• Saturday, February 28, 2009 at 6:11 AM

    If you think those little Indian Slumdogs came to America hoping for an Oscar, think again…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, February 27, 2009 at 4:45 AM

    Donations for TCI victims of Hurricane Ike: a final report

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ike, I was surprised to learn that no relief agency in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) had the facility to accept online donations.  This is why I published a commentary asking readers to donate funds to the British Red Cross for TCI victims.

    But after a number of people expressed misgivings about donating via the Red Cross, I invited them to do so via my website, The iPINIONS Journal (TIJ).

    Specifically, I assured donors that I would collect and transfer 100 percent of their donations to Mrs Lillian Misick, Director of the TCI Small Business Centre, for her to purchase food and other supplies according to her needs assessment.

    However, I was so impressed by the alacrity with which a number of local organizations launched online fundraising drives that I soon felt obliged to publish the following announcement:

    I have decided to discontinue fundraising on this website after only 72 hours because a veritable cottage industry has developed amongst local groups asking for money on behalf of our victims, and I see no point in duplicating (or detracting from) their efforts.  Especially since the government has even appointed a fundraising czar to ‘coordinate’ it all….

    [Report on donations for TCI victims of Hurricane Ike, TIJ, September 20, 2008]

    That said, I am happy to publish this final report on my modest fundraising efforts:

    First and foremost, on behalf of the people of the TCI, I would like to reiterate my thanks to all who donated to this worthy cause. 

    After spending some of the funds on food and water for the victims, Mrs Misick determined that their needs in this respect were being adequately met by the charitable efforts of the owner of a local supermarket.

    Therefore, she informed me that it would be far more prudent to use the balance to replenish educational supplies that were destroyed by the hurricane.  Accordingly, she purchased almost $15,000.00 worth of computers, printers and related items for the benefit of students at the community college, high school and two primary schools on the affected island of Grand Turk.

    Regrettably, the slow repair of the infrastructure on this island delayed the presentation of these donated items until just days ago. But instead of having me describe the occasion, I suspect you will derive far greater appreciation from reading the address Mrs Misick gave at the first of four special Assemblies that were arranged for this purpose:

    Good morning:

    Greetings to all educators and teachers-in-training here in the teacher education department of TCI Community College.  

    As some of you may know, I am a former educator. This is why I am so pleased to be here today to donate the replacement equipment needed for technology-in-education courses in this department.

    Given how the digital revolution is continuing to transform our lives – making the ability to use computers today every bit as important as the ability to read and write was just decades ago – I’m sure we all appreciate how important it is for teachers to be masters of the uses and applications of computer technology in our classrooms. 

    Mrs Misick (far right) with teachers at the Eliza Simons Primary School: (from left) Computer teacher S. Kirkland, Reading teacher N. Taylor, and Principal Mrs Norma Seymour

    That said, I am mindful of the irony of stressing the importance of the internal infrastructure in this respect when our external infrastructure – namely the cable lines that would enable you to make full use of this equipment – remains in such a woeful state of disrepair. 

    Nevertheless, I am hopeful that these repairs will be completed soon so that not only you in this department but also students in their homes will be fully re-connected to the world once again.

    With that, I would like to thank president Julia Williams for her dedication and visionary leadership. 

    But I am sure all of you would want to join me in thanking the person responsible for this donation of the equipment needed to fully refurbish your computer lab.  Mr Anthony Livingston Hall is a TCIslander who lives and works as a lawyer in Washington DC. 

    Just hours after Hurricane Ike devastated our Island, Mr Hall offered personal funds to make food and water available at my bakery for anyone who needed it. His initiative soon led to my working with IGA to set up a more sustainable food distribution network. 

    Students preparing for Assembly featuring Mrs Misick at the Eliza Simons Primary School

    But as soon as I expressed my concerns about the long-term educational needs of our community, Mr Hall launched a fundraising drive that resulted in my having enough money to purchase supplies not only for your computer lab but also for our local high school and two primary schools.  In fact, I’m sure you will all be happy to know that a considerable amount of those funds were expressly allocated to help refurbish our primary schools. 

    Therefore, on behalf of all administrators, teachers, parents and students in Grand Turk, I would like to thank Mr Hall for contributing in such a pivotal way to our post-hurricane recovery.

    Good day and God bless you.

    Related commentaries:
    Report on donations for TCI victims

    *This commentary was also published today at Caribbean Net News and The TCI Journal

  • Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 5:27 AM

    U.S. forcing Switzerland to compromise its hallowed bank secrecy laws

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In a long-overdue move, the U.S. government has finally smashed Swiss bank secrecy laws by prevailing upon the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) to give up the names of hundreds of Americans who have used those laws to evade billions of dollars in taxes. 

    In fact, given President Obama’s declared intent to go after tax cheats (and the banks that harbor them) the way President Bush went after terrorists (and the countries that harbored them), this is only the opening salvo in what is expected to be a sustained assault on tax havens from Europe to the Caribbean. And, suing UBS or any other bank to keep these names secret will be to no avail.

    Frankly, I’ve always been stupefied by the fact that Switzerland has been able to thrive in the international community by laundering cash from narco-traffickers, kleptomaniacs and tax cheats while countries like Columbia (during the 1980s) and Guinea-Bissau (today) have been condemned as narco states. 

