• Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    The Acquittal of John Edwards

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If this goes to trial (since Edwards and the feds still could/should settle), I predict he will be convicted on at least one count (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….

    (“The Indictment of John Edwards,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 7, 2011)

    Well, I was wrong:  it went to trial, and he was not convicted on any of the six counts related to taking illegal campaign contributions and making false statements to federal authorities – all in furtherance of a conspiracy to conceal his extramarital affair and the lovechild it produced.  He faced 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.

    Instead, after nine days of deliberation, a federal jury in North Carolina just acquitted Edwards on one count and deadlocked on five others. The judge declared a mistrial on the five counts, leaving it to prosecutors to decide whether or not to retry him on those.  I don’t think they will.

    And the post-trial statement he made on the court steps – flanked by his elderly parents and daughter Kate – may have disarmed prosecutors of any motivation to do so.

    Here, in the most relevant part, is what he said:

    I want to say a word about responsibility. And this is about me. I want to make sure everyone hears from me and from my voice that, while I do not believe I did anything illegal, or ever thought that I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong.

    And there is no one else responsible for my sins. I am responsible – none of the people who came to court and testified are responsible, nobody working for the government is responsible. I am responsible. And if I want to find the person who should be accountable for my sins, honestly I don’t have to go any further than the [nearest] mirror.  It is me and me alone.

    (CNN, May 31, 2012)

    Of course, it speaks volumes about his pathological narcissism, delusion, and conceit that he could not resist trampling all over this unprecedented, even if wholly scripted, bit of contrition by ending his statement with a shameless plug for his political rehabilitation, redemption, and return; specifically, by talking about God not being done with him yet and that he still wants to dedicate his life to helping the poor.

    Beyond this it might interest you to know that the decision to prosecute Edwards was made by Republican appointees during the Bush Administration. This is why the taint of political persecution marred this trial from day one; and this fact alone might militate against a retrial.

    Accordingly the real verdict in this case is that, even though a (temporarily humble) scumbag, John Edwards is one lucky son of a bitch.

    Related commentaries:
    The prosecution of John Edwards

  • Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    Trump’s Birther Nonsense: Take 2

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Alas Donald Trump’s birther nonsense has attained such cognitive dissonance that even Jay Z is trying to explain it.  But only one word explains why Trump is continuing to peddle nonsense about President Obama being a foreigner: publicity.

    Evidently the national embarrassment he caused last year by compelling the president (to condescend) to publish his birth certificate – proving beyond any reasonable doubt that he was born in the USA (in Hawaii) – was not enough. This nincompoop dismissed it as a fake.

    Frankly, instead of interviewing him as if he has anything remotely relevant to say, I wish media personalities like Wolf Blitzer of CNN would simply refer to him as a “bloviating ignoramus” – as commentator George Will did on last Sunday’s edition of This Week on ABC. But only one word explains why the media will continue dealing with him the way a drug pusher deals with his favorite junkie: ratings.

    In any event (and with Black celebrities like Jay Z in mind), I shall dismiss Trump’s latest episode of publicity-seeking hucksterism the way I dismissed his first foray into this birther madness as part of his vain flirtation with a presidential run:

    Donald Trump is nothing more than the P.T. Barnum of business: a huckster who thrives on the maxim that ‘there’s a sucker born every minute…’

    We all knew that Trump was a self-aggrandizing buffoon. But he has now exposed himself as a self-deluding racist as well.

    This is why I urge all of the rich folks he depends on to patronize his eponymous resorts and buy up his eponymous condominiums to begin shunning him – just as they would a half-baked racist like David Duke. I urge this especially of the Black Hollywood and sports stars he likes to feature as extras in his one-man freak show.

    Trump is entitled to say whatever he likes. But, at the very least, he should suffer truth and consequences for accusing this country’s first Black president of being a Kenyan Muslim – who has perpetrated ‘the biggest con in U.S. history’.

    CBS fired Charlie Sheen from One and a Half Men for hurling anti-Semitic remarks at a TV producer; NBC should feel even more compelled to fire Trump from The Apprentice for hurling racist remarks at the president of the United States.

    So, here’s to this fiendishly thin-skinned huckster having his trademark words thrown back in his face: Trump, you’re fired!

    (“Trump for President? Don’t Be a Sucker,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 8, 2011)

    Enough said.

    Related commentaries:
    Trump for president? Don’t be a sucker

  • Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 5:18 AM

    Judgment Day for War Criminal Charles Taylor

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    As a warlord, Taylor commanded rebel forces who raped, tortured, and killed indiscriminately on their march to power. And as president of Liberia, he aided, abetted, and traded (guns for diamonds) with warlords in Sierra Leone whose rebel forces did there what his did in Liberia…

    So here’s to the fate that awaits Charles Taylor (think Slobodan, not Saddam). And let’s hope that his capture puts all despots (like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe) on notice that their day of reckoning is drawing nigh. Because Taylor today, Kony tomorrow? Who knows for whom the bell will toll in due course?

    (“Good News: Charles Taylor captured,” The iPINIONS Journal, March 31, 2006)

    Last month the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone convicted Taylor on 11 counts of aiding and abetting all manner of crimes against humanity.

    But, as the quote above attests, in predicting his conviction I also noted that his fate would be dying in obscurity in a prison cell in The Hague (just like the late President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia).

    Well, the court affirmed his fate yesterday by sentencing the 64-year-old Taylor to prison for 50 years.

    May he rot in peace….

    Related commentaries:
    Taylor convicted

  • Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 5:19 AM

    PSA: Smoking Litterbugs

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I have such tunnel vision on my walks to and from the metro on workdays that one might think I’m wearing horse blinders.  However, this does not prevent me from making eye contact and nodding passing greetings to people who come into view.

    “Passing” is the operative word here. Because no matter the person (i.e., how intriguing or inviting the woman), I literally had never stopped to chat with a stranger on these walks … until yesterday morning.  And the reason will probably reveal far more about me than I intend.

    I was about 100 meters from the metro when I noticed a woman standing outside an office building about 15 meters ahead. She stood out – not only because she looked like she was posing for a sunrise fashion shoot, but, more to the point, because she was drawing on a cigarette as if she were inhaling a long noodle.

    I should note here that I’m an unqualified libertarian. Which means that I believe anyone (of age) should be allowed to do anything as long as it does not interfere with anyone else’s quiet enjoyment of life.  So, even though a personal turn off, that she was smoking did not matter to me.

    Except that here’s what happened as I approached: We made eye contact about 10 meters away and, intriguingly enough, she did not avert her eyes (as most women would) if only out of nurtured coquettishness … or socialized fear. Moreover, in what appeared to be slow-motion action, she took one last, long draw on her cigarette, returned my courteous good-morning nod with a come-hither look, and flipped her cigarette butt just centimeters from my feet.

    I couldn’t resist. I said, “You realize I could have you arrested.” Blissfully clueless (and perhaps betraying more than she realized), she exclaimed, “You don’t think I’m a prostitute, do you?!” “No, just a litterbug,” I replied.

