• Thursday, August 30, 2018 at 8:11 AM

    Happy Labor Day … Weekend!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Après ça le deluge…

    Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 8.20.49 PM

  • Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at 8:42 AM

    ‘Michael Jackson Is Worth More Dead than Alive.’ Duh.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Michael Jackson is reportedly earning more in death than he did when he was alive. …

    On Wednesday – what would have been the King of Pop’s 60th birthday – it was revealed that gross earnings since his death are thought to exceed $900 million. …

    But just months before his death, Jackson had said he and his three children – Paris, 20, Prince, 21, and Blanket, 16 – were like ‘vagabonds’ because he had debts of $500 million.

    (The Daily Mail, August 29, 2018)

    I hasten to clarify that the “Duh” in my title is not intended to convey any disrespect. Instead, it merely reflects the macabre reality I posited years ago in “Michael Jackson Is Worth More Dead than Alive,” October 28, 2018.

    This seems an occasion to reprise that commentary … in full.

    ____________________

    I took a lot of flak for asserting that Michael Jackson’s death was in fact timely. But here, in part, is how I justified my assertion:

    [T]he pathological self-loathing, predatory entitlement, and attention-grabbing antics that characterized his personal life were beginning to fatally undermine the appeal of his professional life. This is why, in an admittedly perverse sense, his death was timely. Not to mention how it plays into the legend of “only the good die young” (a la Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, et al) with which Michael was reportedly so fascinated. …

    [I]n the fantasy world he cultivated for himself, it was perfectly reasonable for Michael to go on million-dollar shopping sprees despite being effectively bankrupt; to undergo numerous plastic surgeries to change his Negroid features then insist that he looked white naturally; and to act as if sleeping with little boys is the most innocent and loving thing any man could do.

    (“Michael Jackson, the king of Pop, is dead,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 27, 2009)

    Michael was more than $500 million in debt at the time of his death. In fact, he seemed headed for bankruptcy. For no amount of revenues from concerts and record sales would have been sufficient to pay off his debts while keeping him in the expensive fantasy lifestyle to which he had become so blithely accustomed. And this was especially so given informed predictions that he would not have been able to complete all of the “This Is It” performances that were supposed to earn him a little reprieve.

    Here, for instance, is the cynical note I sounded in the above-referenced commentary in this latter respect:

    Reports abound that Michael fed his spendthrift habit in recent years by contracting to perform, collecting hefty advances, and then resorting to all kinds of ploys (often involving hospital visits) to avoid getting on stage. Indeed, despite reports of him rehearsing for his big comeback series of concerts, I am convinced that, having collected a hefty percentage of the advance ticket sales, he had no intention of actually performing.

    This, alas, is the road to financial ruin that Michael was on when he died. Then, of course, there’s the laughing stock he was becoming for using cosmetic surgery to turn himself into a (living) Madame Tussauds wax work.

    Therefore, when one juxtaposes these grave facts with the fact that his estate has generated over $275 million since his death, there can be no denying the timeliness of his death. More to the point, though, nothing confirms that Michael is worth more dead than alive quite like the following:

    Thanks to a lucrative catalogue, hit film and album sales, the late king of pop earned more in the last year than Lady Gaga, Madonna and Jay-Z, combined.

    (Forbes, October 25, 2010)

    In fact, his earnings were over four times more than that of the second person on the Forbes list of top-earning dead celebrities, Elvis Presley, whose estate raked in a relatively paltry $60 million during this same period of time.

    So, “gone too soon”? I don’t think so.

    I just wonder how “his” three kids will reconcile knowing that it took their father’s early death to ensure they would be able to continue living the fantasy lifestyle to which they too have become accustomed.

    ____________________

    Well, all indications are that those kids are having no difficulty reconciling his death with their trust-fund lifestyles.

    Ka-Ching!

    Related commentaries:
    MJ mystery
    MJ…is dead
    This Is It
    MJ worth more dead

  • Tuesday, August 28, 2018 at 9:53 AM

    UN Report: Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Laureate, Is Complicit in Genocide

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    History is littered with public figures who betrayed the public trust. But no betrayal has been more shocking and disillusioning than Aung San Suu Kyi’s complicity in genocide against the Rohingya.

    I have vented my own shock and disillusionment in such commentaries as “Aung San Suu Kyi Becoming Democratic Mascot of Myanmar’s Military Dictatorship,” March 28, 2013, “Buddhists Religiously Cleansing Muslims in Myanmar,” May 13, 2015, and “Nobel Peace Laureate Suu Kyi Courting Military Power at the Expense of Democratic Principles,” September 14, 2015.

    The last of these includes this instructive juxtaposition between of the way Nelson Mandela lived up to his Nobel acclaim and the way Suu Kyi is making a mockery of hers.

    ____________________

    It’s arguable that Nelson Mandela of South Africa was the only political leader who commanded more universal admiration and respect over the past 50 years than Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (a.k.a. Burma).

    Of course, they seemed bonded by an uncompromising commitment to democratic principles, which they honored by spending 27 and 15 years as political prisoners, respectively.

    Except that, after talking the talk, Mandela began walking the walk from the day he was finally released in 1990. By contrast, Suu Kyi seemed to be walking pursuant to a Faustian bargain with her military jailers from the day she was finally released in 2010.

    I decried the conspiracy of silence in the Western media as Suu Kyi and her military cohorts sat by as Buddhist monks began religiously cleansing Myanmar of Muslims. … I am so heartened that the BBC is finally beginning to echo the questions I raised years ago about Suu Kyi’s commitment to democratic principles. …

    Just imagine how disheartening it would’ve been if Mandela began preparing South Africa for its first democratic elections by presiding over the ethnic cleansing of whites – not just from his African National Congress party, but from the entire country.

    ____________________

    This is why I was heartened when Suu Kyi’s fellow Nobel laureates began condemning her. I duly hailed them in “Even Fellow Nobel Laureates Now Condemning Suu Kyi, the Godmother of Ethnic Cleansing,” September 14, 2017, noting on point that:

    It’s an indication of how much goodwill Suu Kyi has lost that calls to rescind her 1991 peace prize have gone viral. Unfortunately, the Nobel Committee is on record declaring that it has no process or precedent for rescinding prizes.

    But I remained mindful that no amount of pubic condemnation or stripping of prizes would constitute just punishment for her complicity in genocide. This is why I am even more heartened by this all too belated development:

    Myanmar’s military has been accused of genocide against the Rohingya in Rakhine state in a damning UN report. …

    They found that the military were ‘killing indiscriminately, gang-raping women, assaulting children and burning entire villages’ in Rakhine, home to the Muslim Rohingya, and in Shan and Kachin. …

    The UN report criticised Aung San Suu Kyi’s passive role over the past year. ‘[She] has not used her de facto position as head of government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events in Rakhine state,’ it said.

