• Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 5:16 AM

    Hacking metastasizing like cancer inside Murdoch’s media empire

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last year News Corp, the global media empire headed by Rupert Murdoch, was the target of worldwide condemnation (and more than a little schadenfreude).

    This all stemmed from truly shocking revelations that one of its London tabloids, News of the World (NOTW), had routinely hacked the phones and e-mail accounts of everyone from celebrities to the grieving relatives of murder victims to gather fodder for the sensational stories that were its cash cow.

    In fact, this practice was so immoral that Rupert felt compelled to excise NOTW to save his other UK publications the way a surgeon would excise a malignant tumor.

    But this drastic (and dramatic) attempt at damage control did not prevent the British government from holding public hearings on the hacking that went on at NOTW. And, not surprisingly, those hearings turned out to be every bit as sensational as some of NOTW’s stories – complete with Rupert’s wife Wendy pouncing to protect him from a prankster who tried to throw a pie in his face while he was being grilled by members of the hearing committee.

    At any rate, while Rupert, the British government, and much of the media were treating NOTW as the only tumor in this respect, I sounded this cautionary note:

    When news of the hacking first broke … most commentators focused on the tolling of the death knell for the country’s most popular tabloid [NOTW]. But I was convinced from the outset that there had to be much more to this scandal and that NOTW was not the only tabloid involved.

    (“Former PM fuels public anger against Murdoch…,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 13, 2011)

    I reasoned that, if 4,000 people were hacked by just one investigator for just one tabloid (as was reported), the practice had to have been far more widespread given the competitive and hyena-like nature of Britain’s tabloid press.

    Well, now come reports that another of Rupert’s tabloids engaged in even more egregious practices to gather fodder for its sensational stories.

    Specifically, three of the top editors at The Sun were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of orchestrating not only the hacking of emails, phones, and other confidential databases, but also the bribing of police officers and the covering up of their crimes by deleting data from their corporate servers.

    If proved, such conduct would be serious because it could see the courts imposing long prison sentences; and because it could have been sanctioned by senior employees and directors.

    (The Guardian, January 29, 2012)

    Frankly, at the risk of betraying my modesty, the more these revelations drip out the more prescient and wise the admonition I gave Rupert over six months ago becomes:

    He excised NOTW like a tumor in a drastic attempt to save his UK publications; he may now have to excise his UK publications in an even more drastic attempt to save his global media empire [which includes such notables as the Wall Street Journal and FOX News].

    (“Former PM fuels public anger against Murdoch…,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 13, 2011)

    Accordingly, I admonish now that he would be well-advised to sell The Sun, The Times, and The Sunday Times before he has to close all three in NOTW ignominy.

    Related commentaries:
    Former PM fuels public anger
    Phone hacking parliamentary hearing

  • Monday, January 30, 2012 at 5:42 AM

    ‘Sustained sexual assault’ on CBS reporter by Egyptian protesters

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Just as it is with the Occupy Wall Street protests, one of the seamier aspects of the Arab Spring protests has been the sexual assaults against female protesters that have gone unreported. The glaring exceptions of course were those occasions when a member of the American media was the victim.

    Such was the case last February when reporter Lara Logan was preyed upon by a mob of rabid Egyptians. Here is how her news organization described the assault in a press statement back then:

    In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel, and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.

    (CBS News, February 15, 2011)

    But when I read that Logan was determined to return within weeks to the fray – where she stood out like a stranded gazelle in the midst of a pride of lions – I was compelled to make the following observation:

    [This] suggests that she is psychologically disassociated not just from her body, but from her maternal instincts as well… I just find it more than a little peculiar that a mother would be so eager to get so far away from her practically new-born child to cover this story with all of the obvious dangers it entails.

    (“Egyptian protesters sexually assault U.S. reporter,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 18, 2011)

    Well, it will probably come as no surprise that this pithy bit of amateur psychology incited such wrath that I’m still suffering (virtual) posttraumatic stress disorder.

    But now comes my belated vindication. Because Lara herself finally admitted last week that she was (and still is) suffering the kind of trauma I implied would (and should) make it prohibitive for her to continue covering the Arab Spring protests:

    People don’t really know that much about (posttraumatic stress disorder). There’s something called latent PTSD. It manifests itself in different ways. I want to be free of it, but I’m not.

    It doesn’t go away. It’s not something I keep track of. It’s not predictable like that. But it happens more than I’d like… Your family is critical… My children are my life. They’re so spectacular. They’re also so young.

    (New York Daily News, January 22, 2012)

    Lara is a very good reporter. But she will do well to limit her reporting to more prosaic topics from the relatively safe confines of the United States – as she did last night with her report for 60 Minutes on African game hunting … in Texas.

    I wish her well.

  • Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    New York rudest city?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    According to a national survey published this week by Travel + Leisure magazine, New York City was voted the rudest city in America … again. But, frankly, I think reports about this city’s rudeness are greatly exaggerated.

    I lived in NYC for many years and have either lived, worked, or spent time in many of the other major cities in America (and around the world). And I can say without fear of contradiction that NYC is in fact among the most hospitable. Hell, compared to some European cities, NYC is downright genteel.

    As for 3rd-ranked Washington, DC, where I now work., I can personally attest that, when it comes to rudeness, NYC has nothing on DC.

  • Friday, January 27, 2012 at 6:37 AM

    Australia’s Aboriginal Spring

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The world is reacting with shock (and some derision) today at the sight of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard being dragged to her motorcade by a scrum of bodyguards and riot police who were protecting her from jeering Aborigines.

    In fact, they whisked her through such a frantic, chaotic, and jostled path to safety that the prime minister ended up losing her shoes. Never mind that the only people blocking her path were spooked policemen falling all over themselves.

    Meanwhile, the irony is that the prime minister was just caught in the line of verbal fire. Because the target of the Aborigines’ ire was opposition leader Tony Abbott – who has been making imperious calls for them to cease and desist with their protests for sovereignty and land rights.

    But just imagine the spectacle of President Obama being manhandled by the Secret Service in this manner – in reaction not to bullets ringing out, but to political epithets being hurled at him by a bunch of Native Indians about violating their sovereignty and stealing their land.

    This prime minister’s bodyguards and the Australian police clearly have some ‘splainin to do for subjecting her to such pedestrian chaos and embarrassment.

    That said, those of us who have shown an interest in the plight of the Aborigines know that they have been engaged in a non-violent, but largely ignored, struggle for their civil rights for decades. The only difference now is that they have adopted the tactics that were (and are still being) deployed by pro-democracy protesters throughout the Arab world and by Occupy Wall Street protesters throughout the Western world.

    For example, the Aborigines have erected tents and shelters right on the lawn of Parliament House.

