• Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 11:19 AM

    Terminal Humiliation of MMA Golden Goose, Rhonda Rousey

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    You can be forgiven for thinking that Mixed Martial Arts Fighting (MMA) owes its popularity to the testosterone-fuelled fists of fury of fighters like Anderson “The Spider” Silva, George “Rush” St. Pierre, and “The Notorious” Conor McGregor. But that distinction belongs to the glamour-puss promotional antics of Rhonda Rousey.

    In fact, MMA paid its latest (and perhaps final) installment on that debt by guaranteeing Rousey $3 million for last night’s fight. By contrast, it guaranteed Amanda Nunes, the reigning champion no less, a mere $200k – thereby disrespecting her professional talent and undermining the integrity of the sport.

    To be fair, no fighter engaged in such promotional antics more than The Greatest, Muhammad Ali. Except that, from his days as an amateur Olympic Champion, Ali had long-established that he was much more than just a pretty face….

    Of course, my title gives away the outcome of this Rousey-Nunes fight. But the real story here is how Rousey’s humiliating defeat vindicates my contention that MMA promoted her from day one as more eye candy (the better to attract fans) than bona fide fighter.

    Rousey was all too happy to oblige; never mind the oxymoronic way she sought ring cred with Ali-like boasts and trash talk. I called her out thirteen months ago in “Down Goes Rousey! Down Goes Rousey! Holly Holms Shocks the World!” November 17, 2015. I’ve decided to reprise that commentary in its entirety because it telegraphed in so many respects what happened last night.

    **********

    MMA is arguably even more barbaric than cockfighting or dogfighting – as Michael Vick might contend. Therefore, only the animalistic part of my nature explains why I am such a big fan. (At least Boxing purports to be “the sweet science of bruising.”)

    Because of its barbarity, some might find it ironic that MMA’s biggest star is a woman, Ronda Rousey. In fact, the media hype surrounding her in recent years was such that Homeric tales of her fighting prowess rivaled Lachaisean images of Kim Kardashian’s butt.

    More to the point, one could not help thinking of Rousey as being to MMA what Mike Tyson was to Boxing. For, like Tyson’s in his heyday, the only suspense her fights held was in the amount of time her opponents could survive before tapping out.

    Then came Saturday:

    Holly Holm scored a savage, utterly shocking headkick knockout over Ronda Rousey last night (Sat., Nov. 14, 2015) in the second round of the UFC 193 main event, which took place inside Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.

    It was a jaw-dropping finish…

    Holm handed the unstoppable Rousey — UFC’s most dominant champion and its biggest star — the first professional loss of her fantastic career.

    (MMA Mania, SB Nation, November 15, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 9.39.40 AM

    Frankly, shocking is an understatement. But I hasten to note here that, even though her team rushed her to hospital after the fight, the wound to her pride must be the deepest one of all.

    Of course, the reason this knockout was so shocking is that media hype had even MMA analysts spouting nonsense about Rousey being so domineering she could beat any male MMA fighter in her weight class. Remarkably, even Rousey bought into her own hype. I, however, did not – as this excerpt from “Women in Combat: Hail ‘Woman Power’ Rangers,” August 19, 2015, attests.

    ___________________

    I have celebrated every small step women have taken over the years towards integrating professions traditionally reserved for men. And I could not be more pleased to celebrate their latest. Not least because, with all due respect to Tysonesque MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, it demonstrates that women are just as capable of performing in armed combat as men…

    rouseybI reference Rousey in this context because, as reported on the August 12 edition of ESPN’s Sports Center, she’s now claiming that she can beat any man, including reigning boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, in a ‘no-rules fight’ – whatever that means (knives allowed?).

    But this makes a mockery of woman-power aspirations. After all, it’s one thing for a 29-year-old Billie Jean King to challenge a 55-year-old Bobby Riggs to a Tennis match in a ‘Battle of the Sexes.’ It’s quite another for Rousey to challenge Mayweather to a street fight. Especially given that her bull-in-China-shop style of fighting would be no match even for a female MMA fighter with just one half of Mayweather’s ability to stick and move and counterpunch; you know, the tactics journeyman Buster Douglas used to knock out invincible Mike Tyson.

    Rousey clearly thinks she’s invincible too. But this one-trick pony will have to show me a lot more than ‘the armbar submission’ before I buy into her media hype.

    __________________

    Mind you, even though she too was undefeated going into this fight, I had no idea Holly Holm would be Ronda Rousey’s Buster Douglas. I just knew it was only a matter of time before a fighter with bona fide MMA (boxing) skills exposes her obvious weaknesses…

    Meanwhile, Rousey could not have known what karma she triggered when she did this:

    [Rousey], who was defeated for the first time in her career on Saturday, ignored the referee’s call to make the sporting gesture [of touching gloves with Holm] at the beginning of the encounter.

    Instead the 28 year old turned away, put her fists up and prepared to fight.

    (UK Daily Mail, November 16, 2015)

    Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 9.22.59 AM

    No doubt Rousey thought this opening stunt would enhance the badass image she has tried so hard to cultivate. But it only enhances my glee that Holm proceeded to knock her on her ass.

    By the way, I fully appreciate that many of you probably don’t know your MMA from your HSA. But to get a sense of my schadenfreude over Rousey’s comeuppance, just imagine the glee you, or any sensible person, would feel if Donald Trump suddenly began polling dead last in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

    It just so happened that wall-to-wall media coverage of the terrorist attacks in Paris spared Rousey much of the public humiliation she should have suffered – her deeply wounded pride notwithstanding.

    Congratulations, Holly!

    **********

    Given that, I’m not sure why it surprised anyone last night when this golden goose laid another rotten egg:

    Ronda Rousey’s future in the UFC looked all but over in Las Vegas as the former women’s bantamweight champion was blown away in 48 seconds by incumbent champion Amanda Nunes.

    Fast heavy hands from Brazilian Nunes, a renowned vicious starter, stunned Rousey who was returning to the Octagon for the first time since her defeat 13 months ago against Holly Holm in a bid to reclaim her bantamweight crown.

    Nunes was defending her title for the first time since demolishing Miesha Tate in July, and landed a big right inside 15 seconds, before an onslaught which met little resistance with the American battered to a standstill until referee Herb Dean stepped in to rescue the returning fighter.

    (The Telegraph, December 31, 2016)

    Here’s to Nunes, a fighter with bona fide MMA skills.

    Good riddance, Rhonda!

    Except that she deserves credit for setting herself up with millions to spend while licking her wounds in ignominious retirement….

    Related commentaries:
    Down goes Rousey
    Woman power

  • Friday, December 30, 2016 at 7:54 AM

    Obama Strikes Back for Russian Interference in US Election. Putin Retreats…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Obama struck back at Russia on Thursday for its efforts to influence the 2016 election, ejecting 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and imposing sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services.

    The administration also penalized four top officers of one of those services, the powerful military intelligence unit known as the G.R.U. …

    Taken together, the sweeping actions announced by the White House, the Treasury, the State Department and intelligence agencies on Thursday amount to the strongest American response yet to a state-sponsored cyberattack.

    (New York Times, December 29, 2016)

    This is actually pretty Solomonic. Nothing affirmed this quite like Putin announcing that he’d rather wait for a reprieve from his putative puppet Trump than retaliate.

    Except that part of the wisdom of Obama’s punishment is that it checkmated Trump. After all, Trump must either endorse the punishment and incur Putin’s face-saving wrath, or grant the reprieve and fatally compromise his presidency.

    That said, I’d be remiss not to comment further on Putin retreating from the challenge Obama’s punishment posed. For, arguably, this is every bit as significant as Obama retreating from the challenge Syrian President Bashir al-Assad posed when he crossed that infamous “red line.”

    No doubt you recall the international ridicule Obama suffered after he failed to retaliate. What’s more, this ridicule seemed warranted given the lengths to which he had Secretary of State John Kerry go to telegraph his intent to do so.

    Well,

    Well, Putin had Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov do the same. Specifically, Lavrov interrupted regular programming on Russian TV to announce his recommendation for Putin to retaliate in kind. This meant the immediate expulsion of 35 suspected American intelligence operatives.

    Except that, with the stage thusly set, Putin interrupted regular programming himself to announce the following:

    While we reserve the right to take reciprocal measures, we’re not going to downgrade ourselves to the level of irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy… In our future steps on the way toward the restoration of Russia-United States relations, we will proceed from the policy pursued by the administration” of Donald J. Trump.

    (New York Times, December 30, 2016)

    Yet, instead of suffering ridicule, Putin won praise from Moscow to New York and points between. For example, no less a useful idiot than Trump flattered him as “a very smart man,” and former CIA agent Philip Giraldi hailed him for behaving as “the only adult in the room.” This, despite the fact that, in attempting to belittle Obama’s punishment and make himself look like “Vlad the beneficent,” Putin threw Lavrov (and his universally expected and accepted recommendation) under the bus.

    But this feint did not disguise the fact that, instead of rising to the challenge Obama posed, Putin retreated — like bullies who finally meet their match invariably do. Never mind that one can hardly blame him for thinking that he would fare better by matching wits with the certifiably dimwitted Donald J. Trump.

    Apropos of which, I have made plain my disdain for Trump’s character and intellect in this and other commentaries too numerous to count—dating back to “Trump for President?! Don’t Be a Sucker,” April 8, 2011. Yet I can think of no more instructive description of him than that which Henry Adams offered of Ulysses S. Grant in chapter 17 of his autodidactic memoir, The Education of Henry Adams (1918):

    Nobody knew why he succeeded, they believed in him because of his success. …

    The intellect counted for nothing, only the energy counted [like] men whose energies were the greater the less they wasted on thought … sometimes vindictive … always needing stimulants, but for whom action was the highest stimulant — the instinct of fight — such men were forces of nature. …

    That, two thousand years after Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, a man like Grant should be called … the highest product of the most advanced evolution, made evolution ludicrous.

    Not to mention that Grant was a daring and successful general who ran a notoriously corrupt and incompetent presidency. And, past being prologue, I expect Trump, a daring and successful businessman, to run a presidency that is every bit as corrupt and incompetent.

    But Grant’s reputation as a national hero made him immune to impeachment for the high crimes and misdemeanors that characterized his presidency; whereas Trump’s as a national shyster makes him susceptible to the same.

