• Monday, August 31, 2009 at 5:21 AM

    Opposition wins landslide in Japanese election

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Imagine the state of affairs in the UK if the Conservative Party – with its focus on business and increasing the wealth of the “haves” – had been in power for past 54 years.  Then imagine the electoral revolution if the perennially hapless Labour Party – with its focus on welfare and reducing the plight of the “have nots” – finally ousted the Conservatives in a landslide.

    Well, this is precisely what happened in Japan yesterday.  Specifically, the perennially hapless Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) handed the seemingly invincible Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) a devastating defeat in national elections, winning 300 of the 480 seats in lower house of parliament.  And it’s nothing short of revolutionary because the LDP has ruled Japan for all but 11 months since 1955.

    These results are very severe. There has been a deep dissatisfaction with our party.

    (Prime Minister Taro Aso conceding defeat)

    To be fair, though, DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama would probably insist that his party has more in common with the Democratic Party in the US than with the Labour Party in the UK.  In fact, one would be hard-pressed to distinguish the “socialist” party platform on which Hatoyama ran from the one on which Barack Obama ran last year.

    Moreover, there’s no denying that the economic crisis that made American voters so hungry for change was equally determinative among frustrated and anxious Japanese voters – who are suffering through their worst economic slump since World War II.

    The nation has voted for regime change… The nation is very angry with the ruling party, and we are grateful for their deep support. We will not be arrogant and we will listen to the people.

    (Hatoyama)

    It should be noted, however, that the cost for Hatoyama’s economic recovery agenda, which includes toll-free highways, free high schools, income support for farmers, monthly allowances for job seekers in training, a higher minimum wage and tax cuts, will do to Japan’s national debt what Obama’s economic recovery agenda is now doing to America’s; i.e., make it explode!

    Meanwhile, given his emulation of Obama’s policies and rhetoric, it should come as no surprise that Hatoyama, who holds a Ph.D in engineering from Stanford University, has insisted that:

    The U.S.-Japan alliance will continue to be the cornerstone of Japanese diplomatic policy.

    And this, notwithstanding his pro-forma declarations about charting a more independent course from US policies. Like Obama, he has also vowed to ease tensions with his country’s enemies, most notably China.

    Never mind that the tensions between Japan and China stem from a perennial schoolyard row, which I commented on previously as follows:

    Japan built a war memorial, the Yasukuni Shrine, to honor its 2.5 million war dead. But included amongst those honored there are notorious soldiers who were convicted of war crimes. This is why the leaders of China and South Korea, where most of those crimes were committed, register official protests every time a Japanese prime minister makes his annual pilgrimage.

    Yet, notwithstanding [the prime minister’s] imperial posturing, no one expects fallout from this pilgrimage to amount to any more than a manageable escalation in the schoolyard row that has been going on between China and Japan for years – over everything for the revisionist history contained in Japanese school books to fighting political-proxy wars to wield greater influence on the world stage (especially at the UN).

    [Japanese PM raises regional tensions with proud pilgrimage to war shrine, TIJ, August 16, 2006]

    All the same, Hatoyama’s pledge to acknowledge (and perhaps even apologize for) Japan’s wartime atrocities is every bit as enlightened as Obama’s apologies for America’s hegemony and his willingness to engage America’s enemies, most notably Iran.  And nothing would demonstrate his good faith quite like honoring his promise to discontinue pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine.

    So here’s to the Obama-like Hatoyama as Japan’s next prime minister. And let’s hope that he faces less partisan opposition in dealing with Japan’s economic woes and aging population than Obama is facing in dealing with America’s economic woes and health care system. 

    Good luck Mr Hatoyama!

    NOTE: Japan provides free health care not only to every Japanese, but also to foreigners. And, naturally, the elderly impose a disproportionate burden on its health care system (not to mention that there’s a dwindling supply of young workers to fund their ballooning pension payments).

    This is why  Japan’s aging population is a major contributing factor to its economic woes.

    Related commentaries:
    Japanese PM raises regional tensions

  • Sunday, August 30, 2009 at 7:47 AM

    Is this any way to settle controversies over gathering intelligence ?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

    Ted Kennedy, lion of the Senate, is dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts marks the end of Camelot – a 50-year period in American politics during which the Kennedy family was treated like royalty. 

    And no one was more acutely aware that this end would come with his death than Kennedy himself.  No doubt this is why he made such a royal show of passing his family’s proverbial torch to Barack Obama at last summer’s Democratic National Convention.

    But I am sensible enough to realize that nothing I write on this occasion can possibly compete with the media saturation of eulogies to this man – who was revered as the lion of the US Senate because of the unprecedented and unparalleled influence he wielded over that august chamber. 

    Never mind the irony that he never achieved the one legislative objective that he always insisted was the cause of his life; namely, making health care available for all Americans, not as a privilege but as a fundamental right.

    Therefore, I shall suffice to reprise the tribute I wrote 15 months ago when he was first diagnosed with the terminal cancer that finally claimed him on Tuesday night:

    _____________________________________________________

    A prayer for Ted Kennedy

    Given the way his political friends (and enemies) were eulogizing him in Washington yesterday, one can be forgiven the impression that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass) had just passed away.

    To be sure, after suffering two seizures over the weekend, Kennedy (76) is now fighting for his life. After all, doctors have diagnosed him with a malignant brain tumor called glioma that experts say will kill him within “one or five years…or more.”

    And I have no doubt that some of the emotional outpouring from his colleagues was genuinely felt. Indeed, how can one not be moved by the sight of wheelchair-bound, 90-year old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va) – the only senator who has served longer than Kennedy – crying uncontrollably as he prayed on the floor of the US Senate:

    My dear, dear friend, dear friend, Ted Kennedy. Keep Ted here for us and for America…Ted, Ted, my dear friend, I love you and I miss you.

