• Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 6:39 AM

    Obama’s ironic mission to Afghanistan

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It is a fateful indication of how little progress the US has made in Afghanistan that President Obama had to deploy even more cloak and dagger maneuvers to visit there last weekend (over eight years into this war) than former President Bush did in 2006 (five years after launching it).

    And you’d think that having to sneak into this country in the dark of night would temper Obama’s boasts about “defeating, dismantling, and destroying” al-Qaeda terrorists.  Not to mention the humiliating contrast this struck with the very public, if not triumphant, state visit Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made there just a couple of weeks ago….

    Yet the instructive irony of this embarrassing folly seemed completely lost on Obama. Only this explains him trying to rally his war-weary troops by boasting that he’s “absolutely confident” he’ll be able to stamp “mission accomplished” on Afghanistan by July 2011.  Indeed, the irony of ironies is that he sounded every bit as delusional as his predecessor did when he made a similar boast about wrapping up the war in Iraq almost seven years ago….

    Meanwhile, despite the surge, the Associated Press reported on Monday that:

    The number of US troops killed in Afghanistan has roughly doubled in the first three months of 2010 compared to the same period last year.

    And many more troops are bound to die, especially since planning is still in the works to retake the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

    But I always knew it would be thus:

    The US legacy there will be distinguished either by a terminally wounded national pride as American forces beat a hasty retreat in defeat (following the Russian precedent), or by thousands more American soldiers being lost in Afghanistan’s “graveyard of empires” as they continue fighting this unwinnable war (following America’s own Vietnam precedent): more troops only mean more sitting ducks for Taliban fighters.

    Therefore, Obama would be well-advised to cut America’s losses and retreat ASAP; let the Afghans govern themselves however they like; and rely on Special Forces to disrupt and dismantle Taliban and al-Qaeda operations in country, and on aerial drones to attack their havens in the mountainous regions of Pakistan.

    [Gen McChrystal: “failure in Afghanistan is likely,” TIJ, September 23, 2010]

    The vietnamization of Afghanistan continues….

    Related commentaries:
    failure is likely

  • Monday, March 29, 2010 at 6:40 AM

    UK recommends end of “special relationship” with US

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    One of the more curious features of the Obama presidency is the way this president has shunned any pretense of a special relationship between the UK and US. It should be noted, however, that this apparent alienation of affection has manifested itself more in style than in substance.

    For example, much was made of the way Obama reveled in Europe’s embrace, but practically stiff armed the UK, during his presidential campaign:

    [T]he courting of 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]

    And Obama did little to dispel rumors of a looming rift when he treated PM Brown more like the leader of a banana republic than like a special friend when Brown made his first state visit to the White House:

    I remember thinking what an extraordinary snub it was when the White House refused Downing Street’s request to hold a formal press conference between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown after their first formal meeting… This episode was a rather stark departure from the pomp and ceremony that invariably attended the first formal meeting between a US president and UK prime minister.

    [End of “special relationship“…, TIJ, September 25, 2009]

    The UK could be forgiven, therefore, if it began behaving like a woman scorned. And, based on recent reports in the US and UK about the changing nature of this relationship, one could be forgiven the impression that the media were goading the UK into doing just that.

    This is why I was so heartened by the sobering, insightful, and instructive report the UK Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) published on March 18 on, The basis and nature of the UK-US relationship.

    For on the one hand, the FAC found, among other things, that:

    [T]he British media … frequently it indulges in speculation about relations between the Prime Minister and the President…

    The perception that the British government was a subservient ‘poodle’ to the US administration leading up to the period of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath is widespread both among the British public and overseas. This perception, whatever its relation to reality, is deeply damaging to the reputation and interests of the UK…

    [U]nder the Obama administration there is a significantly greater degree of alignment with the UK on a number of key policy areas. However, as is perhaps inevitable, there remain some key areas of British interest where policies continue to diverge.

    While on the other hand, it concluded, among other things, that:

    Recent minor disagreements [i.e., on matters of style] between the UK and US do not in any way threaten the underlying strength of the bilateral relationship…

    [T]he UK has an extremely close and valuable relationship with the US in specific areas of co-operation…

    However, the use of the phrase ‘the special relationship’ in its historical sense, to describe the totality of the ever-evolving UK-US relationship, is potentially misleading, and we recommend that its use should be avoided.

    Frankly, I cannot agree more with the findings and conclusions in this FAC report.  But reading what conservative reporters and bloggers in the US are writing about it, you’d think that it’s nothing more than a catalogue of insults by the uppity Obama against the British prime minister; and that it ends with a recommendation for the British government to issue a royal proclamation saying, in effect, “Fuck you too.”

    More to the point, though, I presaged this report’s most salient findings and conclusions over six months ago (in the commentary cited above). I noted back then that the phrase “special relationship” is indeed outdated. But I also admonished Obama that it does little to enhance the US’s reputation and interests for him to treat the UK prime minister so shabbily:

    [N]o matter Brown’s political motivation, or even how anachronistic and unrequited, for the UK, this notion of the special relationship might be, Obama’s treatment of him reeks of impudence, petulance, and conceit. 

    After all, no matter Obama’s beef with Brown, the UK remains the US’s most loyal and indispensable ally. And the way Britons have fought and sacrificed alongside Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan all these years is a poignant testament to this fact.

    So there’s no denying that the UK and US still have “a special relationship.” It’s just no longer the special relationship it once was.

    Related commentaries:
    Beware Barack
    End of “special relationship“…

  • Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 8:47 AM

    Forget Tea-Party fanatics. Let former presidents tell you whether or not Obama’s healthcare reform is good for America…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 5:27 AM

    A Europe divided by debt cannot stand

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Leaders from the so-called “red states” have made quite a show lately of fulminating against the power of the federal government.  But not even they think that pounding their chests about sovereign states’ rights will ever cause the disuniting of the United States.

    By contrast, leaders from the so-called “PIGS” (namely, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) have been arguing that the sovereign debt crisis that is threatening to plunge their respective countries into bankruptcy is a burden all of Europe should bear. And everybody knows that a default by any of these PIGS will cause the disunion of the European Union.

    Therefore, non-swine EU countries, like Germany and France, must have felt their financial foundations shake yesterday when leading credit rating agency Fitch downgraded Portugal’s credit rating; especially since this comes as an aftershock of its downgrading of Greece’s just months ago.

    Meanwhile, there’s no greater indicator of cracks developing all over Europe than the way the euro plunged after news about Portugal’s rating broke.

    Timberrrrrrrrr….

  • Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 5:20 AM

    Google’s conscientious objection in China

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Lately, China has been acting as if gaining access to its market is akin to making it into corporate heaven.  And, frankly, given the way foreign corporations have been selling their souls to gain that access, China can be forgiven its God-like complex.

    This is why I am so pleased that, after several years of soul searching, Google has finally found that there’s no profit in gaining the whole Chinese market but losing its own soul.  Accordingly, instead of abiding by China’s censorship rules, Google decided to move its China-based search functions from the mainland to Hong Kong. 

