• Saturday, June 30, 2018 at 7:07 AM

    Hey, Anti-Trumpers – Protesting in June Means Nothing if You Don’t Vote in November

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Thursday, June 28, 2018 at 4:52 PM

    Thanks to European Union, Turkey Ratifies Erdogan’s Dictatorial Rule

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt there was more media hype this time about a potential upset. But Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reelection was as guaranteed on Sunday as Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s was on Sunday, March 18, 2018.

    Turkey’s long-standing leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won a new five-year term after securing outright victory in the first round of a presidential poll. …

    He will now assume sweeping new powers, won in a controversial referendum last year.

    (BBC, June 25, 2018)

    As it happens, I commented on that referendum in “Hail, Erdogan! Latter-Day Sultan of Turkey,” April 19, 2017. Ominously, it included the following:

    If you harbored any doubts about … Erdogan’s dictatorial predilections, the referendum he orchestrated on Sunday should disabuse you of them. …

    I fear this referendum has effectively put that struggle for democracy out of its misery. Ironically, only a (successful) military coup can save Turkish democracy now.

    But the best way to understand what Erdogan’s reelection portends for Turkey is to look at what Putin has done (and is doing) in Russia. Because Erdogan now has the constitutional powers to truly rule Turkey like a latter-day sultan, emulating the way Putin has been ruling Russia like a latter-day czar for years.

    Frankly, the most interesting thing about Sunday’s election is that it vindicated Erdogan’s moves in recent years to shun Western values and alliances. After all, as he began his rise to power 15 years ago, he embraced them so solicitously that Western leaders took pride in pointing to Turkey as a beacon of democracy in the Muslim world.

    Except that there was always one glaring inconsistency: Despite Erdogan’s embrace, European leaders seemed determined to deny Turkey’s application for EU membership.

    I am convinced that this denial explains why Turkey seems more aligned with Russia than any Western country today. But this is not the forum to elaborate too much. Therefore, I shall suffice to share an overview.

    When asked about Turkey’s effort to join the European Union by the French newspaper Le Figaro, [Cardinal Ratzinger, soon to be Pope Benedict XVI] answered, ‘Turkey always represented another continent during history, always in contrast with Europe.’ …

    The former Cardinal Ratzinger seemed to see the entry of Turkey [a Muslim nation] into the EU as a threat to the Christian tradition inherent in Western Europe.

    (NBC News, March 9, 2006)

    I don’t mind confessing that I vented political and moral outrage back then in such commentaries as “The Pope Apologizes! Proving He’s Not Only Fallible but also Gullible,” September 19, 2006, “Like Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Pope Benedict XVI Lands in Turkey,” November 29, 2006, “German Opera Decapitates Muhammad (Too), Despite Muslim Protests,” December 20, 2006, and “The Pope Comes to America,” April 16, 2008.

    As the first title indicates, I vented because the pope never apologized for consecrating a religious litmus test to deny Turkey membership in the EU. Instead, he apologized for offending bellicose Muslims by daring to criticize Mohammad’s exhortation for them to use the sword to “coerce conversion.”

    Meanwhile, purportedly secular European countries were using this religious test to deny Turkey. Never mind that they were doing this while putting the majority-Muslim nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the Stabilisation and Association process towards full membership.

    In fact, this contradiction, if not hypocrisy, informed my outrage. But I soon realized that EU leaders were just using religion as a pretext for their political concerns about Erdogan’s nascent dictatorial predilections.

    The problem, however, is that EU leaders already had a long history of coddling Muslim dictators like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia – both of whom made Erdogan look like a Jeffersonian democrat.

    Complicating matters, then US president George W. Bush was welcoming Erdogan to the White House in the same spirit of friendship in which he was welcoming the UK prime minister. And each of his successors did the same.

    The point is that one could hardly blame Erdogan for resenting the way EU leaders were embracing Turkey as a geo-strategic and military ally (as the only majority-Muslim member of NATO) while shunning it as a political and economic member of their union. But his resentment must have increased from a simmer to a boil after so many of them gave tacit approval when the tumult of the Arab Spring sprung in Turkey.

    The prevailing view had been that pro-democracy protesters across the Muslim world were targeting (and overthrowing) de facto dictators like Bashir al-Assad of Syria and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Therefore, the democratically elected Erdogan could be forgiven for feeling unfairly targeted.

    I channeled his understandable resentment in “Turkey’s Erdogan No Different from Syria’s Assad…?” June 2, 2013. The following excerpt highlights what I thought was the unfairness inherent in targeting him.

    ____________________

    What is most interesting about the belated Arab Spring unfolding there today is that opposition/rebel forces are attempting to overthrow this regime for the same reasons opposition/rebel forces overthrew the regime in Egypt. …

    Except that Erdogan has as much moral and constitutional right to ignore opposition/rebel yells for him to resign as Obama has to ignore Tea-Party Republicans yells for him to resign. Not least because, unlike Mubarak, Gaddafi, and Assad, Erdogan was truly democratically elected. …

    In fact, nothing is preventing Obama from parroting calls for Erdogan to resign quite like the long-standing allies in the Muslim world who are already accusing him of betrayal for throwing Mubarak under the bus. Because the last thing Obama can afford, geo-strategically, is for them to accuse him of doing the same to another Muslim ally.

    ____________________

    Of course, as fate would have it, Erdogan survived that spring of street protesters only to face a summer of coup plotters a few years later. More to the point, his resentment towards EU leaders must have increased to a rolling boil when Putin showed him more support than any of them.

    This is why nobody should have been surprised when Erdogan reacted to this coup attempt more like an Eastern-style dictator than a Western-style democrat. I duly lamented and warned in “Turkey: Bungled Coup Fails. Grave Purge Begins,” July 16, 2016.

    ____________________

    When news of it broke yesterday, you’d have been hard-pressed to find commentators condemning this coup, especially early on when it seemed a fait accompli.

    Instead, they rationalized it as due comeuppance for the democratically elected Erdogan – who they claimed was ruling Turkey more like a dictator than a president. They also cited his fraternization with Islamists as a betrayal of the global fight against ISIS, and his Islamization of Turkey’s secular culture as a betrayal of the Western values they once hailed this Muslim country for adopting.

    Truth be told, almost every criticism ever hurled at him is true. But none of it justifies a coup. …

    President Obama issued a belated statement calling on the Turkish people to support their democratically elected government. Never mind that he hedged his bets by carefully avoiding any mention of support for Erdogan himself. No doubt, if the coup had succeeded, he would have hailed the military for fulfilling the democratic will of the people; you know, like the military did in Egypt.

    By contrast, my immediate denunciation of the Turkish coup plotters was surpassed only by my excoriation of these commentators: I ridiculed the former as misguided and inept for failing to execute the first stage of any military coup, namely, arresting the leader; and decried the latter as shortsighted and hypocritical for making a mockery of universal democratic values.

    ____________________

    Sure enough, Erdogan began executing a Stalinesque purge (with all due respect to Putin). To date, it has seen tens of thousands arrested and over 150,000 schoolteachers, police officers, judges, and other civil servants fired. I duly commented in “President Erdogan Unleashing His Inner Dr. Frankenstein to Excise the ‘Cancer’ of Turkey’s Coup Plotters,” July 23, 2016. It includes this observation on the transformation of alliances afoot:

    Erdogan’s NATO ally, Barack Obama, is being conspicuously silent. This, despite the clear and present danger of Erdogan turning Turkey’s democracy into a dictatorship. Whereas his putative mentor, Vladimir Putin, is being conspicuously supportive. This, because he knows that, if Erdogan can get away with this in Turkey, he surely can in Russia — if any group dares try to mount a coup.

    Of course, nothing vindicates this observation quite like Erdogan consolidating dictatorial powers that would make even Putin green with envy. Hell, he might even think he could simply issue decrees eradicating the Armenian Genocide from history and disabusing Kurds of their ambitions for independence, and have it all be done. I bemoaned his ‘L’etat c’est moipowers in the April 19, 2017, commentary quoted above.

    The only issue now is whether his reelection makes Erdogan feel so secure that he can mirror the way Turkey straddles East and West by playing Eastern powers (notably Russia and China) off against Western powers (notably Europe and United States) to further Turkey’s military, economic, and diplomatic interests; or whether his resentment remains so acute that, like his new BFF Putin, he’d rather seize any opportunity to undermine Western values and alliances – no matter the cost.

    Hint:

    The leaders of Turkey and Russia pledged Tuesday to restart key energy projects and roll back sanctions, seeking to rebuild ties as Turkey looks beyond its NATO partners for support following a failed coup attempt last month.

    (The Washington Post, August 9, 2016)

    Mind you, if Western leaders were not tied up in so many geo-political hypocrisies, they would be free to execute the categorical imperative of kicking Turkey out of NATO, especially given the precedent they set by kicking Russia out of the G7. After all, Turkey lurching towards dictatorship is bad enough, but its fraternizing with Russia smacks of real betrayal.

    Not to mention the fateful monkey wrench of having Donald Trump now as the leader of the free world. After all, this US president seems to have greater affinity for de facto dictators like Putin and Erdogan than for any of his democratic allies in Europe.

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  • Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at 7:47 AM

    Court Ruling on Travel Ban Affirms Justices Are Just as Tribal as Politicians

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I pointed out in my June 24 commentary below that there’s nothing new about the tribalism that now defines life in America.

    I cited many commentaries in which I lamented how this became a defining feature of political debates. But I could have cited just as many with respect to judicial decisions on most hot-button issues (like those related to abortion, immigration, guns, homosexuality, and race), which present clear tribal/ideological litmus tests.

