• Monday, October 31, 2016 at 6:21 AM

    Frankly, Trump Is So Scary, He Makes Halloween Goblins Look Like Pussycats

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


  • Sunday, October 30, 2016 at 8:09 AM

    Biggest October Surprise Ever! FBI Reopens Investigation Into Hillary’s E-mails

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here in part is what I wrote about the suspicions, scandals, and investigations surrounding Hillary’s e-mails in “E-mailgate: FBI Gives Hillary Tongue Lashing but Recommends No Charges,” July 5, 2016.


    I wagered in my July 1 commentary that Hillary would be indicted. And, sure enough, as Director Comey delineated the findings of her extreme carelessness, I was feeling vindicated. But then he said she betrayed no criminal intent. [I lost.]…

    Hillary set up her personal e-mail server to avoid oversight by the Obama Administration. Evidently, she wanted to maintain contact with people of dubious reputation (like Sidney Blumenthal). This, despite the fact that they are the very people who brought her husband’s administration, as well as her family’s ‘charitable’ foundation, into disrepute; and, more to the point, that Barack Obama made her promise to keep them at arm’s length if he appointed her secretary of state.

    In doing this, she not only betrayed Obama’s trust, but also violated State Department rules and regulations. But her sense of entitlement is clearly such that she couldn’t care less.

    In any event, FBI agents recommending no criminal charges and DOJ prosecutors declaring their intent to oblige will provide fodder for endless partisan debate. But I see no point in participating. Except I feel constrained to note that there’s a big difference between escaping criminal charges and defying karma. Especially given that the latter is often a bitch that slaps when you least expect.


    james_comey_and_hillaryWell, here’s comes karma:

    FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers Friday the bureau is reviewing new information related to Hillary Clinton’s personal email server, a political bombshell that comes 11 days ahead of the election.

    After recommending earlier this year that the Department of Justice not press charges against the former secretary of state, Comey said in a letter to eight congressional committee chairmen that investigators are examining newly discovered emails that ‘appear to be pertinent’ to the email probe.

    (CNN, October 28, 2016)

    Based on media reaction to this eleventh-hour bombshell, you could be forgiven for thinking Director Comey announced a federal indictment against Hillary. Not to mention Donald Trump leading heretofore-despairing Republicans in dancing on her political grave.

    donald-trumpBut this does not mean that the FBI will “lock her up” – as Trump has been stumping for. Nor does it amount to a get-in-the-White-House-easy pass, which he clearly wishes were the case.

    What it means is that Trump and the Republicans now have more fodder to propagate their “crooked Hillary” campaign slogan. Further, that Hillary’s presidency is now bound to be dogged by the same kinds of Republican congressional witch hunts that dogged her husband’s 20 years ago. In fact, Republicans are already telegraphing their intent to not only block every judge she nominates but investigate every scandal she attracts – the welfare of the country be damned.

    Alas, the more things change….

    Which constrains me to note that Hillary was only half right. After all, one could fairly cast ALL Trump supporters as a basket of deplorables, namely, of bullies, racists, xenophobes, and ignoramuses. But the most troubling thing is not how deplorable they are; it’s how willing they are to elect an even more deplorable man as president of the United Sates. The latter is what I find incomprehensible … unforgivable..

    8-les-miserables-londonLes Miserables comes to mind when I think of the dystopian groupthink that galvanizes Republicans these days. And the congressmen hell-bent on investigating Hillary are like the ruthless bounty hunter, Inspector Javert, hell-bent on capturing the reformed convict, Jean Valjean.

    All that’s left is for Hillary to not only win this presidential election in a landslide, but help Democrats wrest control of Congress from Republicans, leaving them to emulate Javert by wallowing in suicidal ideations (i.e., about their viability as political party).

    Incidentally, Republicans decry Washington gridlock and dysfunction as an article of faith. Therefore, it would be oxymoronic for any (sensible) Republican to vote for Republican congressmen and senators. Because nearly every one of them has vowed to do even more to “check” (i.e., obstruct) a President Hillary at every turn than Republicans did over the past eight years to block President Obama.

    If ever there were a time for Republican voters to take a leap of faith and vote Democratic it is now — to give Hillary a Democratic-controlled Congress to implement policies for the general welfare of all Americans.

    Meanwhile, Republicans accused Comey in July of politicizing the FBI for closing the investigation into Hillary’s e-mails without charging her. Democrats are accusing him today of the same for “reopening” that investigation, especially because voting in this presidential election has already begun.

    Of course both accusers are equally motivated by unbridled, partisan politics. But, frankly, in making this latest announcement, Comey could not have made the FBI more liable to accusations of political machinations if he wanted to. What’s more, he will now experience Washington’s crucifying version of being damned if  you do, damned if you don’t.

    Related commentaries:

    * This commentary was originally published on Friday, October 28, at 3:17 p.m.

  • Friday, October 28, 2016 at 6:47 AM

    Salaries of College Coaches Reflect Enduring Master-Slave Relationships

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    bn-pq005_harbau_p_20160830163148I can’t imagine any student-athlete reading the following without feeling like an indentured servant having salt slathered in open wounds:

    Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is making $9 million this year, overtaking Alabama coach Nick Saban at $6.9 million…

    Rounding out the top five are Ohio State’s Urban Meyer at $6 million, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops at $5.5 million and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher at $5.25 million…

    Thirty-six FBS coaches are earning at least $3 million this year, up from just nine in 2011.

    (ESPN Sports, October 27, 2016)

    I’ve been decrying this injustice for years in such commentaries as “The Categorical Imperative to Pay Student-Athletes Just Got Stronger,” March 28, 2014. These salaries only validate my longstanding contention that college coaches are using the free labor of student-athletes to live like plantation owners. The only precedent for this is the Founding Fathers, many of whom were in fact plantation owners, preaching about all men being created equal while owning slaves.

    Instead of beating this dead horse anew, however, I will suffice to reprise this excerpt from “Student Athletes Make Billions (for Colleges) but Most Graduate Poor … and Dumb,” January 14, 2014.


    article-2537041-1a8af05800000578-671_634x352-300x166[U.S. News and World Report summed up] “The Case for Paying College Athletes,” in a January 6 report as follows:

    The college sports industry generates $11 billion in annual revenues… These college sports revenues are passed along to NCAA executives, athletic directors and coaches in the form of salaries…

    Nevertheless, the NCAA member colleges continue to vote to forbid the sharing of revenues with student-athletes.

    In other words, why pay students to do what you can get them to do for free: not exactly slavery but clearly a form of indentured servitude. This is why I’m exceedingly encouraged that this powerhouse news organization has taken up the cause for student-athletes to be compensated, which some of us have been championing for years:

    There’s nothing amateur about college Football. It’s a multibillion-dollar business for Christ’s sake!

    More to the point, the people generating its revenues are not the university presidents, athletics directors, or coaches who, incidentally, make millions of dollars in salary and endorsement deals. Instead, they are the poor, mostly black athletes whose raw talent colleges exploit to pack 100,000 fans into their stadiums on game day.

    I have always felt that it’s tantamount to modern-day slavery for colleges to recruit poor and, all too often, uneducated athletes just to play Football and not compensate them for their services, especially considering they rarely get an education.

    But this indentured servitude is made much worse by branding these poor players as cheaters for accepting a little cash on the side. Mind you, those offering the cash are often boosters just trying to make life easier for the players to enable them to perform better … out on the field…

    The hypocrisy inherent in this exploitation is beyond shameful.

    Colleges should compensate student-athletes in direct proportion to the way NFL teams compensate their players. They could then reallocate the scholarship money they spend recruiting jocks to fund financial aid for poor (black) students who aspire to be more than professional athletes.

    (“Reggie Bush Forfeits Heisman Trophy,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 16, 2010)

    Granted, barring injury, top college athletes can bank on professional careers, during which they can make tens of millions. Unfortunately:

    While many young people every year set their goals on becoming NFL players, it is extremely difficult to reach that level. Statistically of the 100,000 high school seniors who play football every year, only 215 will ever make an NFL roster. That is 0.2%! Even of the 9,000 players that make it to the college level only 310 are invited to the NFL scouting combine, the pool from which teams make their draft picks.

    (NFL Players Association, nflplayers.com) …

    01football_span-articlelarge-v2Which is why, in addition to condemning colleges for this form of indentured servitude, I’ve recommended the following way for student-athletes to redress this exploitation:

    I urge the star players on all NCAA Division 1 Football teams to organize a wildcat strike this fall and demand fair compensation for the services they provide. Dare the NCAA and university presidents to take legal action. Because whatever contractual arguments they make would be far outweighed by the moral and equitable arguments these players could make.

