The iPINIONS Journal


  • Monday, October 8, 2018 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)

    Even Columbus, Ohio, perhaps his most famous namesake city, has decided to stop celebrating a holiday in honor of this genocidal adventurer.

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

  • Saturday, October 6, 2018 at 3:49 PM

    Justice Brett Kavanaugh *

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In “Re Supreme Court: Kavanaugh-Ford Playing Thomas-Hill Roles. But a Different Ending Looms,” September 17, 2018, I delineated some of the principled and political reasons why I asserted that Kavanaugh’s confirmation was toast.

    And, the intemperate way he spewed bald-faced lies during his testimony only reinforced my assertion.

    Frankly, there was no fair way he could survive the credible MeToo allegation of sexual assault he faced. That’s why it took putatively fair-minded senators twisting logic, reason, and good old-fashioned common sense into pretzels to justify voting for him.

    For example, Ford testified that she is 100 percent certain that Kavanaugh is the man who sexually assaulted her. Yet these senators insisted that, even though they found her credible and believe something happened to her, they just don’t believe Kavanaugh is the culprit. This, of course, is as disingenuous as it is condescending.

    Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is heading to confirmation to the Supreme Court this weekend after two key undecided senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia — announced Friday that they would support his elevation to the high court, ending the most divisive confirmation fight in decades.

    With the Senate and the nation bitterly divided, Judge Kavanaugh’s future came to rest with four undecided senators: three Republicans — Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Ms. Collins — and one Democrat, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. But one by one, they let their positions be known.

    (The New York Times, October 5, 2018)

    Murkowski defied her party to vote her conscience; Manchin defied his to vote his career. But Kavanaugh only needed two of the four. He got three. In any case, I was wrong about the outcome: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (The more things change …).

    To be fair, though, Flake, Collins, and Manchin are merely acting according to the new norm in Washington, DC: say anything, do anything, or vote for anything to ensure your reelection – the welfare of the country be damned.

    Apropos of which, I admonished an old friend earlier today that he and his fellow Democrats are to blame for this outcome. Most notably because they seem to think that making a nuisance of themselves with flash-mob protests is more important than voting at the polls. Perhaps now it will finally dawn on them that elections have consequences.

    Meanwhile, Republicans seem to think that getting their way, by any means necessary, is as American as Apple Pie and Chevrolet.

    That said, Trump fooled Democrats once by surviving notorious allegations of sexual assault to make it into the White House. He has now fooled them twice by coaching his nominee to survive similar allegations to make it onto the Supreme Court.

    But this is far more serious than a case of fool Democrats once, shame on Trump, fool them twice, shame on Democrats. It’s about Trump and Kavanaugh standing for the proposition that the more credible any allegation against you, the more defiant your denial should be. Deny, deny, deny until you get your way, come what may!

    This invariably involves DARVO — an acronym psychologist Jennifer Freyd coined in a 1997 research paper titled, “Violations of power, adaptive blindness, and betrayal trauma theory”. It stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse [roles of] Victim and Offender. That’s pretty much what Kavanaugh and his Republican enforcers did, no?

    America’s only hope is for the women (including “college educated” Republicans) who found Professor Ford’s testimony so credible and compelling to lead a march to the polls in November, hell-bent on making Trump and his enabling Republicans pay. Instead of getting the message that their voices don’t count, I hope women seize this opportunity to send the message that, henceforth, men will suffer grave truth and consequences for ignoring them.

    In the meantime, though, Republicans can derive considerable consolation from the growing list of benefits their Faustian bargain with Trump has already delivered (e.g., Gorsuch, tax cuts, deregulation, and now Kavanaugh). And, like Trump, they clearly couldn’t care less about the Pyrrhic consequences, which include the Republican Party being damned (for enabling sexual predators the way the Catholic Church enabled pedophile priests), civic norms being eroded, and democratic institutions being undermined.

    Granted, nothing undermined confidence in, and respect for, the Supreme Court quite like the way it handed the presidency to George W. Bush with its ruling in Bush v. Gore 2000. And I’ve had just cause to lament in far too many commentaries since then about the justices ruling like little more than political pawns of the presidents who nominated them.

    But it’s easy to see how Republicans winning this battle for the soul of the Court marks the metaphorical nail in the coffin of its presumed impartiality and independence.

    Incidentally, it is noteworthy that Kavanaugh will be the second sitting justice with a black cloud of sexual misconduct hovering over his head, thereby compromising his black robe. But, like Justice Thomas, I suspect Justice Kavanaugh will weather that cloud and the permanent asterisk it will put next to his name with indignant pride.

    Apropos of Bush, it is also noteworthy that he lobbied aggressively behind the scenes for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Many people found this a betrayal of the apparent friendship he has developed with the Obamas, especially given the apparent dislike he harbors for the Trumps (well, Donald at any rate).

    This, of course, is patently absurd. After all, Kavanaugh was one of Bush’s most trusted presidential advisers who shares his political values. I mean, can you imagine Barack Obama refusing to lobby for David Axelrod in similar circumstances because of the apparent friendship he has developed with the Bushes?

    But I suspect Bush’s affinity runs even deeper. Because, like Kavanaugh, he spent much of his youth going on drunken, rabble-rousing benders, which probably included a few sexual assaults – even if HeToo can’t remember. So when he sees Kavanaugh, a fellow Yale frat boy, struggling through the crucible of his MeToo reckoning, Bush probably cannot help thinking “there but for the grace of God go I.”

    More to the point, he must think that, if he can be reformed and redeemed enough to make it into the White House, Kavanaugh surely can to make it onto the Supreme Court.

    In any event, conservatives are clearly salivating at the prospect of having their way in the courts for a generation. No doubt it’s only a matter of time before they finagle cases for their Supreme Court to roll back abortion rights, gay rights, voting rights, and environmental, financial and other regulations. This, while finagling others to expand religious “liberties,” corporate interests, and presidential power, privileges and immunities.

    But God forbid one or two of the Court’s five conservatives should suffer an untimely death during a Democratic presidency. Because that’s all it would take to defeat the political jihad conservatives embarked on today. Just sayin’ …

    God help America.

    Related commentaries:
    Gorsuch
    Kavanaugh

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 6:09 p.m.

  • Saturday, October 6, 2018 at 8:34 AM

    From jailbreak to shark bait…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Thursday, October 4, 2018 at 7:41 PM

    Cristiano Ronaldo Gets MeToo Red Card for Alleged Rape

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably the most famous athlete on the planet. This is why one woman accusing him of rape is generating more global news coverage than 10 (or more) accusing Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein of the same ever did.

    Kathryn Mayorga says the Portuguese footballer, who plays for Italian club Juventus, raped her [at a Las Vegas hotel in 2009] while she repeatedly screamed no. …

    After the attack, according to the lawsuit [filed in Nevada on Friday], Ronaldo apologized, ‘stating he was sorry, he was usually a gentleman.’ She claims she received $375,000 in exchange for her silence.

    (BBC, October 2, 2018)

    Mind you, video from the night in question shows Mayorga dirty dancing with Ronaldo and gazing longingly at him. It all looked like foreplay before she accepted an invitation to his penthouse suite for more hardcore action. This is why, if nothing else, her lawsuit reinforces the absolute prerogative to say no, especially if your dream of flirting with a celebrity crush is suddenly turning into a nightmare of being sodomize … anally.

    In any event, Mayorga is just the latest woman whose MeToo awakening emboldened her to hold her seemingly invincible rapist to account. But she’s not looking to have him prosecuted. Instead, she’s just looking to void her gag order and get more money from Ronaldo – who is probably ten times richer today than he was in 2009.

    Of course, as Cosby found out, settling a rape allegation civilly does not immunize one against being charged criminally … even decades later. And, sure enough, Las Vegas SVU is already investigating.

    The Las Vegas Police Department announced it has reopened a sexual assault case from June 13, 2009 involving a woman named Kathryn Mayorga, who alleged in a lawsuit reportedly filed on Friday that soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo attacked her in a Las Vegas hotel room the same day.

    (Sports Illustrated, October 1, 2018)

    This does not bode well for him. And it does not help that Ronaldo seems to think he can pull a Donald Trump by dismissing Mayorga’s allegation as “fake news”. Come to think of it, he seems possessed of the same kind of predatory predilection that makes Trump feel entitled to grab women by the pussy. But nothing betrays his bad judgment quite like Ronaldo buying an $18 million unit in Trump Tower in 2015 (birds of a feather…?).

