• Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    First Truman, Now Obama

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Not since the famously erroneous 1948 headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” have the mainstream media gotten a major headline so wrong as when CNN, FOX News and other new organizations rushed on Thursday with “Mandate Struck Down.”

    Of course, the Supreme Court upheld the mandate, the indispensable (funding) feature of Obamacare.

    Related commentaries:
    Supreme Court upholds Obamacare

  • Friday, June 29, 2012 at 6:50 AM

    Scoop Doggy Poop … then Wipe that Ass!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I get just as irritated with dog owners who expect me to pet their overly friendly dogs as I do with mothers who expect me to coo at their plainly ugly babies. This is not to say, however, that my dislike of babies is just as great as my dislike of dogs; but it’s close.

    Imagine my irritation, therefore, when I found myself in the home of a friend recently who has a little dog and a little baby.  I neither petted nor cooed.  Instead, I was constrained to pose what I thought was a basic question about doggie hygiene. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a social faux pas.

    You see, the dog and baby were both suffering chronic diarrhea, which meant that we spent more time talking about the scatology of dogs and babies than about anything of interest to me. Incidentally, what is it about an erstwhile intelligent woman with impeccable social graces that, after having a baby, she suddenly thinks the only thing anybody wants to talk about is the joy and frustration she’s experiencing raising it?

    Anyway, in uncanny synchronicity, every time my friend had to change the baby’s diaper, her husband had to walk the dog – pooper scooper in hand. But the juxtaposition of the fastidious way she wiped the baby’s bottom with the cavalier way he didn’t wipe the dog’s ass (on the one occasion I accompanied them on their walk) prompted me to ask this question when we returned:

    What is it about dog shit that causes a dog owner to see no need to wipe his dog’s ass for the same reasons a mother wipes her baby’s bottoms?

    Mind you, this was just my way of attempting to show some interest in what was turning out to be our only topic of conversation.  I had in mind how fond dog owners are of saying that they treat their dogs just like their babies. But I probably would have held my tongue if the dog did not run, tail wagging, and plunked his un-wiped ass on the couch beside mother and child as soon as we got back inside.

    Mercifully, the awkward silence my question induced, even from the dog and baby, was soon broken when the husband burst into hysterical laughter through which he muttered:

    Damn, I never thought about that….

    But, as soon as she recovered, my friend changed the subject to something more socially redeeming; alas, it was time for me to go.

    So for all of you dog owners out there – to wipe, or not to wipe: that is the question….

  • Thursday, June 28, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    I Was Right ! Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare !

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I predict the Court will rule … to uphold the constitutionality of what is bound to go down in history as the most important achievement of any U.S. president since the Civil Rights bill President Lyndon Johnson signed into law in 1964.

    (“Supreme Court To Rule on Landmark Healthcare Reform,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 23, 2011)

    The suspense over today’s ruling was spreading throughout Washington in recent days like yellow fever. In fact, it became so acute that I was forced to write about it only yesterday … to break this fever within my circle of friends.

    Well, it will now be recorded in the annals of history that no less a person than conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the four liberals on the Court in upholding this signature achievement of the Obama presidency 5-4.

    As it happens, though, yesterday’s commentary said all I care to say about this case. Especially because the arcane legal reasoning about the power to tax versus the power to regulate, which Roberts relied on in drafting the Court’s ruling, hardly matters.  Frankly, I am also loath to add to the onslaught of hot air about the political implications that pundits of all stripes are already polluting throughout all media.

    All that matters is that, because Obama cares, over 40 million poor and uninsured Americans will have guaranteed access to affordable healthcare.

    And for the 250 million Americans now struggling to hold onto their health insurance, whitehouse.gov highlights that, because Obama cares:

    • Insurance companies will no longer have unchecked power to cancel policies, deny coverage, or charge women more than men;
    • No American will ever again be denied care or charged more due to a pre-existing condition, like cancer or even asthma;
    • Preventive care will be covered free of charge by insurance companies–including mammograms for women and wellness visits for seniors;
    • By August, millions of Americans will receive a rebate because their insurance company spent too much of their premium on administrative costs or CEO bonuses;
    • 5.3 million seniors will save $600 a year on their prescription drugs;
    • More will be done to protect Medicare by cracking down on waste, fraud, and abuse; and
    • 6.6 million young adults will still be able to stay on their family’s plan until they’re 26.

    Meanwhile, from the day Obamacare became law two years ago Republicans have been hedging their bets and stoking partisan fires by threatening to repeal it if the Court rules that it is constitutional – as it has now done. But because that would ultimately require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, these pandering Republicans know that pigs will fly before they repeal Obamacare.

    Not to mention that repealing it would also require a presidential signature, which they obviously knew Obama would never do. But even if Mitt Romney wins in November, he knows that he’ll have more success deporting 12 million Hispanics as part of the comprehensive immigration reform he’s promising than he’ll have getting a repealed Obamacare bill on his desk to sign. For it would never get out of the Democratic-controlled Senate.

    Which makes his promise to “repeal it on day one” of his (wishful-thinking) presidency just another example of why this pandering “outsourcer-in-chief” is such a phony, flip-flopping schmuck: but I’m sure he loves his family, even if not his dog so much.

    Related commentaries:
    The Supreme Court rules

    * Bullet points courtesy of whitehouse.gov

  • Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 5:19 AM

    Mike Tyson on Broadway?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Why not?  After all, if Kim Kardashian can entertain millions (and make millions) by manufacturing drama for her faux reality-TV show, Mike Tyson can easily regale audiences by just telling the undisputed truth about the serial drama that has been his life … for real.

    This is why the title of his one-man show, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, says it all.

    And here’s a news flash for fans of The Hangover who thought Mike was a laughing riot in his cameo role: he was not acting.

    But surely no Broadway show has ever had a more riveting and titillating preview than the one Mike and the director of his show, Spike Lee,  gave during an interview on the June-19 edition of the NBC TODAY Show.

    For here in part is how his trademark, unfiltered stream of consciousness flowed when (soon-to-be-castaway) host Ann Curry asked him why he became a vegan:

    Phew, wow, there was too many prison cells, too many jails, too many lawsuits, too many bankruptcies, too many women, too many venereal diseases, too many everything. I got tired… I really got tired of, you know, like every time a prostitute – I would head back from a trip – I had to sleep with her.

    I was a prostitute hunter!

    At which point Ann, blushing and cringing in equal measure, chimed in with:

    Well, let me stop you there.

    No doubt Spike was grateful for her interjection (or intervention – as might have been the case). Because it clearly prevented the endearingly loquacious Mike from giving away too much.

    Of course we all know enough about his life story to know that it is replete with the kind of prurient details he was blurting out on breakfast television this morning. But the real draw will be watching Mike triumphing as a man on stage in ways that nobody could have imagined when he was still triumphing as a boxer in the ring.

    Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth is showing at the Longacre Theatre from July 31 – August 5. Go see it!

  • Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 5:07 AM

    Obamacare: The Supreme Court Rules…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    All of Washington is waiting with bated breath for tomorrow’s Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of Obamacare.

    I’m on record predicting not only that the Court will rule it constitutional, but that it will do so by a rare 6-3 margin:

    I predict the Court will rule 6-3 to upholdthe constitutionality of what is bound to go down in history as the most important achievement of any U.S. president since the Civil Rights bill President Lyndon Johnson signed into law in 1964.

    (“Supreme Court To Rule on Landmark Healthcare Reform,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 23, 2011)

    And I’m all too mindful that I am one of only a handful of lawyers/commentators in America who hold this view.

    If I am right, it will be because two of the five conservatives (namely, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy) joined with the four liberals (namely, Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) in honoring a long-settled legal precedent, which holds that congressional legislation should be ruled constitutional if it concerns the regulation of interstate commerce and addresses a compelling government interest – such as affordable healthcare.

    If I am wrong, it will only be because the conservatives (namely, Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito) were all swayed by the bombastically ideological reasoning of arch-conservative Justice Scalia, which holds that judicial precedent (to say nothing of original intent) is irrelevant where legislation championed by this (uppity) president is concerned.  In which case the Court will rule Obamacare unconstitutional by a partisan margin of 5-4 – a la Bush v. Gore 2000.

