• Friday, November 30, 2012 at 6:53 AM

    Palestinian Statehood? Not Exactly…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel.

    The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the state of Palestine.

    This, according to the New York Times, was how Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas challenged the UN to formally recognize Palestinian statehood.

    The 193 members of the General Assembly duly obliged by voting 139-9, with 45 abstentions. Except that the UN issued this birth certificate with fine print indicating that it only entitles Palestine’s status to be upgraded from a “[non]entity” to a “nonmember observer state.” Which is rather like being invited to join a corporate board but being told that you will have no say or vote on agenda items.

    I have written repeatedly that Hell will freeze over before the Palestinians and Israelis resolve all of the issues that are forestalling Palestinian statehood.

    (“Showdown At UN Over Palestinian Statehood,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 22, 2011)

    Alas, this UN vote amounts to little more than a triumph of symbolism over substance. Yet it’s an indication of how terminally contentious the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is that the Israelis reacted with outrage – as if this certificate entitles the Palestinians to build nuclear weapons; and the Palestinians reacted with glee – as if it entitles them to push the Israelis into the sea.

    In a similar vein, it came as no surprise that Israel and its superpower enabler, the United States, voted even to deny Palestine this certificate, which is not worth the paper it’s written on.

    ‘Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path peace,’ U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the vote ‘unfortunate’ and ‘counterproductive…’

    [T]he office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement calling Mr. Abbas’s speech ‘defamatory and venomous’ that was ‘full of mendacious propaganda against the IDF and the citizens of Israel.’ These are not the words of a man who wants peace.

    (New York Times, November 29, 2012)

    Many commentators are parroting the Times’ sensational headline about this vote being “a blow to U.S.” in terms of its reputation and influence. Except that, compared to the blow the United States suffered for invading Iraq, this blow is akin to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Well, to be fair, this certificate at least entitles Palestine to file grievances against Israel for human rights abuses before the International Criminal Court. But this will prove even more feckless than Yemen filing grievances against the United States for drone strikes.  Having access now to international financial institutions, like the World Bank and IMF, will prove equally meaningless because of the de facto power of the United States to impose “roadmap-to-peace” conditions on any loan or grant Palestine seeks….

    Not to mention that Abbas would serve the cause of Palestinian statehood far more by unifying his Fatah faction, which rules the West Bank, with the Hamas faction, which rules the Gaza Strip. For it’s arguable that the “two-state solution” being proffered to resolve issues between Israel and Palestine should be proffered in the first instance to resolve issues between Fatah and Hamas within the  divided house of Palestine.

    The people have spoken! Let Hamas govern as best they can – if civil war with Fatah (terrorists?) does not render governing even more difficult than it already promises to be….

    (“Hamas ‘Terrorists’ Win Legitimate State Power in Gaza,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 27, 2006)

    Indeed, the following famous words by Abraham Lincoln are not only topical because of the very popular movie Lincoln, but also apt because they crystalize this a fortiori and equally contentious challenge the Palestinians still face:

    A house divided against itself cannot stand.

    Related commentaries:
    Showdown over at UN
    Hamas terrorists

  • Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 7:20 AM

    Hall of Fame for Bonds, Clemens and Sosa or End of Steroid Era in Baseball

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Notwithstanding all of the spectacular performances, the most compelling story in Baseball over the past 20 years has been the extent to which steroids fueled those performances.

    For the record, I believe performance-enhancing drugs and sports have become inextricably linked, and that only latter-day puritans masquerading as “sports purists” could believe otherwise. Lance Armstrong’s final fall from grace this summer was the ultimate testament to this linkage.

    This, in part, is why I welcomed yesterday’s announcement that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa headline a list of 24 players on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. Because no three players have done more to rewrite the record books, but no three players have been more dogged by suspicions of steroids use – personifying what has become known as the steroid era.

    Now January 9 – when the results will be announced – looms as a day of reckoning for Baseball (i.e., a referendum on steroids in Baseball). Candidates must be retired for at least five years and need 75 percent of the votes to be inducted. More to the point, members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will either vote based solely on these players’ Hall-of-Fame-worthy stats, or they will factor prevailing suspicions about their use of steroids into their votes.

    Clearly, if it’s the former, Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa will be inducted in a landslide, and the steroid era will be vindicated. If it’s the latter, they will be denied in resounding fashion, and players will have the three most-persuasive reasons yet to stop taking steroids.

    I fear they will be denied. This is based on the precedent voters set when they gave Mark McGwire only 24 percent – despite stats that made him eminently worthy of induction.

    Granted, McGwire admitted taking steroids; whereas, Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa have steadfastly denied doing so. But the circumstantial evidence of their use is so overwhelming that most voters will probably find their denials more aggravating than mitigating.

    I have written far too many commentaries over the years on steroids in Baseball to count. But as the 600 or so members of the Writers’ Association ponder their votes over the next month, perhaps they’ll consider the following excerpts from just a few of them:

    Baseball ‘purists’ are so outraged that they are calling for all records set over the past decade to be eradicated because they were probably achieved by pumped-up cheaters. Yet these cheaters were the ones who rescued the game from almost terminal disinterest after the baseball strike of 1994. And team owners and fans alike knew full well that the sudden supernatural performances of once mediocre players did not result from pumping iron during that strike.

    At any rate, so what if players take steroids. It’s, essentially, a victimless vice – far less poisonous than alcohol. And where steroid junkies usually endanger only fellow players on the field, drunks endanger all of us on the highway (and in so many other ways).

    (“Baseball Is Juiced, So What!” The iPINIONS Journal, February 18, 2005)

    Steroid use has flourished in Baseball and other professional sports pursuant to an open conspiracy among players and team owners to feed the gladiatorial lust of fans who want to see stronger, faster athletic cyborgs perform for their atavistic enjoyment. And, of course, the more fans revel in their steroid-fuel feats of athleticism, the bigger the players’ contracts (and even bigger the owners’ bottom line) become.

    (“Baseball’ MVP … Is a Steroids Junkie, Duh!” The iPINIONS Journal, March 8, 2006)

    Forget all of the talk about his use of steroids or putting an asterisk next to his name, Barry Bonds is the new home-run king of Baseball today – having blasted his 756th homer last night on his own field of dreams in San Francisco…

    Just as the achievements of players like Babe Ruth have not been diminished even though they drank alcohol during prohibition, the achievements of players like Barry Bonds should not be diminished even though they took steroids during the steroid era.

    So, asterisk this!!!

    (“Bonds Should Be Cheered, Not Jeered As Baseball’s New Home-Run King,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 8, 2007)

    Policing drugs in professional sports is not only Orwellian but utterly futile. After all … athletes have always, and will always, do or take anything that might give them a competitive advantage. And if what they do or take poses no harm to anyone except themselves, who cares?!