    So, given efforts by government officials in the United States and Europe to rid public spaces of the unsightly and unhygienic mess similar encampments have become, it’s hardly surprising that Abbott and others are now pushing to rid Parliament House of its new Aboriginal settlers.

    But the Aborigines should stay put and force the Australian government to either provide adequate assurances about redressing their civil-rights concerns or remove them by force. Because Australian authorities know full well that the latter would conjure up untenable images of white police dispersing black civil-rights protesters in America during the 1960s by hosing them with water cannons and beating them over the head with batons.

    This is why, once she regains her composure, I urge PM Gillard to make a public show of inviting Aboriginal leaders to negotiate a final settlement of their claims. This frankly is long overdue.

    For years, I’ve been pricking the conscience of my white Australian friends by arguing that it’s easy for them to accuse white Americans of virulent racism from their lily white haven down under; i.e., that they could sit on their high horse only because the few blacks (or non-whites) in their midst were so passive.

    I always found their accusations against Americans especially hypocritical considering that these self-righteous stone casters were (indeed are) still forcing Australia’s Aborigines to live under Apartheid-like conditions – with nary a peep of condemnation, incidentally, from the international community.

    (“Australia’s disgrace,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 17, 2005)

    Related commentaries:
    Australia’s disgrace

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 2:37 pm

  • Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    NFL championship Sunday

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Anyone who knows anything about football knows that the most exciting day of the NFL season is Conference Championship Sunday, not Super Bowl Sunday.

    Unfortunately, my enjoyment of this day of football revelry was undermined by the fact that my team, the Philadelphia Eagles, did not even make it to the playoffs this season.

    All indications are that Vick and the Eagles actually bought into the hype by sports analysts about them emulating the near-perfect season Brady and the Patriots had in 2007. Moreover, given the way he and the Eagles fell apart during the playoffs last season, Vick can be forgiven the onset of anxieties about doing little more for the Eagles than the $100-million quarterback he replaced, Donovan McNabb.

    (“Vick: why is everybody always picking on me,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 18, 2011)

    In any event, true to form, Sunday’s NFC Championship game between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers (which the Giants won 20-17) and AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens (which the Patriots won 23-20) did not disappoint.

    In fact, in an uncanny bit of symmetry, both championships were defensive struggles that came down to game-clinching field-goal attempts:

    In the NFC game the Giants won when their kicker Lawrence Tynes nailed a 31-yarder in overtime. Whereas, in the AFC game the Patriots won when the Ravens’ kicker Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yarder with 11 seconds left in regulation. Such is the life of field-goal kickers in the NFL: feast or famine, hero or goat.

    I was actually pulling for the Giants and Patriots, respectively. Because my fallback allegiance is now with the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. And I would like nothing more than to see the Patriots get some measure of payback for the way the Giants ruined their chance at NFL immortality by defeating them in Super Bowl XLII (in 2008), ending their pursuit of the elusive perfect season.

    (The 1972 Miami Dolphins is the only team in the modern era to have a perfect season capped by a Super Bowl win. I doubt any team will ever repeat this feat – as a very good Green Bay Packers team found out this year….)

    Go Patriots!

    Related commentaries:
    Vick: why is everybody picking on me

  • Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    Obama’s State of the Union Address

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Ever since 1934, when the modern version of State of the Union Address became an annual feature of Washington politics, every president has used it in an election year to frame the issues and rally support for his presidency. Yet to listen to Republicans carp, you’d think President Obama is the first one to do so.

    What they feared, of course, is that the occasion last night would give Obama the opportunity to expose — before an audience of tens of millions — their doom-and-gloom claims about his presidency as nothing more than a resentful and racially tinged pack of lies. And, sure enough, Obama did just that.

    Here are just a few excerpts (from a transcript at whitehouse.gov) of what he said.

    On his vision for America:

    A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.

    On the contrast between the economy Bush left behind and the one he has built in the last three years:

    Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores… Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.

    In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money… In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly four million jobs. And we lost another four million before our policies were in full effect.

    Those are the facts. But so are these. In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. Together, we’ve agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion. And we’ve put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like that never happens again….

    On their hypocritical and absurd claim that he’s promoting a socialist agenda based on envy and class warfare just because he does not think rich Americans like Mitt Romney should get away with paying less than 15 percent in taxes while working class people like secretaries are stuck paying over 30:

    Let’s never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that does the same. It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no cop-outs. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.

    On discontinuing America’s involvement in costly and unwinnable wars:

    For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.

    On their regressive ideas about how to grow the economy:

    I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.

    On the stark choice voters will have in November:

    [T]he basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement. The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important.

    We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them…

    A return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help us protect our people and our economy. But it should also guide us as we look to pay down our debt and invest in our future…

    Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else – like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both.

    On their claim that America is in decline:

    The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe. Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever. Our ties to the Americas are deeper. Our iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history… From the coalitions we’ve built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we’ve led against hunger and disease; from the blows we’ve dealt to our enemies; to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back.

    Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    Game on!

    NOTE: A few congressmen issued press releases about their intent to “boycott” Obama’s address. Of course the only reason they did so is that they knew media saps like Chris Mathews of MSNBC would give them the publicity they coveted.  Therefore, the next time you see anyone on TV interviewing some otherwise-obscure congressman (and it’s invariably a man) about why he dissed the president, please change the channel and tweet about what a fool that media person is for giving that idiot the time of day. Trust me, you’d be performing a very worthy public service.

  • Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 5:30 AM

    Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding father, indicted on war crimes

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s simply impossible for any Westerner to fully appreciate the significance of the son of Jomo Kenyatta (1889-1978) being indicted yesterday by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of “organizing a campaign of rape and murder” against political opponents. The closest analogy I suppose would be if Prince William were indicted on similar charges for crimes committed during a mission to reinforce colonial rule in the Falkland Islands.

    In any case, the crimes against humanity being alleged stem from the orgy of violence that erupted in December 2007 when incumbent President Mwai Kibaki refused to cede power to Raila Odinga after losing a free and fair presidential election.

    Here, in part, is how I commented on this African pathology as it was playing out back then:

    I am simply crestfallen by Kenya’s rapid descent into Rwandan-style tribal warfare in recent weeks. Despite manifestations of congenital kleptocracy, it was just beginning to appear worthy of being called a beacon of democracy on that Dark Continent.

    But when President Mwai Kibaki and his ruling party refused to cede power after losing national elections on December 27, I was so mindful, indeed fearful, of the potential for widespread civil unrest that I wrote the following:

    ‘[T]his sets up the all too familiar prospect of Africans resorting to tribal warfare to settle their political disputes… Those of us who are still hoping against hope for a political awakening in Africa cannot help but look on in despair as Kenya descends back into the heart of darkness – where bloodlust gives rise to more Idi Amins and Rwandan-style genocides….’

