• Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 5:09 AM

    Prince Albert’s Getting Married! No More Babies Out of Wedlock…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [Author's Note:  This article was originally published almost four years ago (on August 4, 2006).  Back then I was commenting on reports that Prince Albert had proposed to South African beauty Charlene Wittstock. Well, even though accurate, those reports turned out to be wildly premature.  Because Albert announced only last week that he had finally proposed and intends to marry Wittstock next summer. It is in this context that I reprise this commentary.]

    Regular readers of this weblog know that I’ve been unsparing in my criticism of Prince Albert II of Monaco, 48, not only living a notoriously promiscuous lifestyle but also for fathering children (2 that we know of) out of wedlock.

    But he incited my most indignant ire when he renounced the birthright of his black son in favor of vesting it in his white nephew. I argued in a previous commentary that, since he did this after sober deliberation, and not in a drunken stupor, it betrayed an untenable and unforgivable strain of racism.

    Furthermore, that this racist act made him unworthy of membership on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), or of serving as patron of the World Music Awards, at which, ironically, mostly black celebrities praise him for his humanitarian work.

    Nevertheless, the good news is that it seems this international bounder has finally decided to make an honest woman out of one of his concubines. For reports are that he has chosen former South African Olympic swimmer (medley-relay team, which finished 5th) and Sports Illustrated model, Charlene Wittstock, 28, to be his princess.

    I wish them well; never mind that Wittstock’s uncanny resemblance to Albert’s late mother Princess Grace only adds credence to longstanding rumors about his acute Oedipus complex….

    NOTE: I appreciate that no matter how promiscuous and racist his character, many women would have been all too willing to sell their body and soul to be Albert’s bride. But as a consolation for having missed out on this royal opportunity, I offer all of you this unsightly glimpse into what a pyrrhic bargain your wedding night would have been:

    Related commentaries:
    Prince Albert explains why his black son in unfit to rule
    Prince Albert renounces birthright of his black son
    Monaco’s first black prince

  • Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 5:33 AM

    Robert C. Byrd, longest-serving senator in U.S. history, is dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Based on the same principles that limit presidents to two four-year terms, I believe senators should be limited to two six-year terms and representatives to five two-year terms. This is why I cannot join the chorus of those now eulogizing Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia for becoming a veritable institution by holding on to his seat in the U.S. Senate for 51 years.

    Seniority confers considerable powers and prerogatives upon senators. And no senator in history has used his seniority to wield more power and exercise more prerogatives than Byrd. In particular, he parlayed his decades as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, which controls one-third of the $3 trillion federal budget, to direct billions of dollars in taxpayer money to fund projects to his home state. And such was his imperiousness in this respect that instead of recoiling at being called a pork-barrel politician, like most politicians do, Byrd embraced it:

    One man’s pork is another man’s job. Pork has been good investment in West Virginia. You can look around and see what I’ve done.

    (Byrd during a Senate floor debate, C-SPAN, 2001)

    In fact, the reason one can readily see what he has done is that his state has named so many highways, schools, buildings and monuments in his honor that you’d think West Virginians regard Robert Byrd, not George Washington, as the father of this nation. 

    But enough about what I did not like about this legendary senator, especially since all of this pales in comparison to what I liked about him. Indeed, I am proud to disclose that I have always hailed Byrd as my favorite senator

    Of course there are many reasons for this. Not least of which is that he never failed to proffer the most informed and authoritative arguments for all of his liberal views, all of which I share. In a similar vein, his colleagues often spoke in awe of his unparalleled understanding of arcane senate rules, his ability to quote the constitution verbatim, and his grasp of world history. 

    Bob is a living encyclopedia, and legislative graveyards are filled with the bones of those who underestimated him.

    (former House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, Associated Press, June 28, 2010)

    Not to mention that he was probably the only senator in the history of this republic who would have been just as comfortable and influential on the floor of what is generally regarded as the greatest deliberative body ever known to mankind, the Senate of the ancient Roman republic.

    And his inimitable oratory was never more poignant and inspiring than when he chastised his colleagues, including Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, for sacrificing their political principles at the altar of political expediency by supporting Bush’s invasion of Iraq. (For the record, Obama was not in the Senate when he first voiced opposition to this war. But if he were, it’s very like that he would have been among those getting a tongue lashing from Byrd on this issue….)

    Then there’s the fact that Byrd’s public redemption emulates that of Saul of Tarsus in the Bible – a text he quoted from almost as often as the Constitution in Senate debates. For the most defining feature of his public life is his conversion from Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to champion of black civil rights, which is saying a lot for a senator from a redneck state that is 96 percent white.

    Byrd was known for saying that he apologized a thousand times for his association with the Klan, and that he did not mind having to do so over and over again. But here is how he lamented this permanent stain on his extraordinary record of public service in his 2005 autobiography entitled Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields:

    [My membership in the KKK] has emerged throughout my life to haunt and embarrass me and has taught me in a very graphic way what one major mistake can do to one’s life, career, and reputation.

    Appropriately enough, here, in part, is how President Obama paid tribute to him yesterday:

    He had the courage to stand firm in his principles, but also the courage to change over time.

    (President Obama, whitehouse.gov, June 28, 2010)

    No doubt it constituted a sublime confluence of his political principles and conversion to cause of black civil rights when he endorsed Barack Obama (instead of any of the white Democratic candidates) for president of the United States as:

    … a shining young statesman, who possesses the personal temperament and courage necessary to extricate our country from this costly misadventure in Iraq.

    (Free Republic, May 8, 2008)

    Byrd died yesterday at Inova Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia.  He was 92.

    Farewell, Senator.

  • Monday, June 28, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    Obama: Why the “obsession” over Afghanistan deadline?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Obama and other G20 leaders met in Toronto last week to draw up more plans for a coordinated approach to combating the ongoing global financial crisis. 

