• Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    Idle-minded debate on the Privy Council continues…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I am frankly ashamed when I see the list of Commonwealth counties that still cling to that jurisdiction (the Privy Council). Even more so to know it is a list dominated by the Caribbean.

    Former Commonwealth secretary general, Sir Shridath Ramphal, made this instructive admission during an address at the Inaugural Conference of the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers on June 25, 2009.

    But, frankly, leaders of Caribbean Commonwealth countries (CARICOM) – who still blithely subject their citizens to the jurisdiction of their former colonial masters – are the ones who should be ashamed. After all, relying on the UK’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as their court of last resort makes a mockery of the national independence they all proclaim so zealously.

    Of course, the cravenness of CARICOM leaders has become such that talking about it incites more contemptuous laughter than jokes about lawyers. And there’s probably no greater monument to their cravenness than the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

    As it happened, CARICOM established the CCJ in 2001 to replace the Privy Council. This duly codified the natural desire of newly independent member states to cut the final umbilical cord of British colonialism.

    Therefore, it is stupefying that only three of them, namely Barbados, Guyana and Belize, have actually severed this cord and embraced the untethered judicial independence that should have attended their political independence. Indeed, given that enlightened Jamaicans proposed this liberating cut as early as 1970, the fact that even they do not recognize the CCJ’s jurisdiction reflects an habitual suckling on the colonial tit that is as judicially infantile as it is politically hypocritical.

    But nothing demonstrates how utterly inured to shame CARICOM leaders are in this respect than the fact that even a paternalistic public spanking by Lord Nicholas Phillips, president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, did not offend their regional or national pride.

    Specifically, in a September 21, 2009 interview with the Financial Times, Lord Phillips lamented that the five British judges who sit on the Privy Council spend 40 percent of their time adjudicating cases from the former colonies. But he punctuated this lamentation with unbridled contempt when he said that he wished these now-independent countries:

    … would stop using the Privy Council and set up their own final courts of appeal instead.

    You’d think this reproach would cause any self-respecting CARICOM leader to feel not only ashamed but also determined to relieve Britain of this “white man’s burden”, which is plainly anachronistic, untenable and unfair. Never mind that Lord Phillips was only wishing CARICOM countries would do what had been self-evident for almost 40 years they should, indeed must, do.

    Yet all indications are that it’s going to take far sterner stuff than his polite kiss-off to get CARICOM leaders to do the right thing. And nothing indicates this quite like the fatuous and parasitic justification no less a person than the president of the Bahamas Bar Association, Ruth Bowe-Darville, offered recently for clinging to the Privy Council:

    Criminally, it’s one thing. Civilly, when you’re dealing with financial matters and the economic impact of it, litigants who come before our court, they need that assurance that there is some place of last resort that is independent and seen to be independent. Litigants who come before us with multi-million-dollar cases and they see us as a great financial center, they need the assurance that the Privy Council is there.

    (Nassau Guardian, June 23, 2011)

    Hell, if not her national pride, you’d think Bowe-Darville’s professional pride would be offended at the mere suggestion that The Bahamas, which touts itself as a global financial center, does not have a judiciary that can provide litigants – even in multi-million dollar cases – all of the assurances of competency, impartiality, and independence they need. Alas it seems even she is inured to shame.

    Meanwhile, just to show how fraught with confusion, conflicts, and contradictions this debate is, consider this:

    At the same time  as Bowe-Darville was arguing that The Bahamas must retain the Privy Council to preserve the country’s financial viability, renowned Bishop Simeon Hall, who chaired the government-appointed National Advisory Council on Crime, was arguing that The Bahamas must abandon it to preserve its sense of criminal justice.

    You see, Bishop Hall believes justice mandates that certain convicted murderers receive the death penalty; whereas, the Privy Council has developed an institutional aversion to upholding the death penalty on appeal for any murderer, no matter how depraved.

    Now add to this the fact that some CARICOM countries, including Jamaica, are eschewing the CCJ because it has developed an institutional proclivity for upholding the death penalty on appeal for any murderer, no matter how sympathetic.

    Which of course means that Bishop Hall’s Council should have recommended The Bahamas join this hanging court; except that The Bahamas has so little regard for the CCJ that it did not even bother to sign the agreement establishing it in 2001 like the other 12 CARICOM countries did. (Haiti was admitted to CARICOM in 2002 but it too has yet to join the CCJ.)

    What a jurisprudential mess!

    Mind you, this is not to say that I think the CCJ is an ideal alternative. In fact, the jingoistic politics that have made a dysfunctional shambles of every significant CARICOM initiative clearly militate against the CCJ ever gaining the regional acceptance and respect the Privy Council enjoys.

    This is why I maintain that the only viable alternative is for each CARICOM country to simply establish its own court of last resort. Such a court, after all, is a hallmark of any independent nation. Indeed, this is precisely what the Jamaican prime minister proposed to do for his country earlier this year.

    In any case, it is immature, irresponsible and, frankly, niggardly for CARICOM leaders to continue relying on the Privy Council to fulfill this essential function of national self-determination.

    NOTE: Bishop Simeon Hall is a distant relative and should be distinguished from my brother, the equally renowned Bishop Joseph Hall, who quite properly is more concerned about saving sinners than executing them.

    Related commentaries:
    No more privy council

  • Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 5:46 AM

    ICC Arrest Warrant for Gaddafi is a Joke

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The warrants further demonstrate why Gaddafi has lost all legitimacy and why he should go immediately. His forces continue to attack Libyans without mercy and this must stop.

    (UK Foreign Minister William Hague, London Guardian, June 27, 2011)

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued arrest warrants on Monday for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam, and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi – accusing them of a battery of crimes against humanity in Libya’s hundred days civil war.

    But, with all due respect to the UK foreign minister, what these warrants really demonstrate is that, since NATO bombs are proving incapable of bringing swift justice to Gaddafi, NATO leaders are resorting to the black hole of judicial proceedings to cover up this fecklessness.

    What I find most troubling about this bombing campaign is the quizzical insouciance with which NATO is variously destroying Libya’s infrastructure and killing innocent Libyans all in a vain effort to put pressure on Gaddafi to leave.

    (Kill Gaddafi already, The iPINIONS Journal, June 8, 2011)

    Meanwhile, nothing demonstrates what an utter joke these arrest warrants are quite like Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir still living a care-free lifestyle despite the ICC issuing an arrest warrant three years ago – accusing him of genocide for orchestrating the mass killing of black Africans by Arab militias in the Darfur region of his country. For he has traveled since then with impunity throughout the Continent and, as if to show that he has powerful friends who not only accept but share his authoritarian way of governing, he’s currently on a state visit to China.

    Al-Bashir was the first sitting head of state to have a warrant issued for his arrest. Gaddafi is now the second.

    More to the point, though, here is what I wrote three years ago about the failure to arrest al-Bashir:

    The United States has not ratified this treaty, which means that the only country that would even dare to arrest al-Bashir does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction… Therefore, this begs the question: What is the point of charging him if the ICC has no means to arrest him?

    (ICC charging Bashir means nothing! The iPINIONS Journal, July 15, 2008)

    Now here is what the BBC wrote six weeks ago (on May 17, 2011) about what this failure to arrest al-Bashir portends for Gaddafi:

    Three years ago they approved a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, on genocide charges in relation to Darfur. But with no police force of its own the court has been unable to detain him, and President Bashir has managed to travel to several African states which don’t recognise the ICC.

    The same could happen with Col Gaddafi. Libyan officials dismissed the court even before the ICC prosecutor announced he was seeking his arrest, calling it irrelevant. They have mocked the court as being a creature of the Europeans which only pursues African leaders and officials.

