Monday, March 23, 2015

What Durst Thou?

HBO struck gold with the six-part documentary, "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst." Especially during the jaw-dropping finale when the alleged triple-murderer was heard off-camera, muttering to himself into a hot microphone what sounded like a confession. Durst's arrest the day after the show's finale created such white-hot news coverage that I don't think I'd be revealing any secrets to offer a short synopsis. Durst is the estranged heir to one of the richest real-estate firms in New York, which manages 1 World Trade Center, among other high-rent properties. His personal wealth is estimated at $100 million. In 1982, Durst's first wife disappeared and her body was never found. Though suspected of murder, Durst remained untouched until the investigation was re-opened in 2000. The day before Durst's closest confidant was to be interviewed about the case by prosecutors in Los Angeles, she was found murdered execution-style in her home. Fleeing to Galveston, TX, Durst rented a $300 a month room disguised as a mute woman. In 2001, Durst was arrested for killing his seventy-one year old neighbor and dismembering the corpse, which he placed in several garbage bags and scattered in Galveston Bay. Celebrity attorney Dick DeGuerin, who not-so-successfully represented David Koresh during the Waco standoff, admitted that Durst cut up the body, but said that it was postmortem after a struggle over a gun. The jury decided that Durst acted in self-defense when the gun went off, so the slicing and dicing was moot, and he got off. They never found the head.

Durst agreed to take part in hours of interviews with filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, ostensibly to deflect blame and set the record straight. Jarecki had directed a 2010 fictionalized account of the events called "All Good Things." In the series final episode, after being confronted with damning evidence, Durst retired to the men's room, forgetting he was still wearing a live microphone and said, "There it is. I'm caught. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course." Durst didn't seem to be regretting the murders so much as agreeing to do the documentary. The day after the final episode aired, Durst was arrested in a New Orleans hotel with 40k in cash, a loaded 38. caliber Smith and Wesson revolver, his passport and original birth certificate, an over-the-head latex mask, and five ounces of pot. He will most assuredly be arraigned in Los Angeles for murder, so if you enjoyed the documentary, just wait until the trial. Some of the greatest entertainment L.A. produces comes from their live broadcasts of criminal trials. Just look at what they've given us over the years- OJ, the Menendez brothers, the cops who beat Rodney King, Phil Spector, and Dr. Conrad Murray. But the Robert Durst show will be the trial of this early century. This will be too salacious not to televise.

HBO's ratings were far too good not to continue this series. We know that we live in a violent country and that there are killers who walk among us- some of them mass murderers. The Durst case took over three decades to unravel, which proves that justice is sometimes late in arriving, but you never know when it will come knocking at your door. The authorities already know the identities of some of those who have committed terrible atrocities, and yet walked free. And their names are Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Rice, and Tenet. They met in secrecy, concocting a story to sell to the American people about why the Iraq War was absolutely necessary on the false pretense of weapons of mass destruction- a term of their own invention. They invaded and occupied a nation that had not harmed us, then sent over the U.S. Viceroy, "Jerry" Brenner, who disbanded the Iraqi army and barred former members of Saddam's political party from government, thus throwing hundreds of thousands of men out of work. These two dumbass decisions led directly to insurgency, chaos, sectarian civil war, and the birth of ISIS. The cost of the Iraq War is immeasurable in both dollars and human life. Nothing Obama has been accused of by his enemies could ever amount to a crime of this magnitude.

So where are all the warmongers now? They're all wealthy and serve on corporate boards and think tanks. Some are professors at prestigious universities. "Jerry" Brenner lives in Vermont, painting rural landscapes while dabbling in French cuisine. Cheney made a fortune in "blind trust" stocks from no-bid contracts to Halliburton and its subsidiaries. The rest advise the current Republican Party. No one but Cheney's flunkie, Scooter Libby, ever faced criminal charges concerning the war, but rumblings about legal recourse have been growing louder across the globe. In 2012, the Malaysian War Crimes Tribunal convicted Bush, Cheney, and six others in absentia for war crimes. Torture victims told of mistreatment by U.S. soldiers and contractors who used some of the same practices that Japanese were executed for after WWII. Transcripts of the trial were sent to the International Criminal Court, which may never act, but the Durst case proved there's no statute of limitations on atrocities. Then, when justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream, I know of a cozy, tropical prison down in Cuba that's just perfect for detaining war criminals. Imagine the ratings if they televised that trial.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Annointed