    (The Guardian US, August 27, 2018)

    Her disheartened critics continually bemoan how Suu Kyi has fallen from grace. But this spares her the punishment she deserves. Instead, they should be calling on the International Criminal Court to charge her with conspiracy in this genocide. At the very least, the UN should target her along with the military generals in sanctions on Myanmar that make those it imposed on rogue states like North Korea seem benign.

    Yet, past being prologue, I fear it’s only a matter of time before the UN publishes an equally damning report on another genocide, which the world stood by and allowed to unfold. Apropos of this, here is how I dismissed the haunting regret of past leaders of the free world, as well as the preening disinterest of the current one, in “South Sudan: Another Genocide Developing in Africa,” December 19, 2016.

    ____________________

    Former President Bill Clinton expressed haunting regret for doing nothing as years of ethnic cleansing developed into ‘all-out ethnic civil war’ in Rwanda on his watch.

    President Obama expressed similar regret on Friday: not only for doing nothing as years of sectarian strife developed into all-out religious civil war in Syria, but also for doing nothing as years of ethnic cleansing developed to the brink of all-out ethnic civil war in South Sudan. But at least Obama draws the appropriate moral equivalence between these two humanitarian catastrophes.

    After all, far too many of those damning him for failing to intervene in Syria have never damned him for failing to intervene in South Sudan … or anywhere else in Africa beset by similar humanitarian catastrophes.

    That said, I’m all too mindful that regrets never saved anyone. But, given that President Trump seems congenitally incapable of such feelings, he is unlikely to ever express any if/when civil war degenerates into genocide in South Sudan … or anywhere else.

    ____________________

    Alas, the entire world reacts to Trump’s daily tweets as if they were greater crimes against humanity than the mass murder, rape, and pillaging the UN documented in its Rohingya report.

    Meanwhile, with each unfolding genocide, the post-Holocaust clarion call of “never again” rings more hollow. But still I cry, freedom!

    Related commentaries:
    Holocaust museum rescinds prize
    South Sudan

  • Sunday, August 26, 2018 at 2:37 PM

    John McCain, War Hero, Political Maverick … Never Trumper, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Remarkably, as I write this, I am watching the breaking news that Neil Simon, the award-winning playwright of such hits as The Odd Couple, just died. He was 91.

    But his death makes the following clarification all the more relevant:

    A surprising number of readers have inquired why I did not publish commentaries on one or another of the famous people who died recently. … Someone even contacted me today to inquire if I was going to comment on yesterday’s death of ‘Golden Girl’ Rue McClanahan. Yes, forget dying in threes, they’re dying in droves. …

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

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

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

    Incidentally, the deaths over the past few days of Robin Leach, John McCain, and Neil Simon play into the superstition that famous people die in threes. The problem is that this summer has seen famous people like Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, XXXTentacion, Charles Krauthammer, and Joe Jackson die far more randomly.

    That said, media outlets seem intent on providing herd-like, wall-to-wall coverage on the death of Senator John McCain (R-AZ), so much so that it might make Simon’s seem, well, irrelevant. But I readily concede that, based on my own criteria, the death of neither man qualifies for commentary.

    Then again, based on objective criteria, McCain’s application to the Naval Academy did not qualify. He had to rely on a legacy admission. To his credit, though, he turned his enrollment there into a launching pad for the wartime heroics that defined his adult life.

    No doubt he deserves praise for refusing a legacy offer to jump to the front of the line of POWs the North Vietnamese were releasing from captivity (pursuant to diplomatic negotiations). Perhaps he was making up for accepting that legacy offer to get into the Naval Academy. But there was nothing pioneering about his wartime heroics.

    In fact, the heroics McCain displayed as a soldier were commonplace in Vietnam and every other war in US history. More to the point, each war featured countless unsung heroes who not only waited their turn in POW camps while others were released, but died on the battlefield so that others could live.

    Meanwhile, the heroics he displayed as a politician pale in comparison to the heroics many white abolitionists and civil rights activists displayed. Enough said?

    That is why the exception I am making for this commentary is based solely on my admittedly race-based regard for two defining moments – when McCain not only distinguished himself but showed commendable respect for Barack Obama.

    The first happened at a town hall meeting in Minnesota during the 2008 presidential campaign. An old white woman stood to express her aggrieved belief in the right-wing lie about Obama being a closet Muslim:

    ‘I can’t trust Obama … he’s not uh — he’s an Arab’ – before McCain retook the microphone and replied:

    ‘No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign’s all about. He’s not [an Arab].’

    (Politico, October 10, 2008)

    You’d be forgiven for thinking that any other Republican in that situation would have whitewashed that woman’s racist ignorance – either by overlooking what she said or by laughing it off as just one of those things wacky old people say. Of course, we all know Trump would have been all too happy to stoke her racist ignorance.

    The second happened during Senate debate just last year on repealing Obamacare, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. It was a moment of reckoning. Every Republican member was being called upon to show party loyalty by voting for a patently flawed bill – the principles of good governance, let alone the welfare of the American people, be damned.

    Alas, only three of them had the courage to do the right thing. And McCain did it in the most dramatic and emphatic way possible:

    McCain was the third and deciding ‘no’ vote against the Republican repeal and replace effort in the summer, delivering a dramatic thumbs-down on the floor of the Senate just days after returning to Washington after a diagnosis of brain cancer. …

    For McCain, the decision is clearly one with his legacy in mind: He wants to do everything he can to restore comity and normalcy to the chamber he has called his work home since 1987.

    (CNN, September 22, 2017)

    I duly hailed McCain in “Republican ‘War’ to Repeal Obamacare Fails in Spectacular, Humiliating Fashion,” July 29, 2017.

    But, as fate would have it, nothing became McCain in public life quite like the way he chose to rebuke President Trump upon leaving it:

    People close to Sen. John McCain have told the White House that the ailing Arizona Republican does not want President Donald Trump to attend his funeral. …

    Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush plan to be eulogists at McCain’s funeral service, which is to be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

    (NBC News, May 5, 2018)

    McCain’s rebuke should make sense to anyone who knows anything about Donald Trump. Indeed, it speaks volumes that the Bush family rebuked him in similar fashion in April when Barbara died. An embarrassed Trump tried to save face back then by tweeting specious blather about his security detail disrupting the funeral if he attended.

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

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

    Except that he cannot play the security card in this case. And everyone knows how humiliating it must be for this craven narcissist to have McCain snub him in favor not just of Bush, a fellow Republican, but of Obama, a Democrat.

    Of course, the McCains and Bushes are not alone in slighting Trump’s buffoonish pride. After all, Britons find him so odious that hundreds of thousands of them took to the streets last month to protest his visit.

    Frankly, they jeered this famous leader of the free world as if he were nothing more than an infamous tin-pot dictator of a banana republic. More to the point, this was the first time in history any ally, let alone America’s closest ally, had so publicly shunned and ridiculed any US president.

