• Saturday, October 31, 2009 at 6:39 AM

    Happy Halloween!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, October 30, 2009 at 5:19 AM

    Picture of Obama saluting war dead the defining image of his presidency…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In continuing the 18-year ban on media coverage of US troops returning home in body bags, President Bush insisted that he was doing so out of respect for the troops and regard for their families.  But everybody knew that he was doing so because he feared that broadcasting this deadly cost would have a demoralizing impact on support for his “war on terror.”

    Accordingly, I applauded President Obama when he ended this Orwellian ban.  After all, the American people should be painfully aware of the human sacrifices inherent in any president’s decision to wage war. 

    Not to mention the irony of Obama insisting that he too was lifting the ban out of respect for the troops and regard for their families….

    That said, I think it was a mistake for Obama to invite media coverage of him saluting the remains of 18 service members who were killed in Afghanistan on Monday; notwithstanding that going out to Dover Air Force Base “to observe up close this dignified transfer” was an unprecedented presidential move.

    For this move would have been politically shrewd  (perhaps even sensitive) only if he had already announced that he was withdrawing troops from this ill-fated war.

    Instead, reports are that Obama has already made what he probably thinks is the Solomonic decision to send an additional 20 thousand troops to the killing fields of Afghanistan, giving his commanding general half of the 40 thousand he requested.

    Unfortunately, this means that troops are bound to be returning home in body bags throughout his entire presidency. Because, frankly, given the military quagmire Afghanistan has become, sending 20 (or even 40) thousand additional troops amounts to the proverbial tossing of a 50-foot life line to a man drowning 100 feet away…. 

    More to the point, one wonders how he’ll decide which dead soldiers will be worthy of his presidential salute.  Or perhaps, henceforth, he’ll salute them all in the same spirit with which he claims he dutifully writes condolence letters to each of their families….

    In either case, it does not bode well that this October has been the deadliest month in this eight-year war – with 54 soldiers paying the ultimate sacrifice.

    Meanwhile, any troop escalation presents him with a political Catch-22: for on the one hand, this will not please conservative hawks who want to see enough troops deployed to rebuild Afghanistan in America’s image; while on the other, it is bound to alienate liberal doves who want to see all troops brought home, leaving that God-forsaken country to its own devices.

    Of course I side unabashedly with the liberals in this context. But if Obama wants to continue waging this war, he should at least follow the Powell Doctrine by deploying an overwhelming number of troops (like 300,000 instead of the 150,000  Obama seems to think are necessary) to fight in, and take control of, every nook and cranny.  Then, under martial law, the US could build Afghanistan into a country that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself, just as it did with Japan after World War II.

    Otherwise:

    … the US legacy there will be distinguished … by tens of thousands of American soldiers being committed to Afghanistan’s “graveyard of empires” as it continues fighting this unwinnable war (following its own Vietnam precedent)…

    [Without [or even with] more troops, failure in Afghanistan is likely, TIJ, September 23, 2009]

    In any event, I fear that this photo-op of him saluting America’s war dead will become the defining image of his presidency….

    Related commentaries:
    Without [or even with] more troops
    Karzai submits to runoff election

  • Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 6:51 AM

    ‘This Is It’ reinforces my conflicted feelings about MJ

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    My previous commentaries on Michael Jackson make it clear that I harbor very conflicted feelings about him

    For, on the one hand, I’m his biggest fan:

    Paying tribute to Michael Jackson as the King of Pop is rather like paying tribute to Joseph Ratzinger as the Pope.  For, where his musical genius was concerned, Michael was not only entertaining, but also revered and respected to the point of seeming, well, Invincible… His musical legacy is set in platinum.

    [Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, is dead, TIJ, June 27, 2009]

    While on the other, I’m his most despairing critic:

    Frankly, the pathological self-loathing, predatory entitlement and attention-grabbing antics that characterized his personal life were beginning to fatally undermine the appeal of his professional life.

    [Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, is dead, TIJ, June 27, 2009]

    It is ironic, therefore, that after seeing This Is It tonight, I left the cinema feeling vindicated both in my praise and criticism of Michael. 

    This film, of course, is a skillfully edited chronicle of rehearsals for the long-awaited comeback that was derailed by his mysterious death.

    But it’s probably the first time in the history of cinema that a movie has surpassed all promotional hype and critical acclaim, which is saying a lot.

    Especially with movie critics all waxing rapturous in their reviews: with Roger Friedman, for example, hailing it as “the ‘Thriller’ of the year ” and Sam Rabin declaring that “Elizabeth Taylor’s praise [of it as ‘the most brilliant piece of film making I've ever seen'] is right on the money.”

    I’m not a movie critic, however. So I won’t play one here.  Except that I will share this: 

    My favorite MJ music video is not Beat It, or Billie Jean or even Thriller. Instead, it’s Smooth Criminal.  And it was nothing short of mind blowing to watch him outdo himself, with dazzling moves and timbre-perfect voice, when he performed (i.e., rehearsed) this song.

    I was also extremely impressed by the extent to which Michael not only controlled every aspect of this extraordinary production but also demonstrated as much technical expertise as every expert he hired to help him pull it off. For example, a number of scenes feature Michael telling director Kenny Ortega how to do his job – but only in the most loving and endearing way….  

    Then there’s the age-defying fact that this 50-year old exuded so much energy on stage that he seemed more of a contemporary than someone twice the age of his backup dancers, which in fact was the case.  Indeed, despite all of the rumors about his ill-health, Michael appeared in vintage form.