    (“Decriminalize Drugs…Especially in Sports,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 3, 2006)

    Related commentaries:
    Baseball is Juiced
    Baseball’s MVP … is a steroids junkie – duh!
    Bonds should be cheered
    Mitchell Report on steroids in baseball
    Rafael Palmiero is a juicer too…?
    Decriminalize drugs

  • Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 5:51 AM

    Illegal Immigrants Do Jobs Americans Won’t. Well, Not Exactly…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Whenever friends parrot the cliché about Americans being too proud to do menial jobs, I cite the coal miners of West Virginia or the lumberjacks of Wisconsin to disabuse them of their ignorance. It never works.

    Of course, they can be forgiven their ignorance given the prevailing narrative about the refusal of Americans to do menial jobs being the proximate cause of this country’s illegal-immigration problem.

    Never mind that this problem has always had far more to do with how much employers are willing to pay than with how much Americans are willing to work. What’s more, companies like Amazon demonstrate that a modest wage and good working conditions will suffice to get (even mostly White) Americans to do the kind of menial, physically demanding work that would give any migrant worker pause. (For example, workers at Amazon’s oxymoronically named “fulfillment centers” are usually on their feet picking, fetching and stacking 12 hours a day for pay that starts around $10.50 an hour.)

    But I am heartened that immigration reform is going to be to Obama’s second term what healthcare reform was to his first. Because, in addition to sealing the border and providing a pathway to citizenship for all illegal immigrants, comprehensive immigration reform will surely include provisions that make it prohibitive for employers to continue employing (i.e., exploiting) undocumented workers.

    More to the point, immigration reform will eradicate this country’s black (or should that be brown) market for labor. It will then be a lot easier even for menial workers to unionize and negotiate for all of the benefits so many of us professional workers take for granted.

    Incidentally, concomitant with immigration reform should be a long-overdue cost-of-living increase in, as well as comprehensive enforcement of, the minimum wage.

    In which case, the narrative about Americans being too proud to do menial jobs would be exposed as nothing more than the stereotyping half-truth it has always been.

    Indeed, I have no doubt that Rednecks in Appalachia would be just as willing as Wetbacks in California to pick crops, do janitorial/maid service, or any other menial job as long as they were guaranteed a modest wage and decent working conditions – especially now that they can rely on Obamacare for health coverage. Except that you can give (American-born) Negroes all that and a parasol, and they still won’t work in the fields picking anything the way our folks once picked cotton; and I don’t blame them.

  • Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 5:41 AM

    Twitter Rant: Take 2

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, the whole craze smacks of pandemic egocentrism.

    I can’t think of a single person on planet earth whose thoughts and activities I’d want to know about 24/7. Nor can I think of anyone with whom I’d even consider sharing my thoughts and activities so comprehensively (or is that compulsively?).

    (“It’s No Treat for Me To Tweet, The iPINIONS Journal, July 23, 2009)

    I consider Twitter even more of a social contagion today than I did when I wrote the above three years ago. Not least because we have a record now, which shows that this medium does little more than give voice to people who really should just keep their mouths shut.

    In point of fact, a sure sign of the oft-cited decline of Western civilization is a faux celebrity like Kim Kardashian making more money writing idle-minded tweets about her cash-driven life than a Pulitzer Prize-winning author like Philip Roth makes writing psychoanalytical books about his angst-ridden life. Apropos of which, is it any wonder Roth announced just last month that he was ending his writing career?

    If, say, Justin Bieber were to offhandedly announce that he will never record another song; if Kristen Stewart were to proclaim that she is finished acting forever; if LeBron James were to declare that he has played his last game of basketball…

    If any of those things were to occur, they would become the topic of furious, nonstop national conversation.

    But when one of the most admired and honored authors of fiction this country has ever produced let it be known that he has written his last novel and will write no more, it took weeks for anyone in the United States to notice.

    (CNN, November 25, 2012)

    But it’s hardly surprising that celebrity whores like Kim Kardashian and wannabe thugs like Chris Brown would use Twitter to sell their wares and display their thuggish lifestyles, respectively.

    Nor is it surprising, incidentally, that a no-name female comedian would make a name for herself by picking a Twitter fight with Chris, which she clearly knew would happen when she called this pugilistic and misogynistic clown a “worthless piece of shit.” Because nothing became her quite like having him respond by telling her to “take them teeth out when u suck my dick hoe (sic).”

    And their tweets only became more profane and scatological from there – much to the delight of Twitter snobs in the mainstream media (like the women of The View) who could not wait to wax indignant about these twittering fools to boost their ratings.

    Actually, it speaks volumes that even Chris was so embarrassed by their exchange over the weekend that he immediately deleted his account. But Twitter is such an addictive soapbox that I suspect it’s only a matter of time before he gets back on … only to spew and incite the same bile. Besides, the real shame is that we live in a world where a certifiable jerk like this can have 11 million people following/hanging on his every word.

    What is surprising, however, is that erstwhile pillars of Western civilization are taking to Twitter like hood rats to crack.

    Most notable among them are former GE Chairman Jack Welch and News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch. For there can be no doubt that, but for their Twitter addiction, the world would never have known that Welch is a right-wing nutjob who thinks Obama’s “Chicago guys” cooked macro-economic numbers to boost his re-election; or that Murdoch is a closeted, oxymoronic Zionist who thinks the self-hating “Jewish-owned press” is anti-Israel in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Let’s face it, getting self-interested attention seems to be the prevailing reason for tweeting. And every tweeting twit in the twitterverse seems to think that the only way to get it is to be as obnoxious, incendiary, and/or bellicose as possible.

    Twitter is like a virtual schoolyard where not just one but most kids act like bullies or rabble-rousers. So just imagine what this portends for public debate – having politicians, CEOs, and professors compete with celebrities, athletes, and trolls to see who can attract the most twits with their mindless tweets on everything from public policy to daily gossip.

    This is why I firmly believe Twitter has about as much redeeming value as Twinkies.   And it’s why the mainstream media are no better than Hostess in this respect. Because the contrived tweets (i.e., junk thoughts) of self-promoting buffoons like Donald Trump  would never enter public consciousness, let alone public discourse, if networks like FOX News did not routinely report them as BREAKING NEWS.

    Granted, I can’t be too bothered by the way this is dumbing down public discourse if I’m compelled to publish these rants only once every three years. All the same, here’s to Twitter going the way of Twinkies (i.e., into bankruptcy) before my next rant is due.

    Related commentaries:
    No treat for me to tweet

  • Monday, November 26, 2012 at 6:08 AM

    Thai PM’s Flirting with Obama Incites Riots?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It seemed Thailand was bursting with national pride last week when President Obama made it the first stop on his historic trip to Southeast Asia.

    The president’s visit made quite an impression on Thailand, and adoring crowds gathered around him and chanted ‘Obama, Obama’ as he visited the Temple of Reclining Buddha just after arriving in Bangkok.

    (Associated Press, November 19, 2012)

    And no Thai seemed more impressed and adoring than (female) Prime Minister Yingluck Shinatwatra. So much so in fact that opposition forces threw cold water on the national celebration by practically accusing her of treason for behaving more like a teenage girl meeting Justin Bieber than as one head of state greeting another.

    Except that when they took to the streets in protest within days after Obama’s visit it became clear that Shinawatra’s flirting with Obama was the least of their grievances with her.

