• Friday, October 31, 2008 at 7:26 AM

    Congratulations to World Series champs: the Philadelphia Phillies!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I apologize unreservedly to all of my readers in Philadelphia for failing to pay tribute to the impressive and dramatic performance of your Phillies in defeating the Tampa Bay Rays to win this year’s World Series 4-1 in the best-of-seven series. 

    I am especially mindful that my oversight is compounded by the fact that, for months now, I’ve been urging all of you in that “swing state” of Pennsylvania to help bring about historic change in America by voting for Barack Obama to become the next president of the United States.

    Therefore, as I pay this cheerful, even if belated, tribute to the Phillies, forgive me for taking this opportunity to reiterate my plea for all of you to vote, and vote early!

    Of course, it would be remiss of me not to make honorable mention of the Rays for nearly pulling off the most remarkable turnaround in baseball history by  coming from last place in the major leagues last year to playing for the World Series title this year. 

    Therefore, since I’ve been urging all of you in that swing state of Florida to vote for Obama as well, I commend the Rays and reiterate my plea for all of you to vote, and vote early too.

    Congratulations Phillies!!!

    NOTE: You might be interested in reading my latest commentary on the UK Commission of Inquiry into corruption in my mother country of the Turks and Caicos Islands, which was published today at The TCI Journal here and at Caribbean Net News here.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 9:57 AM

    American stories, American solutions: Obama’s must-see TV

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In an audacious move, Barack Obama ran a 30-minute campaign ad in prime time last night that even die-hard supporters of John McCain must concede, however grudgingly, was remarkably effective (i.e., presidential). Indeed, it is a testament to their concession in this respect that their only complaint was about the amount of money Obama must have paid to buy up that amount of time on so many TV stations.

    But the irony seems completely lost on McCain and Palin that they are accusing Obama of being a socialist on the one hand while complaining, albeit unwittingly, that he’s too much of a capitalist on the other. After all, they’re whining that, unlike them, Obama eschewed the government’s handout of $84 million in favor of raising over $500 million privately to fund his campaign.

    But never mind how much it cost; because it’s the compelling message this “infomercial” sold that has McCain supporters now stewing with such envy and resentment. And, as a die-hard Obama supporter, I cannot resist this opportunity to compound their misery by featuring his ad here today:

  • Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 4:54 AM

    Rwandan-style violence erupts in Congo … again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Today, every rich country in the world is struggling to cope with an unprecedented credit crunch that has us all worried about our economic welfare.  And I appreciate that this global meltdown might cause many of you to be somewhat less sympathetic to my sounding an alarm about yet another humanitarian crisis unfolding in Africa. 

    Nevertheless, I feel obliged to note that Congo is teetering on the brink of full-scale civil war … again, which threatens to confirm my worst fears about it aping the genocide in Rwanda with a vengeance.   In fact, here’s how the Associated Press reported yesterday on this latest flare up:

    The unrest in eastern Congo has been fueled by festering hatreds left over from the Rwandan genocide and the country’s unrelenting civil wars. Renegade Gen. Laurent Nkunda has threatened to take Goma despite calls from the U.N. Security Council for him to respect a cease-fire brokered by the U.N. in January.

    But perhaps I can evoke a little sympathy by clarifying that this is not an appeal for more humanitarian aid for Africa. Because the best way you can help the millions whose lives are now in peril is by calling on your national leaders to lobby President Bush to deploy US forces to help the U.N. enforce its ceasefire.

    After all, history has shown that the U.N. forces have demonstrated reliable fecklessness in the face of rebel forces intent on genocide.  Indeed, this is why the US established AFRICOM just months ago – as a rapid response force to prevent humanitarian crises and military conflicts in Africa from escalating into genocide.

    What are they doing? They are supposed to protect us!

    [AP quoting Jean-Paul Maombi, a 31-year-old nurse, complaining about the failure of UN forces to prevent rebel forces from invading Goma, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes]

    Related Articles:
    DR Congo’s election … portending civil war
    AFRICOM
    Genocide in DR Congo: Rwanda with a vengeance

  • Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 5:35 AM

    Conviction of Sen. Ted Stevens is a bad omen for Republicans

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It did not get the media coverage that attended the most recent trial of O.J. Simpson (for burglary), but the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens was high political drama. 

    After all, here was the longest-serving Republican in the US Senate being tried on seven counts of corruption (stemming from lies he told about free home renovations and other gifts he received from a wealthy oil contractor) while his party was desperately trying not only to seem trustworthy enough to hang on to the White House but also to avoid being rendered utterly powerless in the US Congress. 

    In fact, Stevens’ conviction on all counts yesterday seems an omen for what I fully expect will be a political bloodbath at the polls for Republicans a week from today. 

    Because, in addition to John McCain losing the presidency by historic margins to Barack Obama, Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives seem destined to lose so many seats that Democrats could end up with filibuster-proof majorities in both chambers. And this of course would finally rid Washington of the perennial gridlock that has made it impossible in recent years to pass legislation on everything from healthcare and immigration reform to gay civil rights. 

