• Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at 6:11 PM

    ‘New Normal’ Comes to New York City: Using Trucks for Acts of Terror

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Eight people were killed [and 11 were injured] when a man drove 20 blocks down a bike path beside the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon before he crashed his pickup truck, jumped out with fake guns and was shot by police officer, the authorities said.

    Federal authorities were treating the incident as a terrorist attack and were taking the lead in the investigation, a senior law enforcement official said. Two law enforcement officials said that after the attacker got out of the truck, he was heard yelling, ‘Allahu Akbar,’ Arabic for ‘God is great.’

    (New York Times, October 31, 2017)

    Most Americans wouldn’t know it, but this new normal reached a tipping point over a year ago. That’s when a terrorist used a truck to run over pedestrians in Nice, France, killing 86 people.

    On that occasion, I wrote “Carnage in Nice: France Attacked … Again,” July 15, 2016. I ended it by noting that the Groundhog-Day spectre of these attacks is such that I can do no better than to reprise this commentary for all future attacks.

    Accordingly:

    ___________________

    With all due respect to the victims of this latest terrorist attack, the operative word in my title is “Again.”

    After all, whether here in the United States or over in Europe, Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, terrorist attacks have become a fact of life … the new normal.

    In any event, I presaged these attacks in “World Beware: French Riots Affect Us All,” November 8, 2005. In it, I highlighted the disaffection, disillusionment, and discrimination (racial and religious) that make young Muslim men so susceptible to radicalization. Never mind the chickens-coming-home-to-roost factor stemming from the invasion of Iraq, which spawned the “one thousand Bin Ladens” former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned about.

    For a little perspective, it might be helpful to think of the so-called War on Terror like the War on Drugs, and to appreciate that we can be no more successful waging the former than we’ve been waging the latter. Nothing demonstrates this quite like the way terrorism has forced us to change our way of life – with our liberal democracies becoming more like barricaded police states every day. We all know about the Chicken-Little security measures at airports. But have you noticed that municipalities are reinforcing streets with 10 unsightly bollards for every 1 street lamp?

    Yet, if it seems like we are helpless in the face of such terrorist attacks, it’s because we are. I’ve been bemoaning this for over a decade:

    It must be understood that no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing our governments can do to prevent such attacks. That Americans reacted yesterday as if those explosions went off in Washington or New York should compel Westerners to focus on calming our collective nerves, instead of fretting about (or worse, trying to figure out) the motivation for and timing of terrorist attacks by Islamic fanatics.

    (“7/7 Terror Attacks in London,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 8, 2005)

    Many criticized President Obama for years for ordering American troops to do too little to “defeat the terrorists.” By contrast, they hailed President Putin last September for ordering Russian troops to “bomb the hell out of them.”

    russia-620958Except that 100-plus attacks in Western cities just this year (mostly by radicalized lone-wolf terrorists) make patently clear that this bombing is doing nothing to defeat them. In fact, all Putin has to show for nine months of bombing, from the air and sea, is such indiscriminate death and wanton destruction, terrorist leaders can fairly assert that he is responsible for killing more innocent men, women, and children than they.

    Sadly, it did not take long for me to decry that “Bombing ISIS Smacks of Masturbatory Violence,” November 18, 2015.

    Mind you, I’m not saying we should just lie back and take their attacks. To the contrary, I’m on record advocating targeted drone strikes, aggressive surveillance, and enhanced interrogation to keep terrorists at bay as much as humanly possible.

    Notwithstanding the misguided backlash Snowden’s NSA disclosures have wrought, [Western countries] must allow their respective intelligence services to use all means necessary to surveil and apprehend the would-be terrorists amongst us before they act out their jihadist fantasies. Otherwise, we will terrorize ourselves to death if we keep reacting to every [terrorist attack] as if it were another 9/11.

    (“Gunman Terrorizes Canada. Keep Calm and Carry On,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 23, 2014)

    But don’t get me started on xenophobic and racist policies like banning or profiling Muslims. After all, the record of terrorist attacks in this country is such that we clearly have far more to fear from born-and-bred American terrorists than from any Muslim braving the two-year vetting process to sneak in and launch attacks.

    On the other hand, the media could help if they stop providing wall-to-wall coverage of the fallout from such attacks. After all, such coverage to a terrorist is like a binge to an addict. And, notwithstanding all of the experts rehashing their anti-terror talking points, it does absolutely nothing to help prevent, or protect us from, future attacks.

    I don’t know why the media always reward these psychopaths by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds.

    You’d think … we would have figured out by now that the best way to discourage them is by focusing our attention on the victims and limiting what we say about the [terrorists] to: May God have mercy on your soul as you all burn in Hell!

    (“Massacre in Omaha,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 7, 2007)

    Of course, media barons know this all too well. It’s just that they would rather exploit macabre, rubbernecking interests for ratings (their repetitious brain-dumbing, emotion-numbing content notwithstanding) than deny terrorists their incentivizing fix.

    Therefore, the only thing we can do to help save ourselves is turn off the TV and pay respects to victims with a prayer, making sure to note that:

    There but for the grace of God (go I).

    But nothing would affirm and embolden national spirits quite like those of us not directly affected getting on with life in the face of these attacks. This includes the police processing the scene and municipal workers cleaning it up post-haste.

    Incidentally, it would also help if politicians would stop using every terrorist attack to burnish their leadership bona fides; you know, the way Mayor Rudy Giuliani used 9/11.

    All else, including posting sympathy hashtags on social media and projecting national flags on landmarks, is folly.

    NOTE: There is now a Groundhog-Day spectre to these attacks and reaction to them. Which is why they have become no more worthy of comment than another drive-by shooting in ‘Chiraq.’ Therefore, I shall suffice henceforth to reprise this commentary, taking care of course to acknowledge the targets and victims of future attacks.

    ___________________

    With that, I fear it’s only a matter of time before (Muslim) terrorists using cars to kill becomes as commonplace as (white) terrorists using guns (as was the case in Las Vegas just weeks ago). And, as the attack in Nice demonstrated with foreboding terror, cars can easily rival guns and bombs when it comes to wreaking carnage.

    All the same, the following points of annoyance bears repeating:

    • Media should stop treating every attack like another 9/11. Nothing is more annoying in this respect than their wall-to-wall coverage, featuring reporters pouncing on terrorized eyewitnesses like hyenas on stranded gazelles.
    • Police should stop holding news conferences to do little more than pat themselves on the back. Nothing is more annoying in this respect than them touting their Potemkin-like “show of force,” which their robocops always perform after these attacks.
    • Politicians should stop treating terrorist attacks as opportunities to demonstrate legacy-sealing leadership. Nothing is more annoying in this respect than the way they propagate the fallacy that mass killings by whites are just horrific crimes, but mass killings by Muslims are “acts of terror.”
    • President Trump should stop publishing his chest-thumping, knuckle-dragging, brain-dumbing tweets of defiance. Nothing is more annoying in this respect than knowing that he actually thinks terrorists are more afraid of his tweets than they are of the police. LAME IDIOT!

    Ultimately, though, the best thing any public official can say after these attacks is:

    Related commentaries:
    Nice
    World beware
    Brussels Paris San Bernadino et al
    Masturbatory violence
    Chiraq
    Las Vegas

  • Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at 8:17 AM

    Happy Halloween!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 5:53 PM

    Mueller’s First Indictment Has News Media Reveling in Speculation

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A federal grand jury in Washington has approved the first criminal charges in the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference, two sources told NBC News, marking a significant milestone in an inquiry that has roiled Donald Trump’s presidency.

    Mueller’s Special Counsel’s Office will make public an indictment on Monday, a US official with firsthand knowledge of the process confirmed to NBC News, without disclosing the name of the target or the nature of the charges.

    Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn have been said to be key figures in Mueller’s probe, law enforcement sources familiar with the matter have told NBC News in the past.

    (NBC News, October 28, 2017)

    Alas, there is nothing newsworthy about the news media reveling in speculation. Indeed, you’d be forgiven the impression that rank speculation masquerading as breaking news is their stock-in-trade. This trend actually moved me years ago to begin writing commentaries like “Journalism Is Having a Very, Very Pathetic Moment,” November 13, 2013.

    Apropos of impressions, reporting on this sealed indictment is such that you’d think it alone will determine the fate of Trump’s presidency. But nothing could be further from the truth. Never mind no less a person than David Gergen, the eminence grise of Washington pundits, contributing to the speculative hype. He did so by intoning on Friday’s edition of AC360 that

    It certainly looks like the dam is starting to break now.

