The iPINIONS Journal


  • Monday, April 16, 2018 at 8:02 AM

    Gone Fishing

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Back on April 23

  • Sunday, April 15, 2018 at 8:37 AM

    Syria: Mission Accomplished?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The “pee-brained” president of the United States greeted the world this morning with this tweet, which is as heartless as it is clueless:

    Of course, the only mission Trump accomplished was to waste billions of taxpayer dollars just to turn a few empty buildings into rubble —in a war-ravaged country that was already mostly rubble.

    After all, thanks to Trump’s heads up, Assad had nearly a week to move assets to safe harbor, and reports are that Russia and Iran helped him do just that.

    Trump did not destroy any of the aircrafts Assad uses to launch chemical weapons; he did not kill any of the fighters Assad uses to politically cleanse opposition forces; and he did not destroy any of the stations Assad uses to transmit propaganda.

    In fact, Trump did absolutely nothing to prevent Assad from gassing his own people again today. This is self-evident because, if Assad were still storing chemical weapons in any of the buildings targeted, blowing them up would have made Trump responsible for a human catastrophe far worse than the one he was purportedly avenging.

    Frankly, the only newsworthy thing about this “perfectly executed strike” is the way it exposed Putin as an even bigger blustering fool than Trump. After all, Putin warned that he would not only shoot every missile out of the sky but destroy the ships and aircrafts that launched them to boot. Yet reports are that he did not fire a single shot in defense of his puppet Assad. #COWARD!

    In any event, given my allusions in related commentaries to President Bush’s shock-and-awe disaster in Iraq, these latest developments compel me to say, I rest my case.

    NOTE: Here’s to the media returning to their regularly scheduled saturation coverage of Comey’s “bombshell revelations” about Trump.

    Related commentaries:
    Syria: bombs away

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Saturday, at 8:47 a.m.

  • Friday, April 13, 2018 at 9:37 PM

    Syria: Bombs Away!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Trump’s egomaniacal stunts are such that he will probably order bombs to begin landing on Syria this Sunday night. Because that’s when ABC News has scheduled what all of Washington anticipates will be a blockbuster interview with former FBI director James Comey about his dealings with “Mafia Don” Trump.

    That interview will be based on Comey’s damning tell-all, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. But Trump knows all too well that Comey’s bombshell revelations would prove no match for his “nice, smart bombs” exploding in Syria.

    And he’d be right; the media would focus on the latter like moths to flames. To be fair, though, bombshell revelations about Trump and his presidency are as predictable at this point as salacious details about Stormy and her porno films.

    (“Trump, May, Macron: Don’t Bomb Syria. Withdraw World Cup from Russia,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 11, 2018)

    As it happens, the media spent much of today gobbling up advanced excerpts of Comey’s book, preempting Sunday’s interview. Therefore, I hope I’ll be forgiven for asserting that this media frenzy explains Trump ordering strikes tonight.

    President Trump said on Friday he had ordered strikes on Syrian targets, seeking to punish President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack near Damascus that killed more than 40 people.

    Mr. Trump said Britain and France had joined the United States in the strikes.

    (The New York Times, April 13, 2018)

    And, sure enough, the media turned on a dime from Comey to Syria – just as I predicted and Trump hoped they would. But I trust I’ve made clear why this is just another tragic launch of folly, which I’ve decried in related commentaries as an exercise in feckless masturbatory violence. Indeed, it will do no more to improve the lives of Syrians than 15 years of war did to improve that of Iraqis.

    I’ll spare you my indignant venting on the perverse moral code that led to that misguided war in Iraq and is now playing out in Syria. I just urge you to consider the manifest absurdity of Western leaders standing by as Assad kills hundreds of thousands with conventional weapons but claiming a moral compulsion to intervene when he kills hundreds with chemical weapons.

    I’ve been pleading for years for Western leaders to reconcile this moral inconsistency in such commentaries as “Actually, Isn’t Killing with Gas (Syria) more Humane than Killing with Guns (Egypt)?” August 23, 2013.

    That said, you should be wondering why nobody has heard a peep from the world’s second-most powerful nation. Well, the following explains China’s conspicuous refusal to serve even as a peace broker, let alone participate in this escalating military conflagration:

    China has so cultivated its self-serving and self-preserving policy of non-interference, it would not lift a finger to stop ISIS from conquering every country in the Middle East, so long as ISIS did not impinge on its sovereignty and was willing to supply its demand for oil.

    In other words, if China (instead of the United States) were the only world power capable of stopping the Nazis during WWII, Hitler would have realized his dream of turning all of Europe into a fascist paradise (e.g., free of Jews, blacks, and gays). This informs my abiding admonition about weak/poor countries, especially in Africa and the Caribbean, heralding China as a more worthy superpower patron than the United States.

    (“‘All the World Is at War’ Hardly Means World War III,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 30, 2015)

    Related commentaries:
    Trump May Macron
    World is at war
    gas vs guns

  • Friday, April 13, 2018 at 8:41 AM

    Data Breach more about Stupid Users than Greedy Facebook

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’ve already said all I care to say about the data breach that had Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the congressional hot seat this week. I refer you to such commentaries as “Facebook Complaining about NSA Spying? Ha!” March 15, 2014, and “Hey Stupid…Cambridge Analytica Used Facebook Users as Facebook Intended,” March 20, 2018, both of which contain links to related commentaries before and between.

    With that, here is the only newsworthy thing that was said during Zuckerberg’s 10 hours of testimony:

    ‘Be careful, or we might just have to regulate you. Congress is good at two things: doing nothing, and overreacting,’ Rep. Billy Long, a Republican representing Missouri, told Zuckerberg in a hearing Wednesday. ‘So far, we’ve done nothing on Facebook… We’re getting ready to overreact.’

    (CNN Tech, April 12, 2018)

    Mind you, this is the same Republican-controlled Congress that made deregulation across all business sectors its raison d’être. On the other hand, the American people elected Donald Trump president knowing that he would make full-frontal hypocrisy one of many dystopian coins of the realm. This, along with other deadly political sins like lies, bluster, graft, sloth, greed, and gaslighting, which makes the proverbial seven.

    Meanwhile, apropos of overreacting, the markets did just that by adding $3 billion to Zuckerberg’s net worth based solely on his I-promise-(again)-to-do-better testimony.

    All the same, it behooves Congress to appreciate that regulating Facebook to stop data breach is like censoring the NRA to stop gun violence. After all, most Facebook users are so stupid, they don’t even realize that deleting Facebook in favor of sharing all on Instagram is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

    Related commentaries:
    Hey stupid
    Facebook complaining
    Zuckerberg confesses

  • Wednesday, April 11, 2018 at 8:16 PM

    Trump, May, Macron: Don’t Bomb Syria. Withdraw World Cup from Russia!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Scoring macabre political points is the only goal Western powers can accomplish by bombing Syria. This is why I’ve been decrying it for years. In fact, when Western commentators hailed Russian President Vladimir Putin for joining this priapic orgy of bombing in 2015, I wailed in “Bombing ISIS Smacks of Masturbatory Violence,” November 18, 2015.

    Incidentally, the only reason President Obama didn’t join in is that flaccid members of the US Congress and UK Parliament turned him off. Never mind that many of these same members then mocked him as weak for not bombing, while praising Putin as strong for doing so.

    Now President Trump is amassing a Bush-lite coalition of the willing to bomb what little is left of Syria. He would have you believe that this will punish the Syrian president, “animal Assad,” for gassing his own people … again.

    But he knows better, and so should you. After all, it has been plain for years for all to see that such bombings only punish the Syrian people.

    This is why I urge British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron to talk Trump off his latest ledge. They can prevail upon him to join them in taking another, more effective course, especially if they promise to tell the world it was all his idea.

    It is self-evident that the best way to punish Assad is to punish Putin, his puppet master. Not to mention the myriad reasons Western leaders have to punish Putin for more direct sins, notably for invading Crimea, sabotaging elections, and poisoning people — all so infamously.

    Of course, the most direct way to punish him is to target him and his kitchen cabinet of oligarchs with increasingly punitive financial sanctions.

