• Monday, October 23, 2017 at 8:14 AM

    Hamilton’s US Win (Practically) Guarantees F1 World Championship

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Lewis Hamilton passed title rival Sebastian Vettel to take a dominant victory in the United States Grand Prix but will have to wait at least one more race to win his fourth world championship.

    The Mercedes driver is 66 points clear of Vettel, who finished second, with only 75 still available in the remaining three races.

    It means Hamilton is almost certain to clinch the title at the Mexican Grand Prix next weekend.

    (BBC, October 22, 2017)

    I know. Nobody in America cares about Formula One (F1) racing. Here, sports like Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey, and even NASCAR are far more popular. Indeed, I imagine this is rather like raving about Curling at the Olympics. There, sports like Swimming, Track and Field, Gymnastics, Soccer, and many others are far more popular.

    This is why sports programs gave F1’s only race here nothing more than a honorable mention. That race played out in Austin, Texas, yesterday. But even featuring former president Bill Clinton and former Olympic champion Usain Bolt as mascots did little to increase media interest.

    Nonetheless, the following excerpt should explain (1) why F1 is worthy of your sporting interest, and (2) why Lewis Hamilton is worthy of the kind of fan worship Tiger Woods used to get in his heyday. It’s from “Hamilton Becomes the Youngest Ever and First Black F1 Champion,” November 3, 2008.

    ________________

    If you don’t know Formula One from Formula 409, please take note:

    F1 car racing is a sport that requires the steady hands of a surgeon, the daring skill of a jet fighter, and the physical stamina of a marathon runner. Moreover, no sport can match the sustained thrill and nail-biting suspense one gets from watching those drivers navigate the zigs, zags, and hairpin-turns of a Grand-Prix racetrack as they jockey for position at speeds exceeding 200 mph! …

    Naturally, given the uncanny similarities in racial background and precocious talent between Hamilton and Tiger Woods, the barons of Hamilton’s sport are banking he’ll do for F1 what Woods has done for golf.

    _________________

    Incidentally, to win a championship, drivers compete in a series of 20 races on Grand-Prix circuits around the world. Competition begins in Australia in March and ends in Abu Dhabi in November – with stops in places like China, Russia, and Monaco in between.

    The winner of each race gets 25 points, second gets 18, third gets 15, and so on. The driver who ends up with the most points after the last race in the series wins the championship.

    That said, the analogy to Tiger Woods begs clarification. As it happens, I provided it two years ago:

    The spectacular downward spiral Tiger’s career took [in 2009], just one year after I wrote this, makes the analogy to him a little unfortunate in hindsight.

    I’m sure Tiger never imagined that booty hunting in his private life could haunt his professional life the way it has. Therefore, I hope Lewis learns this lesson, especially given the way he flaunts his pursuits in this respect. Indeed, that he’s so often featured as a front-row gawker at Victoria’s Secret and other fashion shows does not bode well.

    But there’s no gainsaying today that the only driver who can stop him from rewriting the records books in F1, as Tiger was supposed to do in Golf, is Lewis himself.

    (“Lewis Hamilton, F1 Champion … Again,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 26, 2015)

    With that, here’s to Hamilton doing what Woods no longer has a prayer of doing: becoming the most accomplished athlete in the history of his sport.

    Woods is trying to eclipse Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships. But he has been bogeying (on and off the course) ever since he won his 14th in 2008.

    Hamilton is trying to eclipse Michael Schumacher’s record of 7 F1 championships. But he had better pick up his pace. After all, it has taken him 10 years to get halfway there with his 4th. And, at 32, he’s unlikely to race at the top of his sport for another 10 years.

    Not that the barons of F1 are complaining, mind you. After all, they have already milked Hamilton for more cash than they ever imagined in their wildest dreams, much as the barons of Golf milked (and are still milking) Woods, their cash cow.

    Congratulations (and good luck), Lewis!

    Related commentaries:
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  • Sunday, October 22, 2017 at 10:14 AM

    A very British take on Brexit negotiations…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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  • Friday, October 20, 2017 at 8:21 PM

    First NSA McMaster, Now Chief of Staff Kelly Spicers Himself for Trump

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And, with all due respect to Kelly, I was stunned.

    To White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the conversation between the president of the United States and the spouse of a fallen soldier is ‘sacred’ …

    President Trump has been on the receiving end of significant criticism after Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) said he told a pregnant widow that her husband who was killed in an ambush in Niger knew what he signed up for. Trump denies he said those words, which the lawmaker called insensitive, to Myeshia Johnson.

    Kelly said Thursday during the White House news briefing that he was shocked that Wilson was even a part of the conversation.

    (Washington Post, October 20, 2017)

    Trump’s presidency to date has been defined by a series of sideshows (a.k.a. media focus on “shiny objects”). And he has been both creator and ringmaster of each one.

    He created this latest sideshow to distract from his Benghazi-like debacle in Niger. It began when a reporter asked why he failed for two weeks to call the loved ones of the four US soldiers killed in that ambush.

    As he always does, Trump deflected blame. He claimed that, unlike Obama, he at least makes a point of always calling the Gold Star families of fallen soldiers. Unsurprisingly, this was just another bald-faced lie.

    As the Washington Post and Associated Press have found in extensive reports on Trump’s calls to Gold Star families since taking office, a number of parents and spouses say they have yet to receive calls from the commander-in-chief. …

    At a Monday press conference, he said former President Barack Obama and fellow predecessors did not call the families of soldiers killed in the line of duty. …

    It was a false claim that was met with scorn from former Obama administration aides, and Trump backed off the claim slightly when pressed further by reporters.

    (Business Insider, October 20, 2017)

    But enough about Trump because the real star of this sideshow happens to be the scene-stealing Kelly.

    Incidentally, you’ve probably heard politicians and pundits alike bemoaning the unseemliness of talking about this sensitive topic. Yet they keep talking about it. I hope you find this as patently contrived as I do.

    That said, Kelly entered stage right at the White House yesterday to condemn Congresswoman Wilson and defend his boss:

    I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and brokenhearted, at what I saw a member of Congress doing. …

    He knew what he was getting himself into, because he enlisted — there was no reason to enlist, he enlisted. …

    It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation.

    (Reuters, October 19, 2017)

    For starters, I have been “stunned” at the willingness of so many people to betray their values and sacrifice their integrity for the sake of Donald Trump. I coined the verb “to spicer” to explain this phenomenon. I trust allusion is obvious.

    It began during the presidential campaign with the Evangelical Christians who now compose his base. But establishment Republicans and members of his Cabinet have been equally eager to kneel at the altar of his ambition. For example:

    I watched in shock and dismay last year as family-values Republicans tried to convince us that there was nothing hypocritical in standing by their man. This, despite Trump being exposed, time and again, as a profane, lying, narcissistic, pussy-grabbing misogynist.

    I watched in shock and dismay last January as White House spokesman Sean Spicer tried to convince us that the size of the crowd was bigger at Trump’s inauguration than Obama’s. This, despite pictures plainly showing the opposite.

    I watched in shock and dismay last May as national security adviser H.R. McMaster tried to convince us that it was “no big deal” that Trump shared “highly classified information” with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. This, despite ongoing investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election.

    And I watched in shock and dismay yesterday as chief of staff John Kelly tried to convince us that we should be more disgusted at Congresswoman Wilson than Trump. This, despite the fact that Wilson was merely defending Myeshia Johnson, the grieving widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, after Trump’s condolence call compounded her emotional distress. Not to mention that the only reason Wilson spoke out is that Mrs. Johnson, Sgt. Johnson’s mother, and other family members felt Trump seemed devoid of compassion when he finally called to convey the nation’s condolences.

    Of course, Kelly’s extraordinary performance warrants a few more points, because

    • I was stunned when Kelly dishonored his reputation as an officer and a gentleman by calling Wilson a self-aggrandizing opportunist and an “empty barrel” making the most noise. He told an elaborate story about how she took credit for congressional funding of an FBI building in 2009. But videotape from the occasion in question shows that he was lying through his teeth in a manner that only his lying boss could appreciate. An officer and a gentleman would apologize. Kelly has not. This means that only public shaming can force him to. For now, he seems happy to hide behind the skirt of White House press secretary Sarah Sanders – who warned reporters today that it’s “highly inappropriate” to question a four-star general like Kelly about his political hit jobs. #Military Junta! #Banana Republic!