    But it’s a measure of the pressure the U.S. government is now exerting on Switzerland that UBS is giving up names despite it being a violation of Swiss law to do so.  (Remarkably, tax evasion is as legal in Switzerland as prostitution is in the Netherlands.)

    Therefore, if you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have used offshore accounts to evade taxes, you might want to plea bargain with the U.S. Department of Justice before the Swiss and other tax havens are obliged to name you as a fugitive – with all of the financial and criminal implications that entails.

    To get a sense of what this development portends, it would be helpful to know that:

    UBS is the world’s largest private bank and Switzerland is the world’s largest offshore tax haven, with trillions of dollars in assets.

    Related commentaries:
    The belated conversion of Hitler’s Swiss bankers

  • Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 5:36 AM

    Obama exudes confidence and offers hope in address before Joint Session of Congress

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere. But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this:

    We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before…

    The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing market collapsed or the stock market sank… In other words, we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election…

    Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

    (Obama’s address to Joint Session of Congress)

    It was a comprehensive and brilliant speech in every relevant respect, which made his critics seem like delusional and begrudging naysayers.  I just hope Obama knows there’s no pleasing these folks. 

    But, for some perspective on this address, I refer you to yesterday’s post in which I presaged much of what Obama said, including this definite passage:

    Frankly, I think Obama has struck the right balance between informing the American people about the serious nature of this crisis and explaining the initiatives he’s undertaking to deal with it.  And this is what I expect him to do in his inaugural address before a joint session of Congress tonight.  More to the point, despite what his critics say, he has been assuring the nation that he’s certain recovery will come … eventually.  And I’m sure he’ll provide more reassurance in this respect tonight as well. 

    [Obama, the candidate of HOPE, accused of being the president of DOOM, TIJ, February 24, 2008]

    NOTE: Am I the only one who finds it irritating that Obama can never leave a room gracefully? Why does he have to shake so many hands – as if he’s working the line at a campaign rally?!  This was the U.S. Congress for Christ’s sake!  In fact, he was still in the chamber, reaching 10 deep to shake hands with other politicians, after every other dignitary, like his VP and even Hillary, had already left.  

    Frankly, someone should inform him that, to preserve the aura of, and what little mystique is left in, the presidency, he should always be the last to enter and the first to leave a room.

    ENDNOTEFirst Lady Michelle Obama is obviously proud of her toned arms; and rightly so. But I do not think this was the occasion to show them off by wearing sleeveless attire more suitable for a cocktail party….

  • Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 5:22 AM

    Obama, the candidate of HOPE, accused of being the president of DOOM

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    One of the more ironic features of President Obama’s one-month-old presidency is that his critics are accusing him – whose presidential campaign was predicated on hope – of not inspiring enough hope that the U.S. will weather this ongoing financial crisis.  And it does not matter to them that Obama is merely honoring his promise to speak truth to the American people about the state of the Union, which, in fact, is in pretty dire straits.

    Even former president Bill Clinton has joined the chorus of those suggesting that Obama’s doom-and-gloom rhetoric is driving the market down to historic lows. 

    Meanwhile, it seems completely lost on these folks that they are the same ones who criticized President Bush for spinning rosy scenarios about the war in Iraq when it was clear that it too was in dire straits. 

    Frankly, I think Obama has struck the right balance between informing the American people about the serious nature of this crisis and explaining the initiatives he’s undertaking to deal with it. And this is what I expect him to do in his inaugural address before a joint session of Congress tonight. 

    More to the point, despite what his critics say, Obama has been assuring the nation that he’s certain recovery will come … eventually.  And I’m sure he’ll provide more reassurance in this respect tonight as well.  But just imagine the deluge of criticism that would be raining down on him if he did not make it painfully clear that there will be some really hard times ahead

    In the meantime though, I do not think Obama should be blamed for the fact that investor confidence on Wall Street is so fickle these days that any idle-minded rumor can cause the market to plummet 500 points in a minute.

    Alas, the fact that the DOW closed yesterday at its lowest point in over a decade will only embolden his critics. But Clinton of all people should know that Obama’s performance should be based more on how many jobs he creates on Main Street than on how much wealth speculators create on Wall Street.

    Nevertheless, here’s proof that criticisms of him in this context have no basis in fact:

    If we do not move swiftly to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, an economy that is in crisis will be faced with catastrophe. I know that people are hurting. I’ve heard their stories, and I’ve sensed their deep frustration. But I also know that these struggles have not diminished the strength and decency of the American people…

    We can write that next great chapter in American history. If we stay focused on the big picture; if we never forget the people who we are fighting for; if we represent the strength and dignity of the American people, then I know we can answer’s history’s call and renew America’s promise.

    (Obama addressing House Democratic Caucus on February 5, 2009)

    So, what more do these Pollyannas want from this honest, responsible and intelligent president…? Indeed, they seem oblivious to the fact that it took George W. Bush eight years to create this mess. Surely Obama should be given at least eight months to clean it up….

    Meanwhile, this financial crisis is bound to hasten the demise of America as the world’s sole economic superpower… But am I the only one who finds it fateful that clueless (white) folks in Washington and on Wall Street are doing all they can to turn this country into a bankrupt banana republic just as voters are poised to elect the first black president of the United States…?

    [Nutjob Republicans…defeat bailout bill, TIJ, October 1, 2008]

    Related commentaries:
    Nutjob Repblicans…defeat bailout bill

  • Monday, February 23, 2009 at 6:21 AM

    And the Oscar goes to? Well, so much for the leaked results … and for my picks

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Sorry Mickey….

