• Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at 10:32 AM

    Female Driver Makes History at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Danica Patrick: The new face of high-speed auto racing!

    To the sporting snobs who dismiss auto racing as a simple-minded redneck sport (especially those who’d rather sit around for hours watching pot-bellied men club and chase a little ball over manicured lawns until – with all of the suspense of watching paint dry – they manage to plunk it into a little hole in the ground), I have news for you:

    Indy car racing is a sport that requires the steady hands of a surgeon, the daring skill of a jet fighter and the physical stamina of a marathon runner. And, no sport can match the sustained thrill, nail-biting anxiety and death-defying excitement one gets from watching those cars zoom around that track – jockeying for position at an average speed of over 220 mph – for 500 miles!

    Now, add to these exhilarating dynamics Danica Patrick – all 5’1”, 100lbs of her in full racing armor – and the world’s most watched sporting event (over 300,000 in the stands) is injected with a level of human interest that transcends sport.

    Patrick became an immediate sensation when she qualified for Sunday’s 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 in historic fashion. She was the first female in this male-dominated sport to be amongst the top qualifiers with a legitimate chance to win the race.

    (It should be noted, however, that Lyn St. James was to women in auto racing what Jackie Robinson was to blacks in baseball. And, she deserves recognition for toiling against gender stereotypes and male chauvinism in this sport for many years before Patrick even got her driver’s license.)

    But what a debut Patrick made: Because, after racing in such dramatic fashion by skillfully navigating through a number of harrowing crashes, leading the race on several occasions (including at lap 190 of 200) and finishing 4th out of 33 of the world’s best drivers, Patrick easily surpassed the media hype surrounding her and demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that a woman is equal to any man when it comes to the sport of auto racing.

    Patrick takes the lead: I am woman, hear me roarrrrrrrrrr!

    So, here’s to Danica Patrick for racing through yet another sexist barrier along the road towards liberating the full potential of women to be all that they can be. And, it’s only a matter of time before this young trailblazer drives her car into the winner’s circle as champion of the Indy 500.

    You go girl!

  • Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at 10:31 AM

    Bill Clinton Exposed…Again!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I want ya’ll to listen to me cause I’m gonna say this just one more time: I did not have anyone or say anything as reported in that book. Now, I got work to do helping Tsunami victims, curing AIDS and ending poverty…

    First Edward Klein exposed the truly secret life of Hillary Clinton, now a veteran Washington reporter has exposed what little remains of the truly secret life of Bill Clinton. But, to be sure, these new accounts of Clinton blowing off steam and behaving badly will leave even more stains on his presidential legacy….

    Read below the scoop of a few teasers from that delightful muckraker Matt Drudge on this forthcoming book:

    –Bill Clinton was so upset that his weight-loss regimen in 2000 was not working that he made his aides release a bogus number after his annual Navy physical to make him five pounds lighter. (pg. 394)

    –Hillary taunted her husband’s aides as being wimps by not fighting hard enough on Whitewater – “JFK had real men in his White House!” (pg. 108)

    –Tipper Gore was so disgusted in 2000 with Bill and Hillary that she stayed cloistered in a holding room instead of going to a New York reception with major Democratic fund-raisers where the Clintons would be. “No, I’m not doing it,” she snapped to an aide. “I’m not going out there with that man.”

    –The first conversation between Clinton and Gore after the Lewinsky story broke. Clinton is shouting at Gore, “This is a fucking coup d’etat!” Gore just stared back blankly. pg 313.

    –Former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke on the record hitting Clinton for not having the guts to fire FBI director Louis Freeh, who Clarke called a major obstacle on anti-terrorism policy. “He should have just fired Freeh and taken the shit it would have caused.” (pg. 408)

    [Context is Sally Quinn’s article from 11/98 explaining why the Washington Establishment was appalled by Clinton’s behavior during Lewinksy.]

    Some time afterward the president was going over papers with his staff on the upcoming Presidential Medal of Freedom awards. Spontaneously, he launched into a little riff for his assembled aides. His nominee for the prestigious award this year would be none other than the famous [Watergate editor] Ben Bradlee, husband of Sally Quinn.

    The aides looked on in puzzled amusement.

    “Anyone who sleeps with that bitch deserves a medal!” Clinton explained.

    Of course, if given half a chance, Bill would no doubt be happy to earn that medal himself….

  • Monday, May 30, 2005 at 10:45 AM

    Memorial Day?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Hey, we honour the memory of dead presidents by going to shopping malls and the memory of dead soldiers by going to the beach….So what’s your problem!

  • Sunday, May 29, 2005 at 1:23 PM

    Chirac’s (French) Referendum May Deal a Death Blow to the Unification of Europe!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In recent days, Jacque Chirac has appeared more like an emperor issuing increasingly desperate decrees to save his empire than as President of France presenting a referendum for his countrymen to decide their national destiny. But whether imperial or presidential, Chirac’s leadership of his country seems tenuous at best because the French are in a rebellious mood that would make Maximillien Robespierre very proud indeed.

