• Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 5:23 AM

    EU Threatens Action Against France Over Roma Migrants

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The free movement of people from poor to rich countries has always been the most contentious feature of regional integration schemes. I know this is the primary reason why, despite it being a categorical imperative in this age of globalization, all attempts to integrate the economies in my native region of the Caribbean have failed.  

    But just imagine what the United States would be like today if NAFTA had included a provision guaranteeing such freedom of movement. Well, in addition to the illegal emigration of people from poor countries in Africa and the Middle East, the rich countries in Europe are actually confronting this nightmare scenario with the legal emigration of people from poor countries within the Union.

    Of course, in a perverse way, France should probably be flattered that it is the destination of choice for most of these (legal and illegal) immigrants.  But there’s no denying that the quality of life for native Frenchmen has been adversely affected.

    This is most evident in the number of Roma (gypsies from Romanian and Bulgaria) who have set up unsightly and unhealthy shanty towns all over the country. But even tourists can attest to the untenable fact that walking about the beautiful streets of Paris these days, in one respect, is rather like walking the streets of Dickensian London.

    After all, gangs of Roma “artful dodgers” now pickpocket unsuspecting visitors with precision and success that Fagin could not have imagined even in his most fanciful dreams. Then there’s the burden these unemployable immigrants place on the country’s welfare system.

    This is why French President Nicolas Sarkozy took it upon himself to rid France of them – EU rules on the freedom of movement be damned.  To do so, he ordered the dismantling of their shanty towns as well as their “humanitarian” repatriation – presumably to places where their nomadic, gypsy lifestyle does not represent such a cultural eyesore.

    Officially, he cited the contagions of crime and prostitution as justification for his draconian order. But bear in mind that it was Sarkozy who – as Interior Minister – referred to native Frenchmen born of African parents as “rabble [and] scum” when they rioted in the streets five years ago to vent their frustrations over being alienated from the French way of life.

    The problem in this case, however, is that such deportation is illegal under EU law. Not to mention the historical precedents, most notably from Nazi Germany, this solution conjures up.  

    Nevertheless, Sarkozy has responded with a Gallic “non” to all calls from the European Commission, the guardian of the EU’s governing treaty, to cease and desist this not-so-subtle form of ethnic cleansing.  In fact, he has so infuriated members of the Commission with his imperious and patently specious attempts to distinguish his expulsion of the Roma from France from late President Slobodan Milosevic’s expulsion of Muslims from Serbia that the EU justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, was moved to make the following statement:

    I personally have been appalled by a situation which gave the impression that people are being removed from a Member State of the European Union just because they belong to a certain ethnic minority. This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War. I make it very clear my patience is wearing thin: enough is enough.

    (Europa Press Release RAPID, Brussels, September 14, 2010)

    That she felt this way is understandable of course; that she expressed her feelings with such contempt and disgust at a press briefing was, well, not very diplomatic.   She later apologized for unwittingly comparing Nicolas Sarkozy to Adolf Hitler.

    But I share her outrage … as much as any non-European can. For having signed on to the EU treaty, France cannot now pick and choose which Europeans will be allowed to live or even squat within its “open boarders”.

    Frankly, if Sarkozy harbored no discriminatory intent he could easily have applied to the Roma the French law that requires all cities and towns of 5,000 or more to provide vacant lots with basic necessities like water and electricity for gens du voyage (i.e., travelers or France’s own nomadic people).

    But allowing him to deport the Roma with impunity would make a mockery of the organizing principle of the European Union.  No doubt this is why the Commission threatened France yesterday with disciplinary action unless it complies with the EU directive in this respect by October 15.  Unfortunately, the EU threatening to take action against France over the deportation of Roma migrants is rather like the UN threatening to take action against Iran over the development of its nuclear program.

    Therefore, I fully expect Sarkozy to continue ridding France of them with impunity.  Not least because he can reasonably argue that if the Roma were as much a menace to society in Germany and England, their leaders would probably be looking for ways to get rid of them too.

    Related commentaries:
    French riots

  • Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 5:13 AM

    Bishop Eddie Long’s Gay-Sex Scandal

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If these politicians were not lead vocals in a chorus of moral crusaders, I would not give their sexual escapades a moment’s thought. For the unadulterated pleasure of afflicting these hypocrites, however, I don’t even mind being bedfellows with a publicity-seeking hustler like Larry Flynt.

    (DC Madam outs Sen. David Vitter as a faithful “John”…, TIJ, July 17, 2007)

    This quote explains why I have reveled in commenting on the sex scandals that exposed a number of politicians as self-righteous hypocrites in recent years. But I hope it goes without saying that the logic behind it applies even more to preachersRemember gay-bashing Pastor Ted Haggard who was outed by his male prostitute? Well, this brings me to mega-church leader Bishop Eddie Long.

    Four young boys filed lawsuits recently accusing this 57-year- old preacher, who has hobnobbed over the years with every U.S. president from Carter to Obama, of using his power and influence as head of the Youth Academy they attended to sexually molest them … repeatedly. And, by the way, if four of them had the courage to come forward, chances are very good that there are at least another forty boys who are either too ashamed or too afraid to do so.

    The grooming these boys allege is textbook predatory behavior – complete with Bishop Long enticing them with cash, jewelry, cars, and overnight stays in luxurious hotels (where they reportedly shared the same bed).  Not surprisingly, in this age of Twitter and Facebook, there are even incriminating pictures that he sent to these boys, which are of the type that only a young stud would send to a young girl (or boy) he’s trying to seduce.

    Meanwhile, anyone who knows anything about the black church, which I grew up in, knows that “Thou shall not be gayis observed like the eleventh commandment. And no black preacher has hurled more invectives about eternal damnation at homosexuals than Bishop Long. Hell, he even led a notorious march through the streets of Atlanta in 2004 protesting the Sodomization of America….

    I have often lamented that it’s not white Republicans as much as black Democrats who have blocked the passage of legislations and referendums granting equal rights to gay people.  And, sadly, the historical irony, if not hypocrisy, inherent in their prejudice against our homosexual brothers and sisters seems completely lost on these black (Christian) folks.

    More to the point, though, anyone who knows anything about the black church also knows that Bishop Long is hardly the only black preacher who preaches against homosexuality on Sunday morning as a perverse form of absolution for the homosexual “sins” he committed on Saturday night.

    Indeed, it would not surprise me at all to learn that such closeted preachers are defiling pulpits in every state in the United States.  But I urge any young boy who is being groomed and molested in this fashion to report that so-called man of God to the police … today!

    In any case, Bishop Long must derive some relief from the fact that his alleged assignations with these boys do not constitute crimes. Evidently, the boys were all above the age of consent when the alleged sexual acts were consummated. So at least the Bishop does not appear to be a pedophile … as well.

    Accordingly, what must matter above all else to him now is retaining the blind faith of the 25,000 members of his New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. No doubt this is why he stood before them on Sunday and casted himself as David fighting against some phantom Goliath – not for the sake of his wretched soul, but for the sake of his hedonistic life.

    Vowing to fight the allegations, he intoned that:

    I’ve been accused, I’m under attack… I am not a perfect man, but this thing I’m gonna fight. I feel like David against Goliath, but I got five rocks, and I haven’t thrown one yet.

    (CNN September 26, 2010)

    This triggered a rousing ovation from the poor, gullible souls who have poured tens of millions into the coffers from which Bishop Long has funded his lifestyle of the rich and famous. In fact, it has always been a source of profound shame for me that blacks take such incomprehensible pride in the ostentatious ways their pastors flaunt their ill-gotten wealth. Especially since these “tithing” folks themselves are invariably struggling to make ends meet. 

    Anyway, far too few members of his congregation seemed to wonder why he spoke so defiantly about fighting the allegations, but never denied any of them. Not to mention that one of the Deacons of his church should have admonished him by quoting this familiar proverb, which might have made the Bishop think twice about casting himself as David:

    He who lives in a glass house should not throw stones.

    Of course, truth be told, the reason he hasn’t thrown any yet is that Bishop Long probably plans to quietly settle all claims and then go on preaching as if they were never filed. And his congregation will be all too willing to oblige….

    But what I found particularly galling about the Bishop’s statement on Sunday was his non-confession confession in which he said that “I am not a perfect man“.  Indeed, when I finally saw the video of him making it, I wanted to shout at him:

    No shit, Sherlock! The problem is not that you’re not perfect; it’s that you’re a fucking sexual predator … and a hypocrite to boot! And one more thing, with all of the millions you’ve stolen from those poor suckers giving you a standing ovation, the least you could do is to buy yourself a better-looking toupee.

