• Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    What next? CIA funded Afghan drug trade?! Oh, right…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


  • Friday, August 23, 2013 at 8:07 AM

    Why Is killing with gas (Syria) any more inhumane than killing with guns (Egypt)?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In a rare show of unity, the United States and Russia are calling on the United Nations to investigate claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on Wednesday to kill over 1000 people, including women and children.


    All indications are that the United States is trying to enlist a coalition of nations willing to launch military strikes to weaken, if not to kill, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and strengthen opposition forces.

    By contrast, however, all indications are that Russia is trying to enlist a coalition of nations willing to blame opposition forces for using those chemical weapons. Beyond this, though, is the more cynical likelihood that, just as it did with respect to U.S. intervention in Libya, Russia (along with China, incidentally) is doing all it can to undermine the legitimacy of any U.S. military action – not to defend Syria as much as to insulate itself from international condemnation if (or when) it takes military action … against a (relatively) hapless foe.

    To be fair though, Russia insists that it is standing on the principle that no nation has the right to interfere in the domestic affairs of another. Except that this principle is patently self-serving and unsustainable. Not least because, pursuant to it, Russia would have to oppose an international coalition to intervene even if Assad were exterminating millions of Jews the way Hitler did during World War II.

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

    For what it’s worth, I suspect South Ossetia/Abkhazia was Russia’s Sudetenland – the testing/training ground for a forthcoming campaign to reclaim its sphere of influence throughout the former Soviet republics….


    ‘Our red line was the use of chemical weapons. That was crossed a couple of months ago and the president took action,’ said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. ‘If these [new] reports are true it would be an outrageous escalation in the use of chemical weapons by the regime, and there would be a range of further options for us to take.’

    (London Guardian, August 22, 2013)

    I fully appreciate why the use of chemical weapons incites such visceral condemnation. When all of the guilt-assuaging moralizing is done, however, even President Obama will be hard-pressed to explain why the Egyptian military killing 1000 people with guns does not cross a “red line,” but the Syrian military doing so with gas does.

    Not to mention him trying to explain why Assad has been allowed to preside over the slaughtering of 120,000 in the two-plus years since he commanded this Syrian leader “to go.” For surely the triggering mechanism for international intervention should be the fact that a military dictatorship is killing an unconscionable number of innocent people, not how that military is doing so, no?

    Mind you, given that Obama seemed perfectly willing to stand by and watch him massacre over 100,000 people with conventional weapons, doesn’t it seem just a little odd that Assad would literally goad Obama into launching military strikes by crossing his red line so brazenly … just to kill one thousand with chemical weapons? I mean, Assad is clearly a genocidal maniac, but there’s no indication that he’s a suicidal fool as well.

    Anyway, does anyone think the Holocaust would have been more humane if Hitler had used firing squads instead of gas chambers…?

    And don’t get me started on the contradiction inherent in Obama threatening war over Assad ordering his military to gas 1000 people in Syria but, evidently, not having his conscience even stirred over indicted war criminal Omar al-Bashir ordering Arab militias to ethnically cleanse hundreds of thousands of Black Africans from Darfur, Sudan; or, worse still, over tribal warlords fomenting Rwandan-style genocide in the DR Congo that has already seen over five million people, many of them children, slaughtered. I respectfully submit that these are the kinds of unconscionable atrocities that should trigger foreign intervention.

    But it would be remiss of me not to also mention the fallacy inherent in Obama launching military strikes against Syria to reinforce America’s credibility with rouge nations like Iran and North Korea….


    Incidentally, regarding Egypt, I cannot reiterate the following too many times:

    I find it curious that Obama is effectively calling on the Egyptian military to guarantee the protesters’ democratic aspirations. Ironically, he and other Western leaders seem to believe that the best way to transition from Mubarak’s dictatorship to democracy is by installing a de facto military dictatorship.

    The problem, however, is that in almost every case where this strategy has been deployed (e.g. in Pakistan and Burma), the military ended up overstaying its welcome … by years, if not decades.

    (“Crisis in Egypt: the End Game,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 4, 2011)

    Alas, Obama is clearly laying the groundwork (or setting up an eerily familiar pretext) for launching military strikes against Syria. This, notwithstanding the likelihood that the only thing the United States will accomplish is to make Syria more hospitable for al-Qaeda terrorists, just as U.S. strikes against Libya did.

    Hell, forget trying to get Russia to hand over Snowden, it speaks volumes that the United States cannot even get the Libyan government, which its bombing (of Gaddafi) helped install, to hand over the terrorists who attacked its consulate in Benghazi last year (on 9/11), killing four Americans, including its ambassador.

    Moreover, apropos of that eerily familiar pretext, it seems Obama has already forgotten that the United States wasted thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, over 10 years, trying to liberate Iraq. Yet today no president of the United States would dare set foot in Baghdad; whereas any president of Iran would be greeted there like, well, a liberator.

    When will these naïve, trigger-happy Americans ever learn…? And by the way, why hasn’t it occurred to any of the brilliant military strategists advising Obama that, far from preventing any further use of chemical weapons, bombing Syria might just provoke Assad to use them even more…? After all, the menace is not chemical weapons; it’s depraved leaders who order their use. Which is why, unless the United States takes out Assad and his military leadership, it can bomb Syria till kingdom come … but it will be to no avail.

    This, however, begs the following: Like Assad, Chinese leaders demonstrated at Tiananmen Square that they have no scruples about ordering the military to massacre thousands of their own people with conventional weapons to retain power and control. But if they ordered the military to massacre not 1000, but 100,000 with chemical weapons, does anyone think the United States and its allies would be even debating, let alone mobilizing for, military strikes against China…?

    082713_ff_lippold_640In any event, I trust the above makes clear why I would find military strikes against Syria every bit as unjustified as I found the invasion of Iraq (in 2003). As morally objectionable as it is to see images of women and children who have been gassed, I stand by my advice for Obama to let the Syrians sort out their own mess — so long as they keep it within their own borders.

    But let me hasten to clarify that this does not preclude the United States from escalating its involvement by proxy (with arms, training, and intelligence) to counter what it claims are efforts by Russia, China, and Iran to help Assad defeat opposition forces. I would only add the admonition I provided before the United States weighed in to help opposition forces in Egypt tip the scales against Hosni Mubarak: the devil you know (Assad) may prove far preferable to the one you don’t (an al-Qaeda-sympathizing Islamist). I recall all too well that just two years ago (on the March 27, 2011 edition of Face the Nation), then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was hailing Assad as a “reformer;” in other words, a man the United States can do business with….

    Finally, I hope the irony is not lost on anyone that Obama, who won the presidency in 2008 primarily by criticizing George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, is now emulating Bush’s march of folly — complete with his own misguided fixation on WMDs.

    NOTE: Am I the only one who finds it more than a little ironical, if not hypocritical, that the United States, the purported guardian of world peace, has been involved in more military conflicts since World War II (72) than Russia and China, those purported enablers of world conflict, combined…? (See, William Blum, “A Brief History of U.S. Interventions: 1945 to the Present,” Z Magazine, June 1999)

    Related commentaries:
    Assad massacring
    Egyptians longing for Mubarak

  • Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 5:35 AM

    Area 51 Revealed: Is Nothing Secret?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    For decades conspiracy nuts have been competing with paranormal kooks to divine what top secrets the U.S. government was hiding within the confines of Area 51.

    Unknown-1Area 51, of course, is the place – located about 125 miles northwest of Las Vegas – that was to The X-Files what Washington, DC is to House of Cards. Most notably, it is where many believed the government was detaining and experimenting on extraterrestrials. Never mind that it is far more likely that, in any such Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the aliens would be more like Europeans coming to conquer the “New World” than like lost sheep coming to the slaughter….

    Well, the secrets of Area 51 are no more. Because, perhaps fearing it’s only a matter of time before some agent pulls a Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden, the CIA released documents detailing exactly what has been going on there all these years:

    Area 51 was merely a testing site for the government’s U-2 and OXCART aerial surveillance programs. The U-2 program conducted surveillance around the world, including over the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

    (CNN, August 16, 2013)

    In other words, all of those flying saucers and other UFO sightings that so fascinated people throughout much of the twentieth century were nothing more than military boys playing with their toys.

    Of course, this will come as no surprise to anyone who bothered to read any of the many reliable accounts over the years about the activities at Area 51. I can cite, for example, Annie Jacobesen’s bestselling book, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base … with “military” being the operative word.

    imagesHell, even the extraterrestrial myth surrounding the “Roswell UFO incident” in 1947 stems from nothing more than an all too terrestrial military accident, which is well documented. But just imagine how many civilian sightings there might’ve been of the military’s flying saucer-looking stealth bomber during this plane’s top-secret testing phase. What’s more, it’s easy to see how civilians, coming across debris from crashes during the testing phase of this and similar aircrafts would assume it must have been from some alien spacecraft.

    I appreciate, of course, that many people are simply too vested in the myth of UFOs and space aliens, or too disillusioned by the reality of NSA spying, to believe the government even when it purports to be coming clean.

    Whatever the case, these CIA releases actually affirm what most of us in Washington, DC have always believed; namely, that what passes for top secret is more often than not so mundane as to be downright boring. Have you tried reading any of the much-ballyhooed WikiLeaks disclosures? Trust me, a third-rate spy novel is far more riveting, to say nothing of the stuff of John le Carré.

    images-2Mind you, if Area 51 were truly a site of other-worldly secrets, which successive presidents have deemed too sensitive for public disclosures, I would hope the agency responsible for keeping those secrets could do a better job than the NSA has done of keeping secret its civilian spying programs.