  • Sunday, February 22, 2009 at 7:54 AM

    The 2009 Academy Awards: the winners leaked…?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I really enjoy cinema. And I appreciate the attention the Oscars often give to good but relatively unseen films like The Reader. Unfortunately, with all due respect to critics and members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Academy), how much a film makes, not whether the Academy awards it an Oscar, is the generally recognized measure of its success.

    Indeed, it might surprise, if not disillusion, many of you to learn that studios covet an Oscar for Best Picture primarily because – as Sumner Redstone, the owner of Paramount, conceded in a moment of extraordinary candor – it guarantees millions more in box office receipts.

    Of course, there have been rare instances when certifiable blockbusters have also won critical acclaim and the Oscar for Best Picture: e.g., Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Titanic, Braveheart, and Forrest Gump. Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that winning an Oscar is more often the result of a crass PR campaign than of a critical assessment of artistic achievement.

    That said, I’m on record stating rather emphatically how much I detest the Annual Academy Awards telecast. Because I have little regard for preening, pampered poseurs showing off their borrowed frocks and bling-bling as a prelude to a three-hour show – only six minutes of which anyone really cares about (i.e., the time it takes to present Oscars for best supporting actor and actress, best actor and actress, best director and best picture).

    And, remarkably enough, the host comedians do little to relieve the boredom of the interludes between these carefully spread-out moments. In fact, they’ve done such a poor job of hosting in recent years (and that includes you too Whoopi) that the Academy chose an actor, Hugh Jackman, to host this year’s show. Although, I’m not sure why anyone thinks that Jackman performing snippets from Boy from Oz  – the hit Broadway musical in which he played gay entertainer Peter Allen –  will provide this comic relief.

    Finally, to wrap up this cynical post, my annual prediction of the winners in the six noted categories has apparently been frustrated by the reported leaking of the official winners – as listed  above. And, even if this leak is just a hoax, it has still preempted the publishing of my picks in each category.

    So, what’s the point in watching now that even those six highly anticipated moments have been spoiled: another dazed and confused Mickey Rourke acceptance speech…?!

    That’s all folks….

    Related commentaries:
    2008 Oscars

    *This commentary was published originally yesterday at 6:11 am.

  • Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 6:21 AM

    The NY Post fires racist shot at President Obama

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No one has been a more ardent critic of the black-victimology politics that Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have turned into a very profitable business enterprise. 

    But even these firebrands occasionally stumble upon a perceived racial slight that is in fact worthy of outrage and protest.  And such is the case with this cartoon that was published in the New York Post on Wednesday:

    Frankly, not even a card-carrying member of the KKK could deny its patently racist (black-man-as-ape) depiction.  But that it alludes to the first black president of the United States makes this cartoon not only insulting but also dangerous. 

    After all, if the Post indicates that it’s okay to laugh about assassinating President Obama because of his economic stimulus plan, some kook might think it’s okay to assassinate him because of his health care plan, which some right-wing nuts have damned as a treasonous (socialist) manifesto.  God knows JFK, RFK and MLK were taken out for much less….

    It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill. Period.

    But it has been taken as something else – as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism. This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.

    Meanwhile, this indignant “apology” to those (sensitive blacks and liberal whites) who didn’t get the joke is sufficient provocation for Sharpton & Co to picket the Post until kingdom come.

    Though, more importantly, I urge their advertisers and the black professional athletes on whom they rely to generate interest in their sports pages to boycott the Post. Then it would only be a matter of time until it withers away from the streets of New York and is relegated to the wingnuts’ hermetically sealed circle in cyberspace.

  • Friday, February 20, 2009 at 5:40 AM

    Just like “Tricky-Dick” Nixon, “Crooked-Mike” Misick forced to resign

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In the fall of 1973, President Richard Nixon of the United States had every right to feel invincible… Today, Premier Michael Misick of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) also has every right to feel invincible…

    As farfetched as the comparison above might seem, the historical parallels between Nixon and Misick do not end there. And anyone with only a passing knowledge of U.S. history will appreciate not only the dire implications this raises, but also the grave consequences it portends for Premier Misick, for his enablers and, most important, for the TCI…

    Accordingly, I entreat the honourable members of the PNP to follow the instructive precedent set by the members of Nixon’s inner circle – who threw him overboard to save their ship of state.

    [Alas throwing Premier overboard is necessary to save the TCI, TIJ, October 5, 2007]

    A week ago today, TCI Premier Dr Michael Misick fulfilled this prediction I made over 16 months ago by resigning in utter disgrace – just as US President Richard Nixon did in 1974.  I regret however that it took the fumigating intervention of a UK Commission of Inquiry to get rid of him. 

    Indeed, it shall redound to the eternal shame of those who served in Misick’s Cabinet that they did not have the integrity and courage to demand his resignation.  After all, this would have spared us the humbling and humiliating national crisis we’re now facing.

    Frankly, nothing demonstrates the craven, opportunistic and ultimately delusional character of Misick’s ministers quite like the way they are all fighting now to replace him. Because they seem blissfully ignorant of the fact that most TCIslanders just liken them to rats scurrying about on a sinking ship trying to be the one atop the mast pole as it goes under.