    At which point her “Kool” affectation morphed into a solicitous and earnest explanation (rife with ironies) on what a committed environmentalist she is and how “nobody thinks that’s littering.” I listened patiently, affecting what I hope was a somewhat sympathetic countenance. When she finished, I countered as follows:

    You’re right, many people see nothing wrong with flicking away their cigarette butts on sidewalks. As an environmentalist, though, can you explain what distinguishes a woman like you who does so, from one who spits out her chewed-up gum (or tosses the wrapping paper) in similar fashion?

    Remarkably, a light bulb seemed to go on in her head. And, after an awkward silence, she muttered a few words, but they were completely incomprehensible.  I wished her a good day and went on my way….

    But here’s to that light bulb going on in the heads of all die-hard smokers out there who are littering sidewalks with cigarette butts as if they were autumn leaves falling from trees.

  • Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 5:16 AM

    Now Houla: Assad of Syria continues to massacre with impunity

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Reports over the weekend on the massacre (door to door, execution style) of over 100 men, women, and children in the Houla region of Syria by forces still loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had the international community recoiling in horror.

    I have come to Syria at a critical moment in this crisis… I am personally shocked and horrified by the tragic incident in Houla.

    (Kofi Annan, UN-Arab League envoy, BBC, May 28, 2012)

    Except that all expressions of outrage – by everyone from Annan to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – ring hollow when one recalls that reports a few weeks ago on a similar massacre in Homs also had the international community recoiling in horror.  Not to mention that this outrage over Homs was itself preceded by similar reaction to reports a few months ago on a similar massacre in Hama.

    Meanwhile, a surprising number of world leaders seemed to take consolation in the ceasefire agreement Annan brokered in the aftermath of Homs. According to it, President Bashar al-Assad promised to stop using tanks and other heavy weaponry to shell the rebel forces who have been trying for 15 months now to bring their version of the Arab Spring to fruition.

    Alas, the only ceasefire agreement more ill-fated than this was the one British PM Neville Chamberlain (and others) brokered in the aftermath of the 1938 annexation of the Sudetenland by Germany.  For, according to it, Adolf Hitler promised “never to go to war again.”

    But all one needs to recoil in utter cynicism at the way the international community has stood by and allowed Assad to massacre thousands of his own people is to know that no less a person than U.S. President Barack Obama pledged the following after Muammar Gaddafi merely threatened to massacre his own people:

    Action is necessary … he’s demonstrated his willingness to use brute force… Here’s why this matters to us: Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe Gadhafi would commit atrocities against his own people. Many thousands could die.

    (NPR, March 18, 2011)

    More to the point, U.S.-led NATO forces backed up Obama’s words by bombing Gaddafi’s forces to such smithereens that rebel forces soon caught the dictator cowering like a rat in a drainage pipe and executed him on the spot.

    Of course, many political analysts are asserting that only one word explains NATO getting involved in Libya but not in Syria: oil. And they can cite the way the British government released the Lockerbie bomber to Libya in exchange for oil leases as testament to this fact. But I think there is more to it than that:

    NATO got involved primarily because bombing Gaddafi’s forces was like shooting sitting ducks; Obama and other NATO leaders had no reason to fear this bombing igniting a regional conflagration; and Gaddafi had no superpower patron.

    By contrast, because the fighting in Syria is confined to such a small, densely populated area, bombing Assad’s forces would likely kill unacceptable numbers of rebel forces and innocent civilians too; given that Syria borders Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, it would be an understatement to say that NATO bombing might ignite a regional conflagration; and, perhaps above all else, Russia (as patron) is flexing all that remains of its superpower muscle to prevent any foreign intervention.

    This latter point is particularly noteworthy because all one has to know is that the venality and hypocrisy involved in NATO’s bombing of Libya is easily surpassed by the amorality and self-consciousness involved in Russia’s opposition to similar bombing in Syria.

    To be fair though, Russia insists that it is standing on the principle that no nation has the right to interfere in the domestic affairs of another. Except that this principle is patently self-serving and unsustainable. Not least because, pursuant to it, Russia would have to oppose an international coalition to intervene even if Assad were exterminating millions of Jews the way Hitler did during World War II.

    And, by the way, Russia’s attempt to bootstrap Assad’s massacre of his people to the global war against terrorism only makes its support for him all the more unconscionable.

    This is why instead of just jumping on the United States and NATO for failing to do in Syria what they did in Libya, I feel compelled to reserve a little condemnation for Russia (and for China – given that it invokes this same specious principle of non-interference in its role as patron to indicted war criminals like President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan).

    Mind you, it should be noted that, in addition to protecting geostrategic interests, Russian and Chinese leaders are also expressing solidarity with Assad because he happens to be emulating the brute force they have used, and intend to continue using, to hold on to power in their respective countries.

    All the same, it amounts to untenable passivity for the United States and its allies to refuse to at least supply rebel forces with armaments the way Russia and its allies (most notably Iran) are supplying Assad. After all, while diplomats like Annan are expressing fears about Syria descending into full-scale civil war, Assad is waging a de facto civil war against an enemy that does not have the weapons necessary to defend itself.

    And, apropos of international outrage ringing hollow, the United States and NATO should bear in mind that Assad would not have been able to perpetrate the massacres in Homs and Houla if they had merely supplied the rebels with weapons as some of us have been pleading for them to do for nearly one year now:

    May God in heaven help the pro-democracy protesters in Syria. Because it’s heart-wrenchingly clear that nobody on earth will.

    (“Libya, but not Syria,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 2, 2011)

    So, at least in this sense, some of the blood of the estimated 10,000 Syrians who, according to the United Nations, have been slaughtered since then is on their hands.

    Then there’s this:

    Won’t these brutal dictators ever learn…?

    Think what you will of the cowardly path Tunisia’s Ben Ali took by fleeing into exile, at least he was smart enough to avoid the humiliation Egypt’s Mubarak is now suffering by being wheeled into court on his death bed to face trial, which will surely end in his Saddam-like execution; or the summary fate that has now befallen Libya’s Gaddafi.

    (“Gaddafi is Dead,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 21, 2011)

    Frankly, it is stupefying that, despite these instructive precedents, Assad chose to stay and fight rather than take the money and run … when he still could.

    Because everybody knows that it’s only a matter of time before growing international outrage compels the United States and NATO to begin providing all manner of military assistance to rebel forces, which may well include ground troops from Turkey.  And everybody knows that when his inevitable fall becomes imminent Russia will not hesitate to drop him like a hot potato … just as the United States did with Mubarak.

    In any event, the only question now is whether Assad’s dictatorship will end with a whimper like Mubarak’s, or with a bang like Gaddafi’s.

    Related commentaries:
    Libya, but not Syria
    Gaddafi is dead

  • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 7:55 AM

    Brits Pray Lockerbie Bomber Took Secrets to Grave

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was the only person convicted in 2001 for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988. Two hundred and seventy people (two-thirds of them Americans) were killed; Megrahi was sentenced to life in a Scottish prison.

    But he was released in 2009, which incited me to write the following in a commentary challenging the compassionate grounds the Scottish government proffered to justify it:

    Notwithstanding his alleged illness, Megrahi’s release is such an affront to common sense that the British could only have released him for the same reason the Americans invaded Iraq: oil…

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

    I am sensible enough to appreciate that incurring the moral wrath of the Americans for releasing him was a small price to pay for sweetheart oil deals with Libya…

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

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

    (“Release of Lockerbie Bomber: Compassion v. Justice,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 24, 2009)

    Well, just as I predicted, instead of going home to die within three months, Megrahi lived on for almost three years until he finally met his maker on Sunday.