    ICC double standards

    It is hardly surprising that, far from being cowered by ICC arrest warrants, al-Bashir and Gaddafi have reacted to them with unbridled contempt. But there’s no gainsaying their complaint that the ICC amounts to little more than a tool Europeans use to prosecute leaders of African countries, as well as those of small and relatively powerless countries like the former Yugoslavia. Indeed, Exhibit A in support of their complaint is the fact that no arrest warrants have been issued for Chinese leaders for their genocidal crackdown on Tibet’s Buddhist intifada in 2008, to say nothing of their notorious Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

    Closer to al-Bashir’s home, the failure to issue arrest warrants for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad – whose crackdown of democratic protesters in Syria makes what Gaddafi is doing in Libya seem like a misdemeanor – is also evidence of the ICC’s double standards. (Incidentally, al-Assad made news in January when he said that the unrest facing Tunisia and Egypt would never happen in Syria. Boy are his words coming home to roost….)

    But no European country, or even the mighty United States, would dare launch military strikes to protect Syrians from al-Assad. Because not only does Syria have a far greater ability to fight back; there’s also the more forbidding probability that military strikes there might draw in Iran and other countries in a greater war in the Middle East.

    So here’s to this latest manifestation of the politically expedient defense of universal human rights, which is becoming a hallmark of the foreign policy of self-righteous Western countries.

    Related commentaries:
    Kill Gaddafi already
    ICC charging Bashir
    Arresting Bashir?
    China’s Buddhist intifada

  • Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 5:11 AM

    UPDATE: Blagojevich Guilty … on 17 Counts!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It speaks volumes about the brazen, pathological and pervasive nature of the ‘corruption crime spree’ alleged against Illinois’s sitting governor, Rod Blagojevich, that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald felt moved to describe it as ‘staggering’. In fact, in presenting the Justice Department’s 76-page complaint, Fitzgerald claimed that, because a clearly delusional and venal Governor Blagojevich was escalating his crime spree to such irreparable extremes, federal prosecutors felt compelled to arrest him yesterday to stop it. Specifically, the complaint alleges that:

    ‘Blagojevich put a ‘for sale’ sign on the naming of a United States senator [to the seat vacated by President Barack Obama]; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism.’

    (Blagojevich arrested for soliciting bribes…even for Obama’s seat, The iPINIONS Journal, December 10, 2008)

    Last year, after a federal jury convicted him on only one charge and deadlocked on 23 others, Blago strutted out of court like a man who had just been completely vindicated. And to listen to most legal and political experts back then, you’d think he was.

    By contrast, here, in part, is what I wrote about the outcome of that trial:

    Frankly, I thought the evidence of his guilt was so overwhelming that the jury would take only hours to convict him on all counts…

    Not surprisingly, Fitzgerald has vowed to retry him on all of the 23 charges on which the jury deadlocked. So it’s very likely that yesterday’s apparent victory for Blago will end up being short-lived, if not pyrrhic.

    (Blago Loses one, draws feds on 23 others, The iPINIONS Journal, August 18, 2010)

    More telling, here is what I wrote long before that first trial, when Blago was being hailed as an amiable victim of a conspiracy between federal prosecutors and the Illinois state legislature:

    [L]et me hasten to express my professional disagreement with celebrity lawyers like Geraldo Rivera who have condemned federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for arresting Blago on criminal charges and lauded Blago for currying favor with the Chicago jury pool during his PR blitz.

    Because I am convinced that Fitzgerald not only had probable cause to arrest Blago (as delineated in the now infamous federal criminal complaint) but also has a very good chance of convicting him on corruption charges beyond all reasonable doubt. After all, the potential jurors Blago was trying to win over and influence are the same ones who have convicted and sent off to prison three of his predecessors on similar charges in recent years.

    (Blago impeached by vote of 59-0, The iPINIONS Journal, January 30, 2009)

    Well, just as I predicted, his presumed vindication ended in a stunning defeat yesterday when, after nine days of deliberations, jurors at his retrial convicted him on 17 of 20 counts stemming from the same charges and based on the same evidence. The normally loquacious ex-governor was almost speechless:

    Patti and I obviously are very disappointed in the outcome. I frankly am stunned. There’s not much left to say other than we want to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and then try to sort things out.

    (CBS News Chicago, June 27, 2011)

    Blago, 54, now faces 300 years in prison on these convictions, plus five additional years on the one conviction (on a perjury count for lying to the FBI) from his first trial. When it comes to sentencing, the judge will have considerable latitude, including letting him off with no prison time at all. But I fully expect the judge to sentence him to at least 25 years. Which means that Blago will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, or be a very old man when he gets out.

    It’s a damn shame, but justice, as well as what little hope there is of rooting out corruption in Chicago politics, required it to end this way….

    Related commentaries:
    Blagojevich arrested for soliciting bribes
    Blago Loses one
    Blago impeached

  • Monday, June 27, 2011 at 5:43 AM

    Same-sex Marriage Now Legal in New York

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I was among those waiting with baited breath late into the night on Friday for the New York State Senate to vote on historic legislation legalizing same-sex marriage (hereinafter referred to as “gay marriage”). It eventually voted 33-29 to pass the bill.

    In so doing, New York became only the sixth state in the Union (plus the District of Columbia) to accord gays this basic civil right. But this did not stop gay-rights activists from projecting (in typical if-we-can-make-it-here-we-can-make-it-anywhere fashion) that:

    New York sends the message that marriage equality across the country is a question of when, not if.

    (Fred Sainz, vice president Human Rights Campaign, Associated Press, June 25, 2011)

    Their enthusiasm and confidence are understandable of course. But, even though I am as encouraged as any heterosexual can possibly be, I am less sanguine about the long-term impact of this legislation – not only nationally, but even within New York State.

    After all, I’m acutely mindful that, after the California Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that similar legislation in that state was constitutional, gay-rights activists made similar projections about its impact. Yet less than a year later Californians shocked the nation by voting “YES” on Proposition 8 – an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage. This nullified the court’s earlier ruling.

    More to the point, this act of interposition and nullification in California was only the latest by an unholy alliance of right-wing political groups and mainstream religious organizations that, to date, has conspired to pass constitutional amendments banning gay marriage in 31 states: The political groups assert that gay marriages would destroy traditional family values – as if the pandemic of divorce among heterosexual couples hasn’t already done that; while the religious organizations assert that the Bible declares homosexuality itself a sin – as if it does not declare adultery, even pre-marital sex, a sin as well.

    Anyway, notwithstanding this impressive streak of victories, this alliance has always had its sights on getting Congress to approve a constitutional amendment that would extend this ban nationwide.

    Ultimately, only our Federal Marriage Amendment will protect marriage.

    (Matt Daniels, Alliance for Marriage, Associated Press, November 3, 2004)

    So, with all due respect to the folks who were marching like newly plumed peacocks in yesterday’s gay pride parade in New York City, making it there does not mean that gay can make it anywhere….

    In fact gay-rights activists would be wise to focus their efforts on federal legislation too; since, just as it was with civil rights for blacks, it will take presidential leadership and an act of Congress to settle this matter.

    Which brings me to the ironic role President Obama and religious minorities are playing:

    Obama maintains that he favors full civil rights for gays, but not their fundamental right to marry. And he deflects from the contradiction, if not hypocrisy, inherent in this by assuring gays that his position is “evolving”.

    This, of course, is a not so subtle hint that he will become fully evolved (i.e., a champion of gay marriage) as soon as he wins re-election and no longer has to curry favor with religious bigots – even in the purportedly liberal Democratic Party – for votes.

    Subjecting the civil rights of gays to political expediency in this fashion is clearly unconscionable. But I appreciate the precedent Lyndon Johnson set by evolving into a champion of black civil rights only when it became politically expedient for him to do so (i.e., in the face of increasing racial unrest after he became president). Indeed, Obama might be guided by the fact that, despite his dubious political evolution, Johnson is roundly celebrated today – no more so than among blacks – for his leadership in securing the passage of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

    As for the role religious minorities are playing, what I wrote in my commentary on the passage of California’s Proposition 8 is instructive:

    [T]he dark little secret is that far too many blacks (and Hispanics) are every bit as homophobic as right-wing Christian zealots… Polling data indicated that blacks and Hispanics – who normally vote Democratic Party values (which includes gay rights) – voted with Republicans to pass Proposition 8 by a relatively slim margin of 52-48 percent.

    Therefore, if Democratic Party organizers had spent more time helping blacks and Hispanics get over their homophobia instead of pretending it does not exist, I have no doubt that Proposition 8 would have been defeated by a relatively comfortable margin.