    This Is It is a musical and cultural supernova. You gotta see it!

    That said, my euphoria leaving the cinema was tempered by the show-biz thought that this film will do far more to seal his legacy (and make him a legend) than the 50 shows he was scheduled to perform ever could.

    Because as brilliant as he undoubtedly would have performed in a few of them, the inescapable and wholly warranted fear is that, inevitably, his patented off-stage antics would have detracted too much from his stellar on-stage performances.  Not to mention that, after 10 shows, the novelty would have worn off, and his (aging and frail) body might have given way.

    This is why I am left with the admittedly perverse feeling that, even though “a comet blazing across the evening sky, [Michael was not] gone too soon….”  

    Thanks MJ!  R.I.P. (Move over Elvis, Michael’s here!)

    Related commentaries:
    Michael Jackson, the king of pop, is dead
    R.I.P MJ

    *I saw the 7:40 show last night. I immediately wrote and published this commentary, originally, at 10:31 pm.

  • Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 5:24 AM

    Xenophobia guiding Australia’s immigration policy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Australia is roughly the same size as the contiguous Unites States.  But it has a population of only 22 million people; the US has 307 million.

    Therefore, you’d think Australia would be solicitous about attracting new immigrants to its shores.  Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

    For the record, over 1 million people migrated to the US last year; only 150 thousand migrated to Australia. 

    More to the point, Australians are exhibiting as much xenophobia today in dealing with their (undesirable) immigrants, namely Indonesians and Sri Lankans, as (relatively congested) Americans are in dealing with theirs, namely, Mexicans and Haitians.

    Specifically, Australians are acting as if desperate asylum-seekers from war-ravaged Sri Lanka and economic refugees from poverty-stricken Indonesia – who have been washing up on their shores in increasing numbers this year – are a threat not only to their national security but also to their (white) heritage.  The Economist posits that this reflects:

    … fears, long embedded in the Australian psyche, of swarms of arrivals in the country’s north.

    Actually, nothing demonstrates the irrational (if not racist) nature of their fears quite like the fact that Australians insisted this year that a “swarm” of 1,200 boat people be detained and repatriated; whereas, none of them lifted a finger in protest last year when 14,000 tourists “melted” into their country after arriving by air and overstaying their visas.

    Of course, the US set the precedent for this xenophobic double standard. Because it routinely directs almost all of its immigration enforcement resources towards patrolling its Southern border (to interdict the undesirables) despite the fact that nearly half of the 500,000 annual influx of illegal immigrants arrive by air and overstay their visas.

    Nevertheless, there’s no denying that, but for rabid anti-Muslim sentiments, Australia would be emulating the relatively liberal immigration policy that contributed so much to the rise of America as world leader. 

    In fact, Australia is admired throughout Europe for the way it has enforced selective immigration (based on “family and government cohesion”). But this admiration reeks of the anti-Muslim sentiment that now permeates Europe and which is at the heart of Australia’s dogged attempt to control immigration from Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world.

    Not to mention that most Australians, like far too many Europeans and Americans, now unfairly equate Muslim immigration with Trojan-horse terrorism

    All of which makes one wonder what their new, more liberal prime minister, Kevin Rudd, meant when he pledged to implement an immigration policy that is “tough but humane.” Because he seems just as determined as his predecessors were to keep Australia as white as possible … with all due respect to the (native) aborigines.

    Indeed, perhaps Rudd only intended to treat these non-white immigrants more humanely before sending them back where they came from.

  • Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 5:17 AM

    Obama finally admits women to his all-boys club

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Who would’ve thought that President Obama, the first black president of the United States, would be liable to criticism for fostering extracurricular activities that exclude women.  Yet, ironically, that is precisely the case.

    This criticism reached a tipping point last week when he invited only male members of his Cabinet and Congress to the White House to play basketball.

    And when a reporter asked him during an interview on Wednesday if he thought his boys-only outings (especially to play golf) were sending the wrong message, he dismissed the criticism as “bunk,” insisting that:

    I don’t think it sends any kind of message or signal whatsoever… [I have] hired women into some of the most important decision-making positions in this White House.

    Fair enough….

    But when I saw the video of this interview over the weekend, I thought that Obama’s defensiveness betrayed political insensitivity and tone-deafness that were truly stupefying. In fact, he seemed utterly clueless about the fact that this is precisely the kind of rationalization stuffy old white men once used to defend their good ol’ boy network, which invariably entailed bonding on the golf course.

    To his credit, though, Obama is nothing if not a quick study. Because I suspect that, even before he completed that fateful interview, he was thinking of a way to redress this egregious oversight.

    Therefore, it was hardly surprising that cameras caught Melody Barnes, the Domestic Policy Council Director, lumbering with clubs in tow across the front lawn of the White House heading out for a PR round of golf with Obama

    And thus was another gender barrier broken.  It’s just too bad that cameras could not confirm whether Barnes was actually invited to play or merely to serve as the president’s caddy….

    Meanwhile, a few female members of his Cabinet and Congress have insinuated that it’s probably Obama’s fear of being outplayed by girls than any desire to bond with “The Boys” that has motivated his politically incorrect choice of basketball and golfing playmates:

    Jay: I know you were quite a good college basketball player. Who would win at a game of Horse? You or President Obama?

    Kathleen: I actually made my college basketball team. You know? Bring it on. Give me your best shot.

    (HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius on the Oct. 7 episode of The Jay Leno Show)

     Ouch! Game on….

