• Wednesday, August 30, 2017 at 8:13 AM

    Myanmar Cleansing Rohingyas Like Sudan Cleansed Darfurians (Remember them?)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It seems the whole world is rubbernecking the “once-in-a-lifetime” floods that have tens of thousands of Texans fleeing their homes to seek temporary shelter in nearby venues.

    But it seems the whole world is turning a blind eye to the day-to-day atrocities that have tens of thousands of Rohingyas fleeing their homes to seek permanent refuge in nearby countries.

    Apropos of that blind eye, it just so happened that no less a person than President Trump mangled MLK’s famous proverb just days ago. Specifically, while reading prepared remarks on the tragedy white supremacists caused at their recent rally in Charlottesville, he said

    When one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together.

    (New York Times, August 21, 2017)

    Granted, Trump is probably too stupid to appreciate the universality of this proverb. Not to mention that it damns his America First rhetoric.

    But it follows from MLK’s proverb that a crime against humanity anywhere is a crime against humanity everywhere – including America. Trump’s speechwriters would surely concede this.

    Yet you’d be hard-pressed to hear even a mention of the genocidal crimes against Rohingyas on local or network TV news. Hell, these crimes haven’t even warranted a mention on the homepages of major news organizations, let alone the walls of social media. The BBC and Al Jazeera have always been notable exceptions.

    Actually, I had to google “Rohingyas” to come across a report on the back pages of CNN’s website. That report included the following:

    Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are fleeing their homes in Myanmar [a.k.a. Burma] and seeking refuge in Bangladesh. They’re escaping government ‘clearance operations.’ …

    ‘Based on the (Myanmar) army’s consistent response in the last couple of months, we know that they have committed mass killings, mass gang rape, (and) razed (Rohingya) villages. Reports of them opening fire on civilians is certainly plausible,’ [Matthew Smith, a founder and Chief Executive Officer of human rights group Fortify Rights told CNN].

    (CNN, August 28, 2017)

    As my related commentaries indicate, government forces and Buddhist monks have been engaged, jointly and severally, in cycles of repression and religious cleansing for years. Unfortunately, the Rohingya militants who retaliated earlier this week, killing 12 policemen, only exacerbated the ruthlessness of this latest cycle.

    At any rate, for a gut check on your own regard for that MLK proverb, ask yourself to what extent the plight of Rohingyas had entered your consciousness before reading about it here today.

    Alas, just as Trump has normalized insults, lies, and Twitter rants against political opponents, Myanmar has normalized bigotry, rapes, and mass murder against Rohingyas. And the disheartening irony is that it has done so with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human-rights activist, presiding as de facto leader.

    Not to mention that it’s debatable whether Buddhist monks or government forces are perpetrating the worst crimes against the Rohingyas. But I have decried the shocking and appalling inconsistency inherent in Buddhist monks behaving more like ISIS jihadists in a number of commentaries, including rather pointedly two years ago in “Buddhists Religiously Cleansing Myanmar of Muslims,” May 13, 2015.

    Still, for some of us, that others are turning a blind eye is no reason to ignore their plight. Indeed, this weblog is replete with commentaries sounding admittedly forlorn alarms about their suffering. For example, I was moved just months ago to publish “Aung San Suu Kyi Lording Over Myanmar’s Crimes Against Humanity,” March 10, 2017, which includes the following rebuke:

    ___________________

    Government forces have been perpetrating crimes against humanity for years in Myanmar, which rival those government forces have been perpetrating in South Sudan. Yet, while I suspect many of you have trending knowledge of the latter, I suspect few of you know anything of the former.

    No doubt this stems primarily from your lack of interest. But it also stems from a double standard in media coverage, which can be explained in one name: Aung San Suu Kyi. …

    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 …

    ___________________

    Incidentally, African and Syrian migrants are still turning the Mediterranean Sea into a cemetery. It seems the entire world was rubbernecking their death throes two years ago – as war and all manner of pestilence forced them to flee their homes to seek permanent refuge in Europe.

    But then it seems that, on a whim, the entire world began rubbernecking another natural disaster, Donald J. Trump. Even so, some of us continued sounding alarms about their ongoing plight – as “Truth about Viral Image of (Another) Syrian Boy,” August 24, 2016, attests.

    Enough said; for to comment any further would be tantamount to beating a dead horse, even for me.

    Except that I apparently rubbed many Americans the wrong way by urging readers – in my August 28 commentary on Hurricane Harvey – to maintain some perspective. I cited the fact that such floods have become as commonplace as mass shootings, noting the “historic” floods in California earlier this year that went virtually unnoticed.

    But I could have cited ongoing weather-related mudslides in Sierra Leone that have killed over a thousand or, perhaps more on point, Harvey-like floods in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh that have killed over 1200 and left millions homeless. Not to mention that, affirming the notable exception I referenced above, the BBC found space on its homepage today to feature a report under the provocative heading “Is there too much focus on Storm Harvey” – complete with this subheading: “Houston floods, but what about all the other disasters?”

    Yet there’s nothing more perverse in this context than so many people from poor countries inundating social media with expressions of sympathy for flood victims in Texas, while completely ignoring the far more deadly and despairing plight of these other flood victims

    In any event, I assured readers that, as historic as the floods in Texas might be, America has the resources to limit loss of life. Sure enough, Harvey’s floods have only killed a comparatively small number of 21 (as of this writing), and I suspect even those were easily preventable.

    On that defensive note, I hereby ask the following:

    As you consider donating to help shelter relatively rich and temporarily displaced Texans, please allocate a portion of your donation to help save utterly poor and permanently displaced Rohingyas. Actually, why not spare a dime for the others affected by natural and man-made disasters: US Campaign for Burma, UN Refugee Agency.

    Related commentaries:
    Charlottesville
    Aung San Suu Kyi…Myanmar
    Buddhists religiously cleansing
    Darfur
    Syrian and African migrants
    Hurricane Harvey

  • Monday, August 28, 2017 at 7:39 AM

    Hurricane Harvey: Water, Water, Everywhere, But Not a Bone Should Sink

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Harvey spun deeper into Texas and unloaded extraordinary amounts of rain Saturday after the once-fearsome hurricane crashed into vulnerable homes and businesses along the coastline in a blow that killed at least two people and injured up to 14. …

    By Sunday, hundreds of rescues had already been made in Houston, and many more were expected as rescuers battling severe weather and heavy downpours tried hard to reach those left stranded. Authorities did not know the full scope of damage because weather conditions prevented emergency crews from getting into the hardest-hit places – and they dreaded the destruction that was yet to come.

    (CBS News, August 27, 2017)

    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.

    Mind you, nothing compels perspective quite like Chicken-Little reporters “wading” through ankle-deep water, while trying to convince viewers that they are reporting on a flood of biblical proportions.

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

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

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

    Of course, there are areas where people are wading through waist-deep water to get to shelter. But they are very likely among those who willfully ignored evacuation orders.

    Storm surges, biblical rains, and high winds are all conspiring for what could be the worst storm to touch the United States since Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma pummeled the Southeast 12 years ago. …

    But there’s no amount of messaging that will get 100 percent of a population to evacuate. …

    ‘A lot of people are taking this storm for granted, thinking it may not pose much of a danger to them,’ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told Huston reporters Thursday.

    (Vox News, August 25, 2017)

    Meanwhile, given all of the media focus on how President Trump is doing, you’d think he were the eye of this storm. I get that, like President Obama, he’s trying to show that he can pass this test of leadership, which President George W. Bush failed so spectacularly during Hurricane Katrina.

    What I don’t get is why the media are hailing Trump. After all, he’s doing little more than tweeting cheerleading platitudes from his comfortable presidential retreat at Camp David, where he’s probably spending as much time on the golf driving range as he is on his tweet sending phone.

    Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen. Good news is that we have great talent on the ground. …

    I will be going to Texas as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety.

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017

    Yet, even in the midst of supposedly showing concern for those affected, he could not resist making it about his primary and abiding concern: himself. For here is what he tweeted just 15 minutes later:

    I will also be going to a wonderful state, Missouri, that I won by a lot in ’16….

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2017

    Hell, by this standard, instead of panning Bush, the media should have hailed him.

    After all, he was so concerned about conditions on the ground during Katrina, he instructed Air Force One to fly over the affected areas to see them for himself.

    Anyway, given the media’s wall-to-wall coverage of this “historic” event, you’d never know that “biblical floods” have become as commonplace as mass shootings.

    2016 really was the year of the flood in the US: In total, 19 separate floods swamped the nation last year, the most in one single year since records began in 1980. …

    The worst flood was in August in Louisiana. At least 13 people were killed and roughly 60,000 buildings were destroyed. The disaster cost $10 billion, Munich Re reported, which noted it was the worst natural catastrophe in the US since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

    (USA Today, January 4, 2017)

    As it happens, floods devastated parts of California earlier this year, much as they are devastating parts of Texas today:

    The storms that have pummeled California since January are part of an atmospheric rive event that has brought major flooding and damage to parts of Northern California. …

    People in the small town of Maxwell, northwest of Sacramento and west of the town of Oroville, had to be evacuated on Sunday, February 19 after flood waters hit most of the area. …

    Rescuers launched rafts and used a helicopter to search for residents cut off by rising water.

    (Curbed San Francisco, February 20, 2017)

    Yet browse the Trump Twitter Archive and you’ll see that he couldn’t even be bothered to publish a perfunctory tweet as storms were pummeling California – not even during the entire month of February when they were at their most devastating. He was too busy tweeting up a storm with fake news about how much he had already done to “Make America Great Again.” Never mind that, for Trump, every new thing is “something the likes of which nobody has ever seen before.”

    So forgive me if I dismiss as “fake news” all of the media reports about the commendable leadership Trump is demonstrating during these floods. Which compels me to suggest that, instead of watching stations peddle the same footage over and over again as “Breaking News,” you might want to check out some of the other 900 channels in your cable TV package.

    I am mindful that I might appear insensitive (i.e., towards the plight of those affected). But I grew up in the Caribbean. And, even though Harvey spared us, our islands have served as a buffer zone for many of the worst hurricanes to ever hit US shores, including Katrina.

    I could not help breaking out in gallows laughter when a concerned American friend asked if [we] ever received evacuation orders. Her concern coincided with governors of states along the eastern seaboard of the United States ordering mandatory evacuations for coastal residents to shelter ‘100 miles inland.’

    But the reason I could not help laughing is that issuing an evacuation order in the Caribbean to escape a hurricane is rather like issuing an evacuation order in China to escape the smog. Where the hell would they go? After all, if people on most islands were to evacuate 100 miles inland, they’d end up either in the Caribbean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean.

    (“Hurricane Mathew,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 8, 2016)

    With that point of privilege, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the floods covering Texas today.