    This. Will. Not. End. Well.

    Related commentaries:
    Russian interference in US election

  • Thursday, December 29, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    Netanyahu’s a Putz for Branding Obama a Judas over UN Resolution

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Netanyahu will never miss an opportunity to undermine peace with Israel’s enemies — even if that means making enemies of Israel’s friends.

    (“Chutzpah: Israeli PM to Address US Congress,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 23, 2015)

    Bear this quote in mind as you read below.

    A truly stupefying feature of the relationship between Israel and the United States is the way the former presumes that the latter is obligated to support its policies whether they are right or wrong.

    This presumption was thrown into stark relief last year when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a special session of Congress. For he spent most of it chastising President Obama for daring to strike a nuclear deal with Iran, which he falsely claimed poses an existential threat to Israel.

    Not to mention that the leaders of Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany all joined Obama in negotiating this deal pursuant to their shared interest in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Which is why it rang hollow when Netanyahu criticized only Obama in this context as weak and naïve.

    Never mind the wonder that his well-documented record of crying wolf about Iran’s nuclear program did not cause him to bite his tongue.

    A SERIOUS [sic] threat of nuclear war hangs over Israel, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset plenum yesterday…

    ‘Within three to five years, we can assume that Iran will become autonomous in its ability to develop and produce a nuclear bomb, without having to import either the technology or the material,’ Netanyahu said. ‘[The nuclear threat] must be uprooted by an international front headed by the US.’

    (Jerusalem Post, January 12, 1995)

    At the very least, this record should have compelled even the Republican-controlled Congress to deny him such an authoritative forum to pose presumptuous and plainly disingenuous challenges to a sitting president. Arguably, his collusion with Republicans for this occasion constituted an unprecedented act of political mutiny. I duly chastised him and them in “Republicans Send ‘Mutinous’ Letter to Iran,” March 17, 2015.

    Incidentally, it is noteworthy that, despite his doctrinaire opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, Netanyahu never offered any credible alternative. Which is even more irresponsible than the fact that, despite their doctrinaire opposition to Obamacare, Republicans never offered any credible alternative.

    In any event:

    Netanyahu seems to think Israel can get by with a little help from its friends — even if those friends compose just a small faction of Christian fundamentalists and neo-cons  on the lunatic fringe of U.S. Republican Party.

    (“Netanyahu’s Call for Jewish Exodus more Sharpton than Moses,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 23, 2015)

    Only that explains this:

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out Saturday at what he called the ‘old-world bias against Israel,’ attacking President Obama and the United Nations over a resolution that criticized Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem…

    The resolution, which was brought for a vote Friday in the U.N. Security Council, declared that settlements built on land Israel has occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war have ‘no legal validity’ and are a threat to the possibility of creating two states — one for Israelis and one for Palestinians…

    In a statement after the vote, Netanyahu said the Obama administration had ‘not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the U.N., it has colluded with it behind the scenes.’

    (Washington Post, December 24, 2016)

    It clearly does not matter one iota to Netanyahu that, by abstaining on this resolution, the Obama administration spared Israel a unanimous condemnation. After all, every other member of the Security Council voted to support it.

    Granted, even as she abstained, Obama’s UN ambassador, Samantha Power, vented in unison with those condemning Israel on one critical point.

    Ms. Power said the United States chose not to veto the resolution, as it had done to a similar measure under Mr. Obama in 2011, because settlement building had accelerated so much that it had put the two-state solution in jeopardy, and because the peace process had gone nowhere.

    ‘Today the Security Council reaffirmed its established consensus that settlements have no legal validity. The United States has been sending a message that settlements must stop privately and publicly for nearly five decades.’

    (New York Times, December 23, 2016)

    Moreover there’s this:

    The International Court of Justice … ruled that Jewish settlements in what it calls occupied Palestinian territory are illegal. The U.S. has deemed settlements an obstacle to peace. The Arab world considers them occupation of land that belongs in an independent Palestinian state.

    (Bloomberg, December 23, 2016)

    Yet successive Israeli governments have not only defied international law but made successive U.S. governments complicit in expanding Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories; so much so that the population of Jewish settlers has grown from just over 10,000 in the 1970s to well over 700,000 today.

    This, in fairness to Netanyahu, compels me to stress that every prime minister has acted as if Israel’s you-and-me-against-the-world approach to foreign policy means that the United States should have its back – come what may, no matter what.

    Hence U.S. presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower have been obliged to do on many occasions what Netanyahu is accusing Obama of doing this one and only time, namely, abstaining from voting on a UN resolution critical of Israel. But some presidents have done far more, namely, voting to condemn Israel. Ronald Reagan did so three times; George H.W. Bush, nine.

    This is why Netanyahu’s crocodile wailing since last week’s vote  – that “friends don’t take friends to the Security Council” – is as disingenuous as it is mischievous. Not to mention that the elder Bush became so frustrated with Israel’s defiance in this respect, he had his secretary of state, James Baker, rebuke Israel during congressional testimony with this now-famous message:

    Everybody over there should know that the telephone number for the White House is (202) 456-1414.  When you’re serious about peace, call us!

    (New York Times, June 14, 1990)

    That was over 25 years ago, folks. And there’s clear and convincing evidence that Israel is still not serious about peace. Israel can be forgiven its persecution complex, but its imperious treatment not only of Palestinians but also of U.S. presidents militates against forgiveness.

    All of which raises the following questions:

    • Why is Netanyahu denouncing Obama as a proverbial betrayer for merely abstaining on this one resolution, given that no Israeli prime minister has ever denounced any other U.S. president as such for repeatedly abstaining on similar resolutions?
    • Why is Netanyahu accusing Obama of colluding with the international community to draft this resolution, given that other U.S. presidents have openly led the international community in drafting similar resolutions?

    This prime minister doth protest too much, methinks. After all, Obama has done more for Israel than any other president with respect to protecting it against UN resolutions and providing security guarantees. Here, for example, is what no less a person than Ehud Barak, former Israeli prime minister (1999 to 2001) and defense minister (2007 to 2013), said about Obama’s commitment to and support of Israel:

    I am saying very clearly that this administration in regard to Israel’s security – and we are traditionally supported by each and every American president in our generation – but under this administration we went even further into a clear, deep, deep commitment to the security of Israel.

    (Charlie Rose, March 24, 2010)

    And that commendation did not include this unprecedented demonstration of support to bookend his presidency:

    The United States and Israel signed a defense aid agreement on Wednesday that promises Israel $38 billion over 10 years, from 2019 through 2028…

    ‘Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and I are confident that the new MOU will make a significant contribution to Israel’s security in what remains a dangerous neighborhood,’ Obama said. … ‘As I have emphasized previously, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.’

    (Haaretz, September 14, 2016)

    Given this, one could be forgiven the impression that the more Obama did for Israel the more Netanyahu resented him. Alas, one could also be forgiven the suspicion that racism, which animated Donald Trump’s birther crusade and Republican efforts to make him a failed president, has animated Netanyahu’s presumptuous behavior towards Obama.

    As it happens, Netanyahu only reinforced this suspicion in recent days by acting as if President-elect Trump – whom he hails as “a true friend of the state of Israel” – is already the president of the United States.

    Incidentally, I’ve decried this antic disposition towards Obama in many commentaries over the years, including “2014 Midterm Elections: Republicans and the Triumph of Irrational Exuberance,” November 5, 2014, “Super-Rich Irony,” October 5, 2012, and “Delusions of Despair Undermining Obama’s Presidency?” June 21, 2012.

    Enough said?

    Except that I feel constrained to add that Netanyahu seems hell-bent on emulating South Africa’s Apartheid leaders by turning Israel into a pariah state. No less a person than former President Jimmy Carter is on record lamenting this – not only in his authoritative book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, but also during his frequent visits to the Middle East.

    Carter, who served as U.S. president from 1977 to 1981, said he believes that Netanyahu has no intention of pursuing peace, and lamented that ‘They [Palestinians] will never get equal rights [to Israeli Jews, in a one-state solution].’

    Netanyahu ‘does not now and has never sincerely believed in a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine,’ Carter added.

    (Times of Israel, August 13, 2013)

    Netanyahu is clearly playing the religious card by complaining about Obama and the UN ganging up on Israel throughout the peace process. But this is as factually and morally bankrupt as Trump playing the media card by complaining about Hillary and the media ganging up on him throughout the election process.

    Frankly, even in Trump’s “post-fact, post-truth” world, there’s no denying that Netanyahu and his settlement policy have been the greatest obstacles to peace. Worse still, by expanding and fortifying this apartheid policy, Israel is rendering specious its clarion boast about being the only democracy in the Middle East. Indeed, with all due respect to Reagan, peace through strength to Netanyahu amounts to might makes right.

    And it does not bode well that Trump seems determined to parrot everything Netanyahu says and support everything he does. This would make a mockery of the role U.S. presidents have traditionally played as honest broker in the Sisyphean Mideast peace process.

    As my title indicates, Netanyahu is casting Obama as a Judas the betrayer of Israel’s biblical efforts to occupy Palestinian territories. Trump is buying into this by casting himself as a Christ the redeemer of those efforts.

    But he will realize soon enough that brokering a peace deal in the Middle East is a far cry from opening a hotel or running a casino, especially given his infamous record of failure with respect to the latter. More to the point, the vexing feature of that realization will undoubtedly be Netanyahu’s manifest determination to impose a neo-apartheid peace deal on the Palestinian people.

    Apropos of which, Israel is as isolated on the world stage today as South Africa was at the height of Apartheid.

    Frankly, instead of trying in vain to rally the world to maintain crippling sanctions against Iran for fomenting terrorism, Netanyahu should be worried about former president Jimmy Carter rallying the world to impose sanctions against Israel for building (what Carter has decried as) an apartheid state, where Jews treat Palestinians the way whites treated blacks in Apartheid South Africa.

    (“Obama Leads World to Historic Nuclear Deal with Iran,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 15, 2015)

    And Netanyahu is only compounding Israel’s isolation with petty, spiteful gestures purporting to punish members of the Security Council who voted for this resolution:

    In a further response to a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reportedly ordered the Foreign Ministry to suspend all working ties with 12 of the countries that voted in favor of the decision…

    Of the 15 countries on the UN Security Council, 14 voted in favor of Resolution 2334, which demands a halt to all Israeli settlement activity, with one abstention, that of the U.S.

