• Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 5:23 AM

    MJ’s doctor, Conrad Murray, gets the max! Unfortunately…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Murray has been a guilty man walking ever since Michael died on June 25, 2009. The only real issue now is whether he’ll be sentenced to the max, which in this case is only four years. I say yes.

    (Murray is guilty, but MJ is not without blame, The iPINIONS Journal, September 30, 2011)

    Far from showing mercy by granting Dr. Conrad Murray the probation he openly prayed for, Judge Michael Pastor showed him nothing but contempt yesterday by sentencing him to the maximum four years in prison.

    The judge condemned Murray’s criminally negligent treatment of MJ as “a disgrace to the medical profession”:

    It should be made very clear that experimental medicine is not going to be tolerated, and Mr. Jackson was an experiment. Dr. Murray was intrigued by the prospect and he engaged in this money for medicine madness that is simply not going to be tolerated by me.

    (Associated Press, November 29, 2011)

    He even insinuated that the doctor was nothing more than a common blackmailer:

    That tape recording [of MJ speaking in a drug-induced haze] was Dr. Murray’s insurance policy. It was designed to record his patient surreptitiously at that patient’s most vulnerable point…

    I can’t even imagine that happening to any of us because of the horrific violation of trust, and I can’t help but wonder that if there had been conflict [between the doctor and MJ] what value would have been placed on that tape recording.

    (USA Today, November 29, 2011)

    Then, with his voice projecting unbridled disdain, the judge literally exclaimed “yikes” as he conveyed his indignation at Murray’s lack of remorse:

    Talk about blaming the victim. Not only isn’t there any remorse, there is umbrage and outrage on the part of Dr. Murray against the decedent… I think Dr. Murray is so reckless he is a danger to the community… [He] has absolutely no sense of remorse, absolutely no sense of fault.

    (The Los Angeles Time, November 29, 2011)

    In fact, what was most noteworthy about this sentencing was the judge’s obvious regret over not having the legal authority to send Murray off to the state penitentiary for life.

    Which brings me to the unfortunate part of this commentary. Because, thanks to travails of celebutarts like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, it is now an open and notorious secret that jail overcrowding in California is such that Murray may end up spending no more than 18 months behind bars.

    After all, in her most recent flirtation with the Los Angeles criminal justice system, Lindsay served only 3 hours of a 30-day sentence for violating (for the umpteenth time) the terms of her probation for convictions on jewelry-theft and drunk-driving cases. And the sheriff who determines how much time each convict actually serves will undoubtedly be keen to demonstrate that this high-profile black male will be required to serve no greater portion of his sentence than the high-profile white females who have exposed what a joke prison sentencing in LA County has become.

    If the sheriff is consistent, Dr. Murray’s sentence in terms of time incarcerated will be very short.

    (District Attorney Steve Cooley, Associated Press, November 29, 2011)

    But, like his own defense attorney conceded, this wretched SOB will spend the rest of his life being known as the money-grubbing quack who killed  the king of pop. And that might just be punishment enough….

    Related commentaries:
    Murray is guilty, but

  • Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 5:12 AM

    First Penn State, now Syracuse embroiled in child sex-abuse scandal

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I indicated in my commentary Penn State’s Catholic Church problem that it was only a matter of time before other schools became embroiled in a similar scandal. Sure enough, here comes Syracuse University; and the similarities – in terms of the nature of the allegations and the cover up – are uncanny.

    For starters, it’s important to know that basketball is to Syracuse what football is to Penn State: a veritable religion and cash cow to boot. Further that legendary coach Jim Boeheim is to Syracuse basketball what legendary coach Joe Paterno was to Penn State football: a god worshiped like the Golden Calf.

    Now consider that the accused Bernie Fine (pictured right) was to Boeheim (left) what the accused Jerry Sandusky was to Paterno; namely, his most trusted friend and assistant coach for the past 35-plus years.

    More to the point, just as it was with Sandusky, facts are emerging which indicate that Fine (66) is a serial abuser of little boys: Sandusky used a camp he founded for troubled boys as a veritable harem for his pedophile exploits; whereas, Fine used a continually refreshed squad of ball boys from the men’s basketball team for his.

    And, as improbable as it may seem, like Paterno, Boeheim swears that he knew nothing of Fine’s predatory behavior. In fact, he even went so far as to call Fine’s first accuser, Bobby Davis, a “liar” who was just a copycat trying to extort money in the wake of the scandal at Penn State:

    So, we are supposed to what? Stop the presses 26 years later? For a false allegation? For what I absolutely believe is a false allegation? I know he’s lying… I know Bobby. He was one of 300 ball boys we’ve had…

    The Penn State thing came out and the kid behind this is trying to get money… You know how much money is going to be involved in civil suits? I’d say about $50 million. That’s what this is about. Money.

    (The Post-Standard, November 18, 2011)

    The coach doth protest too much, methinks; especially since there are now two other former ball boys making similar allegations. And, just as it was with Sandusky, Fine probably has many other victims who are working up the courage to come forward or are still too traumatized to do so.

    In any event, there seems to be an unwitting consciousness of guilt (his own and Fine’s) inherent in Boeheim reflexively accusing the victim. At the very least, Boeheim defending Fine in this manner makes him every bit as complicit as a Catholic Bishop defending a pedophile priest.

    But what makes this case particularly troubling, if not utterly unconscionable, is that Fine’s own wife Laurie is the one providing damning eye witness accounts of his deviant behavior. Because Bobby – who lived in the basement of the Fines’ home throughout his childhood – was shrewd enough to gather proof of his victimization by secretly recording a phone conversation with her in October 2002 in which she admits that:

    I know everything that went on, you know. I know everything that went on with him. Bernie has issues, maybe that he’s not aware of. But he has issues. And you trusted somebody you shouldn’t you have trusted…

    Bernie is also in denial. I think that he did the things he did, but he’s somehow, through his own mental telepathy, has erased them out of his mind…

    He thinks that, I think, he thinks he’s above the law.

    (ESPN’s Outside the Lines, November 27, 2011)

    Which of course begs the question: What kind of woman boasts about knowing that her husband molests little boys but does nothing about it – like report him to the police? Especially given her own admission that, like McQueary at Penn State, she even caught him in the act with one of them….

    Well, it might be helpful to know that Laurie also admits on tape that, even though she knew her husband began abusing Bobby at age 12, she compounded that abuse by wantonly seducing and having a full-blown sexual relationship with him when he was 18. Frankly, this behavior by Bernie and Laurie Fine smacks of the kind of sick, predatory behavior that has Phillip and Nancy Garrido, the husband and wife who kidnapped and sexually abused Jaycee Lee Dugard for 18 years, now serving 436 years and 36 years in prison, respectively.