    Because, unlike Julian Assange and all of his WikiLeaks enablers, I do not believe the public has a right to know all government secrets, or about everything it does. That’s why we have “top secret” classifications and secret agents who do covert operations, no?

    Area 51 aside, I feel obliged to stress that, if the NSA must submit to adversarial court proceedings before it can spy on Americans for national security reasons (as advocates for civil liberties are demanding), then surely the press should be required to do no less before it can publish government secrets that could compromise that security.

    After all, the Guardian’s Glen Greenwald is reveling in worldwide fame and critical acclaim for serializing government secrets as if they were titillating excerpts from Fifty Shades of Grey. So it’s only a matter of time before every journalist begins chasing after government secrets like greyhounds chasing after rabbits. In fact, cognitive dissonance in journalism now clearly holds that betraying national security in pursuit of Pulitzers is no vice.

    Meanwhile, don’t get me started on the ignorance inherent in people venting outrage over the NSA collecting communications data in a thankless effort to protect them from terrorist attacks, while blithely allowing social media and credit card companies to collect (and track) far more personal data just to sell them stuff.

    This is why passing off public opinion polls on what the NSA does as news is rather like passing off Duck Dynasty as high drama.

    After all, the vast majority of those polled are probably too ignorant to even know what NSA stands for (Nothing’s Secret Anymore…? Ha!), let alone offer any intelligent opinion on what the U.S. should do to further its national security interests.

    Related commentaries:
    Bradley Manning…WikiLeaks

  • Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 5:24 AM

    Musharraf, Former Pakistani President and Army Chief, Charged with Bhutto Assassination

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It would be an understatement to say that Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former president and army chief, is experiencing a fall from grace worse than that of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s former president and army chief. Especially given that while Egyptian authorities are now scheming to set Mubarak free, Pakistani authorities are scheming to imprison Musharraf for life; that is, if they don’t execute him.

    images-3I should disclose here that, even though he was a certifiable despot and megalomaniac, I have a soft spot for Musharraf; admittedly, for many of the same reasons TV viewers have a soft spot for Tony Soprano. More important, though, I do not think he had anything to do with the assassination in 2007 of Benazir Bhutto, the globally acclaimed first female prime minister of Pakistan.

    Unfortunately, this murder charge might be the least of those that will seal his fate. For the irony cannot be lost even on Musharraf that the man he deposed in 1999, Nawaz Sharif, now heads the government that is also charging him with treason for attempting to purge and stack the judiciary – by appointing judges and prosecutors who share his political ideology. On this charge, I fear, he is probably guilty. It might be helpful to know, however, that presidents of the United States do this (i.e., attempt to stack the judiciary) as a matter of course….

    But he faces another murder charge in relation to the death of a Pakistani nationalist leader; and seems likely to be indicted on other charges stemming from his iron-fisted, nine-year rule.

    images-2Musharraf has been under house arrest ever since his ill-advised and utterly incomprehensible return in March after nearly four years in exile. I am convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that, with a Pakistani judiciary now hell-bent on vengeance, he will never be free again….

    As an indication of my antic fondness for him (or in homage to his leadership), here are excerpts from just some of the commentaries I’ve written over the years, which should also suffice to put his current predicament into context.

    • “Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf: A Friend In Need Who’s a Friend Indeed,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 7, 2007:

    In which I hailed the fact that Musharraf risked being called a traitor by fellow Pakistanis and becoming a target for assassination by Taliban insurgents for making such a public show of his intent to help the United States hunt down Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda terrorists. (Never mind what it says about his effectiveness given later revelations that bin Laden was hiding out right in Musharraf’s back yard when he was boasting about this anti-terror common cause….)

    • “Day of Reckoning for America’s Most-Favored Dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 24, 2007:

    In which I warned that the Supreme Court’s decision to defy his wishes – by paving the way for his nemesis Sharif to return from exile, without fear of arrest – was a foreshadowing of things to come, which prompted me to urge him to flee. I noted specifically that:

    Bush and Musharraf are acutely aware that Musharraf does not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning a free and fair election in Pakistan. And nothing assured them of his ignominious defeat quite like yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to allow the man he deposed, the exiled Sharif, to return home, without prejudice…

    If Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League were to win, they might well brand Musharraf a traitor and Bush himself a terrorist.

    In which case, it would behoove Musharraf to follow the trail so many of his predecessors have blazed into exile. And, frankly, given the numerous assassination attempts on his life, it would be understandable if Musharraf decided that he’d be better off enjoying time in London, spending the millions he skimmed from U.S. military aid, than wasting time in Pakistan chasing Islamic terrorists.

    • “Crocodile Tears in West as Musharraf Imposes Martial Law,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 5, 2007:

    In which I decried Musharraf’s decision to defy Bush and other Western leaders by imposing martial law, suspending the constitution, replacing the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and postponing parliamentary elections, indefinitely, all in a vain attempt to forestall democratic efforts to outs him.

    But I also noted this ironic, if not fateful, potential consequence of his dictatorial decrees:

    Bhutto must be acutely aware that, but for Musharraf’s military regime, al-Qaeda sympathizers would probably have little difficulty perfecting their attempts to assassinate her. And, no doubt this fact is fresh in her mind – given the attempt they bungled so spectacularly on October 18 as she was parading through one million Pakistanis who were celebrating her triumphal return after eight years in exile…

    Whatever the case, there’s no denying that both Musharraf and Bhutto will enjoy far greater personal safety in a Pakistan under martial law than in one where the free movement and association of would-be assassins – who want to kill him as much as they want to kill her – remained unchecked.

    • Unknown-3‘The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto: a Rendezvous with Destiny,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 28, 2007:

    In which I reasoned that, by imposing martial law, he basically assumed responsibility for Bhutto’s fate. Accordingly:

    Bhutto’s avenging supporters are blaming President Pervez Musharraf for her death. Not least because Bhutto repeatedly warned that if (or when) she’s assassinated, her blood would be on his hand…

    Never mind that Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders had issued a practically unpreventable fatwa against her simply because they consider it a religious abomination for a woman to hold political office, let alone lead a Muslim country; or that there were countless other factions in Pakistan lying in wait to assassinate her…

    But frankly, Musharraf was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t. Because just last month, Bhutto condemned him for preventing her from holding a political rally at the very location where she was assassinated yesterday because he deemed it be unsafe. But he clearly knows that her supporters are too hysterical at the moment to appreciate his saying, ‘I told you so….’

    In this same commentary, I added crucially, however, that:

    The irony is not lost on me that had Musharraf not caved in to Bhutto’s demand to lift the state of emergency on December 15, she would probably still be alive today.

    • “Musharraf  Suffers Humiliating Blow at the Polls,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 21, 2008:

    In which, well, I warned it would be thus. (See above in “Day of Reckoning….”)

    • “President Pervez Musharraf Forced to Resign,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 18, 2008:

    In which I bemoaned the way he compounded his humiliation at the polls by refusing to bow out gracefully, voluntarily, immediately:

    What is most noteworthy about this development is the self-evident fact that the only advice Musharraf heeded came from the White House in July after President George W. Bush’s first meeting with Pakistan’s new prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani.

    I have no doubt that Musharraf began packing his bags when Bush, his indispensable political patron, welcomed Gilani with open arms…

    Enjoy London Pervez!

    And alas, finally:

    • “Musharraf Facing Arrest in Pakistan,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 13, 2013:

    In which I wondered why he could not have left well enough alone:

    By all accounts, he was living quite comfortably between London and Dubai and traveling the world to regale anyone who would listen with stories about why Pakistan would be a much more stable and reliable friend of the West today if he were still in charge. Of course, he was always at a loss to explain why Osama bin Laden was invited to set up a rather ostentatious haven in Pakistan, right in a military town no less, while he was still in charge.  But I digress….

    Imagine my consternation, therefore, when I read that he returned last month to enter the fractious politics of Pakistan, pinning clearly delusional hope on being elected president.

    So here we are.

    Related commentaries:
    A friend in need
    Day of reckoning for America’s most-favored dictator?…
    Musharraf impose martial law
    Assassination of Benazir Bhutto
    Musharraf suffers
    Forced to resign…
    Arrest warrant for Musharraf

  • Monday, August 19, 2013 at 6:23 AM

    Egyptians Longing for Mubarak…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Anyone who insists that it’s bad form to say, “I told you so,” has probably never had a real cause to say so.

    Accordingly, I hope you’ll forgive me for juxtaposing news reports on the bloody turmoil now spiraling out of control in Egypt with my commentaries dating back to the germinating days of the Arab Spring, when I warned such turmoil would come.

    images-4First, here is how Reuters reported on this existential conflict just yesterday:

    Egypt’s prime minister has proposed disbanding the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, the government said on Saturday, raising the stakes in a bloody struggle between the state and Islamists for control of the country…

    The interior ministry said 173 people died in clashes across Egypt on Friday, bringing the death toll from three days of carnage to almost 800…

    The interior ministry said that 1,004 Muslim Brotherhood ‘elements’ had been arrested in the last 24 hours, accusing members of Morsi’s movement of committing acts of terrorism.