    Foremost in the players’ favor is the legal concept of quantum meruit, which holds that a person should be fairly compensated for services rendered. Hence, it would be unconscionable and utterly unsustainable for the NCAA and university presidents to argue that they should be forced to continue generating billions in revenues, in exchange for nothing more than a college degree that, in most cases, is not worth the paper it’s written on.

    (“Death Penalty for University of Miami Hurricanes,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 23, 2011)

    I hope they take heed.

    For the record, let me hasten to clarify that damning colleges for exploiting student-athletes who can barely read or write does not excuse their parents and teachers (from kindergarten through high school) for failing them so unconscionably.


    I will only add that nothing was more infuriating and disheartening than listening yesterday to ESPN’s Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, pioneering sports commentators, justify these salaries.

    They argued that Football coaches are every bit as entitled to their outrageous salaries as professional athletes or Hollywood actors. But this ignores the fact that these athletes and actors do not systematically exploit anyone’s labor to earn their salaries. 

    Related commentaries:
    Categorical imperative
    Reggie Bush forfeits
    Death penalty
    Tebow’s career sacked
    Student athletes

  • Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 6:34 AM

    WikiLeaks: more Tabloid Peddler than Transparency Crusader

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’ve been decrying WikiLeaks for years as little more than a reckless peddler of tabloid fodder. Unfortunately, the chorus of fellow progressives singing its praises made me feel like the proverbial John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness.

    Here, for example, is what I wrote in “Ecuador Grants Wikileaker Julian Assange Asylum … in London?” August 20, 2012.


    If Assange were exposing government corruption or activities that betray the public trust, I would be his most ardent supporter. But he’s leading a foolhardy and untenable crusade for ‘complete transparency’ in diplomatic relations. Instead of winning converts, this will only ensure that diplomats will be even more secretive in their dealings to avoid even the remotest possibility of being ‘exposed’…

    It’s troubling enough that his supporters do not seem at all concerned that, far from exposing treachery, WikiLeaks merely compromised the constructive engagement the United States had with a number of Muslim countries. This engagement was clearly furthering greater comity and cooperation among nations. And, for obvious reasons, public knowledge of such could incite domestic unrest in the countries involved.

    But it’s truly mind-boggling that his supporters do not even seem concerned that Assange’s cult-like mission has ruined the careers and endangered the lives of scores of innocent diplomats.


    But imagine my dismay back then, when the only people sharing my concerns about Assange and WikiLeaks were right-wing Republicans. After all, I’m at odds with those nutjobs on practically every other issue, domestic and foreign. This helped fuel the indignation I vented in “Hey [Liberal] Media, Assange Is Still a Self-Promoting, Bail-Jumping Rape Suspect!” on August 28.

    00-julian-assangeAgain, I knew from the outset that Assange was primarily interested in pursuing a nihilistic political agenda. Not least because, in his WikiLeaks manifesto, “Conspiracy as Governance” (2006), he famously telegraphed his intent to leak so voluminously and indiscriminately that all systems of governance would descend into “organizational stupor.”

    In other words, he clearly intended government transparency and accountability, which his supporters invariably tout, to be, at best, the collateral benefits of his manufactured distrust and chaos.

    But I am heartened that no less an Assange defender and collaborator than Wired has seen the light, and is now leading a chorus of news publications trying to make amends. The headline to its July 27 report says it all:

    WikiLeaks has official lost the moral high ground.

    Of course, this assumes that it once held that ground. But this report included the following, which can be fairly read as a media confession:

    In the last two weeks, the font of digital secrets has doxed millions of Turkish women, leaked Democratic National Committee emails that made Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign look bad but also suggested the site was colluding with the Russian government, and fired off some seriously anti-Semitic tweets…

    [I]t’s true that lots of publications (including WIRED) made things worse by failing to vet the leak’s content and linking to the documents in their coverage…

    Fundamentally, WikiLeaks was supposed to be better.

    No less noteworthy is the London Guardian’s October 14 report, which ran under this equally telling headline:

    From liberal beacon to a prop for Trump: what has happened to WikiLeaks? A series of hacked emails appear designed to aid Donald Trump fight back against Hillary Clinton, while raising questions about Russian involvement.

    This report also included a veritable confession:

    Robert Mackey of The Intercept website wrote in August: ‘The WikiLeaks Twitter feed has started to look more like the stream of an opposition research firm working mainly to undermine Hillary Clinton than the updates of a non-partisan platform for whistleblowers’…

    In 2010 it was lauded by transparency campaigners for releasing, in cooperation with publications including the Guardian, more than a quarter of a million classified cables from US embassies around the world.

    screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-10-28-37-pmI should clarify here that Assange is not hiding out in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid the United States executing him – as he would have his supporters believe. The United States just wants to lock him up and throw away the key. Instead, he’s hiding out there to avoid Sweden prosecuting him on a battery of sexual assault charges. Which might explain his common cause with Donald Trump, himself an accused sexual predator, and why he’s become little more than a petulant, paranoid peddler of political pablum.

    But, ironically, nothing is more telling in this context than the aforementioned Ecuador cutting off Assange’s lifeline to the World Wide Web:

    The government of Ecuador has directed its embassy in London to cut off the Internet access of long-term guest Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, saying the organization’s recent document releases have had a ‘major impact’ on the U.S. presidential election.

    (Washington Post, October 19, 2016)

    Enough said?

    Except that I welcome the belated confession and conversion of others who were duped by this false prophet of and wannabe martyr for government transparency and accountability.

    Related commentaries:
    Ecuador grants asylum
    Hey media

  • Monday, October 24, 2016 at 6:46 AM

    The Nobel Prize: Dylan No More Worthy than Obama

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here in part is what I wrote after the Nobel Committee announced Barack Obama as the recipient of its 2009 Nobel Peace Prize:

    You’d be hard-pressed to find a more ardent and hopeful supporter of President Barack Obama than me. But this award is … well … a bit much.

    For no matter the rationalization, there’s no denying that the Nobel Committee awarded it – just nine months into his presidency – not for what he has done, but for who he is…

    It is naïve to think that politics do not govern its purportedly merit-based selections.

    (“Obama Awarded (Affirmative Action) Nobel Peace Prize,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 10, 2009)

    To be fair, I’m not even a fan of Bob Dylan. Frankly, I could never get past his nasal and incomprehensible tonality to appreciate the “poetic” lyrics in his songs.


    But I’ve read enough of his lyrics to know that he is no more deserving of the Nobel Prize in Literature than Obama was of the Nobel Peace Prize. Not least because I can think of too many writers whose body of work is far more meritorious.

    Take Chinua Achebe, for example:

    One of the great ironies of my life is that an English girl in America introduced me to African literature. The book she gave me, which sealed my abiding affection for this genre, was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe of Nigeria.

    Nobody familiar with his work would be surprised that I think one of the great injustices in the world of literature is the Nobel Committee never awarding Achebe, 76, this hallowed prize. Especially given that he is universally acclaimed as “the father of modern African literature.”

    (“Achebe Awarded the Man Booker International Prize,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 15, 2007)

    To the Committee’s list of egregious oversights, I could add such writers as Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, James Joyce, Zora Neale Hurston, Philip Roth, and James Baldwin (whom its chairman, Thorbjørn Ragland, deemed only worthy of passing mention when he quoted Baldwin during his presentation speech for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize). Others would surely add the likes of Vladimir Nabokov, JRR Tolkien, WH Auden, Jorge Luis Borges, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, et al.

    In any event, unlike Obama, Dylan is giving this Committee the middle finger, which its arbitrary prize deserves:

    Bob Dylan doesn’t give a f*ck about his Nobel Prize. The Swedish Academy isn’t sure if he’ll show up to the ceremony…

    Days after winning the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, Bob Dylan still hasn’t been bothered to acknowledge he won one of the most prestigious awards on the planet.

    (Esquire, October 17, 2016)

    screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-8-37-30-pmIronically, the Committee is vindicating Dylan’s reaction by decrying him as “impolite and arrogant.” After all, everybody knows Dylan as a “Mr. Tambourine Man” who marches to the beat of his own drum.

    More to the point, that the Committee is throwing a hissy fit says far more about its arrogance than Dylan’s. After all, Dylan is merely ignoring an award he never applied for and, evidently, couldn’t care less about.