    Of course, I too pray for him and his family as they cope with this medical “death sentence.” Never mind the irony of Kennedy himself declaring a “national war on cancer” in a Senate hearing just weeks ago and, more to the point, that “cancer is no longer the automatic death sentence that it was.”

    Moreover, there’s no denying that he will be missed – given his role as the champion of such worthy causes as workers’ rights, civil rights for illegal immigrants and health care reform during his 45 years in the Senate.

    But I’m mindful that Kennedy is the last of four brothers whose family life played out on the world stage like a Greek tragedy. After all, this is a man who was born into the wealth and privilege his father Joe amassed through various business and stock-trading schemes of doubtful legality, including reportedly peddling booze during Prohibition. Yet his life is noted more for its tragedies than for his accomplishments.

    For example, his eldest brother, Joseph (not pictured), died in a World War II plane crash; another brother, President John F. Kennedy (right), was assassinated in 1963; and yet another, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (left), was assassinated in 1968.

    Not to mention the untimely deaths of two of his nephews: Michael in a skiing accident in 1997 and JFK Jr in a plane crash in 1999; or the notorious Palm Beach rape trial of yet another, William Kennedy Smith, which stemmed from a night of boozing with “Uncle Ted” and at which he was compelled to testify as the star witness for the defense.

    Then, of course, there are the alcohol-fueled tragedies of his own making, most notably, causing the death of one of his young campaign workers in 1969 when he drove his car off a bridge to Chappaquiddick island (in Massachusetts), then fled the scene and did not call for help until the next day. (He got off by wearing a neck brace and pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, for which he received an indulgent two-month suspended jail sentence.)

    All the same, my personal feelings about Kennedy can be summed up as follows:

    This “liberal lion” and champion of civil rights was purportedly so disgusted by the way the Clintons were playing the race card in this year’s presidential campaign that he felt morally compelled to endorse Barack Obama.

    Yet this is the same man who called a black female judge, Janice Rogers, an ape (a Neanderthal) because he deemed her judicial opinions too conservative.

    Then there’s the fact that he cared so little about party unity that he challenged a sitting Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, in 1980. And when he ended up in Hillary’s current position (as the vanquished Democratic nominee), he not only refused to get out of the race but even refused to shake Carter’s hand at the convention after Carter was declared the nominee.

    Yet this is the same man who is now calling on Hillary to do the right thing by getting out of the race before the convention while insinuating that Obama should not even consider her as a running mate in the interest of party unity….

    But despite it all, this is a man whose commitment to public service is every bit as legend as the manor to which he was born.

    Get well Teddy….

    May 21, 2008

    __________________________________________________

    Now that all has been said and done, that Ted was the only Kennedy brother who lived to be a senior citizen is a testament to how truly blessed he was.

    Farewell Teddy

    Related Articles:
    A prayer for Ted Kennedy
    Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics, is dead
    Kennedy leads fight for immigration reform
    Kennedy endorses Obama
    Kennedy calls Bush nominee an ape

  • Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 5:21 AM

    Change … of mind: Obama investigates the CIA

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s bullshit. It’s disgraceful. You wonder which side they’re on. It’s a total breach of faith, and either the president is intentionally caving to the left wing of his party or he’s lost control of his administration.  It’s a declaration of war against the CIA, and against common sense.

    You will have thousands of lives that will be lost, and the blood will be on Eric Holder’s hands.

    This was how Congressman Peter King of New York reacted to President Obama’s announcement on Monday that he’s allowing Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate CIA interrogators after all.   

    And King’s profane reaction will resonate; not least because he’s the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security and a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

    Not to mention that it echoes the anti-terror gospel former Vice President Dick Cheney has been proselytizing ever since Obama was inaugurated. 

    In fact, Cheney is now claiming that recently declassified CIA documents vindicate the Bush administration’s authorization of the enhanced interrogation techniques (aka torture) that the Obama administration now seems intent on criminalizing:

    The documents released Monday clearly demonstrate that the individuals subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al Qaeda. This intelligence saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks…

    The activities of the CIA in carrying out the policies of the Bush Administration were directly responsible for defeating all efforts by al Qaeda to launch further mass casualty attacks against the United States. The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions. President Obama’s decision to allow the Justice Department to investigate and possibly prosecute CIA personnel, and his decision to remove authority for interrogation from the CIA to the White House, serves as a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this Administration’s ability to be responsible for our nation’s security.

    Frankly, no matter what moral or legal justification Obama proffers for ordering this investigation, it reeks of political pandering to the left-wing nuts in his party. After all, no less a person than Obama himself insisted just months ago (after being fully briefed as president) that such an investigation would serve no purpose, but would have a chilling effect on CIA operatives.

    The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world… We must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs. This is a time for reflection, not retribution.

    In fact, this was the assurance Obama gave CIA operatives in April after releasing Bush administration memos graphically detailing all of the controversial, if not illegal, techniques they used to extract information from terror suspects. 

    And he clearly knew then that he was according them the notorious defense Nazi soldiers invoked; namely, that they should not face criminal prosecutions because they were simply obeying orders.

    Incidentally, this political exercise would have some merit if Obama had the balls to go after Bush and Cheney – the men who ordered the interrogation techniques now under investigation.

    But fallout from betraying his word to CIA operatives should be the least of his concerns – as I warned in an earlier commentary:

    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. 

    Until Obama leads the country through seven years without another terrorist attack, I am going to accept President Bush’s word that the enhanced interrogation 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 techniques amount to torture. It certainly beats the alternative!