    Related commentaries:
    Hurricanes
    Hurricane Mathew

  • Sunday, August 27, 2017 at 9:18 AM

    UPDATE: Mayweather TKOs McGregor

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am betting on uppity Conor McGregor, 29, to beat regal Floyd Mayweather, 40, at his own game.

    (“What Will It Profit Floyd Mayweather to Scam Another $200-300m But Lose…?” The iPINIONS Journal, August 26, 2017)

    I lost.

    In the 10th round of a surprisingly competitive fight, Mayweather backed McGregor onto the ropes with a series of rights and lefts. McGregor’s face was completely bloodied. He was about to fall through the ropes, and the referee stepped in to stop the fight with 1:55 remaining in the round. …

    The victory improved Mayweather’s record to 50-0, and allowed the typically defensive fighter to say farewell in thrilling fashion in what he said was his last fight.

    (New York Times, August 27, 2017)

    Mayweather is an ostentatious jerk. But there’s no denying his Boxing skills – complete with stamina that enabled this “old man” (40) to make his young opponent (29) look like an old drunk in the later rounds. There’s also no denying his uncanny smarts – complete with promotional stunts that would make P.T. Barnum green with envy.

    What’s more, it’s patently obvious that, for him, depositing hundreds of millions in his bank account will more than compensate for any loss (of face or integrity) he may have suffered in the ring: “a surprisingly competitive fight” indeed.

    Incidentally, McGregor seems more interested in emulating Mayweather’s ostentatious displays and promotional stunts than his Boxing skills. Therefore, where the three-ring circus this sport has become is concerned, the show will go on.

    Mayweather made a point of announcing his retirement with immediate effect. And he wants everyone to believe that he really means it this time. I don’t. But I’m happy to play along to the extent of congratulating him for racking up the best record in Boxing history.

    I wish him well. I just hope he has enough sense to stay in retirement to avoid any further blemishes on his record.

    Related commentaries:
    What will it profit

  • Saturday, August 26, 2017 at 8:43 AM

    What Will It Profit Floyd Mayweather to Scam Another $200-300m but Lose…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yes, I am betting on uppity Conor McGregor, 29, to beat regal Floyd Mayweather, 40, at his own game. They face off at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas tomorrow night.

    The undefeated all-time pound-for-pound great Floyd Mayweather, he of 12 world titles in five weight classes, will exit a two-year retirement for one fight to face UFC star Conor McGregor, who is crossing over to boxing from MMA for a fight that was initially just a germ in his mind when he brought up the possibility in a 2015 television interview. …

    The fight makes no logical sense. Mayweather is a legendary boxer and supreme defender who will be boxing against an opponent who is outstanding in the Octagon, but a novice in the ring and making his pro debut.

    (ESPN, August 25, 2017)

    And no, Mayweather is not the first boxer to make a farce of his sport by participating in a mongrel bout like this. For he can cite no less a boxer than Muhammad Ali as inspiration – given the scam Ali pulled off when he fought Japanese “wrestler” Antonio Inoki in 1976.

    Nothing is more telling about Ali ‘inside the ring’ than the fact that he does not even rank among boxers with the ‘greatest unbeaten record of all time.’ That distinction belongs to the likes of Joe Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs), Rocky Marciano (49-0, 43 KOs), and Floyd Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs). Surely any of these boxers has a more legitimate claim to the title as the greatest fighter of all time than Ali (56-5, 37 KOs).

    (“Muhammad Ali, Celebrated Boxer and Conscientious Objector, Is Dead,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 5, 2016)

    To be fair, MMA fans probably think McGregor is making a farce of his sport too.

    I am no boxing analyst. I’m not even much of a fan. In fact, ever since “The Bite Fight” between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in 1997, I have refused on principle to spend any money to watch any of these overhyped farcical events on PPV.

    One can hardly blame so many in the arena for booing. After all, they paid a veritable fortune for what amounted to watching these fighters play a chess match.

    Except that, by definition, the outcome of everything in [Las Vegas], the gambling mecca of the world, is a crapshoot. Not to mention that these same suckers will be front and center for the next ‘fight of the century.’

    (“Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: Evil Triumphs … Again,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 3, 2015)

    Sure enough, here we are.

    So here’s my take on this fight: Mayweather will clearly display superior boxing skills – complete with the defensive instincts of an alley cat. But McGregor has predatory instincts to match. What’s more, Mayweather’s geriatric punches will land like butterfly touches, which McGregor will brush off all night; whereas McGregor’s dynamic punches will land with such power that one haymaker and it’ll be lights out for Mayweather.

    Of course, the odds are such that a McGregor win would easily rank as the biggest upset in Boxing history. But its social impact would rival Jack Johnson becoming the first black heavyweight Boxing champion, or even Barack Obama becoming the first black president of the United States.

    Meanwhile, Floyd “The Money Team (TMT)” Mayweather is so obsessed with money, he’d probably sell his soul if, like this fight, it guaranteed hundreds of millions more for him to waste on fast cars and loose women – his undefeated record be damned. Besides, I gather it does more for his self-esteem to chronicle his decadent splurges on social media than defeating 49 challengers in the ring ever did, or could.

    Alas, McGregor seems bound to beat Mayweather in this dubious arena of human folly too, which speaks volumes about the character of far too many athletes these day.

    Frankly, the only reason I’m bothering to comment is that I see this fight as more of a human tragedy than a sports event. For, above all, it compels me to lament that no amount of wealth seems sufficient to stop men like Mayweather from sacrificing every ounce of their integrity to acquire more.

    NOTE: God help those feeling the wrath of Hurricane Harvey this weekend. But the silver lining in its dark clouds is that obsessive media coverage of its destruction will spare us similar coverage of the fallout from this fight.

    Related commentaries:
    Muhammad Ali
    Mayweather vs Pacquiao scam

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 5:58 p.m.

  • Friday, August 25, 2017 at 7:35 AM

    Trump’s America Showing ‘Shades’ of Hitler’s Germany…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Comparisons between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler are fast becoming a mainstream media meme.

    Just this week

    • Representative John Garamendi (D-CA), a seasoned member of the Armed Services Committee, voiced concerns on Wednesday’s edition of CNN’s The Situation Room about Trump “using Nazi tactics” – like demonizing the press;
    • The former British ambassador to the United States, Sir Peter Westmacott, compared Trump’s improbable rise to Hitler’s, warning in the August 23 edition of the Huffington Post of “shades of 1933 Germany”; and
    • The cover of the current issue of Stern, a highly respected German magazine, crystallized this meme by featuring Trump giving a Nazi salute with the American flag draped over him – like a KKK robe.

    But some of us were drawing these foreboding comparisons long before Trump became president. Here, for example, is what I wrote in “Republicans Bewailing Trump as Their Nominee; Democrats Hailing Hillary as Theirs,” June 8, 2016.

    __________________

    [Republicans] spent the nominating process accusing Trump of displaying all kinds of disqualifying traits, notably those of a ‘racist [and] Islamophobe,’ a ‘pathological liar,’ a ‘con artist,’ a ‘dangerous narcissist,’ and a ‘wannabe dictator’ – who, among other things, has threatened to punish his media critics if he’s elected president. …

    Except that their hatred of Hillary is such that – as soon as plainly uninformed and gullible voters elected him the nominee of their party – these same leaders turned on a dime and endorsed Trump, love of country be damned. …

    But Republican leaders would do well to remember that Nazi leaders endorsed Adolf Hitler in the early 1930s, notwithstanding his disqualifying traits – notably those of a genocidal anti-Semite. We all know how that turned out and, more to the point, how history judged those leaders. These Republican leaders are sheepishly running the risk of being judged in similar fashion.

    __________________

    But, thanks to the lessons of history, I am convinced that Trump will end up like Nixon long before the shades of Nazism he’s casting over America become the dark clouds Hitler visited upon Germany. I foreshadowed this in “Channeling Nixon, Trump Fires FBI Director,” May 9, 2017

    ___________________

    Only one other president in US history had the authoritarian gall to fire the public officials investigating his alleged high crimes and misdemeanors. That president, of course, was Richard M. Nixon – who infamously justified his authoritarian behavior as follows:

    Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.

    (Frost/Nixon Interview, May 1977)

    Alas, brazen lies, contradictions, and hypocrisies have become routine features of [Trump’s] presidency – just as they were of his campaign. Indeed, firing Director Comey to restore public confidence in the FBI, as Trump claims, is every bit as Orwellian as throwing journalists in jail to protect the freedom of the press.

    This is why I can only reiterate my forlorn hope that Republican politicians will stand up to Trump (beginning with a clarion call for a special prosecutor) – just as they stood up to Nixon, and thereby precipitated his downfall.

    __________________

    Sure enough, less than 10 days later, on May 17, Trump’s own Justice Department appointed a special prosecutor. I duly hailed this silver lining in “Special Prosecutor Appointed to Investigate Trump-Russia Ties. Checkmate!” May 18, 2017.

    Stay tuned.

    Related commentaries:
    Republicans bewailing
    Channeling Nixon
    Special prosecutor

  • Thursday, August 24, 2017 at 7:50 AM

    Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn Latest Celebrities Crying Foul over Hacked Nudes

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I feel obliged to state from the outset that I couldn’t care less what consenting adults do, so long as it poses no harm to others. This is why I’m on record calling for the legalization of drugs and prostitution.

    That said:

    Tiger Woods has threatened to sue a celebrity smut site and the as-yet-unidentified person who stole and leaked nude photos of ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn and a full-frontal image of the pro golfer.

    Looks as if that threat is not yet getting the job done.

    As of 9:30 a.m. PDT Tuesday, photos and a video of Vonn, the photo of Woods and dozens of shots of additional victims — Miley Cyrus, Kristen Stewart, Katharine McPhee and Stella Maxwell — remained live on a website that was cited by TMZ in its Monday report of the breach and the legal threat.

    (Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2017)

    Silly me, I thought the bonding feature of Tiger and Lindsey’s relationship was sharing tips for competition, not pics for titillation. But this sharing of cheap thrills just provides further insight into why their relationship couldn’t last. I commented on their split in “Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn Call It Quits? Duh,” May 6, 2015.

    But frankly, I no longer have any sympathy for celebrities who are still falling victim to prurient hacking. We’ve all had fair notice of the risks inherent in taking and sharing nude photos. More to the point, here is how I vented indignation in this context years ago in “Nudes of Celebrities, Including J-Law and Kate Upton, Hacked. No Sh!+,” September 1, 2014.

    _________________

    What is most noteworthy about this story is that such nudes even exist. You’d think that — after the truly shocking publication of hacked nudes of Vanessa Hudgens years ago — other celebrities would not give hackers the opportunity to do to them what they did to her. Not to mention all of the instructive reports/warnings about hacking that have been published almost daily since then.