    Meanwhile, other “victims” are bound to come out of the woodwork. Never mind that TheyToo will probably be interested only in extorting him for cash to keep his dirty little secrets.

    But Ronaldo is already paying dearly for this alleged rape, and it extends far beyond the hit his reformed family-man image is taking.

    Cristiano Ronaldo was left off Portugal’s national team squad for a pair of upcoming matches, the decision coming Thursday as the soccer great fights rape allegations in the United States.

    (TIME, October 4, 2018)

    And it’s only a matter of time before this allegation begins to hit where it really hurts:

    Cristiano Ronaldo faced growing heat Thursday from sponsors over a rape allegation in the United States after Nike and video game maker EA Sports expressed concern about the conduct of the soccer superstar. …

    In June, Forbes, which has a long record of quantifying the earnings of the world’s richest people, estimated that Ronaldo made an annual $108 million, with salary and winnings netting the player $61 million and endorsements a further $47 million.

    (The Chicago Tribune, October 4, 2018)

    Nike’s concern is particularly noteworthy. After all, this is the same Nike that stood by Kobe Bryant when he faced a similar allegation in 2003 and Tiger Woods when he faced that infamous sex scandal in 2009, the same fateful year of Ronaldo’s alleged rape.

    Given that kind of support, Ronaldo can be forgiven for thinking he would have to be tried, convicted, and sentenced to life for Nike to drop him, especially given this:

    Cristiano Ronaldo has agreed to a new lifetime contract with sports giant Nike that will earn him an astonishing $1.25 billion.

    (The New York Post, November 9, 2016)

    ¡Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool!

    Related commentaries:
    Ronaldo Trump Tower

  • Thursday, October 4, 2018 at 6:37 AM

    Re $20 Bill: Trump Sides with White Slave Owner Over Black Abolitionist… Duh

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As President Trump boasted of his administration’s accomplishments at a campaign rally Monday in Johnson City, Tenn., he also touted something he hasn’t done: replace Andrew Jackson’s portrait on the $20 bill with a likeness of [Harriet]Tubman, the African-American icon who ran the Underground Railroad that helped Southern slaves escape to freedom in the North.

    ‘Andrew Jackson, who continues to be on the $20 bill, you know that,’ Trump said. ‘I’m a big Andrew Jackson fan.’

    (Yahoo! News, October 1, 2018)

    Of course, nobody should be surprised that Trump opposes having a black woman replace a white man on any dollar bill. He is, after all, the unapologetic racist who called for the execution of the Central Park Five, championed birther claims against Barack Obama, and supported the white nationalists from Charlottesville.

    More on point, there’s this (and please focus on the message not the messenger):

    In Unhinged, Manigault Newman describes the deliberation over a new figure on the twenty-dollar bill. She wrote that Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin told her, ‘it’s not something I’m focused on at the moment.

    Manigault Newman wrote that she then pushed the decision to Trump, who reportedly replied, ‘You want me to put that face on the twenty-dollar bill?’

    (Business Insider, August 14, 2018)

    But I digress …

    The point is that, just a few years ago, the whole country was hailing the prospect of replacing Jackson with Tubman. Here in part is how I hailed it in “US Putting Woman on Wrong Dollar Bill,” June 22, 2015.

    ____________________

    Truth be told, paper currency is falling into such desuetude, the media hype surrounding this belated and patently misguided honor seems contrived. It’s rather like hailing the appointment of a Native American as Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service; that is, now that e-mails and instant messaging are all the rage.

    All the same, I feel I owe you my two cents’ worth. …

    It’s unfair for the Treasury to honor Harriet Tubman (or any other woman) by dishonoring Alexander Hamilton. And it hardly matters if she joins or replaces him. Here are just three of many reasons why:

    1. Hamilton never owned slaves.
    2. He was the first Treasury secretary of the United States.
    3. Most relevant, he did more than any other American to create the US central banking system – complete with founding the Bank of New York in 1784, which provided a cash-strapped US government its first loan just five years later. …

    Instead, as the ‘Women on 20s’ campaign proposes, it’s fairer to honor Tubman by dishonoring Andrew Jackson, whose face now graces the $20 bill. Here are just three of many reasons why:

    1. Jackson owned slaves. He also nearly wiped out Native Americans in the Southeastern United States, highlighted by forcing thousands of Cherokees on the ‘Trail of Tears’ – which makes the Bataan Death March look like a Sunday stroll – as the White man’s solution to their ‘Indian problem’.
    2. He pioneered the patronage system that seeded corruption in US politics.
    3. Most relevant, he tried more than any other American to destroy the US central banking system – complete with attempts to discard paper currency in favor of coins as the only legal tender. …

    Clearly, as between these two founding fathers, Jackson is more deserving to be dishonored in this fashion. Not to mention the sexist slight inherent in putting a woman on Hamilton’s $10 bill; after all, it has only half the circulation (or common use) of Jackson’s $20 bill.

    ____________________

    That said, elections have consequences. This is just the latest in a litany of Obama-hating, norm-busting ways Trump is throwing this truism into dismaying relief. And trust me, Trump knows full well that offering to put Tubman on the proverbial “phony $2 bill” only compounds his insult.

    But, by the same token, Obama had eight years to make this historic change. Which compels me to wonder why, if it’s such a good idea, he didn’t make it.

    Related commentaries:
    birther
    Charlottesville
    woman on wrong dollar bill

  • Tuesday, October 2, 2018 at 10:41 AM

    Tsunami Devastates Indonesia … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt you recall the earthquake that struck Indonesia in 2004, triggering a tsunami that killed over 230,000 people.

    Government officials promised back then to devise a foolproof-warning system to ensure deadly tsunamis would never again wash up on so many people unawares.

    Sure enough, another earthquake struck Indonesia on Friday, triggering another tsunami.

    The Indonesian government has defended itself against accusations it issued inadequate safety warnings as a powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami.

    The 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit Sulawesi island on Friday causing three-meter-high (10 foot) waves to surge over parts of its northwestern shore, with groups of people caught on the coastline, apparently unaware of the danger.

    (CNN, October 2, 2018)

    Frankly, only the grace of God prevented this tsunami from claiming just as many lives.

    The number of people known to have died in Indonesia in Friday’s earthquake and tsunami has risen to 1,347, disaster response officials say. …

    Police are guarding shops against looters as people desperately search for food, fuel and water. …

    The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs says there are nearly 200,000 people in urgent need of assistance, about a quarter of them children.

    (BBC, October 2, 2018)

    As it happens, CNN is already reporting that the death toll is bound to rise … significantly. To appreciate what this portends, recall that President Trump gave his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria last year an “A”. He based that perverse pat on the back on initial reports that only 16 people died in Puerto Rico, which took the most direct hit. But we now know that nearly 3000 people ended up dying there.

    That said, I will only add this for further context:

    Earthquakes and other natural disasters should always remind us that there but for the grace of God. … But there’s no denying that living in a relatively rich country increases one’s chance of surviving and recovering from such disasters tremendously. …

    It’s bad enough that accident of birth can consign one to a life of chronic poverty. It just seems unfair that even the wrath of Mother Nature affects the poor so disproportionately.

    (“Killer Earthquakes: First Haiti, now Chile,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 2, 2010)

    Of course, the Trump administration’s salutary neglect of Puerto Ricans upended this assertion in tragic fashion. Truth be told, post Katrina, nobody thought any hurricane relief-and-recovery effort could be so haphazard and incompetent.

    Meanwhile, most people in the United States seem more concerned about how much beer a supreme court nominee drank in high school 36 years ago than they are about how many people are dying from this latest tsunami today. Which makes me wonder if it’s unfortunate or fortunate timing that Anthony Bourdain is featuring the gastronomic wonders of Indonesia on this Sunday’s episode of his hit CNN series, Parts Unknown.

    What is clearly unfortunate is that, as with Trump’s norm-busting antics at home, we’re becoming numb to the devastating and lasting effects of natural disasters abroad.

    Nonetheless, there are myriad ways you can donate to relief and recovery efforts in Indonesia. I urge you to: Help!