    At least 9,000 people attended the rally, organised by activists who believe the current prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is the puppet of her brother, the deposed former PM Thasksin Shinawatra…

    The group is supported by the ‘yellow shirts’ of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, who have been involved in destabilising or ousting governments led or backed by Thaksin in 2006 and 2008.

    (London Guardian, November 24, 2012)

    As it happens, no political commentator in the United States has written more than I have about the perennial struggles between the Yellow Shirts and the Shinawatras’ Red Shirts for control of Thailand.

    More to the point, I myself felt compelled to throw cold water on national celebrations there last year when Yingluck made history herself by becoming Thailand’s first female prime minister. I did so because I feared back then that the relationship between Thaksin and Yingluck was nothing more than what the Yellow Shirts are complaining of now; namely, that it’s one between a master and his puppet.

    This constrained me to observe that she was hardly worthy of being hailed among the vanguard of women in international politics:

    Just as electing an obvious dingbat like Sarah Palin as president of the United States would do nothing to advance the noble cause of women in politics, electing an obvious puppet like Yingluck as prime minister of Thailand will do nothing to advance this noble cause.

    (“Alas, Thailand’s First Female PM Is Just a Puppet,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 12, 2011)

    So it’s hardly surprising to me that she was unable to comport herself with Obama as a head of state should. Far more troubling though is that this latest round of anti-government protests vindicates my fears that the cycle of destabilizing conflicts between Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts will continue in perpetuity.

    Specifically, here is why I warned that Yingluck’s election was bound to incite the protests now raging in Thailand:

    I doubt the Yellow Shirts will standby and allow Thaksin to rule over them again – even if only by proxy from exile in Dubai.

    Especially because Thaksin seems to believe that his little sister’s top priority should be forcing the government to grant him amnesty and return the $1.2 billion in assets it confiscated after he fled.

    (“Alas, Thailand’s First Female PM…,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 12, 2011)

    Related commentaries:
    Alas, Thailand’s First Female PM


  • Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 6:57 AM

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    But think twice before pardoning those turkeys, Mr President:

    Enjoy. Be safe. I’ll be back on Monday.

  • Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 5:47 AM

    Obama’s Historic Trip to Myanmar: Too Soon?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yesterday Barack Obama became the first president of the United States to visit Myanmar (otherwise known as Burma). But it was hardly a cause for universal celebration.

    Specifically, international human rights groups criticized him for conferring legitimacy on this country’s oppressive regime. Not least because it is perpetrating the kind of ethnic cleansing of minorities (most notably, the Rohingya Muslims) that provoked the United States to bomb Bosnia in 1995 to stop Serbs from ethnically cleansing Muslims.

    More significantly, these international groups were merely voicing the long-suffering concerns of local political dissidents. For here is how human rights activist Myra Dahgapaw, who fled the ethnic cleansing in Burma’s northern Karen State, threw cold water on this historic occasion even before Obama landed:

    This trip will bring little or no benefit to the people of Burma but just further legitimize the Burmese regime’s power.

    (Washington Free Beacon, November 16, 2012)

    No doubt, but for the invitation of the universally celebrated Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, Obama would not have visited Myanmar. Indeed, the White House went out of its way to stress that, but for Cambodia hosting two regional summits, Obama would not have become the first president of the United States to visit that country today because of its human rights abuses.

    Never mind the double standard inherent in Obama having no such qualms in 2009 about visiting China – a country whose human rights abuses make Myanmar’s seem tame by comparison.

    Whatever the case, the irony is not lost on me that just two years ago Suu Kyi would’ve been admonishing him against visiting for the same reasons Dahgapaw did last week. More to the point, it’s arguable that the only meaningful step President Thein Sein has taken towards democracy was to release Suu Kyi in 2010 from nearly 15 years of house arrest.

    But he has since co-opted this former “democracy icon” into his political establishment – as leader of the loyal (i.e., powerless) opposition in parliament. Nothing demonstrates the extent to which he has co-opted Suu Kyi quite like her deafening silence while majority Buddhists continue their ethnic cleansing of minority Muslims. This, even in the face of the UN calling Myanmar’s Muslims “the world’s most persecuted people.”

    Yet, whenever challenged to explain her silence, the Buddhist Suu Kyi demurs, saying self-righteously that she is not taking sides to preserve her impartiality as repairer of the breach. But just imagine how much worse the religious cleansing of minority Muslims by majority Hindus in India would have been if the Hindu Gandhi had not been so vocal in condemning it…?

    But I warned that her (personal and political) liberation would do little to facilitate democratic reform in Myanmar:

    To read some accounts, you’d think long-imprisoned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi being elected to parliament in Myanmar is every bit as significant as Nelson Mandela being elected president in South Africa…

    [But] despite Suu Kyi’s celebrated participation, yesterday’s parliamentary elections are no more a harbinger of democratic change in Myanmar than quinquennial elections in Cuba.

    (“Myanmar: One Small Step for Democracy; One Giant Leap for Aung San Suu Kyi,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 2, 2012)

    What’s more, Thein Sein has shrewdly used Suu Kyi to curry favor with Western leaders/donors for whom the international celebrity she now enjoys is a political aphrodisiac. Obama, duly seduced, brought along $170 million in financial aid.

    Nonetheless, he rationalized his visit by claiming that it is not an endorsement of the government of Myanmar but an acknowledgement of the democratic path the country is now on (which will come as news to the hundreds of political dissidents still withering away in prison).

    Ironically, his rationalization for awarding Myanmar his presidential imprimatur smacks of that which the Nobel committee proffered for awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009; namely, not for brokering any peace, but for the potential he had for doing so. The oppressed people of the world, especially the Rohingyas and Palestinians, are still waiting for him to realize his Nobel potential.

    Having joined Dahgapaw in throwing cold water on it, I shall now part company by asserting that I do not think this trip was too soon. In fact, Obama should have visited Burma for the same principled reason he should be the first president of the United States to visit purportedly rogue nations like Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea.

    For if President Ronald Reagan could visit the Soviet Union during the Cold War, there is no politically (or morally) consistent reason President Barack Obama should be loath to visit any country on earth.

    Related commentaries:
    Small step for Burma, giant leap for Suu Kyi

  • Monday, November 19, 2012 at 5:48 AM

    Benghazi-gate? No, McCain Fried Rice!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    To listen to all of the carnival barking by Republicans and their Amen chorus in the media, you’d think the Obama administration actually conspired with al-Qaeda terrorists to attack the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on 9/11.

    Whereas the only factual basis for all of their barking and calls for Watergate-style hearings is that, for national security reasons, the Obama administration used “CIA talking points” to characterize this attack.

    Here, courtesy of CBS News, are those talking points, which UN Ambassador Susan Rice delivered almost verbatim when she pulled a Ginsberg by appearing on all five network Sunday morning talk shows on September 16 – just five days after the attack:

    • The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex.
    • There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
    • This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.
    • The investigation is on-going, and the U.S. Government is working with Libyan authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.