    Never mind that each leader duly ignored the plans for such an approach that were delineated in the communiqué following last year’s G20 summit. And there’s every indication that each will do the same again, implementing either economic stimulus or austerity measures pursuant only to perceived national interests.

    No doubt this is why Obama’s post summit press conference this year was dominated by questions not about the financial crisis but about Afghanistan.  In particular, the press grilled him on signs that he’s been waffling lately on his self-declared July 2011 date to begin withdrawing troops.  

    Obama was indignant:

    There has been a lot of obsession around this whole issue of when do we leave…  By next year we will begin a process of transition. That doesn’t mean that we turn out the lights and slam the door behind us.

    (Associated Press, June 28, 2010)

    In fact, Obama can be forgiven his indignation because he always said, in Clintonian fashion, that the July 2011 was not a deadline, but the beginning of a deadline. Got that?!   Indeed, while most members of the press took that date to mean turning out the lights and slamming the door, here’s how I reacted when Obama first announced it:

    [I]t seems more than a little disingenuous for him to declare that he will begin withdrawing troops in July 2011.  After all, even if he does, it could still take years after that date to reduce the number of troops deployed there back to today’s level.

    (“Obama escalates Afghan war…”, The iPINIONS Journal, December 2, 2009)

    Having said that, no less a person than Obama himself gave the public every reason to become obsessed with that date.  Not least because his mantra has always been that unless you set deadlines nothing will ever get done.

    Ironically, though, by making it clear now that his July 2011 deadline is not a deadline at all, he has given Afghan President Hamid Karzai every reason to believe that U.S. troops will be there for years, if not decades, to prop up his corrupt government and protect him from the Taliban.

    But, with all due respect to the president, my obsession is over the fact that he seems cleverly unconcerned that American casualties are escalating at an alarming rate in a war that he now admits is without end, and for which there seems to be no compelling national purpose (or interest).

    The US legacy there will be distinguished either by a terminally wounded national pride as American forces beat a hasty retreat in defeat (following the Russian precedent in Afghanistan), or by tens of thousands of American soldiers being lost in Afghanistan’s “graveyard of empires” as they continue fighting this unwinnable war (following America’s own precedent in Vietnam) … more troops only mean more sitting ducks for Taliban fighters.

    (‘Without (or even with) more forces, failure in Afghanistan is likely’, The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2009)

    Meantime, June 2010 has now become the deadliest month for coalition troops (with 80 killed) and this war, which was launched in October 2001, has now become the longest in U.S. history. Which begs the question: How much longer and how many more dead before the American people launch Vietnam-like protests to force Obama to end it?

    Every eligible American should serve; not just the poor, dumb suckers who join the Army when they grow tired of flipping burgers. And with today’s technology and access to information, people like VP Dick Cheney (who has been quoted as saying that he did not serve in Vietnam because “I had other priorities in the 60s than military service”) and former President Bill Clinton (who did the same by feigning conscientious objection) won’t be able to dodge the Draft quite so blithely.

    So, forget the pissing contest in Congress over withdrawal plans and tell your Congressman to support the Draft to end these stupid wars in Iraq and Afghanistan!

    (Support the Draft to prevent stupid wars, The iPINIONS Journal, March 14, 2007)

    Related commentaries:
    Obama escalates Afghan war
    G20 2009
    Support the Draft

  • Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    Aha! Just pretend it’s a soccer game. Go USA…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Not even Patraeus, who is roundly hailed as a war hero for executing the surge strategy that drove al-Qaeda out of Iraq, will be able to convince Afghans that it is sensible to work with the Americans for one more year only to face the wrath of the Taliban for the rest of their lives.

    (McChrystal “resigns”, The iPINIONS Journal, June 24, 2010)

    Related commentaries:
    McChrystal “resigns”
    World cup highlighted by shame and disgrace

  • Friday, June 25, 2010 at 5:12 AM

    Another reason why those damned vuvuzelas are such a bad idea:

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    South Africans appear to be the only ones who have no problem with the monotonous blaring of vuvuzelas that are drowning out the cheers and jeers that normally imbue matches with their adversarial pathos.

    Even worse, they make it impossible for players and coaches to communicate on the pitch, and have even caused thousands of people to suffer permanent hearing loss. In fact, the sound of these vuvuzelas has become such a disquieting nuisance for fans watching via television around the world that some broadcasters (like the BBC) have begun filtering it out,

    (The iPINIONS Journal, June 17, 2010)

  • Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 5:13 AM

    McChrystal “Resigns”

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This isn’t just insubordinate; it’s downright contemptuous.  In fact, McChrystal is cultivating a fraternity with the soldiers under his command that makes a mockery of the tradition of civilian command and control of the military… This is an easy call. Not least because the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits any military personnel from demeaning the commander in chief. Accordingly, Obama should emulate the way President Truman dealt with MacArthur by firing McChrystal before he has any chance to resign.  Period.

    (Obama, don’t let McChrystal resign, fire him! The iPINIONS Journal, June 23, 2010)

    I rarely publish updates, but in light of my commentary calling on Obama to fire General McChrystal, I feel obliged to make an exception today. For the significance of President Obama relieving McChrystal of his duties yesterday should not be overlooked, and cannot be overstated.

    Here, in part, is how this president reasserted and reinforced his leadership as well as civilian control of the military:

    Today I accepted General Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan… The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan…

    [N]ow is the time for all of us to come together. Doing so is not an option, but an obligation. I welcome debate among my team, but I won’t tolerate division.

    (Washington Post, June 23, 2010)

    Let me hasten to clarify that accepting a person’s resignation is Washington-speak for firing that person. Nothing betrays this fact quite like the way McChrystal was reportedly phoning in expressions of regret after this story broke to every person he dissed as well as every powerbroker in the city in a desperate bid to save his job.  And nothing indicates that Obama did the right thing by firing him quite like every single member of the Republican leadership voicing unconditional support for his decision.