    (California court upholds Proposition 8, The iPINIONS Journal, May 28, 2009)

    Actually, as the son of a preacher man, I know all too well the religious dogma that compels so many blacks to deny the obvious empathy (and solidarity) they should have when it comes to gay civil rights. (Incidentally, one of the reasons I know Obama’s opposition to gay marriage is more political than religious is that he worshiped for decades at one of the few black churches in America that not only embraced gays but advocated for their civil rights, namely, the Trinity United Church of Reverend Jeremiah Wright; yes, that one.)

    Unfortunately, disabusing self-righteous blacks of their homophobia these days might prove almost as difficult as disabusing self-righteous whites of their racism during the dark days of Jim Crow.

    Nevertheless, I believe it is a self-evident truth that not allowing gays to marry is an even greater violation of the fundamental civil/equal rights all citizens should enjoy than not allowing blacks to vote. This is why I ended my very first commentary supporting gay civil rights over six years ago as follows:

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

    (Non-white Bishops oppose ordination of gays, The iPINIONS Journal, March 8, 2005)

    In the meantime, though, I am delighted that, in to addition Massachusetts (2004), Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), New Hampshire (2010), and Washington, DC (2010), same-sex couples will now be able to head to the Big Apple to get married after the new law takes effect next month – on July 24.

    Related commentaries:
    California court upholds Proposition 8
    Non-white Bishops oppose ordination of gays

  • Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 7:15 AM

    What happens when the Americans leave Afghanistan?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
    Obama’s withdrawal from Afghanistan

  • Friday, June 24, 2011 at 5:29 AM

    South African Pres. Zuma Snubs Obama (Michelle that is)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Much is being made of the fact that President Jacob Zuma refused to meet with First Lady Michelle Obama during her week-long official visit to South Africa and Botswana, which ends on Sunday. Indeed, it’s arguable that he intended to convey a deliberate slight by arranging only for his female minister of prisons to greet her at the airport on Monday and for one of his three wives to meet briefly with her on Tuesday.

    But, when placed in proper context, there’s nothing surprising or inappropriate about Zuma’s behavior. After all, Zuma is not only culturally disposed to male chauvinism; he’s also personally disposed to raping women.

    This, in part, is what compelled no less a person than Archbishop Desmond Tutu to oppose his candidacy for president by warning South Africans that:

    They should please not choose someone of whom most of us would be ashamed.

    (London Times, December 16, 2007)

    Therefore, nobody should be surprised that he dissed Michelle in this way. Mind you, she could not have hoped for any greater honor during her visit than the one she got by being accorded a private visit with Nelson Mandela. Never mind that, at 92, he’s treated more as a tourist attraction these days (like the Statue of Liberty or, perhaps more to the point, a Carnival freak worthy of being shot by Charles Eisenmann) than as an elder statesman.

    Of course, if not out of respect for Michelle, you’d think Zuma would be wary of doing anything that could even be perceived as a slight against the mighty United States.

    I am convinced, however, that he has made the strategic calculation that – just as the Soviet Union was the patron of choice for many African countries during the Cold War – China will prove a far more beneficial patron for South Africa than the U.S. in the years to come.

    Not to mention that China’s largesse does not come with any of the situational morality that now impinges on the U.S.’s bilateral relationship with countries within its sphere of financial influence. And, given the ostentatious way China has been buying up political influence throughout the continent, Zuma’s behavior seems more shrewd than rude (i.e., dissing America pleases or curries favor with, China).

    In a similar vein, there’s probably merit to claims that Zuma snubbed her to register his pan-African opposition to the ongoing, U.S.-led military strikes against Libya. No doubt his opposition is informed by the fact that Gaddafi supported the ANC during its struggle against the Apartheid regime:

    We strongly believe that the (UN Security Council) resolution is being abused for regime change, political assassinations and foreign military occupation.

    (Zuma, African Herald Express, June 18, 2011)

    Granted, Zuma’s mood could not have been helped by his failure to broker a ceasefire between Gaddafi forces and rebel fighters during two visits to Libya earlier this year.

    Ultimately, though, I think there’s poetic, even if ironic, justice in his snub of Michelle; not least because President Obama has made promoting equality among nations in international relations a hallmark of his presidency. Accordingly, just as nobody would expect Obama to meet with any of Zuma’s wives on a solo visit to the United States, nobody should expect Zuma to meet Obama’s wife on a solo visit to South Africa.

    That said, I’m acutely mindful of the self-abnegating stereotype which holds that blacks invariably show more respect towards whites in positions of authority than towards blacks in those same positions. But I have no doubt that if this were First Lady Laura Bush visiting, Zuma would have dissed her too. It’s just unfortunate that historical happenstance has him treating the first black first lady of the United States in a way that only perpetuates this stereotype.

    Related commentaries:
    South Africa ‘betraying its values’

  • Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 8:07 AM

    Obama’s Withdrawal Plan for Afghanistan is a Tragic Joke

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s clearly no longer as fashionable to be an Obama supporter as it was in 2008. But not only am I still an unabashed supporter, I have just as much HOPE that he will be re-elected as I had that he would be elected president in the first place. I sincerely believe he’s that much better (for the U.S. and the world) than any candidate the Republicans can possibly nominate to replace him.

    Nevertheless, regular readers know that I have been equally unabashed in criticizing some of his policies – as I did just yesterday in a commentary pooh-poohing his specious claim about abiding by the War Powers Act in his march of folly into Libya.

    Well, as much as it distresses me, I am constrained to register another criticism today. This one concerns the big show he’s making of his plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan – complete with a prime time address to the nation tonight to inform the American people about it.

    But unless he announces the immediate (i.e., not phased) withdrawal of all 100,000 combat troops (i.e., not just the 70,000 he surged into the killing fields of this country in 2009), his plan will amount to little more than another political feint:

    It seems more than a little disingenuous for him to declare that he will begin withdrawing troops in July 2011. After all, even if he does, it could still take years after that date to reduce the number of troops deployed there to today’s level … or lower.

    (Obama escalates war…, The iPINIONS Journal, December 2, 2009)

    Reports are that Obama will announce the withdrawal of 5,000 this summer and another 5,000 by the end of the year. But this is only making a joke out of the farce the war in Afghanistan has become. It has been a misguided, costly and unwinnable mess for years.

    More to the point, just as it was in Vietnam, the presence of U.S. troops is only delaying the day of reckoning when local factions will fight it out among themselves for control of their own country. So the sooner the U.S. gets out of the way the better. Not to mention the lives and money an immediate withdrawal would save.

    In any case, the war in Afghanistan today is more about Obama’s Faustian ambition (he doesn’t want to be the president who loses this unwinnable war) than about U.S. national security.

    Incidentally, the notion that Obama should follow the advice of his generals is belied not just by the Constitution, but by modern technology as well. After all, as commander in chief, it is for him to give orders based on all information available and with supervening regard for “the big picture”. And this is not the 1960s when the president had to rely on generals in the field for that information. Today’s media and technology are such that everyone in the world knows, almost in real time, what is going on. And the futility of continuing this war effort – even with twice as many troops – is plain for all to see.

    Therefore, Obama cannot hide behind the advice of his generals who, like those in Vietnam, only want more troops to fight their war no matter how clearly lost the cause.  Instead, leadership requires him to order them to bring those troops home … NOW! He should leave only enough  (around 5,000) to man a base from which Special Forces can launch the kind of operations that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.)

    Meanwhile, the blood of every troop who has died (and will die) because he decided to escalate this war instead of ending it in 2009 is on his hands.  No doubt this explains the lines now creasing his face and grey hairs now sprouting up all over his head.

    More troops only mean more sitting ducks for Taliban fighters.

    (“Without [or even with] more troops, failure in Afghanistan is likely”, The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2009)

    According to a report today by CNN, in the seven years before Obama’s surge (from 2001-07) 570 American troops were killed. In the two years since his surge (from 2009-10) 970 were killed.