    And that came on the heels of Prince Harry’s determined intent to snub Trump by not inviting him to his royal wedding last May. The British government prevailed upon Harry to uninvite the Obamas, fearing the unhinged ways a jealous, petty-minded Trump might retaliate. But, ultimately, the shame is on the American people for electing a president who is so odious, he has already been banned from two funerals and a wedding.

    In any event, I fear the thin-skinned Trump will either tweet or do something outrageous to ensure that, even on the day of McCain’s state funeral, media focus will still be on him (i.e., Trump).

    McCain died yesterday of cancer (the infamous glioblastoma) at his home in Arizona. He was 81.

    Farewell, John.

    Related commentaries:
    post mortem
    Obamacare repeal
    Trump’s first year
    Aretha Franklin

  • Saturday, August 25, 2018 at 8:17 AM

    SAfrica’s ANC and EFF scrapping to be more like Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
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  • Friday, August 24, 2018 at 8:18 AM

    Are You Among the Losers Still Watching the VMA’s…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No Drake, no Bey and Jay, no Tay, no Adele, no Rihanna. No Kendrick or Childish Gambino or Lorde or Cher… We were just left with existential pop culture questions. …

    Taylor Swift made her annual refusal to even set foot in the same area code as MTV’s quagmire, a tactically brilliant move that’s turned into a Tay tradition — though the absence of her star power is an undeniable part of why this show has felt so small-time the last few go-rounds.

    (Rolling Stone, August 21, 2018)

    As it happens, I posed the key existential pop culture question as the title to my review of the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), namely:

    Why Is Any Self-Respecting Adult Still Watching the VMAs?

    In fact, I included in that commentary a quote from my review of the 2011 VMAs, which shows that I’ve been ridiculing the “small-time” nature of this show for nearly a decade. More to the point, that ridicule tracked MTV losing its way over the years – as it continually featured more reality-TV shows than music videos..

    This is why the most interesting thing I read about Sunday’s VMAs was the wholly predictable way Madonna paid tribute to Aretha Franklin: she blabbered about herself.

    But Madonna’s self-centered stunt was entirely fitting. After all, today’s music industry seems far more about narcissistic social-media influencers than objectively talented performers.

    Nothing betrays this quite like Nicki Minaj whining about Kylie Jenner, the queen of all social media, using her influence to boost boyfriend Travis Scott’s album, Astroworld, to No. 1 this week on the Billboard 200:

    ‘I put my blood sweat & tears in writing a dope album only for Travis Scott to have Kylie Jenner post a tour pass telling ppl to come see her & Stormi. Lol. Im [sic] actually laughing,’ Minaj wrote on Sunday.

    (People, August 22, 2018)

    Minaj’s album, Queen, debuted at Number 2.

    Mind you, Minaj was probably just venting frustration. After all, not only are her “followers” on social media failing to buy enough of her albums; only 2000 of them are buying concert tickets for venues that seat 20,000.  The reason for this, of course, is that her followers are more interested in fake images of her fake body and social life than in her real body of work. Late-breaking reports are that she’s canceling shows in a vain attempt to save face.

    Still, Aretha’s loved ones might have just cause to whine too. Because producers were so busy preparing for Kylie’s “appearance,” they neglected to include a performance of any Aretha song on the program. But anyone who knows anything about today’s music industry knows not to expect that kind of “Respect” from the “Chain of Fools” who now produce the VMAs.

    Related commentaries:
    still watching VMAs

  • Wednesday, August 22, 2018 at 8:37 AM

    UPDATE: Trump and the Poisoned Chalice of the Pardon Power

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Washington is abuzz this morning with speculation about Trump pardoning Cohen and Manafort. He has the absolute power to do so, of course. And he willfully laid the predicate for pardoning undeserving criminals like these when he pardoned defiantly racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona.

    Except that, far from protecting Trump from impeachment, doing so would only provide Mueller more counts for the obstruction-of-justice case he’s building against this unindicted co-conspirator. Indeed, pardoning either or both would be tantamount to a suspect kidnapping someone in a misguided attempt to get away with murder.

    Of course, this speculation about pardons pales in comparison with speculation about Trump’s intent to kill the Mueller investigation. To do so, he would have to fire Mueller, Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, and anyone else in the Justice Department who could revive it.

    Except that he would then be aping the fateful miscalculation Nixon made with his infamous “Saturday Night Massacre.” More to the point, this miscalculation would provide craven and cowered Republican leaders one last chance to redeem themselves. Because even they would have no choice but to initiate and prosecute impeachment proceedings if Trump pursues this patently ill-fated course.

    I hasten to note, however, that Republicans have been all too willing to sacrifice their political ideology and moral conviction at the altar of Trump’s ambition. Therefore, waiting for any of them to play the pivotal role Barry Goldwater played during Watergate might be like Waiting for Godot.

    Republicans in the Senate had nominated an elder statesman to deliver to Nixon the news that he could no longer avoid impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate. Sen. Barry Goldwater (R) of Arizona … had great stature in the party and would tell Nixon what he thought – that he himself would now vote for conviction.

    (The Christian Science Monitor, August 7, 2014)

    Incidentally, the once self-righteous Republicans enabling and defending Trump remind me of Catholic bishops who enabled and protected pedophile priests. Trump will probably perpetrate wag-the-dog machinations to divert attention from his Nixonian morass. But I doubt even that would bring these Republicans back to Jesus.

    Even more ominous, though, is that Trump’s pardon power does not extend to the battery of state crimes Cohen seems bound to implicate him in. Those crimes range from using his charitable foundation as a personal piggy bank to laundering dirty Russian money through his various real estate developments.

    Therefore, even if he survives impeachment, New York prosecutors will be lying in wait to disclose a sealed indictment that will make the crimes Cohen pleaded to seem like jay walking. In other words: To pardon, or not to pardon – that is not the question. Because, either way, Trump is doomed.

    For the record, Cohen has clearly given the finger to any prospect of a presidential pardon. But Trump will pardon Manafort and anyone else Mueller indicts pursuant to “this Russia thing.” The only question is when:

    He dare not do so before the midterms, or before impeachment proceedings that are likely to follow them, or before his re-election bid in 2020, despite his dwindling prospects. Therefore, I think he’ll end up issuing sweeping pardons at some point between the November 2020 presidential election and leaving office in January 2021, when it would be clear he has nothing left to lose. This, because I think, like Bill Clinton, he will survive impeachment.

    If all that isn’t unwieldy enough for you, consider indications that Mueller’s investigation will extend beyond November’s midterm elections. Further that Democrats seem bound to wrest control of the House from Republicans.

    In that event, the deputy attorney general would not present Mueller’s findings to Republican leaders – who have aided and abetted so many of Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors. Instead, he would present them to Democratic leaders – who have been salivating at the prospect of impeaching him.