    I am mindful, however, that the leadership and courage Obama displayed is undermined somewhat by Republicans insisting that he had no choice but to fire McChrystal….

    Anyway, now instead of Truman vs MacArthur, Obama vs McChrystal will be cited for the founding principle of civilian control of the military for generations to come.  And how’s this for a little chain-of-command irony: McChrystal reportedly claimed that Obama was intimidated by him. Therefore, just imagine how his head must have been reeling over the fact that Obama had just forced him to end his heroic career in abject humiliation as he left the White House yesterday with his tail between his legs.

    I am dismayed, though, that Obama did not seize this opportunity to reverse course in Afghanistan. In fact, he could have displayed even greater leadership and courage by informing General David H. Patraeus, McChrystal’s boss and his replacement, that, instead of continuing to fight this unwinnable war, his mission is to begin the immediate withdrawal of U.S troops from Afghanistan.

    Because not even Patraeus, who is roundly hailed as a war hero for executing the surge strategy that drove al-Qaeda out of Iraq, will be able to convince Afghans that it is sensible to work with the Americans for one more year only to face the wrath of the Taliban for the rest of their lives.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama, don’t let McChrystal resign, fire him!

  • Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 12:04 AM

    Obama, Don’t Let McChrystal Resign, Fire him!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I woke up this morning to a war story that read like the classic dispute between President Truman and an insubordinate General MacArthur during the Korean War or between President Lincoln and an insubordinate General McClellan during the Civil War.  But, remarkably enough, this one was between President Obama and his top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal.

    In short, McChrystal (and his staff) went off, not only on Obama but also on many key members of his military and foreign policy teams. Here are some of the excerpts from today’s Agence France Presse report on a profile of the general in this week’s edition of Rolling Stone magazine that must surely constitute just cause to fire him:

    McChrystal jokes sarcastically about preparing to answer a question referring to Vice President Joe Biden, known as a skeptic of the commander’s war strategy: “‘Are you asking about Vice President Biden?’ McChrystal says with a laugh. ‘Who’s that?'” the article quotes him saying. “‘Biden?’ suggests a top adviser. ‘Did you say: Bite Me?'”…

    McChrystal says that he felt “betrayed” by the US ambassador to Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, in a White House debate over war strategy last year, saying “Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books. Now if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.'”  Eikenberry, himself a former commander in Afghanistan, had written to the White House saying Afghan President Hamid Karzai was an unreliable partner and that a surge of troops could draw the United States into a open-ended quagmire.

    Referring to Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s senior envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, one McChrystal aide is quoted saying: “The Boss says he’s like a wounded animal. Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.” McChrystal also derides the hard-charging top US envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke,  saying “Oh, not another email from Holbrooke,” looking at his messages on a mobile phone. “I don’t even want to open it.”

    And worst of all:

    Although Obama in the end granted most of what McChrystal asked for, he says the strategy review was a difficult time, saying “I found that time painful… I was selling an unsellable position.” The magazine notes that an unnamed adviser to McChrystal alleges the general came away unimpressed after a meeting with Obama in the Oval Office a year ago: “It was a 10-minute photo op. Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged.  The Boss was pretty disappointed.”

    This isn’t just insubordinate; it’s downright contemptuous. In fact, McChrystal is cultivating a fraternity with the soldiers under his command that makes a mockery of the hallowed tradition of civilian command and control of the military. Not surprisingly, he issued the following apology yesterday in a desperate bid to save his job:

    I extend my sincerest apology for this profile… It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never happened… I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team.

    But this is an easy call. Not least because the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits any military personnel from demeaning the commander in chief. Accordingly, Obama should emulate the way President Truman dealt with MacArthur by firing McChrystal before he has any chance to resign.  Period.

    The bigger story, of course, is what this exposes of the shambles that has become of McChrystal’s much-vaunted new strategy for winning the war in Afghanistan. But I warned Obama it would be thus.  Here are some excerpts from my December 2, 2009 commentary entitled, Obama escalates war in Afghanistan: the die is cast on his presidency, which presaged this calamity:

    These wars have converted multitudes of peaceful Muslims into Jihadists who welcome the opportunity to sacrifice their lives in bin Laden’s holy war. Moreover, these Jihadists have demonstrated that they are as committed to (and capable of) killing Americans (in Iraq and Afghanistan) as President Bush is committed to (and capable of) “routing them out … one by one.” And it doesn’t take a genius in military war strategy to figure out who will win this war [especially on their turf].

    (Please spare us the al-Qaeda obituaries, The iPINIONS Journal, December 2005)

    Not so long ago, some of us considered the war in Afghanistan as much an unqualified success as we deemed the war in Iraq an unmitigated failure. But a new crop of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are beginning to surpass die-hard insurgents in Iraq in their ability to undermine US efforts to “stand up” a democratic Afghan government…  Alas, victory in Afghanistan may prove another casualty of the war in Iraq.

    (Meanwhile over in Afghanistan: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, The iPINIONS Journal, September 18, 2006)

    Nothing is more responsible for the bedeviling success of the insurgents in Iraq (and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan) than Bush’s refusal to deploy enough soldiers to win these wars. And this despite pleadings by his most respected military advisers, including his Secretary of State Gen Colin Powell and Army Chief of Staff Gen Eric Shinseki, for Bush to deploy 4 to 5 times the number of troops he finally ordered into battle.

    (Support the Draft to prevent stupid wars, The iPINIONS Journal, March 17, 2007)

    The Washington Post made a mockery of President Obama’s correspondence with his military commander in Afghanistan when it published an “urgent, confidential assessment of the war” by Gen. Stanley A. McCrystal within hours after Obama indicated that he has yet to even receive it. [Given his cozy relationship with Rolling Stone, who do you think leaked it?]…

    The irony is not lost on me that McCrystal’s grim assessment makes it woefully clear that nation building in Afghanistan (even under the guise of a “counterinsurgency strategy”) is no longer advisable or feasible. Indeed, all indications are that the die has been cast for this “good war.”

