• Monday, December 10, 2018 at 8:04 AM

    Who Expected Trump to Believe His Climate Scientists…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    After all, this arrogant fool didn’t even believe his intelligence agents.

    No doubt you recall how President Trump dismissed their findings that Russia launched cyberattacks to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. In fact, during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he shocked the world by insisting that he found Putin’s denial more credible.

    Well, now comes this regarding the unfolding dangers of climate change:

    President Donald Trump dismissed U.S. government scientists’ predictions that climate change will impose devastating economic costs.

    ‘I don’t believe it,’ Trump told reporters Monday on the White House lawn, when asked about the grim forecast in the government’s National Climate Assessment. ‘Right now, we’re the cleanest we’ve ever been.’

    (Bloomberg, November 26, 2018)

    Even worse, Trump attempted to justify dismissing their predictions with this imbecilic tweet:

    Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2018

    How stupid is Trump? His brain is like a wooden stump. Which explains this self-proclaimed genius famously claiming that

    I have a gut and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.

    (CNN, November 27, 2018)

    Oy Vey!

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  • Sunday, December 9, 2018 at 10:12 AM

    Why eating salads is no guarantee of longevity…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    So go ahead, dig into that steak.

  • Saturday, December 8, 2018 at 8:18 AM

    Trump’s tweets about Mueller failing as reliable as his tweets about market soaring

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 8:26 AM

    The ‘Yellow Vests’: Paris Is Burning … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    For years now, protesters have been setting The City of Lights ablaze nearly as often as campers have been setting The Golden State ablaze. Except that the grievances that invariably ignite the former are far more relatable than the carelessness that invariably cause the latter.

    I first commented on those grievances in “World Beware: French Riots Affect Us All,” November 8, 2005. Muslims of African descent ignited the fire that time, aggrieved by chronic unemployment, discrimination, alienation, and marginalization – each of which remains a cultural spark plug. This quote from that commentary provides a little perspective:

    Just as young blacks in America fought [during the 1960s] against the virulent racism their parents tolerated, young Muslims in France are fighting [today] against the caste-like presumption that they will provide the cheap labor their parents provided.

    Back then, Jacques Chirac was president and Nicolas Sarkozy his interior minister responsible for law and order. But I noted that leaders of the Republic invariably seem imbued with the presumptions and prerogatives of France’s ancien régime, which continually misguide them in these matters.

    This caused Chirac and Sarkozy to show the kind of arrogant indifference (or quizzical insouciance) towards these grievances that King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette showed towards those of the overtaxed paupers who eventually ignited the French Revolution.

    To paraphrase General Charles de Gaulle, the French may know 365 ways to make cheese, but their leaders know only one way to make laws; that is, with the paternalism and condescension inherent in the concept of noblese oblige.

    Which brings me to to President Emmanuel Macron and those who ignited the fire this time:

    Macron has today caved in and suspended hated fuel tax hikes in a victory for the Yellow Vest protesters.

    In a humiliating U-turn, the government said it was planning to freeze upcoming increases on regulated electricity and gas prices following emergency talks at the Elysee Palace.

    Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told MPs that stricter vehicle emission controls set to kick in in January 2019 will also be suspended – one of the demands of the movement which erupted last month.

    (The Daily Mail, December 4, 2018)

    I suspect few of these protesters are Muslims of African descent. But their grievances are very similar. They are protesting the caste-like presumption that they will endure any burden political elites impose on them … for the general welfare. Only that presumption explains Macron thinking that working-class Frenchmen would blithely pay the lion’s share of the country’s carbon tax so France can lead the global fight against climate change.

    Initially backed by people in small towns and rural France where most get around by car, the protests snowballed into a wider movement against Macron’s perceived bias in favour of the elite and well-off city dwellers. …

    Analysts say most of those joining the ranks of the ‘yellow vests’ are [predominantly white] workers on lower middle incomes who say they barely scrape by and get scant public services in exchange for some of the highest tax bills in Europe.

    (Aljazeera, December 4, 2018)

    Inequities and iniquities characterize the fight against climate change. And I’ve been decrying them in this forum for nearly 15 years. My abiding complaint is that the carbon footprints the rich leave for business and pleasure dwarf those the poor leave for food and heat. Yet rich folks are continually lecturing poor folks about their use of carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

    Macron would have been well-advised to tax luxury items like second homes, private jets, yachts, expensive cars, jewelry, and even champagne and foie gras. This, instead of attempting to fund his climate-change initiatives by taxing basic necessities like fuel and electricity, which burden the poor so disproportionately.

    I’ve written far too many commentaries on this topic to count. Unfortunately, they’ve done little more than lump me together with the ‘heretics’ trying to temper increasing alarms about climate change with calming facts about environmental protection and conservation.