Sometimes I think I get a general sense of what's about to happen. I'm no Edgar Cayce or anything, but I can often imagine the effect that results from the cause. If you disregard my absolute certainty that Al Gore would be president in 2006, my predictions have more often been right than wrong. Even back then, when Hillary Clinton was all but being coronated as the next Democratic presidential candidate, I wrote that two years was an eternity for another candidate to emerge to challenge the presumptive nominee, and one certainly did. The historical inevitability of Barack Obama couldn't be stopped, even by the ugly campaign the Clintons ran against him. Hillary's failed campaign left a lingering resentment among certain Democrats over her scatter-shot tactics and baseless accusations. Her term as Obama's Secretary of State revived her reputation for competence, regardless of the fake "scandals" the GOP tried to lay at her feet. Hillary is probably the most qualified, best informed candidate to seek the presidency in decades, and polls have shown the country's willingness to elect a female president. So let me go out on a limb and make a prediction, then two years from now, you can check back and see if I was correct. Hillary Clinton will not only fail to win the presidency, she won't even get the Democratic nomination.

When I was an adult student completing my journalism degree at the U of M, I was given a classroom assignment to cover a campus visit by Mrs. Clinton, then the First Lady of Arkansas, who was campaigning for her husband's election. She delivered a speech that I described at the time as "flat," "uninspiring," and without the rhetorical gifts that came so easily to the Governor. I also said that although I agreed with most of her stands on the issues, she was badly lacking in communicative skills. And she still is. A lightning rod for controversy, Hillary can instantly become so exasperated that she unleashes a public barrage of ill-inspired, instant quotations that only provide ammunition for her enemies. It's been pretty much settled that the entire Benghazi witch-hunt was merely a concoction of right-wing operatives out to do her damage, but frustrated by idiotic questions over whether to call the tragedy a "terrorist attack," or a "spontaneous protest," Hillary spouted, "At this point, what difference does it make?" Although stripped of its context, right-wing pundits have found her remarks to be pure gold, and the almost defunct House Select Committee on Benghazi has become suddenly re-animated, subpoenaing thousands of her newly-controversial emails.

Hillary has a history of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Remember when she said she wasn't going to be a typical First Lady, sitting home and baking cookies or "standing by her man," as the popular song went. The accompanying outrage forced her to go out and profess her love of country music and apologize to Tammy Wynette and America's housewives. When the Jennifer Flowers scandal came along, she did stand by her man after all. While in the White House, she was accused of everything from murder to drug smuggling, as well as being "secretive." Then she did herself no favors by having her previously requested Rose Law Firm billing statements, said to be long lost, turn up one day in a White House office drawer. Hillary parlayed Bill's inexcusable sexual betrayal into a senate seat from New York, where she learned the art of "triangulation"- taking the absolute middle ground between two opposing points of view. In this capacity, Clinton voted her approval for the Iraqi War; co-sponsored an anti-flag burning amendment, even though she's a lawyer and knew that the Supreme Court had already ruled the act was a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment; and voted for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, opening the door for U.S. attacks on Iran. During Hillary's senate career, every controversial vote seemed to be made with a political calculation.

This latest kerfuffle about Hillary using her own private email account to conduct government business is just another stink-bomb attack by her adversaries that won't amount to much, yet she insists on making it worse for herself. Already believed in certain quarters to be someone who cuts corners or makes her own rules, Hillary set up her own private server, registered to a fictitious name and routed back to her New York home. She didn't break any laws, just bent the rules a little. The former Secretary has announced that she is eager to turn over her emails for scrutiny, but only those pertaining to the business of the State Department. This allows her to exercise more control over physical access and furthers the perception that she has something to hide. At some point, Hillary will also have to justify accepting donations by foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State. It's enough to give you a case of pre-Clinton Fatigue. Two years is a lifetime for a presumptive nominee to coast, and there are bound to be more gaffes and temper explosions. When Hillary alienates enough members of her own party, the Democrats may be forced to turn to someone else. The GOP will likely nominate a Tea Party extremist as their candidate. Why shouldn't the Dems offer a true liberal and a fighter for the underdog instead of another blue-dog? Elizabeth Warren insists she's not running for president. So did Barack Obama before he was finally convinced that his hour of destiny had arrived.