    China was not amused. An official from its Internet bureau of the State Council Information Office denounced the move as a violation of the veritable oath of obedience Google signed four years ago:

    We made patient and meticulous explanations on the questions Google raised … telling it we would still welcome its operation and development in China if it was willing to abide by Chinese laws… This is totally wrong. We’re uncompromisingly opposed to the politicization of commercial issues, and express our discontent and indignation to Google for its unreasonable accusations and conducts.

    (China’s Xinhua News Agency)

    Of course, regular readers know that no one has been a more ardent critic of Google (and other American corporations) for signing up for China’s Faustian bargain in the first place:

    How odious and hypocritical that American corporations – after exploiting  democratic freedoms to make their names and untold fortunes – are now collaborating with a totalitarian regime to deny people in the most populous country on earth similar democratic freedoms.

    [Yahoo becomes China’s most-favored thought police, TIJ, September 12, 2005]

    Google made a mockery of its motto: “Don’t Be Evil”… Was its corporate conscience, at long last, predicated upon a cost-benefit analysis for its own bottom line?

    [Google adopts…motto of moral relativism, TIJ, January 26, 2006]

    Therefore, truth be told, when Google announced a couple of months ago that it was having pangs of conscience about serving as China’s internet thought police, I expressed doubts that it would do the right thing:

    It’s one thing to vow to stop doing business in China, but quite another actually stop – as Microsoft’s failure in this respect has demonstrated so poignantly… So hold your praise for Google.

    [Google finds its own Chinese medicine hard to swallow, TIJ, January 19, 2010]

    Which brings me to the rather curious dispensation Google seems to have won, despite this open and notorious role it’s now playing as a conscientious objector: On the one hand, this internet behemoth appears to have enough leverage over this totalitarian regime to withdraw its search functions with moral indignation. On the other hand, it’s continuing to market its other business, including phone and map services, with commercial fervor. 

    But God bless them if they can get away with it. However, all indications are that China was caught off guard because it never thought Google would cut its nose to spite its face. So the jury is still out on what China will do to punish it for its do-gooder defiance. 

    Frankly, it’s naive for Google to think that it will now be free to operate its other businesses without government interference. In fact, China is already giving Google a preview of troubles to come. Because yesterday, within 24 hours after the company established a detour for Chinese users to perform uncensored search through the Hong Kong portal, China had already mounted countermeasures to block that detour.

    Even worse, reports are that Google is already hearing from its amoral investors who fear the continuing wrath of China could spell doom for the price of its stock.

    So stay tuned….

    Related commentaries:
    Google finds its own Chinese medicine hard to swallow..,

  • Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 4:58 AM

    Obama delivers healthcare reform to America – from “Obamacare” to Obama cares!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    This is what change looks like. We proved that this government – a government of the people and by the people – still works for the people.

    This is how President Obama heralded the passage of the historic healthcare reform bill late Sunday night, showing his Republican opponents that two can play that this-is-what-the-American-people-want game.

    The 219 to 212 vote in the House capped a 14-month sausage-making legislative process, which was distinguished by Republicans (not a single one of whom voted for the bill) doggedly rebuffing all of Obama’s efforts to draft a bipartisan bill.

    In fact, Republicans were so resolute in their determination to turn healthcare reform into Obama’s “Waterloo” that they even disavowed measures that were once championed by Republican stalwarts like former President Ronald Reagan and former Sen. Bob Dole.

    In any event, this bill immediately provides access to health insurance to 32 million uninsured Americans; prohibits unfair practices by insurance companies, such as denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and increasing premiums arbitrarily; lowers prices on prescription drugs for seniors; grants health insurance tax credits to small business owners to cover their workers; and allows children under 26 to stay on their parents’ policies. Other benefits will be phased in over time.

    Clearly the prospect of healthcare reform should have been cause for (belated) national celebration in this richest nation on earth, which prides itself on its charity towards others as well as adherence to other Christian values. But nothing could have been further from the truth.  For the debate leading up to last night’s historic vote was characterized by the kind of political rhetoric (complete with racial and homophobic epithets) one might expect of a banana republic on the brink of civil war.

    Remarkably, the Republicans are still vowing to “kill the bill,” claiming, among other things, that it is a socialist manifesto that will usher in the death of American liberty. Even worse, the Christians who comprise their party’s base seem oblivious to the inconsistency between their fanatical opposition to healthcare reform and their attempts to imbue every facet of American life with their “Christian” values.

    But the instructive symmetry between the 1960s fight for civil rights and this fight for healthcare reform should not be lost on anyone.  Not least because just as Martin Luther King Jr. used the kind, caring, and loving words of their professed faith to confront white racists (whose lips were dripping with words of interposition and nullification), Obama used those same Christian words to confront Republicans throughout this debate.

    I have no faith, however, that Republicans will ever see the light.  After all, they have staked their political revival as a Party on defeating this bill. Moreover, they have so demonized this act of social and economic justice that any showing of surrender – even after full passage of this bill – would be tantamount to bargaining with the devil in the eyes of their zealous and dogmatic supporters.

    Hell, Republican politicians have so compromised their political integrity in this respect that they are now spouting in Congress the right-wingnut rubbish that was once relegated to talk radio, including patently absurd chants about Obama being a socialist who is conspiring to take away their freedom. But consider for a moment the implications of their Taliban mentality and Jihad rhetoric: since they can’t blame Obama for the passage of this bill, Republicans are effectively accusing every Democrat who voted to help these poor, uninsured Americans of destroying the country and inciting a war of Armageddon….

    Never mind that Obama and the Democrats are only doing what Jesus commanded all Christians to do:

    Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?

    Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.

    (Mathew 25:37-41)

    Moreover, as Obama lamented, one wonders why common sense hasn’t compelled Republicans to appreciate the moral and economic imperative of implementing comprehensive healthcare reform. And if you believe their claims about wanting to scratch what they’ve caricatured as “Obamacare” to find a better plan, then you probably still believe that American soldiers will find WMDs in Iraq.

    Then again, these are the same Republicans who blithely praised (as divinely inspired) Bush’s decision to spend over one trillion dollars (not to mention the wasted lives) on that wild-goose chase in Iraq; but who are now rabidly condemning (as an act of treason) Obama’s decision to spend much less than that on health insurance coverage for their fellow Americans.

    Frankly, nothing demonstrated the myopic and self-serving nature of opposition to this bill quite like the way Republicans waxed indignant about what the American people wanted, and what the American people would do if they did not get it.

    Because, by their logic, instead of leading his people in accepting God’s Ten Commandments, Moses would have left the tablets shattered in pieces and led them in worshiping the golden calf. After all, that was what the people wanted, no…?

    Well, thank God that Obama emulated Moses by leading instead of being led. In so doing he has delivered healthcare reform to America and vindicated the transformative nature of his presidency.

