• Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 5:39 AM

    Arrest of Ratko Mladic, Serbian War-Crimes Fugitive

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The arrest of alleged war criminal Ratko Mladic is not getting nearly the media coverage that attended the killing of Osama bin Laden. But I’m sure this does not diminish at all the vindication it portends for Mladic’s victims.

    Granted, this discrepancy in coverage stems from the fact that bin Laden was a global terrorist who masterminded the most devastating attacks on America since Pearl Harbor; whereas, Mladic was just a Balkan thug who perpetrated mass murder against an ethnic minority relatively few people knew or cared anything about.

    Indeed, there are African despots still at-large who have perpetrated genocides that make the genocide Mladic is accused of perpetrating seem like little more than schoolyard bullying. The difference of course is that he perpetrated his in Europe. More significantly, the way Commander Mladic and his Serbian forces ethnically cleansed 8,000 Muslims during the Bosnian War (1992-95) was eerily reminiscent of the way Nazi commanders and their German soldiers ethnically cleansed 6,000,000 Jews during World War II.

    This is why everyone in the Serbian leadership was indicted by the UN War Crimes Tribunal on charges of crimes against humanity: most notably, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic was indicted in 1999, then arrested and extradited to The Hague in 2001, where he was found dead in his cell in the midst of his trial in 2006; Bosnia’s wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic was indicted in 1995, then arrested and extradited to The Hague in 2008, where he is currently emulating the farce Milosevic made of his trial by representing himself (and I predict he will meet a similar fate); and Mladic was indicted in 1995, then arrested on Thursday and will be extradited to The Hague within days, where I predict he too will wither away and die in obscurity.

    In the meantime, just as Pakistani officials are having a hard time explaining how bin Laden could have hidden in plain sight in Pakistan for five years without their complicity, Serbian officials will have an even harder time explaining how Mladic could have hidden in plain sight in Serbia for 16 years without theirs.

    The truth of course is that government officials, though not necessarily national leaders, were complicit in both cases. What is also true however is that neither country will suffer any adverse consequence for its complicity.

    Nothing demonstrates this quite like the U.S. lauding Pakistan for returning a critical part of the stealth helicopter that crashed landed during the raid on bin Laden’s compound. After all, it seems clear to me that Pakistan delayed this return to allow China, which is fast becoming its most-favored superpower patron, to reverse engineer all of the helicopter’s top-secret features. Not to mention the tail-wagging-the-dog spectacle of the U.S. thanking Pakistan for finally granting CIA agents access to the compound weeks after  their counterparts (ISI agents) had already combed it for all incriminating evidence – not just against al-Qaeda but also against Pakistan.

    The point is that the praise the U.S. and EU are heaping on Serbia for finally arresting Mladic is patently contrived.

    Here, for example, is a little of what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is saying:

    The United States welcomes the arrest of Ratko Mladic by Serbian security services earlier today. We commend President Tadic, the Government of Serbia, its security services and all those who have labored for years to bring Mladic to justice… We hope that Serbia’s action in arresting Mladic will help Serbia move on, provide the opportunity to gain admission into the European Union and enable Serbia to build a brighter future as part of a whole, free, and peaceful Europe.

    (State.gov, May 26, 2011)

    But here is a little background information from one of my previous commentaries that puts U.S. reaction to this arrest into proper context:

    [W]here a popular uprising against Milosevic sealed his arrest and transfer to The Hague for trial in 2001, the notorious Mladic and Karadzic remain at-large. This is why Washington imposed conditions on the disbursement of aid to Belgrade. In fact, U.S. military intelligence indicated that Belgrade was actively abetting Karadzic and Mladic in their flight from justice and Washington assumed that making the aid conditional would induce Belgrade to facilitate their arrest and transfer.

    Yet from the moment the fund was established, the dynamics between Belgrade and Washington took on the spectacle of, well, the tail wagging the dog. After all, under the leadership of Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, Belgrade refused to honor the agreed conditions. Instead, it argued that negotiating the voluntary surrender of these suspects was the more prudent way for it to assist the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). And, to appease Washington, Belgrade pointed to a succession of surrenders by former aides to Mladic (including Zdravko Tolimir, Milan Gvero and Radivoje Miletic) as sufficient evidence of its performance to be rewarded with financial disbursements.

    But Washington was clearly being wagged. For example, despite declaring in January of this year that Belgrade was not cooperating fully with the ICTY, Washington made quite a show last week of handing over a $10 million disbursement without any evidence to the contrary. Moreover, this comes after a similar declaration last year that Belgrade was failing to cooperate which, nonetheless, was also followed in short order by $73.6 million in disbursements (albeit, ostensibly, “in assistance to organisations and programmes outside of the central government” in Belgrade).

    Of course, Washington’s quagmire in Iraq and its feckless hunt for Osama bin Laden provide the only explanation for Belgrade’s apparent leverage in this respect. Indeed, Washington is acutely aware of how politically compromising it would be to withhold promised funds because of Belgrade’s failure to apprehend Mladic and Karadzic when Belgrade can justify its failure so poignantly by pointing to Washington’s failure to arrest Zarqawi in Iraq or Osama bin Laden, wherever he may be.

    (Serbs confound Americans as they hide war criminals and seek U.S. aid, The iPINIONS Journal, June 15, 2005)

    With that, I hope I can be forgiven my cynical view that the Serbs are giving up the 69-year-old Mladic now only because they deem it politically advantageous to do so. No doubt reports that two strokes have left this once robust and dynamic commander a mere shell of himself – with one foot already in the grave – factored greatly in this regard.

    But lawyers arguing that he’s too sick to stand trial will prove no more persuasive for him than it proved for old Nazis who have been captured. Even less persuasive will be Serbian nationalists protesting his arrest the way Muslim radicals protested the killing of bin Laden….

    All the same, apropos of this being politically advantageous, Serbia’s shrewd and pragmatic president, Boris Tadic, made it abundantly clear in announcing Mladic’s arrest that, in return, the Serbs expect not only increased financial aid from America … without even the pretense of conditions, but also full integration into the European Union … without further delay. And, in the tail-wagging-the-dog fashion to which they’ve become accustomed, the Serbs will be duly rewarded on both counts in due course.

    I simply ask the EU to fulfill its part. We fulfilled our part… We are demanding that Serbia, just like Croatia, simultaneously be the date for the start of entry talks and not just candidate status… There are no obstacles left. Stopping Serbia would be purely political.

    (Associated Press, May 30, 2011)

    This, notwithstanding EU suspicions that Serbia is still harboring one more notorious war-crimes fugitive, Goran Hadzic, who led Croatian Serb rebels during the war.

    Finally, to be fair, I feel obliged to note that political and military leaders from other factions (namely Croats and Muslims) were also arrested for war crimes.