    Now here is how I presaged all that is now unfolding over two years ago:

    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 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)

    Unknown-1As it turned out, it took little time for Morsi to prove himself a bigger devil than Mubarak:

    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.

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


    It comes as no surprise to me that there are just as many pro-democracy protesters in Tahrir Square today as there were at the height of the protest movement against Mubarak almost two years ago.

    Nor is the irony lost on me that, instead of a ‘benign’ dictator, they are protesting against a democratically elected president who fancies himself a latter-day pharaoh.

    (“Egypt Redux: Morsi the Pharaoh…?” The iPINIONS Journal, December 5, 2012)

    imagesAnd, with the Army now treating the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters like al-Qaeda terrorists, it is not only making a mockery of its pledge of no force against protesters, but the country’s ruling military general, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, now seems hell-bent on proving himself a bigger devil than Morsi. Not to mention the circular irony of al-Sisi, a former protégé of the deposed Mubarak, now presiding over a government that has Morsi under house arrest awaiting trial on charges that are eerily similar to those that had Mubarak serving a life sentence … until yesterday, when he was released from prison—ostensibly pursuant to ongoing criminal proceedings. Got that?

    And so it goes:

    The only thing that will satisfy these protesters — who clearly have no ability to lead Egypt’s transition and have no faith in the ability of anyone else to do so — is replicating throughout the entire country the festive state of anarchy that reigns among them in Tahrir Square [i.e., never-ending revolution].

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

    r-OBAMA-hugeMeanwhile, everyone is looking to the United States, the Egyptian Army’s purported enabling patron, to do something to restore order, if not democracy.

    Except that it was the United States that gave tacit approval to the Army to depose Morsi in the first place, which turned an already chaotic and admittedly untenable political situation into the bloody mess that is now unfolding:

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

    (“Crisis in Egypt: the End Game,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 4, 2011)

    2013-07-06-egypt-military-coup-synonyms-political-cartoonBut Obama is feeling considerable heat to end this Faustian relationship, which U.S. presidents have maintained with other military dictators and autocratic monarchs throughout the Muslim world for over half a century. Here is an example of that heat – radiating from a joint statement Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., issued on Friday:

    The massacre of civilians this week in Egypt has brought our longstanding relationship with that country to a fork in the road. The interim civilian government and security forces – backed up, unfortunately, by the military – are taking Egypt down a dark path, one that the United States cannot and should not travel with them.

    We urge the Obama Administration to suspend U.S. assistance to Egypt.

    (NBC News, August 17, 2013)

    Except that, well, I warned about this too:

    What is driving these tensions is that, just as the protesters clearly no longer fear military reprisals, the generals no longer fear U.S. reprisals…

    In effect, they are now daring the United States to withdraw its $1.3 billion in annual military aid and risk losing what little influence it retains in this most powerful country in the Arab world. And the United States will cave because [it believes that] repairing this fractured relationship is even more in its geopolitical interest (to help defend Israel, defend the Suez Canal, and curtail the influence of radical Islam – especially in the Sinai) than it is in Egypt’s.

    [Not to mention that] China and Russia are probably whispering in Egypt’s left ear that it would be more than happy to pick up the slack – without all of the self-righteous moralizing about democracy. Or that the Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, are already propping up the military with billions — no doubt fearful that a democratic revolution or an Islamist insurgency would threaten their idyllic governing monarchies.

    (“‘Liberated’ Egypt Thumbing Nose at U.S.,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 7, 2012)

    In other words, cutting off aid would seem a very consequential case of cutting off nose to spite face. Nevertheless, cutting off this aid is a categorical imperative. After all, if Eric Snowden’s NSA leaks have not already done so, the United States now risks forfeiting any chance of attaining moral authority, clarity, and consistency in its foreign policy if it continues funding the military’s ongoing slaughter and incarceration of so many innocent Egyptian people.

    Unknown-1In fact, I advised in my July 4 commentary, “A Democratic Military Coup…?,” that the United States should leave Egyptians to sort out their own mess, just as it is doing with Syria. Not least because the claim that it has to continue propping up military dictatorships and autocratic monarchies in the Middle East for Israel’s sake is belied by the fact that Israel has already demonstrated its ability to defend itself against all Arab states … combined.

    Besides, cutting this hopelessly compromised aid would enable the Americans to rectify their patent charade of refusing to enter into formal military alliance with the Jews (“God’s chosen people”) to avoid offending the Arabs…. Especially given that former President George W. Bush has already let the cat out of the bag. Because, according to the February 2, 2006 edition of the Washington Post, when asked if the United States would come to Israel’s defense, Bush replied in his inimitably cocksure manner, “You bet, we’ll defend Israel.”

    Then, of course, it would be the United States daring Egypt to retaliate by doing anything that directly threatens America’s strategic interests — like impeding passage of U.S. ships through the Suez Canal.

    Finally, I’m on record providing this ominous, yet hopeful, outlook:

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

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

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

    In the meantime, the ominous side of this outlook is clearly beginning to dawn on people on all sides of the motley factions struggling for control of Egypt today. Which explains why:

    People want Mubarak-style security again.

    (BBC, August 16, 2013)

    Apropos of this, I wonder what has become of Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Google executive who became so identified with the uprising against Mubarak (and who seemed to relish being touted as its de facto spokesman) that TIME named him one of the world’s most influential people in 2011…?

    images-5In any event, there might be a silver lining in the dark clouds hovering over Egypt even for the immediate future. Specifically, the military’s propaganda is clearly aimed at deflecting blame for its atrocities by scapegoating al-Qaeda – complete with yesterday’s arrest of Mohammed Al-Zawahiri, the brother of al-Qaeda central’s (Egyptian) leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

    But this might be sufficient provocation to goad al-Qaeda affiliates into retreating from places like the United States, Europe, and Africa to launch a reign of terror in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Not least because Egypt is the birthplace of al-Qaeda’s fundamentalist jihad (thanks to Sayyid Qutb), and Saudi Arabia is an even bigger (financial) patron of the Egyptian military than the United States.

    NOTE: Barring some seminal event, which even I cannot foresee at this point, I shall have no further comment on the inferno and purgatory that will define life in Egypt until they arrive at their paradise on earth, namely, a democratically elected government that all warring factions can live with….

    Related commentaries:
    Army pledges no force
    Military coup
    Egypt redux
    Egypt revolution II
    Crisis in Egypt
    Liberated Egypt
    Military savior

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 8:53 am

  • Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 6:03 PM

    Horseback Riders “saved” Hannah Anderson…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The latest faux heroes reveling in their 15 minutes of fame are the four horsemen of the Idaho wilderness who ran into Hannah Anderson and her “Uncle Jim” DiMaggio in the backcountry.

    UnknownThe four are retired sheriff-turned-rancher Mark John and his wife Christa, and Mike Young and his wife Mary. Perhaps you’ve seen them on TV regaling viewers with their heroics from that chance encounter.

    Here, in part, is what they’re saying:

    I seen on her face was pretty much fear. I didn’t like what I’d seen on his face. She was in survival mode….

    (NBC, August 17, 2013)

    Unfortunately, all reporters are such saps for a good story these days that it never occurred even to seasoned NBC reporter Kevin Tibbles to ask: why, if it was so obvious that this teenage girl was in distress (or even danger), did you not try to rescue her?

    After all, according to them, it would have been 5 against 1; and, with one of them being a retired sheriff (and I assume at least two of them armed with shotguns), surely they would have been able to detain him, no?

    Instead, they left her in the wilderness with a man they reasonably suspected was her abductor — who they had to have known would either rape and abuse her, repeatedly, or kill her. And they only called the cops “the next afternoon” – after they were safely back home and just happened to see the Amber Alert on TV.

    Heroes? I don’t think so.

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  • Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:50 AM

    Women coming out of woodwork (now) just giving Filner what he wants

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


  • Friday, August 16, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Fated Fall from Grace

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am mindful of God’s admonition that he will visit the ‘iniquity of the fathers upon the sons.’ But I pray that HE will decree that Jesse Jackson Jr. has done enough good deeds as a public servant to be exempted from this cursed fate.

    (“Despite His Father…,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 13, 2008)

    Jesse_Jackson_Jr_Sentencing_-0a321Alas, God did not answer my prayer:

    Jackson, son of the famed civil rights leader and former presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, was sentenced Wednesday to 30 months in prison for misusing $750,000 in campaign funds, in what the prosecuting attorney called ‘one of the most significant abuses of the campaign-finance system’ ever. Jackson pleaded guilty in February to improperly spending campaign funds on a $43,000 Rolex, a mink cashmere cape, Michael Jackson’s $4,600 fedora, and thousands of dollars worth of ‘Bruce Lee memorabilia,’ among other items.

    Jackson’s wife, Sandra, was also sentenced Wednesday to one year in prison for filing false joint tax returns over a six-year period.

    (This Week, August 14, 2013)

    Of course, the “reverend” father could be forgiven for seeking some measure of absolution, for his son, given the example of conspicuous consumption – paid for by dubious means – that he set for Jesse’s Jr. to follow.

    I’ve had to raise many questions myself about, did I confuse success with sickness. Jesse has been driven to succeed to be effective.