    Indeed, that Republican and Democratic presidents alike, including JFK and Richard Nixon, have tried and failed over the past 100 years to sign similar legislation is an undeniable testament to his historic achievement. Alas, there’s also no denying that much of the violent backlash already sweeping the country is being fueled by racial resentment over the fact that this “uppity” president is the one who finally succeeded.

    Meanwhile, like Japanese Kamikazes who kept fighting after the war was lost, Republicans are fighting on by making Democrats jump over all kinds of legal and procedural hurdles to fully enact this bill. But these hurdles will only delay the inevitable, and not even they are delusional enough to believe their hollow threats about repealing it.

    It is worth noting, however, that these threats are just the latest manifestation of their “all-of-our-ideas-and-none-of-yours” notion of bipartisanship. More to the point, they make plain the political venality, immaturity, and self-righteousness behind their opposition not only to healthcare reform but to Obama’s entire domestic agenda.

    All the same, here’s to Obama for finally offering American citizens what leaders of every other developed country began offering their respective citizens generations ago: healthcare, not as a privilege, but as a fundamental right.

    That’s CHANGE we can believe in!

    * This commentary was published originally yesterday at 3:20 P.M.

  • Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 7:33 AM

    President Obama’s St Crispen Day Speech … for healthcare

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yesterday President Obama delivered the most motivational speech of any president since Franklin D. Roosevelt exhorted Congress to take bold action to lift the country out of The Great Depression in 1933 with the famous words: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

    In this case, of course, Obama was exhorting the “band of brothers” in his Democratic Party to take bold action to provide healthcare for over 30 million uninsured Americans. But that he had to summon historic rhetoric to motivate members of his own party to do the right thing is an indictment of the selfish and superficial nature of politics today.

    Anyway, here, in part, is what he said:

    Is this the single most important step that we have taken on health care since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this the most important piece of domestic legislation, in terms of giving a break to hard working, middle-class families out there since Medicare? Absolutely…  We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true…  Don’t do it for me … Do it for the American people…

    It is in your hands. It is time to pass health care reform for America and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow.

    The decisive vote in the House will take place this afternoon.

    And let’s hope Obama’s confidence proves more warranted in this case than it did in his picking Kansas to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.  Because a lowly band of brothers from Northern Iowa knocked the top-seeded boys from Kansas out of the tournament yesterday in a stunning upset 69 to 67.

  • Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 8:11 AM

    I have the flu…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I made it through the worst winter in over a decade only to come down with the flu this first week of spring. Go figure…

    It’s been diagnosed as swine flu. Remember that?  Of course, regular readers know how much I have pooh poohed the whole swine flu pandemic

    As it happens, my condition only proves what I’ve been asserting all along:  that swine flu is more panic than pandemic.  Because my symptoms are no different or more severe than they were last year, or any other year when I had the garden-variety seasonal flu. 

    Actually, I get the flu every year – vaccine or not.  Back to bed….

    Related commentary:
    swine flu national health emergency

  • Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 7:07 AM

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall


    Click here for the Cliff-Notes version of the customs and traditions of this kiss-me-I’m-Irish holiday.
  • Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 5:18 AM

    Pope accused of harboring pedophile priest

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A few years ago, revelations about the nature and scope of sexual abuse by priests gave the impression that the Catholic Church in America was being run by a syndicate of pedophile enablers. By contrast, the moral indignation European priests cast at their brethren in America back then gave the impression that the Catholic Church in Europe was wholly without sin in this respect.

    Indeed, here’s how the Pope himself expressed his pastoral concern:

    It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen. It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission … to these children.

    I am deeply ashamed, and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future. I do not wish to talk at this moment about homosexuality, but about pedophilia, which is another thing.

    We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry. It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heal this wound.

    (Pope Benedict XVI)

    In commenting on this unfolding scandal, I noted that faithful Catholics might find the Pope’s expression of concern more troubling than comforting. Here, in part, is what I wrote back then:

    A cabal of homosexuals in the Vatican continues to indulge and cover up the serial sexual exploits of gay priests, including pedophiles…

    And I’m sure the Pope is acutely mindful that disabusing Americans of this suspicion is critical to getting them to replenish the billions the Church has lost in payoffs and tithing withheld as a result of the sex abuse scandal….

    [The Pope comes to America, TIJ, April 16, 2008]

    Well, there are dirty little secrets coming out of the closet in churches all over Europe today – most notably in the Pope’s home country of Germany.  And these revelations give the impression that the ecumenical council of the Catholic Church not only condoned but actually enabled a culture of pederasty that would make Sodom and Gomorrah seem chaste. Which gives a whole new meaning to Christ’s exhortation to “suffer the little children to come on to Me.”

    Even worse, no less a person than the Pope has been implicated.  Specifically, reports are that the Pope, in his position as bishop of diocese of Munich, harbored a known pedophile priest, who continued his predatory sexual abuse of little boys under the Pope’ pastoral supervision.  This, of course, is exactly what the Pope condemned American bishops for doing a few years ago.

    Not surprisingly, the Vatican is deflecting blame from the Pope by summoning his former deputy at the Munich diocese to claim complete responsibility for housing this notorious pedophile. Unfortunately, this deflection was undermined by the fact that his former diocese had already put out the patently specious claim that the Pope “unwittingly approved the housing.” And nothing has laid this scandal at the feet of the Pope quite like his own brother, The Rev. Georg Ratzinger, admitting recently that he not only flagellated little boys but also ignored their cries when they were being abused by other bishops.

    Nevertheless, the Pope himself has joined in this open conspiracy to deflect blame. No doubt this explains his tact of announcing earlier this week that he will be issuing a pastoral letter to facilitate “repentance, healing and renewal” among Irish Catholics instead of issuing one to help German Catholics clean up the mess he left behind.

    Somehow “the pot calling the kettle black” doesn’t quite convey the hypocrisy inherent in this papal tact.  I will note, though, that he seems to be deploying the psychological defense mechanism of projection. Moreover, one wonders about the categorical imperative of issuing similar pastoral letters to countries from Asia to the Caribbean as well as all those in between, where revelations of endemic sexual and physical abuse by priests are rocking the foundations of the Catholic Church….

    In any case, whatever the moral relativism that governs the way the Pope deals with the sexual (mis)conduct of priests, the Church is clearly abiding a moral hazard:

    Much has been made of the moral hazard the US government created by bailing out big banks. Because this effectively gave investment bankers carte blanche to continue their high-risk financial transactions knowing full well that the government will be there to catch them if they fall; i.e., before their banks fail.

    By the same token, the fact that the Church has been covering up the perverted (and criminal) behavior of Catholic priests from time immemorial suggests that a similar moral hazard is inherent in the conduct of Vatican affairs. Never mind what it says about the moral authority of a Church that invariably showed greater empathy and compassion towards these sexual predators than it showed towards their adolescent victims….

    Meanwhile, even if belatedly, I hope Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican official in charge of prosecuting priests alleged to have committed serious sexual crimes, is as zealous in prosecuting them today as the Vatican was in protecting them over the years.