    (“Conflict in Kenya: another African genocide in the making,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 17, 2008)

    When the dust settled – with Kibaki and Odinga forming a grand coalition government – 1,200 people were reported killed and 600,000 displaced.

    But I wonder what evidence the ICC possesses that ties Uhuru and the three other prominent Kenyans it indicted to the rapes and murders that were committed. And am I the only one who finds it a little too convenient that of the four indicted two of them supported Kibaki (namely Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura) and two supported Odinga (namely former Education Minister William Ruto and radio presenter Joshua arap Sang)?

    Frankly, this seems the ICC’s contrived attempt by the ICC to forestall more score-settling and communal violence by saying, in effect, a pox on both your houses.

    What’s more, I doubt any of these men had any hands-on involvement in any of the violence at issue. And if the charges stem just from inciting and organizing what the BBC described as “a bloody round of score-settling and communal violence,” then surely no two people are more responsible than Kibaki and Odinga themselves. Which makes this rather like blaming Hitler’s generals but not Hitler himself, no?

    For what it’s worth, all of the men vehemently deny the charges. But, to their credit, all have declared their willingness to cooperate with the ICC’s legal process.

    In the meantime, Uhuru and Ruto were both preparing to stand in the presidential election scheduled for next year. Chances are very good, however, that their trials will not be held before that election, and it would be utterly untenable for them to participate with this Damoclean sword of prosecution hanging over their heads.

    This is why I hope their cooperation with the ICC extends to withdrawing their candidacies. At the very least, President Kibaki should relieve Uhuru of his official duties pending the outcome of his trial….

    NOTE: His biography states that Uhuru attended Amherst College in Massachusetts. But he spent so much time in the early 1980s hanging out at my college, Williams, that I thought he was a student there. Trust me, Blacks were so few in number that it’s very easy to remember people. Besides, Uhuru’s distinctive features made him stand out even amongst us.

    Related commentaries:
    Conflict in Kenya
    Kenya grand coalition

  • Monday, January 23, 2012 at 5:35 AM

    Joe Paterno, Penn State’s pedophile-enabling football coach, is dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I know many will consider it punishment enough that Paterno is resigning in disgrace. The outpouring of support by misguided students for whom football is a religion and Paterno is god is testament to this fact. But, here again, just as decades of pastoring is not sufficient mitigation to grant leniency to a Catholic bishop who stood by and allowed a pedophile priest to continue raping little boys, decades of coaching (46 years — racking up a record number of wins) is not sufficient mitigation to grant leniency to Paterno who stood by and allowed his assistant coach to do the same.

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

    (“Penn State’s Catholic Church problem,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 10, 2011)

    If ever there were a case where a lifetime of good could (indeed should) be fatally undermined by one act, this is it.

    Ironically, I suspect Paterno wished he were dead when the details of this child-sex abuse became public last November. After all, it exposed him as showing more concern about protecting his football program from scandal than protecting little boys from the pedophile clutches of his assistant coach. Well, he was finally put out of his misery yesterday when he died of lung cancer. He was 85.

    No doubt many people will shed tears for Paterno, and do all they can to salvage his reputation and legacy. But I prefer to save my tears for those little boys, and will do all I can to remind people of how he betrayed them so unconscionably.

    In fact, I say forget the 350 players Paterno helped make it into the NFL. Think instead of how many boys he stood by and allowed Sandusky to molest and rape … for decades. Hell, that he knew of just one boy and did nothing to quarantine this monster is damning enough for me.

    As for his legacy, there’s something almost feudal about Paterno, on the one hand, amassing so much wealth that he could donate millions to Penn State while, on the other hand, taking so much pride in not allowing the players who made his legacy to accept even a dime from boosters and sponsors to help make ends meet….

    May God have mercy on his soul.

    Related commentaries:
    Penn State’s Catholic Church problem

  • Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    Newt’s win in SC makes him Obama’s new best frenemy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 8:21 AM

    ‘Red Tails’ a must-see movie!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s regrettable that so much more is known about the Tuskegee Black laborers who were used as guinea pigs in syphilis experiments than about the Tuskegee Black pilots who fought as heroes during World War II.

    But that’s about to change with the release this weekend of the epic movie Red Tails – so named because of the signature red paint the Tuskegee Airmen applied to the tails of their airplanes.

    This movie chronicles the way a group of Black fighter pilots overcame prevailing presumptions about their intellectual and physical inferiority to acquit themselves with unparalleled distinction, killing more enemy fighters and losing fewer of their own than any of the all-White fighter groups during the war. Not to mention the racial irony that the fighter planes they shot from the skies were being piloted by members of the Nazi’s purported Aryan master race.

    In fact, not since Toussaint L’Ouverture and a band of Haitian slaves defeated Napoleon (1791-1804) had any group of men done more to defy and destroy the myth of white supremacy than the Tuskegee Airmen did during WWII (1943-45). But we’ve come such a long way since then that this myth now has about as much credence as the one which holds that the world is flat.

    This is why the appeal of this film has far more to do with the unbridled patriotism and triumphalism it evokes than with the racial segregation and Jim Crow laws that made it so difficult for these men to fight for their country. This, after all, is one of the best movies about aerial combat ever produced, putting Tom Cruise’s Top Gun to shame.

    Mind you, it does not whitewash the galling injustice inherent in these black men fighting so heroically for the glory and survival of America in the skies over Germany only to be greeted with unvarnished racism upon their return home. Indeed, they could have been forgiven the nightmare impression that fascistic Germany, not democratic America, had won the war….

    This brings me to another irony. Because the only reason Red Tails has made it to the big screen is that a white man fought for 20 years and put up $58 million of his own money to persuade the Whites who control Hollywood that a war movie featuring Blacks is commercially viable. And it speaks volumes that that man is no less a person than the great movie director George Lucas of Star Wars fame.(I wonder what race-baiting, only-Blacks-should-make-movies-about-Blacks director Spike Lee has to say about this….)

    But this too is part of the backstory about lingering racism in America that requires no further comment. Instead, I urge you to pay tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen (and destroy this myth about featuring Blacks in movies) by helping to make Red Tails an unqualified blockbuster.

    See this movie!

  • Friday, January 20, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    Newt Gingrich’s indecent proposal

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

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

    The above states the rule that guides my commentaries on sex scandals. I make exceptions, however, when the hypocrisy or arrogance involved is so egregious that it shocks 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, former Speaker Newt Gingrich puts even Edwards to shame in this respect. After all, this is the self-righteous SOB who championed the impeachment of Bill Clinton over his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky while he was carrying on an illicit affair of his own with a Congressional staffer.