    Incidentally, it is a long-established practice for justices to impugn and ridicule the judicial reasoning of fellow members of the Court. But it is unheard of for a justice to impugn and ridicule the political reasoning of a sitting president the way Scalia did on Monday in the Court’s ruling on the Arizona immigration law. His impudence is particularly galling given that the majority of his fellow justices actually affirmed President Obama’s reasoning in this case, and that his diatribe against the president had nothing to do with Obamacare. This is just one of many examples I can proffer to show why Scalia should be regarded as little more than a political hack in judicial garb.

    In any case, if this rank politicization of the Court obtained … again, I hope Chief Justice Roberts was at least savvy enough to assign the drafting of this judicial hit piece to Justice Thomas. For this would provide the interrelated benefits of: a) insulating the Court (to some degree) from the charge of racism that would surely follow; and b) providing this Black justice the perverse pleasure of nullifying the signature accomplishment of America’s first Black president as vindication for the way Blacks effectively excommunicated him after a Republican president, George H.W. Bush, nominated him in 1991.

    And you probably thought this was just about the supreme law of the land…. Ha!

    Apropos of the politics involved, it is worth bearing in mind that the only reason this case ended up at the Supreme Court is that, just like undermining every initiative to improve the economy, undermining Obamacare is part of a coordinated campaign by Republicans to destroy the presidency of Barack Obama. And their reasons are as obvious as Black and White….

    Specifically, listening to prominent Republicans denounce Obamacare, you’d think that it really is the centerpiece of a manchurian manifesto to turn America into a European-style socialist state (and one governed not by the constitution but by the Quran at that). But it’s an indication of how cravenly political, if not racial, their denouncements are that on the day before Obama was elected president in 2008, every one of these Republicans supported all of the major provisions in Obamacare, including the individual mandate that has become such a poison pill.

    Not to mention that, hoping to ensure bipartisan support, Obama designed Obamacare based on Romneycare, the health reform program Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney championed when he was governor of Massachusetts.

    That said, no matter how the court rules tomorrow, nobody will be thinking about Obamacare on Election Day this November: it’s the economy stupid.

    Nevertheless, it behooves all voters to consider this: The first bill Obama signed as president was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which mandates equal pay for equal work for women in the workplace. By instructive contrast, the first bill Romney is threatening to sign, if he’s elected, is one repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), which would strip away the guaranteed healthcare this historic legislation provides for over 40 million poor and uninsured Americans.

    So, who you gonna vote for?

    Related commentaries:
    Supreme Court To Rule

  • Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 5:27 AM

    Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Anti-Immigration Law

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Today the Supreme Court struck down 75 percent of Arizona’s anti-immigration law: a) ruling it unconstitutional for police officers to make warrantless arrests of anyone they suspect is an illegal immigrant; b) ruling it unconstitutional to require illegal immigrants to carry federal documents; and c) ruling it unconstitutional for the state to arrest illegal immigrants merely for seeking employment.

    With respect to the remaining 25 percent of the law, the Court essentially punted: reserving the right to strike down this part which grants police officers the right to demand immigration “papers please” of anyone they arrest for a traffic infraction or for breaking any other law – if they reasonably suspect that person is an illegal immigrant.

    Here is the reason the Court gave for its reservation:

    Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration…, but the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.

    There is a basic uncertainty about what the law means and how it will be enforced… [T]his opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.

    (The Associated Press, June 25, 2012)

    This, by any fair reading, is a veritable smack down of the Arizona law.

    Yet it is not at all surprising that unhinged, anti-Obama politicians like the Republican governor of Arizona are greeting this slap in the face as a “vindication,” declaring “we won”?! Even presidential nominee Mitt Romney reacted with a press statement insisting that states have the right to make and enforce immigration laws despite the Supreme Court just declaring that they have no such right. Frankly, this kind of defiant pandering to the racial ignorance and insecurities of Whites should be unconstitutional too.

    On the other hand, what is surprising, if not disturbing, is the extent to which legal commentators are also spinning this decision as a win for Arizona. For no lawyer worth her salt could possibly regard today’s decision as anything but a rebuke – not just of this immigration law, but of copycat laws many Republican-controlled state legislatures enacted as well.

    That said, here for the record is how I presaged today’s decision two years ago when Arizona passed this law:

    I am entirely sympathetic to the desperate and despairing effort Arizona lawmakers are making to combat this problem…, but turning Arizona into a police state (for Hispanics) is not the answer…

    This Arizona law legalizes racial profiling… Not surprisingly, its legality is already being challenged in court, and I predict that even this conservative Supreme Court will rule it unconstitutional in due course.

    (“Arizona Scapegoating Hispanics Instead of Combating Illegal Immigration,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 26, 2010)

    Therefore, now that the Court has ruled just as I predicted, it is I, not Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who should feel vindicated.

    Related commentaries:
    Arizona Scapegoating Hispanics

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Monday, at 3:37 pm

  • Monday, June 25, 2012 at 6:16 AM

    UPDATE: Military Declares the Brotherhood’s Morsi Egypts’s New President

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And so the post-Mubarak chaos I warned about continues … with more pro-democracy protesters vowing to boycott the runoff than those planning to vote. This, of course, would virtually guarantee the outcome these nincompoop protesters fear most (i.e., the election of the Brotherhood’s candidate) and force the military to intervene again….

    (“Military Coup after just Five Months of Democracy,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 15, 2012)

    Today, just as I predicted, the military-appointed Higher Presidential Election Commission declared Mohammed Morsi the winner of last Sunday’s runoff election 52 percent to 48 percent over Shafiq.

    More importantly though, just as I predicted, this declaration was rendered not just anticlimactic but moot a few days ago when the SCAF “intervened” by issuing a decree vesting in itself the exclusive power to make laws (most notably the writing of the constitution), manage the national budget, and deal with all matters related to military and foreign affairs (most notably handling all of the foreign aid from solicitous allies like the United States and the European Union).

    This effectively makes Morsi little more than a presidential eunuch, and it is why the Commission made such a show of delineating all of the extraordinary steps it took to ensure that he was, in fact, democratically elected.

    There seems little doubt that the military hopes propping up Morsi as a figure head will quell the fury of Islamists who have not only coopted the revolution secularists launched against Mubarak but threatened to turn Egypt into a bloody mess if the military denied them this now-hollow, though admittedly symbolic, victory.

    And given that Islamists greeted this belated declaration by turning Tahrir Square into the biggest and most festive Sunday picnic in the history of mankind, the generals must be breathing a sigh of relief. It is noteworthy that Shafiq’s very gracious concession added to the festive atmosphere. (And I’m sure he will be handsomely rewarded for playing his part in orchestrating this dance to the death between the military and the Brotherhood that is just getting underway.)

    Of course, as alluded to in my June 15 commentary, Egypt’s Western allies must be breathing a sigh of relief too: first, because there’s dancing instead of rioting tonight in Tahrir Square; and second, because they would have been loath to see Morsi and the Brotherhood given free rein to turn Egypt into an Islamic state.

    It would be naïve, however, for anybody to believe that this honeymoon between the military and the Brotherhood will last for too long. Egypt could still (and most likely will) descend into a bloody mess….

    NOTE: It speaks volumes about the hypocrisy and unintended consequences inherent in (far too many areas of) U.S. foreign policy that, after 40 years of funding and nurturing Mubarak’s dictatorship, the first democratically elected president of Egypt is an Islamist who is constitutionally inclined to see the United States as the “big Satan” and Israel as its “little Satan” – both of whom must be destroyed. Now the United States has to depend on its ties with the military instead of the civilian government to maintain its relationship with Egypt.

    Related commentaries:
    Military coup

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 7:26 pm

  • Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    Justice Begins for Victims of Child-Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church and at Penn State

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It seems like a divine coincidence that two separate juries in the state of Pennsylvania rendered guilty verdicts yesterday in cases related to the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church and at Penn state.