    At any rate, I feel obliged to inform Premier Misick that this, alas, is where the parallels with Nixon end. Specifically, where a pardon from President Ford gave Nixon the freedom to travel the world in search of redemption, a similar pardon from Governor Wetherell will not be forthcoming

    Not to mention the lingering fear Misick must have about being caught in a dragnet by US authorities or worse, God forbid, in the clutches of his shafted Slovak creditors.

    Thus, my fellow TCIslanders, even though the Premier’s resignation means that our long national nightmare is (almost) over, it portends a future for him that is fraught with peril.

    So let us pray for him … and wish him well.

    Related commentaries:
    Alas, throwing Premier Misick overboard is necessary to save TCI
    Open Letter on TCI Commission of Inquiry

    *This commentary was published today at Caribbean Net News and The TCI Journal as well.

  • Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 5:34 AM

    A-Rod comes clean about steroids – kinda…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I appreciate the fact that Alex Rodriguez became the first superstar baseball player to admit taking performance-enhancing drugs while still in his prime.  He made this game attempt to come clean during a press conference yesterday at the Yankees’ spring-training camp in Tampa, Florida.

    Regrettably, he injected unnecessary doubt into his confessionby offering the patently fatuous excuse that he was young and stupid, and did not think the juice (“boli”) he was secretly injecting into his butt was illegal:

    I didn’t think they were steroids.  That’s again part of being young and stupid. It was over the counter. It was pretty simple. All these years I never thought I did anything wrong.

    Well, he was certainly stupid.  But he was not young.  After all, by his own admission, A-Rod was a 25-year-old professional athlete when he began taking steroids in 2001. 

    Moreover, even if he was too stupid to know they were steroids, he clearly knew they were banned – having admitted to dispatching his cousin to the Dominican Republic to smuggle them back to the U.S.  And he clearly knew that, by injecting them, he was trying to cheat his way into the Hall of Fame.

    So, for failing to “man up” at his press conference yesterday,  A-Rod belongs in the Hall of Shame:

    Related commentaries:
    A-Rod admits using steroids
    Clemens, McGwire and Bonds lie about taking steroids

  • Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 5:25 AM

    Viva Chávez…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Editorials from around the world were dripping with schadenfreude yesterday as they heralded the ‘first ever electoral defeat’ for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez… Nevertheless, Chávez may yet have the last laugh.

    [Referendum defeat actually vindicates Chávez, TIJ, December 4, 2007]

    I remember well being criticized for sounding this cautionary note whilst other (more-authoritative) pundits were dancing on what they assumed was Chávez’s political grave.  The cause for their celebration of course was the surprising defeat of the “little red book” of constitutional reforms he championed, which were highlighted by an amendment that would’ve allowed him to serve as president for life.

    But the indignation that permeated much of their criticism was probably incited by this commendation I offered Chávez in the wake of his defeat:

    Nothing demonstrates Chávez’s (occasionally-thuggish) regard for the democratic process quite like the fact that he did not act like a dictator … by ordering his military to assault the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who took to the street last week to protest against his reforms.

    Yet my cynicism about his leadership was such that I felt obliged to end this noted commentary with the following prediction:

    [I]t would be reading far too much into this defeat to suggest that Chávez has been cowered. Because I have no doubt that he will continue to flex the formidable powers he retains under the existing constitution to rule Venezuela like, well, a de facto dictator.  And with another five years left on his term in office, it would be naïve to assume that this is the last we’ve heard of Chávez ‘s efforts to codify his socialist ideology and win popular support for his perennial presidency.

    Accordingly, those who were dancing just over a year ago are probably in mourning today. Because, in a wholly predictable redo of his earlier defeat, Chávez won a resounding victory on Sunday on a referendum that will now allow him to serve as president for life.

    It is also worth noting that his earlier defeat did not make Chávez cower in the least. In fact, he continued his Bolivarian Revolution last year by nationalizing the country’s cement industry and largest bank, which were pursuant to a nationalization crusade he launched in 2007 with the energy and telecommunications sectors.

    Incidentally, the Bolivarian Revolution is a process whereby Chávez seizes control of the country’s oil revenues and confiscates private property and businesses to put them all “at the service of Venezuela.”  Concomitant with this, he institutes political and economic reforms to create his version of a socialist paradise … which he hopes to replicate throughout the Americas.

    (Of course, with the feds seizing control of the banking and auto industries through ongoing bailouts, one can be forgiven the impression that a Bolivarian Revolution in now underway in the United States….)

    Now it seems only death by natural causes will prevent Chávez from emulating his mentor Fidel Castro; i.e., by using Venezuela as a laboratory for quixotic socialist policies for more than 50 years … come what may.

    Chávez seems poised to challenge America in ways no one could ever imagine Castro mounting. He has made no secret of his devotion to Castro. But where Castro’s dependence on foreign aid limited his regional influence, Chávez has the wealth of Saudi oil sheiks with which he can not only fund a Bolivarian revolution in his own country but also support similar revolutions in other Latin American states.

    [Chávez replaces Castro as America’s foreign enemy #1 in the Americas, TIJ, August 4, 2005]

    Despite his resources, however, I fear that, just as poor Cubans have little to show for having lived through Castro’s reign, poor Venezuelans will have no more to show for having lived through Chávez’s.

    Finally, I feel obliged to disabuse my fellow pundits of the wishful thinking that the dramatic drop in the price of oil from $147 to $37 will either threaten Chávez’s hold on power or cause him to modify his political agenda.  After all, during his early years of consolidating power in Venezuela, the price of oil hovered well below $40 per barrel.