    Having said all that, anyone who knows how Nixon’s presidency unraveled can see the writing on the wall for Trump’s. This is why Trump would be well-advised to negotiate a plea deal with the Justice Department:

    • Offer to resign in exchange for the suspension of all state and federal investigations into his presidential campaign, business organization, and charitable foundation.
    • Offer to forego pardons in exchange for suspended sentences and commensurate fines for anyone (most notably his children) implicated in any crime those investigations have already uncovered.
    • Give Vice President Mike Pence enough time to appoint a new VP (Nikki Haley), and the Republican Party enough time to prepare for the midterm elections under his leadership, which would limit the impact of the Democratic “blue wave” coming. This means resigning before the end of September.

    Unfortunately, Trump appears too blinded by ignorance and arrogance to see the writing on the wall. And nobody in his inner circle has the balls to point it out to him. Hell, his advisers are so hell-bent on catering to the Trump family’s delusions of royalty, they have Don Jr. and Ivanka convinced they’re entitled to inherit his presidency, respectively.

    In any event, stay tuned. Because Washington has not been in the throes of such political unraveling since the dying days of the Nixon presidency.

    Related commentaries:
    Bad day for Cohen, Manafort, Trump

  • Tuesday, August 21, 2018 at 5:22 PM

    Today Was a Bad Day for Cohen, Manafort, … and Trump!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Michael Cohen, President Trump’s hapless lawyer and fixer, pleaded guilty this afternoon to eight criminal charges. Significantly, while allocuting to his crimes under oath, Cohen implicated Trump, sealing this president’s fate as an unindicted co-conspirator.

    Cohen … pleaded guilty on Tuesday to campaign finance and other charges. He made the extraordinary admission that he paid a pornographic actress [Stormy Daniels] ‘at the direction of the candidate,’ referring to Mr. Trump, to secure her silence about an affair she said she had with Mr. Trump. …

    One collateral effect of Mr. Cohen’s plea agreement is that it may allow Michael Avenatti, [Ms. Daniels’s] lawyer, to proceed with a deposition of Mr. Trump in a lawsuit that Ms. [Daniels] filed accusing the president of breaking a nondisclosure agreement concerning their affair. [Cohen faces four to six years in prison.]

    (The New York Times, August 21, 2018)

    Then we were treated to an uncanny bit of coincidence and symmetry. Because, within minutes of Cohen’s plea, a jury found Paul Manafort, Trump’s swampy campaign chairman, guilty on eight criminal charges.

    A jury has found former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty after a three-week trial on tax and bank fraud charges. …

    Manafort’s guilty verdict may strengthen [special counsel Robert S.] Mueller’s hand as he continues to investigate possible conspiracy and seeks an interview with the president; an acquittal could have led to a broader effort by conservatives to shut down the special counsel’s office. [Manafort, 69, faces 80 years in prison.]

    (The Washington Post, August 21, 2018)

    The damning implications of these developments should be clear to everyone. Unfortunately, far too many Americans live in Trump world, where “truth isn’t truth” and you can’t believe what you see, read, or hear – unless you see it on Fox News, read it on Trump’s Twitter, or hear it from Trump or his spinmeisters.

    Therefore, don’t despair over Trump and his Trumpletons fulminating about what a great day this was for Trump: “NO COLLUSION!” To be fair, though, no matter how much Cohen or Manafort implicates Trump (or how much he incriminates himself), it seems Mueller will abide Justice Department policy, which holds that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

    This is why the ultimate verdict will be the one Americans – who live in the real world – hand down on Election Day this November. Because the only way to hold Trump accountable is to elect Democrats – who, in exercising their constitutional duties of oversight, will duly impeach him for the many high crimes and misdemeanors he has already committed.

    So, don’t gloat, VOTE!

    Meanwhile, Cohen and Manafort are just the latest on a growing list of ‘all the president’s men’ who are either under indictment or convicted felons. The others, among the “best and brightest” he often boasts about hiring, are:

    • George Papadopoulos, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser (pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI)
    • Michael Flynn, former Trump national security adviser (pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI)
    • Rick Gates, former Trump campaign aide (pleaded guilty in February to lying to FBI and conspiracy)
    • Chris Collins (R-NY), the first congressman to endorse Trump’s candidacy (indicted earlier this month on insider trading)
    • Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the second congressman to endorse Trump’s candidacy (indicted today on misusing campaign funds and filing false reports)

    And Mueller is just getting started. That’s why Trump is becoming even more Unhinged than usual. BELIEVE ME!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, August 21, 2018 at 7:43 AM

    #MeToo Leaders Carlson and Argento Outed as AbusersToo? WTF!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Carlson

    No doubt you recall how the media hailed Gretchen Carlson as the proverbial Joan of Arc of the #MeToo movement. This, after she forced serial abuser Roger Ailes to resign as CEO of Fox News.

    I joined the chorus of those hailing her in “Women Complain Fox News Head, Roger Ailes, Has Dick for Brains,” July 20, 2016, and “This Hurricane Harvey Harassed Hollywood Hotties for Decades,” October 6, 2017.

    But I sensed something was amiss when Carlson emerged as the self-righteous chairwoman of the Miss America pageant. Because she promptly announced the abolition of the swimsuit competition, the most titillating part of the annual pageant.

    I joined the chorus of those protesting in “No More Swimsuit Competition for Miss America? WTF!” June 6, 2018.

    That’s why this comes as no surprise:

    Last week, current Miss America Cara Mund alleged in a letter to former winners that the current chairwoman [Gretchen Carlson] and CEO Regina Hopper ‘systematically silenced me, reduced me, marginalized me, and essentially erased me in my role as Miss America in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on a daily basis.’

    [Suzette] Charles, former Miss America 1995 Heather Whitestone McCallum and 11 other former Miss America winners have called for Carlson, Hopper and the current Board of Trustees to resign.

    (ENews, August 20, 2018)

    In fact, as of this writing, 19 former Miss America winners have joined in calling for Carlson and Miss America’s new all-female leadership team to resign. And here we all thought men were the problem.

    Not to mention that Carlson herself led the MeToo mantra “Believe the women!”  Therefore, taking her by her word, we’re obliged to believe her accuser. Which of course means that the only right thing for Carlson to do is resign … NOW.

    Argento

    Frankly, I never found Asia Argento a compelling MeToo victim. What’s more, I found Rose McGowan far more so as the movement’s femme fatale – a role both women seemed to be actively vying for.

    Mind you, this is not to say I did not believe Argento’s claim that Harvey Weinstein raped her. It’s just that I got that politically incorrect feeling we all get when we hear a prostitute was raped.

    Then came credible reports that she was cheating on her crazy-in-love boyfriend, Parts Unknown host Anthony Bourdain … when he committed suicide. This made the grief she serialized on social media seem all the more contrived.

    That’s why this comes more as a comeuppance than a surprise:

    [I]n the months that followed her revelations about Mr. Weinstein last October, Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser: Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.