    Here, for example, is how I lamented this feature in “Supreme Court Rules Voter ID Laws OK,” October 18, 2014:

    Neither this decision, nor its breakdown along partisan lines, should surprise anyone who knows anything about the ‘politics’ (as opposed to the legal reasoning and judicial precedents) that inform this Court’s rulings. For the one thing that distinguishes this Court is that the justices Republican presidents nominated invariably vote on the side of issues that affirms conservative ideology; whereas those Democratic presidents nominated invariably vote on the side that affirms liberal ideology.

    This is why I used the death of arguably the most ideological justice in the history of the Court to write its epitaph as a judicious and non-tribal institution:

    Conservatives and liberals on the Supreme Court have devolved into little more than glorified hired guns for the Republican Party and Democratic Party, respectively. This is why Republicans will consider it an article of faith to obstruct confirmation of any Obama nominee. After all, if appointed, this justice would tip the balance of the Court towards affirming Democratic (a.k.a. liberal) politics.

    (“Antonin Scalia, Pugnacious Justice of the US Supreme Court, Is Dead,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 14, 2016)

    Incidentally, a dismaying feature of rulings that fall along party lines is the way justices strain credulity, and even defy their intellect, to rationalize political dogma. Which brings me to today’s ruling on President Trump’s controversial (Muslim) travel ban:

    The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that President Trump has the authority to ban travelers from certain majority-Muslim countries if he thinks it is necessary to protect the United States, a victory in what has been a priority since Trump’s first weeks in office and a major affirmation of presidential power.

    The vote was 5 to 4, with conservatives in the majority and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing the opinion.

    (The Washington Post, June 26, 2018)

    Duh.

    In fact, I can think of only two hot-button issues in recent times where this tribalism (i.e., ideology rather than reason) was not determinative: One was the Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of Obamacare; the other was its ruling on legalizing same-sex marriages. I duly hailed these judicial anomalies in “Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare … Again; Will Legalize Same-Sex Marriages … Too,” June 25, 2015, and “Supreme Court Rules Same-Sex Marriages Legal Nationwide,” June 26, 2015, respectively.

    This is why today’s ruling on Trump’s travel ban came as no surprise. This, especially given the open and notorious Gorsuch stunt Republicans pulled to stack this Court in their favor. I decried it in “Nomination of Gorsuch to Supreme Court Affirms Politicization of Judiciary,” February 2, 2017.

    For the record, though, here is how I commented on this travel ban in “Nordstrom Rejects Trump Brand. Court Overrules His Travel Ban,” February 10, 2017.

    ____________________

    Honestly, I couldn’t be less interested in joining the gam of sharks bloviating on this topic. Not least because it was clear from the outset that it amounted to nothing more than fodder for lawyers to engage in sound and fury, signifying nothing to do with keeping America safe. …

    Of course, Trump has been the bloviator-in-chief in this regard. And, with trademark bluster, he is threatening to take court rulings against his ban all the way to the Supreme Court. But I suspect he’ll just have his lawyers redraft the executive order to have no practical impact on immigration whatsoever.

    After all, any redraft would necessarily end up merely restating provisions of the ‘extreme vetting’ the Obama administration put in place years ago. Arguably, this explains why, despite all of Trump’s fear-mongering rhetoric, no terrorist has been able to use the refugee stream to perpetrate an attack in the United States on Obama’s watch.

    ____________________

    Sure enough, lawyers ended up redrafting his travel ban to the point where the “version 3.0” the Court ruled on today bears little resemblance to the original, which Trump vowed as a presidential candidate to implement:

    ‘Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,’ he said.

    (The Washington Post, December 7, 2015)

    In fact, this version of Trump’s travel ban

    • does not even mention Muslims;
    • affects less than five percent of the worldwide Muslim population;
    • includes the non-Muslim pariah nations of Venezuela and North Korea as patent foils; and
    • allows people from the seven countries affected to enter the United States if they can show they pose no terrorist threat, which presumably 99 percent of them would be able to do.

    Not to mention the most salient fact that none of the many terrorists who have carried out attacks in the United States since 9/11 came from any of the seven countries this version 3.0 targets. Indeed, nothing betrays Trump’s misguided animus and specious concerns about national security quite like the fact that Saudi Arabia, where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from, in not affected.

    Like I said from the outset, a controversy, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Mind you, listening to Trump gloat, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Court ruled today that he can ban all Muslims as he fantasized along the campaign trail.

    But you don’t have to take my word. Because here is how CNN reported today on Trump himself admitting just weeks ago that this ban is much ado about nothing:

    On June 5, Trump said the Justice Department should seek a ‘much tougher version’ of the ‘watered down, politically correct version’ that was submitted to the Supreme Court.

    And since only a portion of the ban will go into effect – limiting people from six majority-Muslim countries with no US connection from entering the US — it’s essentially a watered-down victory for his ‘watered down’ travel ban.

    Which is why the most significant thing the Court did today was affirm my contention that its rulings on hot-button issues have much more to do with political affiliation than legal reasoning.

    I rest my case.

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    * This commentary was originally published on Tuesday, June 26, at 6:43 p.m.

  • Sunday, June 24, 2018 at 8:49 AM

    Tribalism and Dysfunction of American Politics

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here in part is how The Economist explained this tribalism and dysfunction in a recent issue (on May 24) under the heading “The primeval tribalism of American Politics.”

    No longer able to fathom how their partisan rivals can hear, and also see, think and say the things they do, Americans are increasingly liable to consider them lesser beings. …

    No wonder Republicans and Democrats cannot bring themselves to make the compromises upon which the healthy functioning of American democracy depends.

    You’d be forgiven for thinking this has everything to do with the black-swan phenomenon that is the Trump presidency. But you’d be wrong.

    After all, I’ve been lamenting this descent into tribalism and dysfunction for years. In fact, party orthodoxy had already become so toxic six years ago that even the notion of compromise among Republicans was tantamount to political heresy. Here is how I decried this in “The Will of the American People? Really?” July 11, 2012.

    ____________________

    No less a person than Speaker John Boehner betrayed their new jihadist approach to politics just weeks after Republicans won control of the House in November 2010.

    He did so during the December 12, 2010, edition of 60 Minutes, when Leslie Stahl stated that ‘surely governing means compromising,’ and then asked why he was so unwilling to say that he and the Republicans would be willing to compromise with Obama and the Democrats. Boehner replied:

    ‘We are doing the will of the American people. As for compromise, I utterly reject the word.’

    This, in a nutshell, explains why we’ve been treated over the past two years to the spectacle of Washington gridlock over every piece of legislation, including those merely extending policies Republicans once supported.

    ____________________

    That said, it’s arguable that this tribalism and dysfunction led inexorably to the election of Donald J. Trump. And there’s certainly no gainsaying that he exacerbates both every time he opens his potty mouth.

    Indeed, the causes for lamentation in this regard have been unprecedented, so much so that one had to look to perennial schisms elsewhere for guidance. I found mine in the sectarian conflict Sunnis and Shias have been (and still are) waging for the soul of Islam – as I did here:

    This is just the latest front in the political warfare Republicans and Democrats are now waging, which is beginning to ape the religious warfare Sunnis and Shias have been waging for over a thousand years. And I fully appreciate the cycle of vengeance that is motivating Democrats to do to Trump’s nominee what Republicans did to Obama’s.

    (“Nomination of Gorsuch to Supreme Court Affirms Politicization of Judiciary,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 2, 2017)

    And here:

    Political tribalism is tearing America apart. And Trump’s presidency smacks of a demonic force designed to have Republicans and Democrats ape the Sunnis and Shias who have been fighting for the soul of Islam for over 1000 years.

    (“Trump’s Insulting Tweet about Doug Jones, the Alabama Democratic Nominee, Reveals More about Trump,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 26, 2017)

    The most obvious consequence of this tribalism and dysfunction has been the inability of Congress to enact meaningful legislation. But the most obvious feature has been the coarsening and dumbing down of public debate.

    Nothing betrays the latter quite like the way so many erstwhile respectable people – from pastors to actors – are objecting to Trump’s debasing of public discourse by debasing public discourse themselves.

    Only this explains Robert De Niro taking to the stage at the Tony Awards earlier this month and blurting out, in Tourette-like fashion, “F*ck Trump!” Unsurprisingly, the assembled members of his tribe gave him a rousing round of applause as they all reveled in their echo chamber. And only this explains Peter Fonda tweeting last week that someone should kidnap and rape Trump’s son Baron to show Trump how cruel separating immigrant children from their parents is. #TwoWrongs…?

    In her critically acclaimed book, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations (2018), Amy Chua of the Yale Law School argues that American exceptionalism will help Republicans and Democrats bridge the tribal divisions that have plunged countries like Iraq and Syria into internecine warfare. Further, that at the center of this exceptionalism is the harmonizing concept of the American Dream.

    Except that – from the Civil War of the 1860s to the race riots of the 1960s – history teaches that this center cannot hold. In fact, I fear the divisions that gave rise to those conflicts will pale in comparison to looming divisions, which the browning and Islamising of America portend.

    This is why the proverb of the Tower of Babel might serve as a more instructive precedent. Here is how staff at the Bible Study Tool explained it on their site on February 11, 2016:

    The Babylonians wanted a tower that would ‘reach to the heavens’ so that they could be like God and that they would not need Him. …

    God did not like the pride and arrogance in the hearts of the people. God caused the people to suddenly speak different languages so they could not communicate and work together to build the tower.