    Apropos of reporting, there are all kinds of conflicting stories about when (or even if) Bobby went – with this incriminating tape in hand – to university officials and the police. But ESPN executives admit having it since 2003. Yet they claim that because only one victim was involved they did not feel it was sufficient to sound the proverbial alarm —as if Fine was entitled to a free pass on the molestation of one boy.

    In fact, if it were not for the scandal at Penn State giving two other victims the courage to corroborate Bobby’s allegations, chances are very good that ESPN would never have published the tape, and Boeheim and others would have continued their willful cover up of Fine’s abuse to protect a basketball program in which they all have considerable financial and/or sentimental interest.

    As it happened, mere hours after ESPN published it on Sunday, the university fired Fine – prompting Boeheim to issue a patently disingenuous and self-serving statement expressing shock, shock at what is being alleged against his old friend and long-time assistant coach.

    Now Fine and Syracuse are facing the same kinds of civil and criminal investigations currently underway at Penn State. And Boeheim is right: it’s going to cost them tens of millions (with every Tom, Dick and Harry who ever served as a ball boy coming out of the woodwork to file claims) … and rightly so.

    In the meantime, just as Penn State had the presence of mind to summarily fire Paterno to save itself, I suspect Syracuse will end up doing the same with Boeheim.

    I also think the NCAA should suspend the university’s basketball program indefinitely. For there can be no greater indictment against it than harboring an assistant coach who repeatedly abused the ball boys – who probably regard their service to the team as every bit as sacred as altar boys regard their service to the Catholic church.

    Finally, if nothing else, these child sex-abuse scandals in Pennsylvania and New York should compel all 50 states (or Congress) to enact legislation mandating all adults to report suspicions of child sex abuse to the police or child protective services. And the penalty for failing to do so should be significant jail time as well as a substantial fine.

    Related commentaries:
    Penn State’s Catholic Church problem

  • Monday, November 28, 2011 at 5:13 AM

    NBA lockout ends: the players got played!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Just ten days ago contract negotiations between NBA players and owners became so deadlocked that both sides retained lawyers to settle their claims in court. This put the entire season in doubt, which led me to comment in part as follows:

    Many commentators were surprised when NBA players called team owners’ bluff by refusing to accept their take-it-or-leave-it offer of a 50/50 revenue split by the end of business on Wednesday. Those commentators reasoned that the players would not risk losing paychecks that amount to an average of $5 million per year… [But] I was not at all surprised. Not least because I reasoned that the owners had far more to lose – an average of $100 million.

    Now the courts will decide how best to split their $4 billion in annual revenues. And I am convinced that the players will be vindicated – primarily because they have demonstrated good faith by agreeing to cut their take from the 57 percent they got last year all the way down to 52.5 percent.

    The players clearly know their worth. They could even start their own league with new team owners who are prepared to accept a more equitable split and leave the NBA owners holding a bunch of worthless contracts.

    Again, this dispute is not as much about the failure of the collective bargaining process as it is about the insult to the players’ collective pride, which is why this season is lost – barring an appropriately humiliating change of heart by the owners before the end of this year.

    (NBA players call the owners’ bluff, The iPINIONS Journal, November 18, 2011)

    Boy was I wrong.

    Because far from holding out for the more equitable 52.5 share, the players were the ones who had a humiliating change of heart and caved to the owners’ demand for a 50/50 split.

    Basketball is back in business, with a new labor deal that heavily favors the owners… The league wanted an overhaul of its $4-billion-a-year enterprise, and it got it, with a nearly $300 million annual reduction in player salaries and a matrix of new restrictions on contracts and team payrolls. The changes mean a $3 billion gain for the owners over the life of the 10-year deal.

    (New York Times, November 27, 2011)

    Which clearly begs the question: why would the players agree to a deal that will cost them $3 billion just to avoid losing an average of $5 million this season? Especially since it’s very likely that the court would have awarded them treble damages that could have amounted to almost $9 billion (i.e., three times the $2 billion-plus they would have earned from their 57-percent share of revenues this season).

    Both sides have withdrawn their respective lawsuits pursuant to this new deal. But the players look like unruly kids who were given a very public spanking by their parents and are now doing as they were told. Indeed, it’s humiliating enough that the owners played them for fools on revenue sharing. But these players made themselves look like fools by taking the owners’ take-it-or-leave-it offer, which they rejected only 10 days ago as a paternalistic insult.

    At the early-Saturday press conference announcing this new deal, the picture of the three blacks representing the players and three whites representing the owners spoke volumes not only about the management-labor issues involved, but also about the racial tensions that permeated these negotiations.

    I appreciate how hard it might be to think of these (predominantly black) players as losers considering that they will still be making an average of well over $4 million a year. It is worth remembering, however, that it’s a bunch of (predominantly white) billionaires who outplayed them and sucked millions out of their pockets. In other worlds, the rich just got richer as management snookered labor and the whites screwed the blacks … yet again.

    If this is what the players calling the owners’ bluff amounts to, perhaps the NBA should also stand for the “No Balls Association”.

    In any event, an abbreviated season will begin with a triple header on Christmas Day featuring the Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; the Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and the Chicago Bulls at the LA Lakers. Clearly this is the NBA’s way of trying to make up the lost games.

    So Merry Christmas basketball fans!

    Related commentaries:
    NBA players call the owners’ bluff

  • Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    NATO, why are Syrians less deserving of humanitarian intervention than Libyans? Oh right, oil, oil, oil…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
    Libya, but not Syria?

  • Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 5:17 AM

    Supreme Court to rule on landmark healthcare reform law

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    To listen to his critics, you’d think President Barack Obama signing into law the Patient Accountability and Affordable Care Act (healthcare reform) in March 2010, which made healthcare affordable for over 40 million uninsured Americans, constituted an even greater blight in the blighted annals of American history than President Andrew Jackson signing into law the Indian Removal Act in May 1830, which sanctioned the removal of native Indians from their tribal homeland to make way for white “pioneers”.

    Indeed, nothing evokes a Pentecostal-like response at Republican rallies quite like when one of Obama’s wannabe successors declares – with the conviction of a born-again Tartuffe – that his/her “first act as president will be to repeal Obamacare“. Mind you, their declaration is invariably animated by the hope that the Supreme Court will rule the healthcare reform law unconstitutional long before they are faced with the manifestly impossible task of honoring their promise to repeal it.

    Which brings me to the Court’s announcement a week ago Monday that it will hear consolidated challenges to this law next spring and rule on its constitutionality before the end of June.

    The challenge in the case, brought by 26 states out of Florida, is based on the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the Patient Accountability and Affordable Care Act, which requires that all Americans purchase health insurance.

    The nine-member court will also look at severability, meaning if the mandate falls, could the rest of the law survive since it is primarily built on the revenues collected by forcing people to buy health care.

    (FOX News, November 14, 2011)

    But this is one of those occasions where the adage “be careful what you wish for” seems apt. Because I believe Obama’s critics are in for a rude awakening.

