Monday, June 29, 2015 at 6:47 AM
Greek banks and the stock exchange will be shut on Monday after creditors refused to extend the country’s bailout and savers queued to withdraw cash, taking Athens’ standoff with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to a dangerous new level…
In the early hours of Saturday, Tspiras asked for extra time to enable Greeks to vote in a referendum on the terms of the deal [which, among other things, requires Greece to cut pensions and raise taxes]…
In economic powerhouse Germany, other southern states that have suffered austerity in return for EU cash, and poor eastern countries with living standards much lower than Greece’s, many voters and politicians have run out of patience.
(Reuters, June 29, 2015)
Alas, the delusional hubris of the Greeks is such that they are convinced:
- that keeping Greece in the EU is far more important to Europeans than it is to them; and (perhaps banking on Greece’s acclaim as the cradle of civilization)
- that there’s no end to the financial sacrifices Europeans will endure to protect them from themselves by preventing a Grexit.
Nothing betrays this hubris quite like Greek Prime Minister Tspiras reacting to the EU’s refusal to extend bailout cash by calling for a “bank holiday” … every day this week. In fairness, though, if I were Tspiras, I’d be urging hedonistic Greeks to run to the beach to divert them from running on the banks too.
At any rate, in light of these latest developments, I’ve decided to reprise my commentary, “Elections Show Greeks Want to Have Euro Cake and Eat It Too,” January 26, 2015. Not only because it presaged these developments, but also because it attests that I warned the EU years ago about the inherent futility and moral hazard of trying to bailout Greece in the first place.
Yesterday, Greece finally held its anxiously awaited general election, which many regarded as a referendum on that country’s membership in the Eurozone.
The consensus was that a win by the ruling New Democracy party, headed by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, would mean more of the bitter austerity medicine Greeks have been taking for years as dues for continued membership; whereas a win by the opposition Syriza party, headed by Alexis Tsipras, would mean no more austerity – even if that forfeits membership.
Tsipras has promised to renegotiate the country’s 240 billion-euro ($270 billion) international bailout deal, and seek forgiveness for most of Greece’s massive debt load. He has pledged to reverse many of the reforms that creditors demanded — including cuts in pensions and the minimum wage, some privatizations and public sector firings — in exchange for keeping Greece financially afloat since 2010.
(The Associated Press, January 25, 2015)
Except that Prime Minister Samaras himself spent years trying, to no avail, to renegotiate Greece’s bailout terms with these very same creditors – the “Troika” of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told CNBC Wednesday, before flying to Athens, she had no interest in adjusting Greece’s bailout terms.
‘I’m not in a negotiations or renegotiations mood at all.’
(UPI, July 6, 2012)
Therefore, either Syriza’s supporters are in for a rude awakening – as Greece’s indignant refusal to comply with bailout terms forfeits membership; or Troika members will swallow their institutional pride and allow the EU’s most vexatious debtor nation to dictate repayment terms. Trust me, you’d be forgiven for analogizing this standoff to an unruly child (Greece) refusing to eat the vegetables (austerity measures) his mother (the Eurozone) insists he must….
But I went on record years ago – not only warning that it would come to this, but also urging Eurozone leaders to cut their losses and kick Greece out before its debt contagion metastasizes.
Here, for example, is an excerpt from “Greece: a Tumor Growing in Europe,” May 15, 2012.
I find it stupefying that Greece is causing so much existential angst in Europe. Mind you, I used to accept the prevailing view that, like JPMorgan Chase, Greece is just too big to fail; moreover, that if it failed others would surely follow.
I am now convinced, however, that this transformative logic simply does not hold. Not least because the more appropriate analogy is not the risk of a major bank failing, but the fear of a little tumor metastasizing. And in this context, cutting Greece out of the Eurozone – the way one might excise a metastasizing (malignant) tumor out of the body – is the best way to forestall the self-fulfilling prophecy of its failure triggering a contagion/domino effect…
Greece is refusing to take the only medicine that stands any chance of putting the cancer it represents into remission. Frankly, this refusal alone demonstrates why it needs to be excised out of the Eurozone…
Greece should be left to its own devices to become the terminally debt-ridden, dysfunctional and ungovernable mess in Europe that Haiti has been in the Caribbean for centuries…
Despite the writing on the wall, European leaders have been implementing extraordinary measures to keep Greece on financial support, fearing that, if Greece fails and exits, other Eurozone countries like Portugal and Spain would follow. Whereas they should have been implementing measures to make Greece’s inexorable path towards failure and exit so painful for Greeks that other countries would want to avoid going down that primrose path like the plague.
This is why the only thing I find newsworthy about this Eurozone debt crisis today is the extent to which countries like Germany and France have allowed the financial contagion Greece represents to metastasize. The situation is clearly critical now.
So instead of begging Greece to take the medicine to save both itself and the ‘euro project,’ European leaders should be scrubbing for the surgery that is necessary to cut out Greece to save the Eurozone. Greece is not too big to fail.
More to the point, though, here is how I characterized the congenital arrogance, which not only makes Tsipras think he can renegotiate bailout terms and get massive debt forgiveness, but also made voters pin their country’s fate on his impudent promises:
Greece may be the cradle of civilization, but it’s being regarded throughout Northern Europe these days as little more than a beggars’ colony. This is because Greece is now looking to richer member states of the European Union, like Germany and France, to bail it out of an existential financial mess…
[R]ich member states in the North believe that their poor relations in the South have nothing to blame for their financial woes but their own ‘Club Med’ approach to fiscal discipline…
You’d think that having to go to their betters in the North – hat in hand – would humble the Greeks. Instead, public sector workers have gone on strike in a self-indulgent effort to pressure their government against imposing any austerity measures as a condition for receiving a bailout package from the EU (and IMF).
(“Greece Just Another Panhandling PIG in Europe,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 29, 2010)
Is it any wonder, then, that a majority of Greeks bought Tsipras’s promises hook, line, and sinker? You know, “money for nothing and the [kicks] for free,” with apologies to Dire Straits. This, despite Samaras pointing out all kinds of silver linings in the dark austerity clouds that have been hovering over Greece for so many years. This election result is rich with irony in this and so many other respects.
In any event, I remain convinced that the best way forward is for the Troika to let Tsipras lead his people down the primrose path into national bankruptcy, and leave them to suffer all that forfeiting membership in the Eurozone (aka, a “Grexit”) entails. It is noteworthy that the EU’s most powerful and influential member finally seems prepared to do just that:
Der Spiegel magazine reported at the weekend that the German government believes the Eurozone could cope with a Greek exit from the single currency and that such an outcome would be almost inevitable if the ‘anti-austerity’ Syriza party wins on 25 January.
(The Guardian, January 5, 2015)
Not to mention the untenable precedent caving in to Greece’s demands would set for Syriza-like parties that are lying in wait in other EU countries, like Spain, to demand similar anti-austerity concessions.
That said, I hope it’s self-evident that Greece does not really want to exit the Eurozone. For, in today’s globalized world, no country can afford to be an island onto itself – even if it’s composed of thousands of tiny islands. No less an island nation than England – with far greater self-sustaining resources, to say nothing of its special relationship with the United States – is struggling to contain the bombast of Syriza-like forces that would force it into a similar Russian-roulette standoff with the EU.
Syriza is just banking on Troika members being so afraid of the domino effect a Grexit might have on the EU that they will renegotiate bailout terms and forgive debts just as Tsipras promised – with his intoxicating mix of bravado, ignorance, and naiveté. The irony, of course, is that the viability and solvency of the EU depends on calling Greece’s bluff. I expect Troika members to do just that.
NOTE: European leaders would have been well-advised to heed the counsel I provided in other such commentaries as A Dead EU Constitution Resurrected as a New Treaty Is Still a Dead EU Constitution (November 13, 2007), A Europe Divided by Debt Cannot Stand (March 25, 2010), If Rescuing Greece is Necessary to Save Europe, Europe’s in Big Trouble (October 15, 2011), and Forget the Euro, Europe Itself is Falling Apart (December 15, 2011).
With that, and continuing in the spirit of “I told you so,” I shall end by reprising this pithy comment from “Greece’s Humpty Dumpty Economy,” June 27, 2015, which really says it all:
Time to give it up Europe.
Besides, in a country famous for its ruins, leaving its economy in ruins might create the best tourist attraction yet; you know, like Cuba even without the 50-year embargo.
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 3:59 p.m.