    These points prove that the only reason for this latest outbreak of Obama derangement syndrome among Republicans, which the media are covering as if it were the bubonic plague, is that Rice cited the precipitating role the protests in Egypt played in the Benghazi assault.

    It might be helpful to insert here that these talking points were the product of a collaborative effort by all U.S. intelligence agencies. Which is why it is sheer political folly for Senator John McCain and others to be criticizing the Obama administration for relying on them.

    But the inconvenient truth is that anti-American protests throughout the Muslim world in the days preceding this assault became so threatening that Obama ordered the evacuation of all nonessential personnel from American diplomatic missions in Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, and Libya. More to the point, all of these protests were triggered by an online video that mocked the Prophet Mohammed.

    Therefore, given this, it hardly seems farfetched that Islamists would see a relatively defenseless consulate in Benghazi as a target of opportunity – using these protests against that video as a pretext.

    Apropos of which, another inconvenient truth is that the Republicans now criticizing Obama for this outpost being so defenseless are the very ones who cut his budget request for additional funds to reinforce security at all embassies and consulates throughout the Muslim world:

    For the past two years, House Republicans have continued to deprioritize the security forces protecting State Department personnel around the world. In fiscal year 2011, lawmakers shaved $128 million off of the administration’s request for embassy security funding. House Republicans drained off even more funds in fiscal year 2012 — cutting back on the department’s request by $331 million.

    (CNN, October 10, 2012)

    All the same, the Obama administration does have some splainin to do. Because it was put on notice that terrorists were targeting this specific outpost in Benghazi, but it failed to either evacuate all personnel or reinforce security. Nonetheless, it behooves those hurling patriotic indignation at this failure, which resulted in the killing of four Americans, to appreciate that it pales in comparison to the failure of the Bush administration to heed notice that terrorists were targeting New York City. After all, that failure – on the original 9/11 – resulted in the killing of 3,000.

    In any case, McCain and others would have you believe that the Obama administration is guilty of a Nixonian cover-up for “failing to tell the American people that the assault on Benghazi was in fact a terrorist attack.”

    Except that they are so blinded by hatred for this president they cannot see that this charge is belied not just by the CIA’s talking points, but also by the fact that, as Mitt Romney found out to his chagrin in their second debate, Obama himself told the American people as much within 24 hours after the attack; albeit perhaps with too much subtlety for these diplomatic Neanderthals to appreciate:

    No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.  We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.  And make no mistake, justice will be done.

    (White House.gov, Rose Garden press release, September 12, 2012)

    Not mention that, guided by these talking points, Rice herself said as much in her now famous Sunday morning talk show appearances. Which compels one to wonder if McCain is getting his Depends all in a twist simply because she used the word “extremists” instead of “al-Qaeda/terrorists?”

    Alas, yes he can. After all, McCain is so notoriously petty, petulant, and pugnacious that, on one day, he could be throwing a hissy fit over something as insignificant as this semantic distinction without a difference; and on the next, he could be calling for the United States to bomb Iran. In fact, if he had his way, the United States would be in an even bigger military quagmire in Iran today than it ever was in Iraq; it would be leading a coalition of one in bombing Syria; and it would be joining Israel in an equally misguided invasion of the Gaza Strip.

    And, by the way, when did the American people become entitled to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about military intelligence? Hell, if that were the case, President Bush would have been impeached for having his National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, help make the case for his war in Iraq by lying to the American people about Saddam Hussein possessing nuclear weapons.

    Sadly, it’s an indication of how truly dysfunctional and misguided Congress has become that even erstwhile sensible senators – like Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) – are threatening to hold hearings to find out who replaced the word “terrorists” with “al-Qaeda/extremists” in the CIA talking points. What’s the friggin’ point?!

    Especially since we already know that it had to have been someone in the intelligence community. In fact, no less a person than former CIA Director David Petraeus pooh-poohed all conspiracy theories in this respect when he testified in closed session on Friday. What’s more, even die-hard critics concede that the only editing the White House did was to change the word “mission” to “consulate” for technical accuracy.

    To be fair, though, there is merit in the criticism that Obama’s campaign operatives were loath to ascribe this attack to al-Qaeda because they feared that would undermine Obama’s re-election boast about killing bin Laden and decimating al-Qaeda.  But instead of fretting about al-Qaeda’s involvement they should have urged Obama to select a (known) terrorist site in Libya and bomb it to kingdom come. That would have mitigated any deflation of his wholly justified boast: as Bill Clinton might have advised, wag that dog, baby!

    At any rate, I urge you to keep all of this in mind when you hear McCain leading the chorus of those fulminating about a White House cover-up. More importantly, you might wonder why Obama’s critics (and the media) seem more interested in attacking Rice than in finding out what Obama is doing to bring the extremists/terrorists who perpetrated this assault to justice.

    This brings me to McCain’s antic threat to oppose Rice if Obama nominates her to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. For the record, she is eminently qualified and, as indicated above, her statements about Benghazi are – by no objective measure – disqualifiers. Besides, thanks in part to Petraeus’s testimony, more than enough Republican senators are now distancing themselves from what is clearly McCain’s personal vendetta to indicate that Rice would have no difficulty being confirmed.

    Ironically, the worst anybody can fairly say about Rice’s statements is that she was not the most qualified person to make them. Indeed, Obama himself gave credence to this criticism during his press conference on Friday when he asserted that, “she had nothing to do with Benghazi.” This clearly begs the question. Why put her out there—instead of, say, Hillary or the director of national intelligence?

    So instead of chauvinistically defending Rice by challenging McCain to a “discussion” over his specious criticisms of her (as he did on Friday), Obama should explain why he selected her as the point person on Benghazi.

    Of course, he could cite the Bush-Condi precedent. After all, with her hysterical nonsense about nuclear mushroom clouds, Condi clearly knew no more about WMDs than Susan knows about Benghazi. And it’s arguable that she too was just auditioning for a promotion to secretary of state, as some are accusing Susan of doing. But I suspect Obama has a far more compelling explanation.

    Apropos of which, I feel constrained to note that women and Blacks have monopolized this job long enough – given that the last four secretaries of state have been a woman (Madeleine Albright), a Black man (Colin Powell), a Black woman (Condi), and a woman (Hillary).  This, in part, is why Senator John Kerry should be the nominee:

    Obama should nominate John Kerry to serve as Secretary of State.  After all, he has more foreign policy experience than Hillary; he is fluent in at least one foreign language, French (she is not); and he would surely be more loyal…

    This would be an ideal way for Obama to repay Kerry for inviting him to speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention – the seminal occasion that launched his meteoric rise to the presidency just four years later.

    Not to mention that Kerry endorsed his candidacy when most in the Democratic establishment were still riding Hillary’s bandwagon on her purportedly inevitable path (back) to the White House….

    (“Hillary As Secretary of State?  Don’t Do It Barack,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 15, 2008)

    That said, here’s to this Benghazi-gate knocking McCain flat on his ass when it swings back from this silly Washington obsession into the dustbin of history – where it belongs. In the meantime, with Congress fixated on finding conspirators to participate in its conspiracy and the media focused on the Petraeus affair, you’d never know that President Obama is currently on an historic trip to Southeast Asia – where today he became the first U.S. president to visit Myanmar (and its internationally acclaimed fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi).