    (Incidentally, despite McCain spinning Joe-the-plumber nonsense about a socialist agenda, I’m sure the congenitally pragmatic Obama will have a moderating influence on Congressional Democrats, which will prevent them from pursuing a radical, vindictive agenda that could undermine his presidency….)

    Nothing demonstrates their consternation over this prospect quite like the way Republicans are beginning to form the proverbial circle to fire blame at each other for their impending doom.   And most notable in this respect is the way McCain aides are finally admitting what has been patently obvious to the rest of us from the day McCain chose Sarah Palin as his VP running mate, namely:

    Her lack of fundamental understanding of some key issues was dramatic… It was probably the hardest to get her up to speed than any candidate in history. 

    [CNN quoting a "top McCain Adviser"]

    But another McCain aide left no doubt about how personal the infighting has become when he reportedly accused Palin of “going rouge” (i.e., speaking her mind instead of scripted talking points at campaign rallies) then twisted the knife in her back by adding that:

    She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone.  She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else. Also, she is playing for her own future and sees herself as the next leader of the party. Remember: Divas trust only unto themselves, as they see themselves as the beginning and end of all wisdom.

    At any rate, with the Republicans so busy going after each other, let’s hope the Democrats have the good sense to simply get out of their way….

    Meanwhile, Stevens, 84, faces 35 years in prison.  Yet he made a post-conviction prediction that Alaskans will still re-elect him next week to continue his 40-year tenure. But Palin has already embarrassed them so much that I predict Alaskans will bid Stevens good riddance without any hint of sentimentality.

    Related Articles:
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  • Saturday, October 25, 2008 at 6:24 AM

    Sarah Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe malfunction…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, I think the liberal media are taking cheap shots at this self-professed hockey mom for jumping at the opportunity to shed her Alaskan moose-hair duds for more cosmopolitan attire.   Because of all of the legitimate reasons to ridicule Sarah Palin, this is not one of them. 

    After all, what sensible woman would turn down a $150,000 shopping spree - on someone else’s dime – just to appear politically correct….?

    Yet, instead of dismissing criticisms of Palin in this respect as not only absurd but also elitist, Palin’s handlers have proffered the patently disingenuous spin that she will donate her new attire to charity after the campaign.   Never mind that a swat team will have to raid her closets to get those clothes back after her 15 minutes of fame comes to an ignominious end on Election Day.

    Related Articles:
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  • Friday, October 24, 2008 at 5:55 AM

    Austria in shock…and denial: right-wing leader Haider was gay!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Supporters of the right-wing political party, the Alliance for Austria’s Future, are struggling today to come to terms with the public confession of their new leader, Stephan Petzner (right), about the intimate relationship he had with his predecessor and party founder, Joerg Haider (left), who was killed recently in a car crash.

    Incidentally, if you’ve never heard of this party or its founder, just imagine supporters of the fiscally conservative Reform Party of America finding out that billionaire Ross Perot – who founded it based on his personal integrity and reputation as a successful businessman – was a serial embezzler.

    At any rate, not since right-wing US Senator Larry Craig was busted for soliciting gay sex in a public toilet last year has a politician, namely Haider, been outed as such a flaming hypocrite.  After all, like Craig, Haider laced his intolerant political ideology with platitudes about traditional family values that made homosexuals seem less than human. 

    Let me hasten to clarify, however, that the only reason I revel in the outing of hypocrites like Craig and Haider is that they are professed Christian conservatives who legislate against gay rights during the day, then cruise for gay sex at night.

    [Senator Craig insists he's not gay, The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2007]

    Alas, in a tearful confession earlier this week, Petzner revealed that they “had a personal relationship that went far beyond friendship.”  Moreover, reports are that Haider, 58, “drove his car off the road” on October 11 after having a lovers’ spat with Petzner, 27, at a gay bar. And, reinforcing his hypocrisy, the self-proclaimed abstemious Haider had a blood-alcohol level four times the legal limit.

    Meanwhile, Haider was married and had two daughters.  And it is telling that friends of his wife now say that she often complained that he spent more time with Petzner than with her. Yet party elders seem determined to preserve his legacy as a fascist demagogue and family man, insisting in an official statement yesterday that “Mr. Petzner wasn’t his lover.”

    Haider could be having sex in front of the cameras with a man, and Austrians would pretend not to see it. I am surprised that it has not been greeted as a bigger deal, but that is because people are still in denial.

    [Christian Högl, a spokesman for Hosi, the oldest gay rights group in Austria]

    Clearly, Petzner will be lucky if he survives another week as party leader….

    Related Articles:
    Senator Craig insists he’s not gay
    Craig reneges on promise to resign

  • Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 6:36 AM

    Obama wants to “spread the wealth”? Hooray!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This week, in the last gasps of his flatlining campaign, John McCain has been mumbling scaremongering riffs about Barack Obama’s alleged intent to use the tax code to “spread the wealth.”

    Never mind that Obama’s position on taxes today is the same as McCain’s was just eight years ago – when he opposed President Bush’s intent to cut taxes for the rich and raise them for the poor, the way “the new McCain” is now proposing to do. (Incidentally, all Obama intends to do is tax the rich and give breaks to the poor the way Bill Clinton did to stimulate the economic boom of the 1990s.)