Saturday, June 27, 2015 at 8:03 AM
Despite angry rhetoric and accusations of ‘blackmail’, negotiations were continuing in Brussels to find a last-ditch compromise to keep Greece in the euro zone to avoid a political train-wreck, economic chaos and financial market disruption.
(Reuters, June 26, 2015)
Time to give it up Europe.
Besides, in a country famous for its ruins, leaving its economy in ruins might create the best tourist attraction yet; you know, like Cuba even without the 50-year embargo.
Greeks want to have cake and eat it too…
Friday, June 26, 2015 at 10:41 AM
I have written many commentaries over the years on the issues the Supreme Court addressed in this case. Here, for the record, are excerpts from just a few of them.
I believe it is a self-evident truth that not allowing gays to marry is an even greater violation of the fundamental equal/civil rights all citizens should enjoy than not allowing Blacks to vote.
- From “Supreme Court to Rule on Same-Sex Marriage,” December 10, 2012, with respect to Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA):
All you need to know is that the same legal principle that compelled the Court to rule in Loving v. Virginia (1967) that Blacks and Whites have a fundamental right to marry each other will compel it to rule that gays have that (equal) right too.
Not to mention that the Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) that gays have the right under the Fourteenth Amendment to engage in consensual sexual conduct ‘as part of the liberty protected’ by the Constitution. Clearly the right to engage in that conduct ‘within the bounds of holy matrimony’ is the natural, logical, moral, historical, and cultural extension of that liberty.
In other words, the Constitution as well as the Court’s own precedents should compel it to emulate the unanimous ruling in Loving in favor of same-sex marriages. Unfortunately, the political nature of this Court is such that most pundits are predicting it could rule 5-4 either way depending on how the one (purportedly) centrist justice, Anthony Kennedy, casts his vote…
If the Court rules that same-sex marriages are constitutionally protected, all states would be obligated not only to recognize them but also to accord them all of the marital rights, privileges, and benefits traditional marriages enjoy.
- And From “Holy Matrimony! Catholic Ireland Becomes Trailblazer for Gay Rights,” May 26, 2015, with respect to the fundamental right to marry:
The right to marry is as fundamental as any human right. And, as the late Justice William Brennan (of the U.S. Supreme Court) might have opined, it offends all notions of fundamental fairness, which is essential to the very concept of justice, for members of any group to have the exercise of their fundamental rights subject to a referendum.
The Supreme Court has just affirmed my view on all counts:
States cannot keep same-sex couples from marrying and must recognize their unions, the Supreme Court says in a ruling that for months has been the focus of speculation. The ruling was made by a 5-4 decision…
For supporters of same-sex marriages, today’s ruling comes as a long-awaited bookend to the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] and required the U.S. government to provide the same benefits to both gay and heterosexual couples.
(NPR, June 26, 2015)
That said, I was wrong in thinking that Chief Justice Roberts would reinforce his opinion on Obamacare by doing the right thing in this case as well. He did not – choosing instead to execute a proverbial splitting of the political baby.
In fairness, though, he did say during his nomination hearing that he sees his judicial role as that of umpire. And, as umpires are wont to do, he probably decided to call one for the liberals (Obamacare) and one for the conservatives (same-sex marriages) to balance what he knew would be the party-line vote of the others. Which only reinforces my opinion about Supreme Court justices being little more than political executioners in judicial garb.
It took centrist Justice Kennedy, voting along with the Court’s four liberal justices, to make this historic ruling for equal/civil rights.
Friday, June 26, 2015 at 8:12 AM
No initiative has triggered an outbreak of Obama derangement syndrome among Republicans quite like Obamacare. Only this explains an erstwhile intellectual like FOX News commentator Charles Krauthammer, himself a psychiatrist no less, proffering partisan talking points as legal criticisms of the Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare. Not to mention the damning irony that their antic criticisms stem from the salutary fact that Obama cares about the poor and uninsured … and they don’t.
In fact, their derangement is so acute in this case that self-professed law-and-order Republicans seem oblivious to the contradictions inherent in damning Chief Justice John Roberts for daring to write a legal opinion that is not consistent with their political dogma.
They are impugning his professional integrity by claiming that Roberts was just hell-bent on doing anything “to save Obamacare” – even if that meant resorting to what their partisan standard-bearer on the court, Justice Antonin Scalia, derided as “interpretative jiggery-pokery.”
Never mind Roberts’s unassailable legal reasoning, which holds that the clear intent of the legislation at issue was to provide healthcare for the uninsured. Further, that long-established practice requires the Court to interpret legislation in ways that honor legislative intent; not in ways that defeat it – as Scalia was just hell-bent on doing.
To be fair, these Republicans can be forgiven their expectation that all controversial Supreme Court decisions will be decided along party lines. After all, far too many cases since the mid-1990s have been 5-4, with justices appointed by Republican presidents upholding the Republican point of view, and vice versa. I’m on record decrying this rank politicization of the Court.
But Republican criticisms in this case are belied by the glaring fact that no less a justice than Anthony Kennedy, the only one appointed by their political patron saint, Ronald Reagan, also voted to uphold Obamacare.
Therefore, whenever you hear pundits on TV fulminating against this decision, just think Justice Kennedy; and whenever you hear your friends or colleagues parroting their fulminations, just say Justice Kennedy.
Supreme Court upholds Obamacare…
Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 4:28 PM
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and agreed with the Obama administration that government subsidies that make health insurance affordable for millions of Americans should be available to all.
By a 6-3 vote, a divided court affirmed an Internal Revenue Service ruling that subsidies should be available not only in states that have set up their own health insurance exchanges, but also in states where consumers rely on the federal government exchange.
The court was interpreting a passage in the law that said the tax credits are authorized for those who buy health insurance on marketplaces that are ‘established by the state.’ Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said while the law’s wording was problematic, Congress’s intent was clear.
(Washington Post, June 25, 2015)
After all, President Obama was so certain of the outcome, he lamented recently that this latest legal challenge to Obamacare was nothing more than a political stunt unworthy of argument before the Supreme Court. And I was so certain Obamacare was beyond legal reproach, here is what I wrote four years ago in “Supreme Court To Rule on Landmark Healthcare Reform,” November 23, 2011.
Nothing evokes a Pentecostal-like response at Republican rallies quite like when one of Obama’s wannabe successors declares – with the conviction of a born-again Tartuffe – that his/her ‘first act as president will be to repeal Obamacare.’ Mind you, their declaration is invariably animated by the hope that the Supreme Court will rule the healthcare reform law unconstitutional long before they are faced with the manifestly impossible task of honoring their promise to repeal it.
[But] I predict the Court will rule 6-3 to uphold the constitutionality of what is bound to go down in history as the most important achievement of any U.S. president since the Civil Rights bill President Lyndon Johnson signed into law in 1964.
My prediction has now withstood not just legal challenges before the Supreme Court but political votes in Congress to boot.
Tuesday’s vote is nearly the 60th in the last four years in the House to undermine or repeal the law, since Republicans took over the chamber in 2011.
(The Hill, February 3, 2015)
Yet, despite (or to spite) today’s ruling, Republicans are already singing their same old tune about repealing Obamacare. In fact, so much so that you’d think they regard denying poor Americans affordable healthcare as an article of faith, which shall never be broken. Clearly they’ll never learn.
Incidentally, Republicans have mounted craven, reckless, cynical and myopic opposition to every Obama initiative (except those that benefit their corporate donors). Nothing betrays this quite like uncontested reports about Republicans secretly breathing a sigh of relief today. Because the inconvenient truth is that, even though keen to propagate misleading claims about its shortcomings, they are even more keen to avoid any obligation to enact an alternative to Obamacare.
But, just as Obama did not think their challenges to Obamacare worthy of argument before the Supreme Court, I do not think their cult-like pledge to repeal Obamacare worthy of any further comment in this forum.
I will only add that anyone who votes this time around for a presidential candidate based on his/her promise to repeal Obamacare is a certifiable fool. For, as George W. Bush once tried to say: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
Meanwhile, right-wing political pundits masquerading as legal analysts are expressing shock and dismay that conservative Chief Justice John Roberts has, once again, not only sided with liberal justices, but taken it upon himself to write the Court’s opinion upholding Obamacare.