    Viva Chávez !

    NOTE: As one who still finds socialism politically redeeming, I am profoundly disappointed that Chávez has squandered a golden opportunity during his decade in power to vindicate this ideology in practice.  I have chronicled my disillusionment in this respect in related commentaries over the past four years and invite you to browse them to get a better sense of how this one fits in.

    Related Commentaries:
    Referendum defeat actually vindicates Chávez
    Chávez replaces Castro

  • Sunday, February 15, 2009 at 7:57 AM

    Happy 4th Anniversary of TIJ

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As improbable as it seemed when I launched this weblog, today marks the fourth anniversary of The iPINIONS Journal

    Remarkably enough, I enjoy writing and publishing my commentaries even more now than I did back then.  Therefore, I have no doubt that I shall be doing so for at least another four years.

    I only hope that you continue to find my musings on current events a worthwhile daily diversion.

    Thank you for your support !

  • Saturday, February 14, 2009 at 6:52 AM

    Happy Valentine’s Day…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Frankly, these days, money can buy you love…

    But love can’t buy you a damn thing !

  • Friday, February 13, 2009 at 5:24 AM

    Israeli elections: too close to call between Livni and Netanyahu

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If Livni succeeds (and I predict she will despite Israel’s notoriously fractious politics), she will become the second female prime minister in the country’s short 60-year history. It’s anybody’s guess, however, what her election would portend for Israel’s two most-pressing national issues, namely its looming war with Iran and elusive peace with Palestine.

    But, given that it was [Livni’s Kadima Party leader] PM Ehud Olmert who launched air strikes against Syria (as a dry run for Iran?), bungled a Bush-like ground war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and presided over perennially feckless peace talks with the Palestinians, nobody should expect her to usher in much change in Israeli politics.  After all, just as Americans expect John McCain to continue the policies of George W. Bush [if he’s elected], Israelis expect Livni to continue those of Olmert.

    On the other hand, if that preternatural warmonger Netanyahu becomes prime minister, war with Iran and no peace with Palestine are virtually guaranteed.

    [Livni on track to become Israel’s second female prime Minister, TIJ, September 18, 2008]

    Once again, the Israelis have demonstrated why theirs is the most fractious and vexatious electorate in the world. 

    National elections on Tuesday presented them with a clear choice between parties that would keep the country on the roadmap to peace with the Palestinians (Syrians and Iranians) and those that would take it on a path to war.  Yet the official results are only bound to guarantee more fractiousness and vexation.

    Specifically, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima Party, which favors peace negotiations with the Palestinians, won the most parliamentary seats with 29. Unfortunately, that was not nearly enough to command a mandate. 

    By contrast, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, which utterly rejects negotiations, won 28. But he would have an easier time forming a coalition government with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu Party, which won 15 seats.  After all, Lieberman’s party is not only more opposed to negotiations with the Palestinians than Netanyahu’s; it even endorses nationality tests for Arab Israelis (who comprise 20 percent of the population) amongst other neo-Nazi policies.

    Nevertheless, there’s no telling which of the country’s 12 parties will comprise the coalition government once the horse trading amongst them ends – weeks, if not months, from now.

    But since it falls to President Shimon Peres, himself a member of the Kadima Party, to tap either Livni or Netanyahu to try to form a government, I suspect he will use all of his powers of persuasion in consultations with party leaders to ensure that Livni becomes the next prime minister of Israel. I fear, however, that the prevailing sentiment against her plan to negotiate with the Palestinians is such that Peres will have no choice but to tap Netanyahu.  

    With God’s help, I will lead the next government… The national camp, led by the Likud, has won a clear advantage. (Netanyahu)

    Today the people chose Kadima. … We will form the next government led by Kadima. (Livni)

    Let the trading begin….

    NOTE:  If Netanyahu and his far-right allies end up forming the government, this will lead inexorably to the greatest tensions in the history of bilateral relations between Israel and its indispensable patron, the United States.  And that Barack Obama – who will urge negotiations – just happens to be president at this potentially combustible time will only make those tensions (amongst Israelis) more visceral, if not indignant.

    Related commentaries:
    Livni on track to become Israel’s second female prime Minister

  • Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 5:36 AM

    UPDATE: Zimbabwe forms (improbable) coalition government

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    One of the potential hazards of publishing online commentaries is that it’s very easy for experts on any subject you’re writing about to expose you as an uninformed fool. In fact, I know extremely intelligent people who refuse to even submit online comments out fear of having them undermined by more informed comments.

    Therefore, I suppose this makes what I do here every day either very daring or very masochistic (or both).

    As it happens, however, I am often obliged to publish updates when new developments vindicate my commentaries and make fools of my most authoritative critics.  And I take particular delight in doing so today – in light of the unity government that was formed in Zimbabwe yesterday.

    Frankly, I have never been criticized more viscerally by more experts than I was for publishing a commentary on how the political stalemate, which has beset this beleaguered country for almost a year now, would eventually be resolved. 

    Specifically, I predicted that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the undisputed winner in presidential elections last March, would ultimately agree to serve in a unity government under his perennial oppressor, President Robert Mugabe. This, despite Tsvangirai vowing repeatedly that he would heed the nearuniversal admonition of world leaders to not only insist that Mugabe must resign but also avoid serving with him like the plague.