    Most notably, Croatian General Ante Gotovina, who was accused of ethnic cleansing in a 1995 military campaign to seize back land from rebel Serbs, was arrested in 2005, convicted just last month, and sentenced to 24 years in prison. (Prosecutors in The Hague are on record stating that if Croatian President Franjo Tudjman did not die in December 1999 he too would have been arrested.)  And less than a year ago the war crimes tribunal ordered Kosovo’s former prime minister, the Albanian Ramush Haradinaj, to face retrial two years after he was acquitted of torture, rape, and murder. The tribunal found that his first trial was marred by witness intimidation. He was arrested and extradited again in July 2010.  His retrial in ongoing….

    Still, there’s no gainsaying that Serbs comprise the vast majority of those who were duly arrested, convicted, and sentenced for committing crimes against humanity during the Bosnian War.

    Related commentaries:
    Serbs confound Americans as they hide war criminals
    Arrest of Karadzic
    Zarqawi is dead
    Bin Laden

  • Friday, May 27, 2011 at 6:11 AM

    Blessed Memorial Day / Weekend

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I appreciate that few people even bother to pretend that this holiday has anything to do with fallen troops.

    All the same, as you’re enjoying fun days at the shopping mall or at the beach, please take a moment to remember the troops – especially those who are still languishing in Iraq and Afghanistan (where another eight of them were killed just yesterday).

    And while you’re at it, you might reserve a thought or two for the poor folks across the South and Midwest who are literally picking up the pieces of their lives in the wake of a devastating and unprecedented series of tornadoes.

  • Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 5:29 AM

    IMF Head Dominique Strauss-Kahn Granted Bail

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), of course, is the IMF head who police hauled off an Air France plane on May 14, just as it was about to depart for Paris from New York. He was duly arrested for first attempting a few hours earlier to rape a maid when she came in to clean his hotel room and then forcing her to perform oral sex.

    Many commentators predicted that the presumption of innocence would allow him to hold on to his job pending the outcome of his trial, but that, given the manner and timing of his arrest, as well as the charges against him, he would never be granted bail. By contrast, I predicted that he would be forced out of his job within days of his arrest, but that he would be granted bail.

    As things turned out, initially, DSK was forced to resign within days, but denied bail. In declaring my disagreement with the judge’s decision to deny his bail application, I wrote the following:

    There are all kinds of devices available today to prevent such flights [as Polanski’s]. This is why I think it would have sufficed to set a high, cash only bail (like the $1 million DSK offered to pay), confiscate his passport, and require him to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet.

    (No bail for IMF Head Dominique Strauss-Kahn…?, The iPINIONS Journal, May 17, 2011)

    I was soon vindicated. Because here are the bail terms an appellate judge set out a week ago today in overruling that earlier decision:

    Judge Michael Obus set bail terms of $1m in cash as well as $5m in an insurance bond set against the international politician’s properties in the U.S. He also demanded that Strauss-Kahn surrender all his travel documents and that he remain under house arrest in Manhattan under 24-hour armed guard…

    Stringent conditions would include an electronic bracelet that would send a signal to the company and a police station the moment Strauss-Kahn left the property, video cameras to monitor him inside the property, and a 24-hour rotation of armed guards who would be physically present at the apartment.

    (London Guardian, May 20, 2011)

    But I feel constrained to note that being granted bail does not mean that DSK will beat the charges — as Bernie Madoff would readily attest. In fact, DSK is in far greater legal jeopardy than previously thought.

    For a grand jury has now increased the number and seriousness of the charges against him by handing down a seven-count indictment, which includes two counts of criminal sexual act in the first degree, sexual abuse in the first degree, sexual abuse in the third degree, unlawful imprisonment in the second degree, attempt to commit rape in the first degree and forcible touching.

    Even worse, prosecutors disclosed that crime scene investigators collected DNA evidence that corroborate all of the charges. And, since conviction on the more serious charges would require him to serve his time consecutively, he’s now facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.

    Accordingly, I reiterate my admonition that DSK’s lawyers would be well advised to prevail upon him to cop a plea. Because I think he’s as guilty as sin and would be convicted on all counts!

    Meanwhile, reports are that friends of DSK are trying to bribe his accuser’s “dirt poor” relatives in West Africa to prevail upon her to drop the charges. But I submit that such a move would not only provide further evidence of his consciousness of guilt, it would do little to derail the case against him.

    After all, where the accuser may refuse to testify, she has no authority to drop the charges pending against him. Moreover, the accuser has already testified under oath about what occurred and the forensic evidence collected is even more damning than her testimony.

    So even if she suddenly refuses to testify, DSK would still be tried, convicted, and thrown in prison. Mind you, now that she’s in the protective custody of the NYPD, it’s virtually impossible for her relatives to get in touch with her, let alone persuade her to drop the charges (or even to change her story from one of a brutal assault to one of a consensual assignation).

    That said, I would actually encourage the accuser’s relatives to say anything that would induce DSK’s foolish rich friends to part with as much of their money as possible. Reports are, however, that, like her, the accuser’s relatives are devout Muslims who reacted with righteous indignation to suggestions that their poverty made them susceptible to such a bribe.

    Here’s how Reuters quoted her brother on point just yesterday:

    In our family, we are above material things. Even if you are a billionaire, we don’t care. The most important thing for us is how you follow God’s path.

    Finally, the irony is not lost on me that many commentators are now asserting that DSK could frustrate the accuser’s attempt to collect millions in a civil suit, which she is bound to file, by ensuring that all properties and bank accounts are in his wife’s name (and situated outside the United States). But I have no doubt that her lawyers will seek to attach the cash and bond that he put up to secure his bail. This will guarantee that at least $6 million will be available to satisfy a civil judgment against him.

    NOTE: Having had a little taste of what life is like in prison, DSK seems determined to spend his remaining days of court-supervised freedom living in the lap of luxury.

    For he has gotten his long-suffering (stupid) and enabling wife to rent a $14 million, 6,800 sq ft town house in the exclusive Tribeca neighborhood in lower Manhattan that comes complete with a state-of-the-art theater, gym, spa, and four bedrooms with jetted tubs and steam showers.

    Of course, this selfish and self-indulgent SOB probably doesn’t care if they use up all of their family’s savings pampering him and paying his lawyers millions to put on a futile defense, which will undoubtedly include all kinds of tactics to  delay DSK’s inevitable move from this town house to a prison cell for as long as possible.

    No doubt he’s thinking that none of his family’s fortune will be of any use to him once he’s in the pokey, and he obviously couldn’t care any less about the welfare of his wife and children….

    Related commentaries:
    No bail for DSK

  • Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 5:26 AM

    Twister: Life Imitating Art

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    My heart really goes out to all of the people who were affected by the series of twisters that have utterly devastated everything in their path across the South and Midwest of the United States in recent  weeks. The most deadly of them hit Joplin, Missouri on Sunday, killing over 120 and bringing the total number of dead from this unprecedented series to over 400.

    You’ve probably seen pictures of the devastation these twisters left in their wake. Hollywood could not manufacture such scenes.