    Yet reports indicate that, these days, all young celebrities take compromising nudes, which they store on their iPhones or leave floating around in cyberspace (in the ‘iViolated’ iCloud). One could be forgiven the impression they think what happened to Vanessa is something devoutly to be wished.

    Any celebrity expressing outrage at being ‘violated’ in this way is either too stupid or reckless to be worthy of any sympathy.

    _________________

    This is why nude-sharing celebrities who cry foul over being hacked are only slightly less disingenuous than social-media fiends who cry foul over being trolled (Exhibit A: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s Instagramming, ‘Marie-Antoinette’ wife.) And their misguided outrage is only made contemptible when they threaten frivolous lawsuits.

    Never mind that it’s patently pointless to take legal action to get a website to take down nude photos. For this is rather like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, or like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. Choose your idiom. The cat’s out of the bag.

    Incidentally, I say “no longer” because here is the more sympathetic view I shared six years ago in “Hacking Nude Photos of Celebrities,” September 16, 2011.

    __________________

    I see nothing wrong with even ‘good girls,’ like Vanessa Hudgens and Scarlett Johansson, taking nude selfies to share electronically with their lucky boyfriends. I distinguish them from ‘bad girls,’ like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, who do the same (and a lot more), and then arrange for them to be ‘hacked’ for purely commercial purposes.

    The paparazzo who hacked nude photos from ScarJo’s phone and sold them to a celebrity website should be prosecuted. … We all have a reasonable expectation that strangers will not be tapping our phone conversations. That same expectation obtains with respect to hacking pictures from our phones.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, even though a prostitute sells her body, she has every right to object to being raped. Likewise, even though an actress appears nude in films, she has every right to object to her nude photos being hacked.

    That said, I looked at the hacked photos at issue … for purely editorial purposes. ScarJo looks more like a Botticelli muse than a Playboy playmate in all of them.

    Therefore, instead of demanding an FBI investigation, she would’ve been well-advised to let these sleeping dogs lie.

    _________________

    Yes, I looked at the hacked photos at issue here too. With respect to Lindsey, no comment.

    With respect to Tiger, reports are that his recent poor play and DUI arrest had him feeling small. But it appears he has always had an anatomical reason for feeling so.

    Apropos of which, I should note that I only publish hacked information that serves a compelling public interest. Nude photos of celebrities clearly do not qualify.

    But hacked e-mails showing scientists raising doubts about data related to climate change or exposing public officials with secret offshore bank accounts do, hence “Climate-Gate” E-mails Expose Scientific Doubt about Climate Change,” December 4, 2009, and “Leaked ‘Panama Papers’ Affirm more than Reveal OffShore Banking Secrets,” April 6, 2016, respectively.

    Related commentaries:
    Prostitution a victimless crime
    DC Madam lays down
    Tiger and Lindsey split
    J-Law and Kate Upton
    Tiger DUI
    Hacking nude photos
    Climate-gate
    Panama papers

  • Tuesday, August 22, 2017 at 7:47 AM

    Trump Aping ‘Stupid’ Obama Who Aped “Crusading” Bush on War in Afghanistan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Like Obama, Trump made ending America’s longest war a signature promise of his presidential campaign.

    We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2013

    Now, like Obama, he’s reneging on that promise just months into his presidency.

    President Trump on Monday sought to rally the nation in support of a new strategy for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, taking greater ownership of a protracted conflict that he had long dismissed as a waste of time and resources. …

    ‘From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they emerge.’ …

    Trump did not specify how many more troops will be sent to Afghanistan, but congressional officials said the administration has told them it will be about 4,000.

    (Washington Post, August 21, 2017)

    Trust me, despite his kumbaya preamble and trademark bluster, Trump’s plan for victory amounts to nothing more than a continuation of Obama’s, which amounted to nothing more than a continuation of Bush’s.

    At least Bush and Obama had a clear understanding of their respective plans and demonstrated a good faith belief that it might work. Nobody can say the same even of this straitjacketed Teleprompter Don – in either respect.

    For example, he made much ado about announcing that “conditions on the ground,” not arbitrary timetables, will determine the withdrawal of US troops. But, past being prologue, conditions on the ground are bound to remain such that US troops could be mired in Afghanistan for the next 200 years, trying to no avail to accomplish Trump’s definition of victory.

    Arguably, scientists will cure cancer before soldiers defeat terrorism. And, lest we forget, this is the same Trump who often scoffed that troops would be mired in Afghanistan for 200 years if “stupid” presidents like Bush and Obama had their way.

    Incidentally, wasn’t the mother of all bombs (MOAB), which the US dropped on Afghanistan in April, supposed to change conditions on the ground, decisively…?

    Then there’s the manifest absurdity of relying on Pakistan to help with Afghanistan the way he relied on China to help with North Korea. After all, anyone who knows anything about Pakistan’s nefarious involvement in Afghanistan knows that it is even less likely to help, especially given Trump’s provocative invitation for its archrival India to help too.

    I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2017

    And one has to wonder about Trump’s conspicuous failure to mention any measures to counter the destabilizing influence Russia  and Iran are wielding in this country.

    Russia

    The Taliban have received improved weaponry in Afghanistan that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government, according to exclusive videos obtained by CNN, adding weight to accusations by Afghan and American officials that Moscow is arming their one-time foe in the war-torn country.

    US generals first suggested they were concerned the Russian government was seeking to arm the Afghan insurgents back in April, but images from the battlefield here corroborating these claims have been hard to come by. …

    Two separate sets of Taliban, one in the north and another in the west, claim to be in possession of the weapons, which they say were originally supplied by Russian government sources.

    (CNN, July 25, 2017)

    Iran

    In arming the Taliban, the Iranians are only doing to the Americans today what the Americans did to the Russians during the 1980s (when they were fighting an equally ill-fated war in Afghanistan). Anyone familiar with the derring-dos of Congressman Charlie Wilson, all of which are documented in Charlie Wilson’s War, knows this.

    Karma: it’s a bitch!

    (“Iran Arming America’s Enemies in Afghanistan,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 10, 2009)

    Since launching my weblog 13 years ago, I have written countless commentaries decrying the folly of America’s involvement in Afghanistan. They range from “Meanwhile, Over in Afghanistan: Snatching Defeat from the Hands of Victory,” September 18, 2006, to “Three More Americans Die for ‘Mistake’ in Afghanistan,” June 12, 2017.

    But here is a seminal excerpt from “Without (or Even With) More Troops, Failure in Afghanistan is Likely,” September 23, 2009. In a curious bit of symmetry, I wrote it around this time in Obama’ presidency – after he announced his fateful plan to ape Bush.

    _________________

    [N]ation building in Afghanistan (even under the guise of a ‘counterinsurgency strategy’) is no longer advisable or feasible. Indeed, all indications are that the die has been cast for this ‘good war.’

    Accordingly, US legacy there will be distinguished either by a terminally wounded national pride – as American forces beat a hasty retreat in defeat (following the Russian precedent), or by thousands more American soldiers being lost in Afghanistan’s ‘graveyard of empires’ – as they continue fighting this unwinnable war (following America’s own Vietnam precedent): more troops only mean more sitting ducks for Taliban fighters. …

    Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and retreat ASAP; let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and rely on Special Forces to disrupt and dismantle Taliban and al-Qaeda operations in country and on aerial drones to attack their havens in the mountainous regions of Pakistan.

    ___________________

    Obviously, Trump would be well-advised to do the same. Unfortunately, like Bush and Obama, he seems determined to repeat the mistakes US presidents made during the Vietnam War. Only this vietnamization explains Trump’s military advisers thinking that 15,000 troops can do what 150,000 could not. Crazy!

    And all this just because the generals invariably convince each president they serve that he does not want to go down in history as the president who lost this war. Again, crazy!

    By the way, Steve Bannon is the nationalist White House adviser who got fired last week. He was reportedly advising Trump to “privatize US operations in Afghanistan.” But this outsourcing smacks of the Banana-Republic madness that has the president of the Philippines relying on vigilantes to fight that country’s war on drugs – with all of the reckless and feckless carnage that entails.

    Not to mention suspicions that Bannon hoped to get kickbacks from the bounty of $10 billion annually, which his favored contractor, latter-day Viking Erik Prince, would charge the US government for his militia’s mercenary services.

    In any event, it has been self-evident from the outset of this war that non-Taliban Afghans are all too happy to let the Americans fight their battles.

    But the longer American soldiers remain mired in this unwinnable war, the more they will undermine the American military’s reputation of invincibility. And the more they undermine that reputation, the more not just the Taliban but tin-pot dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un will feel emboldened to fight the United States – Trump’s “fire and fury” bluster notwithstanding.

    Of course, it hardly instills fear in any adversary to have merchant ships and oil tankers ramming US battleships out of commission.

    The US Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    It was the second major collision in the past few months involving the Navy’s 7th Fleet. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

    (Washington Post, August 21, 2017)

    To be fair, US soldiers have shown valor beyond the call of duty during this 16-year war. But it should be instructive that, despite their best efforts, military advisers readily admit that America is “not winning.” Indeed, you’d think even warmongering generals would be loath to waste more blood and treasure waging it – given the 2,250 soldiers already killed and nearly $1 trillion already spent.

    Except that, based on the Vietnam toll of 58,000 killed, I suspect military advisers would consider another 2,250 killed over the next 16 years an “acceptable loss.” And everything we know about the military industrial complex suggests that they would not care how much it costs to continue waging this forever war.

    Nevertheless:

    Why should the United States be any more willing to keep troops stationed in Afghanistan to defend it from the Taliban than it was to keep them stationed in Vietnam to defend it from the Viet Cong? Especially given that the spread of communism posed a far greater existential threat to the United States back then than the spread of jihadism poses today. Hell, we have more to fear from the mercenary ideology of the NRA than the religious ideology of Islamic Jihad.

    (“Obama, Nobel Peace Laureate, Seals Legacy as Wartime President,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 13, 2016)

    Incidentally, it’s patently specious to justify continued US involvement in Afghanistan by citing US troops still stationed in post-war Germany. For starters, “post-war” is the operative distinction. Moreover, those troops never had Nazis trying to kill them while they were trying to help other Germans rebuild their country (namely West Germany).

    Unfortunately, political reporters and pundits are too busy covering the silly folly of the fired Bannon threatening internecine “war” within the Republican Party to focus on the tragic follies of this war.

    Finally, you’d be forgiven the impression that Trump looked more like a Saturday Night Live caricature of himself than a commander in chief as he addressed the nation tonight. No doubt recent reports on members of his own Republican Party questioning not just his moral authority and professional competence but even his mental stability reinforced this impression. Trump’s Nazi-coddling statements on the August 12 terrorist attack in Charlottesville proved the tipping point for their belated questioning.

    Apropos of which, if the real mission of tonight’s address was to put a MLK spin on those statements: Mission Accomplished.

