• Monday, July 30, 2018 at 6:37 PM

    MeToo: After Firing Charlie Rose, CBS Must Fire Les Moonves!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On Monday, three days after the publication of an article detailing allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Moonves … CBS said in a statement that its board was ‘in the process of selecting outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation.’ …

    The company had announced the planned investigation on Friday, hours after The New Yorker published a report that included six women who said Mr. Moonves had asked them for sexual favors and retaliated when they declined.

    (The New York Times, July 30, 2018)

    Frankly, this investigation is just a formality. Because, as it did with Harvey Weinstein, The New Yorker has provided all the BOD needs – in this age of #MeToo – to do the right thing.

    Unsurprisingly, this analogy extends to claims that, as chairman and CEO, Moonves presided over the same kind of culture of sexual harassment at CBS that prevailed at The Weinstein Company. This caused the latter to file for bankruptcy in the wake allegations against Harvey. Therefore, board members at CBS are surely anxious to excise the cancer Moonves represents.

    Not to mention the precedent CBS has already set by firing its star anchor Charlie Rose for behavior that seems relatively tame by comparison.

    For a little context, here is an excerpt from “Charlie Rose, Accused Sexual Predator, WAS My Favorite TV Interviewer,” November 21, 2017:

    ____________________

    The phenomenon of women outing powerful and influential men as sexual predators has reached critical mass. More to the point, it has already ended the careers of such closeted creeps as Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey. Never mind its conspicuous failure to end that of Donald J. Trump …

    I have written many commentaries on men falling from grace in this respect. Many have yet to fall, and I shall welcome the comeuppance for each one. But, truth be told, the confluence of schadenfreude, disgust, and shame (for my gender) became such that, after Weinstein, I decided to write no more.

    Then came this:

    Eight women have told The Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas.

    The women were employees or aspired to work for Rose at the Charlie Rose show from the late 1990s to as recently as 2011.

    (The Washington Post, November 20, 2017)

    Trust me folks, Rose was so revered and respected that this is almost like the pope himself being outed as a pedophile. Nobody who hailed his public face could have imagined that he was showing a private face to women that looked very much like that of the predatory Harvey Weinstein. …

    This seems a good time to reprise my clarion call for women to replace men in positions of power and influence in every facet of public life. I sounded it in many commentaries over the years, including in “Men Should Be Barred from Politics,” September 25, 2013, “Women Make Better Politicians than Men,” October 14, 2010, and “Cracking the Glass Ceiling: First Woman to Become President in South America,” December 12, 2005.

    ____________________

    Sorry, Les. But these chicks are coming home to roost.

    And, try as she might, your TV-star wife, Julie Chen, can’t hide you behind her skirt.

    Related commentaries:
    Charlie Rose
    Tom Brokaw – MeToo
    NY AG – MeToo

  • Sunday, July 29, 2018 at 8:57 AM

    Trump Affirms His American Dystopia with Orwellian Newspeak

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On Tuesday, during a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Trump issued his “most essential command”:

    Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.

    (CNN, July 25, 2018)

    In other words, even though we all saw him kissing Putin’s ass in Helsinki, Trump wants us to believe he was actually kicking it.

    But “newspeak” has become so popular, even the average high-school student could be forgiven for thinking that Trump was spewing lines from George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, which includes the following:

    The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.

    No doubt this is why mainstream and social media reacted with paroxysms of disbelief … and dread.

    For me, though, Trump merely vindicated the Orwellian analogies I’ve been making since day one of his presidential campaign. After all, he has never shown any compunction about turning truth on its head.

    The far more concerning phenomenon has been the way so many erstwhile sensible people have taken leave of their senses to not just buy into his newspeak but propagate it as truth to boot.

    In fact, here in part is how I presaged this descent into American dystopia in “Trump’s ‘Law and Order’ Doublespeak Has RNC Raving and Roiling,” July 21, 2016:

    ____________________

    It has become as pointless as it is redundant to denounce the big lies that characterize Donald Trump’s black-swan presidential campaign. …

    His campaign motto seems to be: Deny, deny, deny until a lie becomes the truth!

    Except that his campaign lies even when the truth is plain for all to see. Therefore, voters should consider what lies a Trump presidency would propagate when the cover-up would be virtually guaranteed behind closed doors at the White House.

    Frankly, far from law and order, everything about Trump’s life and campaign portends fraud and disorder. More to the point, his ‘Make America Great Again’ schtick suggests that he wants to emulate the halcyon presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon — complete with all of the petty slights and dirty tricks.

    The Orwellian way the RNC turned truth on its head last night warrants dishonorable mention. …

    Only this explains delegates for the purported law-and-order party chanting, ‘Lock her up!’ and ‘Hillary for Prison!’ – without any regard for legal due process. (Send her to Room 101 in the Ministry of Love?) …

    It’s a wonder this delirium did not inspire these Inner Party wannabes to start chanting the doublespeak slogans:

    War is Peace

    Freedom is Slavery

    Ignorance is Strength

    Meanwhile, Big Brother Trump lorded over this consummation of mind control via a huge-screen video link, from atop his gilded tower in the New York metropolis – most of which he has these delegates convinced he built … from scratch.

    Of course, he knew he had them months ago when he boasted that he could shoot someone in the middle of famed 5th Avenue, and these gullible fools would still support him. …

    Alas, no member of the Never-Trump Brotherhood ran in and hurled a hammer at the screen to short-circuit his bloviating newspeak.

    ____________________

    Actually, nothing attests to the groupthink that now defines the Republican Party quite like its members – who once championed national security, fiscal responsibility, and moral character as articles of faith, now hailing this president – who personifies reckless disregard for all three.

    In this Orwellian context, I defer to “The Message for Today in Orwell’s ‘1984’” to explain their transformation of consciousness:

    The large mass of [Republicans] do not find in themselves the need to think independently, to question or to investigate what they have been taught. [Republican leaders] have sold their inalienable right to think freely for security and a semblance of [political] well-being.

    (New York Times, January 1, 1984)

    But I have found a more persuasive explanation in the Biblical context, which I wrote about in “Evangelicals Supporting Trump like Israelites Worshipping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016.

    Still, not since Adolf Hitler has a leader used Big Brother rhetoric as reflexively and effectively as Trump does. Here in part is how I decried this phenomenon on the occasion of his inauguration in “Women Worldwide March against Trump,” January 23, 2017:

    ____________________

    His ‘despicable display’ is just the umpteenth reason why we should be afraid that this insecure buffoon is now the most powerful man in the world. …

    I mean, if Trump would use the solemn space of the CIA’s Memorial Wall to try to convince us that the size of his ‘crowd’ was bigger than Obama’s, imagine what portends.

    It’s bad enough that this new president is a pathological liar. But it’s certifiably dangerous that he and his spin doctors seem intent on continually challenging us to believe the lie we hear instead of the truth we see. And it’s self-evident that it does not matter to Trump if that lie is about a matter as petty as his crowd size or as grave as his collusion with foreign enemies – like Putin’s Russia. …

    He probably also thought it better to have the media running down this rabbit hole than analyzing his dystopian inaugural speech, which paid homage the American isolationism that led to World War I, discarding the American exceptionalism that has prevented another such conflagration for over 65 years.

    ____________________

    Be afraid, be very afraid. Believe me!

    Related commentaries:
    Helsinki
    Trump’s doublespeak
    Evangelicals supporting Trump
    Women’s march

  • Friday, July 27, 2018 at 7:57 PM

    Combating the Public Health Risk Police Pose to Black Men

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If you’re a black man, you are three times more likely to be killed by police than a white man, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health. …

    There’s not a single place in the U.S. where the risk of a black man getting killed by police is less than double that of a white man.

    (USA Today, July 27, 2018)

    Disparate treatment based on race accounts for much of this discrepancy.

    But it saves no black lives to merely protest “Black Lives Matter” every time a police kills a black man. And it’s self-evident that no amount of training is going to rid white cops of their racist fears, which cause them to perceive even a 12-year-old black boy playing with a toy gun as a mortal threat.

    Instead, we should encourage black men to do only what will increase the likelihood of surviving their encounters with the police.

    Alas, I have felt like the proverbial John the Baptist preaching this message. Here, for example, is how pleaded for black men to help save their own lives in “Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality (only against Black Men?),” August 12, 2014.

    ____________________

    Not every fatal shooting by the police of an unarmed man is a case of police brutality. We’ve all seen far too many incidents of people resisting arrest – even wresting away a policeman’s gun and killing him – just because they fear being questioned or arrested … even for something as simple as petty theft.

    Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to cite a case that resulted in fatality, where the victim followed the few general rules we should all follow when dealing with the police. Those rules are:

    1. Do not run.
    2. Follow instructions calmly (i.e., no sudden moves that might spook a nervous or trigger-happy policeman).
    3. Wait for the police to explain why you’re being stopped before politely posing any objections, concerns, or questions you may have.
    4. If instructed to turn around to be frisked or handcuffed, comply without uttering a word.
    5. Save any disagreements or arguments you may have for the courtroom or your civilian complaints review board, which is the only time and place to resist arrest.

    This is why, even though the cops who beat the crap out of Rodney King deserved to be prosecuted, (most of) that beating would have been avoided if King were not drugged out of his mind and, therefore, unable to follow simple police instructions. …

    There has been a direct correlation between police officers either wearing video cameras or videotaping every stop on dash cam and a dramatic decline not only in complaints by civilians, but also in use of force by the police. Frankly, it seems a no-brainer that every police department should make wearing body cameras as standard as wearing bulletproof vests. …

    Not to mention that there would be fewer of these fatal encounters between black men and white cops if more (unemployed) black men became cops to police their own communities.