    Now, like a typical criminal who finds religion, Newt is claiming to have found God and is preaching the virtues of family values – even going so far as to sign a “fidelity pledge” to uphold the sanctity of marriage between a man and (one) woman. But just as the criminal spouts his born-again crap only to ingratiate himself with the parole board, Newt is doing so only to ingratiate himself with “values” voters.

    Except that his preening hypocrisy so incensed his second wife Marianne that she came out of her woman-scorned coma after 10 years this week to tell the world just how morally bankrupt and preternaturally unrepentant he really is.

    Specifically, in an ABC News interview, which aired just 24 hours before last night’s Republican primary debate in South Carolina, she said that Newt divorced her only because she rejected his post-nuptial proposal to have an open marriage; namely, one between him and her … and his mistress(es).

    Even more damning, she said that the only reason he is still with his third wife Callista is that, according to Newt, she does not care how many mistresses he has. (I would add, as long as he maintains that million-dollar revolving credit at Tiffany & Co that caused him so much political embarrassment last summer.)

    But far from being shamed or humbled by her efforts to derail his presidential bid, Newt seized the opportunity at the opening of this debate to wax indignant about how “despicable and irresponsible” it was that CNN was defiling a lofty presidential debate by asking him about his tawdry private life.

    And, in typical ego-centric fashion, he betrayed no recognition of the glaring hypocrisy inherent in this coming from the Tartuffe who defiled the presidency by making a federal crime out of Bill Clinton’s tawdry private life.

    He categorically denied making the indecent proposal; although, I’m not sure why he thought citing the two daughters he had with his first wife Jackie as character references would bolster his credibility. After all, they are probably harboring more resentment against the second wife for stealing Newt away from their mother than the second wife is harboring against the third wife for stealing him away from her. Got that?!

    But, if there’s a God, the second wife has Newt on tape betraying his marital vows in this and all manner of ways and is only waiting for the opportune time to release it; i.e., when, if by some devilish design, he becomes the Republican nominee.

    There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate… I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them… I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness.

    (Associated Press, March 9, 2011)

    This was Newt defying credulity by claiming that his fervent patriotism caused him to cheat, but that he has reconciled his behavior with God, implying that it is now nobody else’s business. Alas, as the son of a preacher man, I know all too well that there’s no limit to the gullibility of the evangelicals to whom Newt was appealing with plainly cynical statements like this and his performance last night. Indeed, his performance was one that must have made even Jimmy Swaggart blush. (And if this allusion escapes you, you’re going to burn in hell.)

    The irony is that these self-appointed guardians of Christian values – who comprise the base of the Republican Party – are the only people stupid enough to buy into Newt’s absurd attempt not just to make a virtue of his sins, but to deflect blame onto the media for his commission of them in the first place. Even worse is the way they react to his hackneyed and patently contrived bash-the-media schtick as if he were channeling Jesus Christ rebuking the forces (or sources) of evil. But, frankly, when they start quoting from the Psalms of David to excuse Newt’s behavior you know he’s got them hook, line, and sinker.

    (David, of course, was the king of the Jews whose lust for women was so prodigious, promiscuous, and covetous that he had a man shipped to the front of a battle, where he would surely die, just so that he could consummate his seduction of that man’s wife. Their love and admiration for this biblical reprobate – who is as famous for the lyrical way he begged God for forgiveness as he is for the lyrical way he seduced women – explains why so many right-wing Christians now love and admire the silver-tongued Newt.)

    His delusions of grandeur are such that he really thinks – even after his litany of scandals forced him to resign as Speaker and leave Washington in disgrace in 1999 – that he can now wrap himself in the flag, claim religious conversion, and return as president of the United States.

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

    That said, I’m on record dismissing this whole Republican nomination process as nothing more than a farcical sojourn towards the inevitable anointing of Mitt Romney as the nominee, which renders the winners and losers of these media-hyped debates, as well as the winner of Saturday’s South Carolina primary, utterly meaningless.

    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)

    Still, there’s no gainsaying the entertainment these Republican wannabe presidents are providing along the way.

    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 vs. 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.

    (“Newt Rising,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 15, 2011)

    I just hope that at the end of this process Mitt is so thoroughly discredited that all Obama has to do in the General Election is remind the American people how unworthy his own fellow Republicans think he is to serve as president of the United States.

    Meanwhile, to hear Newt boasting not just about bloodying Obama’s nose but about knocking him out, you’d think he were challenging the president to a series of MMA bouts instead of political debates. Never mind that, like all bullies, he will squeal like a pig as soon as Obama begins counter-punching (as Romney demonstrated during one of their debates when he slapped Newt around over his flip-flopping on healthcare mandates). More to the point, though, anyone who believes that Newt can beat Obama in a political debate (or in a MMA bout) is every bit as delusional as Newt.

    But it speaks volumes about the state of politics in America today that presidential debates have degenerated into a spectator/gladiator sport. The studio audience should be instructed to be quiet or, better still, there should be no studio audience at all! Actually, apropos of this, I cannot overstate how foreboding it is that the public ignorance to  which all politicians shamelessly pander is so celebrated in this country these days….

    Finally, for the record, there have not been more than three presidential debates since they became the norm in 1976.  In fact, during 3 of the 10 presidential elections that have been held since then, there were only two debates.  Therefore, as much as Newt would like to show off his bombastic debating skills against Obama (presuming, as he is, that he’ll be the Republican nominee), there will only be three presidential debates this fall. Thank God!

    Related commentaries:
    Sen. Vitter
    Schwarzenegger love-child bombshell
    Gingrich takes hypocrisy
    And the Republican nominee is
    Newt rising

  • Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    Jasmine Revolution simmering in China

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    China reached an earth-shifting milestone last year when, for the first time in history, more than half of its 1.3 billion people were reported living in cities than in the countryside.

    Clearly this is not as dramatic a movement as the Long March (1934-35), but it could prove equally significant in the epic annals of Chinese history. Not least because hundreds of millions of educated people in combustible cities demanding jobs, welfare benefits, and democratic freedoms are bound to cause more trouble for the ruling Communist Party than hundreds of millions of peasant farmers in the isolated countryside making similar demands, which they have been doing for many years now. 

    This is why, despite a rate of growth that remains the envy of the world, China’s economy is, in fact, a ticking time bomb. Because the 1 billion people providing cheap labor to fuel its boom represent mushrooming fuel demands that portend its bust. Not to mention that cheap labor (as the primary means of production) is going the way of the bicycle (as the primary means of transportation) as these new urban dwellers demand high-paying jobs and greater benefits commensurate with modern, city life.