    Which is why it is debatable whether partisan politicians or tabloid media are doing a greater disservice to the American people….

    Related commentaries:
    Hillary as sec of state

    * This commentary was published at 5:48 this morning, but due to technical difficulties it was not posted until just after 10.  I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

  • Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 7:14 AM

    Good riddance to Hostess! Now if only Big Tobacco can go out of business too…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, November 16, 2012 at 5:59 AM

    Support this Archaeological Excavation … Please !

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Dear Readers

    I fully appreciate that you might be experiencing donor fatigue after donating to such worthy causes as the Superstorm Sandy relief fund, the “I am Malala” education fund, and even the recently concluded U.S. presidential campaigns.

    But to the extent you have any discretionary cash left, please consider this appeal – not to your heart but to your mind.

    Patricia Duff is a mature student at the University of Cambridge in England specializing in archaeology. She explains her area of research with religious fervor but, for me, she might as well be speaking in tongues.

    More to the point, Patricia has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Greece to work on an archaeological site of considerable significance called Eleusis. And her interest in doing so is more than academic:

    All over the world, important archaeological sites are just that: ‘sites’; with their significance in the role of human history and their wonderful stories left a mystery. I want to write the story linking it with various areas of the archaeological site, so that you could walk around the area and understand much more about what you are seeing.

    I want to bring the architecture of the archaeological site alive with this story.

    (Patricia Duff, Unraveling the Eleusinian Mysteries)

    But the reason I am appealing to you to help fund her field trip is that, before going off to Cambridge, Patricia spent decades doing all manner of pro bono social work in my home country of the Turks and Caicos Islands: imagine the personification of Mother Teresa and Wangari Maathai.

    This is why I actually consider it an honor to beg for your help on her behalf. Accordingly, I urge you to visit her site (by clicking on the link below) and donate as much as you can.

    Thank you.


    Related link:
    Unraveling the Eleusinian Mysteries

  • Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    Romney Unplugged and Unhinged … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt you recall that Mitt Romney was caught on tape during the presidential campaign dissing 47 percent of the American people as a bunch of welfare parasites living off the wealth of people like him. And perhaps, like his VP running mate Paul Ryan, you thought Romney was just being “inarticulate.” In which case, consider this:

    This self-righteous jerk was caught on tape again just yesterday explaining to the rich fools who invested hundreds of millions in his campaign that the reason they’re getting nothing for their money is that Obama bought the election by giving “extraordinary financial gifts” to Blacks, Hispanics, women, and young people.

    The gifts he cited are things like Obamacare, the Dream Act (which grants not just Hispanics but anyone brought to the United States as a child a guaranteed path to citizenship), a more sustainable student-loan repayment program, and a requirement that contraceptives be covered by insurance just as Viagra has been from day one.

    His post-mortem pout is clearly super-rich with irony. Yet it seems completely lost on Romney that he was peddling this nonsense to rich fat cats who funded his campaign in the vain hope that they would continue receiving the extraordinary financial gift of tax policies that allow them (and other rich folks) to pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries and servants and shelter much of their fortunes in off-shore tax havens: a gift they’ve been receiving from successive presidents for decades.

    Not to mention that many of his funders undoubtedly benefited from President Bush’s “gift” of an unprecedented bailout of Wall Street. And this schmuck, his lips dripping with scorn, has the unmitigated gall to accuse poor people of feeling “entitled” to food stamps?!

    Forget the irony; the hypocrisy here is stupefying. Frankly, if you voted for this oaf (Am I betraying my utter contempt too much?), you too must feel like a fool today. Incidentally, apropos of fools, reports are that eight of the ten-biggest losers who bet money on Romney winning the White House were firms on Wall Street. Of course this should surprise nobody; after all, these are the same so-called “Masters of the Universe” who precipitated the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression with their pyrrhic bets on sub-prime mortgages.

    Anyway, thank God the vast majority of the American electorate saw Romney for the clueless plutocrat he is. Indeed, it’s no wonder the people of his home state of Massachusetts — who know Romney best — voted for Obama by a profoundly instructive margin of 60.8 to 37.6 percent. We dodged a bullet here, America.

  • Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 5:13 AM

    Petraeus affair now a bona fide soap opera (All My Generals…?)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    He can be forgiven for having affairs. But he cannot be forgiven for making a mockery of the very essence of his job by becoming emotionally attached and leaving a compromising trail with so many telltale signs of those affairs. In other words, if Petraeus can’t even keep his own extramarital affairs secret, he clearly cannot be relied upon to keep the nation’s secrets.

    (“Benign Honey Trap of CIA Director David Petraeus,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 12, 2012)

    Actually, daytime soap operas have nothing on this military saga. Indeed, notwithstanding the eruption of hostilities in the Middle East, the unfolding pedophile scandal in London, or the looming “fiscal cliff” here in Washington, this Petraeus affair is the only thing anyone is talking about.

    Which is why I feel obliged to comment on the latest – especially given my original commentary. (I recommend you click on the link below to read it before continuing here.)

    As it turns out, the other (other) woman to whom Broadwell (pictured left) sent those “stay-away-from-my-guy” emails is a spendthrift, name-dropping social climber named Jill Kelly. In fact, so impressed is she with her status as an “Honorary Consul” that she was recorded on a 911 call just days ago telling the police to remove the growing scrum of reporters from the sidewalk outside her home because she has “inviolability … and diplomatic protection.”

    Except that her status was granted by South Korea, and it has no legal or diplomatic standing in this country.  And, just to reinforce this point, the U.S. Army announced late yesterday that she is now banned from the MacDill Air Force Base in Florida (headquarters to the U.S. Central Command) – where she ingratiated herself with top military brass, primarily by hosting lavish parties for them and taking their wives on expensive shopping sprees.

    Jill, of course, is the one who triggered this military saga by asking a friend of hers, who happened to be an FBI agent, to investigate what she felt was the threatening nature of the emails. Well, this investigation led not only to the compromising correspondence between Broadwell and Petraeus (as indicated in my November 11 commentary below), but also to even more compromising correspondence between Jill’s twin sister Natalie and another four-star general, John Allen.

    Remarkably, reports are that the FBI found 30,000 pages of emails Natalie and Allen exchanged over just a two-year period from 2010 to 2011, which have been characterized as the email equivalent of phone sex.

    Not surprisingly, President Obama has withdrawn his nomination of Allen as the next allied commander in Europe pending further investigation. If he is found to have engaged in an extramarital affair with her, Allen will be court martialed. But he probably should be court martialed anyway – because writing all of those emails is prima facie evidence of dereliction of duty, no?

    It is an understatement to say that Obama is dealing with a military in crisis — in terms of morale and morals. Especially given late-breaking reports that another four-star general, William “Kip” Ward, has just been demoted to three-star rank for using government resources to fund a lavish lifestyle. And no doubt the president thought the greatest challenge heading into his second term would be dealing with a bunch of misguided nincompoops in Congress to avert a budget crisis that could hurl the U.S. economy over that metaphorical fiscal cliff.