    The Trump administration begrudgingly imposed only a sampling just days ago. However, for patently suspicious reasons, it is refusing to impose many congressionally mandated sanctions, especially related to oil and gas, that could cripple Russia’s economy.

    Still, that sampling showed the effect imposing the full panoply of such sanctions could have.

    Listed companies controlled by Oleg Deripaska have lost over $6 billion in market value since they were hit with the sanctions on Friday by the Trump administration.

    Deripaska, a billionaire who once had close ties to President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is one of seven oligarchs who were sanctioned as part of an effort to punish the Kremlin.

    (CNN Money, April 9, 2018)

    But Putin is reportedly twice as rich as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the legitimate world’s richest man. I have ridiculed this wannabe czar’s brazen chicanery in many commentaries – perhaps most relevantly in “Putin’s Military Maneuvers Just Mercenary Distractions,” June 18, 2015.

    In fact, Putin and his cronies control so much wealth, they can probably weather financial sanctions for years. This, especially with China offering sanctions-proof havens like Hong Kong and Macau to continue laundering their ill-gotten gains.

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

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

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

    Alas, Team USA did not even qualify. Therefore, it falls to Britain’s May and France’s Macron to lead this effort, which might be just as well. Because it’s arguable that the European Union wields as much influence with FIFA, which governs the World Cup, as the United States does with the IOC, which governs the Olympics.

    And, just as the US led the world in boycotting the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the EU can lead it in replacing Russia as host of the 2018 World Cup.

    Incidentally, superstar players like Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, Lionel Messi of Argentina, and Sadio Mane of Senegal could probably be even more influential than political leaders like May and Macron in forcing a replacement.

    Frankly, all it would take is one viral tweet from Ronaldo. He could say something like this:

    I’m sorry, Russia has become such a rogue state, my conscience won’t allow me to play there any more than it would allow me to play in North Korea. #ReplaceRussia!

    I am calling for replacing instead of boycotting Russia because I do not think athletes and fans should be punished for the sins of political leaders … of any country. More to the point, if EU leaders make clear their intent to punish Putin, I am sure they could prevail upon soccer-mad and already prepared countries like Mexico, South Africa, or even Germany to host this World Cup … even at this late date.

    As it happens, though, I’ve been calling on FIFA to replace Russia ever since it gobbled up Crimea and rigged the Sochi Games.

    The inefficacy of sanctions provoked me to propose the following as the only way to punish Russia and its macho, sports-obsessed president.

    The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) should enlist the governing bodies of all major sports to ban Russia from hosting any sanctioned competition, so long as Putin remains in power. Because, no matter their representations, officials in Putin’s Russia will never implement the reforms WADA deems are necessary to eradicate systemic doping…

    Nothing would [be more effective in this respect] than FIFA withdrawing Russia’s highly coveted hosting gig for the 2018 World Cup.

    (“In Putin’s Russia Even Athletics Is a Criminal (Doping) Enterprise,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 9, 2015)

    So let it be called, so let it be done!

    Having said all that, I fear Assad might have presented Trump an opportunity to wag the dog that he cannot resist. I commented on this spectre just yesterday in “Assad Gasses His Own People Again and Trump Vows to Punish Him … Again,” April 10, 2018.

    In fact, Trump’s egomaniacal stunts are such that he will probably order bombs to begin landing on Syria this Sunday night. Because that’s when ABC News has scheduled what all of Washington anticipates will be a blockbuster interview with former FBI director James Comey about his dealings with “Mafia Don” Trump.

    That interview will be based on Comey’s damning tell-all, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. But Trump knows all too well that Comey’s bombshell revelations would prove no match for his “nice, smart bombs” exploding in Syria.

    And he’d be right; the media would focus on the latter like moths to flames. To be fair, though, bombshell revelations about Trump and his presidency are as predictable at this point as salacious details about Stormy and her porno films.

    Related commentaries:
    bombing ISIS
    Assad gassing people
    Athletes boycotting
    Rio Olympics
    Sochi doping
    Putin’s maneuvers
    Russia and China
    Putin’s Russia
    Stormy

  • Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at 11:08 AM

    Assad Gases His Own People Again and Trump Vows to Punish Him…Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Sadly, there’s no denying the groundhog-day spectre of this tragedy.

    Dozens of Syrians choked to death after a suspected chemical attack struck the rebel-held suburb of Douma, east of Damascus, with aid groups on Sunday blaming President Bashar al-Assad’s government for the assault. …

    Mr. Assad’s allies in Moscow and Tehran dismissed allegations of a chemical attack as ‘bogus.’

    (The New York Times, April 8, 2018)

    This attack and (unfolding) reaction to it mirror what played out a year ago this week. And it’s worth noting that this timing betrays the trademark taunting of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad’s puppet master.

    That said, just as she did back then, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is leading the chorus of global condemnation.

    To her credit, though, she is at least showing the presence of mind to bemoan the recurring nature of such attacks. Here, for example, is how she punctuated her now-familiar denunciation of Russia and Syria for the atrocities that have defined this seven-year war.

    The Russian regime, whose hands are also covered in the blood of Syrian children, cannot be shamed by pictures of its victims. We’ve tried that before.

    (CNN, April 10, 2018)

    Meanwhile, just as they did back then, Russia and Syria are gaslighting the international community: On the one hand, they are insisting there was no attack; while on the other hand, they are blaming Western-backed forces for staging it to frame them (a.k.a. a false flag operation).

    Unfortunately, this gaslighting smacks of the same diabolical cynicism that saw Russia poison its former spy Sergei Skripal, and then blame Britain. I commented on this infamous poisoning in “Russia Taunting Britain with Brazen Assassination,” March 13, 2018, and “Britain Slaps Russia…on Wrist for WMD Poisoning,” March 14, 2018.

    But, frankly, the groundhog-day nature of everything related to this chemical attack is such that I am loath to comment too much anew. In fact, much of what I would say I already said in this excerpt from “Putin Blames ‘Little Green Men’ for Syrian Gas Attack – as Bloom Comes Off His Bromance with Trump,” April 12, 2017.

    ____________________

    Only two words explain what Putin is doing here: lying and projecting!

    Putin is projecting blame onto phantom terrorists – not only for last week’s gas attack, which he knows his puppet Syrian regime perpetrated, but also for future attacks, which he knows it plans to perpetrate (if only in a vain and diabolical effort to further implicate the phantom terrorists and vindicate him).

    But Putin is also deflecting blame for his manifest failure to oversee the complete destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. You may recall that he famously promised to do so in exchange for Obama taking his finger off the trigger, which would have launched many more missiles at Syria in 2013 than the 60 Trump launched last week.

    In “The Issue Is Not Whether Russia Affected the Outcome of US Election,” December 12, 2016, I delineated (some of) the many reasons why the election collusion/bromance between Putin and Trump was doomed to implode. The most notable reason for this looming day of reckoning is that Putin will finally realize that, despite his flirtation, Trump’s policies towards Russia (especially re Ukraine-related sanctions) will be no different than Obama’s. …

    In other words, Trump was bound to disappoint Putin – just as he was bound to disappoint the poor fools who thought he really would, or even could, get Mexico to pay for that wall. Which suggests that Putin is not nearly as smart as he’s reputed to be.

    And the more Trump disappoints him, the more Putin will have to explain himself to all of the Russians he had drinking champagne toasts to Trump’s election. Not least because he had them convinced that Trump was his puppet who he could manipulate to lift crippling economic sanctions in short order.

    I cannot overstate this looming day of reckoning for their relationship. And nothing will characterize it quite like Putin unleashing the same leakers of secrets and peddlers of fake news to humiliate Trump and undermine his presidency who he unleashed to undermine Hillary and help elect Trump (i.e., the political execution of the proverb — live by the sword, die by the sword).

    ____________________

    My allusions to a “day of reckoning” between Trump and Putin bears reinforcing. Foremost, they were prescient in many respects — as circumstances that finally forced Trump to arm Ukrainian fighters and sanction Russian oligarchs attest.

