• Monday, April 30, 2018 at 8:21 AM

    Top Winter Olympians Latest to Snub Trump

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Famous Americans have always snubbed US presidents to make political points. But never before in the history of this republic have so many snubbed any president the way they are snubbing Donald Trump.

    This trend began famously enough on the first day of his presidency. That’s when celebrities of every stripe boycotted his inauguration ceremony. This meant that the celebrity-obsessed Trump had to settle for a smattering of Z-listers; whereas so many A-listers attended Obama’s inauguration ceremony, it seemed like a mashup of the Oscars, Grammys, Emmys, Tonys, and ESPYs.

    But Trump is breaking the norm in this respect not just by the number of snubs but by his reaction to them. Because he often betrays an antic pining to be endorsed, admired, and even celebrated by famous Americans. Even worse, his reaction often involves embarrassing stunts to give the impression that their snubs do not wound his pride as much as they clearly do.

    Not to mention the boldfaced lies he continually tells to make himself seem far more popular than he is. Exhibit A: Trump is still insisting his inauguration crowd was bigger than Obama’s, which is about as laughable at this point as Danny DeVito insisting he’s taller than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    In “Kneeling, the Flag, and the National Anthem,” September 25, 2017, I wrote at length about the unprecedented humiliation of having everyone from professional athletes to corporate CEOs snub Trump. But here in short are just a few of the more notorious snubs that are defining his presidency.

    ____________________

    Britain

    America’s closest ally canceled a state visit for the first time in history because it feared untenable protests would greet Trump throughout.

    The decision averted the risk of public protests that had threatened to embarrass both Mr. Trump and Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May. …

    While Britons may pride themselves on their ‘special relationship’ with the United States, that does not appear to extend to its president.

    (The New York Times, January 12, 2018)

    In fact, this thin-skinned kakistocrat whined that he would not visit unless the British government could guarantee Britons would show him nothing but love. In other words, Trump needs reassurances that people will cheer him at public appearances the way his supporters do at campaign rallies. This makes the pledge of loyalty he demands of top officials in his administration seem modest.

    Media

    Trump flouted the presidential norm for a second-consecutive year by refusing to attend Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Like the British government, the organizers of this annual event could not guarantee he’d be shown nothing but love.

    Unlike his predecessors, Trump could not sit there and take any joke at his expense. Instead, this imperious pussy sent his female press secretary to take the shots, which comedian Michelle Wolf rifled off with … er … Trumpian abandon. For example:

    [Trump] loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a white nationalist is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend.’ Or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies man.’

    (The Washington Post, April 29, 2018)

    Lawyers

    Top lawyers refused solicitations to serve as his counsel, leaving Trump to settle for political hacks like Rudy Giuliani – who hasn’t set foot in a courtroom in decades.

    Athletes and CEOs

    Top athletes refused to attend White House celebrations of their accomplishments. To be fair, there’s nothing new about athletes boycotting the White House. By the same token, though, there’s nothing new about a president lying to the American people. The difference is that, with Trump, the number of snubs, like the number of lies, has grown to unimaginable levels.

    Top CEOs resigned en masse from his various business councils.

    So many CEOs resigned from Trump’s manufacturing council that he just disbanded it. …

    (Vox, August 17, 2017)

    Kennedy Center Honorees

    Kennedy Center honorees refused to attend the annual White House reception and top musicians rejected invitations to perform at the Kennedy Center ceremony – both to snub Trump.

    The White House announced in August that the Trumps would not be attending the annual gala after several honorees said they would boycott a Trump-hosted reception at the White House. Trump responded by bowing out.

    (The Washington Post, December 3, 2017)

    Mind you, this event is usually held under the auspices of the president of the United States. Therefore, it speaks volumes that this president had to bow out because honorees made clear they would find his presence too odious to abide. There’s no overstating the historic nature of this snub.

    Melania Trump

    Even his wife has made a show of repeatedly snubbing him by refusing to hold his hand in public, despite his sorry-dog efforts to get her to do so.

    Winter Olympians

    Another White House ceremony dedicated to American athletes will be severely under-attended this week thanks to the guy occupying the main bedroom at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. …

    Notable absences include [snowboarding phenoms Shaun White and Chloe Kim], alpine ski racing powerhouses Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin as well as the two first openly gay winter olympians, Gus Kenworthy and Adam Rippon.

    (USA Today, April 25, 2018)

    You can bet these superstar snubs annoyed Trump to no end. Not least because the relatively unknown faces of those who attended could not provide the high-wattage photo-op he wanted. On the other hand, he and his neo-Nazi supporters might have derived some consolation from the fact that those faces were all white.

    In any event, the number of A-list athletes boycotting this ceremony vindicates the following observation, which I made in “Sports Teams Snubbing Trump,” The iPINIONS Journal, Volume XIII, Commentaries on Global Events of 2017, p. 441:

    Never before in the history of the United States has a president been so odious that whole sports teams did not want to be caught dead within miles of the White House. …

    Trump is so unpopular that being invited to this White House is tantamount to being invited to a garden party by that proverbial skunk.

    ____________________

    That said, I’ve written a lot – in commentaries like Forget the Clinton Foundation. Shut Down the Trump Organization!” August 26, 2016 – about Trump’s habit of projecting his faults and shortcomings onto others (e.g., crooked Hillary, lyin’ Comey, dumb as a rock Mika, colluding Democrats). He often compounds this by heaping scorn on people whose admiration and attention he obviously craves (e.g., mainstream media, liberal elites, superstar athletes).

    This textbook psychological profile compelled him to stage a rally on Saturday in Washington, Michigan, where he knew the ignorant masses would show him the love he craves. He declared, to their gullible delight, that he’d rather be there than in Washington, DC, where he knew the informed elites would show him the contempt he dreads.

    He later tweeted that “the filthy comedian” – who told mean-spirited jokes about his female staffers – was an embarrassment to everyone associated with that White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. But this was just another case of projection. After all, this crude president – who gained infamy with his mean-spirited remarks about female journalists – knows that he is an embarrassment to everyone associated with the United States.

    Never mind that anyone who knows anything about Trump knows that he’d prefer the elites who celebrated Obama to the masses who idolize him any day … except on Election Day.

    Perhaps some of you recognize the ploy he pulled on Saturday from your days in middle school. You know, when the in-crowd made clear you didn’t belong and you reacted by telling anyone who would listen you didn’t want to hang with those losers anyway.

    Yet, remarkably, this is the level of psychological maturity that governs much of what this president of United States says and does. God help us!

    Related commentaries:
    Kneeling, the flag
    Forget the Clinton Foundation

  • Saturday, April 28, 2018 at 9:58 AM

    Tom Brokaw Facing MeToo/Time’sUp Accusations

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Et tu, Brokaw?

    MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski’s has added her name to the more than 60 women [including Maria Shriver and Rachel Maddow] who signed a letter supporting NBC News veteran Tom Brokaw after sexual harassment allegations against him were published by Washington Post and Variety:

    The testimonial was made public one day after … former NBC News staffer Linda Vester that Brokaw sexually harassed her in the 1990s.

    (Deadline Hollywood, April 27, 2018)

    Influential women like Brzezinski have been in the vanguard of those championing MeToo reckonings for influential men like Harvey Weinstein. And one of the most empowering and galvanizing features of these reckonings has been the presumptive mantra

    Believe the women.

    And, as with Brokaw, there are invariably more than one accuser. Which is why this open letter supporting him is so troubling. For it betrays not only that progressive mantra but also the conventional ignorance that presumes a man innocent of sexual harassment simply because he “treated each of us with fairness and respect” – as their letter protests.

    Frankly, you’d think no self-respecting woman would be caught dead vouching for any man’s innocence of sexual harassment/assault in this era of MeToo reckonings. This, especially after the fall from grace of men like America’s Dad Bill Cosby and CBS News veteran Charlie Rose.

    Therefore, shame on the more than 60 women who did just that in this case.

    Related commentaries:
    MeToo reckoning

  • Saturday, April 28, 2018 at 8:14 AM

    Confused Kanye Is Transitioning to a Black Male Version of Rachel Dolezal

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Have you noticed he’s already sporting blonde hair, man boobs, and (sometimes) blue eyes…?

    Only this confusion explains Kanye tweeting antic love for Donald Trump.

    After all, to paraphrase Kanye’s most famous political statement:

    Donald Trump doesn’t care about black people.

    Then again, to paraphrase Obama’s take on him:

    Kanye is a Jackass, whose talent gives no pass.

    I know tweeters/instagrammers/facebookers crave attention the way addicts crave drugs. And nothing guarantees the former a quick fix quite like gratuitous nudity or polarizing stupidity.

    But it’s one thing to make a fool of oneself for attention on social media. It’s quite another to declare love for a president who foments racism, misogyny, and xenophobia — complete with pathological lies. Not to mention the self-hating folly inherent in the person declaring that love being a member of a group for whom this president continually shows prejudicial contempt or disregard.

    For example, Trump spent days last year hailing the white neo-Nazis who caused mayhem in Charlottesville as some fine men. Yet he has not tweeted a word of praise for James Shaw, the black hero who disarmed a white gunman after he killed four (black) people at a Waffle House five days ago.

    But this racist dichotomy should surprise nobody who knows anything about Trump. Indeed, if those involved in the Waffle House massacre were racially reversed, nobody can deny that Trump would have wasted no time praising the white hero and damning the black gunman. But I digress …

    The point is that, instead of either defending or disowning Kanye, his family and friends should mount an intervention. This brother needs help!

    Related commentaries:
    Rachel Dolezal
    Kanye West

    * If you know who owns copyright to the Kanye’s toon, please contact me!