Well, these same pundits will probably be expressing even greater shock and dismay tomorrow after the Court hands down its ruling on whether a state can ban same-sex marriages, and whether a state must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
As it happens – in “Supreme Court Hears Legal Fight for/against Same-Sex Marriages,” March 26, 2013 – I provided a little insight into Roberts’s judicial philosophy, which proved prescient with respect to Obamacare, and should prove equally so with respect to same-sex marriages.
Legal, political, and religious pundits are doing their best to ape sports analysts by offering all kinds of putative insights on how the court will rule. Most notable is speculation that, because conservative Chief Justice John Roberts has a lesbian first cousin, he will side with liberal justices in favor of gay rights…
Yet, to be fair to Justice Roberts, an August 5, 2005 report by the New York Times makes clear that he has a record of providing pro-bono legal advice to gay activists. Which is why it’s unfortunate that his lesbian first cousin has been giving media interviews … insinuating that, based on their relationship alone, ‘he will do the right thing.’
I am willing to bet my life savings that the Court will overturn California’s ban and rule DOMA unconstitutional. To do otherwise would make a mockery of the equal protection, liberty, and Full Faith and Credit clauses of the Constitution.
Roberts did the right thing on Obamacare; and he’ll do the right thing on same-sex marriages.
Never mind that, given this Court’s ruling in previous cases on same-sex marriages, there really shouldn’t be so much suspense surrounding this one. Except that I suppose cable news networks would have nothing to report if they did not manufacture breaking news as often as they report it….
Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 7:18 AM
Lady Gaga literally personifies the triumph of packaged and formulaic acts over talented performances. Which is rather a shame because this girl can sing…
Most performers seem to think the key to success is looking and behaving in a way off stage that makes what they do on stage seem almost irrelevant: Exhibits B: Nicki Minaj (or, for you older folks, think of all of the off-stage exhibitionism that rendered the music of artists like Grace Jones and Madonna irrelevant).
By sterling contrast, Adele not only sings like an angel, she might just be the music industry’s saving grace. Unfortunately, this industry has so little to do with musical talent these days that Adele performing on any music awards show is rather like Andrea Bocelli performing on So You Think You Can Dance.
(“MTV Video Music Awards,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 30, 2011)
Well, with all due respect to my (presumably young) critics, nothing flatters my take on these exhibitionists masquerading as singers more than having über producer/singer Pharrell Williams endorse it. Because here is how he hailed Adele as the “rare” singer who is “getting it right” today – not just on stage but, more to the point, offstage too:
Asked by MailOnline which artist today was ‘getting it right’ according to the “Happy” producer, he said: ‘Without a doubt, Adele.’
After a huge round of applause from the audience, Pharrell said the ‘Rolling In The Deep’ singer, whose 21 is the biggest-selling album of the decade to date in the UK at more than 4.75 million copies, was very rare, but admitted that she doesn’t engage with the public very often.
Pharrell revealed that Grammy Award-winner Adele will ‘open her diary for 20 minutes, do her thing, then head off with her beautiful boy’, adding ‘that’s how it’s done’.
(Daily Mail, June 23, 2015)
In other words, R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the talent Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and others display on stage is being diminished in direct proportion to the amount of time they spend trying to keep up with a no-talent like Kim Kardashian off stage (e.g. on social media).
I mean, even Taylor Swift is perverting her wholesome talent (and image) by producing music videos that look like a quid-pro-quo ad for Victoria’s Secret. Have you seen her “Bad Blood” video, featuring a coven of her BFFs – all of whom just happen to be runway models…?
Another gear in a big machine don’t sound like fun to me
Favors for friends will get you in and get you far
Shouldn’t be about who it is you know
But about how good you are.
(Kacey Musgraves, “Good Ol’ Boys Club” from Pageant Material)
That said, you probably recall the nasty, yearlong litigation Gaye’s heirs trigged when they sued Pharrell and Robin Thicke for plagiarizing the riff for their 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” from Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.” A Los Angeles jury awarded Gaye’s estate $7.4 million in damages just two months ago.
But Pharrell can rest assured that, unlike Gaye’s debt-collecting heirs, I actually believe imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. To sue him for damages would give perverse meaning to the genteel custom of paying a compliment.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 6:51 AM
That White kid who massacred nine Black people in their historic African Methodist Episcopal Church last week is clearly insane (even if not legally so).
What I don’t get is why it took this for putatively sane South Carolinians to recognize the racist pride (for some Whites) and insult (to all Blacks) that flying the Confederate flag on the grounds of their state capitol represents.
For only this explains South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and the state’s bipartisan and multiracial congressional delegation making quite a show yesterday of calling on the state legislature to remove it.
But how insane is that?! Granted, there’s no telling what a guilty conscience over this massacre might compel even preternaturally pandering politicians to do….
But anyone who knows anything about U.S. history knows that the Confederate flag has always represented the misguided and racist intent of those who wanted to form their own confederacy, primarily to preserve their slave-holding way of life.
This is why flying the Confederate flag in any public place in America should be every bit as anathema and anachronistic as flying the Nazi swastika in any public place in Germany.
Still, it would be one thing if South Carolinians raised it in the 1860s to honor those who died for their ill-fated cause. But the historical record shows that, like others in the Deep South, they used the centennial anniversary of the civil war as a pretext to raise it in 1960s as a symbol of their antebellum-rooted opposition to the Civil Rights Movement (aka “a states’-rights rebuff to desegregation”).
The Confederate flag symbolizes more than the civil war and the slavery era…
The flag has been adopted knowingly and consciously by government officials seeking to assert their commitment to Black subordination.
(“This Is Why South Carolina Raised the Confederate Flag in the First Place, TIME, June 22, 2015)
No doubt this is why, within hours of Haley’s rallying cry, Mississippi state legislators announced plans to remove the Confederate battle saltire from their state flag; Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe banned it from all state-issued license plates; and Walmart, Amazon, and other major retailers discontinued all sales of confederate paraphernalia. So much for cherished history and Southern pride, eh?
But nothing betrays the rank hypocrisy afoot quite like no less a person than Governor Haley herself defending the flying of this flag just months ago as follows:
I spend a lot of my days on phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state and I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag…
But we really kind of fixed all [perceptions of racism in South Carolina] when you elected [me] the first Indian-American female governor. When we appointed the first African-American U.S. senator, that sent a huge message.
(C-SPAN, October 14, 2014)
In other words, she was asserting that, as long as (White) businessmen don’t have a problem with her state’s Confederate flag, why should she care about the offense it causes Black people. What’s more, just imagine the outrage/ridicule if Obama were to assert that:
We really fixed all perceptions of racism in America when you elected [me] the first Black president of the United States. When we confirmed the first Black attorney general, that said to the world, racism in America is dead.
Meanwhile, given the way the media are hailing Haley for calling on the South Carolina state legislature to remove this flag, TIME might name her person of the year if she calls on it to finally recognize Washington, DC, not Richmond, VA, as the capital of the United States. Oh right.
Abraham Lincoln must be rolling over in his grave … wondering why any display of the Confederate flag on the grounds of any state capitol was not abolished 150 years ago, along with slavery and vanquished ideas about secession.
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Tuesday, at 4:39 pm
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 6:48 AM
There have been many reports over the years on peacekeepers standing by and watching warring factions kill each other – as they did, to the U.N.’s eternal shame, in Rwanda.
This is why it might surprise you to learn that U.N. peacekeepers have a reputation for preying on helpless girls that rivals the reputation Catholic priests have for preying on little boys. More to the point, the United Nations has shown even less interest in protecting helpless girls from predatory peacekeepers than the Catholic Church has shown in protecting little boys from predatory priests.
In fact, I was so dismayed by the U.N.’s betrayal of trust in this respect that I wrote “The United Nations: Corrupt from Head to Toe?” June 17, 2005, which begins as follows:
The leadership of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was severely compromised earlier this year, when reports revealed that he did little to prevent U.N. foot soldiers from inflicting widespread abuses upon those they were deployed to protect. That many of these abuses occurred in refugee camps in Africa, where rape and molestation rivaled the horrors of war and starvation these refugees were trying to escape, made his failure all the more shameful.
Folks, that was ten years ago this week. Therefore, it speaks volumes that the U.N. has allowed peacekeepers to continue their predatory exploits with impunity – as a June 11 investigative report in the Washington Post makes patently clear:
The U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services — a U.N. watchdog within the U.N. — said members of a peacekeeping mission had ‘transactional sex’ with more than 225 Haitian women. The women traded sex for basic needs, including food and medication.