    But the only thing noteworthy about his death is the irony of having the red-carpet treatment he received as a returning national hero soon pulled from under him as Libya became engulfed in a de facto civil war. For this ended not only in the mob-style execution of his protector and benefactor Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, but also with him losing the spare-no-expense medical care (complete with life-sustaining medications) Gaddafi provided.

    The irony of course is that had he remained in that Scottish prison he would have had guaranteed and uninterrupted access to excellent medical care; he would have been spared the pain and indignities he suffered in the last years of his life; and he would probably still be alive.

    All the same, speculation is rife – even among renowned foreign policy experts here in Washington – about whether Megrahi took damning international secrets to his grave or whether he instructed family members to reveal them upon his death.  The insinuation is that more than a few British politicians are now sitting on pins and needles (i.e., praying for the former).

    Here’s why:

    Washington is harrumphing with shock and outrage this week over reports that BP, the pariah oil giant, prevailed upon the British government to release Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in exchange for a $900 million oil deal with Libya…

    Finally, the UK government has taken pains to explain that the decision to release Megrahi was made by Scottish authorities. But whatever the nature of devolution between England and Scotland, when it comes to international matters like this, it was and is always the case that foreign governments deal with England, not Scotland or Wales – no matter how much these two former kingdoms are implicated.

    More to the point, my Scottish friend, a very accomplished barrister, has lamented the way Scotland duly complies with the UK government expropriating profits from oil drilling off its coast to stash in the London treasury. Therefore, it beggars belief to think that the UK government did not effectively instruct Scotland to release Megrahi for the benefit of the UK’s largest taxpayer, BP, and that Scotland duly complied.

    This is why, when word got out that the Scots were thinking of releasing him on compassionate grounds, the U.S. appealed – not to the Scots in Scotland but to that Scot in England who represents the UK government, Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

    (“BP Involved in Release of Lockerbie Bomber?!” The iPINIONS Journal, July 16, 2010)

    Then there is this:

    The cover up in this case was unearthed by studying ‘hundreds of confidential papers by the Cabinet office,’ which revealed that a number of Labour ministers acted not just as advisers to, but as facilitators between Scottish and Libyan officials to seal this deal.

    I trust this latest report will finally remove the scales from the eyes of my British critics. But they don’t have to take my word for it; because here, in part, is the aggrieved indignation the first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, vented at English politicians for using Scottish authorities to execute their foreign policy sleight of hand:

    ‘My point is the extraordinary position of the Labour party in Scotland attacking the SNP government for doing according to judicial principles what the Labour government in London were wanting to do, if not saying it openly, for economic and political reasons.

    ‘It seems to me the biggest example of organised political hypocrisy that I’ve ever seen in my time in politics.’

    (“British Exposed as Imperial Hypocrites on Lockerbie Bomber,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 8, 2011)

    What these quotes reveal, however, is that if Megrahi possessed any secret worth revealing it must have more to do with how Gaddafi recruited and rewarded him for the Lockerbie bombing than with how the British bartered with Gaddafi for his release.  After all, the man was in prison in Scotland when British politicians were conspiring with BP to offer him as a national trophy to Gaddafi in exchange for access to Libyan oil.

    Instead, the real reason they might be sitting on pins and needles is that Gaddafi’s once presumptive heir, the now-imprisoned Saif, might sing like a canary about just how willing British politicians (including former PM Tony Blair) were to betray the loved ones of those who died in the Lockerbie bombing to consummate these venal oil deals.

    Related commentaries:
    Release of Lockerbie
    BP Involved
    British Exposed

  • Monday, May 21, 2012 at 6:37 AM

    European Women Finding ‘Paradise: Love’ With African Men

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    The Cannes Film Festival has become famous for launching relatively modest films into worldwide acclaim – even turning some of them into veritable blockbusters. Such was the case with Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Apocalypse Now (1979).

    Paradise: Love is the film at this year’s festival – which opened last week – that seems destined for similar acclaim, even if not the success.  And, given the phenomenon that Fifty Shades of Grey has become, it’s easy to see why. For this film dramatizes in graphic, sadomasochistic fashion the way a surprising number of rich, middle-aged White women (picture more Judi Dench than Juliet Binoche) are trekking to Africa in search of sexual healing/satisfaction. The European women in this case make “Kenyan beach boys” their willing prey.

    (Spike Lee’s iconic film Jungle Fever, which took a rather tame look at an interracial affair playing out in New York City, seems a more appropriate name for this film.)

    But there is nothing new about the sex tourism Paradise: Love depicts. After all, middle-aged (invariably White) men have been traveling throughout the Far East for years for this kind of pleasure.

    As shocking as it might seem, there is nothing new even about White women emulating White men by traveling to exotic locations in pursuit of sexual assignations they dare not (or are unable to) pursue back home. In fact, this cross-cultural phenomenon was dramatized in more provocative and titillating fashion in Heading South (2005). That film was about middle-aged White women who travel to Haiti every year to get their groove on with beach boys quite willing and able to service them.

    Moreover, just as male sex tourists pay for sex, female ones do too: “beach boys” is just a colloquial term for the Black gigolos who prey on these women for cash as much as these women prey on them for sex.

    (Terry McMillan’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) may have inspired middle-aged Black women to make similar pilgrimages, but their White counterparts were getting their groove on with beach boys down in the Caribbean for years before Stella set foot on Jamaica’s white sand.)

    Even I previewed Paradise: Love by commenting five years ago on White women pursuing exotic, if not quixotic, sex in Neo-colonialism: British Women Traveling to Former Colonies … For Sex (November 27, 2007).

    Here is an excerpt:

    [I]t behooves us to wonder about the implications and consequences of this seemingly unnatural trend (of these White cougars hunting Black stallions) on our society… Yet there’s no denying that it’s a win-win proposition for the parties directly involved…

    And, yes, I believe prostitution is a victimless vice that should be decriminalized – even when the prostitutes are black men…

    Besides, even if hotel managers (or police officers) have probable cause to suspect that our native beach boys are chatting up matronly looking tourists as a prelude to an illicit assignation, prohibiting (or, God forbid, prosecuting) such hospitality would be unsustainable and utterly counterproductive.

    On the other hand, there would be a welcome drop in regional crime and a concomitant boost in tourism if we could get more of our delinquent young men to stop fighting each other and start making female visitors “feel like real women.”

    So to all of our female visitors, I say don’t worry, be happy and come back soon….

    __________________

    All the same, it must be said that what distinguishes women (aka Sugar Mamas) from men as sex tourists is that the women are in search of consensual, exotic sex with Black men; whereas, the men are (almost always) in search of pedophile, exploitative sex with boys and girls. Except that there might be much less even to this distinction than generally assumed given the incidence of female school teachers preying on school boys in recent years….

    Still, there is no denying that the women in Paradise: Love are betraying what many believe is the “natural” sense and sensibility women exhibit when it comes to the pursuit of sexual gratification. Never mind that stereotypical female emotions are on full display when the lead cougar becomes hysterical after finding out that her Kenyan beach boy was lying to her about his personal life.