    NOTE: The only way to stop American presidents these days from sending kids to die in politically motivated wars is to reinstate the Draft, which I argued for in “Support the Draft to Prevent Stupid Wars,” March 14, 2007.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 10:34 p.m.

  • Monday, August 21, 2017 at 7:43 AM

    Rio’s Olympian Hangover Ends in Bankruptcy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The 2016 Rio Olympics ended a year ago today. Unfortunately, its legacy is proving more of a poisoned chalice than a source of national pride.

    In fact, when all is said and done, I fear the most significant medal from Rio will be the silver it seems doomed to win for the biggest boondoggle in the history of sports.

    In “Putin Turns $51 billion Sochi Olympic Park into a Racetrack?!” October 15, 2014, I posited that the 2014 Sochi Olympics has a lock on gold for shameful Olympic legacies. The 2004 Athens Olympics is on track to win bronze. Except that it could be overtaken if the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ever awards the Summer Games to another city in a developing country. (More on that later!)

    After the athletes left Rio, so too did the optimism as political scandals, including millions of pounds of public money allegedly stolen in bribes for Olympic constructions projects, plunged the country into economic chaos.

    Rio de Janeiro itself declared itself bankrupt just days after the Olympics closing ceremony, with no more money to pay suppliers to the Games, while hospitals, schools and the police have borne the brunt of drastic cuts to public services. …

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the short-changed people of Rio are today left wondering exactly how the Games improved their lives.

    (Daily Mail, August 19, 2017)

    Of course, the saddest part is that Brazilian leaders knew Rio’s legacy would be thus. Even ordinary Brazilians knew, not least because they were already suffering broken legacy promises, which hosting the 2014 World Cup left in its wake.

    No doubt this is why, instead of celebrating with anticipation, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians were protesting in frustration in the run up to these Games. Yet Rio organizers continued hyping legacy benefits. This showed not only what they thought of ordinary Brazilians, but also their willful intent to host these games as little more than a vainglorious boondoggle – the “general welfare” be damned.

    As it happened, I commented on those protesters wailing to no avail in “Rio Olympics: The Opening Ceremony,” August 6, 2016.

    ___________________

    [R]oving protests betray the abiding fact that, far from feeling national pride, the vast majority of Brazilians actually resent hosting these Olympics.

    One can hardly blame them. After all, these folks have been perennially marginalized. And now they’ve been gentrified and quarantined in squalid favelas to make room for new Olympic venues and related facilities. …

    Not to mention that most Brazilians are likely to enjoy none of the purported legacy benefits. Indeed, like those of so many host cities (notably Munich, Athens, and Sochi), Rio’s Olympic venues seem destined to live on as white elephants or eyesores. …

    Brazilians need only look at the poisoned chalice Athens 2004 turned out to be for the Greeks. After all, the debt hangover from those Games not only triggered the EU financial crisis of 2010, but austerity measures to service that debt have many once-proud, middle-class Greeks now living like favela-dwelling Brazilians.

    ___________________

    Swimming is my favorite Olympic sport. Therefore, nothing is more heartbreaking in this respect than seeing images of the venue where Michael Phelps ended his storied career already looking like the abandoned venue where Mark Spitz ended his nearly 50 years ago.

    But all venues have suffered such neglect and decay that Rio’s Olympic Park now looks like a zombie paradise.

    Seven months after Rio de Janeiro hosted the first Olympic Games in South America, many of the expensive venue sites remain abandoned.

    Getty image photojournalist Mario Tama recently captured images of the decaying structures that were promised by organizers to be a legacy benefit to the citizens of Brazil. From the degraded golf courses and swimming pools to an abandoned gondola line, the photos look less like the past home of a worldwide event and more like scenes from The Walking Dead.

    (Huffington Post, March 21, 2017)

    As indicated above, the IOC bears some blame for using its imprimatur to help Rio peddle its Olympian pipe dreams. For IOC members knew as surely as Rio organizers did that those dreams would end in the ruins now littering that city.

    But the IOC can thank its lucky stars that Tokyo, Paris, and Los Angeles will be hosting the next three Summer Games, respectively. Because those cities are hardly likely to end up with Rio’s bankrupt legacy.

    Unfortunately, this militates against the IOC ever awarding the Olympics to a city in another developing country again. Given the hangover Athens suffered, you’d think this would have been a lesson learned

    Mind you, Rio is not the first city in a developing country to host the Summer Games. That distinction belongs to the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

    The political strife that attended those Games – notably the black power salute and the lesser known Tlatelolco massacre – marred Mexico’s legacy. But it has fared as well as host cities like Los Angeles and London when it comes to legacy benefits. This is self-evident given that Olympic venues like the Estadio Azteca and other stadiums, which hosted soccer events, and the Alberca Olímpica Francisco Márquez, which hosted swimming and diving, have been in constant use ever since.

    In fact, the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) resorted to Mexico City to host the 1975 Pan American Games after everything from financial woes to political strife forced two other Latin American cities, Santiago and São Paulo, to withdraw. The IOC probably should have seen this as a red flag. But this is not the forum to explain why Mexico succeeded as a host city where others in developing countries failed.

    To be fair, though, even host cities in developed countries should beware that Olympian promises of legacy benefits often provide comfort to fools. Exhibit A in this respect is the 1972 Munich Olympics I alluded to above. For its venues suffered such neglect and decay that this city was competing with Athens for that bronze medal.

    In any event, the IOC should henceforth require bidding cities to meet legacy sustainability criteria. Foremost, they should have to demonstrate that they can repurpose and maintain all Olympic venues and related infrastructure for at least 10 years after the Closing Ceremony. Failure to show this kind of fiduciary care would risk the IOC becoming as bankrupt morally as Rio has become financially.

    Finally, I’d be remiss not to note the irony in Rio’s zombified Olympic legacy. After all, this is the city where millions go annually to revel in Carnival. What’s more, the only hangover symptom it ever suffers is the headache of having to clean up the mess revelers leave behind.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, August 19, 2017 at 8:38 AM

    Carnage in Barcelona: Terrorists Strike Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Spain was hit by its worst terrorist attack in more than a decade on Thursday, when a van driver plowed into dozens of people enjoying a sunny afternoon on one of Barcelona’s most famous thoroughfares, killing at least 13 people and leaving 80 bloodied on the pavement.

    Hours later, the Catalan police said they foiled a second vehicular attack, in the seaside town of Cambrils, 70 miles to the south, fatally shooting four people. …

    The Barcelona attack was at least the sixth time in the past few years that assailants using vehicles as deadly weapons have struck a European city.

    (New York Time, August 17, 2017)

    Truth be told, the groundhog-day nature of this attack is such that I can do no better than to reprise a little of what I wrote a year ago in “Carnage in Nice: France Attacked … Again,” July 15, 2016.

    __________________

    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)

    __________________

    It might be helpful to keep this in mind when you hear or read reports about the latest terrorist attack. And it hardly matters if the weapon of choice is a bomb, vehicle, gun, or knife (as was the case in Finland just this morning when a terrorist went on a stabbing spree, killing two and injuring eight). The terror these attacks inflict is just the same.

    Sadly, besides sending reflexive tweets, which invariably promote the Twitterer more than comfort the victims, all any of us can do in the face of this new norm is to intone the Bradfordian prayer:

    There but for the grace of God go I.

    But, whatever you do, keep calm, carry on, and be not afraid.

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  • Friday, August 18, 2017 at 8:23 AM

    Washington Monument, Father of all Monuments to Racists…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Fallout from the KKK and other white supremacists rearing their ugly heads in Charlottesville last weekend is taking many forms. Most notable is the way cities across America are removing monuments to Confederate leaders as if they were suddenly emitting a deadly airborne virus.

    Remarkably, no less a person than President Trump is acting as pleader-in-chief for cities to leave these “beautiful statues and monuments” alone. But, in so many ways, this walking monument to racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. might be emitting the deadliest virus of them all. Sure enough, impeachment proceedings are afoot in Congress to remove him … too.

    But here is what I wrote about this frenzied reaction in “White Supremacy: The Tragedy and Folly of Charlottesville,” August 14, 2017.

    _________________

    I can think of 99 things that bother me about racism in America today, but a Confederate statue ain’t one. If challenged to resolve this dilemma, however, I would think the only politically tenable, even if morally specious, way to do so would be to focus on the Civil War, bearing in mind the maxims: to the victor go the spoils and the victors write history. …

    The Civil War was supposed to marginalize the racist ideology that rationalized black slavery and white supremacy. It failed. Nothing demonstrated this quite like the hundreds of monuments vanquished Southerners erected to honor those who fought and died to preserve this racist ideology. It’s particularly noteworthy that they did this in reaction to and defiance of racial advancement during the period from Reconstruction in the 1860s to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s (a.k.a. the Jim Crow period). They erected the Lee statue at issue in 1924, for example.

    _________________

    Given this frenzy, I cannot resist sharing my abiding unease about the Washington Monument. Granted, construction began in 1848, long before the Jim Crow period that gave rise to Confederate monuments. But it is noteworthy that builders did not don its crowning cone until 1888, when Jim Crow was in its formative years.

    More to the point, if you’ve ever wondered where KKK wizards got the idea for their white hoods, here’s my take from “Washington Monument’s KKK Imagery,” October 2, 2011.

    __________________

    There was considerable media coverage last week of workers repelling down the Washington Monument to inspect damage caused by the recent earthquake.

    Most people seemed mesmerized by the acrobatic feat this entailed. But I could not help noticing how much close-up images of the cone of the Monument resemble the hood of a Klansman.

    I’ve read accounts of Free Masons – who were instrumental in building DC – inserting masonic symbols all over the city. Therefore, is it so farfetched to think that this monument, which was built between 1848-88 as a memorial to George Washington, also paid homage the prevailing symbol of white supremacy…?

    _________________

    As indicated in my original commentary, I appreciate why monuments to Washington and other Founding Fathers should be exempted from this ISIS-style purge. Not least because one can draw a direct line between them and the melting pot that is America today; whereas one cannot do the same with leaders of the Confederacy — who fought to protect and preserve slavery as a fundamental way of life.

    But, no matter its origin, what this monument might have inspired (and clearly symbolizes) should put this obelisk on the list.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 7:47 AM

    Another Free and Fair Election in Kenya Descends into Violence

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Violence erupted after the re-election of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta this week, leaving at least 24 people dead nationwide, a rights group said. …

    Kenyatta, the 55-year-old son of the country’s founding President, was declared the winner Friday, defeating veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga for a second five-year term. …

    Most of the demonstrators were supporters of Odinga, who has rejected the results of the presidential election, calling the vote rigged.

    (CNN, August 13, 2017)

    If this seems eerily familiar, this excerpt from “Uhuru Kenyatta, Son of Kenya’s Founding Father, Indicted on War Crimes,” January 24, 2012, might explain why.