    And here is my takeaway:

    • Pride and prejudice are motivating Trump and his supporters to execute their America First policies. This is no different from the pride and arrogance that motivated the Babylonians to build their tower.
    • Trump declares that he alone can fix all that is wrong (not just with America but the entire world) and boasts about never asking God for anything, let alone forgiveness. This is no different from the Babylonians thinking they no longer needed Him.
    • Everyone agrees that the tribalism of American politics is leading to increasingly combustible animus and dysfunction. This is no different from tribalism of Babylonian languages that blew that ancient kingdom asunder.

    We are already being treated to the balkanizing spectacle of members of the nationalists/Republican tribe being heckled at and kicked out of restaurants that belong to members of the resistance/Democratic tribe. I fear this is only a small indication of things to come (e.g., like the Department of Justice moving to execute Trump’s clarion call to lock up his political opponents and critics alike; you know, the way his pal Putin has his minions do in Russia).

    In the meantime, Trump and the enabling members of his tribe are normalizing all kinds of uncivil and unseemly behavior in American politics. And, as De Niro and Fonda indicate, members of the opposing tribe seem determined to react in kind.

    Perhaps, like far too many Americans, you interact online only with people who share and reinforce your political views. But just imagine the dystopia offline if we all began basing personal, professional, and social relationships on party affiliation.

    And, if your religious bias compels you to dismiss my Sunni-Shia precedent, consider “The Troubles” that beset Northern Ireland for decades. That schism had nationalists/Catholics and unionists/Protestants aping their Muslim brothers … until they came to their senses with the Good Friday Agreement.

    In any event, as Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, famously warned:

    A house divided against itself cannot stand.

    NOTE: The name Amy Chua should be familiar to you – even if you can’t quite place it. She gained international acclaim in 2011 for her bestselling book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I was so impressed that I commented in “More Mothers Should Be Tiger Mothers,” January 21, 2011.

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  • Saturday, June 23, 2018 at 8:41 AM

    Trumpletons (keep) gagging on promises and lies they swallowed…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Not to mention this:

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  • Friday, June 22, 2018 at 6:22 AM

    America’s First Family: the Rich Getting Richer

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Donald J. Trump is the richest president in US history. Therefore, it’s ironic that he’s cheapening the presidency more than any other. But that irony is laced with gall. Because this cheapening is directly proportional to the way he’s using the presidency to enrich himself and his family.

    I have written many commentaries warning it would be thus. I refer you to “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker?” April 8, 2011, “Trump’s 3-Card Monte of an Address to Joint Session of Congress,” March 1, 2017, and “Trump, Jared, and Ivanka Forgoing Salaries Is Just Another Bait and Switch,” April 3, 2017, which includes this excerpt.

    ____________________

    First President Trump made a show of forgoing his salary ($400k). Then Jared did the same ($175-200k). Now Ivanka is following suit. Mind you, given their job performances, this only means that the American people are getting exactly what they’re paying for. …

    Trump’s spinmeisters are asserting that the country should be grateful for his, Jared, and Ivanka’s sacrifice. Never mind that public-spirited people are usually the ones who are grateful for the honor of serving their country, especially in the White House. …

    Congress should pass a law requiring all federal employees to take their salaries. Because it’s a patent insult for rich people to pretend they’re doing the American people a favor by forgoing theirs. The government that pays defense contractors $100,000 for a toilet can easily pay their salaries.

    More to the point, though, it’s hardly a sacrifice if the members of this nepotistic triumvirate forgo hundreds of thousands in government salaries only to use their positions to generate hundreds of millions in private revenues. This is a bait and switch worthy of the Art of the Steal.

    ____________________

    Now come reports that these public servants raked in more money during the first year of his presidency than they ever did as private citizens.

    Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, brought in at least $82 million in outside income while serving as senior White House advisers during 2017, according to financial disclosure forms released Monday. …

    The filings show how the couple are collecting immense sums from other enterprises while serving in the White House, an extraordinary income flow that ethics experts have warned could create potential conflicts of interests.

    (The Washington Post, June 11, 2018)

    Again, this will come as a surprise only to willfully ignorant suckers.

    But if you think Jared and Ivanka are making out like bandits, Trump is making their loot seem like chump change. In a report on October 30, 2017, Newsweek conceded that the sums are too imperial to count but delineated the top five ways Trump is competing with the Treasury when it comes to printing money:

    • Trump is continuing his global business ventures, despite vows of no new foreign deals.
    • Business is booming at his Mar-a-Lago resort. (Trump complains that the $17 million spent to date on the Mueller probe is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Yet the Washington Post reported earlier this month (on June 1) that he has spent nearly $40 million to date on 17 trips to this resort. How’s that for a waste of taxpayer dollars!)
    • Trump’s new hotel in Washington is banking $7-10 million a month (emoluments smoluments).
    • The first family is profiting from visits to Trump-branded properties and golf courses.
    • Trump-branded book royalties are soaring.

    But US News summed up this brazen and unprecedented fleecing of America a few months ago (on March 5) as follows:

    [W]hen it comes to wringing bucks out of this administration, no one can match President Donald Trump himself for the sheer depth and breadth of his national grift.

    Without precedent in U.S. history we have a president who sees profit as the natural and immediate spoils of office.

    Mind you, none of this includes the bucks his sons Eric and Don Jr. are raking in by trading on his presidency. Reports abound about their entitled deal making (e.g., hotel in Vancouver, condos in Uruguay, golf course in Dubai, all-inclusive resort in Indonesia, and 17 letters of intent to develop hotels across America) – all of which probably makes even their daddy warbucks green with envy.

    Frankly, not since the French reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette has a first family felt their public offices entitled them to untold personal riches like the Trumps clearly do. Melania Trump reinforced this shameful symmetry just yesterday when she decided – for some inexplicable reason – to pull this stunt:

    Host Anderson Cooper was discussing the jacket that the first lady wore en route to visit with migrant children separated from their parents at a Texas shelter on Thursday that read, ‘I don’t really care. Do you?’

    ‘She’s officially the Marie Antoinette of this administration,’ CNN analyst Kirsten Powers said. ‘It should just say ‘let them eat cake,’ that they literally just don’t care about what’s happening there.’

    (The Hill, June 21, 2018)

    Like I said the morning after (willfully ignorant) Americans elected Trump the 45th president of the United States: “WTF! President-elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done.” November 9, 2016.

    Well, the brazen way the Trumps are enriching themselves and the careless way they are dealing with this immigration crisis are just two of the many ways the chickens are now coming home to roost … every which way but loose.

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  • Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at 4:45 PM

    UPDATE: Trump Ends Separations but Continues Internments

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    By Trump’s own admission, it was not common humanity but viral images that finally forced him to do this:

    President Trump caved to enormous political pressure on Wednesday and signed an executive order that ends the separation of families by indefinitely detaining parents and children together at the border.

    ‘I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,’ [Trump said].

    (The New York Times, June 20, 2018)

    I cannot overstate that it was the “sight” not any “feeling” that moved him. After all, if he had any true feeling, he would have felt so chastened (for having ordered families be separated in first place) that he would have signed this executive order with no media in sight.

    Instead, like an arsonist soliciting credit for putting out the fire he ignited, Trump summoned the media to cover his signing. Then again, this is the same president who spent months threatening to ignite a nuclear war with North Korea, and then started lobbying for a Nobel Peace prize just because he stopped doing so. #MunchausenByTrumpism!

    Meanwhile, far from putting out his latest fire, the executive order this political arsonist just signed merely provides for children to be locked up along with their parents … indefinitely. Which, to be fair, I suppose is rather like taking them from the fire and putting them into the frying pan, no?

    Not to mention that this PR stunt does nothing to reunite thousands of children – already separated and interned in shelters all over the country – with their parents.

    NOTE: I refuse to dignify with any comment the weak, feckless, and pathetic way Trump and his rag-tag band of propagandists tried to blame Democrats – not only for implementing this separation policy but also for refusing to end it,  as he has just done.

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  • Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at 7:51 AM

    Separating Immigrant Children from Their Parents. This Is America … Too!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Occasionally in the course of human events, man’s inhumanity to man provokes commentaries that inflame passions more than shed light. This is one of those occasions. Therefore, I hope what follows sheds light more than inflames passions.

    Since early May, 2,342 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the Southern U.S. border, according to the Department of Homeland Security, as part of a new immigration strategy by the Trump administration that has prompted widespread outcry. …

    In April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered prosecutors along the border to ‘adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy,’ for illegal border crossings. That included prosecuting parents traveling with their children as well as people who subsequently attempted to request asylum.

    (NPR, June 19, 2018)

    No doubt you’ve heard all the critics condemning this policy, which includes separating children so young, the Trump administration is detaining them at secret locations in “tender age shelters.” It is noteworthy that Trump’s own wife Melania is leading the chorus, which includes every former first lady, in denouncing this policy as cruel and inhumane, and eerily reminiscent of the way the Nazis treated the Jews.

    They are right, of course. I mean, just imagine the despairing terror of parents fleeing their homes and braving an often long and treacherous journey to the US border, all to protect their children, only to have the US government throw them in prison and confiscate their children like contraband, leaving parents and children alike with no idea when or if they will ever see each other again. This is America?!

    But, unlike fellow progressives, I readily concede that the tide of immigrants fleeing violence and privation south of the border is untenable. But I also recognize that the categorical imperative to flee is existential, so much so that some parents are giving their life savings to smugglers (a.k.a. coyotes) to get their children to that border for a life-saving chance to … crossover.