    Here, in part, is how I presaged these combustible developments some time ago:

    It’s certainly ironic that the great proletarian revolution Karl Marx predicted for capitalist societies is actually simmering in communist China. Because as urban sprawl supplants rural areas and further alienates peasant farmers (who have seen only hardship from this economic boom), the tensions between the “haves and have nots” will cause China to implode…

    [O]ne can get a sense of the powder-keg potential these tensions pose from reports by China’s own ministry of propaganda which confirmed earlier this year that the ‘number of riots has risen sharply in China, reaching more than 70,000 in 2004 and developing into a major concern for the government.’

    (“Gap between rich and poor in China is sowing seeds of resentment and terminal unrest,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 22, 2005)

    Now, here is what no less a person than U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke said just yesterday during an interview with National Public Radio about the potential for unrest in China, which would make the upheaval of the Arab Spring look like a Sunday picnic:

    [T]there is a growing frustration among the people over the operations of government, corruption, lack of transparency, and issues that affect the Chinese people on a daily basis that they feel are being neglected… The discord inside China is partly a result of the income and wealth disparity between China’s growing middle class and the masses of poor, rural residents.

    [I]t’s very clear that in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and since then, there’s been a greater intolerance of dissent — and the human rights record of China has been going in the wrong direction.

    But as everyone from Mubarak to Gaddafi found out, once people overcome the fear of oppression, it’s only a matter of time before they are willing to kill (or die) for their freedom.

    Of course, the sheer number of disenfranchised and dispossessed people affected makes it prohibitive even for the amoral Communist Party to emulate either the Syrian regime by crushing them militarily or the Saudi regime by placating them financially.

    This means that instead of the mass non-violent democracy protest that was so easily crushed in 1989, Tiananmen Square 2.0 is bound to be a bona fide, bloody revolution. Which makes the allusion to Jasmine seem like a macabre joke….

    Related commentaries:
    Gap between rich and poor in China
    China, free Ai Wei Wei
    China’s deficit

  • Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 7:44 AM

    In Support of Obama: Welcome to the cause Mr. Sullivan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Much is being made about the cover story Why are Obama’s Critics so Dumb? How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics by Andrew Sullivan in this week’s issue of Newsweek. Sullivan is an erstwhile conservative political commentator who now describes himself as an “unabashed supporter of Obama.”

    The main point of his story is that Obama’s Democratic critics are short-sighted, blogging fools for sulking because he has only accomplished 75 percent of his progressive agenda thus far; and that his Republican critics are so blinded by partisan and racial hatred that they would rather see the country suffer a 1930s-style depression than say or do anything to help Obama become the successful and transformative president he is destined to be. (Hell, to listen to some Republicans – their lips dripping with words of delegitimization and demonization – you’d think Obama were the Devil incarnate.)

    Nothing demonstrates Sullivan’s contempt for the unrealistic and patently unfair standards Obama’s critics are judging him by quite like his take on the killing of Osama bin Laden:

    If George Bush had taken out bin Laden, wiped out al Qaeda’s leadership, and gathered a treasure trove of real intelligence by a daring raid, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now.

    Well, perhaps not, but surely you get his point.

    As it happens, I not only agree with the points he makes in this story, I actually made them myself, in more succinct and sober form, in an August 12, 2011 commentary In Support of Obama: my abiding, even if forlorn, HOPE. I am reprising it below as much for the edification of Obama’s disaffected (Democratic and Independent) supporters as for that of his rabid (Republican) critics.

    _____________________

    [F]ar too much of this criticism is fickle, hypocritical and emotionally wrought… The real narrative arc of course is that progressive columnists (like Maureen Dowd of the New York Times) who once fawned over Obama’s style are now criticizing it.

    But I hope Obama shows the same indifference towards their criticisms that he showed when they were swooning over him not so long ago. Because it would be a travesty if he were to try now to emulate that emotional chameleon Bill Clinton—who these same media prima donnas ridiculed for continually feigning emotions just to curry political favor.

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

    This is how I dismissed the internecine criticisms fellow progressives were hurling at President Obama last year in the wake of the BP oil spill. Lately though it seems they’ve been trying to outdo conservatives in their gratuitous and often ad-hominem criticisms of him.

    Mind you, this is not to say that Obama does not deserve heaps of criticism. In fact, a cursory search of my weblog will reveal that few people have been more critical of some of his policies than I.

    Most notable has been my criticism of his incomprehensible decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan. Just days ago I wrote that the body blow the Taliban/al-Qaeda gave America by killing those celebrated Navy Seals there last week was just the latest incidence of chickens coming home to roost because of that ill-fated decision.

    And, as regards the now prevailing criticisms of his economic policies, which have made strange bedfellows of progressives and conservatives, here is how I presaged much of this 18 months ago:

    [H]e’s turning out to be all talk and no action… I urge him to spend less time talking and more time creating jobs….

    (“Obama: what we have is a failure to communicate,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 26, 2010)

    Specifically, like most progressives, I have criticized Obama for failing to submit a jobs plan commensurate with all of his talk about focusing on creating jobs. This is why I was encouraged yesterday when he promised that he will have one ready for legislative action when Congress returns in September. And he made it clear that his plan will include all of the road-building and bridge-repairing features (complete with an “infrastructure bank”) that progressives have been clamoring for.

    Despite my criticisms, however, I have never doubted Obama’s commitment to the core progressive principles that made him such an appealing presidential candidate. By contrast, many of my progressive friends have become not just disillusioned, but disaffected because of what they consider his unwillingness to fight for, or his outright abandonment of, these principles.

    But, with all due respect, I fear they are suffering a mild form of the same delusional zealotry that afflicts Tea Partiers. For what they criticize as Obama’s weakness for not matching the Tea Partiers’ my-way-or-the-highway approach to governing is just his pragmatic way of trying to get something, anything done—given a Republican-controlled House that he knows is hell-bent on blocking anything he proposes.

    As my October 2006 commentary Run Obama Run will attest, I was a die-hard Obama supporter long before most of these disillusioned folks even knew his name. More to the point, I have always known and accepted that the key to his appeal as a transformative politician was his pragmatism.

    I was also mindful, however, that the bane of his presidency would be left-wing ideologues who would mistake his pragmatism for weakness. But I was confident that Obama would always have enough self-confidence to make pragmatic compromises despite carping from the left.

    (“Mutiny against Obama over Bush tax cuts,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 9, 2010)

    Of course I get why so many progressives want to see him stand up to Republicans just for the sake of proving to them that “Yes, he can.” But just because political jihadists in the Congress would rather destroy the country than compromise one iota on their agenda does not mean that Obama should become a political jihadist too.