    • I was stunned when Kelly did not bite his tongue. After all, his boss is the biggest self-aggrandizing opportunist and empty barrel making the most noise in the history of American politics.
    • I was stunned when Kelly intoned that it was inappropriate for Wilson to listen in on the conversation between Trump and Mrs. Johnson. He was listening in, but he accused her of violating a sacred trust. Except that it’s arguable that he did. After all, Mrs. Johnson put Trump on speaker and allowed Wilson to listen in because Wilson practically raised Sgt. Johnson as his surrogate mother. On the other hand, this was not a conversation between Trump and another head of state or a member of Congress, which would have made Kelly listening in more understandable.
    • I was stunned when Kelly suggested that Mrs. Johnson should have been comforted by Trump using the same words Kelly’s best friend and fellow four-star general used to notify him of the loss of his son. He seemed unconcerned that, by invoking his own personal tragedy, he was making a mockery of the generally held view that he was too dignified to politicize the death of his son.

    • I was stunned when Kelly ended his press conference without even acknowledging the obvious emotional distress Trump’s call caused this Gold Star family. Evidently, he was strictly executing a direct order to clean up Trump’s mess. But the only honorable way to do this was to urge the president to call back to clarify and make amends. Frankly, nothing damns Kelly’s performance quite like this: The New York Times published the full transcript of his remarks, which amounted to 2,877 words. Yet you will not find among them a single utterance of the name of this fallen soldier or that of his grieving widow. The congresswoman shared that Mrs. Johnson was particularly aggrieved that Trump didn’t know her husband’s name. Because he kept referring to Sgt. La David Johnson as “your guy ” during his condolence call. But Mrs. Johnson could be forgiven for thinking that Kelly, a fellow Gold Star survivor, didn’t know his name either … let alone hers.
    • I was stunned when Kelly lamented the honky-dory days of his 1950s childhood. He claimed that men treated women as sacred back then. Except that men treated most women as little more than Stepford wives back then. What’s more, many of his own female contemporaries would tell him that they thank God for the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
    • I was stunned when Kelly chastised politicians for dragging Gold Star families into their partisan spats. After all, nobody did this with more unbridled relish than when Trump bullied and demeaned the Gold Star family of Humayun Khan.
    • I was stunned when Kelly damned the culture of sexual harassment that led to Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace. After all, nobody has contributed more to that culture than the president he took center stage to defend.

    I could go on, but you get the point. Therefore, I’ll end with this:

    To preserve what little remains of their reputation, the media would do well to stop hailing Kelly as the white knight of Trump’s wholly bankrupt administration. Likewise, to preserve what little remains of his reputation, Kelly would do well to think long and hard before attempting to clean up another of Trump’s messes. For it’s only a matter of time before Trump discards him the way he has discarded Spicer and so many others.

    Johnson, the one left behind

    As the above shows, the death of this black soldier led a white “four-star” general to malign a black congresswoman in defense of a white president. Given that, I’d be remiss not to share this:

    Sgt. Johnson was the only one of the four Americans killed who was left behind after this ambush. I submit that the reason for this is that he was black and the other three were white.

    Now it might be that, in the fog of battle, their French and American rescuers thought he was just one of the 50 ISIS fighters Johnson’s 12-member team killed. But it speaks volumes that it took black soldiers from Niger to identify him as an American soldier and return him to his base two days after this battle.

    Johnson’s fellow Green Berets have some ‘splainin’ to do, especially given how they proudly claim they never leave any soldier behind.

    Related commentaries:
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    * This commentary was originally published last night, Friday, at 8:21

  • Friday, October 20, 2017 at 7:18 AM

    Trump More Mussolini than Hitler: ‘Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is now conventional wisdom that “Donald Trump is like Adolf Hitler.” The Washington Examiner crystallized this in a report on December 28, 2016, under the headline “Seven times the media compared Trump to Hitler.”

    But the Washington Post gave this meme über credibility when it published an editorial on February 29, 2016, under the headline “Voters shouldn’t reward Trump’s assault on democracy.” That editorial included the following to support its admonition:

    You don’t have to go back to history’s most famous example, Adolf Hitler, to understand that authoritarian rulers can achieve power through the ballot box. …

    It is not hateful to wonder whether terrorists might smuggle themselves into this country disguised as Syrian refugees. … But Mr. Trump is pandering to those fears, not offering solutions.

    Of course, there’s no denying the comparison. After all, no less an authority than “the Adolf Hitler biographer” Ron Rosenbaum warns that the way Trump “bluffed” his way into power – by normalizing big lies – is eerily reminiscent of Hitler’s rise.

    But I have posited that a comparison with Benito Mussolini is more fitting. Not least because Vladimir Putin is the big elephant on the world stage in this context. I shared my cognitive dissonance in “Prince Charles Draws Analogies Trumpism and Nazism,” February 8, 2017.

    __________________

    It’s eminently newsworthy that this Prince of Wales is being hailed as a conscientious objector to Trumpism for saying this:

    We are now seeing the rise of many populist groups across the world that are increasingly aggressive to those who adhere to a minority faith. All of this has deeply disturbing echoes of the dark days of the 1930s. …

    My parents’ generation fought and died in a battle against intolerance, monstrous extremism and inhuman attempts to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe.

    Mind you, some of us have been saying much the same for years. But I, for one, have always predicated commentaries in this regard on this far more compelling analogy: Putin is to Hitler as Trump is to Mussolini. After all, the aggression Vladimir Putin is executing over in Europe has far deeper “echoes of the dark days of the 1930s” than the nationalist populism Donald Trump is propagating here in America.

    __________________

    This is why I derived some vindication from the following:

    Fourteen heads of state have contacted Joe Biden in an attempt to better understand the actions of the Trump administration, the former vice-president said on Tuesday, with one even comparing the US president to Mussolini.

    Speaking at an event on Tuesday alongside Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, Biden bemoaned Trump’s ‘bizarre conduct’ and claimed that one European prime minister went so far as to liken the president to ‘Il Duce’.

    (London Guardian, October 17, 2017)

    But perhaps Trump’s sexual proclivities are what make him more like the promiscuous Mussolini than the repressed Hitler. Therefore, let’s talk about sex.

    The following gives some insight into how the three men compare on this primal score.

    Hitler

    During the majority of teenage years and in his twenties, Hitler was a homosexual and had a wide-ranging string of men whose company he regularly enjoyed. …

    Hitler had also attempted to change his homosexual tendencies and become a heterosexual since he had grown tired and wary of blackmailers who knew about his dark secrets. However, he didn’t enjoy much success with in his relationships with women, and most of his heterosexual relationships weren’t even consummated.

    (War History Online, April 26, 2016)

    Mussolini

    He told his jealous lover Clara – complaining bitterly about him returning to an old flame – that the idea of sleeping with only one woman was ‘inconceivable’. ‘There was a period in which I had 14 women and I’d take three or four every evening, one after the other … that gives you an idea of my sexuality.’

    ‘Mussolini’s butler revealed that he was screwing women all the time,’ [Nicholas Farrell, author of a biography of Il Duce] said yesterday, ‘even behind [most-favored mistress] Clara Petacci’s back.’

    (London Independent, November 9, 2009)

    Trump

    Nearly a decade ago, when Trump was filming a segment for Access Hollywood with Billy Bush to promote his cameo on Days of Our Lives, the businessman and reality TV star was caught on a hot microphone talking about how he gets away with groping women.

    ‘You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them … it’s like a magnet, just kiss … I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … grab them by the pussy … anything.’

    (Washington Post, October 8, 2016)

    I rest my case.

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  • Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 7:38 AM

    No Sexual Harassment in Putin’s Russia…? Ha!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Two things explain Donald Trump’s incriminating refusal to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin:

    1. Russia’s meddling to help him win the US presidential election; and
    2. Credible reports that Putin has compromising information on his shady businesses and kinky assignations in Moscow (some of which former British spy Christopher Steele documented in lurid detail in his famous Russia dossier).

    But Trump might have a compelling reason to actually admire Putin. For Putin has normalized fake news, political ignorance, and sexual harassment in Russia in ways that must give Trump wet dreams.

    To be fair, though, Trump is doing a pretty good job of normalizing fake news and political ignorance in America. But Harvey Weinstein’s sexual-harassment scandal has triggered such a transformation of national consciousness that he faces a daunting challenge where normalizing sexual harassment is concerned.

    Never mind that Trump himself could be the poster boy for sexual harassment. I commented on his own scandal in “Donald Trump’s Growing Bill-Cosby Problem,” October 15, 2016. In fact, his record is such that pigs will fly before Miss America contestants hail him as a protector of women the way Miss Russia contestants are hailing Putin.

    Russian women have President Vladimir Putin to thank for the lack of sexual harassment incidents that are coming to light in the United States, two Miss Russia finalists say. …

    ‘I believe that these situations cannot happen in Russia, and for that we have to thank Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and his policy,’ [runner-up Ksenia] Alexandrova said.