    (WGN Chicago, August 14, 2013)

    money_jackson__76612.1332969479.1280.1280Except that Jesse Sr. is now confusing “sickness” with the good old-fashioned greed that had his son living the lifestyle of the rich and famous on nothing more than his congressional salary. For the only sickness Jesse Jr. manifested was the delusion that he could do the crime so ostentatiously and not do the time.

    And for the record, bear in mind that politics is their game, but money is their aim. Father and son actually summed up this fact (with no hint of irony) in the title of their seminal 1999 book, It’s all about the MONEY!, on the Jackson family’s political enterprises.

    Meanwhile, the pithy parting words Jesse Jr. offered after sentencing on Wednesday speak volumes about his abiding conceit and sense of entitlement:

    I still believe in the power of forgiveness; I believe in the power of redemption… And I still believe in resurrection.

    (NBC News, August 15, 2013)

    But talk about delusional: On the one hand, Jesse Jr. seems to be casting himself as both Jesus and Barabbas.  On the other hand, he seems to believe that the moral/categorical imperative now is not for him to repent and make restitution for his sins, but for his voters to forgive him so that he could resurrect his political career, which for him would constitute (political) redemption.

    Good riddance, Jesse!

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  • Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 6:27 AM

    Hannah Anderson, Rescued Kidnap Victim, Posts Cutesy Selfies to Help Her Grieve…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Unknown-1Like most people, I was riveted last week to the unfolding tragedy that befell the family of Hannah Anderson. Hannah is the 16-year-old California girl who was allegedly kidnapped by a family friend, James “Uncle Jim” DiMaggio, after he killed her mother and younger brother and left their bodies behind in his home, which he burned to the ground.

    A few friends will attest to my abiding belief that there was/is much more to this story than a murdering, psycho-obsessed, dirty old man trying to live out a Lolita fantasy in some perverted version of Into the Wild … in the wilderness of Idaho. And I’m not referring to reports about DiMaggio’s father being accused of an eerily similar kidnapping years ago….

    article-2392452-1B357210000005DC-247_634x584As things turned out, federal agents shot him dead on Saturday after an intensive, six-day manhunt. Thankfully, they rescued Hannah unharmed. But this means that only one side of this story will ever be told.

    Apropos of which, I had reservations about publishing my suspicions about her being more of a willing participant in this tragedy (as a cunning, teenage runaway) than a wholly innocent victim. But that all changed when Hannah began spinning her one-sided story in an online chat room within 48 hours after being “rescued.”

    article-2392452-1B488EA5000005DC-643_634x795After all, she gave credence to my suspicions not just by sharing details of her ordeal in strikingly clinical, if not calculating, fashion, but by complimenting those details with post-kidnap selfies showing her looking like she did not have a care in the world and could not be happier.

    Incidentally, in light of the Snowden disclosures, wouldn’t it be helpful and perfectly acceptable, in fact, if the NSA could produce transcripts of all communications (phone, email, text, etc.) between Hannah and DiMaggio in the days and hours leading up to this tragedy…?  Mind you, not because some techie gnome was eavesdropping on them; but because the NSA’s alleged capacity to “spy on pretty much all communications” enables it to retrieve this targeted information from the haystacks of useless information being stored on its secret data farms … allegedly

    Now bear in mind that she’s supposedly just beginning to recover from the trauma of her kidnapping. Because I imagine that any sane girl would have found this experience too emotionally terrifying and psychologically scarring to be engaging in this kind of promiscuous social networking already – especially given the reasonable suspicion that she was repeatedly raped.

    Then, of course, there’s what should have been the utterly shocking and catatonic news that her alleged abductor had murdered both her mother and younger brother, who haven’t even been buried yet, for Christ’s sake.

    UnknownYet here she was acting not like a teenage kidnap victim, but like her Disney namesake, Hannah Montana, interacting with her fans the way all teenage pop sensations do these days.

    The ease with which she answered hundreds of questions in this chat room, including hurling profanities in response to those that were predictably offensive, is troubling enough.

    article-2392452-1B488E94000005DC-325_634x623But her cutesy pictures, which included one of her custom-manicured nails, speak volumes. For this takes the narcissistic over-sharing, solely for attention, that defines so much of teenage social networking to a new, ironically socio-pathetic low….

    Psychologists often say that there is no one way to grieve. And just as one can find an expert to espouse any legal theory, I’m sure one can find a psychologist to explain that Hannah’s behavior is a perfectly reasonable, if not evolved, way to cope in this age of social networking.

    Except that her enthusiastic foray into this chat room makes a mockery of her father’s request for her to be allowed to grieve and heal in private. This suggests that she has a very permissive relationship with her father. And, especially when coupled with the very permissive relationship DiMaggio evidently had with him, one can see how this might lead to trouble … of some kind. (I heard her father say during one of his TV appearances that he invited this grown man into his home like family years ago when DiMaggio was a complete stranger. Even more telling and ominous, CBS News reported today that he allowed DiMaggio to take Hannah on several “day trips”….)

    Anyway, God bless Hannah if she was truly a victim. But I defy anyone to explain why her wallowing in such self-indulgent and self-absorbed behavior – with nary a hint of any emotional distress – is not, at the very least, suspicious.

    Indeed, God help us if our emotional intelligence and grace become such that teenage girls no less can react to the murder of their mother and brother and to being kidnapped and (probably) raped by behaving (again, within hours) the way Hannah did….

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 2:35 pm

  • Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 5:27 AM

    Buddhist Monks Terrorizing Myanmar and Sri Lanka?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Reza Aslan I am not. But I believe I can assert without fear of contradiction that, more than any other religion, Buddhism has a reputation for inspiring peace, harmony, and non-violence.

    sri_lanka_muslim_buddhistsThis is why reports last year about Buddhist monks behaving like Islamic terrorists struck me as utterly surreal. So much so in fact that instead of commenting on the contradictions inherent in their behavior, I commented on the failure of their de facto secular leader to condemn it:

    Nothing demonstrates the extent to which she has been co-opted quite like Suu Kyi’s deafening silence about the ongoing religious cleansing of minority Muslims by majority Buddhists. Especially given that the UN has called Myanmar’s Muslims ‘the world’s most persecuted people.’

    Yet when challenged to explain her silence, the Buddhist Suu Kyi demurred, saying self-righteously that she was not taking sides to preserve her impartiality to help them reconcile. 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?

    (“Obama’s Historic Trip to Myanmar: Too Soon?” The iPINIONS Journal, November 12, 2012)

    Except that this is rather like expecting President Obama to be more responsible for rebuking Catholic priests for sexually abusing little boys than the Pope himself, no?

    Which is why I was so heartened when the Dalai Lama expressed this plaintive rebuke earlier this year:

    Killing people in the name of religion is really very sad, unthinkable, very sad. Nowadays even Buddhists now involved, in Burma and Sri Lanka also. Buddhist monks … destroy Muslim mosques or Muslim families … really very sad.

    (Associated Press, May 8, 2013)

    dl-myanAlas, it appears the Dalai Lama’s spiritual control over the behavior of Buddhist monks is no greater than his political control over the governing of Tibet (from where he has been exiled for over 50 years).

    For, despite his entreaties, Buddhists are continuing their campaign of religious cleansing against Muslims.

    A Buddhist mob attacked a mosque in Sri Lanka’s capital and at least 12 people were injured, the latest in a series of attacks on the minority Muslim community by members of the Buddhist majority.

    (Reuters, August 11, 2013)

    But is it just me, or is a “Buddhist mob” every bit as oxymoronic as an al-Qaeda peacenik?

    Ultimately, though, given the resurgent Catholic/Republican vs. Protestant/Loyalist “troubles” in Northern Ireland, Islamic terrorism worldwide, Sunni vs. Shiite strife across the Middle East, and Jewish “apartheid” in Palestine, just to name a few, one could be forgiven the impression that religion is more often the source of conflict and immorality than harmony and morality.

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  • Tuesday, August 13, 2013 at 7:52 AM

    Ending Mandatory Minimum Sentences; Reforming Stop and Frisk…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Mandatory Minimums

    Nothing betrays the latter-day puritanism that governs so much of life in America quite like the hundreds of thousands of people who are incarcerated in state and federal prisons for using drugs…

    For decades I have been among those calling for decriminalizing non-violent, victimless crimes [like using drugs or selling sex]. Unfortunately this progressive goal remains a pipe dream.

    For now, though, I am happy that at least the federal government is taking steps to redress the disparity between the draconian sentences routinely meted out to users of crack cocaine, most of whom happen to be Black, and the lenient sentences routinely meted out to users of powder cocaine, most of whom happen to be White.

    (“(Black) Users of Crack vs. (White) Users of Powder Cocaine,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 3, 2011)

    Unknown-3Given the above, you’ll appreciate why I was so pleased to hear Attorney General Eric Holder announce – during an address to the American Bar Association in San Francisco yesterday – that:

    … low-level, non-violent drug offenders with no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels won’t be charged with offenses that impose mandatory minimum sentences…

    Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law-enforcement reason.

    (Associated Press, August 12, 2013)

    This executive action alone will limit the growth of the federal prison population by as much as 50 percent. Because, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, 45 percent of the people incarcerated each year are convicted for the kinds of low-level, non-violent drug offenses Holder cited. Blacks and Hispanics will benefit most because they account for about 70 percent of those convicted for such offenses.

    images-2The problem with using mandatory minimum sentences (as the primary weapon in the government’s Sisyphean war on drugs) is that they strip judges of the discretion to impose much shorter sentences in cases where the facts and circumstances make them clearly warranted. For example, too often people (mostly wives and girlfriends) get convicted and sentenced like violent criminals for merely being guilty by association with drug dealers. Not to mention the first-time offenders who get thrown into the system as relative kindergartners only to be unleashed on society 10 or 20 years later as PhD graduates in criminal behavior.

