• Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 7:57 AM

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

     But mind this kind of sharing:

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  • Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    Pope Francis Condemns the ‘Cult [and] Idolatry of Money’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Last week I published the commentary “CEO Pay Just a Reflection of America’s Economic Apartheid” (November 18), in which I sounded a clarion call for an angry populism to redress the growing gap between rich and poor.

    Last month I published “Bob Woodward: Republicans Are Trying to Blackmail Obama” (October 1), in which I condemned Christian politicians for backsliding so far from the basic tenets of their faith that they would rather see people go without basic healthcare than see President Obama hailed and vindicated for championing the plight of the poor:

    By forcing this government shutdown, these ‘wacko-bird’ Republicans are undermining what little credibility and influence their Party has at the federal level for a plainly unattainable goal (a classic case of rebels without a cause). Why? Because, all of their partisan talking points and political posturing aside, these are people who hate Obama(care) more than they love their country.

    Not to mention what a mockery their obsessive, delusional opposition to Obamacare (yes, Obama cares) makes of the most fundamental calling of their Christian faith, which, of course, is to help the poor. (In this case, it’s clearly too inconvenient for these Bible-thumping charlatans to ask: what would Jesus do?)

    The_Inauguration_Mass_For_Pope_Francis_Credit_Dan_Kitwood_Getty_Images_News_Getty_Images_CNA_Vatican_Catholic_News_3_19_13But never in my wildest dream could I have imagined the pope being hailed as a revolutionary for echoing this angry populism. Not least because, as the above indicates, I have always thought championing the plight of the poor was the cardinal mission of all Christians.

    Yet, reading reports on yesterday’s publication of “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), the mission statement for his papacy, you’d think the pope were Christ himself preaching this basic tenet of his new religion 2000 years ago in a money-worshiping Roman marketplace.

    Here’s just a sample of the pope’s lamentations that has everyone from political commentators to Catholic priests hailing him as a bold religious disrupter, all seemingly oblivious to the irony inherent in their awestruck reaction:

    How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?…

    Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.

    I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!

    (Reuters, November 26, 2013)

    imagesAgain, nothing indicates how far mainstream Christians have backslidden quite like the pope’s good old-fashioned religion being hailed as revolutionary. Hell, given the way some televangelists have christened their “idolatry of money” as “prosperity gospel,” the pope and his fellow Jesuits clearly need to spend as much time spreading the word among their Christian brethren as they spend spreading it among non-Christians.

    To be fair, though, here’s how the more objective London Guardian reported yesterday on the pope’s apostolic exhortation:

    Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the ‘idolatry of money’ and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens ‘dignified work, education and healthcare.’

    He also called on rich people to share their wealth. ‘Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,’ Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.

    All that’s left for me to say is, Amen!

    Except that I feel obliged to note that, for all the praise being heaped on him as a revolutionary, the pope is actually reinforcing his church’s traditional edicts on such issues as women priests, homosexuality, and abortion. He’s just sensible enough to appreciate that there would be many more people in the pews if priests humbled themselves by preaching social justice/liberation theology, which addresses the suffering of the poor, instead of playing God by passing moral judgment on the personal choices (good) people make.

    I suppose this is why the pope had no compunction about banishing Germany’s Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst (aka “Bishop Bling”) to an ascetic monastery for spending $43 million to renovate his pastoral digs, but seems ambivalent about disciplining the gay cabal that has turned Vatican City into a latter-day Sodom….

    Related commentaries:
    CEO pay
    Republicans trying to blackmail Obama

  • Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    Karma Closes Duke Lacrosse Rape Case

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Do you remember the national furor a Black stripper incited in 2006 when she accused a bunch of White lacrosse players from Duke University of rape?

    White feminists and Black activists alike insisted that she was every bit as sympathetic as the White Central Park jogger who, arguably, remains America’s most famous rape victim. Indeed, there was racial symmetry in near-universal demands that those White players get the same treatment the criminal justice system meted out against the Black kids who were accused of that 1989 rape in Central Park.

    dukerapeDropped-792172Except that, ironically, the only symmetry turned out to be the innocence of the accused rapists in both cases. For where the jogger was a true rape victim (and her real rapist was eventually prosecuted), the stripper just cried rape to extort cash.

    I wrote many commentaries in the midst of that national furor. But here’s an excerpt from “Duke Rape Case Closed! If You Don’t Believe Me, Perhaps You’ll Believe ‘60 Minutes’,” (October 17, 2006), which effectively summarizes the case:

    Last March, the now infamous Duke University rape scandal was a cause celebre for liberal bloggers who were demanding that all 34 (White) players on the lacrosse team be hanged by their gonads after a (Black) stripper accused some of them of raping her.

    To my eternal shame, I had no compunctions about joining this Blogosphere lynch mob by publishing a commentary titled, ‘The Under-Reported Rape Involving Blue (Eyed?) Devils from Duke University,’ March 29, 2006. Because when I juxtaposed what she said with what they said in this racially charged ‘political’ atmosphere, I had no difficulty believing the accuser’s claim that she was:

    ‘… pulled into a bathroom by three men and raped anally, vaginally, and orally while they hit, kicked, and strangled [me] over a 30-minute period.’

    Then, just weeks after the accuser gave this sensational account of her assault, investigative journalists (and defense lawyers) began publishing reports, which showed that she had given many ‘inconsistent facts’ about this alleged crime. And, after DNA evidence raised further doubts about her story, I had no compunctions about admitting that I was wrong for rushing to judgment in a follow-up commentary titled, ‘DNA Results Exculpate Duke Lacrosse Players in Rape Case…Now what?’ April 11, 2006.

    Because even my proud advocacy for the racial politics of Blacks and the gender politics of women could not inoculate me from the reasonable suspicion that this Black woman’s claim that these White men gang-raped her was, in fact, a lie!

    Nonetheless, by broadcasting the terminal defects in her claim on Sunday, 60 Minutes did more to further justice in this case than either Mike Nifong – the zealous District Attorney prosecuting it, or Black activists – who have made it a badge of racial pride to insist that there shall be ‘no justice, no peace’ unless these presumed (and evidently) innocent White men are found guilty.

    Therefore, I hereby reiterate my plea for DA Nifong to drop these charges, post-haste! Proceeding would only exacerbate the irreparable harm these men have already suffered (financially and by the infliction of undue emotional distress); not least because a trial would surely result in a ‘not guilty’ verdict given all of the well-documented flaws in the case for the prosecution.

    __________

    dukerapeNifong-703941Well, karma’s a bitch.

    First, that seminal 60 Minutes report forced the state attorney general to launch a special investigation. When all was said and done, he dropped all charges against the lacrosse players.

    Then, a special disciplinary committee disbarred prosecutor Nifong. I duly commented:

    This is a man who willfully withheld exculpatory DNA evidence and was prepared to throw three young men in prison on a rape charge that the world now knows he knew was bogus from day one…

    Even worse, after wasting state resources to persecute these students (and forcing them to waste millions of dollars defending themselves), Nifong still could not bring himself to admit that he was dead wrong. Because when Chairman Williamson asked him, with manifest indignation, exasperation, and contempt, if he still believes the accuser he followed so merrily down a primrose path to career suicide, Nifong responded with reflective conviction:

    ‘…something happened.’