    Humbled Chirac making a final plea for a YES vote on the EU Constitution…

    Therefore, as the restive citizens of France cast their ballots in today’s referendum on the EU Constitution, President Jacque Chirac sits uneasily waiting for word of a humiliating defeat (to be politically guillotined, as it were). After all, despite his attempts to cajole, charm and even terrorize Frenchmen to return a “YES” result, they seemed not only inured to his overtures but also defiantly disposed to vote “NO” – as if to spite him.

    Chirac has warned of dire consequences if his referendum fails: the decline of France; balkanization of the continent; the marginalization of Europe as a player on the world stage; no effective counterweight to American unilateralism in global affairs; and, most worrisome to Chirac, his default as the putative leader of a unified Europe.

    On the other hand, his rabble rousing adversaries (Eurosceptics) have preyed on metastasizing anxieties and xenophobia throughout Western Europe to incite near hysterical aversion in France to the proposed EU Constitution. Indeed, they seem to have usurped Chirac’s titular authority as the defender of France by warning of dire consequences if his referendum succeeds: massive unemployment; loss of vested social entitlements; and indiscriminate immigration that would contaminate their values, ethics, customs and language and, ultimately, destroy the national character of France.

    But it’s more than the rebellious rhetoric of the Eurosceptics that may provoke the French to reject the EU constitution. After all, there seems a rude awakening in France that in its drive towards the complete unification of Europe, the government has run over the national rights of French citizens and neglected their economic and social welfare whilst denying them any chance to participate in this process.

    Moreover, rising unemployment, reductions in pension and the profound sense that their long cherished national pride now counts for nothing have plunged France into a national malaise that many Frenchmen seem to think only a No vote will cure.

    In fact, Chirac’s timing for this critical national (European) referendum could not have been more inauspicious. But, if he had only taken a moment to reflect on the demise of two of France’s most revered Presidents, he would have been instructed to be more egalitarian in his efforts to change the daily lives of these proud Frenchmen so fundamentally:

    After all, in 1969 after being in power for over 10 years and assuming imperial prerogatives, President Charles de Gaulle was forced to resign when his referendum on government reforms suffered a humiliating defeat – primarily because Frenchmen thought he had become as concerned about their economic hardships as Marie (let them eat brioche) Antoinette was about the plight of their suffering compatriots on the eve of the French revolution.

    Then, in 1992 after being in office for over 10 years and assuming similar imperial prerogatives, President Francois Mitterrand was disrobed of his invincible aura when his referendum to approve the Maastricht Treaty on European Union (the center piece of which was the abolition of the French franc) won a paper-thin majority – again because Frenchmen felt that Mitterrand was ignoring their economic woes to pursue his own ambitions of European grandeur. And, ironically, a young politician with his own presidential / imperial ambitions used this surprisingly poor result to hasten Mitterrand’s resignation from office. Of course, that politician is the man who now finds himself in Mitterrand’s uncomfortable shoes, Jacque Chirac.

    Indeed, today’s vote is fated not only because it comes 10 years into Chirac’s presidency but also because the economic and social malaise are very similar to prevailing conditions that provoked Frenchmen to reject the leadership initiatives of de Gaulle and Mitterrand.

    But this anticipated No result begs inevitable questions about what it would mean for the future unification of Europe and the pivotal role of France within that European Union. For example:

    Will a No result deal a fatal blow to the complete unification of Europe by triggering irreversible retreat to national capitols all over Europe (especially since all 25 member states must ratify the Constitution before it comes into force)?

    Will a No result invite desperate pleas from pro-European factions to renegotiate the constitutional provisions (that took over 2 years to negotiate in the first place) to allay French concerns; which, of course, will inevitably alienate the Italians who have already ratified the Constitution (as is) and the British who have not but will, reflexively, regard any attempt to appease the French as antithetical to their national interests?

    Will a No result compel Chirac to ask for a mulligan (a do-over as the Danes did with the Maastricht Treaty), hoping that in due course economic conditions might improve and he could charm his unruly countrymen back to their senses?

    Will a No result set a precedent that nationals in other countries (like the Dutch who vote in similar referendum on 1 June) might feel obliged to follow?

    Will a No result end any notion of Europe becoming an effective counterweight to American superpower unilateralism? And,

    Will a No result be regarded as a vote of no-confidence in Chirac’s leadership and hasten his political demise (to George Bush’s restrained delight to be sure)?

    Clearly the answers to these questions will vary depending on the respondent’s affinity for a unified Europe. But the informed response is yes – to all of them! Moreover, a No result on the EU Constitution will cause a curtain of uncertainty to descend over Europe that will plunge Europeans into recriminating and redrafting chaos, indefinitely.

    Note: A miraculous YES vote would only give the EU Constitution a short reprieve because the Dutch are even more disposed to vote NO – regardless of today’s outcome – which will trigger all of the unsettling consequences for Europe delineated above.

  • Saturday, May 28, 2005 at 11:18 AM

    BREAKING NEWS: Victory is at hand…Osama’s man in Iraq has been wounded! (We think…)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned President Bush that invading Iraq would create a thousand bin-ladens. But, he said nothing about a thousand al-Zarqawis….

  • Saturday, May 28, 2005 at 11:13 AM

    Marijuana stash lands Australian Beautician in the Joint!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Schappelle Corby – presumed innocent: Do I look like a criminal?