    Of course, as my opening quote above duly notes, state prisons have been overcrowded with low-level, non-violent drug offenders too. But the irony cannot be lost on criminal justice activists (like Reverend Al Sharpton and rap mogul Russell Simmons) – who have been fighting for an end to mandatory minimum sentences for decades – that White governors in Southern states (like South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas) began taking steps to redress these issues years ago.

    After all, some will surely think this is just a case of the first Black president and attorney general abusing their power to give Black and Hispanic criminals a get-out-of-jail-free card. But these White (Republican) governors – who were the first government officials to inject fairness, racial equality, and common sense into the criminal justice system – would beg to differ.

    Incidentally, Holder took pains to explain that the new approach will not be to grant immunity from prosecution to low-level, non-violent drug offenders. Instead, it will be to direct federal prosecutors to structure charges to ensure that they qualify more for drug treatment and community service than for prison:

    We need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, deter and rehabilitate – not merely to convict, warehouse and forge.

    (Associated Press, August 12, 2013)

    What’s more, this new approach will free up government resources to enable the DEA, FBI, and local police to combat real, violent crime – especially in places like Chicago, where murders are becoming as commonplace as they are in Baghdad.

    Stop and Frisk

    Unknown-1I was also pleased yesterday when a federal judge condemned New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk tactic as a gross violation of the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    Not least because, according to the March 4, 2012 edition of the Huffington Post, of the 4.4 million stops NYC cops have made over the past decade, 87 percent of the targets have been Black or Hispanic.

    UnknownOf course, it would be one thing if these stops, which are most often conducted by White cops, resulted in legitimate arrests. But only 6 percent of those subjected to this public humiliation were actually arrested. And Whites wonder why Black and Hispanic men have such an abiding distrust of, and antipathy towards, the police...?

    Just imagine walking along the street in your own neighborhood (a la Trayvon Martin) and having cops stop you for no reason to interrogate and frisk you … spread eagle. This happening once is upsetting enough; imagine it happening repeatedly….

    Again, the operative stat is not the 6 percent of these arrests that are legitimate; it’s the 94 percent of them that are not. Which is not surprising given that the only probable cause the police needed to stop and frisk was the subjective suspicion that the person was acting furtively, loitering in a high-crime area, or had a “suspicious bulge.”  Come to think of it, criminalizing an unnatural-looking bulge might explain why so many Black men were stopped….

    But seriously, let me hasten to clarify that the judge did not order an end to this practice. She merely ordered federal monitors to oversee reforms – such as requiring the police to videotape their actions in this regard.  I agree.

    After all, I am sensible enough to recognize that stop and frisk, even though little more than a euphemism for racial profiling, has been one of many factors in reducing crime. For example, according to the December 28, 2012 edition of gothamist.com, between 1963 and 2012, murders dropped from a high of 2,245 in 1990 to a low of 414 last year. And let’s face it, the reason so many Blacks and Hispanics are targeted is that they are the ones who commit a grossly disproportionate number of the crimes (too often in their own neighborhoods) that were/are such a menace to big cities like New York and Chicago.

    My only contention is that the police could be equally effective by merely patrolling high-crime areas (on foot) and establishing trust and familiarity with the people who live there. For statistics also show that such neighborhood policing enables the police to better distinguish between law-abiding residents and those who prey on them (who, I submit, should be stopped and frisked, aggressively).

    Whatever the case, it is untenable to argue, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg does, that all Blacks and Hispanics in high-crime areas must give up their constitutional rights for the police to serve and protect them.

    Beyond this, I just wish the Blacks and Hispanics – who are hell-bent on committing crimes – had enough sense to stop cannibalizing their own. Except that they are smart enough to know that, if they extended their turf to White neighborhoods, they would stick out even more than yarmulke-wearing Jews in Nazi Germany….

    The sad reality is that, with stop and frisk, Blacks and Hispanics are the ones whose civil liberties are most likely to be violated; without it, they are the ones whose peace and safety are most likely to be violated. What cursed fate it is (sometimes) to be Black or Hispanic.

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  • Monday, August 12, 2013 at 6:18 AM

    World Championships: Bolt Strikes Again, but Nobody Cares

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Who would’ve thought this tiny island nation would outperform the mighty United States in the premier Track and Field events of these Olympic Games?

    (“2008 Beijing Olympics: Jamaicans Bolt…” The iPINIONS Journal, August 21, 2008)

    I made no effort to disguise my Bahamian schadenfreude as Jamaican sprinters (with the notable exception of Usain Bolt) followed up their breakout performances at the 2008 Beijing Olympics by getting busted, one by one, for taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).  Not least because I warned it would be thus:

    I wonder if it’s a testament to their national training methods or the performance-enhancing ‘herbs’ they use to flavor their sports drinks that make these Jamaicans so incredibly fast….

    (“2008 Beijing Olympic Games – the Phelpsian Touch … Pure Gold,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 16, 2008)

    Therefore, I shall make no effort to disguise my Caribbean pride as Jamaican sprinters still took four of the top-five finishes yesterday in the Men’s 100m – the premier event at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships that is playing out in Moscow (August 10-18). This, despite having so many sprinters banned from competition.

    article-2389369-1B3FA228000005DC-159_634x411Unsurprisingly, Bolt continued his reign as the world’s fastest man. Never mind that the only lightning bolt on this occasion came from the storm clouds hovering over the stadium – as he clocked a relatively slow 9.77 seconds. (His world-record time is 9.58.)

    What’s more, with all due respect to Bolt, I could not help being far more animated by seeing so many empty seats in the stadium than by watching the race itself.

    The world’s best athletes have been performing in front of empty seats in Moscow a year on from the electric atmosphere of London 2012’s packed Olympic Stadium.

    Sergey Bubka, the IAAF vice-president, has blamed hot weather for the ‘disappointing’ crowds. Organisers have reduced the capacity of the Luzhniki Stadium from 75,000 to 35,000 seats and offered tickets for as little as £2 over the weekend, but the arena was still only a third full.

    (Daily Mail, August 11, 2013)

    images-3Except that this might just reflect the fact that perennially touted interest in Track and Field outside the United States is finally following the downward trend that began here soon after the euphoric days of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. And having so many top foreign athletes test positive for PEDs might’ve had the same demoralizing effect overseas that having Marion Jones turn out to be nothing more than a juiced-up fiend had here.

    As it happens, I presaged the eyesore of empty seats in Moscow today by lamenting a similar eyesore at no less a venue than the Olympic Stadium – first at the Beijing Games:

    I find it more than a little difficult to reconcile all of the Chinese hype about these Olympic Games being such a source of national pride with all of the empty seats at so many events.

    (“2008 Beijing Olympics,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 15, 2008)

    And then just last year at the London Games:

    I’m already irritated: Why the hell are there so many empty seats at so many venues?! This has become a quadrennial farce.

    (“2012 London Olympics,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2012)

    And if you think this simply reflects the fact that neither Chinese nor Russians figure prominently among the top athletes in this sport, perhaps you can explain this:

    Apropos of irony, there’s no doubt that their matchups in London will be even more hyped and watched than Phelps and Lochte’s. Yet Bolt and Blake attracted so little interest for their 100m showdown in Kingston on Friday that they ran in a practically empty stadium…

    By contrast, the 15,000-seat stadium in Omaha was packed all week for every one of Phelps’s races, including the preliminary heats.

    (“Olympic Trials, Preview of Exciting Feats to Come,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 2, 2012)

    Of course, it may just be that Russians share my Lance Armstrong-inspired suspicions about superstar athletes like Bolt being on PEDs – despite their protestations about being “clean.”

    It can only be a matter of time before the lightning Bolt himself gets struck for taking performance-enhancing drugs.

    (“Now Tyson Gay et al. Drugs as Rampant in Track as in Cycling,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 16, 2013)

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  • Sunday, August 11, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    Illustration of why Obama dismissed Putin as an unruly schoolboy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    He’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom.

    (Obama on Putin during White House press conference, CNN, July 9, 2013)


    I’m on record suggesting that, instead of boycotting the Sochi Winter Olympics next year, American athletes should convey their outrage over Russia’s anti-gay laws by displaying the LGBT gay-pride rainbow flag wherever and whenever possible.

    imagesI especially urge athletes (from every country that supports gay civil rights) who take the medal podium during these Games to participate. They can do so by making a show of taking a small gay-pride flag out of their pocket, after the playing of the winner’s national anthem, and waving it proudly for the world (and Putin’s homophobic Russia) to see. In other words, dare Czar Putin to have them all arrested for spreading “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.”

    I assure you, as far as Olympics protests go, this will emulate the famous Black-power salute two Black-American athletes made during the Mexico Games in 1968 to protest racial discrimination in the United States.

    Accordingly, I call upon gay activists in every country participating in these Winter Games to ensure that every athlete on their national team has one or more of these small flags to participate in this silent but poignant protest.

