• Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 3:38 AM

    Obamas’ Marie-Antoinette faux pas

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Being president of the United States has many enviable perks. But far be it from me to begrudge Barack Obama any of them. 

    However, it smacks of the political tone-deafness that got Bush in trouble over Katrina that Obama sees nothing wrong with commissioning Air Force One (and all of the resources his presidential travel entails) just to fly him and his wife up to New York City for dinner and a play last night.

    Frankly, given his lectures to CEOs about abusing corporate perks in these times of global recession and to ordinary Americans about limiting carbon footprints to help stave off global warming, this trip reeks of extravagant hypocrisy.  Not to mention the insult to DC restaurants and theatre companies that could have entertained them just as well….

    Obama promised throughout his campaign that he would not lose touch with the common folk.  Of course it’s probably easy to lose that touch when one has the world at one’s feet.  Yet I suspect that even Bush – who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth – would have considered this too imperious a gesture … especially just to impress his wholesome wife!

    NOTE: Obama reportedly did this to fulfill “a campaign promise to his most important supporter – his wife, Michelle.” But it should have occurred to them to arrange this “date” when they had other official business in NYC.  After all, Mrs. Obama had already made two official visits there this year….

  • Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 6:09 PM

    Do you think Israeli PM Netanyahu resents having to kowtow to Obama…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    President Obama, thank you for your friendship to Israel and your friendship to me. You’re a great leader: a great leader of the United States, a great leader of the world, a great friend of Israel…

    If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will — will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself.

    If those conditions are met — Israel’s security conditions are met, and there’s recognition of Israel’s legitimacy — its permanent legitimacy, then I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, security and in peace.

    And I look forward, Mr. President, to working with you, a true friend of Israel, for the achievement of our common goals (ph), which are security, prosperity and above all peace.

    This was Netanyahu paying lip service on May 18 to the perennial Middle East peace process —  after what had to be the most “unfriendly” meeting ever between an Israeli prime minister and a US president at the White House. 

    Yet, despite their political differences (and personal enmities), I am convinced that these two congenitally pragmatic leaders offer the best hope for untying the Gordian Knot that has prevented peace between the Israelis and Palestinians since Israel was founded 60 years ago.

    Related commentaries:
    Israel celebrates 60 years…despite Arab odds

  • Friday, May 29, 2009 at 3:25 AM

    French give Queen Elizabeth a royal snub over D-Day observance

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Oh dear…. Quel dommage…!

    It seems Her Majesty The Queen is decidedly peeved that French President Nicolas Sarkozy failed to issue a proper invitation for her to attend next week’s observance of the 65th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy. 

    One wonders, however, whether she is more displeased with Sarkozy for allegedly perpetrating this Napoleonic snub or with British PM Gordon Brown for letting him get away with it.

    Whatever the case, Sarkozy only added insult to injury on Wednesday when ­- in reaction to jingoistic taunts by rabble-rousing UK tabloids – he declared that the Queen was “naturally welcome as head of the British state.” After all, he might as well have declared that if she’s going to raise such a hissy fit about it, then she can come too!

    But nothing demonstrates how much Her Majesty has been affected by this royal snub quite like the pithy, formal announcement Buckingham Palace made yesterday in response to Sarkozy’s informal invitation:

    Neither the Queen nor any other members of the royal family will be attending the D-Day commemorations on June 6 as we have not received an official invitation to any of these events.


    Meanwhile, the French insist that, after issuing a proper invitation to the prime minister, they considered it Brown’s responsibility to give due notice to the Queen and others in the British delegation.  They also note that the British have been rather indignant towards their jingoistic reverence for holding these D-Day observances at five instead of ten-year intervals.

    “Bollocks!” say the British.  They insist that Sarkozy orchestrated this oversight to ensure that the occasion focuses entirely on the Franco-American alliance; and, in particular, so that he can bask in President Obama’s reflected glow all by himself.

    Of course this is all so petty as to be puerile. But the British have a point.  Indeed, here’s how I presaged this scheming among European leaders to court Obama:

    The courting of [presidential candidate] Obama reached a climax in France, where President Sarkozy was anxiously awaiting his arrival like a high-school nerd who scored a date with the homecoming queen.  Though, perishing the thought of being shunned, British PM Gordon Brown made quite a public show of waiting with bated breath for his quickie as a thoroughly exhausted Obama paid a courtesy call at No. 10 in London … on his way back to America.

    [Beware Barack, don’t believe the hype, TIJ, July 27, 2008]

    But the French also have a point.  Because as soon as PM Brown knew of the Queen’s interest in attending this (odd-year) commemoration, he should have procured a proper invitation from the French; end of story!  Therefore, especially given reports that she had already “cooled on Brown because of his habit of appearing late for their weekly audiences,” the Queen is probably more displeased with him than she is with Sarkozy.

    In any event, neither the French nor the British can deny that there would be no fuss if George W. Bush were still president of the United States. More to the point, I suspect it was only after Her Majesty became so enamored with the Obamas during their recent state visit that she decided she would like to be by his side for his first D-Day commemoration as president. 

    Unfortunately, by then, it would have been too onerous for Brown and Sarkozy to make all necessary arrangements for her visit, which “normally take up to six months to prepare” … properly.  Ironically, this fact alone betrays the silly and resentful nature of this cross-channel spat.

    All the same, I am mindful that the Queen is the only living head of state who served in World War II.

    I have no doubt, however, that the French will help her get over this snub by according her due deference – in their inimitable style – in 2014. I just hope Obama is reelected in 2012 to make the occasion complete for her….

    Related commentaries:
    Beware Barack, don’t believe the hype

  • Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 3:30 AM

    California court upholds state ban on same-sex marriages

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I was among those who celebrated last year’s landmark ruling by the California Supreme Court that banning same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.  Moreover, I expressed my hope for the national impact this ruling would have as follows:

    Now, let us hope that old judicial proverb holds true, namely: as goes California, so goes the United States.