    (I can’t be any more specific without completely spoiling this admittedly all-too-predictable plot twist. Though, apropos of nothing new, the way she goes about dealing with her antic feelings of betrayal is straight out of Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977).)

    Truth be told, I was disabused long ago of the illusion that women are more principled, or that they would act more honorably in any given circumstance, than men. No doubt the men who served under Margaret Thatcher’s iron fist or the Greeks who must think Angela Merkel is the most heartless German Chancellor since, well, Adolf Hitler would attest to this. Not to mention Cleopatra whose lust for power and sex rivaled that of any man in history.

    In other words, absent social taboos and given the opportunities, women would have their way with men just as men have traditionally had with them. Paradise: Love is little more than a banal portrayal of what women’s liberation has wrought in this sense.

    Related commentaries:
    Neo-colonialism … for sex

  • Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 7:01 AM

    Facebook IPO just floating another tech bubble…

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    And it’s bound to go bust a lot sooner than others.

    But let’s face it, haven’t you had enough of the mundane and often-recycled crap your “friends” share … every day, several times a day? Even worse are the hucksters who keep begging you to “Like” their page so they can make money off your “friendship.” Then of course there are the myriad ways those little zuckerheads get you to betray your own privacy.

    These are just some of the reasons why Facebook will soon go the way of My Space. Remember that bubble sensation…? In the meantime, though, Zuckerberg and his circle of real friends will be laughing all the way to the bank.

    In any event, that the stock price flatlined on its first day of trading yesterday (opening at $38 and closing at $38.23 instead of at two or three times that amount as analysts predicted) should provide a rude awakening for all of the suckers who bought the hype.

    I’m sure they won’t like that.

  • Friday, May 18, 2012 at 2:29 AM

    New French President Nominates ‘First Partner’ as Speaker?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    How gallant! How French!  And here’s why:

    Every French newspaper is emblazoned with headlines about the intriguing split between Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate I endorsed in last month’s French presidential election, and Francois Hollande, the leader of the Socialist Party… [T]hese two have been ‘partners’ forever (30 years) and have four children, but never bothered to marry….

    (Ségolène claims that she ended their relationship because Hollande was having an affair with journalist Valérie Trierweiler. Never mind reports that she has been a consenting, though frigid, party to this ménage a trois for years.) But what intrigues me about this split is not the announcement of it… Instead, I’m intrigued by the apparent fact that Ségolène’s resounding defeat precipitated not only the dissolution of her and Hollande’s personal relationship but also the termination of their political partnership.

    Moreover, as if this split were not already sensational enough, the French are salivating with prurient anticipation now that Ségolène has declared her (woman-scorned) intent to challenge Hollande for leadership of the Socialist Party – a position he has held like political Svengali for 10 years.

    (“Ségolène Royal and Francois Hollande divorce French Style,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 19, 2007)

    And here is a tease on how this played out when Hollande defeated Nicolas Sarkozy to become president of France:

    The woman standing next to Hollande during his victory celebration last night was his former mistress, now acknowledged ‘companion,’ Valérie — which must make his former companion Ségolène doubly green with envy.

    (“Hollande defeats Sarkozy…,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 7, 2012)

    Frankly, one probably has to be French (or at least European) to understand this, but Hollande had tongues wagging in the United States this week when he nominated his first partner Ségolène as President (aka Speaker) of the National Assembly (aka Parliament). She will likely be elected by virtual acclimation after parliamentary elections next month.

    But, as if to highlight the dramatis personae that will provide palace intrigue throughout his presidency, he announced almost simultaneously that he has no intent to marry his second partner Valérie — deriding marriage, in true socialist fashion, as a “bourgeois institution.”

    No doubt this will help Ségolène get over the understandable resentment and jealousy that must have stirred in her as she watched the younger woman Hollande dumped her for standing by his side when he became president.

    But Valérie must be wondering now about the security of her position in this ongoing ménage a trois. After all, not only could Hollande’s nomination make Ségolène the most powerful woman in France, Valérie is surely mindful that she (i.e., Ségolène) is also the only mother of his four children.

    So who’s resentful and jealous now? Karma’s a bitch: woof.

    Related commentaries:
    Hollande defeats Sarkozy

  • Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 7:12 AM

    Join our IDAHO (the state of tolerance, not the one in America)

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

    Related commentaries:
    Obama (personally) supports  gay marriage

  • Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    Whites: Polling Obama but Voting Romney?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner.  But if anyone could be called the dean of political analysts in America without fear of contradiction, he’s the one.

    Which is why he generated so much buzz when he published the following on Monday in Three Ways to Look at the 2012 Campaign:

    It is my view that Obama was helped in 2008 by a widespread belief that, in the abstract, it would be a good thing for Americans to elect a black president. I know I felt that way myself.

    This year, I sense that many, perhaps most voters do not want the country to be seen rejecting the first black president. Such a feeling might be buoying Obama’s support despite the lagging economic recovery and the widespread opposition to his signature policies.

    This is clearly a compelling and provocative observation. What’s more, it is unassailably true. But Barone went further:

    [I]t is possible that in the last days of the campaign a large number of voters will decide, quietly and out of public view, that they just don’t want any more of what they’ve had for the last four years and they will try the other guy and see if he can do better.

    Barone did not elaborate, but the reason this part of his commentary is so compelling, provocative, and true is that many Black politicians have been misled by White voters expressing support for them in polls throughout the campaign only to “vote their race” on Election Day. This fate befell Tom Bradley when he ran for governor of California in 1982 and 1986, as well as Harvey Gantt when he ran for the U.S. Senate from North Carolina in 1990 and 1996.

    Therefore, Obama has just cause to worry about this backstabbing/racist phenomenon rearing its ugly head in November. Because only this would explain why anyone who voted for Obama in 2008 would become so disillusioned with what he failed to do (as opposed to what Republicans deliberately prevented him from doing) that s/he would vote for Mitt Romney.

    Which is why, with all due respect to Barone, I presaged his commentary on this topic on January 4, 2012 in Iowa Caucuses: Much Ado About Nothing as follows:

    [W]hen all is said and done, I am convinced that even some (White) Republicans will think twice about helping to perpetrate the historic spectacle of re-electing George W. Bush to a second term – after he nearly bankrupted the country with his unfunded wars and tax cuts for the rich, but denying Obama a second term – despite his commendable efforts against the odds to clean up the mess Bush left behind.

    Besides, trust me folks, race matters. This is why I am even more convinced that disappointed (White) Democrats like actor Matt Damon, as well as Independents [like Michael Barone] whose votes are so indispensable, will definitely think twice about causing this first Black president to go down in history as a failure – especially given all of the mediocre White presidents who cruised to second terms.

    HOPE springs eternal, but we shall see….

    Related commentaries:
    In support of Obama
    Iowa caucuses

  • Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 5:39 AM

    Greece: a Tumor Growing in Europe

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I find it stupefying that Greece is causing so much existential angst in Europe. Mind you, I used to accept the prevailing view that, like JPMorgan Chase, Greece is just too big to fail; moreover, that if it failed others would surely follow.