    Except that, if host Anderson Cooper had the presence of mind, he could have exposed the folly afoot. He only had to ask his 7-10 panelists to name the person indicted on the first criminal charges in the special counsel’s investigation into Watergate. I’d bet good money that, except for Gergen and Carl Bernstein, none of the pundits hyping this first indictment would have had a clue.

    For the record, a federal grand jury indicted E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy, and the other “Plumbers” on burglary charges on September 15, 1972. But many other dams had to break before Nixon finally resigned two years later, on August 9, 1974.

    That said, I’m all too mindful that refusing to speculate on this occasion is like refusing to smoke at Woodstock (or at Burning Man for you millennial readers). Not to mention that friends and colleagues around the world are reveling in this speculation as giddily as anyone in Washington.

    Incidentally, continuing the analogy, Trump ranting that Mueller’s investigation is a witch hunt is like a crazy uncle ranting that Woodstock is Devil worship. Moreover, Trump pleading that Republicans should “DO SOMETHING” will have about as much impact as that uncle screaming that the police should.

    Meanwhile, the consensus view is that either Michael Flynn or Paul Manafort is the target of this first indictment. I think it’s Manafort – for a variety of Ukraine-related reasons, which I’ve written about in commentaries like “Ukraine’s Orange Revolution Turns ‘Red,’” February 25, 2014, and “Leaked Panama Papers Affirm more than Reveal Offshore Banking Secrets,” April 6, 2016.

    But it might be helpful to recall that the first indictment in Watergate stemmed from the Plumbers’ third-rate burglary. That indictment had little to do with Nixon resigning to escape impeachment. In a similar vein, I suspect that the first indictment in this Russia probe will stem from Manafort’s money laundering, tax evasion, and/or other financial shenanigans. This indictment will have little to do with Trump eventually resigning or facing impeachment – on a battery of charges related to corruption and obstruction of justice.

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

    Related commentaries:
    Special counsel
    Journalism pathetic
    Ukraine
    Panama papers

  • Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 10:28 AM

    This cartoon sums up the Republicans’ surrender to Trump

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, October 28, 2017 at 9:15 AM

    Puerto Rico Catfished by Whitefish

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency is investigating a controversial $300 million contract to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid, a no-bid award that has spotlighted the agency’s poor record of policing similar grants and drawn scrutiny from its watchdog.

    Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC, a Montana-based company that had just two full-time employees prior to beginning its work in Puerto Rico, was selected last week by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to lead the rebuilding of Puerto Rico’s hurricane-ravaged electrical grid with the expectation that the money would come from FEMA.

    (Bloomberg News, October 27, 2017)

    Frankly, nobody should be surprised that the shady business dealings that defined the Trump Organization are now defining the Trump Administration.

    And the canard of promising to investigate only adds insult to this simple and brazen case of corruption. After all, anyone can see why Whitefish got this contract:

    The Department of the Interior oversees FEMA; Trump’s secretary for this department is Ryan Zinke; and not only is Zinke from Whitefish, Montana, but he’s a friend of the founding partner of Whitefish Energy’s two-man front to boot.

    What’s more, as fleecing schemes go, this one would make even Trump green with envy. For, according to Business Insider, some of its provisions include:

    • $79.82 per person for food each day;
    • $332.41 per person for accommodations each day;
    • More than $40,000 for helicopter-related services;
    • It states that, ‘In no event shall [government bodies] have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements’;
    • And that the Puerto Rican government ‘waives any claim against contractor related to delayed completion of work.’

    If that isn’t incriminating enough, reports are that the money men behind Whitefish Holdings donated huge sums to Trump’s presidential campaign. Which is why, for them, this contract is nothing more than kickback as payback.

    Not to mention that Puerto Rico ended up with Whitefish despite public-spirted offers from many established electrical companies, including Tesla.

    The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.

    — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 5, 2017

    Meanwhile, thanks to Whitefish’s rag-tag band of line workers, over 80 percent of Puerto Rico remains without electricity.

    But hey, we’ve already seen that “Make America Great Again” means having the federal government pay millions for Trump’s kids to travel the world doing business deals. Therefore, it should hardly surprise that it also means having the federal government pay hundreds of millions for his cronies to pull off the biggest kickback deal the world has ever seen: #MAGA!

    This just proves what I warned about in commentaries like “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker,” April 8, 2011, and “Trump, Jared, and Ivanka Forgoing Salaries Is Just Another Bait and Switch,” April 3, 2017.

    Alas, the Americans who voted for him proved the Barnumesque quip about a sucker born every minute. This Whitefish catfish merely shows that there’s no limit to how much Americans can be played for suckers.

    That said, I’d be remiss not to comment on the sideshow within the sideshow that has characterized relief and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico. It has featured the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, famously kicking Trump’s ass for the Katrina-like incompetence and outright neglect, and the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, kissing it for whatever he can suck out of FEMA.

    But I suspect we will learn in due course that the governor’s kissing was more about getting kickbacks to line his own pockets than doing anything necessary to rebuild Puerto Rico. He’s venting fiscal indignation today. But if Rossello knew nothing about this contract, he would be guilty of gross nonfeasance. If he knew about it, or even had a hand in granting it, he would be guilty of gross misfeasance.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump, Jared, Ivanka
    Trump for pres? Don’t be a sucker
    Puerto Rico, Trump’s Katrina

  • Friday, October 27, 2017 at 7:22 PM

    Release of JFK Files – the Deepest Trumpian Rabbit Hole Yet

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The federal government just released thousands of documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

    After a chaotic last-minute review in which intelligence agencies lobbied against full disclosure, the White House said it would take more time to process and release thousands more documents that were also supposed to be made public. …

    ‘Since the good stuff has mainly been withheld for now — or forever — we are primarily looking for obscure clues and shiny objects,’ [said Larry J. Sabato, the founder and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia].

    (New York Times, October 26, 2017)

    I fully appreciate the conspiracy theories that haunt the assassination of JFK. Indeed, it is noteworthy that those who swear by them include the likes of filmmaker Oliver Stone and no less a person than U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry (yes, he’s JFK too). …

    I have read and seen enough to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted as a lone wolf when he assassinated JFK in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963; this, notwithstanding investigative oversights in the Warren Commission’s report. What’s more, I believe the forensics. They prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there was only one shooter, despite Stone famously mocking this “single-bullet theory” in his film, JFK.

    (“Remembering JFK,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 21, 2013)

    In other words, the only people who believe in JFK conspiracies are the kooks who take to all conspiracies like moths to flames. Indeed, their belief in those related to JFK is probably surpassed only by their belief in the conspiracy about the government hiding aliens at Area 51.

    But I hasten to note that these kooks are no more misguided in their beliefs than the people who voted for Trump. After all, any reasonable person could see from day one of his campaign that a President Trump would run the government the way he ran his bankrupt casinos.

    Accordingly, his promises are turning out to be little more than three-card monte schemes. The casino adage is that “the house always win.”

    Therefore, nobody with half a brain should be surprised

    1. that the Trump White House is turning out to be the biggest winner of his presidency—complete with taxpayers funding everything from his golfing trips (which have already cost least $75 million) to his children’s business trips (which have cost millions more); and
    2. if the country ends up like one of his bankrupt casinos at the end of his presidency.

    This is why I am convinced that Trump will lose his bid for reelection. And this, even if every kook who voted for him in 2016 does so again in 2020. Of course, with criminal indictments and a political impeachment looming, this assumes he survives to run again.

    Whatever the case, I suspect that millions who didn’t bother to vote in 2016 will do so in 2020. They will be motivated, if not incited, to join the majority who voted for Hillary in 2016 to ensure that, no matter the byzantine Electoral College map, the Democratic nominee wins by a landslide.

    For the record, I suspect further that that nominee will be — in order of preference and likelihood  — a black woman, a Hispanic man, or a white woman.

    Related commentaries:
    JFK
    Area 51

  • Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 8:19 AM

    Saudi Arabia Promises to Repent for Extremist Ways…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And plans to build a $500m city as restitution.

    Arguably, successive kings of Saudi Arabia have had the blood of Americans on their hands. Most notable of course is the blood of those who perished on 9/11.

    This is why it’s so perplexing that successive presidents of the United States have been so willing to not just shake but hold the hand of these Saudi kings. Most notable of course is former President George W. Bush.

    Here in part is how I commented on this perplexing feature of US foreign policy in “The Bushes and the Saudis: Elusive (Financial) Ties That Actually Bind,” April 28, 2005.