    Meanwhile, given the way these progressives are joining conservatives in dismissing him as a spineless, feckless leader, you’d think Obama has nothing to show for his preternatural pragmatism. Whereas, in fact, this enabled him to:

    • negotiate a stimulus package (pulling the U.S., if not the world economy, from the precipice of another Great Depression);
    • bailout the auto industry (saving it from imminent and terminal collapse and saving tens of thousands of blue-collar jobs);
    • sign landmark healthcare reform (providing health insurance to over forty million poor Americans and prohibiting adhesive insurance practices);
    • sign unprecedented financial regulation (overhauling the financial industry for the first time in generations—complete with a consumer bureau to protect borrowers against abuses in mortgage, credit card, and other types of lending);
    • sign the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (launching a new era of national service and volunteerism);
    • sign the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (making it easier for women to sue for equal pay);
    • expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) (providing health, dental, and vision coverage to poor children);
    • ease restrictions on stem cell research (making it possible for scientists to aggressively pursue cures for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s);
    • appoint the first Hispanic, Sonia Sotomayor, to the Supreme Court (bringing to three the number of women now sitting on the nation’s highest court for the first time in history); and
    • enact student-loan reform (making the government, not loan-sharking commercial banks, the originator of student loans).

    I could go on, but you get the point. Except that it would be remiss of me not to mention the daring orders he issued for Special Forces to rescue an American sea captain from Somali pirates and to finally get Osama bin Laden: Weak? Spineless? Feckless? I don’t think so….

    Obama is clearly convinced that maintaining his reasonable, pragmatic approach will redound to his and the Democrats’ favor in November 2012; i.e.,  when voters will have their next opportunity to decide who should be kicked out of office for turning Washington into such a dysfunctional mess. I agree.

    When voters consider what it’s going to take to finally address the nation’s problems in a reasonable and constructive manner, I think the vast majority of them are going to opt for his balanced and necessarily bi-partisan approach instead of the dogmatic and devilishly doctrinaire approach that every Republican seems to have taken a religious oath to follow. For it is oxymoronic, if not Talibanic, for Republicans to insist that they can balance the budget and reduce the national debt without ever compromising in negotiations with Democrats.

    Which brings me to this simple question for my progressive friends: If not Obama, whom? And please do not mention the wistful fantasy of seeing Hillary Clinton mount a Kennedyesque challenge to him next year. Voters are disdainful enough of the betrayal Republican Jon Huntsman pulled by resigning from Obama’s Cabinet to run against him. Hillary is too sensible, indeed too pragmatic, to even contemplate such a betrayal. The far more likely scenario—long rumored in Washington—is that she and Vice President Joe Biden will switch jobs so that she will be ideally positioned to succeed Obama in 2016.

    So criticize him, get pissed off, become disaffected. But do not ever lose sight of the fact that there’s no politician more capable of leading America through this period of mindless political pandering and brinkmanship than Barack Obama. My support for him is as strong as ever and, despite all of the kvetching by progressives and demonizing by conservatives, I predict he’ll be re-elected in a Reagan-style landslide.

    Frankly, it smacks of a cult of sheer madness that every Republican thinks he (or she) can get elected by merely promising to reinstate the Bush policies that got this country into all of the economic and military mess Obama is trying to get it out of….

    Related commentaries:
    Spill turns swooning over Obama toxic
    Mutiny against Obama
    Obama…failure to communicate
    In support of Obama: my abiding, even if forlorn

  • Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    Concordia another Titanic? Not quite…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt it was a harrowing experience for all passengers on Friday night when the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized off Italy’s Tuscan coast. And I’m sure the tales of survival will soon be the stuff of legend.

    But it’s a manifestation of the myopia and conceit that permeates our twitterverse that the media immediately began hyping the notion that this shipwreck “is like the Titanic.” Because all one has to know is that when the Titanic sank in 1912 over 1,500 people died and only 705 survived; whereas, when the Concordia sank on Friday fewer than 50 died but, more to the point, over 4,000 people survived.

    Yet, just in case the Titanic analogy does not evoke the kind of hysteria that would sustain ratings or hold readers, the media are now hyping reports that the Concordia’s 2,400 tons of diesel fuel could leak into the Mediterranean and cause an ecological catastrophe … like the one the Exxon Valdez caused in 1989. Hope springs eternal….

    To be sure, any loss of life in these circumstances is tragic. But this analogy to the Titanic is almost as uninformed and insensitive as making an analogy between the earthquake that killed over 400,000 in Haiti in January 2010 and the one that killed fewer than 200 in New Zealand in February 2011.

    While the investigation is ongoing, preliminary indications are that there may have been significant human error on the part of the ship’s master, Captain Francesco Schettino, which resulted in these grave consequences.

    (Statement by Costa Cruise Lines, BBC, January 15, 2012)

    Indeed, reports are that the captain of the Concordia ran it aground despite having computerized navigation systems so sophisticated the ship could have steered clear of the rocks that doomed it on autopilot. Ironically, he manned the controls in a well-intentioned attempt to give the passengers (especially the young woman he invited up to the Bridge) a more scenic view of the shoreline as they left port.

    Unfortunately, whatever sympathy he might have garnered for this mistake was completely vitiated by reports that he was among the first to abandon ship, leaving thousands of women and children struggling to save their own lives. The captain was summarily arrested and charged with a number of manslaughter charges and for abandoning ship; and rightly so!

    Meanwhile, given the (lack of) leadership he displayed, it was hardly surprising that the crew he left behind were reportedly every bit as clueless and panic-stricken as the passengers. Actually, passenger accounts suggest that the crew gave new, shameful meaning to the survival-of-the-fittest clarion call, every man for himself! This is why, all things considered, it’s a miracle 4,000 survived.

    In any event, my prayers and thoughts go out to all those affected. I just hope they derive some consolation from the tens of millions Carnival, the Concordia’s parent company, will pay to settle their claims. Which makes me wonder how much the White Star Line, the Titanic’s parent company, paid out to survivors and families of the dead after it sank…?

  • Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    Not every person kneeling in prayer is tebowing…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am pretty sure this phenomenon will die a media death this weekend when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots show Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos, in convincing fashion, that winning football games has absolutely nothing to do with how much of a spectacle one makes of praying to God.

    (The divine Tim Tebow? Puhleeese! The iPINIONS Journal, January 12,2012)

    UPDATE (Saturday, January 14, at 11:26 pm)

    I prayed for Brady and the Patriots to beat the hell out of Tebow and the Broncos, and they did: 45-10.  Clearly, based on the presumptions of tebowing, this means that I’m a better Christian than Tim Tebow.

    Enough said?