  • Monday, October 26, 2009 at 7:57 AM

    Yankees on the precipice of redemption…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last night, in the house that Jeter built, the New York Yankees won a long-awaited berth into the World Series by defeating the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 to win the American League Championship Series, four games to two.

    Of course, any team would be happy to brag about winning 40 league pennants and 26 World Series championships – as the Yankees have, and any player would be happy to brag about being on seven World Series teams – as  Derek Jeter and a couple other current players can.

    But what makes this a quest for redemption is that no team in history has paid so much to accomplish so little than Yankees have done since their last pennant in 2003.  And this is why I have duly mocked their spectacular failures, in part, as follows:

    No storyline in the soap opera ‘As the Yankees Turn’ provides more yearly fascination than watching Steinbrenner spend obscene amounts of money to lure the best players to New York only to have them play – during the critical October pennant race and World Series – as if they were bought with phony dollar bills (and were just giving him what he paid for…).

    [Fall classic: the Yankees lose again...! TIJ, October 10, 2007]

    Therefore, as I congratulate the Yankees on winning the pennant this year, I feel constrained to remind their fans that failure still looms as the Bronx “bomber” try now to dethrone the defending World Series Champions, the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Because let there be no doubt that, with a billion dollars invested in players’ salaries, winning the pennant, but losing the World Series will make this just another fall classic of spectacular failure for the New York Yankees….

    Related commentaries:
    Fall classic: the Yankees lose again
    A-Rod comes clean about using steroids, kinda

  • Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 7:07 AM

    Obama stokes swine flu hysteria by declaring ‘national health emergency’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Government officials and news reporters are doing more to cause a panic than this virus will do to cause a pandemic… 

    [F]ar too few government officials and reporters are bothering to assure the public that this outbreak is no more deadly than the garden variety flu that kills over 36,000 Americans every year.  And, even though it’s a new strain, the fact that over 99% of the people infected worldwide have recovered indicates that this Swine flu is no more likely to grow into a pandemic than SARS or the Avian flu.

    [Swine flu causing more panic than pandemic, TIJ, April 28, 2009]

    Related commentaries:
    … more to fear from common cold than swine flu

  • Saturday, October 24, 2009 at 6:40 AM

    Judge declares mistrial in Travolta extortion case

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Nine hours into jury deliberations on Wednesday in Nassau, Bahamas, Justice Anita Allen, the presiding judge in the case of two people accused of attempting to extort $25 million from actor John Travolta, declared a mistrial after she got word that a politician blurted out the following at a local campaign rally:

    Well, we have some good news… Pleasant is a free woman … God is good! 

    Pleasant, of course, is former Bahamian Senator Pleasant Bridgewater.  She and ambulance driver Tarino Lightbourne are the infamous defendants in this case.

    Justice Allen’s ruling of a mistrial, however, was as unwarranted as it is unsustainable:

    It was unwarranted not only because deliberations were still ongoing but also because the judge merely feared, but had no proof that a juror had “communicated” with this boneheaded politician.

    And it is unsustainable because it establishes the precedent that any public figure can prematurely announce the verdict in any case in a public forum and cause a mistrial – especially since a contempt citation would invariably prove a small price to pay, if issued at all.

    That said, if the jury were really on the verge of acquitting Bridgewater (pictured here with co-defendant Lightbourne), this might be a case of poetic justice

    Because instead of being able to celebrate her freedom, she will now be left hanging in legal purgatory (reportedly bankrupt, unable to work and facing millions in lawsuits based on other allegations of fraud) until her retrial … sometime next year. 

    And, who knows, this second jury might be more inclined to convict – as the evidence clearly indicates it should.

    What a farce!

    NOTE: Prosecutors have vowed to retry both defendants. And Travolta issued a statement expressing disappointment but also vowing to return to testify as the star witness for the prosecution.

    Related commentaries:
    Travolta extortionists greedy and stupid

  • Friday, October 23, 2009 at 4:23 AM

    ‘Insufficient evidence’ to charge former TCI Premier Misick of rape

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On Wednesday, the Attorney General of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), Hon Kurt DeFreitas, issued a press release in which he announced that:

    … there is insufficient evidence to charge [former Premier] Michael Misick with any offense in connection with a complaint of serious sexual assault made against him by an adult female U.S. citizen, following a visit to his residence on March , 27 2008.

    However, on September 1, 2008, I wrote a commentary entitled Woman in threesome with TCI Premier Misick exculpates him of rape, which was published here.

    My commentary was based on the signed statement of a woman who witnessed (and participated in) the sex acts that gave rise to this complaint against the Premier. Specifically, this witness (“Vanessa”) claimed not only that all of the acts were consensual but also that the complainant initiated them.

    Therefore, I admonished AG DeFreitas as follows:

    I can’t imagine any prosecutor filing charges, let alone obtaining a conviction, against the Premier given Vanessa’s statement.  Moreover, it renders waiting for FBI forensic evidence a complete waste of time since any finding would be entirely consistent with consensual sex.

    Which brings me to TCI Attorney General Kurt DeFreitas; because TCIslanders have been waiting anxiously for over five months for him to either charge the Premier or announce that there is insufficient evidence to do so.  Moreover, I believe there is not only compelling public interest in putting this matter to rest, but also a categorical imperative to remove the cloud of suspicion hovering over our Premier if prosecuting him has virtually no prospect of success…

    Accordingly, I urge AG DeFreitas to quell the fury of speculation over this rape case by issuing an immediate statement either assuring the public that there is just cause to continue the investigation, or conceding that there is not… [He should] indicate whether Vanessa’s [eyewitness] statement has already been factored into the investigation, or whether it constitutes newly discovered evidence which might finally compel him to dismiss the allegations against the Premier – as I believe justice now demands.