    (“Nifong, Rogue Prosecutor in Duke Rape Case, Disbarred,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 18, 2007)

    article-0-19968B1E00000578-803_634x520Now, the inevitable, poetic denouement: the stripper is going where she tried to send those lacrosse players:

    The woman who falsely accused three Duke University lacrosse players of rape has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of her boyfriend.

    The jury deliberated for about six hours over two days before reaching their verdict in the trial of 34-year-old Crystal Mangum, who was sentenced to between 14 years and 18 years in prison…

    (Associated Press, November 22, 2013)

    Case closed … for good.

    imagesAll the same, it might interest you to know that, while the White lacrosse players — who never spent a day in prison — have settled a number of cases compensating them quite handsomely for being wrongly accused, the Black Central Park kids—who served six to 13 years before their convictions were overturned — are still waiting to settle a single one.

    But thanks to a forthcoming documentary by Ken Burns on the tragic miscarriage of justice in this Central Park case, and to the recent election of Bill de Blasio as the first Democratic mayor in 20 years, there is renewed hope that New York City will settle their claims in the very near future.

    ‘All of us want this over, but it’s about someone taking responsibility for what they did to us,’ said one of the five, Yusef Salaam, now 38. ‘The money can’t buy back our lives.’

    (USA Today, April 6, 2013)

    Related commentaries:
    Duke rape case closed
    Nifong disbarred

  • Monday, November 25, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    One Small Step Towards De-nuking Iran

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    article-2512628-199B7A8000000578-345_634x404Iran struck an historic agreement today with the United States and five other major nuclear powers: namely, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the UK – all represented by their respective foreign ministers. It calls for Iran to temporarily suspend developing its nuclear program in exchange for these powers (specifically the United States) temporarily suspending (only some of) the sanctions that have been crippling Iran’s economy for decades.

    This six-month agreement is intended to provide both sides the good-faith basis to negotiate a permanent agreement to dismantle and destroy Iran’s capacity to ever develop nuclear weapons. If the parties fail to reach such an agreement, the United States vows not only to impose more onerous sanctions than ever before, but also to hold the Damoclean sword of military strikes over Iran to prevent it from taking steps towards undeniable “breakout nuclear capacity.”

    Significantly, Iran has agreed for the first time to allow intrusive and comprehensive inspections – as much to prove its good faith as to enable U.S.-led negotiators to assert that, far more than trusting, they are verifying Iran’s compliance.

    article-2512628-199B7E4100000578-81_634x495Still, here is the cautious way President Obama hailed this agreement on behalf of the overwhelming majority of world leaders who would like to see Iran de-nuked by peaceful means:

    While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal: for the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back…

    As President and Commander-in-Chief, I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  But I have a profound responsibility to try to resolve our differences peacefully, rather than rush towards conflict.

    (Whitehouse.org, November 23, 2013)

    By contrast, here is the hysterical way Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried it on behalf of the few leaders (most notably the king of Saudi Arabia) who seem hell-bent on trying to get Obama to lead a march of folly into Iran the way they got Bush to do in Iraq:

    What was reached last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake. Today the world became a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world made a significant step in obtaining the most dangerous weapons in the world.

    (Associated Press, November 24, 2013)

    imagesThe irony, of course, is that Netanyahu now seems every bit as unhinged and isolated as former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad always did. What’s more, it seems completely lost on him that he is striking an untenable alliance with Arab leaders who hate Israel as much as they fear Iran (pursuant to the Muslim world’s Sunni-Shia schism that dates back to the year 632).

    It’s an indication of how far he’s leading Israel astray that France is hailing this as a “solid” agreement. After all, just weeks ago, Netanyahu was publicly thanking France for refusing to participate in what its foreign minister dismissed a “con game.” Not to mention how foolish France signing on today makes Israel-can-do-no-wrong U.S. politicians, like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, look for joining Netanyahu back then by shouting all over TV, “Vive la France [and] thank God for France.”

    Meanwhile, I have repeatedly praised Obama for pursuing any means necessary to de-nuke Iran peacefully, despite Netanyahu’s open and notorious attempts to goad him into war. By the same token, I have repeatedly criticized Netanyahu for presuming to dictate how Obama should pursue America’s national interest with respect to Iran. Not least because Obama has never hesitated to call his bluff by stating publicly that nobody is stopping Netanyahu from going to war with Iran if he thinks that would be in Israel’s national interest.

    images-1But bear in mind that, notwithstanding Netanyahu’s reckless protestations about American appeasement, no American president has done more to halt Iran’s march towards acquiring nuclear weapons than Obama has done with this (temporary) agreement.

    Not to mention that George W. Bush had more credibility when he was warmongering about Iraq’s WMDs than Netanyahu’s has with his warmongering about Iran’s nuclear weapons.  After all, not only has Netanyahu been beating this drum for decades; he has been trying every step of the way to get the United States to do his dirty work to boot.

    Here, for example, is how the Jerusalem Post reported on his dire warning about Iran’s nuclear program on January 12, 1995:

    A SERIOUS (sic) threat of nuclear war hangs over Israel, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset plenum yesterday…

    ‘Within three to five years, we can assume that Iran will become autonomous in its ability to develop and produce a nuclear bomb, without having to import either the technology or the material,’ Netanyahu said. ‘[The nuclear threat] must be uprooted by an international front headed by the US.’

    This is why I am constrained to reiterate that Netanyahu has given Obama just cause to be far more wary of him than he quite properly is of the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.

    Apropos of which, I refer you to my related commentary, “Netanyahu, Obama’s Iago; Iran, His Desdemona,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 2, 2013, for proper context and perspective on this issue. On the other hand, Iran might just fall for what is turning out to be their pretty convincing good-cop/bad-cop ploy….

    For now, though, I urge my Israeli friends to consider this: How would you feel if Israel were surrounded by 40 or more Iranian military bases, the way Iran is by U.S. bases?  Wouldn’t you want your country to develop nuclear weapons to serve as the ultimate deterrent against a military invasion? Oh, right, it’s probably hard to relate to such existential insecurity because Israel already possesses nuclear weapons….

    Related commentaries:
    Netanyahu, Obama’s Iago

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 1:59 pm

  • Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    Remembering JFK bordering on selfie-indulgence

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    140294_600

    Given the ostentatious way the nation is marking this 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, one could be forgiven for thinking that he was the only president assassinated in office. In fact, there were three others, most notable among them Abraham Lincoln, who seems far more worthy of this kind of national tribute than JFK.

    Obama Kennedy Assassination.JPEG-0bbdcYet I can’t remember there being even a mention in the media to mark the anniversary of the assassination of any other president. I would bet my life savings, for example,  that the nation did not mark the 50th anniversary of Lincoln’s in 1915, James A. Garfield’s in 1931, or William McKinley’s in 1951 in this fashion….

    Of course, I fully appreciate why a “selfie” nation would indulge in this ostentatious show of remembrance for a president who was effectively the father of the “image-is-everything” social media that has come to define our lives. But, given this showing, it will be very telling indeed to see how the nation marks the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination in 2015.

    Related commentaries:
    Remembering JFK

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Friday, at 5:12 pm

  • Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 5:13 AM

    Remembering JFK

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    images-1I am too young to have any memory of President John F. Kennedy. Therefore, I shall leave it to others to provide the kind of sentimental commentary this week of national remembrance evidently warrants.