    [CIA Memogate: protecting the American people or betraying American values, TIJ, April 23, 2009]

    I remain an ardent Obama supporter. But there’s no denying that his flip flop on this issue reeks of the politicization of national security he always condemned Bush for engaging in.

    Related commentaries:
    CIA Memogate
    …Cheney wishing for US to be attacked
    Speaker Pelosi accuses CIA of lying to Congress

  • Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 5:19 AM

    A wannabe Nefertiti

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Above left is a picture of the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti of Egypt, who is regaled as one of the most beautiful women who ever lived.  The bust is part of the Agyptisches Museum Berlin collection.

    Above right is a picture of a British woman, Nileen Namita, made up to look like Nefertiti. 

    So what, you say.

    Well, I came upon this story yesterday, appropriately enough, in the “Odd News” section of China view.  For what is odd about it is that Nileen’s look is not merely the result of a skilled makeup artist – as one might suspect.

    Instead it is the result of 51 plastic surgeries over the past 22-years at a cost of $328,000, which Nileen underwent because she believes she was Nefertiti in a past life. And if her surgeon had not botched the eye lift, her resemblance (in full makeup and regalia) to Nefertiti would have been uncanny.

    But Nileen has an even greater problem because, unless she did all of this to be the center of attention at costume parties, she has failed spectacularly.  After all, here’s what she looks like without her Nefertiti makeup and regalia:

    Not to mention the disappointment she must have felt when eminent art historian Henri Stierlin published irrefutable evidence earlier this year showing that this bust, which Nileen and others believe is 3,400 years old, only dates back to 1912. This should hardly be surprising though since many equally eminent historians have long insisted that Nefertiti was black.

    Poor misguided Nileen; and we thought Michael Jackson had a wacko obsession with plastic surgery…

  • Monday, August 24, 2009 at 5:16 AM

    Release of Lockerbie bomber: compassion v. justice

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is the notorious Libyan who was convicted in 2001 of taking part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988.  The explosion occurred over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, two-thirds of them American. Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison.

    Nevertheless, Scottish authorities released him on compassionate grounds last Thursday – after determining that he was suffering terminal prostate cancer and had less than three months to live.

    But this merely incited outrage in America. In fact, members of the preternaturally diplomatic Obama administration damned Megrahi’s release as a mockery of justice; no doubt, in part, because of reports that it was linked to oil and gas deals with Libya:

    I have made it a practice not to comment on the actions of other prosecutors. Your decision to release Megrahi causes me to abandon that practice in this case. I do so because I am familiar with the facts, and the law… And I do so because I am outraged at your decision, blithely defended on the grounds of ‘compassion.’

    Your action [gives] comfort to terrorists around the world [and] makes a mockery of the grief of the families who lost their own on December 21, 1988… Where, I ask, is the justice?

    (FBI Director Robert Muller in a letter to Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill)

    Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi then added insult to the Americans’ outrage by defying President Obama’s very public plea not to give Megrahi a hero’s welcome upon his return home.

    In fact, he was greeted at the airport by thousands – most notable amongst them Gaddafi’s heir apparent – hailing Megrahi like a conquering hero. Some of them even waved the Scottish flag as if to suggest that their defiance reflected a new Scottish-Libyan alliance.

    But here’s why I say a plague on both their houses:

    On the one hand, it is utterly incomprehensible and unsustainable for Scottish authorities to maintain that a man they convicted of killing 270 people was deserving of compassionate release regardless of the inherent insult not only to the memory of his victims but also to the lingering grief of their families.

    Indeed, notwithstanding his alleged illness, Megrahi’s release is such an affront to common sense that I’m inclined to believe that the Scots released Megrahi for the same reason many believe the Americans invaded Iraq: oil.

    (It only fueled speculation about a quid pro quo when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi praised British PM Gordon Brown, himself a Scotsman, as a “courageous friend” for facilitating this release.)

    While on the other hand, it reflects the oxymoronic mixture of hubris and naiveté that afflicts all American presidents (and far too many American citizens) that Obama felt he could dictate how the Libyans should welcome Megrahi home.  Especially since he knows full well that most Libyans believe Megrahi was scapegoated for a terrorist attack that was probably orchestrated by the Iranians….

    But, barring incontrovertible evidence that he was wrongly convicted, I would have been quite happy to see Megrahi rot in jail.  After all, if not him for this crime, then who for what crime…?

    I am sensible enough to appreciate, however, that incurring the moral wrath of the Americans for releasing him was a small price to pay for sweetheart oil deals with Libya.  And I hope reports about those deals are true….

    I just wish Scottish authorities did not insult our intelligence by citing compassion as their justification for releasing this mass murderer; especially since they have refused to show similar compassion for many other convicts who are (or were) relatively more worthy.

    Meanwhile, despite the Americans’ indignant rhetoric and feelings of betrayal, this episode will have no impact on the “special relationship” between the US and the UK. (There will be lots of hysterical reporting though about mostly feckless attempts to boycott British goods.) Nor will it put the thawing relationship between the US and Libya back on ice: Obama’s all about courting insufferable rogues like Gaddafi, remember…?

    Also, don’t be surprised if Megrahi lives well beyond the three months he purportedly has to live … all praise be to Allah!

  • Sunday, August 23, 2009 at 7:16 AM

    An illustration of the moronic and self-defeating thinking that is driving the healthcare debate:

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Saturday, August 22, 2009 at 5:55 AM

    Obama says Public Option is only a “sliver” of his healthcare reform…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Therefore, it makes sense that he’d want to kill it – given all the trouble it’s causing him, right?