    Activities involving the embassies of Britain, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand will be suspended, and the ambassadors of those countries will not be received at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, an official said.

    (Times of Israel, December 25, 2016)

    Unsurprisingly, congressional Republicans are aiding Netanyahu in his foolhardy and unsustainable attempts to exact retribution. These, of course, are the same Republicans who misled him to think he could derail the nuclear deal with Iran by damning it in that ill-fated address to a joint session of Congress.

    In fact, Senator Lindsey Graham is leading the chorus of those resuming calls for the United States to defund the United Nations. Never mind that these calls are no more practicable than their calls to defund Obamacare.

    More importantly, it behooves these Israel-can-do-no-wrong Republicans to appreciate that China would be all too willing to not only pick up the slack in funding but move its headquarters from New York to Beijing to boot.

    Actually, in their partisan and myopic efforts to make Obama a failed president, Republicans have so undermined America’s global influence and appeal that I suspect a majority of member countries would be happy to move. What’s more, this development would be entirely consistent with China’s geopolitical strategy of using cash to buy the kind of global influence the United States fought wars to attain.

    Except that there’s a Trump card, which makes talk of defunding the UN under a Trump administration all hot air. After all, Trump relies on far too many UN diplomats for rental and other income. And let’s face it, he has already telegraphed that his presidency will be all about doing what’s best for Trump.

    NOTE: A few enlightened Republicans are calling for sanctions against Vladimir Putin because they realize that Putin can hack them the way he hacked Democrats. These Republicans would do well to demand an apology from Netanyahu because they should realize that Netanyahu can show the same kind of contempt for President Trump that he has shown for President Obama (the current bromance between Netanyahu and Trump notwithstanding).

    Not to mention the contempt he’s showing for the American taxpayer by, on the one hand, taking $38 billion for Israel’s security, while on the other hand, declaring that “no foreign government” has any right to lecture his government on what it takes for peace.

    Related commentaries:
    Chutzpah
    Netanyahu condemns nuclear deal
    Republicans send mutinous letter
    Triumph of irrational exuberance
    Super-rich irony
    Delusions of despair

    *  This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 9:39 a.m.

  • Sunday, December 25, 2016 at 8:50 AM

    Pope celebrates Christmas with a kiss that is wrong in so many symbolic ways

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    WTF, Francis!

    (Granted, the Baby Jesus seems ecstatic!)

  • Thursday, December 22, 2016 at 8:11 AM

    Canada’s ‘Aboriginal’ Shame … Abides

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    3000I watched with forlorn hope yesterday as the BBC presented a heartrending documentary on Canada’s (mis)treatment of Canadian Indians:

    Poverty and unemployment remains disproportionately high among First Nations people [aka Canadian Indians] who also have to contend with a crisis among aboriginal women, thousands of whom have been murdered or gone missing over the past 30 years…

    When Justin Trudeau came to power in Canada, he promised to repair the country’s relationship with its aboriginal people, after centuries of discrimination…

    Stephen Sackur ask[ed] the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, whether the treatment of First Nations people represents Canada’s shame?

    (BBC, December 21, 2016)

    canadab-738139The reason for my forlorn hope is that when Stephen Harper, Trudeau’s predecessor, came to power ten years ago, he promised to do the same thing. Harper even admitted shame because his predecessors failed to honor the “solemn treaties” white Canadians entered into with Canadian Indians hundreds of years ago.

    Here in part is how I commented on his admission in “Delusions on Matters of Race Are Coming Home to Roost in Canada,” October 3, 2006.

    __________________

    One could be forgiven the impression that Canada enjoys complete racial harmony – unblemished by the legacy of slavery that still haunts America, or by the challenges of racial assimilation that are now coming home to roost all over Europe.

    The reality, of course, is that Canadians have simply managed to quarantine their racial problems more effectively than Americans or Europeans. Because, from the time America’s founding fathers codified racism in their constitution, Canadians have been living with their own racial shame…

    Canada’s dealings with native peoples throughout its history have been just as violent and exploitative as America’s…

    Alas, despite spending billions annually on Indian welfare programs, the Canadian government has been unable to quell the growing resentment of proud and nationalistic Indians who are fed up with being treated like wards of the state.

    __________________

    t7cojeq

    Indeed, I hasten to stress that my forlorn hope pales into insignificance when one considers the genocidal legacy Canadian Indians have suffered (and continue to suffer).

    screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-12-04-08-pmIt’s easy to understand why young Canadian Indians are so filled with the kind of restive resentment that characterized the more militant arm of the black Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Sandra Manyfeathers – who the BBC featured in this documentary – expressed their resentment with eloquent indignation:

    I do believe [that Canada’s treatment of Canadian Indians] is as evil, if not more evil [than South Africa’s Apartheid]. Most white Canadians are really ignorant to the issues that First Nations people have to go through on a daily basis…

    Canada will bring in refugees, you know, as many as they possibly can, to shine this light that Canada is this great place to live, but you still have the issue of First Nations people and … it used to be quiet because we were taught to be quiet and we’re not gonna be quiet anymore; you’re not gonna kill us; you’re not gonna kick us and make us stay down because we’re gonna say something about the plight of First Nations people.

    (HARDtalk, BBC World News, December 21, 2016)

    That said, I cannot resist reiterating this abiding pet peeve about calling Canadian Indians aboriginal people or aborigines:

    Only racism, colonialism, and imperialism explain why Australia’s original people were and still are branded “(ab)original” – as in (ab)normal. Surely political correctness, which so many white intellectuals champion, demands correction of this manifest distortion of history. Specifically, we should call the whites who colonized Australia aborigines, and the “originals” they met there … natives.

    (“Canada Continues to Reckon with Its Own Legacy of White Supremacy,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 5, 2015)

    Of course, the same holds for so-called aboriginal people everywhere.

    NOTE: It might be a case of divine design that all of my commentaries this week feature people enduring unspeakable suffering. Because each one compels you to spare a thought for these afflicted people this holiday season as you enjoy conspicuous consumption and copious comforts.

    Related Articles:
    Delusions on matters of race
    Australia apologizes to Aborigines

  • Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 8:26 AM

    Russia Finally Speaking more ‘Pravda’ than Propaganda re Syria

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    syria-obama-map-570x386President Obama insisted – from the outset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 – that it made no sense for the United States to go “all in” because there could be no military solution. No doubt he was mindful that the underlying sectarian conflict that gave rise to it had already bedeviled U.S. efforts, for over a decade, to rebuild Iraq.

    But everyone – from congressional Republicans to European allies, from Jewish leaders to Arab leaders – criticized him for showing weakness. They even ridiculed him as the leader of the free world who prefers to “lead from behind.”

    putsyr4Then, when President Putin committed Russia to go all in last September, every one of Obama’s critics hailed Putin for showing strength. They even suggested that he was demonstrating the kind of leadership expected of the leader of the free world.

    By contrast, I warned that Putin’s bombing of Syria smacked of the same kind of vaingloriousness that characterized former President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. More to the point, in “Bombing ISIS Smacks of Masturbatory Violence,” November 18, 2015, I explained why Putin’s bombing would prove every bit as feckless as Bush’s invasion.

    __________________

    Hailing Putin’s bombing as ‘shock and awe … on steroids’ ignores that it took hundreds of thousands of troops invading (not hundreds of jets bombing) for Bush to win his pyrrhic victory in Iraq…

    Criticizing Obama for having little to show after bombing [Syria] for over a year ignores that he deems it as unconscionable as it is counterproductive to get off on killing thousands of women and children in a vain attempt to kill a few ISIS combatants…

    Staking out safe zones in Syria and Iraq will stem the flow of refugees into Europe. It will also provide a base from which Western ground forces can launch strategic incursions to kill ISIS leaders and enemy combatants, not hapless Syrians unable to flee. Russia … should join forces with the United States and its coalition partners to implement this strategy.

    All else is folly.

    __________________

    Unsurprisingly, Obama’s bombing of Syria had limited effect, especially as ISIS fighters routinely hid in densely populated neighborhoods, using women and children as human shields. Sadly, unlike Obama, Putin does not deem it either unconscionable or counterproductive to get off on killing tens of thousands of women and children.

    96526102_syria_aleppo_bombed_hospital_10-large_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqzgekzx3m936n5bqk4va8rwtt0gk_6efzt336f62ei5u

    Only that explains this:

    Russian and Syrian government forces appear to have deliberately and systematically targeted hospitals and other medical facilities over the last three months to pave the way for ground forces to advance on northern Aleppo, an examination of airstrikes by Amnesty International has found…

    Hospitals in opposition-controlled areas around Aleppo became a primary target for the Russian and Syrian government forces. This eliminated a vital lifeline for the civilians living in those embattled areas, leaving them no choice but to flee.

    (Amnesty International, March 3, 2016)

    Meanwhile, given reports this week about the “fall of Aleppo,” you’d be forgiven for thinking that, unlike Bush with respect to Iraq, Putin has just cause to declare mission accomplished in Syria. Except that conspicuously absent from far too many of those reports is that rebels still control wide swathes of Syria.

    In fact, nothing betrays the military quagmire Putin has gotten Russia into quite like this:

    ISIS fighters have recaptured the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, despite coming under heavy bombardment by Russian air strikes as they fought to retake the Unesco World Heritage site.

    The militants’ success in seizing Palmyra after being forced out of the city in March underlines the limits air power has against the group and the challenges faced by President Bashar al-Assad and his allies in fighting a multi-sided civil war.

    (Financial Times, December 12, 2016)

    whackIn other words, Russia is now mired in Syria, engaged in the same kind of military whack-a-mole that has kept the United States mired in Iraq for the past 13 years.

    Which is why Obama can be forgiven for saying I told you so. Not least because Putin is parroting today what Obama was saying five years ago.

    Russia is firmly convinced that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict and is ready to cooperate with the United States and other Western countries on the crisis settlement, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said on Tuesday.