    [Same-sex marriages now legal in California, TIJ, May 16, 2008]

    Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed in November when Californians shocked the nation by voting “YES” on Proposition 8 – an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriages. This nullified the court’s earlier ruling.

    Then, somehow, supporters of same-sex marriages became vested with the misguided hope that the Court might rule Proposition 8 unconstitutional. But, as a lawyer, I knew better.  This is why I was not at all surprised on Tuesday when the court was obliged to uphold the ban.

    In fact, the only way for gay marriages to become legal in California, again, is for supporters to launch their own ballot initiative to pass yet another amendment to the state constitution. But it behooves supporters of such an initiative, not only in California but nationwide, to understand that key to passing it is getting blacks to appreciate the categorical imperative of fighting for gay civil (or equal) rights today the way many whites fought for black civil (or equal) rights during the 1960s.

    After all, the dark little secret is that far too many blacks (and Hispanics) are every bit as homophobic as right-wing Christian zealots, which they demonstrated in brazen fashion four years ago by voicing moral opposition to the ordination of gay bishop Gene Robinson:

    What is ironic and, frankly, disappointing about this row [over the ordination of gay bishops] is that blacks are using the same perverse religious and cultural rationalizations to discriminate against gays that whites used to rationalize their discrimination against blacks not so long ago.

    [Blacks rebuke Anglican Church for ordaining gay bishop, TIJ, March 8, 2009]

    In this case, polling data indicated that blacks and Hispanics – who normally vote Democratic Party values (which includes gay rights) – voted with Republicans to pass Proposition 8 by a relatively slim margin of 52-48 percent.  Therefore, if Democratic Party organizers had spent more time helping blacks and Hispanics get over their homophobia instead of pretending it does not exist, I have no doubt that Proposition 8 would have been defeated by a relatively comfortable margin….

    Meanwhile, same-sex marriages are legal in only 3 of the 50 states: Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa, and legislation is pending in two others: Vermont on September 1 and Maine on September 14.

    It should be noted, however, that many states, including California, have domestic partnership laws.  These laws generally accord gay couples the same rights and privileges as spouses in heterosexual marriages.

    This means that the ongoing legal/political fight in California pertains only to the equal right of gay couples to be issued marriage licenses instead of domestic partnership certificates.

    A minor point, perhaps; but it’s their right.

    Related commentaries:
    Same-sex marriages now legal in California
    Blacks rebuke Anglican Church

  • Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 1:16 AM

    Obama nominates Sotomayor as first Hispanic on Supreme Court

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Republican wingnuts just can’t help themselves.  Because they know full well that, based on all academic and professional criteria, Judge Sonia Sotomayor is supremely qualified to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the US Supreme Court. 

    They also know that she will be confirmed.  Not least because she was first nominated to the federal bench by former (Republican) President George H. W. Bush, and was confirmed with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the US Senate. And Republicans dare not risk alienating Hispanic voters any more than they already have by derailing her nomination.

    Nevertheless, they are already casting aspersions on her as an affirmative-action nominee … with a stereotypical Latin “hot temper” to boot.  Never mind that these are the same Republicans who heralded the nomination of Clarence Thomas as divinely inspired; or that liberals can accuse their Supreme Court idol, Justice Antonin Scalia, of acting too much like Tony Soprano in his judicial temperament.

    In addition, like gag reflex, they are spewing out hackneyed talking points about Sotomayor being a liberal who “will make law instead of interpret the Constitution.”  But they ignore the inconvenient truth that this is precisely what conservatives on the Supreme Court did when they gave the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000 in the infamous Bush v. Gore case.

    All the same, in presenting her today, Obama made a point of praising Sotomayor’s “rigorous intellect.” This is borne out by the fact that she graduated at the top of her class not only at Princeton University but also at Yale Law School. He affirmed that she has “an appreciation of the limited role of the judiciary and an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live.” And he noted that she will arrive at the Court with more distinguished professional experience than any justice currently sitting there had when he or she arrived.

    No doubt these unassailable credentials account for the partisan carping by conservatives about her relying too much on her personal (i.e., ethnic) experience in deciding cases.  And, as the preferred model in this respect, they cite Chief Justice Roberts’ facile analogy about a judge being like a baseball umpire – who is only supposed to call balls and strikes – when it comes to deciding cases.

    But this analogy is demonstrably flawed because anyone who knows anything about baseball knows how subjective umpires are in deciding what constitutes a strike zone.  More to the point, if judges were even remotely as objective as these Republicans proffer, controversial cases in recent history would have been decided by a unanimous vote, not by 5-4, which has so often been the case.

    On the other hand, here’s the more intellectually honest assessment Judge Sotomayor gave during a speech in 2001 on the role ethnicity and gender play in deciding cases:

    I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life… Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.

    Unfortunately, white men have become so entitled to having judicial decisions rendered from their perspective that they resent the prospect of people of color and women intruding on this long-settled prerogative.

    Nevertheless, where politically motivated opposition to Sotomayor will make for a confrontational (and entertaining) confirmation hearing, it will do nothing to “Bork” her nomination. Specifically, all of the threats about exposing her “reverse-racism judicial philosophy” will be exposed as vintage political grandstanding.  

    Frankly, her credentials and compelling background, which includes being raised, like Obama, by a single mother working two jobs, make her an ideal choice. And no amount of petty politics can diminish today’s historic occasion of witnessing a truly brilliant president, who just happens to be black, nominate this brilliant woman, who just happens to be Hispanic, to the Court.

    Only in America folks!

    NOTE: There’s no denying that Obama hopes this nomination will quell the restiveness among liberals who have been complaining that he’s governing too much like Bush. Not to mention how much he hopes that it will pacify Hispanics who have been lamenting that his appointees have been almost as lily white as Bush’s. 