    But even though I understand why Obama has to push back against any notion that he believes in wealth redistribution, I feel obliged to disclose my abiding belief in this basic tenet of socialism.

    Because I believe that it is far better to spread the wealth between rich and poor, which Obama wants to do, than it is to spread the gap between rich and poor, which McCain wants to do. And this makes me (or Obama) no more a socialist than President Bush (or McCain) who just bailed out a bunch of private companies and nationalized the US banking industry….

    Related Articles:
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  • Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 5:58 AM

    UPDATE: Thaksin, Thailand’s exiled prime minister, convicted of corruption

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    …a benign (i.e., popular and bloodless) military coup is not only inherently inconsistent but also politically untenable in a democracy. After all, no matter the extent of Thaksin’s corruption (highlighted by an insider’s deal where he allegedly sold his family’s stake in a state telecommunications company to Singaporeans for $1.9 billion), constitutional provisions were in place to either impeach him or vote him out of office at elections that were due to be held within months.

    [Thailand's benign military coup..., The iPINIONS Journal, September 20, 2006]

    This quote states the obvious about the use of military force to oust an allegedly corrupt leader from office. But I felt compelled to make it because Thais reacted to the 2006 military coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with such blithe resignation that one might have thought that military coups were sanctioned by Thailand’s constitution.

    That said, this quote also indicates my reasonable suspicion that Thaksin was guilty of many, if not all, of the allegations of corruption that purportedly forced the military to oust him.

    What I did not anticipate, however, was that the coup leaders would set the oxymoronic precedent of presiding over wholly democratic institutions, including, arguably, an independent judiciary.

    Indeed, it is instructive to note that while, in exile in England, Thaksin has been competing with Russian oligarchs to live more regally than the Queen, the coup leaders have been restoring parliamentary democracy to Thailand.

    Never mind that the military has been called upon to quell violent protests by demonstrators who, evidently, felt that another of Thaksin’s successor, Somchai Wongsawat, was too loyal to him; not least because the Somchai is Thaksin’s brother-in-law.

    (Incidentally, Samak Sundaravej, who succeeded Thaksin after democratic elections in December 2007, was ousted in September 2008 amidst protests that he was a Thaksin puppet.  The Thai court found, somewhat expediently, that he violated conflict of interest laws.  Somchai succeeded him.)

    Alas, the irony that democratic Thailand has become a place where military coups are blithely tolerated but political associations (and family ties) incite national riots seems completely lost on these protesters.  However, to appreciate how anathema this turn of events is, it would be as if Americans stood by as the military moved in to oust the allegedly corrupt President Richard Nixon but then rioted when word got out that his successor, Gerald Ford, was planning to pardon him.

    At any rate, Thailand’s Supreme Court has proceeded to try Thaksin’s family on a battery of corruption charges. And even though his wife and her brother were convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion in July, anti-Thaksin protesters continued to demand the resignation of Somchai’s government.

    But, with the Supreme Court finding Thaksin guilty of corruption and sentencing him to two years in prison yesterday, there’s widespread hope that Somchai will be allowed to govern without any further political duress. Especially since, according to the BBC, the chief prosecutor has indicated that the government intends to ask Britain to “quickly extradite” Thaksin back to Thailand to face justice.

    Not to mention that this was only the first of many pending cases against Thaksin – for which the court is expected to render similar verdicts and issue commensurate sentences.

     

    NOTE: If the Thai government can prosecute, convict and sentence a relatively popular leader to prison on corruption charges, then surely the British government can do the same with an unpopular leader who has turned its Overseas Territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands into a Caribbean kleptocracy.

    Related Articles:
    Thailand’s benign military coup
    British Commission of Inquiry looms for TCI
    Evidently, when A.L. Hall speaks, people should listen

  • Tuesday, October 21, 2008 at 8:52 AM

    Global cooling? Yes!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If you’ve noticed temperatures getting cooler sooner or more and more news reports about a phenomenon called “global cooling,” fear not, because this only indicates that Mother Nature has determined that it’s time for a change:

    I am convinced that all of the preaching about global warming is just hot air. Of course the planet is getting warmer (even if only by a sweltering 1°F (.17°C) every  100 years … ouch!). Moreover, I have no doubt that humans (especially Americans) are marginally to blame But I also have no doubt that this warming is simply due to natural climate variations (i.e., a cyclical phenomenon).

    [...Final word on global warming, The iPINIONS Journal, August 8, 2006]

    Frankly, I’ve been throwing cold water on the heated rhetoric of global-warming alarmists like Al Gore for years.  But, as the above quote suggests, this is not because I deny that we’ve experienced some global warming. Rather it’s because I find the science behind the assertion that global warming is nothing more than a naturally occurring cyclical phenomenon irrefutable.

    Therefore, I always welcome “new” scientific data which show that the warming cycle of recent decades is now changing to a cooling cycle … naturally. And most notable amongst the scientists providing irrefutable proof of this fact is geologist Don Easterbrook.