    Black Americans are very familiar with draconian prison sentences for minor drug offenses. But Australian Schapelle Corby could never have fathomed her fate when she decided to bring along a little home grown weed to keep her and her friends in a partying mood during their exotic vacation in Bali, Indonesia.

    Indeed, Corby’s arrest and conviction (just yesterday) have induced shock and incited both moral and racial indignation amongst her Aussie compatriots. They ostensibly believe her fatuous defense that baggage handlers at the airport stuffed the pot into her luggage without her knowledge. And, Australians have demanded that their government turn her unfortunate plight into an international incident.

    Nevertheless, Australian Prime Minister John Howard has demonstrated reassuring good sense and equanimity amidst the national hysteria now gripping his country. In fact, he cautioned that:

    …although everyone feels for this girl it was necessary to trust the Indonesian justice system. We have to respect the justice system of other countries.

    Indeed! Especially since PM Howard has been the most ardent supporter of President Bush’s policy of summary arrests and indefinite detention of innocent people worldwide in his war against terrorism. Moreover, since PM Howard considers Indonesia a democratic atoll in a sea of Islamic Jihadist, it would seem foolhardy to compromise this strategic national interest for the sake of a misguided, pot-smoking party girl!

    Therefore, off to the pokey she goes (for 20 years!).

    Guilty! And, yes, looking very much like a criminal…

    Let’s hope that her punishment will serve as a deterrent and reality check for privileged kids who think themselves immune to the consequences of breaking the law (even in quaint and exotic countries).

  • Friday, May 27, 2005 at 10:41 AM

    G8 Summit ’05: Rich Nations Pledge (again) to End Poverty!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is a glaring indictment of our shared humanity that rich countries revel in obscene wealth, while poor ones wallow in extreme poverty.

    Yet, for more than a half-century, people of conscience have pleaded to no avail for rich countries to help alleviate world poverty by redistributing a little of their wealth. Indeed, when the United Nations passed a resolution thirty-five years ago to cut world poverty in half by 2015, it seemed naïve at best.

    Sure enough, the pledges rich countries made pursuant to that resolution never amounted to much more than political grandstanding. And, therein lies the perennial fallacy of rich countries making pledges to help poor ones. (Just ask the Indonesians how much of the billions pledged for Tsunami relief has actually materialized.)

    Therefore, Wednesday’s announcement by the European Union of a noble plan to increase aid to poor countries – particularly former European colonies in Africa and the Caribbean – was greeted with justified cynicism. After all, this EU plan seems merely a restatement of the dishonored UN plan. But it is worth noting that where the UN plan called on all rich countries to contribute 0.7% of their national wealth (GDP) in aid to poor countries; the EU plan calls on the richer EU member states (like England) to contribute 0.51% and the others (like Slovakia) just 0.17%. Still, in dollar terms, this would mean an increase in pledges to poor countries from $40bn to $80bn annually by 2010, if the pledges are honoured.

    Charting aid to the poor by rich countries as a percentage of GDP and in dollar terms over the past 4 years.

    Unfortunately, some European countries have already manifested signs of dishonorable intent. In fact, Germany, Italy and Portugal demurred on their respective pledges by expressing misgivings about the noblesse oblige character of the plan. Specifically, they are loath to take up the (lingering) white man’s burden that obligates their fellow Europeans with colonial legacies to serve the needs of those they colonized. Indeed, to get a sense of how deeply this axis of non-colonial EU members resent any implied duty in this regard, one needs only recall their indignant objections to the EU banana preference regime that literally betrayed Europe’s position in its 6-year trade war the United States.

    But Oxfam and other nongovernmental agencies (NGOs) that are often relied upon by rich countries to implement their aid programs lament that even EU countries with colonial legacies (like France) have a poor record of honouring aid pledges to poor countries. Moreover, that almost every intervening event (even the shifting winds of domestic politics) has been cited for the failure of these countries to honour their donor commitments.

    And, that’s just the rich Europeans. After all, the subsistence of many poor countries have long depended on direct aid from even richer countries like the United States, Japan and, increasingly, China. But the record on fulfilling aid pledges amongst them is no better. Indeed, the US in particular has been roundly criticized not only for failing to honour its promises but also for giving so little of its considerable wealth in aid to poor countries. For example, many organizations in the fight against HIV/AIDS rue the prohibitive conditions President Bush placed on his $15bn pledge to help treat this disease; and, many involved in the fight against poverty complain that the US gives the lowest amongst rich nations (0.11) as a percentage of its GDP. (See chart above)

    Beyond their scandalous failure to honour pledges, however, rich countries have also participated in kickback schemes on the aid they actually do give that would make even Third World kleptocrats blush. After all, a dollar pledged to aid the poor is invariably disbursed, more or less, as 10¢ to the recipient and 90¢ to the “aid administrators”. In fact, a recent report on the politics of foreign aid:

    …highlighted the ways in which they were disguising how real aid flows were even lower than they appeared to be. [The report pointed out that] failure to target aid at the poorest countries, runaway spending on overpriced technical assistance from international consultants, tying aid to purchases from donor countries’ own firms, cumbersome and ill-coordinated planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting requirements, excessive administrative costs, late and partial disbursements, double counting of debt relief, and aid spending on immigration services all deflate the value of aid.