    Related commentaries:
    Obama angers liberals by governing too much like Bush
    Justice Clarence Thomas speaks

    * This article was published originally yesterday (Tuesday) at 4:39 pm.

  • Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 5:15 AM

    North Korea’s nuclear test is tail wagging the (US) dog … again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here, in part, is the statement President Barack Obama issued in response to the nuclear and missile tests North Korea conducted yesterday:

    North Korea’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons, as well as its ballistic missile program, constitute a threat to international peace and security… North Korea is directly and recklessly challenging the international community… We will work with our friends and allies to stand up to this behavior.

    Alas, the only thing newsworthy about it is that this statement is almost identical to the one he issued last month in response to similar tests this hermit kingdom conducted.

    Moreover, Obama could well have been reading from the statements his predecessors, Bush and Clinton, issued in response to the nuclear gamesmanship North Korea played on them throughout their presidencies.  After all, for decades now, the bilateral relationship between this little country and “the world’s sole superpower” has consisted of this improbable tail-wagging-the-dog phenomenon….

    What is noteworthy, however, is that the US can no longer mask its fecklessness in the face of these nuclear taunts by claiming that North Korea has more bark than bite; which was persuasive, of course, because its missiles invariably misfired and its nuclear tests invariably bombed.  By contrast, not only did yesterday’s missiles hit their mark, the nuclear test was so successful that its explosive impact was reportedly “on par” with that of the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima.

    More ominous, though, it was not lost on me that North Korea intended to suffuse its serial defiance with grave contempt by timing these tests to coincide with yesterday’s observance of Memorial Day, when the US honors its war dead.  Because the undeniable message the North Koreans delivered — in this ongoing psychological warfare — is that, if the US does not grant them the unconditional (and unlimited) economic concessions and political recognition they covet, then the Americans (or the South Koreans against whom they usually vent their anti-Americanism)  might have more dead to honor on this day than the Japanese.

    In the meantime, North Korea’s determination to remain a nuclear menace to the world will be surpassed only by the US’s ability to conjure up statements condemning its nuclear diplomacy.  But I must admit that, just as US presidents have felt compelled to counter North Korea’s defiant behavior with hollow words, I have felt compelled to comment on their reaction with pointless exasperation.

    Accordingly, I shall end this latest rant on this latest wag-the-dog farce as follows:

    I could barely contain my stupefaction at President Obama and world leaders for wasting time at their summit to fix the global financial crisis to warn Kim that playing with nuclear missiles is not the way to win friends and influence people.

    After all, the record clearly shows his pathology to be such that dire warnings from perceived enemies only embolden Kim’s unruly behavior. Not to mention the fact that these warnings never amount to anything more than hollow words.

    [North Korea…calling the world’s bluff … again, TIJ, April 4, 2009]

    Except, for the record, I should reiterate that:

    The best way to deal with Kim is to let him test fire his missiles without making it seem like an existential threat to the world.  Especially since North Korea has the same sovereign right the US has to test its missiles … and he’ll do so anyway despite (or to spite) global protestations.

    Of course, if he does the unthinkable (i.e. attacks another country or even attempts to sell nuclear weapons to terrorists), then I’m sure Obama will have no difficulty amassing a coalition of the willing, including the Chinese, to take out his little hermit kingdom.

    [North Korea…calling the world’s bluff … again, TIJ, April 4, 2009]

    NOTE: The UN’s condemnation of North Korea is so patently and inherently meaningless that I do not think it worthy of comment.

    Related commentaries:
    North Korea…calling the world’s bluff … again

  • Monday, May 25, 2009 at 8:32 AM

    Memorial Day

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Sunday, May 24, 2009 at 10:33 AM

    Britain’s Parliament of thieves

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On Tuesday, in a resignation more historic and shameful than that of former US President Richard Nixon, Michael Martin became the first Speaker of the British House of Commons in 300 years to be forced out of office amidst increasingly indignant calls for his head.

    The high crimes and misdemeanors that incited these calls revolved around the fact that he presided over a ring of thieves in parliament that would make “Fagin” green with envy.  Specifically, Martin was responsible for ensuring the proper use of the Commons’ expense system. Yet he sat blithely by in his speaker’s chair as MPs pick-pocketed British taxpayers to fund such plainly improper things as mortgage payments on homes already paid for, porn films, horse manure, cleaning the moat of their country estate, glittering toilet seats, and even dog food.

    Who knew that the only swine flu Britons had to worry about was an epidemic of MPs feeding like pigs at the public trough….

    In any event,  now Martin is being not only scalped but also scapegoated. It was not this misfeasance that did him in however. Instead, like Nixon, it was his dogged attempt to cover up these “parasitic” expense claims that sealed his fate.  For the BBC reported that Martin was “the driving force behind repeated attempts by Commons authorities to block details of MPs’ expenses from coming out under Freedom of Information legislation.”

    Of course, chances are that saving Parliament from embarrassment was not his primary motivation.  After all, he could hardly have wanted to disclose the fact he was as conspicuous in his abuse of his expense account as any other venal MP, having bilked the taxpayers for such personal indulgences as taxis for his wife’s shopping sprees and refurbishing his official residence at a cost of £1.7m.

    I have always felt that the House is at its best when it is united. In order that unity can be maintained, I have decided that I will relinquish office of Speaker on Sunday 21 June. This will allow the House to proceed to elect a new Speaker on Monday 22 June.

    (Speaker Martin tendering his resignation in Parliament yesterday)

    To be fair, though, only relatively few MPs have been implicated in this gross misuse of the second-home allowance of £37,000, which was intended “to defray the cost of working in London but living elsewhere.”