    And, no matter what Obama says about amorphous successes, he can cite no development in Afghanistan on his watch that was worth this spike in casualties. Even worse, everybody knows that, given the terminally corrupt, fractious and ungovernable nature of this country, whatever success there might have been since 2001 will be rolled back with a vengeance by Taliban and al-Qaeda forces whenever U.S. troops finally leave. I warned him….

    Related commentaries:
    Obama escalates war
    Without (or even with) more forces

  • Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Libya: Invoking the War Powers Act

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The debate on whether America should be bombing Libya is generating more fireworks than the actual bombing of Libya. It stems from a bipartisan effort (led by 7 Republicans and 3 Democrats) to force President Obama to abide by the War Powers Act of 1973, which:

    … passed in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, puts limits on the ability of the President to send American troops into combat areas without Congressional approval.

    Under the act, the President can only send combat troops into battle or into areas where ”imminent” hostilities are likely, for 60 days without either a declaration of war by Congress or a specific Congressional mandate.

    The President can extend the time the troops are in the combat area for 30 extra days, without Congressional approval, for a total of 90 days.

    The act, however, does not specify what Congress can do if the President refuses to comply with the act. Congress could presumably suspend all funds for such troops and override a Presidential veto.

    (New York Times, March 28, 1984)

    Well, Obama’s 90 days ran out on Sunday, so the ball is in Congress’s court. But as you listen to politicians hurling rhetorical grenades from both sides of this debate, just bear in mind two dispositive points:

    1. A scorned Congress passed this Act in the wake of undeclared wars in Korea and Vietnam as a way to remind the president that only it has the authority under the U.S. Constitution to declare war; and
    2. The last time Congress exercised its duty to declare war was during World War II; notwithstanding the aforementioned wars as well as others in places like Grenada, Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan.

    Therefore, there’s no gainsaying the arbitrary, if not discriminatory, nature of this debate about this president’s authority to do what all other presidents since WWII have done without Congressional interference. Yet the politics are such that nobody believes Congress will do the only thing it can do to check Obama, namely, cut off funds for the war in Libya.

    Which brings me to the tortured and unnecessary reasoning Obama is proffering as justification for ignoring the Act:

    U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors.”

    (Los Angeles Times, June 21, 2011)

    All of this is true of course. But it seems an untenable fiction to suggest that a war is not a war if the U.S. can launch missiles from predator drones, fighter jets, and naval vessels against a country like Libya that has no ability to return fire. The fact is, America is as much at war in Libya as it is in Afghanistan and Iraq. Alas, the “victory” in this case seems doomed to be just as elusive and pyrrhic.

    That said, I think Obama was right not to seek congressional approval for this “limited” (i.e., lopsided) war. Instead he should have followed the long-established precedent of simply informing Congress about his hostile intentions.

    Recall that, following this precedent, George W. Bush spent much of his presidency launching missiles into Pakistan from squadrons of predator drones operated by U.S. troops sitting comfortably in air-conditioned rooms in Nevada and Virginia. Yet his disregard for (or violation of) the War Powers Act never received this level of scrutiny.

    At least Bill Clinton could argue that his wars – in Sudan and, yes, even Afghanistan – never exceeded 90 days. Never mind that his justification for launching them was undermined by wag-the-dog suspicions stemming from the Monica Lewinsky affair. (For the record, though, he did get Senate approval for his bombing of the former Yugoslavia.)

    I just wish that, instead of insulting our intelligence with legal justifications that make no sense whatsoever, Obama had simply called Congress’s bluff by forcing them to defund his war effort.

    NOTE: If you’re wondering why the limited warfare Obama is conducting against Pakistan and Yemen is not generating the same kind of political fireworks, the answer is sheer political expediency, if not hypocrisy.

    Related commentaries:
    Kill Gaddafi already

  • Monday, June 20, 2011 at 5:21 AM

    Clarence Clemons, Rock’s ‘Big Man’ of Sax, is Dead

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    We are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years. He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.

    This was Bruce Springsteen’s clearly heartfelt tribute to the larger-than-life saxophone player who was the soul of his famous E Street Band. Of course, anyone who knows anything about rock ‘n’ roll will understand the full meaning of Springsteen’s words. And I do.

    Yet I am not paying homage to his death because I was a big fan. Truth be told, I never saw them perform, and I don’t even own any of the band’s CDs. I was/am more of a Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie kinda guy….

    Instead, I felt moved to pay my own tribute because I remember well during the late 1970s and early 1980s when Springsteen and the E Street Band figured prominently in my consciousness for one reason: it was the only famous rock band that featured a black guy (and at 6 feet, 5 inches and 270 pounds, Clemons did not exactly fade into the background). In fact, this was a source of considerable black pride for me; not least because, being the only black kid in my prep school when the band first took off with Born to Run (1975), I identified with Clemons … a little.

    Mind you, this is not to say that I did not like Clemons’s saxophone playing. It’s just that I think it was the novelty of this big black guy playing in a (white) rock band that was itself so appealing. More to the point, his mostly white fans were probably all too happy to revel in the racial harmony the E Street Band represented – given the smoking embers of racial turmoil that were still in the air from the 1960s.

    Not to mention that I can think of far too many other saxophone players, like Charlie “Bird” Parker, John Coltrane and Grover Washington, who thrilled me more musically.

    But to get a sense of how truly pioneering he was, just think of Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band being to rock ‘n’ roll what Anna Wintour and André Leon Talley of Vogue are to high fashion.

    And if you don’t know who Anna and big Andre are, Google them, you cultural illiterate!

    Clemons suffered from numerous ailments in recent years, affecting his hip, back and both knees, which limited his appearances with the band. This, however, did not prevent him from making a very memorable cameo in Lady Gaga’s most recent hit video, The Edge of Glory.

    Clemons died on Saturday in a hospital in Palm Beach from complications due to a stroke. He was 69.

    Farewell, Clarence

  • Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    The Gospel According to Apple

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Technology’s Commandments … according to Apple:

    Thou shall buy a Mac

    Thou shall buy an iPod

    Thou shall buy an iPhone

    Thou shall buy an iPad…

    Yet somehow I’m managing to get by without obeying any of them…

    (Technology is God.  Jobs is Moses. And iPAD is His 4th Commandment, The iPINIOINS Journal, January 30,  2010)

    At long last, I’ve been converted.  I now have an iPhone. Hallelujah!

    Related commentaries:
    Technology is God

  • Friday, June 17, 2011 at 5:40 AM

    Playboy Hef Dumped Like an Ordinary Chump

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I’m sure there was a time — 40 to 50 years ago — when every guy wanted to be Hugh Hefner. Not because he peddled soft porn for a living, but because so many beautiful women were reportedly lining up to have sex with him to appear in Playboy.

    Incidentally, I have always felt that he has nothing to apologize for. I respect a liberated woman’s choice to prostitute herself for career-enhancing publicity or free room and board at the Playboy Mansion. And, yes, Iike this generally accepted form of prostitution, I believe all other forms should be decriminalized.

    Today, though I suspect most men see Hefner today as a rather pathetic figure – making a spectacle of himself by trying to live at 84 the playboy lifestyle he lived at 40. After all, most 40-year-old men don’t have the energy and brains to fully satisfy just one sexually liberated woman. The notion that 84-year-old Hef can satisfy three, even pumped up on Viagra, is patently absurd. .

    And he only compounded the public spectacle he was making of his private life when he announced in January his intent to marry a 24-year-old named Crystal Harris. Because it was so self-evident that a marriage between these two would amount to nothing but the unholy union of his dotage and her greed.

    Now, just when I thought he could not look any more pathetic, comes word that she left him, in effect, at the altar. She dumped him on Wednesday just days before the lavish nuptials they had planned for tomorrow. And, like the jilted bride who had already donned her gown, Hef had already commissioned a commemorative issue of Playboy, featuring Harris on the cover with the headline “America’s Princess Introducing Mrs. Crystal Hefner“.

    In a flaccid attempt to save face, he ordered his publishers to slap a sticker with the words “Runaway Bride” over her private parts on all issues that were not already released for promotional purposes: making lemonade out of lemons…?