‘For rural women, hunger, lack of shelter, baby care items, medication and household items were frequently cited as the ‘triggering need,’’ the report said. In exchange for sex, women got ‘church shoes, cell phones, laptops and perfume, as well as money’ from peacekeepers.
Women in Haiti sometimes protested when peacekeepers who said they would pay for sex did not, but most were unaware the United Nations prohibited sexual exploitation and has a hotline to report it.
Given this report and my analogy to priests above, I feel obliged to clarify that these peacekeepers target little boys too. Reports in early 2012 on the contingent of Pakistani peacekeepers who raped a mentally disabled 14-year-old Haitian boy in Gonaives threw this into stark relief. And, yes, the U.N. shielded them with its blanket of immunity….
Meanwhile, I fear the U.N.’s Internal Oversight Services (with its Orwellian name) will have cause to draft a report about peacekeepers perpetrating similar abuses on some other peacekeeping mission ten years from now.
But I’m all too mindful that my feelings of frustration and fecklessness pale in comparison to the feelings of desperation and hopelessness victims of these abuses must suffer. Therefore, before I wax too indignant, I shall end by confessing that, despite my informed cynicism, even I was shocked in one respect by this U.N. report.
I have always felt (and in fact wrote in “Haiti’s Living Nightmare Continues,” March 7, 2005) that Haiti looms amidst the islands of the Caribbean, just as Africa does amidst the continents of the world: as a dark, destitute, diseased, desperate, disenfranchised, dishonest, disorganized, disassociated, dangerous and, ultimately, dysfunctional mess. Therefore, I was hardly surprised in 2004, when the U.N. launched its mission:
…to restore a secure and stable environment, to promote the political process, to strengthen Haiti’s Government institutions and rule-of-law-structures, as well as to promote and to protect human rights.
But I never imagined peacekeepers would dare perpetrate the kinds of abuses they got away with in distant Africa so close to home (i.e., U.N. headquarters in New York City), especially with reporters foraging all over Haiti looking for stories in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Yet, dare they did.
Haitians have become a migration menace throughout the Caribbean for some of the same understandable reasons Africans have throughout Europe. Fear of UN peacekeepers raping them, however, should not be one of those reasons.
In any event, this Post report is only the latest indication that my abiding prayers for the godforsaken people of Haiti are all in vain.
Monday, June 22, 2015 at 8:42 AM
Truth be told, paper currency is falling into such desuetude, the media hype surrounding this belated and patently misguided honor seems contrived. It’s rather like hailing the appointment of a Native American as Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service.
With U.S. Treasury officials committing to a putting a woman on a redesigned $10 bill, a front-runner for that numismatic honor appears to be Maryland’s own Harriet Tubman.
The woman who was born into slavery on an Eastern Shore plantation and became the most renowned of the Underground Railroad leaders has already won an online ‘election’ for the female face that voters wanted to see on a bill.
(The Baltimore Sun, June 18, 2015)
Mind you, Jack Lew, the current Treasury secretary, is floating the idea that, instead of replacing Hamilton, the chosen woman will join him on the $10 bill when this historic change takes place in 2020.
But this idea reeks of sexism on so many levels, it will sink like a ton of bricks long before then. Especially given that it’s already being derided mercilessly like this:
This is basically the perfect embodiment of the women’s rights movement: women asks for what they’ve earned, a bunch of men get together and talk about it; then they give the women half and ask [them] to share it.
(HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, January 21, 2015)
In any event, it’s unfair for the Treasury to honor Harriet Tubman (or whoever the chosen woman turns out to be) by dishonoring Alexander Hamilton, whose face now graces the $10 bill. Incidentally, the dishonor would be the same whether a woman joins or replaces him.
- Hamilton never owned slaves;
- He was named the first Treasury secretary of the United States; and
- Most relevant, he did more than any other American to create the U.S. central banking system – complete with founding the Bank of New York in 1784, which provided a cash-strapped U.S. government its first loan just five years later.
After the Revolutionary War ended, the nation had substantial debt [and] there was no common currency, as many states printed their own money.
These were two of the chief financial problems facing the nation’s founders around the time the Constitution was written. Alexander Hamilton thought having the federal government take over the states’ war debts would be a good way to fix these problems while establishing federal power preeminent over that of the states, another of his goals.
(“History of Central Banking in the United States,” Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.org)
Instead, as the “Women on 20s” campaign proposes, it’s fairer to honor Tubman by dishonoring Andrew Jackson, whose face now graces the $20 bill.
- Jackson owned slaves (and nearly wiped out Native Americans in the Southeastern United States, highlighted by forcing thousands of Cherokees on the “Trail of Tears” – which makes the Bataan Death March look like a Sunday stroll – as the White man’s solution to their “Indian problem”);
- He pioneered the patronage system that seeded corruption in U.S. politics; and
- Most relevant, he tried more than any other American to destroy the U.S. central banking system – complete with attempts to discard paper currency in favor of coins as the only legal tender.
Jackson had been financially damaged by speculation and a tightening of bank credit early in his business career. He retained a distrust of financial institutions throughout his life…
Jackson’s opposition to the Bank became almost an obsession.
(“The War Against the Bank,” U.S. History.org)
Clearly, as between these two founding fathers, Jackson is more deserving to be dishonored in this fashion. Not to mention the sexist slight inherent in putting a woman on Hamilton’s $10 bill; after all, it has only half the circulation (or common use) of Jackson’s $20 bill.
What’s more, if the Treasury were to replace Jackson, his advocates could derive some consolation from the fact that he would remain the face of the one dollar coin. Whereas, if it were to replace Hamilton, his advocates would see his face relegated to the dustbin of history, where U.S. currency is concerned.
All of which raises the question: why is the Treasury defying logic and offending all notions of fairness by dishonoring Hamilton?
I fear the only explanation stems, ironically enough, from the abiding scourge of America’s “original” sin. For, as no less a person than President Obama was quoted saying this weekend:
The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives … that’s still part of our DNA…
Racism, we are not cured of it; and it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not.
(NBC News, June 22, 2015)
This is why it’s probably no coincidence that the Treasury targeted Hamilton. After all, his is the only face on any dollar bill that has (or is thought to have) “Negro blood.”
Hamilton, you see, was born out of wedlock to a French Huguenot of “mixed-race” named Rachel Fawcett Lavine on the island of Nevis in the British West Indies. And, after he moved to America at age 16, nothing “consigned” him to a life of négritude, much to his chagrin, quite like the:
… incontestable truth that many, if not most, illegitimate children in the West Indies bore mixed blood. At the time of Rachel’s birth, the four thousand slaves on Nevis outnumbered whites by a ratio of four to one, making inequitable carnal relations between black slaves and white masters a dreadful commonplace.
(Chernow, Ron. ‘Alexander Hamilton.’ Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. p. 9)
To be fair, many (White) historians, not least Chernow himself, insist that claims about Hamilton being part Black derive from nothing but rank speculation or outright slander.
But this is not the forum, nor indeed the commentary, to argue the matter. Still, it might add some authority to my race-based explanation to cite the rather colorful congressional testimony of one Mr. Adams, which he presented during a Hearing Before the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the House of Representatives (Interstate-Commerce Law, 1902, at p. 450).
For Mr. Adams testified that he possessed data showing Hamilton’s mother to be of “mixed blood;” that he himself is a Negro, even though he looks as “light” as any White man; and that, if Hamilton were still alive, both of them would be subjected to Jim Crow laws … if people found out they were Negros. Indeed, accounts abound about Hamilton’s biological brother James looking far more like a Negro, so much so that he was refused a seat on a Broadway coach.
Apropos of Broadway, it’s an uncanny coincidence that the historical truth of Hamilton’s race is playing out these days in the hit musical Hamilton. After all, it’s not only being performed in hip-hop style, but has an actor of mixed-race playing Hamilton. But I digress….
The point is that, by dishonoring Hamilton, the Treasury is honoring race (even if unwittingly) as the determining feature in practically every aspect of life in America … still.
You might think this makes no sense. But I submit that my explanation makes far more sense than the Treasury deciding in this context that a woman is worthy only of partial billing on the $10 bill.
Saturday, June 20, 2015 at 6:47 AM
South African judges hearing an application to force the government to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said on Monday they were ‘concerned’ state officials had not complied with the court’s previous order to keep Bashir in the country…
‘It is of concern to us that an order of this court was issued … to ensure the presence of Al Bashir in this country (and) has not been complied with,’ said Judge Dunstan Mlambo.