    [Woman in threesome with TCI Premier Misick..., TIJ, September 1, 2008]

    Alas, DeFreitas’ failure not only to dismiss this sensational complaint but even to utter a single word about his purportedly ongoing investigation turned this into one of his more incomprehensible and vexing cases of serial nonfeasance.

    And, after reading his all too belated press release, in which he comes across like Rip Van Winkle saying this week what he should have said 20 months ago, my incomprehension and vexation only gave way to resigned indignation.

    Here, for the record, is a little more of what he finally said:

    The Attorney General has applied the established evidential test … namely whether the evidence as a whole is sufficient to provide a realistic prospect of obtaining a conviction… The evidence included eyewitnesses present when the sexual behavior took place, including that which involved Mr Misick and the complainant.

    The matter was delayed for a lengthy period of time as a result of pursuing forensic testing. The final results and file were referred to eminent, independent U.K. legal counsel who reviewed the evidence and provided  a reasoned  legal opinion recommending that charges not be brought against Mr Misick.

    (Press release by the Honourable Attorney General Kurt DeFreitas, October 21, 2009)

    Along with my fellow TCIslanders, I lament that it’s humbling enough that we must appeal to judges in the UK as the final arbiters of our judicial fate.  But it’s a national shame that our Attorney General waited 20 months for a UK lawyer to provide a “reasoned legal opinion” on whether to file charges in this case when any third-rate TCI lawyer could have provided this same opinion in 20 days.

    Of course, my abiding concerns about DeFreitas’ professional competence and effectiveness are well documented. 

    Therefore, I shall suffice to note here how incomprehensible and vexing it is that the British have retained this Attorney General who presided like a deaf, dumb and mute watchdog over the “endemic corruption” that compelled them to suspend our constitution and takeover the governance of our country.  Is he a sacred cow…?

    Whatever the case, it behooves the British to appreciate that it is far more important for us to have confidence in his ability to manage the administration of justice in the TCI than it is for them to have confidence in his ability to consult in the abstract with authorities in the UK.

    But frankly, the time for press releases and explanations from this Attorney General has passed. It’s time now for him to either resign or be removed from office!

    Related commentaries:
    Woman in threesome with TCI Premier Misick… 
    No public interest in prosecuting the Premier

  • Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 5:15 AM

    India insists on Bollywood film about Nehru’s affair with Edwina

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’ve read quite a bit about the love affair that blossomed during the last days of British rule in India between Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, and Edwina, the wife of the last viceroy of the British Indian Empire, Lord Mountbatten.

    And nothing has been more revealing in this respect than the love letters they exchanged. Here, for example, is what Nehru (68) wrote Edwina (58) in 1959:

    Suddenly I realised (and perhaps you also did) that there was a deeper attachment between us, that some uncontrollable force, of which I was dimly aware, drew us to one another.

    I was overwhelmed and at the same time exhilarated by this new discovery. We talked more intimately as if some veil had been removed and we could look into each other’s eyes without fear or embarrassment.

    Given this, one can only imagine the passion they shared in each other’s company; especially in light of Edwina’s reputed nymphomania, which one assumes she attempted to satiate with a scandalous 30-year fling with a black man. Not to mention credible rumors that Nehru and her husband’s alleged bisexuality led to them engaging in “spicy ménage a trois” dalliances.

    More to the point, though, it’s no wonder that Joe Wright, the director of such movie classics as Pride and Prejudice, would be so solicitous to capture this historically significant love affair on film.  And it seemed everything was in place for him to consummate this cinematic treat – with Cate Blanchette starring as Edwina and Hugh Grant as her cuckolded husband.

    Unfortunately, Wright’s artistic quest for authenticity and India’s vaunted tradition of sexual repression in films proved irreconcilable.  Because here are the restrictions the government placed on his categorical imperative of filming on location in India:

    No scenes of physical intimacy between Nehru and Lady Mountbatten are allowed, no gestures or actions or words of love or affection between the two.

    Clearly, with such restrictions, there’s no way Wright could do justice to this love affair.  Yet the government is merely insisting that, if he wants to make this film in India, he must make it the way Indians do; i.e., in Bollywood motif where song and dance are farcical and persistent substitutes for romance … sex.

    So, notwithstanding Universal’s spin about “budgetary constraints,” here’s how Wright expressed the irreconcilable difference that caused the film to be scrapped:

    We were in between a rock and a hard place. The Indian government wanted us to make less of the love story while the studio wanted us to make more of the love story.

    End of story….

    Related book:
    Indian Summer: Secret History

  • Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 6:41 AM

    UPDATE: Karzai submits to runoff election

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On September 17, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) declared President Hamid Karzai the outright winner of the August 20 presidential election with 54.6 percent of the vote.  And since then, Karzai has been insisting that allegations of voter fraud were nothing more than a red herring being propagated by his arch rival (and sore loser) Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s former foreign minister. 

    This is why he expressed indignation (bordering on contempt) a few days ago when the United Nations Electoral Complaints Commission invalidated almost a third of his 3 million votes and recommended a runoff election.  He even indicated that he had no intention of abiding by its findings, insisting that Afghanistan’s IEC disagreed vehemently with the methodology the UN commission used to determine which votes were fraudulent.