    I remain intrigued, however, by the Pope’s allusion (in the quote above) to a moral distinction between homosexuality and pedophilia. For in this he seems to have “unwittingly” conveyed a papal indulgence of the former, while censuring of the latter.

    Not to mention that such a distinction would make a mockery of the Church’s purported practice of clerical celibacy; i.e., refraining from all sexual activity, including masturbation.

    More to the point, it would suggest that Catholic priests – who pattern their celibate lives on that of Jesus Christ – must believe that Christ himself indulged, if not indulged in, homosexuality.  The 12 disciples with whom he consorted were all men, after all….

    Finally, it is foolhardy to expect the Pope, who is vested with the prerogative of infallibility, to resign over these wrongdoings (including his).  But it is plain for all to see that the moral authority of the Catholic Church is being blown asunder.

    Therefore, you’d think this would at least compel the Pope to heed the message to lead his bishops and priests in an ecumenical revival, vowing before God and man to repent from the sins of the flesh that have brought Christianity into such disrepute.  Instead, the Pope is reacting more like Barabas than Jesus by condemning the messenger; most notably, The New York Times.

    Father, forgive them, even though they know well what they do…. Celibacy…? Yeah right!

    NOTE: I appreciate that there are some naïve souls who are genuinely alarmed by revelations about sexual abuse of children by priests throughout Europe and the US. Therefore, I hereby admonish them to brace themselves for revelations that are bound to come about an even greater prevalence of this perverted behavior throughout Africa and the Caribbean….

    Related commentaries:
    The Pope comes to America

  • Monday, March 15, 2010 at 12:03 AM

    Israel talks about disputed settlements the way Iran talks about nuclear weapons…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last week, the Israeli government showed the kind of disrespect towards the United States, its indispensable patron, that one would’ve expected only of Iran.  Specifically, it waited until the day US Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to land in Israel to announce that 1600 new homes will be added to the disputed settlements of east Jerusalem.

    (One could even be forgiven for thinking that the Israelis settled on 1600 – as in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – to make sure their defiance registered at the White House; in other words, take that James Baker.)

    Biden, who was arriving to mediate new peace talks after a 14-month lapse, was not pleased:

    The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now. We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them … unilateral action taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations.

    Yet, even though the Israelis promptly apologized, nobody believes they’ll be affected in the least either by Biden’s rebuke or by his retaliatory snub; namely, keeping PM Benjamin Netanyahu waiting 90 minutes for dinner. Because it is self-evident that the only building the Israelis are interested in has to do with new homes in the disputed territories.

    Most political pundits in America are convinced that this announcement was really intended to telegraph the racial (and religious) prejudice Israelis have towards President Barack Hussein Obama. And this seems undeniable.

    It is also undeniable, however, that the Israelis showed similar contempt, in substance even if not in style, towards President George W. Bush; i.e., by continually building homes in disputed territories in contravention of Bush’s efforts to broker peace with the Palestinians.

    Apropos my reference above to James Baker, it might be instructive to recall that such unbridled contempt for America’s efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian negotiations provoked him way back in 1990 – as secretary of state under former President George H.W. Bush – to issue the following iconic reprimand during congressional testimony:

    Everybody over there should know that the telephone number for the White House is (202) 456-1414.  When you’re serious about peace, call us!

    And to back up his words, Baker threatened to withhold loan guarantees unless Israel promised not to use the funds to settle Russian Jews in the (Palestinian) West Bank. Not so widely reported, however, was the undiplomatic language he used in a less formal setting a couple of years later, when Baker reportedly said, “Fuck the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway.”

    Nevertheless, Israel is as Israel does….

    Related commentaries:
    Netanyahu resents having to kowtow to Obama

    * This commentary was published originally on Sunday, March 14 at 7:26 A.M.

  • Friday, March 12, 2010 at 6:44 PM

    BREAKING NEWS: Tiger’s back on the prowl, um, er, for golf titles that is

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    You’ve probably heard reporters all over TV today hyperventilating over “declassified” documents, which confirm that the police suspected Tiger’s wife Elin of domestic abuse: i.e., giving him a fat lip and then taking a nine iron to his SUV when he tried to escape.

    But this is hardly news – as my original commentary on this saga, entitled, appropriately enough, Tiger’s wife serves him a Thanksgiving fat lip (November 29, 2009), will attest. For here, in part, is what I wrote:

    With all due respect to CNN’s legal expert, the fact that the police found no evidence to support charges of domestic violence (against him or his wife) means that Tiger does not have to answer any further questions about what happened on that fateful Thanksgiving night that precipitated his fall from grace.

    On the other hand, these reporters had just cause to hyperventilate over BREAKING NEWS  about Tiger’s return to golf.  Because the AP confirmed today that he’s preparing to play a tune-up tournament later this month before making his PGA return at The Masters in April.

    In this case, reporters can also be forgiven their clueless excitement. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single sports writer who declared, on the record, that Tiger would be returning so soon. 

    To the contrary, after his press event a few weeks ago, the consensus among sports analysts was that he would be out for the year. Granted, they were led like sheep to this “analytical” conclusion by Tiger’s innocuous statement that he plans to return to golf, but just doesn’t know when….

    By contrast, I predicted in the November 29 commentary referenced above that he would be returning “sooner rather than later…The Masters in 2010.” More to the point, here’s what I wrote – contradicting the sports writers – after that seminal press event, when Tiger finally addressed the sexual infidelity and promiscuity that caused his fall from grace:

    Most importantly, he said that he will continue on his path to recovery, and will return to golf sooner rather than later.  Granted, he was not specific, but reading between the lines, I remain convinced that he’ll be back in time for The Masters in April…

    Frankly, if the way he’s charting his path to recovery and redemption is okay with his family and sponsors, then everyone else, especially you weekend duffers, be damned.  Real fans can’t wait for him to move on from all of this mess.

    [Tiger speaks…and says exactly what I told him to say! TIJ, February 20, 2010]

    And here, in part, is the analytical reasoning that led me to this conclusion:

    Winning tournaments in his inimitable fashion is the only way now to eradicate bacchanalian images of his private life from public consciousness – even if not from the tabloids.  And only this will give his understandably spooked corporate sponsors [like Accenture who dropped him like a hot potato] the cover they need to feature him as their spokesman once again…

    [Tiger escapes to a “safe haven,” TIJ, December 14, 2009]

    Enough said?

    Except that, having already indicated that the cheers of appreciative fans will drown out all jeers, let me share what I wrote in this same commentary (Tiger escapes…) about the greeting Tiger can expect from the folks who made him a billionaire:

    Meanwhile, corporate sponsors and media executives alike must be salivating with anticipation over the boon this scandal will deliver in television ratings once he returns. And trust me, there’ll be no shortage of corporations, not only eager to replace any that dumps Tiger but also willing to pay even more for the privilege of having him as their spokesman.