    When I saw them I was seized with the thought that this was even worse than the devastation the Haitian earthquake left in its wake.

    Which might lead one to think that Mother Nature expresses her wrath indiscriminately. Except that she killed not 400 but as many as 400,000 in Haiti.

    Of course, I do not mean to diminish the loss those affected by these twisters are suffering. For I have no doubt that these Americans feel their loss just as intensely as the Haitians did.

    All the same:

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

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

    (Killer earthquakes: First Haiti, now Chile, The iPINIONS Journal, March 2, 2010)

    Apropos of recovering from such disasters, here is what President Obama promised those affected:

    I want everybody in Joplin, everybody in Missouri, everybody in Minnesota, everybody across the Midwest to know that we are here for you. The American people are by your side. We’re going to stay there until every home is repaired, until every neighborhood is rebuilt, until every business is back on its feet.

    (The Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2011)

    Obama will follow up his words with a presidential visit on Sunday.

    In the meantime, it is almost impossible for those of us watching on TV to experience the pathos these twisters should evoke with reporters providing real-time reports on them as if they were reporting on a sporting event.

    Related commentaries:
    Killer earthquakes

  • Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 7:51 AM

    Lance Armstrong – Falling From Grace…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have written many commentaries extolling Lance Armstrong’s remarkable accomplishments – not just as a professional cyclist (most notably his unprecedented and unequaled seven consecutive victories in the Tour de France), but also as a fundraiser for cancer research (most notably the over $400 million he has raised primarily through donations to his LIVESTRONG website).

    But I’ve always been mindful of allegations (especially from former teammates like 2006 Tour de France champion Floyd Landis) that his accomplishments were the result of nothing more than his stealth and persistent use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

    Here, for example, is what I wrote earlier this year (on February 25) in commentary entitled Lance Armstrong retires … again:

    Even worse, his comeback was dogged by increasingly credible reports about his use of PEDs – reports which are now threatening to undermine, if not render null and void, all of his legendary accomplishments…

    [S]everal teammates have already ratted on him to federal authorities. And I remember well watching three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond say (on the July 20, 2010 edition of CBS Evening News) that the evidence of Armstrong’s drug use is “overwhelming”. At the time I thought it was Tour envy, but the defiantly drug-free LeMond may yet be vindicated.

    But I was not without my own suspicions. For here is how I presaged his fate in this respect almost six years ago (on August 25, 2005) in a commentary entitled French trying to ensnare Armstrong in drugs scandal:

    Is Lance Armstrong a legitimate sports hero or a cycling dope fiend who used his cocktail of cancer drugs to mask the illegal drugs he took to juice his body through seven consecutive victories in the Tour de France? Lance, buddy, say it ain’t so…

    [A]n indictment would precipitate a fall from grace that surpasses Bernie Madoff’s; not least because Armstrong traded on his reputation as testicular-cancer survivor to raise over $400 million for his LIVESTRONG Foundation. Indeed, I suspect people would not even wait for a jury verdict to begin ripping off their yellow bracelets in disillusionment and utter disgust.

    Well, it pains me to concede today that the evidence is indeed overwhelming that Lance fueled his way to cycling glory on a cocktail of PEDs that make those he took to treat his cancer seem like mere aspirin by comparison. I was finally persuaded by the extremely credible revelations of two more former teammates on Sunday’s edition of 60 Minutes.

    This program reported that Tyler Hamilton, the 2004 Olympic cycling champion and, more importantly, the teammate who was most closely associated with Lance when he won his first Tour in 1999, and George Hincapie, who was Lance’s best friend and his teammate in each of his seven Tour victories, have both corroborated the allegations of their other former teammate Floyd Landis, which I referenced above. Namely, that they saw Lance inject himself with PEDs; that he supplied them with the stuff; and that he discussed having used the banned steroid testosterone to prepare for competition.

    Most troubling for Lance, however, is that Tyler and George have now joined a long list of witnesses, including Landis and LeMond, who have testified recently about his use of PEDs before a federal grand jury that is investigating the prevalence of doping in U.S. cycling.

    Here, for example, is a little of how Tyler told 60 Minutes he testified during his appearance:

    [Lance] took what we all took … there was EPO (erythropoietin) … testosterone … a blood transfusion… I saw (EPO) in his refrigerator. I saw him inject it more than one time, like we all did, like I did many, many times.

    (May 22, 2011)

    What made Tyler so credible to me was his obvious contrition and reluctance to implicate Lance – repeatedly insisting that this cycling God was only doing what he and all of the other cyclists were doing. Not to mention the honorable and instructive precedent he set by voluntarily returning his Olympic gold medal as part of his efforts to make restitution and seek redemption.

    Even more telling, however, was Lance’s refusal to appear on 60 Minutes with Tyler to refute his accusations. Instead he had his lawyer issue a statement not just protesting his innocence, but dismissing Tyler in the same arrogant and self-righteous manner he has dismissed all previous accusers; i.e., by insisting that they were either jealous of his success or financially motivated. He then tweeted this pithy bit of information as if it were the official finding of the grand jury:

    20+ year career. 500 drug controls worldwide, in and out of competition. Never a failed test. I rest my case.

    Except that Tyler also said that Lance admitted to him that he tested positive for PEDs during the Tour of Switzerland in 2001. Tyler revealed, however, that such was the vested interest cycling’s governing body (the UCI) had in Lance’s unbelievable, in fact unnatural, success story that it covered up the test results. Furthermore, he said that the UCI continually looked the other way as Lance’s enablers executed the extensive doping regime that made him the cycling phenom he became.

    In fact, the UCI’s credibility is fatally undermined by reports that it accepted over $125,000.00 in donations from Lance. And his protestation of innocence is further undermined by the fact that so many other superstars (including Marion Jones and Barry Bonds) did the same until they were convicted in a court of law.

    This, I fear, is the ignominious fate that awaits Lance. For now he’s enjoying the presumption of innocence in the court of public opinion, which he’s cleverly stoking with his Twitter defense. Sadly, like O.J. Simpson, he clearly has so much vested in his own lies that he can never come clean about what he knows, and what the world now knows, he did.

    But he will be indicted; he will be convicted; and he will go to prison. And, just like Marion, it won’t be for taking PEDs, but for lying so openly and notoriously about it. I am equally certain that it’s only a matter of time before the French move to strip him of his seven Tour titles.

    That said, the real tragedy here is not Lance falling from grace, but the disillusionment this is bound to cause among the millions of cancer survivors who derived life-sustaining inspiration from his “LIVESTRONG” life story. That his life story is turning out to be a phenomenal fraud is devastating enough for me. I can only imagine the impact it’s having, and will have, on them.

    Finally, I’m on record stating my libertarian belief that all drugs, including PEDs, should be decriminalized. These revelations about Lance only reinforce my belief:

    Although Lance Armstrong never tested positive, practically every Frenchman believes the 7-time Tour de France Champion is nothing more than a cycling dope fiend. But similar clouds of suspicion hang over superstars in every sport these days – from those in baseball to swimming. And the only way to bring integrity to sports is to repeal the moral prohibition against drug use and allow athletes to do or take whatever they deem is necessary to be successful….