    The Catholic Church

    A few years ago, revelations about the nature and scope of sexual abuse by priests gave the impression that the Catholic Church in America was being run by a syndicate of pedophile enablers. By contrast, the moral indignation European priests cast at their brethren in America back then gave the impression that the Catholic Church in Europe was wholly without sin in this respect…

    Well, there are dirty little secrets coming out of the closet in churches all over Europe today – most notably in the Pope’s home country of Germany. And these revelations give the impression that the ecumenical council of the Catholic Church not only condoned but actually enabled a culture of pederasty that would make Sodom and Gomorrah seem chaste. Which gives a whole new meaning to Christ’s exhortation to “suffer the little children to come on to Me.”

    Even worse, no less a person than the Pope has been implicated.

    (“Pope Accused of Harboring Pedophile Priest,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 16, 2010)

    There is overwhelming evidence that the Catholic Church is still engaged in a centuries-long cover-up of the abuse of little boys by Catholic priests. Therefore, it reflects a cardinal sin of omission that yesterday’s conviction of Monsignor William Lynn was the first time in U.S. history any church official has been held to account. After all, we all know that he’s the least of those responsible for this cover-up.

    Monsignor William Lynn helped the archdiocese keep predators in ministry, and the public in the dark, by telling parishes their priests were being removed for health reasons and then sending the men to unsuspecting churches.

    (Associated Press, June 22, 2012)

    In any case, who knew that papal indulgences are granted more to pedophile priests than to rich hedonists….

    Meanwhile, that Lynn faces only three to seven years in prison seems like the proverbial slap on the wrist.

    Penn State

    Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach of the storied Nittany Lions football team, used a group home he founded for troubled boys as a plucking ground for his pedophile pleasure…

    All of the top officials associated with the team/university, most notably 84-year-old Head Coach Joe Paterno, allegedly knew about this abuse almost from the outset, but decided not to report it to the police…

    Instead of wasting what little moral outrage I can still muster on child-sex abusers, I just react by wishing them a fair trial followed by a lifetime in prison having ‘big’ men do to them what they did to little children. And Sandusky will surely get his…

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

    And so he will. Because Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child-sex abuse ranging from terrorizing little boys in his charge to anally raping them repeatedly over many years.

    This 68-year-old pervert faces up to 442 years in prison. And chances are very good that the judge will sentence him to every one of them.

    NOTE: Alas, Paterno is dead. But I am heartened that prosecutors have declared their intent to prosecute every university official who conspired to cover up Sandusky’s predatory behavior at Penn State. I just wish the same were true about the intent of those prosecuting every incidence of child-sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

    Related commentaries:
    Pope accused of harboring pedophile priest
    Penn State’s Catholic Church problem

  • Friday, June 22, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    LeBron James Leads Miami Heat to NBA Championship

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Two years ago virtually every sports writer criticized LeBron for leaving Cleveland to “take [his] talents to South Beach.” But their criticism had far more to do with the fanfare he made of his announcement than with his leaving. And it did not matter to them that LeBron orchestrated that fanfare so that the millions generated could be donated to Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide, including in Cleveland.

    No doubt this is why the schadenfreude was palpable last year, especially in Cleveland, when he led the Miami Heat to the finals only to literally choke under pressure, losing that seven-game series to the Dallas Mavericks 4-2.

    By contrast, here is how and why I criticized him two years ago:

    What made winning a championship so sweet for Dr. J and Michael has to have been finally winning on a team with which they suffered so many years of playoff frustration. Not to mention the unbridled pride and joy they brought to longsuffering fans in cities that, in the case of Philadelphia, had not won an NBA championship in almost two decades, and in the case of Chicago, had never won at all.

    By contrast, I fear that winning for LeBron will be bitter sweet. Not least because instead of being hailed as a basketball savior in Miami, where the Heat won a championship just years ago (in 2006), he’ll be regarded as nothing more than a hired gun who was brought in to help them win a few more…

    [On the other hand] the people of Cleveland should be thanking their lucky stars that LeBron gave them seven years of the best entertainment in sports as well as ancillary economic benefits and national goodwill that most cities would die for.  He did not sign a contract to be their golden goose for the rest of his career; therefore, the notion of a betrayal in this case is utterly baseless and irresponsible.

    (“LeBron abandons Cleveland for Miami,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 13, 2010)

    So here’s to what must be a bitter-sweet (and belated) victory for LeBron. I’m sure all is now forgiven in Miami for the blanks he shot last year.  What’s more, given the way the Heat dispatched the Oklahoma Thunder in such convincing fashion 4-1, Miami fans can be forgiven their expectation that he really will deliver on his promise of:

    [Not, one], not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven and hey I’m not just up here blowing smoke at none of these fans … I’m about business and we believe we can win multiple championships….

    (“Heat’s welcome party for LeBron,” YouTube, July 10, 2010)

    Well, perhaps he can. But for now, congratulations to the Miami Heat on winning this year’s NBA championship. And oh what a relief it must be for their hired gun, series MVP LeBron James!

    Related commentary:
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  • Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 8:19 AM

    Delusions of Despair Undermining Obama’s Presidency?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    When Barack Obama said he wanted to be a transformative president I’m sure he did not have in mind a transformation from the personification of hope in 2008 to the personification of despair this year. Yet this is the only transformation his (predominantly Republican) critics see.

    What is delusional about this, however, is that chief among those lamenting this despair are people who have benefited most during his presidency. Most notable are Wall Street bankers whose firms he bailed out and who raked in record profits as the DOW rose an unprecedented 56 percent. But they are joined at the hip by corporate CEOs — whose companies are sitting on trillions in profits and who earned so much in compensation, their despair must be some perverse form of thriver’s guilt.

    Yet these bankers and CEOs would have you believe that Obama’s economic policies burden them with so much regulation and foster so much uncertainty that they dare not invest in the economy or hire new employees, respectively. Moreover, that for these specious reasons they are going to donate some of the obscene wealth he helped them amass to the Republicans who are hell-bent on defeating him. Frankly, they make used-car salesmen seem honorable.

    Ironically, though, no group is doing more to propagate these delusions of despair than the liberal media, which Obama’s critics once accused of having a “slobbering love affair” with him.  For you’d think the Obama-friendly media would be challenging these ingrates – not just with sector-specific data showing that Obama has been very good for them, but also with macro-economic data showing that his polices have rescued the country from the Great Recession, which Wall Street bankers were most responsible for creating in the first place.

    Instead, the purportedly liberal media seems to have become infected with that virulent strain of obamanitis that causes right-wing reporters and commentators at places like FOX News to either marginalize every laudable thing Obama does (like killing bin Laden) or make every day under this presidency seem like “the end of the world as we know it.”

    The way obamanitis manifests in the liberal media was very much on display last Friday following a White House press briefing. Specifically, instead of focusing on the historic directive Obama announced about ending deportations of the children of illegal immigrants, they dedicated most of their coverage to some right-wing nut who heckled him.

    Which brings me to erstwhile supporters who have bought into this patently contrived notion that Obama’s aura of hope has transformed into despair. As best as I can tell, their disaffection stems primarily from their ideological view that he has failed (or refused) to govern like a left-wing nut. But to give you a sense of the fallacies inherent in this disaffection, here’s a sample of the nonsense no less a person than Obama’s former law professor at Harvard is proselytizing:

    The president must be defeated [because among other things]:

    His policy is financial confidence and food stamps; and

    He has spent trillions of dollars to rescue the moneyed interests and left workers and homeowners to their own devices…

    (Professor Roberto Unger, Beyond Obama, YouTube video)

    So, on the one hand you have right-wing nuts declaring that Obama must be defeated because he is turning the government into a nanny for poor folks; while on the other hand you have left-wing nuts declaring that he must be defeated because he is turning the government into a piggy bank for the rich….

