution.

    The governing party emerged from a two-day lekgotla of its highest decision-making body, the national executive committee (NEC), with the resolve to make an amendment to the constitution which will explicitly allow for the conditional expropriation of land without compensation.

    (SA City News, August 5, 2018)

    Frankly, this is stupefying. After all, everyone knows this kind of racially motivated land reform was the tipping point for Zimbabwe’s economic death spiral.

    Mind you, when Ramaphosa replaced (ousted) Zuma as president in February, this collectivist pandering was the last thing anyone expected. After all, as indicated above, Ramaphosa was/is the poster boy for the few black South Africans who amassed unimagined fortunes by cultivating business ties with the country’s white capitalist elites.

    Those ties were plainly opportunistic. Yet they raised great expectations, at home and abroad, that under his leadership South Africa would emulate countries like Switzerland, not ape those like Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, Zuma’s kakistocratic government planted seeds of distress and restiveness in so many blacks that Ramaphosa seems resigned to just harvest their grievances.

    As in Zimbabwe, dispossessed blacks compose the vast majority of the electorate in South Africa. Moreover, as it was with Mugabe’s land grab, the only thing that explains Ramaphosa’s is his wish to appease those blacks — whose votes he needs to consolidate his power, the welfare of the country be damned. (He hopes to win his own electoral mandate in national elections next year.)

    Meanwhile:

    South Africa’s unemployment rate has …. been ranked as the worst in the world in a new global competitiveness report. It is rated number 9 of the world’s 20 unemployed rated countries, and the unemployment rate for women sits at 29 percent and 24.8 percent for men.

    (HuffPost ZA, June 6, 2018)

    This, compounded by an epidemic of graft and violence, is what nearly 25 years of black rule has wrought. And Ramaphosa seems hell-bent on making matters worse.

    Incidentally, apropos of South Africa serving as that continental beacon, huddled masses of poor, oppressed Africans are fleeing north to mother Europe instead of south to this Cape of [Lost] Hope:

    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)

    It speaks volumes in this respect that Zimbabweans – who fled the frying pan their country was – have returned home in droves to escape the fire South Africa has become:

    The events unfolding there today are as ironic as they are disappointing. Because, in recent weeks, the deadly violence black South Africans have perpetrated against black foreigners rivals the violence white South Africans perpetrated against blacks during Apartheid.

    In fact, just imagine a prevailing state of fear that would force a Zimbabwean – who (along with 3 million others) immigrated to South Africa to escape starvation, poverty, and political oppression – to return to Zimbabwe because he would rather die in his homeland than in South Africa.

    (“In South Africa, Xenophobic Blacks Prove Almost as Deadly as Apartheid Whites,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 23, 2008)

    But white South Africans are now escaping too:

    So popular is Australia as an ­escape route for white South Africans that the phrase ‘Packing for Perth’ or just ‘PFP’ has become a common term for those planning to flee. …

    Fuelled by economic inequality and racial tensions, the worst of the violence has spread from the major cities to rural areas, where white farmers are the primary targets of gangs who commit murder, rape, torture and robbery.

    (The Australian, April 16, 2018)

    I should clarify that white farmers are not as indispensable to South Africa as they were/are to Zimbabwe. Therefore, I do not expect to be writing about South Africans as I did about Zimbabweans in “Zimbabwe’s Black Farmers Cry: Bring Back White Farmers,” September 16, 2015.

    Instead, South Africa’s white flight might cause me to write about it as I did about Venezuela in commentaries like “Venezuela’s Death Spiral of Recession, Protest, and Repression,” April 24, 2017, and “Chávez Chavismo: More Robbing Hoodlum than Robin Hood,” August 12, 2015.

    Indeed, as the Financial Mail asked in an August 9 editorial:

    Why does Ramaphosa, a respected businessman, enthusiastically support a proposal that he knows could be ruinous to property values, investor confidence and food security?

    But, ultimately, I fear Israeli diplomat Abba Eban said it best in the Jerusalem Post on November 18, 2002. Because here is what he said about Arabs, which can probably be said about Africans too:

    [They] never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    Related commentaries:
    SA betraying its values
    Zuma doing to SA
    corrupt Zuma, captured Ramaphosa
    Zimbabweans pray for liberation
    Wither South Africa
    Zuma issues Fatwa
    Xenophobic blacks
    Venezuela
    Chavismo

  • Friday, August 3, 2018 at 7:27 AM

    Congress Recess

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Which makes one wonder why so many are so eager to join Washington’s do-nothing Congress.

    But I trust you will appreciate why these cartoons inspired me to write this derivative take on T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land: The Burial of the Dead”:

    AUGUST is the slowest month, leaving

    Cities like concrete deserts, granting

    Vacation and purgation, filling

    Frayed brains with new schemes.