    Yet, there’s more:

    The FBI agent Jill contacted has been placed on administrative leave pending further disciplinary action after the investigation he launched uncovered that he had sent semi-nude pictures of himself to her.

    Meanwhile, Petraeus and Allen are having their fitness for duty questioned even further. For reports are that they both wrote letters asking a judge to reconsider his decision to award custody of Natalie’s child to her husband. This, notwithstanding that the judge had already found Natalie to be not only an unfit mother, but a mentally unstable person who made “misrepresentations about virtually everything.” Their ill-advised letters did not help.

    Apropos of misrepresentations, both sisters were so eager to live the lifestyle of the rich and socially connected that they plunged their respective families millions of dollars into debt keeping up appearances and funding the lavish parties that ensnared Petraeus and Allen. Now Jill and her doctor husband Scott are the targets of numerous indebtedness lawsuits and two foreclosures; and Natalie filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

    There are obviously financial issues. Scott goes to work and works his ass off, and Jill takes care of the social stuff, and gets them into the society pages. They are nice people, and I feel sorry for them.

    (One unnamed associate of Dr. Kelly as quoted by the Daily Mail, November 13, 2012)

    Given all of the financial skeletons in her closet, it’s no wonder Jill made a futile attempt to get her FBI friend to stop the investigation. Unfortunately, by then it was completely out of his hands.

    Ominously, this soap opera is still unfolding — with no less a person than Broadwell’s Daddy chiming in with this tantalizing preview of coming episodes:

    This is about something else entirely, and the truth will come out. There is a lot more that is going to come out…You wait and see. There’s a lot more here than meets the eye.

    (Politico, November 12, 2012)

    Perhaps this is why, despite beginning its investigation months ago, the FBI just got around to conducting a very high-profile search of Broadwell’s home on Tuesday night, confiscating several computers and many boxes of classified documents….

    Finally, it seems even extramarital affairs in Washington are more about politics than sex these days. Because Senator John McCain is leading a band of unhinged Republicans in propagating the conspiracy that Petraeus parroted the White House’s “false” version of events surrounding the 9/11 Benghazi attacks – hoping in vain that the president would overlook his marital indiscretion.

    Never mind that not too long ago McCain was leading the chorus of Republicans hailing Petraeus as the country’s most honorable and effective military commander. Or that it is at best farfetched to think that Obama would enlist Petraeus in such a conspiracy when there was no reason whatsoever to believe that telling the truth about either Benghazi or the general’s affair would have any adverse impact on his reelection.

    Frankly, any conspiracy related to Benghazi has more to do with a visceral distrust of this president than with any objective facts. Specifically, McCain’s charge that Obama failed or refused to dispatch Special Forces to protect the ambassador and others stationed there as soon as he found out they were under siege is patently absurd.

    More to the point, I am convinced that all ongoing investigations into this matter will conclude that, in every case, this White House merely reported the intelligence the CIA provided (i.e., just as the Bush White House merely reported the intelligence the CIA provided on WMDs in Iraq).  Indeed, the political hypocrisy of Republicans in this instance is all the more ironic given that the Obama administration official they are condemning for “misleading the American people on Benghazi” is a Black woman named Rice (Susan); whereas, the Bush administration official they defended even though she misled the American people on WMDs is also a Black woman named Rice (Condoleezza).

    Alas, I suspect that Obama defeating Romney this year has only intensified the resentment McCain has been harboring since Obama defeated him in 2008.  Much of Washington is worried about partisan gridlock taking the country over a fiscal cliff. Pathological hatred of this president risks taking the Republican Party over a political cliff.

    Related commentaries:
    Honey trap of Gen. Petraeus

  • Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 6:45 AM

    Republicans continue “stupid” efforts to delegitimize Obama presidency

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that… It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We need to stop being the stupid party.

    (Bobby Jindal, Louisiana governor and head of the Republican Governors Association, Politico, November 12, 2012)

    I was relieved when I read this admonition Governor Jindal issued to his fellow Republicans on Monday. Because I think the offensive, bizarre and stupid things they say are actually quite dangerous. After all, nothing incites stupid behavior like stupid rhetoric (e.g., “Obama’s a foreigner”, “Obama’s a socialist”, “He needs to learn how to be an American”, “let’s take our country back”).

    Unfortunately my relief was short-lived. Because here is what no less a person than defeated Republican VP nominee Paul Ryan said yesterday when ABC asked – in his first post-election network interview – if he thinks President Obama now has a mandate for the policies he ran on, including raising taxes on the rich one percenters:

    I don’t think so, because they also reelected the House Republicans. So whether people intended or not, we’ve got divided government.

    Now, if he had learned his lesson and was heeding Jindal’s admonition, Ryan would have said, “Of course the president has a mandate, but so do House Republicans.” Never mind that the interviewer could then have reminded Ryan that the people also reelected the Senate Democrats.

    So whether he realizes it or not, House Republicans are outnumbered among the big-three political institutions (namely the presidency, the Senate, and the House) 2 to 1.  Then again, as former President Bill Clinton illustrated repeatedly during the campaign, Republicans don’t know much about Arithmetic.

    But here is why Ryan saying that Obama has no mandate is not only stupid but also hypocritical:

    [Republican] pundits are now trying to wipe the egg off their faces by claiming that Obama has no mandate. But, to give you a sense of how blinded by prejudice/racism they are, just bear in mind that these are the same pundits who hailed the ‘indisputable’ mandate Bush won in 2000 even though he mustered just 271 electoral votes and lost the popular vote to Gore 47.9 to 48.4 percent.

    By instructive contrast, Obama captured 332 electoral votes last night and won the popular vote 50.6 to 47.8.

    (“Obama Defeats Romney in A Landslide,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 8, 2012)

    I am waiting for Jindal to chastise Ryan to demonstrate that he really will not tolerate Republicans saying such stupid things. But I fear they will never learn. Hillary must be salivating….

    Related commentaries:
    Obama defeats Romney

  • Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 5:43 AM

    Now Venice is flooding…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Watching media coverage of Superstorm Sandy one could be forgiven for thinking that Al Gore’s apocalyptic prophecy about another biblical flood destroying the world was coming true.

    Yet, as destructive as Sandy was, and as caused by climate change as it might have been, there is no denying that floodwaters have been causing even greater destruction for over 100 years.  In fact, according to TIME, Sandy has nothing on the great storm of 1862:

    This flood literally bankrupted the state because they were very dependent on property taxes and one-fourth of the state’s taxable real estate was destroyed. It was an economic catastrophe. They even moved the capital out of Sacramento for a while. We estimate a similar storm of that magnitude in California today would cause $725 billion in damages.

    Not to mention the Yellow River flood of 1931 in China, which remains the “deadliest natural disaster ever recorded” – having killed over three million people. In any case, it is worth noting that the highest estimate of the (economic) damage Sandy caused is a relatively cheap $50 billion.