    In January, Russian lawmakers voted nearly unanimously to decriminalize domestic violence and downgrade it to an administrative offense.

    (Moscow Times, October 13, 2017)

    For the record:

    Discrimination and violence against women are widespread. The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs says that 40 percent of violent crimes against women in Russia are committed by spouses or intimate partners, but an independent study found that the figure was actually closer to 80 percent. …

    Patriarchy is the rule, not the exception.

    (Washington Post, July 5, 2017)

    Evidently, “if he beats you, it means he loves you” is as Russian as “happy wife, happy life” is American. Not to mention that this is the same Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin who not only harassed but eventually imprisoned women for daring to criticize his authoritarian rule. I duly commented in “Putin Gives Pussy Riot the Clamp,” August 17, 2012.

    This is why the propagation of Miss Russia’s big lie about sexual harassment in Russia is as Orwellian as it gets. It reminds me of the propagation of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s big lie about the persecution of homosexuals in Iran, which includes state-sanctioned executions:

    In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I do not know who has told you we have it.

    (Slate, September 25, 2007)

    Of course, nothing defines Trump’s America quite like purveyors of big lies (a.k.a. “alternative facts”). And Trump has shown time and again that he’s the biggest purveyor of them all. But the pickle Mike Ditka got into recently is instructive.

    He coached the Chicago Bears to victory in Super Bowl XX in 1986, and hadn’t made much news since then. But that all changed last week when he voiced support for Trump’s trumped-up beef with NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem:

    All of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression. There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of.

    (Chicago Tribune, October 10, 2017)

    It hardly matters that Ditka walked back that big lie in the dog-whistling, unrepentant way Trump often does.

    The point is that Trump has displayed such ignorance and told such lies on so many issues, it’s easy to imagine him aping

    • Miss Russia by insisting that, despite his own predatory, “grab-them-by-the-pussy” scandal, there’s no sexual harassment in his America;
    • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by insisting that, despite his own directive banning transgender people from the military, there’s no persecution of LBGTQs in his America; and
    • Mike Ditka by insisting that, despite his own record of racism (see August 2017 issue of Rolling Stone), there’s no racism in his America.

    Fortunately, instead of voting to decriminalize sexual harassment, American lawmakers are more likely to vote to impeach Trump for committing it. After all, Summer Zervos is suing Trump in the same impeachable fashion Paula Jones famously sued former President Bill Clinton.

    Lawyers for one of the women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assault subpoenaed his campaign for all documents relating to her, all communications with or about her and ‘all documents concerning any woman who asserted that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.’

    This comes in the case of Summer Zervos, a former contestant on ‘The Apprentice’ who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in 2007. …

    Zervos claims Trump kissed her twice on the lips during a lunch meeting in his New York City office and on a separate occasion in Beverly Hills, she alleges he kissed her aggressively and touched her breast.

    (CNN, October 16, 2017)

    Unsurprisingly, Trump has dismissed every allegation by every accuser as “fake news” – as he did during a press conference at the White House on Monday.

    ‘Mr Trump became obsessed with calling Ms Zervos and any other woman who came forward to report his abuse liars with improper motives. … [He] is a liar and misogynist [who has] debased and denigrated Zervos with false statements about her,’ the lawsuit says.

    (The Telegraph, October 16, 2017)

    Of course, Mr. Clinton debased and denigrated his accusers in his own “slick Willie” style. But it all proved to no avail.

    Hope springs eternal …

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  • Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 10:10 AM

    Puerto Rico, Trump’s Katrina; Niger, His Benghazi

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Puerto Rico

    In an extraordinary public letter, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz begged the American public to stand by Puerto Rico as President Donald Trump openly threatens to remove federal aid workers from the still-battered island.

    ‘I ask every American that has love, and not hate in their hearts, to stand with Puerto Rico and let this President know we WILL NOT BE LEFT TO DIE,’ Cruz wrote. ‘I ask the United Nations, UNICEF and the world to stand with the people of Puerto Rico and stop the genocide that will result from the lack of appropriate action of a President that just does not get it because he has been incapable of looking in our eyes and seeing the pride that burns fiercely in our hearts and souls.

    (Vox, October 12, 2017)

    This must seem eerily reminiscent to anyone who remembers the public pleas New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

    Niger

    On Saturday October 7, the day the body of 25-year-old Army Sgt. La David Johnson was returned to Dover Air Force Base after he was [one of four] killed in an ISIS ambush in Niger, President Donald Trump was golfing. …

    But since the ambush on October 4 in Niger, he has not commented publicly on the deadliest combat incident involving US troops since he took office.

    (CNN, October 14, 2017)

    The silence of the Republicans must seem patently hypocritical to anyone who remembers their sound and fury over the four Americans who were killed in Benghazi. Their political outrage led to years of congressional investigations, costing millions of dollars, which ultimately signified nothing.

    Trump

    So where’s the f*cking outrage?!

    For the record, I skewered President George W. Bush for his mishandling of relief efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “Condi: Bush Had a Race Problem,” October 25, 2011, and other commentaries attest to this.

    I skewered President Barack H. Obama for his failure to properly address the debacle in Benghazi. “Benghazi Cover Up? IRS Targeting His Enemies? Obama Looking More Like Nixon,” May 20, 2013, and other commentaries attest to this.

    Therefore, I have standing to skewer this fat pig, President Donald J. Trump, for his mishandling of relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and for his failure to properly address the debacle in Niger.

    I trust this is just one of many ways my commentaries distinguish me from the my-party, country-be-damned hacks who spew talking points masquerading, in print and on TV, as informed and unbiased opinions.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Monday, October 16, 2017 at 7:51 AM

    Alas, Worst Bombing in Somali History Evokes Little Sympathy, Let Alone Empathy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The death toll in the bombing that hit the centre of Mogadishu on Saturday continues to rise, with more than 300 people now believed to have been killed and hundreds more seriously injured.

    The scale of the loss makes the attack, which involved a truck packed with several hundred kilograms of military-grade and homemade explosives, one of the most lethal terrorist acts anywhere in the world for many years. …

    The devastating bombing, which provoked international condemnation, will focus attention on the decade-long battle against al-Shabaab, an [al-Qaeda affiliated] Islamist group, in Somalia

    (London Guardian, October 16, 2017)

    Of course, if this happened anywhere in Europe or the United States, it would have knocked Harvey Weinstein from his trending perch – complete with scaremongering, wall-to-wall coverage. As it happened, even the cable news networks gave it little more than a perfunctory read.

    Granted, for most of you, this is rather like “Breaking News” about the worst famine in Ethiopia. You probably thought nothing could surpass the “worst” famine that led to Live Aid I in 1985. And you’d be forgiven if you exhausted what remained of your compassion for terminally plagued Africa after persistent famine led to Live Aid II in 2005.

    Still, if nothing else, this tragedy should disabuse you of any notion that Islamic Jihadists are engaged in the Huntingtonian clash of civilizations. Mind you, perennial clashes between Sunnis and Shiites have long shown that, for every Westerner they kill, these Islamists kill 1000 Muslims. The fighting that erupted yesterday between Iraqi Shiites and Iraqi Kurds for control of the oil-rich region of Kirkuk reinforces this spectacle of Muslims terrorizing Muslims.

    I have often remarked that mass bombings in Muslims countries have become as commonplace as mass shootings in the United States. And, given how “numb” we’ve become to mass shootings over here, it’s hardly surprising that we think little of bombings over there – even historic ones.

    Not to mention the reflexive resentment Somalia incites in most Americans. It stems primarily from two incidents:

    1. from 1993 when a Somali warlord handed the mighty United States its worst military defeat since Vietnam, which was dramatized in the movie Black Hawk Down; and
    2. from 2009 when Somali pirates commandeered the US containership Maersk Alabama, which was dramatized in the movie Captain Phillips.

    This is why I only ask that you juxtapose the terror Islamists incite among Westerners with occasional bombings to the terror they must incite among Muslims with daily ones. This juxtaposition will compel the kind of empathy Saturday’s bombing warrants.

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  • Monday, October 16, 2017 at 7:22 AM

    UPDATE: Trump Leading March against Iran, but Nobody’s Following

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

    [Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France said in a rare joint statement that] ‘the nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is not diverted for military purposes.’…

    ‘Destroying this agreement would, worldwide, mean that others could no longer rely on such agreements — that’s why it is a danger that goes further than Iran,’ [Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minister, said].

    (New York Times, October 13, 2017)

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

    Meanwhile, Trump has made much of his “special relationship” with French President Emanuel Macron. And Macron surely knew that nothing would stroke Trump’s infantile ego quite like inviting him as guest of honor for the annual Bastille Day parade, which takes on July 14 each year.