    Related commentaries:
    historic earthquakes
    Killer earthquakes

  • Monday, October 1, 2018 at 8:09 AM

    Trump Loves Kim. Kim Loves Nukes. And Never the Twain Shall Greet.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    At a rally in West Virginia on Saturday night, President Trump confessed that he has a schoolgirl crush on North Korean President Kim Jong Un:

    Now they’ll say, ‘Donald Trump said they fell in love. … so unpresidential.’ … [I]t’s so easy to be presidential … but instead of having 10,000 people outside trying to get into this packed arena, we’d have about 200 people standing there.

    (Business Insider, September 30, 2018)

    Of course, it’s self-evident that it is not so easy for Trump to be presidential. If it were, he would be for more than just the few hours every month when his handlers manage to force-feed him presidential words to say. This is why, every time he acts presidential, news anchors marvel; you know, the way parents marvel every time their newborn does and says something new.

    And don’t get me started on the dereliction of duty inherent in Trump thinking that it’s more important to be entertaining (a la his role on The Apprentice) than to be presidential. But the American people have only themselves to blame. After all, his campaign was little more than an audition for them to elect him to entertain far more than to lead.

    Meanwhile, there’s the delusional, existential recklessness Trump’s protestation of love reflects. Nothing betrays this quite like North Korea’s foreign minister declaring mere hours before that rally that, no matter how much he strokes Trump’s ego, Kim will never go all the way:

    North Korea’s foreign minister told the United Nations on Saturday continued sanctions were deepening its mistrust in the United States and there was no way the country would give up its nuclear weapons unilaterally under such circumstances.

    ‘Without any trust in the US there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first.’

    (Reuters, September 30, 2018)

    In other words, Trump has a greater chance of getting Mexico to pay for that wall than he has of getting North Korea to even think about giving up its nukes …

    Granted, listening to Trump rhapsodize about how he has fallen in love, you’d never know he’s supposed to be getting Kim to denuclearize. More to the point, all it took was idle flattery for Trump to forget that this is the same Kim he denounced just a year ago as follows.

    Mr. Trump accused Mr. Kim of overseeing a regime that has starved its people, brutalized an imprisoned American college student who was returned home in a coma, and assassinated Mr. Kim’s older brother.

    ‘If this is not twisted enough, now North Korea’s reckless pursuit of missiles and nuclear weapons threatens the entire world,’ Mr. Trump said.

    (The New York Times, September 19, 2017)

    By all accounts, Kim is today in every way that same man – complete with his defiant intent to continue developing his nukes. Therefore, it’s a testament to how susceptible the narcissistic Trump is to flattery that he is now publicly declaring his (patently unrequited) love for Kim.

    Moreover, despite clear and convincing evidence that he’s in love with a monster, Trump has ordered his all-too-obsequious secretary of state to stage another summit … ASAP. The only thing that explains him doing so is that he is more interested in the (train-wreck, rubbernecking) ratings his PDA with Kim will generate than in any deal they might strike for Kim to denuclearize.

    Alas, Kim is just the latest world leader testing the proposition that, if you stroke his ego, Trump will let you get away with almost anything.

    Chinese President Xi will make sure Trump feels feted like the most important man to ever set foot in China. Because all leaders now know that, despite his ‘America First’ rhetoric, that’s all that really matters to Trump.

    More to the point, Trump made quite a show, during his address to the South Korean National Assembly yesterday, of demanding that China cut diplomatic ties with and economic supplies to North Korea. But Xi knows from experience that it only takes a little flattery to get him to forget these demands.

    Of course, North Korea will just dismiss him as certifiably insane for demanding it unilaterally disarm. (Or what, face more of his bluster about raining down fire and fury?)

    (“China, Next Stop on Trump’s Traveling Circus Through Far East,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 8, 2017)

    Again, I cannot overstate that everyone knew this about Trump long before want-to-be-entertained Americans elected him president of the United States. But I also argued from the outset of his presidency that things can only end badly when the bloom falls from the bromance he’s cultivating with strong men around the world.

    I delineated (some of) the many reasons why the election collusion/bromance between Putin and Trump was doomed to implode. The most notable reason for this looming day of reckoning is that Putin will finally realize that, despite his flirtation, Trump’s policies towards Russia (especially re Ukraine-related sanctions) will be no different than Obama’s.

    (“Putin Blames ‘Little Green Men’ for Syrian Gas Attack – as Bloom Comes Off His Bromance with Trump,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 12, 2017)

    Xi is already finding out that a woman scorned has nothing on this Trump spurned. Because Trump is now escalating a costly tariff war with him as if they’re engaged in nothing more than a schoolyard game of chicken.

    But God help Kim (and the rest of us) when Trump starts acting out after it finally dawns on him that Kim is spurning him too.

    Which is why Trump would do well to heed the advice I gave Obama in “North Korea to The World: Nuke Off!” December 13, 2012. I am more convinced than ever that this is the only sensible way to deal with the menace North Korea poses.

    __________________

    Obama [now Trump] should convene a coalition of the willing among Asia-Pacific countries (APEC) to forge agreement on the following resolution, which, significantly, would not be subject to a UN-style veto by any country (namely, China or Russia):

    APEC

    • Recognizing that the United Nations is unable or unwilling to stop North Korea from violating its resolutions (most notably, res. 1718 against conducting nuclear tests or launching ballistic missiles) with impunity;
    • Finding that these violations pose an untenable threat to the Asia-Pacific region;

    Resolves that:

    1. Instead of continuing the feckless practice of bribing North Korea with cash, oil and food to get it to stop these violations, APEC shall henceforth impose the severest possible sanctions, unilaterally;
    2. If, either as a result of misfire or deliberate intent, any of North Korea’s missiles even threatens any APEC country, the United States shall lead the bombardment of all of its nuclear and missile facilities until they are incapable of even setting off firecrackers, let alone launching nuclear missiles.

    All else is folly.

    __________________

    Related commentaries:
    China, next top
    Putin bromance
    NK: nuke off

  • Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 6:56 AM

    Alas, as much as SA lifts up Mandela, it will never live down Zuma

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A statue of Nelson Mandela was unveiled at United Nations headquarters in New York. The country of South Africa donated the statue in commemoration of a 100-years since Mandela’s birth.

    (The Associated Press, September 24, 2018)

    No doubt Mandela deserves this honor. I just wonder why South Africa had to pay for it.

    The UN should have passed a resolution to fund it. After all, when he was alive, every nation claimed him as its own. But, at the very least, the African Union should have funded it as an all-Africa gift to the UN.

    Related commentaries:
    Mandela
    Zuma

  • Thursday, September 27, 2018 at 7:47 PM

    In Politically Assaulting Dr. Ford, Republicans Just Following Their P**sy-Grabbing Leader

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    After today’s hearing, I can think of no better way to explain Republican support for Kavanaugh than this:

    Not to mention the bullying way they discarded the female prosecutor they hired to question both Ford and Kavanaugh. Republican leaders hired her in a brazen and shameless attempt to prevent the all-white men on their side of the Senate Judiciary Committee from exposing their misogyny for all the world to see.

    But they couldn’t help themselves. Because Republicans ended up kicking her to the curb – unwittingly triggering allusions to the way Kavanaugh and his drinking buddy Mark Judge must have kicked the girls they drugged after ensnaring them in their “Devil’s Triangle.” But it was lost on nobody that Republicans did this as soon as it became clear that Kavanaugh was failing abysmally to defend himself.

    I will only add that Kavanaugh betrayed an utter lack of the judicial temperament required of any justice of the Supreme Court.

    I mean, it’s one thing for right-wing nuts like Alex Jones and Sean Hannity to dismiss Ford’s allegations as a Clintons-orchestrated, vast left-wing conspiracy against Kavanaugh. They claim Democrats are just using her as a pawn to deliver revenge served cold for his political hackery during the Ken Starr investigation and the George W. Bush administration. But it’s quite another for Kavanaugh himself to spew this unhinged, emotionally overwrought, and politically contrived nonsense.

    With all due respect to the growing list of women accusing him of sexual assault, this alone should be disqualifying.

    I rest my case.

    Related commentaries:
    Kavanaugh v. Ford

  • Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at 5:27 PM

    My Niece ‘Likes’ Malaysia PM Mahathir’s Take on China. Somebody Pinch Me

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As a rule, I ignore unsolicited suggestions for my commentaries. Family and friends would attest to this. I honestly cannot remember the last time I made an exception. But I am doing so today.