    Related commentaries:
    The divine Tim Tebow

  • Friday, January 13, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    Israel’s Mossad strikes again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Two years ago, agents from Israel’s revered Mossad were caught on CCTV in Dubai carrying out a hit on a senior Hamas leader. They were universally ridiculed, and I duly piled on:

    It’s bad enough that these spies can be seen in Technicolor going into public bathrooms and coming out in their laughable disguises (some looking like clones of 1970s tennis player Bobby Riggs as they stalked al-Mabhou into the hotel elevator).

    I doubt Mossad, known for its stealth and highly sophisticated operations, will ever live down viral videos of its agents acting more like keystone cops than James Bond as they carried out this mission.

    (So much for the enviable reputation of Israel’s spy agency, Mossad, The iPINIONS Journal, February 18, 2010)

    Well, by all accounts, Mossad lived up to its reputation on Wednesday when its agents assassinated a deputy director of Iran’s main uranium enrichment plant with drama, skill, and stealth that would make Bond very proud indeed. They reportedly rode by on a motorbike in broad daylight, attached a magnetic bomb to his car, blew it to smithereens, and were long gone before anyone even realized what happened.

    Reports are that this is the fourth time in two years an Iranian nuclear scientist has been assassinated in similar fashion, which all seems pursuant to a psychological warfare that Israel is waging against Iran.

    But targeted assassinations will do nothing to impede Iran’s inexorable drive towards building a nuclear bomb. Not least because its nuclear scientists have far more to fear from the Mullahs who have ordered them to build it than from Israeli spies who might be trying to take them out one by one.

    Likewise the draconian sanctions the United States and Western countries are poised to impose on Iran will deter Iran no more than similar sanctions deterred North Korea – now a notorious and bona fide member of the nuclear club.

    Of course, nobody is more aware of the limitations of targeted assassinations and sanctions (political and economic) than the Israelis. Which is why all of this psychological warfare must seem like mere foreplay before the big, inevitable bang to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities – with the only question being whether they will do it alone or in a gangbang with the Americans.

    Mind you, the Iranians steadfastly claim that their nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. Perhaps; but here is the dilemma their refusal to allow UN inspectors to verify their claim poses:

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

    (New sanctions on Iran: shrewd or naïve? The iPINIONS Journal, June 15, 2010)

    NOTE: For the record, Iran blames Israel and the United States for this assassination – and for every other setback related to its nuclear program, including a series of cyber-attacks. For their part, Israel’s non-denial denial is as telling as the United States’s condemnation….

    Related commentaries:
    So much of the enviable reputation
    New sanctions on Iran

  • Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Abu Ghraib 2.0: U.S. soldiers pissing on dead Afghans

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A video of U.S. marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan went viral yesterday. But instead of hiding their faces in shame, this is an occasion for U.S. government officials to hold their heads high.

    Let me hasten to clarify. No doubt this is an unpardonable desecration. And it is bound to incite paroxysms of moral outrage in the so-called Muslim world.

    But you’d be hard-pressed to find a single foreign government official, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has condemned it more categorically than Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    I have seen the footage, and I find the behavior depicted in it utterly deplorable. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

    (Panetta, Associated Press, January 12, 2011)

    It is absolutely inconsistent with American values… Anyone found to have participated or to have known about it … must be held fully accountable.

    (Clinton, The Star, January 12, 2011)

    By contrast, I challenge you to cite an instance where any government official in the Muslim world uttered a single word of condemnation when Muslims desecrated the corpses of U.S. soldiers by dragging them in the streets then hanging them in a public square in Somalia. Not to mention that even the beheading of U.S. soldiers alive by insurgents in Iraq incited no moral outrage.

    Still, because U.S. officials were so aggressive in prosecuting and imprisoning the soldiers involved in the infamous mistreatment of Muslim prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, nobody can doubt their word when they promise that the heads of those involved in this desecration will roll with equal dispatch.

    But, with apologies to the Jackson 5, even a few bad apples don’t spoil the whole bunch here.. There is not, indeed never has been, a more professional military force on the face of the planet than that of the United States of America. And this incident cannot, indeed should not, diminish this fact.

    The number of documented occasions when U.S. marines risked their own life and limb to save the lives of enemy fighters are legion. Of this not just U.S. officials but every American citizen can be justly proud.

    All the same, there is no gainsaying the folly of this war — complete with the infighting among putative allies, undefined mission, comedy of errors and other misadventures that George Orwell presaged (i.e., warned about) in Homage to Catalonia….

  • Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    The divine Tim Tebow? Puhleeese!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I was hoping to get through this NFL season without feeling obliged to comment on the plainly fleeting phenomenon that is Tim Tebow’s “tebowing.” Alas, popular demand has forced my hand. So here is my two cents worth.

    There is no denying that Tebow is the luckiest SOB to ever play the game of football. That, despite his mediocre talent, he led the University of Florida to two national championships (2007, 2009) and has led the Denver Broncos to more last-minute wins this season than some teams have experienced in franchise history are testaments to this fact.

    But nothing demonstrates how exaggerated and misplaced much of the praise he’s getting is quite like that being lavished upon him for Denver’s upset victory over the heavily favored Pittsburg Steelers in Sunday’s AFC wild-card game. Here’s why:

    Denver clinched it in spectacular fashion with an 80-yard touchdown pass from Tebow to Demaryius Thomas on the first play in overtime (the teams were tied 23-23 at the end of regulation).

    To listen to most sports analysts and commentators, however, you’d think this play happened because Tebow hiked the ball to himself, passed it to himself, and then eluded tackles as he scampered down the field to seal the victory … all by himself.

    Whereas, it happened only because Thomas caught a 20-yard pass from Tebow and then scampered 60 yards for the touchdown, eluding tackles and stiff arming defenders along the way.

    So how would you feel if you were Thomas and the entire world reacted to this play – not just by focusing on Tim “tebowing” in prayer up at midfield instead of on you jumping for joy down in the end zone, but by glorifying him as if he were the second coming of Jesus Christ and you were just the donkey he rode in on?

    I can sum up the ostentatious way Tebow kneels in prayer during games in one word: pharisaic.

    You can be forgiven the impression that he’s the first born-again Christian to play professional football, or any other sport for that matter. He is not, not by a long shot.

    And, trust me, as the son of a preacher man who could recite John 3:16 before kindergarten, I know the power (or lack thereof) of prayer. Frankly, it reflects an inhumane conceit to think that God is listening to Tebow praying for help to win a friggin football game (or even to give thanks afterwards) when tens of millions of starving and war-ravaged people are praying for him to save their lives.

    By the way, does anyone think he’d be such a media darling if he were a Muslim and tebowing involved him bowing down on all fours and shouting out “Allahu akbar”?

