• Monday, October 31, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    Herman Cain’s Clarence Thomas problem

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The funny thing is that I don’t think there has ever been a wannabe president who was so damn proud of his ignorance. In any case, I’d say he has about 3 of his 15 minutes left before he becomes too much of a national laughing stock even for his Republican puppet masters.

    (Herman Cain’s a know-nothing candidate, but man that ‘brother’ can sing, The iPINIONS Journal, October 22, 2011)

    As if putting out a commercial that looks more like an ad for a cigarette company than for a presidential campaign were not disqualifying enough, Republican candidate Herman Cain is now swirling in a black hole of sexual harassment that threatens to relegate his campaign to the dust bin of history even before the Iowa Caucuses in early January.

    Specifically, reports surfaced over the weekend that he was forced to settle allegations made by two female employees when he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. However, because the settlements reportedly contained confidentiality clauses, it’s unlikely the victims will emulate Anita Hill by coming forward.

    Incidentally, this makes Cain’s challenge to the media to “bring me the accuser” nothing more than a shamelessly cynical ploy since he knows full well that the women would be in breach of their settlement agreement if they were to come forward to face him publicly.

    Nevertheless, the problem for Cain is that his denial seems even less credible than Bill Clinton’s now infamous ”I did not have sex with that woman … Ms. Lewinsky”. In this case, instead of flatly denying that the Restaurant Association ever settled the reported claims, he and his PR flaks are merely insisting that he never sexually harassed anyone. Which of course is rather like Clinton insisting to this day that he never had sex with Monica because he does not consider getting a blow job sex.

    That said, the dark shadow hovering over these reports is that of Justice Clarence Thomas. For I suspect the (liberal) media will be damned if they’re going to let another plainly hypocritical black conservative get off on sexual harassment allegations by playing the high-tech lynching card. Not to mention the craven hypocrisy involved in conservatives – who reflexively damn liberals for crying racism – now trying to turn Cain into a victim of a racist media conspiracy.

    For what it’s worth, I think, like Thomas, Cain is guilty as reported. Moreover, it speaks volumes that he appears to have engaged in this boorish behavior even after Thomas and Hill gave the nation an explicit, comprehensive and transformative tutorial on sexual harassment.

    Anyway, as my opening quote indicates, I did not think Cain stood a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the Republican nomination even before these revelations. I guess one of his Republican competitors leaked this titillating story to the press just to make sure. I’d say Herm now has about 3 minutes left … don’t you agree?

    NOTE: Both women complained that Cain not only made the kind of lewd comments (like references to porn,  pubes and penises) that came back to bite Thomas in the ass, but actually made unwelcomed physical advances on them. (Perhaps this explains Cain’s declaration recently that Thomas is the Supreme Court justice he most admires. Hehehe….) The only question now is how many other women will come out of the woodwork before Cain exits the political stage right … with his frisky tail between his legs?

    Related commentaries:
    Herman Cain’s a know-nothing candidate

  • Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 5:37 AM

    Happy Halloween

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    2011 World Series thriller … a bummer

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It will probably be decades before my team, the Washington Nationals, even make it to a League Series, let alone the World Series.

    Therefore, I had no vested interest in the outcome of this year’s World Series that played out in such dramatic fashion over the past week. Except that I would have liked to see the Texas Rangers win their first title in franchise history over the St. Louis Cardinals – who had already won 10.

    Alas, when the Rangers failed to clinch it on Thursday – after being just one strike away in both the 9th and 10th innings in Game 6 and leading the series 3 to 2 – I think most people sensed that they were just fated to be denied.

    You study all year long, get straight A’s and then you have to pass the one test to pass the course. We didn’t pass each time.

    (Rangers starting pitcher Colby Lewis, Yahoo Sports, October 29, 2011)

    Therefore, as thrilling as the winner-take-all Game 7 was last night, it was rather anticlimactic when the St. Louis Cardinals prevailed to win 6-2, taking the series 4 to 3 and earning an 11th title for their trophy case.

    The bummer of course is that this is the second-consecutive year the Rangers have come up short in the World Series, having lost to the Giants who won their first championship in franchise history last year. Indeed, one wonders if the Rangers have not inherited the curse that prevented the Boston Red Sox from winning a World Series title for 86 years…?

    Anyway, congratulations to the Cardinals!

    I just hope we don’t find out in a few years that their stars Albert Pujols and David Freese (the series MVP) fueled the Cardinals to this title on the same “juice” that Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco fueled the Oakland A’s to a World Series title in 1989. Is it just a coincidence that the mercenary Tony La Russa who managed the 1989 A’s is the same La Russa who managed this year’s Cardinals? I’m just sayin’….

  • Friday, October 28, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    A tweet: skinny women wearing fat suits

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have noticed lately that more and more women are wearing fat suits on TV – either as a comedic gag or under the absurd pretense of presuming to experience what it’s like to be a fat woman.

    But I think a skinny bitch wearing a fat suit is every bit as offensive as a white jerk wearing a blackface. Yet such is the blithe acceptance of discrimination against, and exploitation of, fat people that nobody seems to care.

    Even worse, it only perpetuates the notion that women are their own worst enemies that they’re the only ones who treat their fat sisters so cruelly. Think about it: when was the last time you saw a fit man wearing a fat suit…?

    So the next time you see a woman on TV wearing one of those fat suits, which invariably makes her look more like the Michelin man than any fat woman I know, change the channel!

  • Friday, October 28, 2011 at 5:11 AM

    Why the pointless calls (now) to lift the embargo against Cuba?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am convinced that, if reelected, Obama will seal his legacy by lifting the embargo and normalizing relations with Cuba. But where I have advocated for this cause as a categorical imperative, I am not sure that CARICOM leaders fully appreciate what lifting the embargo augurs for our zero-sum regional economy. Be careful what you wish for…?

    (Fifth Summit of the Americas: managing expectations, The iPINIONS Journal, April 17, 2009)

    International organizations calling on the United States to end the embargo against Cuba is rather like Nancy Reagan calling on teenagers to “just say no” to drugs.

    Therefore, in light of patently feckless calls in recent days by the UN and CARICOM for the U.S. to do just that, I have decided to reprise my December 12, 2008 commentary CARICOM’s ironic, if not misguided, call to lift the embargo against Cuba.

    But as you read this please keep my opening quote in mind because it crystallizes my views on this issue. More to the point, it is even more relevant now because anybody who knows anything about American politics knows that the last thing Obama needs is to give Republicans a foreign policy issue to add to all of the domestic ones that are making his reelection prospects so unnerving:

    At an extraordinary summit in Cuba this week, leaders of all countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) called on President-elect Barack Obama to lift America’s nearly 50-year embargo against their host country.

    As we gather today in Cuba, the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America is still in place… The Caribbean community hopes that the transformational change which is underway in the United States will finally relegate that measure to history.