  • Friday, April 27, 2018 at 6:36 AM

    Windrush: May’s Britain more heartless than Trump’s America…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Video of a woman being pulled away from her weeping daughters on a California street and shoved into a US Customs and Border Protection vehicle is drawing criticism of the manner in which federal agents are enforcing immigration laws. …

    Perla Morales-Luna, 36, came to the US illegally at the age of 15.

    (CBS News March 9, 2018)

    Such images are beginning to define President Trump’s immigration policy – his serial attempts to ban Muslims notwithstanding.

    Morales-Luna is among hundreds of thousands whose parents brought them to the United States as children, which purportedly qualified them as DACA recipients. Now they’re being deported back to countries like Mexico, where some don’t even speak the language. Never mind the trauma DACA parents must experience, wondering when or if they’ll ever see their children again.

    Incidentally, thanks to that video of her arrest going viral, Morales-Luna won a temporary reprieve. But members of Trump’s jackbooted “deportation force” are arresting and deporting many others like her in the shadows. This, despite his promise that

    We are gonna deal with DACA with heart.

    (Politico, February 16, 2017)

    Granted, Trump’s presidency is littered with broken promises. But this is the cruelest one.

    For the record, DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. President Obama signed it as an executive order in 2012 to protect DACA recipients (a.k.a. Dreamers) from deportation. He hoped it would serve only as a stopgap while he forged legislation on comprehensive immigration reform, which would include regularizing their status and establishing a path to citizenship.

    Unfortunately, the Republican-controlled Congress was so committed to opposing every legislation Obama proposed, they would have opposed legislation canonizing Ronald Reagan if Obama proposed it. And then came Trump. Motivated either by racial hatred or political envy, he began systematically revoking Obama’s executive orders, including DACA on September 5, 2017.

    Its recipients have been living with the clear and present fear of deportation ever since, despite intermittent judicial reprieves like the one handed down just this week:

    Judge John D. Bates of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia said that the administration’s decision to terminate the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was based on the ‘virtually unexplained’ grounds that the program was ‘unlawful.’

    The judge stayed his decision for 90 days and gave the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the program, the opportunity to better explain its reasoning for canceling it.

    (The New York Times, April 25, 2018)

    Shamefully, in Trump’s America, it takes judicial intervention for this land of immigrants to honor its promise to welcome huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

    Clearly, it would take some doing for any democratic country to execute a more heartless immigration policy. Yet Britain seems to have done just that with its Windrush policy.

    In the aftermath of World War II, the British government invited thousands of people from Caribbean countries in the British Commonwealth to immigrate to the United Kingdom and help address the war-torn country’s labor shortages.

    The migrants are known as the ‘Windrush generation,’ named for the HMT Empire Windrush that brought the first group of them to the UK in June 1948.

    (The Atlantic, April 19, 2018)

    Now bear in mind that the United Kingdom “invited” them from countries that were British colonies. In other words, this was not like the United States turning a blind eye back then to people illegally crossing its Southern border in droves to toil away in menial jobs.

    Therefore, the British government should have had no compunction about regularizing the status of Windrush migrants – complete with IDs, passports, and access to the panoply of benefits all citizens enjoy. Besides, thanks to colonialism, they were already de-facto British citizens.

    Yet, from the outset, the British government used institutional roadblocks to prevent many of these migrants from regularizing their status. This caused such dire consequences for Windrush migrants, it makes those DACA recipients are facing seem salutary.

    An 81-year-old Windrush NHS nurse [Greta Gocan] has been separated from her six kids after being refused re-entry to Britain after a holiday. …

    ‘From the life, I once had surrounded by my children in London to having been made homeless in Jamaica has broken my heart.’

    (The Sun, April 20, 2018)

    This is why it speaks volumes that the person most responsible for this heartless policy is none other than UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

    Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded an apology from Theresa May for the policy she introduced as Home Secretary of creating a ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants by requiring individuals to prove their right to be in the UK before receiving services.

    ‘People that have given their lives to this country, to our health service, to our education system, our transport system are suddenly being told to go home.’

    (The Daily Mail, April 20, 2018)

    To her credit, though, May is not trying to justify her policy in Trumpian fashion. Instead, she is seeking redemption and offering compensation.

    Theresa May has said that members of the Windrush generation who have been treated unfairly by the Home Office are to be compensated. …

    The PM said money will be offered to resolve ‘anxieties and problems’.

    (BBC, April 21, 2018)

    Still, her critics wasted no time extracting clarifications to ensure that those affected will be fully compensated. Here, for example, is what Labour MP David Lammy, who led the Windrush campaign, tweeted:

    Compensation must be provided to anyone who has forked out for legal fees or has lost their job, their pension, benefits, access to healthcare or been detained, deported or refused re-entry back to the UK.

    That is justice.

    — David Lammy (@ DavidLammy) April 21, 2018

    Say what you will about the British, when confronted/shamed with such injustice, they generally do the right thing. This might explain why they abolished slavery and granted women’s suffrage before the Americans did.

    But the most relevant precedent is the way the British government finally came to terms with victims of colonial crimes committed during Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion. I commented on their historic compensation in “Britain Apologizes and Pays for Colonial Atrocities,” June 7, 2013.

    Accordingly, while DACA recipients continue to live in fear in Trump’s America, members of the Windrush generation are being naturalized and compensated in May’s Britain.

    Of course, for those denied re-entry, nothing can compensate for lost years with family and friends, to say nothing of those who died in that perverse state of exile. Except that, but for their heartrending stories, the British government would not be rushing now to make amends.

    That said, this Windrush scandal exposes for all to see the specious ties that bind the British Commonwealth. It also vindicates those of us who have been urging the former colonies to … er … regularize their relationships with the UK to duly reflect their independence.

    I refer you in this regard to such commentaries as “Another Commonwealth Summit on Trade Ends with Imperial Promises but No Guarantees,” November 29, 2005, “No More Privy Council. Take Care of Your Own Judicial Mess!” October 8, 2009, and “Australia Bans British Honours. Other Commonwealth Countries Should Too,” November 3, 2015.

    Alas, the Commonwealth Heads of Government seem all too willing to abide the “enduring tendrils of empire.” Nothing betrayed this quite like the way they acceded recently to the Queen’s “sincere wish” for her son Charles to succeed her as head of the Commonwealth.

    You’d think, if only as a matter of racial pride, all Caribbean and African heads would have seized this golden opportunity to elect one of their own, especially in light of all the Windrush scandal exposed.

    Related commentaries:
    DACA
    Britain apologizes
    Commonwealth summit
    Privy council
    British honours

  • Thursday, April 26, 2018 at 2:37 PM

    Bill Cosby, ‘America’s Dad,’ Guilty of Felony Sexual Assault

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A jury found Bill Cosby guilty Thursday of [three counts of] drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home near here 14 years ago … each punishable by up to 10 years in state prison, though the sentences could be served concurrently. …

    The case was the first high-profile trial of the #MeToo era.

    (The New York Times, April 26, 2018)

    I have written many commentaries on this sordid, tragic case. They include “10 More Women Accuse Bill Cosby of Sexual Assault…Rape,” April 23, 2005, “Bill Cosby Pays Off Woman Who Accused Him of Rape,” November 13, 2006, “Bill Cosby, a Serial Rapist?!” October 22, 2014, and “Crappy New Year to Bill and Camille Cosby!” January 4, 2016, in which I predicted this 80-year-old’s fate as follows:

    In truth, ever since he allowed himself to be deposed before settling [Andrea Constand’s] 2006 lawsuit, Cosby has been a jailbird walking. His accusers numbered more than fifty last week. That’s when a Philadelphia prosecutor finally issued a warrant for his arrest. …

    He’s facing ten years in prison, and deserves every bit of that time.

    I remarked in one of my commentaries that, for every one of Cosby’s victims who comes forward, there are probably ten who are too afraid or ashamed to do so. Bear that in mind as you read the following – from “Bill Cosby’s (all too Belated) Fall from Grace,” November 18, 2014 – which I shall let stand as my closing comment.

    If you’re inclined to feel any sympathy for Cosby, don’t! After all, if just one of these [62] women is telling the truth, Cosby should’ve spent most, if not all, of the past 30 years in prison, not on TV or on stage. Especially considering that the following quote from his 1969 comedy album titled, appropriately enough, It’s True! It’s True!, could fairly be read as an unwitting statement of his consciousness of guilt:

    ‘You know anything about Spanish Fly… you put some in her drink, man … ahhhhhh … Spanish Fly is groovy. Yeah boy … any time you see a girl: Wish you had some Spanish Fly boy.’

    Good riddance, Mr. Cosby!

    Related commentaries:
    Fall from grace
    Serial rapist
    Crappy New Year
    Weinstein et al #MeToo
    Larry Nasser USA gymnastics #MeToo

  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018 at 6:37 AM

    Celebrities ‘Boycotting’ Israel the Way They Boycotted South Africa

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I stood with fellow students in the early 1980s in calling on corporations and governments to cripple South Africa’s Apartheid regime with boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS). We were trying to force democratic reforms that would grant civil rights to the country’s historically oppressed blacks.

    I could not have been prouder. But I knew that rallying cries on a cloistered campus would have about as much impact as fleas fluttering on the backside of an elephant.

    This is why I was so encouraged when influential artists and athletes (a.k.a. celebrities) took up this cause as a matter of both personal and professional pride.

    The group, led by Harry Belafonte and Arthur Ashe, includes such celebrities as Paul Newman, Jane Fonda, Tony Bennett, Tony Randall, Bill Cosby, Muhammad Ali and Wilt Chamberlain. Their goal is to obtain pledges from thousands of their colleagues to join in a boycott of South Africa’s strict policies of racial segregation known as apartheid.

    (The Washington Post, September 13, 1983)

    The rest is history.

    Of course, history has a way of repeating itself. And too often that’s a bad thing; but not in this case. Because, in many ways, the growing BDS movement against Israel is mirroring the one that prevailed against South Africa.