    In fact, the vast majority of them do yeoman’s work on a rather modest salary of roughly £65,000.  And no doubt this accounted for their unforgiving outrage against the Speaker and fellow MPs who have tarnished the reputation of this “Mother of all Parliaments.”

    Meanwhile, the grave consequences this scandal portends for the ruling Labour Party are in direct proportion to the great opportunities it presents for the opposition Conservative Party.

    Accordingly, here’s how Prime Minister Gordon Brown (left) is trying to mitigate the consequences:

    I have made it clear to the national executive of the Labour Party that no member of parliament, no candidate will stand for the Labour Party at the next election, if they have defied the rules.

    And here’s how Conservative Party Leader David Cameron is trying to seize the opportunities:

    A very angry public … they want to elect a new parliament [well before they are due by June 2010]. Their view is that swapping one person in a funny black costume for another funny black costume is not actually going to make all the difference.

    All in all, I think Brown’s government will survive … for now. But this latest political scandal has only added fuel to smoldering criticisms about his leadership. More to the point, I declared over a year ago that he does not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being reelected at the next General Elections:

    I shall leave it to British pundits to wax political about the reasons why it took PM Gordon Brown less than a year to lose so much of the gains it took Tony Blair 10 years to amass. Instead, I shall suffice to note that his career as prime minister seems fated to end at the next General Elections.

    [Labour’s love lost in UK mid-term elections, TIJ, May 5, 2008]

    NOTE:  This scandal is expected to usher in reform of the Commons’ expense system that will subject all future claims to Orwellian scrutiny….

    List of dubious expenses
    Labour’s love lost in UK mid-term elections
    Meet David Cameron, Britain’s next PM

  • Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 5:24 AM

    Speaker Pelosi’s misguided spat with the CIA

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Pelosi: They mislead us all the time.
    Reporter: Madam Speaker, just to be clear, you’re accusing the CIA of lying to you…
    Pelosi:  Yes.

    (Pelosi on May 20 insisting the CIA never told her that its agents were waterboarding, i.e. torturing, terror suspects.)

    Of course, accusing CIA agents of lying is rather like accusing them of spying … duh!

    Therefore, this silly spat is far more about Pelosi’s political ignorance and arrogance than about the CIA’s mandated mission, which, in effect, is for its agents to mislead (or lie) to everyone except their commander in chief, the president of the United States. 

    Specifically, it was ignorant of her to make this public accusation; and it is arrogant of her to refuse to “clarify” it.

    But nobody should be surprised that President Bush instructed the CIA to mislead Pelosi (and other members of Congress) about the true nature of the enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, being employed to extract information from terror suspects in the wake of 9/11. 

    After all, he knew full well that it was in America’s national security interest to keep top secret the fact that CIA agents were torturing Osama’s little helpers.  And, given her accusation, nobody can deny that Pelosi has neither the discretion nor the temperament to be trusted with such national security secrets.

    Indeed, never mind all of the hue and cry over the alleged torturing of a few terror suspects.  Just imagine the fallout if the CIA had to brief Congressional leaders like Pelosi with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth every time the president ordered it to undertake “black ops”; especially given recent disclosures about such “family jewels” as the assassination of foreign leaders and overthrowing of foreign governments….

    Of course, Republicans attempting to exploit her ignorance and arrogance for political gain is no different than Democrats exploiting Bush’s for the same purpose….

    All the same, I urge President Obama to end this she-said, they-said farce by declaring that the resolution of it in any public forum would compromise national security (as CIA Director Leon Panetta has now indicated).  He should then prevail upon Pelosi to issue a statement expressing regret for what is just all a big misunderstanding.  Because only this in turn will end the grandstanding by politicians calling for a truth commission (and even an FBI investigation) to determine the obvious; i.e., that CIA agents misled Pelosi, but that she erred in accusing them of doing so.

    Incidentally, Obama is giving a major speech today on national security in which he’s expected to explain his decision to continue many of Bush’s war-on-terror policies as well as update the nation on his plan to close Guantanamo Bay.  Therefore, you might be interested in the commentary I wrote a week ago today, which I concluded as follows:

    I think Obama should cease his political posturing about closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo).  Because, as much as I loathe his politics, Cheney is right here too: 

    Gitmo is a transparently well-run prison; worldwide nimbyism precludes any country taking the al-Qaeda terrorists detained there (most notable in this regard is the irrational, scaremongering, politically expedient, bipartisan nimbyism that precludes them being imprisoned in the US);  and, if they are ever released,  they will certainly launch new attacks on America.

    [Obama angers liberals by governing just like Bush, TIJ, May 14, 2009]

    Related commentaries:
    Obama … governing just like Bush
    CIA exposes some family jewels

  • Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 5:13 AM

    Sri Lankan government declares victory over Tamil Tigers! (End to genocide?)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I should begin by admitting that, as Sri Lankans waged civil war over the past 30 years, I never resolved whether my sympathies lie more with the Singhalese Buddhists who governed the country; or with the Tamil Hindus who claimed to be fighting a war of liberation and self-determination. 

    This was due only in part to the fact that the government enforced a virtual ban on reporting from the war zones in the north and the east of the island nation.

    Because I suspect even the most objective and comprehensive news reports would have left me wondering whether the Tamil Tigers were more like the Contras – who the US supported and regarded as freedom fighters in their 11-year civil war against the Nicaraguan government; or more like the IRA – who the US condemned and designated as terrorists in their nearly 100-year civil war against the British government in Northern Ireland.  Especially since the only thing that distinguished the casus belli of the Contras and the IRA in this respect was patented US double standards.

    At any rate, it’s an indication of how little coverage the Sri Lankan civil war has received in Western media that I was shocked when Tavis Smiley featured guests talking about it on his talk show earlier this year:

    Being the only Tamil in the Western media I have a really great opportunity to bring forward what’s going on in Sri Lanka…  And there’s a systematic genocide going on… I’ve turned into the only voice for the Tamil people … the 20 percent minority in my country.