    Accordingly, the US legacy there will be distinguished either by a terminally wounded national pride as American forces beat a hasty retreat in defeat (following the Russian precedent in Afghanistan), or by tens of thousands of American soldiers being lost in Afghanistan’s “graveyard of empires” as they continue fighting this unwinnable war (following America’s own precedent in Vietnam) … [And more troops only mean more sitting ducks for Taliban fighters.]

    Not to mention the prevailing fallacy that America must wage war in Afghanistan because it (still) constitutes the central front in the war against al Qaeda. After all, for the past six years the Bush administration prosecuted the war in Iraq as if it was the central front in this war.

    Moreover, there’s no denying that the last vestiges of al Qaeda are now so splintered that they are just as likely to be found in Pakistan, Somalia or, indeed, in the United States, which makes the strategy for taking them on in Afghanistan patently misguided.

    Therefore, Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and run ASAP; to let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and to rely on Special Forces and aerial drones to “disrupt and dismantle” Taliban and al Qaeda operations there.

    (‘Without (or even with) more forces, failure in Afghanistan is likely’, The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2009)

    [E]veryone from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Sen Kerry himself has insisted that Obama will not send over any more troops until the Afghan government gets rid of corruption. 

    And since the corruption UN officials uncovered at the presidential level is in fact endemic throughout the entire government, nobody believes there will be any change in this respect even if the next president could channel honest Abe Lincoln.

    Accordingly, I urge Obama to stop his Hamletian dithering on this issue. In particular, he should ignore the (conservative) chicken hawks who are egging him on to surge troops in Afghanistan to follow the precedent President Bush set in Iraq. 

    Because the only instructive precedent here is the one President Johnson set in Vietnam, which should warn Obama not to allow a military quagmire to doom his presidency the way a similar quagmire doomed Johnson’s.

    (Karzai submits to runoff election, The iPINIONS Journal, October 21, 2009)

    Unfortunately, this means that troops are bound to be returning home in body bags throughout his entire presidency. Because, frankly, given the military quagmire Afghanistan has become, sending 20 (or even 40) thousand additional troops amounts to the proverbial tossing of a 50-foot life line to a man drowning 100 feet away

    (Picture of Obama saluting war dead the defining image of his presidency?  The iPINIONS Journal, October 30, 2009)

    Frankly, it is an instructive metaphor for the way Obama’s war in Afghanistan is going that McChrystal has turned out to be another MacArthur instead of another Patton or Eisenhower – as was so devoutly hoped.  And with reports today about the Karzai government being in complete disarray, the war strategy not going as planned, and, even  worse, U.S. casualties escalating at an alarming rate, I feel obliged to say to McChrystal on behalf of Eikenberry, I told you so … and you’re fired!

    Accordingly, I repeat my admonition for Obama to declare victory and begin withdrawing U.S. troops from the killing fields of Afghanistan … now!

    Related commentaries:
    Obama escalates war
    Failure in Afghanistan is likely
    Secret Pentagon Report

    * This commentary was published originally on Tuesday, June 22 at 8:54 am

  • Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 5:09 AM

    Obama Golfs, Hayward Boats While BP Oil Slick Grows

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    With Democratic wingnuts like John Stewart and Maureen Dowd not only ridiculing his response to the BP oil spill but even questioning his competence, President Obama does not need Republican wingnuts like Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck.

    But the “friendly fire” Obama is now taking from these liberal pundits merely exposes the fact that, just like their conservative counterparts, they are more interested in entertaining their respective audiences than in offering constructive criticisms of Obama’s policies and job performance.

    Frankly, nothing betrays the showbiz nature of politics today quite like the fact that more Americans are informed and influenced by political jokes on late-night talk shows than by political debates on Sunday morning programs.

    That said, I have to take issue with what Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, said last Sunday morning on This Week.

    First, though, let me state for the record, that unlike Stewart and Dowd, I remain as supportive of and hopeful for Obama’s presidency as I was when he was first elected.  Never mind that I have probably been more critical than they of some of his policies (like escalating the war in Afghanistan), his political moves (like expressing profane anger at BP just to appease idiots like Spike Lee), and even his speeches (like his first Oval Office Address).  

    This is why I find it so disappointing when his supporters and staffers resort to political spin and flagrant hypocrisy to defend his policies, political moves, and speeches.  This is what Emmanuel did on Sunday when he tried to reconcile demonizing BP CEO Tony Hayward for using his free time to participate in a boat race on the hand, while excusing Obama for using his free time to play golf on the other.

    After all, there’s no reason why either man should have to sit vigil while BP and federal workers continue their futile efforts to plug the gushing well and clean up the metastasizing slick.  There’s a lot to criticize both men for, but taking a little time to enjoy themselves,  on a Father’s Day weekend no less, is not one of them.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama’s Oval Office Address

  • Monday, June 21, 2010 at 5:37 AM

    White House Gate-Crashers Now Stars of Reality TV

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here in part is what I wrote after Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed the Obamas’ first state dinner last November:

    [T]his whole farce was concocted by these two nincompoops as an audition to appear on the reality TV program The Real Housewives of D.C… I’ve seen an episode of one of these now franchised programs (The Real Housewives of New Jersey). And they amount to nothing more than a gaggle of self-absorbed women acting out scripted scenes from their nouveau-riche lives, exhibiting all of the intelligence, talent and class of water buffalos rolling around in mud.

    No doubt this is why it seemed perfectly sensible to these two wannabes to crash this White House dinner, with reality TV cameras rolling, for the sole purpose of sucking up to celebrities to notch pictures on their Facebook page the way kids do to notch signatures in their autograph books.

    Mind you, I think casting the Salahis as harmless party crashers is a mistake. After all, they exhibited potentially dangerous, passive-aggressive delusions on the TODAY show on Tuesday as they were muttering on about their invitation that was evidently lost in email transmissions….