    I am also mindful that those fleeing Central and South America are no different from those who fled Cuba and Haiti over the years. In fact, the US government would be hard-pressed to explain why Hispanics from Cuba were welcomed for decades under its “wet foot, dry foot” policy, but Hispanics from Central and South America never were. And don’t get me started on the racism inherent in never allowing blacks from Haiti or any other country to enter under this policy.

    I have commented on the tangled web of immigration policies America has weaved in such commentaries as “Compassion Fatigue for Haitian Migrants,” July 31, 2009, and “Obama Ends Discriminatory ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’ Cuba Policy,” January 13, 2017.  But I digress …

    Americans – of every political stripe – are venting moral outrage over the sound of children in US detention centers (a.k.a. internment camps) crying for their parents. Yet these same Americans seem blithely oblivious to the fact that these wailing cries pale in comparison to the sound of children left behind in those strife-ridden countries crying for food – when they’re not crying for a dead parent, sibling, or relative.

    Meanwhile, President Trump is a lying, blame-shifting ogre in so many respects, it’s easy to overlook that President Obama was not exactly blameless. Granted, he never ordered children to be ripped from the arms of their mothers. But, in targeting illegal immigrants with criminal records, he deported so many fathers (which tore many families apart) that immigrant-rights activists ended up denouncing him as the “deporter in chief.”

    I hasten to clarify that Trump banning Muslims and calling Caribbean and African countries “shitholes” are just two of the many notorious ways he is uniquely worthy of condemnation in this context.

    That said , the only way to truly stem this tide is to marshal American resources (political, financial, and even military) to change conditions on the ground that are causing people to flee for their lives.

    Administration officials insist that this separation policy is only a stop-gap measure until America can build Trump’s big, beautiful wall as the real deterrent. Further, that this deterrent is necessary because, the way immigrants are rushing to the southern border, you’d think their countries were like buildings on fire.

    Unfortunately, they are so blinded by their own anti-immigrant bias, they can’t see that the best way to deal with a neighbor’s house on fire is not to build a wall around your house to keep that fleeing neighbor out; rather it’s to help that neighbor put out the fire, lest it engulfs the entire neighborhood.

    (I argued the same for European countries dealing with the sequent toil of Arab (Syrian) and African migrants in such commentaries as “European Migration Crisis: Sowing Seeds of Unintended but All Too Foreseeable Consequences,” September 7, 2015. And I crystallized the similar migration challenges the US and EU face in “On Second Thought, Keep Your…Huddled Masses Yearning to Be Free,” July 7, 2014.)

    In any event, it would be refreshing to have a US government offering direct assistance to help regional governments combat indigenous violence and provide basic services for their people, instead of trying to overthrow them. As part of this assistance, it could help those governments build, protect, and sustain safe havens within their respective borders, as well as launch public information programs to discourage people from thinking the reason America is a “Shining City on a Hill” is that its streets are paved with gold (you know, all that glitters is not…).

    That would clearly be a more beneficial and humane use of taxpayer dollars than this moondoggle:

    President Trump officially directed the Pentagon to establish a sixth branch of the U.S. military in space on Monday. Speaking at a National Space Council meeting at the White House, Mr. Trump called for a ‘space force’ to ensure American dominance on the high frontier.

    (CBS News, June 18 2018)

    Ultimately, though, the only way to truly fix America’s inherently flawed immigration system is to kick Trump and his enablers in the “cult-like” Republican Party out of office. Because only Democrats seem committed to comprehensive immigration reform. This would include not only a guest-worker program but also incentives for illegal immigrants now living in the shadows to assimilate, assimilate, assimilate!

    More to the point, such reform would practically end any need to cross the border illegally.

    Incidentally, only the congenitally ass-backward Trump would think that withholding aid from these poor countries – as he is threatening to do – would stop what he says are illegal immigrants “infest[ing] our country.”

    As indicated above, I have written too many commentaries on America’s perennial immigration crisis to count, including “US Declares ‘Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy … Yeah, Right!” October 20, 2005, “New Immigration Laws Promise Comfort to Fools in Washington and Paris,” December 2, 2005, “Bush’s Presidential Address on Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Hate the Messenger; Don’t Hate the Message,” May 16, 2006, and “DACA: Ain’t No Wall High Enough to Keep ‘Them’ from Getting to US,” September 16, 2017.

    But I can think of no better way to end this one than to echo what President Obama famously said: Don’t get mad, vote! Or, to paraphrase what President Bush (George W.) famously tried to say: Elect Trump once, shame on him. Elect Trump twice, shame on you!

    Related commentaries:
    Wet foot, dry foot
    Compassion fatigue for Haitian
    Shithole countries
    original “zero-tolerance” immigration policy
    New immigration laws offer comfort to fools
    Bush comprehensive immigration reform
    DACA ain’t no wall high enough
    banning Muslims
    Europe’s migration crisis
    On second thought, keep huddled masses

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 10:21 p.m.

  • Tuesday, June 19, 2018 at 6:56 AM

    Juneteenth

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.

    (juneteethnationalday.com)

  • Monday, June 18, 2018 at 6:53 AM

    US Open: Tiger Woods Becoming the Hugh Hefner of PGA Players

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt you recall the sensational way Tiger Woods’s wife famously burst their marital bubble. It happened around Thanksgiving Day in 2009 – when she reacted to breaking news about his cheating by taking one of his irons to his hide, and then to his car. I joined in the tabloid revelry with “Tiger’s Wife Serves Him a Fat Lip for Thanksgiving,” November 29, 2009.

    Fatefully, Tiger decided the best way to save his marriage was to take time off the PGA tour for a stint in sex rehab. I thought that was a big mistake. I suggested at the time that, if anything, he should have given a one-off “Oprah-style confessional” and continued his career without missing a, er, stroke.

    Fans will readily forgive him of course. But winning tournaments in his inimitable fashion is the only way to eradicate bacchanalian images of his private life from public consciousness – even if not from the tabloids.

    (“Tiger Escapes to a Safe Haven,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 14, 2009)

    Except that, less than two years later, I was already venting frustration with his “Waiting-for-Godot” comeback (to win majors). I did so in commentaries like “Tiger! Tiger! Losing Fight,” August 15, 2011, which included a prescient observation and prediction.

    ____________________

    It is impossible to resist engaging in pop psychology to explain why he can’t even buy a win these days. Apropos of this, I cannot help remarking on how delusional Tiger sounded on Friday after what had to have been the most humiliating performance of his professional career:

    It’s a step back in the sense I didn’t make the cut but a giant leap forward in the sense that I played two straight weeks healthy.

    (BBC Sport, August 12, 2011)

    A giant leap forward? Hell, if merely staying healthy, physically, for two straight weeks is a giant leap forward, then actually winning another major might take a miracle. …

    But it’s plainly disingenuous for Tiger to suggest that chronic injuries have prevented him from winning. For this is belied by the fact that he not only seemed just fine throughout his winless 2010, but actually won his ‘last’ major, the 2008 US Open, while in obvious pain caused by a knee injury. …

    One does not have to be a trained psychologist to diagnose that Tiger’s problems are more mental than physical. Because it’s self-evident that the public humiliation he endured following that domestic incident, which exposed his Charlie-Sheen like penchant for prostitutes, sapped him of the self-esteem and confidence that not only fueled his game, but instilled self-defeating fear in other players.

    Unsurprisingly, the media have focused on the fact that he lost his wife and a half billion dollars in divorce payments and commercial endorsements. It’s arguable though that an even greater loss was the mental strength that gave him that invincible swagger, but which depended so much on reverence from fans and fellow players alike. …

    That a physically fit Tiger announced after missing the cut that he won’t play another tournament until November is testament to how mentally vulnerable he has become. Indeed, one can be forgiven for thinking that he’d rather nurse his wounded pride than risk another ignominious cut.

    Except that this avoidance strategy will only make his performance anxiety more acute. And, given his now notorious sexcapades, how’s that for irony of ironies…?

    I am convinced that Tiger is losing his very pubic fight to recapture his mojo simply because he cannot get that public humiliation out of his mind. And each humiliating loss will only make him more anxious about playing his next tournament. …

    Tiger is 35. So he can probably compete, physically, for another five years. But if he still hasn’t won his 15th major by this time next year, then I fear he will never be able to compete well enough, mentally, to dethrone Jack Nicklaus as the king of the majors with 18 wins.

    ____________________

    Sure enough, he hasn’t won a major since that incident nine years ago. And those were arguably the back nine of his most productive years as a pro.

    All the while my lay diagnosis precluded me from having any sympathy for the show he made of blaming his streak of futility on chronic injuries. I refer you to attesting commentaries such as “For Tiger, Bad Play Causes ‘Pain,’ Not Vice Versa,” August 7, 2014, and “Tiger’s Back, but His Back Won’t Let Him Play?! Puhleeze,” February 6, 2015.

    In fact, by his own admission, Tiger entered last week’s US Open as healthy as he has ever been and, I suspect, as healthy as he will ever be. That’s why this latest cut is the cruelest and most telling of them all.

    The missed cut is Tiger’s second straight at a U.S. Open (2015) and his second of the season. … It’s just the eighth missed cut of his career as a pro at major championships but his fifth in his last seven majors.

    (CBS Sports, June 15, 2018)

    He is now 42. But I felt nothing but pity when he tried to rationalize his failure. This included upbraiding a reporter for failing to see any flash of the once-dominant Tiger in his lackluster two rounds at Shinnecock Hills.

    To be fair, this tournament marked the 10th anniversary to the day of his last major win – at this very tournament no less. That he found himself rationalizing yet another cut, instead of hoisting another trophy, probably accounted for his testy defensiveness.