    (M.I.A., hip hop artist, Tavis Smiley Show, January 28, 2009)

    M.I.A. is a great artist, and we wish her well.  But I’m sorry, I think she is misinformed and it’s best that she stays with what she’s good at, which is music, not politics.  There’s a whole complex situation on the ground.  There’s a group of terrorists, the Tamil Tigers, challenging the government for a long time. They control territory… now in the last two years, the government has rolled them back. 

    It’s a matter of time before they, the Tamil Tigers, are overrun and the entire country restored to normalcy.  The Tamil people are our brothers, our sisters, they live amongst us. And I don’t think there’s a problem the Singhalese have with the Tamils. They do have a problem with the Tamil Tigers, the terrorists, who are, you have to remember, proscribed in most of the democracies of the world as a terrorist organization.

    (Dr. Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary, Tavis Smiley Show, February 18, 2009)

    For what it’s worth, no less a person than British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has acknowledged “very grave allegations” of war crimes on both sides of the conflict, which should all be properly investigated.  But I doubt the Singhalese government will be held to any greater account for the atrocities it committed during this war than the US government will be held for those it committed during the Iraq war.

    In the meantime, I hope the Sri Lankan government is correct in declaring “mission accomplished” after a decisive battle over the weekend, during which it claims to have killed the entire Tamil leadership, including the separatist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

    Prabhakaran’s body is among the 300 terrorist bodies that we captured…  Now the entire country is declared rid of terrorism.

    (Sri Lanka’s army chief, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka)

    Alas, all the Tamils have to show for their cause is nearly 100,000 killed and hundreds of thousands misplaced.  Not to mention the systematic discrimination they’re bound to be subjected to for years, if not generations, to come.

  • Monday, May 18, 2009 at 5:08 AM

    Obama enters anti-abortion lion’s den at Notre Dame…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And, just like Daniel, he comes out unscathed!

    To be fair, there was never any doubt that President Obama would be cheered more than jeered at Notre Dame.  After all, despite the media hype about abortion, he could have begun his commencement address there yesterday by paraphrasing the way he began his speech at the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner a week earlier, when he said:

    Most of you covered me.  All of you voted for me. Apologies to the Fox table.

    In this case, he could have said:

    Most of you disagree with me on abortion. All of you wanted me to be here today.  Apologies to that one rabid soul yelping up there in the nose-bleed section.

    All the same, it must have settled what little nerves Obama might have had when The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, introduced him by conceding that far too much media attention has been focused on the university’s invitation and not enough on the fact that the president accepted it.

    In any event, it might be helpful to recall the seminal speech Obama gave on race during last year’s presidential campaign.  Because he distilled and reconciled (to the fullest extent possible) all of the arguments involved in this most contentious issue like no other politician ever had.  And there’s no denying that he did the same in the seminal speech he gave on abortion yesterday at Notre Dame.

    Specifically, here are the key passages that I believe should settle the abortion debate … at least for the duration of his presidency:

    We must find a way to live together as one human family. And it’s this last challenge that I’d like to talk about today…

    Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son’s or daughter’s hardships can be relieved…

    How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without, as Father John said, demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side? And of course, nowhere do these questions come up more powerfully than on the issue of abortion…

    Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.

    So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let’s reduce unintended pregnancies. Let’s make adoption more available. Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women.” Those are things we can do…

    While we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory – the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.

    Enough said!

    Indeed, nothing demonstrates how authoritative Obama’s speech was quite like the fact that the Vatican has been conspicuously silent in the wake of his pronouncements on abortion.

    Related commentary:
    Washington Correspondents’ Dinner
    Obama’s seminal speech on race

  • Saturday, May 16, 2009 at 6:52 AM

    Cheney: haunting Obama as much as he misled Bush…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, May 15, 2009 at 5:17 AM

    UPDATE: Kenyan judge gives British aristocrat a virtual walk for manslaughter

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No doubt the entire nation of Kenya was watching anxiously yesterday to see what sentence the presiding judge would give Thomas Cholmondeley for killing a black man he suspected of poaching on his family’s sprawling estate.  Here, for the record, is what I predicted:

    [T]he sentence will be closer to life imprisonment than a walk. That is, unless Lord Delamere has already deposited “ransom” money in an off shore account to buy unwarranted leniency for his trigger-happy heir, which would surprise nobody who knows anything about corruption in Kenya….

    [Kenya convicts murdering British aristocrat of manslaughter, TIJ, May 11, 2009]

    As it turned out, Cholmondeley’s sentence was closer to a walk than the life imprisonment he deserved (for this killing and karmic justice for getting away with another murder). The judge gave him just eight months.

    Of course I have no evidence that his father bought this lenient sentence. But shocked and outraged black Kenyans can be forgiven their remonstration that it reeks of preferential treatment:

    The judgement is quite lenient. It raises questions about our judicial system. Robbers have been jailed for life. Even petty thieves get five years. Yet here, someone was killed.

    (Francis Wambita, 45, in interview with BBC)

    What is particularly galling is that, in granting this patently unfair sentence, the judge insisted that:

    There should not be one law for the rich and another for the poor.

    Now, given the mass protests this sentence reportedly provoked in the Maasai community, it remains to be seen if they will execute the threats they made when Cholmondeley was arrested three years ago:

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

    [English aristocrats continue their white mischief in Africa…, TIJ, May 23, 2005]

    NOTE:  Local leaders are now calling for independence for my mother country, the Turks and Caicos Islands.  But to see why I think they’re all full of S#!+, click here.