    Mind you, where (most of) his critics on the right are motivated by nothing more than rabidly partisan politics suffused with racial resentment, those of us on the left are motivated by nothing more than a desire to see more of our ideology reflected in his policies. For example, even though no peacenik, I am informed by the lessons of Vietnam which dictate that no president should send Americans to die for a politically motivated or lost cause (i.e., Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively). This is why I’m on record criticizing Obama for sending more troops to Afghanistan in 2009.

    But, unlike fellow progressives like Professor Unger, I have never even considered betraying Obama simply because his policies do not reflect my views exactly … in every case. Indeed, Unger’s conceited and misguided call for Obama to be defeated makes a mockery of what defines a progressive approach to politics; namely, a pragmatic willingness to take any step, no matter how incremental, as long as it moves us progressively towards our ideal of a more egalitarian society.

    Which is why:

    I was also mindful 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)

    Moreover:

    [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.

    (“BP Spill Turns Swooning over Obama Toxic,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 7, 2010)

    That said, nothing indicates how much delusions of despair are undermining Obama’s presidency quite like poor, unemployed and uninsured (White) folks, who depend on food stamps for their daily bread, opposing his healthcare/insurance reform (aka Obamacare). They are doing so because they too have bought into the Republican “big lie” that this reform, which Republicans like former President Nixon once championed, will turn America “into a socialist state like Europe [sic].”  (Polls routinely show that the vast majority of those who oppose Obamacare actually approve of its provisions.) Idiots!

    Incidentally, much is being made in the media this week about a Federal Reserve survey which found that there has been a nearly 40 percent drop in household net worth between 2007 and 2010.  But you’d be hard-pressed to find the following clarification anywhere in the liberal, let alone the right-wing, media:

    The entire drop in household wealth between 2007 and 2010, the period covered by the Survey of Consumer Finances, occurred in 2008—before the President took office…

    Household wealth has risen every year President Obama has been in office — by a total of 23 percent overall…

    (The White House, June 13, 2012)

    Still, despite all of these political and media headwinds:

    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 Obama: my abiding … HOPE,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 12, 2011)

    What’s more:

    Trust me folks, race matters. This is why disillusioned and disaffected supporters like actor Matt Damon, as well as White independents whose votes are so indispensable, will think twice about causing this first Black president to go down in history as a failure – especially given all of the mediocre White presidents who have cruised to second terms.

    (“Obama Will Be Reelected in Landslide,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 30, 2011)

    Meanwhile, the craven agenda of bankers and CEOs to transform Obama’s presidency from hope to despair is surpassed only by the cynical agenda of Republicans and their media enablers to simply destroy it. Which makes it as perverse as it is ironic that the book currently at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list is The Great Destroyer by Obama hater David Limbaugh (yes, Rush’s baby brother).

    In any case, voters would do well to bear in mind that none other than the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, declared his Party’s intent as follows:

    The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

    (Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2010)

    This explains why, from day one, Republicans have done everything in their power to undermine all of Obama’s initiatives to create jobs and improve the economy. And they have done so just to be able to claim that he does not deserve reelection because he did not do enough to create jobs and improve the economy: this is what politics in America has come to folks.

    It also explains why they all voted in lockstep just yesterday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to hand over documents that Obama asserts are protected by executive privilege. (The documents are related to what Republicans and their NRA paymasters claim — with scant evidence — is a botched Justice Department gun-walking operation called “Fast and Furious” aimed at undermining the Second Amendment.) And only a Kentucky hillbilly would think that Holder’s “uppity” black ass has nothing to do with this being the first time in U.S. history Congress has voted to hold an attorney general in contempt.

    Related commentaries:
    Spill turns swooning over Obama toxic
    Mutiny against Obama
    In support of Obama
    Obama will be reelected

  • Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 5:41 AM

    Roger Clemens Not Guilty, But Far from Innocent

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I felt conflicted on Monday when I heard that a federal jury had acquitted former Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens on all six counts related to lying to Congress about taking steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

    Because here is what I wrote four years ago after watching this seven-time Cy Young Award winner testify at a nationally televised congressional hearing:

    As I watched highlights of Roger Clemens testifying before Congress yesterday, it occurred to me that … the more he said, the more he incriminated himself – not only on the settled charge of taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs, but also on the looming charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about it.

    (“Forget the Hall of Fame, Clemens May Have Played His Way into Prison,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 14, 2008)

    Then here is what I wrote two years ago when he was duly indicted:

    Clemens remains in a state of denial about using steroids… [H]is testimony was strike one; this indictment is strike two; and conviction at trial (or even a plea deal) will be the strike out that ends Clemens’ storied career – not with induction into the Hall of Fame but with incarceration in federal prison.

    (“Indictment Is Strike Two against Roger Clemens,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 23, 2010)

    So I clearly expected him to be convicted.  But here is why, far from being disappointed, I am actually heartened that he was acquitted:

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

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

    And here:

    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…

    [J]ust as the achievements of players like Babe Ruth have not been diminished even though they drank alcohol during prohibition, the achievements of players like Bonds should not be diminished even though they’re taking steroids today.

    (“Bonds Should Be Cheered, Not Jeered…,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 8, 2007)

    And most significantly, here:

    I believe 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?!

    This enlightened attitude towards performance-enhancing drugs would have precluded the ‘scandals’ that now threaten the professional careers of Tour de France Champion Floyd Landis and Olympic (100m) Champion Justin Gatlin; to say nothing of sparing them international ridicule as pathetic liars and cheaters.

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

    This is why, even though I believe Clemens belongs in the rogue’s gallery of professional athletes (with the likes of Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, and Marion Jones) who have lied infamously about taking steroids, I hope his acquittal helps to advance the cause of decriminalizing drugs in sports.

    Let me hasten to clarify, however, that I still believe anyone who lies to federal authorities about taking steroids should be prosecuted. But now that he has been acquitted, I believe Clemens should be admitted to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, unanimously.

    Like I said, conflicted….

    Related commentaries:
    Forget the Hall of Fame
    Indictment is strike two
    Bonds is indicted
    Bonds is steroids junkie
    Decriminalize drugs
    Doping charges filed against Armstrong

  • Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 7:21 AM

    Ménage a Trois Involving French President Heats Up

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As if to highlight the dramatis personae that will provide palace intrigue throughout his presidency, he announced almost simultaneously that he has no intent to marry his partner Valérie — deriding marriage, in true socialist fashion, as a ‘bourgeois institution.’

    No doubt this will help Ségolène get over the understandable resentment and jealousy that must have stirred in her as she watched the younger woman Hollande dumped her for standing by his side when he became president.

    But Valérie must be wondering now about the security of her position in this ongoing ménage a trois. After all, not only could Hollande’s nomination make Ségolène the most powerful woman in France, Valérie is surely mindful that she (i.e., Ségolène) is also the only mother of his four children.

    So who’s resentful and jealous now? Karma’s a bitch: meow….

    (“New French President Nominates ‘First Partner’ as Speaker,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 18, 2012)

    After reading the above, a number of French readers took umbrage at my casting their purportedly sophisticated attitude towards intimate relationships as a provincial American-style soap opera.

    Well, based on the latest episode of As the Elysée Turns, it may be that I presumed too much about the sophistication of the characters involved in this political ménage a trois. For the French media were replete with reports last week about the “blind jealousy” that compelled Valérie to take to Twitter – just days before Sunday’s elections for the national assembly – to declare her support not for Ségolène (and Hollande) but for her (i.e., their) opponent.

    (Just imagine the national spectacle/embarrassment if President Obama endorsed a candidate for House Speaker and Michelle then took to Twitter to endorse that candidate’s opponent….)

    And, just to ensure the soap opera that has become the private and public life of this new president continues, Valérie scored what can only be described as pyrrhic victory when Ségolène was defeated. For while she may be gloating over the role she played in ending Ségolène’s career (because Hollande nominated her as speaker based on the reasonable expectation that she would win her seat in the assembly), she may have reignited the enmity of a woman scorned who is now hell-bent on avenging this (latest) public humiliation by Valérie.