    ____________________

    Mind you, I can personally attest that there’s not a single place in the United States where a black man is safe from racial profiling by the police. Unfortunately, far too many black men have been acculturated to either run or resist arrest — pursuant to some misguided (black) badge of courage.

    But I maintain that, when a police is placing you under arrest (no matter how unwarranted you might think that is), it should not take him (and others) wrestling you to the ground to get you into handcuffs.

    I’m on record conceding that obeying commands will not guarantee survival in every encounter. The viral video of the killing of Philando Castile demonstrated this … in black and white. But this is the exception, not the rule.

    In other words, it’s plainly foolhardy to resist arrest because obeying commands only offers a 99 percent chance of survival.

    Related commentaries:
    Michael Brown/body cameras
    Police killing black men

  • Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 7:51 AM

    China Tightening Noose Around Taiwan’s ‘Independence’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    China has been leveraging its economic superpower on the world stage for years. And it is beginning to do the same with its growing military power, which its aggressive and uncontested moves in the South China Sea attest. More to the point, China’s disregard for international criticisms in this context has been growing commensurate with its economic and military power.

    As it happens, I’ve been warning about China’s “Yuan diplomacy” for years. This sample list of titles to commentaries should speak volumes:

    • “China Buying Political Dominion Over the Caribbean (Latin America and Africa)!” February 22, 2005
    • “Punishing China for Its Brutal Crackdown in Tibet? Hardly,” July 28, 2008
    • “South Africa Bans Dalai Lama from Peace Conference to Appease China…?” March 24, 2009
    •  “China Putting Squeeze on The Bahamas. Your Country Could Be Next,” October 22, 2010
    • “Countries Queuing Up to Become as Indebted to China as US,” September 15, 2011
    • “China Invading US ‘Sphere of Influence’ in the Caribbean,” April 11, 2012
    • “China and Japan in Falklands-Like Dispute,” August 23, 2012
    • “Wait Till China Begins Doing to Its Neighbors What Russia Is Doing to Its,” April 26, 2014
    • “South Africa Joins Ranks of Countries ‘Selling Its Sovereignty to China’,” October 3, 2014
    • “China Buying the Global Influence Russia and US Fighting For…,” October 16, 2016
    • “China: Where Hong Kong Is Concerned, Britain Is Adrift at Sea,” July 1, 2017

    The common thread throughout these and other commentaries is China’s strategy of either bribing or extorting other countries to have its way. And it has been so brazen in executing it that I felt compelled to sound the alarm in one of my very first commentaries. Here is an excerpt – from “World Beware, China Calling In (Loan-Sharking) Debts,” February 3, 2010.

    __________________

    This episode should serve as a warning to all countries around the world that are not just lapping up China’s largesse but heralding it as a more worthy superpower than the United States. After all, China is spitting imperious and vindictive fire at the rich and mighty United States over a relatively insignificant matter like meeting with the Dalai Lama. So just imagine what it would do to a poor and weak country in a conflict over a truly significant matter.

    I anticipated that the Chinese would be every bit as arrogant in the use of their power as the Americans.  But I never thought they would use it for such a petty cause.

    In point of fact here, in part, is how I admonished countries in the Caribbean and Latin America in this respect almost five years ago in “China Buying Political Dominion Over the Caribbean (Latin America and Africa)!” February 22, 2005:

    What happens if China decides that converting the container ports, factories, and chemical plants it has funded throughout the Caribbean into dual military and commercial use is in its strategic national interest? Would these governments comply? Would they have any real choice? And when they do comply, would the United States then blockade that island – the way it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis?

    ‘Now consider China making similar strategic moves in Latin America and Africa, where its purportedly benign Yuan diplomacy dwarfs its Caribbean operations. This new Cold War could then turn very hot indeed.

    It clearly does not bode well that China has no compunctions about drawing moral and political equivalence between its beef with the Unite States over the Dalai Lama and America’s beef with it over internet espionage, unfair trade practices, and support for indicted war criminals like President Bashir of Sudan. Because irrational resentment in a regional menace like North Korea is one thing; in a global power like China it’s quite another.

    __________________

    Given the above, China’s latest exercise of its menacing superpower was as predictable as it is foreboding.

    According to Taiwan sports officials, members of the East Asian Olympic Committee (EAOC) voted in a meeting in Beijing Tuesday to revoke Taichung city’s right to host the first-ever East Asian Youth Games in 2019. …

    Taiwan’s presidential office said the EAOC had made the ‘wrong decision’ and accused China of bullying.

    (Agence France-Presse, July 24, 2018)

    Frankly, it’s only a matter of time before China and the United States square off the way the United States and former Soviet Union once did.

    Indeed, the former could ape the latter by calling on countries to take sides in a boycott of future Olympic Games. And, given that the global influence China is gaining seems in direct proportion to that which the United States is losing these days, there seems little doubt that more countries would side with China.

    In the meantime, one can hardly blame China for thinking it could reclaim Taiwan with even greater ease than it reclaimed Hong Kong. After all, unlike it did with Hong Kong, China never lost sovereignty over Taiwan to another world power. This is why it has always regarded Taiwan as just a prodigal province.

    In any event, China has used its economic superpower in myriad ways to keep a stranglehold on Taiwan’s independence. Most notably, this has included bribing or extorting over 100 countries to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

    The West African nation of Burkina Faso announced on Thursday that it was ending official diplomatic relations with Taiwan’s government, a new challenge to the self-governing democracy as Beijing increasingly tries to isolate it on the global stage.

    The break leaves Taiwan with only one diplomatic ally in Africa — the small kingdom of Swaziland — and formal relations worldwide with 17 other countries, most of them poorer nations in Central America and the Pacific.

    (The New York Times, May 24, 2018)

    But China has also resorted to plainly petty measures. Most notably, this has included prevailing upon companies doing business with it to replace all mentions of Taiwan with Chinese Taipei in their business documents, correspondence and promotional materials.

    Except that there’s an existential hurdle in China’s path towards reclaiming sovereignty over Taiwan. Here in part is how I commented on it over a decade ago in “China v. Taiwan (and the United States): Nuclear Friction in the Taiwan Strait,” July 19, 2005.

    ____________________

    No country (including the United States) has ever denied China’s territorial claims over this self-governing island. However, successive Taiwanese governments have declared their preference for official independence from China. And, they have been emboldened in this pyrrhic quest by America’s Taiwan Relations Act 1979 – under which the United States has been arming Taiwan to help:

    …maintain the capacity of the United States [pursuant to its 1954 pledge] to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion [by China] that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.

    But, significantly, the United States has stopped far short of supporting Taiwan’s drive for independence. In fact, it has endorsed China’s claims by cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan in order to recognize only ‘one China and that Taiwan is part of China.’ Therefore, for all these years, peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait have been predicated on China’s commitment to:

    …firmly abide by the principles of peaceful re-unification of one country two systems.

    In recent years, however, China’s meteoric rise as a global economic power has allowed it to finance a military build-up that threatens to destabilize the uneasy détente in this trilateral relationship. And last March, in a foreboding gesture, its legislature passed an Anti-Secession law that grants China’s leaders legal cover to order its military to use any means necessary (including preemptive strikes) to prevent Taiwan from becoming an independent nation. …

    If China invades, American security guarantees would probably prove as helpful to Taiwan as British and French guarantees proved to Poland when Germany seized it in a blitzkrieg invasion in 1939. Indeed, in that event, the United States would probably only issue a diplomatic reprimand and, perhaps, call for economic sanctions against China. What is certain, however, is that the United States will not engage China in a war over Taiwan; and, China knows it!

    Therefore, Taiwan seems fated to fall under China’s direct control. The only question is whether China will remain patient enough to accomplish its objective by political proxy (using Taiwan’s Opposition Party – the Kuomintang); or whether China will finally exercise its military might and take the island by force.

    ____________________

    Ominously, in Donald Trump, we have a president who, for the first time, is sowing doubts about America’s (far more significant) NATO obligations to defend European countries, especially against Russian aggression.

    In an interview that aired Tuesday evening with the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Mr. Trump appeared to suggest that the NATO mutual defense compact is confusing, particularly the question of why an American would have to defend a small country like Montenegro, which is more than 5,000 miles away.

    Mr. Trump has long raised questions about the future of the United States’ commitment to NATO.

    (The New York Times, July 18, 2018)

    One can see how this might embolden China as much as it must terrify Taiwan.

    Stay tuned …

    Related commentaries:
    South China Sea
    China Buying dominion
    Punishing China…hardly
    SA bans Dalai Lama
    China Squeeze on Bahamas
    Countries queuing up
    China invading US
    China and Japan
    Wait till China
    Countries selling sovereignty
    China buying global influence
    World beware
    China v. Taiwan
    Hong Kong

  • Tuesday, July 24, 2018 at 7:57 AM

    Brexit: Having Cake and Eating It Too or ‘Volunteering for Economic Vassalage’?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here is the Trumpian way President Donald Trump thanked Prime Minister Theresa May for orchestrating his recent cloak-and-dagger visit to the UK:

    Mr. Trump second-guessed Mrs. May’s handling of the main issue on her plate: how Britain should cut ties to the European Union [a.k.a. Brexit]. He cast doubt on whether he was willing to negotiate a new trade deal between Britain and the United States, and praised Mrs. May’s Conservative Party rival, Boris Johnson, as a potentially great prime minister.