  • Thursday, August 2, 2018 at 12:26 PM

    MAGA: Cutting Airport Screenings while Cutting (more) Taxes (for the Rich)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Reports are that the Trump administration plans to cut post-9/11 screening at airports across the country:

    The Transportation Security Administration is considering eliminating passenger screening at more than 150 small and medium-sized airports across the US. …

    The internal documents from June and July suggest the move could save $115 million annually, money that could be used to bolster security at larger airports.

    (CNN, August 1, 2018)

    Talk about cutting off nose to spite face! I mean, this really is as stupid (heartless and reckless) as saying we don’t care if terrorists blow up a bunch of small planes, so long as they don’t blow up any big ones.

    Even worse, though, that is coming on the heels of this consideration:

    The Trump administration is considering a change to tax deduction rules that analysts say would amount to a $100 billion capital gains tax cut for the wealthy.

    ‘The top one percent of tax units would receive more than 86 percent of the tax cut, and that after tax-incomes would increase most for the top 0.1 percent.’

    (USA Today, July 31, 2018)

    So, on the one hand, Trump wants to take millions from measures that ensure security for the common folk. But on the other hand, he wants to give billions in tax breaks to the super-rich (who fly around on private jets and do not depend on airport screenings).

    This perverse juxtaposition epitomizes what MAGA means to Trump. But I warned you: “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker!” April 8, 2011.

    Related commentaries:
    don’t be sucker
    rich Trumps getting richer

  • Thursday, August 2, 2018 at 7:39 AM

    California Burning: ‘The New Normal’?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As fire crews struggled to gain containment on more than a dozen wildfires raging across California Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown told reporters that large, destructive fires would probably continue and cost the state billions of dollars over the next decade. …

    State officials said more than 13,000 firefighters are currently on duty, fighting 16 large fires that have burned a total of 320,000 acres and displaced more than 32,000 residents.

    (The Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2018)

    To date, 1,018 homes have been destroyed. And the fires are still threatening over 17,000. But, miraculously, only 8 people have been killed.

    Governor Brown is sounding the alarm about this becoming “the new normal.” But it’s already the norm.

    After all, here is what I wrote about these recurring fires a decade ago in “California Burning … Again,” November 17, 2008:

    ____________________

    No region has been more affected by the synergistic fallout from plummeting real-estate values and subprime mortgages than California. But these ‘apocalyptic’ fires might be a godsend for hundreds, if not thousands, of homeowners – who were facing imminent foreclosure on their McMansions. Because they can simply walk away from the charred remains and blame force majeure (i.e., an act of God) for not paying another red cent!

    (“California’s Fiery Katrina,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 25, 2007)

    Well, it’s deja vu all over again – as apocalyptic fires have returned to California.

    No doubt you’ve heard about celebrities like Oprah Winfrey watching helplessly as temperamental fires threatened to destroy their homes in the wealthy California enclave of Montecito.

    But it is worth noting that the vast majority of the more than 800 homes that have already been destroyed belong to ordinary people in far less affluent neighborhoods.

    Therefore, whatever indifference (or schadenfreude) it evokes in you to watch obscenely rich folks lose some of their material possessions, please bear in mind that it’s relatively poor folks who are losing everything they own …

    My prayers are with all those who have been affected, as well as those who remain in harm’s way.

    ____________________

    Ditto.

    Related commentaries:
    California burning

  • Wednesday, August 1, 2018 at 7:41 AM

    Oxfam ‘Humanitarians’ Extorting Sex from Haitians for Aid

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Reports have abounded for years about peacekeepers and aid workers preying on the hapless people they are supposed to be protecting and aiding, respectively. And they have perpetrated their abuses in refugee camps or safe zones from Asia to the Caribbean and all points in between.

    Here in part is how I commented on this pandemic of sex abuse in “UN Peacekeepers Preying on Helpless Haitians? Yes.” June 23, 2015:

    ____________________

    It might surprise you to learn that UN peacekeepers have a reputation for preying on helpless girls that rivals the reputation Catholic priests have for preying on little boys. More to the point, the United Nations has shown even less interest in protecting helpless girls from predatory peacekeepers than the Catholic Church has shown in protecting little boys from predatory priests. …

    It speaks volumes that the UN has allowed peacekeepers to continue their predatory exploits with impunity – as a June 11 investigative report in The Washington Post makes patently clear. …

    But I never imagined peacekeepers would dare perpetrate the kinds of abuses they got away with in distant Africa so close to home (namely UN headquarters in New York City). Yet, dare they did – even with reporters foraging all over Haiti looking for stories in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

    ____________________

    Given that, this Oxfam scandal should come as no surprise:

    The aid sector is guilty of ‘complacency verging on complicity’ over an ‘endemic’ sex abuse scandal, a damning report from MPs has said. Stephen Twigg, chairman of the international development committee, said charities were ‘more concerned to protect their own reputation.

    The committee’s inquiry was launched in light of revelations that senior Oxfam staff paid survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake for sex.

    (BBC, July 31, 2018)

    In fact, I presaged the committee’s point about charities being more concerned about their own reputation than the welfare of those they’re purportedly trying to help. Because I’ve been decrying this perverse feature of humanitarian missions for over a decade, notably with respect to no less a charitable organization than the United Nations.