    Indeed, Ségolène may have signaled this intent by calling Valérie’s tweet a “political betrayal.” And if Valérie was too consumed with jealousy to appreciate the political and personal consequences of her action, it should prove quite sobering that, according to Le Journal du Dimanche, her tweet so enraged Hollande’s kids (with Segolene) that they are no longer speaking to her.

    Yet surely her spiteful betrayal of Ségolène and unwitting alienation of these kids pales in comparison to her betrayal of Hollande. After all, he made quite a public show of endorsing Ségolène. Which means that having Valérie make quite a public show of endorsing Ségolène’s opponent and then having that opponent win amounts to a double emasculation of Hollande – emulating in perfect symmetry her double humiliation of Ségolène.

    This is why Hollande needs to move quickly to reclaim his political manhood. Because nobody will have any confidence in or respect for his presidency if he allows himself to be so sensationally betrayed and pussy-whipped by a woman who is not even his wife.

    Valérie is clearly a woman who cannot be trusted. He was wise not to marry her, he would be wiser still to get rid of her tout de suite. And, apropos of this relationship playing out like an American soap opera, don’t be surprised if he does and reconciles with Ségolène.

    Stay tuned….

    Related commentaries:
    New French president

  • Monday, June 18, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    Reporter Heckles Obama: Taking Disrespect for Presidency to New Lows

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Perhaps I should have titled this commentary Reporter Heckles Obama: Republicans Taking Disrespect for the Obama Presidency to New Lows. For even though every president has been subjected to some measure of contempt in the rough-and-tumble of partisan politics, no president has been subjected to the kind of contempt Republicans and their media enablers have shown President Obama to his face.

    Most impudent was the way a Republican congressman interrupted Obama during his address to a joint session of Congress in 2009 by shouting “You lie!” at him.  A close second, however, was the way the Republican governor of Arizona greeted him on a visit to that state in January this year by giving him a finger-pointing tongue lashing (for his uppity opposition to her draconian and discriminatory immigration policy) right on the tarmac for all the world to see.

    Even more troubling, though, has been the dog-whistling (i.e., racist) showing of contempt by a thousand little slights.

    Most dastardly was the way far-right Republicans peddled (and continue to peddle) the demonstrably false assertion that Obama is an illegitimate president because he was not born in the United States. A close second, however, was the way they also peddled (and continue to peddle) the demonstrably false assertion that he is a Muslim.

    Well, the latest of these little slights came on Friday when a reporter interrupted Obama while he was making a statement to the White House press corps (coincidentally on immigration policy) – not just by shouting an asinine question at him, but by then refusing to shut up when the president begged him to show a little respect.

    Their truly shocking exchange unfolded in relevant parts as follows:

    Reporter: Why’d you favor foreigners over Americans?

    President Obama: Excuse me, sir. It’s not time for questions, Sir.

    Reporter: No, you have to take questions.

    President Obama: Not while I’m speaking … and the next time I’d prefer you let me finish my statement before you ask that question.

    (Washington Time, June 15, 2012)

    Frankly, what has been most disheartening about the unprecedented showing of contempt towards Obama is the deafening silence among so many erstwhile respectable Republican politicians, suggesting tacit approval, if not encouragement, of it. Interestingly enough, the notable exception has been the Republican Obama defeated for the presidency in 2008, Senator John McCain of Arizona, who has publicly denounced a number of these contemptuous slights.

    At any rate, even though that deafening silence persists in this case, it is noteworthy that a number of erstwhile Republican media enablers have broken ranks.

    Here, for example, is what no less a person than Chris Wallace of FOX News, that presumed media arm of the Republican Party, had to say:

    I covered Ronald Reagan for six years with Sam Donaldson. We used to scream our lungs out asking questions, but we always waited until the president, any president, had finished speaking.

    I think it’s outrageous… The idea that you would interrupt the president in the middle of prepared remarks and shout a question — I don’t think the guy should be allowed back in the White House on a press pass and my guess is he won’t be.

    (The Huffington Post, June 16, 2012)

    The reason Wallace referenced Sam Donaldson, of course, is that nobody was more aggressive in questioning presidents than Donaldson. But despite ostensibly carrying water for ABC News, one of the presumed media arms of the Democratic Party, nobody could accuse Donaldson of ever coming close to showing Reagan any disrespect.

    This is why Donaldson took such justified umbrage when the editor for whom this reporter works suggested that what he did on Friday is no different from what Donaldson used to do:

    What this man did yesterday is something new, to me wrong and unusual. I think it is probably the result of the growing incivility of the times, the competition among reporters and news organizations to be noticed not only for the work product but for the theatrics of the gathering … and there is one more factor, let’s face it: Many on the political right believe this president ought not to be there – they oppose him not for his policies and political view but for who he is, an African American! These people and perhaps even certain news organizations (certainly the right wing talkers like Limbaugh) encourage disrespect for this president.

    (Huffington Post, June 16, 2012)

    Hear, hear Sam.

    In fact, when I read Donaldson’s damning and unassailable rebuke I wasn’t just heartened but flattered. Not least because I’ve been calling out right-wing nuts in similar fashion from day one of Obama’s presidency.

    Here, for example, is what I wrote in Coarsening Trend of Political Debate in America, The iPINIONS Journal, September 14, 2009:

    In an interview on 60 Minutes last night, President Obama lamented the coarsening of political debate and expressed forlorn hope that he could ‘bring civility back to Washington.’

    With all due respect Mr. President, no you can’t. And nothing demonstrates this quite like the way a heretofore obscure Republican Congressman is now being heralded as a latter-day Tom Paine because he had the partisan gall to yell ‘You lie’ at Obama during his speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday…

    The nature of politics is such that I fear the reward he’s getting for his uncivil disobedience will only encourage others to do the same.

    And more recently here in Washington’s Food Fight Over Debt Ceiling, The iPINIONS Journal, July 25, 2011:

    [I]t seems clear that what troubles many Republicans is not the national debt, but the fact that Obama is the first black president of the United States. None of them would admit this of course… Their brazen objective is to undermine his authority and delegitimize his presidency…

    So if you think it’s just a coincidence that Washington under this (first black) president is the most polarized it has been since the Civil War, you’re whistling Dixie.

    Beyond this, conspicuously missing from the rebuke both Wallace and Donaldson offered is any recognition of the media’s complicity in this coarsening of political debate. Because, as I indicated back in 2009, the only reason these yahoos continue to show such unbridled and unprecedented contempt towards this president is that they know the media will ignore everything else, no matter how serious, to cover their calculated antics.  (This, in part, is why we’ve regressed from reporter Walter Cronkite being more popular than any movie star to dingbat Snooki being more popular than any reporter….)

    And so it was in this case that the media headlines coming out of Friday’s press briefing had more to do with this right-wing reporter’s interruption than with Obama’s statement on his new immigration policy. (That policy pertains to his order for Homeland Security to stop deporting underage illegal immigrants who were brought into the country by their parents.)

    Therefore, I urge those rebuking this reporter to join me in rebuking the media as well for giving him the unwarranted publicity he clearly coveted. Apropos of which, it is no accident that I have not even mentioned his name, let alone published his picture.

    Related commentaries:
    Coarsening Trend of Political Debate
    Washington’s Food Fight

  • Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 7:30 AM

    Toon history of the weapons of war

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
    Stuxnet: US cyber attack on Iran

  • Friday, June 15, 2012 at 7:12 AM

    Egypt: Military Coup After Just Five Months of Democracy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Over the past few months, pro-democracy protesters were ruing the fact that those benefiting most from their blood, sweat and tears are members of the Muslim Brotherhood who, after winning control of parliament, seemed hell-bent on turning Egypt into an Islamic state … like Iran.

    Indeed, some protesters were so wistful that they began rallying support for Mubarak loyalist Ahmed Shafiq in this weekend’s presidential runoff election in a desperate bid to prevent the Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi, from winning.

    Our goal is a civil state. We don’t see anyone else who can protect this except for [Shafiq].

    (Montaser Qalbek, son of Azaziya’s town leader, The Times of Israel, June 13, 2012)

    There is a Brotherhood strategy to work toward building an Islamic country.