    Therefore, it must have taken the kind of pressure American soldiers perfected at Abu Ghraib to get Karzai to change his tune.  Indeed, he looked like an al-Qaeda hostage standing next to US Sen John Kerry this morning as he announced that he would participate in a runoff election on November 7 against Abdullah, after all.

    But I don’t see how this is going to make Obama’s pending decision on troop deployment there any easier. Not least because everyone from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Sen Kerry himself has insisted that Obama will not send over any more troops until the Afghan government gets rid of corruption

    And, since the corruption UN officials uncovered at the presidential level is in fact endemic throughout the entire government, nobody believes there will be any change in this respect even if the next president could channel honest Abe Lincoln. This, alas, makes the outcome of the runoff election utterly irrelevant.

    Accordingly, I urge Obama to stop his Hamletian dithering on this issue. In particular, he should ignore the (conservative) chicken hawks who are egging him on to surge troops in Afghanistan to follow the precedent President Bush set in Iraq. 

    Because the only instructive precedent here is the one President Johnson set in Vietnam, which should warn Obama not to allow a military quagmire to doom his presidency the way a similar quagmire doomed Johnson’s.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama hedging against sending more troops

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 5:21 pm

  • Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 5:31 AM

    Mo Ibrahim Prize: No winner of Africa’s version of the Noble prize…?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    One can only imagine the excitement among members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee as they discussed all of the reasons why President Barack Obama was worthy of being awarded this year’s Noble Peace Prize.

    By contrast, one can only imagine the despair among members of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership (MIPAAL) committee as they discussed all of the reasons why no African leader was worthy of being awarded this year’s MIPAAL.

    Alas, this is the fateful inference one has to make after the MIPAAL committee issued a statement yesterday which read, in part, as follows:

    The prize committee welcomed the progress made on governance in some African countries while noting with concern recent setbacks in other countries.  This year the prize committee has considered some credible candidates. However, after in-depth review, the prize committee could not select a winner.

    For the record, though, here’s the cynical note I sounded three years ago this month, when others were heralding the MIPAAL as a truly worthy alternative to the Noble (never mind that I don’t think the Noble is all it’s cracked up to be):

    Ibrahim seems to think African leaders are so congenitally corrupt that the only way “to remove corruption and improve governance” in Africa is, ironically, to bribe them….

    And to prove that he intends to vest this igNoble prize with (at least financial) value that surpasses that of the Nobel Prize (at $1.4 million), Ibrahim has provided for a cash gift of $5 million over 10 years, when the winner leaves office, plus $200,000 a year for life to be awarded with his … MIPAAL. Moreover, to adorn his prize with a patina of integrity, he has decreed that only a leader who “democratically transfers power to his successor” will be eligible to receive this golden parachute.

    Unfortunately, given that it’s a long-established fringe benefit for African leaders to steal at least $5 million each year of their rule, this prize seems at best an honorable perk….

    [Businessman launches the Africa No "Mo" Corruption Prize, TIJ October 27, 2006]

    More to the point, here’s how I greeted the announcement of the first recipient of the MIPAAL, which Ibrahim touted – without a hint of irony or shame – as the most lucrative prize in the world:

    President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique is probably only one of two African leaders (the other being former President Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana) who met the criteria; especially the one that requires a leader to leave office voluntarily and with his reputation relatively in tact…

    At any rate, after Rawlings [of Ghana] next year and, perhaps, a retired South African President Thabo Mbeki in 2009, one wonders to whom Annan’s committee will award the MIPAAL – without the stench of corruption permeating the occasion…?

    [Africa's igNoble prize awarded to Joaquim Chissano, TIJ, October 30, 2007]

    But, evidently, even I did not fully appreciate what a joke this prize would turn out to be. After all, despite being as qualified as any African leader could be, neither Rawlings nor Mbeki was deemed worthy. 

    All the same, this vindicates my suspicion that the MIPAAL was always more about Mo Ibrahim’s ego than about promoting good governance in Africa. Now I suspect that the committee’s failure to present an award this year has more to do with his dwindling bank account than with the failure of anyone to qualify for the prize. (Forbes Magazine estimates that Ibrahim lost $500 million of his $2.5 billion fortune last year.)

    There may be years where no winner is chosen, and this is such a year.

    (Mo Ibrahim)

    No kidding! 

    Accordingly, I hope all of the international dignitaries, including former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Laureate Kofi Annan, who Ibrahim lured onto his committee to select the annual recipient of his MIPAAL, now have the good sense to resign en masse instead of continuing to be associated with this farce.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama awarded (affirmative action) Noble Peace Prize
    Businessman launches the Africa No “Mo” Corruption Prize
    Africa’s igNoble prize awarded to Joaquim Chissano

  • Monday, October 19, 2009 at 5:42 AM

    Obama hedging against sending more troops to Afghanistan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and retreat ASAP; to let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and to rely on Special Forces and aerial drones to get al Qaeda.

    [Without [or even with] more forces, failure in Afghanistan is likely, TIJ, September 23, 2009]

    In light of President Obama’s ongoing review of troop levels in Afghanistan, I published the above cartoon (accompanied by a quote from an earlier commentary) on Saturday to reiterate my abiding fear that it would be a march of folly for him to deploy more troops.

    Therefore, I was extremely heartened when Obama dispatched his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to several talk shows on Sunday to telegraph the following change of course:

    It would be reckless to make a decision on U.S. troop levels if in fact you haven’t done a thorough analysis of whether in fact there’s an Afghan partner ready to fill that space that U.S. troops would create and become a true partner in governing…

    The central question is not how much troops you have but whether in fact there’s an Afghan partner.