    (The New York Times, August 20, 2018)

    Sadly, nothing puts her hypocrisy and betrayal into perspective quite like giving even the predatory Weinstein just cause to call her out. Sure enough, he pounced, albeit through his pit-bull lawyer Ben Brafman:

    This development reveals a stunning level of hypocrisy. … What is perhaps most egregious, is the timing, which suggests that at the very same time Argento was working on her own secret settlement for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor, she was positioning herself at the forefront of those condemning Mr. Weinstein.

    (Variety, August 20, 2018)

    Come to think of it, it would not surprise me if her hypocrisy and betrayal (of #MeToo and her boyfriend) did not drive the notoriously depressive Bourdain to kill himself

    In any event, these developments compel me to note that, in some truly exceptional cases, women can be every bit as abusive and predatory as men.

    As it happens, I have lamented as much in such commentaries as “New Normal of Female Teachers Risking Prison to Have Sex with Students,” June 28, 2017, and “Sex Scandals? Hot Teachers Just Helping Schoolboys Think with Their Heads,” June 24, 2005 … when I still thought young boys would find these hookups more beneficial than harmful.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, August 20, 2018 at 7:24 AM

    China Using Loans to ‘Colonize’ Developing World

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’ve been writing/warning for years about China getting countries hooked on debts the way cartels get people hooked on drugs.

    I refer you to such commentaries as “China Buying Political Dominion Over the Caribbean (Latin America and Africa)!” February 22, 2005, “China Putting Squeeze on The Bahamas. Your Country Could Be Next,” October 22, 2010, “South Africa Joins Ranks of Countries ‘Selling Its Sovereignty to China’,” October 3, 2014, and “China Buying the Global Influence Russia and US Fighting For…,” October 16, 2016.

    Perhaps most instructive, though, is this excerpt from “Countries Queuing Up to Become as Indebted to China as US,” September 15, 2011:

    ___________________

    The Chinese can be forgiven for thinking that even President Obama would heed their extraterritorial directive against meeting with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. And they were undoubtedly emboldened last year when Obama appeared to do just that. Specifically, he snubbed the Dalai Lama on the eve of his (Obama’s) first state visit to China.

    But the day of reckoning on this directive for Obama, as well as the Chinese, is drawing nigh. For, when the White House announced yesterday that Obama intends to welcome the Dalai Lama later this month, the Chinese reacted variously like an angry parent disciplining a willful child and a loan shark dealing with a delinquent debtor.

    I applaud Obama for calling China’s bluff. Not least because any real attempt to squeeze the US financially would amount to an unprecedented case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. After all, the US market is even more indispensable to China’s economic growth than China’s credit is to the US’s…

    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. Because, if China can spit such imperious and vindictive fire at the rich and mighty United States over a relatively insignificant matter like meeting the Dalai Lama, just imagine what it would do to a poor and weak country in a conflict over a truly significant matter. …

    In point of fact here, in part, is how I admonished countries in the Caribbean and Latin America in this respect six years ago:

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

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

    (“China buying up political dominion in the Caribbean,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 22, 2005)

    ___________________

    I shared that because it explains this:

    China is ‘colonising’ smaller countries by lending them massive amounts of money they can never repay, it’s been claimed. …

    Some are calling it ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ or ‘debt colonialism’ – offering enticing loans to countries unable to repay, and then demanding concessions when they default. …

    Last March ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Beijing encouraged ‘dependency using opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty’.

    (The Sun, August 17, 2018)

    This report focused on the squeeze China is putting on Sri Lanka and Djibouti, forcing them to cede control of deep water ports to help it “expand its military footprint.”

    But it’s only matter of time before similar reports will be written about China doing the same to other indebted nations. This is bound to be the case throughout the Caribbean and Latin America and across Africa and Eurasia, particularly with countries linked to its famous “Belt and Road Initiative“.

    The so-called ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) aims to improve trading and transport links between China and the world, mostly through infrastructure investments. It promises to revive the fortunes of ex-Soviet states.

    So far China is estimated to have underwritten over $900bn of loans — some on concessionary terms, many on commercial terms — in 71 countries, ranging from Poland to Pakistan.

    (The Economist, April 19, 2018)

    There’s no denying, though, that loaning billions for infrastructure development is a far more effective and sensible way to win friends and influence countries. And China has been able to do so because it spends relatively little on its military, which I hailed it for doing in “Smart China Spending Less on Military; Stupid US Spending More,” March 6, 2017.

    No doubt it was instructive that the United States and Russia spent trillions on armaments to win friends and influence countries throughout the developing world during the Cold War (1947-1991). Yet they have little to show for all that money today.

    Meanwhile, China is not only buying up political influence while grooming military allies; it is also creating captive markets for its goods, which combined could, in due course, dwarf the US market it’s so dependent on today. #GrandStrategy!

    But countries throughout the developing world should expect China to be even more aggressive in its attempt to get them hooked on debts. This, because countries in the developed world have finally realized that China’s acquisition of technology companies is undermining their national security.

    According to a Bloomberg report today, they are now making it difficult for China to acquire “even minority and passive investments in three areas: critical technology, infrastructure, and businesses that handle personal data.”

    Related commentaries:
    China tightening noose around Taiwan
    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
    Smart China

  • Sunday, August 19, 2018 at 8:57 AM

    Mr. President, Stop Tweeting and Testify!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type “RAT.” But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide……

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 4:01 AM – 19 Aug 2018

    It’s self-evident that consciousness of guilt has Trump staying up all night fretting about the Mueller investigation.

    In fact, Trump has become so Unhinged that he’s blasting reports as fake while proving they are true in the same tweet. But here’s the damning question:

    If he’s so proud of allowing everyone in the White House to testify, why has he spent the past year raising one fake obstacle after another to avoid testifying himself? #Coward!

    Not to mention that, as White House coun(s)el as opposed to Trump’s lawyer, McGahn had little choice but to testify. Of course, like his habit of projecting onto others faults and shortcomings that inhere in himself, Trump has a habit of taking credit for doing things he did not do.

    This is why you literally cannot believe a word this president says or tweets. And that holds doubly so for his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani — a man who has betrayed his reputation as America’s mayor for the Faustian glory of spinning Trump’s lies and defending his obstruction.

    For example, he insists he won’t allow Trump to testify because Mueller is just trying to lure him into a perjury trap. Giuliani has become so prone to Orwellian doublespeak that the incriminating irony inherent in this seems completely lost on him.

    Previews of today’s edition of Meet the Press show him throwing this doublespeak into comic relief. Specifically, when host Chuck Todd presses him to explain how telling the truth could possibly subject Trump to a perjury trap, Giuliani exclaims:

    [Because] truth isn’t truth.

    Nothing to hide? #Testify! #ReleaseTaxReturns!