    __________________

    The Saudis are

    • doing nothing to lower gas prices;
    • remaining defiantly undemocratic, despite Bush’s democracy crusade;
    • demanding the US downsize its military bases in Saudi Arabia to appease Islamic Jihadists;
    • continuing to fund Wahhabi Madrassas, which teach hatred and destruction of America as a core subject; and
    • showing no concern over their Saudi connection to 9/11, namely that Bin Laden and the majority of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

    Therefore, one has to wonder what benefits they provide to remain exempt from American reprimand, sanction, or usurpation. Indeed, the mysterious nature of this relationship only deepens when one considers that the Saudis depend on American security guarantees for their survival. After all, this precludes using oil as leverage to resist the democratic changes Bush has demanded of and imposed upon other nations.

    __________________

    Given that, you’ll understand why I am so intrigued by this:

    Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday said Saudi Arabia would ‘return’ to a ‘moderate Islam that is open to all religions’ – comments likely to rile staunch conservatives in the Gulf kingdom.

    The crown prince also announced Saudi Arabia would ‘eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts’, saying the country was not like this in the past.

    ‘We are returning to what we were before … we will not waste another 30 years in dealing with extremist,’ the 32-year-old heir to the throne said.

    (Al Jazeera, October 24, 2017)

    The timing of this Islamic conversion is shrouded in mystery. Not least because successive US presidents had vowed to inspire it to no avail.

    This is why the mystery of why now is surpassed only by the mystery of why President Trump has yet to claim credit for it. Incidentally, the picture of Trump (seemingly) bowing before this crown prince, in the Oval Office no less, makes me chuckle. After all, Trump ridiculed former President Obama as weak and a national embarrassment for bowing before the Saudi king during his state visit over there.

    It also speaks volumes that this conversion comes on the heels of the great leap for women’s rights, which I celebrated with a little cynicism in “Saudi Women Granted Right to Drive. Hooray…?” September 27, 2017.

    All the same, I pray Salman is as committed to Saudi Arabia’s conversion as he is to this:

    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans to build a new city on the Red Sea coast, promising a lifestyle not available in today’s Saudi Arabia as he seeks to remake the kingdom in a time of dwindling resources.

    The prince said the city project, to be called ‘NEOM,’ will operate independently from the ‘existing governmental framework’ with investors consulted at every step during development. The project will be backed by more than $500 billion from the Saudi government, its sovereign wealth fund and local and international investors, according to a statement released on Tuesday at an international business conference in Riyadh.

    (Bloomberg, October 24, 2017)

    How’s that as for making restitution for past misdeeds? Indeed, it’s noteworthy that this mega-city will extend into Jordan and Egypt. At 10,231 square miles, it will be 33 times the size of New York City.

    If he accomplishes these twin feats, Salman could go down in history as doing for Saudi Arabia what it took Suleiman the Magnificent and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to do for Turkey (notwithstanding the regressive whims of wannabe Sultan Erdogan).

    For the record, most Saudis enjoy living a Western lifestyle when they’re outside Saudi Arabia. But they revert to living it in the closet when they’re at home. I think Salman is championing this conversion to spare Saudis the hypocrisy of doing so. Not to mention that the routing of Islamists across the Middle East must have inspired abandoning the ship of Wahhabism as a categorical imperative.

    But no matter how Salman fares at home, it will certainly help abroad that, unlike his predecessors, he has a face that could easily warm a billion non-Muslim hearts. I wish him well.

    Related commentaries:
    The Bushes
    Women right to drive
    Sultan Erdogan

  • Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 8:38 AM

    Sen. McCain Needles Trump as ‘Bone Spur’ Draft Dodger

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    One of the perverse features of Donald Trump’s malignant narcissism is the shameless way he engages in projection.

    The psychopathology afoot here is called projection. It is defined by people attributing to others traits, faults, and blame that inhere in themselves. And it explains almost every insult Trump has hurled at his opponents throughout this presidential campaign.

    So when you hear him calling other people crooked, insecure, weak, beholding to special interests, liars, etc., be mindful that he’s revealing self-conscious truths about himself, unwittingly.

    (“Forget the Clinton Foundation. Shut Down the Trump Organization!” The iPINIONS Journal, August 26, 2016)

    This glaring mental defect is just one of the many reasons I felt compelled to write “WTF! President-elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done.” November 9, 2016.

    As it turned out, Trump targeted no less a person than Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for the most outrageous manifestation of his projection during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.

    (Chicago Tribune, July 18, 2015)

    In other words, just as projection compels Trump to call people liars to deflect the fact that he’s a pathological liar, it compelled him to call McCain a loser who is no war hero to deflect the fact that he’s a loser who dodged the Draft.

    After he graduated from college in the spring of 1968, making him eligible to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, he received a diagnosis that would change his path: bone spurs in his heels.

    The diagnosis resulted in a coveted 1-Y medical deferment that fall, exempting him from military service as the United States was undertaking huge troop deployments to Southeast Asia, inducting about 300,000 men into the military that year.

    The deferment was one of five Mr. Trump received during Vietnam.

    (New York Times, August 1, 2016)

    This, of course, is the same Trump who has boasted about

    • getting better training for war at his high-school military academy than draftees got at boot camp; and
    • being a jock of all sports.

    Indeed, by all accounts, Trump was such a picture of health, he could have served as the poster boy for all Vietnam Draft dodgers.

    Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that McCain seized a recent opportunity to puncture Trump’s self-inflated ego. It came during an interview as part of a retrospective on the “Vietnam War: 50 Years Later.”

    One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.

    (C-SPAN3, October 18, 2017)

    Ouch!

    Except that the sociopathic Trump has no shame or feelings. Only this explains his trolling the grieving widow of another bona-fide war hero, Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger a few weeks ago.

    That said, it is far more socially redeeming to note that McCain thinks the current volunteer system is better than the Vietnam-era Draft. I disagree. Not least because poor whites and minorities still compose the vast majority of the 1.3 million Americans serving in the armed forces.

    Significantly, those serving amount to only 0.4 percent of the population. This in part is why I’ve been in the vanguard of those calling on Congress to reinstate the Draft.

    I am merely proffering the self-evident truth that politicians would be more circumspect about sending Americans to war if their loved ones were obligated to serve.

    Meanwhile, generals are complaining that they do not have enough troops to execute their missions; volunteers are being forced to endure extended tours of duty; and recruitment is so anemic that the military is lowering its (physical and educational) standards for enlistment to fill its ranks (promoting 42-year-old mothers as lean, mean fighting machines?).

    (“Support the Draft to Prevent Stupid Wars,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 14, 2007)

    Accordingly, nobody should be surprised that so many members of Congress are blithely admitting they had no clue the United States had troops deployed in Niger. In fact, if pressed, they’d have to admit being clueless about this too:

    On any given day, the operators are deployed across about [53] nations [in Africa]. …

    According to a report to Congress by General Thomas Waldhauser, who heads the US Africa Command, American forces have a notable presence in Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda and Kenya.

    Officially, the United States only has one military base in Africa — Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.

    (Agence-France Presse, October 21, 2017)

    On the other hand, anyone who has any interest in the welfare of Africa, or knows any US soldier deployed there, would have known about these deployments. I not only knew, but hailed them:

    When Bush launched the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) – America’s first military mission focused on Sub-Saharan Africa – he insisted that ‘AFRICOM will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote goals of development, health, education, democracy and economic growth.’ …

    Bush is only seeking to use AFRICOM in Africa the way his predecessors have used NATO in Europe since World War II, namely, as a stabilizing force for regional security, development, diplomacy and prosperity.

    (“AFRICOM: No Good Deed Bush Does Goes Unpunished,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 10, 2008)

    More to the point, though, just imagine the damning disconnect inherent in this prevailing ignorance among members of Congress – not just about who serves, but about where they’re deployed.

    In any event, given the lessons of Vietnam, a reinstated Draft should allow no deferment for any reason whatsoever. After all, even if a draftee has bone spurs, he/she could still serve in thousands of non-combat roles, including those in administration, finance, transportation, maintenance, and catering.

    In fact, the Army Corps of Engineers’ ongoing relief mission in Puerto Rico has demonstrated in spades the need for truck drivers.

    Related commentaries:
    WTF! Trump president-elect
    Sgt. La David Johnson
    Forget the Clinton Foundation
    Support the draft
    AFRICOM

  • Monday, October 23, 2017 at 8:14 AM

    Hamilton’s US Win (Practically) Guarantees F1 World Championship

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Lewis Hamilton passed title rival Sebastian Vettel to take a dominant victory in the United States Grand Prix but will have to wait at least one more race to win his fourth world championship.