    But, if he thought that reporter was being impertinent, imagine what he thought when he read what critically acclaimed sports journalist Pat Forde wrote about his play. Forde did so in a Yahoo! Sports column titled “Tiger Woods Living in Denial Following Brutal US Open” June 15, 2018. The title says it all, but his column includes echoes of what I’ve been saying about Tiger’s play since 2011:

    In Tiger’s head, he’s just a tweak away from being the best player in the world again. Out here in the real world, the evidence to the contrary continues to pile up. …

    This was a setback for the comeback, and it was impossible for anyone to watch Tiger Woods play Thursday and Friday and envision him winning more majors.

    I should clarify here that, notwithstanding the above, I’m on record declaring my belief that Tiger will win again; and not just some rinky-dink tournament, but a major. The problem is that Tiger himself made surpassing Jack’s 18 majors the standard by which we should judge his career.

    Tiger knows better than anyone that he will not be able to fully redeem his professional reputation until he wins another 5 majors (i.e., from among the Masters in April, US Open in June, British Open in July, and PGA Championship in August).

    (“Tiger Won…Finally,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 5, 2011)

    Therefore, it won’t do for him to catch lightning in a bottle just one more time. He has to catch it 5 times (or 4 at the very least) for anyone to credibly suggest that he is the GOAT. Mind you, to put this quest for the holy grail of his sport into perspective, most players would be happy to end their careers with just two majors.

    That said, there is one abiding consolation: Tiger is still the biggest draw – not just in Golf but in all sports. I conceded this point in “Golf: More about Tiger than the Game Itself,” July 25, 2014, “The Masters: All about Tiger Even When He Was Losing,” April 15, 2013, and, topically enough, in “The US Open: Tiger, Tiger, Tiger!” June 17, 2008, which includes this admission:

    If Tiger Woods is not playing, I’d rather watch paint dry than watch Golf.

    True to form, I stopped watching this year’s tournament when Tiger missed the cut. Brooks Koepka (28) won for … the second major in his six years on the tour. Which means that, if he’s lucky, he might have 4 when he’s 34, and 6 when he’s 40 and already halfway through his back nine.

    But nothing demonstrates how Tiger once dominated the game quite like the fact that he already had 14 majors when he was just 32 in 2008. Because, of all the players on the tour, Phil Mickelson (48) comes closest to Tiger with just 5. And I hasten to note that Mickelson has completed the back nine of his most productive years too. But, unlike the Sisyphean Tiger, he’s playing just for the heck of it at this point. Only that explains this:

    A remarkable sequence on Hole 13, where Phil Mickelson was assessed a two-stroke penalty for hitting a moving ball and ended up making a 10 on the hole. …

    After performing this inexplicable move on the 13th green, Phil spent the rest of his round laughing his ass off.

    (SB Nation, June 17, 2018)

    In any event, Tiger’s fellow players can be forgiven for propagating the hype that flashes of his bygone greatness are preludes to coming attractions. After all, so long as there’s even a glimmer of hope of Tiger recapturing his faded glory, every tournament he participates in will be sold out, ensuring each of them of commensurate winnings.

    But, in the meantime, Tiger is becoming to PGA players what Hugh Hefner became to LA playas: the most popular guy in the game who everyone knows can’t play/do it anymore.

    Related commentaries:
    Tiger’s wife
    Tiger escapes
    Tiger, Tiger … losing fight
    The Masters
    Bad play causes pain
    Back won’t let him play
    Tiger won… finally
    Golf more about Tiger
    U.S. Open: Tiger

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 7:07 p.m.

  • Friday, June 15, 2018 at 8:23 AM

    American Media, for the Sake of the Republic, Hire Cartoonist Rob Rogers Today!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A veteran editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was fired Thursday after he and the newspaper’s management clashed over some sketches critical of President Donald Trump.

    (Huffington Post, June 14, 2018)

    Mind you, management never had a problem when this equal-opportunity critic was submitting sketches critical of others, including President Barack Obama, during his 25 years with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This is why its manifest intent is to help execute Trump’s dictatorial agenda to squash political dissent.

    Therefore, I urge you to boycott this newspaper as if it were being managed by Neo-Nazi propagandists.

    Hang in there Rob.

  • Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 8:49 AM

    French Open: Nadal Questions Equal Pay. Williams Ducks Sharapova

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Rafael Nadal won his 11th French Open on Sunday. But he double faulted on celebrations when he served up reportedly sexist and politically incorrect opinions on equal pay for men and women in Tennis:

    Female models earn more than male models and nobody says anything. Why? Because they have a larger following. In tennis too, who gathers a larger audience earns more.

    (CNN Bleacher Report, June 11, 2018)

    Except that Nadal is right.

    What’s more, he has an even stronger case. Because here is the argument I have been making for over 10 years:

    I have some ambivalence over the fact that Wimbledon organizers finally decided to follow the politically correct fashion at the other Grand Slams of awarding equal pay to women players for unequal work.

    Because, as a proud (and principled) feminist, I am sympathetic to the argument that until women play the best of five sets (like men do), instead of the best of three, they should not be paid the same amount in prize money. After all, women must run the same 26.2-mile marathon, and complete the same chauvinistically named Iron Man triathlon, to earn equal prize money. Therefore, why not require them to play the same best of five sets to earn equal prize money in Tennis…?

    (“Hail to 4-time Wimbledon Champ Venus Williams,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 9, 2007)

    Of course, Nadal’s point poses an unassailable exception to this rule: If the women’s best of three matches generate at least 40 percent more revenue at Grand Slam tournaments than the men’s best of five, that would justify equal pay.

    Apropos of which, there’s no gainsaying that the bottom line, not sexism, explains why not a single woman appears on the current Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid athletes. For context, Serena Williams is No. 1 among female athletes, earning $27 million in 2017. But some obscure basketball player is ranked No. 100 among male athletes, earning $47 million.

    More to the point, I would bet good money that, if you listed the top-5 professional sports you watch on a regular basis, those that feature women exclusively (e.g., women’s Boxing, Basketball, Golf, or Soccer) would not make it. You might want to consider how this contributes to the unequal pay at issue, especially if you’re a woman.

    Enough?

    Meanwhile, here is why I usually feel so alone when I’m watching women’s Tennis – when women and men play outside the four Grand Slams on separate WTA and ATP tours, respectively:

    I’ve been quite unabashed in expressing my preference for women’s Tennis. Because, frankly, not only is the women’s game almost as powerful as the men’s (with Venus hitting 125 mph serves), but their fierce baseline strokes – during relatively long rallies – are also far more titillating to watch than the one big serve that now characterizes men’s Tennis.

    (“Hail to 4-time Wimbledon Champ Venus Williams,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 9, 2007)

    As it happens, this tournament marked Williams’s return to Grand Slam competition after maternity leave. And she was cruising through the rounds until she withdrew just hours before her fourth-round showdown with Maria Sharapova, citing a pectoral injury.

    As has become customary, they added fuel to the media hype by volleying pre-match barbs. Their barbs on this occasion centered on petty, locker-room gossip about Williams, which Sharapova memorialized in her autobiography. I won’t dignify the tabloid fodder they provided by repeating any of it here.

    Suffice it to know that I think the back-and-forth got into Williams’s head. Specifically, Sharapova’s defiance in the media and apparent resurgence on the court caused Serena to question whether she was fit enough to beat her on this occasion.

    Mind you, she had beaten Sharapova in 18-consecutive matches coming into this French Open. Yet I suspect her nerves made her decide that it was better to play for sympathy in the media than risk losing to Sharapova on center court.

    That said, am I the only one who thought it was a mistake for Williams to wear that black catsuit throughout this tournament? She claims she had to do so for some spurious medical reason. But, far from looking like Cat Woman, she looked like the Michelin Man … attired blackly.

    Bad look, Serena.

    NOTE: Sharapova flamed out in the very next round. Perhaps William’s withdrawal lulled her into a false sense of invincibility. Simona Halep ended up defeating Sloane Stevens for the women’s championship.

    Related commentaries:
    Hail to … Venus
    Hail, Serena, GOAT

  • Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 9:12 AM

    Trump Strikes Potemkin Nuclear Deal with Kim Jong-un

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I feel obliged to reiterate my contention that Donald Trump holding a summit with Kim Jong-un is only as historic as the infamous one Neville Chamberlain held with Adolf Hitler. And, like Chamberlain’s “peace in our time,” Trump’s “everybody can now feel much safer … sleep well tonight” will live in infamy. Because, just as Hitler never ended his military aggression, Kim will never end his nuclear program.

    Not to mention the manifest folly of hailing Trump for diffusing fears of nuclear conflagration on the Korean Peninsula. After all, he himself ignited those fears with his juvenile insults and reckless threats, which included calling Kim “Rocket Man” and threatening to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea, respectively. The proverb of the infernal arsonist claiming credit for putting out his own fires comes to mind.

    I also feel obliged to reiterate this admonition I gave 12 years ago in “Why Do World Leaders Even Give North Korea’s President the Time of Day,” October 4, 2006.

