• Friday, March 31, 2006 at 11:56 AM

    BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN: Banned in The Bahamas?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    My fellow Bahamians:

    Our handling of the Cuban detainees has already diminished our integrity and undermined our credibility in the international arena.

    Therefore, please prevail upon our government to reverse its ban of the showing of Brokeback Mountain in our country. Because such a ban only makes a laughing stock of our maturity as a people and gives the world the impression that we’re living in a Taliban paradise.

    Please, act now!

  • Friday, March 31, 2006 at 11:07 AM

    Good (news) Friday: Jill Carroll released; Charles Taylor captured!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Even though commenting on good news out of Iraq seems an oxymoronic proposition these days, I am sufficiently relieved by Jill Carroll’s release yesterday to do so. Carroll, of course, is the journalist who was kidnapped on the streets of Baghdad nearly three months ago by desert-variety bandits who now control movement there more than U.S. forces do. Indeed, where western media focuses on the westerner who is occasionally kidnapped for ransom (and, despite pro forma political demands, money is almost always the motive), these bandits kidnap Iraqis every day with impunity and barter their lives like a common commodity.Ah, but this is “Good (news) Friday”. Therefore, I shall suffice to thank God for Jill’s release – especially since she claims to have been treated relatively well by her captors. Although (forgive me, I can’t help myself), is it just me or does she seem to have suffered an acute attack of Stockholm syndrome? I could not help thinking so as I watched the interview she gave after her release from which this photo was taken. Moreover, how is it that she seems to have gained so much weight in captivity? Okay, OK! I shall reserve judgment on this until she’s back in America and feels more free to speak her mind…. For now, I pray God rids the streets of Iraq of roving hostage takers and suicide bombers. Because, frankly, I don’t see how American forces and their Iraqi trainees will ever “rout them out”.

    From the sublime to the ridiculous:

    Charles Taylor is the former Liberian leader who was forced into exile in Nigeria in August 2003 after being indicted by a United Nations war crimes tribunal for atrocities he committed during his brutal 14-year rise and fall. As a warlord, Taylor commanded rebel forces who raped, tortured, and killed indiscriminately on their march to power. And as president of Liberia, he aided, abetted, and traded (guns for diamonds) with warlords in Sierra Leone whose rebel forces did there what his did in Liberia.

    Yet such was his hubris that, when he went into exile, Taylor reportedly assumed that his gilded cage on the Nigerian coast was more sinecure than holding pen. Now, how ridiculous is that! But he clearly did not anticipate his improbable successor, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, joining President Bush in demanding his extradition to stand trial for his war crimes. And, after a pathetic attempt to escape on Tuesday, Nigerian forces caught him within 24 hours and delivered him, symbolically, to Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia where he was immediately taken by UN forces to the war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone. Although reports are that, for security reasons, Sierra Leone has asked the Netherlands to host Taylor’s trial in The Hague.

    However, Liberian nationalists and prominent pan-Africanists have argued that Liberia’s sovereignty and regional dignity would be undermined if Taylor is not tried in Liberia (or, at worst, in Sierra Leone). But this argument reflects misguided jingoism and foolish pride. After all, if the trial of Saddam Hussein in Iraq has taught us anything, it’s that such a trial would probably make a national martyr of Taylor, fuel an insurgency against Johnson-Sirleaf’s government and detract national attention and resources from the important work nation building. By contrast, when the Serbs consented to have their former leader and accused war-criminal Slobodan Milosevic tried in Hague, it sealed his fate to die with a whimper in relative obscurity.

    So here’s to the fate that awaits Charles Taylor (think Slobodan, not Saddam). And let’s hope that his capture puts all despots (like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe) on notice that their day of reckoning is drawing nigh. Because Taylor today, Kony tomorrow? Who knows for whom the bell will toll in due course?

    NOTE: Click here for my CNN commentary of President Bush’s would-be assassins….

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  • Thursday, March 30, 2006 at 10:47 AM

    Whitney Houston: Wack on crack?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I, Whitney…
    A year ago, almost to the day, I wrote this somewhat tongue-in-cheek article on Whitney Houston’s very public battle with drugs. I lamented the tell-tale ravages of drug abuse that appeared in her once-beautiful face and derided her patently fatuous denials about using drugs. And, in case some of you do not recall her now infamous interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC’s Primetime, here’s her most memorable denial on record:
    First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let’s get that straight. Okay? We don’t do crack. We don’t do that. Crack is whack.
    Nonetheless, because I was such a fan of her music, I ended that article on this plaintive note:
    Well, as a firm believer in redemption and the power of prayer, I pray for Whitney’s recovery from drug addiction and that she recaptures just a little of that magic she had before things went so horribly wrong. Good luck Whitney!
    Therefore, imagine my disappointment when I read the Less Than Zero eyewitness account of Whitney’s relapse into crack hell that her own sister-in-law (husband Bobby’s sister Tina – herself a recovering crack addict) gave the tabloids this week.
    Because, even though I retained healthy skepticism, she seemed to be on the path to recovery last year. After all, in February, her old mentor and record producer, Clive Davis, told fans to expect a new album from Whitney by “years end”. And, she even looked beautiful again (in photo right) when she appeared at BET’s 25th Anniversary Show in October.
    Unfortunately, with Whitney reportedly looking the way she does (in this more recent photo above), one can make some fairly reasonable inferences as to why that long-awaited album never materialized.
    Indeed, it seems neither family interventions nor serial stints in drug rehab was sufficient to keep her away from her crack pipe. And my cynicism is such that I have no doubt Whitney’s living hell will get a lot worse before it gets better, if it ever does.
    Whatever Tina’s motive for revealing what Whitney and Bobby have not already aired of their dirty laundry (unwittingly and quite literally on their self-destructive reality show), don’t be too quick to dismiss the truth of her account.
    As an attorney, I am professionally averse to libelous gossip. I’m also acutely aware, however, that the truth is an absolute defense against such lawsuits. However, if the allegations and pictures printed in the Canadian and UK tabloids chronicling her drug use are in anyway misleading, I have no doubt that Whitney will not only sue (because they always do to further their denials and for PR purposes), but also prevail. And, in that improbable case, I shall be the first to publish a retraction and sing her praises once again….
    Click here and here to read Tina’s accounts.
    Related commentaries:
    Whitney is dead
  • Wednesday, March 29, 2006 at 10:36 AM