    That said, I’d like to think he can’t be bothered for the same principled, anti-establishment reason Jean-Paul Sartre famously refused to accept the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature:

    The writer who accepts an honor of this kind involves as well as himself the association or institution which has honored him…

    The writer must therefore refuse to let himself be transformed into an institution, even if this occurs under the most honorable circumstances.

    (“Sartre on the Nobel Prize,” The New York Review of Books, December 17, 1964)

    Except that I know all too well that Dylan began selling his artistic soul long ago. Perhaps you’ve seen him shilling in commercials for corporate demons like Apple, Chrysler, Pepsi, and even Victoria’s Secret, for Christ’s sake. Granted, he might argue that this just reflects the fact that “The Times They Are a-Changin’”….

    No doubt Dylan gets millions whenever he betrays his renegade values in this fashion. Therefore, it may be that the $923,179.20 that comes with this year’s Nobel Prize is just not enough for him to do so in this case.

    Still, it would not surprise me if, like Sartre, Dylan is wondering if the Committee would consider giving him the cash without him acknowledging the award, let alone showing up to formally accept it. Whatever the case, I suspect this eccentric troubadour would say, “It’s All Good.”

    Related commentaries:
    Obama awarded

  • Sunday, October 23, 2016 at 10:05 AM

    Trump Channels Lincoln at Gettysburg in a Most Trumpian Way:

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    84lcvcucqe2jfuygicus_trumpgivinggettysburgaddressHe threatened to jail his political opponents and sue his sexual accusers.

    Of course, Abraham Lincoln began his Gettysburg Address by invoking the democratic principles upon which the Founding Fathers conceived this nation “four score and seven years ago.” Donald Trump began his by invoking the personal grievances upon which he intends to base lawsuits to settle scores.

    As it happens, threatening to jail his political opponents, most notably Hillary Clinton, has been a sure-fire applause line in his stump speech for months now. But this is new:

    Donald Trump vowed Saturday to sue the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct in recent weeks.

    ‘Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,’ Trump said during remarks in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania…

    Trump often threatens to file lawsuits without actually doing so.

    (CNN, October 22, 2016)

    Clearly, Trump’s “every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign” makes a mockery of Lincoln’s “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.’ But this is just the latest in a string of stunts, all of which suggest that Trump is hell-bent on making a mockery of every political institution and democratic tradition Americans hold dear.

    Defiling the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg, as he did on Saturday, was bad enough. But Exhibit A in this respect was Trump refusing, during the final presidential debate last week, to promise that he will accept the results of the election … if he loses.

    Meanwhile, these sexual accusers are just the latest targets of his litigious spite. After all, nothing has distinguished Trump’s presidential campaign quite like the fusillade of legal threats he has hurled.

    Besides these (now) eleven women, the most notable targets of his delusional civil war include

    • the Former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz for cheating, running negative ads, and being an Obama-like birther fraud.
    • the Washington Post for running stories about his bankruptcies and the New York Times for running stories about his sexual predations.
    • the political, media and corporate establishment for conspiring to rig the election against him.


    But, as CNN reported, Trump is more bark than bite when it comes to his threats (aka hot air). Which is why his threat to jail his political opponents and sue his sexual accusers is about as credible as his promise to release his tax returns.

    Mind you, with respect to suing his accusers, this is like a bank robber suing the bank manager for calling him a thief. After all, Trump effectively confessed his predatory behavior during that now-infamous hot-mic moment on Access Hollywood. And he further incriminates himself every time he insists that he is “doing better with women than men” in national opinion polls. In fact, polls routinely show the opposite. Frankly, given this, it’s easy to indict Trump as one of those “entitled” men who only hear yes when a woman says no to their sexual advances.

    Meanwhile, you’d think his record of bullying rants, brazen lies, and broken promises would give his supporters pause. I determined long ago, however, that Trump was right when he insinuated that they are either so deplorable or stupid, he could shoot a woman on 5th Avenue in broad daylight and they would still support him. But rest assured, they will not amount to 50 percent of the Americans voting for president of the United States this year.

    NOTE: Lincoln and every other dead president must have begun rolling over in their graves at the mere thought of this vain, vindictive, predatory buffoon joining their ranks.

    Related commentaries:
    Final presidential debate
    tax returns

  • Saturday, October 22, 2016 at 7:44 AM

    PSA: If Campaign Ads Are Driving You Mad…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Make sure a politician is below when you blow


  • Thursday, October 20, 2016 at 7:10 PM

    Final Presidential Debate: This post-debate picture is worth (more than) a thousand words…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


    Says it all, no?

    Related commentaries:
    Second presidential debate

  • Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at 6:38 AM

    China Buying the Global Influence Russia and US Fighting For…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


    Egypt’s new capital city moved a step closer to reality with the announcement that Chinese developers will largely fund the mega project.

    The China Fortune Land Development Company (CFLD) agreed to provide $20 billion for the currently unnamed city, after a meeting between heads of the firm and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

    This follows a previous commitment of $15 billion from another Chinese state-owned company, bringing the project close to its $45 billion budget requirements for phase I.

    (CNN, October 10, 2016)

    Egypt is just one of many longstanding US allies that are not only defying its calls for democratic freedoms, but looking to China as a more suitable superpower patron.

    duterte-china-20161014Here, for example, is how Agence France-Presse reported just last Monday on the Philippines breaking ranks:

    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is willing to hold military exercises with China but not longtime ally the United States, Chinese media quoted him Monday as saying on the eve of a state visit.

    Duterte heads to Beijing on Tuesday for a four-day trip that appears set to cement his dramatic foreign policy tilt away from United States, which he has railed against for criticising his deadly war on crime…

    ‘China never criticizes …,’ Duterte said, according to Xinhua.

    In fact, Egypt has become so bold in this respect that I marveled at its defiance in “Egypt Lecturing US on Democratic Principles…?” June 25, 2014. But a little background might help to put these shifting alliances into perspective.

    The Cold War was defined by the United States and Soviet Union forging military alliances around the world to widen their respective “spheres of influence.”

    cold_war_tv_series_cnnThis invariably had both countries reinforcing alliances by investing more in the military than the economy of countries in their respective spheres. Moreover, neither the United States nor the Soviet Union could have cared less about leaders of poor countries skimming billions from military aid for personal use, so long as they pledged allegiance to their respective superpower patrons.

    Then the Soviet Union disintegrated (in 1991). And the United States began touting a “peace dividend,” which would enable it to invest more in the economy than the military of countries in its widening sphere of influence. Indeed, it proceeded to controversially (and ill-advisedly) co-opt many countries that were in the old Soviet sphere.

    More to the point, in addition to cutting military spending, it began placing conditions on foreign aid, hoping to promote democratic freedoms, good governance, and free enterprise. The problem, however, is that leaders of developing countries resented and resisted those conditions. Consequently, this peace dividend did little to combat corruption or alleviate poverty.

    It is particularly noteworthy that, since the end of the Cold War, the United States has donated billions to combat infectious diseases throughout Africa and the Caribbean. Yet, although grateful, many throughout these regions see this aid as mostly furthering the enlightened national interest of the United States; namely fighting the disease over there before it begins spreading over here.

    Enter Vladimir Putin.

    After a brief period of entente cordiale with the United States (2000-2004), he launched a neo-Stalinist campaign to turn Russia into a police state and wield Soviet-style influence abroad.

    Commentators routinely cite his silencing of the press and annexation of Crimea in this respect. But he has also jailed dissident oligarchs and annexed whole regions of neighboring Georgia. Hell, he has even threatened to reopen the Soviet military base in Cuba, stirring up the most apocalyptic fears of the Cold War.

    I coined the term Putinization to describe this campaign, and I’ve chronicled it in many commentaries, including “President Putin Reforming Russia in His Own Image,” March 25, 2005, “Cold War Redux: Friendship Over Between Russia and the United States,” May 5, 2006, “Russia Consolidates Control Over Georgian Territories…Despite Ceasefire,” August 14, 2008, “Hello 1937 – Putin Turning Russia Back to Stalin Days,” June 13, 2012, and “Russia Gobbling Up Ukraine: First Crimea, Now Donetsk…Next Odessa?” May 13, 2014.

    screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-12-43-41-pmNo surprise then that we are now on a march of folly into a new Cold War. Nothing betrays this quite like the United States and Russia fighting a war by proxy for superpower influence in Syria. And, just as it was in the old days, both countries seem determined to wield military influence at all costs – Syria’s economic development, even the lives of its people, be damned.