    (Yousef Sidhom, editor of the weekly Watani newspaper, The Times of Israel, June 13, 2012)

    But their wistfulness must have heightened into buyers’ remorse when the Brotherhood began rallying support to have Shafiq disqualified from the runoff.

    So just imagine the ironic prospect of a once proudly-secular Egypt having a parliament and presidency both controlled by Islamists.  Except that the irony of ironies is that pro-democracy protesters can thank the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (aka the SCAF) for intervening yesterday to prevent this from happening.

    Specifically, the SCAF-backed Supreme Constitutional Court not only ruled that Shafiq can stand in the runoff, but actually dissolved the Brotherhood-controlled parliament, claiming that:

    One-third of Egypt’s members of parliament were invalid because they ran as independents and later joined party blocs [i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood].

    (CNN, June 14, 2012)

    Clearly the intent here is to force Islamists to identify themselves so that voters will not be duped into voting for members of the Brotherhood fronting as independent candidates. What’s more, if by some fluke the Brotherhood’s candidate were to win the presidential runoff, chances are very good that the court will find some reason to invalidate that outcome too.

    Therefore, what is unfolding in Egypt is, in effect, a military coup d’état against the democratically elected government of the Muslim Brotherhood. And if you think the military is serving as deus ex machina just for pro-democracy protesters, think again. Because despite their chest thumping about their democratic values, no two countries are more pleased about what is unfolding there than the United States and Israel.

    (The United States is depending on the military to prevent Iran from usurping its influence in Egypt the way Iran has done in Iraq. Israel is depending on it to uphold the historic Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty that the Brotherhood was already threatening to rescind.  And they are both praying that the billions the United States provides the Egyptian military in aid will prove sufficient inducement in both respects.)

    I never doubted it would be thus. Not least because, like Mubarak, the generals who still control Egypt are far more interested in making hedonistic trips to Paris than religious pilgrimages to Mecca:

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

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

    (“Egypt: Military Savior a Bigger Devil than Mubarak?” The iPINIONS Journal, November 22, 2011)

    Accordingly, the SCAF reacted to the court’s dissolution of parliament by assuming “full legislative control of government.”

    With all due respect to the protesters, the issue is not whether Mubarak will go, for he will. (The man is 82 and already looks half dead for Christ’s sake!) Rather, the issue is who will replace him. And it appears they have not given any thought whatsoever to this very critical question.

    The devil the Egyptians know might prove far preferable to the devil they don’t. Just ask the Iranians who got rid of the Mubarak-like Shah in 1979 only to end up with the Ayatollah—whose Islamic revolution they’ve regretted (and have longed to overturn) ever since….

    (“Army Pledges No Force Against Protesters,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 1, 2011)

    Moreover,

    You’d think these newly-baptized revolutionaries could cool their heels for just one more year while the council facilitates the drafting of a new constitution and the implementation of new policies and procedures to guarantee democratic elections.

    But most of them are kids whose frame of reference is informed not by history or personal experience, but by social networking. As such they seem to think that transitioning from dictatorship to democracy should be as quick and easy as downloading a good-governance app to their PDAs.

    (“Egyptian Revolution II,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 14, 2011)

    And so the post-Mubarak chaos I warned about continues … with more pro-democracy protesters vowing to boycott the runoff than those planning to vote. This, of course, would virtually guarantee the outcome these nincompoop protesters fear most (i.e., the election of the Brotherhood’s candidate) and force the military to intervene again….

    Related commentaries:
    Egypt: Military Savior
    Army pledges no force
    Egypt revolution II

  • Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 6:57 AM

    The Other Shoe Drops: Doping Charges Filed against Lance Armstrong

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I suspect Lance Armstrong thought his legacy was secure when federal prosecutors announced a few months ago that, after investigating all allegations of doping against him, they would not be filing any criminal charges.

    But I warned him back then, in Feds Give Lance Armstrong Reprieve on Doping (February 8, 2012), that popping that champagne cork might be premature. Specifically, I delineated the myriad reasons why, despite clear and convincing evidence of his guilt, the feds decided not to prosecute. Equally important, though, I noted that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) retained a very compelling interest in filing civil charges against him. Well, now it has:

    The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is bringing doping charges against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, threatening to strip his victories in those storied cycling races.

    Armstrong could face a lifetime ban from the sport if he is found to have used performance-enhancing drugs. The move by USADA immediately bans him from competing in triathlons, which he turned to after he retired from cycling last year.

    (The Associated Press, June 13, 2012)

    Lance reacted to this AP report by repeating his they’re-just-jealous line. But, in my February 8 commentary, I not only reiterated my long-held belief that he doped his way to fame and fortune, but also indicated that refusing to feature him in another commentary might be punishment enough.

    Therefore, I shall suffice to reprise that commentary, which makes clear why I think USADA will (and should) strip Lance of his tour victories and ban him from professional sports, like triathlons, for life:

    ______________________

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

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

    (“Lance Armstrong: falling from grace,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 24, 2011)

    The above is a quote from just one of the many commentaries I’ve written over the years on the reasonable suspicion that Lance Armstrong fueled his way to cycling glory on a cocktail of PEDs, which make the cocktail of meds he took to treat his cancer seem like mere aspirin by comparison.

    I was persuaded to predict his legal fate as I did after watching a 60-Minutes probe which featured two of Lance’s long-term teammates retelling the testimony they gave under oath to federal prosecutors about not just witnessing but helping him inject PEDs.

    I saw EPO in his refrigerator… I saw him inject it more than one time like we all did, like I did many, many times. [Lance] took what we all took … the majority of the peloton. There was EPO, testosterone … blood transfusion….

    (Tyler Hamilton, 60 Minutes, May 22, 2011)

    Well, I was wrong. Because, after a two-year investigation, prosecutors announced on Friday that they will not be filing any criminal charges against Lance.

    No doubt this came like a belated Christmas present to him. But it was hardly a vindication of his innocence. After all, prosecutors offered no reason for closing the case, which leaves the public to speculate in perpetuity about his guilt or innocence, and compels me to offer the following take on their decision:

    No matter the nature and amount of the evidence, prosecutors have wide discretion in deciding whether to file charges. In this case, I suspect that, like me, the lead prosecutor believes PEDs should be decriminalized. Moreover, he probably considered the fact that, as 60 Minutes duly revealed, virtually every cyclist who competed against Lance was using PEDs too. (In point of fact, the winner of the 2010 Tour de France, Alberto Contador, was just stripped of his title on Monday and banned for two years for doping.)

    Then there’s last year’s sensational acquittal by a federal jury of baseball’s home-run king, Barry Bonds, on a battery of charges related to his use of PEDs. Not to mention the formidable goodwill Lance has amassed over the years from his heroic bout with testicular cancer and the hundreds of millions he has raised for cancer research through his LIVESTRONG foundation.

    Taken together, I suspect these factors led prosecutors to conclude not only that Lance would probably be acquitted too, but that no public interest would be served by prosecuting (or arguably scapegoating) him for using PEDs. That’s my take.

    Nevertheless, the all-important U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is moving ahead with its separate investigation. Never mind that the only punishment this agency can impose at this point is to inflict further damage to Lance’s already tattered reputation. Yet that is precisely what USADA seems determined to do:

    Unlike the US Attorney, USADA’s job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws. Our investigation into doping in the sport of cycling is continuing and we look forward to obtaining the information developed during the federal investigation.

    (USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart, Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2012)

    As indicated in my opening quote, I’ve seen and read enough to believe that Lance doped his way to cycling fame and fortune. But the Inspector Javert of commentators I am not.

    Therefore, I shall punish him in my own modest way by making this the last time I feature him in a commentary on this site….

    _____________________

    NOTE: It is generally assumed that Lance is a Republican because of his public association with former President George W. Bush. A five-member USADA board will be hearing and ruling on his case. Such is the polarized nature of every facet of life in America today that if that board is comprised of more Republicans/Independents than Democrats, he will be acquitted: sad, pathetic, unfair, but true.