    (The New York Times, July 12, 2018)

    Trump has shown time and again that the organizing principle of his presidency is opposing everything Obama supported. Therefore, it’s noteworthy that he’s casting doubt on a post-Brexit trade deal just as Obama did.

    Not to mention that Trump’s doubt is a far cry from the assurance he provided when May rushed to be the first foreign leader to visit the White House after his inauguration:

    ‘I think Brexit is going to be a wonderful thing for your country,’ Mr. Trump said. He said the U.K. will be able to reach ‘free trade deals without somebody watching you and what you are doing.’

    (The Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2017)

    Except that chaos, confusion, and contradictions have become defining features of Trump’s presidency. And the roving confluence of his imperial arrogance and juvenile temper only compound those features. He betrayed this when he publicly whined about May failing to heed his advice to sue the EU instead of negotiating a Brexit deal; this, from the purported master of The Art of the Deal …

    But the way Trump dissed May in the UK was unprecedented. It was especially egregious given that she was in the midst of a mutiny in her cabinet. After all, several high-profile ministers, including foreign secretary Boris Johnson, had just resigned in protest over her handling of the negotiations.

    Incidentally, it speaks volumes about Trump’s popularity abroad that the secret service had to take as many precautions for his visit to the UK, America’s closest ally, as it took for his predecessor’s visits to wartime Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I know, this commentary is supposed to be about May and the Brexit negotiations. It’s just that the pandemic nature of Trump’s presidency is such that I had to begin with how he has infected them.

    That said, here is my take on May and those negotiations.

    Mrs May is hoping the White Paper – which sparked two cabinet resignations – will allow the two sides to reach a deal on post-Brexit relations by the autumn, so the UK can avoid leaving the EU without a deal in March next year.

    The White Paper proposes close ties in some areas, such as the trade in goods, but Mrs May says it will end free movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court, and allow the UK to strike trade deals with other nations.

    (BBC July 20, 2018)

    In fact, her White Paper is just a formal version of the idea May floated earlier this year for a “managed divergence” from EU rules. But it should have been instructive that, according to the March 8 edition of The Economist, the EU dismissed it back then as cherry-picking that would undermine the single market.

    To be fair, though, in proposing her managed divergence, May was just doing what her predecessors did. Here, for example, is how I condemned former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for the way he was cherry-picking EU rules over a decade ago:

    Nothing justifies my ‘eurocynicism’ quite like British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Sisyphean attempts to reconcile the contradictions inherent in this treaty. Because, according to the BBC, he proffered in recent parliamentary debates – without any hint of irony – that he had

    ‘…secured special treatment for the UK in a range of areas at the European summit and that Britain would keep opt-outs on foreign policy, labour rights, tax and social security.’

    But if Britain has already established the untenable precedent that it can ‘opt-out’ of key provisions of the treaty, then what is the legal and substantive effect of this ersatz constitution?!

    (“A Dead EU Constitution Resurrected as a ‘New Treaty’ Is Still a Dead EU Constitution!” The iPINIONS Journal, November 13, 2007)

    Of course, the prime ministerial chutzpah in this case is that May is not looking for opt-outs while remaining in the EU; she is looking for opt-ins while leaving it.

    In any event, her “soft-Brexit” strategy smacks of the kind dithering and ambivalence hard Brexiteers (a.k.a. Eurosceptics) find unworkable and humiliating in equal measure. They prefer a clean and comprehensive break from the EU. Here in part is how their pied piper, the aforementioned Johnson, denounced the “fog of uncertainty” May is proposing:

    He listed a series of compromises … including the £40bn payment agreed as part of the withdrawal agreement, the continued oversight of the European court of justice over some issues, and the ‘common rulebook’ for key industries.

    ‘Far from making laws in Westminster, there are large sectors in which ministers will have no power to initiate, innovate, or even deviate,’ he said, describing [May’s] approach as ‘volunteering for economic vassalage’.

    (The Guardian, July 18, 2018)

    But Brexiteers are not the only ones pooh-poohing May’s “Chequers” plan. European bureaucrats are giving them a run for their money. This was manifestly the case here:

    ‘We read the white paper and we read ‘cake’,’ an EU official told the Guardian, a reference to Boris Johnson’s one-liner of being ‘pro having [cake] and pro-eating it.’

    (The Guardian, July 2, 2018)

    And here:

    Just hours after the PM pleaded for the EU to drop its ‘unworkable’ Irish border demands, [EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier] complained that her Chequers blueprint – which would see the UK collect some tariffs for Brussels and follow a ‘common rule book’ on goods – undermined the single market and would cause ‘unjustifiable’ bureaucracy.

    In a withering assessment that will ramp up fears of ‘no deal’ Brexit, Mr Barnier questioned whether the UK could be trusted … jibing that the ‘intense’ debate in the UK was ‘not over’.

    (The Daily Mail, July 20, 2018)

    Indeed, as if negotiating this aspect of Brexit were not troubling enough, May is facing the clear and present danger of Republicans and Loyalists reigniting “The Troubles” that beset Northern Ireland from 1968 to 1998.

    The dissidents intend to exploit [the Irish border issue] to the full.

    To the [IRA] dissidents, PIRA and Sinn Féin are traitors who have betrayed the cause of uniting Ireland through ‘armed struggle’, by becoming constitutionalists and entering a devolved, partitionist government at Stormont.

    (BBC, May 2018)

    But I digress …

    As my November 2007 quote indicates, I’ve been decrying Britain’s ill-fated efforts to negotiate one-foot-in/one-foot-out deals with the EU for years. Therefore, I see no point in delving too deep into Brexit’s murky waters here.

    Frankly, it should suffice to know that at least half of the Britons who voted for Brexit can’t even name the EU’s four “indivisible” freedoms, namely the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people. This, despite the fact that Britain’s attempt to divvy up these freedoms (e.g., by cherry picking to allow goods but restrict people) has been the most animating feature of the Brexit debate.

    More to the point, this prevailing ignorance is why so many Britons, across the political spectrum, have been calling for a second referendum (a.k.a. a mulligan) before any UK-EU divorce settlement is executed.

    Cue the second coming of former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

    Blair has said there must be a second referendum on the terms of the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, once those terms are known. …

    Mr Blair also said Brexit would reduce the UK’s global standing and influence, and also put at risk the lasting peace in Northern Ireland, which has been maintained by the Good Friday Agreement which was brokered in 1998, in the early days of his Premiership.

    (The Independent, October 23, 2017)

    Meanwhile, EU leaders are clearly even more loath to grant May her opt-ins than they were to grant her predecessors (Brown and Cameron) their opt-outs. This is why Britain’s exit from the EU is fated to end with a “no-deal Brexit.” Put another way, Britain might get a deal, but it will look more like a plea bargain than the get-out-of-EU-free card to which so many Britons clearly feel entitled.

    Again, I warned time and again that it would be thus, including in such commentaries as “Brexit: Britain Exits, the Die Is Cast,” June 24, 2016, “Brexit: Forget Leaving, Britain a Greater EU Contagion If It Remains,” June 22, 2016, and “EU: Britain Trying to Have Its Cake and Eat It Too,” January 29, 2013.

    This last commentary predates Brexit; but it highlights the rational fear that is causing EU leaders to impose onerous terms on the UK for any Brexit deal. They reasonably fear that any concession to Britain could trigger a domino effect – with other members seeking similar Brexit deals.

    Here is an instructive excerpt from that commentary.

    ____________________

    [Prime Minister] Cameron stands even less chance of negotiating a new settlement with his European partners than President Assad stands of negotiating a peace settlement with Syrian opposition forces. Nothing affirms this quite like virtually all of Cameron’s European partners reacting to his pledge [to negotiate opt-out concessions] by giving him the proverbial finger. …

    There’s no gainsaying that the UK needs the EU far more than the EU needs the UK. Many feared, for example, that the euro currency would fold if the UK did not adopt it. But the euro has thrived in spite of this. …

    In fairness to Cameron, though, he is only trying to cherry-pick EU policies the way almost all British prime ministers have done – not as much to advance Britain’s national interests as to pander to rabid factions within their respective political parties. …

    Except that there clearly would be no Europe if each member state were allowed to bend the rules (i.e., to opt out of any policy or claw back any power it deems would serve its national interest). Which is why, instead of allowing Britain to undermine its core features by continually trying to do so, the EU should enact a policy to kick out any member that seeks such ‘special treatment.’

    ____________________

    Mind you, I readily acknowledge that there will be no winners when Brexit takes effect in Spring 2019. All the same, that “this sceptered isle” finds itself so isolated and in such a weak bargaining position seems tragic.

    Not to mention the spectacle of May having far greater difficulty managing the divergent demands of soft and hard Brexiteers within her own party than those of her European partners. It’s plainly impossible to reconcile the red lines on all sides.

    This is why Britain is fated to end up an island unto itself … marooned in the global sea by the foolish, ignorant pride Brexit reflects. Even worse, as Obama famously warned (and Trump hinted), it will find itself at the back of the line of weak and relatively poor countries trying to strike trade deals with the world’s biggest trading blocs, including the American-led NAFTA, the Chinese-led ACFTA, and yes, ironically enough, the German-led EU.

