Thursday, July 31, 2008 at 5:05 AM
PM Ehud Olmert
When scandal forces most politicians from office, they invariably cite a desire to spend more time with their families as their reason for leaving.
Therefore, it was interesting to hear Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert put an interesting twist on this refrain last night by citing his desire to shield his family from corruption allegations against him as his reason for resigning.
What is more important, my personal justice or the public interest? … People hurting my family bothers me a lot … I am proud to be the prime minister of a country that investigates its prime ministers.
[PM Olmert announcing his resignation]
In fact, Olmert has been under withering pressure to resign ever since the police launched an investigation months ago into allegations that he used bribes from a US citizen, Morris Talansky, to finance his campaigns and a lavish personal lifestyle.
More to the point, here’s how I lamented the crisis of confidence these allegations were having on his premiership:
It’s even odds either that in fighting within Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s fragile coalition government will soon cause it to fall, or that ongoing investigations into allegations of corruption against him will force Olmert to resign.
[The ceremonial return of Israelis and Palestinians to the roadmap to peace, The iPINIONS Journal, November 28, 2007]
Apropos in fighting within his coalition, there is no shortage of candidates lying in wait to replace Olmert when his Kadima Party holds leadership elections in September. But the one most likely to do so is Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Ironically, she led calls last May for Olmert to resign – not over these corruption allegations but after a government report indicted him for the poor leadership he displayed during Israel’s war against Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians have responded to Olmert’s resignation with almost hypocritical concern:
The concern of the Palestinian authority is to have an Israeli prime minister who is committed to peacemaking.
[Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas]
However, here’s how I lamented (in the article cited above) the in fighting amongst Palestinians that has been an even greater obstacle to peacemaking than Olmert’s travails:
Nothing is more delusional than [President Mahmoud Abbas] talking about negotiating a peace agreement with Israel while fighting a civil war with Hamas in the Palestinian territory.
Sen. Ted Stevens
Even worse, however, federal prosecutors actually indicted Stevens on Tuesday for making false statements about receiving over $250,000 worth of renovations to his home from a prominent businessman in his home state, Bill Allen. And although they did not charge him with taking bribes, the indictment alleges that Stevens and his staff granted a number of Allen’s requests for political favors.
(Note: The Ethics in Government Act requires all senators to file financial disclosure statements detailing all business transactions during the previous calendar year, including the disclosure of gifts above a specified value and all liabilities greater than $10,000.)
Of course, we all know how corrupt most politicians are. Therefore, it’s an indication of how extraordinary Stevens’ indictment is that he’s only the 10th senator to be indicted in the history of the United States.
Yet Stevens, a veritable icon in Alaska and the longest-serving Republican in the US Senate, remains defiant and refuses to even entertain questions about resigning. He is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court today.
I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that. I have proudly served this nation and Alaska for over 50 years.
[Sen. Ted Stevens responding after being indicted]
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 8:27 AM
Yesterday, wholly gratuitous coverage of the 5.4-magnitude earthquake in Los Angeles (which damaged a few buildings but injured nobody) and speculation about vice presidential nominees dominated all media.
Meanwhile, the most important event of the day, namely the US Congress finally apologizing for slavery, went virtually unreported.
The House apologises to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States…for the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery…and for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow.
Of course, it is noteworthy that this apology comes 140 years after the abolition of slavery and decades after black Americans began pleading for the government to issue it. And the only reason for this unconscionable delay is that the government feared an apology would validate longstanding demands for more vexing and costly reparations.
No doubt, those fears will now be realized; especially since this resolution commits the House to “rectifying the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African-Americans under slavery and Jim Crow.”
Nevertheless, the Senate is due to pass a similar resolution in due course.
NOTE: In February of this year, the Senate apologized for atrocities committed against Native Americans, and in 2005 it apologized “for standing by during a lynching campaign against African Americans throughout much of the past century.” And two decades ago, Congress apologized for interning Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II.
The fatally-flawed demand for reparations for slavery
Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 7:32 AM
Reprinted from Caribbean Net News
Published on Tuesday, July 29, 2008
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands: Regular readers of Caribbean Net News know that Anthony Livingston Hall is one of our featured columnists who writes on a wide variety of topics on a weekly basis. His commentaries on political developments in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), however, have proved to be most provocative and prophetic. For example:
Over a year ago Hall wrote a commentary entitled A wannabe gangsta…perhaps, but Premier Misick is no genocidal Mugabe – in which he called on the British government to inquire into alleged corruption in the TCI government.
Specifically, he warned that gross abuses were going unchecked because “…this Governor [HE Richard Tauwhare], like our Premier, seems only interested in enjoying the ceremonial trappings and perks, as opposed to performing the duties and responsibilities, of his office.”
This, and subsequent commentaries challenging the British government to honour its constitutional obligations to ensure good governance in the TCI, incited considerable wrath amongst members of the ruling Progressive National Party (PNP) against Hall. In fact, a provoked Premier Hon. Michael Misick even took to the floor of Parliament to denounce him.
Nevertheless, there is no denying that Hall’s commentaries have proved uncannily prophetic.
On appointing a Commission of Inquiry
At a time when he stood alone in calling for a Commission of Inquiry, the PNP and even the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) were insisting that there was “insufficient evidence” to appoint one.
Yet, on 10 July 2008, the outgoing Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Richard Tauwhare, “appointed a Commission of Inquiry to inquire into whether there is information that corruption or other serious dishonesty in relation to past and present elected members of the House of Assembly (previously known as the Legislative Council) may have taken place in recent years”.
On PNP motion to halt Inquiry
In his commentary on 18 July entitled TCI government attempts to halt British Inquiry into corruption, Hall dismissed a PNP motion to restrain the Inquiry from proceeding “as frivolous and utterly without merit”. But many people thought that Ariel Misick QC, the celebrated lawyer who filed the motion, would make him eat his words.
However, on Monday the Chief Justice of the TCI Supreme Court rejected the motion on the very legal grounds Hall predicted he would.