    The under-reported rape involving Blue (eyed?) Devils from Duke University

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last October, American cable and broadcast stations saturated the airways with reports, in titillating detail, on allegations that black players from the Minnesota Vikings football team had engaged in entirely consensual orgies during a party-boat excursion – albeit in full view of other leering boaters. It begs notice, therefore, that these stations have given scant coverage to the even more sensational (and criminal) allegations that white players from the Duke University lacrosse team actually raped a (black) woman during an on-campus frat party two weeks ago.

    Some erstwhile intelligent and responsible people have argued that the reason for this discriminatory coverage has everything to do with national interest in big-time professional sports (football) versus only parochial interest in this obscure ivy-league game (lacrosse), which barely qualifies as an intramural sport. And, that may be. But I submit that the real reason has far more to do with pandering to racial stereotypes than going with the story that has more objective news value. Moreover, this story is about rape; not sports. And no one can deny that a bunch of rich white university students gang-raping a black woman – in the kind of “wilding” frenzy the media has associated with poor black high-school dropouts – is far more newsworthy than a bunch of black athletes being portrayed, yet again, as hyper-sexed exhibitionists.

    Nonetheless, here’s the alleged victim’s version of what happened:

    She’s a student at North Carolina Central University who works as an exotic dancer to help pay her tuition. On 14 March, she and another dancer were hired to perform at (what they thought was) a small bachelor party at a house on the cloistered-campus of Duke University, which, incidentally, is located in the mostly black city of Durham, North Carolina. When they arrived, however, they were greeted by dozens of preppy-looking men (most notably, 46 members of the lacrosse team) behaving like drunken rednecks and demanding to be entertained. When the women balked, they were verbally assaulted with racial and misogynistic slurs that would have made antebellum southerners proud. But the women managed to escape and made it to their car relatively unscathed. They were lured back, however, after one of the host students apologized and assured them that the environment would not be so hostile if they agreed to perform. But as soon as they returned to the house, the NC Central student claims she was pulled into a bathroom, sexually assaulted and beaten.

    Alas, I’m not at all surprised that these two-legged hyenas with dicks for brains are getting a relative pass from the media. Nor would I be surprised if they get away with rape. But one has to wonder what responsibility Duke University will assume for this crime, and what action they will take to reinforce their institutional integrity. Because it does not auger well that it took university president Richard H. Brodhead two weeks to issue a statement. And that when he finally did, it read more like a brief for the defense of the lacrosse team than a declaration of Duke’s intent to rid its student body of anyone even remotely associated with such a heinous crime.

    Here’s what he said, in part, in his 26 March statement:

    ….The criminal allegations against three members of our men’s lacrosse team, if verified, will warrant very serious penalties. The facts are not yet established, however, and there are very different versions of the central events. No charges have been filed, and in our system of law, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

    Meanwhile, because these arrogant snots refused to cooperate with the investigation, it took police over a week to coerce DNA samples from them, which finally arrived at the lab for testing on Monday.

    But I’m profoundly dismayed by what appears to be the university’s very pro forma reaction. After all, this gives aid and comfort to the perpetrators that their high-priced family lawyers will get them out of this mess – just as they probably have on other occasions. And, what does it suggest about consequences for bad behaviour when the Athletic director forfeits 2 games as an expression of official outrage over the players’ involvement in this rape and their deliberate obstruction of justice? (Especially since they have already taken back to the field and are playing games as if nothing happened…..) In this regard, Duke would do well to learn from Grinnell College, where in 2003, the rugby team was suspended for an entire season for merely failing to properly register its players.

    More important, however, it behooves the university president to take a more principled stand. Because, where I agree that the public should wait for a trial to determine the guilt of these players, the undisputed facts of this case compel Duke to pass summary institutional judgment. Accordingly, it should dispense disciplinary punishment commensurate with the gravity of this case and which reflects the extent to which these students violated the university’s code of conduct. And, it will not do to limit blame in this case – as the university president seems inclined to do – to the “three members of our men’s lacrosse team”. Because all who were present are complicit in this crime for helping to create the hostile environment in which it was perpetrated (with their rebel yells of racial hatred and female degradation); And, their complicity has only been compounded by their refusal to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

    Therefore, merely forfeiting 2 games hardly suffices when the season should have been canceled and these players suspended immediately and indefinitely. All of which begs the questions: Where’s the discipline? Where’s the media coverage? Where’s the public outrage?