    And that’s coming from the son of a preacher man….

    Related commentaries:
    Rep. Mark Foley
    Sen. Craig
    Sen. Vitter
    Gov. Eliot Spitzer

  • Sunday, September 26, 2010 at 7:07 AM

    India Promised that its 21st-Century Style Commonwealth Games Would Outdo China’s Olympic Games…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    But with the Commonwealth Games due to get underway next week amidst reports that the athletes’ village still resembles one of its 20th-Century slums, India has clearly fallen far short of its promise.

  • Friday, September 24, 2010 at 5:43 AM

    Open Letter to the Political Leaders of my home country – the TCI

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Dear Leaders:

    I pray that all of you will accept this letter in the spirit of brotherhood and patriotism that is intended.

    With all due respect, I feel compelled to urge you to recalibrate your reaction to the announcement on Monday by Henry Bellingham MP, the UK Minister for the Overseas Territories, that elections scheduled for July 2011 will have to be postponed. Not least because your reaction has already given sanction to the untenable spectacle of TCIslanders bum rushing Governor Wetherell at the airport the day after this announcement.

    It’s bad enough that none of you have bothered to condemn this assault. But that some of you actually participated – I am constrained to point out – is itself an indication of why this postponement is necessary.

    One of the most searing indictments Sir Robin Auld made in the Commission of Inquiry report that led to the suspension of local rule is that the ministers in our ruling Progressive National Party (PNP) were exhibiting “clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and general administrative incompetence.” Alas, these untenable signs remain very much on display today, and in bipartisan form.

    No doubt many people inferred from Sir Robin’s report that only PNP leaders were unfit to lead.  Therefore, Mr. Clayton Green should be commended for wresting leadership of this party away from those who were directly implicated.

    The pity, though, is that confidence even in his leadership has been undermined by the most respected members of his party publicly indicting him as being cut essentially from the same disgraced, discarded and disillusioned cloth. This renders his political future null and void. 

    That being the case, I shall spare him any further mention and direct the rest of this letter to Mr. Doug Parnell and his PDM shadow government.

    These leaders are probably motivated more by concerns about losing their jobs and political influence than by any concern about protecting our presumed birthright.  After all, amongst those of us who pleaded for the British to intervene were PDM leaders who reportedly fantasized about being automatically installed in power.

    (Putting concerns about British Intervention into Perspective, Caribbean Net News, March 20, 2009)

    Regrettably, Mr. Parnell, I can think of no other explanation for the antic disposition you’ve displayed towards our interim government than this observation I made over 18 months ago. For your behavior in this context has been rather like that of a man who calls the firemen to stop his house from burning down, but then assaults them as soon as they arrive. 

    I suspect the vast majority of TCIslanders hoped that you and the PDM would ultimately redeem our political culture. But we assumed that you would begin (and prove your worthiness to lead) by working with Governor Wetherell’s interim administration to clean up the mess the PNP left behind.

    Instead, you have seized upon every opportunity to foil this administration’s authority and effectiveness.  Not to mention the ungrateful, impudent and patently false accusations about neo-colonialism that you’ve been hurling at the UK government throughout this period. 

    I lamented in the commentary referenced above that you seem to be exhibiting many of the leadership traits that led to former Premier Misick’s demise.

    What else explains your decision to lead a protest march to agitate for the only right you seem to care about; i.e., the right to hold elections that might make you the next premier of the TCI?

    What else explains your decision to willfully reject Chairman Lillian Misick’s invitation to participate in a Consultative Forum symposium on constitutional and electoral reform and, specifically, to engage Kate Sullivan, the UK-appointed expert retained to draft recommendations which will give TCIslanders, the UK government and the international community greater confidence that our leaders will adhere to the principles of good governance?  

    (Never mind that the most revered members of both political parties, namely,  for the PNP, former chief ministers Washington Misick and Norman Saunders, and for the PDM, former chief ministers Derek Taylor and Oswald Skippings, all duly accepted and properly participated in discussions on such contentious issues as enlarging the franchise and conducting trials by judge without jury. This is why forming your own “All-Party Commission on the Constitution and Electoral Reform” in this context smacked of little more than puerile spite.)

    At long last, Sir, what else explains your reported plan to make a nuisance of yourself and further embarrass our country by running off to CARICOM and the UN to complain about the British doing not just what has to be done, but what we (and you) pleaded with them to do? 

    Hell, in this latter respect, one would’ve thought that you would’ve learned from the open and notorious humiliation former Premier Misick suffered by running off to plead his equally baseless and self-interested case to these same organizations. Enough said?

    Mind you, this is not to say that all has been honky-dory with this interim administration.  In fact, while you were organizing your first “unity march [to] take our country back”, some of us were prevailing upon the duly appointed (all-Belonger) members of the Consultative Forum, as well as the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) in London, to address all of this administration’s shortcomings. 

    These shortcomings include the dithering over plainly necessary changes in the management of our National Health Insurance Plan; an all too apprehensive approach to a variety of law and order issues; the glacial pace of progress by the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team; and presenting a systemic dimwittedness when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of our people – just to name a few.

    Nevertheless, some of us are mindful that Governor Wetherell can no sooner clean up the mess former Premier Misick left behind than President Barack Obama can clean up the mess former President George W. Bush left behind.  So instead of pestering the Governor’s bosses with haughty and unreasonable demands as you have, we entreated them with our concerns. 

    More to the point, I can say without fear of contradiction that it was our entreaties to Sir Robin and his subsequent letter to the FAC that moved this authoritative committee to issue a pivotal report in March (2010) on the speed and effectiveness of the Governor’s initiatives. Most notably, the FAC acknowledged not only the merit of our concerns, but also the responsibility of the UK government to fund this interim administration’s efforts to restore good governance and fiscal soundness to our beleaguered country. All indications are that the UK government is now acting pursuant to that report, and with all deliberate speed.

    This brings me to your arguably defamatory allegation about Minister Bellingham deliberately misleading you about the date of local elections, which you seem to regard as the panacea for all of our ills. (The fact, of course, is that the superficial tribalism two-party elections have fostered has been the bane of our existence.)

    During your press conference on Wednesday, you led our people to believe that you were so betrayed by Bellingham, the Governor and other British officials that you were provoked into putting the UK government on notice as follows:

    There’s no more Mr. Nice Guy. There’s no more Mr. Nice Guy.  This is a matter for the people and we are going to ask our people to come together in such a way that is ten times greater than what you saw on unity day…

    We want our country back and we want our country back now!  We will not engage in a process that does not provide authority to the people of the TCI…

    The deep danger that this issue raises is that it opens up a lot of old wounds… And there are a lot of old wounds in the TCI between the British government and the people of this country. And it would be better if we have again here and now full democracy. We demand it, we make no excuses for its demand.

    (Courtesy PTV 8, September 22, 2010)

    But there’s so much that is ill-advised and, frankly, troubling about this diatribe that I hardly know where to begin.  For starters, though, the lack of temperament and sound judgment you displayed in delivering it are enough to disqualify you from even leading your party, let alone our country.  Even worse, you premised your not-so-subtle threat of inciting unrest on an allegation that has no basis in fact.

    After all, any reasonable person who read the FAC report referenced above, could not have failed to grasp the committee’s informed conclusion that:

    There are solid reasons for regarding the Governor’s preferred July 2011 date for the end of direct rule as unrealistic.

    Add to this the public statements of no less a person than UK Foreign Minister William Hague echoing this FAC conclusion, and only a self-deluding, power-hungry dullard could claim to have been misled in this respect.

    Not to mention, at the risk of beating a dead horse, that some of us spent months explaining to fellow TCIslanders (via The TCI Journal and Caribbean Net News) why conditions on the ground make this date “impracticable”.  Yet you claim to have been misled….

    I feel obliged at this point to make one more observation and one final admonition:

    The observation is that our politically correct designation as an “Overseas Territory” seems to have also misled you into thinking that we are no longer a dependent territory.  Never mind that having to call on the British to put an end to the epidemic of alleged corruption being perpetrated by former Premier Misick and his PNP ministers should have disabused anyone of this thinking.

    In a similar vein, you seem to mistake the polite sufferance of British officials for enlightened deference. But only a problem child would think that he could brazenly challenge his parent’s authority on the one hand, while making insolent demands of that parent on the other.  And woe betide the parent who lets him get away with it.

