Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 5:58 AM
…a benign (i.e., popular and bloodless) military coup is not only inherently inconsistent but also politically untenable in a democracy. After all, no matter the extent of Thaksin’s corruption (highlighted by an insider’s deal where he allegedly sold his family’s stake in a state telecommunications company to Singaporeans for $1.9 billion), constitutional provisions were in place to either impeach him or vote him out of office at elections that were due to be held within months.
[Thailand's benign military coup..., The iPINIONS Journal, September 20, 2006]
This quote states the obvious about the use of military force to oust an allegedly corrupt leader from office. But I felt compelled to make it because Thais reacted to the 2006 military coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with such blithe resignation that one might have thought that military coups were sanctioned by Thailand’s constitution.
What I did not anticipate, however, was that the coup leaders would set the oxymoronic precedent of presiding over wholly democratic institutions, including, arguably, an independent judiciary.
Indeed, it is instructive to note that while, in exile in England, Thaksin has been competing with Russian oligarchs to live more regally than the Queen, the coup leaders have been restoring parliamentary democracy to Thailand.
Never mind that the military has been called upon to quell violent protests by demonstrators who, evidently, felt that another of Thaksin’s successor, Somchai Wongsawat, was too loyal to him; not least because the Somchai is Thaksin’s brother-in-law.
(Incidentally, Samak Sundaravej, who succeeded Thaksin after democratic elections in December 2007, was ousted in September 2008 amidst protests that he was a Thaksin puppet. The Thai court found, somewhat expediently, that he violated conflict of interest laws. Somchai succeeded him.)
Alas, the irony that democratic Thailand has become a place where military coups are blithely tolerated but political associations (and family ties) incite national riots seems completely lost on these protesters. However, to appreciate how anathema this turn of events is, it would be as if Americans stood by as the military moved in to oust the allegedly corrupt President Richard Nixon but then rioted when word got out that his successor, Gerald Ford, was planning to pardon him.
At any rate, Thailand’s Supreme Court has proceeded to try Thaksin’s family on a battery of corruption charges. And even though his wife and her brother were convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion in July, anti-Thaksin protesters continued to demand the resignation of Somchai’s government.
But, with the Supreme Court finding Thaksin guilty of corruption and sentencing him to two years in prison yesterday, there’s widespread hope that Somchai will be allowed to govern without any further political duress. Especially since, according to the BBC, the chief prosecutor has indicated that the government intends to ask Britain to “quickly extradite” Thaksin back to Thailand to face justice.
Not to mention that this was only the first of many pending cases against Thaksin – for which the court is expected to render similar verdicts and issue commensurate sentences.
NOTE: If the Thai government can prosecute, convict and sentence a relatively popular leader to prison on corruption charges, then surely the British government can do the same with an unpopular leader who has turned its Overseas Territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands into a Caribbean kleptocracy.
Friday, September 5, 2008 at 5:37 AM
I support this prosecution of Kwame Kilpatrick for the same reason I supported the prosecution of Bill Clinton, and it has nothing to do with them cheating on their enabling wives. Rather, it’s because these two pusillanimous dickheads not only lied under oath about their extramarital affairs but also used government resources to conduct and conceal them.
Meanwhile, Kilpatrick is in for a rude awakening if he thinks a jury will vindicate his sex, lies, and text messages. Because nothing demonstrates terminal disaffection and disillusionment with his “hip-hop” leadership quite like the fact that his erstwhile supporters are already mounting a recall petition to vote him out of office.
[The indictment of Detroit's "hip-hop" mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, The iPINIONS Journal, March 25, 2008]
That was my take on the sensational 12-count indictment (for perjury, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office) that prosecutor Kym Worthy filed against Kilpatrick last March.
Therefore, it came as no surprise to me yesterday when he copped a plea instead of resting his fate in the hands of a jury. Of course, the timing of his plea probably had everything to do with the fact that Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm began historic proceedings on Wednesday to remove Kilpatrick from office.
I lied under oath in the case of Gary Brown and Harold Nelthrope versus the city of Detroit … I did so with the intent to mislead the court and jury, to impede and obstruct the disposition of justice.