    (Sputnik News, October 11, 2016)

    Except that Putin is pressing for a political solution that Obama realized from the outset is a non-starter. After all, the reason members of the opposition took up arms in the first place is that they believe Assad’s brutal crackdown, when the Arab Spring came to Syria, forfeited his right to govern, irredeemably. This, you may recall, is why Obama famously declared, “Assad must go.”

    Bashar AssadHence this all too predictable irony: Putin’s mission in Syria now depends on him endorsing Obama’s declaration for Assad to go. After all, pressing Assad to accept a coalition government that would include members of the opposition makes about as much sense as pressing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to sign a peace deal with the United States.

    Incidentally, the same principle applies to Russia, Turkey, and Iran meeting in Moscow yesterday to broker a peace deal and “discuss the future of Syria” – as Reuters reported with no hint of irony. After all, this is rather like France, Britain, and Spain meeting in London in 1863, while the American Civil War was still raging, to broker a peace deal and discuss the future of the United States.

    But really, it seems the very definition of folly for the foreign powers fighting proxy wars in Syria to be brokering a peace deal. Especially given that they have proven time and again incapable of even brokering a temporary ceasefire — as I duly ridiculed in “Alas, Syrian Ceasefire No. 44 Will Fare No Better,” September 10, 2016.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, December 19, 2016 at 7:17 AM

    South Sudan: Another Genocide Developing in Africa…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Wednesday, a special commission to South Sudan described the state of the country in the starkest terms possible. Atrocities like murder and gang rape are happening on an ‘epic’ scale, reported the commission’s chief, who warned that the world’s youngest country now ‘stands on the brink of an all-out ethnic civil war.’

    ‘A steady process of ethnic cleansing is already underway in some parts of the country. We don’t use that expression lightly,’ said Yasmin Sooka, chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

    (NPR, December 14, 2016)

    The whole world seems focused on Muslims killing each other in Syria. Thousands demonstrated this by marching through London on Saturday to “Save Aleppo.”

    ap_16322683459860-557a0b911244aeb634dc1068e94a1299c7c67d69-s800-c85Meanwhile, Africans are killing each other in South Sudan, and it seems the whole world couldn’t care less. To be fair, my title betrays the fact that reports of genocidal conflicts in Africa have become so commonplace, they now provoke indignant disgust as much as they evoke profound sorrow.

    In fact, I lamented over a year ago the genocidal state of affairs developing in South Sudan, in salutary oblivion. And frankly, I can do no more to advance my concerns today than to reprise the commentary I wrote back then.

    So here, in its entirety, is “Millions in South Sudan Eating Leaves and Grass … Like Cows,” October 29, 2015.

    *****

    For important context on this grazing tragedy, here is an excerpt from “South Sudan Descending into the Heart of Darkness,” December 30, 2013.

    _________________

    pic1I joined the chorus of those heralding the birth of South Sudan as a new nation in Africa – fathered not by colonial masters but by Africans themselves. But I felt constrained to sound this cautionary note:

    What looms, however, may cause the southerners’ Independence Day, which they will mark on July 9, to turn into a pyrrhic celebration…

    I just hope and pray these southerners – who are composed of all kinds of black tribes – can avoid the kind of tribal conflicts that continue to beset so many other countries in Africa.

    (“South Sudan Secedes,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 9, 2011)

    Sure enough, their celebration was pyrrhic. Because here I am, less than three years later, feeling obliged to comment on South Sudanese cannibalizing each other:

    South Sudan’s army fought on Sunday with ‘White Army’ ethnic militia, accusing rebels of mobilizing the force despite its offer of a truce to end the conflict in the new country.

    Two weeks of fighting have left at least 1,000 dead and split the oil-producing country barely two years after it won independence from Sudan. It has also raised fears of an all-out civil war between the main Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups, which could destabilize fragile East Africa.

    (Reuters, December 29, 2013)

    Clearly there’s farcical irony (or is that tragicomedy?) in calling a bunch of black militiamen – who cover their faces with ash as insect repellant – a “White Army.” Given their look and haunting tactics, one would’ve thought “ghost army” would be more fitting. But I shall leave it to experts to comment on the socio-psychological legacy of colonialism their curious appellation reinforces.

    President_Salva_Kiir_and_Ri-300x114Instead, I shall suffice to bemoan this prescient/foreboding lament I sounded six years ago – in “Politics of Corruption in Kenya,” December 31, 2007 – when Kenya was on the precipice on a similar tribal/ethnic conflict:

    This sets up the all-too-familiar prospect of Africans resorting to tribal warfare to settle their political disputes… And those of us who are still hoping against hope for a political awakening in Africa cannot help but look on in despair as Kenya … descends back into the heart of darkness – where bloodlust gives rise to Idi Amins and Rwandan genocides.

    _________________

    That was two years ago, folks. And I’ve written several commentaries bemoaning the same since then, including “South Sudan Continues Descent into the Heart of Darkness,” April 25, 2014, and “’Another African Famine?! Nobody Cares!’ Then Call Me Nobody,” May 2, 2014. Significantly, I ended the latter with this abiding plea:

    I am truly humbled by the thousands of foreign aid workers (mostly White Americans) who, despite all of the challenges and frustrations, continue to march to the front lines to help combat everything from chronic poverty to the vicious cycle of tribal warfare.

    Hence, I can never tire of doing what little I can to support them and keep the humanitarian work they do in public consciousness. And, in doing so, I hope you don’t mind my taking a page from my Mummy’s playbook by trying to guilt you into donating (as I do) to their organizations, like UNICEFUSAID, Doctors Without BordersUN World Food Programme, and CARE.

    Therefore, it truly pains me that South Sudan continues to vindicate my worst fears – as this excerpt from a BBC Documentary “South Sudan’s Shattered Dream,” October 28, 2015, attests.

    __________________

    Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 5.32.56 PMAlmost four million people are facing severe food shortages, with thousands at risk of starvation, in South Sudan, in what has been described as one of the worst humanitarian crises.

    According to a report published in October 2015, if immediate action is not taken, the country could face famine in a matter of weeks. Aid agencies are pleading with both government and opposition forces to respect the current ceasefire and give unrestricted access to the areas most in need…

    It’s evening time, and Regina is busily preparing dinner for her family. I look into the pot to see what it is she is cooking and am astounded and shocked to find she is just using grass and leaves to feed her six children. It’s all she has.

    __________________

    Not to mention that an international commission of inquiry into alleged war crimes found that both government and rebel forces are perpetrating systematic torture, mutilations, rape, and forced cannibalism against the country’s hapless, starving civilians.

    The media are making much ado about the exodus of thousands of Syrians fleeing sectarian conflict. But they would have cause to make much more ado about the exodus of millions of South Sudanese fleeing ethnic conflict … if only chronic starvation did not prevent the South Sudanese from walking like the Syrians.

    In truth, all I can say at this point is: God help the godforsaken people of South Sudan.

    *****

    screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-9-33-55-am

    I will only add that former President Bill Clinton expressed haunting regret for doing nothing as years of ethnic cleansing developed into “all-out ethnic civil war” in Rwanda on his watch.

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

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

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

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, December 17, 2016 at 9:20 AM

    Trump is just another of Putin’s doped dupes

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, December 16, 2016 at 8:23 AM

    Hooray! Turks and Caicos Elects First Female Premier, Sharlene Cartwright Robinson!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Premier-elect Sharlene Cartwright Robinson’s Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) has returned to power after 13 years with at least ten out of the 15 elected seats in the House of Assembly, with one constituency still undeclared after several recounts…

    Outgoing premier, Dr Rufus Ewing, failed to win a seat.

    (Caribbean News Now, December 16, 2016) 

    Despite notorious setbacks in the United States, Brazil, and South Korea this year, women continue their inexorable rise as national leaders.

    After yesterday’s national elections, Michelle Bachelet [of Chile] is poised to become the first female head of state in South America. And, in light of the recent trend set by Angela Merkel of Germany and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Bachelet’s election will hearten those of us who welcome the seepage of ‘woman power’ through the crevices of governance (in politics and business) around the world.

    Alas, male chauvinism still predominates throughout the Americas, and nowhere more so than in the United States. Indeed, Bachelet herself indicated that it might take some time before this seepage develops into a wave of global enlightenment…

    Nevertheless, 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 Political Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 12, 2005)

    screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-7-59-43-am

    Congratulations to Premier-elect Robinson and the PDM.

    But God help the TCI. Because it does not reflect or bode well that it took this country – with a population of just over 30,000 – almost 12 hours longer to announce Election-Day results than it took the USA – with a population of well over 300,000,000.

    Never mind the frustration of TCIslanders in constituencies with less than 500 registered voters having to wait hours longer to vote than Americans in constituencies with over 5,000,000. Un-friggin’-believable!

    hqdefault-9That said, I would be remiss not to hail the good sense of our people to reject former Premier Michael Misick’s pathetic and misguided attempt to escape prison by re-entering parliament. And shame on former Haitian President Michel Martelly for flying into our country to serve as his accomplice in this attempt.

    But to comment any further on him would be to rain on her parade.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, December 15, 2016 at 8:26 AM

    Athletes Boycotting more Effective than Countries Sanctioning Rogue Russia

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    6a00d8341d417153ef01a5118ba84f970c-800wi

    Western countries have been sanctioning Russia for years. Their aim has been to punish it for everything from launching military incursions into neighboring countries (e.g., Georgia and Ukraine/Crimea) to assassinating political dissidents (e.g., Boris Nemtsov and Alexander Litvinenko).

    Unfortunately, sanctions have done little to curtail Russia’s rogue behavior. Nothing attests to this quite like:

    • The way it hacked Democratic operatives and interfered in this year’s U.S. presidential election.
    • The diabolical role it’s playing in “Syria’s meltdown of humanity.”
    • Forbes naming its president, Vladimir Putin, the most powerful man in the world in this week’s signature issue.

    usa-security-snowden-putinIncidentally, one of my pet peeves is the patent unfairness inherent in Forbes’ annual ranking. After all, it’s absurd to compare the unchecked, invariably nefarious power a despotic leader wields with the checked, invariably salutary power a democratic leader exercises. Henceforth I suggest separate rankings: one for the most powerful democrat and one for most powerful despot. But I digress….