    (Antiguan Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, CARICOM president)

    I have written a number of commentaries calling on American presidents, including Bill Clinton, to relegate this embargo to history. For example, here’s what I wrote on January 24, 2006 in President Bush, seal your legacy: Lift the embargo against Cuba:

    Advocates for America’s puerile, inhumane and hypocritical policy towards Cuba invariably cite Fidel Castro’s dictatorship as justification for sustained hostilities. But all one has to do is cite China – with whose dictators the U.S. courts a very beneficial relationship – to dismiss this justification as demonstrably specious….

    Nevertheless, I find it ironic, if not misguided, that CARICOM leaders traveled to Cuba – in an unprecedented show of unity – for this elusive purpose. After all, at least my call was always tempered by the hope that a fully integrated CARICOM would be firmly established to compete economically (and politically) in the region with a Cuba unbound by the perennial restrictions the U.S. has placed on its growth.

    Yet here we had all of the leaders of a congenitally fractious CARICOM advocating for a cause that is sure to hasten the economic demise of their respective countries. Indeed, its member states are notorious for the zero-sum fighting over tourism and off-shore financial services that has prevented their integration.

    Meanwhile, the irony seemed completely lost on them that they were attending a summit to discuss economic ties with a country that not only poses a far greater threat to their economies than the global financial crisis, but also looms as yet another cause for more zero-sum fighting.

    Specifically, CARICOM countries are already reeling from the loss of remittances (from Caribbean nationals working in America) and tourism revenues as a result of the economic recession in the U.S. And the large sucking sound that will be heard throughout our region if this embargo is lifted will be American tourists abandoning the Caribbean for more exotic, and cheaper, vacations in Cuba.

    Not to mention that President-elect Barack Obama has already declared that, like every other president over the past 50 years, he has no intention of lifting the embargo against Cuba – unless Cuba becomes a bona fide democracy, which nobody expects any time soon. In fact, he has promised only to lift restrictions on family travel and remittances to Cuba.

    Of course this suits Fidel (of nine lives) and his brother Raul just fine. Indeed, the wily Castros must thank their lucky stars for the double standard that has governed political and moral outrage against this embargo. Because those who condemn American leaders have invariably granted the Castros absolution despite the fact that Fidel and Raul have imposed a 50-year embargo on their own people – in terms of travel, freedom of expression and other basic human rights – that has been even more oppressive than the U.S. embargo.

    But it must have seemed an insult to his visiting Caribbean comrades when Raul greeted them at the opening of this summit by declaring that Cuba is “prepared to battle the embargo for another 50 years”. Frankly, one wonders why CARICOM leaders coordinated this highly publicized trip to make such a quixotic, adversarial and futile call. After all, this is hardly the way to begin a constructive relationship with the U.S. president-elect.

    Instead, their time would have been far better spent holding a summit in a member state for the sole purpose of discussing ways of lobbying Obama to amend his pending legislation Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act. Because this Act contains provisions that could prove even more devastating to our regional economies than the fallout from this global financial crisis or the loss of tourism market share to Cuba.

    Never mind the perennial dithering among these leaders (since 1973) over the categorical imperative of integrating our regional economies to better withstand the other looming effects of globalization….

    Related commentaries:
    CARICOM’s ironic … call
    President Bush, seal your legacy: Lift the embargo
    Raul pledges to continue Fidel’s 50-year revolution
    Fifth Summit of the Americas
    EU lifts sanctions…US will follow

  • Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 5:36 AM

    Rubio’s unconscionable lies about being a Cuban exile

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    There’s nothing new about politicians embellishing their biographies to ingratiate themselves with voters. Most notable in this respect are men who fabricate military experience – complete with battlefield heroics. And, remarkably enough, they often suffer very little, if any, consequence – as former Connecticut attorney general, now U.S. senator, Richard Blumenthal, can attest.

    But I suspect Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is the first politician in U.S. history to fabricate a story about his family being among the many exiles who fled Castro’s Cuba. Because after spending years repeatedly touting and, more to the point, benefiting from his solidarity with Florida’s exile community, it turns out that he’s no more of an exile than I am.

    For example, he even had the gall to write in his official Senate biography that his family fled Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro seized power and began the reign of terror that forced so many Cubans into exile. But here is how the St. Petersburg Times exposed this plainly ingratiating lie in yesterday’s edition:

    On May 18, 1956, Mario and Oriales Rubio walked into the American Consulate in Havana and applied for immigrant visas. The form asked how long they intended to stay in the United States. ‘Permanently’, Mr. Rubio answered.

    The discovered documents verifying this account is what we call, a smoking gun. For it makes clear that Rubio’s parents were not exiles, but just like the parents of ordinary immigrant-Americans whose parents simply left their homes in the Caribbean (and elsewhere) to seek a better life in the United States.

    I appreciate, of course, that this might seem like a distinction without a difference to anyone who is not a Cuban exile. Therefore, to put it into a little perspective, just imagine a politician lying about being one of the lucky few who escaped from the Twin Towers after the terrorist strikes that brought them down on 9/11.

    Well, given the hundreds of thousands who died in Cuba or escaped with just the clothes on their backs after Castro took over, Rubio lying about being a Cuban exile is a thousand times worse.

    Accordingly, far from being the latter-day Moses who would deliver Hispanic voters from Democrats to Republicans, I suspect Rubio will soon find himself being treated like a latter-day leper who neither political party wants to touch with a 10-foot pole. Not to mention that the real Cuban exiles might really force him into exile now - from Florida - for exploiting their suffering throughout his career so shamelessly.

    The Hispanic Obama? Fugetaboutit!

  • Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 5:31 AM

    Arab Spring Freezing out Western values?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Westerners are expressing ‘shock, shock’ that every country coming out of the Arab Spring is vowing to be governed by the Sharia laws that made Afghanistan such a pariah nation under the Taliban.

    Specifically, they are spooked by the fact that just this week the Tunisians elected an Islamist Party to replace the (Western-supported) dictator they ousted from power; that the Egyptians seem poised to do the same; and that even the Libyans – who, but for NATO, would still be living under Gaddafi’s iron-fisted rule – are espousing governing values that have more in common with Iran than the United States.

    But I warned it might be thus:

    With all due respect to the democratic protesters, the issue is not whether Mubarak will go, for he will. (The man is 82 and already looks half dead for Christ’s sake!) Rather, the issue is who will replace him. And it appears they have not given any thought whatsoever to this very critical question…

    [For] the devil the Egyptians know might prove far preferable to the devil they don’t (which might turn out to be the extremists of the Pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood who believe that all Muslim states should be governed based on strict adherence to the Qur’an). Just ask the Iranians who got rid of the Mubarak-like Shah in 1979 only to end up with the Ayatollah—whose Islamic revolution they’ve regretted (and have longed to overturn) ever since….

    (Army pledges no force against protesters, The iPINIONS Journal, February 1, 2011)

    The devil for Westerners of course is that, despite their best efforts to transpose their democratic values (even at the cost of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars), these newly liberated countries are not only shunning those values, but currying favor with countries like Iran and Pakistan that are open and notorious enablers of terrorist attacks against Western countries.