    __________________

    It’s simply impossible for any Westerner to fully appreciate the significance of the son of Jomo Kenyatta (1889-1978) being indicted yesterday by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of ‘organizing a campaign of rape and murder’ against political opponents. …

    The crimes against humanity being alleged stem from the orgy of violence that erupted in December 2007, when incumbent President Mwai Kibaki refused to cede power to Raila Odinga after losing a free and fair presidential election.

    Here, in part, is how I commented on this African pathology as it was playing out back then:

    I am simply crestfallen by Kenya’s rapid descent into Rwandan-style tribal warfare in recent weeks. Despite manifestations of congenital kleptocracy, it was just beginning to appear worthy of being called a beacon of democracy on that Dark Continent.

    But when President Mwai Kibaki and his ruling party refused to cede power after losing national elections on December 27, I was so mindful, indeed fearful, of the potential for widespread civil unrest that I wrote the following:

    ‘[T]his sets up the all too familiar prospect of Africans resorting to tribal warfare to settle their political disputes. … 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 more Idi Amins and Rwandan-style genocides.’

    (“Conflict in Kenya: another African genocide in the making,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 17, 2008)

    When the dust settled – with Kibaki and Odinga forming a grand coalition government – 1200 people were reported killed and 600,000 displaced.

    __________________

    To be fair, despite the violence that has already erupted, Kenya seems unlikely to descend into that kind of tribal warfare. The primary reason is that, unlike that fateful election in 2007, international observers immediately certified this one as free and fair:

    International election observers have called on politicians defeated in Kenya’s fiercely contested polls to concede gracefully without taking their struggle to the streets. …

    Provisional results released by Kenya’s election commission have put the incumbent president, Uhuru Kenyatta, ahead by 54.2% of votes counted, to 44% for Odinga. …

    The observers [led by former US secretary of state John Kerry for the Carter Center] commended officials for the relatively smooth running of the polls, and complimented Kenyans for their ‘commitment and determination.’

    (London Guardian, August 10, 2017)

    It is also noteworthy that, just days ago, Odinga was insisting he saw no point in resorting to the courts. Because he’s now going through the face-saving motions of filing legal complaints and threatening a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience to prevent “democracy’s slaughter.”

    But even his most rabid supporters know that Odinga does not have a snowball’s chance in Hell of doing in court what he could not do at the polls and cannot do through civil disobedience. No doubt they are mindful that Odinga did the same to no avail after losing the 2013 election to Kenyatta.

    Perhaps most telling, though, is that these are the same Kenyans who were hailing Kenyatta a few years ago for going to the ICC and beating its prosecutors at their own game.

    Last week the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC) decided not to prosecute the president of Kenya for allegedly triggering ethnic violence that killed 1200 men, women, and children. …

    Prominent political commentators like Natznet Tesfay, head of Africa analysis at IHS Country Risk, are predicting that, with no fear of ICC prosecution, a congenital need for ethnic supremacy will plunge Kenyatta’s Kikuyus and Ruto’s Kalenjins back into the kind of violence that gave rise to ICC charges in the first place.

    But I’m convinced they both recognize and appreciate that they have too much to gain by continuing their coalition government.

    (“ICC Decides Not to Prosecute Kenya’s Kenyatta. Duh,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 8, 2014)

    Sure enough, Kenyatta is keeping Ruto close and complacent as his deputy president …

    With that, my heart goes out to Odinga. Because he must feel like his family is fated to play second fiddle to Kenyatta’s. After all, that’s the role his father, J.O. Odinga, had to play to Kenyatta’s father, Jomo.

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  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 at 11:43 AM

    Bolt Pulls Up Lame…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    To stem more shame…?

    Usain Bolt ended his stellar career in excruciating pain.

    The Jamaican great crumpled to the track with a left-leg injury as he was chasing a final gold medal for the Jamaican 4x100m relay team on Saturday at the world championships.

    Having to make up lots of ground on the anchor leg, Bolt suddenly screamed and stumbled as he came down with his golden farewell shattered by the first injury he has experienced at a major competition.

    (NBC Sports, August 12, 2017)

    With apologies to T.S. Eliot, I cannot resist this homage to Bolt looking like a hollow shell of himself at these championships:

    This is the way his career ends

    This is the way his career ends

    This is the way his career ends

    Not with a bolt but a cramp.

    Truth be told, I think of Bolt’s performance on this occasion exactly what I thought of Liu Xiang’s at the 2008 Beijing Games. Here is how I commented in “Chinese Hero, Liu Xiang Comes Up Lame,” August 19, 2008.

    ___________________

    Easily the most dramatic moment of the day came when Liu Xiang, China’s only hope for a gold medal in Track and Field, pulled up lame in his first qualifying race of the Men’s 110 Hurdles. He then hobbled out of the stadium without saying a word.

    In fact, television commentators observed that – when this happened – you could hear a pin drop in the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium. … After all, Xiang’s gold medal in this race was to have been the crowning achievement of these Olympic Games for over 1.3 billion Chinese. …

    [C]all me cynical but I believe Xiang decided it was better to claim injury, which might inspire sympathy, than to lose this race, which would incite national shame.

    ___________________

    But enough about Usain! Except that, for the record, Team Great Britain out-leaned Team USA to win gold in this relay; Team Japan won bronze.

    On a far more interesting closing note, my related commentaries show that I have harbored no illusions about the use of PEDs in Track. More to the point, I have been unabashed in expressing suspicions over the improbable way tiny Jamaica was outperforming the United States at international competitions.

    I wonder if it’s a testament to their national training methods or the performance-enhancing ‘herbs’ they use to flavor their sports drinks that make these Jamaicans so incredibly fast.

    (“2008 Beijing Olympic Games – the Phelpsian Touch … Pure Gold,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 16, 2008)

    Well, a “natural” reordering of performances seems afoot. It stems from a recent IAAF decision to not only test athletes more aggressively but also store samples for years for further testing as methods become more advanced.

    In “Doping Charge Strikes Usain Like a Lightning Bolt,” February 3, 2017, I highlighted the fact that re-analysis of samples from the 2008 Beijing Games led to the IAAF stripping Bolt of one of his gold medals. Reports are that it has stripped and reallocated eleven World Championship medals based on similar re-analysis since 2007.

    That backdrop probably explains why this year’s World Championships played out as follows:

    Final figures from the medals standings at the world championships that wrapped up Sunday offered evidence that track and field’s attempt to crack down on a global doping crisis could be making a direct impact on the results themselves.

    Exhibit A: The United States won 30 medals, while athletes from four countries that have been under the doping microscope — Kenya (11), Russia (6), Ethiopia (5) and Jamaica (4) — combined for 26.

    Two years ago, the results looked like this: United States 17, Kenya 16, Jamaica 12, Ethiopia 8, Russia 4.

    (Associated Press, August 14, 2017)

    It speaks volumes that, under this doping microscope, Jamaica’s performance has fallen off even more than Russia’s. Recall that the World Anti-Doping agency found state-sponsored doping in Russia so insidious that it banned Russian athletes who trained/train there from participating in international competition.

    Only those who could prove they subjected themselves to “credible and consistent testing” outside Russia were eligible to compete, and even then not under the Russian flag.

    It was easy to feel sympathy for Maria Lasitskene, Darya Klishina and the other athletes from Russia who won medals at the world track and field championships without the customary trappings.

    They were in a form of limbo, not competing officially for their home country, which is still suspended because of a widespread doping scandal.

    Instead they were here as ‘authorized neutral athletes,’ which meant that they could only watch wistfully — and surely with some resentment — as their rivals wrapped their national flags around their shoulders and took their laps of honor.

    (New York Times, August 13, 2017)

    In any event, one could be forgiven the suspicion that Jamaica’s poor showing had everything to do with Bolt and his teammates refraining from taking their performance-enhancing “herbs” for fear of being caught – if not today then perhaps after re-analysis in the future.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017 at 8:54 AM

    White Supremacy: The Tragedy and Folly of Charlottesville

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A protest against government removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville on Saturday turned violent. The white supremacist protesters clashed with counterprotesters, leading the governor to declare a state of emergency before the rally even started. A woman died and multiple were injured after a car plowed into counterprotesters.

    (The Hill, August 13, 2017)

    Frankly, reaction to this incident smacks of a groundhog-day spectacle. I hope this commentary doesn’t contribute to it.

    If I hear another political or civic leader calling for a ‘conversation on race,’ I’m going to puke.

    (“Ferguson Grand Jury Decides: Officer Wilson Walks,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 25, 2014)

    Unsurprisingly, the media are still covering that mayhem in Charlottesville as if it were a latter-day version of the Battle of Gettysburg. Yet, if North Korea were to test-fire another missile today (or if Muslim Jihadists were to launch another terrorist attack), they would move on as if it were ancient news.

    For the record, I am convinced that confronting neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other racist groups in the streets is tantamount to adding fuel to the pyre of white supremacy. Confrontation only begets the kind of tragedy and folly that is playing out in this case.

    The tragedy of course is the loss of life. But even that is being sidelined by the folly of everyone waiting with bated breath for President Trump to denounce these groups … by name.

    Except that, when he does – with begrudging,  teleprompter sincerity – then what?! Surely you remember the way he played the media and political establishment with his Birther nonsense. Given that, you’d think everyone would know that Trump thrives on people begging him to do the right thing. Yet here we are.

    Meanwhile, the media are only compounding this folly by making heroes of Republican politicians tweeting outrage. These politicians would have you believe they are shocked and appalled that Trump is failing to do what he spent the 2016 presidential campaign criticizing Barack Obama for refusing to do, namely calling out the terrorism afoot by its name. Never mind that such instances of brazen hypocrisy characterized Trump’s entire campaign, and are doing the same with his presidency.

    This is why real profiles in courage would be for these politicians to emulate SpaceX and Tesla’s Elon Musk and Merck’s Kenneth Frazier. These famous CEOs truly deserve praise for publicly disassociating themselves from Trump and his racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and other Neanderthal rhetoric and policies. The wonder is that other notable figures have yet to do the same.

    But history will judge Republicans harshly for lacking the political courage to disown this presidency, despite having the moral compulsion to denounce this president, repeatedly. And it will judge the likes of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with “special circumstances.”

    Many have wondered how Hitler got so many ordinary Germans to become his ‘willing executioners.’ Well, Trump is showing just how at rallies where he whips his supporters into all manner of xenophobic and racist frenzy, preying with every fulmination on their irrational fears of persecution and misguided sense of nationalism. ‘Never again’? I wouldn’t bet on it.

    (“The Putin-Trump Bromance,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 29, 2015)

    Incidentally, blacks like Trump aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman complain that fellow blacks treat them with nothing but righteous contempt for rationalizing and defending Trump’s racism. This was demonstrated in spades just days ago, when she had the misguided gall to show up for a panel discussion at the National Association of Black Journalists’ annual convention.