    Meanwhile, that Tebow beat out Kobe Bryant, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees to win a recent ESPN poll for “America’s favorite athlete” demonstrates again how exaggerated and misguided the hosannas to him really are.

    In any case, I am pretty sure this phenomenon will die a media death this weekend when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots show Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos, in convincing fashion, that winning football games has absolutely nothing to do with how much of a spectacle one makes of praying to God.

    Apropos of hype, despite all of the talk about Michael Vick leading my team the Philadelphia Eagles all the way to Super Bowl victory this season, he didn’t even get them into the playoff….

  • Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 6:43 AM

    Obama’s press secretary cursed first lady Michelle…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    ‘No drama Obama’? Then how about C-H-A-O-S?!

    (The die is cast: Obama nominates Hillary…, The iPINIONS Journal, December 1, 2008)

    I wrote the above to counter the prevailing view that Barack Obama was so cool that his term in the White House would be free of the petty drama that characterized the terms of all previous occupants. And, sure enough, that he was forced on Monday to appoint his fourth chief of staff in less than three years is an indication of just how much drama (if not chaos) is unfolding.

    The point is that books on the backbiting and infighting among White House staffers are about as revealing and predictable as a long-running TV soap opera. Which is why the only thing that is noteworthy about the latest by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, The Obamas, is a scene that reads more like one from The Jersey Shore than the White House.

    It took place between two of Obama’s most trusted advisers, press secretary Robert Gibbs and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Here is how POLITICO reported on it on Monday:

    [Kanto] describes Gibbs as becoming incensed after Jarrett said the first lady was unhappy with his efforts to deny a report that she had characterized living in the White House as ‘hell.’

    ‘Fuck this, that’s not right. I’ve been killing myself on this. Where’s this coming from?’ Gibbs shouted at Jarrett, who stayed calm. Jarrett didn’t ‘know what the fuck you’re talking about,’ he added. Jarrett responded that the first lady would be upset by how he was speaking. ‘Then fuck her, too!’ he said before storming out of the room….

    Of course, anyone who has read any of the popular “insider” books by acclaimed Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward knows how animated and profane arguments among White House staffers can be. But what is truly shocking is that any staffer would dare curse any first lady the way Gibbs is quoted doing here.

    When I first read about this scene I assumed Kantor was taking creative license. Since then, however, both Gibbs and Jarrett have issued statements confirming the exchange – albeit only by their conspicuous refusal to deny it. Each parroted that animated and profane exchanges are part of the ordinary give and take among White House staffers and cited the fact that they are both top members of President Obama’s re-election team as evidence that it was no big deal to the Obamas.

    Which only makes me wonder about the nature of the relationship between the Obamas and Gibbs. Namely, how could this guy show the first lady such appalling disrespect and not only get away with, but remain in their inner circle? And if you believe Michelle’s contention that Jarrett did not immediately tell Barack and her what Gibbs said, you are every bit the fool she takes you for.

    I have an abiding unease about white liberals thinking they can get away with all manner of racial insults just because of their legacy of support for black civil rights. Imagine the national outrage, for example, if a white conservative called a black female judge an ape – as liberal lion Sen. Ted Kennedy did. (I duly commented on this in U.S. senator calls Bush’s black female judge an ape.) More to the point, I am willing to wager that this is the first time any staffer has ever spoken so disrespectfully in the White House about any first lady. And this first lady just happens to be black….

    Hell, I wouldn’t even forgive my best friend if he disrespected my wife in this fashion. Therefore, it is incomprehensible to me that Barack would retain Gibbs after he cursed Michelle; after all, Barack could get virtually anyone in America to replace this punk.

    Things that make you go, hmmmm, no?

    Related commentaries:
    The die is cast
    U.S. senator calls black judge an ape

  • Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    Antigua police, politicians come under fire

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    NOTE: The following was published today under the above headline by Caribbean News Now – the most widely read newspaper in the Caribbean.

    By Caribbean News Now contributor

    ST JOHN’S, Antigua — Local legal luminary Sir Gerald Watt QC, Washington-based attorney Anthony Hall and the opposition Antigua Labour Party have all joined former High Commissioner Sir Ronald Sanders in condemning a statement issued by the Antigua and Barbuda police last week that Sanders was a person of interest in a multi-million-dollar fraud investigation.

    Speaking on Sunday, Watt said the police acted improperly and should immediately publish an apology before the situation escalates.

    “Don’t forget long after if Sir Ronald Sanders is exonerated by a court, his position, not only in Antigua but in the region and internationally, if he wins
    it’s going to be horrendous damages and if he does, his reputation has been irreparably sullied and that’s not fair,” he said.

    In an article published today, Anthony Hall agrees with Watt and calls the claim by the Antigua police “preposterous and irresponsible.”

    “I fear however that an apology, no matter how appropriately abject, cannot possibly compensate for the damage this declaration has done to Sir Ron’s reputation,” he adds.

    Hall goes on to suggest that the police might have been acting more infurtherance of a political conspiracy than a criminal investigation.

    The ALP agrees, describing the actions by the Antigua police as “political harassment”.

    “It is now clear to members of the Central Executive of the Antigua Labour Party that this is no police investigation; it is a politically-controlled event on which millions of dollars of tax payers’ money have been spent on an abandoned Commission of Inquiry, an abandoned civil suit in Miami, the mock trial in 2009, the dormant civil suits in Antigua, a multi-million dollar report done five years ago by a forensic auditor, and now a special constable. This is an outrageous and indecent abuse of power,” the opposition party said in a statement on Sunday.

    Last week, Sanders, the High Commissioner to Britain under the ALP-led government of former prime minister Lester Bird, called the statement by the Antigua police “both defamatory and wrong,” indicating his intention to seek legal remedies.

    In a statement issued on Friday, the London law firm BCL Burton Copeland said, “We act for Sir Ronald Sanders and on his behalf strongly deplore the statement concerning him emanating from the authorities in Antigua. The language of the statement and subsequent statements are both defamatory and wrong in describing legal process in matters such as this.”

    Earlier last week, the Antigua police claimed that “All efforts to privately contact Sir Ronald Sanders have proven futile.”

    However, as publishers of a weekly column by Sanders, no attempt was made at any time by the Antigua authorities or anyone else to engage our assistance in contracting him.

    “To say that he could not be reached is absurd since, as a regional commentator, [his] website and means of contact appears weekly throughout the
    Caribbean. Further he appears regularly on television and the radio and he is active on the international stage,” Sanders’ attorneys said on Friday.

    “Sir Ronald is willing to answer questions from the Antigua police that are properly put to him,” the statement concluded.

    The investigation in question reportedly concerns a US$29.7 million loan from Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Company (IHI Japan) to the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA.)

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