    The prosecution rests.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, August 18, 2018 at 7:37 AM

    ‘Omarosa’s a dog,’ yelped Putin’s poodle…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 8:22 PM

    #TakeMineToo

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

    Dear Mr. President:

    Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.

    Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.

    Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.

    A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.

    Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.

    If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.

    (Courtesy of The Washington Post)

  • Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 11:22 AM

    Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, Is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Billy Graham was hailed as the pastor to presidents of the United States. In a similar vein, Aretha Franklin could be hailed as the singer for presidents, singing as she did at the inauguration of more presidents (namely Carter, Clinton, and Obama) than any other performer in US history.

    Not to mention the respect the nation showed by selecting her to sing at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Even George W. Bush recognized her unique and pioneering role by awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2005. Notable among her many achievements is the fact that she was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

    I love her voice and enjoy singing along with her songs. Yet I confess, I never saw her perform live.

    She threw this missed opportunity of a lifetime into tearful relief on December 6, 2015, when she performed “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” for the Obamas and songwriter Carole King at the Kennedy Center Honors. Because she gave me goosebumps as I watched her performance weeks later on TV. But I felt profound envy when I saw her bring President Obama to tears as he watched her performance live.

    The Queen of Soul, as she was coronated in the 1960s, leaves a sprawling legacy of classic songs that includes “Respect,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “Baby I Love You,” “Angel,” “Think,” “Rock Steady,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Freeway of Love,” along with a bestselling gospel catalog.

    Her death follows several years of painstakingly concealed medical issues, which led to regular show cancellations and extended absences from the public eye.

    (USA Today, August 16, 2018)

    Despite the Obama envy I shared above, I am not one for the self-adulating sentiments/platitudes that always flow when famous people die. But all media will be awash in it; that is, until the next shiny object from Trump’s Twitter, Omarosa’s book/tapes, or Mueller’s investigation relegates Aretha to the viral dustbin.

    In any event, I shall end this modest tribute by noting how fitting it is that Aretha died on the day Madonna is celebrating her 60th birthday. After all, no two performers personified the triumph of gimmick over talent in the music industry more than Madonna and Aretha, respectively.

    Franklin died of pancreatic cancer this morning at her home in Detroit. She was 76.

    Farewell, Aretha.

    Related treat:
    Aretha at Kennedy Center

  • Thursday, August 16, 2018 at 8:04 AM

    Defending Freedom of the Press

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Nearly 350 news organizations are set to publish editorials on Thursday pushing back against Donald Trump’s attacks on the media and defending freedom of the press.

    The publications are participating in a push organized by the Boston Globe to run coordinated editorials denouncing what the paper called a ‘dirty war against the free press’.

    (The Guardian US, August 15, 2018)

    It occurred to me that I can do my small part by sharing this excerpt from “A Free Press Needs You” – The New York Times’s contribution to this coordinated push back:

    ____________________

    As the founders believed from their own experience, a well-informed public is best equipped to root out corruption and, over the long haul, promote liberty and justice.

    ‘Public discussion is a political duty,’ the Supreme Court said in 1964. That discussion must be ‘uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,’ and ‘may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.’

    In 2018, some of the most damaging attacks are coming from government officials. Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don’t like are ‘fake news’ is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the ‘enemy of the people’ is dangerous, period.

    These attacks on the press are particularly threatening to journalists in nations with a less secure rule of law and to smaller publications in the United States, already buffeted by the industry’s economic crisis. And yet the journalists at those papers continue to do the hard work of asking questions and telling the stories that you otherwise wouldn’t hear. Consider The San Luis Obispo Tribune, which wrote about the death of a jail inmate who was restrained for 46 hours. The account forced the county to change how it treats mentally ill prisoners.

    Answering a call last week from The Boston Globe, The Times is joining hundreds of newspapers, from large metro-area dailies to small local weeklies, to remind readers of the value of America’s free press. …

    We’re all in this together.

    ____________________

    You can do your small part by expanding your consumption of news and current events beyond screaming, click-bait headlines on social media. Take a few minutes to read reports and commentaries from a variety of sources. And do not hesitate to check people when you hear them parroting the blatant lies and misleading statements President Trump and his enablers inject into the bloodstream of public debate every day.

  • Wednesday, August 15, 2018 at 7:53 AM

    Confirmation! ‘Pedophile Priest’ Is Redundant

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Lately I am finding that I’ve already written all I care to on many topics. Chief among them is the cardinal crime of child sexual abuse (as well as the brazen hypocrisy of homosexual indulgences) in the Catholic Church.

    I cite in this regard such commentaries as “Pope Accused of Harboring Pedophile Priest,” March 16, 2010, “Justice Begins for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church…,” June 23, 2012, “Pope Confesses: There’s a Gay Cabal in the Vatican,” June 13, 2013 (which vindicated perverse symmetries I’d been making between Vatican City and the biblical city of Sodom and Gomorrah), and “Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Pope’s Adviser Damns Papacy,” June 29, 2017.

    I share that to explain why I’m giving this latest development short shrift, despite its damning nature:

    More than 1,000 children — and possibly many more — were molested by hundreds of Roman Catholic priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses, while senior church officials took steps to cover it up, according to a landmark grand jury report released Tuesday.

    The grand jury said it believes the ‘real number’ of abused children might be ‘in the thousands’ since some records were lost and victims were afraid to come forward. The report said more than 300 clergy committed the abuse over a period of decades.

    (The Associated Press, August 14, 2018)

    It’s important to stress that this report indicts clergy who abused children in only six of Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses. Because there are 145 dioceses in the United States. And I would bet my disillusioned soul that similar reports would indict as many clergy in every one of them.

    What’s more, Ireland and Chile are grappling with similar revelations. And I suspect men who travel to places like the Philippines and Thailand as tourists for pedophile sex have nothing on priests who travel there as Catholic missionaries … for the same thing, hence the inherent redundancy of pedophile priest.

    This is why the shocking truth is that the real number of abused children must be in the millions. And this charge on the heavenly scroll accounts only for abuses in the United States.

    Think about that …

    Meanwhile, I cannot look at any Catholic priest without suspecting that he is either a predatory pedophile or a closet homosexual. What’s more, I cannot help thinking that popes and bishops have countenanced or enabled the sexual abuse of children because they were/are either predatory pedophiles or closet homosexuals themselves.

    Only this explains the religious way church leaders have covered up the sexual predation and indulgences of priests … since time immemorial. And it is self-evident that no secular sanction (whether imprisoning priests or fining the Church) will exorcise these demons from this Body of Christ.

    Frankly, despite their moral protestations, the pope and other leaders must deem pedophilia and homosexuality time-honored rites of communion.  Alas, the fallacy of celibacy is surpassed in its deceitfulness only by words that proceed from the mouths of Catholic priests.

    Moreover, these putative men of God cannot believe God exists. They must reason that, if he did, he would have stopped priests from systematically abusing children long ago. After all, what God would allow this criminal sex cult (which smacks of a fusion between Nxivm and the Church of Scientology) to flourish as a holy church in his name.