    First and foremost, though, it should be understood that 99 percent of the opposition to healthcare reform has nothing to do with the law, but everything to do with partisan politics. Specifically, it simply galls the Tea Partiers who have hijacked the Republican Party that Obama would have any success as president, let alone success on this seminal issue. After all, presidents (Democrat and Republican alike) as far back as Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 attempted healthcare reform but failed.

    Clearly the prospect of healthcare reform should have been cause for (belated) national celebration in this richest country on earth, which prides itself on its charity towards others as well as adherence to other Christian values. But nothing could have been further from the truth. For the debate leading up to last night’s historic vote was characterized by the kind of political rhetoric (complete with racial and homophobic epithets) one might expect of a banana republic on the brink of civil war.

    Remarkably, the Republicans are still vowing to ‘kill the bill,’ claiming, among other things, that it is a socialist manifesto that will usher in the death of American liberty. Even worse, the Christians who comprise their party’s base seem oblivious to the inconsistency between their fanatical opposition to healthcare reform and their attempts to imbue every facet of American life with their ‘Christian’ values.

    (Obama delivers healthcare reform – from Obamacare to Obama cares, The iPINIONS Journal, March 23, 2010)

    In any event, where the Supreme Court had just cause to rule Jackson’s Indian removal unconstitutional, it has no cause to rule Obama’s healthcare reform so. Never mind that partisan politics have so infected even the hallowed chambers of the Court (see Bush v. Gore 2000) that Republicans can be forgiven for thinking that it will declare the law unconstitutional – with the five justices who were nominated by Republican presidents ruling to overturn it and the four nominated by Democratic presidents ruling to uphold it.

    All the same, I am convinced that the Court’s own precedents granting Congress virtually plenary powers to regulate interstate commerce will compel even right-wing Justice Antonin Scalia, nominated by Republican president Ronald Reagan, to rule that Congress had the power to enact this healthcare reform bill and that Obama had the right to sign it into law.

    The most instructive precedent is the Court’s decision in Wickard v. Filburn (1942). Because there the Court ruled that a law that effectively regulated what a farmer could do with the wheat he grew on his own farm for his own use was in fact constitutional.  Therefore, it follows that if Congress can regulate this personal activity, it can regulate activities involved in the healthcare stream of commerce.  The regulation here of course is the necessary and proper mandate which holds that, since every American is bound to use/need healthcare at some point, everyone should be required to buy basic insurance (i.e., instead of relying on emergency-room care, which only forces the insured to pay higher premiums).

    Beyond honoring precedents, though, I suspect all justices will be keen to regain the institutional integrity and goodwill the Court lost after Bush v. Gore. Because that case required (conservative justices) to disregard long-established precedents to arrive at what was clearly more of a political decision in favor of Bush than a legal one based on the merits of the case. Indeed, the judicial activism that made a mockery of their conservative jurisprudential philosophy in Bush v. Gore was shameful enough. I doubt all five conservative justices will risk compounding that mockery by overturning Obamacare.

    And this obtains no matter how tempted the five Republican appointees might be to do so as payback for the indignant way Obama disrobed them during his 2010 State of the Union Address. Perhaps you recall how Obama chastised them for ruling — in a 5-4 split decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) — that no limits can be placed on the amount of money corporations and interest groups can use to fund political campaigns. 

    Accordingly, I predict the Court will rule 6-3 to uphold the constitutionality of what is bound to go down in history as the most important achievement of any U.S. president since the Civil Rights bill President Lyndon Johnson signed into law in 1964. Obama could then weave this victory into his campaign stump speech as yet another promise made, promise kept. His re-election team would then be emboldened to promote the historic benefits this law provides more aggressively. Because you’d be surprised at the number of Republican nincompoops who have been chanting “Obamacare is socialism,” but who have no idea what the law provides or, more importantly, that many of them stand to benefit from its provisions.

    (In a similar vein, I can think of nothing more irresponsible than news reporters citing public opinion on the constitutionality of this law. Not least because I’d bet my life savings that half of those polled have never even read the Constitution: talk about promoting mass ignorance.)

    Of course, if the Court rules that the law (or just its mandating feature) is unconstitutional, Obama could then weave this defeat into his campaign stump speech as yet another way rabid, right-wing ideology is poisoning politics in America today. His re-election team could then begin running ads showing how a right-leaning  Supreme Court is an even greater danger to civil liberties in America than religious nuts (like Republican candidate Rick Santorum) who want to abolish not just all abortions but all contraceptives as well. In other words, vote Obama and he will appoint more impartial, fair-minded justices.

    So – instead of this case portending doom for Obama’s presidency – no matter how the Court rules ,Obama will be able to frame the outcome to his political advantage. 

    Stay tuned….

    NOTE: That those complaining about the government forcing people to buy insurance are invariably Republicans who already have insurance is an indication of how politically driven they are just to deny Obama the historic achievement this healthcare reform law represents. After all, these are the same people who preach personal responsibility as an article of their conservative faith, but  who are now encouraging poor people to rely on others for their healthcare: a clear case of Obama derangement syndrome manifesting as cardinal political hypocrisy.

    Not to mention (and it cannot be mentioned enough) what mockery their pharisaic opposition to the provision of healthcare to over 40 million fellow Americans makes of the Christian values they proselytize so zealously.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama delivers healthcare reform

  • Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 5:04 AM

    Egypt: military savior a bigger devil than Mubarak?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have been obliged on a few occasions to explain why I quote from previous commentaries so often.

    In a nutshell it’s because I find nothing more disingenuous and self-serving than commentators waxing clairvoyant on unfolding events by claiming they predicted things would be thus in one or another commentary, but conveniently failing to provide a link to that commentary. They do this of course because they know virtually nobody in our “twitterverse” will be bothered to call them on it.

    Such is the case with the events now unfolding in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Specifically, some high-profile commentators are doing all they can to spin their hind-sighted genius into prescience by claiming they warned that the Egyptian military would turn out to be a bigger devil than the Mubarak regime it helped pro-democracy protesters overthrow.

    No doubt you recall during the early days of the Arab Spring that the military was being hailed around the world for its refusal to fire on the protesters, which many experts on Egyptian politics assert was the proximate cause of Mubarak’s demise.

    But here is the cautionary note I sounded … back then:

    With all due respect to the 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.

    The devil the Egyptians know might prove far preferable to the devil they don’t. 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)

    More to the point, there was this:

    I also find it curious that Obama is effectively calling on the Egyptian military to guarantee the protesters’ democratic aspirations. Ironically, he and other Western leaders seem to believe that the best way to transition from Mubarak’s dictatorship to democracy is by installing a de facto military dictatorship. The problem, however, is that in almost every case where this strategy has been deployed (e.g. in Pakistan and Burma) the military ends up overstaying its welcome … by years, if not decades.