    The point is that the inefficacy of sanctions provoked me to propose the following years ago 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,” November 9, 2015)

    14doping-superjumboThis is why I was so heartened on Tuesday when I read this:

    International sports officials, facing a potential boycott by athletes upset over the Russian doping scandal, have decided to move bobsled and skeleton world championships out of Russia next year.

    The move was announced on Tuesday by the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association, the organizer of the event, which was set to take place in Sochi in February. The organization plans to name a new site in the coming days.

    (New York Times, December 13, 2016)

    I applaud athletes who compete in bobsled and skeleton for initiating this boycott. I urge athletes who compete in all other sports to do likewise, namely, force their respective governing bodies to either ban Russia from hosting or face boycotts. They should do this for the sake not just of clean sport but our shared humanity.

    Meanwhile, I am constrained to reiterate that, despite clear and compelling evidence, Russia is still categorically denying any state involvement in doping — even challenging its accusers to prove it. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Russia is still categorically denying any state involvement in hacking — even challenging its accusers to prove it. Of course, its denial in both cases is about as infuriating as catching your child in the kitchen with cookie crumbs all over his face and having him deny that he even touched the cookie jar.

    The problem is that, on the one hand, punishing a country with nuclear weapons poses far greater challenges than punishing a child with sticky fingers, while on the other hand, the categorical imperative of punishing the former is far greater than latter case.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, December 14, 2016 at 8:12 AM

    The Gambia’s Jammeh Using Military Force after Losing Democratic Election

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yahya Jammeh, the autocratic ruler of The Gambia, has moved to resist his presidential election defeat, sending armed soldiers to take control of the electoral commission headquarters and filing a petition to the supreme court as a delegation of African leaders urged him to stand down…

    Making up the most important delegation ever to descend on The Gambia, the presidents of Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana flew in on Tuesday to meet Jammeh, who has ruled an increasingly isolated nation for 22 years and last week vowed to stay on despite losing the presidential election.

    Asked if Jammeh had been receptive after their hour-long closed-doors meeting, the Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said that no deal had been reached.

    (London Guardian, December 13, 2016)

    yahya-jammeh

    Alas, Jammeh is just the latest African despot attempting to hold on to power by force. In fact, here is how I bemoaned this lingering pathology in “Africa’s Democratic Despots Now Includes Gbagbo of Ivory Coast,” December 15, 2010:

    _____________

    African leaders once personified unbridled despotism. Now they’re personifying the growing spectacle of leaders refusing to give up power after losing free and fair elections; hence their oxymoronic designation: democratic despots.

    This has led to an untenable new norm developing on the Continent, where opposition leaders – who win clear and convincing elections – are being forced to either enter into shotgun marriages (i.e., coalition governments) with sore losers or lead civil wars to oust them by force…

    Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo gNow it seems that President Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast is determined to follow suit. Because, like Kibaki and Mugabe and their respective ruling parties, Gbagbo and his ruling party have summarily invalidated election results that gave opposition leader Alassane Ouattara  a 10-point victory in last month’s presidential election.

    Also, like Kibaki and Mugabe, Gbagbo has given the finger to patently feckless international demands – most notably from United Nations, France, the United States, the European Union, the African Union and regional bloc ECOWAS – for him to step down.

    _____________

    It eventually took military force to remove Gbagbo. I fear it will take the same to remove Jammeh.

    In fact, I’m willing to bet that it’s only a matter of time before Jammeh ends up either like Gbagbo, in The Hague rotting away in jail, or like Laurent Kabila of the Congo, dead. They never learn.

    221b5796

    As it happened, no less a person than President Obama bemoaned the persistence of this “Big Dada” pathology during his last state visit to Africa:

    Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end…

    I don’t understand why people want to stay so long … especially when they’ve got a lot of money…

    You look at Nelson Mandela – Madiba, like George Washington, forged a lasting legacy not only because of what they did in office, but because they were willing to leave office and transfer power peacefully.

    (WhiteHouse.org, July 28, 2015)

    And, as it happened, I provided a little preemptive insight for Obama in “Ukraine’s Orange Revolution Turns ‘Red,’” February 25, 2014. And, yes, I used a notorious white despot to counter the prevailing view that only African leaders seek to hold on to power by hook or by crook these days.

    __________________

    It would make a mockery of the Cold-War principles he governs by if Putin allows these Ukrainian revolutionaries to put his puppet Yanukovych on trial – the way Egyptian revolutionaries are doing with their former leaders Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi; or worse, if he allows them to execute Yanukovych in the streets like a bunch of hungry hyenas devouring a gazelle – the way Libyan revolutionaries did with Muammar Gaddafi.

    images-11-1After all, Putin has made no secret of his contempt for what he decried as Obama’s failure to protect America’s puppet leader, Mubarak, from avenging mobs.

    Let me hasten to clarify, however, that Putin’s contempt was and remains entirely self-interested. Because his only reason for standing in solidarity with everyone from Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia to Yanukovych of Ukraine is that he lives in mortal fear that the popular uprisings that toppled them might topple him too. Period.

    This is why he must’ve been a little unnerved yesterday when even pro-Russian Ukrainians were calling for Yanukovych’s head. This, after they got a glimpse at the obscenely opulent, Louis-XVI lifestyle he was living at their expense. So just imagine what Putin’s peasant supporters in Russia would want to do to him. After all, he lives a lifestyle that’s a thousand times more extravagant than Yanukovych’s, having amassed tens of billions in ill-gotten gains over the years as a KGB officer turn politician.

    After eight years in power, Putin has secretly accumulated a fortune of more than $40bn. The sum would make him Russia’s (and Europe’s) richest man.

    (“Putin, the Kremlin Power Struggle and the $40bn Fortune,” London Guardian, December 21, 2007)

    Trust me, Putin lords over a kleptocracy that has fleeced public funds on such an unprecedented scale, it makes the kleptocracies African despots lord over seem petty. Which of course is why he is so anxious to stoke the combustible geopolitical crisis in Ukraine to deflect the international media from drawing unavoidable parallels between Yanukovych’s dubious accumulation of wealth and his. Far better, for example, to get Russians drunk with pan-Russian pride than to have them pose sober questions about the billions he and his cronies embezzled from the $50-billion price tag for the Sochi Olympics.

    ____________________

    artworks-000192816812-s4f5u5-t500x500Sure enough, within hours of the electoral commission declaring opposition leader Adama Barrow the winner of The Gambia’s December 1 presidential election, senior members of his coalition began exhorting him to prosecute Jammeh for corruption and human rights abuses. Given this, one can hardly blame Jammeh for refusing to concede….

    Of course, with all due respect to Putin, Jammeh could look right in his neighborhood to Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe for guidance on how to rule as a de facto president for life (i.e., while defying the fate that befell Gbagbo and others).

    Not least because, like Mugabe, Jammeh transitioned from military commander to political leader: the former 36 years ago, the latter, 22. And, despite promising democratic reforms from day one, like Mugabe, Jammeh seems determined to cede power only if another military commander seizes it from him.

    So democratic elections be damned. In point of fact, Mugabe has done in Zimbabwe on several occasions what Jammeh is attempting to do in The Gambia today. What’s more, he blithely ignored the same kinds of international censure and sanctions Jammeh is now facing.

    In the end, all one could do was decry his trampling over the will of his people, which I did in “Mugabe Swears Himself In as President For Life,” June 30, 2008, and “In Zimbabwe It’s Hail, Mugabe! … Again,” August 4, 2013.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 7:49 AM

    “Burma’s Rohingya Speak of Genocidal Terror”

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-8-09-35-pm

    Around 21,000 Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh over the past two months, as Burmese forces launched what one UN official says is ‘getting very close to what we would all agree are crimes against humanity’ [aka ‘clearance operations’ or religious cleansing].

    TIME reports from the Bangladesh border, where the full horror is only just emerging, [include] very graphic and very disturbing photos and video clips [and tales about] about rape and sexual violence, and even bodies of little kids being uncovered…

    Amid the unfolding crisis, one voice has been largely absent — Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in elections in November 2015.

    (TIME, December 12, 2016)

    With all due respect to TIME, the full horror of this genocide emerged in Myanmar (aka Burma) years ago.

    08f3a-dassk

    In fact, I wrote many commentaries, dating back to 2012, in which I sounded plaintive alarms about it. What’s more, I duly denounced Aung San Suu Kyi’s deafening silence in the face of this unfolding genocide. Sadly, commentators far more influential than I, to say nothing of influential politicians, couldn’t have cared less.

    In any event, here are excerpts from just three of my forlorn commentaries.

    ____________________

    • From “Obama’s Historic Trip to Myanmar: Too Soon?” November 12, 2012:

    Nothing demonstrates the extent to which she has been co-opted quite like Suu Kyi’s deafening silence about the ongoing religious cleansing of minority Muslims by majority Buddhists. Especially given that the UN has called Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims ‘the world’s most persecuted people.’

    Yet, when challenged to explain her silence, the Buddhist Suu Kyi demurred, saying self-righteously that she was not taking sides to preserve her impartiality as repairer of the breach. But just imagine how much worse the religious cleansing of minority Muslims by majority Hindus in India would have been if the Hindu Gandhi had not been so vocal in condemning it?

    • From “Aung San Suu Kyi Becoming Democratic Mascot of Myanmar’s Military Dictatorship,” March 28, 2013:

    28myanmar_span-jumboI wonder what my critics have to say about the images of Suu Kyi that went viral yesterday. For they show her sitting quite comfortably, as a solitary female fixture, among hundreds of military men as they presided over the hallmark of all dictatorships, the annual military parade.

    There can be no denying that these images provide clear vindication of my informed cynicism.

    • From “Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi Courting Totalitarian Power at the Expense of Democratic Principles,” September 14, 2015:

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

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

    screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-8-31-28-pmExcept that, after talking the talk, Mandela began walking the walk from the day he was finally released in 1990. By contrast, Suu Kyi seemed to be walking pursuant to a Faustian bargain with her military jailers from the day she was finally released in 2010. …

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

    Alas, Western powers remain all too willing to indulge Suu Kyi’s betrayal of the democratic principles she once championed. Nothing demonstrates this quite like Washington denouncing Myanmar’s generals for executing a putsch within their ruling party, while uttering nary a word about Suu Kyi purging Muslims from her opposition party.

