• Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 4:52 AM

    Putin’s cure for ailing Russian economy: no more gambling!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In what can only be described as playing Russian roulette with his country’s stagnating economy, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered every casino and slot-machine parlor in Russia to cease operations, effective tomorrow.

    Of course, the gamble here is not that the Russian mob might whack him in retaliation, or that this order will deprive the state of much needed tax revenues. Rather it is that, according to the New York Times, Putin’s order:

    … will lead to one of the largest mass lay-offs in recent Russian history.

    Economically, this begs the question: why, when every world leader is desperately cooking up gimmicks to create jobs, would Putin issue an executive order that will throw hundreds of people out of work?

    Well, Putin insists that it’s necessary to rid Russia of the social perils gambling enables; not least of which is the organized crime that has made doing regular business in Russia such a gamble. 

    To be fair though he did not just wake up one morning last week in a Taliban state of consciousness and decided to rid his country of Western vice.  In fact, the quixotically puritanical Putin has been railing against these vices for many years.

    I am mindful, however, that Putin is probably using gambling and Casino operators now as scapegoats to deflect attention from his inability to manage a Russian economy that is spiraling out of control. And he’s clearly shrewd enough to know that nothing comforts poor, oppressed and unemployed (and employable) people quite like appealing to their self-righteousness and giving them evil doers to blame for their economic woes.

    As for those who will lose their jobs, Putin probably figures they’ll be easily assimilated among the millions of Russians already commiserating over the loss of their jobs. Hey, misery loves company, right?!

    In the meantime, this order will do little to curb crime and other vices in Russia – especially since the cheap Russian vodka that fuels so much of them will remain readily available.

    Nevertheless, given that Putin wields more dictatorial control over Russia than the Mullahs wield over Iran, there seems little doubt that his order will be fully executed.

    Related commentaries:
    Putinization of Russia extends to Georgia

  • Monday, June 29, 2009 at 6:51 AM

    Déjà vu: American-trained military executes coup in Honduras

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is probably more embarrassing than shocking to US government officials that the American-trained military of Honduras pulled off the first coup in Central America, where coups were once common, since 1993.  Because that’s exactly what Honduran soldiers did when they reportedly seized the national palace yesterday and flew the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, into forced exile in Costa Rica.

    And nobody can be more embarrassed that this coup occurred not during the preternaturally belligerent presidency of George W. Bush but during the purportedly pacifist presidency of Barack Obama than President Obama himself. 

    Of course Obama was quick to distance himself from the coup by condemning it.  But he will be hard-pressed to convince Zelaya, a leftist compadre of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, that US forces did not mastermind this coup. Especially since it featured all of the tactics US forces themselves deployed in 2004 to overthrow another democratically elected (leftist) president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti.

    Indeed, Obama’s condemnation will probably be greeted with incredulity worldwide given the US’s record of fomenting and perpetrating coups throughout the Americas – including in Guatemala (1954), Ecuador (1963) and Bolivia (1971). 

    Not to mention that it was the CIA that gave Honduran military officers the Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual – 1983, which taught them how to torture people. This led to the creation of the notorious “Battalion 316,” whose members used those techniques (“with the CIA’s full knowledge”) on thousands of leftist dissidents. 

    But nothing betrays US mentoring for, if not complicity in, this coup quite like the way the military enlisted the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court to endorse it.  In fact, after passing a resolution accusing Zelaya of “manifest irregular conduct [and] putting in present danger the state of law,” the Congress voted (“by a show of hands”) to remove Zelaya and appoint its leader,  Roberto Micheletti (center), to replace him. 

    Meanwhile, they launched this perfectly executed coup despite the fact that Zelaya’s only crime seems to have been championing a constitutional referendum that would  have allowed him to emulate his mentor, Chavez, by removing term limits on his presidency.

    Zelaya is now protesting to CNN and other international news organizations that the coup plotters forged his letter of resignation. More damning, he insists that:

    There is no way to justify an interruption of democracy, a coup d’etat…  This kidnapping is an extortion of the Honduran democratic system.  I want to return to my country.  I am president of Honduras.

    I agree.  Unfortunately, I fear that the Mullahs in Iran will heed Mousavi’s despairing cries to let freedom reign there before the military in Honduras heeds Zelaya’s similar cries. And, frankly, no amount of condemnation from the UN, OAS and CARICOM or saber rattling by Chavez, Ortega (of Nicaragua) and Correa (of Ecuador) will restore Zelaya’s presidency.

    For his part, it’s bad enough that Obama is continuing many of the ‘war on terror’ policies that he and virtually every other world leader criticized President Bush for implementing.  But the fact that he’s now effectively presiding over this coup, notwithstanding his calls for Zelaya to be reinstated, makes him seem more like a traditional US president than the transformative one he professes to be….

    Not to mention the spectacle of Ahmadinejad now having just cause to tell Obama to clean up the democratic mess in his own backyard before lecturing him about democracy in Iran!

    With that, I feel obliged to warn my jovial compadre in Brazil, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to make sure his military commanders are on board before he too tries to emulate Chavez by pushing through a constitutional amendment to abolish term limits on his presidency….

    NOTE: Perhaps I’m just too cynical to believe that the Honduran military and political establishment orchestrated this coup without the tacit approval of US officials. Not least because over 600 US military officers remain comfortably stationed at two bases in Honduras – where they’ve been advising, and fraternizing with, Honduran military officers for over two decades.