    This clearly indicates that Obama is hedging against sending troops.  And he’s doing this by changing the discussion from how many troops will be needed to win this unwinnable war to whether it’s a war even worth fighting if the Afghan government is terminally corrupt and wholly discredited.

    Moreover, nothing demonstrates that this change is now afoot quite like Sen John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joining forces with Emanuel yesterday by providing this political cover for Obama on CBS from the war zone in Afghanistan:

    It would be entirely irresponsible for the president of the United States to commit more troops to this country when we don’t even have an election finished and know who the president is and what kind of government we’re working with.  I believe it is critical for us to be satisfied that the reform efforts that are absolutely mandatory within the government here are in fact going to take place and be fully implemented.

    Ironically, all indications are that President Hamid Karzai is determined to steal the disputed August 2009 election just as Kerry and others accused George W. Bush of stealing the November 2000 US presidential election.  And anyone who believes that he’s going to implement reforms to combat corruption must also believe in tooth fairies.

    Actually, Karzai seems to be banking on ruling Kabul and other (fertile, poppy-growing) areas of Afghanistan (with the help of just a few thousand US troops) instead of fighting the Taliban and other warlords for control of the entire country (with the help of the over 100,000 troops whose deployment is now under review). Because only this explains why he is so loathed to accept any UN-mandated recount of any portion of the vote that might compel him to go through a runoff election, which, given the extent of his alleged fraud in the first round, he would probably lose.  

    Meanwhile, I should have seen Obama’s resistance to sending more troops coming after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the following in a September 21 interview with the NewsHour on PBS, which was featured under the headline “Clinton: No troop moves until Afghan election resolved”:

    You know corruption, I have labeled a national security threat… We’re not going to make any decisions of any significance until we know the outcome of this election.

    In any event, as things stand, Karzai’s political ambition and endemic corruption in his government may provide just the pretext Obama needs to do the right thing: change the strategy for fighting America’s (global) war on terrorism from nation building in Afghanistan to launching strategic strikes against al-Qaeda wherever on the globe they rear their terrorist heads.

    So here’s to Obama announcing this change and plans for a commensurate withdrawal of troops in due course….

    Related commentaries:
    Without [or even with] more forces...

  • Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 5:22 AM

    McCrystal wants more troops to fight govt corruption and the Taliban?! Talk about a march of folly…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and retreat ASAP; to let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and to rely on Special Forces and aerial drones to get al Qaeda.

    [Without [or even with] more forces, failure in Afghanistan is likely, TIJ, September 23, 2009]

    Related commentaries:
    Without [or even with] more forces...

  • Friday, October 16, 2009 at 5:16 AM

    Black players deny Limbaugh membership in NFL owners’ club

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In his 1996 bestselling book, Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, former comedian Al Franken, now the junior US senator from Minnesota, exposed (with eviscerating humor) the galling hypocrisy and brazen lies that permeate the conservative gospel Rush Limbaugh preaches on his radio talk show every day.

    For example, even though thrice-divorced, Limbaugh never betrays any hint of appreciation for the hypocrisy inherent in his self-righteous fulminations on family values.

    Therefore, it is not at all surprising that, even though he belongs to the all-white Everglades Country Club, Limbaugh is now hurling moral indignation at those who rallied to deny him membership in the NFL owners club.

    Specifically, after it was reported that he belonged to a group of wealthy investors who were bidding to purchase the St Louis Rams, the black players on that team vowed not to play if he became their (part) owner.

    Then DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players Executive Director, made it clear that Limbaugh was considered persona non grata by players throughout the entire league, 70 percent of whom are black:

    Sport in America is at its best when it unifies, gives all of us reason to cheer, and when it transcends… I have asked our players to embrace their roles not only in the game of football but also as players and partners in the business of the NFL…

    We also know that there is an ugly part of history and we will not risk going backwards, giving up, giving in or lying down to it.

    (DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Executive Director)

    Not surprisingly, the adverse publicity this generated forced his business partners to drop him from their ownership roster: a very sound business decision – pure and simple.

    This is why I find it regrettable that self-appointed advocates of these NFL players, like Rev Al Sharpton, are asserting that this rejection of Limbaugh is payback for some of the racist things he has said.

    It’s regrettable, of course, because far too many of the quotes they’re attributing to Limbaugh he never said.  But the main quote they’re trying to hang around his neck is not even racist; namely, his saying that:

    Donavan McNabb is overrated [and that] the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb…

    After all, on the one hand he’s just expressing his opinion about McNabb being overrated; and on the other hand, what he said about the media was (and perhaps still is) true.

    Instead, I think the players would be in a far more unassailable position if they had insisted that they will not play for Limbaugh simply because they do not want to be associated with him. And this would be based on the same, undeniable principle that allows Limbaugh to belong to an all-white country club.

    Not to mention the delicious irony in being able to spew Limbaugh’s own political rhetoric about the free market, freedom of association and political correctness having no place in business all back in his face.

    Indeed, it’s laughable to the point of being pitiful that Limbaugh (58) does not see the hypocrisy inherent in claiming that there’s a vast left-wing conspiracy out to get him – when it’s the market forces he always preached about that have now turned him into a racist outcast.

    All of which means that, despite surgical weight loss (no doubt in vain hope of pleasing his new 31-year-old girlfriend), Limbaugh (58) is still what Al Franken called him a few years ago: a big fat idiot.