    Specifically, after examining warming and cooling trends over the past four centuries, Easterbrook reportedly found an “almost exact correlation between climate fluctuations and solar energy received on Earth, while showing almost no correlation at all with CO2.” In other words, the man-made greenhouse gases that prophets of global warming have been warning about had absolutely no affect on what little global warming we’ve experienced in recent decades.

    More to the point, here’s how Easterbrook concluded his findings:

    It’s practically a slam dunk that we are in for about 30 years of global cooling.

    Incidentally, nothing demonstrates the speciousness of global-warming orthodoxy quite like the inconvenient truth that just 30 years ago these same “environmentalists” were warning us about global cooling.  (See Newsweek April 28, 1975)

    Not mention reports by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that “almost all of the lost ice in Antarctica has come back.” Which must be a tremendous relief to all of the polar bears that have been featured in recent years – for global-warming propaganda purposes – clinging on to melting ice for dear life.

    Finally, to punctuate Easterbrook’s forecast, here’s what the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the oldest and most respected meteorological publication in the world, predicted in its September 2008 issue:

    We at the Almanac are among those who believe that sunspot cycles and their effects on oceans correlate with climate changes. Studying these and other factor suggests that cold, not warm, climate may be our future.

    So, here’s to a cooler winter

    Related Articles:
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  • Monday, October 20, 2008 at 7:45 AM

    Obama wins the most coveted endorsement of US presidential campaign: Gen Colin Powell

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On Saturday evening, I attended a dinner party at the home of a friend who is a proud Republican. And, as you can well imagine, it did not take long before our conservation turned into a spirited debate on presidential politics.

    However, as I invariably opt for asking questions instead of making assertions during such debates, the following are just two of the questions I posed to our gracious host:

    1. As more of a country-club than a religious-right Republican, don’t you think that the cynicism, contrivance and contradictions inherent in John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his VP nominee constitute an irredeemable indictment of his judgment?
    2. Given McCain’s lurch towards the religious right, and his declaration that “Roe v. Wade is bad law,” aren’t you troubled by the prospect of a President McCain having the opportunity to appoint at least two more right-wing justices to the Supreme Court, which would certainly lead to overturning a woman’s right to an abortion?

    Of course, my host was far too politically astute to have been floored by my questions. But he was intellectually honest enough to admit that they crystallized the reasons why he remains one of the few people still genuinely undecided (if not conflicted) about his presidential choice.

    Nevertheless, I sensed that, like many Republicans, he was just searching for the “right” rationale to jump on the Obama bandwagon. Therefore, when he asked why I’m such a die-hard Obama supporter, instead of parroting hackneyed talking points on the economy, here, in part, is how I tried to disabuse him of his indecision:

    Obama and McCain are engaged in a dogfight over who has the best plan to deal with this economic crisis. But I doubt either one of them can do much to alter our course towards a worldwide recession.

    What distinguishes Obama, however, is his message of multilateralism. After all, this approach to governing will be necessary not only to fix the problems ailing the US economy (as Bush himself conceded last week by calling for a summit of world leaders to discuss the matter), but also to fight the global war on terrorism (and deal with rouge states like Iran) more effectively.

    By contrast, McCain seems determined to continue Bush’s unilateral approach in both respects, indicating that he would be averse to meet even with the leader of Spain – a US ally. But this will only plunge America deeper into recession, expose it as even more of a paper tiger, and undermine what little remains of its goodwill in the international community.

    But since I harbored no illusions that anything I said would compel my host to get off the fence, I ended my pitch by informing him that even the most revered statesman in his Republican Party (and in the country), General Colin Powell, was reportedly poised to jump on the Obama bandwagon.

    What I did not anticipate, however, was that just hours later – on NBC’s Meet the Press – Powell would explain his reasons for crossing party lines by essentially echoing my assessment of the candidates as follows:

    On McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his VP nominee:

    Now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don’t believe she’s ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Sen. McCain made.

    (Although, Powell might have conceded that – based on the ratings she generated – Palin has a far more credible future as a comedic prop on Saturday Night Live.)

    On the need to change US approach to foreign policy:

    This is the time … to show the world there is a new administration that is willing to reach out … conveying a new image of American leadership, a new image of America’s role in the world.

    On McCain appointing Supreme Court justices:

    I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we’d be looking at in a McCain administration.

    On supporting Obama just because he’s black:

    If I had only had that in mind, I could have done this six, eight, ten months ago … I can’t deny that it will be a historic event when an African-American becomes president. And should that happen, all Americans should be proud – not just African-American, but all Americans … It would also not only electrify the country, but electrify the world.

    Summing up his reasons for endorsing Obama:

    [B]ecause of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities – and you have to take that into account – as well as his substance – he has both style and substance, he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.

    I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming … onto the world stage and on the American stage. And for that reason, I’ll be voting for Sen. Barack Obama.