    The United States imposed major sanctions on Friday against 24 Russians, striking at allies of President Vladimir Putin in one of Washington’s most aggressive moves to punish Moscow for its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and other ‘malign activity.’ …

    The action, taken under pressure from the U.S. Congress, freezes the U.S. assets of oligarchs such as aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Putin, and lawmaker Suleiman Kerimov, whose family controls Russia’s largest gold producer, Polyus.

    (Reuters, April 6, 2018)

    But my allusions also telegraphed the manifest challenge Trump now faces. Specifically, to save his face, Trump must react with punishing force; that is, the fire this time must look more like fireworks than firecrackers. I duly ridiculed the contrived nature of his “pinprick” reaction last time in “Trump Launches ‘Wag-the-Dog’ Strikes against Syria,” April 7, 2017.

    Except that, to save his face in turn, Putin must react directly against US forces; that is, he must do more than show that Trump’s missiles had no impact on his ability to help Assad continue bombing Western-backed forces and Syrian civilians alike. I duly ridiculed the we-survived nature of his reaction last time in “Assad Responds…,” April 9, 2017.

    All the same, I predict they will both do only what is minimally required to save face without triggering a full-scale confrontation between American and Russian forces … over Syria of all things. This, despite the chest-thumping, war-mongering rhetoric they might hurl at each other. I mean, let’s face it, after seven years of war, it is practically impossible to bomb anything in Syria that hasn’t already been bombed, repeatedly.

    More to the point, I’m sure military planners from both sides are already discussing ways to ensure targeting to limit civilian casualties and de-confliction to avoid unwitting escalation. Then, of course, there’s the patently hypocritical way Trump is telegraphing his intent to bomb Syria within days and withdraw all US troops “very soon.” After all, he made hay during his presidential campaign of ridiculing his predecessors as fools for telegraphing their intent on similar occasions. #IDIOT!

    As was the case last year, Trump is giving Assad more than enough time to move his indispensable military assets to safety, which might even include relocating them in Tehran. And those assets include the helicopters he uses to perpetrate chemical attacks.

    Mind you, Putin understands Trump’s need to wag the dog like no leader has ever done before. After all, it will take “shock-and-awe” explosions to detract media attention from the “stormy” weather he’s experiencing these days, especially with yesterday’s FBI raids on the home and offices of his personal lawyer.

    That lawyer, of course, is wannabe “fixer” Michael Cohen. And it appears the only reason simpleton Trump retained him is that his surname sounds like that of infamous mob lawyer Roy Cohn. Trump idolized Cohn.

    In any event, Putin and Trump undoubtedly appreciate the shrewdness of emulating former President Bill Clinton’s 1998 bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan in the midst of his entanglement with Monica Lewinsky.

    Tragically, when all is said and done, nothing will change in Syria. And chances are very good that it will only be a matter of time before this groundhog-day tragedy plays out again.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump finally criticizes Russia
    Russia taunting
    Britain slaps Russia
    Trump wag the dog strikes….
    Assad responds
    Putin blames green men
    Putin has compromising info on Trump

  • Monday, April 9, 2018 at 7:26 AM

    Backlash? South Korea’s First Female President Sentenced to 24 Years

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have been championing the rise of women as heads of state for years.

    Here’s to ‘the fairer sex’ – not only as indispensable guardians of home and hearth, but also as invaluable (and capable) stewards of the ship of state!

    (“Cracking the Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 12, 2005)

    This is why I was so heartened when countries around the world began electing women, notably in Germany, Liberia, Chile, Australia, Thailand, Brazil, South Korea, and Jamaica.

    Mind you, women have never amounted to more than 56 of 146 heads of state. Therefore, I have never been inclined to borrow that famous Virginia Slims line,

    You’ve come a long way, baby.

    Even so, I was shocked and dismayed when the backlash came. This manifested not only in many women leaders losing reelection bids but also in a resurgence of strongmen as their political bettors.

    This latter dynamic played out in disheartening fashion during the 2016 US presidential. After all, Donald Trump was a prototype of the entitled men who have ruled the world since time immemorial; whereas Hillary Clinton was a prototype of the liberated women who seemed poised to supplant those men.

    Yet he won.

    On the other hand, Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain always gave me pause. It was bad enough that she wanted to be more of a strongman than any strongman ever was. But she also displayed a disregard for the political skills of other women that must have dismayed even the male chauvinist pigs in her Cabinet.

    In any event, her prime ministership (1979-1990) stands as a glaring rebuttal to the presumption I have argued in such commentaries as “Men Should Be Barred from Politics,” September 25, 2013, and “Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” October 14, 2010, which includes the following.

    ____________________

    We have enough data, as well as anecdotal evidence, from the way women have influenced the corporate world to make some credible extrapolations. The correlation between more women holding positions of power and the implementation of family-friendly policies  is undeniable in this respect. Therefore, it’s entirely reasonable to assert that if more women held positions of power in politics they would use their power more towards building up human resources than military armaments – just to cite one obvious example.

    Finland’s president, prime minister, president of the Supreme Court, as well as eight of its eleven government ministers are all women. Arguably, there’s a direct correlation between their positions and the fact that Newsweek rated this county the best place to live in 2010 – in terms of health, economic dynamism, education, political environment, and quality of life.

    ____________________

    The point is that I was in “rebuttal” mode when I refrained from commenting on the rise of Park Geun-hye of South Korea. I had read enough to suspect that her presidency would prove so thoroughly corrupt, it would rival those of Africa’s notorious kleptomaniacs.

    Sure enough, here in part is how I ended up commenting on her fall in “Backlash against (Liberal) Women Leaders,” December 1, 2016.

    ____________________

    Most disheartening of all, this backlash saw a measure of vindication this week when Park Geun-hye, the first woman elected South Korean president, offered to resign.

    The disgraced South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, has offered to resign and called on parliament to arrange her exit amid a corruption and cronyism scandal that has all but destroyed her administration.

    Speaking in a nationally televised address on Tuesday, Park – whose single five-year term will not be officially over until early 2018 – asked the national assembly to set a new deadline for the end of her turbulent presidency.

    (London Guardian, November 29, 2016)

    Would that I could decry her fate too. Unfortunately, all indications are that Park is guilty as charged, which makes her offer to resign more Nixonian than honorable.

    Reports are that she allowed her Rasputin-like confidante to misuse her good offices to peddle influence and rake in millions. The audacity of this misuse appears such that it makes the way Hillary reportedly allowed her husband Bill to misuse hers (as secretary of state) seem, well, positively charitable.

    I have written many commentaries hailing the rise of women as heads of state. Therefore, it is perhaps prescient that I was as loath to hail Park’s election in February 2013 as I am to hail Trump’s today.

    ____________________

    The court finally sentenced Park to 24 years in prison and $17 million in fines.

    [She faced] bribery and other charges in a case that exposed the entrenched, collusive ties between the government and huge conglomerates like Samsung. …

    The conviction and sentencing represented a climactic moment in an influence-peddling scandal that … shook the country’s political and business worlds.

    (The New York Times, April 6, 2018)

    Park had already spent more than a year behind bars. She even caused a stir in October when she began complaining that she was too ill to attend any court hearing, including Friday’s sentencing. Evidently, it worked … a little; after all, prosecutors were demanding a 30-year prison sentence and $120 million in fines.

    But I don’t mind admitting that I feel anger and sympathy in equal measure: anger because Park made a mockery of my long-championed proposition that women make better politicians; sympathy because, even though many of them were equally corrupt, none of her male predecessors suffered an equally justified fate … yet.

    The past seven heads of state have all been embroiled in corruption scandals. …

    All four of South Korea’s living ex-presidents have now either been convicted of corruption offences, or are in jail being tried or investigated for such crimes.

    (The Economist, April 7, 2018)

    Something is clearly rotten in the Republic of Korea …

    Meanwhile, I fear it’s only a matter of time before Brazil does to Dilma Rousseff, its first female president, what South Korea has done to Park. Like Park, Rousseff has already been impeached. I commented on this fearful symmetry in “Chauvinistic Impeachment of Brazil’s First Female President, Dilma Rousseff,” September 1, 2016.