    From time to time, my twentysomething niece Emily shares video clips of her so-called life. But none of them has ever been remotely political.

    This is why I was so surprised a few days ago when she shared a clip of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. It featured him explaining his objection to China’s adhesive terms for investing in developing nations. Here is what he said:

    We welcome foreign direct investment [but] when it involves giving contracts to China, borrowing huge sums of money from China, and the contract goes to China, and China contractors prefer to use their own workers from China, use everything imported from China, even the payment is not made here, it’s made in China … that kind of contract is not something that I welcome.

    (The South China Morning Post, June 20, 2018)

    Emily found this “inspiring and so patriotic.” No doubt because it stands in instructive contrast to the humiliating way political leaders in the Caribbean (where she lives) devour Chinese foreign direct investments like manna from Heaven.

    She wanted to know what I thought. I was heartened: far more by her interest in Mahathir’s explanation, mind you, than by her interest in my thoughts. Emily is, after all, of a generation for whom #MeToo could easily refer to getting the latest photo-editing and filter app for Instagram.

    Suffice it to know that we had a terrific discussion on this topic last weekend. Nothing indicates how much we enjoyed it quite like our mutual agreement to take it from texting on WhatsApp to talking on iPhones.

    But it only occurred to me last night that I never mentioned that Mahathir’s explanation actually echoed what I’ve been writing for over a decade. I suspect I was too busy trying to cull, challenge, and channel her thoughts. And it was self-evident that she is not among my regular readers. This, however, did not give her any pause about suggesting I write about Mahathir.

    I demurred. But upon reflection, I felt obliged – if only to share my delight in the interest she showed in this topic.

    As it happens, though, I could have shared links to many commentaries in which I previewed Mahathir’s take on China. Most notable would have been a link to “China Putting Squeeze on The Bahamas. Your Country Could Be Next,” October 22, 2010, which includes the following excerpt on point.

    ____________________

    The Bahamas is having a precedent-setting dispute with China over a development agreement, which calls for Chinese men to compose the vast majority of workers on a $2.5 billion project (Baha Mar) that China is funding. …

    China is demanding that this small Caribbean nation issue permits for 8,150 foreign workers, which would amount to 71% of the labor force needed for this project; notwithstanding that The Bahamas is teeming with unemployed men (and women) who are willing and able to do the work.

    Of course, for over a decade now, China has been buying up influence throughout the Caribbean to enable it to exercise its economic, political, and, perhaps, even military power to further its national interests without question … let alone challenge.  And nothing demonstrated its modus operandi in this respect quite like the way it allegedly bribed (or attempted to bribe) every nation in the region to sever ties with Taiwan: almost all of them, including The Bahamas, duly complied.

    But the leaders of every one of these nations knew, or should have known, that, sooner or later, China would seek to use its influence in ways that were inimical to their national interests. And, lest anyone thinks I’m making too much of this, bear in mind that I had just cause to sound the alarm earlier this year in ‘World Beware: China Calling in (Loan-Sharking) Debts,’ February 19, 2010.

    There’s no gainsaying the principle at issue; namely, that no matter the developer or financier, the percentage of local to foreign workers on all development projects should be at least 70:30; i.e., in favor of local workers, not the other way around.

    ____________________

    By the way, China is accusing Mahathir of “anti-China bias.” But this gaslighting is rather like Britain accusing Kwame Nkrumah of anti-Britain bias for objecting to the mercantile way it exploited Ghana and other African colonies.

    After all, China is blithely doing today what Britain did during the halcyon days of colonialism. Unfortunately, nobody is standing up for African (or Caribbean) countries today the way Nkrumah did back then (or the way Mahathir is standing up for Malaysia today).

    That said, I’d be remiss not to share a little of this less inspiring aspect of Mahathir’s leadership:

    Anwar Ibrahim, the standard-bearer of Malaysia’s reform movement, was released from prison and granted a royal pardon Wednesday in one of the most dramatic developments since an opposition alliance scored a stunning win in national elections last week. …

    Anwar served as Mahathir’s deputy and finance minister in the 1990s before falling out with him during the Asian financial crisis, being sacked from the government and forming the Reformasi movement.

    Within weeks, Mahathir had him jailed on [trumped-up] charges of sodomy and corruption.

    (The Washington Post, May 16, 2018)

    I spared Emily this during our chat. But I am loath to champion only strengths in anyone’s leadership.

    To be fair, Malaysians expect Mahathir (92) to cede power to Ibrahim (70) in due course. I suspect this will be his way of making amends/restitution.

    But there’s no denying the implications of Ibrahim’s return to political leadership. Because his Mandela-like forgiveness and grace not only indicts Mahathir’s treatment of him but also indicates that Malaysia would have been better governed under his leadership.

    Related commentaries:
    China squeeze

  • Tuesday, September 25, 2018 at 3:44 PM

    Cosby Gets 3-10 Years. He Got Off Easy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Bill Cosby was just escorted out of the courtroom after being sentenced. He was seen leaving in handcuffs after Judge Steven O’Neill denied him bail.

    ‘This is a serious crime he was convicted for …,’ the judge said.

    (CNN, September 25, 2018)

    Predictably, some black people are crying racism. But they are the same black people who were cheering justice after O.J. Simpson got away with double murder.

    Not to mention that, if he were not already behind bars, even Cosby would have winced at the blasphemy of his PR flak analogizing his prosecution to the persecution of Jesus Christ:

    ‘They persecuted Jesus and look what happened,’ [Andrew] Wyatt said. ‘Not saying Mr. Cosby is Jesus, but we know what this country has done to black men for centuries. … This has been the most racist and sexist trial in the history of the United States.’

    (The Huffington Post, September 25, 2018)

    Therefore, take it from this black man, they were wrong then, and they (especially Wyatt) are wrong now.

    That said, it is patently absurd that Judge O’Neill declared the practically blind, 81-year-old Cosby a “sexually violent predator” – who must register as a potential sex offender and receive counseling for the rest of his life. Surely even the predatory combination of Spanish fly and Viagra has its limits.

    In any case, I shall suffice to reprise what I wrote in “Bill Cosby, ‘America’s Dad,’ Guilty of Felony Sexual Assault,” April 26, 2018.

    ____________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Good riddance, Mr. Cosby!

    ____________________

    Related commentaries:
    Cosby guilty

  • Monday, September 24, 2018 at 7:12 AM

    On Brexit Plan, EU to May: No Way!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    UK Prime Minster Theresa May met with EU leaders in Salzburg on Thursday to discuss terms for a Brexit deal. The setting was idyllic, perfect for the kind of schmoozing and cajoling she had in mind.

    More to the point, May reportedly thought her Chequers plan provided just what both sides needed to break up and still be friends … with benefits.

    Except that it went over like a lead balloon. Even worse, EU leaders made clear that it was her, not them.

    Theresa May was humiliated by all 27 EU leaders in Salzburg today as they rejected her Chequers plan as unworkable.

    The Prime Minister was left visibly furious after the French President Emmanuel Macron said Brexit had been sold to the British public by “liars” and that Mrs May must come up with “new propositions” if she wants to salvage a deal.

    Mrs May had gone to Austria expecting warm words of encouragement from her fellow leaders, but instead Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, said key parts of Chequers ‘will not work’ in a brutal assessment of Mrs May’s proposal.

    (The Telegraph, September 20, 2018)

    You might think this was an EU ambush motivated by spite. But, trust me, the humiliation May suffered was her own fault. Moreover, it had far more to do with UK arrogance and persistence than EU resentment and intransigence.

    In fact, May is just the latest UK prime minister trying to negotiate a relationship with EU leaders that smacks of cherry picking, or of the UK wanting to have its cake and eat it too.

    I’ve been denouncing, even ridiculing their efforts ever since I wrote “A Dead EU Constitution Resurrected as a ‘New Treaty’ Is Still a Dead EU Constitution!” November 13, 2007. But here in part is how I presaged May’s humiliation in “Brexit: Having Cake and Eating It Too or ‘Volunteering for Economic Vassalage,” July 24, 2018.