    Related commentaries:
    Feds give Armstrong reprieve

    Lance Armstrong: falling from grace

  • Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 7:21 AM

    ‘Hello1937’ – Putin Turning Russia Back to Stalin Days

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yesterday virtually all major newspapers around the world featured one of two stories about Russia – both of which suggest that the recent restoration of Vladimir Putin as president marked the beginning of political repression at home and cold-war aggression abroad that are eerily reminiscent of Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror. In other words, where China has been keen to fight a Cold War II with the United States on economic terms, Russia seems itching to fight it on the conventional political and military terms that defined the first Cold War.

    What is interesting, however, is that the vast majority of those papers featured the story about how the United States is throwing a hissy fit over Russia’s plan to sell attack helicopters to Syria.  The United States is outraged because everybody knows that Syria’s pariah president, Bashir al-Assad, will use them to purge his country of pro-democracy protesters more effectively.

    We have confronted the Russians about stopping their continued arms shipments to Syria. They have from time to time said that we shouldn’t worry … everything they’re shipping is unrelated to their actions internally. That’s patently untrue.  And we are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically.

    (U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, BBC, June 12, 2012)

    Of course, regular readers will recall that I presaged this story weeks ago, explaining why Putin considers it a categorical imperative to aid and abet Assad’s purge:

    [I]n addition to protecting geostrategic interests, Putin is showing solidarity because Assad happens to be emulating the brute force Putin has used, and intends to continue using, to hold on to power in his own country.

    (“Now Houla: Assad of Syria Continues to Massacre with Impunity,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 29, 2012)

    Which brings me to the story that was featured in the other papers. It was about how Putin dispatched masked goons all over Moscow early yesterday morning to arrest his most vocal critics. He did this in a futile attempt to thwart pro-democracy protests planned for later in the day, which he knew would rival those that led to the downfall of dictators across the Arab world and is now threatening to bring down Assad.

    Most reports focused on claims by defiant protesters that Putin seems intent on emulating Stalin. This is why they show foreboding contempt for his regime by calling it “Hello1937” – a reference to the worst year of Stalin’s infamous purges.  (Estimates of the number of wholly innocent Russians he had killed range from 2 to 20 million.)

    But here too regular readers will recall that I presaged this story years ago – even before Constitutional niceties forced Putin to have his puppet Dmitry Medvedev warm his presidential seat for a term, which gave rise to the restoration I referenced above.

    Here are excerpts from just a few of the commentaries I wrote over the years warning about Putin’s intent to purge political dissent at home and wield political influence abroad in a manner that would make Stalin green with envy:

    Putin is trying to reclaim Russia’s (superpower) sphere of influence in the world; inter alia, by warning Russia’s former satellite states against joining NATO (even though all of them — led by Poland — seem determined to defy him); trying to affect the make-up of East European governments (as he did, to no avail, in Georgia and Ukraine); and forming bilateral relationships with rogue states to counter America’s influence (like selling advanced military equipment to North Korea, Syria, Libya, Cuba and Venezuela).

    (“Putin, a Soul Mate Scorned,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 3, 2005)

    I coined the term ‘putinization’ to describe Putin’s neo-Stalinist tactics, which were (and are) clearly aimed at neutralizing all political dissent, quashing all civil liberties, and making him a latter-day Czar.

    (“Hail Putin,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 3, 2007)

    The only thing that explains Putin’s selection of Medvedev as president is Medvedev’s willingness to be even more deferential to Putin than Zubkov…

    Medvedev went out of his way during his first televised address [as president] to assure the Russian people (and warn the world?) that Putin shall continue to be the most powerful man in Russia. [Here’s a little of what he said]:

    ‘Russia has reclaimed its proper place in the world community. Russia has become a different country, stronger and more prosperous… In order to stay on this path, it is not enough to elect a new president who shares this ideology… That is why I find it extremely important for our country to keep Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin at the most important position in the executive power, at the post of the chairman of the government.’

    (“Putin Taps His Protégé, Medvedev, as His Successor,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 12, 2007)

    Instead of hammering through a self-interested constitutional amendment [to allow him to serve unlimited consecutive terms instead of just two], Putin seemed content to serve as president for life with four-year interregnums by his chosen lap dogs to preserve the patina of democratic legitimacy. Nevertheless, he prevailed upon the Russian parliament to extend presidential terms from four to six years, prospectively; i.e., so that it does not extend Medvedev’s current term by two years, but takes effect only in 2012 when he clearly expects to be re-elected. This will then give him a more comfortable twelve instead of eight years between interregnums.

    (“Remembering Stalin Exposes ‘Tensions’ Between Putin and Medvedev,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 10, 2010)

    So it behooves the United States to understand that threatening Russia with WTO and UN sanctions over Syria will have no impact whatsoever. Because Putin is clearly hell-bent not only on undermining and even challenging the super power the U.S. wields around the world, but also on recreating the Soviet Union that Stalin turned into a superpower at the beginning of Cold War I:

    Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has described the [1991] collapse of the Soviet Union as ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe’ of the 20th century.

    (The BBC, April 25, 2005)

    May God help pro-democracy protesters in Russia and Syria who are now at the mercy of dictators who have nothing to fear but the survival of those protesters

    Related commentaries:
    Now Houla
    Putin, a soul mate scorned
    Putin reforming Russia
    Hail Putin
    Putin taps his protégé
    Putin’s master plan to rule Russia for life
    Remembering Stalin

  • Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    Holy Stuxnet! The White House is Leaking?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt you’ve seen Republicans and their right-wing hit men (most notably pundit Charles Krauthammer) all over the media accusing the White House of compromising nationality security just to make President Obama look good.

    Their accusations pertain to disclosures (aka leaks) that enabled the New York Times and other publications to report on how the United States (and Israel) launched cyber-attacks to undermine Iran’s nuclear and military capability. Curiously enough, the code name for this operation was “The Stuxnet Olympic Games.”

    By all accounts the attacks, which actually began during the Bush Administration, were very successful … until Iran realized in 2010 that its systems were infected by the Stuxnet worm.  But, apropos of leaks, reports are that a mother virus called “The Flame” is capable of giving birth to another infection to take up where Stuxnet left off – worming its way through those nuclear and military systems.

    At any rate, the accuser-in-chief is Senator John McCain (R-AZ); notwithstanding that everything he says seems suffused with pathological resentment over losing the White House and title of commander-in-chief to Obama in 2008:

    Such disclosures can only undermine similar ongoing or future operations and, in this sense, compromise national security. For this reason, regardless of how politically useful these leaks may be to the president, they have to stop.

    They’re intentionally leaking information to enhance President Obama’s image as a tough guy for the elections. That is unconscionable.

    (The New York Times, June 5, 2012)

    Alas, these accusations are resonating. Mind you, it’s not as if this White House is the first to leak information to make the president look good. In fact, accusing a White House of leaking is rather like accusing a dog of barking.

    The problem is that this White House has leaked so ostentatiously it has offended the national-security sensibilities even of Democrats like Senator Diane Feinstein of California. Most notable in this respect is the way it disclosed classified information about the way Obama personally selects terrorists from a “kill list” to be taken out by drone strikes.

    But even my sensibilities were offended when the White House began leaking operational details about the killing of Osama bin Laden as if it were providing post-game analysis after winning the Super Bowl.

    I feel constrained to admonish the Obama Administration and American media alike to appreciate that the transparency in government that applies to civilian activities does not, indeed should not, apply to military operations. Specifically, disclosing blow-by-blow details about this covert operation was not only unnecessary, it was manifestly foolhardy. A general overview would have sufficed.

    Frankly, I fear that in this age of Facebook, Twitter, and WikiLeaks – when people seem obsessed with knowing everything about everything, there’s far too little regard for the critical role secrecy plays in “covert” military operations (i.e., before, during, and after they are executed).

    (“Osama bin Laden Is Dead,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 3, 2011)

    The irony, however, is that it’s being widely reported that the Obama White House has conducted twice as many internal investigations to plug unauthorized leaks (six) as all White Houses from George Washington to George W. Bush combined (three).