    NOTE: Duke has 12,000 students. Yet, despite the aggressive efforts of some on campus to stir moral outrage, only about 100 of them have participated in rallies protesting this gang-bang rape and the refusal of the players to cooperate with the investigation. Shame on Duke!

    I encourage you to express your outrage to the university president: [email protected]

    UPDATE (8:40 am): It seems Duke University has gotten part of the message at least because AP reports that its president has now overruled the Athletic director’s insulting 2-game suspension by supending “the school’s highly-ranked lacrosse team from play until school administrators learn more about allegations that several team members raped an exotic dancer at an off-campus party.” No shit! Now, how about those suspensions from school….

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  • Tuesday, March 28, 2006 at 10:56 AM

    Ukraine’s democracy flounders as its leaders play political musical chairs

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last April, I wrote this laudatory and hopeful commentary on the historic state visit of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to the United States. After all, he not only led the Orange Revolution, which wrested power from Russia’s puppet president – Viktor Yanukovych, but survived an alleged KGB assassination attempt, which made the CIA attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro – using an exploding cigar – seem positively ingenious. Therefore, Yushchenko was fêted in Washington as a bona fide hero and Ukraine anointed as the latest country to be converted by President George W. Bush’s democracy world crusade.

    By September, however, revolutionary euphoria had soured into disappointment in Washington and resentment in Ukraine as the new democratic government made no movement towards fulfilling the grand promises of democracy. Therefore, it was not surprising that Ukrainians who fought for the Orange Revolution felt betrayed by their leaders. Because, after locking arms to overthrow the communist government, these leaders merely fought amongst themselves when it came time to govern – as I chronicled in this article. And their betrayal was only exacerbated when the economic and social maladies, which were the hallmarks of communism, only worsened amidst this political chaos.

    It was this untenable state of affairs that led, inevitably, to Sunday’s vote in which Ukrainians appear to have voted – out of fear – for the nostalgia of communist stability; instead of voting – with forlorn hope – for the elusive promises of democracy. And, overthrown communist president, Yanukovych, seems poised for a dramatic return to power as he leads (L – 27.3%) over Orange revolutionaries Yulia Tymoshenko (C – 23.4%) and Yuschenko (R- 16.3%). Final tallies may differ but Yanukovych’s margin of victory seems assured.

    Although, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko are considering locking arms again to foil his return. Only this time, Tymoshenko, the woman Yushchenko appointed as Prime Minister in his government, is insisting that she be on top if they do it again. (I suspect Yushchenko will just lay back and take it like a man….)

    Stay tuned….


  • Monday, March 27, 2006 at 12:07 PM

    If you think Idi Amin was evil, meet Joseph Kony – his paedophile political son

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Over the past three decades, guerilla warfare has been as commonplace (and un-newsworthy) in Africa as suicide bombings have become in Iraq over the past three years. And, sadly enough, it is not an anomaly for children to be on the frontlines of these bloody struggles that have made Africa the most war-ravaged continent in the world. (A fact I lamented in this previous article on child soldiers who must kill or be killed in the ongoing insurgency in DR Congo.) Therefore, it is truly a testament to the venality of Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony that his name incites revulsion and fear that most Africans have not experienced since, ironically, the brutal reign of former Ugandan leader Idi Amin 30 years ago.

    Kony is a former altar boy who, in 1987, assumed the mantle of messianic leadership in the Lord’s Resistance Army to continue their rebellion against the Ugandan government – that has raged now for 20 years. But unlike most rebels (like Jonas Savimbi of Angola or Laurent Kabila of Zaire) who at least claimed a political mission to liberate their people from government oppression, Kony is truly a rebel without a cause. (Well, to be fair, he wants to turn Uganda into a Taliban-style state based, not on Sharia law, but on strict adherence to the Ten Commandments – all ten 0f which he violates everyday….)

    In fact, Kony’s so-called army is to Uganda what the Medellin drug cartel is to Columbia: an organised group of thugs who have successfully co-opted every facet of life in a small area of a big country. And, in Kony’s case, he has become the Carlos Escobar of the Ugandan town of Lira. But, where drug lords intimidate, bribe and kill government officials to help facilitate their illicit trade, Kony kidnaps, enslaves, tortures and murders children (as young as 10). And these “children become soldiers in his army and then go on to torture, rape and kill other children” in this cycle of unspeakable depravity that has plagued Northern Uganda for almost two decades. Indeed, the Lancet Medical Journal reports that, over this period, Kony’s gang has kidnapped an estimated “20,000 children to serve as fighters, porters and sex slaves.”

    All too often, we blame the legacy of colonialism for the problems that beset so many countries in Africa. Yet it is undeniable that kleptocracy (Kenya), ethnic rivalries (DR Congo) and pandemic incompetence are far more to blame. Moreover, nothing in the annals of European colonialism can account for what Joseph Kony is doing to fellow Africans in Uganda, what Robert Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe and what Charles Taylor did in Liberia.