    Sure enough, Trump was so impressed by the military hardware on Soviet-style display, he said he wants to feature similar hardware in Washington’s annual Independence Day parade, which takes place on July 4 each year. True to form, he made clear his intent to show the world that America has more and much bigger military hardware than anyone has ever seen.

    Except that, apropos of special relationships, Margaret Thatcher never defied Ronald Reagan like this:

    France is determined to preserve the 2015 nuclear agreement in the face of a hardened US position as President Emmanuel Macron considers a potential trip to Iran. …

    Macron, who had a call Friday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, discussed with him a potential trip to Iran, which would be the first by a French leader since the 1979 revolution that toppled the Shah, according to AFP. [French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves] Le Drian will travel to Tehran over the next weeks.

    (Bloomberg, October 15, 2017)

    In fact, it’s instructive that all of Macron’s predecessors stood by all of Trump’s predecessors in refusing to travel to Cuba during the 50-year embargo. Francois Hollande became the first French president to visit there in May 2015. But that was only after President Obama normalized relations with Cuba in December 2014.

    Macron could have let his joint statement with Merkel and May speak for his opposition to Trump’s decertification. But he clearly thinks little of Trump’s de-facto title as leader of the free world.

    Only this explains Macron’s eagerness to add insult to his defiance by traveling to break bread with the leaders of Iran. After all, in announcing his decertification, Trump aped George W. Bush by condemning Iran as an unrepentant and unreformed member of the infamous axis of evil.

    Who knows, Macron might just have the “Gaul” to think he could wrest that title from Trump.

    To be fair, it might appear that Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is following Trump. But he’s actually misleading him. For this Iago of a prime minister finally has in Trump a US president stupid enough to do his bidding where the Byzantine politics of the Middle East are concerned. And top of Netanyahu’s cunning agenda is getting the United States to wipe Iran off the map, with all due respect to former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    I refer you to “Aping Mideast Dictatorships, Israel Bans Al Jazeera,” August 8, 2017, for more on Netanyahu’s Shakespearean manipulation of Trump.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump decertifying Iran nuclear deal
    Aping Mideast

  • Saturday, October 14, 2017 at 7:36 AM

    Boy Scouts admitting girls for hands-on experience in male chauvinism and sexual harassment

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    “Be Prepared!” Indeed.

  • Friday, October 13, 2017 at 8:22 AM

    Trump Decertifying Iran Nuclear Deal more MALO than MAGA

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Hardly a day goes by without Donald Trump doing or saying something to make his presidency a laughing stock.

    A recent highlight (or lowlight) had him shooting paper towels like basketballs into a crowd of cheering reporters during a photo-op stop in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. He reportedly thought this would provide a sign of hope for the millions of despairing islanders waiting for relief.

    But, frankly, only a diagnosis that places Trump somewhere on the autism spectrum explains why he thought so. After all, at that point in time, those Puerto Ricans had been living without electricity and medicine, while subsisting on rationed food and water, for two weeks – ever since Maria landed on September 20.

    Such antics, coupled with his invariably petulant tweets, moved Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to call the White House “an adult day care center.” This, just days after reports that Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state, called him “a f*cking moron.”

    But Trump occasionally does or says something that would be laughable if it were not so dangerous. The childish way he variously begs and badgers China (via Twitter) to protect the United States from North Korea comes immediately to mind.

    But nothing is more dangerous in this respect than his ongoing schoolyard spat with Kim Jong-un, the “Chucky-like” dictator of North Korea.

    Granted, there was some politically redeeming value in Kim famously calling Trump a “dotard.” The problem with their war of words is that Kim invariably backs up his belligerent threats with action. This has led to the spectacle of Trump humiliating himself by repeatedly daring Kim to threaten the United States or test launch another ballistic missile, only to have Kim call his “fire-and-fury” bluff every time – complete with a barrage of insults.

    (As it happened, so many world leaders began calling the blustering Trump’s bluff that I marveled in “Russia, Iran, and North Korea Making Trump Look Like a Chump,” March 7, 2017.)

    Sure enough, Kim upped the ante just yesterday. Specifically, he had his foreign minister launch this conventional (verbal) bomb:

    With his bellicose and insane statement at the United Nations, Trump, you can say, has lit the wick of a war against us. We need to settle the final score, only with a hail of fire, not words.

    (ITAR-TASS News Agency, October 11, 2017)

    Alas, nobody should be surprised that the notoriously thin-skinned Trump has reduced the mighty United States to this kind of combustible tit-for-tat with a tin-pot dictatorship.

    Not to mention the irony in Trump lighting this wick just weeks after boasting that, thanks to his strong and smart leadership, North Korea was finally respecting the United States. Indeed, you should bear this humiliation in mind the next time you hear him boasting about a country “respecting the United States for the first time in as long as anyone can remember. Believe me!”

    Incidentally, reports are that North Korea generates so little electricity, satellite photos show it in virtual darkness sandwiched between the bright lights of China and South Korea. This is why I’ve always wondered how North Korea developed the capacity and capability to not only build a thriving nuclear arsenal but hack everything from Sony’s unreleased pictures to US-South Korea war plans. Things that make you go hmmm, no?

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

    President Donald Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the landmark international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, a senior administration official said on Thursday, in a step that potentially could cause the 2015 accord to unravel. …

    The prospect that Washington could renege on the pact, which was signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, has worried some of the US allies that helped negotiate it.

    ‘We as Europeans, have repeated … it’s impossible to reopen the agreement. Period.’

    (Reuters, October 5, 2017)

    Never mind autism, I suspect Trump is doing this because he’s a sociopath who is (1) unable to exercise sound judgment, (2) unable to control his tweeting impulses, (3) unable to appreciate the danger inherent in his ill-advised tweets and antics, and (4) unable to appreciate the consequences of those ill-advised tweets and antics.

    He was incensed by the arguments of Secretary of State Rex ­Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others that the landmark 2015 deal, while flawed, offered stability and other benefits. He did not want to certify to Congress that the agreement remained in the vital US national security interest and that Iran was meeting its obligations. …

    ‘McMaster realized we just cannot come back here next time with a binary option [so] he put his team to work on a range of other options, including a decertification option that would involve Congress’ and would not immediately break the deal.

    (Washington Post, October 11, 2017)

    So there you have it: The leader of the free world was throwing a temper tantrum because Iran was actually complying with its part of the deal. And his advisers devised decertification as nothing more than a pacifier to calm him down.

    Except that, while Trump is sucking away to his ego’s content, he’ll be isolating the United States with respect to sanctioning Iran – much as it was with respect to embargoing Cuba, when the world left the United States as the only country imposing its long-discredited embargo.

    But at least Trump is consistent. After all, he isolated the United States from the global effort to combat climate change when he withdrew from the Paris Accord; he isolated the United States from the world’s largest trade agreement when he withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership; and he isolated the United States from the global mission to promote development, literacy, sex education, cultural preservation, clean water, and gender equality when he withdrew (just yesterday) from UNESCO.

    Trump’s my-way-or-the-highway attitude towards international relations is isolating enough. But he’s turning friends into enemies by repeatedly calling all parties to this deal with Iran “incompetent fools” (a.k.a. clinical projection). This, of course, is utterly baffling; not least because he’s expecting these same parties to join him not only in renegotiating a new deal with Iran, but in negotiating a similar deal with North Korea. Only his un-diagnosed autism explains Trump thinking that hurling insults is the best way to win friends and influence people.

    In any event, the impulsive and reckless Trump would probably torpedo any negotiation with Iran, just as he has effectively done with North Korea.

    Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid … hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2017

    And that came just days after this:

    I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man… Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017

    Having said all that, there’s no denying the dark force that is provoking nearly everything Trump does. That force, of course, is the enviable legacy of his predecessor, Barack Hussein Obama.

    In fact, nothing has defined Trump’s beleaguered presidency quite like his unabashed efforts to nullify or undermine Obama’s achievements.

    More than six months into his presidency, the number of bills Trump has signed stands at 53. Many have been passed through the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to roll back regulations imposed by the executive branch, and are aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s legislative legacy.

    (CNN, August 23, 2017)

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

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

    Mind you, it’s understandable that he resents the enviable acclaim Obama won for framing, marshaling, and striking this deal. Most notable is the way Obama exercised his executive authority to bypass Congress in doing so.

    Of course, Trump can exercise that same authority to decertify this deal. God knows that, as indicated above, he has already signed enough executive orders (50). This, despite the hypocrisy of repeatedly ridiculing Obama on the campaign trail for signing so many because “he can’t get anything done … can’t even get Democrats to agree with him.” At this point in his presidency, Obama had only signed 26 executive orders.