  • Friday, August 21, 2009 at 7:09 AM

    Gender-blending South African athlete pilloried at Worlds

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    There have only been a few cases of androgynous men competing as women in international competition.  The most notorious of course was Polish sprinter Stanislawa Walasiewicz who won the women’s 100m at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, but was found to have a “partially developed male genitalia” after her death in 1980.

    With all of the testing and media scrutiny today, however, it seems incomprehensible that anyone would even attempt, let alone get away with, such a gender-bending feat.  Yet this is precisely what many are accusing South African Caster Semenya, 18, of doing on Wednesday – after she blew away the field in the women’s 800m final at the World Track and Field Championships in Berlin.

    In fact, reports on this controversy – mostly propagating doubts about Semenya’s gender – replaced the superhuman performance of Jamaican Usain Bolt as the talk of these championships … for a day at any rate.

    Admittedly, after being awed by Semenya’s performance (which I saw when the race was rebroadcast on Wednesday night), I too became transfixed by her appearance as she celebrated her victory.  I even remarked, purely in jest, that if her coach had instructed her to shave her armpits, legs and facial hair, she might have clocked an ever faster time….

    But it never occurred to me that I had just watched a man in drag racing against women.  This is why I was so stunned the next morning by reports that complaints about her performance at a competition just weeks ago compelled IAAF officials to order her to take a gender test.  And that it was only because the results would not be confirmed for several more weeks that they allowed her to compete at these championships.

    What I find stupefying, however, is that the complaints relate entirely to her “muscular appearance.”  After all, I took this for granted; not least because she is no more muscular than many of the other female athletes.

    Moreover, given how pervasive steroids are in sports today, I would have understood if the complaints were that only testosterone could account for the sudden improvement in her performance and for her muscular appearance; not to mention her facial and body hair.

    But the accusation that she might be a he, strikes me as not only farfetched but also unnecessarily cruel.  For let us not forget that this is an 18-year old being held up to this scrutiny, which has now robbed her of the thrill of victory and heaped unprecedented embarrassment upon her and national shame upon South Africa.  And only God knows what long-term psychological damage she will suffer…

    If you go at my home village and ask any of my neighbours, they would tell you that Mokgadi [Caster Semenya] is a girl… They know because they helped raise her. People can say whatever they like but the truth will remain, which is that my child is a girl. I am not concerned about such things.

    Meanwhile, this is how Caster’s mother Dorcus Semenya reacted, suggesting that questions about her daughter’s gender are “motivated by jealousy.” I agree.

    Frankly, I don’t know why the IAAF could not have disposed of these complaints by just having a nurse examine Semenya; since, for the purpose of sports competition, genitalia should be determinative.

    After all, it’s doubtful that she’s had a sex change. And even if the test finds abnormalities in her chromosomal and hormonal makeup, this should not disqualify her gender identity … or her performance.

    That said, it would be remiss of me to end this commentary without hailing the remarkable accomplishment of Jamaican athletes who outperformed all others, including the Americans, in all of the marquee events of these championships.

    Of course, what else can I say about Usain Bolt; except to note that he vindicated my prediction over that of Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago. Specifically, in his capacity as television commentator for NBC and Versus TV, Boldon predicted that Bolt would not set another world record in yesterday’s 200m final because he had neither the motivation nor the competition to do so.

    By contrast, here’s what I predicted:

    [H]e seemed to run yesterday as fast as humanly possibly (in this era) … without the aid of performance enhancing drugs.  And, having lowered the record by the greatest margin ever in one race (from 9.69 to 9.58 [or by .11]), I doubt he’ll ever cross the 100m finish line in 9.40.

    Though, in the meantime, I fully expect him to lower the world record he set in the 200m in Beijing (of 19.30) by a similar margin later this week.

     [Usain Bolt: an even faster fastest man on the planet, TIJ, August 17, 2009]

    In fact, Bolt crossed the finish line in 19.19, lowering his world record by .11 seconds – just as I predicted.  I think I’ll play the lottery this weekend…

    Related commentaries:
    Usain Bolt: an even faster fastest man

  • Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 5:41 AM

    UBS caves to IRS demands to out wealthy American tax cheats

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    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. 

    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

    [US forcing Swiss to give up its hallowed bank secrecy laws, TIJ, February 26, 2009]

    This was the indignant note I sounded earlier this year when bank officials from UBS, the biggest bank in Switzerland, insisted that disclosing the account details of wealthy Americans suspected of tax evasion was against Swiss law and deleterious to the country’s strategic economic interests.

    Therefore, I was heartened yesterday by reports that UBS has finally agreed to out about 5000 American clients, with accounts totaling $18 billion, pursuant to an unprecedented tax information exchange agreement between Switzerland and the US.  

    But the real story here is that about 5000 Americans reportedly heeded my advice to plea bargain before it was too late.  And even though they will be required to pay back taxes, they will probably escape prosecution.

    By contrast, all of those whose account details are turned over under subpoena, effectively, will face significant tax penalties and criminal prosecution.  And the IRS estimates that the Swiss will eventually provide such information on as many as 50,000 Americans….

    Today Switzerland; but other tax havens, like the Cayman Islands, will undoubtedly be forced to comply with similar requests for account information from the IRS.

    So tax cheats, beware….

    Related commentaries:
    US forcing Swiss to give up its hallowed bank secrecy laws

  • Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 5:24 AM

    The narcissistic search for signs of other life in the universe

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    We were treated this week to yet another Star-Trekky report by NASA scientists about other planets in the universe that “contain all of the elements we need for life.”

    But I’ve always felt that this quest for signs of life in the universe was fraught with the misguided notion that the solar system revolves, not around the Sun, but around us here on Earth. 