    (Crisis in Egypt: the end game, The iPINIONS Journal, February 4, 2011)

    Therefore, I hope you’ll forgive me for claiming a little clairvoyance now that the prevailing view of what is going on in Egypt these days is as follows:

    Egypt interim military rulers are increasingly repressing civil rights, sparking an outcry from Egyptians who say that the generals who promised to lead a transition to democracy have instead become even more restrictive than former President Hosni Mubarak.

    (The Christian Science Monitor, September 13, 2011)

    In fact, the situation has deteriorated so much – with over 30 protesters reported killed in the past few days – that yesterday all members of the civilian Supreme Council the military installed to give its rule the veneer of democratic legitimacy resigned. Unfortunately, this will do even less to advance the cause of democracy than overthrowing Mubarak did.

    The ominous fact is that the military rulers have just cause to fear ending up like Mubarak: in prison awaiting trial on a battery of corruption and murder charges. After all, they too have amassed so much ill-gotten wealth and ordered so many killings that to subordinate themselves to civilian rulers would be tantamount to signing their own arrest warrants.

    Military rulers will continue to pay lip service to democratic elections. But, just as it was during Mubarak’s reign, they will ensure that no civilian government has the authority (or would dare) to check their power or investigate their activities.

    This is why I’m afraid the only way these protesters will get rid of the military leaders who have always ruled Egypt is if there’s a split in the military like the one now developing in the Syrian military. This of course would portend civil war.

    I am reminded though that it took nothing less than a civil war for the paragon of democracy, the United States, to find its way. I just hope the folks in Tahrir Square are prepared to die by the thousands for their cause.

    Finally, for the record, I think Egypt would be far better off today if protesters had accepted Mubarak’s offer to oversee preparations for free and fair elections within a year in which neither he nor his putative heir apparent would stand.  Instead of pleading for the U.S., EU and Arab League to force his ouster, the protesters should have called on them to jointly guarantee Mubarak’s offer.

    This would have given the thoroughly humbled Mubarak a way to bow out of public life gracefully and avoided the political, economic and social chaos and stagnation that have reigned since his ignominious ouster.

    Alas, the protesters were (and remain) too intoxicated with their new-found power and influence to even countenance this pragmatic transition. But they will learn soon enough that perpetual protest is no way to build a country….

    Related commentaries:
    Army pledges no force
    Crisis in Egypt

  • Monday, November 21, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    A Super Committee to deal with the national debt? Fat chance.

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Everybody knows that the Israelis and Palestinians will reach a peace deal before the Republicans and Democrats reach a debt deal. Indeed, given the way Washington politicians played Russian roulette over raising the national debt limit this summer, it is hardly surprising that the six Republicans and six Democrats on this Super Committee are doing the same now over deficit reductions to reduce this debt (at $15 trillion and rising).

    Yet you can be sure that when the deadline for a deal strikes at midnight on Wednesday these blowhards will have a deal to kick their mandate down the road without triggering the automatic cuts they themselves put in place because they knew they were too irresponsible to reach a deal in the first place: got that?!

    It’s tempting to say a pox on both parties. But everybody also knows that it is the Republicans who are insisting that raising taxes on the rich would be tantamount to committing treason. This, even  though Democrats are only proposing to eliminate the Bush-era tax cuts and return taxes back to the level the rich enjoyed during the halcyon Clinton era. Indeed, so dogmatic and doctrinaire are the Republicans in this respect that they now insist that even uttering the word “compromise” is tantamount to political blasphemy.

    By contrast, President Obama and the Democrats have repeatedly signaled their willingness to make significant cuts in the entitlements (like Medicare and Social Security) that are the bread and butter of their political lives.

    It’s troubling enough that Tea Partiers think that they can go to Washington and get things done without working with any Democrat, including the president.  But to have someone like [purportedly centrist Republican Senator John] McCain actually fueling this fallacy is a recipe for partisan gridlock the likes of which Washington has never seen before….

    (Elections becoming freak show contests, The iPINIONS Journal, October 19, 2010)

    So it is clear that Republicans, driven by their Tea Party political jihadists, are the ones (mostly) to blame for the partisan gridlock that now defines politics in America. And they do not seem the least bit chastened by the deliberate, do-nothing obstructionism that has caused Congress to suffer its lowest rating in public opinion polls in the history of the United States.

    At any rate, the best way to break this gridlock is for people to vote for Democrats in 2012 to at least the same degree they voted for Republicans in 2010; i.e., give a reelected President Obama a filibuster-proof, Democrat-controlled Congress to work with.

    Apropos of which, pay no attention to the crocodile lamentations of Republicans over the spectacular failure of this Super Committee. Because, in fact, this failure represents the greatest triumph yet in their declared mission to make Obama a one term-president: a mission they have executed by blocking anything he proposes that might improve the economy and thereby make him look like an effective leader.

    Treason? This is a charge that should be hurled at the Republicans who have made it abundantly clear that they would rather see the U.S. sink into a second depression than see this (black) Democrat succeed as president of the United States.

    Related commentaries:
    Elections becoming freak show contest.

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 7:10 am

  • Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 6:52 AM

    Demi divorces Ashton: Duh

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The length to which some celebrity couples go to make a public spectacle of their private lives never ceases to amaze me. But it’s only on very rare occasions that I find the tabloid fodder they provide worthy of comment.

    Such was the case with Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher – who seemed to be tweeting every hour on the hour about the mundane goings on in their trendy, cougar marriage. Here are some prescient excerpts from previous commentaries:

    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…

    But I doubt Ashton will still be around when she’s 50 years old. Fool.

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

    Then there was this after they made quite a public show of attempting to reconcile after the latest in a string of twenty-somethings went public about her assignations with Ashton:

    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….

    (Demi: old fool in love, The iPINIONS Journal, October 12, 2011)

    Well the inevitable came on Thursday when the 49-year-old Demi issued the following statement:

    It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I have decided to end my six-year marriage to Ashton. As a woman, a mother and a wife there are certain values and vows that I hold sacred, and it is in this spirit that I have chosen to move forward with my life. This is a trying time for me and my family, and so I would ask for the same compassion and privacy that you would give to anyone going through a similar situation.

    (CNN November 17, 2011)

    I almost feel sorry for her. But given the way she flaunted and actually profited from her marriage, her plea for compassion and privacy only incites indignation.

    Anyway, I’m sure Demi’s twenty-something daughter will appreciate the prospect of her acting her age again….

    Related commentaries:
    Married fools
    Demi: old fool

  • Friday, November 18, 2011 at 5:35 AM

    NBA players call the owners’ bluff

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Players invariably say that they would play the game for free. Therefore, they should have no fear of the owners threatening to call off the entire season. By contrast, this would clearly amount to the owners – who are businessmen first and foremost – cutting off their nose to spite their face.