    I am now convinced, however, that this transformative logic simply does not hold. Not least because the more appropriate analogy is not the risk of a big bank failing, but the fear of a little tumor growing. And in this context, cutting Greece out of the Eurozone is the best way to forestall the self-fulfilling prophecy of its failure triggering a contagion/domino effect; you know, the way one might excise a metastasizing (malignant) tumor out of the body. (Unfortunately, just the prophesying is having a withering effect on markets around the world.)

    Yet here is the foreboding, self-fulfilling way no less an authority than the Financial Times framed this debt crisis just yesterday:

    The idea of a Greek exit from the Eurozone is no longer fanciful. After 70 percent of voters in elections on May 6 supported parties that rejected the terms under which €174bn of international bailout loans were offered to Athens, many investors now see a fissure in the 17-member Eurozone as increasingly likely. European governments are furiously thinking through the various scenarios, while still urging Athens to stick to its agreements on austerity and reform. If those hopes are dashed and Greece goes, what happens next?

    In other words, Greece is refusing to take the only medicine that stands any chance of putting the cancer it represents into remission. Frankly, this refusal alone demonstrates why it needs to be excised out of the Eurozone.  And, by the way, the ongoing, farcical failure of its political parties to form a governing coalition should be the least of Europe’s problems. Greece should be left to its own devices to become the terminally debt-ridden, dysfunctional and ungovernable mess in Europe that Haiti has been in the Caribbean for centuries.

    But here is the prescient way I framed this untenable state of affairs years ago:

    Greece may be the cradle of civilization but it’s being regarded throughout Northern Europe these days as little more than a beggars’ colony. This is because Greece is now looking to richer member states of the European Union, like Germany and France, to bail it out of an existential financial mess…

    It is hardly surprising that most Europeans are developing as much contempt for the Greeks as most Americans now have for bankers. Not least because rich member states in the North believe that their poor relations in the South have nothing to blame for their financial woes but their own ‘Club Med’ approach to fiscal discipline…

    You’d think that having to go to their betters in the North – hat in hand – would humble the Greeks. Instead, public sector workers have gone on strike in a self-indulgent effort to pressure their government against imposing any austerity measures as a condition for receiving a bailout package from the EU (and IMF).

    (“Greece Just Another Panhandling PIG in Europe,” The iPINIONS Journal, April 29, 2010)

    Again, that was over two years ago. Since then, despite the writing on the wall, European leaders have been implementing extraordinary measures to keep Greece on financial support, fearing that, if Greece fails and exits, other Eurozone countries like Portugal and Spain would follow. Whereas they should have been implementing measures to make Greece’s inexorable path towards failure and exit so painful for Greeks that other countries would want to avoid going down that primrose path like the plague.

    This is why the only thing I find newsworthy about this Eurozone debt crisis today is the extent to which countries like Germany and France have allowed the financial contagion Greece represents to metastasize. The situation is clearly critical now.

    So instead of begging Greece to take the medicine to save both itself and the “euro project,” European leaders should be scrubbing for the surgery that is necessary to cut out Greece to save the Eurozone. Greece is not too big to fail.

    NOTE: I’m not saying I told you so, but European leaders would have been well-advised to heed the counsel I provided in such commentaries as A Dead EU Constitution Resurrected as a New Treaty Is Still a Dead EU Constitution (November 13, 2007), A Europe Divided by Debt Cannot Stand (March 25, 2010), If Rescuing Greece is Necessary to Save Europe, Europe’s in Big Trouble (October 15, 2011), and Forget the Euro, Europe Itself is Falling Apart (December 15, 2011).

    Related commentaries:
    Greece … PIG

  • Monday, May 14, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    The Prosecution of John Edwards

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Former presidential candidate John Edwards gained a great deal of political mileage by pretending to be a devoted husband to his cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth. Now he’s being prosecuted for allegedly using campaign funds to keep his mistress and their bastard child a secret – not so much from his wife as from voters who were buying into his charade of a family life.

    After the prosecution rested on Friday, legal (and political) pundits were all over TV opining that the defense had so discredited Andrew Young, the star witness for the prosecution, that Edwards would be acquitted. Some of them even suggested wistfully that Edwards still has enough charm left to convince the jury that that mountain of evidence proving his infidelity, mendacity, and venality merely reflects his chivalrous efforts to spare his terminally ill wife any undue emotional distress.  

    By contrast, in The Indictment of John Edwards (June 7, 2011), I predicted that he would be found guilty. I even charged Elizabeth as an unindicted co-conspirator because she not only knew about his cheating but was complicit in his illegal efforts to conceal it from unsuspecting voters.

    Accordingly, instead of joining the chorus of those now speculating about the outcome of his trial, I shall suffice to reprise that June 2011 commentary as a means of reiterating my belief that the jury will not buy into his defense – even if his terminal conceit misleads him into taking the stand to present it himself.  

    _____________________

    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 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 could/should settle), I predict he will be convicted on at least one count (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….

    Related commentaries:
    John Edwards caught cheating on his wife
    Edwards is running for president

  • Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 6:36 AM

    What Obama hopes will be the historical significance of his support for gay marriage

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Related commentaries:
    Obama … supports gay marriage

  • Friday, May 11, 2012 at 6:42 AM

    John Travolta’s Indecent (Gay-Sex) Proposals

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Most titillating of all however is the controversy brewing over the reportedly intimate relationship Travolta had with Jeff Michael Kathrein – one of the two (male) ‘nurses’ who provided 24/7 care for Jett.

    (“Tragic Death of John Travolta’s Son Jett,” January 5, 2009)  

    Virtually every Bahamian was horrified three years ago when two of our fellow citizens compounded John Travolta’s grief by (allegedly) attempting to extort millions from him. They threatened to release compromising details which, according to them, showed that Travolta’s antic behavior contributed to his son’s death.

    Thankfully they were swiftly arrested and prosecuted. Despite the actor’s compelling testimony, however, (inadvertent) political interference caused a mistrial. Travolta then said the ordeal was too traumatizing for him to participate in a retrial, which struck many of us as more than a little incredulous.

    In any event, the trial disclosed that the idiot extortionists had nothing that stood even a remote chance of compelling Travolta to fork over millions to avoid embarrassment … or worse. This led us to suspect that a 2006 National Enquirer story featuring a photo of Travolta kissing the aforementioned Jeff, who discovered his son’s body, was really what caused the trauma he cited. Particularly because this photo, which went viral during this period, was supplemented by tabloid reports outing Jeff as having no qualifications as a registered nurse or as a caregiver for chronically ill children….

    This is the context in which I am commenting on the claims two masseurs are making now about the way Travolta propositioned them for sex during massage sessions earlier this year. Even though they do not know each other, both men are reportedly giving similar accounts of what transpired.