    I first read about Joseph Kony about 10 years ago. But it wasn’t until I read a cautionary exposé on him by Christopher Hitchens in the January 2006 issue of Vanity Fair (VF) that I got a real appreciation for the depth and scope of his menace. However, since I suspect that you may have to subscribe to VF to read that article, I recommend this one by Jon Blanc, a former “director of Field Operations for a multi-national humanitarian NGO in various parts of Africa.”

    However, I’m not so naïve as to think that anything Hitchens, Blanc or I write about Kony will have any impact on his rampaging activities in Lira. But for those who struggle with feelings of inefficacy in the face of such inhumanity, here’s what you can do:

    A very reputable NGO in Gulu provides safe houses for the children of Lira who walk miles to sleep there every night to avoid being kidnapped from their homes by Kony’s night bandits. Click here to read about these “night commuters” and how you can help fund their safety until international leaders deal with Kony the way they finally dealt with Charles Taylor. (Indeed, just yesterday, the International war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone issued a warrant for Taylor’s immediate arrest from his exile in Nigeria to be tried for the crimes against humanity he committed in Liberia. Similar arrest warrants have been issued for Kony and senior members of his gang.)

    NOTE: Here’s a Ugandan boy’s drawing of a Lord’s Resistance Army attack on his village. Unfortunately, such images are the nightmarish thoughts of many Ugandan children, much as images of playing sports are the dreams of American children:

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  • Sunday, March 26, 2006 at 12:36 PM

    If Allah says he must die, who are the Americans to say otherwise!?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    How’s this for the law of unintended consequences: After liberating Afghanistan from the freedom-hating, women-beating, head-chopping Taliban, the Americans thought they were ushering in a new government that would guarantee its citizens all the universal freedoms westerners take for granted; including, most assuredly, freedom of religion. Now comes the barbaric (Talibanic) spectacle of this supposedly democratic government issuing a death warrant against an Afghan, Abdul Rahman, for committing the cardinal sin of converting from Islam to Christianity.

    Now ain’t that a bitch….

    NOTE: It is, itself, an abomination that western leaders – from President Bush to the Pope – are considering it a saving grace for the Afghanistan Supreme Court to declare this Christian convert insane as a way to escape the fate Allah has purportedly decreed. But, refusing to compromise his religious beliefs, the Chief Judge has vowed to execute justice as Allah dictates!

    Kneel infidel, kneel

    UPDATE (8:40 am): Wait, Wait! AP is now reporting that the Court has dropped the case against Rahman – citing a “lack of evidence” that he actually converted to Christianity; even though the general in charge of the maximum-security prison where he was jailed has confirmed that Rahman “had also been begging his guards to provide him with a Bible”….Whatever.

    U.S. and the Pope – 1; Allah – 0!


  • Saturday, March 25, 2006 at 1:50 PM

    Frenchmen riot for the right to jobs; whereas Americans protest for the right to work!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Americans emulated Frenchmen this week by taking to the streets all over the country to protest new immigration laws being debated in Congress that would make felons of illegal immigrants, and “literally criminalize the good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself” who help them assimilate.

    But where I have little sympathy for the rioters in France (and I invite you to click here to see why), I have a lot of sympathy for the protesters in America. Because the Americans are protesting bipartisan collusion in Congress to enact laws that do not even begin to address the root causes of illegal immigration. Yet they seem determined to reject President Bush’s guest worker plan which does.

    But here’s why these new laws will be as effective in dealing with illegal immigration as drug laws have been in stemming the flow of illegal drugs into this country:

    Employers who hire illegal immigrants are like people who buy imported cocaine. And just as we should blame people addicted to drugs for creating the demand that drug cartels supply, we should also blame employers addicted to cheap labor for creating the demand that Mexicans and other undocumented workers will continue to supply…and quite rightly so.

    So stay tuned. Because the French riots and American protests are bound to become very incendiary before all is said and done….

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  • Friday, March 24, 2006 at 11:09 AM

    Good (news) Friday: Liberia’s female president wows Washington

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is fashionable to blame the media for focusing too much on superficial stories – like who will be the next American Idol, and not enough on important ones – like the genocide now raging in Darfur. However, I believe such blame is misplaced. After all, if Americans (and people all over the world) showed more interest in stories of substance, the ratings-obsessed media would readily service that interest too.

    This brings me to my good news story (of substance) for this week. Of course, you can be forgiven if you have no clue about it since major news outlets (in America) spent much of their air time covering the Debra Lafave (sexy-schoolteacher-affair-with-schoolboy) story, which I dutifully commented on in yesterday’s post. But, despite getting only a blip of media attention, Africa’s first elected female head of state, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, sealed a triumphant first state visit to the United States – during which she delivered an historic address before a joint session of the U.S. Congress – with a private lunch with President George W. Bush on Tuesday. And, ironically, not since another African leader, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, made a state visit, has Washington showed a head of state such hospitality, reverence and respect.

    Nonetheless, Johnson-Sirleaf’s triumph was marked far more by the substantial aid she received for her country than by the accolades she received for herself. And, because no leader has ever radiated such dignity and serenity, wisdom and independence whilst pleading for her country’s dire needs, I hereby choose the state visit of Liberia’s “Iron Lady” as my good news story of the week.