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  • Saturday, August 10, 2013 at 6:47 AM

    Boycott Olympics Over Anti-Gay Laws? Hmmm…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    220px-StephenFryWorldPrideThis week, in an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, acclaimed renaissance man Stephen Fry added his voice to those calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia to protest that country’s new anti-gay laws.

    In his inimitably dramatic fashion, Fry suggested that attending the Games in homophobic Russia today (given its mistreatment of gays) would be akin to attending the Games in Nazi Germany in 1936 (given its mistreatment of Jews).

    Putin is eerily repeating this insane crime, only this time against LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] Russians…

    An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi is simply essential.

    (London Guardian, August 7, 2013)

    Fry’s analogy is fatally flawed of course; not least because no country boycotted the Berlin Summer Olympics. But you get his point.

    images-1By contrast, I’m already on record opposing an Olympic boycott over Russia granting NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum. And even though I am far more sympathetic to a boycott over its anti-gay laws, I oppose this one as well.

    Because, instead of humbling Russia the way boycotts humbled South Africa, I fear this will only harden the heart of Russia’s wannabe Stalin, Vladimir Putin. Even worse, he might consider it a crossing-the-Rubicon provocation in the Cold War II he’s been fighting against the United States for almost two decades.

    182427592Accordingly, I reiterate that:

    I am all too mindful that Putin is on record lamenting the disintegration of the Soviet Union as the ‘greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century’ — notwithstanding two world wars, the Holocaust, or even Stalin’s purging of over 20 million of his fellow Russians. And it may be that he is so pathologically, maniacally and diabolically determined to put his humpty dumpty back together again that he would seize any opportunity to hinder, humble, or humiliate America — no matter how self-defeating — just to make it feel like a fait accompli.

    So, despite his mind telling him to continue his efforts to ‘reset’ U.S.-Russia relations for 21st century cooperation, which would certainly include turning over Snowden just as the Obama Administration has turned over Russian fugitives, his heart might be longing too much for the halcyon days of 20th century Cold War.

    But, if Putin’s (Cold War) heart prevails, American Olympians (who wish) could kill two birds with one stone by prominently displaying the gay-pride rainbow flag on their clothing whenever possible during the Games. This would enable them, on the one hand, to give Putin a retaliatory poke in the eye for granting Snowden asylum and, on the other, to express solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Russians who are being subjected to new anti-gay laws.

    I especially urge athletes (from every country that supports gay civil rights) who take the medal podium during these Games to participate. They can do so by making a show of taking a small gay-pride flag out of their pocket, after the playing of the winner’s national anthem, and waving it proudly for the world (and Putin’s homophobic Russia) to see.

    In other words, dare Czar Putin to have them all arrested for spreading “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” And dare the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to sanction them all for violating its rule against “proactive political or political demonstration.” I assure you, as far as Olympics protests go, this will emulate the famous Black-power salute two Black-American athletes made during the Mexico Games in 1968 to protest racial discrimination in the United States.

    Accordingly, I call upon gay activists in every country participating in these Winter Games to ensure that every athlete on their national team has one or more of these small flags to participate in this silent but poignant protest.

    I appreciate of course that this won’t do for gay activists who are calling for an outright boycott, proselytizing fears that these laws might ensnare gay athletes from other countries too. But such fears are patently unwarranted, and insisting on a boycott will do nothing but stigmatize LGBT people as the cause for jeopardizing the Olympic dreams of all athletes, LGBT ones too. Far better to let the IOC prevail upon Russia to repeal these anti-gay laws.

    But if boycotting is a must, I’m all for a global boycott against Russian products like Stolichnaya vodka, which some gay activists are championing. Such targeted boycotts against corporate interests might also prove far more effective – just as they did in forcing revolutionary change in South Africa’s Apartheid (anti-Black) laws.

    (“Boycott Olympics Over Snowden? Don’t Be Stupid!” The iPINIONS Journal, July 18, 2013)

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  • Friday, August 9, 2013 at 6:58 AM

    Surely, Some Student-Teacher Sexual Relationships Are Okay!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The University of Connecticut (UConn) made news on Wednesday by banning sexual relationships between students and faculty.

    Here’s the official reason the university gave for this new policy:

    The power difference between faculty and staff as compared to students means that any romantic relationship between a faculty or staff member and a student is potentially exploitative or could at any time be perceived as exploitative.

    (Hartford Currant, August 7, 2013)

    But, evidently, the real reason stems from credible allegations that its music professor, Bob Miller, is a serial child molester. That being the case, one wonders why Penn State did not adopt a similar policy after its assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, became infamously embroiled in similar allegations. Not only did Sandusky end up in prison for life, but the NCAA hit the university with a battery of financial and athletic sanctions. In other words, UConn is just trying to cover its ass.

    Except that it’s one thing to ban sexual relationships between students and faculty in high school, where students have not reached the age of consent (16-18).

    Unknown-3This is why the curious craze of female high-school teachers seducing their students is resulting in so many of those teachers being thrown in the pokey. But even in this high-school context, I reprise this demurrer for your consideration:

    Given that 16 is the age of consent in most states (30), I submit that if a teacher (male or female) has consensual sex with any student aged [16] or older, he/she should be fired and banned from teaching for life, but no criminal charges should obtain. However, if that teacher has sex with a student aged [15] or younger, he/she should be arrested and prosecuted on charges of statutory rape and related offenses…

    Now, anyone who says that [16]-year-old boys will be psychologically damaged by having their sexual fantasies fulfilled by hot teachers either was never a 16-year-old boy or is just talking puritanical rubbish! After all, with an obliging teacher, no lesson could prove more educational, wholesome and, ultimately, useful for a teenage boy.

    (“Sexy Middle-School Teacher Gets Off after Blowing More than Schoolboy’s Mind,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 26, 2006)

    Of course, I am sensible enough to not even speculate on what damage (if any) of any kind would be involved with respect to 16-year-old girls in similar relationships….

    imagesThat said, it’s quite another thing to ban sexual relationships between students and professors at university, where both individuals are deemed to be consenting adults in every respect.

    Granted, to avoid any possibility of exploitation or favoritism, no student should be allowed to take a course given by his/her lover. But, beyond this, I dare anyone to provide a single, sustainable reason why sexual relationships between students and faculty at university should not be okay.

    After all, that student, then, is not dependent on that professor for any kind of academic evaluation. And this precludes the power dynamic that makes so many worker-boss relationships prohibitive.

    Ultimately, if a kid is old enough to decide to go to war for his/her country, surely that kid is old enough to manage a consenting relationship with a university professor … no?

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  • Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 6:48 AM

    Bush Is Why NCAA Must Strip Manziel of Heisman

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Heisman Trophy is easily the most coveted award in college sports.  Indeed, it is so respected and revered among Football players that I suspect many of them would rather have a Heisman Trophy in their home than a Super Bowl ring on their finger.

    The Heisman is awarded annually to:

    … the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work… Our goal … is for the Heisman Trophy to symbolize the fostering of a sense of community responsibility and service to our youth.

    (Heisman Trust Mission Statement)

    UnknownNotable recipients since it was first awarded in 1935 are O.J. Simpson of USC in 1968; Tony Dorsett of Pittsburg in 1976; Doug Flutie of Boston in 1984; Ricky Williams of Texas in 1998; and Reggie Bush of USC in 2005.

    It is no accident that I began this list with O.J. Simpson. Because no recipient has done more to betray all of the (off-the-field) ideals the Heisman purportedly symbolizes than this incarcerated thief who got away with double murder.

    Therefore, if any recipient should have been the first in history to forfeit his trophy for bringing the Heisman into disrepute, it should’ve been O.J.. But this was not so.

    I’ve been in the vanguard of those calling for College Football players to be compensated commensurate with the revenues they generate for their respective colleges. And I’ve decried the scarlet-lettering of (poor) players who accept cash to help make ends meet.

    I have always felt that it is tantamount to modern-day slavery for universities to recruit poor and all too often uneducated athletes just to play football and not compensate them for their services, especially considering they rarely get an education…

    But this indentured servitude is made much worse by branding these poor players – who generate tens of millions – as cheaters for accepting a little cash on the side. Mind you, those offering the cash are often boosters just trying to make life easier for the players to enable them to perform better for their universities…

    The hypocrisy inherent in this is beyond shameful.

    (“Reggie Bush Forfeits Heisman Trophy,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 16, 2010)

    This is why I was so dismayed when the NCAA forced Reggie Bush to forfeit his Heisman Trophy three years ago for violating his amateur status by accepting gifts (for himself and family members) from marketers and agents while he was at USC.

    2012 Heisman Trophy PresentationNow comes word that the NCAA is investigating this year’s winner, quarterback Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, for similar violations of his amateur status:

    An autograph broker came forward Tuesday and told ESPN that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was paid $7,500 for signing football helmets back in January while the Heisman Trophy winner was attending the Walter Camp Football Foundation event.

    (New York Daily News, August 6, 2013)

    Manziel (aka “Johnny Football”) distinguished himself by becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman. And, before this allegation, he seemed destined not only to become a two-time winner, but to lead his team to a BCS National Championship next year.

    screen_shot_2013-01-05_at_8.16.07_pm.0_standard_730.0-4_3_r536_c534Unfortunately, if reports about him accepting payments are true, the NCAA must not only force him to forfeit his trophy, but suspend him for much, if not all, of his sophomore season as well.