On Premier calling snap elections and declaring independence
Now rumours are spreading in the TCI about Premier Misick preparing to dissolve the Parliament and win re-election on a manifesto calling for independence from Britain as “an end run around the Commission of Inquiry”.
Therefore, given his unimpeachable record, Caribbean Net News decided to seek Hall’s opinion on this prospect. The following is what he said:
“The notion that Premier Misick and his party will be able to render the Commission of Inquiry irrelevant by dissolving Parliament, winning snap elections and declaring independence is every bit as impudent and uninformed as the notion that they could prevail in court on a motion to restrain the Commission from proceeding.
“Frankly, despite their salutary neglect, which so shocked and appalled Sir John Stanley, even the British could not stand by and allow them to perpetrate such a ploy. After all, it would not only constitute a brazen attempt to pervert the course of justice that the Inquiry was convened to deliver, but also pose an untenable challenge to Britain’s constitutional authority…..
“For the record, Premier Misick has no authority to dissolve Parliament. He can only advise the Governor to do so. However, the Governor is not obliged to accept any advice offered by the Premier – especially if, in his discretion, he deems it in the national interest of the country to ignore that advice.
“More to the point, the Constitution provides that the Governor can do anything when acting under instructions given to him or her by Her Majesty’s government. This means that if the British instruct even the acting governor not to prorogue or dissolve parliament, that’s it!
“Besides, since this Commission of Inquiry is independent of parliament, its work would not be affected by prorogation or dissolution. Therefore, frog marching our people towards independence would not necessarily give the Premier and others the immunity from prosecution they so desperately seek.
“Never mind that once TCIslanders realize all of the benefits and protections of UK citizenship we would lose if we were to become independent (some of which John Hartley delineated on 26 July in an article published by the TCI Journal entitled ‘Not the Promised Land’), they are bound to reject the PNP and their election manifesto calling for independence.
“And I suspect the British would be loath to make the TCI the first of their Caribbean colonies they leave not as a thriving democracy but as a de facto dictatorship.
“Finally, if I may, I would like to extend my offer to negotiate terms for restitution in lieu of prosecution with the Commission on behalf of any TCIslander who may have been ensnared by the adhesive nature of corruption in Premier Misick’s administration. But I urge them to contact me before it’s too late.”
Observers in the TCI and elsewhere will be watching closely as events unfold, to see if Hall is proven right once again.
Monday, July 28, 2008 at 8:17 AM
Just months ago, China faced near-universal condemnation for its brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks who took to the streets of Tibet to protest against Chinese rule. Moreover, there was widespread belief that the outrage world leaders expressed would compel many of them to punish China by personally boycotting the Beijing Summer Olympics (or, in some cases, by ordering national boycotts).
Nevertheless, here’s what I wrote back then about this prospect:
The Chinese have nothing to fear. Because they are fortunate that any decision to boycott the Olympics will be President George W. Bush’s to make, not Barack Obama’s or Hillary Clinton’s. And it would be too hypocritical even for Bush to act indignant over Tibet – given Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and his myriad constitutional abuses.
Meanwhile, the Europeans – who would follow whatever the Americans do – wasted little time in expressing solidarity with China’s national agenda to ensure that no country boycotts these Olympic Games.
Therefore, I was not at all surprised that, after offering patently disingenuous statements about not attending, virtually all of the world’s most influential heads of state have now conceded that they will be making “command” appearances at the Games beginning next week.
However, even I, in my cynical state of mind, did not anticipate that the Chinese would utterly reject entreaties from leaders like President Bush to simply hold talks with Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, about according Tibetan monks greater autonomy. Yet, after offering uncharacteristically chastened statements about reconciling their differences, the Chinese refused to even meet with him.
Even worse, some Western leaders are heeding China’s warning against meeting with the Dalai Lama in any official capacity, making a mockery of their condemnation of the brutal crackdown on Tibetan monks. In fact, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeased the Chinese by barring him from No. 10, agreeing instead to meet only in private at the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This enabled Brown to claim that he was meeting the Dalai Lama “in a spiritual rather than political capacity.”
And, reinforcing their hegemonic presumptions where this Tibetan leader is concerned, China felt emboldened enough to reprimand Republican presidential candidate John McCain for daring to meet with him in the United States last week:
China is seriously concerned… China is opposed to the Dalai Lama conducting separatist activities in any country with any individual and opposes anyone making use of the Dalai Lama issue to interfere in China’s domestic affairs. This stance is persistent and clear.
[Liu Jianchao, China Foreign Ministry spokesman]
Now, let the Games begin…
China’s Buddhist Intifada
Sunday, July 27, 2008 at 9:21 AM
Watching the way world leaders greeted Barack Obama on his world tour last week, one could be forgiven the impression that he was already president of the United States.
There’s no denying that the political atmospherics of his tour, which had leaders in the Middle East treating Obama like a president and people in Berlin greeting him like a savior, made McCain jealous. And his jealousy must have only intensified when the courting of Obama reached a climax in France, where President Sarkozy was anxiously awaiting his arrival like a high-school nerd who scored a date with the homecoming queen. Though, perishing the thought of being shunned, British PM Gordon Brown made quite a public show of waiting with bated breath for his quickie as a thoroughly exhausted Obama paid a courtesy call at No. 10 in London … on his way back to America.
In fact, such was the political rapture that accompanied his every visit that John McCain’s lament that Obama was acting like the “president of the world” had some resonance.
To be fair, however, Obama cannot be blamed for the tag of inevitability others have stamped upon his candidacy. Yet it behooves him to utterly shun their presumptions, which have him not only winning the election by a landslide but also saving the world like a black Messiah.
After all, Hillary Clinton bought into similar hype about her inevitability as the Democratic nominee, and look how inevitable that turned out to be….
So beware Barack, don’t believe the hype!
Obama’s tour of Middle East and Europe
Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 8:32 AM
Just as John F. Kennedy set his sights on the moon, Al Gore is challenging the nation to produce every kilowatt of electricity through wind, sun and other Earth-friendly energy sources within 10 years, an audacious goal he hopes the next president will embrace.
The Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan group that he chairs, estimates the cost of transforming the nation to so-called clean electricity sources at $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion over 30 years in public and private money. But he says it would cost about as much to build ozone-killing coal plants to satisfy current demand.
“This is an investment that will pay itself back many times over,” Gore said. “It’s an expensive investment but not compared to the rising cost of continuing to invest in fossil fuels.”
[Gore sets ‘moon shot’ goal on climate change, Associated Press, July 16, 2008]
Friday, July 25, 2008 at 7:29 AM
This week, while much of the world was focused on Barack Obama’s tour of Europe and the Middle East, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was in Moscow doing his best to resuscitate the Cold-War tensions that led to the Cuban Missile crisis, which brought the US and Soviet Union to the brink of war. And he assured the Russians – who clearly welcome his willingness to provoke America – that, unlike Cuba, Venezuela would prove a far more worthy pawn.
Here, in a nutshell, is what he said:
Venezuela’s sovereignty is currently being threatened by the United States, which is plotting to invade our country.
If Russian military forces ever visited Venezuelan territory, they would be greeted by flying colors, drum beats and songs, as this means the arrival of our allies with whom we share the same view on the world.
I have no doubt, however, that Russia sees Venezuela as nothing more than a rich market in which to peddle military arms. Of course, Russia is especially eager to do this in America’s backyard to counter the way America has been peddling arms in its backyard (e.g., in places like Poland and the Czech Republic) for years. Indeed, that’s why Russian President Dmitri Medvedev (right) sold Chávez on a strategic economic partnership instead of granting the military alliance he sought.
Never mind that, flush with cash from oil revenues, Chávez presented himself as just another fool looking to be parted with his money. In fact, as he was talking folly about forging a military alliance to take on the United States, the Russians were busy executing deals to supply Chávez with $5 billion worth of military hardware that they know will do nothing but grow moss dust in the Venezuelan jungle.
Frankly, Russia today is far more interested in reclaiming its Cold-War sphere of influence by flexing its economic muscles (e.g., by demanding extortionate rates for its natural gas) than by stoking military confrontation with the US – even by proxy.
Nevertheless, it seemed at least a provocative coincidence that Iszvestia reported on Monday that the Russian air force was planning to fly long-range nuclear bombers to Cuba on a regular basis.
But to make it clear to Russia that the US would respond to this bomber crisis just as it did to the 1962 missile crisis, here’s how General Norton Schwartz, nominee for air force chief of staff, responded on Wednesday to that report:
Russia would cross a redline for the United States of America if it were to base nuclear capable bombers in Cuba. I would certainly offer the best military advice that we engage the Russians not to pursue that approach.
However, there’s no greater indication that Russia wants no part in resuscitating Cold-War tensions in America’s backyard than the haste with which its defense ministry moved to deny Iszvestia’s report as “disinformation.”
Russia, out of its peace-loving policies, does not build military bases along the borders of other states.
[Defense Ministry spokesman Ilshat Baichurin]
Chávez replaces Castro as America’s American enemy no. 1…
Tension rising between Mother Russia and former territories
Chávez: Bush is trying to kill me
America’s shrinking sphere of influence
Thursday, July 24, 2008 at 8:37 AM
World leaders hail Obama as presumptive president! Meanwhile, back home Bush and McCain struggle to seem relevant
After regaling leaders in the Middle East with his presidential bearing and command of the complex issues that beset this region, Barack Obama flew to Germany today where he’s scheduled to give a speech on US-EU relations that Germans are anticipating as if it were a free concert by the Rolling Stones.
He will follow this performance by paying courtesy calls on the leaders of France and Britain. And even they are anxiously awaiting his arrival as if they were high-school nerds who scored a date with the prom queen.
Frankly, no matter their affectation of diplomatic neutrality, I suspect most world leaders will be even more disappointed than some of his die-hard supporters back home if Obama is not elected president in November….
Change [they] can believe in!
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 8:19 AM
I feel obliged to state for the record that I would never comment on a politician’s private life unless it betrays the statements, policies and conduct he espouses in his public life.
This is why I commented on the travails of anti-gay crusader Senator Larry Craig – after he was arrested for soliciting gay sex in a public toilet. And it is why I’m commenting on the mess model husband John Edwards has gotten himself into – after he was busted in Beverly Hills on Monday having a rendezvous with his mistress (and their secret, six-month-old love child).
Perhaps you recall the shocking scandal that rocked former Senator Edwards’ insurgent presidential campaign last year when the National Enquirer reported that he was having an extramarital affair with one of his campaign staffers – who often accompanied him along the campaign trail.
Of course, the reason this was so shocking is that Edwards had endeared himself to millions of voters by presenting himself as a faithful and loving husband who was supporting his wife Elizabeth (pictured with him here in this beautiful family portrait) in her heroic battle against cancer.
Never mind that he cravenly used his wife’s illness as a campaign tool to win sympathy and shield himself from any further media scrutiny into his private life. (This SOB even had her all over TV attacking his opponents, knowing full well that none of them would fight back against a woman stricken with cancer.)
Therefore, I suppose it’s understandable that he vehemently denied that report as follows:
I’ve been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years and as anybody who’s been around us knows, she’s an extraordinary human being, warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known. So the story’s just false…. It’s completely untrue, ridiculous….made-up.
Unfortunately, this was rather like another presidential candidate, former Senator Gary Hart, publicly daring the press to prove he was having an extramarital affair that every reporter knew he was having. And the Enquirer rose to the challenge. Because here, in part, is what they’re reporting today:
Vice Presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards was caught visiting his mistress and secret love child at 2:40 this morning…. The married ex-senator from North Carolina – whose wife Elizabeth continues to battle cancer — met with his mistress, blonde divorcee Rielle Hunter [pictured right], at the Beverly Hilton on Monday night July 21 – and the National Enquirer was there! He didn’t leave until early the next morning….