    A lawyer joined their claims and filed a lawsuit against Travolta in Los Angeles on Tuesday for sexual battery, assault, and harassment. Below are excerpts from that filing:

    Re: Doe Plaintiff No. 1

    [Travolta] started to rub Doe Plaintiff No. 1’s leg, and Doe Plaintiff No.1 thought it was accidental… [Travolta] touched Doe Plaintiff No. 1’s scrotum and this time Doe Plaintiff No. 1 told [Travolta] to please not touch him again… [Travolta] then touched the shaft of Doe Plaintiff No. 1’s penis and seized upon it. [Travolta] quickly tried to rub the head of Doe Plaintiff No.1’s penis as he tried to pull away…

    [Travolta] said, “Come on dude, I’ll jerk you off!!!!” [Travolta] penis fully erect … lumbered to his feet and began to move towards Doe Plaintiff No. 1 … telling Doe Plaintiff No. 1 how selfish he was; that [he, Travolta] got where he is now due to sexual favors he performed when he was in his Welcome Back Kotter days…

    [Travolta] went on to say how he had done things in the past that would make most people throw up… that when he started out he wasn’t even gay and that the taste of cum would make him gag … that he was smart enough to learn to enjoy it, and when he began making millions of dollars, that it all became worth it… that the high-class in this world always favor same-sex relationships; that sex with beautiful, fit men is actually more intense and if Doe Plaintiff No. 1would just be open minded enough to let it happen, he would experience the best fucking of his life…

    Re: Doe Plaintiff No. 2

    [Travolta] suddenly turned on his stomach with his legs wide open with a full erection. He then tried to force Doe Plaintiff No. 2’s hand on [Travolta’s] scrotum. Then, Travolta started to grab, rub and caress Doe Plaintiff No. 2’s upper thighs and buttocks… [Travolta] still had an erection and wanted his abdominals done, but [Travolta’s] erection was in the way, and he refused to have his penis covered by a sheet or a pillow case cover… [Travolta] started masturbating with about 15 minutes left in the session, and Doe Plaintiff No.2, said he had to go.

    Well, four immediate thoughts come to mind (consider it foreplay…):

    1. To all of my female readers who are now recoiling with faux squeamishness and can’t wait to bitch at me for publishing such prurient details, I have only four words for you: Fifty Shades of Grey;
    2. I have to think that the only reason Travolta behaved as alleged is that he’s accustomed to getting (and evidently giving) happy endings when he pays for massages;
    3. For some reason I kept thinking of Tom Cruise instead of John Travolta as I read this; and
    4. Travolta’s lawyer has released persuasive information showing that the actor was in NYC on the day (January 16, 2012) when Plaintiff Doe No. 1 claims his incident occurred in LA. But would it matter to anyone if the female victim of an alleged rape claims that it occurred on January 16 when, in fact, it occurred on January 15?  Travolta was in LA on January 15. Not to mention that this alibi, for what it’s worth, pertains only to one accuser.

    Ironically, there seems to be an open media conspiracy to cast doubt on these truly sensational claims. Only this explains the absurdity of news organizations retaining TV lawyers to propagate the specious notion that, unless these plaintiffs have eyewitnesses to corroborate their stories, they have no case.

    But they know full well that, except in rare cases (like Jerry Sandusky raping that boy in the shower at Penn State), sexual assaults are committed only when perpetrators are sure there are no eyewitnesses. Which is why such cases invariably turn on the credibility of he-said, she-said testimony (or, in this case, he-said, he-said).

    Meanwhile, the media are also doing all they can to provide a platform for Travolta’s lawyer to trash the victims and threaten to sue them for defamation. But how often have you heard celebrities threatening to sue in situations like this but never doing so? Remember the public spectacle Ashton and Demi made of their threats to sue Star for reporting on his brazen extramarital affairs? Yet the only legal action they actually took was to file for divorce.

    I am convinced that Travolta’s lawyer is acting pursuant more to a PR strategy than a legal one. Not least because I suspect Travolta would rather put a bullet through his head than appear in court – either to defend himself against these claims or to assert that he has been defamed by them. All he really wants now is to settle this lawsuit … on the down low.

    The problem however is that just as many masseurs/men are now likely to come out of the woodwork with similar claims as the countless number of men who have come out to accuse Sandusky of molesting them too when they were kids. Lord knows there have been enough reports about Travolta cruising in this fashion.

    Insightfully, here is what the congenitally unfiltered Carrie Fisher (Princess Lea of Star Wars fame) said in a December 10, 2010 interview with Advocate.com about the gay rumors that have dogged him throughout his career :

    Wow! I mean, my feeling about John has always been that we know and we don’t care. Look, I’m sorry that he’s uncomfortable with it, and that’s all I can say. It only draws more attention to it when you make that kind of legal fuss. Just leave it be.

    To which I will only add this invariably true cliché: where there’s smoke there’s fire.

    Related commentaries:
    Tragic death of Travolta’s son

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, May 10, at 1 pm

  • Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 5:54 AM

    Obama Declares (Conditional) Support for Same-Sex Marriage

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    All of Washington waited with bated breath after word began to circulate around noon today that President Obama would soon be “making news” on same-sex marriage in a hastily arranged interview with ABC News.

    Well, here’s the headline-making excerpt ABC released immediately:

    I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.

    _________________

    Once he completed that very long, evolving sentence, one could hear the Hallelujahs all over city: with progressives hailing his statement as an historic step in favor of civil rights for gays and lesbians, and conservatives hailing it as a godsend that will galvanize social conservatives who were heretofore expressing merely lukewarm support for Mitt Romney. Because, despite his notorious flip-flopping on issues, at least Romney opposes gay marriage with the “conviction” of a born-again Christian.

    Except that I’m an avowed progressive and I heard little to cheer about. Instead, I was a little bothered when Obama stressed the words “for me personally.” And this feeling was only compounded later when I read the following in ABC’s online report on the interview:

    The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own.

    I am extremely bothered because just imagine how Blacks would have felt if JFK had said, “for me personally, Blacks should have full civil rights, but the (Southern) states [with their laws of racist interposition and nullification] should decide the issue on their own.”

    Frankly, Obama’s statement reeks of cynicism. After all, unlike JFK, he is a Constitutional professor who knows that the Supreme Court has already ruled that the right to choose whom to love is a fundamental right with which no state can interfere.  (See Loving v. Virginia – in which the Court ruled way back in 1967 that it is a fundamental right to marry inter-racially.) Which rather undermines the assertion that his statement constitutes a bold historic step. Not to mention that former Republican VP Dick Cheney took this political step years ago….

    What’s more, apropos of interposition and nullification, Obama surely knows that more than 30 states have already passed laws banning this civil right for gays.  Hell, North Carolina did so just yesterday.

    This is why I profoundly regret that he did not show a real profile in courage by declaring his intent to champion federal legislation to guarantee gays and lesbians the fundamental right to marry – just as JFK (and LBJ) did to guarantee Blacks the fundamental right to vote.

    No doubt when other progressives, including gays and lesbians, get over the understandable euphoria Obama’s carefully calibrated words inspired, they will realize that his statement was more about electoral politics than civil rights. In this regard, he clearly stated his position in a way to avoid alienating conservative (Reagan) Democrats for whom even homosexual acts are an abomination. Which is why they think sanctioning such acts in holy matrimony amount to defiling the sanctity of marriage.

    On the other hand, some will argue that this statement will cost him votes among Black Evangelicals and Hispanic Catholics. Not least because of the way they reacted to the simple ordination of America’s first gay bishop:

    The dark little secret is that far too many Blacks (and Hispanics) are every bit as homophobic as right-wing Christian zealots. They demonstrated this in brazen fashion four years ago by voicing moral opposition to the ordination of gay bishop Gene Robinson…

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

    (“California … Upholds Ban on Same-Sex Marriage,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 28, 2009)

    But, with good reason, Obama takes for granted that Blacks and Hispanics will vote for him no matter what position he takes on issues that matter to them (like inner-city crime, high  unemployment, chronic poverty, and illegal immigration).  So the only reason he could have for half-stepping on this issue is to curry favor with White Democratic and Independent voters….