(Reuters, June 15, 2015)
Bashir – the great escape…
Friday, June 19, 2015 at 7:24 AM
After Stars and Stripes, a newspaper that reports military stories, exposed Brian Williams last February as a man who told lies with as much credibility as he anchored news, NBC had no choice but to suspend him pending further investigation.
Media speculation ensued about whether Williams would ever return to the anchor chair at Nightly News. And the consensus among industry experts was that his chances were very good, especially after NBC rehired Andrew Lack:
Former NBC News boss Andy Lack is in ‘advanced’ talks to rejoin the company in a role that would oversee all NBCUniversal news operations, several people on Tuesday confirmed to The Post.
News of the talks, which bounced around media circles, prompted speculation that Lack, a good friend of Brian Williams, the exiled anchor of the network’s Nightly News, will push early to get the fact-challenged newsman back on the air.
‘Andy Lack wouldn’t come back without Brian,’ said a source friendly with both executives. ‘‘This is all about saving Brian….’
(New York Post, March 3, 2015)
Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that Williams fully expected to return. He confesses as much in a repentant and redemptive interview that is set to air on this morning’s edition of NBC’s Today Show.
But good luck getting a single expert to admit to predicting his return; after all, the consensus among industry experts today is that there was never any way he could.
By contrast, here is what I wrote back then – in “Replace Retired Jon Stewart with Suspended Brian Williams … and Vice Versa? Noooo!” February 11, 2015 – not only about his chances of returning to the anchor chair at Nightly News, but also about who should replace him.
Williams would be a fool to think that NBC would invite him back into that anchor chair…
In the eyes of the millions who watched him on TV (as opposed to the tens of millions who gossiped about him on social media), Brian’s face has become indelibly associated with boldfaced lies. The breach of trust already documented is irreparable. And I remain convinced that NBC’s internal investigation is bound to uncover other lies and practices that will seal his fate…
Who better to replace Williams than the demonstrably qualified Holt – who would also break the monopoly White folks have held on the anchor chairs of network news for far too long…?
But, mark my words, if NBC News does to Lester Holt what it did to Ann Curry (Remember that?), its president, Deborah Turness, would lose her job faster than the chairman of Sony Pictures, Amy Pascal, lost hers last month – after hackers leaked her racist e-mails about President Obama. (Remember that?)
Williams will not be returning to the NBC Nightly News anchor chair; his fill-in Lester Holt will become the program’s permanent anchor.
The appointment makes Holt the first black solo anchor of a weekday network nightly newscast.
So what will Williams do? ‘He will be the face of MSNBC,’ handling big breaking news stories….
(CNN, June 18, 2015)
With that I say, congratulations to Lester Holt!
And I sure hope this means he will now give up that silly moonlighting gig on Dateline NBC.
As for Williams, he should fit in quite nicely with the likes of Al Sharpton over at MSNBC. After all, like FOX News, MSNBC is a cable news station where the corporate mission seems to be to present personal opinions and/or political talking points – no matter how made up – as objective facts.
It must be noted, however, that NBC relegating Brian to MSNBC is tantamount to the Cavaliers relegating LeBron to the practice squad. Except that I cannot imagine LeBron accepting such a professional humiliation – no matter what principled/compelling reasons the Cavs might have for relegating him.
This is why it speaks volumes about Brian’s unreformed vanity (i.e., his pathological need to be seen performing) that he appears perfectly content to make the most of his new role….
NOTE: I should clarify that Holt is making history because, when Max Robinson anchored ABC’s World News Tonight in the late 1970s, he was part of a troika of anchors, which included Frank Reynolds and Peter Jennings. Robinson was never the solo anchor.
Now if the networks would only do something about the monopoly White guys have on hosting late-night shows, especially given that increasing numbers of Americans are getting their news from these shows instead of regular news broadcasts.
Thursday, June 18, 2015 at 8:35 AM
An intense manhunt was underway Thursday for a white gunman who opened fire on Wednesday night at a historic black church in [Charleston, South Carolina], killing nine people before fleeing.
The chief of police of Charleston, Greg Mullen, called the shooting a hate crime.
‘This is a situation that is unacceptable in any society, especially in our society and our city,’ Chief Mullen said at an early morning news conference. ‘We are leaving no stone unturned.’
(New York Times, June 18, 2015)
Yet this constancy is such that I see no point in commenting much beyond reiterating two abiding points.
What far too many forget is that long before al-Qaeda terrorists struck the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in DC, a good ol’ American boy named Timothy McVeigh struck a government building in Oklahoma, making it painfully clear that, when it comes to terrorism, we have as much to fear from domestic/Christian terrorists as from foreign/Muslim ones.
(“Norway’s Timothy McVeigh Perpetrates National Massacre,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 23, 2011)
So why do U.S. media continually refuse to call a spade a spade when it comes to White psychos who commit acts of terrorism … like this one?!
I don’t know why the media always reward these psychopaths by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their cowardly misdeeds. Isn’t it clear to see, especially in this age of instant celebrity, why some loser kid would find this route to infamy irresistible?
You’d think that – given the record of these psychotic and vainglorious episodes since Columbine – we would have figured out by now that the best way to discourage them is by focusing our attention on the victims and limiting what we say about the [perpetrator] to: May God have mercy on your soul as you burn in Hell!
(“Massacre in Omaha,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 7, 2007)
The exception in this case, of course, is that the suspect is still at large, and the police are seeking the public’s help in identifying and apprehending him.
Therefore, I feel duty-bound to help by publishing these images of this pathetic creature:
If you recognize this man, please call 911 immediately!
NOTE: The two murderers who made that daring escape from a maximum-security prison in New York ten days ago are probably breathing a sigh of relief (aka letting their guard down?) today. Because not only were the police already scaling back their search, but the media are now covering this massacre as if their escape is ancient history.
Thursday, June 18, 2015 at 6:53 AM
There’s no denying the potential triggers inherent in NATO forces conducting military exercises in the Baltic Sea this week – at a time when Russian forces are more poised than ever to invade Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin has just announced plans to deploy new intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Not to mention President Barack Obama adding to these combustible dynamics by announcing plans to deploy tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery bases in eastern Europe as a bulwark against Russian aggression.
No doubt this situation is ripe for miscalculations, accidents, or provocations, which could lead to hostile fire between Russian and Western forces. But, in that event, even a few skirmishes are not likely to escalate into full-scale war.
Yet, not surprisingly, CNN and other news organizations are reporting on these developments as if they were as grave as allied forces crossing the English Channel to confront German forces on Normandy Beach.
Khodorkovsky, of course, is famous for making the improbable journey from an ordinary Russian Jew to the richest man in Russia, only to become an imprisoned martyr (for over ten years) and now a celebrated dissident. I have written a fair amount about their fateful relationship in such commentaries as “Putin Decrees Khodorkovsky, His Political Nemesis, a Russian Madoff,” December 31, 2010.
More to the point, though, not only is Khodorkovsky personally familiar with Kremlin machinations, but his political activism poses a far greater threat to Putin’s presidency these days than NATO’s military exercises.
Accordingly, here is his authoritative take on Putin’s military brinkmanship:
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s confrontation with the West is ‘artificial’ and aimed at protecting Russia’s ruling elite and distracting attention from a corrupt system, a former Russian oil tycoon said on Wednesday.
‘The current confrontation with the West is absolutely artificial,’ Mikhail Khodorkovsky told the Atlantic Council think tank.
‘The cooling of relations has been inspired by those Russian elites who want to hold on to power.’
(Reuters, June 17, 2015)
Mind you, it would be a shrewd move for Obama to counter Putin’s maneuvers by providing more passive-aggressive assistance (namely advice and arms) to Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. After all, as another celebrated Russian dissident, Gary Kasparov, might advise, Obama can’t play checkers while Putin’s playing chess.
In fact, here is what I opined over a year ago was motivating him to do so:
His only reason for standing in solidarity with everyone from Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia to Yanukovych of Ukraine is that he lives in mortal fear that the popular uprisings that toppled them might topple him too. Period.
This is why he must’ve been a little unnerved yesterday, when even pro-Russian Ukrainians were calling for Yanukovych’s head after they got a glimpse of the obscenely opulent, Louis-XVI lifestyle he was living at their expense. So just imagine what Putin’s peasant supporters in Russia would want to do to him if they were suddenly presented with clear and convincing evidence that he lives a lifestyle that’s a thousand times more extravagant than Yanukovych’s, having amassed billions in ill-gotten gains over the years as a KGB officer turn politician.