    I could end here with a wholly warranted – I told you so, but there’s also this writing on the wall I offered almost six years ago:

    I’m not sure who was more shocked by the outcome of Wednesday’s Palestinian elections: the victorious Hamas Islamic group (branded a terrorist organization by governments around the world) and their ‘wipe-Israel-off-the-map’ Islamic sympathizers – led by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; or the defeated Fatah Party and their ‘you’re-either–with-us-or-against-us’ democracy crusaders – led by U.S. President George W. Bush…

    Frankly, the only appropriate reaction to these elections is to embrace them as a profound lesson in democracy. Of course, I appreciate that by refusing to renounce its commitment to the destruction of Israel, Hamas leaders make it prohibitive for most democratic governments to deal with them. But it’s for the Palestinian people to decide whether their interests are best served by a government thusly condemned and isolated.

    (Hamas ‘terrorists’ win legitimate state power, The iPINIONS Journal, January 27, 2006)

    Enough said?

    Related commentaries:
    Army pledges no force
    Hamas ‘terrorists’ win…

  • Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 5:42 AM

    Condi: Bush had a race problem

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have felt obliged on more than a few occasions to condemn blacks (like Al Sharpton) for playing the “race card” while complaining about all manner of grievances. I suspect this is why so many people expressed shock when I led the chorus of those charging that race had everything to do with the salutary neglect the Bush Administration displayed in responding to Hurricane Katrina:

    Whereas Katrina inflicted her wrath indiscriminately, relief for her victims seems to have been a matter of race… Many (white) people are dumfounded by the federal neglect that led to the horrific images of misery and chaos shown on TV. They are “shocked, shocked” that these scenes (with thirst and hunger compounded by rape and murder) are playing out in New Orleans, not in ‘some third world country’. But in the souls of black folk, we know that an America where such neglect did not exist … was never America to us…

    So, here’s the truth laid bare for the world to see: if New Orleans were mostly white, these scenes would not exist!

    (Katrina relief efforts marked by death, destruction, despair…, The iPINIONS Journal, September 2, 2005)

    Many members of that Administration have since written memoirs, rationalizing all they said and did during their time in office. Yet none of them felt moved to confess the obvious, namely, that race was a factor in the slow delivery of relief to the predominantly black victims of Katrina.

    Ironically, the person who gave them ostensible absolution in this respect was none other than former Secretary of State Colin Powell who insisted during an interview with Barbara Walters – right in the midst of this political storm – that:

    I don’t think it’s racism, I think it’s economic.

    (ABC 20/20, September 8, 2005)

    This of course is the political version of that dispassionate canard, it’s not personal, it’s just business. Which means that far from absolving the Bush Administration, Powell merely exposed its practical indifference to the suffering of poor people - most of whom in this case just happened to be black. (An indifference, incidentally, that was also on display when this Administration rushed in to save folks on Wall Street while letting those on Main Street suffer when the financial crisis hit in 2008.)

    This is why I am so pleased to see that at least one of them has decided to confess. Because in her soon-to-be-published memoir No Higher Honor, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice comes clean in rather dramatic fashion:

    The airwaves were filled with devastating pictures from New Orleans. And the faces of most of the people in distress were black. I knew right away that I should never have left Washington. I called my chief of staff, Brian Gunderson. ‘I’m coming home,’ I said.

    ‘Yeah. You’d better do that,’ he answered.

    Then I called the President. ‘Mr. President, I’m coming back. I don’t know how much I can do, but we clearly have a race problem,’ I said…

    I wasn’t just the secretary of state with responsibility for foreign affairs; I was the highest-ranking black in the administration and a key advisor to the President. What had I been thinking?

    (Excerpted in The Huffington Post, October 24, 2011)

    No shit!

    I appreciate Condi finally providing this insider’s account to help set the record straight for posterity. It will be interesting to see though if she backslides when pressed on her book tour to explain the contemporaneous consciousness of guilt her confession reveals.

    In any case, I just wish she had the balls to speak up back then to counter the attempt by Powell and others to whitewash the role race played in the way the Bush Administration responded to Hurricane Katrina.

    NOTE: I’m not sure what to make of recent revelations that Gaddafi and every other Arab dictator, king and prince across Africa and the Middle East were all absolutely smitten with Condi: go figure….

    Related commentaries:
    Katrina relief efforts

  • Monday, October 24, 2011 at 6:40 AM

    Obama ends war in Iraq

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It might seem impossible for a president to be triumphant, modest, contradictory, solemn and opportunistic all at once. Yet President Obama was just that when he made the following announcement on Friday:

    After nearly 9 years, America’s war in Iraq will be over…

    Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq—tens of thousands of them—will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home. The last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq—with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops. That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end…

    Today I can say that troops in Iraq will be home for the holidays….

    (White House.gov, October 21, 2011)

    He was duly triumphant because ending the war in Iraq was the raison d’être for his presidential campaign in 2008.

    He was modest because the terminally combustible state of affairs in Iraq prevented him from declaring victory. The stated mission, remember, was to build an Iraq that “can govern, sustain and defend itself”. But nothing conveyed what a faustian quest this was turning out to be quite like Gen. David Petraeus reporting five years into this war that all of the progress being made in Iraq is “fragile [and] reversible”.

    He was contradictory because Obama did not want to end America’s military efforts in Iraq this year. In fact, the only reason the troops will be home for the holidays is that he failed to negotiate a new status of forces agreement with an increasingly hostile Iraqi government to keep thousands of troops in the country on U.S. terms to continue training Iraqi soldiers and counter growing Iranian influence. That the Iraqis refused to extend the immunity U.S. troops enjoyed (i.e., wanted the right now to arrest and imprison any of them) was the deal breaker, and rightly so.

    He was solemn because he understands all too well that America has little to show for the 4,500 plus soldiers killed, the 32,000 wounded, and the $700 billion spent on this war.

    And he was opportunistic because he knew full well that he was merely reflecting prevailing public opinion about the war in Iraq. For a Pew Center opinion survey, which the Associated Press published on October 5, 2011, found that the vast majority of ordinary Americans, and even one-third of war veterans, think that neither the Iraq nor Afghan war was worth it.

    All the same I welcome his announcement. Not least because I am on record calling for America to end its military misadventure in Iraq years before Obama made it the clarion call for his presidential campaign. Here is an excerpt from one of my many commentaries on point in which I address the patent fallacy of using U.S. troops as peacekeepers, on the one hand, to prevent Iraqis from killing each other, and on the other, to keep Iranian influence at bay:

    When the truth is plain to see, there’s nothing more irritating than some idiot trying to convince me otherwise. But the consequences for me in such cases have never been anything to lose sleep – let alone my life – over. Alas, the same cannot be said for the families of loved ones serving in Iraq. Because they must suffer far more than irritation when idiots – up and down the chain of command in the Bush Administration – try to convince them that reports of Iraq being a lost cause are not true…

    Yesterday marked the 3rd Anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. And, if I were gullible enough to take President Bush and his salute-and-obey generals at their word, I would have expected to see Yankee Doodle-inspired parades in the streets of Baghdad – as grateful Iraqis fête U.S. military and civilian personnel with “rose petals and air kisses” for their liberation. The truth, of course, is that neither U.S. personnel nor most Iraqis dare walk the streets of Baghdad for fear of being caught in the crossfire of civil-war factions battling for control of this and other cities all over Iraq.