    Like Obama, I have many gay and lesbian friends. But here is why, unlike him, my support for same-sex marriage is Constitutional, not conditional:

    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.

    (“Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal in New York,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 27, 2011)

    Related commentaries:
    California … Upholds Ban
    Same-sex marriage now legal

    This commentary was originally published yesterday, May 9, at 3:56 pm

  • Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 5:35 AM

    Monaco: Forget the Spare, Produce an Heir!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here, in part, is the contrarian note I sounded last year when so many were celebrating the marriage of Prince Albert of Monaco and Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock of South Africa:

    Reports are that she tried to flee three times to avoid having to go through with her three-day royal wedding…

    Naturally, one wonders what could possibly have caused Charlene to flee. After all, she not only waited years for this big day, but knew all about his two illegitimate children and could not have had any illusions about his love for, or fidelity to, her…

    I can’t help thinking that she could have avoided this patently loveless marriage if she really wanted. Are we to believe, for example, that her country’s Parisian embassy simply refused to give her refuge and safe passage back home … to South Africa? [Granted] Charlene’s family members have already become so vested in the perks and privileges that will redound to them by this marriage that running home would probably be  tantamount to facing a firing squad…

    It hardly reflects well on her that the only thing her attempts to escape reportedly accomplished was to force Albert to renegotiate the financial terms of their prenuptial agreement; i.e., to make them more lucrative for her…

    No doubt part of their arrangement is that she will produce a male heir ASAP; because Albert has already ruled out any chance of the illegitimate son he had with a black woman ascending Monaco’s Monegasque throne.

    If there’s a God, Charlene will turn out to be barren.

    (“Monaco’s Prince Albert Captures His Runaway Bride,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 5, 2011)

    After reading the above, you can probably imagine the hate mail I got from people damning me: on the one hand, for pointing out what a royal racist Prince Albert is; and on the other, for praying that his reluctant bride would be unable to bear him a more suitable heir.

    I found it ironic that so many of my critics defended Albert against my charge of racism by hurling racial epithets at me. I was particularly amused by their Eurocentric view that I was “just some nigger from America who knows nothing about European royalty.” But what royally pissed them off was my not-so-subtle insinuation that Albert was forced to offer a last-minute inducement (aka a bribe) to get Charlene to the altar.

    Well, now comes my inevitable vindication. Because here, in part, is what the London Daily Mail reported on Friday about this arranged marriage:

    Prince Albert of Monaco’s new wife Charlene Wittstock has become ‘depressed’ at her failure to provide her husband with a legitimate heir, it was claimed today. Princess Charlene is said to have struck a ‘deal’ with the principality’s playboy ruler to bear him a child after she tried to flee before their wedding last summer.

    But the 33-year-old South African is now unable to get pregnant, France’s Voici magazine reported…

    Charlene was said to have bolted for Nice airport two days before they married after hearing Albert had had a third love-child during their relationship. Monaco officials were said to have coaxed her back by brokering a deal between the Prince and his reluctant bride that she provide him with a legitimate heir.

    After that she would be free to leave of her own free will.

    Enough said?

    Except that I should clarify: I don’t really want Charlene to be barren; I just don’t want her to help that venal husband of hers get away with foisting this crude marriage of convenience upon the people of Monaco as a legitimate royal family.

    Related commentaries:
    Monaco’s Prince Albert captures

  • Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 5:35 AM

    PLP Ousts Ruling FNM in The Bahamas

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Even though we did not have the benefit of the type of scientific polling that made Sunday’s election results in France anticlimactic, the triumph of Hon. Perry Christie (left) and his Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) over Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and his Free National Movement (FNM) in parliamentary elections yesterday came as no surprise. Preliminary results have the PLP winning 29 seats, the PLP only 9: a bona fide ass whopping!

    No doubt a confluence of kitchen-table/pocket-book issues doomed the ruling FNM in The Bahamas just as it doomed the ruling party in France. But it’s interesting to note that Bahamian voters seemed just as motivated to get rid of the bombastic and arrogant Ingraham as French voters were to get rid of the bombastic and arrogant Sarkozy.

    Ingraham wasted no time in announcing his ignominious retirement:

    I shall return to the private life from whence I came.

    (Nassau Guardian, May 7, 2012)

    All the same, there’s no denying that the pandemic wrath of angry, dissatisfied and impatient voters played a decisive role. Which means that the PLP would do well to take heed lest it ends up after the next general election where the FNM is today.

    For personal reasons I refrained from commenting on the campaigns that led up to Election Day and shall refrain now from commenting any further on the results.

    Except that I feel constrained to lament the way Bahamian politicians are aping the behavior of their American counterparts. Because not so long ago electioneering in The Bahamas was a relatively genteel affair that seemed more like a series of festive (even if sometimes rowdy) family picnics than the polarizing, us-against-them spectacle it became this year.

    For example, I don’t think any Bahamian could ever have imagined a day when FNM voters would become seized with such contempt and disrespect for the PLP that they would attack PLP leader Perry Christie and his wife by calling him a “sissy” to his face and spitting on her.

    By the same token, I don’t think any Bahamian could ever have imagined a day when the preternaturally serene Lady Marguerite Pindling would instigate a public spat with PM Ingraham by insinuating that his mistreatment of Sir Lynden Pindling, her late husband and the father of our nation, was the proximate cause of Sir Lynden’s death. Hell, even in the United States former first ladies consider it beneath their dignity to wade into the rough-and-tumble of dirty politics.

    Not surprisingly, Ingraham responded just as you’d expect a political snake who thrives in the gutter would: he dismissed her insinuation as coming from a disgruntled old woman who is upset over “losing the life of privilege she believes she’s entitled to live at the expense of the Bahamian people.” Ouch!

    I suspect though that Lady Pindling might attempt to get the last laugh by prevailing upon Christie (whom she treats like an adopted son) to do to Ingraham now what she claims Ingraham did to Sir Lynden upon his retirement. But I am reliably informed that Christie is not only too classy to do that but also smart enough to realize that if he does it to Ingraham, the next FNM prime minister would be politically motivated to do it to him – and so on, and so on….

    I appreciate that we won independence almost 40 years ago. But we would do well to retain the polite legacy the British left us when it comes to political campaigns instead of adopting the mean-spirited spectacle that characterizes political campaigns in the United States.

    Anyway, congratulations to the PM-Elect Perry Christie and the PLP.

    NOTE: Members of the new Democratic National Alliance (DNA) party can be forgiven for wanting to pack it in after failing to win a single seat … not even that of its leader, Branville McCartney. But after licking their wounds, I hope they regroup and continue the yeoman work of building their party. Not least because the same fickle electorate that threw out the FNM could well decide at the next election that it’s time to end the two-party monopoly the FNM and PLP have enjoyed throughout our history.

  • Monday, May 7, 2012 at 5:36 AM

    Hollande Defeats Sarkozy for President of France

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Virtually every poll this year had Socialist Francois Hollande defeating conservative (incumbent) Nicolas Sarkozy. And those polls were vindicated when Hollande came out on top in the first round of elections for the Elysée two weeks ago. This is why it came as no surprise when he handily defeated Sarkozy in a runoff yesterday (52 to 48 percent).