After we confronted him about seeing Rielle, Edwards looked like a deer caught in headlights!
Shocked to see a reporter, and without saying anything, Edwards ran up the stairs leading from the hotel basement to the lobby. But, spotting a photographer, he doubled back into the basement. As he emerged from the stairwell, reporter Butterfield questioned him about his hookup with Reille.
Edwards did not answer and then ran into a nearby restroom. He stayed inside for about 15 minutes, refusing to answer questions from the National Enquirer about what he was doing in the hotel. A group of hotel security men eventually escorted him from the men’s room, while preventing the National Enquirer reporters from following him out of the hotel.
Incidentally, let me hasten to disabuse you of any notion that the accuracy of this story is suspect because it’s being reported by the National Enquirer. After all, the distinction between this tabloid and the New York Times, when it comes to the reliability of their reporting, was eradicated long ago – as many headline reports about the Times quoting the Enquirer and even faking the news (remember Jason Blair?) can attest.
More to point, the fact the Edwards has not denied this report is testament to its accuracy. Therefore, I suspect his supporters will be even more disappointed in him than Bill Clinton’s supporters were after he was busted for having an extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky: not least because Clinton never presented himself as a model husband.
But I’ve chronicled so much hypocrisy in Edwards’ public life that I’m not at all surprised that he turns out to be a hypocrite in his private life as well. In fact, here’s what I wrote about him in this respect on the day he launched his ill-fated campaign for the presidency in December 2006:
Even the most cynical political commentators could not ignore the hypocrisy of Edwards showing up [in New Orleans] for a day to decry the fact that – more than a year after Katrina – these long-suffering people are still struggling to rebuild their lives of quiet desperation.
Because during this time, instead of traveling to lend a helping hand – like so many people who are genuinely concerned about the gap between the two Americas did – Edwards was busy watching contractors build a mansion on his plantation in North Carolina that is so, well, presidential, it would turn both George Ws (i.e., Washington and Bush) green with envy.
Frankly, this guy should be a used car salesmanbecause he gives politicians (and lawyers) a bad name! And, trust me folks, no matter what Drudge and others have reported, Edwards was never in contention to be Obama’s VP running mate.
NOTE: Instead of issuing inherently suspicious, finger-wagging denials, I wish one of these cheating bastards would have the balls to simply say to the press that “when it comes to questions about my marriage, I answer only to my wife and God … next question!”
Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 7:43 AM
Notwithstanding that every Serb I know believes that Dr. Radovan Karadzic was hiding in plain sight, reports are that a tip from a foreign intelligence agency finally enabled Serbian security officers to arrest him yesterday.
Indeed, it is a testament to either the incompetence or perfidy of Serbian (and UN) authorities that Karadzic managed to evade capture over the past 13 years. After all, he was second only to Osama bin Laden on the world’s most-wanted list.
Radovan Karadzic was located and arrested tonight. Karadzic was brought to the investigative judge of the War Crimes Court in Belgrade, in accordance with the law on cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [ICTY].
[Official statement from the office of Serbian President Boris Tadic]
Karadzic, seen here (to the right) in an old photo with fellow Serbian fugitive, commander Ratko Mladic, was indicted by the ICTY on a battery of crimes against humanity. In fact, the UN claims that he and Mladic:
Killed at least 7,500 Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica in July 1995 as part of a campaign to ‘terrorise and demoralise the Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat population’.
Even more damning, however, the US and EU claim that they Killed over 100,000 (and displaced 2 million more) pursuant to their genocidal plan to ethnically cleanse Sarajevo of all non-Serbs.
Meanwhile, his flight from justice highlighted Serbia’s quixotic fight to retain control over Kosovo whilst begging the US for foreign aid and the EU for membership. Because the US and EU insisted that Serbia arresting Karadzic and Mladic was an absolute precondition in each case. Never mind that the US proved rather malleable in this respect:
…despite declaring in January of this year that Belgrade was not cooperating fully with the ICTY, Washington made quite a fuss last week about that $10 million disbursement…. This comes after a similar declaration last year that Belgrade was failing to cooperate which, nonetheless, was also followed in short order by $73.6 million in disbursements – albeit, ostensibly, ‘in assistance to organisations and programmes outside of the central government’ in Belgrade.
Of course, Washington’s quagmire in Iraq and its feckless hunt for Osama bin Laden provide the only explanation for Belgrade’s apparent leverage in this respect.
[Serbs confound Americans as they hide war criminals and seek US aid, The iPINIONS Journal, June 15, 2005]
After all, he and Mladic have become veritable folk heroes in Serbia. And, it is impossible to exaggerate the jingoistic pressure Serbian authorities have been under to harbor these fugitives indefinitely.
Now if only some foreign intelligence agency will tell them which Serbian Orthodox monastery is providing Mladic sanctuary….
Monday, July 21, 2008 at 11:17 AM
Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has taken a detour from his US presidential campaign trail this week to go on a “fact-finding and listening” tour of Europe and the Middle East. But John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, is leading a chorus of pundits criticizing Obama’s trip as variously long-overdue, misguided and inappropriate.
They say it’s long-overdue because, even though he predicated his campaign on opposition to the war in Iraq, this is the first time Obama is visiting the war zone in Iraq in over two years.
In addition, they note that Obama is chairman of the Senate subcommittee that has oversight responsibility for the war in Afghanistan. And they exclaim indignantly that, even worse than the fact that he has never visited Afghanistan, Obama has never even held a hearing on the conduct of this war.
If he was so concerned about Afghanistan and the threat there and the need to send troops, don’t you think he should have gone there?
Indeed, I’m obliged to admit that, even as a die-hard Obama supporter, I think these criticisms are legitimate – especially regarding Afghanistan. After all, Obama maintains that Afghanistan, not Iraq, is the number one front in the war on terrorism. Moreover, he insists that al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters are resurgent on this front because too many US resources have been misused in quelling a de facto civil war between Sunni and Shia factions in Iraq.