    But even if the Hondurans defied their US mentors, then this is just another case of America’s schizophrenic foreign policy coming home to roost….

    Related commentaries:
    CIA family jewels
    Viva Chavez: president for life

  • Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 11:41 AM

    Farrah Fawcett, Charlie’s fallen angel, is dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It would be understandable if Farrah Fawcett’s loved ones resent the fact that her death last Thursday has been relegated to an afterthought in 24/7-media coverage of the near-simultaneous death of Michael Jackson.

    But this resentment would be more about their inability to bask in her eulogic glory than about any disrespect the media has shown Farrah.  Not to mention that it would ignore how shrewd and prescient Farrah was in documenting her three-year battle with anal cancer – in graphic and nauseating detail.  For she not only got NBC to pay her millions for this documentary, it might also prove to be the seminal feature of her television legacy.

    Meanwhile, Farrah was never more popular than she was in the days after this documentary, entitled Farrah’s Story, aired last month.  What’s more, her loved ones (aka guardians) were all over TV back then singing her praises, and testifying to the indispensable role they played in her life….

    But frankly, even though she distinguished herself as an actress in a couple roles, most notably the acclaimed TV movie The Burning Bed, her celebrity was based first and foremost on her looks

    She became a star in the 1970s when she played ‘Jill Monroe’ on Charlie’s Angles. But she shocked the television world when she abandoned the show after only one season. 

    More to the point, however, it wasn’t until she posed for a now iconic poster, featuring her ‘Farrah do’ and trademark smile, that she became a bona fide celebrity.  It sold an unprecedented 8 million copies.

    For the record, I thought David Avedon’s poster of Nastassja Kinski and serpent was far more appealing.  Moreover, my regard for Farrah’s celebrity had more to do with her 1973 marriage to the Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors, than with her looks. They divorced in 1982.

    At any rate, despite her commendable efforts to downplay her sex appeal as the reason for her fame, Farrah herself punctuated this fact by posing for Playboy in 1995 and 1997 (at age 50).  And that these issues were bestsellers for Playboy during the 1990s only validated her appeal in this respect.

    Farrah is survived by her father and the 24-year-old son she had with long-term partner Ryan O’Neal.  She was 62.

    Farewell Farrah

  • Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 10:13 AM

    Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, is dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Paying tribute to Michael Jackson as the King of Pop is rather like paying tribute to Joseph Ratzinger as the Pope.  For, where his musical genius was concerned, Michael was not only entertaining, but also revered and respected to the point of seeming, well, Invincible.

    Of course his musical legacy is set in platinum: i.e.,  in terms of record sales (Thriller sold over 100 million copies worldwide), music videos (he pioneered black R&B videos on MTV) and memorable performances (his breakout performance as a solo artist on Motown’s 25th anniversary show). Not to mention all he did as a member of the Jackson 5.

    But, unlike so many of his fans, I cannot reconcile his musical genius with his personal life, which seemed beset by childhood traumas that led to a lifetime of irresponsible (if not illegal) and freakish behavior.

    Frankly, the pathological self-loathing, predatory entitlement and attention-grabbing antics that characterized his personal life were beginning to fatally undermine the appeal of his professional life.

    This is why, in an admittedly perverse sense, his death was timely. Not to mention how it plays into the legend of “only the good die young” (a la Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, et al), with which Michael was reportedly so fascinated.

    At any rate, three things stand out when I reflect on his personal life:

    1. Michael was considered a shrewd businessman who reportedly earned over one billion during his lifetime. Yet he was such an unconscionable and irresponsible spendthrift that he died almost half a billion in debt.  Reports abound that Michael fed this habit in recent years by contracting to perform, collecting hefty advances and then resorting to all kinds of ploys (often involving hospital visits) to avoid getting on stage. Indeed, despite reports of him rehearsing for his big comeback series of concerts, I am convinced that, having collected a hefty percentage of the advance ticket sales, he had no intention of actually performing. It shall remain one of the greatest ironies, if not mysteries, that, for a man who claimed to be happiest when performing, Michael did so much during the last years of his life to avoid being on stage. His last concert performance was in 1996….
    2. Even though he was acquitted of criminal charges of child molestation, Michael clearly courted intimate relationships with little boys that crossed all bounds of propriety. And bear in mind that he always denied molesting them with the same sincerity and conviction with which he always denied having ANY plastic surgery (until 2003 when British interviewer Martin Bashir forced him to admit to having just “two nose jobs“).  Of course Michael was famous for treating many children with angelic affection and Santa Claus-like kindness; and he was ostensibly charitable to a fault….  But this affection, kindness and charity on the one hand only seemed to make him self-righteous about his perversion on the other.
    3. The most manifestly troubling aspect of Michael’s personal life, however, was his role as a father. Because, in addition to many other Freudian questions, I wonder about the psychological impact on his three lily-white children of having this black man (notwithstanding his appearance) insist that he is their biological father. But just imagine the psychological defect (self-hatred?) or physical dysfunction that led Michael to choose the sperm of a white man instead of using his own to inseminate the (white) surrogates who gave birth to his designer babies….

    No doubt, in the fantasy world he cultivated for himself, it was perfectly reasonable for Michael to go on million-dollar shopping sprees despite being effectively bankrupt; to undergo numerous plastic surgeries to change his Negroid features then insist that he looked white naturally; and to act as if sleeping with little boys is the most innocent and loving thing any man could do.