    NOTE: To add insult to Limbaugh’s perceived injury, chances are very good that a group of wealthy blacks will end up buying this NFL team he so coveted as the cream to top off his American dream.

    Related commentaries:
    Rush: I hope Obama fails

  • Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 5:10 AM

    Sarkozy channeling Napoleon as president of France

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Even though I endorsed his opponent, Segolene Royal, I admired the way Nicolas Sarkozy maneuvered his way through France’s notorious political caste system to become president of France.  After all, he had neither the family nor the academic background of a would-be president.

    But I soon realized that what made the diminutive Sarkozy so successful was his Napoleonic determination to overcompensate for his abiding inferiority complex(es):

    What made me who I am now is the sum of all the humiliations suffered during childhood [at the hands of his more privileged classmates]

    (Nicolas Sarkozy)

    And it was not long into his presidency before he began acting imperiously – like his emotional namesake.  In fact, here’s how I commented on one of his Napoleonic fits in August 2007, just three months after his election:

    I was a little dismayed when I read about the international incident he caused on Sunday afternoon. Because Sarkozy assaulted two photographers from the Associated Press who were trying to capture money shots of him sun bathing on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire…

    [M]ost Americans would understand this kind of outrage if he were charging after them for taking topless photos of his wife (or his mistress as the case might be). But the notion of any man throwing this kind of hissy fit over being photographed is as unseemly as it is incomprehensible.

    [Sarkozy throws a Napoleonic fit on US vacation, TIJ, August 7, 2007]

    Now comes word that he’s bestowing nepotistic favors on his family that would make even Emperor Napoleon blush.  Specifically, he has reportedly appointed his 23-year-old son Jean (whose poor grades are forcing him to repeat his second year of undergraduate law studies) as chairman of EPAD, the development agency that administers one of the wealthiest business districts in Paris.

    (To appreciate how truly galling this is, just imagine President Bush having the imperial balls to appoint one of his daughters as chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts….)

    More to the point, it seems Sarkozy’s inferiority complex is every bit as acute today as it was when he was in high school. Because here’s how he dismissed those who dared to criticize this royal appointment during a speech “in praise of France’s egalitarian tradition” before a group of high-school students:

    It is never right for someone to be thrown to the wolves without reason… Napoleon Bonaparte rendered France a great service in ending the privilege of birth. That means that what counts in success in France is not being well-born, it is to have worked hard and proved by one’s studies and worth.

    The naked and self-incriminating irony here is too painfully obvious for much comment.  Frankly, this makes the imperial cluelessness Marie Antoinette exhibited with her infamous “let them eat cake” seem, well, egalitarian.

    Has France returned to habits of the royal court that are so perverse that no one dares tell the monarch that he has lost his bearings?

    (Le Monde)

    Alas, Sarkozy wears no clothes….

    Related commentaries:
    Sarkozy throws a Napoleonic fit

  • Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 5:26 AM

    Now MLK’s kids settle?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) has hardly been enhanced by the squabbling among 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, TIJ, July 14, 2008]

    For over a year I’ve been chronicling the unseemly infighting among the children of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Jr over everything from royalties from book deals to proceeds from the sale of Dr King’s papers.

    From the outset I lamented their failure to settle their differences – if only to preserve the integrity of their family’s good and historic name.

    Instead, they continually went on talk shows, like Larry King Live, to air their dirty laundry, acting like the white trash who grasp at their 15 minutes of fame by making a spectacle of their private lives on reality TV.

    Here’s how I framed the alleged cause of this family feud in a previous commentary:

    Martin Luther King III and Bernice filed a lawsuit … 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 alleged cohort in exploiting their father’s legacy for all it’s worth, died suddenly last year at 51.)

    In addition, they allege 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 (yet more of) their dirty laundry than to resolve their financial differences.

    [MLK's children take fight over his estate to court, TIJ, July 14, 2008]

    Therefore, it seems a pitiful and regrettable delusion that yesterday, the first day of their latest court battle, the kids finally decided to settle all of their outstanding differences out of court, claiming that they want to avoid harming the legacy of their parents and begin their healing process as siblings:

    It was a tiring day, but I would say a very triumphant day.  This allows us to begin the healing process. I’m looking forward to the future. The most important thing is that we can advance the legacy of our parents.

    (Dexter King)

    Love compels you to take a higher road. We love our brother and the legacy of our parents. At the end of the day, we’re still a family.

    (Bernice King)

    Of course, one wonders why love did not prevent them from doing so much over the past year to destroy that legacy.

    In any case, it does not bode well that there’s still so little trust and respect among them that the only way they could settle their differences was to agree that none of them should be involved in managing their parents’ estate, which includes love letters between and broadcast rights to MLK’s “I have a dream” speech.  The court will appoint a custodian instead.

    What an embarrassing farce!

    Related commentaries:
    Children of MLK continue fight over his legacy
    National farewell to Coretta Scott King

  • Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 7:54 AM

    What happened to global warming?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A few years ago I was among very few (liberal) columnists who dared to question the orthodoxy of global warming – as the related commentaries linked to below and regular readers of this weblog will attest.

    In fact nothing has distinguished the hate mail I’ve received in response to commentaries I’ve written quite like those I received (from fellow liberals) when I ridiculed Al Gore being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for leading a phantom fight against global warming.

    But let me hasten to clarify, for the record, that I have never doubted the sincerity with which Gore and his disciples preach their gospel about climate change and the cataclysmic perils it portends. It’s just that it was clear to me from the outset that they were on a mission to proselytize an environmental agenda that had little to do with science (or the lessons of history).