    But, imagine the absurdity, indeed the tragedy, of Ayad Allawi, the man the U.S. Congress hailed as the Abraham Lincoln of Iraq just 16 months ago, now proclaiming that stabilizing Iraqi is a lost cause yet having Oval-office generals like Bush and VP Cheney trying to convince him and the world otherwise….

    (Civil war in Iraq is at hand, The iPINIONS Journal, March 20, 2006)

    Meanwhile, you’ve probably heard the predictable carping by Republicans about Obama grasping defeat from the jaws of victory with this announcement. But it is plain for all to see that even if U.S. troops were to remain for another 100 years, they still would not be able to turn Iraq into a Jeffersonian democracy.

    The problem of course is that these delusional Republicans (led by Senator John McCain who is clearly still smarting over losing the presidency to Obama in 2008) are quite prepared to keep them there that long – even if that means ten times as many troops being killed and wounded, and ten times as many billions being wasted.

    Apropos of this, these Republicans are making allusions to the peacekeeping and nation-building efforts U.S. troops have been carrying out in Europe and on the Korean peninsula. But their allusions are fatally undermined by the fact that these troops were never deployed as such sitting ducks for local insurgents that over four thousand of them were killed and over thirty thousand wounded, which was the fate of U.S. troop deployment in Iraq. And they conveniently overlook the fact that Obama will be “repositioning” many of the troops leaving Iraq right next door in the more European-like setting of Kuwait, from where they can blitz back into Iraq whenever necessary.

    Moreover, there’s every indication that Iraqi insurgents are just lying in wait to continue their attacks. But even now  the number of U.S. troops killed doing peacekeeping and nation-building tours in Europe and on the Korean peninsula over the past 59 years (collectively) is less than one percent of the number of troops that have been killed and wounded in Iraq over the past 9….

    Likewise, their assertion that the presence of U.S. troops would deter Iranian influence is belied by the fact that U.S. generals were complaining about Iranian influence in Iraq from day one. They even presented clear and convincing evidence that Iran was not just arming but also providing logistical support to the Iraqi insurgents who were killing U.S. troops and undermining their missionary efforts at nation building.

    Yet the only thing former President George W. Bush did to combat this influence was to issue demonstrably hollow threats. More to the point, when McCain and the new crop of Republicans vying to succeed him as their party’s presidential nominee next year try to explain what they would do to “make Iran respect the U.S.”, they all sound like presidential wannabe Rick Perry trying to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity.

    So here’s to Obama for finally bringing this military misadventure to an end in as dignified a manner as possible.

    Finally, since I’ve been even more adamant about withdrawing from Afghanistan, I hope he reconsiders his recent decision not to end that plainly unwinnable war now as well. Because nothing demonstrates what a complete waste of life and treasure military efforts there are quite like Afghan President Hamid Karzai making the following declaration over the weekend:

    If fighting starts between Pakistan and the U.S., we are beside Pakistan. If Pakistan is attacked and the people of Pakistan need Afghanistan’s help, Afghanistan will be there with you.

    (Associated Press, October 23, 2011)

    Clearly this declaration is as ungrateful as it is antagonistic – especially when you consider that no less a person than chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen testified recently that Pakistan was not just arming but also providing logistical support to the Taliban who are killing U.S. troops and undermining their missionary efforts at nation building.

    In other words, this is rather like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declaring that if the U.S. retaliates against Iran, Iraqis would side with the Iranians.

    In any case, the toppling of Gaddafi in Libya demonstrates that America does not need to invade with tens of thousands of ground troops to keep any country in check. In fact, I argued as much years before Obama got bin Laden:

    Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and retreat ASAP; to let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and to rely on Special Forces and aerial drones to get the Taliban and al Qaeda.

    (With [or even without] more troops, failure in Afghanistan is likely, The iPINIONS Journal, 2009)

    So it behooves these backstabbing Afghans, those two-faced Pakistanis, and them meddlesome Iranians to take heed.

    With that I rest my case in re Iraq and Afghanistan!

    NOTE: I alluded above to the missionary zeal among Republicans to democratize the Middle East. But you’d think they would have been chastened in this respect by democratic elections in the Gaza Strip which resulted in the election of Islamic fundamentalists who not only are committed to the destruction of Israel, but utterly reject the Western values these misguided Republicans hope to transpose throughout the region as well.

    Related commentaries:
    Civil war in Iraq
    Iraq: five years … lost lives and wasted money
    With [or even without] more troops
    Invading Afghanistan and Iraq was insane

  • Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 6:13 AM

    Herman Cain’s a know-nothing candidate, but man that “brother” can sing…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    White conservatives clearly hoped that this black conservative would provide the pretext to absolve them of their racist sins the way Obama ostensibly did for white liberals. Except that Herman Cain is suddenly turning out to be more of a demonic black Archie Bunker than the messianic black Ronald Reagan he was supposed to be (or become).

    Not to mention that for a candidate who touts his enviable combination of business and common sense he has displayed neither. For example, on the one hand, this putative “pro-life” crusader says that abortions should be illegal in all cases (i.e. including incest, rape and even to save the life of the mother); while on the other, he says that the choice” of whether to abort or not should be left to the woman, her family and personal physician. Huh, what kind of nonsense is that?!

    Of course, unqualified opposition to abortions is a hallowed litmus test for the vast majority of the conservatives who comprise the base of the Republican Party. Therefore, it did not bode well for Cain’s dark-horse quest to win the 2012 presidential nomination when they began jumping off his quixotic bandwagon within hours after he uttered this gibberish about abortion on Thursday.

    Frankly, all you need to know about this guy to dismiss him as nothing more than a campaign jester is that he hails Clarence Thomas as the mold for his ideal Supreme Court Justice.

    But nothing demonstrates what a political minstrel he is quite like having a dimwit like Michele Bachmann outwit him on national TV the way she did when she eviscerated his 9-9-9 plan to fix the economy with this pithy statement:

    When you take the 9-9-9 plan and you turn it upside down, I think the Devil’s in the details.

    (FOX News, October 11, 2011)

    Ouch!

    Incidentally, Cain insists that the popularity he’s enjoying (among conservatives) has nothing to do with race. But just as intelligent women must have been embarrassed, if not insulted, by Sarah Palin’s foray into the political arena, intelligent blacks are embarrassed, if not insulted, by his; i.e., race has everything to do with it.

    The funny thing is that I don’t think there has ever been a wannabe president who was so damn proud of his ignorance. Which obliges me to clarify that the only Republicans who are enjoying his minstrel show are those who are too ignorant themselves to understand what an insult it is for Cain to be pandering for their votes by reassuring them that as president he would be nothing more than a puppet with advisers (white puppet masters) telling him what to say and do.

    In any case, I’d say he has about 3 of his 15 minutes left before he becomes too much of a national laughing stock even for his Republican puppet masters….