    I declared her impeachment chauvinistic because it was self-evident that her predominantly male accusers and parliamentary judges were visiting the sins of Lula da Silva, her male mentor and predecessor, upon her.

    But nothing is more foreboding for Rousseff than prosecutors convicting Lula (72) on a battery of corruption and money laundering charges last July. After losing all judicial appeals, he surrendered to prison authorities on Saturday to begin serving a 12-year sentence.

    Related commentaries:
    Glass ceiling
    Theresa May
    Backlash
    Dilma Rousseff
    Women make better politicians

  • Saturday, April 7, 2018 at 8:40 AM

    Blowing Up Iran Nuclear Deal Is Trump Doing as Stupid Does

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This excerpt — from “Trump Decertifying Iran Nuclear Deal more MALO than MAGA,” October 13, 2017 — explains a lot, not just about his nuclear politics but his imploding presidency.

    ____________________

    Hardly a day goes by without Donald Trump doing or saying something to make his presidency a laughing stock. … Frankly, only a diagnosis that places Trump somewhere on the autism spectrum explains why. …

    You’d think Trump’s nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea were dangerous enough. Yet he seems hell-bent on doing the same with Iran.

    Never mind autism, I suspect Trump is doing this because he’s a sociopath who is

    1. unable to exercise sound judgment;
    2. unable to control his tweeting impulses;
    3. unable to appreciate the danger inherent in his ill-advised tweets and antics; and
    4. unable to appreciate the consequences of those ill-advised tweets and antics. …

    Whatever Trump’s ambition to Make America Great Again (MAGA), it is no match for his pathological intent to Make America Loathe Obama (MALO). Only this explains his Mad-Hatter efforts to repeal and replace (or failing that to undermine) Obamacare, President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

    In any case, it’s impossible to overstate the danger inherent in Trump decertifying this Iran nuclear deal, Obama’s signature foreign-policy achievement. But it speaks volumes that the other signatories, Republican congressional leaders, and members of his own national security team are all warning him against doing so. This, in a nutshell, betrays the extent to which Trump will go to MALO.

    ____________________

    There’s also this from “Trump’s Leading March against Iran, but Nobody’s Following,” October 16, 2017.

    ____________________

    Iran, Russia and European leaders roundly condemned President Trump’s decision on Friday to disavow the Iran nuclear deal, saying that it reflected the growing isolation of the United States, threatened to destabilize the Middle East and could make it harder to resolve the growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

    (The New York Times, October 13, 2017)

    Donald Trump is utterly unfit to serve as president of the United States. His nuclear war of words with Kim Jong-un of North Korea and his willful decertification of the nuclear deal with Iran are just the latest in a litany of examples that prove this beyond any reasonable doubt.

    ____________________

    I fear Trump is just too stupid to appreciate the manifest absurdity of trying to strike a nuclear deal with North Korea on the one hand, while threatening to rip up a similar deal with Iran on the other.

    To be fair, though, the manifest irony of his Art of the Deal is that no deal is worth the paper it’s written on. Trump actually takes pride in the litigious scars he bears from failing to honor hundreds of business deals. And he’s taking similar pride in his unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and the Paris Climate Accord.

    In fact, the only deals Trump seems to think are inviolate are the non-disclosure agreements he struck over the years with playboy bunnies (like Karen McDougal) and porn stars (like Stormy Daniels).

    This is why Kim is bound to regard any nuclear deal Trump strikes with him as tantamount to Trump selling him the Brooklyn Bridge. And Kim will behave accordingly.

    Specifically, he will extract every possible concession (e.g., sanctions relief for food, oil, and foreign direct investments). But then he will show even less regard for Trump’s nuclear deal with his North Korea than Trump is showing for Obama’s with the Ayatollah’s Iran. And, in doing so, Kim will make Trump’s Art of the Deal look like chicken scratch.

    Related commentaries:
    Decertifying
    Trump’s leading
    Trump and Kim to meet
    stormy

  • Thursday, April 5, 2018 at 7:37 PM

    Trump vs. Amazon (a.k.a. pathological pettiness trolling informed indifference)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    From day one of his presidency, Donald Trump has been using his bully pulpit to attack Amazon. He claims this standard-bearer of online retailers struck a sweetheart deal with the US Postal Service (USPS) that is ripping off taxpayers.

    His latest salvo came in a tweetstorm last weekend, which included this cheap shot:

    Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon. THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed. Also, our fully tax paying retailers are closing stores all over the country … not a level playing field!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2018

    Unfortunately, like most things Trump bellows from that pulpit, his claims are unhinged, uninformed, and unfair. After all, Amazon

    • pays a negotiated bulk rate for shipping parcels that is comparable to the rate other major retailers pay;
    • pays all taxes due, which amounts to far more than the Trump Organization pays, “believe me” (there’s “projection” afoot here, methinks); and
    • is no more responsible for sending mom-and-pop stores the way of horse-and-buggy carriages than Walmart or Target.

    It might also be helpful to know that USPS uses revenues from the sale of stamps and other products to fund its operations. It does not use taxpayer dollars as Trump claims.

    Amazon isn’t causing the United States Postal Service to lose a fortune. In fact, it’s contributing to its biggest growth sector, package delivery. Deals like the one with Amazon brought in $7 billion in fiscal year 2017.

    (Politifact, April 2, 2018)

    Which brings me to Trump’s ulterior motive. Because launching this public attack against Amazon seems a pretext for venting his personal grievance against its founder, Jeff Bezos. You see, Bezos just happens to be the owner of The Washington Post – a newspaper Trump fears is as much of an existential threat to his presidency as it was to Nixon’s.

    Nixon wanted to intimidate The Washington Post by interfering with its business, just as Trump is attempting to bully the very same newspaper. The only difference is that Nixon did it behind the scenes (where it might have stayed if it weren’t for his taping system), while Trump is doing it out in the open.

    (Bloomberg, April 4, 2018) 

    Alas, this is just one of the many ways Trump is normalizing self-interested and self-aggrandizing presidential behavior. Not to mention the many ways he is undermining America’s democratic institutions.

    I have often remarked that never in his wildest dreams could Russian President Vladimir Putin imagine doing more damage. This is why, instead of terms of art like “useful idiot” and the “Manchurian candidate,” I began referring to Trump as the “Manchurian president.”

    (For more on this, I refer you to such commentaries as “The Issue Is Not Whether Russia Affected Outcome of US Election,” December 12, 2016, and “Treasonous Trump Releasing Fake Memo to Frame FBI and Hide Russian Ties,” February 1, 2018.)

    In any event, as it was with Nixon, only impeachment will prevent his presidency from sowing seeds that will cause America to grow into a bona fide Banana Republic.

    Meanwhile, Trump’s notorious jealousy towards wealthier people must only aggravate his grievance against Bezos. And Bezos is probably compounding that aggravation by completely ignoring Trump.

    After all, due to Trump willfully maligning Amazon, Bezos lost more wealth in one week recently than Trump has accumulated in 71 years.

    One week — and four Amazon-related Trump tweets later … Amazon’s stock price has dropped by around 10%, subtracting roughly $16 billion away from Bezos.

    (Money Magazine, April 2, 2018)

    Yet Bezos is acting as if he couldn’t care less. And I can think of nothing that would get under Trump’s thin skin more than that. Still, here’s to other Amazon shareholders making him pay by filing a class-action lawsuit for damages.

    That said, the only thing more troubling than Trump’s spiteful attack is the dogged refusal of Republican leaders to condemn it. Except that this is just the latest indication of how thoroughly they have sacrificed their political (and moral) principles at the altar of Trump’s petty ambitions.

    These, after all, are the same Republicans who deemed it an article of faith to condemn Obama after he criticized corporations for keeping profits offshore to avoid paying taxes. Never mind that, like most things Obama intoned from his bully pulpit, his criticisms were firm, factual, and fair.

    This is why the fate of the Republic rests on voters storming the polls for November’s midterm elections to put Democrats in control of Congress. Because only Democrats would honor the categorical imperative to impeach Trump. This, based on all manner of high crimes and misdemeanors everyone in Washington expects Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to delineate in his pending report.