    NOTE: In my 14 March article below, I linked to my CNN column on the campaign by Florida politicians to bully the goverment of The Bahamas – on behalf of their Miami-based Cuban-American constituents – into abrogating its bilateral agreements with Cuba. They were attempting to coerce The Bahamas into releasing two Cuban illegal immigrants to family members in Florida, instead of returning them to Cuba as required by law (i.e. the adult version of the Elian Gonzalez saga). In that article, I delineated why Bahamian authorities should return them to Cuba. Click here to read my article on what they did.

  • Thursday, March 23, 2006 at 11:47 AM

    Sexy Middle-School Teacher Gets Off with Blowing more than Schoolboy’s Mind

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Debra-Lafave1Many Americans convulsed in paroxysms of moral outrage on Tuesday when Florida prosecutors dropped all charges against sexy middle-school teacher Debra LaFave for perpetrating a series of sexual acts on one of her 14-year old students. But, as you may reasonably infer from the title of this article, I do not share their outrage.

    In fact, when this and similar cases first titillated national interest last summer, I wrote this article explaining why such outrage was unwarranted and delineating the jurisprudential principles and criteria that should decide these cases. I wrote in part that:

    As a legal matter, the age to trigger statutory rape should be lowered to reflect the prevailing sexual mores of today’s society. Accordingly, we should put this ‘crime’ into context as follows: A teacher (male or female) having consensual sex with any student aged 16 or older should be fired and banned from teaching for life – but NO criminal charges should obtain. However, that teacher having sex with a student aged 15 or younger should be arrested and prosecuted on charges of statutory rape and related offenses…

    Anyone who says that 16-year old boys will be psychologically damaged by having their sexual fantasies fulfilled by hot teachers either was never a 16-year old boy or is just talking puritanical rubbish! Because, with obliging teachers, no lesson could prove more educational, wholesome and, ultimately, useful for teenage boys.

    Clearly, with Tuesday’s ruling in this case, coupled with the plea deal (3 years house arrest plus 7 years probation) her lawyers negotiated for similar acts she perpetrated on this same boy in a different county, LaFave will, in fact suffer punishment in accordance with my instructive and prescient guidelines (including mandatory counseling, which LaFave credits with helping her to realize the wrongfulness on acting on her predatory impulses).

    NOTE: It might help those of you still shuddering with moral outrage to consider that, perhaps, this boy’s Mummy did not want him to participate in the prosecution of Lafave because she does not think he suffered much, if any, “harm”. (She claims it’s to protect her little boy’s privacy; no mention of psychological trauma whatsoever. But frankly, I wonder if it’s not to protect her from (her own) embarrassment.) After all, adolescent girls who are molested by middle-aged men, routinely testify under proper conditions to assist in the prosecution of their attackers….

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  • Wednesday, March 22, 2006 at 11:13 AM

    Think the quagmire in Iraq is hurting Bush? Consider Blair…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    What do you think Blair is thinking about his Iraq-war buddy today?

    Many Britons are citing disclosures about a campaign finance scandal as the reason for Prime Minister Tony Blair’s political purgatory. But that’s rather like citing disclosures about the Abramoff lobbying scandal for President George Bush’s living hell. Because, in fact, Blair is facing a vote of no-confidence that could boot him out of office for the same reason that Bush is facing threats of impeachment: Iraq, Iraq, Iraq!

    Blair made quite a show on Monday of proposing legislation to prevent rich people from donating secret campaign contributions to political parties. Unlike rich Americans, however, these fat cats were not buying influence to get richer; instead, they were doing so to get royal titles (i.e., seats in the House of Lords). Which, of course, finally discloses Blair’s real motivation for getting rid of hereditary peerages: He wanted to open seats for his nouveau riche friends to crown their life’s achievements with an anachronistic baronetcy. But this is England, and these parvenus will never, never be accepted:

    “I have no sympathy at all for the prime minister and his coterie of cronies who are at the heart of this affair….They have dragged politics, their party and sadly this house into disrepute.” [Thomas StrathclydeConservative leader in the House of Lords]

    More importantly, this legislation amounts to a futile attempt by Blair to put out the fire engulfing his premiership with a water pistol. And, despite its honorable intent, it merely highlights how much Blair has betrayed his pledge to “run a government purer than pure.” Meanwhile, members of his own party are busy adding fuel to that fire by calling on him to step down now – to preserve what’s left of his political integrity and protect their collective political hides. And, where Bush can be sure that winning an impeachment against him would be nigh impossible (as former President Clinton proved), Blair must be unnerved by the ease with which disgruntled members of his own party can oust him from office (as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher knows all too well).

    Therefore, just as he has emulated Bush by presiding over a thriving national economy (despite one domestic scandal after another), Blair seems poised to emulate him by suffering a premature and ignominious end to his leadership: which is likely to come this year, with over four years left on his term).

    NOTE: If you think the Americans were alone in bringing disrepute on their lofty democratic mission (think Abu Gharib), well:

    This is further proof that British and U.S. soldiers in Iraq have gone too far in offending and humiliating people.”