    Think whatever one might about the histrionics of the king of pop. But it seems that the people who associate with him either enable or adapt to his questionable and surreal lifestyle – almost all of them harboring ulterior motives. Most notable in this respect are the two women (one of whom is Lisa Marie Presley) who joined him in marriages that amounted to little more than publicity stunts and were arguably never even consummated.

    [Michael Jackson fights for his freedom…, TIJ, April 27, 2005]

    Incidentally, if you think his personal life was “wacko,” just wait for reports on the incomprehensible mess he left behind….

    Nevertheless, there’s no denying that Michael belongs in the pantheon of modern-day tragic heroes alongside Elvis Presley and John Lennon.

    He died yesterday from an apparent (prescription) drug-induced cardiac arrest at his home in Los Angeles. He was 50.

    Now, just as they contributed to the death of Anna Nicole Smith, I suspect we’ll soon be hearing about all of the Drs. Feel Good who carelessly fed Michael’s drug addiction.  And, even though the infighting over the estate of James Brown was unseemly, greedy and embarrassing, I suspect the infighting over Michael’s will make it seem genteel by comparison.

    Farewell Michael

    NOTE:  I’ve been accused of spreading the superstition that the deaths of famous people come in threes.  Well, with the deaths this week of Ed McMahon and Farrah Fawcett, Michael’s now makes three….

    UPDATE: Am I the only one who prayed that this elusive doctor would not turn out to be black…?  First Dr. Jan Adams with Kanye’s Mom, now this Dr. Conrad Murray with Michael.  A shady coincidence to be sure, but what a damn shame!

    Related commentaries:
    Michael Jackson: Not guilty, but hardly innocent
    Michael Jackson fights for his freedom
    Deaths of famous people come in threes
    Kanye’s Mom dies mysteriously

    * This updated commentary was published originally yesterday at 9:58 am.

  • Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 5:44 AM

    Republican Gov. Sanford admits: “I’ve been unfaithful to my wife”

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Leave it to a political sex scandal to replace the bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters in Iran as the news of the day in America.  And the iron-fisted Mullahs who rule Iran must consider this scandal such a godsend that, instead of the protesters, I imagine they’re the ones now shouting from the rooftops, “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).

    The bottom line is this: I’ve been unfaithful to my wife.

    At any rate, this quote is how Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina summed up the bizarre circumstances surrounding his AWOL from his office (and from his wife) over the past five days in a rambling, cry-baby news conference yesterday afternoon.  

    Before he pulled this disappearing act, Sanford was the Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, a bona fide presidential contender and, most important to the right-wing conservatives who form the base of his party, an avowed Christian. 

    Following the primrose path taken by moral crusaders like Rep. Mark Foley, Sen. Larry Craig and Sen. David Vitter, Sen. John Ensign of Nevada has become the latest self-righteous politician to get his nuts caught in the vice grip of sexual hypocrisy. And I can never resist reveling in their public shame….

    [Why “hypocritical politician” is becoming redundant, TIJ, June 18, 2009]

    This, in part, was how I commented just last week on another high-profile, family values Republican who was forced to confess to being unfaithful to his wife.  Therefore, one has to wonder: Who’s next?

    Sanford reportedly told his staff that he was taking a hike along the Appalachian Trail “to clear his head.” If fact, he was taking a trip down to Argentina to have some hot Latina stroke … it.

    … sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head my heart cries out for you, your voice, your body, the touch of your lips, the touch of your finger tips and an even deeper connection to your soul. I love you.

    (Sanford in an e-mail to his mistress dated July 10, 2008, which was obtained and published by SC newspaper, The State)

    Frankly, despite his moral hypocrisy and brazen attempts to hide it, the prurient details of his affair are not worthy of any comment. 

    On the other hand, the fact that Sanford displayed so little regard for the duties and responsibilities of his office should be immediate grounds for impeachment – since he has made it clear that he does not intend to resign.  After all, it is untenable to have a person serving as governor, even in Alaska, who thinks it’s okay to disappear for five days without a trace.

    Meanwhile, just like Hillary and so many other humiliated political wives, Sanford’s wife issued a statement after his press conference declaring her intent to continue being a welcoming doormat whenever he wants to come back home.

    All the same, the only note of indignation I care to offer is that it takes a particularly loathsome and self-absorbed SOB to abandon his four young sons over the Father’s Day weekend to make a  booty call…!

    NOTE:  As indicated above, sex scandals involving self-righteous politicians have become so commonplace that I shall henceforth refrain from commenting on them. But God help him if President Obama is ever forced to confess that he’s been cheating on Michelle….

    Related commentary:
    Why “hypocritical politician” is becoming redundant

  • Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 5:02 AM

    Ed McMahon, perennial and preeminent sidekick and pitchman, is dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I cannot imagine Jay Leno’s Kevin, Conan O’Brien’s Andy or David Letterman’s Paul ever becoming as much of a celebrity in his own right as Johnny Carson’s Ed had become.

    In fact it is arguable that Ed McMahon was known as much for hosting Star Search (the precursor to American Idol) and serving as pitchman for American Family Publisher’s sweepstakes, as for introducing Carson with his signature, “H-e-e-e-e-e-ere’s  Johnny!” on the Tonight Show for 30 years.