    I refer you to such commentaries as “UN Peacekeepers like Foxes Guarding Henhouses,” April 4, 2016, “The United Nations: Corrupt from Head to Toe?” June 15, 2005, and “Kofi Annan’s UN Malaise: Corruption and Sex Abuse,” February 20, 2005, which includes this excerpt:

    ____________________

    It takes a remarkable record of professional incompetence to provoke the (liberal) New York Times to join the (conservative) Wall Street Journal in calling for one’s resignation. As Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan has achieved this dubious distinction – and deservedly so. …

    A few weeks ago, disgusted officials leaked an internal UN report, which found that peacekeepers had sexually exploited and abused African refugees in the DR Congo. These leaks forced Annan to admit that he had known for some time about his staff’s criminal conduct. Conduct, incidentally, that included pedophilia, rape and prostitution (some of which was caught on tape).

    He offered words of contrition to the African victims and pledged to convene a commission to investigate these crimes. Except that, in doing so, he was treating these victims like poor, ignorant fools. After all, just years ago, another internal UN report found evidence of similar ‘widespread’ sexual exploitation and abuse of African refugees by UN staff.

    ____________________

    Clearly, UN peacekeepers have been behaving like foxes guarding henhouses for decades. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that Oxfam aid workers have been aping their behavior.

    To be fair, there might be something in the DNA of trained soldiers that predisposes them to this kind of predation – even on peacekeeping missions. Only this explains what plays out in The UN Sex Abuse Scandal, a documentary that airs tonight on London’s Chanel 4.

    It references over 1,700 cases where UN peacekeepers have been accused of rape. But it features Didier Bourguet as the only one ever jailed for sex crimes. Here is the cavalier way he explains the prevalence of their predatory behavior:

    They were starving so it was easy. The children were 15, 14, 16. Everybody knew that some of the UN civilian staff had intercourse with young ladies for money.

    (The Sun, July 31, 2018)

    As it happens, I had cause to decry this apparent predisposition in “Rape as a Weapon of War in Congo,” October 8, 2010.

    By the same token, though, one might expect there to be something in the DNA of trained aid workers that inoculates them against such predatory impulses. Except that there’s the prevailing precedent of Catholic priests preying on little children.

    Indeed, it’s arguable that predatory aid workers come from the same defective mold from which God made pedophile priests. Of course, if there is a God, for extorting sex, they will get Aids.

    I wrote Monday’s commentary on the MeToo allegations against CBS chairman Les Moonves. I cited many commentaries in which I argued that the best way to combat the pandemic of sexual harassment is to put women in positions of power in every facet of public life.

    Accordingly, charitable organizations would do well to put women on the front lines of their missions. I fear this is the only way to combat the menace of peacekeepers and aid workers behaving like sex fiends.

    Related commentaries:
    UN peacekeepers
    Guarding henhouses
    United Nations head to toe
    Kofi Annan malaise
    rape as weapon
    Catholic priests
    MeToo

  • Monday, July 30, 2018 at 6:37 PM

    MeToo: After Firing Charlie Rose, CBS Must Fire Les Moonves!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On Monday, three days after the publication of an article detailing allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Moonves … CBS said in a statement that its board was ‘in the process of selecting outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation.’ …

    The company had announced the planned investigation on Friday, hours after The New Yorker published a report that included six women who said Mr. Moonves had asked them for sexual favors and retaliated when they declined.

    (The New York Times, 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.

    For a little context, here is an excerpt from “Charlie Rose, Accused Sexual Predator, WAS My Favorite TV Interviewer,” November 21, 2017:

    ____________________

    The phenomenon of women outing powerful and influential men as sexual predators has reached critical mass. More to the point, it has already ended the careers of such closeted creeps as Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey. Never mind its conspicuous failure to end that of Donald J. Trump …

    I have written many commentaries on men falling from grace in this respect. Many have yet to fall, and I shall welcome the comeuppance for each one. But, truth be told, the confluence of schadenfreude, disgust, and shame (for my gender) became such that, after Weinstein, I decided to write no more.

    Then came this:

    Eight women have told The Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.

    The women were employees or aspired to work for Rose at the Charlie Rose show from the late 1990s to as recently as 2011.

    (The Washington Post, November 20, 2017)

    Trust me folks, Rose was so revered and respected that this is almost like the pope himself being outed as a pedophile. Nobody who hailed his public face could have imagined that he was showing a private face to women that looked very much like that of the predatory Harvey Weinstein. …

    This seems a good time to reprise my clarion call for women to replace men in positions of power and influence in every facet of public life. I sounded it in many commentaries over the years, including in “Men Should Be Barred from Politics,” September 25, 2013, “Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” October 14, 2010, and “Cracking the Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” December 12, 2005.

    ____________________

    Sorry, Les. But these chicks are coming home to roost.