    ___________________

    That said, I am even less hopeful for Myanmar’s Rohingya today than I was four years ago. Not least because I’m all too mindful that similar reports about the genocide against Sudan’s Darfurians did nothing to ease their plight.

    Remember Darfur … ?

    ___________________

    • From “Save Darfur Rally: Full of Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing!” May 2, 2006:

    My conscience moves me to do whatever I can to help alleviate the suffering of people throughout the world, especially across Africa and the Caribbean. Occasionally, this requires lending my feet and voice to marches and rallies – as was the case yesterday.

    These events aim to persuade the government to use its unparalleled power to help poor, powerless, and oppressed peoples. Which brings me to the people of Darfur. Regular readers know that, despite my participation, I have little regard for conscience-soothing rallies to ‘save’ people who have been suffering the ravages of genocide for more than three years…

    Even if America were to deploy the necessary forces to stop the killing today, I would understand if the long-suffering people of Darfur greeted that move by saying – as I wrote – “Thanks for Caring America, But You’re Already a Genocide Too Late,” March 14, 2006.

    I wondered how rallying in Washington could possibly help people in Darfur? And I lamented that neither the sublime admonitions of Eli Wiesel nor the celebrated entreaties of George Clooney would prevent a single person in Darfur from being slaughtered.

    ___________________

    1409762096000-afp-530607552Alas, I was right. Because reports are that, in the ten years since “Save Darfur” became a cause celebre, Arab Janjaweed militias (“devils on horseback”) have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of black Darfurians and consigned even more to squalid refugee camps, where they remain to this day. This, despite the fact that the Bush administration declared this slaughter a genocide as early as 2004.

    Frankly, the Rohingya seem fated to a similar demise, only with less world attention and even less concern. What is particularly disheartening about this genocide, though, is that those perpetrating it are not ISIS-styled militias but Buddhist monks. Which constrains one to wonder why Buddhists worldwide are not denouncing these monks for defiling Buddhism; you know, the way Muslims worldwide are denouncing jihadists for defiling Islam.

    Incidentally, former President George W. Bush must regret hailing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a man with a good soul. But President Obama shows no regret for hailing Suu Kyi as Myanmar’s Nelson Mandela.

    suu-kyi-obama_201112

    After all, he greeted her with unbridled adulation at the White House just months ago, despite her record of deafening silence in the face of this genocide against the Rohingya.

    My God, my God, why have you forsaken them?

    You promised the meek shall inherit the earth. 

    But, at this rate, none will be left to do so …

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, December 12, 2016 at 8:51 AM

    The Issue Is Not Whether Russia Affected Outcome of US Election…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    640x-1The issue is whether Russia intervened/interfered. Period.

    The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

    Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

    (Washington Post, December 10, 2016)

    Whether the intent was to sway this election in favor of Trump, undermine confidence in all U.S. elections (to make them seem every bit as rigged as Russia’s), or just stoke partisan discord is beside the point. After all, if the police catch a burglar in your home, you would not demand they show proof that he actually stole something or let him go.

    The break-in itself (or, in this case, the hack) is the thing that should cause alarm and warrant not just outrage but punishment. Moreover, that punishment should be so open and notorious, inciting such “shock and awe,” that it deters other would-be state hackers.

    I am all too mindful that, despite clear and compelling evidence, Russia is categorically denying any state involvement in hacking — even challenging its accusers to prove it.

    If this sounds familiar, it’s because Russia is still categorically denying any state involvement in doping — even challenging its accusers to prove it. Of course, its denial in both cases is about as infuriating as your child denying he even touched the cookie, despite your catching him in the kitchen with cookie crumbs all over his face.

    The problem is that punishing a country with nuclear weapons poses far greater challenges than punishing a child with sticky fingers. Yet the categorical imperative to punish the former is far greater than the latter. Therefore, it will take the wisdom of Solomon for Obama to order the right punishment….

    As it happens, I presaged the CIA’s “secret assessment” in “Hey Media, Wikileaker Assange Is Still a Self-Promoting, Bail-Jumping Rape Suspect!” August 29, 2016, and “It Should Be Treason for US Media to Abet Russian Hackers,” September 15, 2016.

    More importantly, though, President Obama and Hillary Clinton say this assessment is credible; whereas President-elect Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin say it is incredible. In a December 10 interview with TIME, Trump exclaimed, rather mischievously, that:

    These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction…

    [The hacking] could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.

    No doubt claims about Iraq’s WMDs constitute an intelligence failure that will live in infamy. But it’s plainly foolhardy to use that failure to justify mocking and dismissing claims about Russia’s intervention in this presidential election. After all, this is rather like refusing to believe scientific evidence that the world is round because scientists used to claim that it is flat.

    Except that we are entering Trump’s post-fact, post-truth world. And in that world, his refusal to believe the truth of what no less than 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have found about Russia’s intervention is entirely consistent with

    • his refusal to release his tax returns;
    • his efforts to intimidate, undermine, and otherwise curtail the freedom of the press;
    • his refusal to separate his business interests from his presidential duties … and powers.

    And let’s face it, he has yet to suffer any negative consequence for denying generally accepted truths or defying norms of presidential behavior.

    Never mind the surreality and foreboding inherent in the president-elect of the United States siding with Russia’s FSB (née KGB) instead of America’s CIA on any question of intelligence. And don’t get me started on the irony and hypocrisy inherent in him whining about the intelligence community conspiring with Democrats to delegitimize his election.

    After all, he’s the conspiracy nut who spent the past eight years trying to delegitimize Obama’s presidency — variously insinuating that Obama was not born in the USA (aka the “birther” madness) and that his Harvard degree is a fraud. Now he’s adding insult to that offense by making pronouncements, engaging foreign leaders, and strong-arming corporations as if he is already the president of the United States.

    Vladimir PutinMore to the point, though, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Trump’s political values are more akin to those of Vladimir Putin than Barack Obama’s (or that of any previous president for that matter). Not to mention reports that he’s assembling a cabinet that seems designed more to appease Russia than to “Make America Great Again.”

    Frankly, it would be enough if Putin were simply stroking his infantile ego. But what really explains Trump’s antic infatuation is the same Russians who hacked the DNC warning him that they have compromising, if not incriminating, information on him and/or his family.

    Notably, given the plainly suspicious lengths to which Trump has gone to hide his tax returns, just imagine the control Putin would have over him if his cyber spies managed to hack those returns.

    In any event, it won’t be long before the bromance between Trump and Putin has its day of reckoning. Because, like the scorpion that stings the frog, it’s simply in Putin’s nature to provoke confrontations with U.S. presidents. He suffers congenital super-power envy. Which is why, despite George W. Bush’s infamous swooning, their bromance fizzled in the waning years of his presidency — a fizzling I actually presaged in “Russia’s Putin: Soul Mate Scorned Courts Iran,” March 3, 2005.

    The world should be afraid, be very afraid, when that day of reckoning comes in this case. Granted, for his preternaturally narcissistic reasons, Trump will continue tweeting while Russia hacks.

    Moreover, Putin will be keen to give the appearance of making concessions to Trump; this, not just to manipulate Trump’s ego, but also to moderate his duplicity. But I suspect Putin will use the same “deny and lie” strategy in his dealings with Trump that fatally undermined his bromance with Bush and his “reset” with Obama. The irony, of course, is that this is the same strategy Trump uses in his dealings, well, with everyone.

    Whatever the nature of their He-man courtship, that fateful day could come

    • when Putin makes military incursions in Eastern Europe or the Baltic States, forcing NATO to react;
    • when Putin realizes that his puppet strings are no match for congressional and judicial powers, which place checks and balances on presidential powers; after all, he’s betting he can get Trump to use those powers to ease the sanctions that are crippling Russia’s economy and cramping the lifestyles of Russian oligarchs who help him misappropriate and launder tens of billions. (Reports are that Russians are already showing signs of buyer’s remorse …)

    screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-8-56-21-am

    Hell, Trump’s cartoonish thin skin is such that it could come when magazines like TIME and Forbes begin ranking Putin as the most powerful person in the world (i.e., ahead of a President Trump). Trump has premised his presidency on being the smartest and most powerful SOB in the world. Therefore, he’s bound to overreact: not to defend America’s honor so much as to save his own (orange) face.

    Meanwhile, Putin has cultivated his strongman image to the point of ridicule — complete with PR stunts involving everything from riding bare-chested on horseback to wrestling bears. So, when Trump overreacts, Putin will have no choice but to do whatever is necessary to show the world that he, not his presumed puppet/useful idiot, is master/stronger — with all of the potential for military confrontation that would entail.

    (Of course, an equally ominous day of reckoning seems in store for Trump’s blustering blather on China, especially with respect to trade and its “One China” policy on Taiwan.)

    All the same, there’s no denying that this post-fact, post-truth buffoon was duly elected president of the United States. Which moved me to exclaim the morning after: “WTF! President-elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done.”

    I fear all that’s left to be said is: You made your bed, America….

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    * This commentary was originally published on Saturday at 2:05 p.m.

  • Saturday, December 10, 2016 at 7:06 AM

    Sorry TIME, Dishonoring Trump Is Like Dirtying a Pig

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-8-09-16-pm

  • Thursday, December 8, 2016 at 5:05 PM

    Contending for 2017 Grammy Queen: Beyoncé vs. Adele

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    You’d be forgiven for viewing nominations for the 59th Grammy Awards, announced Tuesday morning, as a battle between two powerhouse singers: Beyoncé, whose Lemonade leads the field with nine, and Adele, whose 25 has been a sales juggernaut since its release late last year. Both received Album Of The Year nods…

    Given how many genres the Grammys attempt to cover, it’s hard to get too hung up on snubs, but the late David Bowie’s widely praised final testament Blackstar — released in January, only two days before the singer’s death — was surprisingly shut out of Album Of The Year contention.

    (NPR, December 6, 2016)

    Actually, Beyoncé and Adele both received nods for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance as well.

    To be fair, though, Beyoncé competing against Adele for Grammys is rather like T.D. Jakes competing against Pope Francis for souls: Beyoncé and Jakes are all about shaking your body – the better to take your money; Adele and the pope are all about nourishing your mind – the better to save your soul.

    In any event, before I place my bet, here’s a little of what I’m on record saying about both divas.