    Think about that …

    Incidentally, prosecutors made quite a show of presenting this grand jury report. But legal technicalities (statutes of limitation) bar them from prosecuting all but two of these priests for raping thousands of boys (and a few girls).

    By interesting contrast, those same statutes of limitation also barred these same prosecutors from prosecuting Pennsylvanian Bill Cosby for raping tens of women. Except that, in one case, they were not barred.

    That is why, when he’s sentenced next month, Cosby will be spending the rest of his life in prison, and then an eternity in Hell – where he’ll rendezvous with all predatory priests who got off scot-free.

    Related commentaries:
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    Justice begins
    Pope confesses
    scandal damns papacy
    Bill Cosby

  • Tuesday, August 14, 2018 at 7:41 AM

    The Oscars Cutting Fat to Attract Viewers

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have been shunning the Academy Awards telecast for years. Here in part is why:

    I’m on record stating how much I dislike the annual Academy Awards show (the Oscars). Because I have little regard for preening, pampered poseurs showing off their borrowed frocks and bling-bling as a prelude to a [nearly four-hour] show — only six minutes of which anyone really cares about (i.e., the time it takes to present Oscars for actor and actress in a leading role, actor and actress in a supporting role, best director, and best picture). …

    And, remarkably enough, the host comedians do little to relieve the boredom of the interludes between these carefully spread-out moments.

    (“My Review of the 2008 Oscars,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 25, 2008)

    This is why I was somewhat heartened last week when the Academy announced plans to speed up the Oscars. Never mind that those plans will do nothing to make it more entertaining.

    To address the concerns of those who find the show to be too long and boring (thanks largely to the current existence of 24 competitive awards, of which the general public only cares about a few) … the board has ‘committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours.’ … This will be achieved partly by ‘present[ing] select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined).’

    (The Hollywood Reporter, August 8, 2018)

    Except that this is woefully belated and still inadequate. After all, even a commitment to cut the telecast to three hours will still leave it twice as long as it should be.

    Frankly, the Academy should know better than to think its telecast can hold viewers’ attention longer than Hollywood blockbusters like The Expendables, Avengers: Infinity War, and Black Panther, which average 2.5 hours.

    Apropos of which, it also announced a new category for “Outstanding Popular Film,” purportedly to end its institutional prejudice against blockbusters. This would be in addition to the traditional, and presumably more meritorious, category for Best Picture.

    Hit movies rarely go on to become Oscar best picture winners, reflecting a difference in taste between moviegoers and film industry professionals. In the past 30 years, only four movies were named best picture while topping box office charts [namely The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Titanic (1997), Forrest Gump (1994), and Rain Man (1988)].

    (The New York Times, March 4, 2018)

    But the Academy is clearly banking on this new category luring people who love blockbusters to watch the Oscars. Which, I suppose, is rather like Major League Baseball finally admitting blacks – even as it continued to treat them like second-class citizens.

    Unsurprisingly, Academy traditionalists are panning this change as pandering to mob interests, while blockbuster producers are panning it as awarding a consolation prize. I couldn’t care less either way. I still won’t be watching.

    On the other hand, one can hardly blame action-movie stars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, and Chris Hemsworth for celebrating. Because, without this “special” category, their movies would not have a snowball’s chance in Hell of ever winning an Oscar. This, despite the notable exception of movies like Rocky and Gladiator. Now if only the Academy would create a new category for “Outstanding Popular Actor/Actress” … too.

    In any event, just as admitting blacks got more sports fans to watch Baseball, these changes should get more movie buffs to watch the Oscars; and that’s the ticket!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Sunday, August 12, 2018 at 11:39 AM

    Aping Zimbabwe, South Africa Expropriating White Farms to Give to Blacks

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Corruption, incompetence, lawlessness, and the spectre of racial retribution are driving South Africa into the same dysfunctional shit hole where Zimbabwe has been festering for the past 30 years.

    I have lamented this fateful symmetry in many commentaries, most notably in “South Africa ‘Betraying Its Values’,” May 13, 2011, “Zuma Doing to South Africa What Mugabe Did to Zimbabwe,” December 12, 2015, and “South Africa Replaces Corrupt Zuma with Captured Ramaphosa,” February 16, 2018.

    More to the point, though, I have continually warned it would be thus – as the following excerpts attest:

    ____________________

    • From “Zimbabweans Pray for Liberation from Their Liberator – Robert Mugabe,” May 29, 2005:

    To the relief and exultation of restive blacks, Mugabe announced sweeping land reforms in which his government would seize the ‘farms of white colonialists to give to landless peasants and the veterans of the war of liberation’. Unfortunately, like his independence blueprint for black empowerment, Mugabe’s land reforms have been an abject failure:

    Five years ago, there were 4000 white-owned farms in Zimbabwe; today, there are only 400 (mostly unproductive) farms left. Five years ago, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of sub-Saharan Africa; today, it is a basket case of starving people. …

    Instead of seizing white farms, it would have made far more sense to impose (price and production) controls on them pursuant to the national interest. White farmers would have complied. What’s more, Mugabe could have spun this as a form of nationalization consistent with his plan for black empowerment.

    • From “Zuma Issues Fatwa against Cartoonist Zapiro,” December 22, 2008:

    Rabble-rousing trade unionists and unreformed communists have turned the ANC from a governing coalition into a band of rebels. Therefore, Zuma enlisting them to intimidate a political cartoonist should serve as a dire warning of what South Africa will become under his leadership.

    • From “Julius Malema: President Jacob Zuma’s Mini-Me,” August 18, 2011:

    [T]he country Mandela liberated is becoming just another dysfunctional African kleptocracy under Zuma’s rule. Which, alas, is dashing great expectations that it would become the Dark Continent’s beacon of democracy, economic development, and black empowerment. …

    Misguided blacks who took out their subsistence frustrations on white farmers in South Africa were incited to do so by the many misguided blacks who did the same in neighboring Zimbabwe … pursuant to official government policy.

    • From “Massacre at South Africa’s Lonmin Marikana Mine,” August 17, 2012:

    It’s hardly surprising … that these poor, uneducated South Africans have now resorted to rabble-rousing tactics to get better wages and other benefits: President Zuma himself led them to believe that these are the least to which they were entitled from day one of his presidency. But we have seen the inevitable consequences of his brand of mindless populism play out (in the extreme) in Zimbabwe. …

    Zuma’s rhetoric led thousands of poor black miners to believe they were entitled to strike and use similar tribal weapons/tools to extract more than a doubling of their wages from rich white mine owners and their token black shareholders, most notably Cyril Ramaphosa. …

    The analogy to Zimbabwe is instructive. Because just as that country was a thriving producer of farm products before similar strife turned it into a basket case, South Africa is now risking its status as the world’s leading producer of platinum being irreparably harmed.