    Moreover, McMahon can be forgiven for regarding his role every bit as indispensable to the success of this show as the A-list celebrities who came on to hawk their latest project:

    We would just have a free-for-all. Now to sit there, with one of the brightest, most well-read men I’ve ever met, the funniest, and just to hold your own in that conversation… I loved that.

    There’s no denying though that the Tonight Show sustained Ed.  And nothing demonstrates this quite like the fact that after it ended in 1992, Ed made headlines more for his real-life medical and financial woes than for anything he did on TV. Specifically, these lame years were highlighted by a broken neck he suffered after a fall in 2007 and the near-foreclosure on his mansion in Beverly Hills last year.   

    At any rate, what I find most notable about his life is that he served as a fighter pilot during the World War II and Korean War and was the longtime anchor for the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.

    McMahon died yesterday at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center from a “multitude of health problems,” including bone cancer. He is survived by his third wife, Pam, and five children.  He was 86.

    With that, let’s hope an angel introduced him to Saint Peter by intoning, H-e-e-e-e-e-ere’s Eddy!

    Farewell Ed

  • Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 5:56 AM

    Chris Brown cops a plea for battering Rihanna…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Because of the O.J.-Nicole Brown Simpson precedent, Chris would end up being prosecuted despite all of Rihanna’s misguided efforts to protect her man. This precedent, of course, led to laws mandating arrest in cases of domestic abuse even against the victim’s wishes.

    [Chris Brown charged for assaulting girlfriend Rihanna, TIJ, March 6, 2009]

    It was a feeding frenzy truly worthy of O.J. Simpson:

    Hordes of star-struck fans and paparazzi, including representatives from over 50 national and international news organizations, piled into the Los Angeles Superior Courtroom of Judge Patricia Schnegg yesterday to revel in what they expected would be a sensational preliminary hearing.  Day one in the trial of Chris Brown on two counts of felony assault was finally getting underway.

    What had these gawkers salivating, of course, was the prospect of watching Rihanna testify, even if reluctantly, about how (and perhaps even why) Chris beat the crap out of her a few months ago. 

    But as the opening quote indicates, I had no such expectation. Because it was disturbingly clear to me from the day he was arrested that, far from saying anything that might incriminate Chris, Rihanna was going to do all she could to exonerate him

    No doubt this is why, just minutes before the hearing was scheduled to convene, prosecutors made Chris an offer he could not refuse.

    What was surprising, however, was how sweet a plea bargain he got:  five years probation and six months of community service, which he can probably serve by shooting hoops with underprivileged kids a few times a week back home in Virginia.

    All the same, it is noteworthy that the judge went out of her way to admonish Rihanna that the restraining order she issued is intended as much to protect Chris from her as to protect her from him.  Indeed, some might infer from this “stay-away order” that Judge Schnegg felt Rihanna provoked and/or enabled much of her own abuse….  

    But since this plea will do nothing to punish Chris (who faced up to five years in prison), I hope the domestic violence classes the judge ordered him to attend will do something to rehabilitate his abusive temper.

    On the other hand, given that Rihanna has displayed all of the characteristics of the battered woman syndrome, I think the judge should have ordered her to attend similar classes as well….

    Related commentaries:
    Chris Brown charged for assaulting girlfriend Rihanna

  • Monday, June 22, 2009 at 10:18 AM

    Obama the smoker to sign anti-smoking bill

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is an open secret in Washington that President Obama is still a (cigarette) smoker.  But, just as the media conspired during JFK’s presidency to keep his extramarital affairs a secret among Washingtonians, they are conspiring now to keep Obama’s smoking a secret.  And fair enough.

    Except that, I was rather surprised, if not disappointed, a few months ago when he channeled Bill Clinton in answering a direct question about his smoking during an interview with Tom Brokaw of NBC.    

    Specifically, Brokaw reminded Obama of his campaign pledge to quit, and then asked him if he had.  But instead of admitting that he had not, Obama’s replied, “I have.”  And it was only after Brokaw gave him an incredulous stare and pressed him with a follow up question that Obama conceded that:

    … there are times when I have fallen off the wagon.

    Of course cigarette addiction is epidemic in the United States.  In fact, despite graphic warnings that “smoking can kill you,” cigarettes account for one in five deaths each year.

    Nevertheless, just as Oprah must consider her well-documented battle with the bulge an embarrassing personal failure, Obama’s Clintonian answer to Brokaw suggests that he considers his inability to kick the habit equally so.

    My libertarian view has always been that adult smokers should be left to their own devices; provided, however, that their second-hand smoke does not cause harm to others.  And I have supported a sin tax on cigarettes to help compensate for the tens of billions that smokers cause the rest of us in health-care costs.

    I realize, however, that, just like heroin addicts, cigarette smokers will pay almost any price to feed their addiction.  This is why I am so pleased that, notwithstanding his bad example (or even hypocrisy), Obama will be signing the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act today. 

    Because this legislation will limit the ability of tobacco companies to market to children – 20 percent of whom become adult smokers. Moreover, it will help smokers fight their addiction by, among others things, reducing the amount of nicotine allowed in tobacco products; thereby, hopefully, weaning many smokers off cigarettes.

    I just hope this legislation does more to reduce smoking than government regulation of junk food has done to curb childhood obesity or wean Oprah and others off their addiction to food….