    Alas, that so many Britons seem oblivious to all this only makes May’s Brexit negotiations seem a complete farce.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Sunday, July 22, 2018 at 4:49 PM

    British Open: Tiger Roars but Does Not Bite … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last weekend, Serena Williams won unprecedented praise despite coming up short at Wimbledon. It was her second Grand Slam tournament after giving birth last September.

    But I found the praise a curious thing, which compelled this allusion to Tiger Woods:

    Like Woods, Williams could become resigned to playing on her laurels, continually pleasing fans and earning praise based solely on the fading hope that she will go all the way in the next tournament and finally recapture old glory.

    (“Wimbledon: Serena Lost. It’s Patronizing BS to Say She Won,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 14, 2018)

    Granted, that the media gave Woods more coverage than any other golfer at this week’s British Open was not surprising. After all, they found long ago that Woods is ratings gold – even when he’s languishing among the worst players on the course.

    But this does not excuse or explain sports commentators giving Woods more praise than any other golfer.

    Early on, Woods brought back memories of majors gone by [and] was good enough to [hold] the solo lead on a Sunday in a major for the first time in half a decade. …

    It wouldn’t last. Woods went double bogey-bogey over the 11th and 12th holes, including a sprayed shot that bounced off a fan, and he fell two strokes off the lead.

    (Reuters, July 22, 2018)

    In fact, he finished tied for 6th place with two other players. Yet, as it was with Williams, even the post-tournament praise was such that you’d think he had finally won that 15th major, which has eluded him ever since his fateful break from the tour nine years ago.

    Unfortunately, the media’s obsession with Woods robbed Francesco Molinari of much of the coverage he deserved for winning his first major championship. This, even though both players came into today’s final round with an equal chance to win: Molinari was just one shot ahead of Woods 207-208, was paired with him, but outplayed him head-to-head to finish 276-279.

    Then again, this kind of robbery has become par for the course on the PGA Tour whenever Woods plays.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Sunday, July 22, 2018 at 8:17 AM

    Top Aides Confronted Trump for Siding with Putin … and Got Trolled

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The A-list advisers Trump appointed to his cabinet represented the one redeeming feature of his presidency at the outset.

    Most notably, the prevailing wisdom was that the triumvirate of James Mattis at Defense, Rex Tillerson at State, and H.R. McMaster at National Security would provide the kind of safeguard for the Trump administration that training wheels provide for kids’ bicycles.

    But that now seems like decades ago. That Mattis is the only A-lister still serving speaks volumes about how determined Trump has been to have his way. The result has been such chaos and incoherence, you’d be forgiven for thinking that, instead of Make America Great Again, Trump’s MAGA stands for Make America Go Apeshit.

    Trump’s latest temper tantrum came last week in the wake of his universally criticized summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It stemmed from his treasonous siding with Putin over his own intelligence agencies with respect to Russia’s cyberattacks on the 2016 election.

    That compelled the following, which the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday under the headline “Pence, Bolton, Kelly confronted Trump in Oval Office about Russia comments”:

    Top aides gathered to convince the president to issue a rare walk-back of the comments he’d made raising doubts about U.S. intelligence conclusions of Russian election interference as he stood alongside Vladimir Putin.

    Except that the story evoked more gallows laughter than reassuring praise because everyone knows Trump’s script.

    Sure enough, after initially playing along, the congenitally temperamental Trump made a mockery of their confrontation. Specifically, he trolled them by tweeting his intent not only to stand alongside Putin again (and vent their mutual distrust of American institutions) but to do so at the White House to boot.

    The White House announced Thursday that Vladimir Putin has been invited to Washington this fall, even as leaders in Washington tried to fully understand what happened when President Trump and the Russian leader met earlier this week in Helsinki. …

    As the late afternoon tweet landed, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats was on stage at the Aspen Security Forum in the middle of an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who broke the news to him. Coats, clearly surprised, took a deep breath.

    (The Washington Post, July 19, 2018)

    Frankly, this would be laughable if the foundations of American democracy, to say nothing of national security, were not at stake. I mean, Trump is behaving like a teenage girl who was reprimanded by her parents for sneaking out for a booty call with a notorious bad boy. And she responds by sneaking that bad boy into her bedroom … and ends up pregnant.

    And so it goes: Na-nana-naa-nah! 

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, July 21, 2018 at 7:06 AM

    So how is your family’s summer vacation going…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    But why travel anywhere when you (and especially your kids) can enjoy mobile devices right there … at home: #staycation?

  • Thursday, July 19, 2018 at 7:53 AM

    Oh Right, the World Cup: Vive la France!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In “Trump, May, Macron: Don’t Bomb Syria. Withdraw World Cup from Russia!,” April 11, 2018, I pledged to boycott this World Cup. I honored that pledge.

    But I cannot resist sharing the following about France’s 4-2 victory over Croatia’s in Sunday’s final match:

    Immigrants, sons of immigrants and grandsons of immigrants bonded together with scions of families that have been French for generations, all for the rouge, blanc et bleu. And for only the second time, France is the World Cup champion.

    About two-thirds of Les Bleus’ roster included players with immigrant backgrounds, a mini-United Nations of soccer talent.

    (France24, July 16, 2018)

    What’s more, I cannot think of a more compelling rebuke of the worldwide assault on immigration, which no less a person than US President Donald Trump has triggered. Can you?

    And, who knows, this result might induce other European countries like Austria and Hungary to liberalize their immigration and naturalization policies. This, instead of following the trend of countries like Croatia and Portugal of recruiting black athletes as hired guns to help raise their national flags at international sporting events.

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  • Tuesday, July 17, 2018 at 7:12 AM

    Helsinki Summit: Trump Hails Russian Propaganda over American Intelligence

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    At a joint press conference today, President Trump doubled down on his belief in President Putin’s denial that Russia launched cyberattacks on the 2016 election.

    This, despite his own intelligence agencies, which includes the CIA, FBI, and NSA, saying that Russia did, and the Mueller investigation indicting 12 Russian agents for orchestrating those cyberattacks.

    ‘I have — I have confidence in both parties,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.’

    (The Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2018)

    Of course, as the Journal insinuated, Trump of all people knows full well that denials from liars are always strong and powerful.

    Bipartisanship is as rare in Washington these days as virtue. But Trump siding with Putin on this existential issue — on the world stage no less — provoked bipartisan outrage in spades. It began with Trump’s own Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats immediately rebutting and rebuking his betrayal as follows:

    We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.

    (USA Today, July 16, 2018)

    But nobody expressed the Democrats’ outrage quite like John Brennan, the former head of the CIA:

    Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???

    — John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018

    And nobody expressed the Republicans’ outrage quite like John McCain, US senator and bona-fide war hero:

    Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate.

    (CNN, July 16, 2018)

    To be fair, though, nobody should be shocked. After all, Trump telegraphed for years everything he did in Europe last week. Notably, this included stabbing UK Prime Minister Theresa May in the back over her beleaguered Brexit negotiations, extorting “pledges” for increased defense spending from NATO members, and standing shoulder to shoulder with Putin as they insulted US intelligence. I duly commented in “Trump Abroad: Mooning NATO, Droning Britain, Spooning Putin,” July 12, 2018.

    But frankly, I have nothing but contempt for the American politicians who are rushing to TV cameras to express how “shocked, shocked” they are. And I have nothing but pity for the European politicians who are asking today the question I posed the morning after willful Americans elected this mendacious buffoon, namely: “WTF President-elect Donald J. Trump? America. What. Have. You. Done.” November 9, 2016.

    To be clear, the following excerpts explain why I am too informed to be shocked and too indignant to be outraged by this latest manifestation of Trump’s “treasonous” behavior.

    ____________________

    • From “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker!” April 8, 2011:

    Nothing demonstrates that his clownish foray into presidential politics is just for personal ego and financial enrichment quite like previewing his campaign platform by speaking more like a right-wing radio shock jock than a politician. …

    That he is fashioning himself as a born-again conservative – after supporting mostly liberal causes for much of his life – indicates that he’s only doing what is good for Trump, not what is good for his country. …

    It’s one thing for Trump to be huffing and puffing all over the media about how he would demonstrate that he has far bigger balls than Obama; i.e., by acting on the world stage like a bull in a China shop (pun intended). It’s quite another for this preternaturally self-obsessed shyster to be propagating racially divisive claims about Barack Obama being an African who perpetrated the biggest scam in history by getting elected president of the United States.

    • From “Trump Is Trump, Intelligence Is Intelligence, and Never the Twain Shall Meet,” January 6, 2017:

    It has become self-evident that Donald Trump and human intelligence are parallel forces of nature. The obvious reason for this is that Trump’s need to feed his ego — even in the face of brazen hypocrisy or imminent danger — knows no bounds. …

    [T]here’s agreement across all US intelligence agencies that Russia tried, in a variety of unprecedented and foreboding ways, to influence the outcome of that election. …

    The point is that, if you are still expressing shock and venting outrage over all of the ignorant, narcissistic, dishonest, puerile, thin-skinned, hypocritical, and dangerous things Trump says and does, the joke’s on you.

    To be fair, though, Trump never missed an opportunity throughout his presidential campaign to warn voters that it’s more important to him to preserve his ego than to ‘preserve the Union.’

    • From “The Week Trump Kissed Up to Saudi Arabia, Kissed Off Europe, and French Kissed the Philippines,” May 30, 2017:

    One of the many unseemly things about Donald Trump as president of the United States is his longing admiration for dictators. …

    Trump began insulting America’s European allies long before his arrival in Brussels on May 24. Therefore, it also came as no surprise when, on this occasion to reaffirm the ties that bind the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), his words reeked like a skunk at a garden party. …

    Trump did in two days what Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying to do for nearly two decades: He sowed discord in NATO – the greatest military alliance in the history of mankind and the unassailable guarantor of peace on the Continent of Europe since WWII.