    The Mercedes driver is 66 points clear of Vettel, who finished second, with only 75 still available in the remaining three races.

    It means Hamilton is almost certain to clinch the title at the Mexican Grand Prix next weekend.

    (BBC, October 22, 2017)

    I know. Nobody in America cares about Formula One (F1) racing. Here, sports like Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey, and even NASCAR are far more popular. Indeed, I imagine this is like raving about Curling at the Olympics, where sports like Swimming, Track and Field, Gymnastics, Soccer, and many others are far more popular.

    This is why sports programs gave F1’s only race here nothing more than a honorable mention. That race played out in Austin, Texas, yesterday. But even featuring former president Bill Clinton and former Olympic champion Usain Bolt as mascots did little to increase media interest.

    Nonetheless, the following excerpt should explain (1) why F1 is worthy of your sporting interest, and (2) why Lewis Hamilton is worthy of the kind of fan worship Tiger Woods used to get in his heyday. It’s from “Hamilton Becomes the Youngest Ever and First Black F1 Champion,” November 3, 2008.

    ________________

    If you don’t know Formula One from Formula 409, please take note:

    F1 car racing is a sport that requires the steady hands of a surgeon, the daring skill of a jet fighter, and the physical stamina of a marathon runner. Moreover, no sport can match the sustained thrill and nail-biting suspense one gets from watching those drivers navigate the zigs, zags, and hairpin-turns of a Grand-Prix racetrack as they jockey for position at speeds exceeding 200 mph! …

    Naturally, given the uncanny similarities in racial background and precocious talent between Hamilton and Tiger Woods, the barons of Hamilton’s sport are banking he’ll do for F1 what Woods has done for Golf.

    _________________

    Incidentally, to win a championship, drivers compete in a series of 20 races on Grand-Prix circuits around the world. Competition begins in Australia in March and ends in Abu Dhabi in November – with stops in places like China, Russia, and Monaco in between.

    The winner of each race gets 25 points, second 18, third 15, and so on. The driver who ends up with the most points after the last race in the series wins the championship.

    That said, the analogy to Tiger Woods begs clarification. As it happens, I provided it two years ago:

    The spectacular downward spiral Tiger’s career took [in 2009], just one year after I wrote this, makes the analogy to him a little unfortunate in hindsight.

    I’m sure Tiger never imagined that booty hunting in his private life could haunt his professional life the way it has. Therefore, I hope Lewis learns this lesson, especially given the way he flaunts his pursuits in this respect. Indeed, that he’s so often featured as a front-row gawker at Victoria’s Secret and other fashion shows does not bode well.

    But there’s no gainsaying today that the only driver who can stop him from rewriting the records books in F1, as Tiger was supposed to do in Golf, is Lewis himself.

    (“Lewis Hamilton, F1 Champion … Again,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 26, 2015)

    With that, here’s to Hamilton doing what Woods no longer has a prayer of doing: becoming the most accomplished athlete in the history of his sport.

    Woods is trying to eclipse Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships. But he has been bogeying (on and off the course) ever since he won his 14th in 2008.

    Hamilton is trying to eclipse Michael Schumacher’s record of 7 F1 championships. But he had better pick up his pace. After all, it has taken him 10 years to get halfway there with his 4th. And, at 32, he’s unlikely to race at the top of his sport for another 10 years.

    Not that the barons of F1 are complaining, mind you. After all, they have already milked Hamilton for more cash than they ever imagined in their wildest dreams, much as the barons of Golf milked (and are still milking) Woods, their cash cow.

    Congratulations (and good luck), Lewis!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Sunday, October 22, 2017 at 10:14 AM

    A very British take on Brexit negotiations…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
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  • Friday, October 20, 2017 at 8:21 PM

    Now Chief of Staff Kelly ‘Spicers’ Himself for Trump re Sgt. La David Johnson

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And, with all due respect to Kelly, I was stunned.

    To White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the conversation between the president of the United States and the spouse of a fallen soldier is ‘sacred’ …

    President Trump has been on the receiving end of significant criticism after Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) said he told a pregnant widow that her husband who was killed in an ambush in Niger knew what he signed up for. Trump denies he said those words, which the lawmaker called insensitive, to Myeshia Johnson.

    Kelly said Thursday during the White House news briefing that he was shocked that Wilson was even a part of the conversation.

    (Washington Post, October 20, 2017)

    Trump’s presidency to date has been defined by a series of sideshows (a.k.a. media focus on “shiny objects”). And he has been both creator and ringmaster of each one.

    He created this latest sideshow to distract from his Benghazi-like debacle in Niger. It began when a reporter asked why he failed for two weeks to call the loved ones of the four US soldiers killed in that ambush.

    As he always does, Trump deflected blame. He claimed that, unlike Obama, he at least makes a point of always calling the Gold Star families of fallen soldiers. Unsurprisingly, this was just another bald-faced lie.

    As the Washington Post and Associated Press have found in extensive reports on Trump’s calls to Gold Star families since taking office, a number of parents and spouses say they have yet to receive calls from the commander-in-chief. …

    At a Monday press conference, he said former President Barack Obama and fellow predecessors did not call the families of soldiers killed in the line of duty. …

    It was a false claim that was met with scorn from former Obama administration aides, and Trump backed off the claim slightly when pressed further by reporters.

    (Business Insider, October 20, 2017)

    But enough about Trump because the real star of this sideshow happens to be the scene-stealing Kelly.

    Incidentally, you’ve probably heard politicians and pundits alike bemoaning the unseemliness of talking about this sensitive topic. Yet they keep talking about it. I hope you find this as patently contrived as I do.

    That said, Kelly entered stage right at the White House yesterday to condemn Congresswoman Wilson and defend his boss:

    I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and brokenhearted, at what I saw a member of Congress doing. …

    He knew what he was getting himself into, because he enlisted — there was no reason to enlist, he enlisted. …

    It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation.

    (Reuters, October 19, 2017)

    For starters, I have been “stunned” at the willingness of so many people to betray their values and sacrifice their integrity for the sake of Donald Trump. I coined the verb “to spicer” to explain this phenomenon. I trust allusion is obvious.

    It began during the presidential campaign with the Evangelical Christians who now compose his base. But establishment Republicans and members of his Cabinet have been equally eager to kneel at the altar of his ambition. For example:

    I watched in shock and dismay last year as family-values Republicans tried to convince us that there was nothing hypocritical in standing by their man. This, despite Trump being exposed, time and again, as a profane, lying, narcissistic, pussy-grabbing misogynist.

    I watched in shock and dismay last January as White House spokesman Sean Spicer tried to convince us that the size of the crowd was bigger at Trump’s inauguration than Obama’s. This, despite pictures plainly showing the opposite.

    I watched in shock and dismay last May as national security adviser H.R. McMaster tried to convince us that it was “no big deal” that Trump shared “highly classified information” with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. This, despite ongoing investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election.

    And I watched in shock and dismay yesterday as chief of staff John Kelly tried to convince us that we should be more disgusted at Congresswoman Wilson than Trump. This, despite the fact that Wilson was merely defending Myeshia Johnson, the grieving widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, after Trump’s condolence call compounded her emotional distress. Not to mention that the only reason Wilson spoke out is that Mrs. Johnson, Sgt. Johnson’s mother, and other family members felt Trump seemed devoid of compassion when he finally called to convey the nation’s condolences.

    Of course, Kelly’s extraordinary performance warrants a few more points, because

    • I was stunned when Kelly dishonored his reputation as an officer and a gentleman by calling Wilson a self-aggrandizing opportunist and an “empty barrel” making the most noise. He told an elaborate story about how she took credit for congressional funding of an FBI building in 2009. But videotape from the occasion in question shows that he was lying through his teeth in a manner that only his lying boss could appreciate. An officer and a gentleman would apologize. Kelly has not. This means that only public shaming can force him to. For now, he seems happy to hide behind the skirt of White House press secretary Sarah Sanders – who warned reporters today that it’s “highly inappropriate” to question a four-star general like Kelly about his political hit jobs. #Military Junta! #Banana Republic!