(“Ukraine’s (Peaceful) Orange Revolution Turns Red … with Blood,” February 25, 2014)
Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 8:53 AM
After Donald Trump threw his hat into the ring yesterday, you’d have thought the contest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination could not become any more of a circus.
But candidate Lindsey Graham may have just topped (or trumped) Trump. For, after raising eyebrows by promising to have “rotating first ladies” if elected president, here is the pusillanimous way this 60-year-old, lifelong bachelor is explaining his “failure” to marry:
The opportunity never presented itself at the right time, or I never found time to meet the right girl, or the right girl was smart enough not to have time for me. I haven’t been lucky that way.
(Daily Mail, June 17, 2015)
Now, is it just me, or does his explanation for living as a single man seem every bit as tortured, convoluted, and ultimately deceptive as Rachel Dolezal’s explanation for living as a Black woman? Honestly, how can any self-respecting presidential candidate “face the nation” professing nonsense like this?
More to the point, though, only a fool would vote for a presidential candidate who is so inept he can’t find himself a wife. This speaks volumes, and raises so many red (pink, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and violet) flags, on so many levels….
To be fair, Graham writes — in his just-released campaign bio — that he once came very close to marrying a Lufthansa flight attendant. Except that any heterosexual man will tell you that this is rather like bragging about once coming very close to marrying a trapeze artist from the traveling Cirque du Soleil show.
But, given his decision to regale us with catfish tales about distant lovers, it’s only a matter of time before a reporter asks Graham about his love life today. If I were that reporter, the interview would go something like this:
REPORTER: You come across like such a romantic in that story from 30 years ago, senator, are you romancing anyone today?
GRAHAM: No, but like I said, I’ve been unlucky since then, and I really don’t have the time; what with performing my senatorial duties and campaigning for president and all.
REPORTER: I see, so you’re content to continue playing the field and, like you said, have rotating first ladies in the White House. But doesn’t that make a mockery of the traditional Christian values you espouse?
GRAHAM: No, no, no, I was only kidding … I don’t want people thinking that!
REPORTER: Well, senator, you seem to be living the life of a Catholic priest. And, given still unfolding church scandals, I’m not sure you want American voters thinking that about your personal life either. But we’re out of time. Thank you, and Good luck.
In any event, I suspect the straight story is that Graham never married because the “right girl” for him has always been a boy. Which is why Caitlyn Jenner might be a perfect match.
Indeed, Graham has already started a media flirtation with “her”:
If Caitlyn Jenner wants to be a Republican, she is welcome in my party.”
(CNN, June 9, 2015)
Only in America folks….
Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 7:05 AM
African leaders are beaming with foolish pride today for the way they conspired, during an African Union summit in South Africa last weekend, to help Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir abscond from justice.
Bashir became the first sitting head of state to have a warrant issued for his arrest. The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued it [yesterday] pursuant to an indictment against him for war crimes and crimes against humanity, all stemming from the atrocities Arab Muslims perpetrated against Black Africans over the past six years in the Darfur region of Sudan.
(“Arresting Bashir? Even more of a Pipe Dream than Finding Bin Laden,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 5, 2009)
In fact, yesterday’s edition of The Guardian reported that Bashir presided over the killing of 300,000 Black Africans and displacement of two million.
Alas, far too many African leaders have no compunction about conspiring with and on behalf of Bashir. Most notable among them, of course, is Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Not least because he has implemented policies and ordered brutal crackdowns that have killed and displaced as many, if not more, Black Africans, so far, during his 35-year dictatorship.
Zimbabwean leader and African Union chairman Robert Mugabe on Tuesday harshly criticized the International Criminal Court after Sudan’s president dodged an international arrest order by leaving early from a meeting of the continent’s leaders in South Africa, a news agency reported…
The African News Agency, which is based in South Africa, quoted Mugabe as saying at the late-night close of an African Union summit in Johannesburg that the International Criminal Court is not wanted in Africa.
(U.S. News & World Report, June 15, 2015)
Frankly, it’s a wonder the ICC never piggybacked Western sanctions against Mugabe’s regime with an arrest warrant for the crimes against humanity he has presided over.
After all, despite fellow leaders urging him not to, Kenyatta appeared in The Hague voluntarily to answer charges stemming from post-election violence, which I commented on in several commentaries, including “Uhuru Kenyatta, Son of Kenya’s Founding Father, Indicted on War Crimes,” January 24, 2012.
And, even though taken by force, former President Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire is currently on trial in The Hague on charges stemming from similar violence, which I commented on in several commentaries, including “Noose Tightens on Gbagbo in Cote d’Ivoire,” April 11, 2011.
By glaring contrast, Bashir is trying to avoid The Hague to answer charges stemming from violence that attended a sustained crusade of ethnic cleansing, which I commented on in several commentaries, including “ICC Charging Bashir of Sudan with Genocide Means Nothing,” July 15, 2008.
Yet, evidently, African leaders are willing to violate their own laws, as host president Jacob Zuma did, to abet him at every turn.
Incidentally, Kenyatta had time and resources to make conviction so unlikely that the ICC prosecutor eventually dropped all charges. Whereas, in his circumstances, Gbagbo had no time or resources at his disposal to do the same; therefore, he’ll likely be convicted and spend the rest of his life in prison.
Mind you, I’m on record – in such commentaries as “No (Equitable) Justice in ICC Prosecuting Kenya’s Kenyatta,” March 23, 2013 – sympathizing with their complaints about the ICC targeting African leaders for prosecution in The Hague. For example:
I have also questioned why ICC prosecutors appear to be racially profiling African leaders. After all, Africans are the only ones who have been indicted since this first-ever permanent international criminal court was established in 2002.
(“African Leaders Defy ICC to Defend Kenya’s Kenyatta,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 13, 2013)
Except that it amounts to unwitting complicity in Bashir’s genocide for these leaders to defend him with the same defiant spirit of comradeship with which they defended Kenyatta. And, given the enlightened example Kenyatta set, I am dumbfounded that he played along….
Nonetheless, here is why African leaders feel they’re being continentally profiled:
For more than a year now, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been presiding over the same kind of killing and displacement in the Donbass region of Ukraine that Bashir presided over in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Yet the ICC has not shown the unbiased balls to even issue a warrant for Putin’s arrest. And even if it did, you can bet your life that European leaders would be no more willing to enforce it against Putin than African leaders were to enforce its arrest warrant against Bashir. Hell, European leaders can’t even enforce their own sanctions against Putin – with many of them talking tough, while allowing their corporations to negotiate all kinds of sanctions-busting deals with Russian corporations.
Still, this does not excuse the willful and myopic way these Black African leaders abetted this Arab leader – who has the blood of so many innocent Black Africans still dripping from his hands. It shall redound to their eternal shame that none of them stood up for those lost souls of Darfur. Beyond this, the damning irony is that, of all the corrupt and genocidal despots on the continent of Africa, Bashir is the last one African leaders should have chosen as the poster boy for their newfound determination to boycott the ICC.
Ultimately, though, they have helped to vindicate my assertion that the United States would find Osama bin Laden before the ICC prosecutes Omar al-Bashir….
Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 7:54 AM
So why are news organizations still portraying him as a hero instead of a zero (aka traitor)?
Britain has been forced to move some of its spies after Russia and China accessed the top-secret raft of documents taken by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, British media reported.
The BBC and the Sunday Times cited senior government and intelligence officials as saying agents had been pulled, with the newspaper saying the move came after Russia was able to decrypt more than one million files.
(Agence France-Presse, June 14, 2015)
Frankly, reports like this should give pause to all Westerners, especially those who have been hailing Snowden not just as a Post-Orwellian folk hero, but as a suitable candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
After all, on the one hand, I’ve been trying to put Snowden’s leaks into perspective by pointing out – in such commentaries as “Ignorance Prevails re NSA Spying and Snowden Leaking,” June 14, 2013 – that the spying the NSA does to keep us safe pales in comparison to the spying Google does just to sell us stuff.
While, on the other hand, I’ve been damning him as a traitorous fraud – in such commentaries as “Judge Ruling on NSA Spying Amounts to Judicial Selfie,” December 18, 2013 – for claiming that his only mission was to inform the American people about the extent of NSA spying … on them. Because he could have legitimately declared “Mission Accomplished” within six months. Yet here we are, almost two years later, and his leaks are doing nothing but providing aid and comfort to totalitarian regimes like China and Russia and terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS – just as some of us warned would be the case.