This is not to say that Obama cannot offer an informed strategy for getting America out of Iraq (or for fighting the war in Afghanistan) from the campaign trail in America. After all, he has military advisers who can brief him thoroughly in this regard.
Instead, his failure to visit these countries made him vulnerable to political attacks about making up his mind before going on his fact-finding mission and about being all talk and no action.
It is noteworthy, however, that, despite this criticism, it’s Obama’s plan for a phased withdrawal from Iraq over 16 months, not McCain’s for a 100-year occupation, that has been endorsed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
…US presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right time frame for a withdrawal….
[Nouri al-Maliki in a recent interview with German magazine SPIEGEL ]
They say Obama’s trip is misguided because he’s planning stops in Israel and Europe that seem more worthy of a US president than a mere presidential candidate. Never mind that the media are covering his every move as if he were already president of the United States: and there’s the rub.
Because much of the criticism in this respect stems either from McCain’s political envy or from reporters’ access envy.
I don’t know that people in Missouri are going to like seeing tens of thousands of Europeans screaming for The One.
Of course, one can be forgiven for not recalling that McCain himself has traveled to many foreign countries, including Israel and Mexico, since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee. The difference is that people in those countries couldn’t care any less about his visit; whereas, they’re planning for Obama’s visit as if he were a rock star.
Incidentally, every reporter (or pundit) you hear criticizing Obama’s trip is probably one who resents not being invited along for this historic ride….
Finally, they say his trip is inappropriate because he plans to emulate former presidents Reagan and Kennedy by giving a major “campaign” speech on US-EU relations at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany. Indeed, just imagine the criticism (from Frenchmen and Americans) if, while campaigning for the French presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy had come to Washington, DC to give a speech at the Lincoln Memorial…?
When John McCain goes on foreign trips, he is legitimately going on fact-finding missions to learn new information. He doesn’t give huge campaign speeches overseas he goes to inform his worldview.
In fact, if Obama were going ahead with his speech at this hallowed venue, this criticism would have merit. Not least because no less a person than German Chancellor Angela Merkel was opposed to it. As things stand, however, the criticism became so acute that Obama’s handler’s were forced to relocate to the Victory Column, which may actually prove a more appropriate venue in more ways than one….
Nevertheless, when all is said and done, I think Obama’s trip will prove a net plus (for his campaign).
After all, no matter how belated or misguided, it will give him a world stage upon which to strut his stuff as (putative) commander in chief; i.e., during highly publicized visits to war zones to consult with generals on the front lines. And it will give him an opportunity to demonstrate why he more than McCain is more likely to improve America’s image and goodwill with people around the world.
Meanwhile, TV networks are giving pundits an inordinate amount of airtime just to expound on the myriad ways they think Obama might say or do something that undermines his campaign back home. Yet all any of them has to say is that Obama could not possibly say or do anything that is more damaging than continually mixing up who the Sunni and Shia are in Iraq – as McCain did during his most recent trip there.
Frankly, given Maliki’s endorsement and how positively presidential he looked on the first two legs of his trip, Obama has already passed the commander-in-chief test. Not to mention the Trumanesque authority he displayed when he reminded the press that it doesn’t matter what Gen. Petraeus wants because, as president, he will be the one setting America’s military agenda.
And, with that mission accomplished, the political atmospherics will only get better for him in places like Germany, France and England.
Latest on the campaign trail: Jesse want to cut Obama’s nuts off
Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 7:01 AM
Friday, July 18, 2008 at 6:35 AM
In an article entitled “TCI Commission of Inquiry: no further comment”, which was published here a week ago today, I wrote the following:
Now that this process is underway, however, I feel obliged to follow my own advice to be patient and let justice take its course … with no further comment (until the Commission issues its report in 16 weeks).
Unfortunately, my assertion that this process is underway proved premature. Because soon thereafter members of the ruling Progressive National Party (PNP) filed a motion in the Supreme Court to prevent the Commission from getting on with its work.
Recall that on 10 July, the British Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), HE Richard Tauwhare, exercised his plenary powers to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to:
…inquire into whether there is information that corruption or other serious dishonesty in relation to past and present elected members of the House of Assembly (previously known as the Legislative Council) may have taken place in recent years.
Naturally, one would have thought that all members of the PNP, especially Premier Hon. Dr. Michael Misick, would have welcomed this Commission. After all, it finally presents the opportunity for them to have a tribunal squash the allegations of corruption that members of the opposition People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) have been hurling at them for so many years.
Instead, on July 14, Premier Misick accused the British government of mounting:
…nothing more than a Fishing Expedition, to disguise the true plot, to attempt to make criminals out of our politicians, on both sides of the political divide, and destabilize our country.
Then, on the same day, two PNP members of Parliament filed the motion at issue. (Me thinks they doth protest too much….)
Consequently, on 16 July, my colleagues and I at The TCI Journal commented on their motion in an article entitled “Attempted injunction little more than roadside noise”. We assumed that this article would expose it as utterly without merit and thereby allay the concerns of all TCIslanders who truly want to see justice prevail; i.e., neither delayed nor denied.
Judging from the number of e-mails I have received over the past 48 hours, however, it seems we have failed to allay those concerns.
Therefore, with all due respect and deference to Chief Justice Gordon Ward – who is scheduled to rule on this motion on Monday, I feel obliged to comment a little further.
They seek, among other things to restrain me from proceeding with the Commission of Inquiry. I shall take legal advice on the claim and will abide by any order of the Court if and when given.
[Head Commissioner Sir Robin Auld QC]
Alas, my fellow TClslanders, only consciousness of guilt could have compelled Premier Misick and the PNP to react so irrationally and attempt to restrain Sir Robin from proceeding. They claim that they’re exercising their “constitutional rights to challenge the Terms of Reference of the Commission”. But, frankly, they would have been better served to exercise their constitutional right against self-incrimination instead….