    Here’s just a sampling of what caused me to be branded a global-warming heretic:

    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 due far more to natural climate variations (i.e., a cyclical phenomenon) than to man-made CO2 emissions.

    [My final word on global warming, TIJ, August 8, 2006]

    I was a bona-fide environmentalist when Gore was still the proud heir to a sprawling tobacco farm. But my environmentalism was inspired by the common-sense understanding that we cannot continue dumping non-biodegradable crap on our planet, where landfills are replacing arable land at an alarming rate.

    I’m so indignant at global-warming disciples because of the way they ape fundamentalist preachers (who incite fears about burning in hell to get people to believe in God) by inciting fears about melting snow caps and glaciers flooding the planet to get people to respect the environment.

    [An inconvenient truth about the warmest year..., TIJ, August 15, 2007]

    But my how things have changed….

    And there’s no more seminal indication of this than the BBC publishing an article on Friday under the headline, What happened to global warming.

    The article highlighted the unassailable fact that:

    For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures. And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

    The BBC is arguably the most authoritative international news organization to buy into the global-warming “hoax” hook, line and sinker.  Therefore, it is tantamount to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus for it to now be reporting findings which make Gore and the scientists who gave credence to his prophecies seem like a false prophet and quacks, respectively.

    In ruling on whether Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, could be shown in schools, a British judge declared that it was riddled with such egregious errors that it was unfit to show - unless accompanied by neon warnings about its inaccuracies.

    [An Emmy, an Oscar and a Nobel..., TIJ, October 13, 2007]

    Imagine that: teaching Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth as a scientific fact about global warming would  be akin to teaching Creationism (featuring Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) as a scientific fact about the origin of man.

    But there’s also the coincidental spectacle that occurred on Friday when Gore appeared at a conference in Wisconsin (which, ironically, just happened to be blanketed with early-autumn snow) to deliver his now-patented sermon on global warming.

    Specifically, when Gore condescended to invite a few questions from the congregation, a daring reporter asked him to address the nine factual errors in An Inconvenient Truth, which has become the de facto bible of the global-warming crusade.  But when the reporter pointed out that Gore did not address these inconvenient errors in his reply, the organizers of this charade cut off his microphone….

    At any rate, given reports today, which make it seem phenomenal that snow is replacing autumn rain and forcing the postponement of baseball games, I shall end with this bit of I told you so:

    Nothing exposes the utter fatuousness of global-warming prophecies quite like the sight of snow blanketing spring flowers in such perennially warm places as Georgia and Texas – as was the case on Friday.

    I suspect that the hundreds of thousands who made the pilgrimage to Washington, DC last weekend for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival – only to be greeted by trees sprouting icicles – may now give global-warming preachers a chilly reception. But this might seem devotional compared to the reception they’re likely to get from the multitudes who flocked to see the rites of spring played out on Baseball fields all over America – only to be greeted by fields sprouting snowflakes.

    [Mother Nature makes...global warming seem like a flaming hoax, TIJ, April 12, 2007]

    Related commentaries:
    An Emmy, an Oscar and now a Nobel for Al Gore
    Global cooling? Yes!
    Global warming or just hot air
    My final word on global warming
    Inconvenient truth about warmest year
    Mother Nature makes global warming seem like a flaming hoax

  • Sunday, October 11, 2009 at 6:29 AM

    C’mon, he might be a dick head, but Dave’s still a funny guy!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, October 10, 2009 at 8:18 AM

    Obama awarded (affirmative action) Nobel Peace Prize

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    You’d be hard-pressed to find a more ardent and hopeful supporter of President Barack Obama than me.  But I think this award is … well … a bit much.

    For no matter the rationalization, there’s no denying that the Nobel Committee awarded him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize today (just 9 months into his presidency) not for what he has done, but for who he is.

    Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future… [He has ushered in] a change in the international climate.

    (The Norwegian Nobel Committee)

    Indeed, the irony is not lost on me that the committee awarded him not for doing anything to prevent climate change, but for changing the climate with what amounts to  hot air.

    After all, as even his liberal friends at Saturday Night Live lampooned recently, despite talking up a transformative global agenda, he has precious little to show for it.  And this will only provide more fodder for his critics who already ridicule him as all talk and no action.

    Frankly, to put it in black and white, Obama is being honored because he is not George W. Bush!  And it’s debatable whether he or Bush should be more insulted by this.

    Not to mention the insult to all of the truly accomplished people (like Nelson Mandela)  who took such pride in being awarded this prize.

    But I’m sure Obama will be gracious, and will humbly accept his prize for what it is.

    I suppose if the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and former Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres could win the Nobel Peace Prize for a Palestinian peace that never was, [then why not Obama for accomplishments yet to be accomplished].

    Which brings me to a final word about the Norwegian cabal behind the Nobel Prize. Because it would be naïve to think that petty politics do not govern their selections….

    [Gore awarded Nobel Peace Prize, TIJ, October 13, 2007]

    Enough said!

    Well, except that Bush made Europeans so apprehensive that they probably awarded Obama the Nobel Peace Prize just for giving them some peace of mind….

    NOTE:  How do you spell jealous today?  B-I-L-L C-L-I-N-T-O-N   Now he must be really convinced that Obama is living a “fairytale.”

    Related commentaries:
    SNL lampoons Obama’s lack of accomplishments
    Gore awarded Nobel

    *This commentary was published originally at 8:18 am yesterday, Friday

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