    ____________________

    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 manages to jerk the world’s chain every time. Indeed, true to form, statements of concern from world leaders about what Kim might do followed his antic declaration with Pavlovian predictability. But one wonders why — given his record of idle threats — these world leaders even give him the time of day. …

    Even if Kim possesses nuclear weapons – as he professes, like Saddam Hussein, he will use them on his own people to maintain absolute grip on power before launching a preemptive attack on South Korea, let alone on his useful boogeyman, the United States. And, it is far more likely that fanatical Taliban sympathizers in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) would share nuclear technology or even nuclear weapons with terrorists before the devoutly hedonistic Kim does. …

    Cold War tensions between the US and Soviet Union never provoked leaders of either country to violate the universally accepted nuclear doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). Likewise, no matter how much North Korea provokes tensions with the United States, we have good reason to believe that Kim would never dare violate that doctrine. …

    The US and other world leaders should quit coddling him every time he throws a temper tantrum.

    ____________________

    Like father, like son

    That said, not since George W. Bush said he trusts Russia’s Putin has a president of the United States seemed so stupid and naïve as Trump seemed today, when he said he trusts North Korea’s Kim:

    I do trust him, yeah. … I think that he really wants to do a great job for North Korea. I think he wants to de-nuke.

    (ABC News, June 12, 2018)

    Of course, Putin really wanted to do a great job for Russia too. And he has – wielding as he now does the kind of totalitarian control over Russia that would make Joseph Stalin green with envy.

    Frankly, the only thing Trump has to show from this summit is a historic photo op; whereas Kim can show that the leader of the free world has not only normalized his reign of terror but given him license to reign on.

    ‘Systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed’ by the leaders of North Korea against their own people, the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights declared Monday in a report that goes on to accuse that nation’s communist regime of ‘crimes against humanity.’

    According to U.N. investigators, ‘the gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.’

    (NPR, February 14, 2018)

    This Nazi-grade barbarity is why none of Trump’s predecessors would even talk to Kim; that is, unless he committed to “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization” (CVID) and ending these crimes against humanity.

    Incidentally, Obama made Iran jump through these CVID hoops to reach the nuclear deal he brokered. Yet Trump ridiculed that deal as the worst in the history of mankind. Now, in trademark Trumpian fashion, he’s trying to spin the deal he just struck with North Korea as the best, notwithstanding that Obama’s is to prime steak as his is to Swiss cheese.

    But don’t get me started on the way Republican politicians and conservative pundits are turning themselves into intellectual pretzels trying to defend this historic feat of appeasement. Suffice it to know that, if Obama had done what Trump just did, congressional Republicans would have initiated impeachment proceedings, accusing Obama of betraying not just national security but American values to boot. And they would not have shown him the courtesy of waiting until he landed back on US soil to do so.

    As it happens, I began beating this dead horse long before Trump was even elected. I refer you to such commentaries as “Evangelicals Supporting Trump Like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016, and “Now Chief of Staff Kelly ‘Spicers’ Himself for Trump re Sgt. La David Johnson,” October 20, 2017.

    Remarkably, Trump has shown time and again that there is nothing he would not do, nor any principle he would not sacrifice, for his own self-aggrandizement and glorification. (No doubt he has visions of Trump hotels framing North Korea’s decaying skyline and Trump golf courses defiling its virgin countryside….)

    Here, for example, is how I decried his epic flip-flop on China – swinging from accusing it of raping the United States to praising it for doing so:

    Idle flattery could get this narcissist to sell out his mother. Therefore, it’s no surprise that being feted with such pomp and circumstance got him to sell out his country. …

    Trump has embarrassed and demeaned the United States like nobody has ever seen before. For this has to be the first time in history that a US president traveled to the capital of a foreign adversary and lavished it with praise for ‘raping’ the United States.

    (“Trump Congratulates China for Raping US,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 9, 2017)

    Apropos of which, Kim knew all he had to do was to stroke Trump’s ego. This he duly did by telling him that he’s doing something no other US president was able [while thinking stupid enough] to do. That’s all it took for Trump to give Kim everything he wanted and demand nothing (of any substance) in return.

    Frankly, only delusions of grandeur explain his wrecking-ball approach to US alliances that have been the bedrock of a peaceful world order since World War II. He threw this into tectonic relief last weekend, when he willfully wrecked a G7 meeting in Canada.

    Donald Trump has left the G7 network of global cooperation in disarray after he pulled the US out of a previously agreed summit communique, blaming the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau whom he derided as ‘dishonest and weak’.

    The US president, who arrived at the summit in Canada late and left early to fly to Singapore to prepare for his summit with Kim Jong-un, shocked fellow leaders with a bellicose press conference on Saturday in which he attacked the trade policies of other countries.

    (The Guardian, June 9, 2018)

    And so he ignited a trade war with America’s most trusted allies as foreplay to signing a slapdash nuclear deal with America’s most deceptive enemy? #Dope!

    Then came the wrecking ball he took to America’s longstanding alliance with South Korea with this shock-and-awe declaration:

    Donald Trump has unexpectedly vowed that the US will end ‘war games’ on the Korean peninsula, as he said America is ‘prepared to start a new history’ with North Korea after holding a historic summit with Kim Jong-un.

    (The Telegraph, June 12, 2018)

    In other words, in exchange for Kim’s patently specious promise to de-nuke, Trump agreed to dismantle the military alliance that has kept North Korea’s military aggression in check since the end of the Korean War. Worse still, he made this agreement without even discussing it with the president of South Korea, affirming the Trump doctrine, which The Atlantic quoted a White House official (in its June 11 edition) saying is:

    We’re America, bitch!

    But perhaps nothing betrayed how thoroughly he caved quite like Trump parroting Kim’s propaganda. Specifically, he indignantly referred to these joint US-South Korea (defensive) military exercises (to be “ready to fight tonight”) as provocative war games.

    Despite their own provocative military maneuvers throughout the region, North Korea and China have always decried these exercises, which have been conducted for decades, as a regional military threat.

    To be fair, Trump insists that this does not mean withdrawing all US troops from South Korea. But leaving them there under these new terms would be tantamount to turning them into little more than terracotta warriors.

    Trust me, Kim and his totalitarian allies, most notably the leaders of Russia and China, are the only ones who think this summit was a success. In fact, President Xi Jinping wasted no time in signaling China’s intent to lead efforts at the United Nations to normalize trade relations with North Korea.

    This not only undermines but makes a mockery of Trump’s threat to continue “maximum pressure” with economic sanctions until Kim cries uncle. #DopeWasDuped!

    Related commentaries:
    Why do leaders give Kim time of day
    Fire and fury
    Trump leading from behind
    Evangelical leaders
    Kelly Spicers Himself
    Kim cuckolds Trump
    China raping US

    * This commentary was originally published on Tuesday, June 12, at 8:47 a.m.

     

  • Monday, June 11, 2018 at 7:13 AM

    African American Museum Paying Trumpian Tribute to Oprah. Shame!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I could not have been prouder when the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in September 2016 on the hallowed Mall in Washington, DC. That it opened under the auspices of the first black president of the United States made the occasion seem providential.

    In fact, I was so proud, I became a Charter member and was among the huddled masses who couldn’t wait to tour it. It was everything I expected, and more. But, as with all major museums, you’d do yourself a disservice if you limit your tour to just one visit.

    The NMAAHC has 12 exhibitions – with features ranging from heartrending yet uplifting stories of slavery to prevailing and entertaining contributions to culture. And each is filled with so many images and artifacts that one could spend an entire visit in just one exhibition and still fail to take in all it offers.

    Which brings me to the Museum’s first special exhibition, which opened on Friday:

    For 25 seasons and 4,561 episodes, ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ reflected and influenced American society.

    Join us for an exploration of the life and impact of @Oprah Winfrey in our special exhibition, ‘Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture.’

    — Smithsonian NMAAHC (@NMAAHC) June 4, 2018

    My problem with this honor is very simple: there are too many black Americans who have had far greater impact on American history and culture than Oprah.

    I readily concede that Oprah is a cultural phenomenon. And she is probably the most charitable black American in the history of the United States, which I duly hailed (and defended) in “Criticisms of Oprah’s School for African Girls Are Unwarranted,” January 8, 2007.

    But an exploration of her life and impact would show that her signature TV show did more to help white women be their best selves than to advance black people – politically, economically or even culturally.

    And her pioneering Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) showed no greater race consciousness – as this damning rebuke attests:

    Does Oprah’s network need more diversity? Many African-American women seem to think so, including Black Entertainment cofounder Sheila Johnson, who says that Winfrey should ‘open her circle a bit more,’ and blogs such as Hello Beautiful and Clutch, which have complained bitterly about the absence of black faces and voices.

    (Newsweek, January 30, 2011)

    Indeed, what does it say about this black pioneer that her most recognizable protégés are three white men, namely Dr. Phil McGraw, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Nate Berkus, and one white women, namely Suze Orman?

    But let’s face it, her life is already such an open book, the only thing worth exploring is her polyamorous relationship with Gayle and Stedman, which I have done in commentaries such as “Oprah Presents: The Greatest Love Story?” February 25, 2005, “Oprah Protests ‘I’m Not Gay!’ (Too Much, Methinks),” July 19, 2006, and “The Golden Globes (Oprah and MeToo),” January 8, 2018.

    Meanwhile, this celebration of our celebrity-obsessed culture betrays what no less a person than President Obama proclaimed is the prevailing mission of this Museum:

    As Americans, we rightfully passed on the tales of the giants who built this country … but too often we ignored or forgot the stories of millions upon millions of others who built this nation. … By knowing this other story, we better understand ourselves and each other. It binds us together and reaffirms that all of us are American.

    (The Washington Post, September 24, 2016)

    Truth be told, the only thing that explains this special exhibition is Oprah’s status as the NMAAHC’s top donor. She reportedly donated $21 million for its founding.