    I will say, however, that I see no redeeming political or historical value in propagating counterfactuals about what would have happened if JFK were not assassinated.

    images-2That said, I have read and seen enough about JFK’s presidency to appreciate the uncanny similarities between his and Obama’s. Most notably:

    • both were presidential pioneers – with JKF being the first Catholic elected president, Obama the first Black;
    • both championed civil rights legislation – with JFK ordering federal agencies to end discrimination against women and calling for Black civil rights legislation, Obama ending discrimination against gays in the military and calling for legalizing same-sex marriages; and
    • both were beset by foreign entanglements that had many heralding the decline of American power – with JFK trying to recover from the Bay of Pigs fiasco in the face of brazen efforts by Nikita Khrushchev, the pugnacious president of the Soviet Union, to test his nerve by deploying nuclear missiles in Cuba, Obama from the ongoing tumult of the Arab Spring in the face of brazen efforts by Vladimir Putin, the He-Man president of Russia, to emasculate him by seizing credit for forcing Syria to get rid of its chemical weapons.

    There were of course some notable differences. But this occasion obliges me to comment on just one. It pertains to the unrelenting attempts by right-wing nuts not just to delegitimize Obama’s presidency, but to demonize him as well. Yet, where JFK did not make it into the third year of his presidency, Obama is in the fifth year of his….

    Accordingly, I shall suffice to reiterate:

    Let us pray that … his Secret Service bodyguards will redouble their efforts to protect him. Because the last thing America needs right now is another assassination that triggers all of the lost hope and incendiary rage of the killing of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr … combined!

    (“Barack Obama Clinches Historic Democratic Presidential Nomination,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 4, 2008)

    Meanwhile, for the record, I fully appreciate the conspiracy theories that haunt the assassination of JFK. And it is indeed noteworthy that those who swear by them include the likes of filmmaker Oliver Stone and no less a person than U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry (yes, he’s JFK too).

    cold-case-jfk-viBut, here again, I have read and seen enough to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted as a lone wolf when he assassinated JFK in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963; this, notwithstanding investigative oversights in the Warren Commission’s report. What’s more, I believe the forensics, which prove beyond any reasonable doubt the fact of the single-bullet theory Stone famously mocked in his film, JFK.

    Using 3D laser scanners to document the crime scene and assess if a single bullet could have killed JFK and wounded Texas Gov. John Connally, [ballistics experts] Luke and Michael Haag feel they have not only debunked the decades old conspiracy theory of the Grassy Knoll shooter, but proven it is indeed possible for a single bullet to have caused two fatalities…

    Luke Haag said, ‘We want to think there’s more to it than a loner loser deranged Marxist who hated his country and took an opportunity. There’s got be more to it than that … (Vincent) Bugliosi has a wonderful statement, ‘A peasant cannot strike down a king:’ Think about it — a nobody did.’

    (NOVA, ‘Cold Case JFK,’ PBS, November 13, 2013)

    390-kennedy-1120Finally, am I the only one who wonders why it was just the Obamas and Clintons who attended the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday? Specifically, where were the Bushes?

    No doubt these are acutely polarizing times in American politics. But George W. Bush’s absence stood in stark contrast to his appearance the night before – yucking it up – on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

    This seems inconsistent with the non-partisan tradition of all former U.S. presidents showing up for the funeral when a member of their very exclusive club passes on. Even worse, it gives credence to the sectarian view among far too many Republicans that a Democratic president is not their president because they did not vote for him….

    Unfortunately, unless we hear directly from Bush or Obama, we will never know if Bush turned down Obama’s invitation, or if Obama never extended one. I’m inclined to believe the latter is the case; not least because, like his father, George W has always shown irreproachable and unfailing deference to “the office.”

    Which leaves me with the ironic and disappointing suspicion that Obama used this solemn occasion not only to score cheap political points, but also to play, unwittingly, into the rabid sectarianism that is undermining his own presidency.

    Related commentaries:
    Obama clinches

  • Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 6:44 AM

    Nobody Wins Africa’s (ig)Nobel Prize for Leadership … Again

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Here is the cynical note I sounded in 2006, when African businessman Mo Ibrahim announced his Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership (MIPAAL):

    Mo seems to think that African leaders are so congenitally corrupt, the only way ‘to remove corruption and improve governance’ in Africa is, ironically, to bribe them…

    And to prove his intent to vest this igNoble prize with (at least financial) value that surpasses that of the Nobel prize (at $1.4 million), Mo is offering a cash gift of $5 million over 10 years, when the winner leaves office, plus $200,000 a year for life. Moreover, to adorn his prize with a patina of integrity, he has decreed that only a leader who ‘democratically transfers power to his successor’ will be eligible to receive this golden parachute.

    Unfortunately, given that it’s a long-established fringe benefit for African leaders to steal at least $5 million each year of their rule, this prize would seem at best an honorable perk….

    (“Businessman Launches the Africa No “Mo” Corruption Prize,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 27, 2006)

    src.adapt.960.high.1381870743936And here is the vindicating note I sounded in 2009, when the MIPAAL committee deemed no African leader worthy of its prize.

    Even I did not fully appreciate what a joke this prize would turn out to be. After all, despite being as qualified as any African leader could possibly be, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who was democratically elected and democratically transferred power to his successor, was not deemed worthy.

    This vindicates my suspicion that the MIPAAL was always more about Mo’s ego than about promoting good governance in Africa. Now I suspect that the committee’s failure to present an award this year has more to do with his dwindling bank account than with the failure of anyone to qualify for his prize. (Forbes estimates that Mo lost $500 million of his $2.5 billion fortune last year.)

    Accordingly, I hope all of the international dignitaries, including former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Laureate Kofi Annan, who Mo lured onto his committee to select the annual recipient of his MIPAAL, now have the good sense to resign en masse instead of continuing to be associated with this farce.

    (“Mo Ibrahim: No Winner of Africa’s Version of Nobel Prize,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 20, 2009)

    Now comes this:

    For a second consecutive year, no leader has been deemed worthy of the $5 million Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership…

    There have also been accusations that failing to find a prize winner can encourage negative stereotypes about Africa and its leaders.

    Hadeel Ibrahim, Mo’s daughter and founding executive director of the foundation, told CNN: ‘We’re holding a mirror up to Africa and if there’s a winner, congratulations to the winner and to that country, and if there’s no winner we hope that African people get more of the leadership they deserve.

    (CNN, October 14, 2013)

    imagesBut like I said, and with all due respect to Mo’s daughter, this failure is as much a reflection of Mo’s ulterior (self-aggrandizing) motive for establishing this prize as it is an indictment of African leadership.

    Evidently, despite being more sustainable, it would have been too modest to associate his name with a prize of only $1-2 million with no lifetime annuity (i.e., more in line with the Nobel prize). Not to mention the folly and conceit inherent in Mo thinking that any African leader is going to govern in the vain hope that when he retires Mo will select him for this ignoble prize.  No doubt Mo’s snub of Mbeki will prove very instructive in this respect.

    At any rate, it is hardly surprising to me that, for four of its seven years, the MIPAAL committee has failed to find anyone worthy of its prize. More to the point, though, it is noteworthy that Forbes estimates that his wealth has fallen to $1.1 billion this year, again, down from $2.5 billion in 2008.

    Still, to be fair, it might be helpful to know that, for 19 of its 112 years, the Nobel committee failed to find anyone worthy of its peace prize, and this is a committee that deemed PLO Chairman Yassar Arafat worthy. But I’m sure nobody ever had any cause to suspect that its failure had anything to do with concerns about being able to fund the prize in perpetuity.