    ____________________

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

    To be fair, though, in proposing her managed divergence, May was just doing what her predecessors did. …

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

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

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

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

    ____________________

    And so Britain is finally facing the untenable but all-too-foreseeable consequences of voting for Brexit. It risks becoming a fantasy island unto itself – with loony Brexiteers screaming delusional chants at the moon about the sun never setting on their empire.

    Frankly, Britain’s only hope lies in taking one of two corrective courses:

    • a second referendum, which former Prime Minister Tony Blair is championing; or
    • a snap election – with support for or opposition to Brexit as the only galvanizing issue, which dismayed Brexiteers in May’s own party are championing – complete with a plan to oust her in favor of ousted foreign secretary Boris Johnson as their standard bearer.

    Stay tuned …

    Related commentaries:
    EU constitution
    Brexit: having cake

  • Sunday, September 23, 2018 at 6:47 PM

    Tiger Woods Finally Wins One. But…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s one even he would concede doesn’t really count; based, that is, on the bar Woods himself set for career achievement.

    In winning his 80th PGA Tour event and first since 2013, Woods showed us the magic is still alive.

    The outcome of the 2018 Tour Championship was never in doubt on Sunday as Tiger Woods picked up his first victory since 2013. …

    Woods leveraged a rejuvenated body and fresh swing into a season I’m not sure anyone could have imagined — Woods himself included — at the start of the year.

    (CBS Sports, September 23, 2018)

    Except that we’ve seen this “Tiger’s back” hype before. In fact, it has played out on several occasions since his infamous fall from grace in November 2009. The point is that he hasn’t won another major since then.

    This is why what I wrote seven years ago in “Tiger Won … Finally,” December 5, 2011, remains as relevant today as it was back then.

    ____________________

    It is tempting now to assume that [today’s] triumph marks the restoration of Tiger as the king of golf. But, like I cautioned my old college roommate, a die-hard Tiger fan, one tournament win does not a dominant player make. And this is especially so if that tournament happens to be [a non-major]. …

    That said, I am as happy as any fair-weather Golf fan can be that Tiger won … finally. I just hope it helps him regain his trademark confidence, which does for his game what Samson’s hair did for his strength.

    His next tournament is another non-major scheduled for late January. But Tiger knows better than anyone that he will not be able to fully redeem his professional reputation until he wins another five Majors (i.e., from among the Masters in April, US Open in June, British Open in July, and PGA Championship in August).

    ____________________

    Ditto.

    Well, truth be told, Woods should probably lower that bar at this point. Because nobody in his right mind still thinks he has even a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning five more majors to eclipse Jack Nicholson’s 18.

    Frankly, he should consider it a crowning achievement if he wins just one more to end his historic challenge at 15. Unfortunately, for him and his fans, his next chance does not come until next year’s Masters … six months from now. And only God knows which Tiger, if any, will show up.

    On the other hand, with this 80th win, he has a real shot at eclipsing Sam Snead’s seemingly improbable 82. That would be no small feat. For a little perspective, consider that Phil Mickelson comes closest to Woods among current players in this respect. But he has only 43 Tour wins (and only 5 majors). And Woods has already won more PGA Tour events than his nemesis Nicholas, who ended his career with 73.

    That said, corporate sponsors, TV networks, and even fellow players are probably as happy to see Tiger winning again as this beleaguered superstar himself. Because it’s a given now that the more he wins, the more everyone in Golf gets paid. This fact cannot be overstated … and should not be underappreciated.

    Related commentaries:
    Tiger roars, but does not bite…again

  • Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 10:48 AM

    UPDATE! Ford v. Kavanaugh: To Testify or Not to Testify, That is the Question

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I think Ford should.

    Republicans are using their control of this confirmation process to compel Ford to testify on Monday, or be relegated to an asterisk in the record of Kavanaugh’s tenure on the Supreme Court. Ford is pleading for a delay to allow the FBI to investigate her accusation, just as it investigated Hill’s. And, contrary to Republican spin, that investigation took just three days.

    Meanwhile, Republicans are patting themselves on the back for offering Ford all kinds of options to testify: in private or in public, in California or in Washington, DC, so long as she does so before or on Monday (i.e., according to their damn-the-torpedoes rush … to confirm Kavanaugh). But she is quite rightly insisting that those options cannot, and must not, substitute for a proper FBI investigation.

    Unfortunately, as they have done from day one of Trump’s presidency, Republicans seem hell-bent on ignoring all precedents and norms. But this case is especially egregious.

    After all, they (and Kavanaugh) make quite a show of proclaiming their adherence to, and advocacy for, the rule of law. Yet they seem perfectly prepared to flout the very rules and procedures they championed in Hill’s case, which included not just an FBI investigation but the testimony of corroborating and exculpating witnesses too.

    Perhaps you’ve seen the juxtaposing video clips that have gone viral. They show Republican leaders saying, on the one hand, how proper and necessary it was for the FBI to investigate Hill’s accusation against Thomas, while on the other hand, how improper and unnecessary it is for the FBI to investigate Ford’s accusation against Kavanaugh.

    Not to mention the consciousness of guilt Kavanaugh is displaying by hiding behind these politically expedient contradictions. After all, if he were innocent, he would be demanding an investigation to clear his name. But I suspect he fears an investigation would only discover more Ford-like skeletons in his closet.

    The unfairness and hypocrisy afoot is beyond contempt. This is compounded by the fact that Ford has spent this week seeking a safe place to protect her family from intimidation, harassment, retaliation, and even death threats, while Kavanaugh has spent it hanging out at the White House getting tips on the best political spin for his defense.

    Incidentally, apropos of contempt, I have it in spades for most reporters. And they are duly showing why with their herd-like praise for the “restraint” Trump is showing by not trashing Ford. Because it says far more about them than Trump that they are praising him for behaving in this case as any normal person, let alone the president of the United States, should.

    Still, I urge Ford to rise, take the oath, and testify … in public and in Washington, DC. But she should use the occasion not only to plead her case against Kavanaugh but also to upbraid Republicans for having no qualms about using her – an alleged victim of sexual assault – as a prop in a show trial to advance their political agenda.

    Of course, the vast majority of them have already made clear they believe him, not her. To be fair, though, the vast majority of Democrats have already made clear they believe her, not him. This is why it’s so imperative for the FBI to present objective facts that would enable the few, fair-minded members on both sides to make an informed and pivotal decision on Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

    But, trust me, after giving her comprehensive and compelling opening statement, which should include at least one reference to Merrick Garland, Ford can effectively fend off all Republican attempts to impeach her credibility with variations on this famous theme:

    Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

    (And, yes, there are men only on the Republican side of the Senate Judiciary Committee that would preside over this show trial.)

    The statement’s the thing wherein she’ll expose the hypocrisy of the Republicans and the guilt of the judge. If she does as I suggest, instead of becoming an asterisk in Kavanaugh’s record, she will be highlighted in the annals of US history among the likes of Anne Hutchinson, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Rosa Parks — all of whom dared to challenge institutionalized injustice masquerading as law and order.

    And, who knows? She might even prick the conscience of a few Republican senators (especially the female ones), so much so that it compels them to vote with Democrats to torpedo Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

    In any case, I reiterate my contention that Kavanaugh’s nomination is toast. But, despite their pro-Kavanaugh posturing, it behooves Republican leaders to prevail upon Trump to withdraw this nomination long before Ford gets anywhere near Capitol Hill. After all, given the foreseeable fallout for Kavanaugh and the Republican Party, it would constitute political malpractice to allow her to testify.

    NOTE: It’s interesting that Ford’s lawyer has not seen fit to publish a more flattering photo of her, which would have been the PR thing to do. But not doing so might enhance the visual impact when she finally appears in person. And that’s no small consideration these days, when it’s almost better to look good than to be good.

    Related commentaries:
    Kavanaugh-Ford, Thomas Hill

  • Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at 9:47 AM

    Pussy Riot: Russia’s ‘Vlad the Poisoner’ Strikes … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Vladimir Putin has been ordering hits on his Russian detractors for years. I began commenting on them over a decade ago in “Putin Probably Ordered the Hit. But No One Will Do Anything About It,” November 28, 2006.

    This excerpt highlights not only my cynical take on his abiding MO but also my prescient take on his presumed impunity.