    For his part, McCain did a pretty good job of disguising his disappointment over the fact that Powell, a fellow soldier and personal friend of over 25 years, not only refused to endorse him but actually questioned his fitness to serve as president:

    This doesn’t come as a surprise. But I’m also very pleased to have the endorsement of four former secretaries of state … and I’m proud to have the endorsement of well over 200 retired generals and admirals. I respect and continue to respect and admire Secretary Powell.

    But, more to the point, the reason Powell’s endorsement was so coveted is that both McCain and Obama were acutely aware of his influence amongst the moderate Republicans and Independent voters whose support will determine the outcome of this election.

    Specifically, Powell’s endorsement now provides the rationale for them to overlook their lingering concerns about Obama’s national security and foreign policy credentials – especially compared to McCain’s. He also reinforces Obama’s claim as the candidate most likely to end the partisan divisions between Republicans and Democrats that have made it so difficult to get anything done in Washington lately.

    Not to mention that Powell’s dismissal of McCain’s attempts to tie Obama to 1960s radical Bill Ayers and to allegations of voter fraud against ACORN as petty nonsense has effectively silenced McCain’s last rallying call for his campaign.

    This Powell endorsement is the nail in the coffin. Not just because of him, but the indictment he laid out of the McCain campaign.

    [The Politico quoting a Republican official]

    With that, I fully expect my undecided friend to follow Powell’s lead by pledging to vote for Obama to be the next president of the United States.

    Moreover, I expect the groundswell of support for Obama to increase so significantly over the final two weeks of this campaign that he will end up with more Americans voting for him than for any other candidate in US history.

    Related Articles:
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  • Sunday, October 19, 2008 at 10:31 AM

    Despite Joe the Plumber, McCain’s campaign still going down the drain

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, October 17, 2008 at 9:06 AM

    Okay … so two wrongs don’t make a right…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    But neither does the pot calling the kettle black, which is what Republicans accusing Democrats of voter fraud is!

  • Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 7:20 AM

    The McCain-Obama “debate” of ’08: final round

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Despite all the media hype, presidential debates have very little bearing on how people vote on Election Day. Instead, they tend to merely reinforce voters’ pre-existing feelings about the candidates. This means that who won the debate is invariably in the eye of the beholder.

    [The McCain-Obama "debate" of 08: round I, The iPINIONS Journal, September 28, 2008]

    As far as pre-debate hype goes, the talk going into last night’s final presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama could not have generated more suspense. Because on the one hand, reporters were harping on polls which indicate that McCain’s campaign is on life support; while on the other, pundits were proselytizing the notion that the only chance he has of resuscitating his campaign is to go postal on Obama.

    Therefore, viewers can be forgiven the expectation that McCain would come out throwing political punches at Obama as if his life depended on it.  And, sure enough, he tried.

    Most notably, McCain repeatedly jabbed with the politically expedient woes of “Joe the plumber,” the way Sarah Palin used those of “Joe Six-Pack,” in a patently contrived attempt to make Obama seem like an untrustworthy elitist who “pals around with terrorists” and is out of touch with ordinary folks.

    But, ironically, McCain played into the Saturday-Night-Live caricature of him as a senile old fool by demanding that the American people need to know more about Obama’s relationship with 1960s radical Bill Ayers. After all, McCain and Palin have been doing nothing but telling the American people about this relationship (in undeniably exaggerated fashion) on the campaign trail and in negative TV ads for months.

    At any rate, he did land at least one good zinger when he channeled Lloyd Bentsen dissing Dan Quayle as follows:  

    Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.

    But, showing off his rope-a-dope style, Obama counter punched as follows:

    If I’ve occasionally mistaken your policies for George Bush’s policies, it’s because on the core economic issues that matter to the American people — on tax policy, on energy policy, on spending priorities — you have been a vigorous supporter of President Bush.

    Unfortunately for McCain, however, he could not disguise his contempt, consternation and frustration over the fact that Obama responded to most of his attacks with clear-headed eloquence and a disarming smile. Moreover, McCain’s facial expressions betrayed the fact that even he knew that he was losing, and in fact did lose, this final debate.

    That’s the way things went, and that, alas, is the way McCain will end his bid to become the next president of the United States: fuming with contempt, consternation and frustration.  

    Related Articles:
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    *Published originally last night at 11:17 pm

  • Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 8:15 AM

    Children of Martin Luther King Jr continue family feud over his legacy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    King’s legacy has not been enhanced by the squabbling amongst his four children – pitting two of them who regard it as their inheritance to use for their personal benefit against the other two who regard it as a public trust for them to manage as zealous trustees.

    [Children of Martin Luther King fighting over his estate, The iPINIONS Journal, July 14, 2008]

    Last July, when I wrote about the latest spectacle the children of Martin Luther King Jr. were making of his legacy, I really didn’t think they could do any more harm.  But that all changed yesterday when they showed up in court to air more of their family’s dirty linen.

    And just as it was on the other two occasions when their squabbling ended up in court, the issue this time was whether Dexter King would be able to use his position as head of MLK’s estate to enrich himself.

    Specifically, Dexter signed a $1.4 million contract with Penguin publishing earlier this year for an autobiography of Coretta Scott King. But then his sister Bernice, who is the administrator of their mother’s estate, refused to release photos, papers and intimate correspondence between MLK and Coretta, which the biographer, Barbara Reynolds, said are indispensable to the book.