    Related commentaries:
    projection
    Manchurian president
    Whether Russia affected election
    Treasonous Trump
    republicans sacrificing principles
    special prosecutor Mueller

  • Wednesday, April 4, 2018 at 7:21 AM

    In Memoriam: 50th Anniversary of the MLK Assassination

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Below are MLK’s last words – his death prefiguring. He intoned them at the end of the sermon he delivered the night before his assassination.
    __________________

    Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.

    I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land.

    I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.

    Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

    __________________

     

    Related Commentaries:
    MLK Day
  • Monday, April 2, 2018 at 7:34 AM

    Happy Easter … Monday

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Despite the untenable nature of colonialism, the British introduced a few customs that are still heartily observed throughout their former colonies in the Caribbean. Public holidays certainly fall within this cherished tradition.

    Nassau-Cable-BeachUnlike the Americans, however, the British do not glorify their holidays with patriotic or reverential titles – like Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, or Thanksgiving Day. They just refer to almost all of them as Bank Holidays.

    This curious designation probably came about as an unwitting homage to British mercantilism. But the official line is that it dates back to 1871, when national obsession with the game of cricket led to the Bank Holidays Act – to give bank employees a few extra days off each year to play and watch matches.

    Blue_Orchid_01It just so happens, though, that “Easter Monday” is a rather ambivalent holiday. After all, it has a reverential title but no discernible relevance to Jesus Christ (like Good Friday or Christmas). Perhaps even the British had qualms about appending a “bank holiday” to the holiest weekend on the Christian calendar.

    Whatever the case, as a young boy, this was always my favorite bank holiday. Not just because it was the first bona fide beach holiday of the year, but also because it helped me recover from the trauma of wallowing in the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The hosannas heralding His resurrection on Easter Sunday provided no consolation.

    Meanwhile, with access to so many beautiful beaches, it’s a wonder the British did not leave us with many more bank holidays.

    Related commentaries:
    My Good Friday Sermon
    Plan your vacation to The Bahamas

    Plan your vacation to the Turks & Caicos Islands

  • Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 7:02 AM

    Easter Message for Trump and His Supporters, Especially Evangelicals…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
    Evangelicals for Trump…

  • Friday, March 30, 2018 at 7:07 AM

    My Good Friday Sermon

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I grew up the son of a preacher man. One of the things I found most dispiriting about this was having to listen to the same sermon over and over again, knowing full well that my Daddy expected me to be moved by the Holy Spirit anew each time.

    In fact, by the time I was ten, my mind, body, and soul had become inured to “inspired” sermons from the pulpit, all of which I could parrot (almost verbatim) from my church pew. Only the wife of a vainglorious politician could possibly relate.

    Yet I never grew tired of the rituals that attended the Easter season. Indeed, I could never disguise the spirit of suspended animation that got me through it all — even as others affected the countenance each occasion warranted (i.e., by being appropriately maudlin on Good Friday to mourn the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and joyous on Easter Sunday to celebrate his resurrection).

    Never mind that my animated countenance was due entirely to the anticipation of what fun Easter Monday would bring — as the first beach holiday of the year in the Caribbean Commonwealth.

    But oh the guilt I suffered for supplanting religious pathos with this hedonistic inspiration during Christianity’s holiest days!

    Thank God I deduced before my puberty was in full bloom that He will forgive me: Not only for my sinful thoughts, but also for the diabolical pleasure I derived from playing one of the soldiers who flogged Jesus Christ (as he crawled his way to Golgotha) in the passion plays our Church performed every Easter.

    This brings me to the essence of my Good Friday sermon. I address it particularly to those Christian parents who will force their children to abide church services throughout this weekend just as my parents forced me to do when I was a child:

    God will forgive the little ones for not getting all worked up each year for the scripted homage to his son’s crucifixion and resurrection. He will even forgive them for not writhing with the Holy Spirit on cue at revivals, at which it seemed only the souls of mischievous children, not those of sinful adults, needed salvation.

    Moreover, he will not ruin their lives if the only spirit that moves them at Easter time is the one they hope will get them to the beach on Easter Monday; trust me!

    Amen.

    goodfridaybThat said, if you really must wallow in the macabre passions of the season, I suggest you buy the DVD of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and watch it today. Because, more than any Easter homily or play, this movie will evoke the funereal emotions and convey (in refreshing and entertaining fashion) the expiatory significance of these familiar words:

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

    (The Holy Bible, John 3:16)

    Given the above, it would probably surprise none of you to learn that the elders of my church damned me to Hell for being a “backsliding reprobate” long ago. But this had more to do with the Pharisaic standards that govern conduct in most churches than any unpardonable sin I may have committed.

    Indeed, I believe it is duly recorded on God’s Heavenly scroll that I am more spiritual, and live a more Christ-like life, than almost all of the tartuffes who bored me to distraction with their sermons in my youth!

  • Thursday, March 29, 2018 at 7:23 AM

    March Madness Is Thinking Sister Jean Has Anything to Do with Loyola’s Miracle. Welcome Back, UConn

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Organizers hype the annual NCAA Division 1 Basketball Tournament as “March Madness.” They do so to exploit “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” inherent in low-seeded teams (a.k.a. Cinderellas) upsetting top-seeded ones — often with buzzer-beating hail marys.

    Incidentally,

    I decided years ago to forego the cheap thrill of filling out brackets and feigning agony as my picks got knocked off like ducks at a carnival shooting gallery. Mind you, if I were still an indentured servant at a big law firm, I would’ve welcomed the respite from drudgery, which Bracketology for office pools provides. The aim is clearly not to guess the result of each game; it’s to see whose bracket sustains the least number of casualties throughout the tournament.

    (“NCAA March Madness — and Then There’s the Women of UConn,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 30, 2017)

    In any event, the results hardly ever live up to the hype. For example, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Cinderella stories played out in at least half of the eight regions this year. In fact, it played out in only one – as the Final Four brackets attest:

    Women’s Bracket

    1 UConn vs. 1 Notre Dame

    1 Mississippi State vs. 1 Louisville

    Men’s Bracket

    11 Loyola vs. 3 Michigan

    1 Villanova vs. 1 Kansas

    Granted, the thrill of watching Loyola make it to this Final Four probably compensates for the lack of thrill in the other brackets. (Nobody should be surprised that Michigan made it.)

    But I take exception to the willing suspension of disbelief that has everyone ascribing Loyola’s success more to the prayers of Sister Jean, its 98-year-old chaplain, than to the skills of its players.

    Five thousand Sister Jean bobbleheads were sold in just 48 hours, a hall-of-fame record that goes along with all the T-shirts and socks now bearing her likeness. …

    We asked her if she thinks God is on Loyola’s side. ‘Right now, yes,’ she responded.

    (CBS News, March 26, 2018)

    This just confirms that, for the business that is NCAA Basketball, any narrative that lures people to buy into the hype will do: ka-ching!

    Meanwhile, UConn has resumed its seemingly invincible run through the women’s tournament. Which is why I suspect the NCAA prevailed upon it to throw its Final Four game against Mississippi State last year just to manufacture suspense. Trust me, it’s no stretch to suspect the NCAA Board of Governors of orchestrating such venal contrivance.

    Boston Globe columnist [Dan Shaughnessy] said the Huskies ‘are killing the women’s game’ by being too dominant. …

    ‘Watch? No thanks.’

    (FOX Sports, March 28, 2016)

    Another championship last year would have meant a five-peat for UConn – a feat no men’s team has come close to matching in the modern era. That, in turn, would have made a six-peat feat a foregone conclusion this year, which (given the NCAA’s mercenary interests) would have diminished what little coverage the media usually accord the women’s tournament.

    Mind you, if any men’s team were as dominant as this women’s team, the media would be covering that men’s team the way they used to cover Tiger Woods. To be fair, the media do not even highlight UConn’s dominance the way they highlight Serena Williams’. But I digress …

    I have hailed the UConn women in many commentaries over the years. And I have never failed to decry the yawns that continually greeted their milestone accomplishments.

    Unfortunately, what I wrote in this regard — in “UConn Routs Louisville to Win NCAA (Women’s) Championship,” April 8, 2009 — remains as relevant today as it was when I wrote it nine years ago.