    The admonition stems from a similar one I offered to Michael Misick in 2006 when he made history by becoming the first premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Specifically,  it behooves you to conduct yourself and the affairs of your party in such a way that nobody can claim that you are more interested in being a party leader than in assuming the duties and responsibilities of building a party that is capable of governing our country.

    It’s not too late, Mr Parnell, for you to prove yourself worthy. And I urge you to begin by canceling your plan to hold another “unity day”, which surely you must know will be anything but. Besides, you’d be hard-pressed to tell those you’re calling on to march again exactly what the last unity day of protest accomplished.

    Beyond this, I beg you to help us prevail upon the British to spare our people any more false hope by setting another election date. Let us urge them instead to follow Bellingham’s suggestion of setting out conditions that we and they must meet before elections are held.  Not only will this temper the ambitions of all local politicians, it will also incentivize the truly committed ones to work with our interim administration to meet those conditions as soon as possible.  

    More importantly, though, I beg you to help our people understand the importance of participating respectfully and constructively in the (UK-sanctioned) constitutional and electoral reform process. For you cannot be proud of the fact that convening your separate “all-party” commission has encouraged a very vocal minority to not just shun but even disrupt town hall meetings led by members of the Consultative Forum – complete on one shocking and appalling occasion with the ceremonial burning of Ms. Sullivan’s draft recommendations.  Isn’t this the kind of foolish pride you used to accuse former Premier Misick of stoking?

    At any rate, instead of facilitating their restiveness with the British, you would serve our country far better by encouraging our people to remain patient … and calm. It took the PNP seven years to get us into this mess, this interim administration should be given at least half that time to get us out.

    Finally, it can’t hurt for you to help our people understand that being forced to intervene as they have must be as frustrating for the British as it is humiliating for us.


    NOTE:  This letter has also been published today at The TCI Journal and Caribbean News Now. (First three pictures courtesy of PTV 8, final one of TCI Weekly News.)

  • Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 5:18 AM

    Married Fools: Peter and Stephanie, Ashton and Demi

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The length to which some celebrity couples go to make a spectacle of their private lives never ceases to amaze me.  But it’s only on very rare occasions that I find the tabloid fodder they provide worthy of comment.  And the divorce between Peter Brandt (63) and Stephanie Seymour (42) as well as persistent rumors of infidelity in the boy-toy marriage of Ashton Kutcher (32) and Demi Moore (47) fit the bill.

    Peter & Stephanie

    Frankly, few people knew anything about Peter, whom every paper describes as a polo-playing millionaire, until he married Stephanie. After all, she was the model who every heterosexual male my age remembers as the feature attraction in many issues of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition during the mid-1990s. But I digress.

    The point is that the marriage between this former playboy and this former supermodel – who also posed in Playboy – seemed doomed from the start.  Not least because of the combustible mix of his open and notorious history of buying and controlling his women and her equally open and notorious history of aping the bad behavior of high-profile lovers like Axl Rose, Charlie Sheen, and Warren Beatty. So that it lasted 15 years was very commendable indeed.

    Then earlier this year came the divorce petition, which was followed by the kind of mudslinging that made the War of the Roses seem genteel. 

    For his part, Peter accused Stephanie of being a drug and booze-addled spendthrift who not only cuckolded him but neglected their three children to boot. She, in turn, accused him of treating her like a trophy wife (duh) whom he wanted to keep locked up in a gilded cage and of cheating on her far more than she cheated on him.

    And these allegations were only the opening salvos in proceedings over the past few months that provided prurient details that were almost as titillating as revelations about Tiger Woods’s extramarital peccadilloes.

    It has become all too commonplace for couples going through divorce to subject themselves to this kind of public spectacle, wasting millions of dollars in legal fees in the process. (Exhibit B: the ongoing divorce proceeding of Frank and Jamie McCourt, owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers) But I can think of nothing more foolish than for them to air all of their dirty laundry in this fashion and then “reconcile”. 

    Yet this, according to reports, is what Peter and Stephanie did yesterday.  Never mind that even their children probably know that this reconciliation will only give them a chance to collect more mud to sling at each other when divorce proceedings begin again, which seems inevitable.  Fools.

    Ashton & Demi

    No doubt many of you have heard far more about the rumors of infidelity now besetting Ashton and Demi’s five-year marriage. Not least because they have published more fodder about it through their Twitter accounts than the tabloids

    And there’s the rub. Because you’d think a guy who’s cheating on his wife would not be fronting on Twitter everyday about every aspect of his perfect married life, including sharing far too much information about “their own naked workout parties” to keep in shape. 

    What makes their spectacle so sad, if not pathetic, is the fact that it’s the older and presumably more mature Demi who has been twittering like a teenager gushing on about her first crush

    But the lady doth profess too much, methinks. And nothing is more embarrassing in this respect than the pictures she’s been posting of her surgically enhanced body – as if to show all of the twenty-somethings out there that they really have to be on their game to steal her man.

    Well, if reports in People and Star are true, there are at least two girls who had enough game to at least lure Ashton away for a little extramarital play.  And Ashton only added credence to these reports, which included witness accounts of him “kissing and groping an unidentified blonde outside a restroom at the Los Angeles Italian eatery Madeo”, by publishing this non-denial denial, via Twitter of course:

    I think Star magazine calling me a ‘cheater’ qualifies as defamation of character. I hope my lawyer agrees… STAR magazine – you don’t get to stand behind “freedom of the press” when you are writing fiction.”

    (Twitter, September 1, 2010)

    Meanwhile, Demi seems so wrapped up in the virtual reality of their marriage that she cannot even imagine Ashton creeping for some young and more natural booty on the side. Accordingly, she immediately appended Ashton’s tweet with her own enabling tweet as follows:

    No question! Excellent point my love.


    Of course, we all know that threatening to sue is one thing, suing is quite another.  And since there’s been no word about Star being sued, we have to assume that Ashton’s lawyer advised him that truth is an absolute defense to any claim of defamation.   Not to mention that more girls are likely to come out of the woodwork….

    In any case, the real pity here is that instead of emulating Tiger’s wife Elin Nordegren or Jesse’s wife Sandra Bullock by kicking her cheating husband to the curb, Demi seems intent on keeping her twittering marriage intact. But I doubt Ashton will still be around when she’s 50 years old. Fool.

  • Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 5:11 AM

    Why I’m So Utterly Dismissive of the Tea Party

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    [Author’s Note:  I published the following on Monday as a special note to my commentary entitled, The Obamas Go to Church?. For a variety of reasons, I’ve been persuaded to republish it today (slightly revised).]

    A surprising number of people have asked why I’m so utterly dismissive of the Tea Party, especially given how well its candidates did in Republican primaries this year.

    Well, for starters, it strikes me as more of a political cult than a political party. But it’s really because I’m convinced that it will have no greater (lasting) impact on politics in America than the Reform Party.  Remember when the media had the world convinced that that party was poised to “take America back” too? Frankly, I’d be shocked if any more than one-third of Tea Party candidates actually win their midterm elections in November.

    Besides, I see no point in wasting commentaries on a bunch of idiots who think they can change Washington by refusing to deal with anyone, including moderate Republicans, who does not follow their Christian-jihadist ideology.  Their political passion is fueled by little more than dogmatic ignorance; which is why their political agenda is highlighted by the foolhardy notion that the only role of the federal government is to lower taxes on rich people and wage latter-day crusades (at home and abroad). 

    Among the causes that will surely contribute to the fall of America is the rise of rabid political forces like these Tea Partiers who believe that political compromise is akin to treason.  Remarkably, this belief has injected such paralyzing insanity into American politics that erstwhile principled Republicans (like Senator John McCain) are now disavowing support for policies (like the debt and deficit commission), which they were calling for when Bush was president, just because President Obama has expressed support for them. 

    Never mind that the Founding Fathers they hail like demigods relied on the art of compromise to draft the very Constitution to which they pledge unqualified allegiance. But again, they are too stupid to understand or appreciate any of this.

    Meanwhile, they clearly have not given a moment’s thought about what it takes to get anything done in this pluralistic democracy they profess to love so much. For even if they (i.e., the Republican Party since the Tea Party is just its wingnut subsidiary) were to win control of both houses of Congress by the margins the Democrats now enjoy, they still will not have the votes to execute any of the items on their “revolutionary” agenda. But talk about a perfect storm for gridlock. (For what it’s worth, I’m on record predicting that Democrats will retain control.)

    Of course, like all religious zealots, Tea Partiers probably think that salvation comes in just preaching about what they perceive as political sins without doing anything about them.  And for them these sins include government-run social security for the elderly, government-run health care for the poor (which they refer to with Pharisaic contempt as “Obamacare”), and government-run education for children. But the only way they can cleanse the country of these sins is by winning veto-proof majorities in both houses (i.e., two-thirds majority).  And any sane person knows that this will happen only when pigs fly.