    Therefore, after Penguin threatened to terminate the contract and demand return of its $300,000 if he does not produce the documents by Friday, October 17, Dexter asked a judge to order Bernice to release them.

    For her part, Bernice has vowed not only to screw Dexter but also to defy any court order to turn over the documents. And her other brother, Martin, is supporting her as if MLK’s legacy depended on it.

    According to the Associated Press, Bernice and Martin insist that their mother did not want Reynolds to write the biography. Whereas, Dexter insists that their mother signed control of her intellectual property over to their father’s estate, which gave him control over Coretta’s documents and vested him with sole authority to broker the book deal as he saw fit.

    Now both sides have hired lawyers to hurl pot-calling-the-kettle-black accusations at each other about misusing and abusing their parents’ legacies for personal gain.

    But instead of reiterating my dismay over this ongoing King family feud, I shall conclude this latest episode with the lamentation of David J. Garrow, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Dr. King:

    It’s sad and pathetic to see the three of them behaving in this self-destructive way. Unfortunately all of the children seem to regard their father’s legacy as first and foremost an income maximization opportunity for themselves.

    MLK and Coretta must be rolling over in their graves…

    Related Articles:
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  • Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 6:23 AM

    Global plan to nationalize banks leads to historic gains in markets worldwide

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, if nothing else, this latest bailout should finally destroy the myth that the US is running a capitalist, free-market economy.  After all, this (and the other government bailouts cited above, which effectively privatized shareholder gains and nationalized losses), coupled with longstanding corporate subsidies, are indistinguishable from the way China runs its socialist, controlled-market economy.

    [Chickens come home to roost on Wall Street..., The iPINIONS Journal, September 16, 2008]

    Last weekend, finance ministers from the world’s richest countries betrayed the most basic tenet of capitalism by agreeing on a multilateral plan to effectively nationalize the banking industry in their respective countries.

    In each case, governments from the US, Europe and Japan allocated the equivalent of hundreds of billions dollars to buy stock in private banks as a means of insuring them against failure.

    What this portends for capitalism, however, is not lost on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez – who President Bush and other western leaders have continually condemned for nationalizing the banking and other major industries in his country:

    This crash of capitalism and of neoliberalism will be worse than that of 1929.  The world will never be the same after this crisis. A new world has to emerge, and it’s a multipolar world.  We are decoupling from the wagon of death.

    Nevertheless, Wall Street (and other markets around the globe) greedily endorsed this betrayal of capitalist principles by rallying from historic losses last week to historic gains yesterday – with the Dow in particular closing up 936 points, which nearly doubled its previous historic one-day rally of 499 in 2000.  

    Never mind that it’s probably only a matter of days before this theoretically efficient market suffers new historic losses. Because this seems inevitable given what Business Week describes as a “$516 trillion derivatives time-bomb” waiting to explode…. 

    (And if you don’t know what derivatives are, you have that ignorance in common with most of the money managers who have amassed this incomprehensible debt by investing in them in some netherworld corner of the global marketplace.) 

    Capitalism, in its quest for higher profits and new markets, will inevitably sow the seeds of its own destruction.

    [Karl Marx]

    But I suspect that yesterday’s historic gains will have the same effect as the plant in a street game of Three-Card Monty who pretends to win a bundle only to lure suckers in who invariably lose their shirts. 

    Investors beware….

    That said, as a Keynesian (big-government) liberal, I never believed the free-market fairytale that an  “invisible hand” would cause profits generated by the investments of greedy corporations and rich folks to trickle down to poor folks.

    Instead, I’ve always believed that government intervention was necessary not only to stimulate economic growth and regulate the private sector but also to ensure the equitable redistribution of the wealth of nations.

    Therefore, bailing out Wall Street is only the first step.  Because, to prove that they have really seen the light, governments in these rich, erstwhile-capitalist nations must now follow through by bailing out Main Street as well (eg. by forgiving the mortgage and credit-card debt of all citizens who make less than $100,000).

    Related Articles:
    Chickens come home to roost on Wall Street

  • Saturday, October 11, 2008 at 7:12 AM

    The great recession of 2008: commiseration … then depression

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, October 10, 2008 at 7:05 AM

    AFRICOM: no good deed Bush does goes unpunished

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    During the presidential debate on Tuesday night, Barack Obama won praise from the worldwide liberal establishment when he said that the US has a moral obligation to use military force for humanitarian purposes.

    He stressed, however, that just as the US must eschew unilateral action in favor of multilateral action in fighting the war on terrorism, it must do so in fighting the war on poverty as well. And he noted that, in both cases, this would be possible only if the US were to forge more sustainable diplomatic and military alliances around the world.

    Therefore, it would probably come as a surprise to many of you to learn that President George W. Bush’s efforts to forge these alliances are being met with contempt and ridicule from the members of this liberal establishment.

    Specifically, last month, when Bush launched the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) – America’s first military mission focused on Sub-Saharan Africa – he insisted that:

    AFRICOM will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote goals of development, health, education, democracy and economic growth.