    Not to mention the cyber warfare both countries are waging – against each other and by proxy (e.g., the United States using Ukraine to troll Russia, and Russia using WikiLeaks to troll the United States). I bemoaned this flaring up of Cold War II in such additional commentaries as “Russia and the United States in Chess Game for Syria,” September 13, 2013, “Bombing ISIS Smacks of Masturbatory Violence,” November 18, 2015, and “Alas, Syrian Peace Plan No. 44 Will Fare No Better,” September 10, 2016.

    Enter China.

    Here is how I began commenting on China’s rise as a superpower in “China Buying Political Dominion Over the Caribbean (Latin America and Africa),” February 22, 2005.


    This week, at the China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Co-operation Forum in Jamaica, Vice President Zeng Qinghong is expected to consolidate China’s geopolitical strategy of co-opting the economies of the Caribbean. He reveled in the Santa Claus-like reception he got at every port of call during his tour of the region…

    screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-1-02-00-pmHowever, Christopher Columbus might serve as a more analogous trailblazer for VP Qinghong than Santa Claus. Because China’s search for new markets is really a pretext for their quest for dominion over this region. And with massive direct investments and Chinese tourists boosting visits to unprecedented levels, China’s trade with the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa will soon become indispensable to national economies throughout these regions. And, as a geopolitical fringe benefit, China’s ability to exercise unprecedented political influence will also be assured…

    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 U.S. 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.


    Sure enough, China has been on a quest over the past decade to amass superpower influence around the world to rivals that of the United States and Russia.

    But, unlike them, China has been keen to reinforce alliances by investing far more in the economy than the military of countries it is trying to wrest into its sphere. No doubt it helps that China places none of the conditions on its aid that caused leaders of so many developing countries to resent and resist U.S. aid.

    This is not to say that Chinese aid is completely without conditions. After all, it invariably comes with legions of Chinese workers (spies?) attached. And China has used “yuan diplomacy” to induce nearly every country in the world to sever diplomatic ties with its fraternal enemy, Taiwan, which it maintains is just a “renegade province.” It’s just that those conditions never interfere with the way leaders govern the countries receiving its aid.

    It is hardly surprising, therefore, that many leaders of developing countries have been and are keen to emulate the Chinese/Russian paradigm of an authoritarian government lording over a market-oriented economy. And who can blame them? Especially given that virtually every Republican in the United States hails Vladimir Putin as a better leader than Barack Obama — even if they do so only for partisan, if not racist, reasons.

    erdogan-and-putin-st-petersburg-22-nov-13-reuters_1In any event, here is how Newsweek reported last July 28 on Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan emulating that paradigm:

    Putin and Erdogan have a lot in common: Both have pioneered a kind of populist authoritarianism. And both share a deep suspicion of the United States…

    Since the coup attempt [which I commented on in “Turkey: Bungled Coup Fails. Grave Purge Begins,” July 16, 2016], Erdogan has become more like Putin as he cracks down on opponents at home — not only on rebel soldiers and generals but on journalists, academics, teachers and judges too.

    I have marveled at China’s rise in this context in such additional commentaries as “China Putting Squeeze on The Bahamas. Your Country Could Be Next,” October 22, 2010, “Countries Queuing Up to Become Indebted to China…,” September 15, 2011, “China Prevailing Upon South Africa to Ban the Dalai Lama…,” September 30, 2011, “China’s Deficit? No Moral Authority to Lead,” November 16, 2011, “China Invading US Sphere of Influence in the Caribbean,” April 11, 2012, and “‘All the World Is at War’ Hardly Means World War III,” November 30, 2015, which includes this foreboding observation.


    You can be forgiven for wondering about China’s conspicuous absence from this fight [in Syria]. The reason is that 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.

    China is the world’s most economically successful authoritarian government. It will continue favouring like-minded authoritarian regimes.

    (Reuters, November 29, 2015)


    screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-12-37-15-pmI cannot overstate that there’s nothing diplomatic about China adhering so zealously to its policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. The simple fact is that this policy provides the political cover it needs to rebuff calls by countries like the United States to allow democratic freedoms and respect human rights.

    This brings me back to the way China is now favoring Egypt’s authoritarian regime. Because it really crystallizes the difference between the way China amasses its superpower influence and the way Russia and the United States did/do. Specifically, while they are busy fighting for control of Syria – complete with Russia vowing to build a new military base there to reinforce its influence, China is busy buying political influence by building a new capital city in Egypt.

    It should not take a genius to figure out that the Egyptian people will be eternally grateful to China for spending tens of billions over the next 5 years to build their new capital city. Whereas they probably harbor little more than resentment towards the United States for spending tens of billions over the past 50 years to build their great military.

    Again, China has made similar (infrastructural) investments in the economies of many other countries, where people are showing similar gratitude. What’s more, given the failure of the Arab Spring to bear the liberating fruits of democracy, people across the developing world can be forgiven for storing more hope these days in Chinese/Russian-style authoritarianism than American-style democracy. Which clearly bodes ill for the harvesting of democratic freedoms around the world….

    Related commentaries:
    Turkey coup…; Egypt lecturing US
    Putin reforming Russia…; Cold war redux
    Russia consolidates…; Hello 1937
    Russia gobbling up Ukraine
    Russia and US chess game for Syria
    Putin’s Bush-lite mission in Syria
    Syrian peace plan…; China buying political dominion
    China putting squeeze on The Bahamas
    Countries queuing up…; China bans Dalai Lama
    China’s deficit…; Hardly WW III…; Arab Spring

  • Monday, October 17, 2016 at 8:23 AM

    Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Beware the ‘Angelina Effect’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


    October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same. We have made a lot of progress but still have a long way to go and need your help!


    (National Breast Cancer Foundation)

    Captura de pantalla 2013-05-22 a la(s) 10.26.14Except that there’s this:

    While many have praised Angelina’s brave message, there has also been criticism that the ‘Jolie Effect’ has led to unnecessary and dramatic treatments…

    (Interdisciplinary Journal of Health Sciences, April 13, 2015)

    Accordingly, I reprise, from January 31, 2014, this PSA:

    Forget Angelina! Hannah’s the Breast Cancer Survivor Worthy of Praise


    Angelina Jolie famously elected to replace her healthy breasts with implants because she feared she might develop terminal cancer … someday. And she won near-universal praise for doing so. TIME magazine even ran a cover on May 27, 2013, heralding “The Angelina Effect” she would have on women.

    AngelinaJolieTombraiderI, however, stood virtually alone in pooh-poohing the hosannas to her. And I received near-universal flak for doing so. Notably, women got their panties in a twist because I dared to question whether Jolie was more interested in preserving the look of her two most bankable assets than preventing cancer:

    On Tuesday the New York Times published an op-ed by actress Angelina Jolie on her decision to have a double mastectomy. Almost immediately she became the subject of media beatification the likes of which we have not seen, well, since Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president of the United States in 2008…

    You’d never know from this coverage that tens of thousands of women, including lesser-known celebrities, have talked openly about having a double mastectomy. Alas, in our celebrity-obsessed culture, having an A-lister like Jolie do so somehow makes it okay, perhaps even fashionable…

    Jolie did not opt to remain au naturel (i.e., flat chested). That would have been heroic, and truly worthy of media beatification. Instead, she got a boob job … too.

    Which raises the question: why hail Jolie as the patron saint of breast-cancer survivors when all she did was elect to look like every other actress in Hollywood who makes a living by showing off the most titillating fake breasts money can buy?

    (“Angelina Jolie’s ‘Heroic Decision’ to Get Breast Implants?” The iPINIONS Journal, May 16, 2013)

    Even more shocking and dismaying, however, is that my critics seemed not the least bit chastened five months later when Professor Kefah Mokbel of the London Breast Institute issued the following warning (which the New York Post reported on October 3, 2013):

    We’re seeing a large number of women requesting a preventive mastectomy for peace of mind, women who’ve been diagnosed but don’t have a genetic predisposition so wouldn’t benefit.

    These are patients who say, ‘Can you do for me what Angelina Jolie had done?’ They’re on the increase.