    ____________________

    Instead of commanding network coverage in primetime like the men’s championship, the women’s was relegated to cable last night, which guaranteed only a fraction of the viewership. TV executives wonder why they can’t get better ratings for the fledgling women’s professional league — the WNBA. Well, it might have something to do with the way they keep dissing women’s college Basketball in this fashion.

    Moreover, what does this disparate coverage say to female college athletes, as well as to young girls, who we encourage to have the same interest in sports as young boys? Frankly, it says that chauvinism, sexism, and discrimination against women in sports not only still exist but are blithely tolerated.

    ____________________

    Sure enough, you probably know more about Sister Jean than any women’s team.

    I appreciate that most people (men and women) think women’s Basketball can’t match the excitement of men’s. Except that I used to think women’s Tennis can’t match the excitement of men’s. I still watch a lot of Tennis, but I haven’t watched men play in years.

    I hope my testimony disabuses you of any sexist thought you may have in this regard. Give women’s Basketball a try. The more you watch, the more the media will show.

    Incidentally, apropos of (real) indentured servitude, I’ve been in the vanguard of those calling for the NCAA to pay all “student athletes.” It should pay them commensurate with the revenues they help generate for their respective colleges. I’ve delineated my argument for this in many commentaries, including “Student Athletes Make Billions (for Colleges) but Most Graduate Poor…and Dumb,” January 16, 2014, and “Salaries of College Coaches Reflect Enduring Master-Slave Relationships,” October 28, 2016.

    As it happens, the NCAA formed a special committee recently to redress the root causes of corruption in college sports.

    ‘The recent news of a federal investigation into fraud in college basketball made it very clear the NCAA needs to make substantive changes to the way we operate, and do so quickly,’ [NCAA president Mark] Emmert said. …

    Emmert and the NCAA have put together a committee that will be chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice … to rework the sport’s weaknesses.

    (cbssports.com, October 11, 2017)

    Of course, much of that fraud stems from third parties paying student athletes crumbs under the table. Therefore, if this committee fails to recommend a duly sanctioned system for paying them, all other recommendations will amount to, well, a whitewash.

    That said, I’m pulling for UConn to reclaim its crown by defeating Notre Dame in the Final Four and whichever team it faces in the Final Dance. No doubt UConn hopes to tango with Mississippi State to avenge last year’s loss.

    As for the men’s tournament, I feel inspired, as the son of a preacher man, to pull for Michigan to upset Loyola. Because, with all due respect to Sister Jean, it’s imperative to rebuke the narrative that God has anything to do with its success.

    Nothing betrays the spectacle Sister Jean has become quite like Michigan wheeling out 100-year-old “Grandma Rose” to trash talk her. God help us!

    Still, after performing this NCAA exorcism in the Final Four, it would only seem fair for Michigan to win the championship game.

    Go UConn! Go Michigan!

    Related commentaries:
    NCAA 2017
    Indentured servitude

  • Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at 12:53 PM

    Supporters of Stephon Clark Beware: Prosecutor Says No Charge for Police Killing Alton Sterling. And He’s Right

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, I’ve been preaching about the spectre of police killing black men so much that I’m beginning to feel like John the Baptist. Except that I fear there will never be a Jesus-like messenger to make my message more palatable.

    My ‘golden rule’ is that black men would survive 99 percent of these encounters if they just obey police commands. Unfortunately, far too many choose instead to resist arrest — pursuant to some misguided (black) badge of courage. 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 handcuffs on you.

    Mind you, I readily concede that, in one percent of these encounters, obeying commands would not guarantee survival. The viral video of the killing of Philando Castile demonstrated this … in black and white. But this is the exception, not the rule. Which is why it’s plainly foolhardy to resist arrest because obeying commands only offers a 99 percent chance of survival.

    (“Three White Cops Kill Two Black Men…,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 3, 2017)

    As it happens, nobody can deny that resisting arrest led to the death of Stephon Clark just last week:

    Sacramento police officers shot and killed a black man in his grandmother’s backyard because they believed he was pointing a gun at them. …

    The videos show a brief encounter between police and Clark, lasting less than a minute, from the moment one of the officers spotted him in the driveway and yelled, ‘Hey, show me your hands. Stop. Stop … Gun, gun, gun.’

    (CNN, March 22, 2018)

    Pow, pow, pow they went … until two officers (one white, one black) unloaded a fusillade of 20 bullets between them.

    Yet it’s debatable whether the police are more to blame because Clark was holding a cellphone, not a gun; or whether Clark is because he resisted arrest. Never mind that most reporters never bother to mention that Clark was the prime suspect in a spree of vandalism and theft.

    The incident that ended Clark’s life began when Sacramento officers responded around 9:15 p.m. to a call that a 6-foot-1 man wearing a black hoodie and dark pants was breaking into vehicles, authorities said. The caller said the man had broken car windows and was hiding in a backyard, according to the Sacramento Police Department. …

    Officers ordered the man to stop and show his hands, but that he ran [eventually seeking refuge in his grandmother’s backyard].

    (The Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2018)

    Apportioning blame will be critical in determining whether this police killing was justified. But it could prove incriminating that the police betrayed (some kind of) consciousness of guilt when they muted their bodycams upon realizing that Clark was unarmed.

    Whatever the case, I am frustrated and dismayed that more people aren’t preaching to black men about the tragic folly of resisting arrest. After all, this clearly makes more sense than preaching to the police about the presumed fairness of holding fire, especially in what they perceive as life-and-death situations.

    Which brings me to Alton Sterling.

    A pair of white police officers in Baton Rouge, La., will not be prosecuted by the state authorities in a fatal shooting of a black man there almost two years ago.

    Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced his conclusion on Tuesday, almost 11 months after the United States Department of Justice declined to bring charges in the death of the man, Alton B. Sterling.

    (New York Times, March 27, 2018)

    With the futility of preaching in the wilderness firmly in mind, I shall suffice to reprise a little of what I wrote two years ago in “Alton Sterling Latest Black Man Shot Dead While (or for?) Resisting Arrest,” July 7, 2016.

    ____________________

    I’ve seen the video. And, like the infamous Eric Garner video, it shows Alton Sterling resisting lawful police commands pursuant to an arrest.

    Of course, black activists will blame a trigger-happy cop without mentioning Sterling’s role in triggering his own death. And, as it was in the killing of Michael Brown, his defenders will blithely ignore the crime Sterling allegedly perpetrated, which caused someone to call the police in the first place.

    But the video shows enough for me to assert that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will be hard-pressed to file charges for a clear violation of Sterling’s civil rights.

    ____________________

    Further, here in part is what I wrote two years before that 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.

    ___________________

    Sure enough, despite all the indignant protests it triggered, both state and federal prosecutors found no just cause to charge the officer involved in the killing of Michael Brown.

    Of course, I have great sympathy for the loved ones of black men like Brown, Sterling and Clark.

    I have nothing but contempt, however, for lawyers and activists who rush in to make dubious martyrs of them. This, instead of admonishing other black men to do the right things to avoid ending up like them. Nobody wanted Clark dead. But I’m sure none of the (black) people whose cars he vandalized and burglarized considers him a martyr for any worthy cause.

    Not to mention that, for those lawyers and activists, justice is more about getting their cut from civil settlements than getting any cop thrown in jail. And that’s not me just being my cynical self:

    Al Sharpton is all about the Benjamins, a daughter of police chokehold victim Eric Garner claims in a bombshell videotape.

    (New York Post, February 24, 2015)

    Related commentaries:
    Three white cops kill two blacks

  • Monday, March 26, 2018 at 7:56 AM

    Aping Russia’s Putin, Egypt’s Sisi Rigging (Another) Election to Continue Serving…for Life

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Egyptians go to the polls today for a presidential election that smacks of a coronation. After all, not only is voting compulsory, but President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is effectively the only candidate.

    Frankly, the only uncertainty is whether he’s shameless enough to rig more than the 96.1 percent of the vote he rigged in 2014.