    Of course, I should have added that no group will be happier to see him back on the links than his fellow players. Because, even though he routinely kicks their butts, they all have Tiger to thank for the millions in their bank accounts.

    So here’s to Tiger not only playing but actually winning The Masters … in expiating fashion.

    Related commentaries:
    Tiger speaks
    Tiger escapes

  • Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    Japan’s Princess Aiko being bullied at school

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    There’s something egalitarian, and therefore perversely reassuring, about a little princess being bullied at school.  After all, this is a rite of passage almost every commoner must endure….

    But, ironically, there is nothing common about the bullying Japan’s eight-year-old Princess Aiko has been subjected to (which reportedly became so severe that she begged her parents not to make her return to school). For what makes this case so unique is the fact that the mischievousness of the prepubescent thugs involved was probably incited, in part, by the jingoistic fulminations of their parents.

    Specifically, given the national scorn and derision Aiko’s mother was subjected to for giving birth to her instead of a male heir, it’s hardly surprising that these kids would think Aiko should be “treated harshly” too.

    Here’s how I lamented this grownup bullying, which caused Aiko’s mother, Crown Princess Masako, to suffer a very public nervous breakdown a couple of years after her birth:

    Princess Masako has been effectively exiled to her maiden country home after failing to inject life into the moribund Japanese imperial family…

    The Japanese expected her to do for Japan’s monarchy what Princess Diana had done for Britain’s; i.e., exhibit a more contemporary style and provide a male heir … and a spare… Unforgiving Japanese monarchists were indignant at Masako for failing so spectacularly in both respects. And they were not shy about expressing their indignation, propagating a battery of promiscuous reasons for her male-bearing infertility.

    [To Japan a (male) heir is born, TIJ, September 8, 2006]

    And again here:

    I took a very keen interest in the fate that befell Princess Masako of Japan three years ago after it became clear that she would not emulate Princess Diana  by providing a male heir (and a spare) to ensure the unbroken longevity of Japan’s royal family. 

    My interest stemmed from the fact that Japan’s agnatic succession law, which precludes women from inheriting the throne, was deemed so sacrosanct that Masoko’s daughter Aiko became more an object of national resentment than a symbol of national pride. 

    [Japan’s Crown Princess Masako resumes official duties, TIJ, March 4, 2009]

    Given this, it’s no wonder that contempt for the mother has been visited upon the daughter.

    All the same, Masako and her husband, Crown Prince Naruhito, should be commended for coaxing Aiko into returning to school yesterday-after being absent since March 1.  Never mind that, according to Japan’s Kyodo News, her return followed an “intervention” by the Imperial Palace. This suggests that these schoolyard bullies as well as their enabling parents (even if unwittingly) were given a royal tongue lashing in the principal’s office.

    Unfortunately, reports are that Aiko was still so traumatized that her mother had to rescue her well before the end of the school day.  

    And so, just as bullying by grownups forced her mother from public life, bullying by these kids might force Aiko to do the same. Talk about living in a gilded cage…

    Related commentaries:
    To Japan a (male) heir is born
    Masako resumes official duties

  • Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 5:10 PM

    Ethically challenged Rep. Charlie Rangel forced to “step aside”

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    No politician in US history has exploited his power for personal gain with more unbridled pride and joy than Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY).  And none has been more successful.  For not even investment guru Warren Buffet could have amassed the fortune Rangel has by doing it the Smith Barney way; i.e., by earning it.

    His holdings include four apartments in a luxury building in New York City and a luxury home in the Dominican Republic.  Not to mention untold sums in bank accounts that are being discovered everyday like another Tiger Woods mistress.

    But you’d think Rangel would’ve become a little more discreet and circumspect in his flouting of ethics rules after assuming chairmanship in 2007 of the high-profile House Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for writing all tax laws and overseeing all revenue-raising measures.  Instead, he became the poster boy for the presumption that rules do not apply to the powerful men who write them

    Accordingly, it wasn’t long before reports surfaced that Rangel was making a mockery of his chairmanship by failing to report or disclose income on his tax forms; using his congressional stationary to solicit funds for a school bearing his name; granting special tax breaks to his most-favored donors; and partaking of potpourri of boondoggles that are treated as ordinary congressional perks.

    This finally compelled the House Ethics Committee to announce last October that it was expanding its probe of Rangel’s alleged misdeeds, which it began in December 2008, to include an investigation into “all Financial Disclosure Statements and all amendments filed in the calendar year 2009.”

    This was when everyone in Washington knew he was a dead man walking – as far as his chairmanship was concerned.  Yet, for a time, Rangel scoffed at all calls for him to resign; which was not surprising considering that he lived a charmed life as a politician-virtually free of professional censure, let alone public ridicule.

    Ironically, it was precisely because of his imperious ego that being dogged by reporters asking about his personal business became too insolent and untenable for him to tolerate. And it was this humiliation that finally compelled him to make the following concession speech a week ago today:

    My chairmanship is bringing so much attention to the press, and in order to avoid my colleagues having to defend me during their elections, I have this morning sent a letter asking to be granted a leave of absence until such time as the ethics committee completes its work.

    Still, his pride was such that he could not bring himself to announce the resignation this statement clearly represented.  The adage, pride goes before the fall, seems appropriate here.

    And, if convicted on ethics charges, what a spectacular fall from grace that would be for this man who was always so fond of bragging “I haven’t had a bad day since” being elected to Congress 40 years ago.

    Sorry Charlie…

  • Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    Nelson Mandela is a traitor and an albatross?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Truth be told, there was always a disconnect between Winnie Mandela’s behavior and the Joan-of-Arc vestments she wore during the last throes of Apartheid rule in South Africa. More to the point, her behavior always gave the impression that those vestments were covering up character traits that were more Ma Barker than Indira Gandhi.

    But anti-Apartheid supporters in the West overlooked her intemperate, boorish, and even murderous ways because we considered her a rebel with a cause. This included, most notably, giving Winnie a pass when she allegedly incited members of her entourage (a.k.a. the Mandela United Football Club) – who served variously as her bodyguards, political enforcers, and … boy toys – to beat a young South African boy to death in 1988.  (She was convicted and sentenced to six years, but her sentence was suspended and she got off with a simple fine.)

    In any event, I suspect most of us were finally disabused of all hope that she would ever reconcile her behavior with those vestments when it became clear that neither marriage to a freed Nelson Mandela nor the black rule for which she struggled so heroically was enough to satiate her promiscuous political ambition.

    Therefore, it was clearly just a matter of time before spiteful bile came pouring out of this woman scorned – presumably not only by Nelson (who divorced her in 1996) but also by the new black leadership (which has refused to honor her as the “mother of the nation” in ways she no doubt expected).

    Well, here comes the bile. It flows from an interview conducted by Nadira Naipaul (wife of internationally acclaimed Trinidadian writer V.S. Naipaul), excerpts of which were published yesterday in the London newspaper The Evening Standard.