    Indeed, it seems a profound reflection of human narcissism that life on other planets must contain all of the elements WE need for life.  After all, it’s entirely possible that other planets are already inhabited by beings whose needs for “life” are entirely different from ours.  

    Moreover, if we have Columbus-like designs on colonizing any of them, we might be met by natives who won’t be as welcoming, gullible and vulnerable as the Indians.

    So earthlings, beware….

  • Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 5:14 AM

    Ex-con Michael Vick returns to the NFL

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Two years ago today, when Michael Vick copped a plea to charges stemming from his dog-fighting operation, I wrote that six months in prison and a $250,000 fine would be a fair sentence

    I reasoned that, if he did any time at all, he would forfeit at least one season’s pay on his NFL contract, which would be tantamount to an additional $10 million fine. Moreover, that only when the millions more in lost endorsements were factored in would one get a true assessment of his punishment.

    As it happened, Vick spent two years in prison and forfeited his $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons, which forced him to declare bankruptcy. 

    Now, as part of his continuing rehabilitation (or punishment), he has pledged to deliver public confessionals about his crime – as spokesman for the Humane Society’s anti-dogfighting campaign – for the rest of his career.

    Hell, they don’t even subject rapists and murderers to this kind of post-incarceration penance, which makes the notion that, beyond all this, he still owes a debt to society abject nonsense.

    I wish that some of this public outcry against Vick for abusing dogs would be heaped upon other professional athletes for routinely abusing women….

    [Vick, dog-fighting fiend, cops a plea, TIJ, August 21, 2007]

    I also wrote back then that all of the talk about Vick being banned from the NFL for life was naïve bullshit:

    Let me hasten to disabuse you of any doubt about Vick’s football career. Because the only question is: which team will offer him the most lucrative contract once he pays his debt to society.

    This is why I was not at all surprised when he signed a two-year, seven-million dollar contract with the Philadelphia Eagles last week. And it will not surprise me if, after this probationary period, he becomes one of the highest paid (and most popular) players in the league again.

    I welcome him back! And I hope he has the good sense not to blow this second chance at fame and fortune….

    Related commentaries:
    Vick, dog-fighting fiend, cops a plea

  • Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at 5:33 AM

    Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, is dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Given the iconic legacies of her older brothers JFK and RFK, and the political career of her younger brother Sen Edward M. Kennedy, it would have been understandable if Eunice Shriver Kennedy shied away from public service.  And, had it not been for the mental retardation of one of her sisters, she might have.

    For reports are that, after witnessing the way her institutionalized sister, Rosemary, came to life whenever she was given special attention and care, Shriver became convinced that the conventional way of treating people with mental disabilities (namely, by simply warehousing them) was cruel and inhumane. 

    This revelation led her in the 1950s, as vice president of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, to direct some of her family’s resources from Catholic charities to research on the causes and proper treatment of mental retardation.

    The truth is that 75 to 85 percent of the retarded are capable of becoming useful citizens with the help of special education and rehabilitation. Another 10 percent can learn to make small contributions, not involving book learning, such as mowing a lawn or washing dishes.

    This is the way Shriver expressed her visionary approach in a “groundbreaking article in the Saturday Evening Post” 1962; and it has been the basis for the treatment of people with mental disabilities ever since. Indeed, my sister-in-law Dr Barbara Hall, a dedicated special education professional, can attest to this fact.

    But she did not win widespread appreciation until she showcased this approach at the first Special Olympics in 1968, which was held at Soldier Field in Chicago and involved 1,000 participants from 26 states and Canada.

    Today, of course, the Special Olympics is even bigger than the YMCA, providing year-round sports programs for over 2.5 million mentally disabled people in 180 countries. 

    What proof have they got that as a group of people they can’t take losing? Who?  Where does it come from, that idea? Somebody cries because they lose? I can tell you 50 people who cry — I go and watch my own kids cry when they lose.

    This is the self-evident and personal way Shriver debunked the myth that competition and losing would cause irreparable harm to the psyches of disabled people during a 1987 interview with the Washington Post.

    Shriver received many honors for her public service, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, which President Ronald Reagan awarded her in 1984.

    She is survived by five children, including Maria Shriver, wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and her husband Sargent, himself a pioneer in public service as the founding director of the Peace Corps.

    Shriver died a week ago today at Cape Cod hospital in Hyannis, Massachusetts after suffering a series of strokes.  She was 88.

    Farewell Eunice

    Related Commentaries:
    A prayer for Sen Kennedy

  • Monday, August 17, 2009 at 5:16 AM

    Usain Bolt: an even faster fastest man on the planet

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yesterday, a year to the day after he shattered the world record in the 100m at the Beijing Olympics, Usain Bolt of Jamaica did it again in even more impressive fashion at the Track and Field World Championships in Berlin. 

    The race was billed as a showdown between bolt and Tyson Gay of the United States who missed the Olympics due to injury, but who (coming into these championships) had clocked the fastest time in the world this year.

    Given the clownish ease he displayed in winning at the Olympics, however, I knew nobody could beat Bolt but himself:

    [E]ven though immensely impressed by and proud of his victory, I agree with my Caribbean compatriots who lamented his aping black-American sprinters by showboating across the finish line.  After all, had [Bolt] maintained his form, that 9.69 could easily have been a 9.50…. Idiot!

    [Beijing Olympics, TIJ, Aug 16, 2008]

    As it happened, Bolt saved his showboating until after he crossed the finish line in a new world record of 9.58. And since Usain bolted right from the start, Gay (who really should append an “e” to his name as Marvin) never really challenged him

    Yet Gay can derive some consolation from the fact that he clocked his fastest time ever of 9.71 for a respectable second-place finish. Bolt’s teammate, Asafa Powell, was third.