    Anyway, nothing indicates how patently venal his fiancée’s motives were quite like reports that she called off the wedding because Hef refused to guarantee her a weekly allowance that would enable her to indulge in the Hollywood lifestyle she clearly coveted. This, notwithstanding the crocodile tears she’s shedding now about suddenly developing a crisis of moral conscience over Hef’s desire to continue having his Viagra-fuelled “bunga bunga” parties with other playmates. Duh….

    No, I believe the money was the deal breaker because even a teenager does not want to depend on a parent (though grandparent seems more apt) for money every time she goes out. Even worse is the prospect of having that grandparent tagging along (as Hef always did) to cramp her style. Old fool, he really thought she was marrying him for love.

    In the end, though, there’s no escaping the irony or comeuppance that Hef – who was purportedly living every man’s dream – has been dumped … like an ordinary chump. And it serves him right.

  • Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 5:23 AM

    Lagarde to Replace Strauss-Kahn at IMF

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It’s hard to imagine anything good coming out of the mess former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) got himself into by attempting to rape a hotel maid a month ago; yet something very good is.

    Specifically, Christine Lagarde, France’s finance minister, seems poised to replace him – given that the U.S., EU and African countries have already telegraphed their support for her candidacy. If she does, she will become the first woman appointed to this very coveted and influential position since the IMF was founded in 1944.

    Incidentally, the irony is not lost on me that a “gentlemen’s agreement” exists between the United States and Europe which calls for an American to head the World Bank and for a European to head the IMF. This means that, despite Latin American countries putting forward a candidate, Mexican central bank governor Agustin Carstens, Lagarde’s appointment is a fait accompli. (An official announcement is expected by the end of this month.)

    Of course, this prospect should be celebrated for many reasons. But it would be disingenuous not to cite the fact that she is far less likely than any male replacement to bring the bank into disrepute for sexual misconduct. For, despite the seemingly oxymoronic spate of female teachers preying on their male students lately, it is generally accepted that women in such positions of power are far less inclined to abuse it for sexual gratification.

    That said, I am celebrating this prospect for a more pragmatic reason. And, as it happens, I agree with no less a person than Lagarde herself – who is on record offering this remarkably prescient and now topical bit of insight on the differences between the way powerful men and women conduct themselves:

    Women inject less libido and less testosterone into the equation. It helps in the sense that we don’t necessarily project our own egos into cutting a deal, making our point across, convincing people, reducing them to a partner that has been lost in the process.

    It’s probably overgeneralised what I’m saying and I’m sure there are women who operate exactly like men. But in the main … I honestly believe that the majority of women in such positions approach power operate in a slightly different manner.

    (London Telegraph, October 11, 2010)

    I duly expressed my agreement with her, for the record, as follows:

    This is the somewhat controversial reasoning France’s finance minister, Christine Lagarde, offered to explain her compelling assertion that women make better politicians than men. Unfortunately, the dearth of women holding powerful political positions around the world makes her assertion impossible to prove.

    But we have enough data, as well as anecdotal evidence, from the way women have influenced the corporate world to make some credible extrapolations. The correlation between more women holding positions of power and the implementation of family friendly policies is undeniable in this respect.

    Therefore, it’s entirely reasonable to assert that if more women held positions of power in politics they would use their power more towards building up human resources than military armaments – just to cite one obvious example.

    (Women make better politicians than men, The iPINIONS Journal, October 14, 2010)

    In fact, Lagarde is likely to be far more sensitive than DSK was (or any male successor would be) to the macroeconomic and exogenous factors (most notably hurricanes) that impinge on development in small countries like those in the Caribbean. Specifically, concessional lending to these countries will likely take due account of these factors.

    This is especially important given that ongoing efforts to reform the international economic architecture in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis are heavily weighted in favor of the G20 group of large economies.

    So here’s to women replacing more and more men in positions of power. And none will be more heralded (and symbolic) than Hillary Clinton replacing Robert Zoellick as head of the World Bank when his term expires next year – notwithstanding her politically correct denials.

    Related commentaries:
    Women make better politician
    Dominique Strauss-Kahn granted bail

  • Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    No Blacks Please, We’re Fashionistas

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It should go without saying that just because a black face appears on the cover of a fashion magazine, or on the runway of a fashion show, does not mean that there’s diversity in the fashion industry. Especially since that black face is most often half-white (like Halle Berry’s) or digitally whitened (like Beyoncé’s).

    Yet far too many erstwhile intelligent people (black and white) buy into this tokenism … literally. Only this explains why a shocked and indignant female friend sent me an article yesterday with the title Is the fashion industry racist? Yes – and it goes right to the core.

    Here are some of the more “enlightening” excerpts:

    I’ve not long returned from the resort collections for 2012. At Chanel, not a single black model walked among nearly 60 girls. At Yves Saint Laurent, only one black model was on the catwalk: Marihenny Passible, an incredibly beautiful Dominican woman. And if you look at the covers of fashion magazines, you’d think Britain was still as ethnically undiverse as it was in the Fifties.

    Yes, of course, we see Beyoncé on many magazine covers and actress Thandie Newton has graced the cover of InStyle. Both women have landed lucrative ad campaigns: Beyoncé at L’Oréal, Thandie at Olay. But these women are always so airbrushed, their hair ironed within an inch of its life, that they look almost white.

    The problem is, as one black model puts it: ‘Fashion is still ghettoising those of us with very dark skin. Beyoncé is always made to look so much paler than she really is that I don’t really relate to her.’

    So far in 2011, not one black face has appeared on the cover of British Vogue. In fact, the last time British Vogue had a black woman on the cover was in November 2008… For a black model to succeed, she needs a powerful protector. Naomi Campbell was championed by the late designer, Gianni Versace.

    Unfortunately, the number of designers who think as he did are thin on the ground. Stella McCartney is a rarity in that she always casts diverse models…

    I talked to Carole White, who founded Premier Model Management in 1981… Carole says the problem stems from the influential fashion capitals of Milan and Paris. ‘There, they absolutely don’t want black girls. A black model has to be a real star before you can take her there.’

    Carole most famously represented Naomi Campbell for most of her career. She says: ‘Clients never wanted to pay Naomi as much as the white girls. It was always a battle.’

    Why? ‘She was just as famous as the other supers, so who knows why.’

    (Liz Jones, Mail Online, June 13, 2011)

    But, like I indicated above, this is hardly a revelation. In fact, here is how I presaged four years ago much of what Liz wrote in this article two days ago:

    I’m not too focused on how bone thin these bitches walking the runways at NYC’s Fashion Week are to notice how bone white they are also!

    Frankly, one could be forgiven the impression that – since Alek Wek is busy promoting her extraordinary autobiography, and a semi-reformed Naomi Campbell is busy raising funds for flood victims – no other black models are worthy of showing off the clothes of the world’s top fashion designers.

    (Fashion model fired for being too skinny. Hallelujah! The iPINIONS Journal, September 12, 2007)

    The only thing I will add today is that unless non-white women, especially Asians and Latinas, stop doing all they can to look white, this racist trend will continue.

    For starters, black women can stop covering up their natural hair with wigs made of white women’s hair. Indeed, why should white fashionistas hire black models to appeal to black women who just want to look white? Frankly, I find nothing more unattractive and pathetic than a black woman sporting a long, blond wig.

    On the other hand, if these women exhibited more pride in their ethnicity, their purchasing power would compel the arbiters and gatekeepers of fashion to feature women who look like them (even with nappy hair and dark skin) in magazines and on the runways.

    Apropos of this, Ebony Fashion Fair was forced to cancel its annual shows two years ago and its cosmetics line is on life support because “black” beauties like Halle and Beyoncé have convinced black women that it’s better to buy their cosmetics from white companies like Revlon and L’Oréal instead of Ebony Fashion Fair – even though they all sell the same products.

    Related commentaries:
    Fashion model fired for being too skinny

  • Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 5:48 AM

    U.S. Sec of Defense blasts incompetent, free-loading Europeans

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Secretary of Defense Robert Gates amused the American military and political establishments a few months ago by declaring in a speech at West Point that any president who sends soldiers to fight another land war in the Middle East should have his head examined.