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

    Hell, all we need now is to find out that Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt used PEDs to fuel their way to Olympic glory….

    Anyway, having ridiculed the French for their contemporaneous and indignant complaints about Lance being a dirty American who was defiling their glorious Tour, I clearly owe them an apology. I hereby offer it, unreservedly.

    Related commentaries:
    Lance Armstrong retires…again
    A plea for Landis

  • Monday, May 23, 2011 at 5:13 AM

    Bhutan’s Royal Wedding

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Chances are that you’ve never even heard of the Kingdom of Bhutan, let alone its 31-year-old monarch, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

    More to the point, regular readers will appreciate that – given my democratic condemnation of the royal wedding of William and Kate – this is hardly an endorsement of the royal wedding of Jigme and Jetsun Pema, his 20-year-old fiancée from an “ordinary background”.

    No doubt you recall that much of the commentary on the British royal wedding was about how dashing and beautiful William and Kate looked. Never mind all of the fatuous commentary about Kate’s sister Pippa upstaging them. Frankly, Pippa wasn’t, in fact isn’t, all that.

    At any rate. I thought public debate about this evidently all-important feature of royalty would be greatly informed by my stating for the record that I have never seen a more dashing and beautiful royal couple than Bhutan’s King and his future Queen.

    Their pictures clearly show that even Rodin would’ve been hard-pressed to sculpt a more attractive couple. And that they are both Asian seems a fitting tribute to the fact that there are more Asians in the world than any other race, with 1.3 billion in China alone.

    Jetsun Pema is a kind hearted girl who is very supportive and whom I can trust. I don’t know what my people will say about her, but I find her complete with all the qualities a woman needs to have.

    (Bhutan Observer, May 20, 2011)

    This was the rather modest way Jigme spoke of Jetsun, a student at London’s Regent College, at the opening session of parliament on Friday when he announced that they will wed in October. But one look at her puts a lie to his modesty: she may come from an ordinary background, but she’s clearly no ordinary beauty.

    As for this Oxford-educated king’s rather chauvinistic reference to her possessing “all of the qualities a woman needs”, I suspect this unwittingly betrayed his expectation that she will give him the pneumatic ride of his life while performing her most important royal duty: giving him an heir and a spare.

    Congratulations to Bhutan, and I wish this royal couple happiness ever after.

    Related commentaries:
    Homage to royal wedding of William and Kate

  • Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 6:46 AM

    Trump takes on new national crisis…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 6:21 AM

    Today is Judgment Day? Wanna bet the farm…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    2011 AD—On May 21st, Judgment Day will begin and the rapture (the taking up into heaven of God’s elect people) will occur at the end of the 23-year great tribulation. On October 21st, the world will be destroyed by fire (7000 years from the flood; 13,023 years from creation).

    (ebible fellowship.com)

    This is utter rubbish of course. And you can prove it quite easily by daring any of the so-called believers in this biblical folklore to put their money where their faith is.

    In making this wager I urge you to be bold. Because these gullible fools clearly have money to burn considering that between 2005 and 2009 they poured $80 million into the coffers of the false prophet behind this latest end-of-times scheme.

    NOTE: When they wake up tomorrow and find that the only rapture they’ll ever experience is what they can find themselves right here on earth, you’d  think believers in this May 21 Judgment Day would renounce the October 21 Doomsday. But that would require common sense, which, if they had any, would have precluded them believing in the May 21 Judgment Day in the first place, no?

    Instead, I fully expect them to divine another doomsday scenario – just as crackpots like them have been doing since the beginning of time….

  • Friday, May 20, 2011 at 5:41 AM

    Disgraced PG County Exec Jack Johnson Cops a Plea

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This week the vast majority of media reports and commentaries worldwide were either about the arrest of IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn or about the lovechild of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Therefore, it seems fitting that I should end the week with this update on another political scandal.

    This one stems from the arrest in November of Jack Johnson, the Executive of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

    Recall that both Johnson and his wife were targets of a very lengthy FBI investigation into widespread political corruption in this suburb of Washington, DC. Most sensationally, he was caught on tape instructing her to flush a $100,000 check down the toilet when she phoned to tell him that FBI agents were knocking at the door.

    Their scheme to get rid of incriminating evidence became truly farcical when she could be heard telling him that she was going to stuff over $70,000 in cash in her bra. This cash was later discovered when she was duly searched after her arrest.

    I suggested back then that, notwithstanding the presumption of innocence, Johnson and his wife would do well to cop pleas instead of risking jury verdicts. Now Johnson has.

    Former Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson, age 62, of Mitchellville, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to an extortion conspiracy relating to the performance of his official duties; and tampering with a witness and evidence… In exchange for the bribes, Jack Johnson … performed and agreed to perform favorable official actions for … developers, business owners and their companies.

    (Statement from the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, The Baltimore Sun, May 17, 2011)

    Alas, he did not have much to say for himself after confessing to being the mastermind behind this pay-for-play scheme:

    I’m very sorry for what happened. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Lord.

    (WBAL, May 17, 2011)

    Johnson faces 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced in September. Reports are that his plea will not redound to his wife’s benefit in separate plea negotiations. I know enough to know, however, that it most certainly will. He may be a venal schemer, but  this does not mean that he would hang his wife out to dry.  Indeed, I’m sure he instructed his lawyers to insist on leniency for his wife in exchange for his plea.  A deal in her case is expected to be announced in due course.

    Related commentaries:
    Arrest of PG Exec Jack Johnson

  • Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 5:55 AM

    Schwarzenegger’s Lovechild Bombshell

    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.

    (D.C. Madam outs Sen. David Vitter as a faithful “John”, The iPINIONS Journal, July 17, 2007)

    The above states the rule that has guided my commentaries on sex scandals. I have made exceptions, however, when the hypocrisy or arrogance involved was so egregious as to shock the conscience of even a reprobate like me. Such was the case, for instance, with former Senator John Edwards – who, though not a moral crusader, posed in public as the devoted husband of a cancer-stricken wife while creeping around in private with a mistress he eventually impregnated.

    Well, where exceptional behavior in this respect is concerned, that of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger takes the cake. For it was revealed this week that he had an affair with his housekeeper, got her pregnant, and then kept their lovechild a secret from his wife for 14 years while keeping this housekeeper, mistress and mother of his lovechild (HMM) dutifully employed in his marital home.

    Nevertheless, some context is required here. Specifically, it might be helpful to know that it was an open secret that Arnold was an incorrigible and unapologetic womanizer. Frankly, until now, the only thing noteworthy about his marriage was the way his spouse Maria broke with the tradition of Kennedy women by publicly defending him like a Mama Grizzly instead of just stoically standing by her man like a stepford wife.