    Now, to enhance his story, the media (even in France) are propagating a narrative about Hollande rising up from virtual obscurity to become only the second socialist president in French history. (His mentor François Mitterrand was the first to be elected in 1981.)  But Hollande is not nearly as unknown as reports suggest. Not least because he presided as Socialist Party leader for over a decade and was involved in one of the most intimate and scandalous political power struggles in French history.

    Here, in part, is why his rise to power was more accidental than obscure:

    Every French newspaper is emblazoned with headlines about the intriguing split between Segolene Royal, the Socialist candidate I endorsed in last month’s French presidential election, and Francois Hollande, the leader of the Socialist Party… [T]hese two have been ‘partners’ forever (30 years) and have four children, but never bothered to marry….

    (Royal claims that she ended their relationship because Hollande was having an affair with journalist Valerie Trierweiler. Never mind reports that she has been a consenting, though frigid, party to this ménage a trois for years.) But what intrigues me about this split is not the announcement of it… Instead, I’m intrigued by the apparent fact that Royal’s resounding defeat precipitated not only the dissolution of her and Hollande’s personal relationship but also the termination of their political partnership.

    Moreover, as if this split were not already sensational enough, the French are salivating with prurient anticipation now that Royal has declared her (woman-scorned) intent to challenge Hollande for leadership of the Socialist Party – a position he has held like political Svengali for 10 years.

    (“Segolene Royal and Francois Hollande divorce French Style,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 19, 2007)

    Incidentally, the woman standing next to Hollande during his victory celebration last night was his former mistress, now acknowledged “companion,” Valerie — which must make his former companion Segolene doubly green with envy. (Sarkozy’s supermodel wife Carla Bruni might have been a pushy, self-absorbed shrew, but at least he had the decency to make an honest woman of her. It remains to be seen if Hollande will do the same for Valerie – who by all accounts is an equally pushy, self-absorbed shrew.)  But his patently unconventional private life, coupled with his bona fide status as a member of  the French elite, clearly makes a mockery of his claim that he is “Mr. Normal.”

    At any rate, it was hardly surprising that everyone wrote Hollande’s political obituary after his embarrassing split with Royal forced him to resign as party leader. Likewise, after her disastrous performance against Sarkozy in 2007, nobody thought Royal stood a snowballs chance in hell of upsetting an incumbent Sarkozy in 2012.  But there’s no denying that they were being written off in each case because IMF head Dominique Strauss-Khan (DSK) was waiting in the wings like a deus ex machina to lead the Socialist Party against Sarkozy.

    Which brings me to the accidental aspect of Hollande’s rise. Because here, in short, is how DSK destroyed what seemed to be the hope of all of France for his candidacy:

    DSK … was yanked from his first-class seat on board an Air France flight last night just as it was about to depart New York bound for Paris. Detectives from New York’s Special Victims Unit arrested and charged him with a criminal sex act, attempted rape, and unlawful imprisonment.

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy is probably just as gratified as DSK’s silent victims by this arrest. After all, the consensus opinion among political pundits in France was that he was the only person who could deny Sarkozy’s bid to get re-elected next year.

    (“The Arrest of IMF Head Dominique Strauss-Khan,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 16, 2011)

    Even though Hollande and Royal’s personal relationship was clearly over, DSK’s arrest provided the opportunity for them to settle the unfinished business of their political relationship. They were still among the most popular members of the socialist party and duly threw their hats into last fall’s Socialist Party presidential primary, along with four others. Alas, Royal did not even make the runoff, which Hollande easily won against Martine Aubry.

    Meanwhile, disaffected and disillusioned voters were throwing out nine European leaders who prescribed austerity measures as the bitter pill to cure their ailing economies and manage their  debt crisis . Nowhere was this demonstrated in more foreboding fashion for Sarkozy than in Greece with the unceremonious fall of Prime Minister George Papandreou last November.

    After all, Sarkozy was not just Europe’s poster boy for the cocktail of austerity measures (most notably cutting public benefits and government services) that have become so universally unpopular, he and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany effectively concocted them.

    On the other hand, Hollande predicated his candidacy on a completely different panacea, focusing more on increasing government spending and raising taxes (on the filthy rich) to stimulate economic growth than on cutting services (to the chronically poor) to lower government debt. He even pledged to renegotiate the Sarkozy-Merkel debt-reduction “fiscal pact,” mocking it by offering a government-spending “growth pact” instead.

    I am sure that when the result was announced, in many European countries there was relief, hope and the notion that finally austerity can no longer be the only option. And this is the mission that is now mine — to give the European project a dimension of growth, employment, prosperity, in short, a future.

    (Hollande, Associated Press, May 6, 2012)

    Given voter anger and frustration with austerity measures that are doing little to improve the economy but lots to make their lives more miserable, I predict Hollande will have far greater success in this mission than most pundits are predicting. He will be championing the economic stimulus philosophy made famous by John Maynard Keynes while Merkel will continue to champion the economic austerity philosophy made famous by Friedrich Hayek.

    I applaud Obama for finally proposing a Keynesian jobs bill that focuses more on government spending to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and improve other areas (like education and law enforcement).

    (“Rational Markets vs. Keynesian economics,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 23, 2011)

    More to the point, notwithstanding the cogency of his economic philosophy, Hollande will win his battle of wits with Merkel because – as Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said of now presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney – most politicians are little more than perfectly lubricated weathervanes on all important issues.

    Accordingly, there’s no doubt that national leaders will be doing all they can to avoid Sarkozy’s fate by espousing (even implementing) as many of Hollande’s policies as possible. And those hoping to defeat incumbents will be doing all they can to emulate Hollande.

    Interestingly enough, this latter prospect is already on display. Because Romney wasted no time in trying to spin Hollande’s victory as the triumph of a challenger over an incumbent whose economic policies have failed. Except that Romney has spent the last year promising to implement many of the same economic policies (i.e., austerity measures) that led to Sarkozy’s demise. Whereas, President Obama has been battling a doctrinaire Republican Congress throughout his entire presidency (to no avail) to implement the very measures Hollande hopes to implement pursuant to his growth pact.

    Therefore, despite Romney’s attempts to put the curse of incumbency on Obama, I have no doubt that Sarkozy’s defeat is a bad omen for him, not the president.

    That said, his defeat in France and the defeat of the two main political parties in Greece (all for backing the Sarkozy-Merkel austerity measures) will undoubtedly trigger upheaval in the financial markets worldwide … in the short term.  After all, Sarkozy and Merkel effectively imposed these measures upon the Greeks not just as a condition to receive a financial package to ward off economic default, but also to prevent their contagion from infecting the rest of Europe. Now all bets are off….

    Apropos of bets, this is bound to be a down day on Wall Street because traders in the United States invariably react to every sign of economic uncertainty in Europe as if it were the beginning of a new Great Depression. This is the domino effect globalization – with its interconnectedness and interdependence – has wrought.

    Related commentaries:
    Segolene and Hollande
    Arrest of DSK
    Rational Markets vs. Keynesian economics

  • Sunday, May 6, 2012 at 7:06 AM

    Obama’s THE Avenger

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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