    As it happens, I’ve been standing in solidarity with a diverse group of activists for over a decade in calling on governments and corporations to cripple Israel’s government in similar fashion. We’ve been trying to force Israel to either abide Palestinian statehood or grant Palestinians the same civil rights the BDS movement forced South Africa to grant blacks.

    Except that I’m ashamed to admit that the closest I’ve come to a rally for this cause was attending a concert by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. He headlines a growing list of singers now refusing to perform in Israel – many of them succumbing to peer pressure, as Lorde did when she canceled a concert last December.

    But a famous proverb says the pen is mightier than the sword. In that spirit, perhaps the supportive commentaries I’ve written over the years compensate for my lack of attendance at BDS rallies.

    In fact, I have taken a lot of flak for condemning Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians in too many commentaries to count. They notably include “Wither Roadmap to Peace in the Middle East,” June 29, 2006, “Never-ending Story: Territorial (Holy) War Between Israel and Palestinians (in Gaza),” January 3, 2009, “Instead of Peace Israel Settling for Apartheid…?” May 1, 2014, and “Israel Votes to Become more like Apartheid South Africa,” March 18, 2015.

    The last of those includes this fateful lament:

    I couldn’t care any less who governs Israel. My only concern is that, in voting for Netanyahu, Israelis have consigned their country, for the near term, to international pariah status worthy of South Africa at the height of the Apartheid regime.

    [He] declared that there will never be a Palestinian state as long as he’s prime minister.

    Regrettably, my weblog commentaries are having no greater impact on Netanyahu’s Israel than my campus cries had on Apartheid South Africa.

    This is why I am so encouraged that celebrities are taking up this cause as a matter of both personal and professional pride. Because they could have the same kind of impact that celebrities who boycotted South Africa had.

    Which brings me to Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman. She took a dramatic stand last week when she cited Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians as her reason for refusing to visit Israel to accept a national honor.

    The Genesis Prize, which calls itself the ‘Jewish Nobel,’ canceled its annual ceremony after announcing that winner Natalie Portman would not visit Israel due to ‘recent events.’ …

    While the foundation did not specify Portman’s reasoning, the announcement comes less than a week after the European Union called for an investigation into the Israeli military’s use of live ammunition in an attack along the Gaza border that left dozens of Palestinians dead and hundreds wounded.

    (The New York Daily News, April 19, 2018)

    That’s the rather anodyne way the news media initially reported on her cancellation.

    Therefore, it’s an indication of her “extreme distress” that Portman felt moved to elaborate. Here in part is how she took to Instagram on Friday to do so:

    I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony. …

    [T]he mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.

    In other words, Portman finally realized what some of us did many years ago, namely that the way Netanyahu’s Israel treats Palestinians is aping the way Apartheid South Africa treated blacks. Which makes one wonder why this did not give pause to previous “Genesis Prize Laureates” like actor Michael Douglas and politician Michael Bloomberg.

    More to the point, though, just as celebrities like Portman buoyed the BDS movement that eventually won civil rights for blacks in South Africa, they are beginning to do the same for Palestinians in the Middle East.

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and other Hollywood stars have yet to arrive in Israel for an all-expenses paid luxury trip offered to them last year, in what campaigners describe as victory against the state’s attempt of whitewashing crimes.

    None of the 26 Oscars stars offered a free personalized tour, valued at up to $55,000 have visited the controversial state.

    (The New Arab, February 23, 2017)

    I hope it’s only a matter of time before “I, I, I, ain’t gonna play Tel Aviv” becomes as much of a rallying cry for fighting Netanyahu’s Israel as “I, I, I, ain’t gonna play Sun City” became for fighting Apartheid South Africa.

    To be fair, Portman insists

    I’m not pro-BDS, I’m anti-Netanyahu.

    Except that this makes about as much sense as saying – with respect to North Korea oppressing its people and threatening nuclear war with the United States – I’m not pro-sanctions, I’m anti-Jong-un.

    Indeed, it speaks volumes about Portman’s disassociation from her own BDS advocacy that the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel used her “boycott” to make this observation:

    Decades of egregious human rights violations against Palestinians have made its brand so toxic that even well-known Israeli-American cultural figures refuse to whitewash Israeli crimes.

    (The Jerusalem Post, April 21, 2018)

    In any case, just as it was with South Africa, celebrities are jumping on a BDS bandwagon students and professors started long ago. Interestingly enough, no less a professor than the late Stephen Hawking paved the road Portman has just taken.

    British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has announced his withdrawal from the upcoming Israeli conference in Jerusalem as part of an academic boycott to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

    After initially agreeing to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference, hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres, the world-renowned scientist has now changed his mind.

    (Mic, May 8, 2013)

    Meanwhile, Portman’s cancellation has so humiliated Israel that members of Netanyahu’s ruling party are calling for the government to revoke her Israeli citizenship. She has dual American-Israeli citizenship.

    But there’s danger in scapegoating Portman. Because Israel risks alienating many of the American Jews who facilitate the US government’s indispensable support for Israel on the world stage.

    Jeremy Ben Ami, the president of J Street, expressed support for Portman, stating that ‘Natalie Portman has every right to listen to her conscience and express her concerns when it comes to the current policies and direction of Israel and its government – concerns that are shared by so many American Jews and supporters of Israel around the world.’

    (Haaretz, April 22, 2018)

    I have commented on Israel’s existential solidarity with American Jews in many commentaries, including “Recognizing Jerusalem: Trump’s America and Netanyahu’s Israel against the World,” December 7, 2017, and “American Jews more Pro-Israel than Jews in Israel,” February 6, 2013, which includes the following excerpt.

    ____________________

    It was truly surreal watching Republicans interrogate Chuck Hagel about his support for (or loyalty to) Israel during last week’s Senate hearing on his nomination to serve as defense secretary.

    In fact, Israel figured so prominently that I felt moved to title my commentary on the hearing, “Was Hagel Nominated as Defense Secretary for US or Israel?”…

    Israel has become as sacred a cow in American politics as Mom, apple pie … and guns. … [It] has become thus because a) influential Evangelicals (a.k.a. Christian Zionists) consider its security key to their salvation; b) politicians of every stripe consider pandering about its security key to their election; and c) American Jews have inordinate media power and contribute more to political campaigns than any other demographic group … by far.

    ____________________

    But nothing betrays how desperate Netanyahu is to fortify Israel against BDS quite like him hailing Trump as a latter-day Emperor Cyrus the Great – complete with minted Temple coins featuring heroic profiles of both.

    According to the Bible, Cyrus was an ancient leader of Persia (modern-day Iran) who rescued the Jews from captivity in Babylon (modern-day Iraq). This is not the commentary to elaborate. I just think it’s worth noting the hypocrisy inherent in Netanyahu idolizing Cyrus for helping the Jews reclaim their homeland. After all, Netanyahu is doing to the Palestinians much of what the Babylonians did to the Jews.

    Great men like Moses, Cyrus, and Balfour were instrumental in helping Jews settle the “Promised Land” they enjoy today. But Netanyahu is insulting their respective legacies by putting Trump in a pantheon alongside them.

    Never mind that Trump is too narcissistic and ignorant to appreciate that this gesture amounts to nothing more than idle flattery. Like Xi of China, Macron of France, and practically every other world leader, Netanyahu knows that flattery goes a long way in getting Trump to do his bidding. He clearly hopes that will include getting Trump to do everything from turning a blind eye to the atrocities Israel perpetrates against the Palestinians to launching preemptive strikes against Iran under the pretext of saving the Jews from the country Cyrus begat.

    Frankly, hailing Trump as a Cyrus-like savior of the Jews reeks of even more sycophantic presumptuousness than the Nobel committee awarding Barack Obama the peace prize before he even had a peace plan. As I argued in “Recognizing Jerusalem…,” merely announcing a plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem does not make Trump worthy of any honor, let alone this hosanna.

    In any event, I stand with progressive Jews – in America and Israel – who think the Israeli government should see Portman’s cancellation as an admonition to be heeded, not a threat to be fought.

    What’s more, we are probably more “anti-Netanyahu” than she. For my part, I can cite attestative commentaries like “Obama Adviser Is Right: Netanyahu Is a ‘Chickenshit’ Prime Minister!” November 4, 2014, “Chutzpah: Israeli PM to Address US Congress,” January 23, 2015, “Netanyahu’s a Putz for Branding Obama a Judas Over UN Resolution,” December 29, 2016, and “Netanyahu Deporting Blacks to Preserve White Character of Jewish State,” January 4, 2018.

    This is why I am so disappointed that Portman crippled her principled stand with her squaring-the-circle attempt to blame Netanyahu while holding blameless his oppressive government.

    Related commentaries:
    Wither roadmap
    Neverending story
    Israel apartheid
    Israel votes
    Stephen Hawking
    Recognizing Jerusalem
    American Jews more pro-Israel
    Chutzpah
    Chickenshit PM
    Netanyahu’s a putz
    White Jewish state

  • Monday, April 23, 2018 at 7:53 AM

    Viva la Revolución? Miguel Following Raúl like Raúl Following Fidel

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    With apologies to my Spanish-speaking readers, nothing describes Cuba’s national development quite like the French epigram plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. It means the more it changes the more it remains the same. And that, in a nutshell, is Cuba.

    Cuba’s National Assembly cleared the way for the end of Castro rule on Wednesday, naming longtime Communist Party figure Miguel Díaz-Canel as the sole candidate for head of state.

    The move virtually ensured that the 57-year-old Díaz-Canel – long groomed for leadership – would replace President Raúl Castro as the island’s leader and close out nearly 60 years of control by Fidel Castro, who died in 2016 at age 90, and his younger brother Raúl.