    But Trump is so shortsighted, he cannot see that building his presidential legacy solely on executive orders is tantamount to building a house of cards. Moreover, he’s too full of himself to appreciate that his successor can, and probably will, do to his legacy what he’s trying (to only marginal avail) to do to Obama’s.

    The point is that, instead of emulating Obama in this case, Trump is punting to Congress. It’s just the latest example of him “leading from behind” (or skirting his presidential duty), which belies his boasts about being a strong and smart leader.

    But there’s patent folly in Trump looking to this Congress to fulfill his promise to deal with Iran. Because anyone who knows anything about this Congress knows that this is even more fated for futility than looking to China fulfill his promise to deal with North Korea.

    Not to mention that prominent Republican members have already joined the other signatories in dismissing as a nonstarter any plan to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, which Trump’s decertification is supposed to trigger.

    This is why, like nearly every other policy initiative, Trump’s plan to decertify the Iran nuclear deal has more to do with him commanding media attention to beat his chest and pat himself on the back – for doing nothing more than creating confusion and fostering disillusion.

    Except that he will boldly claim that he is fulfilling another campaign promise – blithely ignoring that he promised to “rip up” this nuclear deal on day one of his presidency. Still, this bait and switch will reduce another of his campaign promises to little more than sound and fury signifying nothing.

    Again, if Trump were truly interested in keeping America safe, he would leave the deal in place – as every member of his national security has advised him to do. But, as it was with healthcare, climate change, international trade, and others:

    Trump’s executive orders seem drafted to either whitewash or undermine Obama’s accomplishments. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking that Trump has predicated his presidency on vindicating his birther conspiracy; you know, the one he peddled about Obama being an illegitimate interloper (a.k.a. an uppity African) who does not belong among the ranks of American presidents, certainly not in the top 10 as Obama seems destined to be ranked.

    (“Trump’s First 100 Days,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 1, 2017)

    Whatever the case, I am certain that, just like Obamacare, this nuclear deal will remain in force, despite Trump’s bedeviling efforts to nullify or undermine it.

    In the meantime, the world looks on with a mixture consternation and glee:

    • Consternation over the willingness of this president to sow chaos and forfeit his leadership (at home and abroad), seemingly unconcerned about the way he’s undermining bedrock domestic and international institutions, to say nothing of America’s credibility and goodwill; and
    • Glee over his “unravelling” under the pressure of his office, which, according to the current issue of Vanity Fair, has him cursing his own fecklessness by yelling to concerned advisers that “

    I hate everyone in the White House.

    Richard Nixon famously intoned that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” This seems the kind of self-deluding logic that animates Trump’s presidency. Most notably, he seems to think that because he says he is strong and smart, that means he is strong and smart.

    We know the fate that befell Nixon for thinking he was a law unto himself. I suspect a similar fate will befall Trump for thinking he is the strongest and smartest man in the world.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump chump
    fire and fury
    Sony hack
    leading from behind
    First 100 days

  • Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 7:22 AM

    Weinstein vs Trump: Hollywood more Righteous than Bible Belt…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    To quote The Freewheelin song by Bob Dylan,

    The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

    After all, when Harvey Weinstein was outed as a sexual predator last week, righteous indignation compelled Hollywood actors to rebuke him. By contrast, when Donald Trump was outed as a sexual predator last year, political opportunism compelled evangelical Christians to embrace him.

    But this oxymoronic state of moral consciousness is hardly surprising.

    After all, here is a little of what I wrote in “Evangelicals Supporting Donald Trump like Israelites Worshiping Golden Calf,” January 20, 2016.

    __________________

    I know Evangelicals. As the son of an evangelical preacher, I grew up amongst them. So trust me when I say that, for any sober Evangelical, Trump is the very personification of Mammon.

    This, after all, is a man who takes diabolical pride in boasting that he never asks God for forgiveness because he’s without sin, he’s rich, and he’s like a god himself. He even boasts that The Art of the Deal, his book about the virtues of greed and the salvation of wealth, rivals the Bible.

    Not to mention that he made most of his money building gambling casinos. Because gambling is as great a sin for most Evangelicals as usury is for most Islamists.

    But Trump is probably best known for building a gilded tower in New York City as a monument to himself. And, given his delusions of grandeur, one could well imagine him challenging Jesus by channeling the Devil from atop that tower as follows:

    Finally, the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain. He showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. ‘If You bow down and worship me,’ he said, ‘I will give You all of this.’

    (Matthew 4:8)

    Of course, Jesus rebuked and then admonished the Devil to humble himself before God. You’d think Evangelicals would do what Jesus did, especially given that Trump challenges their Christian faith almost every day. Instead of rebuking and admonishing him, however, they invariably hail him as if he were, well, the second coming of Jesus Christ. …

    Again, it would be one thing if Trump troubled himself to show a little regard for their purported Christian values. But mean-spirited, bullying, even profane language is the feature attraction of his campaign rhetoric, which makes a mockery of those values. …

    Evangelicals are sacrificing their Christian faith at the altar of Trump’s political ambition. Moreover, they have ceded their moral authority to speak truth to power and champion family values until kingdom come. …

    I am constrained to ask: What will it profit an Evangelical if he gains Trump as president, but loses his own soul?

    ___________________

    Meanwhile, these Trump-supporting Evangelicals are compounding their apostasy with hypocrisy. For only this explains them leading the chorus of those damning Weinstein’s liberal friends (in Hollywood and Washington) for not rebuking him … fast enough.

    I fear a “jealous” God, so prone to “wrath,” cannot have mercy on their souls.

    Related commentaries:
    Evangelicals
    Weinstein

  • Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 8:37 AM

    Wildfires Rivaling Hurricanes…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here is how I began a commentary on the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States this season:

    No doubt this hurricane will leave a lot of devastation in his wake, which will likely include more (preventable) casualties. But it’s important to maintain some perspective. For example, it might be helpful to know that, as weather-related and other natural disasters go, seasonal wildfires cause far more devastation than seasonal hurricanes.

    (“Hurricane Harvey: Water, Water, Everywhere, But Not a Bone Should Sink,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 28, 2017)

    Sure enough:

    Wildfires engulfed more ground Tuesday across California’s wine country as firefighters struggled to contain wind-whipped flames that have killed at least [21] people, torched more than [3,500] homes and businesses and sent more than 20,000 people fleeing for safety.

    At least 15 separate blazes burned in nine Northern California counties, prompting evacuations that included patients in threatened hospitals. Efforts to contain the fires were helped some by calmer winds overnight; but emergency officials cautioned that the conditions, particularly winds that at times exceeded 50 mph, could exacerbate the wildfires in the days ahead.

    (Washington Post, October 10, 2017)

    I’ve been lamenting the unspoken symmetry between hurricanes and wildfires for years. But this excerpt from “Independence Day Marred by Wildfires and Power Outages,” July 4, 2012, explains why I am loath to comment too much on the latter.

    __________________

    I’m on record observing that wildfires are becoming as menacing to Western states as hurricanes have always been to Southern states. Never mind that far too many of these fires are ignited not by Mother Nature, but by human beings.

    Of course, I always feel sympathy for those who lose their homes, to say nothing of the firefighters who lose their lives – as four did just days ago. … But it’s becoming somewhat contrived to publish new commentaries on these annual outbreaks; a contrivance, incidentally, that is epitomized by cable news stations that cover these fires each year with eschatological, end-of-days enthusiasm.

    __________________

    All the same, I cannot resist this observation: America’s founding preamble states in part that “all men are created equal.” Yet there has probably never been more equality between rich and poor, white and non-white than there is today between Americans in Northern California’s wine country and those in Puerto Rico’s arrabales – who lost all of their worldly possessions to fire and hurricane, respectively.

    Of course, this patina of equality will be shattered soon enough. Because the government is displaying speed and competence as it helps rich Californians rebuild their lives, which stands in dispiriting contrast with the slow and incompetent way it has been helping poor Puerto Ricans.

    That said, perhaps nothing speaks to this unspoken symmetry quite like the deafening silence about these wildfires in President Trump’s Twitter feed: as of this writing, not a single tweet!

    Mind you, this shows just how disconnected he is to the goings-on in his own government. It also explains why he can give his government’s relief efforts in Puerto Rico an “A+.” This, despite the fact that over 90 percent of its people (all US citizens) still have no electricity, over 50 percent still have no water, and nearly 50 percent still have no phone service. Not to mention the looming health hazards posed by everything from lack of medicine and food to stray animals and unsanitary conditions across the island.