    Related commentaries:
    Businessman launches the Africa No “Mo” Corruption Prize
    No winner
    Ibrahim Forbes 2008
    Ibrahim Forbes 2013

  • Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 5:27 AM

    PetroCaribe Chickens Coming Home to Roost

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    If one buys Chávez’s sales pitch, PetroCaribe promises to ‘…contribute to the energy security, socioeconomic development and integration of the Caribbean countries, through the sovereign use of the energy resources.’

    However, although I am loath to suggest that Chávez is selling snake, not crude, oil, I have grave misgivings about the viability of his initiative as an alternative to the FTAA and about its potential as a reliable source of “discounted” energy for Caribbean countries.

    Anyone who bothers to read the fine print in this Chávez initiative will see that it’s less about regional energy and more about regional politics.  And, I fear, Caribbean citizens who were led to believe that PetroCaribe will deliver cheap fuel for local consumption are bound to be sorely disappointed. After all, there’s nothing in this agreement that provides such a guarantee….

    (“PetroCaribe: Let’s Look this Gift Horse in the Mouth,” Caribbean Net News, June 30, 2006)

    images-1This, in part, is how I advised governments throughout the Caribbean against joining the PetroCaribe alliance Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched in 2005. Alas, not only did 12 of the 15-targeted governments refuse to heed my advice; representatives of a number of those governments dismissed it as nothing but ignorant and impudent blather.

    Well, I am now constrained not just to say, “I told you so,” but also to report that the PetroCaribe chickens I warned about are coming home to roost:

    Following Guatemala’s announcement in early November that it was pulling out of Venezuela’s PetroCaribe alliance, the Hugo Chávez-era oil-for-regional-influence program could be on its last legs, the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) reports.

    Although the Venezuelan government has promised to keep PetroCaribe intact, it has nevertheless quietly cut oil shipments, and may push up interest rates and modify repayment terms. Any such changes could have deep and lasting impacts on small countries accustomed to propping up their economies with the shipments, CSM said…

    A significant portion of Venezuela’s oil is promised to countries such as India and China, where it’s sending 640,000 barrels per day, half of which is sent to repay $40 billion in loans.

    Sending oil to those countries is more financially beneficial to Venezuela than shipments closer to home, where countries are repaying their debts in-kind with products like black beans and chicken parts.

    (Caribbean News Now, November 18, 2013)

    Enough said?

    Related commentaries:
    PetroCaribe

  • Monday, November 18, 2013 at 5:25 AM

    CEO Pay Just Reflection of America’s Economic Apartheid

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I wrote a college paper almost 32 years ago on the growing gap between rich and poor in America. It was replete with all kinds of warnings about the social, political and economic consequences of this gap, almost all of which have come to pass.

    Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 8.15.47 PMConspicuously missing, however, was any reference to CEO-to-worker pay. I hasten to clarify that this was not due to my failure, or to my thesis advisor’s oversight. It’s just that this ratio did not figure as prominently back then as other factors – like technology, regressive taxation, and offshoring – did in driving the growing gap between rich and poor.

    My, how things have changed.

    The ratio of CEO-to-worker pay has increased 1000 percent since 1950, according to data from Bloomberg. Today Fortune 500 CEOs make 204 times regular workers on average … up from 120-to-1 in 2000, 42-to-1 in 1980 and 20-to-1 in 1950.

    ‘When CEOs switched from asking the question of ‘how much is enough’ to ‘how much can I get,’ investor capital and executive talent started scrapping like hyenas for every morsel,’ Roger Martin, dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, told Bloomberg.

    (Bloomberg April 30, 2013)

    For a little perspective, it might be helpful to know that CEO-to-worker pay in Germany, the country with the largest economy in Europe and third largest in the world behind the United States and China, is 12-to-1….

    But nothing betrayed the mindset behind America’s growing economic apartheid quite like Republican candidate Mitt Romney notoriously lambasting 47 percent of Americans during last year’s presidential campaign as lazy, entitled people just looking for government handouts.  He did this simply because they earn so little that even this country’s regressive tax system deemed it unconscionable to require them to pay income tax (on top of payroll, state, local and other taxes they’re still required to pay). And bear in mind that his audience of “one percenters” nodded amen to his expression of utter contempt for America’s poor, notwithstanding that:

    Most of the growth is going to an extraordinarily small share of the population: 95% of the gains from the recovery [since 2008] have gone to the richest 1% of people, whose share of overall income is once again close to its highest level in a century. The most unequal country in the rich world is thus becoming even more so.

    (Economist, September 21, 2013)

    But I digress.

    The point is that this ratio of CEO-to-worker pay merely compounds a profound normative shift in America. For we have gone from the 1950s when CEOs had vested interests not only in the welfare of their workers but that of the communities in which they lived as well, to today when they have vested interests only in the bottom line and share value … because these provide the economic pretext for their exorbitant pay.

    OB-SY577_0514ta_E_20120514153639This let-them-eat-cake mindset has misled Walmart to pay its CEO, Michael Duke, over 1000 times more than the average worker and still insist, with nary a pang of guilt or hypocrisy, that it makes no business sense to pay its workers a fair minimum wage.

    Hell, J. C. Penny thought nothing of paying Ron Johnson a CEO-to-worker ratio of 1,755-to-1. And Johnson, in turn, thought nothing of firing 19,000 workers (according to March 1, 2013 edition of Business Insider) in a mercenary bid to increase share value … and justify his pay. As it happens, despite using his workers as sacrificial lambs to Wall-Street speculators, J.C. Penny lost half its share value, which is why Johnson lasted only 17 months as CEO.

    Incidentally, this focus on share value at the expense of all else explains why investment bankers became little more than snake-oil salesmen who saw customers as nothing more than marks to generate profits. And this in a nutshell explains how bankers precipitated the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression.

    Significantly, the phenomenon of CEOs cutting out the middlemen (i.e., firing managers) is exacerbating not only this CEO-to-worker pay but also the gap between rich and poor in America at large:

    J.C. Penney cut a bunch of middle managers across the country on Monday… One source says that the number may now be in the thousands.

    J.C. Penney didn’t immediately answer requests for comment, but a spokesperson did mention yesterday that the retailer will be ‘operating with fewer layers of management.’

    (Business Insider, May 3, 2013)

    But, again, just as the inequities that buttressed South Africa’s political apartheid so offended that country’s collective conscience that they had to be redressed, the inequities that buttress America’s economic apartheid will eventually so offend this country’s collective conscience that they too will have to be redressed.

    I can think of no better way to frame the cause for radical change in this respect than to proffer the following rhetorical question, which a Chicago alderman posed to Walmart’s CEO:

    How can you go to bed at night and sleep knowing you make this kind of money and the people working for you can hardly buy a package of beans and rice?

    (ABC News, July 2, 2010)

    iTyky4gi4kaEFor, as obscenely paid CEOs continue to scrap for every morsel, questions like this might serve as a clarion call for workers to organize (as they did in the early 20th century) to demand better wages and other benefits.

    But just think for a moment how self-serving and myopic, if not unpatriotic, American CEOs have become: for they have gone from the Henry-Ford model of increasing wages and benefits to retain worker loyalty and reduce turnover with its associated costs, to the Ron-Johnson model of squeezing as much production out of as few workers for as little in wages and benefits as possible to maximize shareholder profits and guarantee even fatter paychecks for themselves.