    (The Chicago Tribune, April 18, 2018)

    The above notwithstanding, many commentators are hailing this occasion as the “end of Castro rule.” But they are overstating the transition afoot.

    After all, Raúl (86) will retain his position as first secretary of the all-powerful Communist Party. And, as he himself famously proclaimed when he became acting president in 2006:

    Fidel’s substitute can only be the Communist Party of Cuba.

    This is why Dìaz-Canel’s duties as president will be mostly ceremonial. Indeed, it speaks volumes that both Fidel and Raúl served as president AND first secretary for as long as they wanted. By contrast, Dìaz-Canel is serving only as president. What’s more, a new decree means that he can only serve for two five-year terms.

    Mind you, if Raúl dies a “timely” death and Dìaz-Canel plays his cards right, he could pull a Xi. Specifically, he could emulate Chinese President Xi Jinping by getting the Communist Party to rubberstamp his ambition to serve as president and first secretary … for life.

    To be fair, there is cause to hail Dìaz-Canel in at least one respect. It relates to his declared intent to prescribe the most effective antidote for President Trump’s regressive policies:

    ‘Today, with the development of social media… and the Internet, it’s almost delusional to try to prohibit it, it doesn’t make any sense,’ said Dìaz-Canel, who can often be seen with a tablet under his arm.

    (France 24, April 18, 2018)

    Of course, not prohibiting access is not the same as not censoring it. In fact, social media and the Internet in Cuba are bound to mirror the same in China – complete with state-controlled limitations.

    More to the point, though, Dìaz-Canel will likely follow Raúl’s prescription for implementing greater economic and social freedoms, while retaining totalitarian political control (a.k.a. the China model for national development). This, despite reports that the well-indoctrinated Dìaz-Canel is even more wary of market-oriented reforms than the reform-minded Raúl.

    Unfortunately, Dìaz-Canel will face many of the same obstacles Fidel faced. This, because President Trump made quite a show last year of retightening many of the restrictions on travel to and trade with Cuba — restrictions which President Obama won universal praise for loosening.

    Here in part is how I commented on this regression in “Trump’s Hypocrisy on Human Rights: Cuba vs. Qatar,” June 16, 2017.

    ____________________

    I know, complaining about President Trump’s hypocrisy is rather like complaining about a prostitute’s promiscuity. … Trump’s America-First policy towards Cuba amounts to little more than pandering to Miami Cubans, while cutting off America’s nose to spite its face. …

    There’s no denying that these changes will hurt many Cubans in their pocket books. … But, as it was for the 55 years before Obama normalized relations, these changes will not chasten Cuba’s ruling elite politically or hurt them financially. On the contrary, Canada and Europe will now be competing with Russia and China to pick up every slack America’s retreat creates.

    Apropos of new restrictions, Trump clearly couldn’t care less about making it inconvenient for ordinary Americans to travel to Cuba. But it speaks volumes about his hypocrisy that he’s planning to deny American businessmen the very opportunities in Cuba that he himself was seeking to exploit just years ago.

    [Caribbean News Now published a comprehensive report on his futile efforts on April 17. It noted that ‘Trump had been actively seeking to take advantage of Obama’s opening to Cuba, which created a wide range of exceptions to the embargo, including allowing U.S. companies to do business on the island.

    Between 2012 and 2015, several Trump Organization executives responsible for developing golf properties traveled to Cuba repeatedly.’]

    Then, of course, there’s the self-defeating prospect of Trump provoking Cuba to cease all cooperation on regional anti-terror and anti-drug efforts.

    In other words, these changes only provide further vindication for those of us who maintain that this president is just plain STUPID (i.e., self-absorbed, tendentious, unhinged, pusillanimous, insecure, and delusional).

    ____________________

    That said, what I find most significant about this occasion has more to do with enduring racism than ending an era.

    A browse of my weblog will show that I have written too many commentaries on Cuba to count. But it just so happens that I wrote one five years ago that not only heralded Dìaz-Canel’s (s)election but also synthesized my views on Cuba’s political, economic, and social development.

    Here, in its entirety (fear not, it’s relatively brief), is “Castros’ (White) Successor Highlights Racism in Cuba,” March 1, 2013.

    **********

    I am among those who have been agitating for years for the United States to lift its hypocritical, unconscionable, and demonstrably misguided embargo against Cuba. Not least because the people who have been (and are being) harmed most by it are poor Cubans, the majority of whom are Black.

    Instead of merely extolling the Pope’s moral authority, President Bush should rise above political pandering and heed his call to end America’s inhumane and immoral embargo against Cuba. After all, when a communist dictator can claim papal sanction to dismiss the president of the United States as a hypocrite, this alone should cause a God-fearing president like George W. Bush to reexamine his policies, if not his soul.

    (“President Bush, Seal Your and Pope’s Legacy, Lift Embargo Against Cuba,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 11, 2005)

    I have even suggested that the same moral and pragmatic principle that is leading President Obama to hold direct talks with Iran is leading him to normalize relations with Cuba. In doing so, he is redressing patently flawed policies, which his predecessors pursued, in both cases, for far too long.

    But I have always been keen to distinguish between normalizing relations with Cuba and supporting the Castro regime.

    AB0235C6-3600-4786-A5C1-34D827A2755C_w640_r1_sThis brings me to the announcement Rául Castro (81) made this week. He announced that Miguel Díaz-Canel (52) is the anointed one to succeed him.

    It is surreal enough that Díaz-Canel will have to cool his heels for another five years until Rául officially retires in 2018. But if Fidel handing power to Rául did not betray all pretense of democratic socialism in Cuba, surely Rául anointing Díaz-Canel his successor does.

    Bear in mind that Cuba is predominantly black. Yet it seems no black stood a snowball’s chance in Hell of succeeding Rául. Even worse, though, none of the Castros’ political enablers in Africa or the Caribbean seem the least bit troubled by this apartheid-like succession.

    Indeed, black democratic leaders have been visiting Cuba for years, wearing their show of political solidarity with defiant pride. Remarkably, they seem oblivious to the message of racial betrayal, which their visits convey. But their pilgrimages to Cuba must be even more disheartening to black Cubans than those white democratic leaders made to Apartheid South Africa must have been to black South Africans.

    Estaban Morales DominguezThis might seem unduly provocative, if not uniformed, given Fidel’s propaganda about his revolution ending racial inequality. Except that my contention is supported by no less a person than Dr. Esteban Morales Domínguez. He is a professor of Economics and Political Science at the University of Havana and a member of the Cuban Academy of Sciences.

    Here — courtesy of his Challenges of the Racial Problem in Cuba (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2008) — are just a few apartheid-like statistics about life in Cuba:

    • Cuba’s total civil and public leadership is predominantly white (71%), despite a black population of somewhere between 62-72%;
    • privately owned land is 98% white; and
    • blacks have only 5% interests in state cooperatives and with growing privatizing of land, they will be totally disenfranchised.

    Moreover, here’s how Dr. Morales himself debunked the myth of Castro’s revolution ushering in a new era of racial equality in the October-December 2008 quarterly magazine Temas:

    The way power is distributed in present-day Cuban society does not go beyond what existed prior to 1959. White dominance is still forcefully expressed, especially at the level of what is called the ‘new economy.’ This is especially evident in the absence of Blacks in the upper leadership levels of the state, government and institutions of civil society in general.

    Granted, Dr. Morales states (and I readily acknowledge) that the Castros took commendable steps to eradicate institutional racism in the early years of their revolution. But even though recognized as equal in the eyes of the law, blacks were (and still are) denied equal opportunity to excel in practically every aspect of life in Cuba.

    Indeed, it is a damning indictment of not only Castro’s leadership but also the political judgment of anyone who glorifies him that the vast majority of black Cubans live in more squalid conditions today – 47 years into his socialist revolution – than they did under the apartheid-style dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, the man he overthrew.

    (“Dancing on Castro’s Grave Is Not Only Unseemly; It’s Premature,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 2, 2006)

    imagesThis is why I have continually admonished those, especially blacks, who stand so proudly in solidarity with the Castros to be mindful of the contradiction, if not the betrayal, inherent in doing so. It is also why I have continually suffused calls for the United States to end its embargo with calls for the Castros to end their apartheid-like rule.

    Finally, just as no credible commentary on Cuba can fail to mention the embargo, none can fail to mention the Cuban exiles who are primarily responsible for keeping it in place.

    Accordingly, consider this:

    Only unbridled conceit and arrogance among Miami Cubans explain their support for continuing the embargo … until kingdom come if necessary. Nothing betrays this quite like them presuming that — once the Castro brothers die off — they’ll be able to return to Cuba to inherit the political power and social privileges they or family members abdicated decades ago. And they presume this prerogative without any regard for the (mostly black) Cubans who have been toiling at home, waiting for their opportunity to govern their country.

    Except that, at this rate, I fear a well-indoctrinated Elian Gonzalez will be Cuban dictator before Miami Cubans are disabused of their antic pining for their paradise lost.

    (“Dancing on Castro’s Grave Is Not Only Unseemly; It’s Premature,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 2, 2006)

    In other words, there is no doubt that, when he assumes power, the only mandate Díaz-Canel will recognize is that which compels him to honor the Castros’ legacy.

    ¡Viva la Revolución?

    **********

    Related commentaries:
    Bush…lift embargo
    Dancing on Castro’s grave
    Castro admits his model has failed
    Trump reverses Obama policies
    Castros’ white successor

    * This commentary was originally published at Caribbean News Now on Friday, April 20

  • Monday, April 23, 2018 at 7:28 AM

    Earth Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) conceived this day of awareness in the late 1960s as an enlightened response to carefree pollution all over America.

    The country celebrated its first Earth Day on 1970. The environmental practices it inaugurated have become routine and universal; so much so 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. Truths, incidentally, that included using fake images of melting glaciers in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth just to scare people.

    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, for all his prophesying, Gore has had no impact.