    Regarding Beyoncé:

    03-tidal-x-beyonce-2016-billboard-1548

    Beyoncé always exudes boundless sexual energy (something “Sasha Fierce”) during her performances…

    But here’s a tip for all of you wannabe Beyoncés out there: The reason I found her particularly hot tonight is that I saw for the first time – during an extended interview on a pre-Grammy broadcast of 60 Minutes – how poised, articulate, and disarmingly intelligent she is.

    (“52nd Annual Grammy Awards,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 1, 2010)

    article-2546569-1afea83500000578-485_634x720-264x300-1Regretfully, Beyoncé’s performances in recent years have seemed choreographed more to titillate than entertain – complete with simulating sex acts that would make some porn stars blush:

    For some incomprehensible reason, the serene Bey is trying (way too hard) to be to I’m-sexy-and-I-know-it thirty-somethings what twerking Miley is to don’t-know-much-about-sex Gen-Xers, and what cradle-robbing Madonna is to desperately-seeking-sex AARPers. Got that?

    But we can really do without Bey acting out on stage what she does in her bedroom, making mockery of Michelle Obama hailing her as role model little girls can look up to…

    I missed Adele.

    (“The Grammys (or the Mr. and Mrs. Carter Show?),” The iPINIONS Journal, January 27, 2014)

    But nothing turned me off in this respect more than the way she exploited her marriage and her fans to promote Lemonade, which snared her the Grammy nods referenced above. In fact, her money-grubbing pursuit of album sales was so immoral, she even ignored the clarion call to boycott North Carolina to protest its anti-gay laws. This moved me to denounce her and her promotional stunts in “For LGBTs in North Carolina, Beyoncé Is a Sellout,” May 6, 2016.

    Regarding Adele:

    adele-1024-2

    Adele not only sings like an angel, she might just be the music industry’s saving grace. Unfortunately, this [industry has] so little to do with musical talent these days that Adele performing [on any music awards show] is rather like Andrea Bocelli performing on So You Think You Can Dance.

    (“2011 MTV Video Music Awards,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 30, 2011)

    Clearly a drop-the-mic statement, if ever there were one!

    That said, music awards have become so patently contrived, I’m willing to bet that, in their head-to-head competition, Beyoncé will win Album Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance; and Adele will win Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year. Each will undoubtedly win additional Grammys in other categories where they singularly headline the nominees.

    lazarussFinally, I did not include reference to David Bowie in the NPR quote above to serve as an undercard or opening act. I did so because this Grammy snub validates my cynical take on the idol worship that occasioned his death:

    Don’t get me started on his self-professed fans taking to social media to share how much his music meant to them. After all, if just a fraction of them had actually purchased his music, Bowie’s last hit single would not have been “Let’s Dance” … over 30 years ago.

    (“David Bowie, Gender-Bending Performing Artist, Is Dead,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 12, 2016)

    How soon they forget, eh.

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  • Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 7:51 AM

    Referendums Abdicate Duty to Govern in Representative Democracies

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Participation of the “demos” (aka ordinary people) in representative democracies should be limited to electing a suitable person to represent their interests – at all levels of government. The sooner leaders in Western democracies realize and foster this, the better. Never mind that far too many ordinary people can’t be bothered to participate even to this limited degree.

    As it happened, I began arguing for this limited participation long before Brexit made it a categorical imperative. Here, for example, is what I wrote in “On Syria and Almost Every Other Issue, the American People Are Insolent, Ignorant Idiots … and Their Congressional Representatives Are Pandering, Pusillanimous Pussies,” September 10, 2013:

    Politicians have become little more than ‘perfectly lubricated weathervanes.’ In fact, they have made a mockery of representative government by abdicating decisions on complicated issues in favor of referendums.

    For the record, the American people elect (and pay) congressional representatives to make ‘informed’ decisions on issues of national importance. We have representative government, instead of literal democracy (aka mob rule), precisely to avoid the spectacle of governing based on prevailing, and invariably uninformed, passions.

    Frankly, I have nothing but contempt for politicians who look to the people they represent for guidance on how to govern. After all, this abdication is tantamount to parents looking to their children for guidance on how to parent.

    Meanwhile, social media now propagate propaganda and brain-numbing fodder like viral contagions. And the destabilizing impact of fake news is only the tip of the iceberg.

    355937fe00000578-3644716-image-a-12_1466079186351But I hasten to stress that the trumpeting of post-fact or post-truth politics is not a uniquely American phenomenon. For example, the prevailing myth is that Britons are far more informed than Americans. This, despite the evidence British yokels and hooligans have always presented to the contrary. But the way Brexit played out should utterly destroy this myth.

    Which brings me to the recent spate of national referendums. For they have crystallized this folly of people voting on issues of national importance based on brazen misinformation or in a state of willful ignorance.

    Mind you, I am stupefied that purportedly sensible leaders like David Cameron of the UK and Matteo Renzi of Italy staked their respective careers, to say nothing of the fate of their respective republics, on the “gut feelings” of ordinary people voting in a referendum.

    Yet, in this regard, 2016 is a year that will live in infamy. Here are the most notable cases where countries framed referendums to affect “Yes” votes … but “No” votes carried the day. Given my record of decrying referendums as anathema to representative democracies, my only consolation is that Western leaders learned a valuable civics lesson in each case.

    __________________

    • bahamas_pm_april_2016-1Instead of calling on members of Parliament (MPs) to codify laws granting women equal rights, Prime Minister Perry Christie called for a referendum.

    Prime Minister Christie this morning called the failed gender equality [referendum on June 7] a setback for the program of constitutional reform…

    ‘The voice of the people [of The Bahamas] has sounded in the land. It needs to be respected and honored and it will,’ the prime minister said.

    (Nassau Guardian, June 8, 2016)

    This, of course, is the same country whose laws banning gay rights but sanctioning marital rape incited me to denounce it in several commentaries as a “Taliban paradise.”  

    • 100days14june16-679696Instead of calling on MPs to decide whether remaining in the EU is in the national interest, Prime Minister Cameron called for a referendum.

    If those suffering from post-referendum ‘Bregret’ had voted to stay in the European Union, the outcome of the Brexit vote would have been in favour of Remain, according to new analysis published by the British Election Study…

    Economist Iain Begg, from the London School of Economics, said the results exposed the shortcomings of using referenda in complex policy choices.

    ‘The finding that a sizeable proportion of Leave voters now regret their decision, coming barely one hundred days after June 23, highlights the shortcomings of using referenda to make policy choices on issues as complex as membership of the EU,’ he told The Independent.

    (London Independent, October 17, 2016)

    This folly is being compounded now by ordinary people filing lawsuits, asking the courts to declare that MPs, not ordinary people, have the final say on whether ’tis better for Britain to ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain.’

    • colombia-peace-referendum-9Instead of calling on members of Congress to decide whether a peace deal with FARC rebels is in the national interest, President Juan Manuel Santos called for a referendum.

    Congress approved a revised peace accord with [Colombia’s] largest rebel group on Wednesday night, a vote that was most likely the final hurdle in ratifying the troubled agreement whose earlier version had been rejected in a referendum this fall.

    By pushing the new deal through Congress, the government bypassed voters this time, who had turned down the accord by a narrow margin on Oct. 2.

    (New York Times, November 30, 2016)

    In effect, the Colombian Congress did what dismayed Britons are asking the courts to have the UK Parliament do, namely, to rectify the folly of having uninformed people decide an issue of national importance that should have been left to informed politicians to decide in the first place.

    • main-italian-prime-minister-renzi-leads-a-news-conference-to-mark-his-1000-days-in-government-in-romeInstead of calling on MPs to implement reforms to make Italy more governable, Prime Minister Renzi called for a referendum.

    Renzi announced on Monday that he would resign after suffering a resounding defeat in a referendum over constitutional reform, leaving the euro zone’s third-largest economy in political limbo…

    The referendum, intended to change rules to make Italy more governable, was opposed by right-wing and populist parties, including groups that want Italy to ditch the euro…

    Italy’s youngest ever premier had been feted around the world as a pro-European reformer and lauded by U.S. President Barack Obama for his ‘bold, progressive’ leadership.

    (Reuters, December 5, 2016)

    And so, plus ca change:

    The Italians have a promiscuous penchant for changing governments… They’ve run through 61 over the past 60 years.

    (“Another Italian Government Bites the Dust,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 25, 2008)

    __________________

    That said, I would be remiss not to note that the shocking election of Donald Trump as president of the United States resulted primarily from a dystopian confluence of misinformation, ignorance, and anger. Which constrains me to suggest that America’s representative democracy would be better served if members of the U.S. Congress elected the president the way members of the UK Parliament elect the prime minister.

    bn-qs667_trumpm_gr_20161109184837Granted, the way President-elect Trump is acting, you’d think he were elected by a Chinese-style people’s congress instead of ordinary people. But I digress….

    I shall end this latest admonition with this reiteration from “Polls Show Americans Are Too Stupid to Poll on Any Critical Issue,” September 14, 2016:

    I’ve been lamenting prevailing ignorance among Americans for years…

    Their ignorance is such, in fact, that polling them on political issues is like polling athletes on medical ones. Only this explains the phenomenon of Donald Trump – who is nothing more than a narcissistic huckster exploiting the P.T. Barnum maxim about fecund suckers.

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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 7:05 p.m.

  • Monday, December 5, 2016 at 8:11 AM

    Dakota Access Pipeline Denied at Standing Rock!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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    Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas is the big oil company behind the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline. It was so certain of its power and influence, it had no reservations about drilling its pipeline right through sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota.

    Of course, given the way whites have systematically dispossessed, displaced, and destroyed native tribes throughout U.S. history, Energy Transfer Partners could be forgiven their perverse presumption of “eminent domain.”

    But the Sioux protested, beginning in hopeless obscurity, dispiritingly enough, on April 1, 2016 (aka April Fools’ Day). However, neither the oil company nor the tribe could have anticipated Native Americans from across the country joining this protest.

    screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-10-32-35-pm

    In fact, given the way it unfolded, one could argue that all tribes saw this oil company as the second coming of Andrew Jackson (of Trail of Tears infamy). This would explain their existential determination that “never again” will the white man be allowed to even disrespect any Native American tribe.

    leo-dicaprio-696x392Still, nothing proved more formidable than A-list celebrities turning this protest into an international cause celebre. For only then (around September) did the media deem it worthy of coverage, which in turn forced the White House to get involved.