At any rate, I am confident that the Chief Justice will reject their motion, summarily. And here’s why:
- Nothing in the Commission of Inquiry Ordinance prohibits the Governor from setting out the terms of reference as he has; and
- The Governor enjoys “complete discretion” with respect to appointing a Commission – as the FCO’s own legal counsel, Susan Dickson, affirmed recently in Parliamentary testimony. Moreover, this discretion extends to specifying its terms of reference – as delineated in sections two and three of the Ordinance.
For the record, citing the legal advice they got, the MPs filed their motion based on the following claim:
What the Terms of Reference should have done is to authorize the Commission to enquire into these allegations. Instead, the Commission is authorized to look for information on elected members.
I fear, however, that this patently flawed argument will only cause the Chief Justice to roll his eyes in dismay, if not in disgust. After all, any first-year law student could have advised them that the Commission cannot inquire into these allegations (which necessarily do not refer to any specific government official) without gathering information on the activities of all elected members whenever the evidence implicates them.
Actually, as a member of the TCI Bar, I am embarrassed by the frivolous and uninformed nature of this motion.
Yet I believe Sir Robin was wise to acknowledge it. Because this demonstrates his willingness to accord all subjects of this Commission of Inquiry every conceivable right of due process that criminal defendants are entitled to under our Constitution.
Furthermore, I am encouraged that he made it clear he will not be deterred by the PNP’s third-rate efforts to hinder or undermine his investigation.
Accordingly, I urge Premier Misick and his party to let justice take its course – wherever and to whomever it may lead – without any further political distractions.
TCI Commission of Inquiry: no further comment
* This article is also being published today by the TCI Journal and Caribbean Net News – the most widely read newspaper in the Caribbean.
Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 5:25 AM
[U]nfortunately for deserters like Sgt McDowell of the U.S. Army, Canada just rolled up the welcome mat. Because last week its Supreme Court affirmed the 2005 ruling of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, which held that American deserters do not qualify as refugees in need of protection and, moreover, that they faced no risk of persecution back home.
Therefore, all of those hiding out in Canada now face deportation and possible court-martial when they return, which, frankly, serves them right.
After all, it is untenable for people who volunteer to serve, invariably for the benefits the military doles out in peacetime, to run away like cowards when called upon to fight – no matter their personal feelings about the legality or morality of this war. And, alas, prosecuting those who make a spectacle of their desertion seems a necessary, even if only marginally effective, deterrent.
[Canada is no longer a safe haven for deserters from U.S. military, The iPINIONS Journal, November 19, 2007]
Admittedly, “no risk of persecution” is a very relative concept. Indeed, I suspect any deserter would consider the prospect of spending years in prison a very serious risk of persecution.
Yet this is a prospect Robin Long now faces. Because yesterday he became the first of some 200 American soldiers – who went AWOL to avoid serving in the Iraq war – that Canada is deporting back to America … and into the custody of the U.S. military.
Of course, the military refuses to say whether these whimsical soldiers will be court-martialed or dishonorably discharged. But I’ll bet my lunch money that all of them will be prosecuted (not persecuted) and thrown in the pokey, which, as I indicated in the quote above, would serve them right.
Because the harsher their punishment the greater the deterrence to the many other soldiers who are no doubt contemplating desertion from this infernal and interminable war in Iraq. After all, given the difficulty the U.S. military is having recruiting and retaining soldiers, the last thing the country can afford is for those serving to think that they can flee to Canada (or anywhere else) with impunity.
Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 4:51 AM
Kidnapping is the only language Israel understands
[Gaza militant as reported by the Associated Press]
The Israel government is being criticized at home and abroad for a prisoner swap it executed with the Hezbollah terrorist group yesterday, which involved exchanging one notorious terrorist, four Gaza militants and the bodies of 199 Arab fighters all for the bodies of just two Israeli soldiers.
(Perhaps you recall that Israel launched a war in Southern Lebanon two years ago after Hezbollah fighters kidnapped these two soldiers.)
Most critics express the belief that such deals “only encourage hostage-taking.”
My criticism, however, is that such deals reflect the value Israeli leaders place on the lives of Israelis relative to Palestinians that is simply untenable. After all, it would seem more than fair to exchange one notorious terrorist for the bodies of two dead Israeli soldiers….
Therefore, it strikes me as a perverse form of jingoism for the Israelis to agree to such a lopsided exchange. Moreover, I can see how it feeds resentment amongst Arabs for their soldiers to be regarded so cheaply.
More to the point, I can see why Arab militants consider kidnapping such a good strategy to execute against the Israelis in their never-ending war.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 5:09 AM
The Chinese have become notorious for exporting all kinds of contaminated products, including melamine-laced pet food, all over the world.
Therefore, I found it more than a little ironic when they announced yesterday that they’re taking dog meat off the menu at 112 official Olympic restaurants.
The Chinese reportedly made this gesture “to respect the habits of many countries and nationalities” participating in the Beijing Games next month. Instead of gratitude, however, it merely incited cackles of indignation throughout the West.
But can you imagine any Western country taking a staple of its diet off the menu to respect the habits of foreigners under any circumstances…? And please bear in mind that billions of people around the world think it’s just as disgusting to eat pigs as Westerners think it is to eat dogs….
Accordingly, I think the Chinese should be commended for their hospitality, not ridiculed for their penchant for eating this “fragrant meat”.
NOTE: Just to be safe, it might be a good idea to avoid all red meats during your visit.
Are Caribbean countries importing products banned in the USA
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 5:57 AM
Yesterday a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) charged President Omar al-Bashir with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for presiding over the atrocities that have been committed since 2003 in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The ICC is “an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC is based on a treaty, joined by 106 countries.”
It is critical to note, however, that neither the United States nor Sudan has ratified this treaty. Which means that the only country that would even dare to arrest Bashir on these charges does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction. Not to mention that Bashir is savvy enough to know that an ICC arrest warrant – to be executed by the UN – would have all the force of a paper tiger.
(Incidentally, since Sudan has not ratified the treaty either, the only way the ICC can assume jurisdiction over Bashir is on referral from the UN Security Council.)