    ____________________

    Doctors reported over the weekend that Litvinenko was poisoned by a fatal dose of a radioactive substance called Polonium 210, which Putin’s accusers claim ‘could only be found in government-controlled institutions’ in Russia. …

    The prevailing suspicion is that Putin targeted Litvinenko because he was becoming too credible in his criticisms of the Kremlin. Litvinenko fled for his life in 2000 – after accusing the FSB of killing over 300 Russians in 1999 in a Machiavellian scheme to frame and discredit Chechen rebels.

    Then he began publishing the findings of his high-profile investigation into what many suspect was a Putin-ordered hit on journalist Anna Politkovskaya last month. She herself was publishing too many inconvenient truths about that ‘Chechen conspiracy.’

    Putin had had enough of them both.

    Nonetheless, with all due respect to Scotland Yard and Interpol, no matter how probative the circumstantial evidence of Putin’s guilt, neither he nor his putative hitmen will ever be held to account for this murder. And everyone knows it.

    I coined the term ‘Putinization’ to describe the way Putin has been ruling Russia for years more like a criminal enterprise than a democratic country.

    Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Putin would order the assassination of a spy who, for all intents and purposes, he considered not only an insufferable critic but also a traitor.

    ____________________

    Sure enough, his latest hit bears all the hallmarks of his MO and impunity:

    German doctors treating a Pussy Riot activist who lost his sight, speech and mobility after spending time in a court in Moscow said on Tuesday that it was ‘highly plausible’ that he had been poisoned. …

    Pussy Riot, widely known as a punk band unsparing in its criticism of President Vladimir V. Putin and the Russian government, gained notoriety in 2012 when three of its members were sentenced to two years in prison on charges of hooliganism, leading to worldwide protests.

    (The New York Times, September 18, 2018)

    Somehow an NGO managed to have this activist airlifted to Berlin for emergency treatment. And, like the Skripals — who Putin targeted in London earlier this year, it appears he will survive this poisoning.

    But, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko will readily attest that the lingering effects can be both debilitating and unsightly. Putin targeted him even before he set his sights on Litvinenko. I duly commented in “Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko Falls from Hero to Zero in Eight Months,” September 15, 2005.

    Except that this hit betrays an insecurity Putin has never shown. As it happens, I even noted the fatherly sufferance he once showed for their antics in “Putin Gives Pussy Riot the Clamp,” August 17, 2012.

    I mean, it’s one thing to order hits on people who threaten his totalitarian rule, namely ex-spies, investigative journalists, and influential politicians. It’s quite another to target Pussy Rioters who just perpetrate feckless stunts. After all, this is rather like President Trump ordering hits on members of Black Lives Matter.

    On the other hand, this might affirm my assertion that, far from fearing any consequence, Putin would only become more emboldened with each hit. I saw no point in commenting on most of them over the years, but I did lament in such commentaries as “Int’l Court Declares Putin a Liar and a Thief (But He’s a Murderer Too),” July 29, 2014, “Fated Assassination of Russian Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov,” March 1, 2015, and “The Skripals, Et Al: Russia Taunting Britain with Brazen Assassinations,” March 13, 2018.

    The title to this most recent commentary speaks volumes. Because, truth be told, if Putin were not rubbing his murderous vengeance in Britain’s face, nobody in the West would be showing any concern for his targets in Russia. Hell, nobody seems to care what President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is doing in Turkey, which makes what Putin in doing in Russia seem Jeffersonian. And Turkey is supposed to be a democratic NATO ally.

    Meanwhile, Putin is not only gloating about past hits but warning about more to come:

    Those who serve us with poison will eventually swallow it and poison themselves.

    (VOA-Associated Press, March 7, 2018)

    The problem is that, ever since Litvinenko way back in 2005, British leaders have been appeasing Putin. Remarkably, they were all afraid of bursting the bubble Russian oligarchs were blowing up in London’s property market.

    By letting Putin’s allies launder their stolen fortunes, and hide them in our country, we are drawing a line under their crimes, and rewarding them for actions we should not be condoning. Do we really want Britain to be the Kremlin’s fence?

    (The Guardian, May 25, 2018)

    But here is how I urged Britain to renege on this Faustian bargain in “The Skripals…” cited above.

    ____________________

    Nothing would unnerve Putin more than squeezing the Russian oligarchs he relies on like Pretorian guards.

    ‘Every self-respecting corrupt Russian government official has a property in London’. …

    The government could use the Criminal Finances Act, a law approved in 2017, to force Russians who may be implicated in the attack, or have close ties to Putin, to explain how they purchased property in the UK.

    (CNN Money, March 12, 2018)

    Accordingly, here’s to May making quite a show of targeting Russian oligarchs like Roman Abramovich, whose prized assets include the famous Chelsea Football Club. Because, trust me, these oligarchs would rather fund a palace coup against Putin than lose access to their billions in ill-gotten gains or, worse still, be forced to live permanently in Russia.

    Not to mention that this would do much to belie prevailing claims that London has become My Beautiful Laundrette for money launderers of all stripes – from business oligarchs to political despots and drug kingpins.

    ____________________

    All of the above explains why this latest development is so seismic … and encouraging:

    Dozens of Russian oligarchs in Britain are set to have their assets seized in the wake of the Salisbury revelations.

    A Whitehall source said the National Crime Agency could target ‘more than 100’ foreigners with ‘unexplained wealth orders’ in the coming months. The majority are understood to be Russian.

    Police were given new powers at the start of this year to apply for the orders against foreigners in the UK suspected of having links to corruption or organised crime abroad.

    (Daily Mail, September 6, 2018)

    Here’s to Prime Minister May going where her predecessors feared to tread. Let the fire sale of Russian-owned properties in London begin …

    Related commentaries:
    Litvinenko
    Yuschenko
    Int’l court
    Nemtsov
    The Skripals
    Pussy rioters
    slap on writs

  • Monday, September 17, 2018 at 11:28 AM

    Re Supreme Court: Kavanaugh-Ford Playing Thomas-Hill Roles. But a Different Ending Looms

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I headlined my September 5 commentary: “Kavanaugh’s Confirmation as Justice Will Be as Tainted as Trump’s Election as President.” More to the point, in it I declared that only an act of God could derail his confirmation to the US Supreme Court. Well, this might qualify:

    A California psychology professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school wants to cooperate with federal lawmakers considering the nomination, but doesn’t want to be part of a Washington ‘bloodletting,’ her attorney said on ‘Good Morning America’ Monday.

    Christine Blasey Ford wants to speak to investigators about her allegations, but she doesn’t want to become the next Anita Hill.

    (Good Morning America, September 17, 2018)

    Clearly, this is not the taint I had in mind, not least because I wrote that commentary before she came forward. But the irony cannot be lost on anyone that, if confirmed, a dark cloud of sexual assault will hover over Kavanaugh’s tenure, just as dark clouds of sexual assaults hover of Trump’s presidency.

    That said, Ford saying she does not want to become the next Hill is rather like saying she only wants to be a little pregnant.

    Frankly, this psychology professor had to have known that, by triggering this political fight against Kavanaugh, she would become just that. #ReversePsychology?

    Of course, Ford has far more going for her today than Hill had back then, most notably the zeitgeist of reckoning the #MeToo movement represents.

    More directly, though, she shared the trauma of this alleged event with her therapist years ago. And she passed an FBI-administered polygraph just last month. These alone make her credibility on the merits virtually unimpeachable.

    Meanwhile, Kavanaugh got 65 women to sign a letter saying that’s not the Brett they knew back in the 1980s, during communal hookups between his all-boys school and their all-girls school in Bethesda, Maryland. But their testimony has one obvious limitation, namely none of them can say today what happened behind closed doors back then between Ford and “stumbling-drunk” Kavanaugh.

    So we await the inevitable he-said, she-said hearing, during which he will play Thomas and she will play Hill.

    For the record, I believe her. But his drunken hijinks in high school (alone) should not be disqualifying. In fact, I would have given him a pass if

    1. He had issued a statement apologizing for the trauma he never realized he caused when he tried to have drunken sex with her at a party in high school; and
    2. No other women come out of the woodwork to accuse him of similar, more recent assaults.

    But he denied it:

    I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.

    (The New York Times, September 17, 2018)

    Incidentally, the shame (if not the guilt) is on him if he was too drunk to remember. But that does not mean that it did not happen. Ford says there was another stumbling-drunk boy in the room when Kavanaugh (or both) attempted to rape her. Unsurprisingly, “HeToo” denied it in that same Times report:

    ‘It never happened,’ [Mark Judge] said. ‘I never saw anything like what was described.’