    Hell, one could be forgiven for thinking that if CEOs could increase shareholder value by firing all workers and producing nothing by smoke and mirrors, they would do so.

    Mind you, I’m under no illusion that the poor are going to revolt against the rich in America today for the same reasons the poor revolted against the rich in France in the late 1780s – most notably, taxes that favored the rich who looked down on the poor with unbridled contempt.

    Not least because the cultural pathology of aspiring to be rich in America today is such that many of the 47 percenters Romney damned as parasites actually voted for him. Not to mention the self-abnegating folly inherent in so many poor and uninsured folks siding with Republicans in damning President Obama’s efforts to provide the guaranteed health insurance they clearly need. In other words, for some twisted reason far too many workers these days seem to think they have more common interest with the CEO than with fellow workers….

    Screen Shot 2013-11-17 at 8.14.18 PMI just think that, in due course, even these poor fools will see gestures like billionaires signing pledges to give away at least half of their fortunes to charity, which 60 Minutes championed last night as “the golden age of philanthropy,” as no consolation for an economic system that enables the few to continue making billions off manufactured rises in stock prices, while the many – who actually manufacture things – continue to get laid off.

    So here’s to the “descent into angry populism” the Economist warned would come if America does not take aggressive, systemic steps to cut the growing gap between rich and poor. And, with all due respect to opposition by the Chamber of Commerce, these steps should begin with Congress passing the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would provide at least 30 million Americans with fairer pay for their hard work.

  • Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 6:46 AM

    Well, so much for thinking that only a Black mayor could be caught smoking crack … eh

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    140149_600

  • Friday, November 15, 2013 at 5:22 AM

    ‘Sir Becks and Lady Posh?!’ God help the British

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    These are very discouraging times for anti-monarchists like me. For watching tens of millions around the world reveling in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations last year was dispiriting enough.

    queen-elizabeth-prince-george-prince-william-and-prince-charles-1But watching just as many, if not more, heralding the birth of William and Kate’s son (as the third living heir in waiting to the throne) this year felt like an out-of-body experience. Indeed, it was rather like living in a nineteenth-century time warp – when the British monarch had even more power and influence than the U.S. president has today.

    I have written many commentaries delineating my moral, political and social disdain for royalty and all of its fairy-tale appurtenances.  Moreover, I’ve never been shy about expressing unqualified schadenfreude every time scandal exposed its inherent fallacies and reminded monarchists of the institutionalized affront royal families constitute to the universal truth that all people are created equal.

    And, more than any other royals, the British royal family has provided enough fodder in this regard to incite unrelenting snicker and sustained contempt…

    I encourage citizens throughout the Caribbean Commonwealth to prevail upon our national leaders to cease and desist recommending our citizens for these farcical investitures, if not to perfect our sovereignty (as independent republics), then as a matter of national pride.

    (“Pardon Me Sir, But How Much Did You Pay for Your Knighthood,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 14, 2006)

    Alas, polls indicate that support for this anachronistic institution is rising, not falling – pursuant to the first principle of democracy and basic common sense:

    Even among 18 to 24-year-olds, the age group most likely to hold republican views, today’s poll shows a solid 69 per cent believe that Prince George will one day become king.

    The poll suggests that the majority of the country sees no benefit in republicanism, with some two thirds of those polled (66 per cent) thinking that Britain is better off as a monarchy.

    Only 17 per cent wanted a republic instead.

    (The Telegraph, July 27, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 8.33.42 PMBut what I find even more dumbfounding is the mockery countries like Canada, Australia, and Jamaica are making of their independence by retaining Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state. This would only make sense if, like Britain, Commonwealth Countries were using her as a tourist attraction; you know, the way Disney World uses Mickey Mouse.

    Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller brought this perverse form of self-abnegating neocolonialism into embarrassing relief last year when, despite vowing to rectify this constitutional anathema, she laid out the red carpet for the Queen’s notoriously mischievous grandson Harry – who was substituting for Her Majesty on a state visit as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

    And, lest you think I’m just making a fuss over inconsequential ceremonial stuff, bear in mind that almost all of these purportedly independent former colonies retain the British Privy Council as their court of last resort as well. I have duly bemoaned this constitutional anathema in such commentaries as “Idle-minded Debate on Privy Council Continues,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 30, 2011.

    For their part, the British are so desperate to maintain this fairytale of the monarch reigning over her realm that Prince Charles is substituting for her at today’s opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka. This, despite the fact that Sri Lanka’s record of human rights abuses is so odious that the leaders of Canada and India are boycotting this meeting for fear of becoming contaminated just by breathing its air.

    In any event, given these causes for discouragement, I hope I can be forgiven for grasping for republican solidarity in a column the London Daily Mail published on Monday under the provocative but unassailable title, “Sir Becks and Lady Posh? I admire them both, but this would be final proof the honours system has lost all reason.”

    Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 8.17.06 PMThis column read, in part, as follows:

    Sir David and Lady Beckham: If ever there were five words to seal Britain’s descent into celebrity-obsessed madness, there they are.

    So why is the idea of Sir Becks and Lady Posh so offensive?

    Largely, because it would confirm what many of us already know — that the honours system is fast becoming absurd.

    Of course, members of the British royal family personify this celebrity-obsessed madness that is afflicting not just Britain, but all of Western civilization. But, in fairness to Becks and Posh, nothing demonstrates how unreasonable this system has become quite like even proud citizens of former British colonies still coveting British honours every bit as much as British commoners do.

    Is there any wonder we despair for our republics…?

    Related commentaries:
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  • Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 5:19 AM

    Oprah: Republicans Are Criticizing and Disrespecting Obama Because He’s Black

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    There has been a great deal of speculation in the media lately about the relationship between Oprah and President Obama. In fact, to listen to some political commentators you’d think Oprah has become a woman scorned because Obama refused to give her the White House access she coveted (to exploit for commercial purposes) “after helping him get elected in 2008.’’

    Of course, if Oprah ever felt thusly scorned, she would’ve had to get over herself when Obama won re-election in 2012, reportedly without her help.

    _52923375_obama'sonoprahapThis is why the little insight Oprah herself provided yesterday into the true nature of their relationship is so telling. She offered it during a BBC interview as part of her promotional gig for Lee Daniels’ The Butler, the critically acclaimed movie in which she plays feisty, sultry Gloria Gaines, wife of the butler Cecil Gaines. (The movie is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen who served at the White House for 34 years, 1952-86.)

    In fact, far from betraying any resentment towards Obama, Oprah defended him:

    Asked if some of the challenges and criticisms faced by President Barack Obama were down to the colour of his skin, Winfrey said:

    ‘There’s no question. I think there’s a level of disrespect for the office that occurs, and that occurs in some cases, and maybe even many cases, because he’s African American. There’s no question about that; it’s the kind of thing no one ever says, but everybody’s thinking it.’

    Obviously Oprah would not have shared this if she were harboring any resentment.  Not to mention that nobody appreciates more than she does how such a politically incorrect observation might alienate many of the genteel White folks she needs to sustain the commercial success of her cable network, OWN.

    ‘When she backed Obama for president her audience, which is middle-aged white women, supported Hillary Clinton and so she found a lot of push-back by people who thought she was choosing her race ahead of her gender,’ says Eric Deggans, TV critic of the Petersburg Times in Florida.