    • From “Treasonous Trump Releasing Fake Memo to Frame FBI and Hide Russian Ties,” February 1, 2018:

    Forget The Manchurian Candidate! Trump is behaving like a Manchurian president. … Just imagine Trump’s tweets about treason if Obama had taken the word of any foreign leader over the unanimous word of the directors of US intelligence agencies. …

    And let me hasten to clarify the specious claim Trump and his enablers are making about Russia’s cyberattacks not actually changing any votes. … [H]aving cyberattacked to influence how so many Americans voted, the die was cast: Russia had no need to change the results.

    There’s no denying the reasonable suspicion that Putin has cast a spell on him. Specifically, that fear of Putin releasing compromising information has something to do with his antic presidential behavior.

    ____________________

    I told you so, no?

    I will only add that Trump led Republicans in ridiculing Obama for bowing (as a courtesy) before the king of Saudi Arabia, a longstanding US ally. Yet here we have Trump kissing (as an apostasy) the ass of the president of Russia, a longstanding US enemy.

    Unfortunately, accusing Republicans of rabid hypocrisy these days is rather like accusing jihadists of rabid religiosity. In both cases, I fear only Judgement Day will bring them to their senses.

    Actually, waiting for enabling Republicans – who control Congress – to back up their rhetorical outrage with legislative action would be like Waiting for Godot. So don’t hold your breath. Indeed, their spasms of outrage notwithstanding, here is what I texted to an old friend today:

    The only chance they have of redeeming themselves in this world is if Republican leaders drag Trump in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot him between the eyes.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 6:17 p.m.

  • Monday, July 16, 2018 at 7:34 AM

    Special Counsel Should’ve Indicted US Media along with Russian Hackers

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Justice Department announced indictments against 12 Russian nationals as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, accusing them of engaging in a ‘sustained effort’ to hack Democrats’ emails and computer networks.

    All 12 defendants are members of the GRU, a Russian federation intelligence agency within the main intelligence directorate of the Russian military, who were acting in ‘their official capacities.’

    (CNN, July 14, 2018)

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicting Russians for interfering in the 2016 election seems like a big deal. But it’s no more revealing or consequential than a Honduran prosecutor indicting President Trump for endangering the lives of immigrant children (with his inhumane border separation policy).

    This is why the only thing I find worthy of comment is the way this announcement prompted belated soul searching among news anchors, reporters, and commentators — many of whom this indictment implicates. Specifically, it details the propagating role they (and data mercenaries like Julian Assange of WikiLeaks) played in helping the Russians weaponize their hacked e-mails.

    This soul searching was particularly animated on Sunday’s edition of This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC. It featured Donna Brazilewho chaired the Democratic National Committee (DNC) when much of this hacking occurred. And it was truly gripping TV, watching her vent clearly pent-up outrage and frustration at the reporters on the panel.

    Most notably, Brazile accused them of aiding and abetting the Russians by blithely broadcasting the contents of the hacked e-mails. And, their soul searching notwithstanding, this shall redound to their eternal shame.

    After all, even Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was pleading for them to stop helping Russia tear the fabric of American democracy apart. Moreover, you’d think the putatively liberal news media would’ve been loath to undermine Hillary’s campaign. Because they knew full well that, in doing so, they were helping the Russians get Trump elected the 45th president of the United States.

    Alas, they were too interested in the ratings/views anything related to these hacked e-mails generated.

    In fact, I was among few commentators who bothered to sound any alarm. Here is how I did so in “Hey Media, Wikileaker Assange Is Still a Self-Promoting, Bail-Jumping Rape Suspect!” August29, 2016.

    ____________________

    Assange is sharing his hacked loot with any news organization prepared to facilitate his self-aggrandizing crusade. And far too many news anchors and political commentators are playing along — like disciples spreading his gospel. Whereas you’d think they would want to hide in shame after foraging through the e-mails of DNC staffers, then reporting and commenting as if they’re ‘shocked, shocked’ that those staffers were doing, well, as staffers do. …

    What’s more, all of the leaked ‘bombshells’ pertain to nothing more than mundane gossip, intrigue, griping, and backstabbing among and between those staffers and officials. Which explains why news anchors are reading these e-mails live on air as if they were nothing more than passages from Mark Leibovich’s 2014 bestseller This Town, which fairly lampoons Washington, DC as a veritable Peyton Place.

    Nonetheless, this is what is passing for ‘Breaking News’ every day now — as Assange leaks a new cache of hacked e-mails like manna from heaven for lazy, unconscionable and myopic journalists. But what do you think CNN, Fox News, the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian, and other news organizations would do if Assange were leaking hacked e-mails of their anchors and reporters — purportedly to expose bias in the media? The obvious answer only hints at why my disgust with the news media compelled me to write commentaries like “Journalism Is ‘Having a Very, Very Pathetic Moment,’” November 13, 2013.

    Remarkably, no news organization is bothering to question the prurient nature of Assange’s leaks. Worse still, none of them appear to have any qualms about facilitating his cybercrimes, which serve no compelling public interest and are devoid of any socially redeeming value.

    But I cannot overstate that, for every embarrassing or compromising e-mail hackers can hack from the accounts of Democratic officials, they can hack equally embarrassing and compromising e-mails not only from the accounts of Republican officials, but also from those of other political parties, civil servants, corporate employees, and private citizens … worldwide. …

    [T]he real story here is the media’s complicity in propagating hacked documents that do far more harm than good. For just as Assange will leak anything for attention, news organizations will broadcast any leak for ratings – even the national security of the country be damned.

    ____________________

    I appreciate the belated soul searching anchors, reporters and commentators are now undertaking. I just hope they come to terms with the willful role they played in helping Russia execute this Manchurian caper, which has saddled the world with a US president who seems beholden to Vladimir Putin above all else.

    But these useful idiots should spare us their indignant efforts now to get Trump to give Putin the riot act for this caper, including at today’s Helsinki Summit. After all, this is tantamount to prodding Trump to admit that his election was the biggest political fraud in the history of mankind.

    That said, it might be instructive to end this commentary the way I ended the one on the first indictment Mueller handed down:

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

    (“Mueller’s First Indictment Has News Media Reveling in Speculation,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 29, 2017)

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  • Saturday, July 14, 2018 at 7:39 PM

    Wimbledon: Serena Lost. It’s Patronizing BS to Say She Won.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Despite all the hype, if not the expectation, Serena Williams (36) did not even come close to winning this Wimbledon final. Angelique Kerber (30) of Germany defeated her handily in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.

    In the eyes of many watching on Saturday, Williams was still a winner. … [M]others who know what it feels like to come back from maternity leave … were quick to tweet how much Williams just being there meant to them.

    (Yahoo! June 14, 2018)

    I appreciate mothers of the world thinking they could relate. But there’s a simple reason why Williams recovered so quickly to compete again at this level: Unlike most mothers, she spent most of her life as a super-fit professional athlete; specifically, as one fully accustomed to training her body to recover from all manner of stress.

    Mind you, I wanted Serena Williams to win this match as much as any fan could. But I’m calling double fault on sports fans and analysts alike who are making excuses for her, citing complications that attended child birth 10 months ago:

    • This ignores that Williams would not have been competing if she were not in shape to win. Indeed, I can cite her antic participation in last month’s French Open to support this fact. (I duly commented in “French Open: Nadal Questions Equal Pay. Williams Ducks Sharapova,” June 14, 2018)
    • This belittles the superior play Kerber displayed, which duly earned her this title. Not to mention that Williams managed to defeat many younger and seemingly fitter players to make it to this final match.

    So hail Serena, as I do, for still playing such competitive Tennis at an age when most of her peers have long-since retired. But please don’t deify her as some patron saint of mothers who are competing as top professional athletes.

    Unfortunately, Williams played into this deification by making a show of dedicating her run at this tournament “to all the moms out there.” But she’s hardly a pioneer in this respect. For example:

    Clijsters [had] daughter Jada Elle in 2008. But then the Belgian returned to the tour in 2009, winning the US Open in just her third tournament back. …

    She remains the only WTA player to win more majors with children in tow than without, picking up the 2010 US Open and 2011 Australian Open for four total career majors.

    (Baseline, April 20, 2017)

    This was Williams’s second tournament back. Therefore, she could still match Clijsters’s maternal feat by winning this year’s final Grand Slam, the US Open in early September.

    I just hope she’s not taking too much consolation in the outpouring of so much patronizing praise. Not least because it smacks of the kind of consolation Tiger Woods is taking these days for just making the cut at his golf tournaments.

    Indeed, like Woods, Williams could become resigned to playing on her laurels, continually pleasing fans and earning praise based solely on the fading hope that she will go all the way in the next tournament and finally recapture old glory.

    Serena Williams came back from pregnancy to make it to the finals of Wimbledon at almost 37 years old. That’s greatness. Despite the loss, she’s still the GOAT.

    — Everette Taylor (@Everette) July 14, 2018

    She was aiming to tie the all-time record in Grand Slam titles in tennis just *FOUR* events after her return from giving birth & having life threatening birth complications… A living Legend!

    — WTA Scores (@Scores_WTA) July 14, 2018

    If Clijsters received this kind of praise after her first two losses after having a child, she might never have won another Grand Slam title. Significantly, she retired in 2012 at the relatively young age of 29.