    Or even when, around the same time, researchers at the University of Minnesota presented a report at the 2013 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons, which included the following dispositive finding (as reported in the October 7, 2013 edition of the Daily Mail):

    Women who have a healthy breast removed over fears they might later develop breast cancer may not improve their survival rate, according to new research.

    article-2547914-1B0D390200000578-367_306x423Well, given that scientific evidence did nothing to disabuse Angie’s avengers of their misguided praise, perhaps the sublime image of what a real patron saint of breast-cancer survivors should look like will. And, thanks to the March 2014 issue of Cosmopolitan no less, Hannah Foxley is a vision to behold, posing proudly, I dare say even seductively, with her bare, scared chest where her pert breast used to be.

    Hannah Foxley, who recently had a mastectomy, says she wants to show women you can still be beautiful even when you’ve had parts of your body removed.

    ‘I have learnt to love it and adopt a positive body image and I want to empower other women to do the same. I want them to see my pictures and say ‘she looks beautiful and I can too.’’

    Surely no woman in her right mind would praise the fake, Playboy-style body image Jolie represents over the real, naturally beautiful body image Foxley does … right?

    But let me hasten to clarify that nothing I’ve ever written on this subject is meant to convey any disrespect for women who opt for post-mastectomy reconstructive surgery.

    I just think a woman like Foxley is far more worthy of being hailed as the patron saint of breast-cancer survivors than Jolie. Don’t you?


    NOTE: I usually publish my breast awareness commentary in the first week of October. But, like so many other norms he’s upset, Trump trumped it until today.

    Related commentaries:
    Angelina Jolie
    More about implants than cancer
    Forget Angelina

  • Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 9:41 AM

    Donald Trump’s Growing Bill-Cosby Problem…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Trump bragged during that now-infamous hot-mic moment on Access Hollywood about being entitled to kiss women on the mouth and grab them by the pussy … because he’s a star. That was just the latest in a series of outrages that should have disqualified his presidential campaign.

    But I wrote in “Evangelicals Supporting Donald Trump like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016, that we’re experiencing a black-swan election year in which political norms do not apply.

    Republican U.S. presidential nominee Trump speaks as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Clinton listens during their presidential town hall debate in St. LouisWell, it now seems the seminal moment of his second presidential debate with Hillary Clinton came when he denied ever sexually assaulting any woman. Because that denial hatched all kinds of chicks to come home to roost:

    Donald Trump assailed as ‘absolutely false’ the allegations by several women that he groped them, and accused Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, the media and lobbyists of engaging in an effort to stop him from winning the White House…

    Trump spoke after the New York Times reported that two women said they had endured sexual aggression from him, and several other women made similar allegations in other media outlets.

    (Reuters, October 13, 2016)

    In fact, as of this writing, CNN has reported the accounts of eight women who have come out of the proverbial woodwork.


    And it does not bode well for Trump that, during a press conference with one of his accusers yesterday, famed attorney Gloria Allred, who represents most of Bill Cosby’s 50-plus accusers, warned that many others are considering coming out too.

    More to the point, these women are clearly rattling Trump, causing him to fulminate about conspiracies that are even more unhinged than his birther madness about President Obama.

    The only defense one can decipher from his “unshackled” diatribes against his accusers, which is now passing as his stump speech, is that a) his accusers are not pretty enough for him to have groped any of them; and b) a global power structure of corporate interests, the media, and the Clinton campaign is using them as part of a “yuge” conspiracy to “stop his movement.”

    Perhaps most notably, though, he’s furthering his racist rant against Mexicans by claiming that Carlos Slim, a major investor in the New York Times, is the immigrant mastermind behind this conspiracy.

    Like I said, it’s sheer madness.

    1_2q8n0v6vypukpdw-9rk4aMeanwhile, his Republican apologists are unwittingly aping his madness as they try to defend his increasingly deranged protestations.

    This was brought into cringeworthy relief yesterday, when his vice presidential candidate, Mike Pence, said on CBS This Morning that Trump would present evidence within hours to refute each and every allegation. That evidence turned out to be nothing more than another Trump rally featuring more of his unshackled diatribe.

    Seriously folks, Trump’s presidential campaign stopped being a national laughingstock long ago. It now represents the most egregious betrayal of the country’s democratic and Judeo-Christian values since the days of Jim Crow 50 years ago.

    Not to mention the threat it poses to national security – complete with Trump’s almost treasonous bromance with Vladimir Putin. This, despite U.S. intelligence agencies declaring that Putin’s Russia is continually feeding WikiLeaks hacked information, which is clearly intended to sow political discord and undermine confidence in the outcome of this presidential election.

    Then there’s the spectacle of Trump fomenting distrust with his brazenly baseless claims about the election being rigged. This is plainly the last refuge of this political scoundrel: better to play victim than accept his ironic fate as the biggest loser in the history of American politics.

    Incidentally, nothing demonstrates how baseless his claims are quite like Trump blaming the “rigged media.” After all, this is the same media whose billions in free coverage helped him win the Republican nomination — as he himself used to boast. And this is the same media whose reporting on the hacked e-mails of Democratic operatives seems orchestrated to rig the election in his favor … if only his campaign were not such an unprecedented and inexorable train wreck.

    The problem, however, is that Trump might use these claims as a pretext to refuse to concede. This would impede the orderly transfer of presidential power, which has been the most hallowed and reassuring feature of American democracy for over 200 years. Even worse, it could trigger chaos and violence that make the infamous fallout from Bush vs. Gore in 2000 look like an extended national holiday.

    But, frankly, Trump is  too self-centered, stupid, and reckless to give a damn.

    Related commentaries:

  • Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 7:59 AM

    Evangelical Leaders Have Sacrificed their Souls at Altar of Trump

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Imagine a mother behaving like such an unruly child that she forces her children to chastise her. That effectively is what the president of Liberty University forced his students to do this week:

    A group of students at Liberty University, the largest Christian college in the country, is denouncing Donald Trump and speaking out against the school’s president for backing the Republican presidential nominee despite his vulgar and predatory comments about women.

    The group, Liberty United Against Trump, released a statement earlier this week arguing that the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., had linked the school and Trump. The group noted that any member of the school’s faculty would be fired for bragging about kissing and groping women the way that Trump has.

    (Huffington Post, October 14, 2016)


    As it happens, some of us have been chastising Christian leaders like Falwell for their brazen hypocrisy for some time now. Here, for example, is what I wrote in “Evangelicals Supporting Donald Trump like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016.


    I know Evangelicals. As the son of an evangelical preacher, I grew up amongst them. So trust me when I say that, for any sober Evangelical, Trump is the very personification of Mammon.

    This, after all, is a man who takes diabolical pride in boasting that he never asks God for forgiveness because he’s without sin, he’s rich, and he’s like a god himself. He even boasts that The Art of the Deal, his book about the virtues of greed and the salvation of wealth, rivals the Bible.

    Not to mention that he made most of his money building gambling casinos. Because gambling is as great a sin for most Evangelicals as usury is for most Islamists.


    Related commentaries:

  • Thursday, October 13, 2016 at 6:37 AM

    Justice Ginsburg Affirms My Take on Kaepernick’s National Anthem Protest

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here in part is what I wrote on this topic in “Delusional Kaepernick Standing Up by Sitting Down During National Anthem,” on August 30:

    [T]his protest smacks of grandstanding. And it’s only slightly less lazy and misguided than people who think (re)tweeting slogans about injustice is tantamount to fighting for justice.

    Of course, Rosa Parks and the ‘Greensboro Four’ famously showed the meaningful way to sit down to stand up for racial justice…

    The point is that there are many ways Kaepernick can stand up for his cause without showing wanton disrespect for the pride so many people have in the American flag. I urge him to find another way.

    Unsurprisingly, I took a lot of flak for refusing to express unqualified support for Kaepernick’s protest. Never mind that the flak I’d already taken for refusing to chant “Black Lives Matter” without qualification inoculated me against trolling racial jihadists.

    Yet I can think of no greater vindication of my take than having Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (aka the “Notorious RBG”) affirm it. And the irony is not lost on me that she’s not only white, but old to boot.


    Here’s the authoritative opinion she handed down during an interview on Monday with Yahoo Global News:

    I think it’s dumb and disrespectful…

    I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.

    Mind you, I gather from their criticisms that those trolling me are academically and politically challenged when it comes to the historical context of this protest. Hence, they’d probably dismiss Ginsburg as too cloistered in her ivory tower to appreciate the pedestrian frustrations and fears that inspired this protest.