    And, try as she might, your TV-star wife, Julie Chen, can’t hide you behind her skirt.

    Related commentaries:
    Charlie Rose
    Tom Brokaw – MeToo
    NY AG – MeToo

  • Sunday, July 29, 2018 at 8:57 AM

    Trump Affirms His American Dystopia with Orwellian Newspeak

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On Tuesday, during a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Trump issued his “most essential command”:

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

    (CNN, July 25, 2018)

    In other words, even though we all saw him kissing Putin’s ass in Helsinki, Trump wants us to believe he was actually kicking it.

    But “newspeak” has become so popular, even the average high-school student could be forgiven for thinking that Trump was spewing lines from George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, which includes the following:

    The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.

    No doubt this is why mainstream and social media reacted with paroxysms of disbelief … and dread.

    For me, though, Trump merely vindicated the Orwellian analogies I’ve been making since day one of his presidential campaign. After all, he has never shown any compunction about turning truth on its head.

    The far more concerning phenomenon has been the way so many erstwhile sensible people have taken leave of their senses to not just buy into his newspeak but propagate it as truth to boot.

    In fact, here in part is how I presaged this descent into American dystopia in “Trump’s ‘Law and Order’ Doublespeak Has RNC Raving and Roiling,” July 21, 2016:

    ____________________

    It has become as pointless as it is redundant to denounce the big lies that characterize Donald Trump’s black-swan presidential campaign. …

    His campaign motto seems to be: Deny, deny, deny until a lie becomes the truth!

    Except that his campaign lies even when the truth is plain for all to see. Therefore, voters should consider what lies a Trump presidency would propagate when the cover-up would be virtually guaranteed behind closed doors at the White House.

    Frankly, far from law and order, everything about Trump’s life and campaign portends fraud and disorder. More to the point, his ‘Make America Great Again’ schtick suggests that he wants to emulate the halcyon presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon — complete with all of the petty slights and dirty tricks.

    The Orwellian way the RNC turned truth on its head last night warrants dishonorable mention. …

    Only this explains delegates for the purported law-and-order party chanting, ‘Lock her up!’ and ‘Hillary for Prison!’ – without any regard for legal due process. (Send her to Room 101 in the Ministry of Love?) …

    It’s a wonder this delirium did not inspire these Inner Party wannabes to start chanting the doublespeak slogans:

    War is Peace

    Freedom is Slavery

    Ignorance is Strength

    Meanwhile, Big Brother Trump lorded over this consummation of mind control via a huge-screen video link, from atop his gilded tower in the New York metropolis – most of which he has these delegates convinced he built … from scratch.

    Of course, he knew he had them months ago when he boasted that he could shoot someone in the middle of famed 5th Avenue, and these gullible fools would still support him. …

    Alas, no member of the Never-Trump Brotherhood ran in and hurled a hammer at the screen to short-circuit his bloviating newspeak.

    ____________________

    Actually, nothing attests to the groupthink that now defines the Republican Party quite like its members – who once championed national security, fiscal responsibility, and moral character as articles of faith, now hailing this president – who personifies reckless disregard for all three.

    In this Orwellian context, I defer to “The Message for Today in Orwell’s ‘1984’” to explain their transformation of consciousness:

    The large mass of [Republicans] do not find in themselves the need to think independently, to question or to investigate what they have been taught. [Republican leaders] have sold their inalienable right to think freely for security and a semblance of [political] well-being.

    (New York Times, January 1, 1984)

    But I have found a more persuasive explanation in the Biblical context, which I wrote about in “Evangelicals Supporting Trump like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016.

    Still, not since Adolf Hitler has a leader used Big Brother rhetoric as reflexively and effectively as Trump does. Here in part is how I decried this phenomenon on the occasion of his inauguration in “Women Worldwide March against Trump,” January 23, 2017:

    ____________________

    His ‘despicable display’ is just the umpteenth reason why we should be afraid that this insecure buffoon is now the most powerful man in the world. …

    I mean, if Trump would use the solemn space of the CIA’s Memorial Wall to try to convince us that the size of his ‘crowd’ was bigger than Obama’s, imagine what portends.

    It’s bad enough that this new president is a pathological liar. But it’s certifiably dangerous that he and his spin doctors seem intent on continually challenging us to believe the lie we hear instead of the truth we see. And it’s self-evident that it does not matter to Trump if that lie is about a matter as petty as his crowd size or as grave as his collusion with foreign enemies – like Putin’s Russia. …

    He probably also thought it better to have the media running down this rabbit hole than analyzing his dystopian inaugural speech, which paid homage the American isolationism that led to World War I, discarding the American exceptionalism that has prevented another such conflagration for over 65 years.

    ____________________

    Be afraid, be very afraid. Believe me!

    Related commentaries:
    Helsinki
    Trump’s doublespeak
    Evangelicals supporting Trump
    Women’s march

  • Friday, July 27, 2018 at 7:57 PM

    Combating the Public Health Risk Police Pose to Black Men

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If you’re a black man, you are three times more likely to be killed by police than a white man, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health. …

    There’s not a single place in the U.S. where the risk of a black man getting killed by police is less than double that of a white man.