    Meanwhile, over in California, those are cinders that were their homes …

    But, evidently, Trump is too busy tweeting about black folks disrespecting the flag by kneeling, reverentially, during the national anthem. Never mind that he has yet to publish a single tweet about white folks disrespecting the flag by wearing it, irreverently, as everything from bikinis to bandanas. #Racist! #Hypocrite! #Idiot!

    Related commentaries:
    Harvey
    wildfires
    California’s fiery Katrina
    Kneeling … flag and anthem

  • Monday, October 9, 2017 at 7:12 AM

    Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


    In fourteen hundred ninety-two
    Columbus sailed the ocean blue
    [Blah blah blah].

    Above is the course Christopher Columbus sailed on the misadventure that brought him to the Caribbean. He thought he had landed in “the Indies”; so, in typical European (imperial) fashion, he named the natives he met (oh right, “discovered”) there “Indians.”

    The rest, as we say, is HIStory.

    They would make fine servants. … With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

    (Medieval Sourcebook)

    This entry from Columbus’s own journal (allegedly) shows what he intended to do from the outset with the hospitable and unsuspecting Tainos who greeted him upon his arrival. It’s only one of the many reasons eminent historians are finally casting a critical, if not accusatory, eye at the hagiography his voyages have enjoyed throughout history.

    Here, for example, is how Howard Zinn frames this corrected version of history in A People’s History of the United States 1492-Present (August 2005):

    To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves – unwittingly – to justify what was done… The easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all) – that is still with us.

    Of course, Americans have been celebrating Columbus Day for centuries. Never mind that Congress did not declare the second Monday in October a federal holiday in honor of this sea-faring Italian until 1971. Other countries throughout the Americas followed suit.

    heroes2

    But many of those countries, most notably in the Caribbean, now designate this holiday, National Heroes Day, reflecting the cognitive dissonance scholars like Zinn are propagating.

    Interestingly enough, some cities in the United States are following suit:

    The Seattle City Council is replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the city.

    The resolution that passed unanimously Monday celebrates the contributions and culture of Native Americans and the indigenous community in Seattle on the second Monday in October, the same day as the federally recognized Columbus Day.

    (The Associated Press, October 7, 2014)

    Meanwhile, some of us just consider Columbus a wanted man (i.e., to correct the historical record).

  • Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 7:37 AM

    Europe: Things falling apart…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
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  • Friday, October 6, 2017 at 8:17 AM

    This Hurricane Harvey Harassed Hollywood Hotties for Decades

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Two decades ago, the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein invited Ashley Judd to the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for what the young actress expected to be a business breakfast meeting. Instead, he had her sent up to his room, where he appeared in a bathrobe and asked if he could give her a massage or she could watch him shower, she recalled in an interview.

    An investigation by the New York Times found previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades, documented through interviews with current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company.

    (New York Times, October 5, 2017)

    Foremost, it is noteworthy that even worse allegations of sexual harassment did not stop Donald Trump, a wannabe Hollywood mogul, from running for president of the United States. I commented on his “grab-them-by-the-pussy” scandal in “Donald Trump’s Growing Bill-Cosby Problem,” October 15, 2016.

    But given this precedent, Harvey Weinstein, a bona fide Hollywood mogul, could be forgiven for thinking that these allegations should not stop him from running his movie studio.

    Of course, if he had any respect for himself or the women he harassed, he would resign immediately and spend the rest of his life making amends, instead of lying in wait to begin making movies again.

    By the same token, if his liberal friends in Hollywood (like Meryl Streep and Matt Damon) had any respect for themselves or his victims, they would denounce Weinstein the way they denounced Trump, instead of lying in wait to make more movies with, or get more charitable donations from, him. It should go without saying that this onus is doubly so for his liberal friends in Washington (like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama).

    Still, I suppose it’s a good thing that this SOB had the decency to at least take a leave of absence to get his head straight. Never mind that, at this stage in his life, old age and a shriveled libido will probably do more to curb his predatory impulses than his “team of people” ever could. Indeed, his public “apology” reeked of cynicism, and I’m not sure which betrayed it more: blaming his piggish behavior on a hangover from the age of free love or seeking absolution from his therapists:

    I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different [but] have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office — or out of it.

    I’ve brought on therapists and I plan to take a leave of absence from my company and to deal with this issue head on. …

    I’m making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party.

    (Variety, October 5, 2017)

    That said, I’m obliged to wonder about women who settle privately with men like Weinstein for cash, and then go public years later with their claims of sexual harassment … for sympathy? The New York Times documents at least eight settlements between 1990 and 2015.

    This is what bothered me about Bill Cosby’s main accuser. Thankfully, the 49 other women – who made similar claims but were not compromised by his cash – sealed that SOB’s fate.

    But just as the predatory Weinstein cannot blame a bygone culture for his behavior, these liberated women cannot blame it for their silence.

    Hell, didn’t we celebrate Anita Hill as the Rosa Parks of the fight against sexual harassment? She had the courage to come forward against a nominee to the US Supreme Court 26 years ago. Therefore, I see no reason why women should not have the courage to come forward against anyone today — even if that person is the president of the United States (a la Paula Jones v. Bill Clinton).

    This I why I am so dismayed that, as I proffered in my commentary on Cosby, for every one of Weinstein’s victims who comes forward, there are probably 10 or more who will not.

    That said, I’d be remiss not to mention Gretchen Carlson. I hailed her for going public “Women Complain Fox News Head, Roger Ailes, Has Dick for Brains,” July 20, 2016.

    Indeed, it’s arguable that, if Judd had gone public two decades ago, she would have taken down movie mogul Weinstein the way Carlson took down TV mogul Roger Ailes. Not to mention the courage Carlson gave other women to take down the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Eric Bolling.

    In any case, I trust the takeaway from this latest sexual-harassment scandal is that women should go public. Further, that they should be prepared to suffer whatever professional backlash doing so might still entail. After all, if the “balance of power” between Weinstein and each of his accusers who settled was 10 to 1, it was 100 to 1 between Ailes and Carlson.

    Besides, going public could result in legal cash settlements that make private settlements look like chump change. And, trust me, that is precisely what predatory men like Weinstein consider the payments they make to their accusers. What’s more, with each accuser they pay off, they feel more entitled to continue behaving the way they do.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at 8:06 AM

    Pakistan Declares Former President Pervez Musharraf a Fugitive

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have found on occasion that merely listing the titles of a few commentaries speaks volumes about a topic. As it happens, I have written many commentaries on the fractious, even murderous, politics of Pakistan.

    This seems a good occasion to merely list the titles of a few of them:

    • “Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf: A Friend Indeed Who’s a Friend in Need,” February 7, 2006
    • “Day of Reckoning for America’s Most-Favored Dictator, General Musharraf of Pakistan,” August 24, 2007
    • “The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto: A Rendezvous with Destiny,” December 28, 2007
    • “The Politics of Nepotism in Pakistan…,” December 31, 2007
    • “President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan Forced to Resign,” August 18, 2008
    • “Trouble on March in Pakistan…Again,” March 13, 2009
    • “Floods Over Pakistan,” August 10, 2010
    • “Arrest Warrant for Musharraf,” February 15, 2011
    • “Osama bin Laden Is Dead,” May 3, 2011
    • “Pakistan Betrays US for China…Duh,” August 16, 2011
    • “Musharraf…Charged with Bhutto Assassination,” August 21, 2013

    That last title explains this latest development:

    A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has declared former military ruler Pervez Musharraf a fugitive in ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder trial, ordering his property confiscated, a court official said on Thursday.

    Musharraf was charged with Bhutto’s 2007 assassination in 2013, but has been in self-imposed exile in Dubai ever since a travel ban was lifted three years later.

    The official said he had ‘absconded’.

    (Al Jazeera, August 31, 2017)

    I do not think Musharraf was complicit in Bhutto’s assassination. I explained why in my August 2013 commentary.

    But he was wise to flee. In fact, baying backlash against his increasingly authoritarian rule was such that I advised him to do just that in my August 2007 commentary. And this was long before his political enemies began fingering him for Bhutto’s assassination.

    It would behoove Musharraf to follow the trail other weakened strongmen have blazed into exile. And, frankly, given the numerous assassination attempts on his life, it would be understandable if Musharraf decided that he’d be better off enjoying time in London or Dubai, spending the millions he skimmed from US military aid, than wasting time in Pakistan chasing Islamic terrorists.

    (“D-Day for America’s Most-Favored Dictator…, The iPINIONS Journal, August 24, 2007)

    To be fair, it’s understandable that he caught so many people off guard. After all, the Napoleonic Musharraf fleeing was every bit as inconceivable as Saddam Hussein of Iraq or Muammar Gaddafi of Libya doing so.