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  • Tuesday, March 21, 2006 at 10:38 AM

    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: NFL Commissioner?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    “I think it would be a very interesting job because I actually think football, with all due respect to baseball, is a kind of national pastime that brings people together across social lines, across racial lines. And I think it’s an important American institution.” [Dr. Condoleezza Rice]

    National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Paul Tagliabue shocked the sports world yesterday by announcing his imminent retirement. Ironically, his announcement sent political bookies scrambling to reposition U.S. Secretary Dr. Condoleezza Rice in their 2008 presidential sweepstakes. Because Rice has been as aggressive in telegraphing her interest in being the next commissioner of the NFL as she has been in denying any interest in being the next president of the United States.

    Notwithstanding her Shermanesque denials, however, many professional pundits and centrist Republicans harbored great expectations that, after all the political rhetoric and campaign shenanigans, Rice would be their presidential nominee. And, but for Tagliabue’s retirement, I believe their expectations would have been fulfilled. Admittedly, I’m on record (here and here) shamelessly endorsing the (nevermind-her-denials) candidacy of Condi Rice for president.

    Nonetheless, I fear the NFL will make her an offer she can’t refuse. Because when a Washington Post reporter asked her in April 2002 if it was true that her dream job was commissioner of the NFL, she responded:

    “That’s absolutely right…though not immediately and not before Paul Tagliabue is ready to step down.”

    Therefore, his stepping down in July would seem to satisfy the only condition precedent to making Condi’s dream come true. And, as improbable as it might be for the all-white (except one black) team owners in the NFL to elect her as commissioner, there’s no one in America more qualified for the job or better for the game (even beyond inspiring more interest amongst blacks and women).

    NOTE: Given the mess Bush has allowed Cheney and his neo-con cabal to make of his presidency, Condi would be a fool not to take this hand-off from Tagliabue into her dream job.

    Run Condi Run! Er, for commissioner that is….

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  • Monday, March 20, 2006 at 10:47 AM

    Civil War in Iraq is at hand!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    “It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more….If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is.” [Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi yesterday on BBC TV]

    When the truth is plain to see, there’s nothing more irritating than some idiot trying to convince me otherwise. But the consequences for me in such cases have never been anything to lose sleep – let alone my life – over. Alas, the same cannot be said for the families of loved ones serving in Iraq. Because they must suffer far more than irritation when idiots – up and down the chain of command in the Bush Administration – try to convince them that reports of a civil war brewing in Iraq are not true. After all, an open and notorious civil war there is plain for all to see, and the consequences for them are, indeed, a matter of life and death.

    Yesterday marked the 3rd Anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. And, if I were gullible enough to take President Bush and his salute-and-obey generals at their words, I would have expected to see Yankee Doodle-inspired parades in the streets of Baghdad – as grateful Iraqis fête U.S. military and civilian personnel with “rose petals and air kisses” for their liberation. The truth, of course, is that neither U.S. personnel nor most Iraqis dare walk the streets of Baghdad for fear of being caught in the crossfire of civil-war factions battling for control of this and other cities all over Iraq.

    But, imagine the absurdity, indeed, the tragedy, of the man the U.S. Congress hailed as the Abraham Lincoln of Iraq just 16 months ago, Ayad Allawi, now proclaiming that Iraqi union is a lost cause and having Oval-office generals like Bush and VP Cheney trying to convince him and the world otherwise….

    Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell “lying” out the WMD case for war against Iraq at the UN. He now regards his impressive performance on that infamous day in February 2003 as “the lowest point” in his life.

    Before irritating you by belaboring the obvious, however, I shall suffice to note that where Bush can be excused for his reliance on the faulty intelligence that misled America to war, it’s inexcusable for him to continue his triumphal rhetoric with the U.S. death toll in Iraq now at 2,318…and the maimed, wounded and disabled at 17,124. (And, betraying the merely incidental notice they get from our western media, the Iraqi death toll is 17,315…and the maimed, wounded and disabled simply too numerous to count.)

    But as I’m neither a pessimist nor a fatalist, I believe there’s still a chance to honor those who have died for this cause (whether that cause is to impose American-style democracy on Iraqis or to use their country as a front in America’s war on terror). I’ve laid it all out in my previous commentaries (see here and here) and they are my homage to this foreboding Anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

    There is no greater indictment of the U.S. “rebuilding” effort than the wholly reasonable assertion that this little girl would have been better off in Iraq three years ago than she is today….

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  • Sunday, March 19, 2006 at 11:50 AM

    Frenchmen and Germans cry: Give us jobs or give us death!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In a remarkable display of fiery temper tantrums, over 500,000 bourgeois Frenchmen took to the streets yesterday to protest government plans to wean them from unsustainable state guarantees of jobs for life. Because, as farfetched as it may seem to nationals elsewhere, these congenitally-spoiled socialists insist that – once hired for any job – no employer should have the right to fire them, even if they are irremediably incompetent. And, they are determined to protest to their deaths, unless the French government of Jacques Chirac gives them what they want.

    Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is fighting more orderly, but no less defiant, acts of civil unrest. Because public workers across Germany have been on strike for over five-weeks protesting a government plan to add an onerous 1.5 hours to their current 38.5-hour work week. As a result, mounds of garbage have piled up all over Germany and some hospitals have been forced to cancel non-emergency operations.