    Nobel Peace Prize-winner Al Gore said in an interview published Monday that there had been no improvement in the fight against climate change since his Oscar-winning film on the issue was released.

    (Agence France-Presse, April 20, 2008)

    face-of-climate-change-300x129In any event, representatives from 194 countries marked Earth Day in 2016 by gathering at the United Nations in New York to sign the landmark Paris Climate Accord.

    As CNN reported, scientist hailed this agreement as the “world’s biggest leap forward in climate change policy in history.” It committed the world to ending our dependence on fossil fuels by the end of this century, which would limit global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.”

    Past being prologue, I feared that getting each country to ratify this agreement, to say nothing of getting each to abide by the terms, would devolve into a terminal winter of discontent. I delineated my abiding doubts in “Paris Talks on Climate Change to Avert an Apocalypse? Hardly…,” December 2, 2015.

    Sure enough, I thought my cynical fears would come true when President Trump made such a show of withdrawing the United States (the world’s second-biggest polluter behind China) from the Paris accord. But I was exceedingly heartened when governors like Jerry Brown of California and philanthropists like Michael Bloomberg began filling the breach.

    Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he will pay $4.5m (£3.2m) to cover some of the lapsed US commitment to the Paris climate accord.

    He said he had a responsibility to help improve the environment because of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the deal.

    (BBC, April 23, 2018)

    In fact, thanks to public-private partnerships across the country, Trump’s boneheaded decision to withdraw the United States is having little to no effect.

    Related commentaries:
    Paris talks
    Save the planet

  • Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 8:52 AM

    Freezing Nuke Tests Is ‘Mission Accomplished’ for North Korea, Not Triumph for US

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    North Korea says its quest for nuclear weapons is ‘complete’ and it ‘no longer needs’ to test its weapons capability, a significant development ahead of diplomatic engagement with both South Korea and the United States.

    (CNN, April 21, 2018)

    Trust me folks, this is like Syria saying its conquest of all rebel strongholds is complete and it no longer needs to use chemical weapons to finish them off.

    Which is why it’s so patently stupid for President Trump to be hailing North Korea’s announcement as a blink in the face of his “fire-and-fury” brinkmanship.

    North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World – big progress! Look forward to our Summit.

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018

    Said the hen to the fox …

    Hell, this is the same delusional, self-aggrandizing narcissist who hailed the second round of cruise missiles he launched at empty buildings in Syria as “Mission Accomplished.” What mission he accomplished, he did not say (or care), and only few people (like me) bothered to ask.

    But Trump claiming credit in this case also reeks of hypocritical fecklessness. After all, North Korea made this announcement only because it has accomplished its mission of perfecting its nuclear arsenal. Even more damning, it did so by launching more tests on Trump’s watch than any other president’s. This, despite Trump vowing as a presidential candidate that North Korea would never dare launch a single one on his watch.

    Given this, you’d be forgiven for wondering why so many reporters and commentators are hailing North Korea’s announcement as a “breakthrough.” Especially, given that some of us are still mocking them for hailing this:

    North Korea is willing to discuss relinquishing its nuclear weapons and will freeze its nuclear and missile programmes if it begins direct talks with the US, in a dramatic easing of tensions after a visit by senior South Korean politicians, officials said on Tuesday.

    (The Guardian, March 6, 2018)

    Frankly, anyone who knows anything about this “Hermit Kingdom” knows that North Korea is merely saying what it always says, which is anything necessary to extract concessions from the United States.

    Here, for example, is what I wrote when Kim Jong-un’s father made a similar “breakthrough” announcement 12 years ago:

    North Korean President Kim Jong-Il is a temperamental and insecure man. Only this explains his habit of making nuclear threats from time to time. Whenever he does, he commands the international attention he craves so pathologically and extorts the aid his people need so desperately. …

    When it comes to psychological warfare, this North Korean gnome is one Chicken Little who manages to jerk the world’s chain every time. Indeed, true to form, statements of concern from world leaders about what Jong-Il might do followed his antic declaration with Pavlovian predictability. But one wonders why — given his record of idle threats — world leaders even give him the time of day?!

    (“Why do World Leaders Give North Korea’s President Time of Day,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 4, 2006)

    And here is how I presaged six years ago what Kim Jong-un himself is saying today:

    His perverse calculation is that a successful launch [or, in this case, producing more plutonium to make nuclear weapons] will give him a much stronger hand to extort (with threats to attack South Korea or sell nukes to terrorists) tons more money and food when he returns to the negotiating table for patently disingenuous talks about dismantling his nuclear program. And, past being prologue, he’s right.

    (“North Korea Commanding World Attention … Again,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 13, 2012)

    But forget testing! Because somebody should remind Trump that he promised to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. This clearly requires North Korea to relinquish its nuclear weapons, not just discuss doing so.

    Incidentally, getting North Korea to sign a meaningless peace treaty or release a few prisoners would be tantamount to settling for just a slice. This would be a far cry from the whole loaf Trump promised, or even the half loaf any negotiator worth his salt should get.

    In any event, North Korea announcing a willingness to freeze its nuclear tests is no cause for Trump to pat himself on the back. Never mind the folly of reporters and commentators already hailing him as a top candidate for this year’s Nobel Peace prize.

    Related commentaries:
    Groundhog-day re NK nukes
    mission accomplished Syria
    fire and fury

  • Sunday, April 15, 2018 at 8:37 AM

    Syria: Mission Accomplished?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The “pee-brained” president of the United States greeted the world this morning with this tweet, which is as heartless as it is clueless:

    Of course, the only mission Trump accomplished was to waste billions of taxpayer dollars just to turn a few empty buildings into rubble —in a war-ravaged country that was already mostly rubble.

    After all, thanks to Trump’s heads up, Assad had nearly a week to move assets to safe harbor, and reports are that Russia and Iran helped him do just that.

    Trump did not destroy any of the aircrafts Assad uses to launch chemical weapons; he did not kill any of the fighters Assad uses to politically cleanse opposition forces; and he did not destroy any of the stations Assad uses to transmit propaganda.

    In fact, Trump did absolutely nothing to prevent Assad from gassing his own people again today. This is self-evident because, if Assad were still storing chemical weapons in any of the buildings targeted, blowing them up would have made Trump responsible for a human catastrophe far worse than the one he was purportedly avenging.

    Frankly, the only newsworthy thing about this “perfectly executed strike” is the way it exposed Putin as an even bigger blustering fool than Trump. After all, Putin warned that he would not only shoot every missile out of the sky but destroy the ships and aircrafts that launched them to boot. Yet reports are that he did not fire a single shot in defense of his puppet Assad. #COWARD!

    In any event, given my allusions in related commentaries to President Bush’s shock-and-awe disaster in Iraq, these latest developments compel me to say, I rest my case.

    NOTE: Here’s to the media returning to their regularly scheduled saturation coverage of Comey’s “bombshell revelations” about Trump.

    Related commentaries:
    Syria: bombs away

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Saturday, at 8:47 a.m.

  • Friday, April 13, 2018 at 9:37 PM

    Syria: Bombs Away!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Trump’s egomaniacal stunts are such that he will probably order bombs to begin landing on Syria this Sunday night. Because that’s when ABC News has scheduled what all of Washington anticipates will be a blockbuster interview with former FBI director James Comey about his dealings with “Mafia Don” Trump.

    That interview will be based on Comey’s damning tell-all, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. But Trump knows all too well that Comey’s bombshell revelations would prove no match for his “nice, smart bombs” exploding in Syria.

    And he’d be right; the media would focus on the latter like moths to flames. To be fair, though, bombshell revelations about Trump and his presidency are as predictable at this point as salacious details about Stormy and her porno films.

    (“Trump, May, Macron: Don’t Bomb Syria. Withdraw World Cup from Russia,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 11, 2018)

    As it happens, the media spent much of today gobbling up advanced excerpts of Comey’s book, preempting Sunday’s interview. Therefore, I hope I’ll be forgiven for asserting that this media frenzy explains Trump ordering strikes tonight.

    President Trump said on Friday he had ordered strikes on Syrian targets, seeking to punish President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack near Damascus that killed more than 40 people.

    Mr. Trump said Britain and France had joined the United States in the strikes.

    (The New York Times, April 13, 2018)

    And, sure enough, the media turned on a dime from Comey to Syria – just as I predicted and Trump hoped they would. But I trust I’ve made clear why this is just another tragic launch of folly, which I’ve decried in related commentaries as an exercise in feckless masturbatory violence. Indeed, it will do no more to improve the lives of Syrians than 15 years of war did to improve that of Iraqis.

    I’ll spare you my indignant venting on the perverse moral code that led to that misguided war in Iraq and is now playing out in Syria. I just urge you to consider the manifest absurdity of Western leaders standing by as Assad kills hundreds of thousands with conventional weapons but claiming a moral compulsion to intervene when he kills hundreds with chemical weapons.

    I’ve been pleading for years for Western leaders to reconcile this moral inconsistency in such commentaries as “Actually, Isn’t Killing with Gas (Syria) more Humane than Killing with Guns (Egypt)?” August 23, 2013.

    That said, you should be wondering why nobody has heard a peep from the world’s second-most powerful nation. Well, the following explains China’s conspicuous refusal to serve even as a peace broker, let alone participate in this escalating military conflagration:

    China has so cultivated its self-serving and self-preserving policy of non-interference, it would not lift a finger to stop ISIS from conquering every country in the Middle East, so long as ISIS did not impinge on its sovereignty and was willing to supply its demand for oil.

    In other words, if China (instead of the United States) were the only world power capable of stopping the Nazis during WWII, Hitler would have realized his dream of turning all of Europe into a fascist paradise (e.g., free of Jews, blacks, and gays). This informs my abiding admonition about weak/poor countries, especially in Africa and the Caribbean, heralding China as a more worthy superpower patron than the United States.