    With that perspective in mind, consider that torrential rains now have three-quarters of Venice, the city of canals, drowning in floodwaters. Tourists were actually frolicking in its famed St Mark’s Square as if it were a Venetian water park. But this belies the damage it is causing to hundreds of homes, businesses, and historic sites.

    And just as Sandy did not limit its destruction to New York City, Venice is not the only city affected. For here is how the mayor of Tuscany described the impact on his city:

    It has been devastating. I saw at least six bridges destroyed in the hills, floods, landslides, vineyards, and olive groves swept away.

    (Reuters, November 12, 2012)

    Not surprisingly, just as American environmentalists attributed Sandy’s devastation to climate change, Italian environmentalists are doing the same.

    Yet, here too, Venice being ravaged by floodwaters is hardly a new phenomenon:

    Following a bad flood, the Doge Pietro Ziani  had actually proposed moving citizens to Constantinople, conquered by Venice in 1204.  The problem continued and in 1505 the Serenissima republic decided to set up a new council called the ‘Magistrato alle Acque’ to look into water levels and movement.  However it was not until 1867 that a system of registration of water levels was introduced.

    (Acqua Alta – Flood & High Water in Venice)

    The point is that sea levels have been rising (whether from hurricanes or torrential rains) and causing destructive floods since time immemorial. Moreover, it is at best debatable that man-made carbon emissions are increasing the frequency and severity of “extreme weather.” After all, in relative terms, this increasing frequency and severity might be just as cyclical as the warming (and cooling) of our planet.

    Of course, such is the egocentric nature of our world today that every natural disaster we experience we think is the worst in the history of mankind. It might be an inconvenient truth, but there was nothing apocalyptic about Sandy, and I’d be willing to bet my lifesavings that, despite Gore’s prophecy, neither Manhattan nor Venice will ever be destroyed by floodwaters.

    Related commentaries:
    Global warming…?

  • Monday, November 12, 2012 at 6:22 AM

    Benign Honey Trap of CIA Director David Petraeus

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I would never comment on the private life of a public figure unless it betrays the statements, policies and conduct he/she espouses in public life.

    (“John Edwards Caught Cheating…,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 23, 2008)

    So why am I commenting on this scandal? Because the CIA’s code of conduct is such that an agent engaging in an extramarital affair is akin to a Catholic priest violating his vow of celibacy. What’s more, CIA Director David Petraeus’s personal reputation for probity, fidelity and discretion was such that of all people – not just in the military but in all public service – the last person anyone would suspect of cheating is him.

    This is why finding out he was having an affair is tantamount to finding out the Pope was having one … with a woman.

    What is remarkable is that he got away with conducting it in broad daylight with Paula Broadwell, the author of a veritable valentine masquerading as his biography.

    Indeed, despite them traveling all over the world and taking frequent early-morning runs together, it took the FBI investigating whether Broadwell had access to top secrets – as part of her research – for Petraeus to finally be questioned about the carnal nature of his cardinal sin.

    This investigation was reportedly prompted by another female complaining about “harassing” emails she received from Broadwell; remarkably, because Broadwell suspected Petraeus was having an affair with her too. (So the married Broadwell’s fatal attraction had her picking a catfight with another married woman over a married man with whom they were both having an adulterous affair…? Women! And these are two of the really smart ones….)

    Whatever the case, it is unclear when he was forced to confess. But the resignation letter he submitted on Friday makes clear that he knew he had to go:

    Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA. After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.

    (CNN, November 9, 2012)

    This is nothing short of a national tragedy. Petraeus, a four-star general, made his reputation by leading combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what makes him so unique is that his military skills are actually surpassed by his intellectual prowess (evidenced most notably by his PhD in international relations from Princeton University). Indeed, such was his reputation that he is the first member of the military since Gen. Colin Powell who had pundits salivating at the prospect of him running for president of the United States.

    All the same, he did the right thing. Mind you, not because he had the affair. After all, he could not have been seduced by a more suitable mistress than Broadwell – herself a West Point grad with a graduate degree from Harvard and a penchant for firing machine guns. Hell, even James Bond could not resist this incarnation of Lara Croft; therefore, the erstwhile nerdy Petraeus didn’t stand a chance. More importantly, there is no indication that she was blackmailing him or was motivated by anything other than becoming a military (four) star fucker; hence my reference to a benign honey trap.

    And let us not forget that everyone from presidents to former directors of the CIA have proven beyond all doubt that extramarital affairs do not necessarily impair their ability to perform their duties and responsibilities; perhaps to the contrary.

    No, resigning was the right thing for Petraeus to do because reports are that he began behaving like a lovesick puppy (with all of the potential dangers that entails) after Broadwell ended their affair, ironically, feeling betrayed that he was cheating on her with another mistress. (Or perhaps she found out that there were simply too many mistresses even for her to fight off….) More to the point, that he began carpet-bombing her with unrequited email pleadings is evidence that he had lost the cold-heartedness and discretion that are sine qua non for any effective spy, let alone the nation’s chief spy.

    He can be forgiven for having affairs. But he cannot be forgiven for making a mockery of the very essence of his job by becoming emotionally attached and leaving a compromising trail with so many telltale signs of those affairs. In other words, if Petraeus can’t even keep his own extramarital affairs secret, he clearly cannot be relied upon to keep the nation’s secrets.

    Smart men routinely do stupid things for a little poontang – despite potentially grave consequences. And, of course, no man manifests this oxymoronic predilection more than the impeached former president of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton.

    (“How Sex Makes Smart Men Do Stupid Things,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 6, 2006)

    Meanwhile, reports are that Obama was informed about the affair on Thursday – two days after his re-election. But this is not stopping his critics from insinuating that the White House, FBI and CIA all conspired to hold-off making this announcement until after the election.

    To be fair, though, the timing does seem suspicious – given that Petraeus was scheduled to testify before Congress this week about the failure of intelligence that led to this year’s 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which killed the ambassador and three others (two of whom were CIA agents).

    But I believe all suspicions in this respect will prove utterly unwarranted. Especially since the White House did not even know about this investigation — as FBI investigations are conducted in secret … for obvious reasons. Which, at the very least, undermines the charge that the White House had a duty to immediately inform Congress about the nature of this investigation. Specifically, I doubt there is any linkage whatsoever between Petraeus’s affair and the seemingly misleading ways the White House characterized the Benghazi attack.

    Of far more interest to me is finding out what role the long-standing institutional rivalry between the FBI and CIA played in Petraeus being investigated and forced to make such a detailed and humiliating public confession. Not least because a pro forma statement about resigning for personal family reasons usually suffices in these circumstances….

    Petraeus (60) is a father of two. Broadwell (40) is a mother of two. Scandals in Washington invariably elicit nothing but unbridled schadenfreude; but this one evokes nothing but genuine sadness … and regret.

    NOTE: It is an uncanny coincidence that Petraeus is now the second high-profile general whose career has been ruined because of a cozy relationship with a writer. Recall that the fall of General Stanley McChrystal, the only other military man who was considered Petraeus’s peer, began in 2010 when he became too cozy (though not intimate) with a writer from Rolling Stone.