    Of course, it would be unseemly to cast these European rioters in the same light as the Muslim-immigrant rioters who torched cities in France and Germany recently to protest their grievances with government policies. Nonetheless, it is ironical that these more genteel rioters may have a more destabilizing impact on governance in both countries for decades to come.

    NOTE: It cannot be lost on Chirac and Merkel that – although Bush has to fight insurgent fires in Iraq – at least he does not have to worry about such infernal national protests or fear his home being torched….


  • Saturday, March 18, 2006 at 11:39 AM

    March Madness…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    There’s March Madness…

    And then, there’s March madness!

    But since no one has ever accused me of not having my priorities straight, here are my picks for the Final Four and National Championship:

    Final Four:

    Duke v. Indiana & Illinois v. Ohio St

    Championship Game:

    Indiana v.Illinois

    National Champions:


    (But please don’t bet the kids’ lunch money on my picks….)


  • Wednesday, March 15, 2006 at 10:26 AM

    Alas, duty calls…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Dear Readers:

    Due to extraordinary professional obligations (i.e. to the legal practice that pays my mortgages), I will be unable to publish original articles for the remainder of this week. Although I hasten to admit how very fortunate I am that this is the first time my vocation has impinged on my avocation since I began this weblog over a year ago.

    Interestingly enough, yesterday’s article was perhaps the most important one that I’ve ever published. Therefore, this actually seems a fortuitous opportunity to give all of you more time to reflect and, hopefully, act upon its content. Indeed, as a practical matter, you may need the remainder of this week just to read all of the pertinent articles I link to.

    Thank you for your understanding and support.


  • Tuesday, March 14, 2006 at 10:43 AM

    Darfur: Thanks for caring America, but you’re already a genocide too late…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Lately, I seem to be provoking a lot of criticism from avid readers. And where all of it is welcome, not all of it – I’m happy to report – is warranted. For example, a colleague rang me yesterday morning, still fulminating with moral outrage over an NBC news report she had just seen on the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. And, as if I were complicit in this crime against humanity, she chastised me for “paying all that attention to Arabs killing each other in the Middle East and hardly none (sic) to those Arabs slaughtering blacks in Africa.”

    Well, after telling her how much I respected the emotion that report evoked in her (and how much I appreciated her willingness to challenge my political consciousness), I referred her to this article I wrote several months ago on the genocide in Darfur. (And, that this conflict in now spreading into neighbouring Chad only exacerbates an already dire situation); I referred her to this article I wrote almost 9 months ago on the famine in Niger that makes the Ethiopian famine of the mid-1980s seem like the plight of the obese missing a single meal; and I referred her to this article I wrote almost a year ago on the genocide the DR Congo that makes the ones in Darfur and Rwanda seem relatively tame.

    I suspect many of you not only share my colleague’s compassion for these suffering Africans but also her indignation over the relatively little amount of coverage their plight has received in mainstream media. Therefore, I hope you’ll take a moment to read my previous articles on these lamentably old stories that are just now making headline news in America.

    NOTE to my American readers: Notwithstanding my cynical title, please take a moment to call or write your Congressional representatives to plead for America to work more aggressively with the African Union to stop the massacres in Darfur and the DR Congo, and to provide more supplies to aid workers fighting famine in Niger, Mali and elsewhere in Africa.

    ENDNOTE: At the risk of imposing too much on your time and soliciting too much political activism, I beg you to read this article about politicians in Florida who are trying, shamelessly, to bully the government of The Bahamas to curry-favour with their Miami-based Cuban American supporters. It’s really an international scandal, which sullies the good name and goodwill of all Americans throughout the Caribbean.

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  • Monday, March 13, 2006 at 10:47 AM

    Of Slobodan Milosevic, many have said: “I hope he rots in jail!” Well…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    “Milosevic organised many many assassinations of people of my party, of people of my family… He ordered a few times assassination attempts against my life….What can I say? I can say it’s a pity he didn’t face justice in Belgrade.” [Vuk Draskovic, Foreign Minister of Serbia-Montenegro]

    I suspect that, like me, many of you have said – of a particularly despicable criminal – that you hope he rots in jail. Well, that wish was denied many citizens of the former Yugoslavia on Saturday when their former dictator was found dead in his cell at The Hague, far too prematurely. And, true to his amoral nature, Slobodan Milosevic died not only protesting his innocence but also defying the authority of The Hague tribunal to even try him.

    An autopsy – performed by a team of Dutch pathologists yesterday – determined that he died from “myocardial infarction” (a sudden and massive heart attack). Nonetheless, his chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, believes Milosevic may have taken the coward’s way out by committing suicide. And, given the history of suicides in his family, I would not be surprised if further tests determine that to be the case.

    (Incidentally, despite their best efforts, Milosevic’s family members will find few people willing to suspect foul play in his death. The way, for example, that Mohammed al-Fayed led so many people to suspect that the British royal family had a hand in the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed – until their cases were closed, authoritatively, just last week.)

    Unfortunately, Milosevic’s death robs many of the satisfaction of seeing him adjudged guilty for the crimes against humanity he ordered during the 1992-95 Bosnia war, in which over 200,000 people died. After all, only a few die-hard supporters of this “Butcher of the Balkans” thought he stood any chance of ever seeing the light of day again. But, as I’m loath to speak ill of the dead, I shall suffice to note that his drawn-out farce of a trial and peaceful death presage the all too blessed fate that awaits Saddam Hussein.