    (“‘All the World Is at War’ Hardly Means World War III,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 30, 2015)

    Related commentaries:
    Trump May Macron
    World is at war
    gas vs guns

  • Friday, April 13, 2018 at 8:41 AM

    Data Breach more about Stupid Users than Greedy Facebook

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’ve already said all I care to say about the data breach that had Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the congressional hot seat this week. I refer you to such commentaries as “Facebook Complaining about NSA Spying? Ha!” March 15, 2014, and “Hey Stupid…Cambridge Analytica Used Facebook Users as Facebook Intended,” March 20, 2018, both of which contain links to related commentaries before and between.

    With that, here is the only newsworthy thing that was said during Zuckerberg’s 10 hours of testimony:

    ‘Be careful, or we might just have to regulate you. Congress is good at two things: doing nothing, and overreacting,’ Rep. Billy Long, a Republican representing Missouri, told Zuckerberg in a hearing Wednesday. ‘So far, we’ve done nothing on Facebook… We’re getting ready to overreact.’

    (CNN Tech, April 12, 2018)

    Mind you, this is the same Republican-controlled Congress that made deregulation across all business sectors its raison d’être. On the other hand, the American people elected Donald Trump president knowing that he would make full-frontal hypocrisy one of many dystopian coins of the realm. This, along with other deadly political sins like lies, bluster, graft, sloth, greed, and gaslighting, which makes the proverbial seven.

    Meanwhile, apropos of overreacting, the markets did just that by adding $3 billion to Zuckerberg’s net worth based solely on his I-promise-(again)-to-do-better testimony.

    All the same, it behooves Congress to appreciate that regulating Facebook to stop data breach is like censoring the NRA to stop gun violence. After all, most Facebook users are so stupid, they don’t even realize that deleting Facebook in favor of sharing all on Instagram is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

    Related commentaries:
    Hey stupid
    Facebook complaining
    Zuckerberg confesses

  • Wednesday, April 11, 2018 at 8:16 PM

    Trump, May, Macron: Don’t Bomb Syria. Withdraw World Cup from Russia!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Scoring macabre political points is the only goal Western powers can accomplish by bombing Syria. This is why I’ve been decrying it for years. In fact, when Western commentators hailed Russian President Vladimir Putin for joining this priapic orgy of bombing in 2015, I wailed in “Bombing ISIS Smacks of Masturbatory Violence,” November 18, 2015.

    Incidentally, the only reason President Obama didn’t join in is that flaccid members of the US Congress and UK Parliament turned him off. Never mind that many of these same members then mocked him as weak for not bombing, while praising Putin as strong for doing so.

    Now President Trump is amassing a Bush-lite coalition of the willing to bomb what little is left of Syria. He would have you believe that this will punish the Syrian president, “animal Assad,” for gassing his own people … again.

    But he knows better, and so should you. After all, it has been plain for years for all to see that such bombings only punish the Syrian people.

    This is why I urge British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron to talk Trump off his latest ledge. They can prevail upon him to join them in taking another, more effective course, especially if they promise to tell the world it was all his idea.

    It is self-evident that the best way to punish Assad is to punish Putin, his puppet master. Not to mention the myriad reasons Western leaders have to punish Putin for more direct sins, notably for invading Crimea, sabotaging elections, and poisoning people — all so infamously.

    Of course, the most direct way to punish him is to target him and his kitchen cabinet of oligarchs with increasingly punitive financial sanctions.

    The Trump administration begrudgingly imposed only a sampling just days ago. However, for patently suspicious reasons, it is refusing to impose many congressionally mandated sanctions, especially related to oil and gas, that could cripple Russia’s economy.

    Still, that sampling showed the effect imposing the full panoply of such sanctions could have.

    Listed companies controlled by Oleg Deripaska have lost over $6 billion in market value since they were hit with the sanctions on Friday by the Trump administration.

    Deripaska, a billionaire who once had close ties to President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is one of seven oligarchs who were sanctioned as part of an effort to punish the Kremlin.

    (CNN Money, April 9, 2018)

    But Putin is reportedly twice as rich as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the legitimate world’s richest man. I have ridiculed this wannabe czar’s brazen chicanery in many commentaries – perhaps most relevantly in “Putin’s Military Maneuvers Just Mercenary Distractions,” June 18, 2015.

    In fact, Putin and his cronies control so much wealth, they can probably weather financial sanctions for years. This, especially with China offering sanctions-proof havens like Hong Kong and Macau to continue laundering their ill-gotten gains.

    On the other hand, Putin is a proud man. He also happens to take almost as much pride in Russia’s standing as a powerhouse in the “Wide World of Sports” as he does in its standing as a military superpower. This explains why he bent over backwards to circumvent an IOC ban on Russian athletes competing in the Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games.

    Except that there’s no denying the blow to his pride of watching Russian athletes compete under a neutral flag. But Putin must have rationalized that this was a small price to pay for the state-sanctioned doping he pulled off during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. After all, he sanctioned this doping because his pride could not even countenance the United States or any Western country winning the jingoistic medals count at his Olympics.

    Given this, nothing (and I mean nothing) would wound Putin’s pride more than Western powers leading an effort to replace Russia as host of this summer’s World Cup (June 14 – July 15). There would be no face-saving way to circumvent or rationalize that national shame.

    Alas, Team USA did not even qualify. Therefore, it falls to Britain’s May and France’s Macron to lead this effort, which might be just as well. Because it’s arguable that the European Union wields as much influence with FIFA, which governs the World Cup, as the United States does with the IOC, which governs the Olympics.

    And, just as the US led the world in boycotting the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the EU can lead it in replacing Russia as host of the 2018 World Cup.

    Incidentally, superstar players like Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, Lionel Messi of Argentina, and Sadio Mane of Senegal could probably be even more influential than political leaders like May and Macron in forcing a replacement.

    Frankly, all it would take is one viral tweet from Ronaldo. He could say something like this:

    I’m sorry, Russia has become such a rogue state, my conscience won’t allow me to play there any more than it would allow me to play in North Korea. #ReplaceRussia!

    I am calling for replacing instead of boycotting Russia because I do not think athletes and fans should be punished for the sins of political leaders … of any country. More to the point, if EU leaders make clear their intent to punish Putin, I am sure they could prevail upon soccer-mad and already prepared countries like Mexico, South Africa, or even Germany to host this World Cup … even at this late date.

    As it happens, though, I’ve been calling on FIFA to replace Russia ever since it gobbled up Crimea and rigged the Sochi Games.

    The inefficacy of sanctions provoked me to propose the following as the only way to punish Russia and its macho, sports-obsessed president.

    The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) should enlist the governing bodies of all major sports to ban Russia from hosting any sanctioned competition, so long as Putin remains in power. Because, no matter their representations, officials in Putin’s Russia will never implement the reforms WADA deems are necessary to eradicate systemic doping…

    Nothing would [be more effective in this respect] than FIFA withdrawing Russia’s highly coveted hosting gig for the 2018 World Cup.

    (“In Putin’s Russia Even Athletics Is a Criminal (Doping) Enterprise,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 9, 2015)

    So let it be called, so let it be done!

    Having said all that, I fear Assad might have presented Trump an opportunity to wag the dog that he cannot resist. I commented on this spectre just yesterday in “Assad Gasses His Own People Again and Trump Vows to Punish Him … Again,” April 10, 2018.

    In fact, Trump’s egomaniacal stunts are such that he will probably order bombs to begin landing on Syria this Sunday night. Because that’s when ABC News has scheduled what all of Washington anticipates will be a blockbuster interview with former FBI director James Comey about his dealings with “Mafia Don” Trump.

    That interview will be based on Comey’s damning tell-all, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership. But Trump knows all too well that Comey’s bombshell revelations would prove no match for his “nice, smart bombs” exploding in Syria.

    And he’d be right; the media would focus on the latter like moths to flames. To be fair, though, bombshell revelations about Trump and his presidency are as predictable at this point as salacious details about Stormy and her porno films.

    Related commentaries:
    bombing ISIS
    Assad gassing people
    Athletes boycotting
    Rio Olympics
    Sochi doping
    Putin’s maneuvers
    Russia and China
    Putin’s Russia
    Stormy

  • Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at 11:08 AM

    Assad Gases His Own People Again and Trump Vows to Punish Him…Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Sadly, there’s no denying the groundhog-day spectre of this tragedy.

    Dozens of Syrians choked to death after a suspected chemical attack struck the rebel-held suburb of Douma, east of Damascus, with aid groups on Sunday blaming President Bashar al-Assad’s government for the assault. …

    Mr. Assad’s allies in Moscow and Tehran dismissed allegations of a chemical attack as ‘bogus.’

    (The New York Times, April 8, 2018)

    This attack and (unfolding) reaction to it mirror what played out a year ago this week. And it’s worth noting that this timing betrays the trademark taunting of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad’s puppet master.

    That said, just as she did back then, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is leading the chorus of global condemnation.

    To her credit, though, she is at least showing the presence of mind to bemoan the recurring nature of such attacks. Here, for example, is how she punctuated her now-familiar denunciation of Russia and Syria for the atrocities that have defined this seven-year war.

    The Russian regime, whose hands are also covered in the blood of Syrian children, cannot be shamed by pictures of its victims. We’ve tried that before.

    (CNN, April 10, 2018)

    Meanwhile, just as they did back then, Russia and Syria are gaslighting the international community: On the one hand, they are insisting there was no attack; while on the other hand, they are blaming Western-backed forces for staging it to frame them (a.k.a. a false flag operation).

    Unfortunately, this gaslighting smacks of the same diabolical cynicism that saw Russia poison its former spy Sergei Skripal, and then blame Britain. I commented on this infamous poisoning in “Russia Taunting Britain with Brazen Assassination,” March 13, 2018, and “Britain Slaps Russia…on Wrist for WMD Poisoning,” March 14, 2018.