    The lack of serious competition has drawn the fierce condemnation of critics who say Sisi has stifled dissent, but the President says he is not to blame. …

    ‘I swear to God, I wished there would have been more candidates for people to choose who they want. But they were not ready yet, there is no shame in this,’ Sisi said in a recent TV interview.

    (CNN, March 25, 2018)

    Only a godless dictator would broadcast such a “big lie” without fear of his people ridiculing him, or of God rebuking him. This, alas, is what the Arab Spring has sprung.

    The BBC telegraphed this unfolding farce a month ago (on February 24). That’s when Our World previewed this election under a headline that was as telling as it was succinct:

    Crushing Dissent in Egypt

    As it happens, though, I telegraphed this years ago. In fact, here is the foreboding I sounded when the Arab Spring was still in full bloom:

    With all due respect to the protesters, the issue is not whether Mubarak will go, for he will. (The man is 82 and already looks half dead for Christ’s sake!) Rather, the issue is who will replace him. And it appears they have not given any thought whatsoever to this very critical question. …

    The devil the Egyptians know might prove far preferable to the devil they don’t. Just ask the Iranians who got rid of the Mubarak-like Shah in 1979 only to end up with the Ayatollah Khomeini — whose Islamic revolution they’ve regretted (and have longed to overturn) ever since.

    (“Army Pledges No Force Against Protesters,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 1, 2011)

    Unfortunately, I’ve had too many occasions since then to say “I told you so.” I could easily cite another twenty-five commentaries, but here are just five to give you a sense of how I chronicled Egypt’s descent into a dictatorship that makes Mubarak’s look like a liberal democracy:

    • “Protesters Return to Tahrir Square,” June 6, 2012
    • “Egyptians Continue March Back to the Future,” December 20, 2013
    • “Egypt’s Arab Spring Spawns Brutal Military Dictatorship,” March 25, 2014
    • “Dismissal of Mubarak’s Charges Brings Indian Summer for Egypt’s Arab Spring,” December 1, 2014
    • “Egypt Sentences Morsi to Death: Exposes Fecklessness of US Mideast Policy,” May 20, 2015

    I included the commentary from December 1, 2014, because it vindicates my initial concern about Egypt’s democratic protesters:

    These are the same anti-government protesters who took to this same square last year to celebrate Sisi’s ouster of Morsi, and who did the same four years ago to call for the ouster of Mubarak.

    Even so, the irony seems completely lost on them that, despite all of their revolutionary protests, the dismissal of all charges against Mubarak means that Egypt has ended up right where the Arab Spring was sprung.

    But, if they think they can repeat against al-Sisi the miracle in Tahrir Square that led to the ouster of Mubarak, I have two words of admonition for these protesters: Tiananmen Square.

    Of course, given the fallout from Tiananmen Square, China’s democratic protesters can be forgiven for thinking that their country is fated to be ruled by a Maoist dictator:

    China’s largely ceremonial parliament on Sunday overwhelmingly endorsed a controversial change to the country’s constitution, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely.

    (CNN, March 12, 2018)

    Likewise, given the fallout from Tahrir Square, Egypt’s democratic protesters can be forgiven for thinking that their country is fated to be ruled by … a latterday Pharoah. Hence the protester’s remorse as Egypt’s Arab Spring continues to sprout nothing but thorns.

    Related commentaries:
    Sisi’s Egypt
    Arab spring

  • Saturday, March 24, 2018 at 8:53 AM

    March to Protect Students from Mass Shooters (and Gun-Toting Teachers)!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Survivors of the Parkland school shooting are leading hundreds of thousands in a “March on Washington” today.

    They’ll be marching under the banner “March for Our Lives,” hoping against hope that this march will do for gun control what that famous march did for civil rights in 1963.

    Meanwhile:

    A rural Pennsylvania school district has equipped all 200 of its classrooms with buckets of rocks that students and teachers could use as a ‘last line of defense’ in the event of a school shooting, the district’s superintendent said on Friday.

    (Reuters, March 23, 2018)

    This bucket-of-rocks strategy puts a tragicomic twist on the biblical story of the rock-slinging David vs. the poor-sighted Goliath.

    Except that these little Davids would be forgiven for wondering whether a potential mass shooter or the present armed teacher is their Goliath.

    Related commentaries:
    Parkland

  • Friday, March 23, 2018 at 7:50 AM

    Israeli PM Netanyahu Says African Migrants Worse than Muslim Terrorists

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that an electronic fence along the Israel-Egypt border has saved the Jewish state from jihadist attacks or what he believes would be worse — a tide of African migrants. …

    The interior ministry says there are currently some 42,000 African migrants in Israel, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, and the government has ordered that thousands of them must leave or face indefinite imprisonment.

    (IOL Africa, March 20, 2018)

    Politicians across the world condemned US President Donald Trump two months ago after he cursed Caribbean and African countries as “shitholes.” I joined the commentariat’s chorus of condemnation with “Only an Asshole like Trump Would Call Caribbean and African Countries ‘Shitholes,’” on January 12.

    Incidentally, to his credit, Trump dispatched Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Africa earlier this month to mend fences. Never mind the Trumpian way he undermined that mission by firing Tillerson in the midst of it.

    As it happens, Netanyahu is more of “an asshole like Trump” than any other world leader. In fact, I have condemned him on many occasions for his own racist rhetoric.

    For example:

    • In “Netanyahu’s Call for Jewish Exodus more Sharpton than Moses,” February 23, 2015, I condemned him for insinuating that Jews in Europe are as oppressed today as they were during the heyday of the Nazi Germany. The irony is obviously lost on this self-righteous schmuck that he is oppressing Palestinians today even more than Hitler oppressed Jews … before executing his “final solution.”
    • In “Israel Votes to Become more Like (old) Apartheid South Africa,” March 18, 2015, I condemned him for exhorting Jews to rush to the polls because too many Israelis of Arab descent were showing up to vote.
    • And in “Israel Deporting Blacks to Preserve White Character of Jewish State,” January 4, 2018, I condemned him for trying to ensure that Africans and Arabs compose no more than a negligible percentage of Israel’s immigrant population. In this, he is simpatico with his BFF Trump – who is trying to ensure that Mexicans and Muslims compose a much lower percentage of America’s.

    The point is that, if Trump calling African countries shitholes is racist, then surely Netanyahu calling African migrants worse than Muslim terrorists is, well, even worse.

    Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find politicians or commentators condemning Netanyahu the way they condemned Trump. I suspect ignorance accounts for this deafening silence as much indifference. (Had you read or heard of Netanyahu’s remarks before reading them here?) But the silence of American and African politicians is worthy of comment.

    With respect to the Americans, it should not surprise you to learn that, despite his racist rhetoric, Netanyahu is even more popular among American politicians than Trump. Frankly, most Republicans would sooner kiss the ass of this Jewish prime minister than the brass ring of the Christian pope.

    I’ll spare you my sermon on the ‘biblical’ alliance between these two polarizing religious sects. Suffice it to consider the condescension/bigotry inherent in these Christians deeming it an article of their faith – not only to protect Jews (whom they hail as ‘God’s chosen people’), but also to convert them to Christianity to ensure they make it into Heaven.

    (“Alas, Bush Still Being Misled/Goaded by Cheney,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 4, 2015)

    I have decried the reverence American politicians show for Netanyahu in many commentaries, including in “Chutzpah: Israeli PM to Address US Congress,” January 23, 2015, and “Netanyahu’s a Putz for Branding Obama a Judas Over UN Resolution,” December 29, 2016.

    With respect to the Africans, you’d be forgiven for wondering why they would even give Netanyahu the time of day.

    He clearly does not have the clout to compel African politicians to overlook his insults. Trump does because Africa remains as dependent on American military and economic aid as ever. This, despite China and former colonial powers in Europe increasing theirs considerably in recent years.

    This is why only ignorance or indifference explains their failure to condemn Netanyahu the way they condemned Trump.

    On the other hand, there’s no gainsaying the willingness of African politicians to welcome any foreign leader bearing gifts of direct investments. This, no matter that leader’s ulterior motive or unsavory character.

    As old Cold War alliances fragment and Israel’s allies within the United Nations dwindle, observers have said that Jerusalem was looking to build alliances with Africa in order to win its geopolitical battles.