    (BBC, May 25, 2011)

    This is why she should be applauded for being so daring and forthright.

    I am constrained to note, however, that she is wrong to say that this is “the kind of thing no one ever says.” After all:

    It’s demonstrably clear that Republicans are creating an economic crisis merely to further the only agenda they’ve had since Obama was elected: to destroy his presidency…

    What troubles many Republicans is not the national debt, but the fact that Obama is the first Black president of the United States. None of them would admit this of course.

    (“Washington Political Food Fight Over Debt Ceiling,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 25, 2011)

    What’s more:

    I took a lot of flak for asserting in my October 5 commentary, Super-rich Irony, that only racism explains why so many rich White folks – who benefited most from Obama’s presidency (with policies that rescued the U.S. economy from the brink of depression, created record corporate profits, and doubled the stock market) – are nevertheless insisting that he has been an abject failure.

    (“Romney vs. Obama: Race (still) Matters,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 1, 2012)

    But given her clout, influence, and trailblazing bona fides, Oprah may be forgiven for presuming that no observation in this respect is noteworthy until she makes it. Others, like me, can then be recognized as duly echoing her trendsetting opinion.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 5:17 AM

    Journalism Is ‘Having a Very, Very Pathetic Moment’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    My disdain for what passes for journalism these days is well documented. And 60 Minutes, the reputed standard bearer of broadcast journalism, only reinforced my disdain on Sunday when public outrage forced it to issue a pathetic apology for reporting one man’s delusions of grandeur as facts.

    Specifically, its highly touted October 27 report  (on the 9/11/12 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi) turned out to be rife with fabrications – all seemingly intended to further undermine the credibility of the Obama Administration.

    7be283e0-ff5c-4e64-9018-f1204eab8c7a_16x9_600x338Frankly, one could be forgiven for thinking that 60 Minutes was reporting on events from a parallel universe where only the minds of rabid Tea Partiers meld. Not least because, like most allegations Tea Partiers make about Obama, it only took a simple Google search to debunk all of the material allegations in its report.

    Most notable in this respect was the account its star interviewee (who I shan’t dignify by naming) gave about his heroic efforts to fend off the Benghazi terrorists. He claimed that he had no choice but to act because the Obama Administration “refused” repeated SOSs to send in the Marines. But again, to quote America’s preeminent media critic Jon Stewart, his account “was total bullshit.”

    We realized we had been misled and it was a mistake to include him in our report. For that, we are very sorry.

    (60 Minutes, November 10, 2013)

    Let’s ignore the fact that (investigative) reporters apologizing for being “misled” by an interviewee is rather like criminal investigators apologizing for being lied to by a thief….

    Because the real story here is that journalism has become the pursuit of TV ratings for corporate profits at the expense of journalistic truth. Nothing demonstrates this quite like 60 Minutes failing to mention in its original report or follow-up apology that this entire segment was little more than an infomercial for a book on Benghazi by its star interviewee, which its corporate parent CBS had just published through another of its media properties, Simon and Schuster. Talk about weaving a tangled web….

    Apropos of which, here’s just a taste of my disdain:

    Don’t get me started on the way journalists now troll social media for news and report on every tragedy as if it were the friggin’ Super Bowl. For journalism has become such a pathetic enterprise – so utterly bereft of principles like journalistic truth, professional independence, and duty to inform – that journalists think nothing of reporting what they think the public wants to consume as news instead of informing the public about what is newsworthy. Some purported news organizations even generate sensational, “viral” headlines and then have creative writers produce stories to match those headlines. Sadly, journalists are becoming just like investment bankers who think nothing of packaging a junk bond as a triple-A stock and selling it for a quick buck.

    (“Nixonian” Obama Right to Spy on Associated Press,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 13, 2013)

    News International Newspaper ApologyNot to mention that journalism’s phone-hacking scandals represent an even greater breach of the public trust than banking’s sub-prime and Libor scandals do.

    After all, at an innate level, expecting bankers not to cheat is rather like expecting bees not to sting. By contrast, journalists breaking the law to find easy fodder for new stories shocks the conscience almost as much as priests sexually molesting boys as part of their pastoral prerogatives.

    But my pet peeve these days is the malpractice inherent in TV journalists wasting hours every day with idle-minded speculation about the 2016 presidential election – three years before any such speculation could have any news value or relevance. Their malpractice is made brazenly hypocritical by the fact that these are the same journalists who, just months ago, were presenting snarky, indignant reports about retailers promoting Christmas wares in August – three months before any such promotion would seem appropriate.

    Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 4.07.05 PMThis is why I was so heartened on Friday when I read that no less a person than the doyenne of journalism has acquired a similar disdain:

    Tina Brown, outgoing editor of the Daily Beast and former editor of the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Newsweek, doesn’t even read magazines anymore — nor does she think too highly of journalism at all.

    Brown told the audience of a THiNK conference in Goa, India on Friday that she is basically done with journalism, which she said is currently having a ‘very, very pathetic moment’ and has turned into advertising in order to try to make a profit.

    ‘Editorial outfits are now advertising agencies,’ she said.

    (Huffington Post, November 8, 2013)

    Welcome to the real world, Tina. After all, far from having a very, very pathetic moment, journalism has been in this pathetic state for years – as news programs interrupting reports on the crisis in Syria to bring viewers “BREAKING NEWS” on Lindsey Lohan’s latest arrest will attest. What’s more, I see no end in sight.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 5:38 AM

    Outing Nazi-Looted Paintings to Deflect from U.S. Spying…?

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    A cache of “lost” paintings looted by the Nazis before the Second World War containing some 1,500 works by world-renowned artists including Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and Klee and valued at an estimated €1bn has been found, according to German media reports.

    Bavarian customs police discovered the sensational haul in the home of Cornelius Gurlitt, the 80-year-old son of well-known pre-war art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt. The younger Gurlitt had hoarded the paintings in his Munich apartment for over half a century, according to Germany’s Focus magazine.

    (The Independent, November 9, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 9.17.46 PMAs sensational as this report is, what I find most interesting is that German authorities discovered these paintings almost two years ago (in February 2011).

    Because this raises the question: why is this art find of the century just coming to light?

    Color me cynical, but I think it has everything to do with U.S. and UK spy agencies doing all they can to deflect attention from the public shaming they’re experiencing as a result of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks.

    After all, if these agencies are as all-knowing as Snowden would have us believe, surely they not only knew about this Nazi art find, but were also monitoring what German authorities were doing with it. No?

    UnknownMore to the point, what better way to knock the Germans off their high horse about Americans and Britons spying on them than to plant a media story that forces these Germans to atone, yet again, for Nazi war crimes?

    And, just as critical acclaim and cash-generating scoops motivated the Washington Post and (London) Guardian to publish Snowden’s leaks — their respective country’s national security and reputation be damned, Focus magazine would have been similarly motivated to publish tips about this Nazi art find.

    The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates the Nazis seized about 16,000 works of art in all.

    (BBC, November 3, 2013)

    Frankly, if they were not forced to come clean about these looted paintings, one wonders how long German authorities would have kept this find a national secret: another 10, 20, 50 years…?

    Stuart Eizenstat, a former US ambassador to the EU, told the BBC that time was running out, and the details of the artworks should be published.