    On the other hand, it’s arguable that what they really covet is a Christian theocracy, in which everything is divined by God – as Pastor Terry Jones, that lunatic who said that God told him to burn Qurans in effigy, demonstrated so dramatically….

    Then there’s the folly of the Tea Party holding out a person like Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell, a Sarah Palin wannabe whose credentials are distinguished by her failure to pay off her student loans, failure to pay her taxes, and use of campaign funds to pay her rent, as a champion of national fiscal responsibility.  Now reports that this self-professed devout Christian once dabbled in witchcraft has O’Donnell avoiding the media like the plague, adopting the campaign strategy of other Tea Party mascots like Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sharron Angle of Las Vegas.  

    You might think it just reflects their ignorance that these folks have named themselves after the Boston Tea Partiers who triggered a violent revolt against an oppressive foreign king.  But when you realize that many of them believe that Obama is a foreign president – who is taking away their freedom with his big government agenda, then this symmetry (in name and casus belli) is imbued with far more ominous implications…. 

    By the way, am I the only one who finds it inherently hypocritical for these folks to be damning everything about Washington while doing all they can to get to Washington to become the very political insiders they find so morally reprehensible?

    Enough said…?

  • Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 5:18 AM

    Bristol Palin Strutting Her Stuff on “Dancing With The Stars”…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am sure I was among millions who tuned in to last night’s season premier of Dancing With The Stars only to see how Sarah Palin’s daughter, Bristol, would reconcile her traditional family values with the sexual exhibition required of all dancers.   Never mind that it smacked of hypocrisy for her to even sign up for this show, where, let’s face it, just looking sexy is half the challenge. After all, nobody vented more moral indignation over her baby daddy, Levi Johnson, posing for Playgirl than Miss Bristol.

    Anyway, it did not take long before I sensed a collective gasp, or guffaw. Because when Bristol descended the staircase during the introduction of all dancers she was dressed like she was headed to a meeting of the daughters of the American Revolution instead of getting ready to shake her booty.

    Thankfully, it was just a gimmick to mock her mother’s political persona. For the first thing she did when she actually hit the floor was to strip off her outer garment to reveal a more suitable outfit.

    It’s just too bad that her Susan-Boyle body did not do the outfit justice.  (76-year-old Florence Henderson looked more sexy and in better shape for Christ sake!) Even worse, all of the shimmying of her assets seemed more the motion of gravity than the projection of sex appeal.  At least when Kate Gosslin displayed similar Frankenstein-like moves during last season’s contest her semi-fit body made watching her a little more palatable.

    So Bristol did not make a very good impression.  And, with all due respect to the other so-called stars (like The Situation whose famed six pack is looking more like wheat dough these days), I can’t see too many people tuning in to future episodes to see any of them.

    But Sarah Palin has demonstrated during this year’s Republican Primaries that she has even more ditto heads at her beck and call than Rush Limbaugh.  So I have no doubt that their politically motivated voting will keep Bristol going for a very long time.  Not to mention that the producers of this show are acutely aware of the ratings boon anything Palin guarantees these days.

    But I’m betting on Jennifer Grey of Dirty Dancing fame to emulate semi-pro dancers – like Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger and Olympic Figure Skater Kristi Yamaguichi – by winning it all.

    As for who should be the first to be eliminated; unfortunately, The Situation’s performance was no match for his cocky attitude. Or as one of the judges said, rather homoerotically, he performed like a big gun with no ammunition.  And I don’t think having an extra week to practice like all of the other dancers would have made a lick of difference. Therefore, he should go.

  • Monday, September 20, 2010 at 5:03 AM

    The Obamas Go to Church?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Given the way the media have been covering the lunatic rantings of latter-day Tea Partiers about President Obama being a Muslim, one can be forgiven for wondering what he was doing attending church yesterday. Never mind that these are the same people who were ranting during the 2008 presidential campaign about Obama being the wrong kind of Christian because of his long-term membership in the Church of the controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright….

    In any case, what makes Obama’s attendance truly noteworthy is the fact that it was only the second or third time he has attended since arriving in Washington, DC.  After all, he made quite a show after his election in 2008 of announcing that finding a church for his family to worship at every Sunday was just as important as finding a school for his daughters. And his failure to do so has unwittingly given credence in the minds of some to this nonsense about him being a Muslim.

    Mind you, I have no doubt that if Obama had followed through and attended church every Sunday – with Bible prominently on display (a la Bill Clinton), these wackos would then have accused him of perpetrating a religious feint to curry political favor. (Ironically, though, even his die-hard supporters will probably now suspect that his attendance is nothing more than a cynical ploy to prop up his low poll numbers.)

    The point here is not that he should have chosen a church (and been seen going to church) to appease his Tea Party critics. Instead, Obama should have done so to honor his promise and this would have had the collateral benefit of countering Big Lies – not only about him being Muslim but also about him having little in common with ordinary Americans. But he should know that he has a serious problem in this latter respect when even Colin Powell is saying that he is out of touch.

    In politics, perception is all too often reality. And nobody appreciated this more than Clinton; no doubt this is why he courted the weekly photo op of him and his family attending church. Hell, even George W. Bush got the political importance of performing this Sunday ritual – even though he did not display Clinton’s dedication or zeal. 

    Furthermore, that both Clinton and Bush made quite a show of actually attending church in DC makes Obama’s excuse about not wanting to disrupt local worshippers with his presidential entourage plainly specious, if not arrogant:

    What we’ve decided for now is not to join a single church, and the reason is because Michelle and I have realized we are very disruptive to services.

    (NBC Nightly News, March 30, 2010)

    Of course, I am acutely aware that it’s not the Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, but the Ronald Reagan presidency that Obama wants to emulate. And I’m sure the irony is not lost on Obama that many of his critics have nothing to say about the fact that Reagan hardly ever attended Church during his eight years in the White House.  But Obama is clearly smart enough to know that this analogy fails in many respects; not least of which is the fact that nobody ever suspected Reagan of being a Muslim. Not that there’s anything wrong with that … right?

    Special Note on the Tea Party

    A surprising number of people have asked why I’m so utterly dismissive of the Tea Party, especially given how well its candidates did in Republican primaries this year. Well, for starters, it strikes me as more of a political cult than a political party. But it’s really because I’m convinced that it will have no greater (lasting) impact on politics in America than the Reform Party.  Remember when the media had the world convinced that that party was poised to “take America back” too? Indeed, I’d be shocked if any more than 20 percent of Tea Party candidates actually win their midterm elections in November.

    Besides, I see no point in wasting commentary on a bunch of idiots who think they can change Washington by refusing to deal with anyone, including Republicans, who does not agree with their foolhardy notion that the only role of the federal government is to lower taxes on rich people and wage Christian crusades (at home and abroad). This, for example, is why they want to privatize social security, repeal health care reform, which they refer to scornfully as “Obamacare”, and even abolish the department of education.

    Meanwhile, they clearly have not given a moment’s thought about what it takes to get anything done in this pluralistic democracy they profess to love so much. For even if they (i.e., the Republican Party since the Tea Party is just its wingnut subsidiary) were to win control of both houses of Congress by the margin Democrats now enjoy, they still will not have the votes to execute any of the items on their “revolutionary” agenda. Of course it’s arguable that what they really covet is a Christian theocracy, in which everything is divined by God – as Pastor Terry Jones, that lunatic who said that God told him to burn Qurans in effigy, demonstrated so dramatically….

    By the way, am I the only one who finds it inherently hypocritical for these folks to be damning everything about Washington while doing all they can to get to Washington to become the very political insiders they find so morally reprehensible?

    Then there’s the folly of the Tea Party holding out a person like Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell, a Sarah Palin wannabe whose credentials are distinguished by her failure to pay off her student loans, failure to pay her taxes, and use of campaign funds to pay her rent, as a champion of national fiscal responsibility.  Now reports that this self-professed devout Christian once dabbled in witchcraft has O’Donnell avoiding the media like the plague, adopting the campaign strategy of other Tea Party mascots like Rand Paul of Kentucky  and Sharron Angle of Las Vegas.  

    Finally, you might think it just reflects their ignorance that these folks have named themselves after the Boston Tea Partiers who triggered a violent revolt against an oppressive foreign king.  But when you realize that many of them believe that Obama is a foreign president – who is taking away their freedom with his big government agenda, then this symmetry (in name and casus belli) is imbued with far more ominous implications. 