    Here are just some of the things Winnie is now saying about Mandela – a man who, by all accounts, wore the vestments of a political saint and savior as well as any mortal ever could:

    This name Mandela is an albatross around the necks of my family. You all must realise that Mandela was not the only man who suffered. There were many others, hundreds who languished in prison and died.

    Mandela did go to prison and he went in there as a young revolutionary but look what came out.

    Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically we are still on the outside. The economy is very much “white”.

    I cannot forgive him for going to receive the Nobel with his jailer de Klerk. Hand in hand they went. Do you think de Klerk released him from the goodness of his heart? He had to. The times dictated it, the world had changed.

    Mandela is now like a corporate foundation. He is wheeled out globally to collect the money.

    Frankly, even though she has been effectively marginalized as a political voice in South Africa, and even though what she says about him probably couldn’t matter any less to Mandela, this must disappoint, if not outrage, anyone who cares about his legacy.

    Never mind that if it were up to Winnie, and not Nelson, the Mandela name today would be analogous to that of Mugabe. Which makes me wonder why this South African Beelzebub is still being fêted all over America – as she is this week. Enough said…?

    I just pray Michelle won’t be saying similar things about “this name Obama” someday – given Barack’s pragmatic determination to emulate Mandela’s art of political compromise … with friends and foe alike.

    NOTE: Not surprisingly, Winnie’s remarks spread like wildfire throughout South African on Tuesday.  The ANC claims that it sought immediate clarification. But party spokesman Ismael Mnisi told the BBC that “she has not gotten back to us”.  No kidding.

    Related commentaries:
    Happy Birthday Mandela 46664
    Mandela joins Lincoln, Disraeli, and Churchill

  • Monday, March 8, 2010 at 6:20 AM

    My Picks vs. Winners of 82nd Annual Academy Awards. And the Oscar went to…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    They really should give up trying to make the Oscars into a comedy/variety show. Neil Patrick Harris might’ve been persuasive playing a doctor on Doogie Howser, but he must have embarrassed gay men everywhere with that wooden song-and-dance opening, Broadwayesque number.

    And Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin hosting together weren’t half as good as Billy Crystal hosting by himself….

    [A] three-hour show – only six minutes of which anyone really cares about (i.e., the time it takes to present Oscars for best supporting actor and actress, best actor and actress, best director and best picture).  And, remarkably enough, the host comedians do little to relieve the boredom of the interludes between these carefully spread-out moments.

    [2008 Oscars, TIJ, February 25, 2008]

    Enough said.

    So, with due respect to all, here are the winners for the only Oscar categories anybody was interested in last night. (But damn the producers for awarding only two of them during the first three hours; and then jamming the last four in the last half hour of this insufferably long show – when most of us had to have been too bored to care, if we were still awake….)

    Anyway, in each case here, the naming of the actual winner is followed by my pick and the accompanying notes I made in my original commentary, which was published on Saturday morning:

    Actor in a Leading Role: Jeff Bridges

    My pick: JEFF BRIDGES in Crazy Heart – Not necessarily because I think he was the best; for that distinction goes to Colin Firth in A Single Man – under the noteworthy direction of designer Tom Ford.

    Instead, I believe Bridges will get the nod for the same sentimental reasons Mickey Rourke almost won last year for The Wrestler:  he has been around a very long time, has a personal story that could rival any script, and the Academy loves welcoming prodigal actors back into the fold with Oscar’s seal of approval.

    (Incidentally, the only reason Mickey didn’t win is that he was up against Sean Penn who, as we all know, is the poster boy for this kind antic sentimentality. Hang in there Mickey….)

    Original Song: The Weary Kind

    My pick: Ryan Bingham should win in the Original Song category for this movie’s theme song, The  Weary Kind.

    Actor in a Supporting Role (and Best Acceptance Speech): Christoph Waltz

    My pick: CHRISTOPH WALTZ in Inglourious Basterds – As Ralph Fiennes demonstrated in Schindler’s List, it takes real talent to make a Nazi bastard seem endearing.  Waltz does the same in this movie.

    Beyond this, though, there’s something very appealing about a brilliant actor like Waltz – who can explain the method of his acting with engaging clarity (as he did during a recent interview on Charlie Rose); as opposed to a peer like Daniel Day Lewis – whose annoying inscrutability in this respect is legend.

    Actress in a Leading Role: Sandra Bullock

    My pick: SANDRA BULLOCK in The Blind Side – With Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren in this category, it should be self-evident that I’m not picking Bullock because of her talent.

    Instead, I suspect the Academy will reward her for proving at long last that a leading woman can headline a bona fide Hollywood blockbuster.

    And despite its atavistic, white-civilizing-black storyline, the fact that this movie is based on a true story gives her that Erin Brokovich (Julia Roberts), Norma Rae (Sally Field) winning appeal.

    Never mind that to make Bullock’s character even more of a white heroine, the movie made it seem as though she had to teach the big black boy not only the ABCs of learning, but the ABCs of football as well.  In reality, the boy (Michael Oher) was already a pretty good player before his white family “saved” him.

    That said, let me hasten to note that if more rich, white families want to adopt big black boys and  make professional sports stars out of them, great!  Better that than to have them grow up on the streets, with all that portends for them … and us.

    Actress in a Supporting Role: Mo’Nique

    My pick: MO’NIQUE in Precious – Ironically, just as racial stereotypes will help Bullock win, they will help Mo’nique win.

    In fact, one could be forgiven for thinking that the producers of this film, Oprah and Tyler Perry, figured that Mo’nique’s Mammy look would increase her chances of winning the Oscar – just as it did for the first black woman to win, Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind.

    And let’s face it, the black women who have won all played very similar, stereotypical black roles; namely, Whoopi in Ghost, Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball, and Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls (on an admittedly more sophisticated and redeeming level).

    Directing: Kathryn Bigelow

    My pick: KATHRYN BIGELOW for The Hurt Locker – Not least because I love her name.  But just as Bullock will be rewarded for breaking the glass ceiling on blockbusters, Bigelow will be for integrating the all boys club of Oscar-winning directors.  And that she did it with a film of such griping suspense and insidious violence dispels all kinds of sexist stereotypes.

    Of course, there’s also the undeniable intrigue of not only competing in this category against her ex-husband, James Cameron for that movie hegemon, Avatar, but also having him declare (in an unwittingly chauvinistic, she’s-still-my-woman way) that she should win for directing and he for best picture.

    Best Picture: The Hurt Locker

    My pick: THE HURT LOCKER – Avatar seems to be a lock, and for very legitimate reasons. But, in most cases, I think the person who wins for best directing should see the film he/she directed win for best picture too. That should be the case this year.

    This result would also celebrate the redeeming value of having the least expensive as well as least profitable film of the year (with The Hurt Locker costing $14 million and grossing only $19 million) beat out the most expensive as well as most profitable one (with Avatar costing over $200 million and grossing over $2.5 billion).