[From the plea allocution of Kwame Kilpatrick]
Under the plea bargain, Kilpatrick agreed to plead guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice, serve four months in jail, pay $1 million in restitution, and serve five years’ probation. He also agreed to forego his pension.
Thus ends the career of this politician who had the kind of potential that Barack Obama is realizing right now. But Kilpatrick always struck me as more of a wannabe gangsta rapper than a trend-setting politician. Therefore, it seems fitting that he will now have some jail time to enhance his street cred….
Good riddance Kwame!
Oh right, McCain accepted the Republican nomination for president
Last night, John McCain gave his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination to become the next president of the United States. But, after the stellar performance his VP running mate, Sarah Palin, gave on Wednesday, his was, perhaps unavoidably, anticlimactic…and boring.
More to the point, I suspect McCain will find himself throughout the remainder of this campaign, and during his presidency (if pigs fly), playing second fiddle to Palin the way Prince Charles was forced to do with Princess Diana.
I just hope McCain has more self-confidence to deal with being upstaged by his protege than Prince Charles evidently did.
Thursday, July 31, 2008 at 5:05 AM
PM Ehud Olmert
When scandal forces most politicians from office, they invariably cite a desire to spend more time with their families as their reason for leaving.
Therefore, it was interesting to hear Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert put an interesting twist on this refrain last night by citing his desire to shield his family from corruption allegations against him as his reason for resigning.
What is more important, my personal justice or the public interest? … People hurting my family bothers me a lot … I am proud to be the prime minister of a country that investigates its prime ministers.
[PM Olmert announcing his resignation]
In fact, Olmert has been under withering pressure to resign ever since the police launched an investigation months ago into allegations that he used bribes from a US citizen, Morris Talansky, to finance his campaigns and a lavish personal lifestyle.
More to the point, here’s how I lamented the crisis of confidence these allegations were having on his premiership:
It’s even odds either that in fighting within Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s fragile coalition government will soon cause it to fall, or that ongoing investigations into allegations of corruption against him will force Olmert to resign.
[The ceremonial return of Israelis and Palestinians to the roadmap to peace, The iPINIONS Journal, November 28, 2007]
Apropos in fighting within his coalition, there is no shortage of candidates lying in wait to replace Olmert when his Kadima Party holds leadership elections in September. But the one most likely to do so is Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Ironically, she led calls last May for Olmert to resign – not over these corruption allegations but after a government report indicted him for the poor leadership he displayed during Israel’s war against Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians have responded to Olmert’s resignation with almost hypocritical concern:
The concern of the Palestinian authority is to have an Israeli prime minister who is committed to peacemaking.
[Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas]
However, here’s how I lamented (in the article cited above) the in fighting amongst Palestinians that has been an even greater obstacle to peacemaking than Olmert’s travails:
Nothing is more delusional than [President Mahmoud Abbas] talking about negotiating a peace agreement with Israel while fighting a civil war with Hamas in the Palestinian territory.
Sen. Ted Stevens
Even worse, however, federal prosecutors actually indicted Stevens on Tuesday for making false statements about receiving over $250,000 worth of renovations to his home from a prominent businessman in his home state, Bill Allen. And although they did not charge him with taking bribes, the indictment alleges that Stevens and his staff granted a number of Allen’s requests for political favors.
(Note: The Ethics in Government Act requires all senators to file financial disclosure statements detailing all business transactions during the previous calendar year, including the disclosure of gifts above a specified value and all liabilities greater than $10,000.)
Of course, we all know how corrupt most politicians are. Therefore, it’s an indication of how extraordinary Stevens’ indictment is that he’s only the 10th senator to be indicted in the history of the United States.
Yet Stevens, a veritable icon in Alaska and the longest-serving Republican in the US Senate, remains defiant and refuses to even entertain questions about resigning. He is scheduled to be arraigned in federal court today.
I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that. I have proudly served this nation and Alaska for over 50 years.
[Sen. Ted Stevens responding after being indicted]
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 8:19 AM
I feel obliged to state for the record that I would never comment on a politician’s private life unless it betrays the statements, policies and conduct he espouses in his public life.