    • I was stunned when Kelly did not bite his tongue. After all, his boss is the biggest self-aggrandizing opportunist and empty barrel making the most noise in the history of American politics.
    • I was stunned when Kelly intoned that it was inappropriate for Wilson to listen in on the conversation between Trump and Mrs. Johnson. He was listening in, but he accused her of violating a sacred trust. Except that it’s arguable that he did. After all, Mrs. Johnson put Trump on speaker and allowed Wilson to listen in because Wilson practically raised Sgt. Johnson as his surrogate mother. On the other hand, this was not a conversation between Trump and another head of state or a member of Congress, which would have made Kelly listening in more understandable.
    • I was stunned when Kelly suggested that Mrs. Johnson should have been comforted by Trump using the same words Kelly’s best friend and fellow four-star general used to notify him of the loss of his son. He seemed unconcerned that, by invoking his own personal tragedy, he was making a mockery of the generally held view that he was too dignified to politicize the death of his son.

    • I was stunned when Kelly ended his press conference without even acknowledging the obvious emotional distress Trump’s call caused this Gold Star family. Evidently, he was strictly executing a direct order to clean up Trump’s mess. But the only honorable way to do this was to urge the president to call back to clarify and make amends. Frankly, nothing damns Kelly’s performance quite like this: The New York Times published the full transcript of his remarks, which amounted to 2,877 words. Yet you will not find among them a single utterance of the name of this fallen soldier or that of his grieving widow. The congresswoman shared that Mrs. Johnson was particularly aggrieved that Trump didn’t know her husband’s name. Wilson said he kept referring to Sgt. La David Johnson as “your guy ” during his condolence call. But Mrs. Johnson could be forgiven for thinking that Kelly, a fellow Gold Star survivor, didn’t know his name either … let alone hers.
    • I was stunned when Kelly lamented the honky-dory days of his 1950s childhood. He claimed that men treated women as sacred back then. Except that men treated most women as little more than Stepford wives back then. What’s more, many of his own female contemporaries would tell him that they thank God for the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
    • I was stunned when Kelly chastised politicians for dragging Gold Star families into their partisan spats. After all, nobody did this with more unbridled relish than when Trump bullied and demeaned the Gold Star family of Humayun Khan.
    • I was stunned when Kelly damned the culture of sexual harassment that led to Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace. After all, nobody has contributed more to that culture than the president he took center stage to defend.

    I could go on, but you get the point. Therefore, I’ll end with this:

    To preserve what little remains of their reputation, the media would do well to stop hailing Kelly as the white knight of Trump’s wholly bankrupt administration. Likewise, to preserve what little remains of his reputation, Kelly would do well to think long and hard before attempting to clean up another of Trump’s messes. For it’s only a matter of time before Trump discards him the way he has discarded Spicer and so many others.

    Johnson, the one left behind

    As the above shows, the death of this black soldier led a white “four-star” general to malign a black congresswoman in defense of a white president. Given that, I’d be remiss not to share this:

    Sgt. Johnson was the only one of the four Americans killed who was left behind after this ambush. I submit that the reason for this is that he was black and the other three were white.

    Now it might be that, in the fog of battle, their French and American rescuers thought he was just one of the 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters Johnson’s 12-member team killed. But it speaks volumes that it took black soldiers from Niger to identify him as an American soldier and return him to his base two days after this battle.

    Johnson’s fellow Green Berets have some ‘splainin’ to do, especially given how all branches of the US military proudly claim they never leave any soldier behind.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published last night, Friday, at 8:21

  • Friday, October 20, 2017 at 7:18 AM

    Trump More Mussolini than Hitler: ‘Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is now conventional wisdom that “Donald Trump is like Adolf Hitler.” The Washington Examiner crystallized this in a report on December 28, 2016, under the headline “Seven times the media compared Trump to Hitler.”

    But the Washington Post gave this meme über credibility when it published an editorial on February 29, 2016, under the headline “Voters shouldn’t reward Trump’s assault on democracy.” That editorial included the following to support its admonition:

    You don’t have to go back to history’s most famous example, Adolf Hitler, to understand that authoritarian rulers can achieve power through the ballot box. …

    It is not hateful to wonder whether terrorists might smuggle themselves into this country disguised as Syrian refugees. … But Mr. Trump is pandering to those fears, not offering solutions.

    Of course, there’s no denying the comparison. After all, no less an authority than “the Adolf Hitler biographer” Ron Rosenbaum warns that the way Trump “bluffed” his way into power – by normalizing big lies – is eerily reminiscent of Hitler’s rise.

    But I have posited that a comparison with Benito Mussolini is more fitting. Not least because Vladimir Putin is the big elephant on the world stage in this context. I shared my cognitive dissonance in “Prince Charles Draws Analogies Trumpism and Nazism,” February 8, 2017.

    __________________

    It’s eminently newsworthy that this Prince of Wales is being hailed as a conscientious objector to Trumpism for saying this:

    We are now seeing the rise of many populist groups across the world that are increasingly aggressive to those who adhere to a minority faith. All of this has deeply disturbing echoes of the dark days of the 1930s. …

    My parents’ generation fought and died in a battle against intolerance, monstrous extremism and inhuman attempts to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe.

    Mind you, some of us have been saying much the same for years. But I, for one, have always predicated commentaries in this regard on this far more compelling analogy: Putin is to Hitler as Trump is to Mussolini. After all, the aggression Vladimir Putin is executing over in Europe has far deeper “echoes of the dark days of the 1930s” than the nationalist populism Donald Trump is propagating here in America.

    __________________

    This is why I derived some vindication from the following:

    Fourteen heads of state have contacted Joe Biden in an attempt to better understand the actions of the Trump administration, the former vice-president said on Tuesday, with one even comparing the US president to Mussolini.

    Speaking at an event on Tuesday alongside Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, Biden bemoaned Trump’s ‘bizarre conduct’ and claimed that one European prime minister went so far as to liken the president to ‘Il Duce’.

    (London Guardian, October 17, 2017)

    But perhaps Trump’s sexual proclivities are what make him more like the promiscuous Mussolini than the repressed Hitler. Therefore, let’s talk about sex.

    The following gives some insight into how the three men compare on this primal score.

    Hitler

    During the majority of teenage years and in his twenties, Hitler was a homosexual and had a wide-ranging string of men whose company he regularly enjoyed. …

    Hitler had also attempted to change his homosexual tendencies and become a heterosexual since he had grown tired and wary of blackmailers who knew about his dark secrets. However, he didn’t enjoy much success with in his relationships with women, and most of his heterosexual relationships weren’t even consummated.

    (War History Online, April 26, 2016)

    Mussolini

    He told his jealous lover Clara – complaining bitterly about him returning to an old flame – that the idea of sleeping with only one woman was ‘inconceivable’. ‘There was a period in which I had 14 women and I’d take three or four every evening, one after the other … that gives you an idea of my sexuality.’

    ‘Mussolini’s butler revealed that he was screwing women all the time,’ [Nicholas Farrell, author of a biography of Il Duce] said yesterday, ‘even behind [most-favored mistress] Clara Petacci’s back.’

    (London Independent, November 9, 2009)

    Trump

    Nearly a decade ago, when Trump was filming a segment for Access Hollywood with Billy Bush to promote his cameo on Days of Our Lives, the businessman and reality TV star was caught on a hot microphone talking about how he gets away with groping women.

    ‘You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them … it’s like a magnet, just kiss … I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … grab them by the pussy … anything.’

    (Washington Post, October 8, 2016)

    I rest my case.

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  • Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 7:38 AM

    No Sexual Harassment in Putin’s Russia…? Ha!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Two things explain Donald Trump’s incriminating refusal to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin:

    1. Russia’s meddling to help him win the US presidential election; and
    2. Credible reports that Putin has compromising information on his shady businesses and kinky assignations in Moscow (some of which former British spy Christopher Steele documented in lurid detail in his famous Russia dossier).

    But Trump might have a compelling reason to actually admire Putin. For Putin has normalized fake news, political ignorance, and sexual harassment in Russia in ways that must give Trump wet dreams.

    To be fair, though, Trump is doing a pretty good job of normalizing fake news and political ignorance in America. But Harvey Weinstein’s sexual-harassment scandal has triggered such a transformation of national consciousness that he faces a daunting challenge where normalizing sexual harassment is concerned.

    Never mind that Trump himself could be the poster boy for sexual harassment. I commented on his own scandal in “Donald Trump’s Growing Bill-Cosby Problem,” October 15, 2016. In fact, his record is such that pigs will fly before Miss America contestants hail him as a protector of women the way Miss Russia contestants are hailing Putin.

    Russian women have President Vladimir Putin to thank for the lack of sexual harassment incidents that are coming to light in the United States, two Miss Russia finalists say. …

    ‘I believe that these situations cannot happen in Russia, and for that we have to thank Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and his policy,’ [runner-up Ksenia] Alexandrova said.