    NOTE: This means that I was 6 out of 6 in my picks … I know.

    But who knew the two winners of the short documentary film for Prudence would provide the most exciting moment of the evening when one of them pulled a Kanye by cutting off the other in mid-sentence to go on a completely incomprehensible rave about her film.

    Meanwhile, is it just me or did Zoe Saldana look like she was still wearing her Na’vi makeup from Avatar…? And I hope that, with all the praise people are heaping of Gabourey Sidebe for her performance in Precious, someone cares enough to warn her that parts are limited enough for black women in Hollywood who look like Halle Berry and Angela Bassett. But that for black women who look like her, they are once in a lifetime … and that she just had hers.

    Related commentaries:
    2009 Oscars
    2008 Oscars… 

  • Saturday, March 6, 2010 at 7:21 AM

    82nd Annual Academy Awards: And the Oscar goes to…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here are my picks for the only Oscar categories anybody will be interested in tomorrow evening; with due respect of course to all of the other very talented nominees:

    Actor in a Leading Role

    JEFF BRIDGES in Crazy Heart – Not necessarily because I think he was the best; for that distinction goes to Colin Firth in the Single Man – under the noteworthy direction of designer Tom Ford.  

    Instead, I believe Bridges will get the nod for the same sentimental reasons Mickey Rourke almost won last year for The Wrestler:  he has been around a very long time, has a personal story that could rival any script, and the Academy loves welcoming prodigal actors back into the fold with Oscar’s seal of approval.

    (Incidentally, the only reason Mickey didn’t win is that he was up against Sean Penn who, as we all know, is the poster boy for this kind antic sentimentality. Hang in there Mickey….)

    NOTE: Ryan Bingham should win in the Original Song category for this movie’s theme song, The  Weary Kind.

    Actor in a Supporting Role

    CHRISTOPH WALTZ in Inglourious Basterds – As Ralph Fiennes demonstrated in Schindler’s List, it takes real talent to make a Nazi bastard seem endearing.  Waltz does the same in this movie.

    Beyond this, though, there’s something very appealing about a brilliant actor like Waltz – who can explain the method of his acting with engaging clarity (as he did during a recent interview on Charlie Rose); as opposed to a peer like Daniel Day Lewis – whose annoying inscrutability in this respect is legend.

    Actress in a Leading Role

    SANDRA BULLOCK in The Blind Side – With Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren in this category, it should be self-evident that I’m not picking Bullock because of her talent. 

    Instead, I suspect the Academy will reward her for proving at long last that a leading woman can headline a bona fide Hollywood blockbuster.

    And despite its atavistic, white-civilizing-black storyline, the fact that this movie is based on a true story gives her that Erin Brokovich (Julia Roberts), Norma Rae (Sally Field) winning appeal.

    Never mind that to make Bullock’s character even more of a white heroine, the movie made it seem as though she had to teach the big black boy not only the ABCs of learning, but the ABCs of football as well.  In reality, the boy (Michael Oher) was already a pretty good player before his white family “saved” him.

    That said, let me hasten to note that if more rich, white families want to adopt big black boys and  make professional sports stars out of them, great!  Better that than to have them grow up on the streets, with all that portends for them … and us.

    Actress in a Supporting Role

    MO’NIQUE in Precious – Ironically, just as racial stereotypes will help Bullock win, they will help Mo’nique win.

    In fact, one could be forgiven for thinking that the producers of this film, Oprah and Tyler Perry, figured that Mo’nique’s Mammy look would increase her chances of winning the Oscar – just as it did for the first black woman to win, Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind.

    And let’s face it, the black women who have won all played very similar, stereotypical black roles; namely, Whoopi in Ghost, Halle Berry in Monsters Ball, and Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls (on an admittedly more sophisticated and redeeming level)    

    Directing

    KATHRYN BIGELOW for Hurt Locker – Not least because I love her name.  But just as Bullock will be rewarded for breaking the glass ceiling on blockbusters, Bigelow will be for integrating the all boys club of directors of war movies.  And that she did it in such griping, suspenseful, and appropriately violent fashion dispels all kinds of sexist stereotypes.

    Of course, there’s also the undeniable intrigue of not only competing in this category against her ex-husband, James Cameron for that movie hegemon, Avatar, but also having him declare (in an unwittingly chauvinistic, she’s-still-my-woman way) that she should win for directing and he for best picture.

    Best Picture

    HURT LOCKER – Avatar seems to be a lock, and for very legitimate reasons. But, in most cases, I think the person who wins for best directing should see the film he/she directed win for best picture too. That should be the case this year.

    We shall see….

  • Friday, March 5, 2010 at 6:12 AM

    Congressional committee condemns Turkey for Armenian genocide … again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Yesterday, a congressional committee passed a resolution declaring the World War I killing of untold numbers of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a genocide.  And, given media reports on this resolution, you’d think it caused a Cold-War rift in the strategic relationship between the US and Turkey, its NATO (and Afghan-War) ally.  But nothing could be further from the truth.

    Granted, Obama practically begged Congress not to pass it to avoid upsetting Turkey; and Turkey promptly reacted by recalling its ambassador in a hissy fit.

    I think the Americans would feel that same if we were to pass a resolution in our parliament talking about the treatment of [native] Indians in this country…  We are seriously concerned that this bill… will harm Turkish-US relations and impede efforts aimed at normalising Turkish-Armenian tie…

    We condemn this resolution which accuses the Turkish nation of a crime it has not committed.

    (Statement by Turkish government)

    Fair enough Turkey. But until it’s voted on by the entire House, this resolution has no binding effect. Moreover, the US and Turkey have played this kabuki diplomatic dance before; most recently in 2007 when the Democratically controlled Congress had a perceived interest in passing a similar resolution to frustrate the foreign policy of (Republican) President George W. Bush by passing a similar resolution.

    Yet cooler heads prevailed, and the resolution never even made it to the floor of the House for a vote:

    Even the diplomatically challenged George W. Bush has decried this pending resolution as an egregious insult to a desperately needed and remarkably loyal ally. And never mind that it arrogates to American politicians the presumptuous role of judge and jury on a contentious matter that Turkish politicians themselves are still trying to resolve.

    Because, even if the genocide at issue is an historical fact (and I’ve read enough to believe that it is), the U.S. has no compelling interest in passing this political resolution. Especially when Congress could be debating far more constructive measures to help Bush stop the genocides now unfolding in Darfur and Zimbabwe… Not to mention the absurdity of its members making a proclamation about events that occurred during World War I, when the vast majority of the people they represent barely know what occurred during World War II.)

    [US Congress set to condemn Turkey, TIJ, October 15, 2007]

    So, just as it was in 2007, there’ll be lots of pulling and tugging but no rift between the US and Turkey over this resolution. It too will die in committee. Not least because even voting on it would undermine all of the goodwill President Obama has built up with this key Muslim country as well as convey the impression that, as their infighting over healthcare reform demonstrates, Democrats can’t get their act together on anything.