    Therefore, I am anxious to know if Jews like Trump economic advisor Gary Cohn complain that fellow Jews treat them with similar contempt for rationalizing and defending Trump’s anti-Semitism. For I am hard-pressed to find the kind of public shaming of Jews who support him that blacks who support him suffer daily, and deservedly so.

    That said, the best way to deal with these racists groups is to do everything possible to marginalize them to the point of complete irrelevance. Foremost in doing so is to prevail upon whites – who (claim to) oppose them – to use every political, educational, corporate, and media resource at their disposal to empower blacks and the other groups these racists despise.

    Media titans have a special duty in this respect. For, as I lamented above, only a perverse interest in profiting off the propagation of hate explains the coverage their network of TV channels give these racist groups.

    In a similar vein, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and other grassroots movements would do far more to advance their cause (to the extent they can identify it) by galvanizing young people to vote. I mean, am I the only one who wonders why they are protesting (and often rabble-rousing) in the streets nowadays for rights and freedoms their grandparents and forebears won long ago, respectively?

    It has been self-evident for over 50 years that protesting in the streets is not going to end racism, stop police brutality, redress the growing gap between rich and poor, or empower blacks and other traditionally disadvantaged groups. Only the systematic acquisition of education and wealth, and a wielding of the economic, social and political influence that acquisition enables, will have any meaningful impact in these respects.

    Still, if these grassroots activists had focused on galvanizing young people to vote last year, America would not be stuck with a president who has emboldened white supremacists to act out their racist fantasies.

    Again, my initial thought was to forego commenting. After fielding many requests for my take, however, it occurred to me that there might be some worth in publishing what I shared with one of my nieces via e-mail yesterday. Think of the above as a prelude and what follows this e-mail excerpt as a denouement.

    __________________

    [H]ysterical reporters, pundits, and politicians are reacting as if we’re experiencing the “The (Re)Birth of a Nation” – complete with hooded klansmen lynching blacks the way they did in the early 1900s.

    Never mind that the images they’re blabbering over plainly show that these events amounted to little more than mostly white knuckleheads having a street fight over a confederate statue, about which most blacks couldn’t care less.

    Granted, there’s no denying the perverse fascination of watching one of those knuckleheads ape ISIS terrorists by mowing down people. And such mindless acts are always a ratings boon for mainstream media and clickbait for social media.

    But I’m all too mindful that greater violence, causing more casualties, has become so commonplace in cities like Chicago and Baltimore, they no longer warrant media coverage. Not to mention that, because of racial cannibalism among blacks and racist indifference among whites, black-on-black violence has become the elephant in the room of American politics.

    You are so right about that clarion call [which the election of Trump represented]. I would only note that Trump gave America nearly two years of dog-whistling notice that this would be the case – complete with rallies erupting in violence the way this neo-Nazi march did yesterday. So yeah, no surprise.

    __________________

    But I would be remiss not to add my two cents on the controversy that triggered this tragedy and folly. It stemmed from Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate military leader Robert E. Lee from a public park.

    As it happens, similar monuments to the Confederacy litter public parks all over the United States. You will not be surprised to find the vast majority across the South. But, given the outrage, you will be shocked to find them everywhere from liberal Boston to the nation’s capital, Washington DC.

    This raises two inevitable but troubling questions:

    1. What should become of all of the other statues?
    2. Why is there so much fixation on monuments to leaders like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, who fought to preserve slavery, and none on monuments to leaders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who owned slaves?

    Mind you, I can think of 99 things that bother me about racism in America today, but a Confederate statue ain’t one. If challenged to resolve this dilemma, however, I would think the only politically tenable, even if morally specious, way to do so would be to focus on the Civil War, bearing in mind the following maxims:

    • To the victor go the spoils; and
    • The victors write history.

    It would be for each state legislature to decide whether it wants to continue honoring men who tried to divide the union in order to preserve slavery and its insidious notions of white supremacy. And it would be for the rest of us to decide whether we want to live, work, and/or revel in states that choose to do so (think BDS – Boycott and Divestment, as Sanctions are not practicable).

    The Civil War was supposed to marginalize the racist ideology that rationalized black slavery and white supremacy. It failed. Nothing demonstrated this quite like the hundreds of monuments vanquished Southerners erected to honor those who fought and died to preserve this racist ideology. It’s particularly noteworthy that they did this in reaction to and defiance of racial advancement during the period from Reconstruction in the 1860s to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s (a.k.a. the Jim Crow period). They erected the Lee statue at issue in 1924, for example.

    No doubt you’ve heard their descendants defending these statues and the Confederate flag as proud symbols of their heritage. Beware that they are only referring to this racist ideology, no matter what politically correct spin they put on it. I have written about the myth surrounding this flag, as well as the opportunistic outrage it occasionally incites, in many commentaries, including “Opportunism, Not Activism, Motivated Bree Newsome to Remove Confederate Flag,” July 3, 2015.

    So until the next racial flare-up on America’s long and tragic road towards racial truth and reconciliation – “in Order to form a more perfect union…”.

    Related commentaries:
    Confederate flag
    Ferguson/Dallas effect
    Putin-Trump

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

  • Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 7:18 AM

    Trump Double Dares After Jong-un Crosses His Red Line…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And everyone in Washington is dumbfounded … again.

    President Donald Trump reiterated his bellicose warning to North Korea from earlier in the week, telling reporters at his golf club in New Jersey on Thursday that his threat to bring ‘fire and fury’ if North Korea continued to threaten the United States may not have gone far enough. …

    ‘I read about in Guam by August 15 … let’s see what he does with Guam,’ Trump said in apparent reference to Kim Jong-un. ‘He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before.’

    (CNN, August 10, 2017)

    Phil Mudd is the ex-deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center and the FBI’s National Security Branch. More to the point, he is easily CNN’s most confident and strident analyst.

    Therefore, it was truly “BREAKING NEWS” when he admitted on today’s edition of the Situation Room that

    We were wrong.

    This was his reaction to Trump doubling down on his threat to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea if it (merely) threatens the United States or any of its allies. Mudd admitted that he and every other analyst were wrong to think Trump’s first-rate advisers would be able to insulate the world from his ill-tempered and ill-informed bluster.

    Except that I never thought so. What’s more, I began calling them out months ago in this respect.

    It’s worth recalling in this context what putatively sensible Republicans (most notably Senator John McCain of Arizona) insisted was Trump’s only saving grace. It was his decision to nominate cabinet members like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.

    Those Republicans assured the world that these secretaries would have an enlightening effect on Trump. But am I the only one who has yet to see any of that effect? Even worse, there’s often no difference between what we hear from them and what we hear from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Trump’s other PR flaks. These secretaries and those Republicans have some ‘splainin’ to do.

    And don’t get me started on the moderating effect his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared were supposed to have on him. I pooh-pooed that liberal fantasy long ago in “Trumpasites Already Gagging on Big Lies (a.k.a. Alternative Facts) and Outrageous Pledges They Swallowed,” January 30, 2017.

    (“The Week Trump Kissed Up to Saudi Arabia, Kissed Off Europe, and French Kissed the Philippines,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 20, 2017)

    Truth be told, though, only God knows how this nuclear brinkmanship will play out. But it does not bode well knowing that Trump is no JFK and Jong-un no Khrushchev.

    So, folks, this might be a good time for a Caribbean vacation. And I recommend extending it until after Labor Day in early September. The [Missiles] of August should have landed by then, making it relatively safe to see what really remains The Day After.

    Related commentaries:
    Week Trump kissed up
    Trump vs Jong-un

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 8:10 p.m.

  • Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 6:21 AM

    America’s Trump vs North Korea’s Jong-un: the Ultimate Reality-TV Show…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And, trust me, giving way to gallows humor is the only way to cope with the lunatic rantings and antics of both leaders.

    President Trump used his harshest language yet to warn North Korea on Tuesday that it will be ‘met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,’ if it does not stop threatening the United States. …

    Earlier in the day, North Korea said it would ‘ruthlessly take strategic measures involving physical actions.’ …

    Trump’s statement also followed a report in the Washington Post that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its ballistic missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.

    (Washington Post, August 8, 2017)

    Unsurprisingly, cable networks are beating the drums of war for all it’s worth – complete with war gaming and PSAs on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. Never mind that they are unwittingly acting out Trump’s wag-the-dog playbook, which contains all kinds of stunts to counter his historically low poll numbers and divert media attention away from his alleged collusion with Russia.

    Incidentally, a key feature of that playbook has Trump continually blindsiding members of his administration with ill-tempered and ill-informed utterances. This was the case yesterday when he blindsided members of his own health commission.

    They thought he convened their briefing to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. Instead, the congenitally impulsive Trump used them as props to declare North Korea’s trademark rhetoric a cause for nuclear war. It speaks volumes in this respect that his wife and (startled) secretary of health and human services were sitting beside him, not his national security adviser and secretary of defense.

    Meanwhile, notorious lies and cartoonish bluster have characterized the first six months of Trump’s presidency. But the same have characterized North Korean regimes for the past six decades, which makes Kim Jong-un far more predictable than warmongering experts on TV would have you believe.

    In fact, the real story here is that Trump has so debased the stature and credibility of the US presidency that his threats are truly no more credible than Jong-un’s. Remember his threats to destroy ISIS, tame Iran, and withdraw from NAFTA – all with dispatch the world has never seen before? Hollow! As it happens, the same can be said about his pledge to get China to swallow the North Korean pickle he’s now gagging on.

    Sure enough, Jong-un demonstrated within hours just how hollow his threats are. He willfully (and predictably) crossed Trump’s red line of “fire and fury” by threatening to wipe the US territory of Guam off the map.

    Alas, this is the kind of cataclysmic brinkmanship Trump’s “black-swan” presidency has wrought. His A-team of cabinet secretaries were supposed to keep his impulses in check. But they are acting like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight:

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is warning about the casualties of war on the peninsula; CIA Director Mike Pompeo is championing the “strategic decapitation” of Jong-un’s regime; and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is channeling Rodney King, pleading for everyone to just be friends and get along.

    Which is why, despite this nuclear pissing contest, the advice I gave Obama — in “North Korea to The World: Nuke Off!” December 13, 2012 — remains the only effective way to deal with the menace North Korea poses.