    Well, he shocked the daylights out of the European military and political establishments on Friday by declaring the following in a speech in Brussels on the future of NATO:

    The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress, and in the American body politic writ large, to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense…

    [European] nations [are] apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets… The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country [namely Libya]. Yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference

    What I’ve sketched out is the real possibility for a dim if not dismal future for the trans-Atlantic alliance.

    (Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2011)

    No doubt most Americans are heartened by this in-your-face rebuke of Europeans whose parasitic ways are surpassed only by their congenitally self-righteous and resentful criticisms of almost everything American. But it’s a little belated for those of us who have been blasting these free-loaders for years.

    Here, for my part, is what I wrote almost two years ago in a commentary decrying Obama’s decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan:

    [I]t seems more than a little disingenuous for him to declare that he will begin withdrawing troops in July 2011. After all, even if he does, it could still take years after that date to reduce the number of troops deployed there to today’s level … or lower.

    But this was not nearly as disingenuous as his touting NATO participation in this surge. For, having criticized President Bush for making a similar claim, he knows full well that the vast majority of those NATO troops will serve as nothing more than political window dressing. Hell, the Italians have become a laughing stock for their jingoistic refusal to even leave their cloistered and heavily fortified base; similar ‘combat caveats’ limit German participation to ‘gardening’; and the French, well, plus ça change.

    (Obama escalates war in Afghanistan…, The iPINIONS Journal, December 2, 2009)

    Apropos of this, it might be helpful to know that, according a June 10 report by the Associated Press:

    The U.S. defense budget of nearly $700 billion accounts for nearly 75 percent of the total defense spending by NATO members. The combined military spending of all 26 European members is just above $220 billion.

    There are clearly many areas of the Pentagon’s bloated budget that can, and should, be cut. And Gates’s speech leaves no doubt that its spending on NATO is one of them.

    In fact, a good measure of what the U.S. defense budget should be is for it to be capped at two times that of all other NATO members combined. Which means that it should be $440 billion instead of $700 billion. How’s that?

    Related commentaries:
    Sec. Gates: invading Afghanistan and Iraq was insane

  • Monday, June 13, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    Mavericks Defeat Heat for NBA Championship!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I feel constrained to remind fans now celebrating this Heat championship – like farmers counting their chickens before they’re hatched – that all Dallas has to do is ‘steal’ one in Miami and hold home court to rain of their premature parade. Game two is scheduled for tonight in Miami.

    (LeBron and Heat look invincible, The iPINIONS Journal, June 2, 2011)

    This isn’t “I told you so”, but pretty damn close.  Because the Dallas Mavericks did not steal just one, but two in Miami. The second of course was last night’s 105-95 win in Game 6, which ended this best of seven championship series 4-2.

    But far more instructive than the caution I issued to Miami fans a couple of weeks ago (when LeBron and the Heat looked destined to sweep the Mavericks for this year’s championship) is the caution I issued to LeBron a year ago (when he announced he was taking his talents to Miami):

    What made winning a championship so sweet for Dr. J and Michael has to have been finally winning on a team with which they suffered so many years of playoff frustration. Not to mention the unbridled pride and joy they brought to longsuffering fans in cities that, in the case of Philadelphia, had not won an NBA championship in almost two decades, and in the case of Chicago, had never won at all. By contrast, I fear that winning for LeBron will be bitter sweet. Not least because instead of being hailed as a basketball savior in Miami, where the Heat won a championship just years ago (in 2006), he’ll be regarded as nothing more than a hired gun who was brought in to help them win a few more….

    Then, of course, there’s the inevitable conflict that will arise when some sports writers and commentators begin referring to the Heat as LeBron’s team while others continue referring to it as D-Wade’s. Because even though a domineering triumvirate seems an indispensable component of all championship teams, there’s always one player who must be treated like the undisputed star – as Kobe Bryant of the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers will readily attest.

    My sense is that LeBron’s plumed ego will make it difficult for him to cope with being treated like a courtier instead of worshipped like a king. Yet, that he was quite happy to go to Miami, instead of using his unprecedented and unparalleled clout to bring D-Wade and Bosh to Cleveland, indicates how naïve he is about what it takes to assume the mantle of team (and league) leadership.

    (LeBron abandons Cleveland for Miami, The iPINIONS Journal, July 13, 2010)

    No doubt LeBron would give almost anything to be savoring the bitter-sweet taste of victory this morning after shooting his way to his first NBA championship. Unfortunately, he shot blanks, which for a hired gun is clearly a firing offense.

    Specifically, instead of taking over games in the fourth quarter like all superstars do, LeBron scored only two points or less in the all-important fourth quarter in four of the six games in this series. Hell, there were times when he seemed too spooked to even pull the trigger.

    By contrast, Dirk Nowitzki displayed all of the stuff of which franchise players and superstars is made, most notably, rising to the occasion in the all-important fourth quarter of each game (drilling 10 points last night).

    Then there’s the legend-making fact that, instead of shopping around the league for a championship, he emulated Dr. J and Michael by sticking it out with his original team (for 13 years in his case) and finally delivering his city, Dallas, its first NBA title in the team’s 31-year history. (Hey, that’s 13 backwards. It was clearly meant to be….)

    Now LeBron is facing the embarrassing and untenable prospect of trying to reassure not just disillusioned Miami fans, but disappointed teammates that he’s worthy of all the hype that attended his arrival. I fear however that his confidence is even more shattered than Tiger’s, which will make his ability to deliver a championship for Miami about as likely at this point as, well, Sarah Palin winning the presidency.

    At least when his Cleveland Cavaliers came up short in the 2007 NBA finals against the San Antonio Spurs, his heroism was never in doubt and he could take solace in the undying and unconditional adoration of hometown fans. He will find no such solace in Miami.

    I pretty much don’t listen to what everybody has to say about me or my game. All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. So they can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they got to get back to the real world at some point.

    (Sports Illustrated CNN, June 13, 2011)

    Sure LeBron; and he must know by now that all the money in the world can’t buy you happiness (or an NBA ring or shield you from public ridicule). In fact, this sad and patently false bravado of a clearly emotionally wrought LeBron constrains me to repeat this warning I issued in the July 13, 2010 commentary cited above:

    God help him if the Heat does not win the NBA championship next year. Because failing to do so will turn his new “dream team” into a living nightmare.

    To be honest, I don’t see how LeBron recovers from this. For even if he leads the Heat to an undefeated season and into the championship finals again next year, the abiding fear (among fans and teammates alike) will be that he will choke (again) when it comes time to really pull the trigger.

    Meanwhile, all of this makes a mockery of his bold promise to deliver to Miami:

    ..not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven and hey I’m not just up here blowing smoke at none of these fans … I’m about business and we believe we can win multiple championships….

    (Heat’s welcome party for LeBron, YouTube, July 10, 2010)

    But, as unimpressed as I was with LeBron’s move to Miami, I was even less so with the way the Heat promoted it:

    The moniker “Dream Team” is usually reserved for the group of NBA players who join forces every four years to guarantee Olympic gold in basketball for the United States.  Therefore, it’s an indication of their arrogance and disrespect for what this moniker represents that Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James co-opted it when they joined forces last year to guarantee an NBA championship for the Miami Heat.

    (Miami Heat on cold streak, The iPINIONS Journal, March 7, 2011)

    That said, let me hasten to clarify that I don’t share the visceral hate so many fans of the game developed for LeBron after he abandoned Cleveland. In my original commentary on this topic, I made it clear that I thought it was a cowardly thing to do, but that he had every right to do so; so no schadenfreude for me.

    On the other hand, given the way fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers were celebrating last night, you’d think it was their team that actually won. But this only goes to show how much celebrating one’s own victory and reveling in the defeat of an arrogant SOB have in common.

    It might be unseemly, but given the way LeBron dumped them (with such pomp and circumstance), I don’t blame these fans for celebrating this Mavs’ victory over LeBron’s new team as if it were their own.

    Related commentary:
    Miam Heat on cold streak

    LeBron and Heat look ‘invincible’

  • Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 8:13 AM

    Which is more pathetic: Palin’s stupidity or the media’s obssession with her?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

  • Friday, June 10, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    Casey Anthony Murder Case…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A few media outlets are doing all they can to turn the Casey Anthony murder case into the proverbial “trial of the century”. But I couldn’t be less interested.