  • Saturday, June 20, 2009 at 7:12 AM

    Yesterday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, decreed: end protests or face his bloody wrath!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This means that, if anti-government forces defy him, together they will stand, but divided they shall fall

    Therefore, since there’s nothing we can do or say to alter their fate, let us stand in (virtual) solidarity with these protesters for democratic freedoms in Iran.

    Related commentaries:
    Iranians protest Ahmadinejad’s re-ordination

  • Friday, June 19, 2009 at 8:15 AM

    Senate apologizes for slavery; Blacks say, show us the money (reparations)!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Of course, it is noteworthy that this apology comes 140 years after the abolition of slavery and decades after black Americans began pleading for the government to issue it.  And the only reason for this unconscionable delay is that the government feared an apology would validate longstanding demands for more vexing and costly reparations.

    No doubt, those fears will now be realized; especially since this resolution commits the House to “rectifying the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African-Americans under slavery and Jim Crow.”

    Nevertheless, the Senate is due to pass a similar resolution in due course.

    [US Congress finally apologizes for slavery, TIJ, July 30, 2008]

    This was how I acknowledged the belated apology for slavery the US House of Representatives issued last year.  And the Senate duly followed suit yesterday.

    Admittedly, as far as apologies go, it is quite significant. Not to mention the symbolism of issuing on the eve of “Juneteenth” – a day (June 19) of celebration commemorating the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the emancipation of blacks from American slavery.

    But nothing demonstrates that the US government has no intention of putting its money where its mouth is quite like the disclaimer the Senate included in its apology resolution, which states that “nothing in it supports or authorizes reparations by the United States.”

    Therefore, no matter how the House intended to rectify the “lingering consequences” of slavery and Jim Crow, when these two apologies are reconciled, the Senate’s disclaimer will prevail. This means that blacks will receive no compensation for America’s “original sin” that was committed against their ancestors.

    Finally, here, for the record, is how I expressed my view in a previous commentary that claims for reparations are fatally flawed:

    Claims by Holocaust survivors and interned Japanese were successful primarily because direct links could be established between the perpetrators of the harm alleged and surviving victims of that harm.  By contrast, no such links exist between the institution of slavery and modern-day claimants for reparations.

    [The fatally flawed demand for reparations, CNN, February 16, 2007]

    Besides, weren’t the past 40 years of affirmative action intended to rectify the lingering consequences of slavery and Jim Crow? Never mind that white women and wealthy blacks were the ones who benefited most….  Enough already!

    Related commentaries:
    House finally apologizes for slavery
    Fatally flawed demand for reparations

  • Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 4:59 AM

    Why “hypocritical politician” is becoming redundant…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If these politicians were not lead vocals in a chorus of moral crusaders, I would not give their sexual escapades a moment’s thought. For the unadulterated pleasure of afflicting these hypocrites, however, I don’t even mind being bedfellows with a publicity-seeking hustler like Larry Flynt.

    [DC Madam outs Sen. David Vitter as a faithful “John”…, TIJ, July 17, 2007]

    Following the primrose path taken by moral crusaders like Rep. Mark Foley, Sen. Larry Craig and Sen. David Vitter, Sen. John Ensign of Nevada has become the latest self-righteous politician to get his nuts caught in the vice grip of sexual hypocrisy. And I can never resist reveling in their public shame….

    As the fourth-ranking member of the Republican leadership, Ensign was a rising star among the endangered species of conservative men who still think they can rule by the patriarchal principle of “do as I say, not as I do.”  He burnished his bona fides in this respect by touting his membership in the Promise Keepers, a national men’s group committed to extolling traditional family values and championing men as “godly influences” in the world.

    More to the point, Ensign made a public display of his self-professed moral rectitude by rebuking fellow Republican Senator Larry Craig as a “disgrace” after Craig was arrested in 2007 for soliciting gay sex in a public toilet.  It is particularly noteworthy that Ensign demanded Craig’s immediate resignation.

    Not to mention the display he made of insisting that Bill Clinton should be impeached for having sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky. Ensign reasoned dismissively that Clinton “had no credibility left.”

    Now comes the inevitable revelation that at the very time he was rebuking Craig Ensign was planting the seeds of an extramarital affair with the wife of his chief of staff.

    What’s more, it seems he only confessed because this cuckolded chief of staff (pictured here) reportedly tried to blackmail Ensign, perhaps figuring that if his wife is going to behave like a whore, he might as well behave like her pimp…. Never mind the hypocrisy of Ensign declaring that, since his wife and God had already forgiven him, he had no intention of resigning.  

    Incidentally, Ensign’s wife is following the long-suffering path of most betrayed political wives by standing by her man. But she deserves credit for not serving as a political prop during his public confessional in Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon.

    It remains to be seen, however, if the guardians of the religious right, who praised him as a model conservative politician, will be as forgiving. But, just as I have deferred to the constituents of these respective hypocrites to determine their political fate, I shall leave it to the citizens of Nevada to decide Ensign’s. 

    Of course, that Ensign’s extramarital affair is now national news not only makes a mockery of Nevada’s most-celebrated motto:what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” it effectively derails his presidential ambitions as well…. Thank God!

    NOTE: Before ascribing partisan motivations to this commentary, please be advised that, based on the principle delineated in my opening quote, I opposed the impeachment of a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, but supported the impeachment of a Democratic governor, Eliot Spitzer.  It is also why I did not comment recently when the Democratic mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, was caught in the very same vice grip (i.e., sleeping with the wife of one his staffers) in which Ensign now finds himself.