    Perhaps you recall the evasive yet indignant and self-righteous way she dismissed his alleged mistresses, as well as victims of his unwanted sexual advances, as liars when reports about Arnold’s indiscretions were threatening to derail his gubernatorial campaign.

    Here, for example, is what she said during a highly publicized address before the Republican Women’s Group in Orange County, California just days before he was elected in 2003:

    You can listen to all the negativity, and you can listen to people who have never met Arnold, or who met him for five seconds 30 years ago. Or you can listen to me…I wouldn’t be standing here if this man weren’t an A-plus human being. I wouldn’t be taking my time, I wouldn’t have left my job that I love, I wouldn’t be doing any of this if I didn’t believe in this man…

    I have met thousands and thousands of women who have come up to me and said they have worked with him, they have worked for him, alongside (him) and he has been an extraordinary gentleman.

    (CNN, May 16, 2011)

    This is why I feel little sympathy for Maria. After all, she was behaving more like his chief political hack than his devoted wife when she uttered these plainly disingenuous, but fateful, words, which have now come back to slap her in the face. At least when Hillary was defending her husband she never called his accusers liars. Instead she opted for more tactful, though equally disingenuous and fateful, words about his accusers being used by a vast right-wing conspiracy to destroy her philandering husband.

    But it is also worth noting that, unlike Bill, Arnold never denied having a zipper problem. In fact he admitted that, insofar as the allegations of sexual misconduct against him are concerned, “where there’s smoke there’s fire“.

    Admittedly, this revelation must have been more like a nuclear bomb going off in  their marriage. For it’s one thing to be just another skirt-chasing politician. But it takes infidelity to an unconscionable extreme for a politician to go out of his way to deceive and humiliate his wife the way Arnold did.

    Specifically, reports are that at the very time Maria was pregnant with their youngest child, her (then-married) housekeeper was also pregnant with her and Arnold’s child. Clearly, if he had any respect for his wife, Arnold would have devised a way to get that other woman out of his marital home. (He clearly had the resources and contacts to find her another job.)

    Instead, he compounded this cardinal transgression by retaining this HMM, which made an even bigger fool of Maria than she became by prostituting her good name and reputation to defend his character.

    In fact, all indications are that Arnold only ended this scandalous domestic arrangement earlier this year because a spat with this HMM threatened to blow the lid off their remarkably well-kept secret. This led to her retiring (or being fired) after 20 years of “service”.

    More significantly, though, Maria apparently felt that her marital home had become so defiled by this sordid affair that, instead of kicking him out, she moved out….

    By the way, don’t bother trying to figure out why a rich and powerful celebrity like Arnold would risk losing everything by going after his homely housekeeper. Because I suspect he did it for the same banal  and carnal reason Thomas Jefferson went after his comely slave: she was there … and he could.

    Also, reports are that Arnold has provided generous child support as well as baby-mama support from day one. I just hope he does the right thing now by giving his son the Schwarzenegger name to which he is entitled – with all of the good and bad that would now come with it.There’s no gainsaying after all that “Schwarzenegger” will open many more doors in life for him than “Baena” – his mother’s name.

    Anyway, there’s no question about Arnold’s betrayal being utterly reprehensible. But I suspect Maria feels as embarrassed by the way she once enabled his behavior as she does by the way he has now humiliated her.

    Meanwhile, it’s rather ironic that his foray back into the movies is a starring role in one called Cry Macho that is scheduled for release this summer. Because crying is probably what macho man Arnold is doing a lot of these days in a desperate attempt to win Maria back.

    The jury is still out, but I wouldn’t bet against them reconciling. After all, given the shameless way she defied reason to save his political career, it would not surprise me if  she does the same to save her marriage. But, like Mel Gibson, Arnold may find that his movie fans are not quite so forgiving….

    Finally, it’s an indication of how Twitter and Facebook induces users to betray their own privacy that, on the one hand, Maria reacted to this unfolding scandal by pleading for the media to leave her children alone to cope with it in private; while, on the other hand, her children reacted by spilling their guts about it online.

    NOTE: Rumors abound that Arnold may have more than just this one lovechild. Sadly, given the facts surrounding this one, it would not surprise me if he’s forced to publicly acknowledge fathering more in due course.

    Related commentaries:
    Sen. John Edwards
    Rep. Mark Foley
    Sen. Craig
    Sen. Vitter
    Gov. Eliot Spitzer
    Bishop Eddie Long

  • Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 5:22 AM

    Trump Not Running! Duh…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Donald Trump is nothing more than the P.T. Barnum of business: a huckster who thrives on the notion that “there’s a sucker born every minute”…

    Sadly, far too many people think Trump would make a good president. They are the suckers to whom he could sell swampland in the Florida Everglades as beachfront property, or discredited degrees from his Trump University as even better than accredited degrees from Harvard.

    (Trump for president? Don’t be a sucker, The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2011)

    The gullibility, if not stupidity, of the American people never ceases to amaze me. For I have been nothing but amazed at the number of them who actually believed Donald Trump’s now-patented puffery about running for president of the United States.

    I distinguish this of course from the media which have been covering his political circus act for the same, bottom-feeding reason networks air reality shows like The Jersey Shore: ratings!

    What is utterly unforgivable, however, is the extent to which purportedly serious journalists and political pundits bought his schtick hook, line, and sinker. But now that he has officially ended his charade, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who will admit they ever took him seriously.

    I have decided that we’re going to continue onward with Celebrity Apprentice.  We’re going to continue making lots and lots of money… I will not be running for president as much as I’d like to…

    I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election… Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector.

    (TV Guide, May 16, 2011)

    Mind you, he scurried with his tail between his legs to make this announcement on Monday in direct and immediate response to executives at NBC threatening to fire him unless he declared his intent to “continue onward”. For there was never any chance that he would be allowed to continue as host and run for president at the same time – despite reports indicating that this would be the case.

    Anyway, to paraphrase my opening quote, the only people who will take seriously Trump’s plainly fatuous claim that he’d rather host his self-indulgent game show than become president of the United States are the suckers who believed he was seriously considering a run for president in the first place.

    He never had a prayer … and he knew it.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump for President?
    Trump hailed … as a clown

  • Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 5:43 AM

    UPDATE: No Bail for IMF Head Dominique Straus-Kahn…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn  (DSK), the IMF head who was arrested on Saturday for allegedly sexually assaulting and attempting to forcibly rape a maid in his hotel room, pleaded at his arraignment yesterday that his international stature made him eminently worthy of bail. But New York City Judge Melissa Jackson sided with prosecutors who countered that it is precisely his stature that made him such a serious and likely flight risk: as the accused Frenchman himself might say, touché.

    Reports are that the judge found the fact that he was arrested on a flight headed to France (with whom the U.S. has no extradition treaty) particularly persuasive.

    But it could not have helped his case when prosecutors warned that, if granted bail, DSK might flee there “just like Roman Polanski“. Polanski of course is the internationally renowned film director who flouted rape charges in the U.S. by blithely living as a fugitive in France.