    This is why the players should (and I believe they will) call the owners’ bluff. For to cave now would suggest that they really are nothing more than hired hands; i.e., instead of the indispensable partners they purport to be in the billion-dollar business that is the NBA.

    Stay tuned….

    (Gumbel calls Stern a plantation overseer, The iPINIONS Journal, November 7, 2011)

    Many commentators were surprised when NBA players called team owners’ bluff by refusing to accept their take-it-or-leave-it offer of a 50/50 revenue split by the end of business on Wednesday. Those commentators reasoned that the players would not risk losing paychecks that amount to an average of $5 million per year.

    But, as indicated in my opening quote, I was not at all surprised. Not least because I reasoned that the owners had far more to lose – an average of $100 million.

    Now the courts will decide how best to split their $4 billion in annual revenues. And I am convinced that the players will be vindicated – primarily because they have demonstrated good faith by agreeing to cut their take from the 57 percent they got last year all the way down to 52.5 percent.

    By contrast, the owners have demonstrated bad faith by attempting to grossly undervalue the players’ worth with their drop-dead demand for a 50/50 split. Frankly, it would seem far more equitable if the players were the ones demanding a greater take; a 60/40 split for example.

    If you’re in a poker game, and you run a bluff, and the bluff works, you’re a hero. If someone calls your bluff, you lose. I think the owners overplayed their hand. They did a terrific job of taking a very hard line and pushing the players to make concession after concession after concession, but greed is not only a terrible thing, it’s a dangerous thing.

    (David Boies, lead lawyer for the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the league, Associated Press, November 16, 2011)

    Incidentally, there’s a principled difference between playing for free when your game is generating zero dollars and playing even for $2 billion when your game is generating $4 billion. After all, the players know full well that they possess such unique money-generating skills that without them the owners have nothing.

    One gets the impression though that the predominantly white owners look at the players as a bunch of predominantly black kids who would be either unemployed or in jail if it were not for the NBA. And they’re probably right. Except that the genie is now out of the bottle. The players clearly know their worth. They  could even start their own league with new team owners who are prepared to accept a more equitable split and leave the NBA owners holding a bunch of worthless contracts.

    Again, this dispute is not as much about the failure of the collective bargaining process as it is about the insult to the players’ collective pride, which is why this season is lost – barring an appropriately humiliating change of heart by the owners before the end of this year.

    Of course nobody is going to shed a tear for whatever financial loss these millionaire players and billionaire owners suffer. Indeed, I suspect many of you will be thinking a pox on both their sides for forcing you to endure this winter without the warmth that comes from cheering on your favorite team. All the same, I urge you to reserve a thought for the thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the ancillary businesses each NBA team generates for its host cities.

    There may be no underdogs in this NBA fight, but there are victims….

    Related commentaries:
    Gumbel calls Stern

  • Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 5:17 AM

    Ex-porn star Sasha Grey does elementary school?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Sasha Grey is finally getting the mainstream-media attention she craved. After all, nothing says you’ve arrived these days quite like being invited to appear on The View, which she reportedly did yesterday.

    Except that she was invited only to react to the national outrage she incited when word got out that she was the “Read Across America” guest reader at an elementary school in Compton, California this month.

    Sasha insists that she was only passing on the joy of reading to the kids. But even if she were reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit, it’s hardly surprising that her work in porn would cause most parents to react as if she were reading the Joy of Sex and only passing on STDs. Such is the stigma that attaches to porn stars.

    She retired only a few months ago at the young-but-worn-out age of 23 – having made over 200 films, won industry awards for Best Oral Sex Scene and Best Anal Sex Scene, and been hailed by Rolling Stone as “The Dirtiest Girl in the World”.

    But it is naïve to the point of pathetic for any young girl to think, especially in this internet age, that she can get herself all turned out in this industry and still attain the kind of respectability that allows her to serve as a role model or even to read to kids. So if you’re considering porn as a way to make a quick buck, you might want to think long and hard about having to carry this stigma – like a veritable scarlet letter P inscribed on your forehead – for the rest of your life.

    Meanwhile, the irony is that what little respectability Sasha has garnered by appearing in cable shows like Entourage and Indie films like The Girlfriend Experience is probably going to get lost in this outrage over her public-spirited attempt to help promote reading. Which is really too bad; but there’s something to be said for a society that still regards sex as such a private matter that the idea of those who trade in it becoming respectable public figures is anathema.

    Porn stars delude themselves into thinking that they are kindred spirits with actors who appear in R-rated films with heavy sexual content. Because no matter how real the “act” appears when Sharon Stone or Halle Berry is doing it, there’s never any doubt in the viewer’s mind that she’s just acting. Whereas, the whole point of porno films is that stars like Sasha are literally getting fucked – every which way but loose!

    Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I fully support the right of consenting adults to do porn for whatever reason. Hell, I’m even on record calling for the decriminalization of prostitution. It’s just that I find most porn tedious, if not repulsive.

    In fact, the only porno scenes I find mildly titillating are lesbian ones, and that’s only because of what seems to be a natural impulse to fantasize about joining in to make those scenes complete. Ahhh, but enough about me.

    NOTE: Even though I refer to girls throughout this piece I am equally concerned about boys who are seduced into the porn industry without fully appreciating the long-term ramifications.

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 5:34 AM

    China’s deficit? No moral authority to lead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    China was uncharacteristically bold in demanding “a greater voice” on the world stage at last week’s summit on Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Honolulu. But I see no cause for the alarm this caused in some regions. After all, given the transformative mendicancy involved in the EU now competing with the U.S. to have China fund its debt, this is rather like a parent demanding a greater voice in the care of her dependent child.

    My only concern is that China acts like a parent who seems to think her only duty is to feed and clothe her child – all guidance about and regard for right and wrong be damned. The latest example of this is China’s refusal to even voice disapproval of the brutal crackdown Syria is now carrying out against pro-democracy protesters. (More than 3,500 people have been killed and thousands more injured since March.)

    This stands in instructive contrast to the coalition of the willing the U.S. is amassing to impose even stiffer sanctions against Syria. The Arab League – which has a history of blithely countenancing the human-rights abuses of member states – so disapproves of the crackdown that it voted this week to expel Syria.

    Also noteworthy is the fact that Jordan is using its considerable moral authority in the Arab world to join the U.S. and EU in calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. And Turkey is threatening to cut off the electricity it supplies, claiming that Syria is using it to commit crimes against humanity.

    Of course, in a rather perverse way, at least China is being consistent. For the one thing every brutal dictator who fell during the Arab Spring could count on was China’s tacit, and sometimes overt, support. Indeed, it behooves the black countries of Africa and the Caribbean that are sucking up to China these days as a more generous Sugar Daddy than the U.S. to appreciate that, if the Apartheid government of South Africa were still in power, China would have no qualms about doing business with it too.