    It must be noted, however, that no discussion or criticism of the failure of rich countries to honour their aid pledges would be complete without acknowledging the even more scandalous failure of poor countries to manage the aid they receive responsibly. After all, it has become axiomatic that corruption is part of the culture of life in most developing countries. With the end of the Cold War, however, donor nations no longer have as much strategic interest in these countries. They are now less inclined to turn a blind eye to the rampant misappropriation and gross mismanagement of aid that was so customary.

    Therefore, concomitant with challenging rich countries to increase and fulfill their pledges, we must require poor countries to demonstrate more transparent accounting for (and sensible use of) foreign aid. Because, despite shortchanging and other shortcomings, the cumulative data on the aid rich countries have donated compels one to wonder why poor countries have not  done more to alleviate extreme, chronic poverty in their midst.

    Man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man suggests that no amount of money will ever rid the world of images like this…

    Nevertheless, the United Kingdom deserves special commendation for formulating this EU plan and securing similar commitments from the US, Japan and Canada. Indeed, the world’s richest nations intend to draft one new global plan (to attempt once and for all) to bridge the obscene gap in wealth between rich and poor countries when they convene at the next G8 summit this July.

    Say brother, can you spare a dime….

  • Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 10:29 AM

    Groundhog days in Iraq…and in President Bush’s head!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Every morning Americans wake up to the same BREAKING NEWS from Iraq: Car bombs; pipeline explosions; assassinations of Iraqi government officials; more American soldiers and even more innocent Iraqis killed; US forces on yet another offensive against insurgent positions, etc. etc.

    Of course, breaking news is hardly ever good news. But where the rebuilding of Iraq is concerned, it is invariably (the same) bad news!

    The toll of American success in rebuilding Iraq

    Therefore, it came as no surprise that last weekend 20 Americans were reported killed in Iraq amidst more car bombings, serial assassinations and general mayhem. It was instructive, however, to observe President Bush during his press conference on Monday when he was asked how he thought things were going there. Because his answer suggests that he’s suffering from a variant strain of the Groundhog day syndrome that characterizes the stalemate in Iraq.

    After all, Bush replied without a hint of irony or repetition that “we’re routing out the terrorists…and enjoying tremendous success”. But this has been his unwavering refrain for almost 2 years now despite the mounting death toll of American soldiers and innocent Iraqis and frank admissions by his own generals that their war objectives have been plagued by unforeseen obstacles (like being killed by Iraqis who resent their country being occupied by Americans).

    Despite evidence to the contrary, Bush insists that his declarations of victory in Iraq are as valid today as they seemed 2 years ago!

    In fact, Bush seems completely averse to the realities of his war in Iraq. For it was one thing to make such upbeat and triumphant declarations 2 years ago – after US tanks stormed into Baghdad with only accidental casualties. But it seems utterly delusional to maintain such unbridle confidence today with Iraq being blown to smithereens by strikes and counterstrikes between the insurgents and US forces.

    Of course, it is also instructive to recall that this is the President who when asked at another press conference just months ago if he felt he had made a single mistake as commander-in-chief of the Iraq war, he answered: “I can’t think of any….” Indeed, Bush seems constitutionally immune to admissions of human frailties and pathologically committed to rosy scenarios about Iraq – come what may.

    Therefore, it’s really no wonder that Bush’s generals and foot soldiers have deployed lies and deception in the execution of his wars. And, as if manipulating intelligence about WMDs and faking the rescue of Jessica Lynch were not bad enough, it was revealed only yesterday that the military concocted an elaborate web of lies to convince Pat Tillman’s parents (and the world) that he died a hero by enemy fire when, in fact, he was killed accidentally by his fellow soldiers.

    Ultimately though, notwithstanding Bush’s cheerleading, the daily bleak pictures coming out of Iraq defy his confident words a thousand times. But perhaps to appreciate how profoundly disassociated he has become from these realities, one has to think of Nero who played with his fiddle as Rome burned!

    Earth to President Bush: Iraq is burning!

    It may be that Bush had good intentions when he invaded Iraq. But good intentions cannot excuse delusional, irresponsible, incompetent and deceptive decisions that have killed so many and caused so much misery. And, despite the heroic efforts of Iraqis to set-up his puppet regime, Bush has little to show for investing (wasting) so much in Iraq. Moreover, an increasing number of Iraqis now see his promise of democracy as a diabolical misadventure because they feel as though he has led them down a primrose path to hell.

    The despairing and hopeless faces of liberated Iraqis

    Note: To be fair to Bush, he insists that but for the living hell that he has created in Iraq, there would be no discernible move towards democracy in Libya, Lebanon, Egypt, Georgia, Ukraine and other places he would undoubtedly cite. And, if that helps him sleep at night, so be it. But if any leader has ever lived to boast of a pyrrhic victory in a war he started, that leader is George W. Bush, President of the United States!

  • Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 10:28 AM

    Update: Runaway Bride Indicted for having Cold Feet!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As called for in a previous article on this sordid fairytale, prosecutors have secured indictments against runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks for criminal deception against Georgia law enforcement authorities, resident volunteers and the entire nation:

    She was charged with one count of making false statements, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and one count of making a false report of a crime, a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail.

    Of course, the most disturbing thing about this case is the psychological hate crime Wilbanks committed by accusing an Hispanic man of kidnapping and raping her. Yet, what her fellow church members will probably find most shocking are the creative and explicit details this Christian Southern Belle reported to the police about her phantom assault. (Wink: She left no doubt as to what her sexual fantasies are.)

    Nevertheless, time behind bars might be the only way for her to fully appreciate the consequences of her actions. And, it’s very likely that more than a few of her fellow inmates would be happy to help her workout the details of her story….

  • Wednesday, May 25, 2005 at 10:46 AM

    Update: China and Japan Resume their Schoolyard Row…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Political storms brewing in the Far East: The escalating row between China and Japan, and the nuclear brinksmanship by North Korea are making the Far East more of a powder-keg than the Middle East!

    In what resembles the dangerous spectacle of kids playing with dynamite, China and Japan have resumed their Asian row over historical matters that, nevertheless, have explosive global consequences.

    The row was reignited yesterday because Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi felt slighted by the brazen (and patently provocative) homage Japanese officials paid to their World War II shrine during her goodwill visit to Japan.

    (At least she wasn’t heckled and jostled like Laura Bush was on her goodwill visit to the Middle East around the same time.)

    But it would help to appreciate that – for the Chinese – Japanese tributes to this shrine under these circumstances is rather like the German politicians paying homage to a Nazi war memorial during a visit by the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel.

    The offending gesture: Japanese politicians following a Shinto Priest into the Yasukuni Shrine to honour ALL of their World War II dead!

    Moreover, since recent spats make it clear that the Chinese are still nursing open wounds from the atrocities Japanese soldiers committed against their compatriots during this war, it seems undiplomatic at best for Japanese officials to subject any Chinese official to such jingoistic military tributes.

    Nevertheless, all of these skirmishes are merely the under card to the looming main event between these Asia titans over which one will win the highly coveted permanent seat on the UN Security Council. And, both China and Japan seem to think that establishing undisputed preeminence in the region is an initiation requirement before either one of them can join the fraternity of nations that comprise the Council.

    Note: Beyond coveting a seat on the Council, China and Japan are also engaged in a bilateral chess game of military deterrence. And since China possesses nuclear weapons, Japan may just be fueling their skirmishes to such heated levels that it becomes palatable to argue (under the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) principle) that going nuclear is necessary to deter Chinese aggression. Indeed, they can point to the decades of skirmishes between India and Pakistan that have been kept in check by this very principle.

    Besides, it’s only a matter of time before America (Japan’s military benefactor) concedes that a nuclear Japan is in its strategic interest to help triangulate the inexorable growth of China’s military might….

  • Tuesday, May 24, 2005 at 11:21 AM

    Update: US Senators Reach Compromise (but NO DEAL) on Judicial Nominees…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Republican Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee shakes hands with Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada last night after some of their lieutenants patched together a compromise for the Parties to return to regular business in the US Senate…and wait to fight another day.

    Gun-shy Senators from the Republican and Democratic Parties (14 of them led, instructively, by real war hero Sen. John McCain of Arizona) brokered a “cease-fire” that rescued the US Capitol from the precipice of a MAD (mutual assured destruction) round of partisan politics at the eleventh hour last night.

    In a compromise that will likely anger extremists in both Parties (and rightly so), they negotiated an arrangement that will allow some of President Bush’s judicial nominees to be confirmed, arbitrarily sacrifice a couple and preserve the integrity of Senate rules…at least until Bush makes the imminent announcement of his nominee for the US Supreme Court.

    Of course, as is so often the case in politics, there’s much less to this compromise than advertized. After all, Republican Senators who did not sign the armistice insist that it does not affect their determination to take the Senate right back to MAD politics to ensure the right of every single judicial nominee to have her nomination voted on in the US Senate – without exception.

    Therefore, brokering this arrangement was rather like getting the country all worked-up for a showdown at high-noon and then, at 11:59, saying “sorry folks, but we’ve decided to postpone this fight until midnight”….

    Click here for details on the political skirmishes that led to this aborted showdown and here for the story on how cooler heads prevailed…for now.

  • Tuesday, May 24, 2005 at 11:19 AM

    Laura Bush: Heckled as Political Envoy, Welcomed as First Lady…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    US First Lady Laura Bush should fire whoever thought it was a good idea to throw her into the lion’s den of Middle East politics. And, if that political nincompoop happens to be the President himself, then she should pull a Lysistrata on him until he goes blue…in the face! (Come to think of it, if Mrs. Bush had pulled a preemptive Lysistrata on her war-mongering husband 2 years ago, the Middle East would undoubtedly be more hospitable not only to her but to all Americans today. But I digress…)

    Laura Bush being escorted like a high value target (for assassination) than as the First Lady of the United states!

    Alas, there she was on Sunday – the serene and politically ingenuous Mrs. Bush being heckled and jostled by Jews and Arabs alike as she tried to pirouette gracefully between two of the most rabid warring factions known to mankind. And, for a White House that scripts and controls its principals at every turn, this turn of events must rank as a monumental blunder.