    Accordingly, Judge Jackson ruled that DSK should be remanded at New York’s dreaded Rikers Island Prison without bail pending trial.

    However, even though I asserted in my original commentary that he is not deserving of any leniency, I disagree with this ruling.

    Not least because I’m mindful that Polanski’s flight from justice was 33 years ago when electronic monitoring devices were still the stuff of science fiction. By contrast, there are all kinds of devices available today to prevent such flights. This is why I think it would have sufficed to set a high, cash only bail (like the $1 million DSK offered to pay), confiscate his passport, and require him to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet.

    At any rate, with prosecutors indicating that they’re investigating allegations that DSK assaulted other maids in this same hotel, bail might be the least of his worries.

    Not to mention that, even if he wins bail on appeal, he would probably be arrested upon arrival in France on a similar sexual complaint. Because, as indicated above, this arrest has emboldened other DSK conquests/victims to come forward. Most notably, the French journalist/author Tristane Banon, whose allegations I delineated in my original commentary, filed a criminal complaint against him yesterday.

    Talk about comeuppance. Or is this piling on…?

    Apropos of which, did you see that gratuitously choreographed “perp walk” the NYPD forced DSK to make? It has become de rigueur for all high-profile suspects of course – with everyone from  O.J. Simpson to Bernie Madoff and Lindsay Lohan being members of this perp walk hall of shame.

    More to the point, though, even if he gets off on all charges, this will be the defining image of his life … especially in France, where it is being condemned – without any hint of irony – as a violent raping of his charming and seductive character. But outrage in France at DSK being made to look guilty until proven innocent would have far greater resonance in the U.S. if only it were tempered with a little compassion for the poor, defenseless woman he is alleged to have assaulted….

    Related commentaries:
    The arrest of IMF head DSK
    Arrest of Roman Polanski

  • Monday, May 16, 2011 at 6:45 AM

    The Arrest of IMF Head Dominique Strauss-Kahn

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    For over a decade now my favorite show on TV has been Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. As the promo for this New York-based show states, it is based on crime stories “ripped from the headlines”; i.e., art imitating life.

    Well, in a case of life imitating art, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (aka DSK), the powerful head of the International Monetary Fund, was yanked from his first-class seat on board an Air France flight last night just as it was about to depart for Paris from JFK airport. Detectives from New York’s Special Victims Unit arrested and charged him with a criminal sex act, attempted rape, and unlawful imprisonment.

    The charges stem from a complaint filed by a 32-year-old maid at the Sofitel hotel in New York City where DSK, 62, was staying. Here is what reportedly went down when she entered to clean his room (thinking it was empty) at 1 pm yesterday:

    Strauss-Khan emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he began to sexually assault her. She said she fought him off, then he dragged her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear. The woman was able to break free again and escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said. They called police.

    When detectives arrived moments later, Strauss-Kahn had already left the hotel, leaving behind his cellphone, Browne [spokesman for the NYPD] said. ‘It looked like he got out of there in a hurry.’

    (Reuters, May 15, 2011)

    No shit. Of course, as a lawyer, I’m especially obliged to note that DSK is presumed innocent. But trust me when I tell you that prosecutors will make hay out of the fact that he was caught trying to fly the coop (especially if he was not booked on this flight before his attempted rape). In legal parlance we call this evidence of his consciousness of guilt….

    Furthermore, lest you think this will be just another case of “he said, she said” (where he gets the benefit of the doubt – as the men, especially rich ones like him, almost always do), DSK’s notorious reputation as a “womanizer” will seal his fate. For not since former President Bill Clinton has a public figure of this stature been dogged by so many allegations of sexual misconduct and outright assault.

    Stories abound, including one about the messy affair he conducted with a Monica Lewinskyesque subordinate at the IMF in 2008. But none is more credible, as well as indicative of DSK’s pattern of behavior, than the account French journalist/author Tristane Banon gave of his attempt to rape her during an interview at his apartment in 2002:

    He wanted me to hold his hand while he answered, he said ‘I can’t do it if you don’t hold my hand.’ After the hand, it was the arm, and after the arm it was a bit further, so I stopped him. …

    It ended very badly, because we ended up fighting… We fought on the ground, it was more than a couple of slaps, I kicked him, he opened my bra, tried to open my jeans… It finished very badly…

    I got out of there and he immediately sent me a text message saying ‘So, are you scared of me?’… I had said the word ‘rape’ when we were struggling to scare him, and it didn’t seem to scare him, as if he was used to it. After [the incident] he wouldn’t stop sending me text messages saying ‘Are you scared of me?’

    (Business Insider, May 15, 2011)

    More telling, from this same Business Insider report, is this:

    Thierry Ardisson, the host of the show where Banon first made her allegations, later commented: ‘Everyone knew. I have fourteen female friends who told me ‘He tried it with me.’… I think this guy is sick… He needs to go to rehab.’

    In fact, the first thought that came to mind when I read the police report on how DSK pounced on that poor, unsuspecting maid was that this can’t be the first time he has done something like this. Alas, he has gotten away with it for so many years because his victims were probably more often than not French women like Banon who – for cultural or professional reasons – calculated that they had far more to lose by reporting him than women like this maid (a black woman from the West African nation of Guinea) who clearly had no such conflict.

    For what it’s worth, his long-suffering (and, I suspect, all-knowing) wife is standing by her man. She’s his third….

    Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is probably just as gratified as DSK’s silent victims by this arrest. After all, the consensus opinion among political pundits in France was that he was the only person who could deny Sarkozy’s bid to get reelected next year.

    Frankly, no matter the disposition of his case, DSK is finished – not just as a candidate for the French presidency, but also as head of the IMF. Suggestions that he will be granted leniency by the court or (continued) indulgence by the IMF because of “the pivotal role” he was playing in dealing with the European financial crisis are plainly absurd. The man is hardly that indispensable.

    In point of fact, it must be dawning on him just how fleeting his power and influence are now that he’s being made to cool his heels in jail up in Harlem pending arraignment. And it would not surprise me if the IMF – which issued a statement today saying that all is “fully functioning and operational” – announces his suspension (or resignation) by the end of business tomorrow.

    More important, though, his reputation as a serial sexual aggressor makes the maid’s complaint extremely credible. And since his character will be the central issue in this case, DSK’s lawyers will probably prevail upon him to cop a plea for a much-reduced sentence than the 25 years he’s facing. But they won’t have much leverage in plea negotiations if he squirted incriminating DNA anywhere on his victim’s body or clothes during his sexual assault … (sorry).  If this case goes to trial, however, he’s toast….

    That said, I guarantee that the episode featuring this alleged crime will be the highlight of the next season of Law & Order. And, take it from me, knowing the facts and circumstances involved will not diminish its entertainment value in the least.

    * This commentary was published originally yesterday, Sunday, at 3:23 pm.

  • Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 6:37 AM

    Demystifying bin Laden?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Officials in the Obama Administration are leaking all kinds of details from the “treasure trove” of secret information U.S. Special Forces seized from bin Laden’s compound.

    They are reportedly doing so to demystify the dead al-Qaeda leader. But, with the release of tidbits about his use of hair dyes and natural Viagra (not to mention his secret stash of porno tapes), they seem more interested in humiliating him.

    At any rate, what is truly noteworthy about the releases thus far is the picture they’re painting of a man who, far from being just a marginalized icon (as President Obama always maintained), retained command and control over his global terror network. Specifically, his emails, DVDs, personal diary, and other documents all indicate that bin Laden spent much of his days not just concocting all kinds of schemes to emulate the attacks of 9/11, but even deciding which of his lieutenants would be most suitable to execute each one.

    But it’s instructive that, despite his determined intent, bin Laden never came even close to pulling off another “spectacular attack”. Which means that his terror network ended up being just a diabolical obsession, or that he simply could not marshal the resources to carry out his intent.

    More to the point, though, Obama would be hard-pressed to explain why releasing pictures of the dead bin Laden would be classless and incendiary, but releasing embarrassing details about his private life would not….

    Meantime, while he’s now busy feeding the gullible press all kinds of innocuous tidbits about bin Laden, I hope Obama has already ordered Special Forces and FBI agents to “apprehend” anyone whose name appears in any document that was seized.

    And I assure you that, despite reports about them withholding critical information they scavenged after the raid by Navy Seals, the Pakistanis are cooperating in every way the Americans want them to. Like I said in my original commentary, much of the public posturing by Pakistani officials in this respect is for local consumption i.e., to save face.

    NOTE: I feel constrained to reiterate my consternation over the releasing of so many details (complete with animated reenactments) about how the Navy Seals assaulted and exploited bin Laden’s compound. After all, not only is this tipping off other terrorists (thereby compromising future raids), it is catering to a naïve and self-defeating expectation about the public’s right to know all details about covert military action—almost in real time….

    Related commentaries:
    Photos of dead Bin Laden

  • Friday, May 13, 2011 at 5:54 AM

    South Africa ‘Betraying Its Values’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am acutely mindful that my commentaries on the growing pains of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are taking on the specter of flogging a dead horse. This is why I am loath to write yet another one on the following regressive phenomenon that is now unfolding there:

    African leaders once personified unbridled despotism. Now they’re personifying the metastasizing spectacle of leaders [plunging their countries into political violence by] refusing to give up power after losing free and fair elections; ergo, their oxymoronic designation – democratic despots.

    (Africa’s democratic despots now include Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, The iPINIONS Journal, December 15, 2010)

    This has played out recently in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and (as indicated) the Ivory Coast. And it’s now playing out in Uganda….

    Far more troubling, however, are the equally regressive developments that have beset South Africa, the beacon of hope for the region, ever since Nelson Mandela retired as president. Most notable in this respect was Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, staking his entire presidency (and the lives of hundreds of thousands of South Africans) on the fatuous notion that HIV does not cause Aids.

    But this was soon surpassed in its utter stupefaction by the election of the alleged rapist and fraudster Jacob Zuma to succeed Mbeki. I felt constrained to herald this development by warning that Zuma would do for (or to) South Africa what Mugabe has done to Zimbabwe….

    But I’ve become distressingly aware that South Africa has a rather robust cadre of Internet trolls who are every bit as zealous in their defense of Zuma’s flawed character and venal policies as they were in defense of Mbeki’s discredited views on HIV/Aids. This is why I began citing the unimpeachable views of native South Africans to support my contentions.

    Apropos of this, I lamented the wayward path the country was veering towards two years ago. In doing so, I cited Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s foreboding prayer about the ANC choosing an alleged rapist and rapists as its leader:

    They should please not choose someone of whom most of us would be ashamed. Our country deserves better. We’re very worried that this leader [Jacob Zuma] had relations with a woman who regarded him as a parent and, although he is very likeable, we have to ask ourselves: ‘What is happening in the ANC?’

    (Hail Zuma … Big Dada, The iPINIONS Journal, April 27, 2009)

    Tutu’s prayers went unanswered. Consequently, what has happened to the ANC since then is that Zuma has transformed it from a party that championed democratic freedoms into one that enforces party loyalty – whether right or wrong. Even worse, it is deploying many of the same tactics of political intimidation and repression that the Apartheid regime deployed during its rule.

    Put another way, instead of emulating Barack Obama of the United States, Zuma is emulating Vladimir Putin of Russia; thereby turning South Africa into a de facto police state where a few oligarchs thrive with his sufferance at the expense of the poor masses.

    Of course, I knew it would be thus – as the following attests:

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

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

    But, as I indicated earlier, don’t take my word for it. Instead, here is what no less a person than the Nobel Laureate for Literature, Nadine Gordimer, is saying about what Zuma and the ANC are doing to South Africa:

    The original values of the ANC are being betrayed in many areas of our social life and our political life… I maintain the right to criticize my own party. I feel it’s a duty that we who are in the ANC must say what we think when the ANC does wrong….

    (HARDtalk, BBC, May 10, 2011)

    Hear, hear comrade!

    And, lest Zuma’s defenders attempt to dismiss Gordimer’s lament as well, just bear in mind that only Mandela himself has greater moral authority than she to speak about the state of affairs in South Africa today. After all, it’s arguable that she did more with her writings and political activism to bring about the fall of Apartheid than any other black South African living today, including Jacob Zuma.

    That said, some might argue that the 87-year-old Gordimer is waxing a little too idealistic in her dotage. And to support their contention they might cite her proselytizing interracial marriage as the best way for the country to deal with its lingering racial problems. But I submit that her prescription for racial healing and reconciliation is just as unassailable as her indictment of Zuma and the ANC.

    God help South Africa….

    Related commentaries:
    Africa’s democratic despots
    Hail Zuma
    Zuma issues fatwa

  • Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 5:32 AM

    Newt Gingrich for President?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    …this 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)
    Yes, Newt Gingrich threw his hat into the ring yesterday. But hiding all of the baggage he’s carrying behind the self-righteous message he’s preaching is a balancing act that is bound to collapse:

    Related commentaries

    Gingrich takes hypocrisy
  • Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 5:50 AM

    U.S.-Pakistan Secret Deal to Get bin Laden

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Politicians and pundits – in Pakistan and the United States – have been waxing indignant to the point of belligerence over the past week about the potential fallout from the spectacular way U.S. Special Forces willfully violated Pakistan’s sovereignty to get Osama bin Laden.

    For example, on the one hand, we had Pakistani Prime Minister Raza Gilani making plainly hollow threats to take out the Navy Seals if they ever attempt another such mission; while on the other, we had Bill O’Reilly making equally hollow demands for the U.S. to cut off Pakistan for harboring bin Laden.