    By coupling its political stakes with commercial interests, like the Power Africa project or the $1 billion pledge to ECOWAS nations for green energy projects, the government hopes to ingratiate itself with African countries and improve its brand.

    (Quartz Africa, December 11, 2017)

    Mind you, according to The Africa Investment Report 2016, Israel does not rank among the top countries when it comes to foreign direct investments. In fact, it ranks even below countries like Malaysia and Bahrain.

    Alas, there’s also no gainsaying that Netanyahu was only talking about African migrants the way African politicians treat them. This, more than anything else, might explain their reluctance to condemn him.

    After all, it’s bad enough that these politicians created the chronically oppressive conditions that forced so many of their people to flee the “dark continent. But they are also demanding aid from any country seeking to repatriate their own people. This perverse form of extortion prompted the staid London Times to publish the following paternalistic rebuke on December 6, 2017:

    Instead of demanding more aid, its leaders should tackle corruption and economic failure.

    Which compels me to end by noting that Africa’s post-colonial failures should cause Africans to condemn their own political leaders with even more indignation than I (or they) could ever think of condemning Netanyahu.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, March 21, 2018 at 8:05 PM

    UPDATE! Zuckerberg Confesses: Our Bad. But Let’s Still Be Friends

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Mark Zuckerberg finally found the courage this afternoon to address betrayed Facebook users. He posted a lengthy statement on his FB page, which I can fairly summarize in two sentences:

    I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I know it takes longer to fix all these issues than we’d like, but I promise you we’ll work through this and build a better service over the long term.

    In other words, keep trusting me, “dumb f*cks!” Which is why every Facebook user would do well to reply with just two words: Zuck off!

    Not to mention the manifest futility of the steps he promised to take “to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” After all, that proverbial horse is already out of the barn.

    Specifically, there’s nothing Facebook can do to recover and protect the personal data of the 50 million users who were compromised in this case. Only God knows where that data will end up, or what nefarious use hundreds of other data miners (like Cambridge Analytica) will make of them.

    Never mind the unreported breaches that have compromised tens, if not hundreds, of millions of other users.

    Incidentally, Facebook should do more to curb the viral phenomenon of fake news on its network. But it should not bear all the blame for the impact of such news — even on political campaigns.

    After all, it only takes a few clicks to distinguish between real and fake news. If users are too stupid or lazy to do so, they should bear some of the blame.

    That said, I am already on record urging all users to quit Facebook. I refer you to such commentaries as “Facebook ‘Like’ an Infectious Disease,” January 24, 2014, and “Confessions of Facebook Programmers,” December 17, 2017. This is why I’m so heartened that even tech gurus like WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton are now urging the same: #deletefacebook!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at 7:23 AM

    Hey Stupid… Cambridge Analytica Used Facebook Users as Facebook Intended…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And that’s the scandal.

    Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg faced calls on Monday from U.S. and European lawmakers to explain how a consultancy that worked on President Donald Trump’s election campaign gained improper access to data on 50 million Facebook users. …

    ‘The lid is being opened on the black box of Facebook’s data practices, and the picture is not pretty,’ said Frank Pasquale, a University of Maryland law professor who has written about Silicon Valley’s use of data.

    (Reuters, March 18, 2018)

    Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the consultancy at issue, are in the crosshairs. But these “shocked, shocked” politicians are just scapegoating them for data practices that define all social media. What’s more, some of us have been decrying these practices for years.

    Unfortunately, with social media stoking faux outrages and cheap thrills a minute, most people now have the attention span of murmuring gnats and the short-term memory of mating baboons. After all, “the lid … opened on the black box of Facebook’s data practices” just four years ago. Yet even the mainstream media are hyping this old story as a new “bombshell report.”

    I commented on the faux outrage back then in “Facebook Friends?! Try Facebook Guinea Pigs,” July 8, 2014. The following excerpt explains the profit motive behind Facebook turning a blind eye to Cambridge’s “improper access.” It also explains why Zuckerberg is banking on another viral scandal diffusing this one without causing his social network too much financial and reputational damage.

    ____________________

    People are up in arms about the recent revelation that Facebook manipulated its users during a psychological study. …

    User Interface designers and researchers at places like Google, Facebook or Yahoo! regularly tweak the live site’s interface for a subset of visitors to see whether users behave differently in response. While this technique shines new light on user behavior, the overall goal is to bring the company more revenue through more users, clicks or glances at ads.

    (TIME, July 2, 2014)

    Frankly, if you are among the millions of Facebook users who feel betrayed by this revelation, all I can say is, I told you so … repeatedly, including most recently in “Facebook Complaining about NSA Spying? Ha!” March 15, 2014:

    You are probably aware that President Obama appointed a commission to recommend cosmetic changes to the NSA programs. But he only did so to avoid having to point out how stupid the American people are for buying into Snowden’s self-righteous and misguided outrage. After all, the NSA collects metadata for the sole purpose of trying to keep them safe.

    By contrast, these outraged nincompoops are showing nary a concern about tech companies tracking every move they make online for the sole purpose of trying to sell them stuff, to say nothing of peddling their personal data to third parties for indeterminate uses. Which makes the open letter Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and AOL sent to Obama last week complaining about NSA surveillance a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. And, trust me, ISPs (like Verizon and Comcast) are the worst harvesters and peddlers of your personal data.

    Of course, Obama took immediate steps to allay public concerns about NSA spying. Therefore, it speaks volumes about Facebook’s sense of entitlement that COO Sheryl Sandberg is insisting that public concerns about this psychological study stem from nothing more than a failure to communicate:

    This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated. And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you.

    (Huffington Post, July 2, 2014)

    In other words, get over yourselves, Facebook users!

    Truth be told, I don’t blame Facebook for treating its users like mindless guinea pigs.

    After all, why take seriously the concerns of people who blithely share all manner of personal information about themselves on social networks but become indignant at the NSA for mining that information – not for profit or experimentation, mind you, but to keep them safe.

    Nothing is more telling in this respect than a Business Insider report on May 13, 2010, which quotes Zuckerberg demeaning his users as follows:

    They trust me, dumb f*cks.

    To be fair, Facebook’s sense of entitlement is probably based on the fact that it provides users all of its selfie-promoting, self-flattering, and self-deluding services free of charge.

    If my informed cynicism does not resonate with you, just ask yourself why it is that every time you hear about private information being hacked and exposed, it always involves an account held with private companies like Target or social networks like Twitter.  Whereas nobody had ever heard of NSA accounts being hacked and exposed … until Edward Snowden perpetrated his now notorious betrayal.

    At any rate, this revelation only reinforces my contention that Snowden would’ve provided a far more useful public service if his leaks had focused more on the spying social networks are doing for profit and less on that which the NSA is doing for security. But I trust it will finally reveal for all to see that, when it comes to the invasion of privacy rights, we have far more to fear from Facebook than the NSA.

    ____________________

    Remarkably, no less a person than Brad Parscale, digital director for Trump’s campaign, is on record making a mockery of this faux outrage. Because he took great pride in broadcasting how he exploited the access Facebook granted Cambridge (and other data mining companies) to its users … for a fee.

    Here is how Parscale summed up his strategy – during an interview on 60 Minutes no less – to harvest users’ personal information in a Matrix-like scheme to electronically brainwash them to “Like” Trump:

    I understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Twitter is how he talked to the people. Facebook was going to be how he won.

    (October 8, 2017)

    And that was all she wrote!

    Meanwhile, Zuckerberg has amassed an obscene amount of wealth from peddling the personal information of Facebook’s nearly 2 billion users. Nothing reflects this quite like hysterical reaction to this scandal causing a $5 billion loss, yet leaving his net worth at close to $70 billion. But the valuation of social media companies is so fickle that, with confidence-building PR moves, he could regain that loss (and earn billions more) in a single day next week.

    Both Zuckerberg and Sandberg have been conspicuously disconnected in the midst of this latest viral storm. But I expect both to come out of hiding any day now to begin making those PR moves – complete with congressional testimony framing Cambridge Analytica as just one bad apple.

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