    After all, Mrs Bush was supposedly sent on a goodwill mission to improve the image of the US in the Muslim world. (Notwithstanding political cynics who speculate that President Bush sent his wife on this ill-fated foray through the holy minefield that the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Western Wall have become with the same hubris and provocative intent that he sent up his nomination of John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations.) Nevertheless, pictures of Mrs Bush being escorted by a phalanx of Israeli security forces over holy ground that Palestinians believe should be in their exclusive control hardly fosters goodwill. Because they only reinforce the Muslim view that America seeks ultimately to legitimize Israel’s military occupation of their territories.

    But why send a refined librarian onto this perennially hostile public stage? Incidentally, the very stage where Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon barely survived a similar foray in 2000 and left an 18 month Al-Aqsa Intifada (Palestinian uprising) in his wake.

    Well, it seems some genius in the White House thought that because Mrs. Bush wowed a gaggle of sycophantic reporters with scripted jokes at a Washington gala that she could also charm the bellicose edge off militant zealots in the Middle East. Unfortunately, this presumption says as much about the simple-mindedness of American foreign policy as having troops march into Baghdad with guns blazing and expecting rose petals to be thrown along their path by grateful and adoring Muslims. Indeed, Mrs. Bush’s charm offensive in Palestine proved as effective as America’s military offensive is Iraq is turning out to be.

    But is there an appropriate role for Mrs. Bush in international affairs? Absolutely!

    Laura Bush performing a more traditional first lady role and looking much happier for it too…

    The next day Mrs Bush received a more dignified welcome (as first lady) at an afternoon tea where she discussed women’s rights and other genteel issues with some of the more liberated women of the Middle East. And, at least the atmospherics of this outing are more consistent with Mrs Bush’s mission of goodwill to improve the image of the US in the Muslim world.

    Hope springs eternal…

  • Monday, May 23, 2005 at 10:36 AM

    English Aristocrats Continue their White Mischief in Africa…with Impunity!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Today the African nation of Kenya is simmering with tension that threatens to erupt any moment into race riots that would make those following the Rodney King trial in Los Angeles seem relatively tame. This percolating racial unrest was ignited on Thursday when murder charges against Thomas Cholmondeley, 45, son of the 5th Baron Delamere were summarily dismissed.

    Cholmondeley: Released murderer and English heir to a mammoth African estate…

    This fortunate son was arrested last month on suspicion of killing a Maasai chief who was trying to detain animal poachers in the vicinity of his daddy’s 100,000-acre farm. And, the Massai are as convinced of his guilt as blacks in L.A. were of the guilt of those offices who were acquitted after the world saw them on tape beating Rodney King to near death.

    Therefore, Maasai elders – who once encouraged deference to the aristocratic prerogatives of white colonialists – have now vowed to lead their fellow warriors in attacks on the Cholmondeley farm (and others) to exact Mugabe-style retribution for this murder and so many other racial injustices.

    Peaceful Maasai: Now anxious to reclaim their honour as warriors and their land as native Africans!

  • Monday, May 23, 2005 at 10:34 AM

    Celebrity-obsessed world has made actors and rock stars the statesmen of our times…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is a sad commentary on the state of world affairs that the political initiatives of a rock star or Hollywood actress are taken more seriously than those of a seasoned statesman. But that is the perverse reality when it comes to the global fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS and unconscionable poverty throughout the developing world.

    Only this explains the President of Sierra Leone drooling over Angelina Jolie last week as he promised HER immediate action on redressing human rights abuses in his country. This, after rejecting repeated appeals by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa to do just that!

    UN Ambassador of Goodwill Angelina Jolie shows-off why she’s proving so persuasive as an international diplomat…

    Only this explains Western leaders, including U.S. President George W. Bush, fawning over rock star Bono earlier this year as they promised HIM debt relief for African nations.  This, after rejecting repeated pleas by President Obasanjo of Nigeria (and even Nelson Mandela) to do just that!

    Rock Star Bono lecturing on Third World debt relief and poverty alleviation to a rapt audience of world leaders including former US President Bill Clinton and South African President Thabo Mbeki…

    Or, on a more farcical but no less instructive note, only this explains the national crisis now brewing in Israel because the foreign minister’s wife was denied a chance to meet Madonna during her recent visit to the Holy Land.

    Alas, worshiping celebrities is not merely the avocation of giddy teenage girls; because world leaders seem equally enthralled by these latter-day performing saints.

    Even more surreal, however, is that these erstwhile statesmen seem willing to grant almost any concession to bask in the reflected glow of celebrity crooners and make believe artists.

    Now, if we can only get Paris Hilton to take-up the cause of nuclear non-proliferation….

  • Sunday, May 22, 2005 at 11:34 AM

    Revenge of the Sith or Fahrenheit 9/11 for people with brains?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Where Michael Moore projected outright anti-Bush propaganda in his Fahrenheit 9/11, director George Lucas supposedly conveys subtle anti-Bush messages in this (final) Episode III of his Star Wars franchise. Nevertheless, both films prove that bashing Bush is good movie business!