    Our focus is on continuing to make progress on an issue that has, for almost 100 years, divided two countries [Turkey and Armenia]. Through some very tough diplomatic work by Secretary Clinton, we’ve made progress. We’re on the cusp of normalization [between them].

    (White House spokesman Robert Gibbs)

    Related commentaries:
    Congressional committee condemns Turkey

  • Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 6:09 AM

    Alas, most Ukrainians believe in constant change, if not in chaos

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    What has transpired over the past five years in the Second-World country of Ukraine should disabuse anyone of the notion that terminally dysfunctional governments exist only in the Third World.

    Here are a few excerpts from a September 24, 2008, commentary entitled Update on my favorite ex-communists: the Ukrainians that should explain why:

    I officially declare the coalition of democratic forces … in Ukraine’s parliament dissolved. This has been long expected, but for me it is extremely sad.   I would not call this a political apocalypse, though it is true that it is another challenge of democracy. I hope we can overcome it.

    (Arseny Yatsenyuk, Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament)

    With that declaration last week, yet another Ukrainian government bit the dust; which is saying quite a lot given that I felt obliged to open my most recent update on the Ukrainians as follows:

    …no American politician could have anticipated the obsession fractious Ukrainians evidently developed for elections after their split from the former Soviet Union. After all, Sunday’s national poll was the third in three years, which puts the Ukrainians on track to make the Italians’ promiscuous penchant for changing governments seem positively chaste.

    [UPDATE on my favorite ex-communists: the Ukrainians, The iPINIONS Journal, October 2, 2007]

    Nevertheless, there were great expectations last year that the gunshot re-marriage between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the two leaders of Ukraine’s democratic forces, would last.

    But I was more cynical. In fact, despite writing that “perhaps this third time will prove a charm,” I ended last year’s update as follows:

    Chances are even better, however, that I’ll be writing a similar update a year from now after another round of elections are called to end yet another period of political deadlock.

    And, sure enough, here I am. 

    It is noteworthy, however, that this third divorce was caused by far more than persistent irreconcilable differences between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.   

    Because it was triggered by Tymoshenko’s refusal to stand by Yushchenko when he went out on a limb in June to support another ex-communist, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, in his failed attempt to oust Russian forces from his country. 

    Yushchenko claims that Tymoshenko not only betrayed him (and Ukraine’s democratic forces) but was actually plotting “a political and constitutional coup d’etat” by joining Viktor Yanukovych (right), the leader of Ukraine’s pro-Russian party, in accusing Georgia’s democratic forces of provoking the Russian invasion.

    That was the last straw, which evidently forced Yushchenko to walk out on his coalition government with Tymoshenko. Now there’s every indication that, despite talk of reconciliation, Yushchenko will be forced to call snap elections within weeks.

    For her part, Tymoshenko insists that the marriage can still work:

    I am sorry that the president behaves irresponsibly…. I am convinced that the work of the democratic coalition will be renewed.

    Except that, with the Russians feeling so adventuresome these days, they might use this latest episode (which they could argue indicates that the Ukrainians have no ability to govern this former Soviet Republic) as an excuse to do in Ukraine what they did in Georgia … to protect ethnic Russians of course.

    But even if the democratic forces come to their senses and renew their vows, chances are very good that I’ll be writing a similar update a year from now….

    Well, it’s little more than a year, but this latest update brings much of the same. Because, after joining forces to utterly frustrate  Yushchenko’s presidency, Tymoshenko and Yanukovych began plotting against each other immediately to replace him. 

    This led to new presidential elections last month, which resulted in Yanukovych defeating Tymoshenko.  Yet, true to form, this latest change has only ushered in a new term of political chaos and dysfunction

    In this case, just as she defied Yushchenko, Tymoshenko defied Yanukovych’s demands for her to resign as prime minister so that he could appoint someone whose sole ambition was not to take his job. Her defiance led to an extraordinary vote of no-confidence in parliament yesterday, which will now compel Tymoshenko and her cabinet to resign.

    Yanukovych now has 60 days to form a new governing coalition.  But with the old Orange revolutionaries, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, still hell-bent on putting personal ambition above national governance, his chances of success are slim to none. 

    This means that Ukraine is probably in for another round of snap parliamentary elections before summer.  And so it goes….

    Related Articles:
    UPDATE on my favorite ex-communists
    Russia calls US (and EU) bluff [over] Georgian territories

  • Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 9:49 AM

    USA can elect a black president, but ABC can’t select a black bachelor…?!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s bad enough that grownups would expose themselves to the humiliating spectacle of competing on national TV to be a total stranger’s spouse. But that this contrived farce makes for entertaining television for millions of Americans speaks volumes about this country’s cultural maturity

    (At least with Soap Operas there’s some redeeming social value in knowing that the people on the screen are just acting like lovelorn fools for our entertainment….) 

    Clearly, I am not a fan of The Bachelor; nor of its equally degrading counterpart, The Bachelorette – a show which only proves that women are just like men, not only  in requiring no stimulation above the shoulders to “fall in love” but also in having no compunction about making asses of themselves.

    That said, I was truly stupefied when an otherwise intelligent black woman began waxing indignant at a dinner party last night about why the latest bachelor chose the bad girl instead of the good one … duh!  To my surprise, if not dismay, this kick-started a pretty animated discussion among the others (3 women, one man, all white, and all rabid fans of the show) on the merits of which of the two finalists would prove a more suitable wife.

    Well, since I had no clue who they were talking about, I could not contribute to this surreal and embarrassingly voyeuristic debate.  But I am familiar with the show, which has become almost as much a cultural phenomenon as American Idol. Therefore, after my dinner companions settled their debate by all agreeing that he chose the wrong member of ABC’s harem to be his bride, it occurred to me to ask this question:

    Why do you suppose, of all of the bachelors [10] and bachelorettes [3] ABC has featured on this show, none of them have been black, Hispanic or a person of any color?

    Talk about being the skunk at a garden party….  I soon gathered, though, that they were all just waiting for a non-elitist reason to stop watching anyway.

    Still, given the prevailing presumptions about living in a post-racial world, you’d think that such a glaring exercise in social eugenics would be unthinkable.  Yet it thrives openly and notoriously. And by the way, littering the harem with token blacks is even more patently contrived than the premise of this show.

    There’s no denying that the selection of whites only as the stars of this show reflects a Jim Crow mentality, which holds that watching black people making out on TV is anathema to white people. Fair enough. I just wonder why this “white reality” resonates with so many black people…?

    Frankly, I thought we relegated this prejudice to the dustbin of history over three decades ago.   Remember Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Hell, that was over four decades ago. 

    But I can just hear producers at ABC rationalizing it by saying that if folks want to see that they can switch to BET, or to some other cable channel – like MTV or VH1 – that even “condones” miscegenation (mixed-race relationships)….

    Who will be the next Bachelor?  Well, chances are he won’t be black. But in this case, paradoxically, that’s a good thing, right?

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