    In fact, the only reason I’m bothering to comment at all is that so many of you seem confused, if not disappointed, by my silence.

    Casey of course is accused of suffocating and dumping her two-year-old daughter Caylee in July 2008. She aroused suspicion almost immediately because her daughter had been missing for more than a month before she was reported missing. Then when questioned by the police, Casey told some cock-and-bull story about her babysitter running off with Caylee.

    But if it wasn’t her friends producing pictures of the then 22-year-old Casey partying as if she didn’t have a care in the world while Caylee was missing, it was surely her mother telling the police that the trunk of Casey’s car reeked of a dead body that made her the prime and only suspect.

    By the time Caylee’s remains were finally discovered in December 2008 less than a mile from her home, Casey was already convicted in the court of public opinion. Indeed, the circumstantial evidence of her guilt was so overwhelming that she was arrested and indicted on first-degree murder charges in October 2008.

    No doubt everyone deserves her day in court. But if ever there were a case where the accused could be fairly judged guilty before proven so, it is this. Therefore, I see no point in dignifying any of the patently contrived claims her lawyers are proffering in her defense – not so much to avoid a conviction as to avoid the death penalty.

    I will note, however, that nothing demonstrates how depraved and unconscionable Casey’s mind is quite like her playing along with defense claims that her brother and father molested her: the old abuse excuse. But instead of sympathy I suspect this will only incite contempt among jurors.

    Anyway, this case hardly warrants the media coverage. It’s not as if there’s anything shocking these days about a mother killing her child – even if the motive was to have more time to party with her friends. Remember Susan Smith who drowned her two young sons in a lake in 1994 because she thought her new, wealthy boyfriend would not marry her with them around? Instead of a phantom babysitter, Smith blamed a phantom (black) carjacker. Then there was Andrea Yates who drowned her five children in their bathtub in 2001 because she was suffering “severe postpartum depression”?

    The point is that as sensational murders go, this one is relatively tame. It’s just that we live in a media age when reality TV can turn even a harebrained, no-talented, perma-tanned, bouffant wearing teletubby of a girl named Snooki into an international celebrity.

    Recall that it was not the nature of the murders, or even who was murdered, that kept us so riveted on coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial. Rather, it was the fact that O.J. was such a bona fide celebrity … period.

    Well, the level of celebrity it took O.J. decades to earn was conferred upon Casey in an instant, making it seem as though public interest in her legal fate is just as warranted. Frankly, this case perpetuates the perception that only the murders of cute little white girls (like Caylee, JonBenét Ramsey, and Madeleine McCann) are worthy of media coverage.

    I appreciate that many people find this trial riveting. But, as indicated above, these are the same Twittering fools and Facebook busybodies for whom The Jersey Shore is must-see TV. I just find the whole thing a pathetic spectacle.

  • Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 5:40 AM

    China’s First Aircraft Carrier Incites (more) Irrational Fear

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    In fact, American foreign policy has long been characterized by insidious hypocrisy and egregious double standards. And nothing demonstrates these features quite like the Bush Administration insinuating that China is becoming a regional and international menace because it has budgeted $45 billion in military expenditures for fiscal 2007. After all, Bush has budgeted $625 billion to feed America’s military industrial complex for this same year….

    (Who says America is concerned about China’s booming military, The iPINIONS Journal, March 11, 2007)

    This was how I attempted to put into perspective media reports four years ago which made it seem as though finding out about China’s military expenditures was tantamount to discovering a secret plan to invade United States. Now the media are inciting more irrational fear after finding out that China is poised to launch its first aircraft carrier.

    Granted, China gave credence to this fear by misleading Western governments (principally the United States) into thinking that it was only building a floating casino to launch in Macau, the gambling Mecca of Asia. But, ironically, I have no doubt that China engaged in this irrational subterfuge primarily to avoid inciting irrational fear in the U.S. about the growth of its military. And so it goes….

    Nevertheless, just as I did before, I feel obliged to note that much of the reporting on China’s first aircraft carrier fails to mention that the United States already has eleven of them. Even Italy and Spain each have two. By contrast, when it launches its carrier, China will join Russia, India, Brazil, Thailand, France, and England with just one.

    All of the great nations in the world own aircraft carriers – they are symbols of a great nation.

    (Lt Gen Qi Jianguo, assistant chief of the PLA general staff, BBC, June 8, 2011)

    Indeed, it could be that China is looking to do nothing more than flaunt its new-found greatness. The effect however is that this carrier will enable China to better exert sovereign control over the South China Sea – at the expense of countries like Vietnam with whom it is embroiled in an increasing bellicose dispute over fishing as well as oil and gas exploration rights.

    Still, there’s no denying that this carrier will imbue China’s more nationalistic citizens with naval pride. But the point here is that possessing one has not made any of the countries in the aircraft-carrier club a menace on the High Seas.

    Which therefore begs the question: why all the hysteria about China’s?

    Well, for starters, none of these other countries are threatening to rival the United States as the world’s only superpower. And here, for example, is how I illustrated more than six years ago the worry this portends:

    What happens if China decides that it’s in its strategic national interest to convert the container ports, factories and chemical plants it has funded throughout the Caribbean into dual military and commercial use? Would these governments comply? Would they have any real choice? And when they do comply, would the U.S. then blockade the entire region – as it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis?

    Now, consider China making such strategic moves in Latin America where its purportedly benign Yuan diplomacy dwarfs its Caribbean operations. This new Cold War could then turn very hot indeed….

    (China buying up political dominion, The iPINIONS Journal, February 22, 2005)

    That said, I feel equally obliged to note that even if China were to use this aircraft carrier to flex its new military might around the world, it would merely be doing what the United States has been doing with self-righteous hegemony for decades.

    Of course, some would argue that China incites this kind of irrational fear not just because of its human rights abuses, including most notoriously its crackdown on democratic protesters in Tiananmen Square, but also because of its stomping all over the democratic aspirations of Tibetan monks.

    But I would counter that the human rights abuses China committed against democratic protesters in the late 1980s were not nearly as inhumane as those the Untied States committed against Blacks in the early 1960s. Furthermore, that China’s incursion into Tibet was not nearly as willful a flouting of international law as the U.S.’s invasion of Iraq.

    Incidentally, I would also remind those condemning China for failing to even voice support for the democratic uprisings across the Arab world this spring that at least this was consistent with its core values: It would’ve been beyond hypocritical  after all for China to call for democracy in the Arab world after squashing it as an existential threat at home. That’s the kind of moral hypocrisy Iran displays.

    More to the point, though, one could just as easily condemn the United States for preaching about democracy and human rights while propping up dictators across the Arab world. This is why democratic protesters from Egypt to Libya can be forgiven for having nothing but contempt for the United States for voicing support for their cause so begrudgingly.

    At any rate, the above should provide some insight into the flagrant double standards that abound in the west when it comes to judging anything China does, especially militarily. Frankly, I couldn’t care any less if China’s (not so secret) ambition is to build a military industrial complex to rival that of the United States I just hope it is smart enough to be guided by the cautionary precedent the Soviet Union set by relying too heavily on military might for its superpower status.

    Apropos of this, given the relatively small amount it is spending on its military, China seems to fully appreciate that having a superpower economy and an ordinary military is far more sustainable than vice versa – as the Soviet Union found out.

    On the other hand, the United States seems blithely unconcerned about this foreboding precedent. Only this explains the way it is turning its superpower economy into an ordinary one with spendthrift military adventures (like those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Yemen), all of which benefit only a few war profiteers. But the categorical imperative of managing this symbiotic relationship between economic and military power couldn’t be any clearer.

    Apropos of the United States spending way beyond its means, the March 10, 2011, edition of CNN quotes no less a person than US Chairman of Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen saying that:

    The world’s biggest debtor nation cannot remain the world’s sole superpower indefinitely.

    In any case, please do not extrapolate from my support for China’s unconditional right to build and flex its military might support for China in any other respect. Because in a bipolar world where China and the United States rule, I would declare my support for the U.S. quite unabashedly.