    (USA Today, July 27, 2018)

    Disparate treatment based on race accounts for much of this discrepancy.

    But it saves no black lives to merely protest “Black Lives Matter” every time a police kills a black man. And it’s self-evident that no amount of training is going to rid white cops of their racist fears, which cause them to perceive even a 12-year-old black boy playing with a toy gun as a mortal threat.

    Instead, we should encourage black men to do only what will increase the likelihood of surviving their encounters with the police.

    Alas, I have felt like the proverbial John the Baptist preaching this message. Here, for example, is how pleaded for black men to help save their own lives in “Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality (only against Black Men?),” August 12, 2014.

    ____________________

    Not every fatal shooting by the police of an unarmed man is a case of police brutality. We’ve all seen far too many incidents of people resisting arrest – even wresting away a policeman’s gun and killing him – just because they fear being questioned or arrested … even for something as simple as petty theft.

    Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to cite a case that resulted in fatality, where the victim followed the few general rules we should all follow when dealing with the police. Those rules are:

    1. Do not run.
    2. Follow instructions calmly (i.e., no sudden moves that might spook a nervous or trigger-happy policeman).
    3. Wait for the police to explain why you’re being stopped before politely posing any objections, concerns, or questions you may have.
    4. If instructed to turn around to be frisked or handcuffed, comply without uttering a word.
    5. Save any disagreements or arguments you may have for the courtroom or your civilian complaints review board, which is the only time and place to resist arrest.

    This is why, even though the cops who beat the crap out of Rodney King deserved to be prosecuted, (most of) that beating would have been avoided if King were not drugged out of his mind and, therefore, unable to follow simple police instructions. …

    There has been a direct correlation between police officers either wearing video cameras or videotaping every stop on dash cam and a dramatic decline not only in complaints by civilians, but also in use of force by the police. Frankly, it seems a no-brainer that every police department should make wearing body cameras as standard as wearing bulletproof vests. …

    Not to mention that there would be fewer of these fatal encounters between black men and white cops if more (unemployed) black men became cops to police their own communities.

    ____________________

    Mind you, I can personally attest that there’s not a single place in the United States where a black man is safe from racial profiling by the police. Unfortunately, far too many black men have been acculturated to either run or resist arrest — pursuant to some misguided (black) badge of courage.

    But I maintain that, when a police is placing you under arrest (no matter how unwarranted you might think that is), it should not take him (and others) wrestling you to the ground to get you into handcuffs.

    I’m on record conceding that obeying commands will not guarantee survival in every encounter. The viral video of the killing of Philando Castile demonstrated this … in black and white. But this is the exception, not the rule.

    In other words, it’s plainly foolhardy to resist arrest because obeying commands only offers a 99 percent chance of survival.

    Related commentaries:
    Michael Brown/body cameras
    Police killing black men

  • Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 7:51 AM

    China Tightening Noose Around Taiwan’s ‘Independence’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    China has been leveraging its economic superpower on the world stage for years. And it is beginning to do the same with its growing military power, which its aggressive and uncontested moves in the South China Sea attest. More to the point, China’s disregard for international criticisms in this context has been growing commensurate with its economic and military power.

    As it happens, I’ve been warning about China’s “Yuan diplomacy” for years. This sample list of titles to commentaries should speak volumes:

    • “China Buying Political Dominion Over the Caribbean (Latin America and Africa)!” February 22, 2005
    • “Punishing China for Its Brutal Crackdown in Tibet? Hardly,” July 28, 2008
    • “South Africa Bans Dalai Lama from Peace Conference to Appease China…?” March 24, 2009
    •  “China Putting Squeeze on The Bahamas. Your Country Could Be Next,” October 22, 2010
    • “Countries Queuing Up to Become as Indebted to China as US,” September 15, 2011
    • “China Invading US ‘Sphere of Influence’ in the Caribbean,” April 11, 2012
    • “China and Japan in Falklands-Like Dispute,” August 23, 2012
    • “Wait Till China Begins Doing to Its Neighbors What Russia Is Doing to Its,” April 26, 2014
    • “South Africa Joins Ranks of Countries ‘Selling Its Sovereignty to China’,” October 3, 2014
    • “China Buying the Global Influence Russia and US Fighting For…,” October 16, 2016
    • “China: Where Hong Kong Is Concerned, Britain Is Adrift at Sea,” July 1, 2017

    The common thread throughout these and other commentaries is China’s strategy of either bribing or extorting other countries to have its way. And it has been so brazen in executing it that I felt compelled to sound the alarm in one of my very first commentaries. Here is an excerpt – from “World Beware, China Calling In (Loan-Sharking) Debts,” February 3, 2010.

    __________________

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

    I anticipated that the Chinese would be every bit as arrogant in the use of their power as the Americans.  But I never thought they would use it for such a petty cause.