    In January, Russian lawmakers voted nearly unanimously to decriminalize domestic violence and downgrade it to an administrative offense.

    (Moscow Times, October 13, 2017)

    For the record:

    Discrimination and violence against women are widespread. The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs says that 40 percent of violent crimes against women in Russia are committed by spouses or intimate partners, but an independent study found that the figure was actually closer to 80 percent. …

    Patriarchy is the rule, not the exception.

    (Washington Post, July 5, 2017)

    Evidently, “if he beats you, it means he loves you” is as Russian as “happy wife, happy life” is American. Not to mention that this is the same Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin who not only harassed but eventually imprisoned women for daring to criticize his authoritarian rule. I duly commented in “Putin Gives Pussy Riot the Clamp,” August 17, 2012.

    This is why the propagation of Miss Russia’s big lie about sexual harassment in Russia is as Orwellian as it gets. It reminds me of the propagation of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s big lie about the persecution of homosexuals in Iran, which includes state-sanctioned executions:

    In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I do not know who has told you we have it.

    (Slate, September 25, 2007)

    Of course, nothing defines Trump’s America quite like purveyors of big lies (a.k.a. “alternative facts”). And Trump has shown time and again that he’s the biggest purveyor of them all. But the pickle Mike Ditka got into recently is instructive.

    He coached the Chicago Bears to victory in Super Bowl XX in 1986, and hadn’t made much news since then. But that all changed last week when he voiced support for Trump’s trumped-up beef with NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem:

    All of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression. There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of.

    (Chicago Tribune, October 10, 2017)

    It hardly matters that Ditka walked back that big lie in the dog-whistling, unrepentant way Trump often does.

    The point is that Trump has displayed such ignorance and told such lies on so many issues, it’s easy to imagine him aping

    • Miss Russia by insisting that, despite his own predatory, “grab-them-by-the-pussy” scandal, there’s no sexual harassment in his America;
    • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by insisting that, despite his own directive banning transgender people from the military, there’s no persecution of LBGTQs in his America; and
    • Mike Ditka by insisting that, despite his own record of racism (see August 2017 issue of Rolling Stone), there’s no racism in his America.

    Fortunately, instead of voting to decriminalize sexual harassment, American lawmakers are more likely to vote to impeach Trump for committing it. After all, Summer Zervos is suing Trump in the same impeachable fashion Paula Jones famously sued former President Bill Clinton.

    Lawyers for one of the women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assault subpoenaed his campaign for all documents relating to her, all communications with or about her and ‘all documents concerning any woman who asserted that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.’

    This comes in the case of Summer Zervos, a former contestant on ‘The Apprentice’ who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in 2007. …

    Zervos claims Trump kissed her twice on the lips during a lunch meeting in his New York City office and on a separate occasion in Beverly Hills, she alleges he kissed her aggressively and touched her breast.

    (CNN, October 16, 2017)

    Unsurprisingly, Trump has dismissed every allegation by every accuser as “fake news” – as he did during a press conference at the White House on Monday.

    ‘Mr Trump became obsessed with calling Ms Zervos and any other woman who came forward to report his abuse liars with improper motives. … [He] is a liar and misogynist [who has] debased and denigrated Zervos with false statements about her,’ the lawsuit says.

    (The Telegraph, October 16, 2017)

    Of course, Mr. Clinton debased and denigrated his accusers in his own “slick Willie” style. But it all proved to no avail.

    Hope springs eternal …

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 10:10 AM

    Puerto Rico, Trump’s Katrina; Niger, His Benghazi

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Puerto Rico

    In an extraordinary public letter, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz begged the American public to stand by Puerto Rico as President Donald Trump openly threatens to remove federal aid workers from the still-battered island.

    ‘I ask every American that has love, and not hate in their hearts, to stand with Puerto Rico and let this President know we WILL NOT BE LEFT TO DIE,’ Cruz wrote. ‘I ask the United Nations, UNICEF and the world to stand with the people of Puerto Rico and stop the genocide that will result from the lack of appropriate action of a President that just does not get it because he has been incapable of looking in our eyes and seeing the pride that burns fiercely in our hearts and souls.

    (Vox, October 12, 2017)

    This must seem eerily reminiscent to anyone who remembers the public pleas New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

    Niger

    On Saturday October 7, the day the body of 25-year-old Army Sgt. La David Johnson was returned to Dover Air Force Base after he was [one of four] killed in an ISIS ambush in Niger, President Donald Trump was golfing. …

    But since the ambush on October 4 in Niger, he has not commented publicly on the deadliest combat incident involving US troops since he took office.

    (CNN, October 14, 2017)

    The silence of the Republicans must seem patently hypocritical to anyone who remembers their sound and fury over the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi. Their political outrage led to years of congressional investigations, costing millions of dollars, which ultimately signified nothing.

    Trump

    So where’s the f*cking outrage?!

    For the record, I skewered President George W. Bush for his mishandling of relief efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “Condi: Bush Had a Race Problem,” October 25, 2011, and other commentaries attest to this.

    I skewered President Barack H. Obama for his failure to properly address the debacle in Benghazi. “Benghazi Cover Up? IRS Targeting His Enemies? Obama Looking More Like Nixon,” May 20, 2013, and other commentaries attest to this.

    Therefore, I have standing to skewer this fat pig, President Donald J. Trump, for his mishandling of relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and for his failure to properly address the debacle in Niger.

    I trust this is just one of many ways my commentaries distinguish me from the my-party, country-be-damned hacks who spew talking points masquerading, in print and on TV, as informed and unbiased opinions.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, October 16, 2017 at 7:51 AM

    Alas, Worst Bombing in Somali History Evokes Little Sympathy, Let Alone Empathy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The death toll in the bombing that hit the centre of Mogadishu on Saturday continues to rise, with more than 300 people now believed to have been killed and hundreds more seriously injured.

    The scale of the loss makes the attack, which involved a truck packed with several hundred kilograms of military-grade and homemade explosives, one of the most lethal terrorist acts anywhere in the world for many years. …

    The devastating bombing, which provoked international condemnation, will focus attention on the decade-long battle against al-Shabaab, an [al-Qaeda affiliated] Islamist group, in Somalia

    (London Guardian, October 16, 2017)

    Of course, if this happened anywhere in Europe or the United States, it would have knocked Harvey Weinstein from his trending perch – complete with scaremongering, wall-to-wall coverage. As it happened, even the cable news networks gave it little more than a perfunctory read.

    Granted, for most of you, this is rather like “Breaking News” about the worst famine in Ethiopia. You probably thought nothing could surpass the “worst” famine that led to Live Aid I in 1985. And you’d be forgiven if you exhausted what remained of your compassion for terminally plagued Africa after persistent famine led to Live Aid II in 2005.

    Still, if nothing else, this tragedy should disabuse you of any notion that Islamic Jihadists are engaged in the Huntingtonian clash of civilizations. Mind you, perennial clashes between Sunnis and Shiites have long shown that, for every Westerner they kill, these Islamists kill 1000 Muslims. The fighting that erupted yesterday between Iraqi Shiites and Iraqi Kurds for control of the oil-rich region of Kirkuk reinforces this spectacle of Muslims terrorizing Muslims.

    I have often remarked that mass bombings in Muslims countries have become as commonplace as mass shootings in the United States. And, given how “numb” we’ve become to mass shootings over here, it’s hardly surprising that we think little of bombings over there – even historic ones.

    Not to mention the reflexive resentment Somalia incites in most Americans. It stems primarily from two incidents:

    1. from 1993 when a Somali warlord handed the mighty United States its worst military defeat since Vietnam, which was dramatized in the movie Black Hawk Down; and
    2. from 2009 when Somali pirates commandeered the US containership Maersk Alabama, which was dramatized in the movie Captain Phillips.

    This is why I only ask that you juxtapose the terror Islamists incite among Westerners with occasional bombings to the terror they must incite among Muslims with daily ones. This juxtaposition will compel the kind of empathy Saturday’s bombing warrants.

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  • Monday, October 16, 2017 at 7:22 AM

    UPDATE: Trump Leading March against Iran, but Nobody’s Following

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

    [Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France said in a rare joint statement that] ‘the nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is not diverted for military purposes.’…

    ‘Destroying this agreement would, worldwide, mean that others could no longer rely on such agreements — that’s why it is a danger that goes further than Iran,’ [Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minister, said].

    (New York Times, October 13, 2017)

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

    Meanwhile, Trump has made much of his “special relationship” with French President Emanuel Macron. And Macron surely knew that nothing would stroke Trump’s infantile ego quite like inviting him as guest of honor for the annual Bastille Day parade, which takes on July 14 each year.