Frankly, the only reason Bashir has been able to get away with his alleged crimes is that the U.S. has not deemed stopping him a matter of national (economic) interest.
Therefore, this begs the question: What is the point of charging him if the ICC has no power to arrest him?
I submit that the ICC has announced these feckless charges in a vain attempt to assuage the collective guilt of western countries. After all, they did not lift a finger to stop Bashir’s Arab militia from killing over 300,000 black Africans and forcing another 2 million to flee their homes. And this, despite promises by the UN, U.S. and EU that never again would they allow another Rwandan-style genocide to be perpetrated in Africa.
But since I can’t work up enough indignation to write another commentary lamenting their appeasement of this genocidal maniac, I shall suffice to reprise an article dated October 25, 2006 entitled SHOCKING NEWS…not: Bush’s insidious alliance with the genocidal maniacs in Sudan, which explains Bashir’s defiance in the face of these ICC charges:
…The United States is in bed with the government in Khartoum on counterterrorism issues and therefore we are looking the other way on a genocide.
[Scott Pelley reporting for 60 Minutes from Darfur, Sudan]
I understand implicitly the geopolitical realities that have allowed President George W. Bush’s (axis-of-evil) enemies in Iran and North Korea to expose the United States as a superpower paper tiger. Until Sunday, however, I was stupefied as to why Sudan has been allowed to do the same.
After all, for over three years now, “the-Big-Man” Arab dictator of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, has ignored all of Bush’s ultimatums to stop his genocidal campaign to exterminate all black Africans from Darfur.
Moreover, he was not content to defy Bush from the safe haven of the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. Instead, as 60 Minutes reported on Sunday, Bashir and his posse boldly traveled to New York City in September to attend the 61st Session of the UN General Assembly and laughed at Bush as he recited charges of genocide against them during his UN address.
But I was disabused of my stupefaction when 60 Minutes insinuated that these genocidal murderers have been neither defying nor laughing at Bush. Instead, it seems they have been defying and laughing at everyone else in the world who has been pleading with Bush all these years to help save the people of Darfur.
Because 60 Minutes reported probative allegations that, despite his rhetoric condemning them, Bush established an insidious alliance with the Sudanese in the aftermath of 9/11. And this alliance calls for Bashir’s Gestapo to provide “intelligence” on fellow Arab terrorists (as patently absurd and unlikely as that may be) in exchange for complete immunity to perpetrate as much terror within Sudan as their genocidal hearts desire.
Clearly, this puts my serial criticisms of Bush – for being a political and moral hypocrite on Darfur – in a far more sinister light. After all, I had no clue about this alliance when I chastised him in an article dated May 2, 2006 entitled Save Darfur Rally: Full of sound and fury signifying nothing, or in another dated March 14, 2006 entitled Darfur: Thanks for caring America, but you’re already a genocide too late, or in yet another dated December 1, 2005 entitled Help! Ethnic cleansing and forced starvation persists in Darfur.
Unfortunately, it is equally clear that, though bloodied, Bush remains unbowed by criticisms and damning allegations about any aspect of his presidency (especially his war on terror). In fact, the man seems positively immune to them.
Meanwhile, the promise – that “Never Again” will the world stand by and watch the perpetration of another genocide like the one that was executed in Rwanda just over a decade ago – rings hollow in Darfur today. Notwithstanding that this promise was made with absolute conviction by such notable figures as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, U.S. President Bill Clinton and Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elli Weisel.
I’m sorry to say I’m going to sit here with you in two years time and I’m gonna tell you the same sad story. People will say, ‘Ich habe nicht gewusst,’ which is German for ‘I didn’t know.’
[Dr. Ashis Brahma who alone treats 25,000 people in one Darfur refugee camp]
For what it’s worth, however, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1706 on August 31, which calls for a force of 20,000 soldiers and police to intervene immediately in Darfur. But so far, Bashir has dared them to try….
In fact, such is Bashir’s disdain for the UN that, forget military intervention, he got so fed up with its political meddling that, just days ago, he kicked the UN ambassador out of his country.
Now all that remains is for Bashir to inform the world that his final solution for Darfur is complete and then, without the slightest bit of irony, request U.S. and UN aid to help develop this region of Sudan that he has ethnicly cleansed of black Africans….
The NAM principle, which calls for mutual non-interference in the domestic affairs [of member states], has operated as a de facto cover for African leaders to mutually ignore the most egregious abuses of human rights, the ravages of civil war and even the perpetration of genocide on their Dark Continent.
[Non-Aligned Movement (NAM): dominated by rebels looking for a cause – by Anthony L Hall, Caribbean Net News, September 15, 2006]
Monday, July 14, 2008 at 5:19 AM
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.
In fact, here’s how Martin Luther King III – who along with his sister Bernice – argued against the sale of MLK’s papers, writings and recorded speeches:
“Tearing the center’s unique and essential elements apart – its physical memorial and its living legacy – only diminishes them both, thereby weakening, not strengthening, the cause to which my father and mother gave so much.”
Unfortunately, he was overruled by Dexter King, Chairman of the King Center in Atlanta where these national treasures were archived – who along with the other sister Yolanda – betrayed their father’s legacy for a reported $30 million last June.
Of course, if Dexter had one scintilla of appreciation for MLK’s familiar Biblical allusions, he would have settled for 29 just to avoid fated comparisons to Judas who betrayed Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver….
[Mall at last! Mall at last! Thank God Almighty, a black is on the Mall at last, The iPINIONS Journal, November 14, 2006]
The above is part of a sad note I appended to an article heralding the groundbreaking for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC. But I never thought this King family feud would escalate to the point it has today.
I suppose it’s unfair to expect any of MLK’s children to live up to his legacy. Frankly, I don’t even know what that would entail: competing with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for the title of black civil rights leader?
What is fair, however, is to expect them to conduct their lives in ways that do not bring dishonor and shame upon that legacy. Unfortunately, they have failed to even live up to this modest expectation.