    I don’t run for world records. I know I said 9.40.  You never know. I’ll just keep on working.

    This was Bolt’s tongue-in-check reflection on his historic performance. 

    But he seemed to run yesterday as fast as humanly possible (in this era) … without the aid of performance enhancing drugs.  And, having lowered the record by the greatest margin ever in one race (from 9.69 to 9.58), I doubt he’ll ever cross the 100m finish line in 9.40.

    Though, in the meantime, I fully expect him to lower the world record he set in the 200m in Beijing (of 19.30) by a similar margin later this week.

    Related commentaries:
    Beijing Olympics

  • Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 8:02 AM

    Town Hall meetings show that far too many Americans are just like the boisterous fools who appear on Jerry Springer…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    But it’s a testament to his charisma and influence that, despite exhortations by talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh to disrupt them, President Obama’s Town Hall meetings all come off like airings of the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show’.

  • Friday, August 14, 2009 at 5:42 AM

    Banning marital rape in The Bahamas

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am heartened that the government of The Bahamas has finally proposed legislation to ban marital rape.  After all, according to a 2006 United Nations report, marital rape is already a crime in over 104 countries, including Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago; not to mention being a crime under international law.

    Yet this proposed legislation has incited such widespread moral outrage, one might think Bahamians are living in a Taliban paradise. Indeed, this condemnation exposes the fact that Christian fundamentalists, in many respects, are every bit as fanatical as Islamic fundamentalists.

    Of course, much violence has been visited upon women in the name of Christianity.  And none has been more insidious than marital rape sanctioned by the misogynistic edict that a woman must always obey her husband’s sexual commands … unconditionally.

    But what is so troubling about this edict is the number of women who seem so willing to abide by it.  Here, for example, is a quote from a Nassau Guardian report on a panel discussion that was held on this proposed legislation earlier this week:

    The discussion became animated at several points with activist Rodney Moncur calling Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham “the devil” for seeking to make the marital rape ban law. He characterized the amendment as an assault on traditional Christian family values.

    Another woman, who did not provide her identity while speaking, said that it is not possible for a man to rape his wife. She said that she makes herself available to her husband whenever he desires sex, claiming that her body is ‘his body’.

    This is why I applaud Opposition Senate leader Allyson Maynard-Gibson for calling on the government to conduct proper consultations:

    After the consultation, we should pass the legislation necessary to implement the proposals … and properly fund the institutions necessary for the legislation to be effective…  A debate in this context enables a full and complete discussion of the problems and the solutions in relation to domestic violence specifically and support of the family generally.

    Except that Senator Maynard-Gibson is probably too politically correct to say that, in addition to consultation with experts, the government should hold public forums, not to debate the merits of this legislation but to impart information about it.

    Because opposition to this proposed ban on marital rape is being stirred up primarily by religious leaders. And these are invariably men who proselytize the doctrinaire belief that a man has a God-given right to have sex with his wife whenever he wants it … even against her will.

    Therefore, if the aim of public debate is to reason with those who oppose this legislation, then it will never be enacted.

    Accordingly, I implore political leaders to ignore the blandishments of religious leaders who not only condone but actually champion marital rape based on their reading of the Bible and their chauvinistic concept of traditional family values.  I rather suspect, though, that self-preservation would preclude these religious leaders from supporting legislation calling for all adulterers to be put to death – as the Bible commands….

    To be fair, however, I should note that there are progressive religious leaders in The Bahamas. And I duly entreat them to lend their voices to this debate by preaching the gospel, especially to women, that sexual abuse in marriage is as much of an abomination against God as physical abuse.

    In any event, no religious indoctrination or social conditioning can deny the self-evident truth that a woman’s right to determine whether or NOT to have marital sex is as fundamental as her right to determine whom to marry in the first place.

    And, for the record, it is patent nonsense to suggest that marital rape can only occur in marriages that are “on the rocks.” For nonconsensual sex, even in purportedly good marriages, is also rape.

    That said, as an attorney, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the difficulties inherent in prosecuting those accused of marital rape, including the spectre of false accusations.  Indeed, I am mindful that even charges stemming from the “he said, she said” dynamic of date rape are often impossible to prove given the vagaries of consent and post-coital remorse.

    But these difficulties can be dealt with by examining the facts and circumstances of each case.  More to the point, they should not be an impediment to the enactment of this legislation since its purpose should be more to deter marital rape than to punish it.

    Related commentaries:
    Afghanistan legalizes marital rape
    “Brokeback Mountain” banned in The Bahamas

     

  • Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 5:17 AM

    Congolese student causes Hillary to snap

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is nearing the end of an 11-day, 7-country tour of Africa.  And all indications are that she is performing admirably, reinforcing the Obama doctrine of good governance as a precondition for US aid and direct investments.

    Unfortunately, the earlier part of her tour was upstaged by her husband’s simultaneous mission to North Korea to secure the release of two American journalists.  In fact, Bill’s trip so dominated news coverage that one could be forgiven for having no clue that Hillary was even on this diplomatic tour.

    Moreover, many of her supporters have clearly channeled her resentment over the fact that her role as secretary of state has been undermined by all of the special (male) envoys President Obama has appointed to deal with hot spots like the Middle East and Pakistan.  Not to mention how the president’s own global, rock-star shadow hovers over all of her trips.

    It is in this context that many are either criticizing or rationalizing the infamous hissy fit Hillary threw on Monday when she thought a Congolese student asked her what Bill thought about investments deals the Chinese were making with his government.  (Incidentally, there has been far too little reporting by Western media about the way China has usurped the US as the biggest donor to, and investor in, many African countries … and about what political consequences this portends.)