    But I hasten to point out that Williams clearly expects more of herself than her fans do:

    Within an hour of her defeat, Williams had turned her focus to just that, explaining, ‘I’m already deciphering what I need to improve on, what I need to do, what I did wrong, why I did it wrong, how I can do better — that whole madness that goes on in my mind.’

    (Washington Post, June 14, 2018)

    This is why I retain a glimmer of hope that she will emulate Clijsters by winning another Grand Slam or two with baby in tow.

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  • Friday, July 13, 2018 at 5:04 PM

    After Mooning NATO, Trump Moons the Queen…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Alas, England, this is no breach. For the embarrassing truth is that this narcissistic Neanderthal thinks everything, including royal protocol, is all about him.

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  • Thursday, July 12, 2018 at 7:38 AM

    Trump Abroad: Mooning NATO, Droning Britain, Spooning Putin

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Donald Trump is making his first visit to Britain today as president of the United States.

    More to the point, this is the second stop on what could be the most consequential foreign trip of his presidency. It began at a NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday and will end with a Putin summit in Helsinki on Monday.

    Unfortunately, anyone who knows Trump knew that each stop would just present another opportunity for him to bolster his norm-wrecking presidency. He proved this by spending much of the NATO summit demanding protection payments from fellow members – like a Mafia don demanding racketeering payments from business owners.

    But this kind of ignorant, gauche and reckless (bull-in-China-shop) behavior has become such a norm that it now evokes more gallows humor than serious concern. I’m sure I caught German Chancellor Angela Merkel rolling her eyes at one point during their meeting on the sidelines. This, when Trump’s cowardice allowed him to make only oblique reference to her face about putting the squeeze on NATO leaders to pay up.

    In any event, I decided that cartoon images would provide compelling commentary for each stop – fully mindful of the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Frankly, never before in the history of diplomacy has the foreign trip of a US president been worthy of little more than cartoonish ridicule: either we laugh at him, or he’ll make us cry.

    NATO

    Despite his anti-NATO bluster, Trump will do nothing to undermine its effectiveness. Instead, this shameless, congenital huckster is taking credit for the deal Obama negotiated in 2014, diplomatically. It committed all members to allocating at least 2 percent of their respective GDPs to defense over a 10-year period.

    But perhaps General James Mattis, the US secretary of defense, should try disabusing Trump of his belief that Obama created NATO. Because this belief is probably the only reason Trump is trying so fiendishly to destroy it.

    Britain

    Trump is the first US president who is so reviled in the UK that British authorities dare not allow him to set foot in the nation’s capital. Londoners are planning protests like none anyone has ever seen against any head of state visiting anywhere in history. This is why Trump will be helicoptered everywhere — far from the baying crowds.

    Most notably, he will be helicoptered to dinner with Prime Minister Theresa May at Blenheim Palace and tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle — both of which are far outside London and heavily fortified against protests.

    But there’s no denying the embarrassing extent to which the British government is going to protect the fragile ego of this US president. This is why Trump insisting that the British people like him a lot makes him look even more delusional than usual. And you can bet that, if any country, let alone an ally, felt it had to do the same for Obama, Trump would’ve been leading the carnival barkers damning him for making the United States look like a laughingstock.

    Putin

    This image apes the kind of imagery that might have been cut from Brokeback Mountain for being just too homoerotic for general release. Lord knows Trump has shown time and again that he does not even want to know how to quit his Pootie.

    NOTE: Some of you are probably wondering why Trump retains so much support among his base, despite his record of incompetence and corruption — at home and abroad. Well, I explained why so many Americans fell for and continue to support a political shyster like Trump in “Polls Show Americans Are Too Stupid to Poll on Any Critical Issue,” September 14, 2016.

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  • Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at 7:47 AM

    Miraculous Rescue of 12 Boys and Soccer Coach from Thai Cave

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Trump’s supporters hail him as the disrupter in chief. And, given the chaos and conflicts that define his presidency, he seems hell-bent on pleasing them at every turn. This, not least by championing a form of Darwinian nationalism not seen since the days of the Thirty Years’ War … 1618-1648.

    Only this explains his willful flouting of all democratic norms, reckless attempts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, clueless triggering of global trade wars, and (perhaps most concerning, if not suspicious) his selfish efforts to normalize US relations with Russia at the expense of relations with traditional allies like Canada and the EU.

    But the Thai cave rescue that played out over the past 18 days vindicates the world order Trump is so recklessly disrupting. Because it not only involved rescuers from all over the world, but captured as much interest in Washington, Paris, and Canberra as it did in Brasilia, Brazzaville, and Bangkok.

    More to the point, when news broke yesterday that this “mission impossible” was a complete success, the whole world enjoyed a moment of relief and normalcy from Trumpian distress and surreality, respectively.

    All 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped for more than two weeks deep inside a flooded Thai cave have been rescued. …

    British divers found the 13, hungry and huddled in darkness on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometres inside the complex, on Monday last week.

    After pondering for days how to get the 13 out, a rescue operation was launched on Sunday when four of the boys were brought out, tethered to rescue divers.

    (Reuters, July 10, 2018)

    But let us not forget that a Thai navy seal died during this rescue effort. This indicates the danger the trapped and their rescuers faced.

    That said, I would be remiss not to mention how the rescue of these 12 boys and their coach in Thailand harkens back to the rescue of 33 miners in Chile in 2010. The latter was equally riveting and, arguably, even more miraculous. After all, while these boys and their coach were trapped for 18 days, those miners were trapped for 69.

    But here is the cautionary note I sounded back then in “Chilean Miners Rescued,” October 13, 2010.

    ____________________

    One wonders how long the camaraderie they enjoyed underground will last. Not least because reports are that they spent their final hours together squabbling over who would have the seemingly dubious honor of being the last to be rescued. And, contrary to most reports, the motive here was not heroic sacrifice, but a calculated desire to bask in the glory, and enjoy the rewards, that would come with being recognized as the man who spent the longest time buried alive.

    But their camaraderie is bound to be tested when wives and family members begin exhorting each of them to grasp any media attention that might entail, or lead to, a financial windfall from, among other thing, appearances on talks shows, book deals, and product endorsements. It might have been all for one and one for all when they were trapped, but I suspect it’s going to be every man for himself now that they’re free. …

    All the same, none of this should detract from the truly heartwarming and life-affirming story these men have all lived to tell.

    ____________________

    Sure enough, that rescue brought all of the media attention and infighting I warned about. I duly lamented in “Chilean Miners and the Spoils of Fame,” October 15, 2010. Alas, I fear it’s only a matter of time before this rescue brings forth same, including post-traumatic stress that could hamper the mental, physical and social development of many of these kids.

    Nevertheless, there’s no denying the shot in the arm it provided. Indeed, the global effort this rescue entailed seemed what the doctor ordered to help us cope – politically, emotionally, and psychologically – with the global malady that is Trump’s wrecking ball of a presidency.

    I fully appreciate how polarizing and combustible everything seems today. And there’s also no denying the damage Trump is doing to Western political institutions and military alliances.

    But I remain convinced not only that the United States will survive him, but that the US-led world order, which has shepherded nearly 75 years of unprecedented peace and prosperity, will survive him too.

    So enjoy this good news for all it’s worth. After all, Trump is on the move in Europe today, and wherever he goes reckless disruption follows, which invariably dominates media coverage worldwide.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, July 10, 2018 at 7:38 AM

    Happy Independence Day Bahamas!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Bahamas Flag V3

    The Bahamas celebrates 45 years of independence today. I heartily join in hailing our motto: “Forward, Upward, Onward Together” … my Bahamaland!

    We are a relatively young nation of only 377,000 people. Yet not even the hegemony of the United States can chasten our national pride.

    Except that this Promethean pride cannot disguise the mockery we are making of our “independence.” After all, we are still pledging allegiance to the British queen as our head of state, and appealing to the British Privy Council as our court of last resort. Whereas surely, after all these years, we should be referring to Her Majesty as nothing more than a fairy godmother, and limiting appeals to a Supreme Court of The Bahamas.

    I’ve been pleading the latter case for years to no avail, including most recently in “For Independence Sake, Caribbean, Abolish Privy Council,” February 1, 2016. And, with all due respect to the Caribbean Court of Justice, I’ve always maintained that there’s no point in ridding ourselves of a colonial arbiter of our legal fate, only to subject ourselves to a regional one.

    Then, alas, there’s the silly way we look aping the royal pretensions and appurtenances of our former colonial masters. My pet peeve in this regard is having to wear those stupid white wigs in court. I decried this folly for the sake of my profession in “Hey, Tony, What’s Up with the Brothers Wearing White Wigs,” March 2, 2007.

    But this shame is surpassed by the contempt I have for compatriots who covet British honorary titles; you know, like Sir before their names or OBE after them. I decried this putting on airs for the sake of all former British colonies in “Australia Bans British Honors. Other Commonwealth Countries Should Too,” November 3, 2015.

    Remarkably, the subjugating contradiction inherent in coveting such titles seems lost on most of our people. Not to mention that these “queen’s birthday honours” are often based more on a bribe given than any merit earned. I ridiculed this corrupt practice twelve years ago this week in “Pardon Me, Sir, but How Much Did You Pay for Your Knighthood,” July 14, 2006.