    Related commentaries:
    Rep. Mark Foley
    Sen. Craig
    Sen. Vitter
    Gov. Eliot Spitzer

  • Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 4:55 AM

    CIA Director Panetta: Cheney wishing for US to be attacked

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Even some of my liberal friends thought I was being too harsh when I commented as follows on the criticisms by conservatives of President Obama’s strategy for fighting “violent extremism” (as opposed to a “war on terror”):

    They know full well that nothing would herald the revival of the Republican Party quite like a terrorist attack on Obama’s watch…  This is why Cheney is on a mission to keep preaching about another terrorist attack until his self-fulfilling prophecy is realized.

    [Republicans are praying … for Osama to succeed, TIJ, May 12, 2009]

    Well, in a rare moment of candor, here’s how CIA Director Leon Panetta echoed my “harsh” analysis:

    It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he [Dick Cheney] is wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.

    (Panetta in the June issue of The New Yorker)

    Meanwhile, I have no doubt that Panetta’s spokesman was just as disingenuous when he said over the weekend that Panetta really didn’t mean what he said as Republican spinmeisters were when they claimed to be outraged by what he said. Got that?!

    Related commentaries:
    Republicans are praying … for Osama to succeed

  • Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 5:43 AM

    Kobe’s sweet vindication as Lakers put spell on Magic

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It seemed more a matter of luck than skill when the Los Angeles Lakers eked out home-court victories over the Orlando Magic in the first two games of this year’s NBA Finals.  This is why so many basketball commentators thought  that the Lakers were in for a seven-game struggle

    Meanwhile, I was more interested in seeing if Kobe Bryant would finally win his first Shaq-less championship or demonstrate yet again that he can’t win without Shaquille O’Neal.

    As it turned out, the Lakers put on a magical display during the next three games, which were played on Orlando’s home court, and ended the Magic’s fairytale season on Sunday by winning this championship series 4-1.

    I suspect, however, that Kobe’s championship feeling pales in comparison to the vindication he must be feeling today.  For here, in part, is what I wrote after he failed to get this monkey off his back in last year’s NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics:

    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.

    [Celtics rout Lakers to win 2008 NBA Championship, TIJ, June 18, 2008]

    And to add insult to his resentment, here’s how Shaq rubbed this loss to the Celtics in Kobe’s face:

    Last week Kobe couldn’t do it without me…
    Kobe tell me how my ass taste
    I’m a horse, Kobe ratted me out, that’s why I getting a divorce
    Kobe, can’t do it without me…

    [Shaq raps like a man scorned…disses Kobe, TIJ, June 26, 2008]

    Juvenile … to be sure! But Shaq’s rap song – composed of these and even cruder lyrics – was reportedly a hit in the Hip-hop community and night clubs all over America.  And, no doubt, this only compounded Kobe’s humiliation….

    Therefore, I heartily congratulate Kobe, and have no difficulty eating a little crow for doubting that he could pull it off.

    More to the point, I’m sure that my crow will taste a lot better than the load Shaq now has to eat. Though, to his credit, Shaq seems prepared to eat it like a man:

    Congratualtions kobe, u deserve it. You played great. Enjoy it my man enjoy it. And I know what yur sayin rt now… ‘Shaq how my ass taste.’ (Sic)

    (A twittering Shaquille O’Neal)

    NOTE:  In winning his 10th championship as a head coach, the Lakers’ Phil Jackson surpassed legendary Red Auerbach, ironically of the Celtics, as the most successful coach in NBA history.

    Related commentaries:
    Shaq raps like a man scorned

  • Monday, June 15, 2009 at 5:07 AM

    Iranians protest Ahmadinejad’s re-ordination

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Iran became engulfed in flaming protests over the weekend after the state news agency, Irna, declared that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won reelection over purportedly surging challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi by a landslide margin of 62.6-33.8 percent

    (Note:  Not quite as daring or sympathetic as the Chinese man who played chicken with bulldozing tanks in Tiananmen Square, but this Iranian reflects the defiance that has led to post-election riots all over Iran.)

    The widespread belief among Mousavi’s supporters in Iran (and among his sympathizers in the West) is that the election was stolen.  Their belief evidently stems from the fact, in the days running up to the election, Obama-size crowds attended Mousavi’s campaign rallies while only McCain-size crowds attended Ahmadinejad’s.

    But nothing demonstrated how mistaken they probably are quite like the Obama-size crowd that attended Ahmadinejad’s victory celebration yesterday….  

    Not to mention how insulting it is to the Iranian people (and how much it reflects our own narcissism) for Westerners to insist that Ahmadinejad could not have won this election free and fair – even if only by a far more modest margin.

    Admittedly, I seem to have a little more regard for the way Iranians conduct their elections than most Westerners do – as the following will affirm: 

    The Islamic Republic of Iran elected a new president in democratic elections that would’ve made even George Washington, the father of American democracy, proud.

    Unfortunately, it did not please his presidential heir and namesake, George W. Bush, in the least. After all, this curious George only likes democratic elections when the rulers elected share his political views and religious values. And, Iran’s president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clearly does not fit the bill.