    I would/will of course be just as dismayed if/when this fate befalls Manziel as I was when it befell Bush. And therein lies the rub: because what happened to Bush now dictates what must happen to Manziel.

    For if the NCAA fails to follow the precedent it set with Bush, it will be liable to charges of racial bias not seen in Football since the days when Blacks were systematically denied the opportunity to play quarterback.

    Unknown-2No doubt you remember when Whites presumed that Blacks did not have the mental ability to play this pivotal position. Thankfully, this presumption has been so thoroughly debunked that no less a paper than the Wall Street Journal felt obliged to publish this scorecard in its December 10, 2010 edition:

    In the six major conferences — the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10, and Southeastern — six black quarterbacks were named first or second-team all-conference. That’s half of the spots. (A seventh, Michigan’s Denard Robinson, was named Big Ten offensive player of the year.) This occurred even though Black quarterbacks held less than a third of the 65 starting quarterback positions.

    This isn’t a one-year, one-off occurrence, either. A study of the winning percentages of Black quarterbacks at 40 major-conference schools since 1970 found them to cumulatively be 31 points higher than other quarterbacks at the same schools. With the exception of former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, the most dominant offensive players of the past two decades have arguably all been Black quarterbacks: Florida State’s Charlie Ward, Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick, Texas’s Vince Young, and Auburn’s Cam Newton.

    (“Black Quarterbacks: Good Enough for NCAA, but Not NFL? September 12, 2012)

    I commented more fully on this phenomenon in “Black Quarterbacks: Good Enough for NCAA, but Not NFL? The iPINIONS Journal, September 12, 2012. Ironically, what makes the White Manziel so dominant is that he plays quarterback more like Blacks (who can both pass and run) than like Whites (who can pass but can’t run to save their lives).

    Related commentaries:
    Reggie Bush
    Black quarterbacks

  • Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 6:38 AM

    Americans Ordered to Evacuate Yemen…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [NOTE: Yesterday the United States ordered the evacuation of embassy personnel in Yemen and urged all Americans living there to leave. Never mind that, just as it insists on referring to the coup in Egypt as something Orwellian like an army-assisted move to re-try democracy, the Obama Administration is referring to this evacuation as a reduction in staff contingency maneuver.

    300px-Saigon-hubert-van-esThe last time American embassy personnel had to hightail it out of a foreign country like this they were dodging Vietcong bullets (with all due respect to the fog of Benghazi).

    But all they’re dodging this time are patently hollow al-Qaeda threats to launch 9/11-style attacks against U.S. interests: somewhere — perhaps even in the United States itself; sometime — perhaps today either to mark the end of Ramadan or to commemorate its coordinated embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998.

    Frankly, the only thing that is certain is that government reaction to and media hype about these terrorist threats are inflicting almost as much terror as any eventual attack … might.

    In “Terror Alert: al-Qaeda Planning Attacks! (Duh…),” The iPINIONS Journal, August 4, 2013, I distilled the national-security and political implications of these al-Qaeda threats, as well as the reaction/panic they triggered. In light of this rather extraordinary order to evacuate (sorry, to take immediate sequester furloughs?), I have decided to reprise this commentary.]


    dhs-threat1U.S. politicians and security analysts have been all over TV in recent days warning about “specific, credible and imminent attacks” al-Qaeda operatives are planning to launch against U.S. interests … worldwide.  Which compels one to wonder how this warning would have been designated according to the government’s ill-fated, soon-discarded color-coded threat level advisory system….

    But am I the only one who finds these warnings about as specific, credible, and reliable as a carnival soothsayer predicting my future?

    Moreover, notwithstanding Tanzania and Benghazi, isn’t reacting to these threats by closing U.S. embassies across the Muslim world rather like putting a Band-Aid on one’s elbow to fight terminal cancer? I mean, given the veritable fortresses most U.S. embassies have become, isn’t it far more likely that terrorists will target softer U.S. interests like hotels, restaurants, or, god forbid, business complexes (a la the World Trade Center)?  So why isn’t the U.S. government advising that they should all be closed too?

    Frankly, Western governments are terrorizing us far more with their anti-terror warnings, intelligence gathering, and security measures than Muslim terrorists are with their acts of terrorism.

    This is not to say, of course, that terrorists aren’t planning every day to mount another 9/11-type attack, or that at some point they’re going to succeed.

    Unknown-1I just think it’s far better to “keep calm and carry on” than to cry wolf and take plainly feckless measures every time al-Qaeda issues an amorphous threat.

    It must be understood that no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing our governments can do to prevent such attacks. Meanwhile, that Americans reacted yesterday as if those explosions went off in Washington or New York should compel Westerners to focus on calming our collective nerves instead of fretting about (or worse, trying to figure out) the motivation for and timing of terrorist attacks by Islamic fanatics.

    (“7/7 Terror Attacks in London,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 8, 2005)

    In the meantime, if you’re buying government propaganda about winning the “war on terror,” I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. Not to mention how all of this seems a little too much like a manufactured antidote to Edward Snowden’s NSA disclosures. After all, the very spying methods he outed, maligned, and undermined are the ones that have supposedly tipped government officials off about the terrorist attacks that are now afoot … allegedly.

    Which compels me to suggest that only after al-Qaeda begins targeting Western news organizations instead of embassies will they stop rushing to disclose all of these methods to intercept and foil terror plots. More to the point, am I the only one who thinks it’s almost complicit for reporters to continually tip off terrorists about all of the covert ways Western governments are trying to combat them…? Friggin’ idiots!

    All the same: “If you see something, say something!”

    Related commentaries:
    7/7 terror attacks
    Terrorists are planning more attacks…?
    Snowden’s NSA disclosures

  • Tuesday, August 6, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    Baseball Suspends A-Rod, Its Half Billion-Dollar Man

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 6.22.28 PMAfter months of suspense, Major League Baseball finally announced yesterday that Alex Rodriquez (aka A-Rod) is headlining a list of 13 players being suspended for violating the league’s drug policy. They were all ensnared by their illicit association with Biogenesis – a steroids lab in Miami masquerading as an anti-aging clinic.

    All of the players got 50-game suspensions; all, that is, except A-Rod – who got 211. One might reasonably deduce, therefore, that A-Rod’s abuse was four times worse than that of the others. But it was even worse:

    Rodriguez’s discipline under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez’s discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation.

    (MLB.com, August 5, 2013)

    images-1Unsurprisingly, all of the players accepted their suspensions (and commensurate financial penalties) with due humility and shame; all, that is, except A-Rod – who is appealing his with characteristic bravado and conceit:

    I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal and fight this… I am eager to get back on the field and be with my teammates… I want to thank my family, friends and fans who have stood by my side through all this.

    (SB Nation, August 5, 2013)

    In fact, appealing allowed A-Rod to return to the Yankees lineup last night for the first time this season – after rehabbing his most recent injury over the past six months. And, barring another injury, he’ll be allowed to play as long as a decision is pending, which may last well beyond the end of this season. Never mind that he stands even less chance of winning this appeal than the Chicago Cubs do of winning this year’s World Series.

    Incidentally, A-Rod’s was the only name on the list I recognized. I am mindful, though, that some might make racial or ethnic inferences from the fact that all of the players are Hispanic.

    UnknownBut just bear in mind that no less a player than former National League MVP Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers was suspended just 12 days ago, for 65 games, for the same drug-policy violations. Not to mention non-Hispanic names – like Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds – that have become synonymous with steroids in Baseball.

    As for A-Rod, I reiterate this:

    So Rodriguez is a liar and a cheat….   But, given the public scandal he’s made of his personal life (hitting on as many blondes off the field as baseballs on it), nobody needed Sports Illustrated to out him as a steroid abuser to confirm this fact…

    At any rate, let’s hope this ‘revelation’ puts a final nail in the coffin of lies about the routine use of steroids in professional sports. More important, I hope it compels lawmakers to reconsider informed entreaties to legalize these performance-enhancing drugs.  After all, like marijuana, steroids are less harmful to the body and pose far less social hazards than alcohol or cigarettes.

    (“Alex Rodriguez Is a Steroid Junkie … Duh!” The iPINIONS Journal, February 9, 2009)

    As for steroids in Baseball, I reiterate this:

    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-fueled feats of athleticism, the bigger the players’ contracts (and even bigger the owners’ bottom line) become.

    (“Barry Bonds Is a Steroid Junkie … Duh” The iPINIONS Journal, March 8, 2006)

    In the meantime, I should note the patent fallacy (or abiding incentive) inherent in penalizing players only a fraction of their contracts. After all, taking A-Rod as an example, if using steroids could help him sign $525 million in contracts over a 22-year career, and the penalty for getting caught were only $25-30 million and a 211-game (or eighteen-month) suspension, why wouldn’t he take steroids?

    Unknown-1In the statement he released yesterday, Commissioner Bud Selig insisted that “performance-enhancing drugs will not be tolerated in our game.”

    But players will never have any real regard for this statement until they face far more serious penalties – like restituting at least half of their contract and being suspended for a commensurate number of games: For “A-Roid” – who signed a 10-year, $275-million contract with the Yankees in 2008 – this would’ve meant a penalty of $137.5 million instead of just $25-30 million and a suspension of more like 900 games instead of just 200.