    Not to mention that Musharraf continually vowed to return to face the charges, despite decrying them as “fabricated.” But I suspect he was ultimately guided by the kangaroo trial that led to the hanging of Bhutto’s own father, ex-prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

    Indeed, Musharraf can be forgiven for noting – from his imperial lair in Dubai – that both Saddam and Muammar are dead. Never mind the more instructive fate that befell not just Bhutto but her daddy too.

    Musharraf is alive and no doubt doing very well.

    Related Articles:
    President Pervez Musharraf … in need
    Pressure mounts for Musharraf to resign
    D-day for America’s most-favored dictator
    Assassination of Bhutto
    Politics of Nepotism
    Musharraf forced to resign
    Trouble in Pakistan
    Floods over Pakistan
    Arrest warrant for Musharraf
    Osama bin Laden
    Pakistan Betrays US
    Musharraf charged

  • Monday, October 2, 2017 at 8:13 AM

    Target Las Vegas: Another Mass Shooting in Gun-Crazy USA

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    America is fighting unwinnable wars, implementing feckless screenings, erecting unsightly bollards, and enacting racist laws – all in a misguided attempt to combat “radical Islamic terrorism.” I’ve been bemoaning, if not warning, for years that none of it will ever protect us against this kind of “home-grown terrorism”:

    At least [58] people were killed and [500] wounded after a gunman opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas late Sunday night, police said. It was the deadliest mass shooting in US history. …

    The gunfire interrupted singer Jason Aldean’s performance, the final act of this weekend’s Route 91 Harvest Festival, a three-day country music event attended by tens of thousands of people.

    (Huffington Post, October 2, 2017)

    Just months ago, I had cause to write “Gun-Crazy USA: Mass Shooting Targets Congressmen (and Postmen Too),” June 5, 2017, which I ended on this fatalistic note.

    ___________________

    The following from ‘This Gun-Control Debate Is Insane!’ April 5, 2013, sums up the madness that played out yesterday:

    The United States is calling North Korea insane for threatening to launch ‘merciless’ nuclear strikes against it.  Well, I suppose it takes an insane country to know one. After all, one can fairly call the United States insane for repeatedly vowing to curb gun violence without making any reference to guns.

    In fact, I’m willing to bet my literary legacy (you may laugh) that – looking back 100 years from now – American guns will have killed more Americans than North Korean nukes by a factor of millions.

    In the meantime, good luck being safe if you’re caught up in the next mass shooting.

    ___________________

    Sure enough, here we are.

    Yet the media are reporting on this latest shooting as if the nation should be “shocked, shocked” by it. They are not providing a public service. Believe me.

    The only reason for their hysterical, redundant coverage is that mass shootings do more for ratings than major hurricanes. Hell, this shooting has even preempted the saturation coverage they were planning for O.J. Simpson’s release from a nearby prison – no doubt much to his chagrin.

    This is why you’d never know that, just yesterday, they were hyping the way Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico as an apocalyptic tragedy. Never mind that their coverage focused mostly on the petulant, and arguably racist, insults President Trump was tweeting at the mayor of San Juan. This, simply because she refused to blow kisses up his ass for the Katrina-like help his federal agencies are providing: it’s been nearly two weeks and the people of Puerto Rico (all American citizens) are still begging for food, water, medicine, electricity, and gas just to subsist. But I digress …

    Alas, as tragic and terrorizing as this one is, it’s only a matter of time before the next “deadliest mass shooting in US history.” After all, the only thing that could prevent them is comprehensive gun-control legislation, which includes a ban on all semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines (i.e., anything more than 6).

    I am convinced that keeping and bearing six-cylinder handguns and double-barrel shotguns (for home protection) and single-shot rifles (for hunting) violate the letter of the Second Amendment. But I would concede that the right to keep and bear them could be consistent with its spirit. This is why I would make it illegal for civilians to possess any other type of firearm or munitions. Period!

    (“The Second Amendment and Gun Control,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 19, 2012)

    But politicians (predominantly Republican) are too beholden to the gun lobby (a.k.a. the NRA) to enact any gun-control legislation. This, despite the unassailable truth of what I asserted in “NRA Cares No More about Gun Violence than Drug Cartels Do,” June 17, 2014. Remarkably, these venal politicians would rather scapegoat Muslim immigrants. What’s more, they think nothing of limiting their civic duty to tweeting feigned shock, outrage, and condolences after these shootings.

    And don’t get me started on the manifest absurdity of hailing the willingness of Republican politicians “to have a conversation” about the possibility of banning silencers and “bump stocks” – the latter of which enables semi-automatic weapons to shoot like machine guns. For this is rather like hailing the willingness of drug traffickers to have a conversation about the possibility of banning cigars and cigarettes.

    Ironically, Trump could provide a little saving grace by championing such legislation. I know he promised to protect the NRA’s mercenary interest in the Second Amendment. But he has flip-flopped on so many campaign promises (e.g., to withdraw from NAFTA and end DACA), why not on this one? It could be his Nixon-to-China moment. Of course, it follows that this would not preclude his presidency still ending as Nixon’s did.

    But I cannot overstate that, without gun control, all else is folly. Foremost is this:

    I don’t know why the media always reward these psychopaths by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds.

    You’d think … we would have figured out by now that the best way to discourage them is by focusing our attention on the victims and limiting what we say about the [terrorists] to: May God have mercy on your soul as you all burn in Hell!

    (“Massacre in Omaha,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 7, 2007)

    It is all too self-evident that a forensic and psychological examination of one mass shooting, especially where the shooter is dead, will do absolutely nothing to prevent the next one.

    No less a folly, though, is the way law-enforcement officials hold rolling news conferences to do little more than pat themselves on the back, or the way news organizations feature lucky survivors regaling us with tales of their heroics.

    That said, it is noteworthy that a lone, retired, white, 64-year-old man perpetrated this “pure act of evil.” It just so happens that he fits the profile of the prototypical Trump voter, which might explain Trump’s hypnotic and hypocritical reluctance to denounce him as a “deplorable” loser.

    But these lone wolves always compel me to fear an inevitable terrorist attack like this:

    God help us if [a cell of Islamic Jihadists or just a bunch of crazy white boys a la Columbine] ever decided to emulate this feat by coordinating 10 similar [shootings], at 10 football stadiums, in the 10 biggest cities in America, all on a typical Saturday in the fall, when each is packed with over 100,000 people watching college Football games. Not only would the carnage be 1,000 times more devastating, but based on the reaction to this terrorist attack, law-enforcement authorities would have to lockdown not just the airports as they did on 9/11, but the entire friggin’ country, no?

    (“Manhunt for Bombers Turning Boston into Theater of the Absurd,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 19, 2013)

    Like the folks enjoying that concert last night, we are all sitting ducks. What should be more frightening, though, is this undeniable truth, which former President Obama decried after the October 2015 mass shooting in Oregon:

    Everything about these events ‘has become routine. … We’ve become numb to this.’

    But I cannot end without citing this abiding outrage about the white men who perpetrate nearly all of these mass shootings:

    I’m still waiting for US politicians to explain why they think occasional massacres by Muslims constitute ‘acts of terrorism,’ but regular massacres by non-Muslims do not.

    Why, for example, did they decry the shooting of 12 people by a Muslim in San Bernardino last December as an act of terrorism, but bemoaned the shooting of 9 by a (white) Christian in Charleston last June as just another mass shooting?

    (“Orlando Gay Club — Scene of Latest Mass Shooting…,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 16, 2016)

    I mean, who in his right mind thinks the victims in Las Vegas were any less terrorized than those in San Bernardino?

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  • Monday, October 2, 2017 at 7:17 AM

    Catalonia Continues Sisyphean Climb Towards Independence

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Catalonia held an independence referendum yesterday. But only the Einsteinian definition of “insanity” explains why. And I’m not even referring to the legal prohibitions and political machinations that rendered it invalid.

    After all, this referendum followed similar referendums in 2009 and 2011, mass independence rallies in 2010 and 2012, a parliamentary declaration of sovereignty in 2013, a self-determination referendum in 2014, and a referendum masquerading as regional elections in 2015. Catalonia held them all to no avail.

    Yet came Sunday – complete with the Spanish government daring Catalonia to hold another referendum. Except that this aped the feckless spectacle of the US government daring North Korea to launch another missile.

    ‘It won’t happen,’ insists Spain’s prime minister, and for the Catalan leaders trying to organise Sunday’s vote on seceding from Spain, his words are becoming harder and harder to contradict.

    The nerve centre of the 1 October referendum – Catalonia’s economy department – has been seriously damaged by raids carried out by Spain’s military police force, the Civil Guard.