    ‘Victims of the Holocaust are aging, even the families of those who did not survive are of an age,’ he said. ‘[T]he longer one goes … the more difficult it is for people to prepare potential claims… Justice delayed is justice denied.’

    (BBC, November 5, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 9.18.31 PMNow the Germans find themselves in the untenable position of having to explain why they were compounding the horrors of the Holocaust by appearing so lackadaisical about returning these Nazi-looted paintings to their rightful (and likely all-Jewish) owners in a timely manner.

    In any event, where the English word “indignation” could fairly describe the prevailing mood among Germans about U.S. and UK spying before this report, the German word “schadenfreude” can fairly describe the prevailing mood among Americans and Britons about this Nazi art find today.

    Related commentaries:
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  • Sunday, November 10, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    UPDATE: ‘Super Typhoon Haiyan’ Rampages Phillipines

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    131107142831-02-typhoon-1107-horizontal-gallery

    News outlets cover natural disasters purportedly as a public service. But there’s no denying that such coverage is a ratings boon for their bottom line – catering as it does to the perverse thrill of suspense that keeps us fixated on the hype of impending doom….

    (“Katrina’s Coming, Katrina’s Coming,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2005)

    It was impossible to miss weather forecasters warning that Typhon Haiyan is so vast and powerful that it would make Hurricane Katrina look like a tempest in a teapot.

    This storm is Sandy size … there’s going to be storm surges (sic) of 50, maybe 60 feet all along the coast… They’re thinking 195 mph winds with gusts reaching even 235 mph. The biggest storm to ever hit – even this is smaller than the one that will hit tomorrow – killed 1,900 people in 2012.

    (Chief Meteorologist Chad Myers, CNN, November 7, 2013)

    slide_324445_3097857_freeTherefore, one could be forgiven for fearing that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of lives would be lost. Not least because the only shelter available for so many was the ramshackle structures that lie in Haiyan’s path. One could also be forgiven for fearing that this typhoon, like the Indonesian tsunami, is such a freak of nature that Filipinos would have no clue how to survive it.

    Whereas, in fact, Filipinos are so accustomed to weathering, and surviving, typhoons that meteorologists commonly refer to the Philippines as being located in Typhoon Alley. Which is why it’s hardly surprising that, despite Haiyan leaving mass destruction in its wake, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is reporting that there were relatively few casualties. 

    This of course is not stopping news outlets from trying to validate their hype by reporting that Haiyan killed “more than 100.” Which raises the question: Did it kill 101 people or 1,000,001? (For the record, Katrina killed 1,833.)

    No doubt Haiyan’s death toll will increase. And the hundreds of thousands who have been displaced seem bound to be without proper shelter for some time to come. But as natural disasters go, Filipinos fared relatively well; especially given the hype and, more directly, the above-referenced tsunami, which killed 230,000 people, as points of reference. Not that this comparison will provide any comfort to any Filipino.

    Incidentally, if you found criminal looting (i.e., of things like electronics instead of food) disappointing in the aftermath of Katrina, prepare to be even more disappointed….

    All the same, my thoughts and prayers go out to them as they try to recover and rebuild.

    UPDATE 

    (Sunday, November 10, 2013 at 8:21 am)

    7ea39b17e7f2af25420f6a706700bdef

    Death toll rises

    One of the most powerful storms ever recorded killed at least 10,000 people in the central Philippines, a senior police official said on Sunday, with huge waves sweeping away coastal villages and devastating one of the main cities in the region.

    (Reuters, November 10, 2013)

    To help Red Cross relief efforts, click here.

    * This commentary was originally published yesterday, Saturday, at 8:03 am

  • Friday, November 8, 2013 at 5:14 AM

    Prokhorov, Russian Owner of NBA Nets: ‘Majority of Russians think Snowden’s a traitor’

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    I disabled the comments feature on this weblog years ago when it became clear that most people were just using it as a message board to write snarky comments that had nothing to do with what I actually wrote.

    But this did not stop interested readers from using the CONTACT feature to send relatively informed criticisms of some of my commentaries. This is why I have been obliged on occasion to write follow-ups either admitting that “I was wrong” or, more often than not, putting my critics in their place.

    imagesThe latter is the case today with respect to criticisms of my take on Vladimir Putin granting Edward Snowden asylum in Russia. A number of readers – who clearly consider themselves far more informed about Russia and its authoritarian politics than I – argued that I got it completely wrong when I wrote that:

    Far from regarding Snowden as the hero he fancies himself, I suspect Putin sees him as a traitorous rat. After all, Putin is a former KGB spy who prides loyalty to country above all else…

    And as much as he is undoubtedly reveling in the humiliation Snowden has caused, Putin fully appreciates what special punishment he’d want to mete out to any Russian spy who does to him and Russia what Snowden has done to Obama and the United States.

    (“Boycott Olympics Over Snowden? Don’t Be Stupid,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 18, 2013)

    And later, that:

    Putin is using him as a stick to poke in the eye of the United States…

    I fully appreciate that millions now consider Snowden a heroic, whistle-blowing defender of freedom and democracy. But the ultimate irony is that he is a self-righteous narcissist who is nothing more than a useful idiot to (de facto and de jure) totalitarian regimes (like those in Russia and China) whose very existence depends upon the doublethink his leaks are now fostering, as well as systematic violations of the very civil liberties he presumes to be championing.

    (“I Said Putin Would Hand Over Snowden. I Was Wrong,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 25, 2013)

    Frankly, if I did not know better I would’ve thought their criticisms were extracted from a talking points memo Snowden’s spy/media master, Glen Greenwald, drafted. In short, they hailed Snowden as a hero and dismissed me as a zero – who “obviously knows nothing about Russia.”

    Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 10.34.57 AMExcept that no less a person than Mikhail Prokhorov validated my take on what Russians think about Snowden during an interview on yesterday’s edition of CBS This Morning:

    The majority of Russians they think that he [Snowden] was a traitor. And because we have a very special history, Russian history, we have a very strong belief about loyalty. If you’re working in a position, especially in CIA, then you don’t go out and spill all the secrets.

    Enough said?

    Well, for the uninitiated, I should add that Prokhorov is a major investor in the United States (most notably as owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets). More important, though, I doubt my critics even have standing to question, let alone criticize, his understanding of Russia and its authoritarian politics.

    Nothing demonstrates Prokhorov’s bona fides in this respect quite like the way he has declared and even pursued his political ambitions in Russia without running afoul of Putin – who he concedes is “the most powerful politician on the planet earth … for the time being.” Of course it helps that, despite challenging Putin for the presidency last year, Prokhorov always hastens to clarify that he is more interested in laying the groundwork to become Putin’s political heir (in 14 years when he hopes Putin will be ready to retire) than in being his archrival.

    Incidentally, if Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Boris Berezovsky, Prokhorov’s more famous fellow oligarchs, were willing to be as deferential to this neo-Stalinist thug, they would not be rotting away in prison or dead, respectively….

    In any event, that Prokhorov has no fear of asserting, on American TV no less, that most Russians think Snowden is a traitor vindicates my view that Putin feels the same way too.

    article-2489957-19411A9700000578-776_634x400Meanwhile, the latest example of the global spectacle this useful idiot has wrought with his NSA leaks played out in London yesterday. For that is where the heads of the three branches of the UK intelligence services (GCHQ – its eavesdropping equivalent of the NSA, MI5 – its FBI, and MI6 – its CIA) were forced to defend their missions and methods before a public parliamentary hearing for the first time in history.