Because, as if fighting over their father’s intellectual property were not embarrassing enough, they’re now fighting over the real and other personal property in their parent’s estate.
In fact, MLK III and Bernice filed a lawsuit on Thursday in which they allege that Dexter – in his capacity as president of the Martin Luther King Jr corporation – has misappropriated a third of their parent’s estate “for his own benefit.”
(Yolanda, Dexter’s cohort in exploiting their father’s legacy for all it’s worth, died suddenly last year at 51.)
In addition, they claim that management of the corporation is in “complete disarray” and that Dexter has refused to provide them with “information and documentation concerning the operation, actions and financial affairs of the corporation to which they were entitled.”
Never mind that, just like any family dispute over money that ends up in court, this lawsuit will do more to air more of the King family’s dirty laundry than to settle their financial affairs.
And even though MLK was a womanizer who did not conduct his personal life in an exemplary manner, he must be rolling over in his grave at the public spectacle his kids are now making of his public legacy.
In other news
Magazine cover depicts Obama and wife as terrorists
There’s quite a lot of media buzz today about a patently offensive painting on the cover of a national magazine, The New Yorker. It depicts Barack and Michelle Obama as Muslim terrorists occupying the White House – complete with Barack in Muslim garb, Michelle dressed like 1960s Black-Panther radical Angela Davis (with a fake Afro and machine gun strapped over her shoulder), a picture of Osama bin Laden (instead of George Washington) on the wall, and the American flag burning in the fireplace for good measure.
All of this buzz, however, begs a critical question: If it’s so obvious that the editors’ primary intent was “to generate buzz” (and sales), then why are so many TV stations, newspapers and blogs helping them perpetrate this crass and perverse commercial act; i.e., by showing and republishing this offensive magazine cover?
For the record, the editors claim that they published it to debunk dogged belief amongst some Americans that Obama is a Muslim with ties to terrorist organizations. But this claim is as specious as it is misguided.
After all, nobody with half a brain holds such beliefs. More to the point, none of the racial and religious bigots who hold them will ever read this magazine’s tortured explanation of its “satirical” cover. Instead, they will see Obama being depicted as described and simply think that it confirms their ignorant beliefs about him.
That said, I know enough about The New Yorker to know that the editors of this liberal magazine intended Obama no political harm. In fact, I have no doubt they will heartily endorse him for president.
But here is Obama’s cool, calm and collected reaction to this unwitting insult:
I know it was The New Yorker’s attempt at satire … I don’t think they were entirely successful at it. But you know what, it’s a cartoon…
One of the things when you’re running for president for almost two years is you get a pretty thick skin. And I’ve seen and heard a lot worse. I do think that in attempting to satirize something they probably fueled some misconceptions about me instead.
But…ultimately it’s just a cartoon and its not [what] the American people are spending their time thinking about.
NOTE: As far satire, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show was far more successful. He joked that he doesn’t know why Obama is so upset about this cover because he thought only Muslim terrorists got upset over cartoons….
Saturday, July 12, 2008 at 6:03 AM
Initially, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned Americans that a certain kind of tomato had become a produce of mass destruction. Now the CDC is warning that any of the variety of fruits, vegetables and spices, including Thai Basil, the U.S. imports everyday can be just as deadly.
No doubt you recall the nationwide panic the CDC caused when it quarantined grapes from Chile as a toxic produce.
Clearly, in addition to foreign oil, the U.S. must end its dependence on foreign food….
Friday, July 11, 2008 at 7:17 AM
I am stupefied by all of the psychoanalysis media outlets are devoting to the fact that Reverend Jesse Jackson’s was “caught on tape” saying the following about presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama:
See, Barack been, um, talking down to black people on this faith based … telling niggers how to behave … I wanna cut his nuts off.
Frankly, I am neither surprised by the fratricidal rage inherent in what he said nor by the vulgar way in which he said it. After all, in a December 11, 2007 article entitled Bill Clinton has had more black women than Barack Obama…so what?! , I was moved to pose the following rhetorical question:
What’s behind this open conspiracy [amongst old-fashioned black leaders like Rev. Jackson and Andrew Young] to commit racial fratricide against Obama?
The question was rhetorical of course because the answer was (is) so obvious: old-fashioned jealousy.
Indeed, no matter how much Jackson protests his support for Obama, I’ve always gotten a palpable sense that he does not want to be alive when the first black man is elected president of the United States – unless he’s that man. No doubt he feels he’s more entitled than Obama….
Meanwhile, pay no attention to people like Professor Eric Michael Dyson trying to rationalize Jackson’s comments by suggesting that he was merely expressing frustration about Obama’s failure to hold white America accountable for the plight of black people. Because, like Obama said about other visceral critics, if Jackson believes that, he has not been listening to Obama’s speeches.
Never mind that it’s politically, socially and racially indefensible to even suggest that telling black men to honor their duties and responsibilities as fathers is talking down to black people; or that, in making his professed apology, Jackson did not apologize for what he said but rather for any hurt (subconsciously to himself I’m sure) being caught on tape saying it may have caused….
At any rate, the most newsworthy part of this story is the way Jackson’s erstwhile protege, Rev. Al Sharpton, has deftly marginalized him. After all, Sharpton did not merely settle for condemning the remarks. Instead, he made a point of casting Jackson as a crotchety old fool who nonetheless “has done great things [and] had a great career.” Talk about putting an old goat out to pasture….
Then of course there’s the patricidal intrigue between Jackson and his son Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Because junior effectively killed his father’s political career by condemning him as a public embarrassment and mocking the clarion call of his civil rights activism (i.e., “keep hope alive”) as follows:
I’m deeply outraged and disappointed in Reverend Jackson’s reckless statements about Senator Barack Obama….He should know how hard I’ve worked for the last year and a half as a national co-chair of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. So I thoroughly reject and repudiate his ugly rhetoric. He should keep hope alive, and any personal attacks and insults to himself.
Things that make you go hmmmm
Bill Clinton has had more black women than Barack Obama…so what?!