    Frankly, I don’t understand why the Secret Service isn’t using all of its power to put this couple in jail…

    (Party crashers expose Obama’s vulnerability…, The iPINIONS Journal, December 3, 2009)

    Well, no less an authority than the New York Times reported yesterday that the Salahis will be starring on reality TV beginning this summer. Not surprisingly, the producers consider the publicity generated by their White House stunt a godsend, which makes the Salahis now as indispensable to the ratings success of The Real Housewives of D.C. as Charlie Sheen is to the success of Two And A Half Men

    Silly me, I thought they’d be wallowing in jail by now. In the meantime, the Salahis have become such a national embarrassment that, in his latest warning of America’s impending doom, al Qaeda mouthpiece Adam Gadahn mocked, quite accurately, that if Obama can’t keep them out of the White House, he has no chance of keeping al Qeada terrorists out of the United States.

    More to the point, though, the Salahis’ perverse celebrity explains why a father would risk his 16-year-old daughter’s life by having her sail around the world alone, or why another would blow hot air to the police about his 6-year-old son flying off in a homemade balloon, just to appear on reality TV. In fact, reality TV has made celebrity so commonplace that the proverbial 15 minutes of fame only serves as an audition now for the season or two of fame these common folk now covet.

    But nothing indicates what a D-list production this “Housewives” franchise is quite like the fact that the producers could not get the wife of a single politician to appear on this show.

    Related commentaries:
    Party crashers expose Obama’s vulnerability

  • Saturday, June 19, 2010 at 5:07 AM

    Enjoy the soccer, but…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Be mindful of the apartheid-like poverty that still exists just outside those first-class stadiums.

  • Friday, June 18, 2010 at 7:59 AM

    Lakers Repeat

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It was a good ol’ beantown effort but my pick, the Boston Celtics, came up short.  For they could not stop the Hollywood-style Los Angeles Lakers from defending their NBA championship last night by winning this year’s Finals four games to three.

    But, to avoid coming across like a sore loser, I shall suffice to congratulate the Lakers on their 16th title and Kobe on his 5th championship ring, tying Magic Johnson and coming to within one of NBA standard bearer Michael Jordan.

    But I suspect an even greater relish for Kobe is the fact that he has now led the Lakers to two championships without Shaquille O’Neil:

    Frankly, what I found most interesting about this year’s NBA finals is the prospect of Kobe finally leading the Lakers to a championship without the purportedly indispensable assistance of Shaquille O’Neal.

    Recall that the Lakers traded Shaq to the Miami Heat in 2004 to indulge Kobe’s petulant and narcissistic personality. And since then all NBA fans have wondered which of these two franchise players would be the first to lead his team to a championship without the other.

    Therefore, Kobe must have resented watching Shaq lead the Heat to an NBA championship in 2006.

    (Kobe’s sweet vindication, The iPINIONS Journal, June 16, 2009)

    Now Kobe has one more ring than Shaq….

    It would be remiss of me, however, not to acknowledge the heretofore unimaginable coaching feat Lakers coach Phil Jackson accomplished.  This was his 13th appearance in the Finals and his 11th victory, padding his record over NBA standard bearer in this respect former Celtics coach Red Auerbach – who won 9. 

    Congratulations, Phil.

    Related commentaries:
    Kobe’s sweet vindication

  • Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 5:08 AM

    South Africa (on verge of being) Kicked Out of World Cup

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    South Africa had a very impressive run during World Cup warm-up matches, which included a surprising win against Denmark. Therefore, the soccer-crazed fans of this host nation could be forgiven their great expectations that their team would perform well when the matches really counted. 

    Alas, this was not to be. For after playing Mexico to a less than thrilling tie (1-1) in its first match last Friday, South Africa was shut out (3-0) in humiliating fashion by Uruguay in its second match yesterday.

    This means that it has effectively been kicked out of this year’s World Cup.  Because with only one group match left to play against France, one of the favorites to win the World Cup, chances are nil to none that South Africa will earn enough points to advance to the next round.

    And if things play out this way, Bafana Bafana will suffer the international shame of becoming the first host nation to be eliminated in the first round of play.

    (Only the two top teams from each of the eight groups (A to H) advance to the round of sixteen. And those two teams in South Africa’s Group A are likely to be France and Uruguay.)

    So much for the Mandela-inspired fairytale….

    Meanwhile, South Africans appear to be the only ones who have no problem with the monotonous blaring of vuvuzelas that are drowning out the cheers and jeers that normally imbue matches with their adversarial pathos. Reports are that they also make it impossible for players and coaches to communicate on the pitch and have even caused hundreds of people to suffer permanent hearing loss.

    Moreover, the sound of these vuvezelas has become such a disquieting nuisance for fans watching via television around the world that some broadcasters (like the BBC) have begun filtering it out.

    Despite all this, political correctness in international sport is such that FIFA, soccer’s governing body, has refused all calls to ban them, citing a fear of catering to Western prejudice against this South African heritage. 

    I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound… I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country.

    (FIFA president Sepp Blatter, NBC Sports, June 14, 2010)

    Never mind that vuvuzelas are no more a part of the music tradition of South Africa than the Macarena (remember that nuisance?) was a part of the dance tradition of the United States. 

    This is why I’m still hoping that South African officials will ban them, not only because they rob soccer of its character as a spectator sport but also because they pose such a health hazard to fans in the stands – even if some of them are too possessed of jingoistic pride to admit it.

    NOTE: Other opening-round matches include perennial favorites Argentina and Brazil winning in impressive fashion, Germany winning in blitzkrieg fashion (shutting out Australia 4-0), Spain, the prohibitive favorite to win this year, losing in a shocker to upstart Switzerland, and, alas, my pick, Cameroon, losing in an upset to Japan.  Indeed, besides South Africa’s discouraging performance, it does not bode well that Ghana is the only African team to win a match so far.