    In point of fact here, in part, is how I admonished countries in the Caribbean and Latin America in this respect almost five years ago in “China Buying Political Dominion Over the Caribbean (Latin America and Africa)!” February 22, 2005:

    What happens if China decides that converting the container ports, factories, and chemical plants it has funded throughout the Caribbean into dual military and commercial use is in its strategic national interest? Would these governments comply? Would they have any real choice? And when they do comply, would the United States then blockade that island – the way it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis?

    ‘Now consider China making similar strategic moves in Latin America and Africa, where its purportedly benign Yuan diplomacy dwarfs its Caribbean operations. This new Cold War could then turn very hot indeed.

    It clearly does not bode well that China has no compunctions about drawing moral and political equivalence between its beef with the Unite States over the Dalai Lama and America’s beef with it over internet espionage, unfair trade practices, and support for indicted war criminals like President Bashir of Sudan. Because irrational resentment in a regional menace like North Korea is one thing; in a global power like China it’s quite another.

    __________________

    Given the above, China’s latest exercise of its menacing superpower was as predictable as it is foreboding.

    According to Taiwan sports officials, members of the East Asian Olympic Committee (EAOC) voted in a meeting in Beijing Tuesday to revoke Taichung city’s right to host the first-ever East Asian Youth Games in 2019. …

    Taiwan’s presidential office said the EAOC had made the ‘wrong decision’ and accused China of bullying.

    (Agence France-Presse, July 24, 2018)

    Frankly, it’s only a matter of time before China and the United States square off the way the United States and former Soviet Union once did.

    Indeed, the former could ape the latter by calling on countries to take sides in a boycott of future Olympic Games. And, given that the global influence China is gaining seems in direct proportion to that which the United States is losing these days, there seems little doubt that more countries would side with China.

    In the meantime, one can hardly blame China for thinking it could reclaim Taiwan with even greater ease than it reclaimed Hong Kong. After all, unlike it did with Hong Kong, China never lost sovereignty over Taiwan to another world power. This is why it has always regarded Taiwan as just a prodigal province.

    In any event, China has used its economic superpower in myriad ways to keep a stranglehold on Taiwan’s independence. Most notably, this has included bribing or extorting over 100 countries to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

    The West African nation of Burkina Faso announced on Thursday that it was ending official diplomatic relations with Taiwan’s government, a new challenge to the self-governing democracy as Beijing increasingly tries to isolate it on the global stage.

    The break leaves Taiwan with only one diplomatic ally in Africa — the small kingdom of Swaziland — and formal relations worldwide with 17 other countries, most of them poorer nations in Central America and the Pacific.

    (The New York Times, May 24, 2018)

    But China has also resorted to plainly petty measures. Most notably, this has included prevailing upon companies doing business with it to replace all mentions of Taiwan with Chinese Taipei in their business documents, correspondence and promotional materials.

    Except that there’s an existential hurdle in China’s path towards reclaiming sovereignty over Taiwan. Here in part is how I commented on it over a decade ago in “China v. Taiwan (and the United States): Nuclear Friction in the Taiwan Strait,” July 19, 2005.

    ____________________

    No country (including the United States) has ever denied China’s territorial claims over this self-governing island. However, successive Taiwanese governments have declared their preference for official independence from China. And, they have been emboldened in this pyrrhic quest by America’s Taiwan Relations Act 1979 – under which the United States has been arming Taiwan to help:

    …maintain the capacity of the United States [pursuant to its 1954 pledge] to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion [by China] that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.

    But, significantly, the United States has stopped far short of supporting Taiwan’s drive for independence. In fact, it has endorsed China’s claims by cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan in order to recognize only ‘one China and that Taiwan is part of China.’ Therefore, for all these years, peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait have been predicated on China’s commitment to:

    …firmly abide by the principles of peaceful re-unification of one country two systems.

    In recent years, however, China’s meteoric rise as a global economic power has allowed it to finance a military build-up that threatens to destabilize the uneasy détente in this trilateral relationship. And last March, in a foreboding gesture, its legislature passed an Anti-Secession law that grants China’s leaders legal cover to order its military to use any means necessary (including preemptive strikes) to prevent Taiwan from becoming an independent nation. …

    If China invades, American security guarantees would probably prove as helpful to Taiwan as British and French guarantees proved to Poland when Germany seized it in a blitzkrieg invasion in 1939. Indeed, in that event, the United States would probably only issue a diplomatic reprimand and, perhaps, call for economic sanctions against China. What is certain, however, is that the United States will not engage China in a war over Taiwan; and, China knows it!

    Therefore, Taiwan seems fated to fall under China’s direct control. The only question is whether China will remain patient enough to accomplish its objective by political proxy (using Taiwan’s Opposition Party – the Kuomintang); or whether China will finally exercise its military might and take the island by force.