  • Sunday, May 22, 2005 at 11:33 AM

    Bush Administration Condemns Newsweek? What Nerve…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, May 21, 2005 at 12:10 PM

    Plans for NY’s Ground Zero blown up! But TRUMP (as deus ex machina) Pledges to Rebuild the World Trade Center himself…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    World Trader Center before 9/11

    Donald Trump – the world-renowned, self-promoting P.T. Barnum of corporate America – pledged this week to wrest control from NY state authorities to rebuild the Twin Towers himself.

    Now, before eyes start rolling, please remember that in the 1980s after NYC officials wasted millions over years trying to renovate a skating rink in Central Park, Trump fired them and got the job done – under budget – in just months. Indeed, despite his gauche and obnoxious persona, Trump’s record of accomplishment as a developer might compel Governor Pataki to cede building authority to him (instead of resisting like Mayor Ed Koch did over the skating rink – to his political ruination and everlasting humiliation). Besides, Pataki essentially forfeited state control this week with his shocking announcement that – after almost 3 years – all planning and design for rebuilding the world trade center have been scratched!

    But before city-dwellers could release their collective gasps, Trump was already holding a press conference in which he taunted Pataki and his associates as incompetents, called their failed plans junk architecture and declared himself the only man who can rebuild what Osama and Al-Qaeda destroyed.

    And, he’s deadly serious folks….Welcome to Trump City!

    World Trade Center…after Trump

  • Friday, May 20, 2005 at 10:07 AM

    Update: Washington descends into Political War over President Bush’s Judicial Nominees!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Republican Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee plotting war strategy with his 4-Star generals – judicial nominees Judge Janice Rogers Brown (center) and Judge Priscilla R. Owen

    On Wednesday, the US Senate began debate on two of President Bush’s most beleaguered nominations to the Federal Court of Appeals. Unfortunately, these nominees are merely scapegoats in a political war between Democrats who caricature them as judicial jihadists determined to curtail American liberties and Republicans who deify them as latter-day Joans of Arc crusading to enforce strict adherence to their version of America’s Judeo Christian tradition.

    But not since the debate on prohibition has political discourse been so patently contrived and self-righteous. After all, neither Democrats nor Republicans even bother to pretend that this debate has anything to do with the qualifications of these female jurists to serve on the bench. Instead, advocates for each side declaim that this fight is to protect and preserve the American way of life – as if they are the last line of defense against the imminent invasion of alien forces.

    Moreover, notwithstanding Afghanistan and Iraq, talk of “exercising the nuclear option” and other life and death rhetoric imply that what is at stake in this debate makes the casualties of those wars seem trivial. And, no one understands this perverse juxtaposition more than that right-wing zealot – Patrick J. Buchanan. After all, like a true prophet, he foretold of this war in his infamous Republican National Convention speech in 1992. Back then he warned of a cultural war in which Democrats were seeking to impose on America:

    “…abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat [and such values that cannot be tolerated] in a nation that we still call God’s country.
    There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”

    Clearly, both sides have decided that the best way to capture souls is to stack the courts with activist Judges who share their political ideology. In fact, liberal Democrats engaged in this judicial gerrymandering during President Clinton’s 8 years in the White House, and now conservative Republicans are using George Bush’s presidency to do the same.

    That’s it folks: petty partisan politics posturing as principled warfare….A pox on both their houses!

    Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada holding a pep rally on the steps of the capitol building at which he announced new recruits numbering over 1 million who are eager to proselytize the liberal cause…

    If the performance of the Court changes, it is to be hoped that liberal revisionism will not be replaced by conservative revisionism. The two are equally illegitimate. The Constitution is too important to our national well-being and to our liberties to be made into a political weapon. Departure from its actual principles, whether in Dred Scott, Lochner, or Roe, is inconsistent with the maintenance of constitutional democracy.

    [From The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law by Judge Robert Bork.]

  • Friday, May 20, 2005 at 10:05 AM

    More Prisoner Abuse? Saddam Hussein Caught (this time) on Candid Camera!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Without his valet, Saddam trying to figure whether it’s one leg at a time or both at once…

    Whilst serious news magazines like Newsweek are trampling over journalistic ethics to report prisoner abuses, real or imagined, at Abu Gharib and Guantanamo Bay, this picture shows that the tabloids are staying true to their principles by reporting as much of the naked truth about this matter as anyone can possibly stand.

  • Thursday, May 19, 2005 at 10:38 AM

    D-Day for Canada’s Prime Minister and his Scandal-Plagued Government: Pass the Budget or the Government Falls!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Ever since the controversial election of President George W. Bush in 2000, Canadians have made a national sport of ridiculing American politics with moral indignation. Indeed, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin endeared himself to his compatriots by promising to distance his government from the provincial policies that many Canadians deem to be turning their overweening neighbors into a “banana republic”.

    It is more than ironic, therefore, that these self-righteous Canadians now find themselves mired in provincial politics (in terms of policy and geography) that have turned their hallowed House of Commons into a House of Scandal. And, moreover, that their beloved PM Martin has become so distrusted and scorned that today Canadians must find George Bush a much more endearing politician. (Imagine that!)