    Enough said…?

  • Friday, September 17, 2010 at 5:39 AM

    Wonder why former British PM Tony Blair had to flee to America to sell his memoirs…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Well, he incited still-simmering outrage by allegedly “sexing up” data about WMDs to justify sending British troops on Bush’s march of folly into Iraq.

    Then he amassed a king’s ransom by trading on his tenure as prime minister in a manner that made Bill Clinton seem urbane and discreet.

    But passing off fake conversations from the movie The Queen in his memoirs as real conversations with Her Majesty seems to have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. 

    So now this glib, mercenary fraud is being duly pilloried….

  • Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 5:19 AM

    Reggie Bush Forfeits Heisman Trophy

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Heisman Trophy is easily the most coveted award in college sports.  Indeed, it is so respected and revered among football players that I suspect many of them would rather have a Heisman Trophy in their home than a Super Bowl ring on their finger.

    The Heisman is awarded annually to:

    … the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work… Our goal … is for the Heisman Trophy to symbolize the fostering of a sense of community responsibility and service to our youth.

    (Heisman Trust Mission Statement)

    Notable recipients since it was first awarded in 1935 are O.J. Simpson of USC in 1968; Tony Dorsett of Pittsburg in 1976; Doug Flutie of Boston in 1984; Ricky Williams of Texas in 1998; and Reggie Bush of USC in 2005.

    Of course, it’s no accident that I began this list with O.J. Simpson. After all, no recipient has done more to betray all of the (off-the-field) ideals the Heisman Trophy purportedly symbolizes than this incarcerated thief who got away with double murder.

    Therefore, if any recipient should have been the first in history to forfeit his trophy it is O.J. Well I suppose he has – considering that he was forced to forfeit it as part of a $38 million judgment after he was convicted at civil trial for murdering his ex-wife Nicole and her boyfriend Ron Goldman. But I digress.

    Instead, it was Reggie who made history yesterday by forfeiting his trophy after it became clear that the trustees of the Heisman Trust were about to strip him of it.  This extraordinary development stems from a four-year investigation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association into allegations that Reggie violated NCAA amateur rules by accepting gifts (for himself and other family members) from sports marketers and agents while he was at USC.

    But I think he was a fool for giving it up without fight.  And here’s why:

    There’s nothing amateur about college Football.  It’s a multibillion-dollar business for Christ’s sake!  More to the point, the people generating its revenues are not the university presidents, athletics directors, or coaches who, incidentally, make millions of dollars in salary and endorsement deals. Instead, they are the poor, mostly black athletes whose raw talent colleges exploit to pack 100,000 fans into their stadiums on game day.

    I have always felt that it’s tantamount to modern-day slavery for universities to recruit poor and, all too often, uneducated athletes just to play Football and not compensate them for their services, especially considering they rarely get an education.  After all:

    While many young people every year set their goals on becoming NFL players, it is extremely difficult to reach that level. Statistically of the 100,000 high school seniors who play football every year, only 215 will ever make an NFL roster. That is 0.2%! Even of the 9,000 players that make it to the college level only 310 are invited to the NFL scouting combine, the pool from which teams make their draft picks.”

    (NFL Players Association, nflpa.org)

    But this indentured servitude is made much worse by branding these poor players as cheaters for accepting a little cash on the side. Mind you, those offering the cash are often boosters just trying to make life easier for the players to enable them to perform better … out on the field. Not to mention that, if the NCAA were to penalize all college players who accept such gifts, there would be no college Football (or Basketball) worth watching.

    The hypocrisy inherent in this is beyond shameful.

    Colleges should compensate student-athletes in direct proportion to the way NFL teams compensate their players. They could then reallocate the scholarship money they spend recruiting jocks to fund financial aid for poor (black) students who aspire to be more than professional athletes.

    By the way, if you don’t think this is all about big money, here’s how the Los Angeles Times reported on the sanctions the NCAA handed down against USC:

    [T]he governing body for college sports hit USC with a string of penalties Thursday that will keep the powerhouse Trojans football team out of bowl games for the next two seasons and could cost the university millions of dollars. [To be fair to Reggie, players on USC’s basketball and tennis teams were also cited for violations.]

    (Los Angeles Times, June 10, 2010)

    To add insult to injury, USC has purged every trace of Bush’s record-setting tenure and even banned him from ever setting foot on its campus again.  And the trustees have evidently decided that Bush has brought the 2005 Heisman Trophy into such disrepute that – instead of giving it to runner up Vince Young of Texas – they are simply “vacating” the award for that year.  It seems lost on these nincompoops that this glaring gap in the annals of Heisman winners will only fuel this scandal in perpetuity….

    Meanwhile, as indicated above, Reggie would probably give back the Super Bowl ring he won with the New Orleans Saints earlier this year if he could retain his Heisman Trophy with dignity as a result.

    Related commentaries:
    O.J. gets 16 to life!!!

  • Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 5:40 AM

    Belize’s Nationalization of Telemedia: An Act all ACP countries would do well to follow

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In August 2009 Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow orchestrated the nationalization of Belize Telemedia Limited, the county’s virtually monopolistic telecommunications company, in a manner that would make even Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez blush.

    In a national address before a Special Sitting of the House of Representatives, PM Barrow justified this act by declaring that:

    …the owners of Telemedia, as they have repeatedly demonstrated, will stop at nothing to frustrate the business of governance in this country; and will act with every resource at their command to thwart the interest and legitimate aspirations of the Belizean people. 

    (7 News Belize, August 24, 2009)

    He then presented a veritable bill of indictment against his predecessor, PM Said Musa, for perpetrating a “sting operation,” which leveraged almost all of the shares in Telemedia into the control of one very powerful and litigious Englishman, Lord Ashcroft, whose net worth is reportedly equal to Belize’s entire GDP.

    Even more damning, Barrow accused Musa of entering a secret Accommodation Agreement which, among other things, guaranteed Ashcroft a minimum rate of return of 15%; allowed him to pay no business tax or custom duties; stipulated that the government could not regulate Telemedia’s rates; revoked all other existing Telecoms licenses (except one other in which Ashcroft owns considerable interest); outlawed much cheaper VOIPs like Vonage; and enabled Telemedia to refuse interconnection to anyone at will.

    This is why Barrow said he and his government:

    … took counsel among ourselves and to a man … voted, in the name of the Belizean people, to resist this treasonous Accommodation Agreement at all costs.  Belizean Law and Belizean dignity would be upheld; Belizean pride and Belizean patriotism and Belizean patrimony vindicated.

    (7 News Belize, August 24, 2009)

    Given Barrow’s indictment, it was hardly surprising when the Belizean Supreme Court – finding that “telecommunications are a critical part of the development of Belize” – ruled this summer (on July 30) that the nationalization of Telemedia was entirely constitutional.

    The court also dismissed all of Ashcroft’s claims, which called on it to enforce the Agreement.  Incidentally, this ruling also vindicated Barrow’s contempt for a judgment of $38.5 million against his government, which Ashcroft won after seeking arbitration in London.  In fact, the prime minister had vowed that:

    … as God is my witness I will never pay that award… This is our House, this is our country. Here we are masters. Here we are sovereign. And with the full weight of that sovereignty, we must now put an end to this disrespect, to this chance taking, to this new age slavery. There will thus be no more Telemedia awards against us, no more Telemedia court battles, no more debilitating waste of government’s energy and resources, and there will be no more suffering of this one man’s campaign to subjugate an entire nation to his will.

    (7 News Belize, August 24, 2009)

    Not surprisingly, many throughout the region joined Belizean Opposition Leader Johnny Briceno in criticizing Barrow for taking this action – noting that it would have the kind of chilling effect on private investments in Belize that Chavez’s nationalization initiatives have caused in Venezuela. But these critics seem oblivious to the fact that Barrow could well have been guided by the action taken by President George W. Bush of the United States, who effectively nationalized the U.S. banking industry in the fall of 2008, or by that of his successor President Barack Obama, who effectively nationalized the U.S. car industry in the winter of 2009 – all purportedly in the public interest.

    Indeed, the actions of these U.S. presidents were such that I felt compelled to comment on them as follows:

    If nothing else, these bailouts should finally destroy the myth that the U.S. is running a capitalist, free-market economy.  After all, these government actions not only privatized shareholder gains and nationalized losses, but are in fact indistinguishable from the way China runs its socialist, controlled-market economy.