This is why I commented on the travails of anti-gay crusader Senator Larry Craig – after he was arrested for soliciting gay sex in a public toilet. And it is why I’m commenting on the mess model husband John Edwards has gotten himself into – after he was busted in Beverly Hills on Monday having a rendezvous with his mistress (and their secret, six-month-old love child).
Perhaps you recall the shocking scandal that rocked former Senator Edwards’ insurgent presidential campaign last year when the National Enquirer reported that he was having an extramarital affair with one of his campaign staffers – who often accompanied him along the campaign trail.
Of course, the reason this was so shocking is that Edwards had endeared himself to millions of voters by presenting himself as a faithful and loving husband who was supporting his wife Elizabeth (pictured with him here in this beautiful family portrait) in her heroic battle against cancer.
Never mind that he cravenly used his wife’s illness as a campaign tool to win sympathy and shield himself from any further media scrutiny into his private life. (This SOB even had her all over TV attacking his opponents, knowing full well that none of them would fight back against a woman stricken with cancer.)
Therefore, I suppose it’s understandable that he vehemently denied that report as follows:
I’ve been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years and as anybody who’s been around us knows, she’s an extraordinary human being, warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known. So the story’s just false…. It’s completely untrue, ridiculous….made-up.
Unfortunately, this was rather like another presidential candidate, former Senator Gary Hart, publicly daring the press to prove he was having an extramarital affair that every reporter knew he was having. And the Enquirer rose to the challenge. Because here, in part, is what they’re reporting today:
Vice Presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards was caught visiting his mistress and secret love child at 2:40 this morning…. The married ex-senator from North Carolina – whose wife Elizabeth continues to battle cancer — met with his mistress, blonde divorcee Rielle Hunter [pictured right], at the Beverly Hilton on Monday night July 21 – and the National Enquirer was there! He didn’t leave until early the next morning….
After we confronted him about seeing Rielle, Edwards looked like a deer caught in headlights!
Shocked to see a reporter, and without saying anything, Edwards ran up the stairs leading from the hotel basement to the lobby. But, spotting a photographer, he doubled back into the basement. As he emerged from the stairwell, reporter Butterfield questioned him about his hookup with Reille.
Edwards did not answer and then ran into a nearby restroom. He stayed inside for about 15 minutes, refusing to answer questions from the National Enquirer about what he was doing in the hotel. A group of hotel security men eventually escorted him from the men’s room, while preventing the National Enquirer reporters from following him out of the hotel.
Incidentally, let me hasten to disabuse you of any notion that the accuracy of this story is suspect because it’s being reported by the National Enquirer. After all, the distinction between this tabloid and the New York Times, when it comes to the reliability of their reporting, was eradicated long ago - as many headline reports about the Times quoting the Enquirer and even faking the news (remember Jason Blair?) can attest.
More to point, the fact the Edwards has not denied this report is testament to its accuracy. Therefore, I suspect his supporters will be even more disappointed in him than Bill Clinton’s supporters were after he was busted for having an extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky: not least because Clinton never presented himself as a model husband.
But I’ve chronicled so much hypocrisy in Edwards’ public life that I’m not at all surprised that he turns out to be a hypocrite in his private life as well. In fact, here’s what I wrote about him in this respect on the day he launched his ill-fated campaign for the presidency in December 2006:
Even the most cynical political commentators could not ignore the hypocrisy of Edwards showing up [in New Orleans] for a day to decry the fact that – more than a year after Katrina – these long-suffering people are still struggling to rebuild their lives of quiet desperation.
Because during this time, instead of traveling to lend a helping hand – like so many people who are genuinely concerned about the gap between the two Americas did – Edwards was busy watching contractors build a mansion on his plantation in North Carolina that is so, well, presidential, it would turn both George Ws (i.e., Washington and Bush) green with envy.
Frankly, this guy should be a used car salesmanbecause he gives politicians (and lawyers) a bad name! And, trust me folks, no matter what Drudge and others have reported, Edwards was never in contention to be Obama’s VP running mate.
NOTE: Instead of issuing inherently suspicious, finger-wagging denials, I wish one of these cheating bastards would have the balls to simply say to the press that “when it comes to questions about my marriage, I answer only to my wife and God … next question!”