    Sure enough, Trump was so impressed by the military hardware on Soviet-style display, he said he wants to feature similar hardware in Washington’s annual Independence Day parade, which takes place on July 4 each year. True to form, he made clear his intent to show the world that America has more and much bigger military hardware than anyone has ever seen.

    Except that, apropos of special relationships, Margaret Thatcher never defied Ronald Reagan like this:

    France is determined to preserve the 2015 nuclear agreement in the face of a hardened US position as President Emmanuel Macron considers a potential trip to Iran. …

    Macron, who had a call Friday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, discussed with him a potential trip to Iran, which would be the first by a French leader since the 1979 revolution that toppled the Shah, according to AFP. [French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves] Le Drian will travel to Tehran over the next weeks.

    (Bloomberg, October 15, 2017)

    In fact, it’s instructive that all of Macron’s predecessors stood by all of Trump’s predecessors in refusing to travel to Cuba during the 50-year embargo. Francois Hollande became the first French president to visit there in May 2015. But that was only after President Obama normalized relations with Cuba in December 2014.

    Macron could have let his joint statement with Merkel and May speak for his opposition to Trump’s decertification. But he clearly thinks little of Trump’s de-facto title as leader of the free world.

    Only this explains Macron’s eagerness to add insult to his defiance by traveling to break bread with the leaders of Iran. After all, in announcing his decertification, Trump aped George W. Bush by condemning Iran as an unrepentant and unreformed member of the infamous axis of evil.

    Who knows, Macron might just have the “Gaul” to think he could wrest that title from Trump.

    To be fair, it might appear that Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is following Trump. But he’s actually misleading him. For this Iago of a prime minister finally has in Trump a US president stupid enough to do his bidding where the Byzantine politics of the Middle East are concerned. And top of Netanyahu’s cunning agenda is getting the United States to wipe Iran off the map, with all due respect to former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    I refer you to “Aping Mideast Dictatorships, Israel Bans Al Jazeera,” August 8, 2017, for more on Netanyahu’s Shakespearean manipulation of Trump.

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  • Saturday, October 14, 2017 at 7:36 AM

    Boy Scouts admitting girls for hands-on experience in male chauvinism and sexual harassment

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    “Be Prepared!” Indeed.

  • Friday, October 13, 2017 at 8:22 AM

    Trump Decertifying Iran Nuclear Deal more MALO than MAGA

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Hardly a day goes by without Donald Trump doing or saying something to make his presidency a laughing stock.

    A recent highlight (or lowlight) had him shooting paper towels like basketballs into a crowd of cheering reporters during a photo-op stop in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. He reportedly thought this would provide a sign of hope for the millions of despairing islanders waiting for relief.

    But, frankly, only a diagnosis that places Trump somewhere on the autism spectrum explains why he thought so. After all, at that point in time, those Puerto Ricans had been living without electricity and medicine, while subsisting on rationed food and water, for two weeks – ever since Maria landed on September 20.

    Such antics, coupled with his invariably petulant tweets, moved Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to call the White House “an adult day care center.” This, just days after reports that Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state, called him “a f*cking moron.”

    But Trump occasionally does or says something that would be laughable if it were not so dangerous. The childish way he variously begs and badgers China (via Twitter) to protect the United States from North Korea comes immediately to mind.

    But nothing is more dangerous in this respect than his ongoing schoolyard spat with Kim Jong-un, the “Chucky-like” dictator of North Korea.

    Granted, there was some politically redeeming value in Kim famously calling Trump a “dotard.” The problem with their war of words is that Kim invariably backs up his belligerent threats with action. This has led to the spectacle of Trump humiliating himself by repeatedly daring Kim to threaten the United States or test launch another ballistic missile, only to have Kim call his “fire-and-fury” bluff every time – complete with a barrage of insults.

    (As it happened, so many world leaders began calling the blustering Trump’s bluff that I marveled in “Russia, Iran, and North Korea Making Trump Look Like a Chump,” March 7, 2017.)

    Sure enough, Kim upped the ante just yesterday. Specifically, he had his foreign minister launch this conventional (verbal) bomb:

    With his bellicose and insane statement at the United Nations, Trump, you can say, has lit the wick of a war against us. We need to settle the final score, only with a hail of fire, not words.

    (ITAR-TASS News Agency, October 11, 2017)

    Alas, nobody should be surprised that the notoriously thin-skinned Trump has reduced the mighty United States to this kind of combustible tit-for-tat with a tin-pot dictatorship.

    Not to mention the irony in Trump lighting this wick just weeks after boasting that, thanks to his strong and smart leadership, North Korea was finally respecting the United States. Indeed, you should bear this humiliation in mind the next time you hear him boasting about a country “respecting the United States for the first time in as long as anyone can remember. Believe me!”

    Incidentally, reports are that North Korea generates so little electricity, satellite photos show it in virtual darkness sandwiched between the bright lights of China and South Korea. This is why I’ve always wondered how North Korea developed the capacity and capability to not only build a thriving nuclear arsenal but hack everything from Sony’s unreleased pictures to US-South Korea war plans. Things that make you go hmmm, no?

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

    President Donald Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the landmark international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, a senior administration official said on Thursday, in a step that potentially could cause the 2015 accord to unravel. …

    The prospect that Washington could renege on the pact, which was signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, has worried some of the US allies that helped negotiate it.

    ‘We as Europeans, have repeated … it’s impossible to reopen the agreement. Period.’

    (Reuters, October 5, 2017)

    Never mind autism, I suspect Trump is doing this because he’s a sociopath who is (1) unable to exercise sound judgment, (2) unable to control his tweeting impulses, (3) unable to appreciate the danger inherent in his ill-advised tweets and antics, and (4) unable to appreciate the consequences of those ill-advised tweets and antics.

    He was incensed by the arguments of Secretary of State Rex ­Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others that the landmark 2015 deal, while flawed, offered stability and other benefits. He did not want to certify to Congress that the agreement remained in the vital US national security interest and that Iran was meeting its obligations. …

    ‘McMaster realized we just cannot come back here next time with a binary option [so] he put his team to work on a range of other options, including a decertification option that would involve Congress’ and would not immediately break the deal.

    (Washington Post, October 11, 2017)

    So there you have it: The leader of the free world was throwing a temper tantrum because Iran was actually complying with its part of the deal. And his advisers devised decertification as nothing more than a pacifier to calm him down.

    Except that, while Trump is sucking away to his ego’s content, he’ll be isolating the United States with respect to sanctioning Iran – much as it was with respect to embargoing Cuba, when the world left the United States as the only country imposing its long-discredited embargo.

    But at least Trump is consistent. After all, he isolated the United States from the global effort to combat climate change when he withdrew from the Paris Accord; he isolated the United States from the world’s largest trade agreement when he withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership; and he isolated the United States from the global mission to promote development, literacy, sex education, cultural preservation, clean water, and gender equality when he withdrew (just yesterday) from UNESCO.

    Trump’s my-way-or-the-highway attitude towards international relations is isolating enough. But he’s turning friends into enemies by repeatedly calling all parties to this deal with Iran “incompetent fools” (a.k.a. clinical projection). This, of course, is utterly baffling; not least because he’s expecting these same parties to join him not only in renegotiating a new deal with Iran, but in negotiating a similar deal with North Korea. Only his un-diagnosed autism explains Trump thinking that hurling insults is the best way to win friends and influence people.

    In any event, the impulsive and reckless Trump would probably torpedo any negotiation with Iran, just as he has effectively done with North Korea.

    Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid … hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2017

    And that came just days after this:

    I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man… Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

    Having said all that, there’s no denying the dark force that is provoking nearly everything Trump does. That force, of course, is the enviable legacy of his predecessor, Barack Hussein Obama.

    In fact, nothing has defined Trump’s beleaguered presidency quite like his unabashed efforts to nullify or undermine Obama’s achievements.

    More than six months into his presidency, the number of bills Trump has signed stands at 53. Many have been passed through the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to roll back regulations imposed by the executive branch, and are aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s legislative legacy.

    (CNN, August 23, 2017)

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

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

    Mind you, it’s understandable that he resents the enviable acclaim Obama won for framing, marshaling, and striking this deal. Most notable is the way Obama exercised his executive authority to bypass Congress in doing so.

    Of course, Trump can exercise that same authority to decertify this deal. God knows that, as indicated above, he has already signed enough executive orders (50). This, despite the hypocrisy of repeatedly ridiculing Obama on the campaign trail for signing so many because “he can’t get anything done … can’t even get Democrats to agree with him.” At this point in his presidency, Obama had only signed 26 executive orders.