    Unfortunately, distrust of Bush has become so visceral and irrational that his critics have dismissed AFRICOM as nothing more than a US Trojan Horse to exert military dominion over the African continent.

    America doesn’t have a lack of empathy; they just don’t know the issues as well … They refuse to accept, because of their political ideology, that he has actually done more than any American President for Africa. But it’s empirically so … Clinton talked the talk and did diddly squat, whereas Bush doesn’t talk but does deliver.

    [Live Aid founder and celebrated humanitarian Bob Geldof in the June 2005 issue of TIME magazine; quoted also in The iPINIONS Journal, June 20, 2005]

    Ironically, the people criticizing Bush for launching AFRICOM are the same ones who condemned him for failing to use military force to stop the genocide still raging in Darfur; or to stop the genocide that raged in the Congo between 1998-2003, during which almost 4 million people were killed, making the Rwandan genocide in 1995 seem like a drive-by shooting by comparison.

    Of course, through the prism of Iraq, these critics are inclined to see every military move Bush makes in the developing world as nothing more than a naked grab to control the wealth and natural resources of weaker nations.

    Never mind that the US is spending far more in Iraq than it is profiting from control over that country’s oil wealth. Indeed, Obama’s most persuasive criticism of Bush in this respect is that he’s driving America deeper into debt trying to build up Iraq’s economy while Iraqi leaders are sitting on billions of dollars in surplus from oil revenues.

    Meanwhile, these critics seem oblivious to the fact that Bush is only seeking to use AFRICOM in Africa the way his predecessors have used NATO in Europe since World War II, namely, as a stabilizing force for regional security, development, diplomacy and prosperity. For example, no one can deny that but for the intervention of US-led NATO forces, ethnic cleansing in Europe’s backyard (i.e., in Bosnia in 1995 and in Kosovo in 1999) would have rivaled the genocides in Darfur and the Congo cited above.

    More to Obama’s point, however, they fail to recognize that AFRICOM will enable the US to coordinate more effectively with international agencies to provide humanitarian assistance throughout the continent.

    That said, I am mindful that much of this criticism of Bush stems from President Bill Clinton’s unilateral attempt in 1993 to bring peace and stability to Somalia, which ended with the notorious “Black-Hawk-Down” debacle and US forces retreating in a humiliating defeat reminiscent of Vietnam.

    But the lesson of this unfortunate experience is not that Americans should become chicken hawks. Instead, it is, as Obama argues, that the US should establish military alliances that would enable it to manage conflicts in Africa, by force if necessary, to prevent them from descending into open warfare and humanitarian catastrophes.

    Finally, it is patently specious to argue that China and Russia are doing a better job of engaging in Africa. After all, the leaders of these countries have made it clear that their only interest in Africa is to forge economic alliances that will enable them to exploit the continent’s natural resources.

    In fact, in this respect, they have shown no moral scruples about doing business even with genocidal dictators, like President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan – who was indicted a few months ago by the International Criminal Court for the crimes against humanity his militias have committed in Darfur.

    By contrast, American leaders (now) find such amoral profiteering and doing business with such leaders morally anathema.

    So, here’s to the truly constructive engagement of AFRICOM in Africa!

    NOTE: Am I the only one who finds it fateful that the (white) leaders of the world’s richest nations are doing all they can to cast America as a banana republic just as voters are poised to elect the first black president of the United States…?

    For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin displayed his trademark Cheshire-Cat grin when he proclaimed this week that the US is no longer a superpower; and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd could barely contain his schadenfreude when he chimed in, with no hint of irony, that China will be the savior of capitalism.

    But I suspect Russia and China will demonstrate in fairly short order why the world would be a better place with the US, even with a black president, as the sole superpower.

    Related Articles:
    Bush has done more for Africa than any other American president
    Even the Post concedes Bush has done more for Africa
    Genocide in DR Congo: Rwanda with a vengeance
    The UN debates and dithers as Africans die by the thousands…every day
    US, China and Russia in new Cold War on the African front

  • Wednesday, October 8, 2008 at 7:38 AM

    The McCain-Obama “debate” of ’08: round II

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Despite all the media hype, presidential debates have very little bearing on how people vote on Election Day. Instead, they tend to merely reinforce voters’ pre-existing feelings about the candidates. This means that who won the debate is invariably in the eye of the beholder.

    [The McCain-Obama "debate" of 08: round I, The iPINIONS Journal, September 28, 2008]

    That said, I hope it is clear to you by now that what passes for political debate in America is little more than an occasion for candidates to parrot to a national audience the talking points they’ve been testing out on partisan crowds on the campaign trail. 

    This of course was made manifestly clear when Sarah Palin declared that she had no intention of answering any of the moderator’s questions or engaging Joe Biden during their vice presidential debate last Thursday.

    Therefore, it is a testament to media hype – for unabashedly crass commercial purposes – that these dog and pony shows continually draw so much public interest.  Never mind that the interest in watching is invariably more to see vaudevillian zingers or gaffes than to be informed about the pressing issues of the day, which was clearly the case when over 70 million viewers tuned in to watch Palin and Biden go at it.