    As it happened, the London Daily Mail threw this covetousness into shameful relief two years ago today. Specifically, it published a report on Dominican-born Baroness Scotland – who now serves as Commonwealth general secretary – under the banner headline “Stop Posing as a Knight, Palace Warns ‘Baroness Brazen’ Sidekick,” July 10, 2016. That report spoke volumes.

    In any event, the time has long since passed for us to sever the umbilical cords of colonialism. We should be standing proud as a people – beholden only to ourselves, and completely free of British pretentiousness.

    Only then would we be able to take unencumbered pride in our independent song, “March On, Bahamaland.”

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, July 9, 2018 at 7:37 AM

    Colonial Ties Have Europe in Knots Over African Migration

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Sadly, the tragedy of African migrants dying in the Mediterranean Sea has become even more commonplace than the tragedy of American blacks dying in encounters with the police.

    According to the International Organization for Migration, 1,412 migrants lost their lives on the latter-day Middle Passage – from Africa to Europe – just this year (as of July 5). This brought the tally for whom the bell tolled to 9,586 since 2014, when this crisis reached the tipping point … of no return.

    Frankly, there seemed (indeed seems) no end to Africans fleeing their homes to be free. Here is how I bemoaned this (with apologies to Shakespeare) in “Europe’s Migrant Crisis: Sowing Seeds of Unintended but All Too Foreseeable Consequences,” September 7, 2015:

    Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

    So too will Africans take to the sea;

    All changing place with those who went before,

    In droves these poor souls will continue to flee.

    Meanwhile:

    ‘Europe’s migrant crisis can be solved only in Africa,’ President Macron said in Nigeria yesterday. … ‘We need more Africans to succeed in Africa. … These people, given the magnitude of this wave, cannot be accepted, at least, not all of them.’

    (The Times, July 6, 2018)

    Surely no self-respecting African would disagree. The problem is that African leaders are the ones who created the conditions that caused this crisis. Yet all they’re offering to solve it are hollow words.

    This was the case following a recent emergency AU summit at which they established an African Observatory for Migration and Development to coordinate response:

    ‘Africa should not just react to decisions taken outside. We should have our own narrative,’ Mr Bourita, Morocco’s foreign minister, told the BBC.

    To curb migration, African states needed to invest in young people, who were ‘an energy’, Mr Bourita said.

    (BBC, July 7, 2018)

    Except that African leaders are not even reacting to the decisions European leaders are taking to combat this crisis. For a little perspective, just imagine the eye-rolling exasperation in the United States if El Salvador’s foreign minister were quoted saying that Central American states needed to invest in young people to curb migration to the United States.

    There’s no explaining this shameful salutary neglect by African leaders. But here is how I have expressed my 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)

    Which raises the question: Why are European leaders trying so much harder to solve this crisis than their African counterparts? Put another way: When are African leaders going to finally relieve their European counterparts of the presumptive “white man’s burden” that rationalized European (and American) imperialism throughout the late 19th and early 20th century?

    Nothing betrays this neocolonial burden quite like the political capital German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spent. Most notably, her attempts to treat millions of African migrants humanely had her fending off threats not just to bring down her coalition government, but also to blow the European Union asunder.

    Arguably, xenophobia and racism blind her European colleagues to the potential benefits of assimilating young Africans to compensate for Europe’s rapidly aging population.

    I commented on how she and they have coped (and are coping) with the challenges of African migration in “Europeans Erecting Fences to Maintain Good Relations with African Neighbors,” October 8, 2005, “Migrant Invasion Causing Humanitarian Remorse in Germany,” September 28, 2015, “Merkel Betraying Migration Policy that Won Her ‘Person of the Year’,” December 21, 2015, and “Truth about Viral Image of (Another) Syrian Boy,” August 24, 2016.

    Unfortunately, EU leaders have been vacillating for years between assimilating and repatriating these “tired …poor … tempest-tost” Africans. This was the case following a recent emergency EU summit at which they produced yet another wishy-washy resolution:

    EU leaders agreed Friday controlled migrant processing centers would be set up on a voluntary basis to help distinguish between legitimate asylum seekers and undeserving migrants, who will be turned back.

    Under the agreement, the locations of the screening centers will be in countries where migrants first arrive, but it’s not yet clear which countries will host the centers. Nations in northern Africa were previously mentioned as possible sites.

    (UPI, June 29, 2018)

    “Nations in northern Africa … mentioned as possible sites”? Talk about a no-brainer!

    It is truly remarkable that European leaders have been so averse to acting pursuant to the elemental proverb of teaching Africans to fish instead of continually feeding them – no matter how paternal/neocolonial that might seem.

    Which brings me back to African leaders. Because only a symbiosis of European colonial guilt  and African umbilical dependence explains why migrant processing centers were not set up in Africa years ago. Specifically, I submit that it’s because

    • Europeans remain guilt-ridden over their colonial exploitation of Africa; and
    • Africans remain hell-bent on blaming their former colonial masters for everything, including tribal conflicts, corruption, amorality, and general administrative incompetence, which make so many African nations a living hell.

    I feel obliged to assert here that I am not only of African descent but of colonial heritage to boot. This means that I am among those with unique standing to decry this crisis and demand African leaders do more – if only as a matter of racial and continental pride.

    Alas, I’ve been decrying and demanding for years to no avail. More to the point, as indicated above, I’ve done so in too many commentaries to count. But other notables include “Lampedusa Tragedy Highlights Europe’s ‘Haitian’ Problem,” October 7, 2013, “African Migrants Turning Mediterranean Sea into Vast Cemetery,” February 12, 2015, “World Refugee Day,” June 20, 2017, and “Africans Selling Africans as Slaves … Again,” December 18, 2017.

    Therefore, instead of venting my prideful concerns and frustrations anew, I shall suffice to reprise an excerpt from “African Migrants (Still) Turning Mediterranean Sea into Vast Cemetery,” June 1, 2016. It highlights the symbiosis that is propelling the waves of African migrants who are washing up on European shores … in sequent distress.

    **********

    For pan-African reasons, I have focused on African migrants fleeing chronic privation and predation across the Dark Continent. …

    Given that reports on this crisis over the past 18 months have smacked of Groundhog Day, this excerpt from “African Migrants Turning Mediterranean Sea into Vast Cemetery,” February 12, 2015, now seems prescient:

    __________________

    This latest tragedy affirms my foreboding that the bobbing crucible at sea will never deter Africans from trying to escape their living hell at home.

    The slogan ‘African solutions for African problems’ has gained considerable currency in recent years. Well, no African problem needs an African solution more than living conditions that compel so many Africans to migrate, come what may. The abiding shame is that African leaders show no interest in even trying to solve this problem.

    Meanwhile, European leaders are accusing each other of not doing enough to rescue African migrants adrift at sea, fleeing the abject misery African leaders have wrought.

    Indeed, no less a person than Pope Francis has entreated all European leaders to do more — the enabling spectre of neo-colonialism be damned. Here, according to Reuters, is the edict summoning their noblesse oblige, which he issued during an address before the European Parliament on November 25, 2014:

    We cannot allow the Mediterranean Sea to become a vast cemetery.

    ____________________

    Only ending never-ending conflicts and chronic economic stagnation in the countries of origin will end this migrant crisis.

    This is why I remain convinced that the most humane and effective way to deal with it is to provide safe havens in those countries. And it behooves European leaders to coordinate with Arab and African leaders to do so by any means necessary – even if that means enforcing naval blockades. This might seem farfetched, but it makes far more sense than European countries building Berlin-style walls – as Hungary and others are doing – to keep migrants out. I elaborated on this in “Europe’s Migration Crisis…,” September 6, 2015.

    All the same, I’m acutely mindful that people have been migrating in similar fashion for similar reasons since time immemorial. What’s more, I readily admit that, if I were living in one of the countries of origin affected, I too would be migrating to Europe … by any means necessary.

    Finally, I cannot overstate the comeuppance this crisis portends for Europeans — who are reacting to these Arab and African migrants with such hysterical xenophobia and racism. After all, Europeans used to hurl self-righteous criticisms at Americans for reacting to Haitian and Hispanic migrants the same way. I elaborated on this in “Europeans Erecting Fences to Maintain Good Relations with African Neighbors,” October 8, 2005.

    **********

    God help them –Europe’s good samaritans and Africa’s poor migrants alike.

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  • Wednesday, July 4, 2018 at 7:34 AM

    Happy Independence Day!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 7.32.49 AM

    But God help America as more and more Americans become slaves to social media and begin pledging allegiance to … themselves.

  • Tuesday, July 3, 2018 at 8:36 AM

    Protests in Iran, Nukes in North Korea Expose Trump as Hypocrite and Laughingstock … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Iran called for calm on Sunday after protests in a southern city over water shortages turned violent overnight with reports of police shooting at demonstrators who attacked banks and public buildings. …

    A number of protests have broken out in Iran since the beginning of the year over water, a growing political concern due to a drought which residents of parched areas and analysts say has been exacerbated by mismanagement.

    (Reuters, July 1, 2018)

    Many are drawing comparisons between the way the Trump administration is dealing with these protests, which erupted months ago and have persisted ever since, and the way the Obama administration dealt with similar protests, which erupted and persisted throughout 2009.

    Here in part is how I distinguished them in “American-Style Protests Erupt in Iran,” January 2, 2018.

    ____________________

    Iran is more like America than most Americans, including President Donald J. Trump, realize. …

    But I am heartened that Rouhani is reacting there much as Obama reacted here. Specifically, Rouhani is

    • acknowledging that protesters have legitimate grievances;
    • defending their right to protest; and
    • calling on them to vent their frustrations without recourse to violence (i.e., of the kind that attended protests in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland).