    Therefore, let me hasten to note that, if any white woman can claim to have mirrored Rosa Parks as a civil rights pioneer, it’s the Notorious RBG. If you don’t know why (because she’s not a narcissistic, selfie-taking Instagram star), shame on you! Google her!

    d791dc7a-70cd-11e6-af03-e675d0741f8a_1280x720Meanwhile, despite viral interest initially, Kaepernick’s protest has had relatively little media coverage lately; primarily because Kaepernick has been spending more time on the bench than on the field. But that will change this weekend:

    The 49ers are making a change at quarterback and going with Colin Kaepernick as their starter for Week 6 against the Bills…

    This puts an otherwise innocuous matchup against Buffalo firmly in the spotlight for multiple reasons…

    His decision to sit and then kneel before football games in protest of the national anthem has created controversy around the NFL and in the general world.

    (CBS Sports, October 11, 2016)

    I predicted in the August 30 commentary cited above that the 49ers would release Kaepernick before mid-season “for distracting too much, while contributing too little.” I was wrong.

    I just hope he plays well enough so that the highlight of this game features him destroying the Bills instead of dissing the Anthem.

    Related commentaries:

  • Wednesday, October 12, 2016 at 6:11 AM

    N-Word Not P-Word Taboo During Clinton-Trump Debate

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am holding fast to my pledge not to dignify the presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump with any comment. But there’s compelling public interest in making sure the following is part of Sunday’s post-debate commentary:

    Trump listens as Clinton speaks during their presidential town hall debate with at Washington University in St. LouisNo doubt you’ve seen the viral video, which leaked on Friday, of Trump bragging, during a hot-mic moment on Access Hollywood, about kissing women on the mouth and grabbing them by the pussy. The debate moderators duly questioned him about his predatory remarks.

    But an “apologetic” Trump denied ever grabbing any woman, maintaining that he only spoke of sexually assaulting women in this manner as part of “harmless locker room banter. Except that he was being interviewed for a TV show – not hanging out in a locker room, presumably at one of his golf resorts with other over-the-hill, alpha-male Lotharios….

    More to the point, race baiting has been a key feature of his presidential campaign. Therefore, I wish one of the moderators had asked Trump if he has ever referred to a black person as a nigger – as part of harmless locker room banter. That they were both white might explain why neither of them had the presence of mind (or the balls) to do so.

    Of course, that N-word is probably the only word that trumps the P/C-word when it comes to any that could implode his campaign. Which is why Trump would’ve been compelled on that debate stage to deny ever saying it.

    mark-fuhrmanBut his denial would’ve proved every bit as fateful as Mark Fuhrman’s proved when one of O.J. Simpson’s attorneys famously asked him a similar question. Because the biggest October surprise would surely be someone leaking audio/video of Trump blithely saying the N-word.

    That said, only a willful suspension of disbelief explains why so many putatively sensible people needed to hear that hot-mic moment on Access Hollywood to finally dismiss Trump as an irredeemable sexist.

    Therefore, I fear it will take a similar moment for others to finally dismiss him as an irredeemable racist – notwithstanding his anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim rants.

    In any event, despite the moderators’ oversight, I fully expect a leak in this regard before the end of this fateful month….

    Meanwhile, that moment on Access Hollywood brought into stark relief the moral relativism that triggers outrage in America today. Because it speaks volumes that NBC fired Billy Bush for conducting it; whereas Evangelicals are standing by Trump despite the vile and unchristian things he said during it.

    You know these are the “end times” when corporate values trump Christian values.

    For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

    Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

    Traitors, heady, high minded, loves of pleasure more than lovers of God.

    (KJV of Bible – 2 Timothy 3:2-4)

    Can you think of a better characterization of the egomaniacal Trump and his rabid supporters…?

    Related commentaries:
    October surprise
    Evangelical like Israelites worshipping golden calf

  • Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at 6:37 AM

    Saint Lucia Prime Minister Chastanet Aping Putin by Bullying the Press

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Saint Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet last week embarked on the well-trodden path of threatening to sue local media for alleged defamation on grounds that are at best tenuous.

    The latest blatant abuse of political and economic power in this regard stems from a report by Rehani Isidore, a journalist with HTS Television in Saint Lucia, that Britain’s Prince Harry would be staying at the island’s Coco Palm Resort, which is owned by the Chastanet family and run by the recently elected prime minister’s sister, during a forthcoming Royal tour of the Caribbean.

    The report in question was based on a press release to that effect issued by the hotel and entitled “Coco Palm rolls out the red carpet for Prince Harry’s visit”,

    (Caribbean News Now, September 28, 2016)

    allen-chastanetPrime Minister Chastanet is playing wannabe dictator by suing this local broadcaster. And it behooves Saint Lucians to fully appreciate this.

    The facts at issue are almost irrelevant; because this is not about defamation. It’s about intimidation. What’s more, it’s right out of the dictator’s playbook, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has mastered and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now trying out.

    The aim is to silence any voice critical of their leadership, so much so that the press becomes nothing more than a propaganda tool. This, of course, harkens back to the Soviet days of Pravda – the state newspaper that promised “truth” but published little more than lies.

    The only question is how far each strongman is willing to go to master this playbook. For example, in addition to having scores of journalists arrested, Erdogan has already ordered the closure of more than 100 broadcasters, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, and distribution companies.

    All that remains is for him to start ordering hits on particularly irksome journalists. For example, the exiled Russian interior ministry officer Alexander Litvinenko famously fingered Putin for ordering the hit on his “virulent critic” Anna Politkovskaya. She worked for the independent Novaya Gazeta, but was silenced exactly ten years ago today, on October 7, 2016. Unsurprisingly, earlier this year, a British inquiry fingered Putin for ordering a hit on Litvinenko on November 1, 2006.

    This is how far Putin has gone in his quest to intimidate and effectively control the press. Erdogan is emulating him. And Chastanet, who was only elected in June, is already imitating them.

    harry-707439But his claim of defamation smacks of a thin-skinned Trumpian (over)reaction. After all, the alleged offense stems from HTS merely reporting facts. Moreover, it reported those facts from a press release the prime minister’s own family-owned resort issued, which related to interest in where Britain’s Prince Harry would be staying when he visits Saint Lucia later this year.

    Ironically, I suspect Chastanet family’s self-serving press release highlighted the obvious conflict of interest and gave Kensington Palace pause about having Harry stay at their resort. This would have forced the resort to withdraw the press release and thereby caused the prime minister to feel duly dishonored. But this is clearly no reason to blame the media.

    screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-6-12-37-pmYet a voluntary on-air apology by the management of HTS, for any embarrassment caused, was not enough for him. Instead, it appears Chastanet wants his pound of flesh from Rehani Isidore. He is the unwitting Politkovskaya-like journalist who dared to present the report that exposed the conflict of interest into which Chastanet’s family was perfectly willing to ensnare Prince Harry.

    Specifically, management is trying to cover its backside by prevailing upon Isidore to read an on-air apology, crafted by Chastanet’s lawyers, which chastises the journalist as much as it glorifies the prime minister. How Putinesque!

    Meanwhile, nothing betrays Chastanet’s thin-skinned bullying tactics in this respect quite like the fact that he dared not sic his lawyers on the more powerful Daily Express of London. After all, it reported in similar fashion on the same press release.

    In any event, Isidore’s lawyers are right to advise against serving himself up as a sacrificial lamb at the altar of Chastanet’s ego. He should force HTS to fire him and then make a public stink of suing for wrongful termination, thereby exposing its management’s cowardice and Chastanet’s pettiness.

    robert-mugabe-2Beyond this, Saint Lucians should beware that, if Chastanet gets away with abusing his power to bully this journalist, it might only be a matter of time before he’s abusing it to bully you too.

    Not to mention that such political oppression invariably leads to economic stagnation. Exhibit A is the way President Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship has (mis)led Zimbabwe from serving as the “breadbasket of Africa” to languishing as a poverty-stricken basket case.

    Related commentaries:
    Putin hit
    Erdogan aping Putin

    * This commentary was originally written for Caribbean News Now on October 7.

  • Saturday, October 8, 2016 at 8:08 AM

    Hurricane Matthew

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I appreciate your inquiries about how my family and friends in the Caribbean weathered Matthew. Even though proverbial sitting ducks, they all hunkered down, and we all prayed for the best.