    Related commentaries:
    Kenya convicts murdering Brit

  • Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 5:20 AM

    Obama angers liberals by governing just like Bush

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In what has to be the most ironic, and potentially implosive, development of his nascent presidency, Barack Obama is being dogged more by criticisms from liberals than from conservatives. 

    Specifically, liberals are simmering with disillusionment over the fact that he has been systematically adopting many of Bush’s war-on-terror tactics, which they, and he, routinely condemned during last year’s presidential campaign.

    Of course, most notorious has been the way Obama has continued renditioning terror suspects to other countries, where they are invariably subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (torture) that he decries as against American values.   But he has also continued detaining these suspects indefinitely without trial, surveilling them (and us?)  via secret wiretaps and invoking of “state secrets” to squash disclosure of these tactics.

    His latest reversal is particularly galling because, only a month ago, Obama reiterated his campaign promise to run a more transparent presidency.  And, as evidence of this, he cited his intent to release additional photos showing American military personnel abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan (a la Abu Ghraib). 

    Even so, yesterday, in declaring that he now intends to block their release, Obama argued, just as Bush did, that the photos had to be kept secret to protect the US troops … because they would only inflame anti-American passions throughout the Muslim world.

    But here’s how the ACLU’s executive director, Anthony D. Romero, expressed the visceral outrage this declaration incited among the long-suffering guardians of his liberal base:

    The Obama administration’s adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president’s stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government.

    When these photos do see the light of day, the outrage will focus not only on the commission of torture by the Bush administration but on the Obama administration’s complicity in covering them up.

    All the same, even though I’m probably among the most liberal of Obama’s supporters, I agree wholeheartedly with all of his flip flops in this respect. Indeed, I stressed as much in a commentary on Tuesday in which I admonished fellow liberals that it is politically naïve and hypocritical to ridicule former VP Dick Cheney’s dire warnings about canceling Bush’s war-on-terror policies. 

    Moreover, here’s how I presaged this split between Obama and the left-wing zealots who comprise the base of his Democratic Party:

    I’m sure the congenitally pragmatic Obama will have a moderating influence on Congressional Democrats, which will prevent them from pursuing a radical, vindictive agenda that could undermine his presidency.

    [Conviction of Stevens bad omen for Republicans, TIJ, October 28, 2008]

    In this vain, I wish Obama would stop using Clintonian spin to explain his adoption of Bush’s policies.  After all, there is no difference between what he’s arguing today and what Bush argued throughout his presidency was a national-security need to keep CIA enhanced interrogation techniques cloaked in secrecy.

    This is also why I think he should cease his political posturing about closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo).  Because, as much as I loathe his politics, Cheney is right here too: 

    Gitmo is a transparently well-run prison; worldwide nimbyism precludes any country taking the al-Qaeda terrorists detained there (most notable in this regard is the irrational, scaremongering, politically expedient nimbyism that precludes them being imprisoned in the US);  and, if they are ever released,  they will certainly launch new attacks on America.

    Enough said!

    Related commentaries:
    Republicans praying for … Osama to succeed

  • Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 5:07 AM

    “Outrage”: outing gay politicians who like to have it both ways

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The only reason I revel in the outing of hypocrites like Sen. Larry Craig and former Rep Mark Foley is that they are professed Christian conservatives who legislate against gay rights during the day, then cruise for gay sex at night.

    [Sen. Craig is not a gay man … OK!? He just plays one in public toilets, TIJ, August 29, 2007]

    This quote explains why I highly recommend you see Outrage, a new documentary film that exposes the closeted lives of gay politicians who routinely oppose gay rights. 

    I share filmmaker Kirby Dick’s outrage against these politicians as well as his indignation at main stream media for not investigating and exposing:

    … how these people have harmed millions of Americans for many years.

    Outrage is currently playing in major US cities.  I urge you to see it at a cinema near you or when it comes out on DVD; especially to ensure that you never cast a vote for one of these flaming hypocrites again.

    Related commentaries:
    Sen. Craig is not a gay man … OK!?
    Rep. Foley caght in his own intern (gay) sex scandal

  • Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 5:33 AM

    Republicans are praying not for Obama to fail, but for Osama to succeed

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    On Saturday night, comic Wanda Sykes elicited awkward, if not disapproving, groans at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner when she told the following joke:

    Rush Limbaugh, one of your big critics, boy – Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails… To me, that’s treason. He’s not saying anything differently than Osama bin Laden is saying. You know you might want to look into this, sir, because I think Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker but he was just so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight.

    Too much?… Rush Limbaugh! I hope the country fails? I hope his kidneys fail, how about that? 

    Yes, that was too much. But even worse, it was not funny!  

    Though, in fairness to Wanda, this ill-conceived jab at Limbaugh was entirely in the spirit of jokes that have been told by other comics, including, perhaps most infamously, shock-jock Don Imus,  who have headlined this annual dinner.  And like all of his predecessors, Obama reacted to this bomb by feigning laughter to appear a good sport….

    Nevertheless, Wanda’s shtick was notable for its unwitting reference to Osama bin Laden.  Because the act of treason is not Limbaugh and his ditto heads, including former VP Dick Cheney, declaring that they want Obama to fail. Instead, it’s their ideological pining for Osama to succeed … again.

    Specifically, these folks are acutely mindful that their Republican Party is now wallowing in the throes of political irrelevance.  And they have clearly decided that its only hope for survival is for the Democratic administration of Barack Obama to fail … spectacularly.

    They know, however, that praying for Obama’s economic policies to fail simply won’t cut it. Not least because, even if the economy is still in recession two or four years from now, arguing that Obama has failed to completely clean up the mess it took Bush eight years to create will not constitute a winning political strategy.

    But one wonders why it does not occur to Cheney that declaring he would choose Limbaugh over Colin Powell as their standard bearer only pushes the party further out on the lunatic fringe of the political spectrum.