    • And from “Wither South Africa,” April 10, 2017:

    [South Africa] is in the death throes of becoming a Zimbabwean mess. …

    Having robbed the treasury, wrecked the economy, and scandalized the people, South Africa’s rapacious leaders are now setting their sights on the last repast of all pseudo nationalists: white-owned land. …

    South Africa is on an inexorable descent into the heart of darkness.

    ____________________

    As it happened, some of my South African friends led the chorus of those who dismissed my warnings with resolute indignation, so much so that I often felt like a latter-day Cassandra. But this latest, vindicating instance of South Africa aping Zimbabwe should finally convince even my indignant friends of their validity:

    The ANC has targeted 139 selected farms that they plan to expropriate without compensation in the coming weeks as it moves to make good on its commitment to test out section 25 of the Constitution.

    The governing party emerged from a two-day lekgotla of its highest decision-making body, the national executive committee (NEC), with the resolve to make an amendment to the constitution which will explicitly allow for the conditional expropriation of land without compensation.

    (SA City News, August 5, 2018)

    Frankly, this is stupefying. After all, everyone knows this kind of racially motivated land reform was the tipping point for Zimbabwe’s economic death spiral.

    Mind you, when Ramaphosa replaced (ousted) Zuma as president in February, this collectivist pandering was the last thing anyone expected. After all, as indicated above, Ramaphosa was/is the poster boy for the few black South Africans who amassed unimagined fortunes by cultivating business ties with the country’s white capitalist elites.

    Those ties were plainly opportunistic. Yet they raised great expectations, at home and abroad, that under his leadership South Africa would emulate countries like Switzerland, not ape those like Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, Zuma’s kakistocratic government planted seeds of distress and restiveness in so many blacks that Ramaphosa seems resigned to just harvest their grievances.

    As in Zimbabwe, dispossessed blacks compose the vast majority of the electorate in South Africa. Moreover, as it was with Mugabe’s land grab, the only thing that explains Ramaphosa’s is his wish to appease those blacks whose votes he needs to consolidate his power – the welfare of the country be damned.

    In addition to dispossessing white farmers, he clearly hopes to uproot the growing influence of Julius Malema’s far-left party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which has made expropriating land without compensation its clarion call. Ramaphosa is banking on this pilfered policy to help him win his own electoral mandate in national elections next year.

    Meanwhile:

    South Africa’s unemployment rate has …. been ranked as the worst in the world in a new global competitiveness report. It is rated number 9 of the world’s 20 unemployed rated countries, and the unemployment rate for women sits at 29 percent and 24.8 percent for men.

    (HuffPost ZA, June 6, 2018)

    This, compounded by an epidemic of graft and violence, is what nearly 25 years of black rule has wrought. And Ramaphosa seems hell-bent on making matters worse.

    Incidentally, apropos of South Africa serving as that continental beacon, huddled masses of poor, oppressed Africans are fleeing north to mother Europe instead of south to this Cape of [Lost] Hope:

    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)

    It speaks volumes in this respect that Zimbabweans – who fled the frying pan their country was – have returned home in droves to escape the fire South Africa has become:

    The events unfolding there today are as ironic as they are disappointing. Because, in recent weeks, the deadly violence black South Africans have perpetrated against black foreigners rivals the violence white South Africans perpetrated against blacks during Apartheid.

    In fact, just imagine a prevailing state of fear that would force a Zimbabwean – who (along with 3 million others) immigrated to South Africa to escape starvation, poverty, and political oppression – to return to Zimbabwe because he would rather die in his homeland than in South Africa.

    (“In South Africa, Xenophobic Blacks Prove Almost as Deadly as Apartheid Whites,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 23, 2008)

    But white South Africans are now escaping too:

    So popular is Australia as an ­escape route for white South Africans that the phrase ‘Packing for Perth’ or just ‘PFP’ has become a common term for those planning to flee. …

    Fuelled by economic inequality and racial tensions, the worst of the violence has spread from the major cities to rural areas, where white farmers are the primary targets of gangs who commit murder, rape, torture and robbery.

    (The Australian, April 16, 2018)

    I should clarify that white farmers are not as indispensable to South Africa as they were/are to Zimbabwe. Therefore, I do not expect to be writing about South Africans as I did about Zimbabweans in “Zimbabwe’s Black Farmers Cry: Bring Back White Farmers,” September 16, 2015.

    Instead, South Africa’s white flight might cause me to write about it as I did about Venezuela in commentaries like “Venezuela’s Death Spiral of Recession, Protest, and Repression,” April 24, 2017, and “Chávez Chavismo: More Robbing Hoodlum than Robin Hood,” August 12, 2015.

    Indeed, as the Financial Mail asked in an August 9 editorial:

    Why does Ramaphosa, a respected businessman, enthusiastically support a proposal that he knows could be ruinous to property values, investor confidence and food security?

    Alas, as indicated above, the only answer is Ramaphosa’s desire for power. But, ultimately, I fear Israeli diplomat Abba Eban said it best in the Jerusalem Post on November 18, 2002. Because here is what he said about Arabs, which can probably be said about Africans too:

    [They] never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

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  • Friday, August 3, 2018 at 7:27 AM

    Congress Recess

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Which makes one wonder why so many are so eager to join Washington’s do-nothing Congress.

    But I trust you will appreciate why these cartoons inspired me to write this derivative take on T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land: The Burial of the Dead”:

    AUGUST is the slowest month, leaving

    Cities like concrete deserts, granting

    Vacation and purgation, filling

    Frayed brains with new schemes.

  • Thursday, August 2, 2018 at 12:26 PM

    MAGA: Cutting Airport Screenings while Cutting (more) Taxes (for the Rich)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Reports are that the Trump administration plans to cut post-9/11 screening at airports across the country:

    The Transportation Security Administration is considering eliminating passenger screening at more than 150 small and medium-sized airports across the US. …

    The internal documents from June and July suggest the move could save $115 million annually, money that could be used to bolster security at larger airports.

    (CNN, August 1, 2018)

    Talk about cutting off nose to spite face! I mean, this really is as stupid (heartless and reckless) as saying we don’t care if terrorists blow up a bunch of small planes, so long as they don’t blow up any big ones.

    Even worse, though, that is coming on the heels of this consideration:

    The Trump administration is considering a change to tax deduction rules that analysts say would amount to a $100 billion capital gains tax cut for the wealthy.

    ‘The top one percent of tax units would receive more than 86 percent of the tax cut, and that after tax-incomes would increase most for the top 0.1 percent.’

    (USA Today, July 31, 2018)

    So, on the one hand, Trump wants to take millions from measures that ensure security for the common folk. But on the other hand, he wants to give billions in tax breaks to the super-rich (who fly around on private jets and do not depend on airport screenings).

    This perverse juxtaposition epitomizes what MAGA means to Trump. But I warned you: “Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker!” April 8, 2011.

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