    At any rate, here’s how Hillary responded:

    You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?” My husband is not secretary of state, I am. If you want my opinion I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband.

    The problem is that what got lost in translation is the fact that the student asked her what President Obama thought about these Sino-Congo deals….

    Now the remainder of her trip will be dominated by psycho babble about her outburst:  On the one hand, her critics are gleefully insinuating that it was triggered by her jealousy over all the attention her husband is getting; while on the other hand, her supporters are ruefully rationalizing that it reflected the resentment any professional woman would feel over being marginalized not only by her (male) boss, but also by her husband.

    Actually, I think both points of view have merit. Indeed, this is why some of us warned Obama that appointing Hillary as secretary of state would invite far more drama than substance to his foreign policy initiatives:

    ‘No drama Obama’?  Then how about C-H-A-O-S?

    [The die is cast: Obama nominates Hillary as sec of state, TIJ, December 1, 2008]

    When all is said and done, however, it redounds to Hillary’s shame and America’s embarrassment that she reacted to this poignant question, notwithstanding the mix up, more like a woman scorned than as the chief diplomat of the United States.

    Related commentaries:
    Bill Clinton plays supplicant in chief for hostages
    The die is case

  • Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 5:11 AM

    Suu Kyi becoming the Nelson Mandela of Myanmar?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In recent years, Myanmar has made news in the West for all the wrong reasons.  Most notorious in this respect was when the military junta, which now rules this country, brutally cracked down on Buddhist monks who were leading protests for democratic freedoms, and then again when it inhumanely refused international aid for victims of Cyclone Nargis.

    Conspicuous by its lack of coverage, however, was the junta’s detention of Myanmar’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.  And this, by any objective criteria, is a glaring oversight; not least because Suu Kyi is to Myanmar what Nelson Mandela is to South Africa.

    Granted, given that she has only been under house arrest, effectively, for 20 years, she has not suffered the privations Mandela endured doing hard labor in prison for 27 years. 

    All the same, her heroic, even if terminally futile, struggle to restore democracy has garnered her remarkable spurts of international attention and acclaim.  Most notable in this respect was when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 after the National League for Democracy party she founded won a landslide general election (in 1990), which the military refused to recognize.

    In fact, fearing her popularity and this election result, the military placed her under house arrest and jailed thousands of her supporters in 1989.

    And there’s no clearer indication that the ruling junta intends to keep her out of politics for the rest her life than the fact that it convicted her yesterday after a show trial for violating the terms of her house arrest. 

    Specifically, she was accused of allowing a supportive American to stay in her home after he swam across a lake and showed up uninvited. She was sentenced to 18 months, which, as was the case in 1989, guarantees that she won’t be able to upset the military’s plan to put on show elections next year.

    But please beware that condemnation of Suu Kyi’s conviction by Western leaders (like President Obama) and international organizations (like the UN) will prove utterly feckless. Because Myanmar’s ruling generals have about as much regard for their political censure and threats of sanctions as North Korean President Kim Jong-il.

    Frankly, the struggle against military dictatorship in Myanmar does not inspire the kind of moral support in the West (or anywhere) that the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa did. And this is why the calls for Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest will continue to ring hollow juxtaposed to calls that precipitated Mandela’s release from prison.

    Related commentaries:
    Crackdown in Myanmar
    Cyclone Nargiss
    UN intervenes in Myanmar

  • Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 5:47 AM

    UPDATE: Congressman Jefferson convicted; faces Madoff-like sentence

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    ‘The FBI not only caught Democrat William Jefferson on videotape accepting marked bills under his dinner table at the Ritz Hotel, but later found those bills stored amongst $90,000 similar bills in the freezer of his Washington, DC townhouse.’

    This is how I expressed my cynicism about and consternation over the fact that – despite overwhelming evidence of his criminal enterprise – Rep William Jefferson (D-LA) was still re-elected to Congress last November. Notwithstanding the gullible (or stupid) voters in his district, however, I felt so confident that – in due course – his day of reckoning would come that I ended the above-referenced article as follows:

    ‘But saving his job is one thing. Beating FBI charges against him is quite another. Indeed, I suspect Jefferson’s victory will prove pyrrhic at best. Because it only means that when he’s indicted (within months) on federal bribery charges, his arrest as a sitting Congressman will be all the more politically embarrassing for Democratic leaders – who just regained control of Congress by promising to rid it of corruption.’

    Therefore, I was not at all surprised yesterday when federal prosecutors announced a 16-count indictment against Jefferson (an eight-term member of the US Congress) on charges of racketeering, soliciting bribes and money-laundering, all of which carry a penalty of over 200 years in jail. In fact prosecutors allege that Jefferson:

    ‘…traded on his good offices to enrich himself and his family in a pervasive pattern of self-dealing, fraud, bribery and corruption that spanned many years and two continents.’

    And, just as I predicted this indictment, I predict that Jefferson will be found guilty and imprisoned for the rest of his life…and deservedly so!

    [Feds indict Congressman Jefferson … I told you so! TIJ, June 5, 2007]

    With that background information from previous commentaries, I trust it will come as no surprise to any of you that a federal jury convicted this former US Congressman on 11 of those 16 counts last Wednesday. 

    Jefferson, 62, now faces up to 20 years on each count for a total of 220 years. But perhaps he’ll derive some consolation from the fact that the judge can only sentence him to a maximum of 150 years, which was Bernie Madoff’s fate.  Sentencing is scheduled for October 30, 2009.