    NOTE: Why do you suppose Cain was the only one Texas Governor Rick Perry kept referring to as “my brother” during the most recent debate among candidates for the Republican nomination? Things that make you go hmmm, no?

  • Friday, October 21, 2011 at 6:53 AM

    Gaddafi is dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Won’t these brutal dictators ever learn…?

    Think what you will of the cowardly path Tunisia’s Ben Ali took by fleeing into exile, at least he was smart enough to avoid the humiliation Egypt’s Mubarak is now suffering by being wheeled into court on his death bed to face trial, which will surely end in his Saddam-like execution; or the summary fate that has now befallen Libya’s Gaddafi.

    For according to  the BBC, Gaddafi was shot and killed by rebel fighters after they found him cowering, ironically enough, in a rat hole just like Iraq’s Saddam.

    Like Ben Ali, both Mubarak and Gaddafi had plenty of time during the early days of the Arab spring to bribe their way into comfortable exile in countries like Sudan, Niger, Algeria and even China; i.e., where the government would be unlikely to turn them over to The Hague. Alas, vainglorious pride got the better of them.

    Perhaps now Syria’s Assad will take heed; although I fear that, having ordered the massacre of so many democratic protesters, he may now be killed if he tries to flee. And to be honest, I believe this is the way the reign of brutal dictators should end – not with a whimper into exile, but with a bullet to the head.

    Allahu Akbar!

    Related commentaries:
    Kill Gaddafi already.

    This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 10:47 am

  • Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 5:17 AM

    Legalize drugs!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Former Mexican President Vicente Fox has been making news all year – not only by blaming insatiable demand in the United States for the drug-related violence that has turned Mexico into a veritable war zone, but also for declaring that the legalization of production, transit, and selling of all prohibited drugs is the only way to fight the so-call “war on drugs”, which both countries have been fighting to no avail since 1971.

    (According to an October 19, 2010 report in Business & Law, legalizing drugs would save the U.S. government approximately $41.3 billion annually on expenditures related to the enforcement of prohibition and yield tax revenues of $46.7 billion based on tax rates comparable to those currently levied on tobacco and alcohol. Not to mention that it would release hundreds of thousands from prison who are now serving time not for drug violence, but merely for drug possession and use.)

    In his latest declaration on the subject, during an interview with the BBC yesterday, Fox cited the obvious precedent Prohibition set; most notably, the crime and other untenable social consequences that led inexorably to legalizing all alcohol. And nobody can deny that the crime and other social consequences prohibition against drugs has wrought are infinitely more untenable.

    (According to a June 11, 2011 report in the Los Angeles Times, over 40,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since Fox’s successor, President Felipe Calderon, ordered a military crackdown on the drug cartels in December 2006.)

    No doubt public fatigue and disillusionment with this war (on both sides of the border) is why Fox was also keen to cite a Gallup poll – published on Monday – which showed that 50 percent of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana. This is a far cry from legalizing all drugs, but it’s the first time a majority has favored legalization since Gallup began polling on the use of marijuana in 1969.

    Of course, the more enlightened among us were on the legalize-drugs bandwagon even before Gallup began polling. But, frankly, ever since Prohibition (1919-1933) all reasonable people should have developed an instructive appreciation of this variation on George Santayana’s famous quote, namely: that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    I learned; which is why I jumped on the bandwagon years ago:

    [T]alk of Obama deploying U.S. troops to the Mexican-U.S. border is hysterical nonsense… I regret that Obama’s enlightenment … does not extend to doing the only thing that will guarantee victory in this war: legalize drugs!

    (Mexico-U.S. relationship is all about supply and demand … of cheap labor and drugs, The iPINIONS Journal, March 31, 2009)

    So I welcome Fox. I just wish he had the balls to come on board when he was president from 2001 to 2006. Because his voice would have carried a great deal more political weight back then.

    Meanwhile, I hope it’s not beating my chest too much to note that I have also been in the vanguard of those calling for the legalization of all performance enhancing drugs (steroids) too:

    The only way to bring integrity to sports is to repeal the moral prohibition against drug use and allow athletes to do or take whatever they deem is necessary to be successful.

    (A plea for Landis, Gatlin, et al: decriminalize drugs … especially in sports, The iPINIONS Journal, August 3, 2006)

    Related commentaries:
    Mexico-U.S. relationship is all about supply and demand
    A plea for Landis, Gatlin, et al: decriminalize drugs

  • Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 5:15 AM

    Replaying video of Wheldon’s fatal IndyCar crash … ad nauseam

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    To the sporting snobs who dismiss car racing as a simple-minded, redneck sport (especially those who’d rather sit around for hours watching pot-bellied men club and chase a little ball over manicured lawns until – with all of the suspense of watching paint dry – they manage to plunk it into a little hole in the ground), I have news for you:

    IndyCar racing is a sport that requires the steady nerves of a surgeon, the daring skill of a jet fighter, and the physical stamina of a marathon runner. And no sport can match the sustained thrill, nail-biting anxiety, and death-defying excitement one gets from watching those Indy cars zoom around the track – jockeying for position at an average speed of over 220 mph … for 500 miles!

    (Female driver makes history at Indy Speedway, The iPINIONS Journal, May 31, 2005)

    As this quote clearly attests, I’m an avid fan of IndyCar racing. Indeed, it’s because I am such a fan that I decided to wait three days – to give Dan Wheldon’s family, friends, and fellow drivers a little time to grieve his death – before commenting on this tragedy.

    No doubt you’ve seen the video of the 15-car crash that killed the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion (driving car #77) at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday. But, unlike other commentators, I don’t blame the media for catering to our macabre interest by replaying the dramatic footage of this pile up ad nauseam.

    After all, being able to see this crash as it happened – complete with racetrack views from cameras mounted in the cars involved … including Wheldon’s – is virtually orgasmic compared to the rubbernecking we all engage in every time we come across an accident on the highway.

    I’m sure this is why NBC’s TODAY led off yesterday’s show (for a second-consecutive day) by replaying the video of this crash continually under the guise of reporting on safety measures that must now be implemented to prevent similar crashes in the future. The producers knew that, even though some hearts would break with each replaying, all eyes would remain glued to marvel in every gory, thrilling detail.

    Apropos of new safety measures, many people are pointing to NASCAR as an exemplar. But I’m mindful that it took the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. for NASCAR to make changes to increase driver safety.  And I’m confident that Wheldon’s death will compel Indy to do the same.

    We should all be mindful, however, that there are only so  many measures Indy can implement before destroying the intrinsic nature of the sport. Frankly, instead of a quixotic quest to make IndyCar racing death proof, industry officials should stress how remarkable it is that drivers routinely race, and even crash,  at speeds in excess of 225 mph without suffering any injuries at all.

    Alas, there’s no gainsaying that inherent in the death-defying excitement we get from watching car races is the likelihood that we might see a spectacular crash. Imagine the disappointment of going to a hockey match and not seeing a fight. And there’s the rub; because as much as we wish for the crash, nobody wishes for anyone to die.