    Fourteen junior officials and associates were arrested, but more importantly close to 10 million ballot papers were impounded, and websites informing Catalans about the election have been shut down.

    (BBC, September 27, 2017)

    Nevertheless, Catalonia persisted.

    Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont says the region has won the right to statehood following Sunday’s contentious referendum which was marred by violence [leaving over 800 voters and dozens of police injured].

    ‘My government, in the next few days will send the results of today’s vote to the Catalan parliament, where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum.’…

    Earlier, as voting ended, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Catalans had been fooled into taking part in an illegal vote, [calling] it a ‘mockery’ of democracy.

    (BBC, October 1, 2017)

    Mind you, even if Spain had allowed Catalonia to hold a free and fair independence referendum, most Catalans would probably have voted against it.

    The silence of the majority, and its lengthy absence from the public arena, have created the illusion that ‘a majority of Catalans want independence.’ This illusion is shared by the secessionist minority and by observers outside Catalonia.

    Yet survey after survey contradicts this view.

    (El País, September 11, 2017)

    Reports are that Catalonia’s silent majority boycotted this referendum – pursuant to exhortations from both Prime Minister Rajoy and King Felipe VI. Therefore, reports that the vote for independence was over 90 percent are misleading at best. This, in part, is why I am convinced that this latest kerfuffle was much ado about nothing.

    Incidentally, there’s no guarantee that the Catalan parliament will ratify this hopelessly compromised vote. But, if it does, Catalonia’s declaration of independence is bound to prove a poisoned chalice.

    After all, only pariah nations like Russia and North Korea are likely to recognize it, which is rather like serial killers welcoming a petty thief to life behind bars. Never mind that most countries have utterly condemned the Spanish government for yesterday’s violence, which erupted after its jackbooted federal cops began raiding polling stations in a misguided, and wholly unnecessary, attempt to prevent the vote.

    Meanwhile, the media had a financial interest in hyping this Groundhog-Day referendum as a revolutionary event. And they provided coverage commensurate with that interest, which is why I feel obliged to comment – again.

    In fact, I’ve been commenting on pro-independence developments in this rich and restive region of Spain for many years, prefiguring much of what unfolded there yesterday. But I see no point in doing any more at this point than reprising “Catalonia: Spain’s Kosovo Problem,” October 1, 2012.

    __________________

    It smacks of rank hypocrisy for the British [who went to war to reinforce sovereignty over the Falkland Islands] to be denouncing the Serbs for merely threatening to go to war to reinforce sovereignty over Kosovo. …

    Kosovo holds as much historical, cultural, and religious significance for Serbs as Mecca holds for Saudis. Moreover, it happens to be situated right within Serbia’s universally recognized borders, not thousands of (imperial) miles away – as the Falklands are from Britain.

    (“Kosovo: Wither Serbia’s Alamo,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 4, 2007)

    This, in part, is how I criticized the double standard the United States and Europe were imposing on Serbia – not just by supporting, but by actually facilitating Kosovo’s independence. I was convinced that these Western powers were setting a precedent that would come home to roost (everywhere from Quebec to Cyprus). Now it has.

    catalonia-mapOn Thursday, lawmakers in the Catalan region of Spain (Catalonia) emulated their counterparts in the Kosovo region of Serbia by voting to hold a referendum on independence. It is noteworthy that three weeks of streets protests prompted this legislative move.

    Except that a “Yes” vote in Kosovo was guaranteed. It is not in Catalonia. Frankly, Catalans seem more interested in escaping the austerity measures (a.k.a. economic oppression) that have Greeks protesting in the streets than in gaining independence.

    Generations-old grievances for more self-government and recognition of their culture are rising to the surface as the economic downturn bites. …

    Spain’s slump, which has led to a spike in unemployment and harsh austerity cuts, has proven to be the tipping point for many Catalans who used to be against or ambivalent about seeking their own state.

    (Associated Press, September 30, 2012)

    The real issue, though, is whether Western powers will support and facilitate independence for Catalonia the way they did for Kosovo. After all, Catalonia has an equally compelling case for independence. What’s more, its non-violent means stands in commendable and instructive contrast to the violence that attended Kosovo independence.

    Not to mention how this Catalan movement stands in contrast to the more infamous, and perhaps more relevant, example its sister region of Basque set. It, you may recall, engaged in a decades-long (futile) struggle for independence – complete with ETA terrorists doing throughout Spain back then what Taliban terrorists are doing throughout Afghanistan today.

    But the vested interest in holding Spain together (economically and politically) is such that, even if Catalonia were to vote “Yes,” Western powers would surely conspire to nullify it. Which brings me back to the double standard Kosovo represents.

    Because, just as Serbia argued that a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo was illegal/unconstitutional, Spain is arguing that a vote for independence by Catalonia is illegal/unconstitutional. Yet, where Western powers rejected and undermined Serbia’s argument, they will undoubtedly embrace and champion Spain’s.

    Notwithstanding this overweening double standard, however, Catalans themselves must know that their non-violent movement stands even less of a chance of leading to independence than the Basques’ violent movement.

    Nevertheless, autonomous’ regions in other countries – among them Iraq’s Kurdistan, Italy’s South Tyrol, Belgium’s Flemish and Walloon, even China’s Uyghur – are bound to tempt fate (for political, cultural, and/or economic reasons) by following the powder-keg precedent Kosovo set.

    __________________

    Sure enough, a week ago today, 93 percent of Kurds voted for Iraq’s Kurdistan to declare independence. I commented on Friday (without saying I told you so). It’s only a matter of time before others, like the Rohingyas in Myanmar, tempt fate too. Not to mention what the unresolved issues of Scottish independence, Brexit, and Catalonia now portend for the European Union.

    Things are falling apart.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Saturday, September 30, 2017 at 8:21 AM

    Trump making Puerto Rico great again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    #Idiot!

  • Friday, September 29, 2017 at 8:21 AM

    Iraqi Kurdistan Declares Independence

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Iraqi Kurds demonstrated on Monday that they are as determined to be independent as black slaves were to be free. But, ominously, Iraqi leaders are demonstrating that they are as determined to keep Iraqi Kurds in Iraq as Confederate leaders were to keep black slaves on the plantation.

    The Iraqi government escalated its confrontation with its northern Kurdish region on Wednesday, threatening to send troops and seize oil fields there and taking steps to shut down international flights to and from the region.

    The moves came in retaliation for a referendum on Monday in which the region, Iraqi Kurdistan, voted decisively to seek independence from Iraq. Kurdish officials announced Wednesday that nearly 93 percent of voters approved the referendum, which aims to create an independent state for the Kurds, an ethnic minority in Iraq.

    (New York Times, September 27, 2017)

    Only God knows how this standoff will end. But I fear my allusions to the American Civil War are more relevant than anyone in Iraq would like to contemplate.

    Not to mention that Turkey and Iran have joined Baghdad in threatening military action if necessary to squeeze all notions of independence out of Iraqi Kurdistan. They are hoping to avoid war by imposing the kind of blockade and sanctions Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are imposing on Qatar. (So much for the Israel-Palestinian conflict defining perennial tensions in the Middle East.)

    Reports are that Turkey and Iran fear Kurdish minorities in their respective countries feeling emboldened to do there what Kurds are doing in Iraq. Never mind that a Kurdish state could do for Kurds in the diaspora what Israel did for Jews.

    Turkey has the region’s largest Kurdish population. Its authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, clearly fears their restiveness. But this is why he should be encouraging their repatriation to Kurdistan, no?

    Meanwhile, Iraq has been ravaged by war for 24 of the past 37 years. The mercy rule should compel even its imperial neighbors to eschew any notion of war.

    In any event, these simmering tensions make the partition proposal some of us made over a decade ago seem quaint and prescient in equal measure.

    I reiterated my take two years ago – in “Time to Partition Iraq? No Sh#+,” March 31, 2015 – after some of America’s top political and military pundits began jumping on the bandwagon.

    _________________

    Almost a decade ago, some of us declared partition the inevitable consequence of the US invasion of Iraq. It was self-evident that Sunnis (who compose twenty percent of the population) and Kurds (who compose seventeen percent) would never consent to be governed by a central government dominated by Shiites (who compose sixty percent). This is why we urged the United States to ‘give up the game’ of nation building among them way back then.

    I fear the only hope now is to partition the country into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni zones and leave them to defend their own borders and barter (or fight) for a share Iraq’s oil wealth.

    So, here’s to the triumph of opportunistic politics over failed military strategies.

    (“At Last, Rumsfeld Becomes a Casualty of the Iraq War,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 9, 2006)

    _________________

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