    Alas, Canadians are suffering profound disillusionment and collective shame over revelations that graft was the order of business in their government to such extent that it would offend the conscience of politicians in the worst of Third World kleptocracies. And, just a few weeks ago, they were dismayed to learn just how much of a banana republic Canada had become when it was reported that – because all government ministers were so anxious to avoid public contempt – none of them could be found to greet the President of Mali on his first state visit to Canada. And, as if that spectacle were not embarrassing enough, Queen Elizabeth II is now on a state visit that is being overshadowed by a looming constitutional crisis that, today, could plunge Canada into untenable chaos. (God save the Queen!)

    For more than a year, Canada’s Liberal government has been beset by allegations of extraordinary corruption. And even though their credibility-challenged leader PM Martin has admitted wrongdoing by some misguided members of his Party, he has allowed other charges to hang like a damoclean sword over his government.

    Meanwhile, the two main opposition Parties (the Conservative and regional Bloc Quebecois) have done all they can – short of mounting a coup d’etat – to bring down the government. And, with today’s vote on the federal budget they have their best chance yet to accomplish the dubious feat.

    Civilized Canadian MPs showing those barbarians in the U.S. Congress how to conduct themselves…

    The opposition Parties began their assault on the Liberal’s ruling authority right after Canada’s Auditor-General Sheila Fraser issued a scathing report against the government in February 2004. Ms Fraser reported that in the late 1990s, a government fund established to promote national unity was instead misappropriated by the Liberals for use as a Party slush fund. Specifically, she charged that they siphoned-off more than C$100m from the C$250m fund in kickbacks to advertising agencies that had close ties to the Liberal Party but did little or no work for their fees.

    The Liberals concealed their misdeeds under the provincial cover that, because these agencies were based in the French-speaking province of Quebec, they were ideally suited to execute the real purpose of the fund – which was to manipulate public opinion against any further attempts by this province to secede from Canada. But Ms Fraser concluded that the national unity fund (or “Adscam” as disgusted Canadians now call it) was a “shocking waste of Canadian taxpayers’ money”. And, confirming her conclusion, polls indicate that most Quebecers are now more determined than ever to secede.

    As it happens, however, the Auditor-General’s report is the least of the Liberal government’s problems; because the misdeeds alleged in Adscam pale in comparison to the financial skullduggery that has been alleged against the Prime Minister himself.

    After all, Canada’s Federal Ethics Committee recently disclosed documents showing that in the late 1990s PM Martin received more than a million dollars from Saddam Hussein through a shell company called Cordex Petroleum Inc. And, even more damning, they revealed that the man who facilitated the Cordex transactions is PM Martin’s mentor and notorious Canadian businessman Maurice Strong whose name has surfaced in bold letters in the growing UN oil-for-food scandal (where politicians allegedly took bribes in the millions from Saddam to oppose the war).

    PM Martin addressing international investors and saying essentially: “In Canada, unlike America, we will protect your investments from meddlesome regulators and we don’t care what your business is or who your partners are…as long as you kickback our share, eh?”

    Clearly, these disclosures cast a rather mercurial shadow over the Canadian government’s dithering about the war against Iraq; and, they surely undermine the moral contempt many Canadians had for Americans who supported it.

    But the opposition Parties have treated the troubles of PM Martin and his Liberal government like a pack of wolves would a wounded deer. And, after doing all they can to disable the ruling Party, they are poised this week for the kill: Indeed, the Conservative leader Stephen Harper cut PM Martin to the bone by calling him a “national joke” who has forfeited authority to govern Canada. And, his partner of convenience, the Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, took a chunk out of him by declaring that:

    “The Liberal Party produced a system of kickbacks using taxpayers’ money. They should be ashamed of themselves…Refund the money. That’s what the citizens want.”

    Of course, what the opposition Parties really want is to force general elections as soon as possible. But until today, PM Martin had effectively deployed every Parliamentary device to deny their wishes. Yet he knew well that he was only postponing the inevitable. Because, Canadian governments must resign if they are defeated in the House of Commons in a formal vote of no-confidence, or over important legislative matters, such as the federal budget.

    And, whereas PM Martin has deftly precluded no-confidence motions from coming to the floor, he is mandated by law to present a timely budget. Therefore, he acknowledges that if he loses today’s vote on his budget proposal, his government will fall and a general election will have to be called.

    Nevertheless, despite polls predicting his imminent demise, PM Martin should not be counted out. After all, even though he seems to have the criminal proclivities of Richard Nixon, PM Martin has displayed the political survival skills of that cat of nine lives, Bill Clinton. And, just as President Clinton overcame his scandals by surviving an impeachment trial in the U.S. Congress, so too will PM Martin overcome his troubles by surviving today’s vote of no-confidence in the Canadian House of Commons.

    Stay tuned!

    UPDATE: As I predicted back in May, PM Paul Martin not only survived the no-confidence challenge to his leadership, but also just yesterday, 1 November 2005, he was cleared of all wrongdoing by a government enquiry into the whole Adscam money scandal that has plagued Canadian politics for the past 2 years. But Martin’s predecessor, Jean Chretien, was blamed for the lion’s share of this skullduggery.

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