    Hurricane Matthew, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, slammed into the Bahamas early on Thursday and intensified as it barreled toward the southeastern U.S. coast where millions of residents heeded warnings to flee inland…

    Matthew, which killed at least [350] people and displaced thousands, mostly in southern Haiti, was predicted to strengthen from a Category 3 to 4 storm [with winds over 150 mph] en route to Florida’s Atlantic coast…

    On Tuesday and Wednesday it whipped Cuba and Haiti with 140 mph (225 kph) winds and torrential rain, pummeling towns and destroying livestock, crops and homes.

    (Reuters, October 6, 2016)

    Foremost, I’m happy to report that none of my family and friends suffered any physical harm. In fact, as of this morning, there were no reported deaths in The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, where my family members reside.

    But many of them sustained costly flood and wind damage. Not to mention that all of them are now coping without electricity.


    That said, I could not help breaking out in gallows laughter when a concerned American friend asked if they ever received evacuation orders.

    Her concern coincided with governors of states along the eastern seaboard of the United States ordering mandatory evacuations for coastal residents to shelter “100 miles inland.”


    But the reason I could not help laughing is that issuing an evacuation order in the Caribbean to escape a hurricane is rather like issuing an evacuation order in China to escape the smog.

    Where the hell would they go? After all, if people on most islands were to evacuate 100 miles inland, they’d end up either in the Caribbean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean.

    screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-9-01-50-amApropos of which, the Bahamian government made quite a show of evacuating over 100 students from the relatively large island of the Jamaica, which was forecast to receive only glancing blows, to the relatively small island of New Providence, which was forecast to receive direct hits. Someone should ask Prime Minister Perry Christie to explain why this made sense — with respect to their personal safety and our public finances.

    In any event, I am seized with a fusion of indignation and resentment whenever the American media cover a hurricane roaring through our region. For it invariably seems as though they’re previewing a disaster movie coming soon to a local theater instead of reporting on an unfolding human tragedy.

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

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

    (“Katrina’s Coming, Katrina’s Coming,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2005)

    Even so, at least my folks could shelter in homes that are veritable fortresses; that is, compared with far too many of our regional compatriots in Haiti – who could only shelter in shanty-town shacks.


    In fact, reports are that this hurricane has left over 5 million Haitians even more displaced than that catastrophic earthquake left them six years ago.

    Aerial shots of the devastation give the impression of Haitians living the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. The only wonder is that Haitians aren’t taking to the Caribbean Sea for a better life in the United States, the way Africans are taking to the Mediterranean Sea for a better life in Europe. Especially given that the looming plagues of cholera, Zika … and famine are bound to make Haiti even more of a living Hell.

    All of which gives further cause for this Doubting Thomas to question the “intelligent design” of a world in which the comfortable are fated to be comfortable and the afflicted … fated to be afflicted.

    Still, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected, especially the godforsaken people of Haiti.

    NOTE: Reports are that the death toll in Haiti is likely to rise. Please donate to relief and recovery efforts relief here or here.

    Related commentaries:
    Haiti, Haiti, Haiti

    * This commentary was originally published on Friday, October 7

  • Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at 12:49 PM

    What the FARC! Colombians Reject Landmark Peace Deal

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In a stunning blow to this country’s hard-fought peace deal with FARC guerrillas, Colombians on Sunday rejected the pact that held out the hope of ending a half-century-long conflict…

    Even as the deal seemed badly wounded, both [President Juan Manuel Santos] and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said they hoped to pull peace from the wreckage…

    ‘We reiterate our disposition to rely only on words as our weapons to build the future,’ FARC Commander Rodrigo Londoño said in a statement after the vote.

    (Miami Herald, October 2, 2016)

    Actually, this stunning blow is just the latest in a year of black-swan phenomena, which has seen, among other things, Republicans nominate Donald J. Trump for president, Britons Brexit the EU, and Brazilians impeach their first female president. Of course, Americans would only punctuate this trend of unthinkable events if they elect Trump as president of the United States.


    But there’s something of a black-swan phenomenon even in President Santos and FARC Commander Londoño pledging to implement the peace deal despite losing this referendum.

    After all, the unthinkable analogy would be British Prime Minister David Cameron and EU President Jean Claude Juncker insisting that the UK shall remain a full member of the EU despite losing that referendum. Granted, Cameron dutifully resigned. And to complete this salutary symmetry, he would’ve had to ignore his promise to do so if the referendum failed. Evidently, Santos feels no such duty to resign.

    The point is that voters are continually demonstrating an unhinged willingness to vote against enlightened national interest. This was especially pronounced in the FARC referendum because polls invariably showed that over 65 percent of Colombians favored the peace deal. Yet they rejected it 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent.

    l_colombia_farc_eln_04052016_1To be fair, many of those who voted against this referendum are probably still smarting from the terror and violence FARC inflicted on them and their loved ones. Indeed, these Colombians probably feel about FARC the way Miami Cubans feel about the Castros, which fuelled their opposition to Obama normalizing relations with Cuba … despite the feckless 50-year embargo.

    In any event, those who voted against it insist that the government just made too many concessions, notably promising to:

    • grant amnesty to FARC rebels
    • set aside 10 seats in Congress for their new political party

    On the other hand, FARC made some commendable concessions too, notably promising to:

    • hand over all weapons
    • apologize to all victims (220,000 dead and 5 million displaced)
    • pay reparations

    As it happens, the new British prime minister, Theresa May, announced on Sunday that her government intends to trigger the fateful Article 50, which begins Brexit negotiations, no later than the end of March 2017. This clearly signaled her determination to honor the results of the Brexit referendum.

    But frankly, I don’t blame Santos for signaling his determination to ignore the results of the FARC referendum. What’s more, I suspect even those who voted against the peace deal will eventually thank him for doing so.

    Colombia's former President Alvaro Uribe during a press conference after the nation voted "No" in a referendum on a peace deal between the government and FARC rebels, in RionegroAfter all, nobody in his right mind can possibly think that “Plan B,” which Santos fears would return Colombia to a state of conflict, is in the national interest.

    Indeed, only a delusional Trump wannabe like former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who wants to unseat Santos, can believe FARC rebels will surrender and march straight into prison cells. Never mind that Uribe’s delusional resentment is understandable, given that FARC attempted to assassinate him in 2002.

    160926185849-04-colombia-farc-peace-deal-0926-exlarge-169Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon leading a delegation of world leaders to witness the signing reflects the universal support this peace deal enjoys. Not to mention the EU lifting sanctions against FARC and pledging a 600-million euro package to support its implementation.

    But it might help to have a little perspective on the leadership Santos demonstrated by striking this deal. Not least because he effectively emulated what South African President Nelson Mandela did with the deal he struck to end Apartheid.

    The key features of that deal were:

    • A Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was empowered to grant amnesty to perpetrators of all crimes, including abductions, torture, and killings, provided they confessed their crimes completely and truthfully.
    • A reparations program, which aimed to compensate “each victim or family” of the Apartheid regime’s 50-year reign of racist terror.

    Simply put, if South Africans could accept such a deal with leaders and enforcers of Apartheid rule, Colombians should accept this similar deal with leaders and fighters of the FARC insurgency. Perhaps Santos could make it more palatable by including a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that imposes symbolic prison sentences on more notorious rebels, instead of allowing all of them to just hand over their weapons and walk Scot-free.

    But if this analogy is too, er, Afrocentric for you, consider this: If Obama could negotiate a peace deal with ISIS, which calls for the terrorists to cease all attacks and renounce jihad in exchange for amnesty, would you vote against it in a national referendum?

    Consider further that FARC has a lot in common with ISIS. In fact, here is how I commented on its terrorist activities in “The Hollywood-Inspired Rescue of Ingrid Betancourt and Other FARC Hostages,” July 7, 2008.


    [The hostages] were being held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). FARC is generally recognized as a rag-tag bunch of military misfits who spout discredited communist platitudes as the clarion call for their ongoing, 50-year insurrection.

    COLOMBIA-FARC-CAMPHowever, FARC has done little to engage the Colombian military. Instead, it has become a menace to society by kidnapping thousands of civilians for ransom every year to help fund its quixotic war.  In fact, previous governments were so intimidated by its ruthlessness that FARC was able to extract all manner of concessions, including a 42, 000 sq. kilometer safe haven in 1998 from then President Andres Pastrana.

    Yet, what truly distinguishes FARC is its involvement in the Colombian drug trade. Specifically, it has established a veritable business district for the production and shipment of cocaine in its ‘protected’ areas.  And, as the de facto government authority, FARC collects a fee at every stage of this enterprise – from taxing the chemicals used to process coca to charging traffickers to use its airstrips. Reports are that FARC rakes in over $300 million annually from drugs alone.