    More to the point, though, nobody knows of the risks inherent in car racing than the drivers themselves. This is why instead of bemoaning the track conditions that contributed to his death, Wheldon’s family issued a statement emphasizing the fact that he died doing what he loved. We should all be so lucky.

    Nevertheless, as the title above intimates, many people are saying that replaying the video of his  fatal crash shows gross insensitivity towards his family. I submit, however, that replaying it ad nauseam shows no greater insensitivity towards them than replaying the video of those planes crashing into the Twin Towers on 9/11 shows towards the surviving families.  And Lord knows the mainstream media have replayed that 9/11 video tens of thousands of times since then.

    The official report is that Wheldon died from “unsurvivable head injuries”. He is survived by his wife and their two young sons. He was 33.

    Related commentaries:
    Female driver makes history

  • Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 5:05 AM

    Tea Partiers are to Republicans as OWS protesters are to Democrats?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In typical herd-like fashion, political pundits of every stripe are now asserting that Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters will do for the Democratic Party what Tea Partiers have done for the Republican Party. Except that there’s one glaring distinction which completely negates this analogy.

    First, though, it might be helpful to recall that many of these same pundits initially claimed that the Tea Party was a rival to the Republican Party.

    But here is how I pegged its members from the outset:

    I see no point in wasting commentaries on a bunch of idiots who think they can change Washington by refusing to deal with anyone … who does not follow their Christian-jihadist ideology…

    [T]hey clearly have not given a moment’s thought about what it takes to get anything done in this pluralistic democracy they profess to love so much. Because even if they (i.e., the Republican Party – since the Tea Party is just its wingnut subsidiary) were to win control of both houses of Congress by the margins the Democrats now enjoy, they still will not have the votes to execute any of the items on their ‘revolutionary’ agenda. But talk about a perfect storm for gridlock.

    (Why I’m so utterly dismissive of the Tea Party, The iPINIONS Journal, September 22, 2010)

    Of course, the operative phrase here is “the Tea Party is just its [i.e., the Republican Party's] wingnut subsidiary”. This is why I was not at all surprised when, instead of forming a rival third party as generally presumed, the Tea Partiers all voted for Republican candidates, which enabled the Republican Party to reclaim control of the House of Representative in the 2010 mid-term elections.

    Equally operative, though, is the fact that they “all voted”. For what really distinguished Tea Partiers from other run-of-the-mill protesters was their clear determination to back up their political activism at the polls on Election Day.

    By contrast, even though OWS protesters seem to be chanting the rhetoric that defines the left-wing of the Democratic Party, there is no indication that they will back up their political activism at the polls. And if they don’t vote they will be of no use to the Democrats.

    In fact, the irony is not lost on me that the failure of many of these protesters to vote in those mid-term elections resulted in Republicans taking over Congress and preventing Obama from doing much of what these protesters are now demanding the government do; most notably, spread the nation’s unprecedented wealth around.

    Here is how I pegged them fom the outset:

    Perhaps the motley crew of protesters who greet annual meetings of the World Trade Organization and World Bank with a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing constitute a better analogy. For just like them, these protesters would be hard-pressed to articulate not just a coherent purpose, but any practical means of achieving it. Occupy Wall Street, and then what?

    Instead, OWS protesters would be well-advised to channel their outrage towards electing politicians at every level of government who champion workers’ rights and the kind of equitable distribution of wealth that Obama is only hinting at with his reelection stump speech about taxing billionaires and creating blue-collar jobs.

    (Occupy Wall Street, The iPINIONS Journal, October 6, 2011)

    The jury is still out, and will be until election results are announced in November 2012. But I see no indication that, in addition to spewing out Tower-of-Babel-like grievances, OWS protesters are vowing to get rid of the (Republican) politicians who have been blocking all of Obama’s efforts to reel in the excesses of greedy Wall Street bankers and corporate CEOs. To the contrary, these certifiably (and justifiably) angry protesters are venting almost as much vitriol against Obama and the Democrats as they are against the Republicans: But like I said, “Occupy Wall Street, and then what?”

    Accordingly, I fear these OWS protests will amount to nothing more than political masturbation, and the prevailing analogy to Tea-Party protests will prove patently fatuous.

    Related commentaries:
    Why I’m so dismissive of the Tea Party
    Occupy Wall Street

  • Monday, October 17, 2011 at 6:35 AM

    Dedication of the MLK Memorial

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

    (MLK)

    After a two-month postponement because of Hurricane Irene, the MLK Memorial was finally dedicated this morning — highlighted by a stirring tribute delivered by President Obama.

    Needless to say the occasion was replete with symbolism … and irony:

    The symbolism stems from the fact that, as remarkable as it was that Obama became the first black president of the United States in 2008, it is even more so that it was a black president who presided over the dedication of this first monument to a black American on the National Mall – putatively reserved for white presidents and white war heroes.

    The irony stems from the fact that, just as Obama is now suffering waning popularity as he fights to provide jobs for the poor and end costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the time of his assassination MLK was also suffering waning popularity as he fought to lift poor people up from poverty and extricate America from the quagmire in Vietnam.

    Then, alas, there are two lingering controversies that are worthy of comment:

    The first concerns the fact that the monument was designed by a Chinese sculptor and built in China. Never mind that “made in China” is stamped on almost every thing in America these days.

    The second concerns the fact that the most prominent quote – in a series of MLK quotes that give the memorial its inspirational poignancy – is in fact a misquote. Specifically, the quote on the left side of the MLK statue reads:

    I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.

    What MLK actually said is:

    If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.

    According to nationally acclaimed poet Maya Angelou, who was consulted on the memorial, the omission of the “if clause” changes the meaning of the quote and:

    … makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit.

    (News One for Black America, October 14, 2011)

    I disagree; i.e., I do not think it makes him look like an arrogant twit. More to the point, I understand the artistic license the designer took by omitting that clause; because cramming that many words onto the side of the MLK statue would detract from his profile. Besides, MLK’s character as a Gandhian / humble civil rights leader is so deeply rooted in American consciousness today that people can be left to put this quote into proper perspective without Professor Angelou’s pedantic vigilance.

    On the other hand, it does seem rather arrogant to paraphrase MLK’s words in this formal and permanent context. This is why I urge the organizers to have the designer inscribe the entire quote. Alternatively, they could select a pithier one for this location and exhibit the drum-major quote, which clearly must be included, in another prominent place on the grounds of the memorial.

    That said, as happy as I am that this day has come, I would be remiss not to mention my reaction when it was announced that MLK would be the first black American accorded this honor:

    I suspect my friends who have seen the place of honor MLK occupies in my home will be surprised to learn that I am actually conflicted about this memorial. Because, as much as I admire MLK, I believe the life, political activism, and legacy of Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) make him more worthy of being the first black to be memorialized in this American Pantheon – alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

    [I then go on to list, by way of juxtaposition, a number of reasons why I would have chosen Douglas over MLK.]