    [New Iranian president: we shall have nukes vs. George W. Bush: over my dead body, TIJ, July 14, 2005]

    There’s no denying, however, that my libertarian take on national elections could only have been reinforced by the 2000 US presidential election. Indeed, I think those venting political indignation over the outcome of last Friday’s presidential in Iran would do well to be mindful of this seminal election in the United States – the nationally proclaimed last bastion of democracy.

    After all, Ahmadinejad’s supporters would be wholly justified in telling indignant Americans that, when it comes to stolen elections, George W. Bush’s in 2000 (which he allegedly stole from Al Gore) makes Ahmadinejad’s on Friday look like a model democratic exercise.

    Therefore, I say let us leave it to Mousavi’s supporters (in Iran) to vent political indignation just as Gore supporters did in 2000. And I hereby express unqualified solidarity with them in this….

    I urge you, Iranian nation, to continue your nationwide protests in a peaceful and legal way.

    (Moussavi’s plaintive plea from an undisclosed location)

    I am convinced, however, that Mousavi’s appeal to the Guardian Council to have Ahmadinejad’s victory overturned will prove every bit as futile as Gore’s appeal to the Supreme Court to have Bush’s victory overturned.  Not least because Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, has already ordained this little holier-than-thou bugger the “divine” winner:

    In Iran, the election was a real and free one… Some believed they would win, and then they got angry. It has no legal credibility. It is like the passions after a football match. It is not important from my point of view.

    (Ahmadinejad in his triumphant post-election news conference)

    That said, I feel obliged to note that nobody has condemned Ahmadinejad more strongly than I have for the genocidal and stupid things he says.  And nobody wanted to see him defeated more than I

    I am also mindful that Ahmadinejad is probably no more credible in saying that his election was free than he was when he said that there are no homosexuals in Iran – as he did during a lecture at Columbia University a couple years ago….

    Nevertheless, I think it’s best to let the Iranians fight their velvet revolution without self-righteous American politicians trying to fight it for them … rhetorically.

    Meanwhile, even though it is self-evident that he wanted to see Ahmadinejad defeated, President Obama prudently positioned the US to normalize relations with Iran regardless of the outcome. Indeed, it is a reflection of his visionary and unflappable statesmanship that he has ignored exhortations (from everyone from French President Sarkozy to his Republican nemesis, Sen. John McCain) to offer himself as the de facto leader of anti-government protesters in Iran. 

    Besides, these protests must come as such a shock to the Mullahs and conservative factions that rule Iran that they might now feel compelled to allow more democratic freedoms and be more modest about their nuclear ambitions.

    Don’t hold your breath, but hope springs eternal….

    Related commentaries:
    New Iranian president
    Ahmadinejad unbowed
    Bush will attack Iran to redeem his presidency

  • Sunday, June 14, 2009 at 9:13 AM

    Happy Flag Day America!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I don’t know of another country that designates a day to celebrate its flag. But, as far as expressions of nationalism go, I prefer celebrating a flag to ethnic cleansing or any of the other forms of xenophobia so many other countries employ.

    So go on America, celebrate your flag….

  • Saturday, June 13, 2009 at 7:49 AM

    Only Obama can make a guy with four wives feel resentful … and in more ways than one!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, June 12, 2009 at 8:34 AM

    Grand Opening of Mind, Body & Soul Fitness

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As a point of personal privilege, I would like to use today’s commentary to pay tribute to my sister, Alice.

    Alice is the personification of the power of positive thinking.  And she is easily the most high-spirited and energetic person I know.

    Therefore, I was not at all surprised when she informed me that demand for her services as an aerobics instructor was so great that she felt duty bound to open her own health and fitness center.  Accordingly, I was exceedingly proud when she held the Grand Opening of Mind, Body and Soul Fitness (MBSF) a week ago today. 

    As the name suggests, MBSF is committed to providing its clients the most holistic health and fitness options available anywhere in the Caribbean.  These include state-of-the-art training equipment, board-certified private trainers, expert aerobics instructors, impeccable lounge and spa areas, a juice bar and much, much more. 

    Of course, managing it all, and teaching her signature classes, will be the pied-piper of fitness herself.

    To nurture and empower Mind, Body & Soul through overall physical development.

    (MBSF Mission Statement)

    As a former personal trainer myself, I feel qualified to assert that Alice is the most exhilarating and inspiring fitness instructor in the business today; never mind the understandable exuberance of my family pride.

    What’s more, MBSF is distinguished by the fact that Alice will measure its success, not by how many people sign up, but by how many people she helps lead a healthy lifestyle.

    Congratulations Alice!  I am so proud of you darling….

    NOTE:  MBSF is located at #1 New Kross Town Plaza, Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas.   E-mail: [email protected]

    If you live in Grand Bahama, I urge you to join. If you’re just visiting, I encourage you to experience it on a day pass.

    * This tribute is also published today at Caribbean Net News

  • Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 10:07 AM

    Holocaust Museum gunman: a sloppy, abusive drunk who happened to be a racist

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It must be understood that, no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing our governments can do to prevent such attacks. Meanwhile, that Americans reacted yesterday as if those explosions went off in Washington or New York should compel Westerners to focus on calming our collective nerves instead of fretting about (or worse, trying to figure out) the motivation for and timing of terrorist attacks by Islamic fanatics.

    [From New York to London, Islamists are terrorizing us to death, TIJ, July 2, 2007]

    Of course, it should also be self-evident that governments can do even less to protect us from a crazy, lone gunman hell-bent on some kamikaze mission for his delusional cause.  Remember Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma bombing?