    Hence, FARC could probably compensate its victims more handsomely than the government that failed to protect them could.

    It’s too bad that a “slight” majority of Colombians are either too aggrieved or too stupid to appreciate the historic significance of this peace deal. But Santos is right to forge ahead, the referendum be damned.


    Nobel prize for peace rejected

    October 7

    The president of Colombia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for pursuing a deal to end 52 years of conflict with a leftist rebel group, the longest-running war in the Americas, just five days after Colombians rejected the agreement in a shocking referendum result.

    The decision to give the prize to the Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos, may revive hopes for the agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, with whom the country has been waging the last major guerrilla struggle in Latin America.

    (New York Times, October 7, 2016)


    Perhaps Santos can derive some consolation, if not validation, from the Nobel Committee awarding him this year’s Peace Prize.

    Of course, this is entirely consistent with the Committee’s discrediting habit of awarding this prize to peacemakers who never brokered any peace; most notably to Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to Barack Obama for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Related commentaries:
    Rescue of FARC hostages
    Nobel peace prize

  • Monday, October 3, 2016 at 7:54 AM

    ‘October Surprise’: NY Times Publishes (one year of) Trump’s Tax Returns

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’ve been determined to stand apart from the maddening gaggle of commentators who have been rushing to comment on every new scandal, gaffe, or poll this campaign season. Mind you, whenever I try to chat with friends abroad about goings-on in their respective countries, they invariably show more interest in chatting about the U.S presidential election; specifically, about the international spectacle that is Donald J. Trump.

    Truth be told, Trump’s presidential campaign has been replete with so many surreal and unprecedented features that even I have been constrained to comment more than anticipated. His refusal to release his tax returns is one such feature.

    leaked-donald-trump_s-tax-records-obtained-by-new-york-timesNow comes this:

    The New York Times obtained records from 1995 showing that Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss. The figure is so substantial that it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying federal income tax for 18 years…

    [With respect to charitable contributions], Mr. Trump declined the opportunity to contribute to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Fund, the New Jersey Wildlife Conservation Fund or the Children’s Trust Fund.

    (New York Times, October 2, 2016)

    Actually, nobody should be surprised that Trump pays no federal income tax. After all, his lying efforts to dodge the long-established obligation of presidential nominees to release years of tax returns have dogged his campaign. Hillary, for example, has released nearly 40 years of returns.

    But the biggest “tell” in this respect has been his brazen criticisms of billionaire hedge-fund managers for getting away without paying any income tax. For, just as Trump’s psychopathology predisposes him to being baited by any tweet, it compels him to criticize people for doing things he’s guilty of doing.

    trumphelmsleyAs a case in point, during her famous tax evasion trial, one of hotelier Leona Helmsley’s employees damned her to prison when he testified that she routinely exclaimed:

    We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.

    (New York Times, July 12, 1989)

    Yet, during an interview on FOX News on August 21, 2007, here is the unconscionable way Trump projected his tax evasion schemes onto Helmsley:

    [For the last two years of husband’s life] he was going through all of this hell because of things that she caused with her tax evasion…which was so foolish, because he was such a rich man.

    She was a nasty woman, but she was a character. And she added something to New York, in a very perverse way.

    It was unconscionable because he said this within hours of news breaking of Helmsley’s death, presaging the Neanderthal social graces he’s been displaying throughout this presidential campaign.

    The point is that what Trump said about Helmsley could be said about him back then as surely as it can be said about him today – with respect to his foolish tax evasion, his nastiness, and the “something” he has added to the country … in a very perverse way.

    Indeed, Trump personifies the modern-day version of Marie-Antoinette’s apocryphal quip, “let them eat cake.” Nothing demonstrates this quite like the way this P.T. Barnumesque buffoon plays his supporters for suckers:

    Donald Trump clinched his third straight victory in the Nevada caucuses Tuesday, winning 46 percent of the vote. He celebrated with a rousing victory speech in which he boasted of his greed and his popularity with uneducated voters.

    (Rolling Stone, February 24, 2016)

    Psychological projection explains many of the attacks and claims Trump makes. This was clearly the case when he said during the first presidential debate on Monday that his temperament “was my strongest asset, maybe by far.”

    After all, if he had good temperament, he would have spent the next few days making up for many missed opportunities to score debating points against Hillary. Instead, Trump spent the next five days name calling and fat shaming former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, thereby showing why his puerile and thin-skinned temperament is in fact his weakest asset.

    By the way, Trump is making fools and liars of his campaign staffers, including his children — who keep promising anxious supporters that he will soon pivot to begin acting presidential. If he can’t “act presidential” during his campaign, however, it strains credulity to think he’d ever “be presidential” … if elected

    To be fair, though, many rich people and corporations seem to think it’s only for “little people” to pay taxes.


    Death and taxes are supposed to be two certainties of life. But a few companies have at least escaped the taxes part.

    There are 27 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500, including telecom firm Level 3 Communications (LVLT), airline United Continental (UAL) and automaker General Motors (GM), that reported paying no income tax expense in 2015 despite reporting pre-tax profits.

    (USA TODAY, March 7, 2016)

    Of course, as is the case with many laws that favor the rich at the expense of the poor, the real scandal is that tax avoidance schemes are entirely legal.

    But I would be remiss not to note that, whatever you think of Helmsley, she never publicly chastised fifty percent of the American people for being too poor (to qualify) to pay federal income taxes. Trump did. Which is why his now-evident hypocrisy in doing so is so, well, rich.

    That said, this October surprise is no surprise to me at all. For here in part is what I wrote over five months ago in “Hackers Leak Trump’s Tax Returns…?” May 12, 2016.


    [Trumps refusal to release his tax returns] is, or should be, disqualifying – to any voter with common sense, that is…

    Trump has fueled his campaign with nothing but blather, bluster, and bravado about how his acquisition of “huge” wealth makes him uniquely qualified to be president. To honor what little integrity remains in their profession, journalists should force Trump to prove it.

    After all, by his own measure, his refusal to release his tax returns is rather like a doctor refusing to present his medical qualifications. Which, of course, is why doctors plaster their office walls with framed copies of all manner of licenses and degrees.

    Trust me, if his tax returns showed that he is as wealthy and charitable as he claims, Trump would be distributing them like campaign flyers. But it speaks volumes that Dishonest Donald is failing the test for honesty, which Richard “I-am-not-a-crook” Nixon set by releasing his tax returns. And it’s noteworthy that Nixon did so even while the IRS was auditing him…

    Frankly, Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns reeks of so much hypocrisy, it must fail the smell test even of gullible Republicans who already have their noses way up his bloviating ass.

    But, notwithstanding what hackers like Anonymous might do, I suspect we’re in for an October surprise. Because I can’t believe the IRS would allow him to get away with this refusal by claiming it not only unfairly targets him for yearly audits, but also takes forever to complete each one.

    Stay tuned.


    Sure enough, here we are. Except that, as revealing as it might be, Trump’s tax return from twenty years ago is not the October surprise I had in mind.

    379a5f1fcf6eaac672e7c969b9868a48Therefore, I remain hopeful that a hacker or an IRS whistleblower will leak more recent returns in the public interest.

    On the other hand, I am truly heartened that so many Republican-leaning newspapers are breaking ranks by either endorsing Hillary or urging Republicans to vote for anybody but Trump:

    Another day, another endorsement for Hillary Clinton from a conservative newspaper editorial board…

    A few days after the Arizona Republic endorsed its first Democratic presidential candidate in its 126-year history, the San Diego Union-Tribune followed suit for the first time in its 148 years [citing] the litany of reasons why Donald Trump shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Oval Office.

    (Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2016)

    Of course, Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns is the least of those reasons. Moreover, it’s plain for all to see that a “President Trump” would lead America down an Orwellian rabbit hole, into a post-fact world where leaders in every facet of life propagate lies as truth and engage in dystopian doublespeak. His surrogates previewed the latter on TV today by spinning his loss of almost $1 billion in one year as the feat of a “genius” businessman.

    This is why it is as frustrating as it is stupefying that so many Americans seem perfectly happy to elect this mendacious, misogynistic, narcissistic, racist, xenophobic man-child as president of the United States.

    In the meantime, I suspect we’re in for more October surprises. The only question is whether they ultimately prove more damaging to Hillary’s or Donald’s presidential campaign.

    Related commentaries:
    Hackers leak
    Presidential debate

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 2:24 p.m.

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