    By contrast, here, in part, is the admonition I offered:

    Like Kibaki and his ruling party [in Kenya], all indications are that Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party lost close national elections that were held on March 29. Yet, like Kibaki, Mugabe refused to concede defeat, which also plunged Zimbabwe into post-election violence…

    [I]t behooves Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to seek a grand compromise for a coalition government based on the Kenyan model. And they would do well to heed this advice because all political and legal maneuvers to oust Mugabe are doomed to fail.

    [Kenya forms grand coalition: a model for Zimbabwe, TIJ, April 14, 2008]

    Therefore, I consider it a small vindication for me and great hope for Zimbabwe that Mugabe swore in Tsvangirai as (his) prime minister yesterday.

    Enough said…?

    Now Mugabe can afford to be magnanimous. Indeed, I suspect he would be happy to confer the title of prime minister upon his politically cuckolded foe, Tsvangirai; provided, however, that that title is conferred with all of the political power wielded by a Nubian Eunuch.

    [Mugabe swears himself in as president for life, TIJ, June 30, 2008]

    Of course now comes the hard part. Because a unity government in name is one thing; how these two men will share power to govern the country is quite another.  And, once again, they would do well to emulate Kenya, where a similar shotgun marriage appears to be working out relatively well.

    The first priority is to stabilise the economy. The economic collapse has forced millions of our most able to flee the country. This must end today. [Zimbabwe can] no longer afford brother against brother, because one happened to have a different political opinion. (Prime Minister Tsvangirai)

    I offer my hand of friendship and co-operation, warm co-operation and solidarity in the service of our great country Zimbabwe.  (President Mugabe)

    I wish them, and Zimbabwe, well….

    Related commentaries:
    Kenya forms grand coalition: a model for Zimbabwe
    Mugabe swears in himself as president for life

  • Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 5:13 AM

    Open Letter on the TCI Commission of Inquiry

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    My Fellow TCIslanders

    Now that the hearings have ended, this seems an appropriate time to address the frustrations and concerns many of you have shared with me about the conduct of the ongoing Inquiry into government corruption or other serious dishonesty in our country.

    I am especially mindful that your feelings in this respect have been exacerbated by the testimony the Commission extracted from one government official after another during these hearings.  After all, watching these officials walk into the Inquiry room, incriminate themselves and walk out again must have seemed tantamount to watching bank robbers walk into a police station, confess their crimes and walk out again.

    Not to mention then learning that Governor Gordon Wetherell has extended the time by which the Commission should present its preliminary report to 30 April 2009, which I gather many of you regard as an invitation for the alleged culprits to continue their corrupt practices just a little while longer….

    Nevertheless, I want to assure all of you that there is a serene and informed method behind Sir Robin’s conduct of this Inquiry.  And Governor Wetherell’s extension of the time for him to present the Commission’s report is entirely consistent with this method.

    I feel constrained to assert, however, that Sir Robin could not have been any clearer in declaring at the outset and throughout this Inquiry that:

    It is not my job to make findings of guilt or to exonerate those against whom allegations have been made. The most I can do … is to recommend further and more searching  investigations, say, by the police and/or some other public enforcement body with a view to criminal prosecution, recovery of the proceeds of crime if proved and/or consideration of other sanctions.

    Therefore, I urge you to spare him anymore exhortations to “lock the bastards up.” 

    That said, I am entirely sympathetic to the notion that the information adduced at the hearings clearly established probable cause for Sir Robin to recommend the immediate suspension of the TCI Constitution and freezing of the bank accounts of all witnesses who either incriminated themselves or were implicated in corruption; especially since any delay could lead to a squandering of ill-gotten gains that should be disgorged back to the public treasury.

    Moreover, the Commission now has constructive notice of what amounts to a criminal syndicate masquerading as a local government in the TCI.  And this should compel Sir Robin to make these emergency recommendations to mitigate our financial and reputational losses, to say nothing of the growing contingent liabilities of the British government.

    Nevertheless, after suffering so many years of government corruption and abuse, it seems rather disingenuous for us to complain now of irreparable harm because Sir Robin has been granted a few more months to complete his report.   And this is especially so – given that the prorogation of the House and the Governor’s apparent moratorium on questionable conveyances of Crown Land should serve as sufficient mitigation in these respects.

    In addition, I have no doubt that, notwithstanding their unwise and salutary neglect, which in fact enabled much of this corruption and abuse, British authorities are monitoring the work of the Commission vigilantly and will be poised to impose whatever structures and measures are necessary to execute the recommendations in its report with dispatch. 

    [N]obody should be surprised … when the Commission reports that government officials have fostered such a thriving and infectious culture of “corruption and serious dishonesty” … that it would offend all notions of good governance for the ruling PNP to be allowed to continue to govern.

    (The case for an Interim Government in the TCI, by Anthony L. Hall, Caribbean Net News, November 14, 2008)

    As this most recent reiteration attests, I determined some time ago that the only way to repair the damage done to our country (in terms of good governance and respect for the rule of law) is for the British to impose an Interim Government.  And its governing mandate should be to prosecute all those implicated in the Commission’s report and implement reforms to redress the “systemic weaknesses in the law, governance and administration” of the TCI.

    Incidentally, even though I would expect Belongers to be tapped to serve, only foolish pride would cause offense to be taken if seasoned British administrators are appointed to key positions in this Interim Government.  Indeed, I urge Attorney General Kurt DeFreitas to request that Alex Milne, lead counsel to the Inquiry, be retained to assist his office in any prosecutions Sir Robin recommends in his report.