    Related commentaries:
    The World Cup – South Africa

  • Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 5:36 AM

    Obama’s Oval Office Address on BP Oil Spill

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Obama delivered his first Oval Office address last night, but it had to have been the most anti-climactic address any president has ever delivered from this office. 

    After all, most presidents use this austere setting to inform the nation of grave new developments or to mobilize the public behind an issue of national importance. For example, John F. Kennedy used it in 1962 to inform the nation of the Cuban Missile Crisis; Ronald Regan used in 1986 to console the nation over the space shuttle Challenger disaster; and on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush used it to inform the nation that “today, my fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack.”

    By contrast, Obama used it to inform the nation about a national tragedy that occurred 57 days ago and about which most Americans already feel that he is either too impotent or too incompetent to do anything about.  Not to mention that the first thought that came to mind when I saw him last night was that he was doing an opening skit for Saturday Night Live.

    So what was the point – apart from trying to appease critics (left and right) who have been badgering him to act more like commander and consoler in chief…?

    He repeated the pledge he’s been making for weeks now about making BP pay; but this rang hollow given the way BP has been nickel and diming claimants.

    He announced a new Gulf Restoration Plan to be funded by BP; but this is fraught with legal pitfalls given that a) he can’t force BP to fund this plan (unless he pulls a Chavez and nationalizes the company) and b) if BP agrees, it will undoubtedly try limit its liability, for example, by paying only $20 billion into the fund even though the damage it has caused to the lives, businesses, and ecosystem could easily exceed $100 billion.

    He cited the litany of things his administration has been doing “from day one” to clean up BP’s mess; but this seemed delusional given the way oil from a still gushing well is now contaminating beaches all along the Gulf Coast. Never mind that the 5,000 barrels that the ruptured pipe was spewing out on day one has now mushroomed into 60,000.

    Most notably, though, he called for energy independence; but this seemed trite and contrived given that none other than George W. Bush made the same call throughout his presidency:

    What people need to hear loud and clear is that we’re running out of energy in America. We can do a better job in conservation, but we darn sure have to do a better job of finding more supply. We can’t conserve our way to energy independence.

    (Bush, American Presidency Project, May 3, 2001)

    In fact, every president since Richard Nixon has been sounding this alarm about America’s dependence on foreign oil only to see that dependence increase each year. 

    Nevertheless, my hope is that Obama will make history by passing a comprehensive clean energy bill – just as he made history by passing healthcare reform even though every president since Truman attempted but failed to do so.

    But truth be told, nothing he says these days, no matter how sincere, poll-tested, or critics- driven, will mean a damn thing until BP plugs that hole and he does a far better job of preventing that slick from washing ashore.

    In the meantime, I have to admit that, with his vietnamization of the war in Afghanistan, the failure of his economic stimulus and jobs bill to stimulate the economy or create jobs, and his presidency now drowning in this BP oil spill, I’m losing HOPE.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama goes gansta on BP
    Obama’s ironic mission to Afghanistan

  • Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 5:27 AM

    New Sanctions on Iran: Naïve or Shrewd?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Obama expended a great deal of political capital over the past five months trying to enlist countries like China and Russia in his coalition of the willing to impose new sanctions on Iran.  He finally succeeded last week when the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1929.

    This latest round of sanctions is aimed at undermining Iran’s ability to use its oil wealth to finance its nuclear program. Never mind that it follows the abject failure of three previous rounds of sanctions, which were aimed at blocking trade in any nuclear materials with Iran,  banning its export of arms, and freezing the assets of key individuals involved in its nuclear program.

    Indeed, critics argue that Obama and his European cohorts are naïve if they think these sanctions will have any effect on Iran’s quest to become a bona fide nuclear power.  And the open and notorious way North Korea defied similar sanctions while continuing to build its nuclear weapons stands as a persuasive precedent in this respect.

    The critical difference, of course, is that that hermit kingdom did not pose the existential threat Iran does to America’s key ally, Israel. This is why I think Obama is just being shrewd by establishing a record of Iran’s defiance to show why going to war became a categorical imperative … and a just cause (once the “shock and awe” begins). And he’s laying the political foundation for this by getting China and Russia on record imposing sanctions as the last ditch effort to get Iran to “choose a wiser course.”

    We know that the Iranian government will not change its behavior overnight, but today’s vote demonstrates the growing costs that will come with Iranian intransigence… Actions do have consequences, and today the Iranian government will face some of those consequences.

    (Obama marking the passage UN resolution 1929, London Guardian, June 9, 2010)

    Meanwhile, all indications are that Iran will never allow unfettered UN inspections of its nuclear facilities. And without these inspections, there’s no way the international community can be sure that Iran is building its nuclear program for peaceful purposes, and not to have the means to “wipe Israel off the map” – as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened.

    Apropos of this, Ahmadinejad reacted to the passage of these new sanctions in characteristic fashion by insisting that:

    [UN] resolutions were not worth a dime and deserved to be thrown in the dust bin. (France24, June 10, 2010)

    Game on….

    But God help us if the U.S., Israel, or a coalition of the willing attacks and Iran’s nuclear program turns out to be no more threatening than the WMDs that were never found in Iraq.  God help us too, though, if nobody attacks and Iran’s nuclear program turns out to have the holocaust capacity we all fear….

    And Hamlet thought he had a dilemma?  Hell, having to decide when, or whether, to act in these circumstances could turn any thinking president into a dithering fool….

    Related commentaries:
    How can non-nuclear Iran be a nuclear threat?

  • Monday, June 14, 2010 at 5:14 AM

    John Wooden, pioneering basketball coach, is dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Does anybody care that UConn’s women’s team is about to complete a second-consecutive perfect season by winning another NCAA championship tonight? Now just imagine the hoopla if North Carolina [or any men's team] had won its championship in such convincing fashion.