    But Trump is so shortsighted, he cannot see that building his presidential legacy solely on executive orders is tantamount to building a house of cards. Moreover, he’s too full of himself to appreciate that his successor can, and probably will, do to his legacy what he’s trying (to only marginal avail) to do to Obama’s.

    The point is that, instead of emulating Obama in this case, Trump is punting to Congress. It’s just the latest example of him “leading from behind” (or skirting his presidential duty), which belies his boasts about being a strong and smart leader.

    But there’s patent folly in Trump looking to this Congress to fulfill his promise to deal with Iran. Because anyone who knows anything about this Congress knows that this is even more fated for futility than looking to China fulfill his promise to deal with North Korea.

    Not to mention that prominent Republican members have already joined the other signatories in dismissing as a nonstarter any plan to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, which Trump’s decertification is supposed to trigger.

    This is why, like nearly every other policy initiative, Trump’s plan to decertify the Iran nuclear deal has more to do with him commanding media attention to beat his chest and pat himself on the back – for doing nothing more than creating confusion and fostering disillusion.

    Except that he will boldly claim that he is fulfilling another campaign promise – blithely ignoring that he promised to “rip up” this nuclear deal on day one of his presidency. Still, this bait and switch will reduce another of his campaign promises to little more than sound and fury signifying nothing.

    Again, if Trump were truly interested in keeping America safe, he would leave the deal in place – as every member of his national security has advised him to do. But, as it was with healthcare, climate change, international trade, and others:

    Trump’s executive orders seem drafted to either whitewash or undermine Obama’s accomplishments. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking that Trump has predicated his presidency on vindicating his birther conspiracy; you know, the one he peddled about Obama being an illegitimate interloper (a.k.a. an uppity African) who does not belong among the ranks of American presidents, certainly not in the top 10 as Obama seems destined to be ranked.

    (“Trump’s First 100 Days,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 1, 2017)

    Whatever the case, I am certain that, just like Obamacare, this nuclear deal will remain in force, despite Trump’s bedeviling efforts to nullify or undermine it.

    In the meantime, the world looks on with a mixture consternation and glee:

    • Consternation over the willingness of this president to sow chaos and forfeit his leadership (at home and abroad), seemingly unconcerned about the way he’s undermining bedrock domestic and international institutions, to say nothing of America’s credibility and goodwill; and
    • Glee over his “unravelling” under the pressure of his office, which, according to the current issue of Vanity Fair, has him cursing his own fecklessness by yelling to concerned advisers that “

    I hate everyone in the White House.

    Richard Nixon famously intoned that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” This seems the kind of self-deluding logic that animates Trump’s presidency. Most notably, he seems to think that because he says he is strong and smart, that means he is strong and smart.

    We know the fate that befell Nixon for thinking he was a law unto himself. I suspect a similar fate will befall Trump for thinking he is the strongest and smartest man in the world.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump chump
    fire and fury
    Sony hack
    leading from behind
    First 100 days

  • Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 7:22 AM

    Weinstein vs Trump: Hollywood more Righteous than Bible Belt…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    To quote The Freewheelin song by Bob Dylan,

    The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

    After all, when Harvey Weinstein was outed as a sexual predator last week, righteous indignation compelled Hollywood actors to rebuke him. By contrast, when Donald Trump was outed as a sexual predator last year, political opportunism compelled evangelical Christians to embrace him.

    But this oxymoronic state of moral consciousness is hardly surprising.

    After all, here is a little of what I wrote in “Evangelicals Supporting Donald Trump like Israelites Worshiping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016.

    __________________

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

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

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

    But Trump is probably best known for building a gilded tower in New York City as a monument to himself. And, given his delusions of grandeur, one could well imagine him challenging Jesus by channeling the Devil from atop that tower as follows:

    Finally, the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain. He showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. ‘If You bow down and worship me,’ he said, ‘I will give You all of this.’

    (Matthew 4:8)

    Of course, Jesus rebuked and then admonished the Devil to humble himself before God. You’d think Evangelicals would do what Jesus did, especially given that Trump challenges their Christian faith almost every day. Instead of rebuking and admonishing him, however, they invariably hail him as if he were, well, the second coming of Jesus Christ. …

    Again, it would be one thing if Trump troubled himself to show a little regard for their purported Christian values. But mean-spirited, bullying, even profane language is the feature attraction of his campaign rhetoric, which makes a mockery of those values. …

    Evangelicals are sacrificing their Christian faith at the altar of Trump’s political ambition. Moreover, they have ceded their moral authority to speak truth to power and champion family values until kingdom come. …

    I am constrained to ask: What will it profit an Evangelical if he gains Trump as president, but loses his own soul?

    ___________________

    Meanwhile, these Trump-supporting Evangelicals are compounding their apostasy with hypocrisy. For only this explains them leading the chorus of those damning Weinstein’s liberal friends (in Hollywood and Washington) for not rebuking him … fast enough.

    I fear a “jealous” God, so prone to “wrath,” cannot have mercy on their souls.

    Related commentaries:
    Evangelicals
    Weinstein

  • Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 8:37 AM

    Wildfires Rivaling Hurricanes…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here is how I began a commentary on the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States this season:

    No doubt this hurricane will leave a lot of devastation in his wake, which will likely include more (preventable) casualties. But it’s important to maintain some perspective. For example, it might be helpful to know that, as weather-related and other natural disasters go, seasonal wildfires cause far more devastation than seasonal hurricanes.

    (“Hurricane Harvey: Water, Water, Everywhere, But Not a Bone Should Sink,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 28, 2017)

    Sure enough:

    Wildfires engulfed more ground Tuesday across California’s wine country as firefighters struggled to contain wind-whipped flames that have killed at least [21] people, torched more than [3,500] homes and businesses and sent more than 20,000 people fleeing for safety.

    At least 15 separate blazes burned in nine Northern California counties, prompting evacuations that included patients in threatened hospitals. Efforts to contain the fires were helped some by calmer winds overnight; but emergency officials cautioned that the conditions, particularly winds that at times exceeded 50 mph, could exacerbate the wildfires in the days ahead.

    (Washington Post, October 10, 2017)

    I’ve been lamenting the unspoken symmetry between hurricanes and wildfires for years. But this excerpt from “Independence Day Marred by Wildfires and Power Outages,” July 4, 2012, explains why I am loath to comment too much on the latter.

    __________________

    I’m on record observing that wildfires are becoming as menacing to Western states as hurricanes have always been to Southern states. Never mind that far too many of these fires are ignited not by Mother Nature, but by human beings.

    Of course, I always feel sympathy for those who lose their homes, to say nothing of the firefighters who lose their lives – as four did just days ago. … But it’s becoming somewhat contrived to publish new commentaries on these annual outbreaks; a contrivance, incidentally, that is epitomized by cable news stations that cover these fires each year with eschatological, end-of-days enthusiasm.

    __________________

    All the same, I cannot resist this observation: America’s founding preamble states in part that “all men are created equal.” Yet there has probably never been more equality between rich and poor, white and non-white than there is today between Americans in Northern California’s wine country and those in Puerto Rico’s arrabales – who lost all of their worldly possessions to fire and hurricane, respectively.

    Of course, this patina of equality will be shattered soon enough. Because the government is displaying speed and competence as it helps rich Californians rebuild their lives, which stands in dispiriting contrast with the slow and incompetent way it has been helping poor Puerto Ricans.

    That said, perhaps nothing speaks to this unspoken symmetry quite like the deafening silence about these wildfires in President Trump’s Twitter feed: as of this writing, not a single tweet!

    Mind you, this shows just how disconnected he is to the goings-on in his own government. It also explains why he can give his government’s relief efforts in Puerto Rico an “A+.” This, despite the fact that over 90 percent of its people (all US citizens) still have no electricity, over 50 percent still have no water, and nearly 50 percent still have no phone service. Not to mention the looming health hazards posed by everything from lack of medicine and food to stray animals and unsanitary conditions across the island.

    Meanwhile, over in California, those are cinders that were their homes …

    But, evidently, Trump is too busy tweeting about black folks disrespecting the flag by kneeling, reverentially, during the national anthem. Never mind that he has yet to publish a single tweet about white folks disrespecting the flag by wearing it, irreverently, as everything from bikinis to bandanas. #Racist! #Hypocrite! #Idiot!

    Related commentaries:
    Harvey
    wildfires
    California’s fiery Katrina
    Kneeling … flag and anthem

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