I am acutely aware that I cannot speak with much authority on these matters. Therefore, I’m always keen to cite others whose authority is beyond reproach. Accordingly, here is the alarm no less a person than the head of British intelligence, Sir John Sawers, sounded during a public hearing of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee:
The leaks from Snowden have been very damaging, they’ve put our operations at risk. It’s clear that our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee, al-Qaeda is lapping it up.
(ITV News, November 7, 2013)
Which brings me to Snowden’s guardian/paymaster Glenn Greenwald.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who helped break the original stories, told the BBC there was ‘zero evidence’ to support claims Russia and China had gained access to the documents.
He criticised what he called ‘anonymous cowards in the British government’ who had spoken to the Sunday Times.
(BBC, June 15, 2015)
For the record, here is an excerpt – from the aforementioned December 18, 2013, commentary – on Greenwald’s mercenary involvement in Snowden’s ongoing treachery.
Nothing infuriates me more than watching Greenwald spew self-righteous indignation at anyone who questions the propriety, ethics, and national-security implications of his and Snowden’s venal crusade.
After all, the only thing Greenwald is doing now is peddling his country’s national secrets like a street vendor selling hotcakes. And he’s doing it from his safe haven in Brazil, where Snowden devoutly wishes to be…
But just imagine the windfall Greenwald is enjoying or counting on – having convinced some misguided, open-society do-gooder to donate $250 million for him to set up his own online portal to trade on the million-plus bits of NSA documents he keeps teasing/threatening to release from his journalistic quiver. And if you don’t think Snowden himself expects to be greatly enriched by this enterprise, then you probably think people rob banks for charitable purposes.
Clearly, it’s an understatement to say that Greenwald has a vested, if not an existential, interest in refuting any claim about Snowden’s leaks causing any damage.
But I need to amend my commentary to reflect that, even more infuriating than watching him spew as indicated, is watching reporters swallow all he spews hook, line, and sinker. You’d think at least one of them would challenge him to explain what public service he and Snowden are providing now by continuing to “hide and leak” classified information that only compromises security operations and undermines diplomatic relations.
I am particularly dismayed that reporters are allowing Greenwald to discredit the report in the Sunday Times because its reporters relied on “anonymous cowards in the British government” as sources for their story. After all, not only do all reporters rely on anonymous sources, but Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post relied on an “anonymous coward in the U.S. government” as the (Deep Throat) source for their Watergate stories. And we know the unprecedented public service they provided by doing so.
In any event, am I the only one who thought that, by now, reporters and politicians alike would be treating Snowden like the useful idiot he has become to America’s enemies? Even I had just cause to treat him as such over a year ago in “From Spycraft to Stagecraft, Snowden Debuts as Putin’s ‘Useful Idiot,” April 22, 2014.
Not to mention that I thought Snowden apologists would come to their senses after German Greens MP Hans-Christian Stroebele made such a fool of himself and fellow Germans. Specifically, this politician flew all the way to Moscow (in November 2013) to invite Snowden to inform the German people about the extent of NSA spying on them. But rival leaks later revealed (in August 2014) that the German spy agency (BND) was engaged in the same kind of NSA spying Snowden had so many Germans venting moral indignation about.
I duly commented on this hoisting with one’s own petard in “Germans Exposed as Spying Hypocrites. Others Will Be Too,” August 20, 2014.
Mind you, I tried to warn Germans and indignant citizens of other countries that this was the case in “I Spy, You Spy, We All Spy,” July 2, 2013.
So again, I plead, what is so heroic about the dangers Snowden has wrought?
Monday, June 15, 2015 at 6:19 AM
Perhaps you recall the sensational way detectives of the NYPD Special Victims Division arrested then IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn (in May 2011) on charges of criminal sexual assault, attempted rape, and unlawful imprisonment.
A Black chambermaid at a luxury NYC hotel had filed a complaint. She claimed that, upon entering his room to perform her duties, a naked DSK attacked her, fondled her, and forced her to perform oral sex.
Instead of prosecuting him, however, the New York prosecutor merely persecuted DSK for being a lecherous old fool. But here, in part, is how I presaged the fallout he would face after being outed as such:
He might well win his freedom and return as a national hero to some in France — where the media are now portraying him not as an accused rapist, but as a victim of a crude American justice system. But DSK will never get his reputation back — especially because, no matter how his defense attorneys and political enablers spin it, there’s no denying the DNA that marks him as a sexual predator who tried to have his way with a lowly hotel maid.
Moreover, I can’t imagine the French ever countenancing a man with such boorish sexual proclivities becoming their president.
(“Judge Frees DSK from House Arrest,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 1, 2011)
Sure enough, far from fulfilling his political destiny, his now-notorious reputation preceded his return to France. Accordingly, he soon faced similar charges – for sexual liaisons that were once de rigueur within his social circle.
A French prosecutor has ordered an initial inquiry into claims that ex-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn was involved in ‘gang rape’ in Washington…
The allegations are said to have come to light from evidence given by a Belgian prostitute who told Belgian police that she was forced into certain acts of non-consensual sex while in Washington on 16 December 2010…
The initial charge of ‘aggravated pimping as part an organised gang’ carries a potential prison term of 20 years; a rape conviction can prompt a similar sentence.
(BBC, May 21, 2012)
On Friday, a judge in Lille acquitted Dominique Strauss-Kahn of the charge of aggravated pimping.
The 66-year-old former head of the IMF had denied claims he procured prostitutes to attend sex parties in France, Belgium and the US.
The man once tipped as a future president of France admitted being a swinger who enjoys group sex and said he attended about four ‘soirees libertines’ a year.
(BBC, June 12, 2015)
A politically correct Lady Justice might deem this judge’s verdict an injustice. But his verdict vindicates all that is liberal, libertine, and libertarian about long-established Gallic attitudes towards sex. And, yes, as a liberal, (reformed) libertine, and libertarian myself, I couldn’t agree more with his verdict.
So here’s to sex in France still being “not judicially punishable,” leaving DSK free to have his way with (consenting) women … if the price is right.
Judge frees DSK…
Sunday, June 14, 2015 at 7:43 AM
Of course, there’s nothing new about people passing for a member of a different race or ethnicity. But their reasons for doing so were invariably to escape a life of discrimination, oppression, or even worse.
Most notably, Blacks in America passed for White to escape the legacy of slavery, including dehumanizing Jim Crow laws; Jews in Europe passed for Christian/Aryan to escape the scourge of anti-Semitism, including the genocidal spectre of Nazi concentration camps.
In this context, it’s understandable that a White might want to pass for Black in post-Apartheid South Africa. But only God knows why a White would want to do so in the United States, notwithstanding specious claims about affirmative action and reverse discrimination. This is why the identity fraud Rachel A. Dolezal perpetrated is so stupefying.
She has professed an affinity for black people since she was a teenager, when her parents adopted four black children. She chose a college where she could immerse herself in racial issues. She married a black man and built a reputation as an advocate for civil rights.
(New York Times, June 12, 1015)
Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with any of the above. On the contrary, all of it is quite commendable, especially for a White girl.
Yet I do marvel at this curious thing: why pretend to be Black to do what would’ve been even more commendable if she presented herself as White? Not to mention that White folks not only have a distinguished record of working for the NAACP, but were instrumental in founding this association for the advancement of Black folks 105 years ago.
Even so, Dolezal’s identity crisis is not the issue. And it’s probably expecting too much for her to spare us a self-serving explanation/confessional, which would only add insult to the injury she’s already caused.
She clearly needs psychological therapy to deal with whatever childhood trauma or racial ideation triggered her extraordinary decision to live as a Black woman. But one has to wonder what motivated the conspiracy of silence, for so many years, among her family, friends, and, above all, the Black man she married fifteen years ago – with her plainly White (biological) parents in attendance.
Instead, the issue is the categorical support the NAACP is giving her, as the June 12 edition of the Washington Post reported:
One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or a disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership.
After all, lying about one’s racial identity should be disqualifying, especially for work with an organization established to advance the lives of people without denying the intrinsic value of their racial identity. What’s more, her lies should trigger criminal charges for perpetrating this insidious fraud.