    __________________

    Obama should convene a coalition of the willing among Asia-Pacific countries (APEC) to forge agreement on the following resolution, which, significantly, would not be subject to a UN-style veto by any country (namely, China or Russia):

    APEC

    • Recognizing that the United Nations is unable or unwilling to stop North Korea from violating its resolutions (most notably, res. 1718 against conducting nuclear tests or launching ballistic missiles) with impunity;
    • Finding that these violations pose an untenable threat to the Asia-Pacific region;

    Resolves that:

    1. Instead of continuing the feckless practice of bribing North Korea with cash, oil and food to get it to stop these violations, APEC shall henceforth impose the severest possible sanctions, unilaterally;
    2. If, either as a result of misfire or deliberate intent, any of North Korea’s missiles even threatens any APEC country, the United States shall lead the bombardment of all of its nuclear and missile facilities until they are incapable of even setting off firecrackers, let alone launching nuclear missiles.

    All else is folly.

    __________________

    To be fair, Trump’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley deserves honorable mention for this:

    The UN Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions Saturday to punish North Korea for its escalating nuclear and missile programs including a ban on coal and other exports worth over $1 billion — a huge bite in its total exports, valued at $3 billion last year.

    US Ambassador Nikki Haley called the resolution ‘the single largest economic sanctions package ever leveled against the North Korean regime’ and ‘the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.’

    (Washington Post, August 6, 2017)

    Except that it took no time for news of North Korea’s miniaturized nuclear warhead, to say nothing of its threat against Guam, to make a mockery of this latest round of sanctions. But this validates my contention that all is folly until North Korea actually provokes a retaliatory strike – as my resolution stipulates.

    Therefore, I say keep calm and let North Korea carry on playing with its nuclear weapons. After all, it has been self-evident for decades that a preemptive military strike to stop it from doing so is prohibitive. Moreover, it only encourages North Korea’s mischief-making to react so hysterically every time it test-fires a ballistic missile harmlessly into the Sea of Japan.

    Related commentaries:
    North Korea nukes

  • Tuesday, August 8, 2017 at 8:50 AM

    Aping Mideast Dictatorships, Israel Bans Al Jazeera

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Israel plans to revoke media credentials of Al Jazeera journalists and close the network’s office in Jerusalem, the country’s communication minister has announced.

    Ayoub Kara made the announcement on Sunday during a press conference in Jerusalem, where Al Jazeera was barred from attending.

    ‘We have based our decision on the move by Sunni Arab states to close the Al Jazeera offices and prohibiting their work,’ Kara said, adding that the channel is being used by groups to ‘incite’ violence – an accusation the network has denied.

    (Al Jazeera, August 7, 2017)

    The putatively democratic Israel clearly has no qualms – not just about aping regional dictatorships but also about parroting their trumped-up reasons for suppressing the free press. Alas, this reflects the cognitive dissonance that has seen Israel continually use national security as a pretext to betray democratic values since its founding in 1948.

    But this marks a new low. What’s more, it is compounded by the fact that this Jewish state is actually taking sides in the latest flare up of the fight for the soul of Islam, which Sunnis and Shiites have been waging for over a thousand years. I commented on this flare up in “Blockading Qatar: Trump Makes Messy Middle East Messier,” July 13, 2017.

    Meanwhile:

    Senator John McCain, defending the media against the latest attack by President Donald Trump, warned that suppressing the free press was ‘how dictators get started.’ …

    ‘The international order established after World War Two was built in part on a free press,’ McCain said.

    (Reuters, February 19, 2017)

    McCain was just one of many US politicians, of all stripes, who denounced Trump for casting every news organization that reported negative stories about him as “the enemy of the American people.” Therefore, you’d think these politicians, who hail Israel as a beacon of democratic freedoms in the Middle East, would be denouncing it for actually banning Al Jazeera.

    Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a single one, including McCain, who has done so. Hell, even CNN is too busy wallowing in Trump’s asinine and feckless tweets to be bothered.

    To be fair, though, there’s a prevailing reason for their deafening and damning silence. For the operating maxim that Israel can do no wrong has been one of the more vexing and perplexing features of American politics since World War II.

    It is vexing because it is based on the manifest fiction that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East.” This is a fiction not because there are other democracies in the region but because it whitewashes Israel’s original sin. That sin, of course, is the occupation of Palestinian lands and the legacy of apartheid it spawned.

    It is perplexing because most politicians in the United States, of all stripes, regard adherence to this maxim as an article of faith. This explains why they’d sooner criticize America’s original sin than even acknowledge Israel’s. That sin, of course, is the institution of slavery and the legacy of discrimination it spawned.

    I feel obliged, yet again, to register my disgust with Israel-can-do-no-wrong enablers in the US Congress. Because, instead of supporting the wholly informed warning Secretary of State John Kerry issued to Israel on Monday about becoming an ‘apartheid’ state, everyone from Tea Party conservative Senator Ted Cruz to left-wing liberal Senator Barbara Boxer reacted as if he uttered words that were as anti-Semitic as Donald Sterling’s were racist.

    (“Instead of Peace Israel Settling for Apartheid?” The iPINIONS Journal, May 1 2014)

    No Israeli prime minister has exploited this deference to procure unconditional US political cover and financial support than Benjamin Netanyahu. I have decried his hubris in this respect in many commentaries, including “Netanyahu, Obama’s Iago; Iran, His Desdemona,” October 2, 2013, “Chutzpah: Israeli PM to Address US Congress,” January 23, 20015, and “Netanyahu’s a Putz for Branding Obama a Judas over UN Resolution,” December 29, 2016 – to name just a few.

    Israel says it plans to build 2,500 more homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank. …

    Settlements are widely viewed as an obstacle to peace by the Palestinians and the international community, and Palestinian officials have responded angrily to today’s announcement.

    ‘We are building — and will continue to build,’ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    (NPR, January 3, 2017)

    As it happens, Netanyahu’s chutzpah was on full display during a joint press conference at the White House on February 15. Specifically, when Trump said he’d like Netanyahu to stop building settlements, Netanyahu shrugged it off like a bad joke.

    In doing so, he clearly presumed that Trump was only paying lip service to this prerequisite for peace. Sure enough, Trump’s failure to utter a word (or tweet a character) about the plight of the Palestinians since then validates Netanyahu’s presumptuousness.

    To be fair, though, Trump was only doing what successive US presidents have done, albeit more diplomatically. In fact, Barack Obama afflicted the Israelis and comforted the Palestinians more than any president since Jimmy Carter. Yet even he proudly cites the following as one of the crowning achievements of his presidency:

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday thanked the United States for the ‘unprecedented’ and ‘historic’ defense aid package, hours before Israeli and US officials were to sign the $38 billion deal in Washington.

    ‘This agreement will ensure an unprecedented level of defense aid for Israel in the next decade,’ Netanyahu said in a statement. ‘This is the largest military aid package the US has ever given out to any nation.’

    (The Times of Israel, September 14, 2016)

    Therefore, one can hardly blame Netanyahu for thinking that this president – who wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States — couldn’t care less if he casts a Muslim news organization as the enemy of the Israeli people.

    That said, I am happy to report that Israel’s anti-corruption police and incorruptible prosecutors are its saving grace.

    Disgraced ex-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was released from prison on Sunday after serving 16 months of a 27-month sentence for fraud and bribery.

    Olmert, 71, became Israel’s first ex-prime minister to go to jail when he was convicted in 2014 of accepting bribes to promote a real-estate project in Jerusalem, and of obstructing justice.

    Before its decision to release him, the parole board said that he had undergone a rehabilitation process in prison, and that his behaviour had been ‘impeccable.’

    (The Telegraph – London, July 2, 2017)

    More to the point, here is why Israeli police and prosecutors are far more likely to humble Netanyahu than any US president would or could.

    Israeli police are expected to recommend charges be brought against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a pair of corruption cases against the Israeli premier, amid a newly signed deal with a key associate of the prime minister to turn state’s witness.

    (Times of Israel, August 4, 2017)

    With all due respect to Olmert, this could not happen to a worthier Israeli leader. And the cherry on top is that the police are expected to recommend separate charges be brought against Netanyahu’s imperious and spendthrift wife for living like an American-Jewish princess at the Israeli taxpayers’ expense.

    Related commentaries:
    Blockading Qatar
    Israel apartheid
    Netanyahu’s a Putz
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  • Sunday, August 6, 2017 at 7:37 AM

    Gatlin Wins 100m, Becomes Skunk at Bolt’s Farewell Party

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Bolt insisted this would be the final individual race of his storied career – his swan song. This is why everyone was so anxious for him to go out on a high note.

    Alas:

    Olympic champion and world record holder Usain Bolt finished third in the men’s 100 meters in 9.95 seconds at the IAAF World Championships in London on Saturday evening. 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin of the United States won gold in 9.92 seconds with his compatriot Christian Coleman taking silver in 9.94.

    (Sports Illustrated, August 5, 2017)

    What gives this loss so much pathos is that everyone knows it’s the type of loss Bolt feared most. For he always said he never wanted to become one of those champions who stays around too long and ends his career being upstaged by an upstart.

    Taking his final bows after gold medal performances at last summer’s Rio Olympics would have sealed an unblemished legacy. Now, for the rest of his life, he’ll be thinking himself foolish for not doing so. Because, sure enough, upstart 21-year-old Christian Coleman upstaged him in this farewell race.

    But what must make this loss so humiliating is that an “old man” upstaged him too. After all, Gatlin is 35 years old, which makes Bolt look like a quitter for retiring at 30. What’s more, Gatlin denies him the crutch of old age, which Bolt could have leaned on to justify his retirement and/or rationalize this loss.

    But God help him if foolish pride compels him to forego retirement to redeem himself. Because I fear he’ll just end up like a junkie chasing the dragon

    Incidentally, the look of anguish on Bolt’s face – when it struck him that he did not win – rivals that look in Edvard Munch’s most famous painting. Priceless!

    Of course, my August 3 commentary makes clear that I thought upstart Canadian sprinter Andre DeGrasse was the only person who could upstage Bolt on this putatively ceremonial occasion. I felt certain the fix was in when DeGrasse (Bolt’s Puma teammate) withdrew at the last minute, presumably ceding the stage to the elder sportsman. But hey, who knew?

    That said, it’s noteworthy that resounding jeers greeted Gatlin when he was introduced for this race. Because those jeers foreshadowed critics bringing up his four-year suspension in 2006 for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) either to qualify his feat or to mollify Bolt’s defeat.

    But I maintain that the only difference between Bolt and Gatlin in this respect is that Bolt was smarter, luckier, or better protected. Bear in mind that Lance Armstrong managed to end his career without getting caught … too.

    Perhaps more foreboding, though, is that the IOC has already stripped Bolt of one of his nine Olympic gold medals. Granted, this was because a member of his relay team tested positive. But this did not stop me from imputing guilt by association in “Doping Charges Strike Usain Like a Lightning Bolt,” February 3, 2017. Because I am more persuaded by the proverb

    Birds of a feather stick together.

    Indeed, it’s noteworthy that Yohan Blake also ran in this fateful race, coming in fourth. For he is just one of a suspicious number of Bolt’s Jamaican teammates who, like Gatlin, have returned to competition after testing positive for PEDs.