    Mind you, Judge (with his central-casting name for any court scandal) has every incentive to do so. Indeed, their denials are all too understandable.

    Lest we forget, 16 women credibly accused Trump of sexual assault. He denied each one and got elected president of the United States. Only one woman is credibly accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Therefore, it’s reasonable for him (and Trump) to think he can deny this one and get confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States..

    This means that the issue is not what he did back then as a drunken teenager; it’s his credibility today as a sober judge. And, having watched the initial hearing on his confirmation, I know many Democratic senators had just cause to question his credibility even before Ford came forward.

    In fact, some accused him of perjury for trying to conceal the nakedly partisan role he played on Special Counsel Ken Starr’s team and in George W. Bush’s White House.

    Therefore, the only question now is whether this allegation proves a tipping point for two or more Republican senators. For it will take them breaking ranks to torpedo Kavanaugh’s confirmation, emulating the way Senator John McCain famously did to torpedo Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.

    As it happens, several senators have every incentive to do just that:

    • The six female Republicans in the Senate, most notably Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska: If they vote for Kavanaugh, in this age of #MeToo, they risk being pilloried as no better than the all-male, all-white Republican senators who chose to believe Clarence Thomas over Anita Hill.
    • The retiring male Republicans in the Senate, most notably Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona: They can finally back up their frequent criticisms of this mendacious, pussy-grabbing president by denying him this pick for the Supreme Court.
    • The wild card, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: He spent much of the past year making a mockery of his celebrated friendship with McCain by kissing up to Trump – a man McCain clearly felt was making a mockery of the office. Graham could use this vote not only to emulate McCain but also to seal his belated reversion to the days when he himself thought Trump was a certifiable “kook.” Not to mention that, with Mueller’s noose tightening around Trump’s presidency, Graham clearly has no reason to continue kissing his ass.
    • The X factor: I suspect more than a few Republican senators regret the partisan way Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader, refused for nine months to even hold hearings for Obama’s “consensus nominee”, Merrick Garland. They might see this Ford accusation as a reason/opportunity to break Washington’s partisan fever and make amends.

    Given all the above, there’s every reason to believe Kavanaugh’s confirmation is toast. And I am willing to bet good money that it is. It only remains to be seen if he withdraws his nomination before the Senate denies his confirmation.

    NOTE: Republicans are accusing Democrats of using Ford’s accusation to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation at the last minute. But these prevailing MeToo facts belie their accusation: Ford asked to remain anonymous, and Democrats had to honor that. It was she who decided on Sunday to finally come forward.

    Related commentaries:
    Obamacare
    Kavanaugh confirmation
    Garland no hearing

  • Monday, September 17, 2018 at 7:24 AM

    Viola Davis Regrets Portrayal of Black Women in ‘The Help’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Help was a box-office hit. It also won critical acclaim. This included Octavia Spencer winning an Academy Award (an Oscar) for Best Supporting Actress and the film winning a slew of other Academy Award nominations, namely Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Jessica Chastain, and Best Actress for Viola Davis (evidently everybody upstaged the other lead actress, Emma Stone, who was not even nominated).

    But I was in the vanguard of those who criticized its white-savior narrative. Here in part is how I pooh-poohed its acclaim back then in “The Help,” September 7, 2011.

    ____________________

    Am I the only one who finds it discouraging that the most celebrated relationships between black and white women in film are those which feature the former working as a domestic servant for the latter?

    Here we are, 72 years since Gone with the Wind first celebrated this hardly ‘ennobling’ relationship; yet people (mostly misguided, guilt-ridden white women) are flocking to the cinema to see it play out again. …

    I urge all of you who are reveling in the ante-bellum female bonding The Help depicts to reconsider how truly worthy this film is of the social praise and financial rewards you are heaping upon it.

    ____________________

    That is why I welcome this belated recognition and admission:

    Viola Davis revealed that she has some regrets about one of her Oscar-nominated roles. …

    What does weigh on her conscience, she said, is her role in The Help, which has been criticized for over-crediting white women for improvements in race relations, instead of placing more emphasis on the real heroes of the story, black maids like Davis’ character Aibileen. …

    ‘I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard,’ she said.

    (The New York Post, September 12, 2018)

    Of course, it’s notable that this is coming from Davis, not Spencer. Because I am cynical enough to wonder if Davis would be making it if she too had snagged an Oscar for portraying her stereotypical mammie.

    To be fair, though, both actresses redeemed their careers in subsequent films: Spencer with her Oscar-nominated performance in Hidden Figures (2017); and Davis with her Oscar-winning performance in Fences (2017).

    That’s a wrap!

    Related commentaries:
    The Help

  • Saturday, September 15, 2018 at 8:10 AM

    Hey ladies, is it okay to catcall if your assets are not really yours…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 8:38 AM

    Hurricane Florence: Media Hype Smacks of Rooting for Disaster

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    News outlets cover natural disasters purportedly as a public service. But there’s no denying that such coverage is a ratings boon for their bottom line – catering as it does to the perverse thrill of suspense that keeps us fixated on the hype of impending doom.

    [But] Americans are blessed with the technology, escape routes to inland shelters, and other emergency management resources to gauge and withstand hurricanes with virtually no loss of life.

    (“Run for Your Lives: Katrina’s Coming! Katrina’s Coming!” The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2005)

    Except that Americans living on the island of Puerto Rico during the presidency of Donald J. Trump proved a glaring exception. Because we now know that they might as well had been Haitians living on the island of Hispaniola. I commented on their unfolding fate in “Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico Catfished by Whitefish,” October 27, 2017:

    ____________________

    Frankly, nobody should be surprised that the shady business dealings that define the Trump Organization are now defining the Trump Administration. …

    We’ve already seen that ‘Make America Great Again’ means having the federal government pay millions for Trump’s kids to travel the world doing business deals. Therefore, it should hardly surprise that it also means having the federal government pay hundreds of millions for his cronies to pull off the biggest kickback deal the world has ever seen. …

    Reports are that the money men behind Whitefish Holdings [who won the no-bid contract to restore electricity to Puerto Rico] donated huge sums to Trump’s presidential campaign. Which is why, for them, this contract is nothing more than kickback as payback. …

    [Not to mention] the sideshow within the sideshow that has characterized relief and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico. It has featured the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, famously kicking Trump’s ass for the Katrina-like incompetence and outright neglect, and the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, kissing it for whatever he can suck out of FEMA.

    ____________________

    That’s why this news should have come as no surprise:

    The official death toll from the hurricane that struck Puerto Rico in September last year has been increased from 64 to 2,975 – a 50-times jump that has sparked a new wave of criticism for the government response to the disaster. … Mr Trump himself said in early October 2017 that he was happy with the federal response to Maria, saying it compared favourably with a ‘real catastrophe like Katrina’.

    For comparison, deaths blamed on Hurricane Katrina in 2005 range from about 1,200 to more than 1,800.

    (The Independent, August 29, 2018)

    Trump promptly compounded his presidential neglect by insisting, even in the face of this news, that his government’s response to Maria was “an incredible, unsung success.”

    Even worse, this preternaturally narcissistic, gaslighting president took to Twitter this morning to assure the twits who follow him that this new death toll is fake news, which Democrats are propagating just to “make me look as bad as possible.” But this too should have come as no surprise. After all, this is the same delusional, malignant solipsist who issued this Orwellian decree just weeks ago:

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

    (CNN, July 25, 2018)

    Of course, he also still insists that the investigation into Russia’s cyberattack on the 2016 presidential election is a Democratic witch hunt intended to delegitimize his presidency. This, despite the unanimous finding by his own intelligence agencies that Russia not only launched the attack but did so to help him get elected.

    In any event, my opening quote explains why I’ve become inured to, if not annoyed by, all the hysterics and histrionics that now attend hurricanes barreling towards the United States. This invariably involves people rushing to empty store shelves and reporters doing all they can to stoke fears and manufacture suspense, which includes reporting the same story over and over again like a ratings-conjuring mantra.

    Indeed, the reason the media hype hurricanes like reality-TV horror shows is that so many people tune in to watch them as such. I mean, who cares why a few nincompoops are defying orders to evacuate their coastal homes, which are bounded to get blasted.