    But, frankly, the groundhog-day nature of everything related to this chemical attack is such that I am loath to comment too much anew. In fact, much of what I would say I already said in this excerpt from “Putin Blames ‘Little Green Men’ for Syrian Gas Attack – as Bloom Comes Off His Bromance with Trump,” April 12, 2017.

    ____________________

    Only two words explain what Putin is doing here: lying and projecting!

    Putin is projecting blame onto phantom terrorists – not only for last week’s gas attack, which he knows his puppet Syrian regime perpetrated, but also for future attacks, which he knows it plans to perpetrate (if only in a vain and diabolical effort to further implicate the phantom terrorists and vindicate him).

    But Putin is also deflecting blame for his manifest failure to oversee the complete destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. You may recall that he famously promised to do so in exchange for Obama taking his finger off the trigger, which would have launched many more missiles at Syria in 2013 than the 60 Trump launched last week.

    In “The Issue Is Not Whether Russia Affected the Outcome of US Election,” December 12, 2016, I delineated (some of) the many reasons why the election collusion/bromance between Putin and Trump was doomed to implode. The most notable reason for this looming day of reckoning is that Putin will finally realize that, despite his flirtation, Trump’s policies towards Russia (especially re Ukraine-related sanctions) will be no different than Obama’s. …

    In other words, Trump was bound to disappoint Putin – just as he was bound to disappoint the poor fools who thought he really would, or even could, get Mexico to pay for that wall. Which suggests that Putin is not nearly as smart as he’s reputed to be.

    And the more Trump disappoints him, the more Putin will have to explain himself to all of the Russians he had drinking champagne toasts to Trump’s election. Not least because he had them convinced that Trump was his puppet who he could manipulate to lift crippling economic sanctions in short order.

    I cannot overstate this looming day of reckoning for their relationship. And nothing will characterize it quite like Putin unleashing the same leakers of secrets and peddlers of fake news to humiliate Trump and undermine his presidency who he unleashed to undermine Hillary and help elect Trump (i.e., the political execution of the proverb — live by the sword, die by the sword).

    ____________________

    My allusions to a “day of reckoning” between Trump and Putin bears reinforcing. Foremost, they were prescient in many respects — as circumstances that finally forced Trump to arm Ukrainian fighters and sanction Russian oligarchs attest.

    The United States imposed major sanctions on Friday against 24 Russians, striking at allies of President Vladimir Putin in one of Washington’s most aggressive moves to punish Moscow for its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and other ‘malign activity.’ …

    The action, taken under pressure from the U.S. Congress, freezes the U.S. assets of oligarchs such as aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a close associate of Putin, and lawmaker Suleiman Kerimov, whose family controls Russia’s largest gold producer, Polyus.

    (Reuters, April 6, 2018)

    But my allusions also telegraphed the manifest challenge Trump now faces. Specifically, to save his face, Trump must react with punishing force; that is, the fire this time must look more like fireworks than firecrackers. I duly ridiculed the contrived nature of his “pinprick” reaction last time in “Trump Launches ‘Wag-the-Dog’ Strikes against Syria,” April 7, 2017.

    Except that, to save his face in turn, Putin must react directly against US forces; that is, he must do more than show that Trump’s missiles had no impact on his ability to help Assad continue bombing Western-backed forces and Syrian civilians alike. I duly ridiculed the we-survived nature of his reaction last time in “Assad Responds…,” April 9, 2017.

    All the same, I predict they will both do only what is minimally required to save face without triggering a full-scale confrontation between American and Russian forces … over Syria of all things. This, despite the chest-thumping, war-mongering rhetoric they might hurl at each other. I mean, let’s face it, after seven years of war, it is practically impossible to bomb anything in Syria that hasn’t already been bombed, repeatedly.

    More to the point, I’m sure military planners from both sides are already discussing ways to ensure targeting to limit civilian casualties and de-confliction to avoid unwitting escalation. Then, of course, there’s the patently hypocritical way Trump is telegraphing his intent to bomb Syria within days and withdraw all US troops “very soon.” After all, he made hay during his presidential campaign of ridiculing his predecessors as fools for telegraphing their intent on similar occasions. #IDIOT!

    As was the case last year, Trump is giving Assad more than enough time to move his indispensable military assets to safety, which might even include relocating them in Tehran. And those assets include the helicopters he uses to perpetrate chemical attacks.

    Mind you, Putin understands Trump’s need to wag the dog like no leader has ever done before. After all, it will take “shock-and-awe” explosions to detract media attention from the “stormy” weather he’s experiencing these days, especially with yesterday’s FBI raids on the home and offices of his personal lawyer.

    That lawyer, of course, is wannabe “fixer” Michael Cohen. And it appears the only reason simpleton Trump retained him is that his surname sounds like that of infamous mob lawyer Roy Cohn. Trump idolized Cohn.

    In any event, Putin and Trump undoubtedly appreciate the shrewdness of emulating former President Bill Clinton’s 1998 bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan in the midst of his entanglement with Monica Lewinsky.

    Tragically, when all is said and done, nothing will change in Syria. And chances are very good that it will only be a matter of time before this groundhog-day tragedy plays out again.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump finally criticizes Russia
    Russia taunting
    Britain slaps Russia
    Trump wag the dog strikes….
    Assad responds
    Putin blames green men
    Putin has compromising info on Trump

  • Monday, April 9, 2018 at 7:26 AM

    Backlash? South Korea’s First Female President Sentenced to 24 Years

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have been championing the rise of women as heads of state for years.

    Here’s to ‘the fairer sex’ – not only as indispensable guardians of home and hearth, but also as invaluable (and capable) stewards of the ship of state!

    (“Cracking the Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 12, 2005)

    This is why I was so heartened when countries around the world began electing women, notably in Germany, Liberia, Chile, Australia, Thailand, Brazil, South Korea, and Jamaica.

    Mind you, women have never amounted to more than 56 of 146 heads of state. Therefore, I have never been inclined to borrow that famous Virginia Slims line,

    You’ve come a long way, baby.

    Even so, I was shocked and dismayed when the backlash came. This manifested not only in many women leaders losing reelection bids but also in a resurgence of strongmen as their political bettors.

    This latter dynamic played out in disheartening fashion during the 2016 US presidential. After all, Donald Trump was a prototype of the entitled men who have ruled the world since time immemorial; whereas Hillary Clinton was a prototype of the liberated women who seemed poised to supplant those men.

    Yet he won.

    On the other hand, Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain always gave me pause. It was bad enough that she wanted to be more of a strongman than any strongman ever was. But she also displayed a disregard for the political skills of other women that must have dismayed even the male chauvinist pigs in her Cabinet.

    In any event, her prime ministership (1979-1990) stands as a glaring rebuttal to the presumption I have argued in such commentaries as “Men Should Be Barred from Politics,” September 25, 2013, and “Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” October 14, 2010, which includes the following.

    ____________________

    We have enough data, as well as anecdotal evidence, from the way women have influenced the corporate world to make some credible extrapolations. The correlation between more women holding positions of power and the implementation of family-friendly policies  is undeniable in this respect. Therefore, it’s entirely reasonable to assert that if more women held positions of power in politics they would use their power more towards building up human resources than military armaments – just to cite one obvious example.

    Finland’s president, prime minister, president of the Supreme Court, as well as eight of its eleven government ministers are all women. Arguably, there’s a direct correlation between their positions and the fact that Newsweek rated this county the best place to live in 2010 – in terms of health, economic dynamism, education, political environment, and quality of life.

    ____________________

    The point is that I was in “rebuttal” mode when I refrained from commenting on the rise of Park Geun-hye of South Korea. I had read enough to suspect that her presidency would prove so thoroughly corrupt, it would rival those of Africa’s notorious kleptomaniacs.

    Sure enough, here in part is how I ended up commenting on her fall in “Backlash against (Liberal) Women Leaders,” December 1, 2016.

    ____________________

    Most disheartening of all, this backlash saw a measure of vindication this week when Park Geun-hye, the first woman elected South Korean president, offered to resign.

    The disgraced South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, has offered to resign and called on parliament to arrange her exit amid a corruption and cronyism scandal that has all but destroyed her administration.

    Speaking in a nationally televised address on Tuesday, Park – whose single five-year term will not be officially over until early 2018 – asked the national assembly to set a new deadline for the end of her turbulent presidency.

    (London Guardian, November 29, 2016)

    Would that I could decry her fate too. Unfortunately, all indications are that Park is guilty as charged, which makes her offer to resign more Nixonian than honorable.

    Reports are that she allowed her Rasputin-like confidante to misuse her good offices to peddle influence and rake in millions. The audacity of this misuse appears such that it makes the way Hillary reportedly allowed her husband Bill to misuse hers (as secretary of state) seem, well, positively charitable.

    I have written many commentaries hailing the rise of women as heads of state. Therefore, it is perhaps prescient that I was as loath to hail Park’s election in February 2013 as I am to hail Trump’s today.

    ____________________

    The court finally sentenced Park to 24 years in prison and $17 million in fines.

    [She faced] bribery and other charges in a case that exposed the entrenched, collusive ties between the government and huge conglomerates like Samsung. …

    The conviction and sentencing represented a climactic moment in an influence-peddling scandal that … shook the country’s political and business worlds.

    (The New York Times, April 6, 2018)

    Park had already spent more than a year behind bars. She even caused a stir in October when she began complaining that she was too ill to attend any court hearing, including Friday’s sentencing. Evidently, it worked … a little; after all, prosecutors were demanding a 30-year prison sentence and $120 million in fines.

    But I don’t mind admitting that I feel anger and sympathy in equal measure: anger because Park made a mockery of my long-championed proposition that women make better politicians; sympathy because, even though many of them were equally corrupt, none of her male predecessors suffered an equally justified fate … yet.