    Hell, just yesterday, in an unwitting, or perhaps telling, bit of timing, the China International Peace Research Center announced that the neo-Stalinist prime minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin, is this year’s recipient of its Confucius Peace Prize, which was established “to promote world peace from an eastern perspective”….

    It is tempting to assert that the moral deficit in China’s relationships on the world stage is a direct result of the way it forfeited all moral authority at home when it massacred its own pro-democracy protesters in 1989. I submit however that if the U.S. can justly claim redemption and reclaim its moral authority to lead after black slavery, then surely China can do the same after Tiananmen Square.

    The only problem is that China has been proclaiming with unbridled pride lately that it is only reclaiming the position it enjoyed on the world stage for thousands of years before the U.S. was even a figment in the imagination of the freedom-loving Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock.

    After all, nothing demonstrates why the U.S. enjoys unparalleled moral authority on the world stage quite like the fact that it went from slavery to a black president in less than 350 years; whereas China is still treating its people like vassals instead of citizens after more than 3,500 years. But I digress….

    Not so long ago we lived in a bipolar world because many countries pledged common cause with the Soviet Union based on its promise of a worldwide communist utopia. Today we are forging another bipolar world because many countries are pledging common cause with China based on its promise of easy money. I have no doubt however that the democratic values that made the U.S. far more enticing and enduring than the Soviet Union will make the U.S. equally so in this burgeoning Cold War with China.

    China seems content just to be the biggest loan-shark and megastore in world history. But  (small) debtor nations beware:

    What happens if China decides that it is in its strategic national interest to convert the container ports, factories and chemical plants it has funded throughout the Caribbean [and Africa] into dual military and commercial use? Would these governments comply? Would they have any real choice? And when they do comply, would the U.S. then blockade the entire region – as it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis?

    Now, consider China making such strategic moves in Latin America where its purportedly benign Yuan diplomacy dwarfs its Caribbean [and African] operations. This new Cold War could then turn very hot indeed….

    (China buying up political dominion, The iPINIONS Journal, February 22, 2005)

    Incidentally, apropos of another Cold War, the U.S. announced today that it intends to base 2,500 American troops in Australia. So it will be interesting to see if China counters this chess move by announcing its intent to base 25,000 Chinese troops throughout the Caribbean and Latin American – in (pawn) countries whose fealty it has already bought.

    After all, China is viewing this U.S. basing of troops in Australia today as every bit as provocative as the U.S. viewed the Soviet Union basing of nuclear ballistic missiles in Cuba in 1962: Your move Beijing….

    Related commentaries:
    China buying dominion over Caribbean
    China prevailing on South Africa

  • Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 5:18 AM

    Newt rising…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [T]his dead-beat dad, draft dodger, check kiter, book-sale scammer, embezzler, thrice-married serial adulterer?!

    (Gingrich takes political hypocrisy and chutzpa to new level, The iPINIONS Journal, March 10, 2011)

    This is how I dismissed Newt Gingrich’s announcement last May that he’s running for president. And sure enough he did little in the following months to raise any doubts about the wisdom of my summary dismissal.

    No doubt you remember the national laughingstock he became when he followed up his announcement by going on an extended vacation to Greece. Not to mention revelations that this self-professed fiscal conservative was running a half-million-dollar debt on a revolving credit account at Tiffany & Co.

    Yet it’s an indication of how desperate the Republicans are to find a suitable challenger to Barack Obama that, despite all of his baggage, Newt is rising like a phoenix in the polls towards becoming their 2012 presidential nominee.

    Remarkably enough, this rise is based solely on his performance in Republican primary debates, which they think would make him a formidable adversary for Obama in presidential debates. That’s it folks. That’s all Newt has going for him, which isn’t saying much when one considers that he’s been debating the likes of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain.

    Which bring me to the reason why I feel compelled to dismiss him even now. For Newt is such a clueless blowhard that he actually believes being able to wax glibly on stage (without a teleprompter, as he likes to jab at Obama) reflects real leadership ability.

    Never mind that the real reason people are tuning in to these debates is just to see Perry stuttering out more gaffes, Cain singing more gibberish, or Newt hurling more rhetorical bombs. Yet Newt is so impressed with his debating skills that he’s promising to hold seven three-hour, Lincoln-Douglas style debates with Obama if he wins the nomination — as if what this country is yearning for is a great debater instead of the great leader Obama is turning out to be.

    But, notwithstanding how entertaining as these debates have become, nobody in her right mind  wants to watch Newt debate anybody seven times … for three hours each time. Moreover, what Newt fails to appreciate is that when Lincoln and Douglas held those debates in 1858 they were speaking in each case to audiences that were probably hearing and seeing them for the first time. So the familiarity that breeds such contempt in today’s media saturated world was not even imaginable back then.

    By contrast, chances are that even peasant farmers in China have already heard quite enough of Newt’s self-satisfying bloviation.

    He may not send a thrill up and down the spine of the Tea Partiers and religious (anti-Mormon) nuts who comprise the base, but there are enough sensible people still in that party who recognize that only one candidate has a prayer against Obama next year, and it’s Mitt.

    (And the Republican nominee is…, The iPINIONS Journal, September 9, 2011)

    No matter who the Republican nominee turns out to be, I remain convinced that Obama will be reelected with even greater ease than Clinton was in 1996.

    Related commentaries:
    Gingrich takes hypocrisy
    And the Republican nominee is

  • Monday, November 14, 2011 at 5:01 AM

    Julius Malema, South Africa’s wannabe president, ‘neutralized’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Political analysts there are speaking openly about Malema doing to President Zuma what Zuma did to then President Thabo Mbeki, namely, depose him as head of the ANC and then replace him as president…

    Yet all indications are that Zuma is becoming sufficiently wary of Malema’s mushrooming popularity and commensurate political ambition that he’s reportedly looking for ways to keep him in check…

    Apropos of this, I fear Malema would do for South Africa what President Robert Mugabe has done for Zimbabwe. That is, of course, unless Zuma remains power hungry enough to “neutralize” him, which I’m betting is the case.

    (Julius Malema: President Zuma’s mini-me, The iPINIONS Journal, August 18, 2011)

    Every one of my South African friends bought into the prevailing view that Malema, the firebrand leader of the ANC Youth League, had acquired so much wealth and power while retaining such popular support that the ANC would not dare discipline him “for bringing the organization into disrepute”.

    In fact, he had become in South Africa like the bully in high school who instilled fear in students, teachers and principal alike. Malema clearly behaved like a bully, and the ruling ANC treated him as such.

    More to the point, all of my friends accepted as fait accompli that he would do just as I indicated in my quote above: depose Zuma as head of the ANC and then replace him as president. This is why they thought it was naïve and uninformed for me to bet so publicly that Zuma would neutralize Malema.

    Well, I won.

    For here, in part, is the reason the party’s disciplinary panel proffered on Thursday for suspending Malema for five years:

    (His) careless, negligent or reckless pronouncements and utterances were a deviation of established and ongoing ANC policy and had the effect of embarrassing and bringing the organization into disrepute within and beyond the borders of South Africa.