    (Mall at last! Mall at last! Thank God almighty, a Black is on the Mall at last, The iPINIONS Journal, November 14, 2006)

    Finally, the irony of ironies for me is that there were more white people in the crowd on the day in 1963 when MLK delivered his historic “I Have A Dream” speech than there were today when the memorial to him was dedicated.

    Hell, looking over the (surprisingly small) crowd one could be forgiven the impression that this dedication was taking place in the capital of some African country.

    What, if anything, are we to make of this…? And it was such a beautiful (bright and sunny) day….

    Related commentaries:
    Mall at last!..

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, 1:35 pm

  • Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 7:19 AM

    If rescuing Greece is necessary to save Europe, Europe’s in big trouble

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, October 14, 2011 at 5:06 AM

    Rise and fall of Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Regular readers know that I have a soft spot for the Ukrainians. Unfortunately, ever since their triumphal Orange Revolution in 2005, they have done nothing but trample all over my hopes for the political development of their country.

    The latest in this respect came on Tuesday when a judge sentenced former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to seven years in prison for abusing her powers while in office to sign a sweetheart oil deal with Russia. And to compound her woes, the state security service filed additional corruption charges against her only yesterday, claiming that she misappropriated over $400 million from the government’s budget to pay off a debt owed to Russia by an energy company she once ran.

    (The irony is not lost on me that Ukrainian authorities are deploying the same tactics against Tymoshenko that their puppet masters in Russia deployed to imprison oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, indefinitely, and confiscate his energy company without compensation.)

    Tymoshenko denies everything of course, claiming that she’s being persecuted for her political beliefs by Ukraine’s unrepentant communist president, Viktor Yanukovych. Whatever the case, these new charges mean that she could end up spending the rest of her life in prison.

    Mind you, such a fate would be entirely in keeping with the Joan-of-Arc persona she has cultivated over the years. And she will doubtless spin her imprisonment as martyrdom for the noble cause of Ukrainian democracy, which she and her fellow Orange Revolutionaries were mandated to usher in six years ago.

    Never mind that all of her former political partners would probably describe her as more of a cross between Mata Hari and a Black Widow. And that her imprisonment is her just deserts.

    I have written many commentaries over the years on the political machinations that led inexorably to this week’s developments. Here are some telling excerpts:

    On her falling out with political soul mate Viktor Yushchenko – who led Ukraine’s Orange Revolution which wrested power from Yanukovych, temporarily. This falling out led to early elections and gave Yanukovych hope that he could return to power:

    Yushchenko and Tymoshenko are considering locking arms again if only to foil Yanukovych’s return. Only this time, Tymoshenko, the woman Yushchenko appointed as Prime Minister, is insisting that she be on top if they do it again. (Perhaps Yushchenko will just lay back and take it like a man….)

    (Ukraine’s democracy flounders…, The iPINIONS Journal, March 28, 2006)

    On the political stalemate that defined the Orange Revolutionaries’ attempts to govern:

    Because Yushchenko and Tymoshenko were unable to outmaneuver the communists, democratically, Yushchenko invoked his presidential prerogative to refuse to endorse Yanukovych as prime minister. Thus, since last March, Ukraine has been without a government.

    And, just last Thursday, Tymoshenko – betraying who really wears the pants in her political marriage with Yushchenko – revealed that it was her Machiavellian plan to prolong this impasse. She calculated that if she could prevent Yanukovych from meeting today’s constitutional deadline to form a government, then Yushchenko could exercise his power as president to dissolve parliament and call for Ukraine’s third general election in 18 months.

    Nonetheless, truth be told, Tymoshenko made it plain that if Yushchenko had endorsed Yanukovych as prime minister that SHE would have considered it ‘…a betrayal of Ukraine’s national interest!’

    (Update on my favorite ex-communists: the Ukrainians I, The iPINIONS Journal, July 25, 2006)

    On the final split and three-strikes-and-you’re-out farce she and Yushchenko made of their attempts to govern Ukraine:

    It was not surprising, therefore, that Yushchenko’s most decisive act as president was his sacking of Yulia Tymoshenko – the charismatic woman he appointed prime minister and who, to his understandable envy, many Ukrainians think personifies the spirit of the Orange Revolution.

    Unfortunately, this only deepened disaffection with his leadership and exacerbated the democratic growing pains of all Ukrainians. And to make matters worse, instead of going quietly, Tymoshenko led a mutiny against him, which caused their governing coalition to crumble in abject failure.

    (Update on my favorite ex-communists: the Ukrainians II, The iPINIONS Journal, October 2, 2007)

    On her ultimate betrayal of Yushchenko by getting in bed with Yanukovych:

    This third divorce was caused by far more than persistent irreconcilable differences between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.

    Because it was triggered by Tymoshenko’s refusal to stand by Yushchenko when he went out on a limb in June to support another ex-communist, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, in his failed attempt to oust Russian forces from his country.

    Yushchenko claims that Tymoshenko not only betrayed him (and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution), but was actually plotting ‘a political and constitutional coup d’état’ by joining Yanukovych, the leader of Ukraine’s pro-Russian party, in accusing Georgia’s democratic forces of provoking the Russian invasion.

    (Update on my favorite ex-communists: the Ukrainians III, The iPINIONS Journal, September 24, 2008)

    On the inevitable breakdown of her shotgun marriage with Yanukovych:

    It has been little more than a year, but this latest update only brings more of the same. Because, after joining forces to utterly frustrate Yushchenko’s presidency, Tymoshenko and Yanukovych began plotting against each other immediately to replace him.

    This led to new presidential elections last month, which resulted in Yanukovych defeating Tymoshenko. Yet, true to form, this latest change has only ushered in a new term of political chaos and dysfunction.

    In this case, just as she defied Yushchenko, Tymoshenko defied Yanukovych’s demands for her to resign as prime minister so that he could appoint someone whose sole ambition was not to take his job. Her defiance led to an extraordinary vote of no-confidence in parliament yesterday, which will now compel Tymoshenko and her cabinet to resign.

    (Alas, most Ukrainians believe in constant change, if not chaos, The iPINIONS Journal, March 4, 2010)

    Clearly, when all is said and done, Tymoshenko is learning the hard way that the difference between a Democratic president like Yushchenko and a Communist one like Yanukovych is that the former just fires public servants who refuse to carry out his political agenda; the latter throws them in prison.

    Frankly, and I take some historic license here, Tymoshenko leaving Yushchenko for Yanukovych and ending up in prison is rather like Anne Boleyn leaving her faithful fiancé for King Henry VIII and ending up with her head chopped off. A tragic fate in both cases to be sure; but neither evokes much sympathy.

    Related commentaries:
    Putin decrees Khodorkovsky a Russian Madoff
    Ukraine’s democracy flounders
    Update on my favorite ex-communists I
    Update on my favorite ex-communists II
    Update on my favorite ex-communists III
    Alas, most Ukrainians believe in constant change

  • Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    Raj Rajaratnam: a Wall Street crook goes to prison … finally

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A federal judge in New York City just sentenced Raj Rajaratnam to 11 years in prison, a $10 million fine, and forfeiture of $53 million in assets.