    Therefore, on behalf of all proud heretics in this respect, let me hasten to clarify that, while acknowledging climate change as a fact but hardly an existential threat, we plead that there are many “Global Priorities Bigger than Climate Change” – as the critically acclaimed Danish environmentalist, Professor Bjorn Lomborg, proffered in his now seminal TED talk in 2005.

    (“March to Save the Planet? Get Real!” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2014)

    Those global priorities include preventing diseases, alleviating poverty, and fighting corruption (everywhere), which is the root cause of so many ills. To be fair, France is not the only rich nation attempting to fight climate change at the expense of its poor citizens. I refer you in this regard to such commentaries as “Pioneer Climatologist Calls Paris Climate Deal ‘Bullsh*t’,” December 15, 2015.

    But the following gives a sense of the political fight within this environmental one:

    President Xi Jinping is straddling divisions between rich and poor nations, which reared their heads in Kyoto (1997), bedeviled attempts to set new goals in Copenhagen (2009), and seem likely to do the same in Paris. This, even with toxic smog (from smokestacks of coal-burning power plants) descending like fog almost daily over his mainland.

    As always, those divisions revolve around poor nations demanding ‘climate justice,’ which would require rich nations to bear the cost of the carbon emissions poor nations believe will be the unavoidable by-product of their ongoing development.

    (“Paris Talks on Climate Change to Avert an Apocalypse? Hardly…,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 2, 2015)

    For the record, I remain convinced that the most feasible and sensible way to fight climate change is for all countries to adopt the rainbow of environmental legislation the US implemented in the early 1970s. I duly hail those laws every year in my “Earth Day” commentary.

    That said, apropos of the grievances of the Yellow Vests being so relatable, this variation on Martin Niemöller’s famous admonition comes to mind:

    First they exploited the paupers, and I did not speak out –

    Because I was not a pauper.

    Then they exploited the blacks, and I did not speak out –

    Because I was not a black.

    Then they exploited the migrants, and I did not speak out –

    Because I was not a migrant.

    Then they exploited me, and now I see –

    Because I have more in common with the paupers, the blacks, and the migrants

    Than with the ruling elites – who have exploited us all.

    Here’s to whites “on lower middle incomes” in America seeing the light. Because President Trump clearly thinks they would blithely forfeit healthcare and pay higher taxes so he can fulfill his promise to “Make America Great Again” (a.k.a. make the rich richer).

    But I’m not holding my breath; after all, they are willfully accepting so much exploitation, they seem hell-bent on proving his boast that, for them, he can do no wrong. I digress …

    The point is that I welcome this humiliation of the elitist Macron. Unfortunately, it took death and destruction. Reports are that three people have been killed, 260 injured, and too many cars burned, windows shattered, buildings vandalized, and monuments defaced to count.

    Incidentally, I wonder if the irony was completely lost on protesters in yellow vests as they caused this death and destruction. Because the reason their vests are so common and accessible is that all French motorists are required to keep these “safety garments” in their vehicles … to wear if they run into trouble.

    But I fully appreciate that the storming of the Arc de Triumph this time was like a rowdy picnic compared to The Storming of the Bastille. Of course, the latter set the precedent the Yellow Vests are following today, namely, protesting the exploitation of the poor and demanding change in unfair government policies. And no less a democrat than Thomas Jefferson would hail this as their right, their duty.

    Finally, if Macron thinks merely postponing his carbon taxes for six months will end the protests, he’s in for a rude awakening. Not least because, given how Yellow Vest protesters got him to cave in on taxes, other aggrieved citizens will think similar protests could get him to cave in on their grievances too.

    Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

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  • Saturday, December 1, 2018 at 4:21 PM

    George H.W. Bush, Most Accomplished One-Term President, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    George Bush, the 41st president of the United States and the father of the 43rd … steered the nation through a tumultuous period in world affairs. …

    [He] was a skilled bureaucratic and diplomatic player who, as president, helped end four decades of Cold War and the threat of nuclear engagement with a nuanced handling of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern Europe. …

    He liked to frame his public service as an answer to the call to duty, like the one that had sent him over the Pacific and into enemy fire as a 20-year-old.

    (The New York Times, November 30, 2018)

    Social norms constrain us to say only positive things about people when they die. Nothing demonstrates this quite like even the mean-spirited President Trump eulogizing Bush:

    President George H.W. Bush led a long, successful and beautiful life. Whenever I was with him I saw his absolute joy for life and true pride in his family. His accomplishments were great from beginning to end. He was a truly wonderful man and will be missed by all!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2018

    Except that Bush might be the only politician in modern times who lived a life that makes every praise he receives in death entirely warranted. All the same, I am obliged to reiterate that

    The last thing I wanted when I began commenting on the deaths of famous people four years ago was to contribute to our culture’s perverse fascination with celebrities. In fact, I only began commenting on them as a lark to propagate the superstition that the deaths of famous people come in threes.