    As things stand, in addition to losing only a fraction of their contract, all of the suspended players will be back either later this season or for spring training next year, 2014; all, that is, except A-Rod – who will be back in 2015 (or 2016 depending on the outcome of his appeal and when he actually begins serving his suspension).

    By then, though, A-Rod will be 40, or older.Which means that he might be more suitable for the old-timers league than the Major League. But he’ll still be entitled to collect on the last two years of his contract (i.e., over $60 million) – even if he can’t produce on the field without steroids.

    For those of us who can’t stand the Yankees’ money-can-buy-me-anything attitude, season-ending losses like the one they suffered last night provide unbridled glee.  But this glee was made all the more delightful by the irony of watching A-Rod, their $29-million-per-year man and the highest-paid player in the league, getting benched for his poor play: batting a noodle-like 3 for 25 at .120 during these playoffs, and giving credence to suspicion that A-Rod without steroids is like Samson without hair.

    (“Tigers Sweep Yankees Out of Playoffs,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 19, 2012)

    Related commentaries:
    A-Rod steroid junkie
    Bonds steroid junkie
    Tigers sweep

  • Sunday, August 4, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    Terror Alert: al-Qaeda Planning Attacks! (Duh…)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    dhs-threat1U.S. politicians and security analysts have been all over TV in recent days warning about “specific, credible and imminent attacks” al-Qaeda operatives are planning to launch against U.S. interests … worldwide.  Which compels one to wonder how this warning would have been designated according to the government’s ill-fated, soon-discarded color-coded threat level advisory system….

    But am I the only one who finds these warnings about as specific, credible, and reliable as a carnival soothsayer predicting my future?

    Moreover, notwithstanding Tanzania and Benghazi, isn’t reacting to these threats by closing U.S. embassies across the Muslim world rather like putting a Band-Aid on one’s elbow to fight terminal cancer? I mean, given the veritable fortresses most U.S. embassies have become, isn’t it far more likely that terrorists will target softer U.S. interests like hotels, restaurants, or, god forbid, business complexes (a la the World Trade Center)?  So why isn’t the U.S. government advising that they should all be closed too?

    Frankly, Western governments are terrorizing us far more with their anti-terror warnings, intelligence gathering, and security measures than Muslim terrorists are with their acts of terrorism.

    This is not to say, of course, that terrorists aren’t planning every day to mount another 9/11-type attack, or that at some point they’re going to succeed.

    Unknown-1I just think it’s far better to “keep calm and carry on” than to cry wolf and take plainly feckless measures every time al-Qaeda issues an amorphous threat.

    It must be understood that no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing our governments can do to prevent such attacks. Meanwhile, that Americans reacted yesterday as if those explosions went off in Washington or New York should compel Westerners to focus on calming our collective nerves instead of fretting about (or worse, trying to figure out) the motivation for and timing of terrorist attacks by Islamic fanatics.

    (“7/7 Terror Attacks in London,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 8, 2005)

    In the meantime, if you’re buying government propaganda about winning the “war on terror,” I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. Not to mention how all of this seems a little too much like a manufactured antidote to Edward Snowden’s NSA disclosures. After all, the very spying methods he outed, maligned, and undermined are the ones that have supposedly tipped government officials off about the terrorist attacks that are now afoot … allegedly.

    Which compels me to suggest that only after al-Qaeda begins targeting them instead of embassies will Western news organizations stop rushing to disclose all of these methods to intercept and foil terror plots. But am I the only one who thinks it’s almost complicit for reporters to continually tip off terrorists about all of the covert ways Western governments are trying to combat them…? Friggin’ idiots!

    All the same: “If you see something, say something!”

    Related commentaries:
    7/7 terror attacks
    Terrorists are planning more attacks…?
    Snowden’s NSA disclosures

  • Sunday, August 4, 2013 at 7:54 AM

    In Zimbabwe It’s Hail, Mugabe! … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Truth be told, the only thing newsworthy about Wednesday’s general elections in Zimbabwe is how peaceful they were.

    UnknownIt certainly came as no surprise when the state Election Commission announced today that President Robert Mugabe was re-elected with 61 percent of the popular vote over Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who garnered only 33.

    No less significant, though, was the announcement that Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party won 158 of the 210 seats in the House of Assembly, giving it a veto-proof two-thirds majority. For this landslide victory will spare the 89-year old Mugabe the indignity of having to end his presidency for life in the kind of shot-gun political marriage he was forced into in 2008 – after Tsvangirai’s MDC party won 100 seats in general elections. (Of course, this assumes that Mugabe will be either dead or mentally unable at 94 to stand at the next election….)

    Mind you, the following quote will attest that I practically arranged this shot-gun marriage as the only means of avoiding a descent into the kind of tribal/sectarian violence that has plagued countries like Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade, and now seems destined to plague countries like Egypt and Syria for just as long:

    Like Kibaki and his ruling party [in Kenya], all indications are that Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party lost close national elections that were held on March 29. Yet, like Kibaki, Mugabe refused to concede defeat, which also plunged Zimbabwe into post-election violence…

    [I]t behooves Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to seek a grand compromise for a coalition government based on the Kenyan model. And they would do well to heed this advice because all political and legal maneuvers to oust Mugabe are doomed to fail…

    (“Kenya Forms Grand Coalition: A Model for Zimbabwe,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 14, 2008)

    Meanwhile, given the complaints about vote rigging and voter suppression, it’s a wonder Mugabe did not end up with 90 percent of the popular vote and his party with three-quarters of the seats.

    We are going to go to court, we are going to go to the AU (African Union), we are going to go to the SADC (Southern African Development Community).

    This, according to an August 3, 2013 Reuters report, was how Tsvangirai “angrily” announced his plan to challenge the results.

    Alas, as credible as all complaints may be, they don’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of altering the announced results. Not least because here’s how no less a person than Olusegun Obasanjo, head of the African Union’s election observer group, effectively dismissed them:

    I have never seen an election that is perfect. The point has always been and will always be how much are the infractions, imperfections have affected the result of the election being a reflection of the will of the people.

    (BBC, August 2, 2013)

    The clear implication being that, even if Catholic nuns were in charge of voter registration, election-day monitoring, and vote counting, Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party would still have won. Not to mention that the SADC has already joined with the AU in entreating Tsvangirai and the MDC to accept the results.

    I too entreat them to accept.

    2013-07-30T102124Z_1_CBRE96T0SRU00_RTROPTP_2_ZIMBABWE-ELECTIONSI hasten to note, however, that Obasanjo could just as well have been dismissing complaints about the vote rigging and voter suppression that attended last year’s general elections in the United States. But I also agree with him with respect to Zimbabwe because, after 33 years under Mugabe’s iron-fisted rule, a vast majority of Zimbabweans are clearly suffering what can only be diagnosed as a case of mass Stockholm Syndrome. And this must have become even more acute after a majority of them voted for Tsvangirai in 2008 only to see Mugabe treat Tsvangirai just like on of them:

    Mugabe can afford to be magnanimous. Indeed, I suspect he would be happy to confer the title of prime minister upon his politically cuckolded foe, Tsvangirai; provided, however, that that title is conferred with all of the political power wielded by a Nubian Eunuch.

    (“Mugabe Swears Himself In as President for Life,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 30, 2008)

    Finally, it seems surreal, almost to the point of being laughable, that so many reporters and commentators are speculating about what Mugabe’s re-election portends for Zimbabwe’s bilateral relationship with the United States – specifically in light of sanctions that have been in place since 2003.

    After all, the vast majority of these sanctions are “targeted” against the country’s top leaders (i.e., they are intended to affect them personally). More to the point, data from the U.S. Department of The Treasury show that:

    • bilateral trade between the United States and Zimbabwe actually doubled between 2003 and 2008 and, after a dip related to the global economic downturn in 2009, showed double-digit growth in 2010;
    • notwithstanding sanctions, the United States has given millions in food and other humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe;
    • there is no evidence of any macroeconomic effect from U.S. sanctions on Zimbabwe; and
    • its economy was floundering long before the United States imposed sanctions because of Mugabe’s shortsighted, nationalistic policies, which included confiscating land from White farmers to give to Black cronies whose only familiarity with “hoes” stemmed from their assignations with  high-end prostitutes in Western cities like Paris and London:

    Five years ago, there were 4000 white-owned farms in Zimbabwe; today, there are only 400 (mostly unproductive) farms left. Five years ago, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of sub-Saharan Africa; today, it is a basket case of starving people.

    (“Zimbabweans Pray for Liberation from their Liberator,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 29, 2005)

    Robert MugabeWhat’s more, China has demonstrated that it is more than willing and able to not only pick up any slack in this respect, but also do business with Zimbabwe on politically amoral terms (rather like the way the United States does business with China, no?).  Not to mention that the EU has already telegraphed its intent to lift its copycat (or lapdog) sanctions on Mugabe and other top officials.

    We don’t have the right to continue with that if the elections are acceptable… If the outcome of the elections is clear, is accepted, who are we, all Europeans, to say… we continue with our sanctions.

    (EU Special Representative Roeland van de Geer, EUBusiness Ltd., July 12, 2013)

    This is why all that remains is for the United States to swallow its pride, and lift its sanctions too.

    Hail Mugabe….

    Related commentaries:
    Kenya forms grand coalition: a model for Zimbabwe
    Mugabe swears himself in as president for life

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Saturday, at 10:45 pm

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