    By contrast, here is how I pooh-poohed any potential fallout:

    The Americans are sensible enough to allow the Pakistanis to do or say whatever is necessary to save face.

    (Osama bin Laden is Dead, The iPINIONS Journal, May 2, 2011)

    Well, now come reports that the U.S. and Pakistan actually struck a deal 10 years ago to do just that:

    The U.S. and Pakistan struck a secret deal ten years ago to allow unilateral American action against Osama Bin Laden if he was ever found in Pakistan, it was reported last night. And Pakistan agreed to oppose the raid as a smokescreen to cover up the agreement.

    (London Daily Mail, May 10, 2011)

    Enough said?

    Except that I would be remiss not to commend former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for outperforming Captain Renault in Casablanca when he claimed to be “shocked, shocked” by the unilateral American action against bin Laden. After all, he was the one who actually struck this Machiavellian deal with former President George W. Bush – notwithstanding his Janus-faced denial.

    Related commentaries:
    Osama bin Laden is dead

  • Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 5:16 AM

    Jackson Resigns After Lakers Swept Out of Playoffs

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Sports history is replete with superstar athletes who vow to retire at the top of their game. Yet just this year Brett Favre and Lance Armstrong joined the long list of those, including Michael Jordan and Mohammed Ali, who failed to do so.

    By contrast, I cannot recall a single superstar coach ever making a similar vow; though surely some like Bill Parcells would have done well to make and honor it. Which brings me to Phil Jackson, coach of the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

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

    (Lakers repeat, The iPINIONS Journal, June 18, 2010)

    This is how I paid homage to Jackson last year after the Lakers repeated as NBA champions. Perhaps it should have occurred to him to retire then … at the top.

    But he can be forgiven for thinking that, with his team still essentially intact, he should try to repeat the three-peat feat (of winning three consecutive championships), which his Lakers was the last major American sports team to do 2000-2002. (The New York Yankees were the last Major League Baseball team to do it 1998-2000; but, interestingly enough, no NFL team has ever three-peated.)

    I actually thought he would three-peat again; I even bet on it. Unfortunately, his quest came to an ignominious end on Sunday when his Lakers were swept out of this year’s playoffs by the lowly Dallas Mavericks 4-0 – losing the final game of the Western Conference semifinals 122-86.

    In all my hopes and aspirations, this is the final game that I’ll coach. It’s been a wonderful run.

    (Associated Press, May 9, 2011)

    Clearly this is not the end Jackson hoped and aspired for. Even worse, his ignominy was compounded by his players who evidently had so little respect for him (and themselves) that they just threw in the towel halfway through the game (trailing by 30 at one point), and then resorted to committing flagrant fouls in a vain attempt to preserve what little was left of their pride.

    It was an utterly classless display; which is ironic given that Jackson’s players were always known for emulating on the court the classy and cool demeanor he always exhibited on the sidelines.

    I was a little bit embarrassed. Not with the loss, but some of the things I saw on the court were really just not something that a person that wears a Lakers uniform should do.

    (Ex-Lakers superstar and current general manager Jerry West, Dan Patrick Show, 570 KLAC Sports Radio, May 9, 2011)

    And so another sports hero ends his storied career in disgrace….

    Farewell, Phil.

    That said, I doubt they’ll “blow up the roster” this off season as another ex-Lakers superstar, Magic Johnson, suggests. But I’m sure franchise player Kobe Bryant will demand (and will get) one or two more reliable players to play supporting roles next season.

    Incidentally, one of the two Lakers ejected for committing a flagrant foul was Lamar Odom. But, unlike the other player, he probably did it as much out of frustration as out of some perverse attempt to create more ratings-grabbing fodder for Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the reality TV show on which he appears as a two-bit player alongside his wife Khloe Kardashian.

    Yes folks, our social values have become so screwed up that it’s entirely credible to assert that a multimillionaire basketball player would willfully demean himself and his team on the court just to boost ratings for his reality TV show. Odom’s mind is clearly elsewhere; therefore, he should be the first player the Lakers get rid of as they try to regroup and refocus for next season.

    Related commentaries:
    Lakers repeat

  • Monday, May 9, 2011 at 5:38 AM

    What Now is the Best Way to Fight the War on Terrorism?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The killing of Osama bin Laden has policy makers in the United States finally debating in earnest about what is the best way to fight the war on terrorism. And, in a similar vein, they are wondering whether this pivotal development provides an expedient pretext for President Obama to accelerate the timetable he has laid out for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

    On this second point, I took a friendly wager with an old friend who was persuaded by all he was hearing from high-profile politicians and pundits about Obama seizing this moment to declare victory and bring the troops home. I knew better.

    Among other things, I argued that doing so would force Obama to concede that he was wrong when he ordered a troop surge in 2009. And, sure enough, within 24 hours of making our wager, White House spokesman Jay Carney announced that there would be no change in Obama’s timetable. Obama himself then made a definitive declaration in this respect during an interview on 60 Minutes last night.

    But, frankly, it has been patently clear to me from day one that killing not just bin Laden, but every member of al-Qaeda would have no material impact on America’s ill-fated mission-creep to build an Afghanistan that can “govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself” (against a resurgent Taliban).

    Apropos of this, here are a few excerpts from previous commentaries which confirm the dissenting voice I sounded when, instead of changing course when he became president, Obama doubled down on Bush’s misguided strategy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Now, on the first point (i.e., about the most effective way to fight the war on terrorism going forward), Obama using Special Forces to take out bin Laden, as well as using drones with even greater frequency than Bush to attack other terrorists where they live, actually vindicates the following:

    Instead of a surge in troops to emulate Bush’s strategy in Iraq, his new strategy [should] call for withdrawing most troops and relying on Special Forces and aerial drones to continue the hunt.

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

    I hereby reiterate this as the best strategy for Obama to follow: let Special Forces go in and get the terrorists wherever they live and “then get the hell out” – as CIA Director Leon Panetta reportedly told the Navy Seals who went into Pakistan to get bin Laden to do. And it is not lost on me that – in as much as Obama is duly concerned about doing anything that might be used as a recruiting tool for terrorists – the sensational killing of bin Laden will be used as a terrific recruiting tool for U.S. Special Forces.

    NOTE: This is one of those rare events that is actually deserving of all of the coverage it has gotten. As my related commentaries will attest, I have written quite a bit on the war on terrorism. Particularly noteworthy is a commentary I wrote entitled, Please spare us the al-Qaeda obituaries. Because, except for the death of bin Laden himself, I could think of no other that was worthy of comment, let alone this kind of coverage.

    In any event, this is my last commentary on this war … until (a reelected) Obama declares victory as scheduled in 2014.

    Related commentaries:
    Please spare us the al-Qaeda obits
    Afghanistan: snatching defeat from the hands of victory
    Support the Draft to prevent stupid wars
    Picture of Obama saluting war dead
    Without (or even with) more forces
    Karzai submits to runoff election

  • Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 6:45 AM

    Talk about being caught with your pants down…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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