    Actually, I don’t know anyone who’d rather live in a world dominated by Chinese values and influence than in one dominated by American values and influence. Do you?

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  • Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    Kill Gaddafi Already!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    We agreed … that meeting the UN mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Gaddafi remains in Libya… And we are joined in resolve to finish the job.

    (Joint statement by NATO leaders – Obama of the U.S. Sarkozy of France, and Cameron of the UK, Chicago Chronicle, May 28, 2011)

    NATO is making much of the “horrific day” of airstrikes it unleashed on Tripoli yesterday. But far from being impressed, this merely reminds me of the way the Pentagon made much of the “shock and awe” it unleashed on Bagdad on the first night of the war in Iraq. And look how well that turned out. But I digress….

    What I find most troubling about this bombing campaign is the quizzical insouciance with which NATO is variously destroying Libya’s infrastructure and killing innocent Libyans all in a vain effort to put pressure on Gaddafi to leave.

    [It’s] just a matter of time before Gaddafi goes.

    (President Obama, Reuters, June 7, 2011)

    But it’s been four months. And far from feeling any pressure to leave, here is the defiant message Gaddafi sent to NATO after yesterday’s bombing:

    We will not kneel! We will not surrender: we only have one choice – to the end! Death, victory, it does not matter, we are not surrendering!

    (Associated Press, June 7, 2011)

    Hell, that’s positively Churchillian. Indeed, if he’s allowed to continue spouting this heroic rhetoric in the face of such clear, present and overwhelming danger, Gaddafi might soon change his image from one of creepy pariah to international folk hero.

    This, notwithstanding how many Libyans he’s killing in order to stay in power; although, reports are that NATO and its rebel allies in Benghazi are killing many more in their stalemated bid to oust him.

    This is why I urge the growing coalition of world leaders, which now includes Merkel of Germany and even Medvedev of Russia, to stop making patently feckless calls for Gaddafi to leave. Instead, I urge them to save Libya and NATO’s credibility by dispatching the British or French equivalent of the U.S. Navy Seals to go into Tripoli and take him out. Not least because he has already demonstrated a bin-Laden like ability to survive massive and unrelenting airstrikes.

    After all, it’s not as if anyone even thinks Gaddafi is hiding in a cave in some remote region of Libya. More to the point, the killing of bin Laden in Pakistan reinforces the tragically obvious fact that there’s no need to wage war (wasting hundreds of billions of dollars and killing tens of thousands of people) just to take out a few terrorists or, in this case, one bad man.

    So here’s to killing Gaddafi already!

    NOTE: For the same compelling reasons, I urge NATO leaders to have Special Forces mount coordinated hits on Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Omar al-Bashir of Sudan as well. Because what they’re doing to hold onto power makes the genocidal crimes Gaddafi is being accused of seem like misdemeanors….!

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  • Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 5:43 AM

    The Indictment of Former Senator John Edwards

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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

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

    (John Edwards caught cheating on his wife, The iPINIONS Journal, July 23, 2008)

    This was how I expressed just a little of the contempt I felt for John Edwards after the National Enquirer exposed him as a cheating dog who had even fathered a child with his mistress, Rielle Hunter. However, because I’d chronicled so much hypocrisy in his public life, I was not nearly as shocked as others when he turned out to be a hypocrite in his private life as well.

    Here, in part, is what I wrote in this respect – adding for context that this guy should be a car salesman because he gives politicians (and lawyers) a bad name:

    Even the most cynical political commentators could not ignore the hypocrisy of Edwards showing up [in New Orleans] just for one day to decry the fact that – more than a year after Katrina – these long-suffering people are still struggling to rebuild their lives of quiet desperation.

    Because during all this time, instead of traveling to lend a helping hand (like so many people who are genuinely concerned about the gap between the “two Americas” did), Edwards was busy watching contractors build a mansion on his plantation in North Carolina that is so, well, presidential, it would turn both George Ws (i.e., Washington and Bush) green with envy.

    (Edwards is running for president … again, The iPINIONS Journal, December 29, 2006)

    Given all of this, you can be forgiven for thinking that I’m celebrating the six-count indictment a federal grand jury handed down against Edwards on Friday. But I’m not.

    The indictment accuses him of conspiracy, taking illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements – all in an effort to conceal his affair and lovechild.

    [W]e will not permit candidates for high office to abuse their special ability to access the coffers of their political supporters to circumvent our election laws.

    (Attorney General Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, Associated Press, June 3, 2011)

    And, as indicated above, the abuse alleged in this case is particularly contemptible because he allegedly did all of this while running for president in 2008 and posing as a devoted husband to his terminally ill wife – who ended up dying last year not just of cancer, but of a broken heart.

    Nevertheless, there are two main reasons why I’m not celebrating:

    The first is that this case reeks of selective prosecution. Because even if all of the allegations are true, and I believe they are, it is equally true that all presidential candidates have “abused their special ability to access the coffers of their supporters” to fund all kinds of personal matters. So this is rather like making a federal case out of a jaywalking violation.

    Even worse, the feds are predicating their entire case on the claim that Edwards used almost one million dollars in campaign donations from just two wealthy donors to cover up this affair. For it’s bad enough that one of those donors, Rachel ‘Bunny’ Mellon (who donated nearly $750,000), is 100 years old, and too sick to testify; but the other donor, Fred Baron, is dead.

    Of course, even if they could testify, these donors would probably claim that they considered the sums at issue legal gifts to a personal friend to help him cover up a personal indiscretion. (“That’s what friends are for”….)

    Hell, another personal friend, Andrew Young, was so determined to help cover up this affair that he persuaded his wife that they should claim they were the parents of Edwards’s lovechild. Never mind that he has since fallen out with Edwards and now has more than an axe to grind as star witness for the prosecution.

    The point is that it’s arguable that Edwards wanted to keep his affair a secret as much to save his marriage as to save his campaign: hardly honorable, but entirely credible.

    In any case, the feds are clearly relying on the just conviction Edwards has already suffered in the court of public opinion to inform and influence jury deliberations at trial. But Edwards did not earn his reputation as a formidable trial lawyer for nothing. Because here is the shrewd way he’s already beginning to undermine their strategy:

    There’s no question that I’ve done wrong. And I take full responsibility for having done wrong. And I will regret for the rest of my life the pain and the harm that I’ve caused to others. But I did not break the law, and I never, ever thought I was breaking the law.

    (Associated Press, June 3, 2011)

    Showing contrition and taking responsibility for his utterly repugnant behavior, yet insisting that he’s no intentional law breaker: brilliant! Moreover, if I were on the jury, I would resent the feds wasting millions of dollars trying to throw him in prison for being just another scumbag politician … no different from Arnold Schwarzenegger and far too many others.

    (Reports are that Edwards was happy to plead to all of his wrongdoing, provided that he was sentenced only to probation and a commensurate fine. But the feds insisted not only on jail time but also on the revocation of his law license, which the man would need when he got out to support his family.)

    The second main reason I’m not celebrating is that the people most hurt by his cheating are clearly not celebrating the legal comeuppance he’s now facing. Indeed, nobody can deny that the implosion of his once-sterling political career and the merciless public humiliation he’s suffered are punishment enough.

    In other words, if I thought for a moment that Edwards ending up in jail would provide justice for his dead wife, I too would be celebrating his indictment and even praying for a conviction.

    But here is what I was compelled to write some time ago about her presumed victimization:

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

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

    (Elizabeth Edwards standing by her man, The iPINIONS Journal, May 6, 2009)

    Meanwhile, despite rumors about her plans to divorce him, they were still married when she died more than two years after his affair and all of its tawdry details became public. This suggests that Elizabeth would still be standing by her man, even throughout this ordeal. And it seems from her appearance in court on Friday that their 30-year-old daughter Cate (as pictured above) is now standing there in her stead.

    I rest my case.

    Now, having said all that, if this goes to trial (since Edwards and the feds still might settle),  I predict he will be convicted on at least one counts (just for being a scumbag as indicated above), he will serve jail time (at least two years), and he will lose his law license.  Hey, he made his bed….

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