    These interim measures are clearly necessary to reform our civil service and transform the “cross-party culture” that purportedly gave rise to government corruption, abuse and incompetence.  And they must be implemented if we have any hope of attracting the kind of foreign direct investments that will contribute to our sustainable development.

    I am encouraged in this respect by the fact that the British are already putting supervening structures and personnel in place to determine needs assessments and manage disbursements of funds pursuant to a £5 million grant from the UK for post-Hurricane Ike recovery and reconstruction.

    Meanwhile, there is a silver lining in the global financial crisis that is just beginning to reverberate throughout our economy. Because the two years it will take America and other developed nations to recover will be just the interim we might need to prepare ourselves to make more sustainable use of foreign investments and government revenues again.

    All human wisdom is summed up in two words: wait and hope.

    (Alexandre Dumas)

    NOTE:  In previous commentaries I lamented the failure of any minister or senior member of the ruling PNP to lead timely efforts “to throw Premier Misick overboard to save the TCI”. This compelled me to dismiss their belated efforts (including leadership challenges and tendering resignations) as akin to shuffling chairs on the deck of the Titanic. 

    Yet I feel obliged to reiterate my abiding belief that there are conscientious and competent supporters of the PNP whose participation in an Interim Government would be not only desirable but also critical.  In fact, what we need now is a government of national unity, where we eschew blind party loyalties in favor of supporting individuals who can best serve our national interests.

    * This Open Letter was published today at Caribbean Net News and The TCI Journal as well.

    Related commentaries:
    Governor extends TCI Commission of Inquiry
    Throwing Premier Misick overboard is necessary

  • Tuesday, February 10, 2009 at 6:35 AM

    UPDATE: A-Rod admits using steroids; Obama laments

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here, in part, is how A-Rod attempted to rationalize and excuse his use of steroids yesterday afternoon in an interview with ESPN:

    When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day. It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. And I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time.

    I did take a banned substance. And for that, I am very sorry and deeply regretful. I was stupid for three years [2001 – 2003]. I was very, very stupid… I started experimenting with things that, today, are not legal, that today are not accepted… Ever since … I realized that I don’t need any of it.

    And here, in part, is how President Obama addressed A-Rod’s admission last night during the first news conference of his presidency:

    [It’s] depressing news on top of what’s been a flurry of depressing items when it comes to major league baseball…. And if you’re a fan of Major League Baseball, I think it tarnishes an entire era, to some degree…

    The thing I’m most concerned about is the message it sends to our kids… Our kids hopefully are watching and saying, ‘You know what? There are no short cuts, that when you try to take short cuts, you may end up tarnishing your entire career, and that your integrity’s not worth it.’

    Alas, Obama’s remarks about the depressing state of affairs in baseball seem to have drowned out the alarms he sounded about the state of depression in the U.S. economy.  Though, admittedly, this is probably because Obama seems fated to the curse of Cassandra when it comes to the ongoing financial crisis.

    All the same, just as America’s favorite pass time will recover from the scourge of cheating baseball players and enabling team owners, its economy will recover from the menace of cheating financial professionals and feckless government regulators.

    Related Commentary:
    Alex Rodriguez is a steroid junkie

  • Monday, February 9, 2009 at 5:21 AM

    Alex Rodriguez is a steroids junkie … duh!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The world of Major League Baseball reacted with shock and indignation (again) last weekend after Sports Illustrated outed Alex Rodriguez as one of 104 players who tested positive for steroids in 2003. Rodriguez of course is the New York Yankees’ third baseman, the highest-paid player in baseball (having signed a new 10-year contract just a year ago for $275 million) and Madonna’s erstwhile boytoy.

    No doubt this reaction stemmed from the fact that Rodriguez was always so adamant in his denials about taking steroids. Not to mention that, unlike Barry Bonds, he does not look like a juiced up freak; except that Rafael Palmiero exposed this deception when he was outed as a “roider” years ago….

    At any rate, here’s how Rodriguez lied about taking steroids in a 2007 interview with Katie Couric – as special correspondent for 60 Minutes:

    Couric: For the record, have you ever used steroids, Human Growth Hormone or any other performance-enhancing substance?

    Rodriguez: No.

    Couric: Have you ever been tempted to use any of those things?

    Rodriguez: No.

    Couric: You never felt like ‘This guy’s doing it, maybe I should look into this too? He’s getting better numbers, playing better ball … ”

    Rodriguez: I’ve never felt overmatched on the baseball field. I’ve always been in a very strong, dominant position and I felt that if I did my work — since I’ve done since I’ve been a rookie back in Seattle (with the Mariners) — I didn’t have a problem competing at any level. So … no.

    Couric: What’s your reaction to this investigation (the Mitchell Report)?

    Rodriguez: Katie, you’re putting me in a tough spot. These are guys that I’ve played with. They’re my teammates, friends … if anything comes of this, it would be extremely disappointing. And it would be a huge black eye on the game of baseball.

    Couric: It sounds like this (steroid use in baseball) is rampant. According to the Mitchell Report, every single club has a player using banned substances. Did you ever witness, or hear about or even suspect that this was going on?

    Rodriguez: You hear a lot of things. I mean, I came in the game in 1993 and you heard whispers about the 80s and 90s. But I never saw anything, I never had raw evidence and quite frankly I was probably a little too naive when I first came up to understand the magnitude of all of this.

