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Army Maj. Gen. Ronald L. Johnson

Keeping us safe from radical referees

As we celebrate another Independence Day, it's one more opportunity to reflect on the near-impossible demands placed on our military in retaining and promoting our freedom. Fighting two simultaneous wars...confronting global terrorism...rebuilding Iraq...global peacekeeping in joint efforts with the UN and NATO...supervising NBA referees?

Hmm...when you think about it, what's more apple pie these days for troubled organizations to wrap themselves in the flag in order to assure the public of their operational integrity? With the hiring of Army Maj. Gen. Ronald L. Johnson as senior vice president of referee operations (Colin Powell must not have been available), the NBA has recruited someone with zero industry experience but with plenty of stars and bars to keep those allegedly gamblin' and point shavin' refs in line. Shades of Tim Donaghy, even Mark Cuban is supportive of the general idea!

Quoting from a CBSSports.com post, Cuban said: "I think it's the perfect hire. ... He has experience managing professionals in high stress situations."

Well, THAT'S true anyway. I can think of nothing more stressful than calling the right number of fouls to keep a righteous point spread, and not incur any suspicion on the part of management and the public. Capitalism and entrepreneurship are cornerstones of the American experience are they not? Why should NBA corporate, team owners, and players have all the fun of profiting huge dollars from sports franchises and their adoring public? Reselling plane tickets for tax evasion purposes is small time compared to these high stakes maneuvers.

Ah, but I kid the NBA, and their referees.

In light of the Donaghy accusations, hiring someone with impeccable credentials to ensure honest and fair competition makes some sense. But why General Johnson, specifically?  Are his credentials truly impeccable? Read Harry Shearer's take of the NBA's move in a recent Huffington Post entry:

"General Johnson's experience? Recently, commanding general of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region division, responsible for overseeing $18 billion of reconstruction in Iraq. Army Corps? Iraq reconstruction? Ring a bell? To regular readers of these posts (there's a big assumption), it should. Here's a Washington Post report from a little more than two years ago, linked to here when it first ran, that gives you some idea of the Army Corps' can-do approach in Iraq. The gist: the Corps got into a contract with Parsons for 142 primary health clinics, and Parsons, according to the Corps, will walk away from more than 120 clinics that on average are two-thirds finished. Auditors say the project serves as a warning for other U.S. reconstruction efforts.

Now, given the politics of Huffington, this may be liberal ado about nothing. It is always interesting to follow the money in any given story, and the trail it leaves. Again, given that Johnson has absolutely no industry experience, the question remains: why him?