    Though, admittedly, I sympathise with the profound regret of my Serb friends who would’ve preferred to see Milosevic sent off to meet his maker with the bang of a firing squad, not the whimper of a deep sleep.

    Nek mu BOG dusu oprosti…


  • Sunday, March 12, 2006 at 1:58 PM

    For women, South Dakota becomes the first Taliban state in America…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Neo-conservatives support President George W. Bush because they see in him a zealous crusader on a mission to democratize the world in America’s image. Whereas, traditional conservatives support Bush because they see in him a zealous crusader on a mission to Christianize the United States according to their fundamentalist “born-again” dogma.

    Therefore, it is a testament to Bush’s political rectitude that his presidency is now distinguished by his faithful attempt to execute both of these missions with equal zeal. Of course, that Iraq may turn his democracy crusade into a proverbial Waterloo hardly seems to matter to Bush or his neo-con enablers. But his political redemption seems assured amongst the traditional conservatives who, incidentally, comprise the vast majority of his supporters. After all, their holy war is not with Iraq; it’s with abortion.

    And, these conservatives regard Bush’s appointment of Justices Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court as decisive battles won in their war to overturn Roe v. Wade – which gave women the right to an abortion. Moreover, they pray faithfully that he will have an opportunity to appoint yet one more “Christian” justice to the court before his term expires in 2008. Because everyone in America knows that this South Dakota law banning abortions except where the mother’s life is at stake (and similar laws now making their way through legislatures in other states), was enacted for the sole purpose of giving a more Christian Supreme Court a case to decide, anew, whether abortion is a constitutionally protected right.

    I suspect that this court, as presently constituted, would probably decide that abortion is a protected right. However, it would no doubt grant states the authority to put limits on the exercise of this right (e.g. parental and spousal notification, mandatory counseling, a waiting period and, of course, it would probably rule that late-term abortions are not only unconstitutional but, in fact, a form of infanticide).

    Whatever their rulings on these test cases, however, abortions will never be outlawed in America. Because, when all is said and done, each state will be left to decide under what conditions abortions will be allowed. And, more conservative states will curtail this right to the fullest extent of the law and liberal states will extend it in similar fashion.

    UPDATE (12 March 1:45 pm): I’m obliged to let you in on a little secret. I am blessed with a group of friends who are not only my most dedicated readers but also my ardent critics. I regret, however, that – to a person – they consider it too impersonal and contrived to write their comments here when they can ring me up and debate particular points in my posts directly….Alas, such are the benefits (and costs) of friendship.

    There are seven people in this group and four of them rang this morning with similar criticisms about today’s article: “You seem too intellectually removed from this issue. You need to tell your readers where you stand more clearly.”

    I was eventually persuaded that they were right. So here’s where I stand on abortion:

    I am PRO CHOICE…but:

    I do not believe abortions should be available on demand and unconditionally.

    I believe, for example, that late-term abortions (so-called partial-birth abortions) should be illegal. I see no reason why society should not impose upon a pregnant woman the duty and responsibility to decide whether or not she wants to abort her child within the first trimester (or, at the latest, by the end of the second trimester in extraordinary circumstances). Moreover, I find pro-choice advocates who insist on a woman’s right to partial-birth abortions as fanatical and unreasonable as I find 2nd Amendment (right to bear arms) advocates who insist that all Americans should be allowed to purchase machine guns and bazookas for personal use. However, I believe it’s absurd to deny a woman the right to an abortion in the case of rape or incest as the South Dakota law proposes.

    I believe it’s reasonable to require parental notification before a doctor performs an abortion on an underage girl. However, I do not think such notification should be required if the girl has reached the age of consent (16). Moreover, I think it reeks of the most insidious form of paternalism to require doctors to notify a woman’s spouse before she can have an abortion.

    I hope this clarifies my position on this intensely personal, emotional and resolutely ambivalent issue. Because it’s an issue on which only intellectual fools and religious zealots would claim absolute clarity and conviction.


  • Saturday, March 11, 2006 at 12:26 PM

    American hypocrisy: Dubai pulls out of ports deal…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The day the U.S. declared Arab investors unwelcome in America is a day that will go down in infamy….

    I am convinced that the U.S. Constitution is the most visionary, equitable and effective social contract ever drafted by man. Yet, it is a curious thing that this document grants Congress the power to prevent the President from negotiating a business deal in the interest of national security (as in this case), but denies it the power to prevent him from waging a preemptive (unprovoked) war (as was the case in Iraq).

    Of course, it is ironical that President George W. Bush, the man universally regarded as a provincial dunce in matters of international affairs, seems a lone voice in America today expressing informed concerns about how rejecting this deal not only casts Americans as self-interested bigots on the world stage but also jeopardizes America’s long-term national security.

    Meanwhile, putative cosmopolitan intellectuals like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry are the ones standing at U.S. ports – pounding their chests as they give the boot to Arabs seeking the same business opportunities in America routinely given to all other foreigners. Because, alas, these jingoistic Americans seem to think that Arabs can be trusted only to sell oil from their fertile deserts; not to do business in the U.S.A.

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