    But before you jump on the bandwagon of those now condemning “A-Roid” to the rogue’s gallery of superstar cheaters, including Mark McGwire, now fated to be excluded from the Baseball Hall of Fame, consider this:

    Steroid use has flourished in baseball and other professional sports pursuant to an open conspiracy amongst players and team owners to feed the gladiatorial lust of fans who want to see stronger, faster athletic cyborgs perform for their atavistic enjoyment. And, of course, the more fans revel in their steroid-fuel feats of athleticism, the bigger the players’ contracts (and even bigger the owners’ bottom line).

    [Baseball’ MVP … is a steroids junkie, duh! TIJ, March 8, 2006]

    Therefore, given that virtually every player of note (in the “steroid era”) has probably taken steroids, all of the talk about putting asterisks next to Rodriguez’s records and accomplishments would require the same to be done with every big name in the game.

    So Rodriguez is a liar and a cheat….   But, given the public scandal he’s made of his personal life (hitting on as many blondes off the field as baseballs on it), nobody needed Sports Illustrated to out him as a steroid abuser to confirm this fact….

    At any rate, let’s hope this “revelation” puts a final nail in the coffin of lies about the routine use of steroids in professional sports. More important, I hope it compels lawmakers to reconsider informed entreaties to decriminalize these performance-enhancing drugs.  After all, like marijuana, steroids are less harmful to the body and pose far less social hazards than alcohol or cigarettes.

    NOTE:  With her “gets” of Rodriguez, Sarah Palin and hero-pilot Chesley Sullenberger, Couric is slowly becoming the brightest star amongst the network anchors.  Of course, no one could have predicted this given the way critics and many of her colleagues ridiculed “perky” Katie three years ago for leaving the soft couch of the Today Show on NBC for the hard chair of the Evening News on CBS.

    Related commentaries:
    Baseball’s MVP … is a steroids junkie – duh!
    Mitchell Report on steroids in baseball
    Rafael Palmiero is a juicer too…?

  • Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 6:06 AM

    Want your kids to be like Mike ?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Legalize marijuana!

    Related commentaries:
    Phelps, 14-time Olympic champion, is a dope fiend

  • Thursday, February 5, 2009 at 5:17 AM

    Former VP Cheney planting seeds to undermine Obama’s presidency

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Nothing demonstrates how strong an advocate former VP Dick Cheney was for the Bush Administration’s universally condemned tactics in the war on terror than the fact that he seems more determined than George W. Bush himself to defend them until the day he dies. 

    Indeed, unlike Bush – who had the decency to return to his home in Texas, Cheney has not only stayed on in Washington but has wasted little time planting cynical seeds in the editorial boardroom of influential news organizations for the inevitable vindication of these tactics. 

    Specifically, in an interview with Politico on Tuesday, he reiterated the looming specter of nuclear or biological attack, which the Bush Administration used to justify all of its anti-terror tactics.  More to the point, however, he warned that the probability of such a catastrophic attack will increase in direct proportion to the extent to which the Obama Administration discontinues them.

    When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry…  Protecting the country’s security is a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business…

    These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek… [I]instead of sitting down and carefully evaluating the policies … Obama officials are unwisely following campaign rhetoric… 

    The United States needs to be not so much loved as it needs to be respected. Sometimes, that requires us to take actions that generate controversy. I’m not at all sure that that’s what the Obama administration believes.

    If it hadn’t been for what we did – with respect to the terrorist surveillance program, or enhanced interrogation techniques for high-value detainees [including waterboarding, which Obama says is torture), the Patriot Act, and so forth – then we would have been attacked again.

    (Former VP Dick Cheney)

    Yet, as patently self-serving as Cheney’s PR agenda is, I fear the seeds he’s planting now will sprout at some point during Obama’s tenure to undermine his presidency. After all, even though Obama is being universally praised today for closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and discontinuing many of the Bush Administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” that praise will surely turn into eternal condemnation if terrorists execute another successful attack on American soil.  And, though diabolically perverse, Cheney knows that nothing would do more to vindicate him and ensure Bush’s legacy.

    Unfortunately, if there is an attack, there’s no way Obama would be able to deny Cheney’s hypothesis.  And it would not matter if such an attack would have been just as likely if Bush and Cheney were still in power with all of their anti-terror tactics still being enforced.

    Therefore, it behooves Obama’s spin-meisters to start planting seeds of their own now to counter this inevitable backlash if, indeed when, America is attacked again.  And they can do this by reminding now complacent Americans about al-Qaeda’s declared intent to launch an attack far more devastating than 9/11 and by explaining why no battery of anti-terror tactics can prevent this from ever happening.

    It must be understood that no matter their collective resolve, there is absolutely nothing our governments can do to protect us forever from such attacks

    [London’s 7/7 attacks, TIJ, July 8, 2005]

    More important, they should reinforce the fact that, notwithstanding Cheney, Obama’s executive order to close Gitmo and end torture has not only enhanced America’s moral, political and military character but also made the country less reviled in the Muslim world, which in turn has made it much safer.

    I have no doubt, however, that, like George W. Bush, Obama would approve the controversial waterboarding method if CIA interrogators insist that it’s the only way to extract information from a suspect to save American lives.

    [President Obama orders no more Gitmo and no more torture, TIJ, January 27, 2009]

    Related commentaries:
    President Obama orders Gitmo closed
    London’s 7/7 attacks

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