    This coverage also led to my original commentary on September 10. I wrote it after reading background material and realizing that this was easily the most sympathetic protest since those that occasioned the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s (with all due respect to the LGBT, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matters, and other protests since then). It includes the following prediction:

    Trust me, given the cause celebre this pipeline has become, it will not be built as planned … so long as Obama is president. After all, his administration has been so loath to approve the more infamous XL Keystone pipeline because doing so would betray his celebrated campaign promise to ‘be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil.’

    (“Hail to the Chief: Obama Halts North Dakota Pipeline on Native Lands,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 10, 2016)

    Sure enough:

    Federal officials announced on Sunday that they would not approve permits for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a dammed section of the Missouri River that tribes say sits near sacred burial sites.

    The decision is a victory for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protesters camped near the construction site who have opposed the project because they said would it threaten a water source and cultural sites…

    Dave Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, expressed gratitude for ‘the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.’

    (New York Times, December 4, 2016)

    Frankly, all that’s left is for Energy Transfer Partners to eat their defiant words about not rerouting the pipeline. They really have no choice; not least because even President-elect Trump would not dare take up their neo-colonial cause to enforce a latter-day “Indian Removal Act.”

    The Army Corps of Engineers said it will not grant a permit to allow the proposed pipeline to cross under the lake…

    ‘The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing,’ the corps’ assistant secretary for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, said in a statement.

    (CNN, December 4, 2016)

    So here’s to this victory for the vanquished.

    <> on December 4, 2016 in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

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  • Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 7:13 AM

    Make America Great Again…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Well, Trump’s back-to-the-future presidency might have at least one fringe benefit:

    4800ba0855befbe66739f0b5a8627260

  • Friday, December 2, 2016 at 2:13 AM

    World AIDS Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    World-AIDS-Day-2014-Theme-4According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 1.2 million people aged 13 and over are living with HIV infection in the United States.

    Blacks, who are 13 percent of the population, continue to account for the most infections – with 17,670 diagnoses in 2015 alone; whereas whites, who are 72 percent, accounted for 10,509, and latinos, who are 16 percent, 9,290.

    Meanwhile, according to UNAIDS, there were 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide in 2015. Unsurprisingly:

    The vast majority of people living with HIV are in low-to-middle-income countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. 1.8 million children worldwide are living with HIV. Most of these children were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.

    But, if there is a silver lining in all of the distressing statistics related to this pandemic, it’s that AIDS-related deaths worldwide are decreasing – from a peak of 2.2 million in the mid-2000s down to 1.1 million in 2015. Significantly, the BBC reported on World Aids Day in 2014 that preliminary results of studies conducted in South Africa showed that, after decades of attacking the human immune system, the HIV virus has become much less infectious, making it far more difficult to transmit than was the case 20 years ago.

    All the same, it’s important to appreciate that greater access to testing and treatment explains why it appears the number of people living with HIV is increasing. Even so, it speaks volumes that:

    Only 60 percent of people living with HIV know their status.

    (aids.gov)

    Meanwhile, as crooked as President-elect Trump alleges the Clinton Foundation is, President Bill Clinton deserves special commendation for establishing the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in 2002.

    [It is] a global health organization committed to strengthening integrated health systems in the developing world and expanding access to care and treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis…

    Since its inception, CHAI has helped more than 2 million people access the medicines needed for treatment, which represents nearly half of all the people living with HIV and on treatment in developing countries.

    (Clinton Foundation)

    This – coupled with his Clinton Global Initiative, which he founded in 2005 to raise private funds to help alleviate poverty, create a cleaner environment, and increase access to health care and education – has Clinton now giving Jimmy Carter a run for the title of best former president in U.S. history.

    Having said that, I would be remiss not to commend former President George W. Bush for creating the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003. According to the Kaiser Foundation, it has provided $48 billion in funding thus far, making it the largest effort in history by a single nation to combat a single disease.

    Actually, I was so impressed with PEPFAR, as well as Bush’s unprecedented initiatives to promote development in Africa, that I wrote “President Bush Has Done More for Africa than Any Other President,” June 20, 2005.

    On the other hand, I am constrained to note that, despite promising to increase funding for PEPFAR by $1 billion annually, President Barack Obama has failed to do so.

    AIDS activists expressed bitter disappointment over President Obama’s proposal to cut $200 million from the global AIDS budget for FY 2016. The President’s budget fails to restore cuts made since 2011 in PEPFAR, and reduces by nearly $250 million the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This reduction to global AIDS programs from FY15 (enacted) amplifies years of underfinancing, leaving PEPFAR short of funds needed to carry out its mission.

    (Health GAP (Global Access Project), February 2, 2015)

    To be fair, these cuts probably had more to do with prevailing budget constraints and congressional Republicans, who control the government’s purse, than anything else. After all, even if the money were available to increase funding, Republicans, who applauded Bush, might’ve accused Obama of using American taxpayers’ money to further some pan-African liberation agenda. (Absurd, I know; but they have routinely accused him of things that are even more absurd.)

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    Finally, Erving “Magic” Johnson deserves honorable mention for doing more than anybody to raise public awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrate how truly fulfilling life can still be for a person living with this deadly virus. This year marks his 25th living and thriving with HIV.

    Keep hope alive….

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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, December 1, at 4:08 p.m.

  • Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 5:53 AM

    ‘Backlash’ against (Liberal) Women Leaders…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In light of the recent trend set by Angela Merkel of Germany and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Bachelet’s election [in Chile] would be encouraging to those of us who welcome the seepage of womanpower through the crevices of political and corporate governance around the world…

    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)

    As this quote indicates, I’ve been championing the rise of women as heads of state for many years. This is why the insidious backlash against them is so disheartening.

    212632-gillard-clinton

    Of course, most notably, this backlash saw last month Donald Trump, a brazenly unqualified, racist, xenophobic, male chauvinist pig elected president of the United States. An election result that was all the more disheartening because he defeated Hillary Clinton, a woman universally regarded as the most qualified person ever nominated to become the world’s most powerful leader.

    But it also saw in June 2013 a resentful band of male MPs mutiny against Julia Gillard, the first woman elected Australian prime minister, citing her inability to command their loyalty and support. The irony, if not hypocrisy, inherent in this was completely lost on them. But here is how Gillard called out their misogyny:

    In the [three] years in which I’ve served as prime minister, predominantly I’ve faced a minority government and political division in my own party…

    I’ve been a little bit bemused by those colleagues in the newspapers who have admitted that I have suffered more pressure as a result of my gender than other PMs in the past but then concluded it had zero effect on my political position or the political position of the Labor party.

    (London Guardian, June 26, 2013)

    screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-10-43-34-am

    It saw in May 2014 a military-appointed court oust Yingluck Shinawatra, the first woman elected Thai prime minister, citing a battery of trumped-up charges of corruption. I decried this military coup in “RIP Thailand Democracy,” April 20, 2015. Incidentally, Shinawatra returned to public life this year as more people’s princess than laudable leader, which is as discouraging as it is noteworthy….

    It saw in September 2016 a mercenary cabal of male legislators impeach Dilma Rousseffthe first woman elected Brazilian president, citing a battery of trumped-up charges of corruption. I decried this political coup in “Chauvinistic Impeachment of Brazil’s First Female President…,” September 1, 2016.

    park-geun-hyeBut 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.

    As my opening quote indicates, 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.

    screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-3-09-44-pm

    Meanwhile, there’s no denying the curious fact that all of the women leaders who have fallen victim to this backlash engaged in very public displays of affection for Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States. No doubt the fallen Australian prime minister, Gillard, would be bemused by whites who express visceral hatred of Obama but then insist that her affection for him had zero effect on their support for her.

    Never mind that Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s notorious displays gave even his wife Michelle cause for resentment. Thorning-Schmidt was the first woman elected prime minister of her country in 2011.

    Unfortunately, she only lasted one term. To be fair, she was neither impeached nor ousted in a military or political coup. Instead, she was swept away by a pre-Brexit wave of right-wing populism, which saw Denmark’s right-bloc parties defeat her left-bloc parties in the 2015 general election.

    Barack Obama, Portia Simpson-MillerAnd I would be remiss not to mention the equally notorious displays Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller lavished on Obama. She too was the first woman elected prime minister of her country in 2012 (after serving a one-year stint as appointed prime minister in 2006). Alas, she too only lasted one term – as she was swept away when the conservative party defeated her liberal party by a razor-thin margin of just one seat in a general election held in March of this year.

    Hope springs eternal that it’s only a historical hiccup that so many women leaders are falling out of favor. But, apropos of not wanting to be remiss, I am constrained to note that, in far too many cases, the failure of other women to support them is contributing to their downfall. I’ll spare you my abiding rant on this utterly incomprehensible intra-gender psychodynamic….

    In the meantime, I fear this backlash might provide a pretext for misogynists to discredit women as heads of state; you know, the way Obama’s failure to seal his legacy, by helping Hillary defeat Trump, is providing a pretext for racists to give credence to the following suspicion:

    So irrational is [the Republicans’ declared intent to make Obama a failed president], one could be forgiven the suspicion that their dark, ulterior motive is to see America become so dysfunctional and humiliated under his leadership that Americans would not even consider electing another black person as president for at least another 100 years.

    (“S&P Downgrades U.S. Credit Rating,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 8, 2011)

    That said, I hasten to point out that a few women are riding the crest of right-wing populism that helped Trump defeat Hillary. Most notable among them are Marine Le Pen, who is angling for a Brexit-like victory in France’s presidential election next year, and Frauke Petry, who is angling for the same in Germany’s general election.

    screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-4-29-33-pm

    Except that black heads of state like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe proved long ago that there’s no enlightened pride in hailing a black leader based solely on race. And, by the same token, women heads of state like Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom proved long ago that there’s no enlightened pride in hailing a woman leader based solely on gender.

    Yet here is why I remain hopeful … even if the women becoming heads of state are more right-wing than liberal:

    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.

    (“Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 14, 2010)

    Related commentaries:
    Glass ceiling
    Brazil’s Rousseff
    Thailand’s Shinawatra
    S&P downgrades
    Women make better politicians

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