    (Chickens come home to roost on Wall Street…, The iPINIONS Journal, September 16, 2008)

    Therefore, whether the nationalization of Telemedia was legal or consistent with free-market capitalism was settled by a Belizean court and two U.S. presidents, respectively.  But I do wonder to what extent leaders in poor African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries will follow Barrow’s lead in nationalizing private companies in similar circumstances. 

    The irony, of course, is that it’s far more likely that these leaders would be nationalizing the private investments of that socialist hegemon, China, instead of those of a billionaire investor like Lord Ashcroft.

    After all, China has been buying up companies, as well as commensurate political influence, in ACP countries on a scale that makes Lord Ashcroft’s dealings in Belize seem pursuant to nothing more than the running of a lemonade stand. 

    More to the point, though, what happens if the Chinese, like Ashcroft, attempt to extract monopolistic profits from their investments or, even worse, attempt to use their investments to further an extraterritorial political or military agenda?  For it’s one thing to nationalize the interests of one wealthy investor (or even a multinational corporation); it’s quite another to nationalize those of this rising economic and military superpower.

    Showing a little prescience, here’s how I posed this ominous scenario five years ago in a commentary entitled China Buying Political Dominion Over the Caribbean (The iPINIONS Journal, February 22, 2005):

    Consider international developments that might lead China, for strategic reasons, to base missiles in Jamaica or convert its container ports, factories and chemical plants in the region to dual military and commercial use.

    Would the leaders of the Caribbean countries involved comply? Would they have any real choice in the matter? And would America then blockade the entire region – as it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis?

    Now consider China making such strategic moves in Africa or Latin America, where its ‘benign’ economic infiltration dwarfs its Caribbean operations. This Cold War could then turn very hot indeed….

    And if you think this is just a farfetched hypothetical, just consider the dilemma Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham is now facing. For Ingraham is being forced to consider whether to squash a multibillion-dollar project (the Baha Mar resort and condominium complex at Cable Beach) because the Chinese financiers (namely, the Chinese government) want to include in the terms for funding:              

    … a requirement that the overwhelming majority, if not virtually all of the workers to be engaged on the core project, over the life of the project, be foreign workers — some 8,150 persons.

    (PM Ingraham, Bahamas Press, September 11, 2010)

    And, if reports are to be believed, many of the Chinese workers being drafted to work on this and other regional projects give new meaning to the concept of working on a chain gang….

    In any case, there seems little doubt that the leaders of many other ACP countries are facing, or will soon face, a similar dilemma.  But I urge them to act, even where the Chinese are concerned, just as Barrow acted and as Ingraham is attempting to act; i.e., to protect the interests of their indigenous population as well as the sovereignty of their country.

    NOTE: I regret Barrow’s reference to “new age slavery” in condemning the adhesive terms in the Accommodation Agreement that so benefited Lord Ashcroft. Not least because I am all too mindful that, just as it was Africans who conspired with Europeans to sell their brothers and sisters into slavery centuries ago, it is Belizeans (most notably former PM Musa) who conspired with Ashcroft to forge this Agreement that Barrow finds so, well, slavish.

    Related commentaries:
    Chickens come home to roost on Wall Street
    China buying dominion over Caribbean

  • Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 5:09 AM

    UPDATE: Castro Denies Retreat to Capitalism. But the Proof is in the Pudding

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I was surprised at the number of putatively informed political pundits who not only argued that the analysis I proffered in my Friday commentary  (entitled Fidel Castro Admits His ‘Cuban Model’ Has Failed) was flawed, but also expressed incredulity that Castro would ever have uttered the words attributed to him.

    Coincidentally, they were aided in their criticisms by an oxymoronic clarification Castro offered merely hours after my commentary was published.  For, even though he conceded that he was quoted accurately, Castro insisted that:

    The reality is that my response means exactly the opposite [i.e., that the Cuban model has been a rousing success].

    (Reuters, September 10, 2010)

    Well, I’ll chalk that up to a sudden onset of senility. But, as I indicated above, the proof is in the pudding. And nothing betrays Castro’s words in this case quite like the fact that the Cuban government announced just yesterday that it:

    … will shift hundreds of thousands of state employees to the private sector in 2011 as the government prunes more than 500,000 workers from its payroll.

    (Financial Times, September 13, 2010)   

    Now what could be a greater indicator of the failure of his (communist) Cuban model than that?!

    Related commentary:
    Castro admits Cuban model has failed

  • Monday, September 13, 2010 at 5:05 AM

    ‘Putin Jokes About Ruling Until He’s 120′

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Much is being made about the way Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reportedly joked with Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi during a joint press conference in Moscow last week. Specifically, after Berlusconi announced that he planned to fund research into ways of extending the average life expectancy to 120, Putin quipped:

    So we will be prime ministers [or president in Putin’s case] until at least the age of 120?

    (The Moscow Times, September 13, 2010)

    But, as the following excerpts from previous commentaries indicate, the joke was really on anyone who thinks Putin was joking:

    The Putinization of Russia continues apace and Papa Joe Stalin must be very proud indeed. In fact, President Vladimir Putin’s power and influence have become so totalitarian that national polls show Russians have more faith in him than in their Church or any other organ of the state.

    (Putin reforming Russia in his own image, The iPINIONS Journal, March 25, 2005)

    For years I’ve been chronicling the egregiously undemocratic, if not unlawful, acts Putin has committed in his Putinization of Russia. These acts include confiscating private companies without compensation and throwing the owners in the gulag; silencing his critics (by curtailing or squashing the freedom of the press) and ordering others to be assassinated- as many suspect he did to stop Politkovskaya’s criticisms of his human rights abuses against the Chechens from reverberating around the world; and extending his totalitarian reach into neighboring countries in a vain attempt to reclaim Soviet-era control over them.

    (Putin probably ordered the hit on former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London]. But no one will do anything about it…, The iPINIONS Journal, November 28, 2006)

    I’ve already delineated Putin’s master plan to remain Russia’s ruler for life…. revenues from the oil and gas companies he has nationalized – not only to serve his political agenda but also to rebuild Russia’s Cold War military might – have made Putin impervious to criticism.

    (Hail Putin! The iPINIONS Journal, December 3, 2007)

    Even though his Stalinist intent to rule Russia for the rest of his life has been self-evident for years, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to bedevil political observers with his Kremlin maneuvers.

    For example, he shocked the world in September by appointing his old St Petersburg comrade, Viktor Zubkov, as prime minister… Putin shocked the world again on Monday when he tapped his equally unknown protégé, Dmitry Medvedev (42), as his chosen one…

    Medvedev went out of his way during his first televised address yesterday to assure the Russian people (and warn the world?) that Putin shall continue to be the most powerful man in Russia…

    (Putin’s puppet, Medvedev, win presidential election by landslide, The iPINIONS Journal, March 3, 2008)

    Instead of hammering through a self-interested amendment, Putin seemed content to serve as president for life with four-year interregnums by his chosen lap dogs to preserve the patina of democratic legitimacy. Nevertheless, he did prevail upon the Russian parliament to extend presidential terms from four to six years, prospectively; i.e., so that it does not extend Medvedev’s current term by two years, but takes effect only in 2012 when he clearly expects to be reelected. This will then give him a more comfortable twelve instead of eight years between interregnums.

    (Remembering Stalin exposes tensions between Putin and Medvedev, The iPINIONS Journal, May 10, 2010)

    Frankly, only the most naïve political observer will be shocked when Putin decides either to return to the presidency in 2012 or 2018 – depending on how he feels about Medvedev or another of his political puppets keeping his seat warm for another full term.

    NOTE: My commentaries on MTV’s VMAs have been a hit in recent years. But I’m afraid there will be none this year because I missed last night’s broadcast. I hear it was a snooze though … so last year.

    Related commentaries:
    Putin reforming Russia in his own image
    Putin probably ordered the hit
    Hail Putin
    Remembering Stalin

  • Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 7:33 AM

    Zuma doing for South Africa what Mugabe did for Zimbabwe

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    “They should please not choose someone of whom most of us would be ashamed. Our country deserves better. We’re very worried that this leader had relations with a woman who regarded him as a parent and, although he is very likeable, we have to ask ourselves: ‘What is happening in the ANC?’”

    Thus prayed Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu for his country….

    [Mbeki vs. Zuma for ANC leadership, The iPINIONS Journal, December 17, 2007]

    Unfortunately, Tutu’s prayers were not answered, and South Africa is clearly paying the price:

  • Friday, September 10, 2010 at 7:32 AM

    Castro Admits His “Cuban Model” Has Failed

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro seems to be recovering from the gastrointestinal problems that nearly killed him a few years ago in a manner that is worthy of Lazarus. Indeed, nothing demonstrated his miraculous triumph over the Grim Reaper quite like his donning army fatigues, instead of track suits, again.