    (Duke tops Butler to win NCAA title, The iPINIONS Journal, April 6, 2010)

    I posed the rhetorical question above in a commentary earlier this year over the fact that the NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament gets virtually no media coverage compared to the hoopla that always attends the men’s tournament.

    But it’s the second part of this lamentation that compels me to reprise it here.  Because the death of John Wooden constrains me to note that a men’s team has in fact posted a record that even this phenomenal UConn women’s team has yet to emulate.

    That team, of course, was the UCLA Bruins, which Wooden coached to 88 consecutive victories over three seasons from 1971 to 1974. What’s more, his 1974 season capped an unprecedented, and as yet unparalleled, 12-year reign during which he coached UCLA to 10 national championships.

    Despite all of this, though, Wooden will probably be remembered most for coaching two NBA legends, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton, to five NCAA championships between them.

    Here’s how Abdul-Jabbar recalled being coached by him in a New York Times article in 2000:

    To lead the way Coach Wooden led takes a tremendous amount of faith. He was almost mystical in his approach, yet that approach only strengthened our confidence. Coach Wooden enjoyed winning, but he did not put winning above everything. He was more concerned that we became successful as human beings, that we earned our degrees, that we learned to make the right choices as adults and as parents. In essence he was preparing us for life.

    Ironically, the primary reason no men’s coach will ever approach Wooden’s record of achievement is that players of Abdul-Jabbar and Walton’s caliber never spend their full four years in college anymore. Instead, as soon as they win a national championship, even if it’s in their first year, they leave for multimillion-dollar contracts in the NBA.

    Some, likeKobe Bryant and LeBron James, the league’s two top players, do not even bother wasting any money-earning years playing college basketball. No doubt this is why the NBA is comprised these days of so many uneducated thugs, who seem more suited for criminal court than a basketball court.

    At any rate, Wooden became such a living legend that the college basketball player-of-the-year award is named for him; the leading college teams participate in a midseason tournament called the John R. Wooden Classic; and he was the first person elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame as both player and coach.

    Wooden died on June 4 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. He was 99.

    Farewell, Wizard of Westwood.

    Related commentaries:
    Duke tops Butler to win NCAA title

  • Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 6:52 AM

    Why it’s in nobody’s interest to bankrupt BP:

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    … pissing all over BP will just end up hurting the very people whose cause his critics claim to be championing.  As it is … toxic carping has already caused the company to lose over $80 billion (half of its market value), all of which could have been siphoned off instead in government fines, cleanup costs, and private lawsuits.

    (BP spill turns media swooning over Obama toxic, The iPINIONS Journal, June 7, 2010)

    Related commentaries:
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  • Friday, June 11, 2010 at 5:04 AM

    The World Cup – South Africa!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    You do not have to be a fan of the “beautiful game” of soccer to be interested in the World Cup, which is kicking off today in South Africa.  It is worth knowing, though, that this occasion holds ten times the historic, political, and economic significance that attended the 2008 Summer Olympics in China.

    This is why the matches (and even who wins that coveted Cup) are relatively unimportant. What matters most is that South Africa, or rather that Africa, puts on a good show.

    After all, this is the first time in modern history that not only the world’s attention will be focused on Africa but many citizens of the world will be present on this dark, beleaguered continent. 

    In fact, it’s an indication of worldwide interest in this event that many more tickets were sold in countries outside Africa than in those on the continent.  And it might come as a surprise to learn that the most tickets were sold in the United States, where soccer is rather like a step brother to baseball, football, and basketball. It must be said, though, that the vast majority of tickets sold in the U.S. were probably purchased by Latinos, Africans, and Europeans residing here who want to support their home teams – with all due respect to team USA….

    Meanwhile, things are not getting off to a very auspicious start: First there was the horror of a stampede of overexcited local fans, which injured many people and marred a warm-up match between Nigeria and North Korea. Then there was the embarrassment of the New Zealand team having to cancel practice after the stench from a nearby shantytown made it difficult for its players to breathe.   

    Bear in mind, though, that China did not get off to a very auspicious start either: First there was the horror of a Chinese madman going on a rampage and killing an American tourist.  Then there was the embarrassment of its notorious smog making it difficult for athletes to train.  Yet China went on to host the most memorable and successful Games in Olympics history.

    This is why I have no doubt that the same will be said of South Africa as host of this year’s World Cup.  Never mind that it took a sporting event of this magnitude to get the kind of infrastructural development that many South Africans have been waiting to see for generations. Of course, leave it to the European barons of this sport to make things especially difficult for the Africans by scheduling it in the dead of this country’s cold and rainy winter … just kidding. 

    Anyway, since it would be remiss of me not to pick a team, I’m going with Cameroon defeating Brazil in the final match on July 11! 

    As for the home team winning, well, that would take a fairytale ending that surpasses that which South Africa experienced in 1995 when its first post-apartheid team won the Rugby World Cup on home soil. 

    This feat was chronicled just last year in the movie Invictus. But back then, as now, the occasion transcended sports – as the world was watching to see how a newly democratic South Africa would reconcile its notorious legacy of racial divisions. The movie duly shows how former president Nelson Mandela led his country through the combustible first year of black rule with zen-like calm, using the love both blacks and whites have for the game of rugby as a metaphor for national unity.

    Therefore, it is entirely fitting that nobody appears more hopeful that this fairytale will come true again than Mandela.  Indeed, he seemed to be visualizing this outcome when he was captured in a recent photo embracing the World Cup trophy, the most coveted prize in the wide world of sports, as if it were a fait accompli.

    Good luck South Africa…

    Related commentaries:
    Beijing Olympics opening ceremony
    World Cup 2006

  • Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    Helen Thomas Ends Celebrated Career With Foot in Mouth…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [Author's note: This commentary was published originally on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, at 5:07 am.  Continued interest (okay, mostly among Washington insiders) has persuaded me to republish it today.]

    Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine… Remember, these people are occupied. And it’s their land. It’s not German, it’s not Poland. [The Jews] should go home … move to Poland, Germany, and America and everywhere else….

    This is how Helen Thomas, veteran White House reporter and columnist for Hearst newspapers, responded when a reporter from RabbiLive.com asked her to comment on the state of Israel.  It is particularly noteworthy that she made these comments at a White House celebration of Jewish Heritage on May 27, 2010.

    Not surprisingly, her comments incited near-universal outrage in Washington when they were published over the weekend. Yesterday White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs called them “offensive and reprehensible.” 

    I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians… They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.

    (Thomas, helenthomas.org, June 4, 2010)

    Also, not surprisingly, her non-apology apology was not enough to save her job.  Hearst duly prevailed upon her, after Gibbs’s official rebuke, to retire, effective immediately.

    I cannot help noting, though, that this outrage over her comments is laced with a strain of disingenuousness.  After all, the 89-year-old Thomas has been roundly celebrated throughout her 50-year career at the White House for her acerbic, intemperate and brazenly biased reporting

    More to the point, she never missed an opportunity during White House press conferences to imbue her questions about the Middle East with an anti-Israel taint.

    In this case, her age notwithstanding, nobody doubts that she fully understood the genocidal implications of suggesting that Jews should go home to Poland and Germany where six million Jews were exterminated. Not to mention her ignorant, Ahmadinejad-like protestation that the Jews have no right to even exist in the Middle East.

    Yet despite her antic reporting, or perhaps because of it, Thomas was accorded the incomparable honor of presiding front and center as the Dean of the White House Press Corps. This was so even after she retired as a reporter for U.P.I. and began writing strictly opinion pieces for Hearst in 2000. 

    Of course I appreciate why Hearst had to let her go, but it reeks of hypocrisy that so many of her colleagues are pretending to be “shocked, shocked” by her comments. For this would be like Hollywood producers pretending to be shocked if Betty White were to let rip a profane sexual joke on TV that finally offends all notions of public decency. After all, they have helped her to become celebrated in her dotage for acting like a drunken sailor.

    It’s too bad Thomas’s trail-blazing career as a female journalist has ended in this ignominious fashion. Not least because, given her age, this episode will now figure prominently in her obituary.

    Farewell, Helen.

  • Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 7:39 AM

    2010 Primaries: Much Ado About Nothing

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The more polarized American politics have become the more pundits are hyping every congressional contest as if control of Congress were in the balance. This has led to the spectacle of national reporters covering even totally irrelevant state primaries as if they were the actual election itself. This was the case yesterday – with the most overhyped primary contests being held in California, Nevada, Arkansas and South Carolina.

    Indeed, to see the winners celebrating their victories last night, you’d think they had won first-class tickets on direct flights to Washington. Whereas, in fact, winning their own party’s primary only gave them a ticket to fight against an invariably more formidable opponent from the other party, in their own state, in November.

    It follows, therefore, that I think it is utter nonsense to be proclaiming this the year of the woman, again, before all of the ones being heralded have actually been elected.

    Frankly, with all due respect to former eBay CEO and Republican candidate Meg Whitman – who won the dubious distinction of having to take on former governor and current state Attorney General Jerry Brown for governor of California, former Hewlett Packard CEO and Republican candidate Carly Fiorina – won the right to take on three-term Senator Barbara Boxer of California, dead politician walking Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln – who won a reprieve to take on Congressman John Boozman in Arkansas, and Republican Sharron Angle – who won the right to be the sacrificial lamb against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, last night’s primary victories might be the highlight of their political careers.

    But no victory yesterday was more pyrrhic than that of Republican Nikki Haley – who didn’t even win a ticket to compete again in November.  Instead, she will have to face a runoff in South Carolina’s gubernatorial primary against Congressman Gresham Barrett in a couple of weeks. Not to mention the prurient mess she will have to wade through with two men coming forward in recent days to confess that they had sexual affairs with her during her 13-year marriage. 

    Of course, if there were any substance to the family-values blather Republican conservatives and Tea Party zealots are always touting, Haley would never have made it to the runoff.  Instead, these hypocrites are proselytizing her candidacy like an eleventh commandment. 

    But their hypocrisy is such that, because Haley is a clone, in looks and tone, of their standard bearer Sarah Palin, her supporters would not believe these men even if 12 nuns were vouching for their stories. Actually, all one needs to know about the nature of family values in South Carolina politics is that the Jenny Sanford has endorsed Haley. No doubt you recall that Sanford is the now ex-wife of the current family-values Republican governor, Mark Sanford, who humiliated her by telling the world last year how madly he’d fallen in love with his Latina mistress.

    Meanwhile, it’s hardly insightful to claim that Democrats will lose congressional seats in November. After all, the ruling party almost always loses seats in midterm elections.  The only question is whether Democrats will lose so many that they end up losing control of the House and Senate.  And, despite the prattling of hyperventilating pundits and crusading tea baggers in this respect, that will not happen.

    Enough said? Except that if you’re wondering whether I believe Haley really cheated on her husband, I have my doubts. Not least because men don’t confess to having affairs, we, um, er, they get caught.  On the other hand, given the record of hypocrisy among moralizing Republicans, I would not put any vice past them….

    Related commentaries:
    Sanford confesses affair

  • Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    Obama Goes Gangsta On BP

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Well, so much for my entreaties to Obama to stay true to his cool, calm, and collected character.  For he proved today that he can be every bit as phony as Bill Clinton.

    Specifically, during an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show, he did all he could to demonstrate that he’s mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore. This included shocking viewers with profanity and threats of bodily harm:

    I talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers – so I know whose ass to kick.

    At least Clinton was man enough to emote on his own accord instead of doing so like a puppet on the strings of hysterical columnists and wingnut bloggers.  This is not the kind of CHANGE we can believe in.  What a damn shame….

    Related commentaries:
    BP spill turns media swooning over Obama into toxic carping

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