    On the other hand, they know full well that nothing would herald the revival of the Republican Party quite like a terrorist attack on Obama’s watch:

    I agree with critics who assert that Obama’s presidency is now doomed if terrorists pull off another 9/11-style attack. Especially since this would stand in damning contrast to one of the only redeeming features of Bush’s purportedly failed presidency, namely, that he protected the American people from such an attack. 

    [CIA Memogate: protecting Americans or betraying values, TIJ, April 23, 2009]

    This is why Cheney is on a mission to keep preaching about another terrorist attack until his self-fulfilling prophecy is realized: 

    They have moved to take down a lot of those policies we put in place that kept the nation safe for nearly eight years from a follow on terrorist attack like 9/11. Dealing with prisoner interrogation, for example, or the terrorist surveillance program.

    It was a time of great concern, and we put in place some very good policies, and they worked, for eight years… I think to the extent that those policies were responsible for saving lives, that the administration is now trying to cancel those policies or end them, terminate them, then I think it’s fair to argue — and I do argue — that that means in the future we’re not going to have the same safeguards we’ve had for the last eight years.

    (Cheney delivering his political sermon on Sunday morning’s edition of Face the Nation)

    Yet, notwithstanding the perverse nature of his mission, if America suffers another 9/11-style attack, I have no doubt that Cheney would be hailed the prophet (of doom) whose warnings should have been heeded.   Moreover, I suspect that many of those now criticizing Cheney would exorcise their guilt by joining the right-wing chorus in criticizing Obama as too naïve to serve as commander in chief in this age of terrorism….

    In the meantime, it only feeds the visceral contempt zealots like Cheney have for Obama that he’s sanctioning in private many of Bush’s war-on-terror tactics he’s still condemning in public.  And even though a die-hard Obama supporter, I sympathize with their outrage.  Particularly since I think the Democratic Party’s obsession with torture reeks of naivete and hypocrisy:

    Until Obama leads the country through seven years without another terrorist attack, I am going to accept President Bush’s [and Cheney’s] word that the “enhanced” interrogation methods and techniques he approved were absolutely indispensable in foiling numerous attacks and saving thousands of American lives.  The proof is in the pudding…

    [And frankly, I don’t give a damn if, by  some subjective application of international law, those methods and techniques amount to torture. After all, it beats the alternative!]

    [CIA Memogate: protecting Americans or betraying values, TIJ, April 23, 2009]

    NOTE: Except for the bit about that big, fat, OxyContin-poppin’ idiot, Rush Limbaugh, Wanda dished out some pretty hilarious stuff. But, ironically, she was upstaged by Obama who gave a performance I doubt even Leno or Letterman could match.

    Related commentaries:
    CIA Memogate

  • Monday, May 11, 2009 at 5:35 AM

    Kenya convicts murdering British aristocrat of manslaughter…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Even though delayed, it now seems that justice in this second case will not be denied. Because, after perhaps the longest preliminary hearing in the history of English jurisprudence – having convened last September, a judge ruled this week that there is in fact sufficient evidence for Cholmondeley to be tried for murder… If convicted, he will be hanged – despite a long-standing government pledge to abolish the death penalty.

    [British aristocrat faces death…for serial “white mischief,” TIJ, July 26, 2007]

    This, in part, is how I reacted when a Kenyan judge finally ruled that, after getting away with the murder of one local Maasai, Thomas Cholmondeley, would be tried for the murder of a second one. 

    His arrest for the first killing in 2006 grabbed my attention because it signified an all too belated day of reckoning between post-colonial Kenya, where blacks rule, and its Great Rift Valley, where expatriates still abide by the colonial presumptions of white supremacy, including, evidently, the presumption that it’s okay to kill a black to save a gazelle. 

    Security guards at the Delamere family estate have been chasing and beating us for simply gathering dead wood for firewood in the farm… This has been going on for as long as I can remember. The situation is so skewed, we feel like we’re still living in colonial Kenya.

    [Sarah Njoya, 31, widow of the man Cholmondeley has now been convicted of killing.]

    Of course there’s no denying my prurient interest in witnessing the comeuppance of this fortunate son of the 5th Baron Delamere.  After all, the Cholmondeleys are to Great Rift Valley of Kenya what the Kennedys are to the state of Massachusetts in America

    Not to mention that his trial conjured up all of the salacious reasons why this expatriate community acquired the nickname Happy Valley – so called for the ‘hedonistic exploits of a notorious group of those early white settlers, among whom wife-swapping, drug taking and gin for breakfast were common.’

    But, as the opening quote indicates, I not only lamented the glacial pace of Kenya’s criminal due process, but also demurred on whether Cholmondeley’s conviction in the court of public opinion would be affirmed in a court of law.  Alas, it was not.

    For instead of cold-blooded murder, he was convicted on Thursday of the lesser charge of manslaughter. This, despite the fact that his only defense for this killing was the same one he gave for the first one, namely, that he mistook the victim for a trespasser attempting to poach prized game from his family’s sprawling estate.

    Meanwhile, notwithstanding the verdict, it is clear that black Kenyans consider Cholmondeley a double murderer to the same degree that white Americans consider O.J. Simpson one. Therefore, even though he’s not supposed to, it’ll be interesting to see if, in sentencing Cholmondeley, the judge not only metes out justice for the unlawful killing of these two black men, but also makes Cholmondeley pay for all of the white mischief his fellow settlers have gotten away with in Happy Valley.

    Sentencing is scheduled for tomorrow, and the judge’s discretion ranges from imposing a life sentence to letting him walk (taking into account the three years Cholmondeley has already served since his arrest).

    I predict the sentence will be closer to life imprisonment than a walk. That is, unless Lord Delamere has already deposited “ransom” money in an off shore account to buy unwarranted leniency for his trigger-happy heir, which would surprise nobody who knows anything about corruption in Kenya….