    We have been reminded today that we are a nation of laws, and not men. It should be a clear signal that no public official and certainly not a US Congressman can put their office up for sale and betray that office…  And today, a jury of his peers held Congressman Jefferson accountable for his actions.

    (Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia)

    Good Riddance Mr Jefferson…

    Related commentaries:
    Feds indict Congressman Jefferson
    Jefferson finally booted from office

  • Monday, August 10, 2009 at 5:18 AM

    Calling for British heads to roll in TCI

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I received a surprising number of e-mails over the weekend from people accusing me, among other things, of being a “British stooge [for] giving Governor Tauwhare and other British officials a pass while calling for our Premier and his government ministers to be prosecuted.” 

    Evidently they derived fodder for their accusations from two commentaries that were published on Friday: one under the nom de plume “The Torch” at The TCI Journal and the other by former international reporter Candy Herwin at Turks and Caicos Net News

    For example, The Torch accused Chief Justice Gordon Ward and Governor Gordon Wetherell of engaging in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice for the purportedly coveted FCO perk of a “Harrods account”; while Ms Herwin argued that former Governor Richard Tauwhare was just as responsible as former Premier Michael Misick for the high crimes and misdemeanors documented in the Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Governmental Corruption in the TCI.

    Before I proceed, however, I feel obliged to clarify that I’m on record declaring my disregard for any commentary published under a pseudonym; especially if that commentary is rife with insulting, incendiary and/or defamatory accusations. 

    Indeed, with people like Shaun Malcolm, Richard Berke and my siblings living for years under clear and present danger of reprisals, I have never been impressed by those who throw firebombs into our public debate from behind the shield of anonymity.

    This is why, with all due respect to those he/she incites, I do not think The Torch’s contributions are worthy of any further comment.

    Alternatively, I appreciate Ms Herwin’s commentaries. And, despite our disagreements, I’ve always respected and admired her advocacy.

    In fact, I agree with much of what she proffered in the commentary at issue about Tauwhare.  For here’s what I wrote about his responsibility in a column almost two years ago:

    I have focused exclusively on the Premier’s dereliction of duties because I believe that we are, in fact, not only “mature” enough to take responsibility for the mess he’s gotten us into, but also intelligent enough to figure out how to clean it up.

    But it would be tantamount to ignoring the big white elephant in the room if I did not acknowledge HE Governor Richard Tauwhare’s dereliction of duties that have contributed to our national woes. After all, it would have required his complicity or tacit approval for the Premier to commit many of these alleged political and fiduciary crimes.

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

    And here’s what I wrote about the responsibility of the British in general over a year ago:

    I’ve been criticizing the UK government almost as much as I’ve been criticizing the TCI government for the mismanagement and corruption that have undermined the benefits of investing in our country. In fact, the British must accept contingent liability for all of the foreseeable losses (in tourism receipts and foreign investments) that stem from their failure to ensure good governance in the TCI…

    Premier Misick implicates the British government in his misdeeds every time he blithely asserts that there’s no corruption in the TCI because the British governor [Tauwhare] signed off on everything…

    It behooves the British to appreciate that investigating all allegations of corruption against this TCI government, in a transparent manner, is not only in our national interest but in theirs as well.

    [Britain has a legal (or superior) responsibility to fix the TCI, TIJ, June 19, 2008]

    Where I differ from Ms Herwin and others is that I see no point in waxing indignant about the salutary neglect of the British at this point — when we’re relying on them to hold our leaders accountable for their alleged theft and to clean up their mess. 

    More to the point, it smacks of moral relativism (ad absurdum) to assert that Tauwhare should be standing in the same “firing line” as Misick.  After all, there’s not one scintilla of evidence to suggest that Tauwhare (or any British official) ever took a bribe or embezzled a single penny of public funds.

    By contrast, there’s overwhelming evidence to suggest that Misick and his ministers took millions in bribes and embezzled millions more from public funds – in a carnival of corruption that makes African kleptomaniacs seem like choir boys.

    And the evidence clearly shows that they used every canard, including anti-colonial diatribes and the race card, to prevail upon a weak and out-of-his-depth Governor Tauwhare to sign off on all of their schemes.

    [The Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry] makes it plain for all to see why the British government, which retains responsibility for good governance in the TCI, had no choice but to take this extraordinary step.

    First and foremost, this intervention means that the British have committed to do for us what we simply could not do for ourselves; namely, to save the TCI from a state of dysfunction, destitution and dictatorship the likes of which the Commonwealth has never seen … except in Zimbabwe.

    [Britain suspends TCI Constitution … again, TIJ, March 17, 2009]

    But, frankly, I fear that Ms Herwin fatally compromised her commentary, if not her reputation, by parroting Misick’s oxymoronic reasoning that we have more to lose from the British Inquiry into corruption in the TCI than from his alleged criminal enterprise masquerading as our government.

    Not to mention her unwitting folly of complaining, not about what a British official said about imposing taxes upon us to compensate for the documented misdeeds of Misick and his cohorts, but about the way he said it…. We TCIslanders are not that thin-skinned Ms Herwin!

    Meanwhile, to be hurling insults at and casting blame on our current governor, HE Gordon Wetherell, in this context, is so patently ignorant that I won’t even dignify this mischief with a comment.

    My fellow TCIslanders, please, let us get a proper perspective on this national crisis, and stay focused on what needs to be done to repair the damage done to our country!

    Related commentaries:
    Ms Herwin’s commentary
    Alas, throwing Premier Misick overboard is necessary
    Britain has a legal (or superior) responsibility
    Britain suspends TCI Constitution … again

    * This commentary is being published today at Turks and Caicos Net News and The TCI Journal

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