    Yet, in the United States, coverage of the medical marvel Castro has become pales in comparison to coverage of his political musings that are being published on a regular basis lately. And it’s in this latter respect that he stirred quite a sensation, if not a lot of consternation, with statements he reportedly made during a recent interview with The Atlantic.

    Most notable is interviewer Jeffery Goldberg’s claim that when he asked Castro if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting, Castro admitted that:

    The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.

    (The Atlantic, September 8, 2010)

    But, frankly, I do not know what the sensation or consternation is all about. After all, Castro is merely admitting in words what he and his brother Raul have been admitting in deeds for years. Specifically, like their Russian and Chinese patrons, they have been eschewing the communist model of economic development in favor of the capitalist one. 

    In fact, the only thing newsworthy about this interview is what Castro did not say. Because, despite his admission and all of the capitalist reforms the Castros are implementing, he gave no hint that he now believes that his socialist revolution, which he has championed for over 50 years, is a complete and utter failure.

    But I knew it would be thus. For here’s how I commented on this stealth transition away from his “Cuban model” over four years ago:

    I predict that the pragmatic Raul will emulate his new Chinese patrons by pursuing liberal economic policies while imposing even stricter political and military controls in Cuba.

    (Dancing on Fidel’s grave is not only unseemly, it’s premature, The iPINIONS Journal, August 2, 2006)

    And, given that the Chinese have managed to maintain totalitarian political control while building a capitalist economy that is the envy of the world, is it any wonder the Castros are seeking to emulate them?

    By contrast, what is truly newsworthy is the extent to which Fidel seems to be atoning for his rhetorical sins. Because he has made a point in recent months of proselytizing the pacifist philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi instead of fomenting the revolutionary philosophy of Vladimir Lenin – for which he was notorious.  

    Indeed, nothing is more curious in this respect than the way Castro is not only beseeching world leaders to pursue nuclear disarmament but also publicly rebuking his presumptive ally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his anti-Semitic rhetoric. In fact, here’s how he expressed informed compassion for the Jews during the interview referenced above:

    The Iranian government should understand that the Jews were expelled from their land, persecuted and mistreated all over the world… I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything.

    I don’t know if all of this reflects a belated political awakening or is just an elaborate ploy by an old man for spiritual absolution. In any case, my progressive disposition and Christian faith compel me to welcome his (rhetorical) conversion.

    Related commentaries:
    Dancing on Castro’s grave
    Raul Pledges to continue Fidel’s revolution

  • Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 5:14 AM

    Despite My Criticisms and the Polls, I (Still) Support Obama Wholeheartedly!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A browse through my commentaries on Obama’s presidency will make it crystal clear that I have never had any compunction about criticizing his policies.  Hell, I even criticized his decision to feature Scarlet O’Hara wannabes in his inaugural parade. 

    So why are some of my liberal friends suddenly accusing me of political betrayal? In fact, my Tuesday commentary entitled, Obama Aping Bush on Mideast Peace Too, had some of them practically calling for a fatwa against me. 

    Well, persistent high unemployment (currently at 9.6%) and transformative initiatives (like passing health care reform) have driven Obama’s poll numbers from their once-transcendent highs to Jimmy Carter lows….

    [P]ublic faith in Barack Obama’s leadership has fallen to an all-time low, with just 46 percent approval. The Washington Post-ABC News survey revealed high levels of public unease with President Obama’s handling of the economy, with 57 percent of Americans disapproving, and 58 percent critical of his handling of the deficit.

    (The Telegraph, September 8, 2010)

    This has given cause not only for Republicans to gloat, but even for members of his own Democratic Party to treat him like a skunk as they mount despairing campaigns for reelection this November. 

    Under these circumstances, I can understand why some of my liberal friends are unnerved.  I can even understand why some readers might get the impression that I’m just another Obama supporter who’s now suffering buyer’s remorse.

    Therefore, let me state for the record that I remain as ardent a supporter today as I was in October 2006, when I too was considered a skunk by many Democrats for urging Obama to challenge Hillary for the presidential nomination in 2008.  Fellow supporters of his presidency should appreciate the constructive spirit in which I have criticized, and will continue to criticize, his policies.   But nobody should harbor any doubt that I still firmly believe that Barack Obama remains by far the person best suited to lead not just America but the free world

    I regret that political loyalties are so sensitive (and fleeting) these days that I might be obliged to reiterate my unwavering support every time I write anything critical of Obama’s policies.  Nevertheless, so let it be written, so let it be done.

    Finally, I should note that, in addition to triggering ridiculously premature predictions about the demise of Obama’s presidency, polls are heralding a Republican takeover of both houses of Congress.  I happen to think these polls, as well as the pundits who live by them, are wrong and that Democrats will retain control.

    In any case, these foreboding polls explain why so many Democratic politicians are behaving more like rats on a sinking ship than like members of the ruling party.  But here’s how I presaged this potential tidal wave back in January:

    No doubt more than a few Democrats will lose their seats in the fall – just as was the case when many members of the Republican Party lost their seats in midterm elections during Reagan’s first term.

    (The election of Scott Brown, The iPINIONS Journal, January 20, 2010)

    It might have been more historically accurate and instructive to cite the fact Republicans seized control of Congress from the Democrats in midterm elections during Bill Clinton’s first term.  (And look how well that turned out for them….)  But I cited the Reagan precedent because he’s the transformative president that Obama hopes to emulate – by championing middle-class, Democratic values the way Regan championed rich, Republican ones.  

    What both precedents have in common, however, is the reelection of a president whose political death proved greatly exaggerated.  I fully expect this to hold true for Obama too….

    Related commentaries:
    The election of Scott Brown

  • Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 5:29 AM

    Lunatic Pastor Burning Qurans on 9/11?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In recent days, media outlets – from cable news to talk radio – have been doing all they can to make a latter-day Moses out of a plainly self-aggrandizing pastor of a little church (or mini cult) in Florida.  Unfortunately, this pastor is not delivering the divinely inspired message of the burning bush. Instead, he’s threatening to burn copies of the Quran on September 11 – presumably because God told him that this craven act of religious desecration will unshackle all Christians from the bondage of Islamic terror.

    But I won’t dignify this pastor with any further comment.  And you’ll forgive me for seeing no point in naming him or his church.

    That said, it would have been one thing if this story were merely a viral spectacle on the internet. But the fact that it has become an international sensation – with grave political consequences – says far more about the hopelessly compromised media than it does about this hopelessly misguided pastor.

    Indeed, the only thing that is truly worth commenting on is the extent to which the media will stoop these days to make anyone or anything seem newsworthy. Not so long ago, the mantra that governed the singular pursuit of ratings in television news was, “if it bleeds, it leads.” Today that mantra seems to be, the more outrageous the story, the more coverage it gets.

    Actually, it seems that CNN and FOX News are now competing with MTV and VH1 for the same brain-dead viewers that have made shows like Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of New Jersey must-see TV. The final straw for me, though, was when even PBS featured this religious crackpot on its News Hour program last night.  

    Frankly, this story should have been aired on nothing more than a local AM radio station where kooks who believe in alien babies and conspiracies of every stripe routinely vent their spleen. As things are, I suspect that when historians write about the decline of the American empire they will cite the tabloidization of news reports along with the self-immolating fear of Islamic jihadists, the tower-of-babel-like bickering among politicians, and the inexorable rise of China as primary causes.  

    For now, though, there’s no gainsaying this surreal and untenable fact:  It was only because the media have made this heretofore obscure pastor seem like a national religious figure that the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, felt obliged to beg him to understand that fanatical Christians burning Qurans in America could incite fanatical Muslims to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq:

    Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan – and around the world – to inflame public opinion and incite violence.

    (General Petraeus, Associated Press, September 7, 2010)

    That the war strategy of this highly decorated commander now includes genuflecting to this lunatic pastor in this fashion is just the latest indication of what an absolute folly the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have become. All we need now is for the commander-in-chief, President Obama himself, to beg him too. But I digress….

    Notwithstanding its farcical nature, if this burning of Qurans in effigy occurs, I have no doubt that every news organization will be there to broadcast it for the world to see – the potential to incite violence against American soldiers be damned. 