    Therefore, with sincere apologies, I hereby declare that henceforth I shall comment only on the deaths of famous people who have made pioneering or extraordinary contributions to mankind.

    (“Post Mortem on Deaths of Famous People Commentaries,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 4, 2010)

    As it happens, Bush’s contributions were neither pioneering nor extraordinary. What’s more, social norms notwithstanding, I cannot forgive him for the racial tokenism inherent in nominating Clarence Thomas to fill the huge seat Thurgood Marshall’s death left open on the Supreme Court. Thomas, after all, was/is an intellectual and political lackey, to say nothing of his infamy as the godfather of MeToo sexual predators. Nor can I forgive him for the patently racist Willie Horton ad he ran against liberal Michael Dukakis during the 1988 presidential campaign.

    In any event, I highly recommend Adam Nagourney’s exhaustive obituary in The New York Times. But I’d be remiss not to at least hail Bush’s commendable character and commitment to public service.

    The then president Barack Obama campaigned tirelessly for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. During his stump speeches, he invariably declared that she was more qualified to be president than any man in recent US history. It speaks volumes about the willful ignorance of the American electorate that, instead of her, they elected Trump, the least qualified man in all US history. But I digress …

    The point is that George H.W. was a notable exception to Obama’s declaration, having apprenticed as a navy combat pilot, businessman, congressman, ambassador to the UN, special envoy to China, chairman of the National Republican Committee, director of the CIA, and vice president before being elected president in 1988. Topping it all off, he had the character to show strength and courage in the face of war (e.g., The Gulf War) and kindness and grace in the glow of victory (e.g., The Cold War). Yet, apropos of the willful ignorance of the American people, they kicked him out after just one term.

    Beyond this, Bush’s “legacy thing” might be defined more by two fateful things he said than the many commendable things he did:

    1. Read my lips: No new taxes!” He said this at the 1988 Republican National Convention. It doomed his reelection prospects when a critical budget compromise forced him to raise new taxes, thereby sacrificing personal ambition for the general welfare. (I dare you to name one politician who would do the same today?)
    2. This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait!” He said this during a press conference on August 5, 1990. This, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, triggering the aforementioned Gulf War.

    Of course, all of that stands in damning contrast to the puerility, venality, and cupidity of the draft-dodging, pussy-grabbing, truth-defying current president of the United States. Which is why so many of us are feeling especially wistful today.

    Hell, the cowardly lion now serving as commander in chief is too afraid to even visit US troops in war zones – as all of his immediate predecessors did, repeatedly. Yet Bush had so much courage, he was still skydiving at 90.

    Not to mention that he had more common decency in his little pinky than Trump has in his whole body. Simply put, he was everything we all wish Trump could be as president.

    This compels me to reiterate the following with respect to Bush’s pending funeral:

    Trump seems determined to be the first to alienate his predecessors so much that they all shun him like the plague. Mind you, it would probably suit the congenitally insecure Trump well to complete his entire term without even a phone call, let alone personal contact, with any of them. His tweets give the impression that anything Obama related is like kryptonite to his presidency.

    (“Trump’s First Year Ends with Government Shutdown,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 20, 2018)

    Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the Bush family navigates Trump’s command attendance and participation. After all, this idiot tweeted just days ago that Obama and Hillary should be arrested and tried for treason. True to form, he offered no facts to support his tweet and showed no compunction about calling for them to be executed – the punishment for treason.

    Closer to home, I suspect the rhetorical wounds he inflicted on Jeb, George W., and George H.W. during the 2016 presidential campaign are still fresh in the minds of every member of their family. I could find nothing on record, but it would not surprise me if Trump did not even spare family matriarch Barbara his Beavis-and-Butt-Head snark.

    In fact, it’s an indication of their abiding disgust that Trump was the only former president who did not attend the de facto state funeral for Barbara last April. And only the McCain family’s abiding disgust explains him being the only one who did not attend the de facto state funeral for Senator John McCain last August.

    But presidential protocol is such that the Bush family will be obliged to invite Trump, and he will be even more obliged to attend next week’s state funeral for George H.W. The occasion will mark the first time President Trump will come face to face with his predecessors. And anyone who knows anything about the enmity he has incited in all of them knows that his presence there will be as appreciated as that of a skunk at a garden party.

    Lucky for him, though, all of his predecessors will avoid holding their noses as they interact with him. Indeed, each of them has already shown Trump far more grace than he seems even capable of showing. Still, with all due respect to Bush, watching this presidential dynamic play out will be my only reason for tuning in to his funeral.

    Bush died from complications of Parkinson’s disease on Friday at his home in Houston, Texas. He was 94.

    Farewell, George H.W.

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