    But John McCain and Barack Obama demonstrated tonight that nothing is a greater farce in this respect than the Town Hall format of presidential debates.

    Because the notion that candidates would ever be more inclined to answer questions posed by “Joe Six-Pack” than they are to answer those posed by a professional news anchor is patently absurd; especially since this format precludes the opportunity to ask follow up questions.

    Moreover, it is an indication of how staged these Town Hall debates are that of the six million questions voters reportedly e-mailed in, the moderator, Tom Brokaw of NBC News, selected only six to ask; and of the 80 purportedly uncommitted voters invited into the Town Hall, the moderator screened all of their questions and decided which 12 of them would have the honor of reading their questions at the candidates. 

    On the other hand, this format at least gives the candidates the opportunity to fake empathy with the pain and concerns of ordinary folks. Perhaps you recall that it was a Town Hall debate where that congenital narcissist Bill Clinton sealed his reputation as a leader who feels voters’ pain simply because he pursed his lips and affected emotional interest when one of them prefaced her question with a hard-luck story.

    Well, tonight, neither John nor Barack proved as effective at faking empathy as Bill did; but not for lack of trying.  In fact, both candidates actually played against type by emoting as they never have before.

    However, even though a die-hard Obama supporter, I am constrained to note that he lost a few debating points by showing the same emotion when he spoke about cutting taxes as he showed when he spoke about his mother dying of cancer while fighting her health insurance provider for benefits. That, alas, was a Michael Dukkakis gaffe (remember that … him?)

    By the same token, McCain lost a few himself by  referring to Obama, patronizingly, as “that one.” That, alas, was a Ross Perot gaffe (i.e., “you people,” remember that?).

    At any rate, since I’m obliged to declare a winner: it’s Obama!  Not only because his answers were a little more on point than McCain’s, but also because he articulated them far more coherently and persuasively.  But I thought McCain did a little better relating to the questioners – if only by occasionally thanking them for their questions and remembering their names.

    NOTE:  I found it ironic that while promising to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity, McCain and Obama were demonstrating that they cannot even keep the promises they made to abide by the time limits and other rules they negotiated for the conduct of this debate.

    Related Articles:
    The McCain-Obama “debate” of ’08: round I

    *Published originally last night at 11:14 pm

  • Tuesday, October 7, 2008 at 5:22 AM

    Despite “rescue plan,” markets plunge worldwide

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Like John McCain, I’m on record admitting that I have no clue what the remedy is for curing what ails Wall Street and for preventing its contagion from infecting markets all over the world.  Unfortunately, everybody else seems equally clueless.

    Because experts assured us that markets would react favorably if the US Congress passed the $700 billion bailout plan. Yet, even though Congress finally passed it on Friday, capital markets - from New York to London to Moscow and Hong Kong – all suffered devastating losses yesterday.

    Now what?!

    Not to mention that states, led by California, are now lining up to ask Congress for billions in financial bailouts as well. Or that other countries, like Germany, are now launching bailout plans in a desperate hope to rescue their ailing economies.

    God help us!

    NOTE: You might be interested in reading a revised version of my commentary (from a Caribbean perspective) on the recent O.J. Simpson verdict, which was published today at Caribbean Net News:  click here.

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  • Monday, October 6, 2008 at 5:08 AM

    Despite (or because of) her debate performance, Sarah Palin is still a national joke

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Truth be told, I really thought Palin showed enough style and self-confidence during her debate with Joe Biden on Thursday that Saturday Night Live would’ve been loath to continue making fun of her.

    But there was Tina Fey on Saturday night doing her parody of Palin’s folksy style and manufactured self-confidence in a way that ridiculed her debate performance for the national joke it truly was. 

    Never mind an Emmy, Fey deserves a Presidential Medal of Freedom for public service.  

    Meanwhile, Palin did not enhance her political stature over the weekend when she sullied her perfect lipstick by feeding at the trough of dirty campaign tricks.

    Because it only reinforced how clueless this hockey mom turn pit bull is (and how desperate the McCain campaign has become) when she spewed out the discredited and patently absurd accusation that Obama pals around with domestic terrorists.  Not to mention her vacuous attempt to play the race card when she punctuated this accusation by asserting that:

    This is not a man who sees America as you see it and as I see America.

    But this compels me to reiterate the conclusion I made in a recent commentary lambasting McCain for casting Obama in the sleaziest campaign ad in US history:

    McCain is fond of proclaiming that he would rather lose a campaign than lose a war.  But it seems he would rather lose his soul than lose a campaign. And, since he chose born-again Christian Sarah Palin not only to curry favor with women but also to inspire the evangelical base of the Republican Party, perhaps she should remind him of what Jesus said in this respect:

    ‘What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul.’ [Mathew 16:26]

    NOTE:  Click here to see Fey playing Palin more convincingly than Palin played herself during the debate.

    Related Articles:
    Palin surpasses expectations in VP debate with Biden. But
    McCain casts Obama in sleaziest campaign ad

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