    (Reuters, November 10, 2011)

    Malema is expected to file a pro forma appeal, but anyone who knows anything about South African politics knows that this suspension will effectively end his political career. Not least because he’s still facing a battery of corruption charges related to the dubious origins of his massive wealth, which will likely put him in prison before his suspension expires.

    Mind you, this is not to say that the country will fare much better under the continued leadership of Jacob Zuma. In fact, having repeatedly warned that he too would end up doing for South Africa what Mugabe has done for Zimbabwe, all I can say is that he is the lesser of two evils. This after all is why I called Malema Zuma’s mini-me….

    Rabble-rousing trade unionists (COSATU) and unreformed communists (SACP) have turned the ANC from a governing coalition into a band of pillagers. Therefore, Zuma enlisting them to intimidate his critics, like cartoonist Zapiro, should serve as a dire warning of what South Africa will become under his leadership.

    (“Zuma issues fatwa against political cartoonist Zapiro,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 22, 2008)

    Related commentaries:
    Julius Malema … mini-me
    Zuma issues fatwa

  • Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 7:20 AM

    Joe Paterno ain’t no hero!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, November 11, 2011 at 5:19 AM

    In Observance of Veterans Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Kids say the darndest things, don’t they…?

  • Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 6:35 AM

    Penn State’s Catholic Church problem

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The above title sums up the thoughts that seized my mind when I first heard about the child sex abuse scandal that has Penn State University reeling today.

    It stems from allegations that 67-year-old Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach of the storied Nittany Lions football team, used a group home he founded for troubled boys as a plucking ground for his pedophile pleasure.

    Reports are that he abused 9 boys over a 15-year period (1994-2009). But anyone who knows anything about pederasts must suspect that Sandusky has many other victims who are still too traumatized or just too embarrassed to come forward. (It is also reasonable to suspect that there are coaches at other universities who have abused, and are still abusing, their power to prey on little children in a similar vein.)

    To make matters worse, if that’s even possible, all of the top officials associated with the team / university, most notably 84-year-old Head Coach Joe Paterno, allegedly knew about this abuse almost from the outset, but decided not to report it to the police. This, even though these officials were told by another assistant coach, Mike McQueary, way back in 2002 that he was drawn one Friday night by “rhythmic slapping noises” to the showers in the team’s locker room where he saw a 10-year-old boy naked and pinned up against the wall – in arrest formation – with Sandusky behind literally raping him.

    All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

    (Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace)

    All too belatedly, Sandusky was outed and finally arrested on Saturday along with Athletic Director Tim Curly and Vice President for Finance Gary Shultz – both of whom were charged with not reporting the sexual abuse to police and lying to a grand jury under oath during the investigation. And Paterno announced just moments ago that he will resign at the end of the season.

    But all of them were clearly involved in a conspiracy to cover up the ongoing sexual abuse of little boys. And truth be told, I’m wondering if they refused to report Sandusky because he was procuring these boys for their pedophile pleasure too…?

    After all, my humanity is such that I can only imagine other pedophiles working and socializing (as Paterno and others did) with a man they have good reason to suspect is going back to his group home for little boys and raping them every friggin’ night?!

    Which brings me to the God-must-be-dead precedent set by the Catholic church.

    Albert Einstein is credited with saying that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Well, in an admittedly cynical way, this logic might be applied to those who keep reacting to revelations about child sex abuse over and over again with the same moral outrage.

    Frankly, I don’t see how anyone can have any moral outrage left after revelations that one of the biggest pedophile rings the world has ever known was comprised of Catholic bishops and priests….

    This is why, instead of wasting what little moral outrage I can still muster on child sex abusers, I just react by wishing them a fair trial, followed by a lifetime in prison having “big” men do to them what they did to little children. And Sandusky will surely get his; i.e., if he doesn’t take the coward’s way out by hanging himself (which for this diabolical pervert might just amount to the ultimate in autoerotic asphyxiation … coming and going at the same time).

    But let me hasten to add that I believe the same fate should befall all of those who knew about this abuse and failed to report it … not to university officials, but to the police. That clearly includes Sandusky’s three conspiring stooges Paterno, Curly, and Shultz. But just as I suspect there are more victims, I suspect there are other professed good men (and they are almost always … men) who knew about this abuse and did nothing. Their motivation of course was to protect the big-money enterprise Penn State football has become.

    I know many will consider it punishment enough that Paterno is resigning in disgrace. The outpouring of support among misguided students – for whom football is a religion and Paterno a demigod – is testament to this fact. But I suspect it will dawn on some of these idol-worshipping nincompoops soon enough that they might not be able to complete their four years after the university is forced to hike tuition and fees to settle the civil lawsuits that are bound to be filed.

    In any case, nobody in his right mind would argue that decades of pastoring are sufficient mitigation to grant leniency to bishops who stood by and allowed pedophile priests to serially rape little boys. Therefore, nobody should argue that decades of coaching are sufficient mitigation to grant leniency to coaches who stood by and allowed pedophile assistants to do the same.

    Accordingly, not only should the university force him to resign immediately, but prosecutors should have him arrested to boot.

    Beyond this I think the NCAA should give the Nittany Lions the “death penalty” (i.e., indefinite expulsion) – particularly because this child sex abuse scandal makes all of the booster-paying-player infractions for which other schools have been expelled seem petty by comparison.

    Related commentaries:
    NCAA death penalty

    * This commentary was published originally yesterday, Wednesday, at 1:35 pm. Hours later the trustees fired both Paterno and the president of the university … effective immediately.

  • Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 8:06 AM

    Sarkozy-Obama open mic faux pas

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I can’t stand him. He’s a liar,’ Sarkozy said of Netanyahu.

    ‘You’re tired of him; what about me? I have to deal with him every day,’ Obama replied.

    (CNN, November 8, 2011)

    This is the private exchange between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. President Barack Obama that was caught on an open microphone at last week’s G20 Summit in Cannes.

    But as far as diplomatic faux pas and insults go, this is barely worthy of comment. Which I suppose is why no less a person than the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly responded to it by saying, in essence, that everybody talks about everybody.

    Nevertheless, it has often been said that supporters of Israel living in America are more Zionists than Jews living in Israel. This is why these (predominantly Republican) supporters treat Israel and all who champion its national interests as sacred cows. More to the point, this is why they are treating Obama as a veritable traitor for not upbraiding Sarkozy for dissing Netanyahu:

    President Obama’s response to Mr. Sarkozy implies that he agrees with the French leader.

    (Statement by ADL Director Abe Foxman, CNN, November 8, 2011)

    This is total bullshit of course. In fact, far from being a “disaster” – as CNN pronounced this faux pas, Obama showed just how composed and, yes, diplomatic he is when conducting America’s foreign affairs even behind closed doors. But frankly, he would have been forgiven by all informed and fair-minded people for chiming in that Netanyahu is not just a liar, but an arrogant SOB as well!