    Yet no less a superstar than anchor Lester Holt of the NBC Nightly News could not resist descending like a media vulture where Florence is tracking to make landfall. There he treated us to interviews with these nincompoops as if they were NASA astronauts preparing to blast off to Mars.

    I shall spare you my indignant commentary on the absurdity of reporters ‘braving’ the elements to report on what is plain to see. …

    Frankly, only when flying debris decapitates one of these misguided storm chasers will everybody exclaim ‘what the hell was he standing outside in the midst of a hurricane for anyway!’

    (“Media Desperately Seeking Another Katrina but Finding Only Gustav,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 2, 2008)

    Nothing betrays their histrionics quite like the fact that these brave reporters see no need to stand in the midst of wildfires to report on that seasonal weather phenomenon.

    That said, I fully appreciate all the property damage hurricanes like Florence cause, as well as the real hardships they leave in their wake. Unfortunately, there’s nothing anyone can do to alter Mother Nature’s path or wrath. What’s more, there’s an element of chickens coming home to roost in her increasing fury, which stems from our mercenary and myopic contribution to climate change.

    Meanwhile, Super Typhoon Mangkhut is barreling towards the Philippines. So, as you revel in the media’s mercenary coverage of Hurricane Florence, please bear this in mind. Because that island nation has very little of the technology, escape routes, and resources that would enable it to limit this typhoon’s impact.

    In fact, Mangkhut (with CAT 5, 157 mph winds) is bound to leave devastation in its wake that will be ten times worse than anything Florence (with CAT 2-3, 111 mph winds) leaves.

    NOTE: Typhoon is to hurricane as lorry is to truck. Which compels the Shakespearean allusion that a hurricane by any other name would devastate as much.

    Related commentaries:
    Katrina’s coming
    Hurricane Maria
    Finding Gustav

  • Wednesday, September 12, 2018 at 8:16 AM

    Actually, Neo-Nazis in Sweden Have Nothing on Neo-Nazis Across Europe

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Much is being made about the historic gains a neo-Nazi party made in Sweden’s national elections on Sunday.

    The far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats who rose from the white supremacist and neo-Nazi fringe, saw their share of the vote rise from 12.9 percent in 2014 to 17.6 [which] represents the largest gain by any party in the Riksdag. …

    Both [Prime Minister Stefan] Lofven’s Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party bloc, as well as the opposition center-right Alliance won around 40 percent, well short of the required majority. …

    The speaker of parliament is expected to consult party leaders and ask the one most likely to succeed to then form a government.

    (Deutsche Welle, September 10, 2018)

    Mind you, the Sweden Democrats did not perform nearly as well as feared or hyped. But they will play kingmakers when efforts get underway to form a government. No doubt this in itself is troubling enough.

    After all, it’s arguable that these neo-Nazis are to Sweden today what the Nazis were to Germany in September 1930, when it won 18.3 percent in the Reichstag. In fact, the way the Sweden Democrats scapegoated migrants to make electoral gains is eerily similar to the way the Nazis scapegoated Jews to do the same.

    Except that, notwithstanding Italy’s Fascists, the Nazis were a glaring exception back then; the Sweden Democrats are not today. Because, when it comes to scapegoating migrants across Europe, the Sweden Democrats are mere bit players.

    For example, their neo-Nazi cohorts have made even greater electoral gains recently in places like Switzerland (29%), Austria (26%), and Denmark (21%). And, apropos of Italy’s neo-fascists, far-right parties scapegoated migrants so successfully earlier this year, they won enough votes among that country’s notoriously factionalized electorate to form a coalition government.

    Some [nationalist and far-right] parties have taken office, others have become the main opposition voice, and even those yet to gain a political foothold have forced centrist leaders to adapt.

    [T]his can be seen as a backlash against the political establishment in the wake of the financial and migrant crises.

    (BBC, September 10, 2018)

    In other words, just as Nazis in Germany exploited specious links between fallout from the 1929 Great Depression and Jews in their midst, neo-Nazis across Europe are exploiting specious links between fallout from the 2008 financial crisis and migrants in their midst.

    In fact, neo-Nazis in Hungary (20.2%) have forced that country’s (already) right-wing leader to even further, far-right extremes, so much so that his fellow EU leaders are taking the unprecedented step of censuring him for eroding democratic norms.

    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban confronts his critics Tuesday in the European Parliament on the eve of a vote to censure his right-wing populist government. …

    Budapest argues that its anti-migrant measures and defence of sovereign rights are in tune with the mood of European voters — who will elect a new parliament in Strasbourg next May. …

    Addressing the parliament ahead of Orban, Greek leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said: ‘Pro-European forces have a duty to stand side by side [to] not let Europe slide back to the past.’

    (Agence France-Presse, September 11, 2018)

    Incidentally, this EU censure procedure could take months. Moreover, any punishment the EU metes out will probably fall far short of stripping Orban’s Hungary of its coveted voting rights. This, despite widespread support for Tsipras’s clarion call to stand against rank populism masquerading as domestic policy.

    More to the point, though, Hungary has nothing on trailblazing Switzerland. For here is how I presaged the scapegoating afoot over a decade ago in “Think America’s Immigration Plan Is Racist and Unjust? Consider Switzerland’s,” September 13, 2007.

    ____________________

    Last week, Europeans were alarmed by a report in a leading UK newspaper, The Independent, on Switzerland’s draconian immigration laws. The letter and spirit of these laws are so patently racist and unjust that reporter Paul Vallely was compelled to pose this rhetorical question:

    Has Switzerland become Europe’s heart of darkness?

    Vallely reports that neo-fascism in this erstwhile ‘haven of peace and neutrality’ is becoming as prevalent amongst Swiss politicians as it is amongst Swiss skinheads. …

    Vallely is wrong, however, to suggest that this Swiss strain of the anti-immigration virus is a new phenomenon in Europe, which threatens to infect the rest of the continent. After all, over two years ago, I documented the draconian immigration laws nearly every other European country was implementing to block perceived dangers posed by the swarm of migrants crossing their borders. I did so in “The Plague of Haitian Migrants in the Caribbean,” March 31, 2005.

    Accordingly, Switzerland is not becoming Europe’s heart of darkness so much as it is beginning to manifest the dark heart that other European countries, including England, have been exhibiting in their dealings with immigrants for years. …

    That said, there’s no denying Switzerland’s assumption of the vanguard role in descending a new (anti-immigrant) iron curtain across Europe. But it behooves Hitler’s reformed bankers to consider the international ramifications of now becoming his political heirs.

    ____________________

    Therefore, with all due respect to the alarm neo-Nazis are causing in Sweden, the alarm they are causing in many other European countries is far more troubling.

    Many historians have played out the counterfactual history in which, instead of appeasing Adolf Hitler, EU leaders stand up to him. But I stand with Tsipras in calling on politicians to stand up to wannabe Hitlers like Viktor Orban (and even Donald Trump). Only this will preclude any possibility of historians playing out a similar counterfactual history about our times.

    In the meantime, nobody expects any European country to start putting African migrants in concentration camps, let alone gas chambers. Never mind that EU leaders are floating plans to concentrate repatriated migrants in processing centers somewhere in Africa, which could end up looking like Nazi concentration camps.

    Except that African leaders have developed a continental case of nimbyism. This is why it will be interesting to see how the world reacts when some EU countries begin herding migrants in trains (or on ships) to transport anywhere outside their respective boarders. This spectre comes to mind:

    The transport of a 3,000-ton load of normal garbage became a tale of a toxic cargo set loose upon the open seas. For five months, news helicopters recorded the barge’s every move, as it was turned away by scared government officials in six states and three countries. ‘The Barge to No Where.’

    (The New York Times, May 6, 2013)

    That said, I hasten to clarify that Jews who were scapegoated back then were German/European natives, whereas migrants by definition are not. I crystallized the import of this difference as follows:

    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)

    To be fair, some Europeans are welcoming them with open arms. Indeed, pictures abound of bikini-clad Spanish girls flirting with seafaring African migrants today the way Caribbean women might have flirted with seafaring Spanish explorers in the 15th century.

    Ha!

    Related commentaries:
    Switzerland immigration
    African migrants
    Plague of Haitian migrants

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