    Unfortunately, it says more about our panicky state of mind than these terrorists without a cause that their cowardly attacks always incite such hysteria in law-enforcement and the media

    Never mind the pundits who are always so hell-bent on drawing connections between these incidents and al-Qaeda or neo-Nazi conspiracies that they end up looking almost as deranged as the gunmen. Frankly, they do more to encourage these wackos than to explain their attacks.

    Most troubling in this respect, however, is that the media will now do all they can to turn this latest loser, 88-year-old James W. Von Brunn, into a racist and anti-Semitic martyr by publicizing his pathetic life story and idiotic rantings. And you don’t have to take my word for it because here’s what his ex-wife said about him in an interview with the New York Daily News after yesterday’s shooting:

    [He was] an abusive alcoholic whose hatred against Jews and blacks ate him alive like a cancer.  He used to make the statement that he was going out with his boots on… I took it to mean that he wasn’t just about to lay down and die of old age. That he was going to go out and try to take some people with him.

    Actually, this suggests that his mission was more to commit suicide by cop to end his life of chronic failure and sociopathic frustration than to carry out a terrorist attack. After all, the man was so old and feeble that he could barely lift his rifle to fire off one good shot. This makes it all the more venal  and irresponsible that the media are according this decrepit old fool the blaze of glory he coveted instead of letting him wither away in obscurity….

    Gratitude and condolences should go out to the family of the heroic museum guard, Stephen T. Johns, who was shot and killed as he confronted Von Brunn just outside the Holocaust Museum.   Because he and others who perform thankless guard duties in public places all over the country constitute our only defense against these home-grown terrorists.

    Meanwhile, when Johns’ fellow guards came to his aid and opened fired on Von Brunn, they only wounded him critically.  This means that he failed not only in his purported mission to kill a bunch of Jews but also in his wish to go out “with his boots on.”

    All the same, the irony is not lost on me that the only person killed was a black guard fighting to protect this Jewish museum….

    Related commentaries:
    From New York to London, Islamist are terrorizing us to death

  • Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 1:10 PM

    Obama disses Israelis…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    According to CBS News, Israelis are citing this photo of President Obama speaking to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu – with his feet up on his desk – as yet another demonstration of how little respect Obama has for Israelis.

    But I wonder if these same Israelis thought President Clinton was demonstrating how little respect he has for Palestinians when he was reportedly speaking to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat while getting a blowjob from Monica Lewinsky…?

    Frankly, despite the patently absurd, if not racist, attempts by some Israelis to cast him as an anti-Semite, I am convinced that Obama will turn out to be the most salutary friend Israel has ever had in the White House in its short and beleaguered history.

  • Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 12:12 PM

    McAuliffe, the Clintons’ moneyman, suffers humiliating political defeat

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Anyone who knows anything about the political success Bill and Hillary Clinton have enjoyed knows that Terry McAuliffe was the indispensable campaign fundraiser who made it all possible.

    As it happens, I know a little more than most about their relationship – having worked down the hall from Terry when he was serving as chief fundraiser for the Clinton-Gore reelection campaign in 1996.  (I was just a foot soldier who served as the national procurement coordinator for the campaign.)

    But suffice it to know that Terry was as much a personal friend of the Clintons as he was their fundraiser. Therefore, Bill and Hillary were probably motivated as much by friendship as by indebtedness when they threw their considerable clout behind Terry’s bid to win the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia. 

    More to the point, not so long ago, such an endorsement would’ve guaranteed victory in any Democratic primary. Then along came Obama:

    Here’s to the ascension of Obama as the new leader of the Democratic Party, and to the end of Bill and Hillary’s self-indulgent reign.

    [Obama Clinches Democratic nomination, TIJ, June 4, 2008]

    I have no doubt, however, that if the Clintons had run a more respectable and less imperious campaign, they would have retained much of their clout:

    [C]lose friends say Sen. Kennedy had become so disgusted with the Clintons’ race-baiting tactics to marginalize Obama that he regarded Bill’s pleas [for the Kennedys to endorse Hillary] as nothing more than a pathetic attempt to spin him. But far more troubling for the former president is the cognitive dissonance developing in Democratic circles that he is showing himself to be little more than the white equivalent of Rev. Al Sharpton.

    [The Kennedys: Dissing Hillary, endorsing Barack…, TIJ, January 29, 2009]

    Unfortunately for Terry, nothing demonstrates how much influence and goodwill the Clintons have lost within the Democratic Party quite like the results in yesterday’s primary race in Virginia. 

    Because, despite the Clintons’ endorsement, being a nationally known political celebrity in his own right and having unlimited campaign funds, Terry was “trounced” by obscure state legislator Creigh Deeds.  In fact, Deeds won over 50 percent of the votes; whereas, Terry won only 26 percent; and another former state politician, Brian Moran, won 24 percent.  

    Meanwhile, even though he never endorsed any of the candidates, it was generally assumed that President Obama wanted Deeds to win.  Not least because, in addition to being the chief fundraiser for Hillary’s ill-fated presidential campaign, Terry was one of her most vicious attack dogs against Obama.

    Therefore, Terry’s humiliating defeat must have provided a second dose of vindication for Obama’s supporters, if not for the president himself.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama Clinches Democratic nomination
    The Kennedys: Dissing Hillary, endorsing Barack

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