    Much is being made of the fact that this sentence is the harshest ever imposed for the insider trading that was/is customary practice on Wall Street. Word on the street is that he won’t even be able to serve his time in a club fed like most white-collar criminals, but will have to do hard time in regular penitentiary.

    But am I the only one who wonders why prosecutors labeled this Sri-Lankan American – who looks blacker than any African American I know – as literally “the face” for all of the white-collar crooks on Wall Street whose shenanigans caused the global financial crisis of 2008?

    Things that make you go hmmmm, or in more contemporary parlance, WTF!

    Meanwhile, everybody knows that rank criminality and dishonesty among (predominantly white) casino croupiers masquerading as investment bankers – much of it having to do with misrepresenting their exposure to sub-prime mortgages – caused this crisis. And the whole world is still reeling from, and paying for, it.

    Yet not a single banker has been arrested. By riot-provoking contrast, hundreds from the Occupy Wall Street protests have been thrown in the pokey.

    Talk about the need for a (greenback) revolution. And by that I have in mind only what (then candidate) Obama had in mind when he uttered these progressive and prophetic/cautionary words on the campaign trail in 2008:

    I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

    (ABC News, October 14, 2008)

    So let’s spread the wealth around! This is unifying and galvanizing demand the Wall Street protesters should be making of (now president) Obama.

    NOTE: Bernie Madoff had nothing to do with the banking crisis. His, like Rajaratnam’s, was a different kind of Wall Street scheme.

  • Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 5:34 AM

    1 Israeli is worth 1000 Palestinians?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here is what I wrote a few years ago when the Israelis struck a deal with the Palestinians which called for Israel to release 199 Palestinian prisoners in return for two dead Israeli soldiers:

    Such deals reflect the relative value Israelis place on their soldiers versus Arab soldiers that is untenable. After all, it would seem more than fair to exchange one “high-value” Palestinian prisoner for two (dead) Israelis…

    Therefore, it strikes me as a perverse form of jingoism for the Israelis to agree to such a lopsided exchange. I can see how it feeds resentment among Palestinians for their soldiers to be regarded so cheaply. More to the point, I can see why Palestinians consider kidnapping such a good strategy to execute against the Israelis in their never-ending war.

    (To Israel, 1 dead Israeli is worth 100 living Palestinians, The iPINIONS Journal, July 17, 2008)

    This is why I am not at all surprised by reports this week that the Israelis have just struck another deal with the Palestinians which calls for Israel to release 1000 Palestinian prisoners in return for one (still living) Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit – whom the Palestinians captured notoriously five years ago when he was only 19. Frankly, the only thing noteworthy about this development is the inflationary value for Israeli soldiers this latest deal reflects.

    Hell, at this rate, if they can kidnap about 10 Israeli soldiers, the Palestinians might be able to force Israel to accede to their holy grail of statehood in return for releasing them….

    Of course, I appreciate how much regard the Israelis have for their soldiers. Indeed, they even invaded the Gaza Strip in December 2008 in a futile attempt to rescue Shalit, losing 10 soldiers and killing 700 Palestinians in the process.

    All the same, there’s no gainsaying the realization of my prediction that such unequal prisoner exchanges would set an untenable precedent for the Israelis, but a compelling one for the Palestinians. After all, here we are.

    Now though it seems just a national embarrassment that the mighty Israel is resorting to this craven form of bartering to further its military objectives, especially since among the Palestinians being released are over 300 murderers and terrorists who have the blood of innocent Israelis on their hands.

    One would’ve thought that if U.S. Special Forces could go all the way into Pakistan to kill Bin Laden, the much-vaunted Israeli Mossad could go next door into the Gaza Strip to rescue Shalit, no?

    Not to mention how these deals betray the governing, foreign-policy principle of lex talionis (an eye for an eye) for which Israel was once feared and respected in equal measure.

    In any case, this infamous prisoner exchange is scheduled to take place early next week.

    Related commentaries:
    1 Jew, 100 Arabs

  • Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    Demi: an old fool in love

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Nothing demonstrates what a double-edged sword Twitter can be quite like the spectacle Demi and Ashton have made of themselves by exposing every nook and cranny of their daily lives to the millions of twits who follow them.

    They clearly should have known that when things go bad (as was inevitable), those millions of followers would feel entitled to know every detail. Which is why the backlash over attempts by these two nincompoops to be discreet now about their marital woes is so unforgiving and unyielding.

    Here are some of the prescient comments I made about their trendy cougar marriage a year ago:

    What makes their spectacle so sad, if not pathetic, is the fact that it’s the older and presumably more mature Demi who has been twittering like a teenager gushing about her first crush.

    But the lady doth profess too much, methinks. And nothing is more embarrassing in this respect than the pictures she’s been tweeting, showing off her surgically enhanced body – as if to show all of the twenty-somethings out there that they really have to be on their game to steal her man.

    (Married fools…, The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2010)

    Well, evidently, many of them were … on their game. But Demi continually turned a blind eye to Ashton’s roving eye, which had all kinds of people tweeting about seeing him in all kinds of compromising positions with the very twenty-somethings Demi feared.

    In fact, so willfully blind and desperate was she that she even joined Ashton in tweeting threats about suing Star magazine for defaming him by calling him a cheater. But here is what I wrote in this same commentary about those threats:

    Of course, we all know that threatening to sue is one thing; suing is quite another. And since there’s been no word about Star being sued, we have to assume that Ashton’s lawyer advised him that truth is an absolute defense against any claim of defamation. Not to mention that more girls are likely to come out of the woodwork…

    In any case, the real pity here is that instead of emulating Tiger’s wife Elin Nordegren or Jesse’s wife Sandra Bullock by kicking her cheating husband to the curb, Demi seems intent on keeping her twittering marriage intact. But I doubt Ashton will still be around when she’s 50 years old. Fool.

    This is why it came as no surprise to me – not just when Ashton never sued, but when other tabloids joined Star last week in reporting on his brazen dalliance with yet another twenty-something. Indeed, as if to punctuate his disrespect for Demi, he was caught creeping with this groupie (pictured above) last month on the eve of their sixth wedding anniversary. (I suppose it speaks volumes about what Demi offers in bed that he couldn’t even wait for his seven-year itch to begin to scratch….)

    And, to add insult to her long-suffering disgrace, this groupie is now selling stroke-by-stroke details about their assignations to the tabloids – complete with an unwitting warning to Demi about Ashton not even giving a moment’s thought about wearing a condom.

    Alas, as I intimated last year, Demi gives new meaning to the term “doormat”.

    Because, even though Ashton has enough self-respect to avoid sending out more plainly dishonest tweets about his fidelity to her, Demi showed that she has absolutely none by going with him on a camping trip last weekend, which was designed by their Kabbalah spiritual advisors as a retreat for marriage counseling.

    But one does not have to be a soothsayer to predict how successful this counseling will be when most of the pictures from their outing show Demi pitching their tent, starting their fire, and cooking their food all while Ashton was just sitting on his ass smoking cigarettes and drinking beers….

    Clearly she’s not just a fool, but an old one at that – an embarrassing distinction once reserved for us men.

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