    Clearly there’s precious little integrity left in broadcast journalism. This is why erstwhile irrelevant stories like the serial arrests of dope-fiend and dingbat Paris Hilton, or blatant hoaxes like the boy flying off from his backyard in a homemade flying saucer, now become headline news. Nevertheless, I hope CNN’s de facto ombudsman, Howard Kurtz, has the professional balls to criticize his network for helping to facilitate this Quran-burning farce.  Talk about the insane running the insane asylum….

    In the meantime, just to prepare us, does anybody know how many Americans were killed after it was reported a few years ago that military interrogators were flushing copies of the Quran down the toilet…?

  • Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 5:08 AM

    US Open: Women Players Showing off More Skin than Skill

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’ve been quite unabashed in expressing my preference for women’s tennis. Because, frankly, the women’s game is not only almost as powerful as the men’s (with Venus hitting 125 mph serves); their fierce baseline strokes during relatively long rallies are also far more titillating to watch than the one big serve that now characterizes men’s tennis.

    (Hail to 4-time Wimbledon Champ Venus Williams, The iPINIONS Journal, July 9, 2007)

    One can be forgiven for thinking that fashion in women’s tennis has become almost as important as the game itself. After all, commentary during this year’s US Open clearly suggests that the way players look is almost as important as the way they play.  And no player has made herself the object of such distracting commentary than Venus Williams (30).

    Here, for example, is the surreal exchange that transpired among CBS commentators during one of Venus’s opening round matches last week:

    John McEnroe:  I think that dress has distracted [Venus].

    Dick Enberg: It’s distracting you.

    McEnroe: That’s a fair point.

    Enberg: It sounds like it might be a distraction to her opponent.

    McEnroe: Well, she’s tugging at it. She’s uncomfortable with it.

    Mary Carillo: She uses that fabric a lot in her designs, John. And for the last couple of years we’ve seen her have to correct her outfit after every point.

    (Yahoo Sports, September 5, 2010)

    In fact, Venus has been courting more interest in her fashion designs than in her tennis game lately. But given the reviews of her designs, she’d be wise not to give up her day job.

    In any case, Venus was in particularly revealing form when she showed up at a recent tournament wearing a flesh-colored tankini bottom that made it look like she was butt naked when her mini dress exposed her nether region, which occurred every time she swung her racket.  And she’s wearing skimpy outfits at this tournament that are equally revealing … and distracting.

    Specifically, after every point, as commentator Carillo noted, Venus is treating spectators to the unseemly spectacle of her adjusting her dress, which is so tight that it rides up over her hips every time she moves to hit the ball. And it speaks volumes about her sex appeal that her recurring striptease and adjustment is even more of a turn off than Rafael Nadal’s habit of digging his underwear out of his ass after every point whenever he plays. (You’d think his trainer or his girlfriend would tell him to wear a jock strap!)

    I hope my opening quote demonstrates what genuine appreciation I’ve always had for the physical prowess and skill these women athletes display. Perhaps I’m just an old-fashioned feminist, but I think this new trend – of women tennis players trying to look more like swimsuit models – betrays their athleticism.  Not to mention that what some of them allow us up to peep at when they’re on the court is what video voyeurs can get arrested for trying to capture when they’re on the streets….

    Apropos of it being better to look good than to play good, when did Maria Sharapova (23) go from the pin-up darling of this sport to old hag…?  Because she certainly looked that way losing her quarterfinal match in straight sets to the new it girl, Caroline Wozniaki (20). And, following fashion, Caroline’s mini dress was designed by Stella McCartney to be short enough to expose her nubile buttocks, which were practically bursting out of her bright yellow tankini bottoms.

    Just in terms of public decency, though, I wonder how this new fashion trend in women’s tennis is any different from the fashion trend that has boys wearing jeans halfway down their butts, exposing their underwear for the world to see….

    Anyway, just consider the instructive fact that women basketball players wear outfits that are no more revealing than their male counterparts’.  Is there any reason why women tennis players cannot do the same?

    I appreciate why women who play beach volleyball might think their skimpy outfits are necessary to promote interest in their relatively new sport. But I don’t see why women who play tennis think such outfits are necessary or even desirable. Not to mention that many of them would probably look a lot better more covered up.

    Having said all that, if Venus wins this tournament, having made it through to the semifinals with a straight-set victory over Francesca Schiavone (30) last night, I might cut her some slack….

    Related commentaries:
    Hail to 4-time Wimbledon champ Venus Williams

  • Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 5:26 AM

    Obama Aping Bush on Mideast Peace too

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have taken a lot of ribbing from my progressive friends for documenting how President Obama is governing just like Bush on many foreign policy matters.

    This includes the way Obama has escalated drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan; notwithstanding reports that, for every 1 terrorist killed, these attacks kill 10 innocent civilians. But most disheartening for his liberal supporters is the way he has escalated the war in Afghanistan – unabashedly fashioning his new military strategy there on the surge strategy Bush deployed in Iraq.

    (Incidentally, a cursory search of this weblog will reveal that I’m on record, as early as 2005, declaring my belief that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had become like the one in Vietnam: no longer winnable and, hence, no longer worth fighting….)

    Now come reports that Obama is aping Bush’s strategy for brokering peace in the Middle East too.  Here, for a little context, is how I ridiculed Bush’s declaration in January 2008 that there would be a peace treaty between the Israelis and Palestinians before the end of his presidency in January 2009:

    When I criticized Bush back then for his Chamberlainian declaration, I had no idea that Israel would expose his pandering in such explosive fashion – as it did four days ago.  But anyone remotely familiar with the geo-political tensions in the Middle East, and with the patent inability of U.S. presidents to affect them, knew full well that the chances of Bush pulling off an eleventh-hour peace treaty were zero to none.

    Frankly, I knew it was only a matter of time before the Israelis and Palestinians reignited their warfare.  And it hardly matters who or what triggered this latest episode – especially since the root cause of this perennial conflict dates back to Biblical times, and each side claims divine provenance for its actions.

    (Bush’s promise of peace in Middle East…, The iPINIONS Journal, December 31, 2008)

    Given this Bush precedent, not to mention the 60-year futility of Mideast peace initiatives, you’d think that Obama would be loath to make a similar declaration about brokering a peace deal within a year. Yet:

    We believe these negotiations can be completed within one year… We will engage with perseverance and patience to try to bring them to a successful conclusion.

    (Obama’s Special Envoy For Middle East Peace Senator George Mitchell, whitehouse.gov, August 31, 2010)

    Then, of course, there are the obstacles posed by other looming issues:

    On the one hand, Israel’s 10-month moratorium (aka a “slowdown”) on the building of Jewish settlements in the disputed territories (of the West Bank and east Jerusalem) ends on September 26. And no less a person than Israel’s foreign minister has vowed to adamantly oppose any attempt by Prime Minister Netanyahu to extend this moratorium to appease Obama and the Palestinians. Yet the Palestinians have vowed that there will be no talks, let alone peace, unless Netanyahu extends it … indefinitely.

    On the other hand, the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas has vowed to accelerate terrorist attacks on Israel – even launching one last week to coincide with Obama’s declaration to reinforce its point. Yet the Israelis have vowed that there can be no peace as long as these attacks continue.

    In point of fact, there’s no greater obstacle to the two-state solution Obama is attempting to broker than Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip, which must figure in any comprehensive and lasting peace. Do I hear a three-state solution…?

    Frankly, these looming issues make it more likely that hostilities between the Israelis and Palestinians will be even greater in 12 months than they are today.  Which beg the question:  Why did Obama set this patently meaningless deadline?  Especially since there’s zero chance that he will declare all hopes of brokering peace in the Middle East dead if, or when, he fails.

    This is why it seems almost as foolhardy for him to put his presidential gravitas on the line in this fashion as it was for Bush to stake his presidential legacy on the getting Saddam and turning Iraq into an exemplary democracy. Mind you, this is not to say that he should not even bother. In fact, no matter how daunting the prospect, it behooves every U.S. president to extend his best efforts to broker peace in the Middle East….

    That said, let me hasten to clarify that, even though I think setting this deadline was foolhardy, Obama’s failure to meet it will have no bearing on his reelection prospects in 2012.   Not least because, as indicated above, you’d be hard-pressed to find daylight between Obama and any Republican contender on this or any other foreign policy matter.

    So please ignore attempts by some Republicans to make an issue of the July 2011 deadline he set for pulling troops out of Afghanistan.  After all, we all know that this date is about as meaningful as Obama’s September 2011 deadline for brokering peace in the Middle East.

    More to the point, there will be peace not when Obama or any U.S. president decrees it, but when God (or Allah) divines it. And only God knows when that will be….

    Related commentaries:
    Bush’s promise of peace in Middle East

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