    Because no serious historian would even include Oprah on a list of the top 25 most influential black Americans of all time. And that list would include women like Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Harriet Tubman – who most Americans wanted to be the first women (black or white) to grace the US currency, namely the $20 bill.

    This is why I respectfully submit that Frederick Douglass should have been the first black American this Museum honored with a special exhibition. As it happens, I alluded to this in “Tubman, Truth, MLK on Currency Is Fine. But What about Douglass? And Remember Geronimo?” April 15, 2016:

    I appreciate why American leaders (black and white) are continually honoring Martin Luther King Jr. – who led the march for black civil rights. In doing so, however, they are continually overlooking Frederick Douglass – who led the fight to free blacks from slavery.

    In ‘Mall at Last, Mall at Last, Thank God Almighty a Black Is on the Mall at Last,’ November 14, 2006, I delineated why Douglass’s heroic biography and leadership make him eminently worthier than MLK.

    Frankly, instead of this special exhibition, the NMAAHC should have kept Oprah in her place (i.e., “where the fun begins” in the permanent Community galleries among other notable black entertainers).

    Related commentaries:
    Criticisms of Oprah
    Greatest love story
    Oprah not gay
    Golden Globes
    Tubman…Douglas currency

  • Friday, June 8, 2018 at 12:21 PM

    Trump Presidency Fueling Suicides…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The deaths this week of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain highlight the epidemic of suicides in America. And, given the celebrity-obsessed nature of our culture, I fear their suicides might make it seem “cool” for other tortured souls to do the same.

    To be fair, suicides were increasing at an alarming rate for years before the nation developed an opioid-like addiction to dystopian antics of Donald J. Trump. But talk about adding fuel to fire.

    I mean, am I the only one who suspects there’s a correlation here? (The government has yet to publish statistics for 2017 – the first full year of his presidency.)

    It’s bad enough that media coverage of his lunatic rantings is so pervasive, we can’t even watch professional sports for a little escape. But every time he opens his mouth, he makes me feel like I’m living in such a surreal world, even I just want to … escape. #Anomie

    Thank God I am hopeful enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. #Impeachment! #2020! And, I am patient enough to get there.

    But if – for whatever reason – you are feeling like you’re not, I urge you to seek professional help, which is so readily available these days.  (Call this hotline for immediate refuge: 1-800-273-8255)

    That said, I feel compelled to note that expressing condolences in this age of social media has become as perfunctory as saying hello to a stranger. Even worse, those who tweet/post condolences seem far more interested in drawing attention to themselves than in comforting the loved ones of the dead.

    This is why I decided years ago to limit condolences upon the deaths of famous people to those who were either pioneers in their field or had a profound impact on my life. And, as creative a designer as Spade was and as entertaining a peripatetic cook/storyteller as Bourdain was (I’m a big fan of his Parts Unknown TV series), neither qualify … for me.

    But don’t get me started on the manifest absurdity of people taking to social media to express personal condolences upon the deaths of family and friends. And you wonder why the most “connected” kids in the history of mankind feel so disconnected, they are committing suicide at a rate higher than that of any other demographic.

  • Friday, June 8, 2018 at 7:29 AM

    Washington Capitals Defeat Vegas Golden Knights for Hockey Stanley Cup

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    After a nail-biter of a finale, the Stanley Cup is coming to Washington for the first time in the Capitals’ 44 seasons. From captain Alex Ovechkin’s gaptoothed grin in Las Vegas to the thousands of delirious fans in downtown Washington, the moment encapsulated years of disappointment, hurt and anticipation — all of it corked, shaken and unleashed.

    (Washington Post, June 7, 2018)

    I readily admit that I am no Hockey fan. But this is all about civic pride. Not to mention that it marks the first national championship for any Washington sports team since 1992, when the Redskins won the Super Bowl.

    This is why everyone who lives and works in the Washington metro area is beaming today.

    Congrats, Caps!

  • Thursday, June 7, 2018 at 12:34 PM

    Nations Participating in Russia’s World Cup Endorsing Putin’s Rogue Behavior

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The first matches of the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 kick off a week today. But, if I were half the international “influencer” Kim Kardashian has become, those matches would be kicking off not in Russia but in England or France.

    Perhaps you’re aware that President Vladimir Putin has turned Russia into a rogue state by, among other things:

    • annexing Crimea and fomenting unrest in Ukraine;
    • cyberattacking democratic elections across Europe and in the United States;
    • aiding and abetting the Syrian dictator in repeatedly gassing his own people; and
    • ordering the assassination of many Russian dissidents on UK soil.

    But recall that it only took Russia invading Afghanistan for Western nations to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Therefore, based on that precedent, I thought Western leaders would seize the opportunity to boycott this World Cup.

    I reasoned, however, that it would be unfair to punish the athletes, even Russian ones, for the misdeeds or decisions of their political leaders. This is why I wrote “Trump, May, Macron: Don’t Bomb Syria. Withdraw World Cup from Russia!” April 11, 2018. It includes this predicate for replacing Russia as host.

    ____________________

    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.

    ____________________

    Unfortunately, most Western nations would probably be more inclined to snub the United States than Russia these days. Because, since writing that, Trump has only compounded his alienation of those nations by imposing tariffs on their exports.

    Of course, he began this alienation in the early days of his presidency by undermining long-established political and economic ties (e.g., threatening to withdraw from NATO and NAFTA) and insulting their leaders (e.g., refusing to shake hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to the White House and accusing British Prime Minister David Cameron and his successor Theresa May of wiretapping him during his presidential campaign).

    In “US Intelligence Report on Russian Hacking of Presidential Election,” January 7, 2017, I argued that Trump smacks of a Manchurian president. This, because he seemed determined not only to alienate traditional allies while cultivating traditional enemies, but also to undermine the integrity of every institution that has made the United States the beacon of democratic governance for over 225 years.

    The point is that, instead of leading them to replace Russia, Trump has provoked Western nations to embrace it as host. The irony is that, while Putin is preparing to preside over the World Cup (and all the fraternal goodwill that entails), Trump is cowering in Washington, wondering whether it’s safe for him to travel to erstwhile BFF countries like England (for a state visit in July) and Canada (for a G7 meeting this weekend).

    All that’s left is for one of many disaffected European countries to submit a UN resolution to relocate its headquarters from New York City to Beijing (or Shanghai). Trust me, Trump has so debased and devalued America’s standing in the world (with his crude leadership and jingoistic policies) that it would probably pass overwhelmingly.

    In any event, I shall boycott this World Cup – in my own modest but principled way – by suspending my tradition of publishing daily commentaries on matches.

    Accordingly, this is my first and last commentary on the World Cup Russia 2018.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 7:09 AM

    No More Swimsuit Competition for Miss America? WTF!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I feel obliged to begin with this prevailing disclosure about beauty pageants:

    It’s dismaying enough that women are still blithely competing in beauty pageants that should only appeal to 1950s male chauvinist pigs. But it’s downright pitiful that they are perpetuating the notion that the only woman worth crowning is a beauty who pretends she has no brains.

    (“Want to ‘Win’ Miss USA? Make a Fool of Yourself…,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 20, 2013)

    In other words, these pageants have always been too much about beauty and not enough about brains. But the remedy is not to make them too much about brains and not enough about beauty, which abolishing the swimsuit competition would do. Frankly, pledging to judge Miss America based on “inner beauty” is as patently disingenuous as claiming to watch porn for artistic purposes.

    Organizers should either abolish beauty pageants or include features that prize beauty and brains in equal measure. And swimsuit competitions (sans stilettos) would be entirely consistent with that progressive change.

    That said, I have been among far too few men championing the #MeToo movement. I’ve done so in many commentaries, including “This Hurricane Harvey Harassed Hollywood Hotties for Decades,” October 6, 2017, “USA Gymnastics Sex-Abuse Shame: Gabby Victim-Blames Aly and Outrages Simone,” November 20, 2017, “The Golden Globes (Oprah and MeToo),” January 8, 2018, and “New York AG Schneiderman, #MeToo Crusader, Facing Reckoning Too,” May 8, 2018.

    Therefore, I hope this gives me standing to caution against conflating women who sign up for pageants, which include swimsuit competitions, with those who are victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Because I suspect that is precisely what is afoot.

    Nothing betrays this quite like the fact that the woman spearheading this “overhaul” of the Miss America pageant competition is none other than Gretchen Carlson, the slayer of boss hog Roger Ailes and doyenne of the #MeToo movement.

    The Miss America pageant will no longer feature a swimsuit competition, ending a tradition widely criticized as misogynistic as the event tries to move toward more inclusion.

    ‘We will no longer judge our candidates on their outward physical appearance’ … Gretchen Carlson, the new chair of the Miss America Organization, announced Tuesday.

    (Huffington Post, June 5, 2018)

    As it happens, I have also been among far too few men decrying the way women willfully objectify themselves with stilettos functioning as shoes. I’ve done so in many commentaries, including “No Heels for ‘Wonder Woman,’ Thank You Very Much!” June 15, 2017, and “Burning Bras, Still Wearing Heels. Feminism’s Unfinished Work,” January 15, 2014, which includes this observation:

    I hope it’s not betraying some unwritten man code of secrecy to inform women that, far from enhancing their beauty, sophistication, style, and grace, high heels only make them look like teetering sex objects. …

    It’s a reflection of the addictive high women get on heels that – even when they’re barefoot (or wearing flats) – they invariably perch themselves on the balls of their feet to simulate those missing high heels, especially when taking photos. How brainwashed is that?

    And so I agree, there’s no need for women to parade around on stage in bikinis and high heels. But why throw out the baby with the bath water? As indicated above, just throw out the heels!