    Moreover, his enlightened reaction stands in commendable contrast to the repressive way government officials reacted in 2009. Back then, Iranians mounted similar protests over the reelection of Islamic hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I duly commented in “Iranians Protest Ahmadinejad’s Re-ordination,” June 15, 2009.

    ____________________

    That said, I hasten to point out that Iran is not experiencing a belated coming of the Arab Spring. Interestingly enough, these Iranian protesters have more in common with Americans protesting in Michigan today for clean water than with Egyptians who protested in Cairo in 2011 for political rights.

    Four years of protests, petitions, lawsuits, monetary donations, bottled water distribution, pipe replacements, as well as scientific testing and Environment Protection Agency involvement, have not stopped the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

    The Michigan city residents and activists protested Wednesday outside the state’s capitol building for help and recognition that their water problems persist.

    (NewsOne, April 11, 2018)

    This is why Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could be forgiven for trolling Trump by calling on Americans to overthrow their incompetent and corrupt government.

    In any event, it’s worth calling out the way the Trump administration is reacting to these protests. After all, despite criticizing the Obama administration for failing to “support” Iranian protesters in 2009, this administration is merely aping celebrities who think tweeting support is the same as rendering it (e.g. remember #BringBackOurGirls, #StopKony?).

    Here, for example, is how President Trump is presuming to distinguish himself in this context (from Obama):

    Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time.

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018

    But Iranians know that only fools would take comfort in this presidential promise. And they probably just rolled their eyes when his VP pounded his chest and threw shade at Obama with this Trumpian tweet:

    As long as @RealDonaldTrump is POTUS and I am VP, the United States of America will not repeat the shameful mistake of our past when others stood by and ignored the heroic resistance of the Iranian people as they fought against their brutal regime …

    — Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 1, 2018

    Again, the Trump administration has done nothing to support these Iranian protesters except publish feckless, self-aggrandizing tweets. By contrast, here is a more objective assessment of the support Obama rendered when faced with similar protests:

    When protests took place in Iran in 2009, Obama did raise concerns about violence and called for the right of protesters to be respected, but he also argued that by getting involved in the situation, the United States, given the historical baggage of its past interference in Iranian politics, would only make matters worse. …

    The Obama administration subsequently worked to impose the most punitive global sanctions ever imposed on Iran, a step his supporters say so damaged the Iranian economy that its leaders were forced back to the negotiating table.

    (CNN, January 1, 2018)

    Except that Trump is the only politician in the history of politics who shows no compunction whatsoever when it comes to

    • lying about the record of other politicians;
    • blaming other politicians for his mistakes;
    • taking credit for the accomplishments of other politicians; and
    • doing things he criticized other politicians for doing.

    A topical example is the way he spent years criticizing every US president – from Clinton to Obama – for allowing North Korean presidents to play them for fools with deals to denuclearize. Well, after staging his made for reality-TV summit with Kim Jong-un, Trump tweeted the following:

    Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. … Sleep well tonight!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) Jun 13, 2018

    Mind you, for him and his brain-dead followers, Trump tweeting “mission accomplished” made it real. This is why all that was left was for him to tweet, “Now give me my Nobel Peace Prize!

    Except that:

    U.S. intelligence officials, citing newly obtained evidence, have concluded that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile, and instead is considering ways to conceal the number of weapons it has and secret production facilities, according to U.S. officials.

    The evidence, collected in the wake of the June 12 Summit in Singapore, points to preparations to deceive the United States about the number of nuclear warheads in North Korea’s arsenal as well as the existence of undisclosed facilities used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs, the officials said.

    (The Washington Post, June 30, 2018)

    Duh.

    It was bad enough that Kim pushed Trump around at their summit as if this US president were really nothing more than a bloviating dotard. But this Post report only affirms my contention in “Trump Strikes Potemkin Nuclear Deal with Kim Jong-un,” June 12, 2018; namely that, despite his claims about being the master of The Art of the Deal,

    This dope was duped.

    Drop the mic.

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  • Monday, July 2, 2018 at 8:52 AM

    Mexicans Voted for López Obrador to Confront Trump…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    That is, as much as they voted for him to combat violence and corruption.

    Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador won Mexico’s presidency in a landslide victory on Sunday, setting the stage for the most left-wing government in the country’s democratic history. …

    Pledging to eradicate corruption and subdue drug cartels with a less confrontational approach, Lopez Obrador will carry high expectations into office, while his efforts to reduce inequality will be watched closely by nervous investors.

    (Reuters, July 1, 2018)

    The best way to put this shift in Mexico’s leadership into context is to allude to the seismic shift the Catholic Church made in 2013 when it elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio – who became Pope Francis. As it happens, Obrador (a.k.a. AMLO) is every bit as charismatic as Francis and intends to revolutionize Mexican politics every bit as much as Francis “intended” to reform Church practices.

    Truth be told, though, unless you’re among the elite who live in gated communities and drive around in armed and armored motorcades, you really had no reason to vote for candidates from the two political parties that have ruled Mexico for the past 84 years, namely the International Revolution Party (PRI) 1934-2000 and 2012-2018, and the National Action Party (PAN) 2000-2012.

    After all, thanks to them, life in far too many parts of this country is no different from life in more violent and corrupt regional “shitholes” like El Salvador and Honduras. I lamented this in such commentaries as “Kidnappings in Mexico as Ordinary as Gun Violence in America,” November 21, 2014.

    Except that Obrador has been running for president as a socialist godsend for 18 years, to no avail. And this is hardly the first time violence and corruption have been defining issues. I commented on the first of his quixotic campaigns, as leader of his newfound Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), in “The Fat Lady Is Singing for Mexico’s López Obrador,” August 30, 2006.

    But the (orange) elephant in the race this time was President Donald J. Trump. Specifically, because he is treating Mexicans with the kind of hostility nobody has ever imagined, let alone seen.

    It was shocking enough that Trump premised his presidential campaign on building a border wall. But he has now ordered border agents to rip children from the arms of parents who dare cross that border illegally. I decried this in “Separating Immigrant Children from Their Parents. This Is America … Too!” June 20, 2018.

    This is why it was so shrewd for Obrador to cast himself as the anti-Trump. Because this alone must have compelled many Mexicans to vote for him – if only as a matter of national pride.

    Indeed, Obrador’s “Mexico First” agenda rivals Trump’s “America First” agenda. He even matched Trump’s (idle) threat to tear up NAFTA – in this case, to make it better for Mexican workers. Not to mention his bombastic and politically incorrect rhetoric, which often made Trump seem civil.

    More importantly, like Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez before him, Obrador is championing the kind of democratic socialism I admire. Imagine what the United States would be like today if Americans had elected Bernie Sanders instead of Donald Trump in 2016 – and I’m alluding to politics and policies not temperament and tweets.

    Unfortunately, it did not take long before I was decrying the mockery Chávez was making of democratic socialism – as commentaries from “Bolivia’s Woes Expose Chávez’s Socialist Counter-Revolution as Little more than a One-Man, Three-Ring Circus,” September 7, 2006, to “Chávez’s Chavismo: More Robbing Hoodlum than Robin Hood,” August 12, 2015, and “Venezuela Finally Awakens from Chavismo Dream,” December 9, 2015, attest.

    I fear that, like Chávez, Obrador is fated to fail when it comes t0 eradicating corruption, alleviating poverty, and reducing inequality. Not that he’ll be misguided by the kind dictatorial or messianic ideations that doomed Chávez, mind you.

    Obrador will find Constitutional and Congressional constraints, which protect the vested interests of the establishment, vexing enough. But he will find it nearly impossible to fulfill his signature promise to combat the violence that is driving so many Mexicans to cross the border. Not least because his quixotic nature is such that Obrador thinks he can strike the kind of peace deal with Mexico’s thriving drug cartels that President Santos struck with Colombia’s beleaguered FARC guerillas.

    Incidentally, Colombians not only rejected that deal in a referendum, but they elected Ivan Duque just weeks ago (on June 18) – who is as committed to tearing up that FARC peace deal as Trump was to tearing up the Iran nuclear deal. I decried their misguided vote for continuing warfare in “What the FARC! Colombians Reject Landmark Peace Deal,” October 4, 2016.

    But it speaks volumes that the cartels have killed more Mexicans over the past 10 years (with virtual impunity) than the more than 50,000 Americans the Viet Cong killed over 20 years in Vietnam. And it behooves Obrador to appreciate that over 130 politicians were among the 29,000 the cartels killed just last year.

    Actually, in some respects, Obrador will be able to commiserate with Trump – who is finding it equally impossible to fulfill his signature promise to build a wall to prevent illegal immigration across the US-Mexico border. Of course, Trump could also tell him how vexing it will be to renegotiate NAFTA to increase benefits for the Mexican workers who form his base.

    Frankly, it would not surprise me if, at the end of Obrador’s one, six-year term, Mexico looked much like the violent, corrupt, and bankrupt basket case Venezuela is today. As indicated above, different forces will conspire to make it so. But to see what Obrador’s presidency portends, I refer you to “Venezuela’s Death Spiral of Recession, Protest, and Repression,” April 24, 2017.

    For now, though, the looming Mexican standoff between Obrador and Trump will animate hemispheric politics. And Trump’s unpopularity is such that I suspect as many Americans as Mexicans want to see Obrador win it.

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