    In the meantime, I feel obliged to take exception to Western reporters who have ridiculed the slow pace of this trial as typical of the dysfunctional pathology that plagues all of Africa: 

    First of all, just like Kenya, many Western countries can be criticized for the untenable backlog of cases that clog their judicial systems. Though, more telling is the wholly sympathetic fact that technology is so lacking in the Kenya that the judge had to record every word uttered during this trial himself … long hand. 

    By contrast, despite access to all of the technological features that should ensure swift justice, the Italians are taking longer to conduct the murder trial of Amanda Knox; and the Americans took even longer to conduct the recently concluded murder trial of Phil Spector.

    Related commentaries:
    British aristocrat faces death…for serial “white mischief”
    Phil Spector … convicted of murder

  • Sunday, May 10, 2009 at 8:24 AM

    Mother’s Day in times of recession…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 8:49 AM

    The Obamas’ schizophrenic date night

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Forgive me, but I feel compelled to begin with a little gripe:

    Americans take so much pride in their progressive culture of middle-class working women that stay-at-home women are considered little more than latter-day stepford wives. Therefore, I find it more than a little schizophrenic that they are celebrating Michelle Obama’s metamorphosis from a middle-class working woman into an upper-class socialite – complete with a fashion style and calendar of social and charitable events that would make any NYC socialite green with envy.

    But telling little girls to grow up to be like this new Michelle is rather like telling them to grow up to be like Cinderella. How progressive is that…?

    Apropos schizophrenia, am I the only one who finds it odd that the Obamas went out to one of Washington’s most popular restaurants last weekend for a quiet dinner date … alone?

    Particularly since they have the best chef(s) in America at their beck and call in the White House, and it would have been very easy for them to have a quiet dinner alone in one of the many dining rooms there. 

    Besides, I’m sure the live-in mother-in-law would have been happy to keep the kids otherwise occupied in some other distant room. And it’s not as if, like most working couples, going to a fancy restaurant is a big treat for them anymore.

    Yet they took their 50-car motorcade to a restaurant a few blocks away, were escorted to an area that was cordoned off with curtains and had a meal that the White House chef(s) could surely have matched.

    But just imagine the carbon footprint, to say nothing of the traffic jam, this caused. If they wanted to be alone, why not stay home; never mind that most people go to fancy restaurants as much for the social ambience (to see and be seen) as for the food.  And to complete the oddity, details of their private dinner were leaked to the press even before they finished dessert.

    Now, far be it from me to begrudge the Obamas a night out; especially since they claim that “dating” is one of the keys to their exemplary marriage. But I humbly suggest they consider a theatre production, a concert or even a professional ball game next time. At least then it would not cost the rest of us such gratuitous inconvenience.

  • Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 8:34 AM

    Elizabeth Edwards is standing by her man: Why Elizabeth, why?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Like everyone else in America, I was grief-stricken for Elizabeth Edwards when the National Enquirer outed her husband’s extra-marital affair right after he kicked off his presidential campaign in the fall of 2007:

    The reason this was so shocking is that Edwards had endeared himself to millions of voters by presenting himself as a faithful and loving husband who was supporting his wife Elizabeth in her heroic battle against cancer. 

    Never mind that he cravenly used his wife’s illness as a campaign tool to win sympathy and shield himself from any further media scrutiny into his private life. (This SOB even had her all over TV attacking his opponents, knowing full well that none of them would fight back against a woman stricken with cancer.)

    […John Edwards caught cheating on his wife, TIJ, July 23, 2008]

    My sympathy for her turned into dismay, however, when the Enquirer reported that, despite knowing all about the affair, she went on to become his most ardent and passionate campaigner. Now that dismay is turning into contempt as I watch her trying to cast herself as a profile in courage in new memoir entitled Resilience.

    After all, that title is plainly misleading.  Not least because the only thing resilient about Elizabeth seems to be her determination to serve as an enabler not only of her husband’s venal and narcissistic ambition but also of his unconscionable ploy to disown his bastard child.

    I gave up some time ago trying to reason why purportedly liberated women, like Camille Cosby and Hillary Clinton, stand by men who humiliate them.

    [The hypocrisy of Gov. Spitzer’s assignations with prostitutes, TIJ, March 11, 2008]

    But, she is terminally ill. And since I still have a little residue of sympathy left for her, I shall merely pose a few questions that I hope interviewers on her book tour have the balls to ask:

    Why Elizabeth, did you defend your husband’s candidacy like a lioness defending her baby cub even after you knew that his affair could ruin the chance for Democrats to win the White House if he became the nominee?  Particularly since even his senior staff members had enough self-respect and regard for the party to quit instead of participating in such a reckless and fatally compromised campaign.

    Why Elizabeth, are you absolving your husband of blame for betraying you by calling the other woman a “pathetic” person who brazenly seduced him?  Do you not see how pathetic that makes you look?

    Why Elizabeth, as a mother, are you participating in another public farce by helping your husband disown his child?  Do you see that it makes you look like a delusional, doormat of a wife when your only answer to the critical question about his paternity of this love child is:

    I’ve seen a picture of the baby. I have no idea. It doesn’t look like my children, but I don’t have any idea?

    “It”?!!!!  Indeed, what does it say about your character that you have not insisted that he get a paternity test to either put this behind you or suffer the truth and consequences of his infidelity?

    Why Elizabeth, after all the suffering he’s inflicted upon you, are you still standing by your man; especially given that when Oprah asked the simple question:

    Are you still in love with him?

    You could only reply:

    You know, that’s a complicated question.

    Talk about pathetic….

    But if this is your only way of coping Elizabeth, then God Bless you.

    Related commentaries:
    …John Edwards caught cheating on his wife
    Hypocrisy of Gov. Spitzer’s assignation with prostitutes

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