    After all, since 1967 Israel has shown utter contempt for the efforts of every U.S. president to broker peace in the Middle East by continually building settlements in disputed territories, defying repeated calls by the U.S., EU and UN to stop doing so.

    But Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister who dared to show contempt for a U.S. president to his face when he sat in the Oval Office earlier this year and, with cameras rolling, lectured Obama on the ABCs of forging peace in the Middle East. Never mind that neither Netanyahu nor any other Israeli prime minister has anything to show for his/her efforts as peacemaker over the past 60 years.

    What is truly remarkable about this, though, is that no president has been more adamant in declaring his support for Israel than Obama. Moreover, there is no substantive difference between his Sisyphean efforts to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and those of every other U.S. president in recent history.

    But what is most telling is how Obama’s critics conveniently overlook the fact that he has never come even close to returning Israel’s contempt the way one of his (Republican) predecessors did. I duly recounted this episode recently as follows:

    [I]t might be instructive to recall that such unbridled contempt for America’s efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations provoked [James Baker] way back in 1990 – as secretary of state under former President George H.W. Bush – to issue the following iconic reprimand during congressional testimony:

    ‘Everybody over there should know that the telephone number for the White House is (202) 456-1414. When you’re serious about peace, call us!’

    And to back up his words, Baker threatened to withhold loan guarantees unless Israel promised not to use the funds to settle Russian Jews in the (Palestinian) West Bank. Not so widely reported, however, was the undiplomatic language he used in a less formal setting a couple of years later, when Baker reportedly said, ‘Fuck the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway.’

    (Israel talks about settlements the way Iran talks about nuclear weapons, The iPINIONS Journal, March 15, 2010)

    This makes Obama’s purported faux pas seem positively genteel, no?  And, again, this was from a (white) Republican administration. Yet Obama’s critics would have you believe that his silence in the face of Sarkozy’s fulmination against Netanyahu reflects an unprecedented strain of antipathy towards Israel that runs through his administration.

    In any case, here’s my last word on the partisan debate between conservatives and liberals (in the U.S. and Israel) on whether or not Obama is a closet anti-Semite:

    You say anti-Jew, I say anti-black. You say ignorance, I say arrogance;
    Anti-Jew, anti-black, ignorance, arrogance, Let’s call the whole thing off….

    Related commentaries:
    Israel talks about settlements

  • Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 5:30 AM

    Berlusconi, Italy’s scandal-plagued PM, finally resigns?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Silvio Berlusconi has been the richest and most charismatic man in Italy for many years. But the origins of his fortune remain such a mystery that many accuse him of “going into politics so as to not go to jail”. And into politics he did go. Moreover, few were surprised when he became the most powerful and controversial Italian prime minister since Benito Mussolini.

    (Arrivederci Silvio … until next time? The iPINIONS Journal, May 8, 2006)

    I suspect even the prospect of having his political foes hound him into prison is preferable to having his erstwhile allies hound him out of office. Because only this explains why, after vowing only days ago that he will not go, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced yesterday that he will resign after all.

    Indeed, as if to show that he was jumping instead of being shoved, he proffered that his resignation is conditioned on the Italian parliament passing a battery of austerity measures to stave off a debt crisis similar to the one that now has Greece in economic death throes. Unfortunately, the fact that the lower house had already voted on a budget designed to do just that rendered his proffer demonstrably specious.

    All the same, nothing becomes Berlusconi’s 20-year reign over political life in Italy quite like his leaving it. Because its debt crisis is only compounding the latest and most embarrassing revelation in his tenure of scandal and corruption that has made Italy the laughing stock of the world.

    Specifically, the ongoing judicial investigation into his “bunga, bunga” parties (featuring underage prostitutes, allegedly) makes the congressional investigation into Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky (complete with impeachment trial) seem like a puritanical witch hunt.

    As my opening quote indicates, I have duly commented on many of Berlusconi’s shenanigans over the years. Therefore, I shall suffice now only to provide, on his behalf, this Nixonian epitaph on his scandal-plagued career:

    You won’t have me to kick around anymore.

    An epitaph made all the more analogous given reports that he was caught on camera compiling an enemies’ list just hours before announcing his intention to resign….

    Arrivederci Silvio … for the last time.

    Related commentaries:
    Arrivederci Silvio … until next time?
    Berlusconi indicted

  • Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 5:04 AM

    With friends like Bill Clinton…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Evidently Bill Clinton is so desperate to prevent Barack Obama from going down in history as a more transformative and consequential president than he that he has decided to write a book, Back to Work, trumpeting all of the policies he’d be pursuing if he were president today.

    Never mind that almost all of the policies he trumpets – to produce a “smart government for a strong economy” – are the very ones Obama has been trying to implement from day one of his presidency. Which of course is not surprising considering that Obama’s economic team is comprised of many of the same experts who advised Clinton during his presidency.

    Meanwhile, Clinton blithely ignores the fact that he did not face a Republican Party being (mis)led by a bunch of jihadists on a political crusade to “make [him] a one term president”.

    But nothing demonstrates how congenitally mischievous and self-absorbed this former president is quite like his declaration that the reason Wall Street bankers supported his reelection campaign in 1996 is that he did not demonize them.

    For what this declaration conveniently overlooks is that Wall Street bankers did not become the money-grubbing, incompetent and unrepentant shysters they are in public consciousness now until 2008; i.e., 12 years after he went hat in hand to them for campaign donations.

    More to the point, not even Clinton could deny that if he were facing the growing tide of (left-wing) Occupy Wall Street protesters that Obama is facing today, he too would be doing all he could to ride that tide – even if it meant demonizing bankers in public while soliciting their cash in private. Nor, by the way, could Clinton deny the inconvenient truth that, despite “demonizing” them, Obama remains on course to collect far more from Wall Street bankers for his reelection campaign than Clinton collected for his.

    Frankly, all Clinton is doing in his new book is creating a demonstrably false parallel narrative to Obama’s presidency: one that features him as the nostalgic white knight the country is clamoring for to save it from the ruinous policies of an uppity black president – whose cardinal sin is his failure to accept Clinton as his … savior.

    But don’t hold your breath waiting for his sycophantic enablers in the media to challenge him on these points during his celebrity book tour. For if they had any balls, instead of indulging Clinton’s self-serving advice for Obama, they would ask him what advice he has for Herman Cain. After all, no politician is more qualified to dispense advice on surviving a sex scandal than this grey-haired and silver-tongued pecker.

    NOTE: I suspect this book is really Clinton’s way of coping with the recurring nightmare of watching Obama’s “fairytale campaign” outwit his and Hillary’s to win the presidency, which they both thought was rightfully “theirs” in 2008.

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