    The past seven heads of state have all been embroiled in corruption scandals. …

    All four of South Korea’s living ex-presidents have now either been convicted of corruption offences, or are in jail being tried or investigated for such crimes.

    (The Economist, April 7, 2018)

    Something is clearly rotten in the Republic of Korea …

    Meanwhile, I fear it’s only a matter of time before Brazil does to Dilma Rousseff, its first female president, what South Korea has done to Park. Like Park, Rousseff has already been impeached. I commented on this fearful symmetry in “Chauvinistic Impeachment of Brazil’s First Female President, Dilma Rousseff,” September 1, 2016.

    I declared her impeachment chauvinistic because it was self-evident that her predominantly male accusers and parliamentary judges were visiting the sins of Lula da Silva, her male mentor and predecessor, upon her.

    But nothing is more foreboding for Rousseff than prosecutors convicting Lula (72) on a battery of corruption and money laundering charges last July. After losing all judicial appeals, he surrendered to prison authorities on Saturday to begin serving a 12-year sentence.

    Related commentaries:
    Glass ceiling
    Theresa May
    Backlash
    Dilma Rousseff
    Women make better politicians

  • Saturday, April 7, 2018 at 8:40 AM

    Blowing Up Iran Nuclear Deal Is Trump Doing as Stupid Does

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This excerpt — from “Trump Decertifying Iran Nuclear Deal more MALO than MAGA,” October 13, 2017 — explains a lot, not just about his nuclear politics but his imploding presidency.

    ____________________

    Hardly a day goes by without Donald Trump doing or saying something to make his presidency a laughing stock. … Frankly, only a diagnosis that places Trump somewhere on the autism spectrum explains why. …

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

    Never mind autism, I suspect Trump is doing this because he’s a sociopath who is

    1. unable to exercise sound judgment;
    2. unable to control his tweeting impulses;
    3. unable to appreciate the danger inherent in his ill-advised tweets and antics; and
    4. unable to appreciate the consequences of those ill-advised tweets and antics. …

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

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

    ____________________

    There’s also this from “Trump’s Leading March against Iran, but Nobody’s Following,” October 16, 2017.

    ____________________

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

    (The New York Times, October 13, 2017)

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

    ____________________

    I fear Trump is just too stupid to appreciate the manifest absurdity of trying to strike a nuclear deal with North Korea on the one hand, while threatening to rip up a similar deal with Iran on the other.

    To be fair, though, the manifest irony of his Art of the Deal is that no deal is worth the paper it’s written on. Trump actually takes pride in the litigious scars he bears from failing to honor hundreds of business deals. And he’s taking similar pride in his unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and the Paris Climate Accord.

    In fact, the only deals Trump seems to think are inviolate are the non-disclosure agreements he struck over the years with playboy bunnies (like Karen McDougal) and porn stars (like Stormy Daniels).

    This is why Kim is bound to regard any nuclear deal Trump strikes with him as tantamount to Trump selling him the Brooklyn Bridge. And Kim will behave accordingly.

    Specifically, he will extract every possible concession (e.g., sanctions relief for food, oil, and foreign direct investments). But then he will show even less regard for Trump’s nuclear deal with his North Korea than Trump is showing for Obama’s with the Ayatollah’s Iran. And, in doing so, Kim will make Trump’s Art of the Deal look like chicken scratch.

    Related commentaries:
    Decertifying
    Trump’s leading
    Trump and Kim to meet
    stormy

  • Thursday, April 5, 2018 at 7:37 PM

    Trump vs. Amazon (a.k.a. pathological pettiness trolling informed indifference)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    From day one of his presidency, Donald Trump has been using his bully pulpit to attack Amazon. He claims this standard-bearer of online retailers struck a sweetheart deal with the US Postal Service (USPS) that is ripping off taxpayers.

    His latest salvo came in a tweetstorm last weekend, which included this cheap shot:

    Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon. THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed. Also, our fully tax paying retailers are closing stores all over the country … not a level playing field!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2018

    Unfortunately, like most things Trump bellows from that pulpit, his claims are unhinged, uninformed, and unfair. After all, Amazon

    • pays a negotiated bulk rate for shipping parcels that is comparable to the rate other major retailers pay;
    • pays all taxes due, which amounts to far more than the Trump Organization pays, “believe me” (there’s “projection” afoot here, methinks); and
    • is no more responsible for sending mom-and-pop stores the way of horse-and-buggy carriages than Walmart or Target.

    It might also be helpful to know that USPS uses revenues from the sale of stamps and other products to fund its operations. It does not use taxpayer dollars as Trump claims.

    Amazon isn’t causing the United States Postal Service to lose a fortune. In fact, it’s contributing to its biggest growth sector, package delivery. Deals like the one with Amazon brought in $7 billion in fiscal year 2017.

    (Politifact, April 2, 2018)

    Which brings me to Trump’s ulterior motive. Because launching this public attack against Amazon seems a pretext for venting his personal grievance against its founder, Jeff Bezos. You see, Bezos just happens to be the owner of The Washington Post – a newspaper Trump fears is as much of an existential threat to his presidency as it was to Nixon’s.

    Nixon wanted to intimidate The Washington Post by interfering with its business, just as Trump is attempting to bully the very same newspaper. The only difference is that Nixon did it behind the scenes (where it might have stayed if it weren’t for his taping system), while Trump is doing it out in the open.

    (Bloomberg, April 4, 2018) 

    Alas, this is just one of the many ways Trump is normalizing self-interested and self-aggrandizing presidential behavior. Not to mention the many ways he is undermining America’s democratic institutions.

    I have often remarked that never in his wildest dreams could Russian President Vladimir Putin imagine doing more damage. This is why, instead of terms of art like “useful idiot” and the “Manchurian candidate,” I began referring to Trump as the “Manchurian president.”

    (For more on this, I refer you to such commentaries as “The Issue Is Not Whether Russia Affected Outcome of US Election,” December 12, 2016, and “Treasonous Trump Releasing Fake Memo to Frame FBI and Hide Russian Ties,” February 1, 2018.)

    In any event, as it was with Nixon, only impeachment will prevent his presidency from sowing seeds that will cause America to grow into a bona fide Banana Republic.

    Meanwhile, Trump’s notorious jealousy towards wealthier people must only aggravate his grievance against Bezos. And Bezos is probably compounding that aggravation by completely ignoring Trump.

    After all, due to Trump willfully maligning Amazon, Bezos lost more wealth in one week recently than Trump has accumulated in 71 years.

    One week — and four Amazon-related Trump tweets later … Amazon’s stock price has dropped by around 10%, subtracting roughly $16 billion away from Bezos.

    (Money Magazine, April 2, 2018)

    Yet Bezos is acting as if he couldn’t care less. And I can think of nothing that would get under Trump’s thin skin more than that. Still, here’s to other Amazon shareholders making him pay by filing a class-action lawsuit for damages.

    That said, the only thing more troubling than Trump’s spiteful attack is the dogged refusal of Republican leaders to condemn it. Except that this is just the latest indication of how thoroughly they have sacrificed their political (and moral) principles at the altar of Trump’s petty ambitions.

    These, after all, are the same Republicans who deemed it an article of faith to condemn Obama after he criticized corporations for keeping profits offshore to avoid paying taxes. Never mind that, like most things Obama intoned from his bully pulpit, his criticisms were firm, factual, and fair.

    This is why the fate of the Republic rests on voters storming the polls for November’s midterm elections to put Democrats in control of Congress. Because only Democrats would honor the categorical imperative to impeach Trump. This, based on all manner of high crimes and misdemeanors everyone in Washington expects Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to delineate in his pending report.

    Related commentaries:
    projection
    Manchurian president
    Whether Russia affected election
    Treasonous Trump
    republicans sacrificing principles
    special prosecutor Mueller

  • Wednesday, April 4, 2018 at 7:21 AM

    In Memoriam: 50th Anniversary of the MLK Assassination

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Below are MLK’s last words – his death prefiguring. He intoned them at the end of the sermon he delivered the night before his assassination.
    __________________

    Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.

    I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land.

    I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.

    Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

    __________________

     

    Related Commentaries:
    MLK Day
  • Monday, April 2, 2018 at 7:34 AM

    Happy Easter … Monday

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Despite the untenable nature of colonialism, the British introduced a few customs that are still heartily observed throughout their former colonies in the Caribbean. Public holidays certainly fall within this cherished tradition.

    Nassau-Cable-BeachUnlike the Americans, however, the British do not glorify their holidays with patriotic or reverential titles – like Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, or Thanksgiving Day. They just refer to almost all of them as Bank Holidays.

    This curious designation probably came about as an unwitting homage to British mercantilism. But the official line is that it dates back to 1871, when national obsession with the game of cricket led to the Bank Holidays Act – to give bank employees a few extra days off each year to play and watch matches.

    Blue_Orchid_01It just so happens, though, that “Easter Monday” is a rather ambivalent holiday. After all, it has a reverential title but no discernible relevance to Jesus Christ (like Good Friday or Christmas). Perhaps even the British had qualms about appending a “bank holiday” to the holiest weekend on the Christian calendar.

    Whatever the case, as a young boy, this was always my favorite bank holiday. Not just because it was the first bona fide beach holiday of the year, but also because it helped me recover from the trauma of wallowing in the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The hosannas heralding His resurrection on Easter Sunday provided no consolation.

    Meanwhile, with access to so many beautiful beaches, it’s a wonder the British did not leave us with many more bank holidays.

    Related commentaries:
    My Good Friday Sermon
    Plan your vacation to The Bahamas

    Plan your vacation to the Turks & Caicos Islands

My Books

VFC Painting

Archive

Subscribe via Email


Powered by FeedBlitz