    After all, if you’re not judging women on their “outward appearance” … as well, then you’re just presenting a self-righteous version of other talent competitions like American Idol, America’s Got Talent, or … Jeopardy. Besides the fact that only women (and transgenders?) would be eligible to compete in this new Miss America, what would be the difference?

    This contest presumes to crown a woman who is not just beautiful but also talented and intelligent. The beauty of that, of course, is that the winner might not be the most beautiful, the most talented, or the most intelligent woman. But she would be the fairest representation of the well-rounded person all women should aspire to be.

    What, pray tell, is misogynistic about that?

    Meanwhile, this overhaul overlooks the bias inherent in thinking that excluding the swimsuit competition will make Miss America more inclusive. It seems Miss America’s new “all-female leadership team” is just trying to skirt chauvinistic stereotypes of what beautiful women in swimsuits should look like.

    Alas, the irony seems completely lost on them. Because they seem unaware that models like Ashley Graham and Hunter McGrady have been making a mockery of those stereotypes for years – even while wearing body paint masquerading as swimsuits. And, if encouraged/invited, I’m sure curvaceous women like them would be happy to compete for the title of Miss America.

    Of course, the irony of ironies is that today’s most liberated and influential women make millions posing in just swimsuits (or less) on social media. For example, it pains me to acknowledge that more women want to be like Kim Kardashian than Michelle Obama.

    As fate would have it, Kim herself remarked on the absurdity of her crowning achievement at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards just last night. Here is the refreshingly self-deprecating joke she made while accepting her CFDA “top influencer” award:

    I am surprised that I am winning a fashion award when I am naked most of the time.

    (Vanity Fair, June 5, 2018)

    Yet the Miss America organization thinks canceling its swimsuit competition will have an empowering impact on the tens of millions of young girls Kim influences every day. Ha!

    But, if they must, the “progressive” fuddy-duddies who now run the show should replace that competition with their version of Top Chef or The Great British Bake Off. After all, cooking and baking competitions are almost as popular on TV these days as sporting events. (LOL)

    In any event, I say – with curvy beauties like Ashley and Hunter firmly in mind –

    There she is, Miss America…

    Related commentaries:
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    USA gymnastics
    NY Ag
    Gretchen Carlson
    Burning bras
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 5:22 p.m.

  • Monday, June 4, 2018 at 8:21 AM

    Kim Cuckolds Trump by Inviting Assad … Courting Putin

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s demeaning enough that President Trump plans to travel all the way to Singapore just to “get to know” the genocidal dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

    But it seems Kim is willfully insulting Trump. For only this explains Kim making such a show of fraternizing with the genocidal dictator of Syria, Bashir al-Assad, with whom Trump is engaged in “kinetic” hostilities.

    After all, this is rather like Roosevelt traveling all the way to Casablanca in 1943 not to strategize with Churchill, but to fraternize with Antonescu (of Romania).

    Not to mention that this is the same Trump who ridiculed President Obama as a disrespected laughingstock when Chinese President Xi Jinping failed to roll out the red carpet for his state visit.  Trump insisted that, if any world leader ever disrespected him like that, he would order Air Force One to return home immediately.

    But it’s arguable that no world leader has ever disrespected any US president more than Kim is disrespecting Trump. And he’s in this untenable and hypocritical position all because of his delusional bid for a Nobel Peace Prize.

    President Bashar al-Assad of Syria plans to visit North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, the North’s state-run news media said on Sunday. …

    If Mr. Assad were to visit Pyongyang, it would be the first time that Mr. Kim hosted a meeting with another head of state in the North Korean capital.

    (The New York Times, June 3, 2018)

    Trust me, none of Trump’s predecessors would have been so stupid as to find himself in this position. In fact, each of them shunned overtures from Kim and his father to participate in the kind of nuclear circus Trump is now orchestrating with Barnumesque zeal.

    And none of them would have countenanced the kind of rolling humiliation Kim is subjecting Trump to, not least because none of them had Trump’s habit of putting lipstick on a pig and calling it Miss America.

    But Kim must think Trump is little more than a doormat masquerading as a shrew. For only this explains Kim making quite a show of entertaining overtures from Trump’s superpower frenemies, namely Xi of China and Putin of Russia.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin invited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to travel to Russia in September. …

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who visited Pyongyang last week, passed the North Korean leader an invitation from Mr Putin to visit Russia during its Eastern Economic Forum, which is held in Vladivostok every year.

    (The Straits Times, June 4, 2018)

    And this comes in the afterglow of Kim traveling to China (on two occasions) to visit with Xi.

    Mind you, I find it utterly stupefying that these major world leaders are suddenly vying for Kim’s attention … as if he’s the homecoming queen each would like to take to the high-school prom. For more on this, I refer you to such commentaries as “North Korea’s Nuclear Tests Is Tail Wagging the US Dog … Again,” May 26, 2009, and “North Korea Craving Attention Dennis Rodman Can’t Give,” September 19, 2013.

    Even more stupefying, though, is that it seems “honorable” Kim can do nothing at this point to offend Trump. After all, he’s whining that he doesn’t like that his agreement to hold their “historic” summit has emboldened Kim to fraternize with his frenemies and enemies alike. Yet Trump is still chasing after him like a lovesick puppy.

    Kim has clearly tamed this shrew. #Cuck[old]Sucker!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, June 4, 2018 at 6:34 AM

    South Sudan: Africa’s Newest Nation Repeating Old Mistakes

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Natural disasters, like droughts and pandemics, are commonplace in Africa. As I write this, for example, drought is decimating East and Southern Africa while a new Ebola outbreak is raging across the Democratic Republic of Congo and threatening to spread beyond.

    Hell, you’d be forgiven for thinking that God is continually unleashing plagues to get one African leader or another to do the right thing. This, of course, dates back to the Ten Plagues he unleashed upon Egypt to get Pharaoh to free the Israelites from bondage.

    Unfortunately, since decolonization, African leaders have shown so little fear of the wrath of God, they make Pharaoh look like one of the meek just waiting (in vain) to inherit the earth. Only this explains why their man-made disasters, like tribal warfare and kleptocratic governance, make natural disasters look relatively harmless.

    This is why it seemed like a godsend seven years ago when a decades-old civil war in Sudan led to the creation of a new nation, South Sudan. Because this presented a proverbial tabula rasa upon which its leaders could build. More to the point, South Sudan could reap the benefit of lessons learned from all the wrongs that have beset the development of every other African nation.

    Sadly, it seems Africans will never learn. Because, just seven years later, it is self-evident that South Sudan is reaping nothing but a bitter harvest. It’s already indistinguishable from Africa’s most beleaguered nations, looking as it does like just another dark, destitute, diseased, devastated, disenfranchised, dishonest, disorganized, disassociated, dangerous, and ultimately dysfunctional mess.

    This year’s harvest was the smallest on record since South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, with the country producing only a fraction of its needs, according to the World Food Program.

    On top of that, peace talks have stalled and cease-fires have largely been ignored, which means the fighting has cut off some areas from emergency help. Aid workers have been targeted by government and rebel fighters alike, making food distribution increasingly difficult.

    (The New York Times, May 30, 2018)

    In fact, tribal warfare erupted in South Sudan almost from day one its independence. Now it’s creating yet another refugee crisis. And this one is making the crisis sectarian warfare in Syria created look like a well-organized protest march. To date, two million people have fled South Sudan and another two million remain internally displaced.

    And so it goes – from famine to war and all disasters in between – this new nation is aping all that went (and is still going) wrong with the other 53 nations in Africa.

    But I’ve already bemoaned South Sudan’s woeful fate too much. As it happens, the civil strife and looming famine the Times is reporting on today I presaged three years ago in “Millions in South Sudan Eating Leaves and Grass … Like Cows,” October 29, 2015.

    In it, I delineated my dismay at the sight of South Sudan presenting the same kind of humanitarian challenge Ethiopia presented nearly 35 years ago. Compounding this dismay, South Sudan seemed as dependent on the international community providing (live) aid to avert mass starvation as Ethiopia was back then.

    But, instead of venting dismay anew, I shall suffice to reprise (most of) that previous commentary. I suspect you’ll find it both informative and prophetic. This, especially regarding the warmongering and incompetent despots who – with all due respect to Mother Nature – are mostly to blame for these cycles of famine on the “dark continent.” And yes, I shall continue using that now-politically incorrect term because it fairly describes the myriad ways African nations have descended into the “heart of darkness” since decolonization.

    Without further ado, here is “Millions in South Sudan Eating Leaves and Grass … Like Cows,” October 29, 2015.

    *********

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

    _________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (Reuters, December 29, 2013)

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

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

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

    _________________

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

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

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

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

    __________________

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

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

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

    __________________

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

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

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

    *********

    That reprise shared, I will end with this abiding lament.

    I just hope the damning irony is not lost on any proud African that, 50 years after decolonization, hundreds of Africans (men, women, and children) are risking their lives, practically every day, to subjugate themselves to the paternal mercies of their former colonial masters in Europe.

    (“African Migrants Turning Mediterranean Sea into Vast Cemetery,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 12, 2015)

    Sure enough, apropos of African migrants turning the Mediterranean Sea into a vast cemetery:

    More than 50 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean on Sunday

    The latest shipwreck is the most deadly in the Mediterranean since February 2 when 90 people drowned off the coast of Libya,

    (France24, June 3, 2018)

    It would not surprise me if some of the millions fleeing starvation and strife in South Sudan were among those who ended up in this watery grave.

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