    Actually, this might explain why Bolt was so keen to defend Gatlin against not just jeering crowds but sneering competitors as well. Whatever the case, I remarked on Bolt’s guilt by association with his Jamaican teammates in “Drugs as Rampant in Track as in Cycling,” July 16, 2013.

    Frankly, Carl Lewis is the last sprinter who I am absolutely convinced won this event drug free. That was at the IAAF World Championships in Tokyo way back in 1991. It’s too bad that, far from being the fun and lovable guy Bolt always was, Lewis was always an arrogant and surly jerk.

    But the irrepressible prevalence of PEDs (in all sports) is such that I think they should be legalized.

    Policing drugs in professional sports is not only Orwellian; it’s utterly futile. After all … athletes have always, and will always, do or take anything that might give them a competitive advantage. And if what they do or take poses no harm to anyone except themselves, who cares?!

    This enlightened attitude towards performance-enhancing drugs would have precluded the ‘scandals’ that now threaten the professional careers of Tour de France Champion Floyd Landis and Olympic Champion Justin Gatlin (100m); to say nothing of sparing them international ridicule as pathetic liars and cheaters.

    (“A Plea for Landis, Gatlin, et al: Legalize Drugs … Especially in Sports,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 3, 2006)

    Other commentaries like “Jones Admits Using Steroids: Why Marion, Why…?” October 12, 2007, chronicle my cynicism.

    Meanwhile, Gatlin served that suspension at the peak of his career (ages 24-28). That he’s the world champion today is an undeniable testament to his (natural) talent and hard work. So please think twice before joining the ignorant crowds who vilify Gatlin to glorify Bolt

    Hail, Gatlin!

    Related commentaries:
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    IOC strips Bolt of gold
    Drugs rampant
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Saturday, at 5:58 p.m.

  • Saturday, August 5, 2017 at 8:03 AM

    Maduro taking Venezuela on a flight of fancy, flying by the seat of his pants

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Venezuela’s controversial new assembly has opened despite fierce opposition at home and abroad.

    President Nicolás Maduro says the constituent assembly is needed to bring peace after months of crisis.

    But the opposition says the new body, which has the ability to rewrite the constitution, is a way for the president to cling to power.

    (BBC, August 4, 2017)

    We cry for you, Venezuela

    The truth is, he never loved you

    Despite Chavismo

    His revolution,

    He broke his promise

    Please find your senses.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, August 3, 2017 at 1:26 PM

    The Fix Is In for Usain Bolt to Have a Fairytale Ending…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Canadian Andre De Grasse, arguably the top rival to Usain Bolt, will miss the world track and field championships due to a strained right hamstring suffered Monday. ‘Andre had his final starting blocks session in preparation for Friday’s 100m heats,’ De Grasse’s agent said in a text message. ‘On his final run of the day, Andre pulled up with what he described as ‘a grab’ in his right hamstring.’

    (NBC Sports, August 2, 2017)

    Yeah, right.

    I smell a rat, especially given this:

    Usain Bolt’s management have refuted suggestions that the Jamaican had Canada’s Andre De Grasse ‘booted out’ of tomorrow’s Monaco Diamond League 100m race after reports that the eight-time Olympic champion was running scared of his younger rival.

    De Grasse, who won silver bronze behind Bolt at last year’s Rio Olympics, has been tipped as a natural successor to the Jamaican and was snapped up by Puma – who have long been associated with Bolt – for a seven-figure sum last winter.

    De Grasse is due to appear in Monaco, where Bolt will run 100m, but only as part of a Canadian 4x100m relay team – thus avoiding a head-to-head with the Jamaican, who has been well below par so far this campaign.

    (The Telegraph London, July 20, 2017)

    To be fair, fight promoters routinely bribe lesser-known boxers to “take a dive” to guarantee victories for reigning champions. The careers of everyone, from Muhammad Ali to Floyd Mayweather, are littered with such dubious bouts.

    But a better analogy might be the way Formula 1 teams order one driver to let the better teammate pass, or even win outright:

    Just three races into the new season, Mercedes has already imposed orders on Valtteri Bottas by telling him to make way for [Lewis] Hamilton twice in one race—Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

    One of the instructions came in the closing stages, when Bottas was ordered to let Hamilton pass so he could chase down Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

    (Associated Press, April 17, 2017)

    Therefore, one can hardly blame Puma for prevailing upon De Grasse to help fix a swan-song victory for Bolt. This seems the least it can do for the athlete who has been its cash cow for over ten years.

    What’s more, De Grasse is poised to inherit Bolt’s role (at Puma and on the track). And chances are very good that Puma will prevail upon a cash calf someday to do for his swan song what he is doing for Bolt’s today.

    All the same, I doubt this victory will ease the anxiety Bolt is bound to experience in retirement. For he’ll be wondering if or when doping, which I suspect he’s guilty of, will nullify the greatest victories of his career; you know, the way it nullified those of Lance Armstrong’s.

    Related commentaries:
    Bolt doping suspicions
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  • Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 7:18 AM

    The Inconvenient Truth about Gore’s Sequel

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Al Gore won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his crusade against climate change. This, notwithstanding that his crusade amounted to little more than a “Powerpoint presentation” of alarming weather projections, which he marketed as an apocalyptic thriller titled An Inconvenient Truth. But it was a blockbuster, and an Oscar winner to boot!

    Except that, like the producers of Contagion, Twister, and other natural disaster movies, Gore would be hard-pressed to show what positive environmental impact his film has had. But, unlike them, he actually bears this burden of proof. After all, only he promoted his film as a bible of truths dramatized to save the planet.

    Of course, filmmakers base sequels on box-office receipts the originals grossed, not on the social, political, or environmental impact they had. Evidently, Gore is no different. In fact, the inconvenient truth is that his sequel, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, mostly documents what little impact the original film has had on climate change.

    The former Vice-President is still giving, and constantly updating, his presentation, and it is now filled with footage from climate-related disasters, ranging from the 2012 inundation of the 9/11 memorial to the painful, ongoing recovery from Typhoon Haiyan, the intense 2013 storm that killed more than six thousand people in the Philippines and affected some eleven million others throughout Southeast Asia. After a 2015 heat wave killed more than twelve hundred Pakistanis, Gore reports, cemeteries in the city of Karachi prepared for the following summer by digging anticipatory mass graves.

    (The New Yorker, July 29, 2017)

    Incidentally, another inconvenient truth is that the city of Karachi ended up having no need for those mass graves, making this just one of many false environmental alarms he has sounded over the years.

    The point is that the manifest fecklessness of his crusade is why Gore is to fighting climate change what Nancy Reagan was to fighting drugs. Therefore, when you see him all over mainstream and social media in the coming weeks, bear in mind that, despite channeling John the Baptist, he’s really just doing what filmmakers do – namely promoting his film (as he did on CNN last night).

    To be fair, though, this sequel is more than just a Powerpoint presentation with special effects. Not least because it features Gore preaching about saving trees with the same fire-and-brimstone fervor with which televangelists preach about saving souls …

    That said, I hasten to clarify that I am not one of those wacko climate change deniers. Indeed, this weblog is replete with commentaries affirming my environmental bona fides. It’s just that I prize enlightened environmental practices over apocalyptic climate rhetoric. And this invariably compels me to speak my own environmental truth to power – as the following two quotes attest.

    Do as I say…

    I take umbrage at rich Americans and Europeans lecturing us about the uses of what little energy resources we (in the Caribbean and others throughout the developing world) have to fuel our economic growth. Because, try as we might, even the most profligate amongst us cannot emit as much CO2 in one year as Al Gore emits in one week. He, after all, has to fuel everything from his Tennessee mansion to the private jets he travels in to spread his ‘convenient truth’ all over the world.

    (“Mother Nature Makes UN Report on Global Warming Seem Like a Flaming Hoax,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 12, 2007)

    Carbon credits and environmental indulgences…

    Apropos of hot air, Davos attendees are flaming hypocrites too. After all, the ever-looming apocalypse of climate change always features in their panel discussions. Yet reports are that as many as 1,700 private jets crisscross the pristine Alps each year, taking them to and fro. …

    To hear these rich folks lamenting about the depletion of the ozone, the increasing gap between haves and have nots, and the almost criminal waste of non-renewable energy, you’d think they jet-pooled to Davos on ethanol-fueled airplanes; whereas they all flew in on gas-guzzling, air-polluting private jets.

    (“Financial Times: Davos World Economic Forum Is ‘Moronic, Silly, Empty,’” The iPINIONS Journal, February 10, 2016)

    Clearly, I get no environmental inspiration from Gore’s newfangled crusade. Instead, I get it from the American conservation movement, which dates back to the 1890s. This movement gave rise to the Earth Day practices of the 1960s, which I hailed in “Happy 39th Earth Day,” April 22, 2009.

    __________________

    The environmental practices this day inaugurated have become so routine and universal that the symbolic replenishing of Earth’s natural resources — by planting trees — now seems trite, if not contrived. Granted, to hear all of the alarmist talk about climate change, you’d think it was Al Gore who transformed public consciousness in this regard only years ago with sermons from his environmental bible Earth in the Balance.

    But this celebration of and deference to Earth’s natural wonders should be distinguished from Gore’s convenient truths about climate change; so-called truths which include using fake images of melting glaciers in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth just to scare people.

    After all, the original Earth Day ushered in conservation and greening trends that have led to cleaner air, more potable (lead-free) water, and a much less polluted environment. Whereas, by Gore’s own admission, there has been ‘no improvement in the fight against climate change’ since he began prophesying about global warming.

    ____________________

    In other words, many people have done and are doing far more to save the planet than this self-righteous, self-promoting bore. They include

    • Politician and environmental pioneer Gaylord Nelson – who founded Earth Day;
    • Environmental and political activist Wargari Maathai – whose focus on literally planting trees made her truly worthy of her 2004 Nobel Peace Prize;
    • Politician and “climate change ambassador” Governor Jerry Brown of California – who is leading US efforts to implement the provisions of the Paris climate accord; and
    • Author and environmental activist Professor Bjorn Lomborg – whose TED Talk Global Priorities Bigger than Climate Change is to Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth what the Encyclopedia Britannica is to the Holy Bible.

    Still, apropos of inconvenient truths, nothing betrays the inefficacy of Gore’s environmental crusade quite like the way this sequel ends. Because, after lots of time documenting the heroic lengths to which he went to get world leaders to support the Paris climate accord, it ends with no less a leader than President Trump making a global show of refusing to do so.

    Except that this provided the perfect cliffhanger for the next installment of his “Inconvenient Truth” franchise. Again, it’s not about making an impact; it’s about making a buck … for the cause of course.

    Stay tuned.

    Related commentaries:
    Earth Day
    Paris climate change
    Polar ice caps
    Mother Nature
    Davos

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