    ____________________

    Ominously, in Donald Trump, we have a president who, for the first time, is sowing doubts about America’s (far more significant) NATO obligations to defend European countries, especially against Russian aggression.

    In an interview that aired Tuesday evening with the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Mr. Trump appeared to suggest that the NATO mutual defense compact is confusing, particularly the question of why an American would have to defend a small country like Montenegro, which is more than 5,000 miles away.

    Mr. Trump has long raised questions about the future of the United States’ commitment to NATO.

    (The New York Times, July 18, 2018)

    One can see how this might embolden China as much as it must terrify Taiwan.

    Stay tuned …

    Related commentaries:
    South China Sea
    China Buying dominion
    Punishing China…hardly
    SA bans Dalai Lama
    China Squeeze on Bahamas
    Countries queuing up
    China invading US
    China and Japan
    Wait till China
    Countries selling sovereignty
    China buying global influence
    World beware
    China v. Taiwan
    Hong Kong

  • Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at 7:57 AM

    Brexit: Having Cake and Eating It Too or ‘Volunteering for Economic Vassalage’?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here is the Trumpian way President Donald Trump thanked Prime Minister Theresa May for orchestrating his recent cloak-and-dagger visit to the UK:

    Mr. Trump second-guessed Mrs. May’s handling of the main issue on her plate: how Britain should cut ties to the European Union [a.k.a. Brexit]. He cast doubt on whether he was willing to negotiate a new trade deal between Britain and the United States, and praised Mrs. May’s Conservative Party rival, Boris Johnson, as a potentially great prime minister.

    (The New York Times, July 12, 2018)

    Trump has shown time and again that the organizing principle of his presidency is opposing everything Obama supported. Therefore, it’s noteworthy that he’s casting doubt on a post-Brexit trade deal just as Obama did.

    Not to mention that Trump’s doubt is a far cry from the assurance he provided when May rushed to be the first foreign leader to visit the White House after his inauguration:

    ‘I think Brexit is going to be a wonderful thing for your country,’ Mr. Trump said. He said the U.K. will be able to reach ‘free trade deals without somebody watching you and what you are doing.’

    (The Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2017)

    Except that chaos, confusion, and contradictions have become defining features of Trump’s presidency. And the roving confluence of his imperial arrogance and juvenile temper only compound those features. He betrayed this when he publicly whined about May failing to heed his advice to sue the EU instead of negotiating a Brexit deal; this, from the purported master of The Art of the Deal …

    But the way Trump dissed May in the UK was unprecedented. It was especially egregious given that she was in the midst of a mutiny in her cabinet. After all, several high-profile ministers, including foreign secretary Boris Johnson, had just resigned in protest over her handling of the negotiations.

    Incidentally, it speaks volumes about Trump’s popularity abroad that the secret service had to take as many precautions for his visit to the UK, America’s closest ally, as it took for his predecessor’s visits to wartime Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I know, this commentary is supposed to be about May and the Brexit negotiations. It’s just that the pandemic nature of Trump’s presidency is such that I had to begin with how he has infected them.

    That said, here is my take on May and those negotiations.

    Mrs May is hoping the White Paper – which sparked two cabinet resignations – will allow the two sides to reach a deal on post-Brexit relations by the autumn, so the UK can avoid leaving the EU without a deal in March next year.

    The White Paper proposes close ties in some areas, such as the trade in goods, but Mrs May says it will end free movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court, and allow the UK to strike trade deals with other nations.

    (BBC July 20, 2018)

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

    To be fair, though, in proposing her managed divergence, May was just doing what her predecessors did. Here, for example, is how I condemned former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for the way he was cherry-picking EU rules over a decade ago:

    Nothing justifies my ‘eurocynicism’ quite like British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Sisyphean attempts to reconcile the contradictions inherent in this treaty. Because, according to the BBC, he proffered in recent parliamentary debates – without any hint of irony – that he had

    ‘…secured special treatment for the UK in a range of areas at the European summit and that Britain would keep opt-outs on foreign policy, labour rights, tax and social security.’

    But if Britain has already established the untenable precedent that it can ‘opt-out’ of key provisions of the treaty, then what is the legal and substantive effect of this ersatz constitution?!

    (“A Dead EU Constitution Resurrected as a ‘New Treaty’ Is Still a Dead EU Constitution!” The iPINIONS Journal, November 13, 2007)

    Of course, the prime ministerial chutzpah in this case is that May is not looking for opt-outs while remaining in the EU; she is looking for opt-ins while leaving it.

    In any event, her “soft-Brexit” strategy smacks of the kind dithering and ambivalence hard Brexiteers (a.k.a. Eurosceptics) find unworkable and humiliating in equal measure. They prefer a clean and comprehensive break from the EU. Here in part is how their pied piper, the aforementioned Johnson, denounced the “fog of uncertainty” May is proposing:

    He listed a series of compromises … including the £40bn payment agreed as part of the withdrawal agreement, the continued oversight of the European court of justice over some issues, and the ‘common rulebook’ for key industries.