    Which is why there can be no denying the specter of payback among Republicans for the way the Bush White House was pilloried and prosecuted for leaking the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame.  And just as VP Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby was convicted for attempting to cover up that leak, Republicans are clearly hoping they can ensnare a top official in this White House for attempting to cover up these leaks.

    Accordingly, McCain and others are calling for an independent counsel to investigate (or go on a witch hunt as would be more the case). In fact, they are salivating for their pound of flesh. This was made abundantly clear when Obama’s attempt to shame them – by reacting to their accusations with righteous indignation during a press conference on Friday – had no effect at all:

    The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It’s wrong.

    (CBS News, June 11, 2012)

    Hell, even his attempt to pacify them – by having Attorney General Eric Holder appoint two prosecutors from the Justice Department to investigate these leaks – had no effect. For instead of being pacified they greeted this gesture by accusing him of using the Justice Department to cover up the leaks.

    Clearly the only thing that will satisfy McCain and his cohorts is the appointment of an independent counsel to do to Obama what independent counsel Ken Starr did to Bill Clinton:  find some reason to impeach him. But we’ve been there, done that. It ain’t gonna happen.

    Still, it behooves all White House officials to remember that, when it comes to political witch-hunts, it’s never the alleged crime (the leaking) but always the cover up (lying to federal authorities about it) that gets you….

    Related commentaries:
    Osama bin Laden is dead

  • Monday, June 11, 2012 at 6:09 AM

    Forget the Miss USA Pageant, Boxing Is (even more) Rigged!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If you are one of the suckers who paid big bucks to watch Saturday’s WBO Welterweight fight in Las Vegas between champion Manny Pacquiao and challenger Timothy Bradley, I hope you realize that you bought into a spectacle that has more in common with reality TV than real sport.

    That said, by all accounts, Pacquiao won the fight. But the judges awarded it to Bradley in a split decision, handing Pacquiao (53-3) his first defeat in seven years and leaving Bradley (29-0) still undefeated.

    Virtually every reporter at ringside had scored it clearly for Pacquiao. HBO’s resident judge Harold Lederman scored it 119-109 in favor of Pacquiao. In an informal survey of boxing writers, all had Pacquiao comfortably ahead.

    (Detroit Free Press, June 10, 2012)

    But the rigging of Boxing matches enjoys such cognitive dissonance that, for me, media reports on this fight are noteworthy not for what the judges did, but for what the promoter said:

    Promoter Bob Arum fumed, the crowd at the MGM Grand arena booed, and Pacquiao seemed stunned when the decision was announced. Arum said there would be a November rematch, though he blasted the way the decision went down.

    ‘Something like this is so outlandish, it’s a death knell for the sport. This is fucking nuts. I have both guys, and I’ll make a lot of money in the rematch, but it’s ridiculous. You have these old fucks who don’t know what the hell they’re looking at. It’s incompetence. Nobody who knows anything about boxing could have Bradley ahead in the fight.’ said Arum, who handles both fighters.

    (Associated Press, June 10, 2012)

    Wink, wink…. It’s elementary folks, the more controversy Arum incites over the decision in this fight, the more demand he creates for a rematch.

    But it’s one thing for this P.T. Barnum of Boxing to feign outrage while boasting about laughing all the way to the bank. It’s quite another for the AP to report it without at least citing the cynicism inherent in Arum’s self-promoting remarks.

    To be fair, though, one does not have to be a mind reader to get what this shameless huckster really has in mind, namely: a trilogy of high-paying fights between Bradley and Pacquiao with such hype going into the third fight that it would make the hype before The Thrilla in Manilla, the third (and most-famous) fight between Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier, seem positively genteel.

    That Arum already had a date set – complete with posters made – for Bradley vs. Pacquiao 2 even before their first fight betrays his venal intent. What’s more, you can just imagine how he pitched this three-fight fix to both fighters months ago (remember, as the AP blithely reports, he “handles” both of them):

    Okay Manny, you’re the champ and you ain’t lost a fight in seven years. But it ain’t like you’re gonna break Rocky Marciano’s record of 49-0. You already lost two fights.  And you, Timmy Boy, you got a good thing goin’ here with your 29-0 record. But we both know that in a straight-up fight Manny will beat the shit outta you.  

    So here’s what we’re gonna do: We’re gonna have three fights; the first one Timmy will win by a split decision to build up interest for the second. But for that first fight Manny, you’re gonna be guaranteed $26 million, plus a percentage of the pay-per-view loot which could double that.  And Timmy, you’ll be guaranteed $5 million, which will be the biggest pay day of your goddamn career baby!

    But here’s where it gets good: Within six months we’ll have a rematch, and this time Manny will win by a split decision and you’ll both be guaranteed at least $40 million plus.  The fans will then be so hooked they’ll be begging for that third match the way junkies beg for their next fix. And trust me, they’ll pay anything to see it.

    So within six months after that second fight, we’ll give them their fix – the third match. Manny will win, but you’ll both be guaranteed over $50 million plus. But look here Manny, you’ll be 34; that’s the ideal age to get outta this game. You’re a part-time congressman in Manilla, but you go full time into politics and by the time you’re 40 you can become president of the Philippines where you’re already a fucking national hero.  That would leave our 28-year-old Timmy Boy here to take on that loud mouth Mayweather….

    And trust me, if that equally shameless huckster Donald Trump can induce (i.e., bribe) 15 judges to rig his beauty pageant according to his whim, Arum can easily do the same with 3 judges for a prize fight he promotes.

    Nobody used to be a bigger boxing fan than I. But when Mike Tyson and others turned it into a spectacle that rivals professional wrestling, I tuned out.

    Apropos of this, here, in part, is what I wrote two years ago when Arum created a spectacle of his own by claiming that Pacquiao is the best fighter he’d ever seen. I suspect you’ll agree that what I wrote back then presaged what unfolded last night:

    I too have seen all of the great champions that Arum dismisses as mere contenders, and I have yet to see any fighter display the combination of power, speed, and style (or poetry in motion) that Muhammad Ali did in his prime…

    For the sake of argument, however, in a match between both fighters in their prime, I doubt even Arum would deny that Ali would put even more of a beating on Pacquiao than Pacquiao put on Margarito on Saturday night…

    But nothing demonstrates how unworthy Pacquiao is of Arum’s praise than the fact that he has done everything possible to avoid getting into the ring with the man generally regarded as ‘the best pound-for-pound fighter’ in the world today, Floyd Mayweather Jr. …

    Finally, if none of my arguments convince you that Arum’s contention is bullshit, just bear in mind that he’s Pacquiao’s fight promoter. And, as any promoter knows, hype – no matter how absurd – sells.

    (“Pacquiao – the Best Fighter Ever?!,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 18, 2012)

    Alas, the gate and pay-per-view receipts for last night’s fight will undoubtedly show that there really is a sucker born every minute.

    So here’s to Bradley vs. Pacquiao 2. And as for that third fight, don’t be surprised if Arum stages it on Pacquiao’s home turf to emulate the Ali vs. Frazier trilogy in every respect.

    I just hope these guys don’t end up feeling about Arum – who appears to be helping them pocket tens of millions, the way Mike Tyson ended up feeling about his promoter, Don King – who  appeared to be helping him pocket hundreds of millions … but who Tyson later sued for the $100 million King allegedly skimmed off his earnings:

    [King is] a wretched, slimy, reptilian motherfucker. This is supposed to be my ‘black brother’ right? He’s just a bad man, a real bad man. He would kill his own mother for a dollar. He’s ruthless, he’s deplorable, he’s greedy, and he doesn’t know how to love anybody.

    (‘Tyson’ the documentary, 2008)

    Related commentaries:
    Pacquiao – the best fighter ever?!

    * This commentary was published originally yesterday, Sunday, at 5:29 pm

  • Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 6:14 AM

    UN pledged this week to get even tougher with Syria. Yeah, right!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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