Moreover, it does not reflect well on the NAACP’s institutional integrity that it can so blithely stand by a White woman who pretended to be Black to enroll at historically Black Howard University — complete with scholarship funds that might have been given to a more worthy applicant; and to gain employment, by actually applying as a Black woman, at various institutions, including at Eastern Washington University as an expert on African-American culture and at the NAACP itself as president of its local chapter in Spokane, Washington.
Incidentally, to hail any good work she has done under false pretense only advances the moral hazard of the ends justifying the means. Besides, it’s not as if she faked her racial identity to be a more effective social worker in blighted Black neighborhoods. She was purportedly working for the advancement of Black folks in a state where Blacks compose only 3.5 percent of the population for Christ’s sake!
Frankly, this White woman (in her own version of “blackface” — complete with alternating cornrow and kinky twist hairstyles) has made a mockery of the daily struggles Black women face. And, perversely, she has used the presumptions of White privilege, which is the bane of every Black American’s existence, to do so.
This is why the NAACP must fire her forthwith.
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Saturday, at 8:53 a.m.
Saturday, June 13, 2015 at 8:06 AM
…Or with their own penis as the case might be.
If these politicians were not lead vocals in a chorus of moral crusaders, I would not give their sexual escapades a moment’s thought. For the unadulterated pleasure of afflicting these hypocrites, however, I don’t even mind being bedfellows with a publicity-seeking hustler like Larry Flynt.
(“DC Madam Outs Sen. David Vitter as a Faithful ‘John,’” The iPINIONS Journal, July 17, 2007)
Following the primrose path taken by Republican moral crusaders like Rep. Mark Foley, Sen. Larry Craig, and Sen. David Vitter, Sen. John Ensign of Nevada has become the latest self-righteous politician to get his nuts caught in the vice grip of sexual hypocrisy. And I can never resist reveling in their public shame….
(“Why ‘Hypocritical Politician’ Is Becoming Redundant,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 18, 2009)
As the quotes above attest, I’ve been commenting for years on Republican hypocrisy when it comes to sex.
In late May, J. Dennis Hastert, the former U.S. House speaker, was indicted by a federal grand jury, accused of breaking banking laws in an attempt to hide “past misconduct.”
That misconduct was later revealed to be an allegation that Hastert — a former wrestling coach and high school teacher — had sexually molested a student in Illinois decades ago…
The indictment alleges that Hastert, who is expected to be asked to enter a plea Tuesday, was trying to pay $3.5 million to an unnamed individual as part of a coverup.
(Washington Post, June 9, 2015)
But the political ideology these Republicans proselytize is such that I fear they’ll never learn….
In any case, as was the case with criminals like Al Capone and Richard Nixon, it’s not Hastert’s crimes, but his attempt to cover them up, that will land him in the pokey. More intriguingly, though, if he was trying to pay off one victim with $3.5 million, one has to wonder how much he was willing to pay, or has in fact paid, to silence other victims. Of course, if he only had the good sense to become a priest instead of a politician, he probably would’ve gotten away with his pedophile crimes.
Sanford, Craig, et al…
Friday, June 12, 2015 at 7:12 AM
The media have provided saturation coverage over the past few weeks of the endemic corruption that has attended the selection process for the FIFA Men’s World Cup. Media executives would probably cite – without a hint of irony – the reputational damage this coverage caused as their reason for providing such scant coverage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which got underway in Canada on Saturday.
It’s also possible that they’re taking their cues from FIFA’s executive committee. After all, this committee is composed of 23 men and just 1 woman. What’s more, its president (the disgraced Sepp Blatter) once famously remarked – again without a hint of irony – that international soccer (for men and women) is “too macho” for women to govern. But I digress….
Never mind that no amount of coverage of the women’s on this occasion would be sufficient to clean up the mess men have made of FIFA.
To be fair, CNN ran a June 8 report, titled “Why You Should Be Watching the Women’s World Cup,” which included this emasculating dig at the men’s game:
The women play with a hunger that million-dollar prima donnas (read: Ronaldo) just can’t always muster.
That report also mentioned the can’t-miss opportunity to watch Marta (aka Pele in a skirt) play in what is likely her last chance to win a Women’s World Cup for Brazil. Her goal in Tuesday’s opening match earned her the distinction of scoring more goals (at 15) than any other player in Women’s World Cup history.
Unfortunately, CNN ran this report on its website, which only about a thousand news junkies – most of whom probably have no interest in men’s or women’s Soccer – ever bother to read.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media are doing so little to promote this Women’s World Cup that superstar players, led by Abby Wambach of the USA, are using FIFA’s social media campaign, #LiveYourGoals, to drum up interest.
Never mind that, if you were to google “the World Cup,” you’d be hard-pressed to figure out that there’s a women’s version of this quadrennial tournament….
And don’t get me started on the scheduling conflict with the Copa América, which gets underway in Chile today. After all, this tournament will feature the best South American teams with some of the best players in the world, including Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar. So which tournament do you think media executives are going to cover?
(But it smacks of titillating sabotage that members of Venezuela’s all-female news team, each of whom looks like a beauty pageant contestant, are posing completely naked to show support for the Copa. For they are bound to lure viewers from this Women’s World Cup, no?)
Frankly, this conflict is tantamount to scheduling the NBA and WNBA playoffs for the same time and leaving it to sexist media executives to decide which to cover. As it happens, the way these executives think was on full display yesterday, when commentators on ESPN’s most popular talk show, First Take, spent ninety percent of their time gabbing about what happened in game 3 of the NBA Finals, and the other ten percent speculating about the NFL season, which does not even get underway until late-August.
Conspicuously, though, they uttered not a single about the Women’s World Cup – an oversight made all the more egregious given that female Cari Champion is the host of this show.
Apropos of which, let me hasten to clarify that such unequal and unfair coverage of women’s sports is not limited to Soccer. In fact, the discrepancy between media coverage of men and women’s Basketball is such that I felt compelled to share this lament six years ago:
Instead of commanding network coverage in primetime, like the men’s championship, the women’s was relegated to cable last night, which guaranteed only a fraction of the viewership. Yet the TV executives who are responsible for dissing women’s college Basketball in this fashion are the very ones who wonder why they can’t get better ratings for the fledgling women’s professional league – the WNBA.
Moreover, what does all of this say to female college athletes, as well as to young girls who we encourage to have the same interest in sports as young boys…? Frankly, it says that male chauvinism, sexism, and discrimination against women in sports not only still exist but are blithely tolerated.
(“NCAA Women’s Championship,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2009)
Incidentally, Tennis is the only big-time sport where women enjoy parity in media coverage. Granted, it helps that Serena Williams – who won her 20th Grand Slam at the French Open last weekend – is easily the most exciting Tennis player in the world to watch, male or female.
But with more media coverage, I suspect fans would soon see female Soccer and Basketball players who are every bit as exciting to watch as Cristiano Ronaldo and Steph Curry, respectively.
Of course, if the USA were to make it to the final match in this World Cup, the U.S. media would be all too happy to stoke public interest with jingoistic reports. By the same token, if the USA were eliminated early, this same media would be all too happy to frame its failure as a national tragedy – the like of which not seen since the ‘Dream Team” had to settle for bronze in Men’s Basketball at the 2004 Athens Olympics; after which they’ll report as much about goings on at this tournament as they normally report about goings on at international Curling tournaments….
Even now, the U.S. media are betraying their disinterest by rehashing stories about the domestic violence that has made goalie Hope Solo, the team’s only indispensable player, the Ray Rice of women’s soccer.
Having said all that, I’m not even rooting for the USA. Not to mention that Germany is looking so invincible, having already demolished Côte d’Ivoire 10-0 in their opening match on Sunday, it may well emulate Germany’s win in last summer’s Men’s World Cup in Brazil.
But Soccer experts aren’t even giving my team a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning – with headlines like “Cameroon Aren’t Contenders Yet, But They’re On Their Way,” Deadspin, June 4, 2015.
Which is why Cameroon must have shocked the world on Monday, when it won its opening match against Ecuador, in Germany-like fashion, 6-0.
I’m also rooting for Cameroon because a World Cup win would brighten things just a little for my benighted, beleaguered and besieged comrades across the Dark Continent of Africa. And, with all due respect to powerhouse Nigeria, Cameroon is a far better ambassador for the continent these days (for what I trust are obvious reasons).
* This commentary was originally published yesterday, Thursday, at 6:25 a.m.