    ‘Far from making laws in Westminster, there are large sectors in which ministers will have no power to initiate, innovate, or even deviate,’ he said, describing [May’s] approach as ‘volunteering for economic vassalage’.

    (The Guardian, July 18, 2018)

    But Brexiteers are not the only ones pooh-poohing May’s “Chequers” plan. European bureaucrats are giving them a run for their money. This was manifestly the case here:

    ‘We read the white paper and we read ‘cake’,’ an EU official told the Guardian, a reference to Boris Johnson’s one-liner of being ‘pro having [cake] and pro-eating it.’

    (The Guardian, July 2, 2018)

    And here:

    Just hours after the PM pleaded for the EU to drop its ‘unworkable’ Irish border demands, [EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier] complained that her Chequers blueprint – which would see the UK collect some tariffs for Brussels and follow a ‘common rule book’ on goods – undermined the single market and would cause ‘unjustifiable’ bureaucracy.

    In a withering assessment that will ramp up fears of ‘no deal’ Brexit, Mr Barnier questioned whether the UK could be trusted … jibing that the ‘intense’ debate in the UK was ‘not over’.

    (The Daily Mail, July 20, 2018)

    Indeed, as if negotiating this aspect of Brexit were not troubling enough, May is facing the clear and present danger of Republicans and Loyalists reigniting “The Troubles” that beset Northern Ireland from 1968 to 1998.

    The dissidents intend to exploit [the Irish border issue] to the full.

    To the [IRA] dissidents, PIRA and Sinn Féin are traitors who have betrayed the cause of uniting Ireland through ‘armed struggle’, by becoming constitutionalists and entering a devolved, partitionist government at Stormont.

    (BBC, May 2018)

    But I digress …

    As my November 2007 quote indicates, I’ve been decrying Britain’s ill-fated efforts to negotiate one-foot-in/one-foot-out deals with the EU for years. Therefore, I see no point in delving too deep into Brexit’s murky waters here.

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

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

    Cue the second coming of former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

    Blair has said there must be a second referendum on the terms of the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, once those terms are known. …

    Mr Blair also said Brexit would reduce the UK’s global standing and influence, and also put at risk the lasting peace in Northern Ireland, which has been maintained by the Good Friday Agreement which was brokered in 1998, in the early days of his Premiership.

    (The Independent, October 23, 2017)

    Meanwhile, EU leaders are clearly even more loath to grant May her opt-ins than they were to grant her predecessors (Brown and Cameron) their opt-outs. This is why Britain’s exit from the EU is fated to end with a “no-deal Brexit.” Put another way, Britain might get a deal, but it will look more like a plea bargain than the get-out-of-EU-free card to which so many Britons clearly feel entitled.

    Again, I warned time and again that it would be thus, including in such commentaries as “Brexit: Britain Exits, the Die Is Cast,” June 24, 2016, “Brexit: Forget Leaving, Britain a Greater EU Contagion If It Remains,” June 22, 2016, and “EU: Britain Trying to Have Its Cake and Eat It Too,” January 29, 2013.

    This last commentary predates Brexit; but it highlights the rational fear that is causing EU leaders to impose onerous terms on the UK for any Brexit deal. They reasonably fear that any concession to Britain could trigger a domino effect – with other members seeking similar Brexit deals.

    Here is an instructive excerpt from that commentary.

    ____________________

    [Prime Minister] Cameron stands even less chance of negotiating a new settlement with his European partners than President Assad stands of negotiating a peace settlement with Syrian opposition forces. Nothing affirms this quite like virtually all of Cameron’s European partners reacting to his pledge [to negotiate opt-out concessions] by giving him the proverbial finger. …

    There’s no gainsaying that the UK needs the EU far more than the EU needs the UK. Many feared, for example, that the euro currency would fold if the UK did not adopt it. But the euro has thrived in spite of this. …

    In fairness to Cameron, though, he is only trying to cherry-pick EU policies the way almost all British prime ministers have done – not as much to advance Britain’s national interests as to pander to rabid factions within their respective political parties. …

    Except that there clearly would be no Europe if each member state were allowed to bend the rules (i.e., to opt out of any policy or claw back any power it deems would serve its national interest). Which is why, instead of allowing Britain to undermine its core features by continually trying to do so, the EU should enact a policy to kick out any member that seeks such ‘special treatment.’

    ____________________

    Mind you, I readily acknowledge that there will be no winners when Brexit takes effect in Spring 2019. All the same, that “this sceptered isle” finds itself so isolated and in such a weak bargaining position seems tragic.

    Not to mention the spectacle of May having far greater difficulty managing the divergent demands of soft and hard Brexiteers within her own party than those of her European partners. It’s plainly impossible to reconcile the red lines on all sides.

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

    Alas, that so many Britons seem oblivious to all this only makes May’s Brexit negotiations seem a complete farce.

    Related commentaries:
    Dead EU Constitution
    Brexit: Forget Leaving
    Britain trying to have cake

  • 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.

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