    Related commentaries:
    Edwards caught cheating
    How sex makes men
    McChrystal resigns

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 7:12 am

  • Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 6:48 AM

    The smartest people voted for Obama; the dumbest for Romney. Duh

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [I]t’s an indication of how irrational this racism is that on everything from welfare to taxes Obama’s policies are far more beneficial to the tens of millions of Whites who comprise the majority of America’s poor. Yet polls indicate that the majority of them will be voting for Romney – whose policies not only favor the rich but, like his pledge to repeal Obamacare, threaten to make these poor Whites even poorer.

    (“Romney vs. Obama…,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 1, 2012)

    The facts stated and implied in my headline (about smart people voting Democratic and dumb ones voting Republican) have been self-evident for years. But the reason having them published in this context is so noteworthy is that the research is courtesy of none other than the FOX network.

    After all, no other entity is more responsible for the political ignorance of those who voted from Romney than FOX News.

    You can’t make this stuff up folks….

    NOTE: You will notice that, even though it voted for Obama, Nevada is ranked among the dumbest states. But I assure you, this is only because many of its residents are recently naturalized Hispanics who can barely speak English.

    Related commentaries:
    Romney vs. Obama
    Best and worst educated states

  • Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 6:44 AM

    Obama Defeats Romney in A Landslide (332 to 206) !

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    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 reelected in a Reagan-style landslide.

    (“In support of Barack Obama,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 12, 2011)

    Enough said?


    (Wednesday, 7:20 am)

    Actually, Obama’s victory was so decisive that I thought it best to leave all of the commentary to those who now find themselves in the humbling, and in many cases embarrassing, position of having to explain why they predicted his defeat.

    But since so many of you are already clamoring for more from me, here are just a few observations:

    • Never before in the history of politics has so much been spent (over $1 billion) to achieve so little as the Republican Party and its super PACs spent to make Obama “a one term president.”
    • Karl Rove personifies this abject and obscene waste of money. He revels of course in the dubious distinction of being “George W. Bush’s brain.” And, to his credit, he managed to get that dunce elected president of the United States … twice.  But his reputation now lies in tatters. Because he convinced a bunch of rich fools that, if they gave him hundreds of millions of dollars, he could buy the election for them by doing to Obama what he did to Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. And he only compounded his humiliation by throwing a hissy fit on live TV last night, pleading in vain with FOX News for over 30 minutes to hold off calling Ohio for Obama; notwithstanding that FOX (and every other network) had already called not just Ohio but the entire election for him. (For the record, Obama won eight of the nine all-important swing states.)
    • Apropos of high-profile pundits who got it so wrong, I urge you to switch the channel the next time you see the likes of Rove, Charles Krauthammer, Dick Morris, Michael Barone, Newt Gingrich and George Will spouting their partisan drivel about American politics. That these are reputedly the most informed Republicans/conservatives should disabuse you of the impression that nincompoops like Donald Trump are the only ones living in a parallel universe.

    Incidentally, here is the question FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly put to Rove last night (when he kept insisting that he had numbers showing that Romney could still win Ohio) that explains much of the anti-Obama delirium that passes as political punditry:

    Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?

    But here is the more relevant question: is there any wonder why people who rely on FOX for their news and information are so clueless and misinformed?

    • Many of these pundits are now trying to wipe the egg off their faces by claiming that Obama has no mandate. But, to give you a sense of how blinded by prejudice/racism they are, just bear in mind that these are the same pundits who hailed the “indisputable” mandate Bush won in 2000 even though he mustered just 271 electoral votes and lost the popular vote to Gore 47.9 to 48.4 percent.

    By instructive contrast, Obama captured 332 electoral votes last night and won the popular vote 50.6 to 47.8. Of course, they are also proffering all manner of excuses – ranging from the politically specious (Romney was not conservative enough) to the politically expedient (Hurricane Sandy threw Obama a lifeline – allowing him to look more presidential and bipartisan); but none of them are worthy of comment.

    • Political TV ads are a cancer in American politics: there are far too many of them (inured to the law of diminishing returns); they are produced far more often to defame than to inform (negative ads are more “effective” than positive ones); and they are to TV stations what Christmas toys are to commercial retailers.

    Unfortunately, the confluence of freedom of speech, free-market forces and other rich fools like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson are such that these ads will continue to metastasize, interminably.

    • From the founding of the American republic, old White men have been the dominant and most influential force in politics. Well, here’s to the Obama (“minority-majority”) coalition of White women, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and young people for relegating them to the dustbin of history as this seminal force.

    With that, I refer you to my related commentaries, which delineate not only how I accurately predicted the outcome of this election but also the many reasons why Obama’s victory is so warranted..

    God Bless America!

    Related commentaries:
    In support
    Obama vs. Romney

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 1:47 am

  • Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 4:24 AM

    Election Day: time to put up, or shut up!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 7:30 AM

    Who knew climate change would figure so prominently in this presidential election

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, November 2, 2012 at 7:22 AM

    Women, to save your sex life, if not your marriage, don’t let your man see you give birth!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am an avowed feminist. But close (female) friends will attest to my long-standing belief that the conscription of men into the process of childbirth is an unfortunate development of the feminist movement. Nothing betrays this misguided and unnatural foray quite like feminized men proclaiming with ambivalent pride, “we’re pregnant.”

    More to the point, my innate sense has always led me to suspect that witnessing my wife give birth would turn me off from seeing her (in the same way) as my lover ever again. Yet this same sense has always led me to suspect that watching my wife cradle our newborn child would probably stir feelings of unparalleled love.

    Clearly it’s an understatement to say that the psycho-sexual dynamics at play here are … complicated. But considering I have never been conscripted, I do not feel qualified to comment any further.

    Instead, here in part is the cautionary testimonial of a man who was:

    We hadn’t had sex for more than a year… And the reason? Witnessing Sonny’s birth had turned me off sex altogether…

    Part of the problem, I believe, is to do with the changing expectations of fathers. Today’s dads see it as an intrinsic part of their role to accompany their partner through every step of childbirth. To suggest otherwise is seen as a dereliction of duty, an act of misogyny.

    I was no different — insisting on witnessing my wife’s harrowing three-day labour and eventual emergency Caesarean.

    But this approach has undeniable consequences, which I feel all parents ignore at their peril.

    Witnessing the trauma of childbirth, coupled with the toll it takes on their partner’s body, can have a devastating impact on a man and his approach to sex.

    (Daily Mail, October 31, 2012)

    Mind you, I’m sure there are men who witness childbirth with gusto and are like dogs in heat for postpartum sex. But there can be no denying that men who witness childbirth are far more likely to stray than those who don’t.

    For what it’s worth, my Daddy rushed my Mummy to the hospital and then dutifully waited outside as she gave birth to me. And I defy anyone to point to any deficiency in his relationship with her or me that can be attributed to him not witnessing it.  He never strayed.

    So women, give your man a pass when it comes to the delivery room. Your sex life, if not your marriage, could depend on it. There’s clearly something to be said for doing this the old-fashioned way.

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