    It would be an understatement to say that they were simmering with resentment over the hysterical reaction to Snowden’s leaks that compelled this parliamentary dog and pony show. This resentment was most evident when they were forced to explain that nothing could be more anathema to their intelligence gathering than snooping through the emails and eavesdropping on the phone calls of ordinary citizens. They clearly find this prevailing assumption insulting to their professional integrity, as well as that of the spies they control.

    All of which only reinforces my indignation at the ironic and self-defeating ignorance of people protesting the spying agencies like the NSA and GCHQ do to keep them safe, while blithely facilitating the spying corporations like Google and Facebook do to sell them stuff; notwithstanding that the intrusive nature of the former pales in comparison to that of the latter.

    Such Kafkaesque perversion of principles and priorities is enough to spook even a seasoned spook. But if you think there’s no consequence to this, think again:

    The leaks from Snowden have been very damaging, they put our operations at risk. Our adversaries are rubbing their hands in glee. Al-Qaida is lapping it up.

    (John Sawers, the chief of the British foreign spy agency MI6, Associated Press, November 7, 2013)

    I’m on record lamenting the public airing of what, by definition, should be state secrets. But Snowden’s leaks have so corrupted the clear and necessary order of things that grandstanding, opportunistic and shortsighted politicians are treating intelligence agencies like criminal syndicates involved in wholesale blackmail and identity theft. Reconcile that!

    Alas, my abiding fear is that it’s going to take a terrorist attack that makes 9/11 look like a drive-by shooting for most people to appreciate the damage Snowden has done.  Of course, then, many of the people hailing him as a hero today will be damning him as a traitor and demanding to know why intelligence agencies were not doing at least as much spying as commercial entities do to keep them safe….

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  • Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 5:23 AM

    Clintons’ McAuliffe Elected Governor of Virginia

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Anyone who knows anything about the political success Bill and Hillary Clinton have enjoyed knows that Terry McAuliffe was the indispensable campaign fundraiser who made it all possible.

    As it happens, I know a little more than most about their relationship – having worked down the hall from Terry when he was serving as chief fundraiser for the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign in 1996.  (I was just a foot soldier who served as the national procurement coordinator for the campaign.)

    But suffice it to know that Terry was as much a personal friend of the Clintons as he was their fundraiser. Therefore, Bill and Hillary were probably motivated as much by friendship as by indebtedness when they threw their considerable clout behind Terry’s bid to win the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia.

    (“McAuliffe, the Clinton’s Moneyman Suffers Humiliating Political Defeat,” The iPINIONS Journal, June 10, 2009)

    That was four years ago, when he didn’t even win the Democratic primary, let alone the governorship.

    ap_clinton_mcauliffe_endorse_kb_131019_16x9_608-1So here’s to Terry for heeding that old proverb: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Because Virginia voters (including yours truly) elected him governor yesterday over his archconservative, Tea-Party Republican opponent in a race that, frankly, ended up being far too close for comfort: 48 to 45 percent.

    Nobody knows better than Terry, however, that the only significance his victory holds for the national/international media is the extent to which the Clintons will be able to use his governorship of our swing state of Virginia as a stepping stone into the White House in 2016. In other words, they stumped for his campaign this time not to pay debts to Terry, but to collect IOUs.

    And, trust me, he will be all too happy to oblige….

    Congratulations, Governor-Elect McAuliffe!

    Related commentaries:
    McAuliffe

  • Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 5:38 AM

    Lone-Wolf Gunman Terrorizes LAX

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    images-1No doubt you’ve heard or read about the White “lone wolf” who opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Friday, killing one TSA agent and wounding two others before police ended his shooting spree.

    Incidentally, what are we to make of the fact that, like the Boston Marathon bomber who survived a fusillade of police bullets, this SOB did too – despite being shot in the face and neck…?

    I don’t know why the media always reward these psychopaths by giving them the fame they covet; that is, by plastering their pathetic mugs all over television and reporting pop psychology about why and how they did their dastardly deeds.

    You’d think that – given the record of these psychotic and vainglorious episodes since Columbine – we would have figured out by now that the best way to discourage them is by focusing our attention on the victims and limiting what we say about the shooter to: May God have mercy on your soul as you burn in Hell!

    (“Massacre in Omaha,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 7, 2007)

    More to the point though:

    It must be understood that no matter their collective resolve, there’s absolutely nothing law enforcement officials can do to prevent such attacks.

    (“London 7/7 terrorist attacks,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 8, 2005)

    Except that I resent the way reporters are buying into the narrative that Whites who commit terrorist attacks are just neglected mental patients. This, despite evidence showing that this White-American gunman planned to kill TSA agents in LA for many of the same political/ideological reasons Muslim jihadists planned to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

    ‘A note found on Ciancia indicated that he wanted to kill Transportation Security Administration employees to ‘instill fear’ in what the suspect called the agents’ ‘traitorous minds,’ FBI Special Agent in Charge David Bowdich said.

    (CNN, November 4, 2013)

    This stands in stark contrast to the way these same reporters blithely label virtually every non-White who perpetrates similar crimes as a terrorist … period!

    Whereas:

    What far too many forget is that long before al-Qaeda terrorists struck the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in DC, a good ol’ American boy named Timothy McVeigh struck a government building in Oklahoma, making it painfully clear that, when it comes to terrorism, we have as much to fear from foreign fanatics as from native sons.

    (“Norway’s Timothy McVeigh Perpetrates National Massacre,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 23, 2011)

    imagesWhich of course means that terrorism in America is defined not by what crimes terrorize people, but by who perpetrates those crimes. There’s no denying, for example, that if this LAX gunman were a Muslim, not only would the media meme be all about terrorism, but President Obama would be leading a chorus of politicians damning this shooting as a terrorist attack on America.

    Frankly, this double standard is not only patently racist; it reflects a self-immolating delusion that will enable and embolden other Timothy McVeighs….

    Meanwhile, I feel obliged to repeat my wonder that such attacks are so relatively rare. Not to mention my oft-stated and abiding fear that only God will help if/when al-Qaeda deploys not a lone wolf, but packs of wolves to open fire at airports, shopping malls, and/or sports stadiums in the United States (a la Westgate shopping mall in Kenya).

    Related commentaries:
    Norway’s McVeigh
    Terror alert...
    Shooting rampage Navy yard

  • Monday, November 4, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    CARICOM Demand for Reparations Smacks of Extortion

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    It speaks volumes that Europeans are ascribing no blame for this Lampedusa tragedy to the African governments that have failed their people so abysmally. This failure, after all, is the only reason why so many Africans, utterly bereft of hope at home, are fleeing to Europe in desperate pursuit of peace, prosperity, and happiness.

    But I suppose this self-recrimination among European governments demonstrates how difficult it is for them to sever that umbilical cord of colonial obligation…

    I just hope the damning irony is not lost on any proud African that, 50 years after decolonization, hundreds of Africans (men, women, and children) are risking their lives, practically every day, to subjugate themselves to the paternal mercies of their former colonial masters in Europe.

    (“Lampedusa Tragedy Highlights Europe’s ‘Haitian’ Problem,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 7, 2013)

    Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 6.48.52 AMIt should have come as no surprise when Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the contentious prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, used his few minutes on the world stage at the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York City last September to make his and CARICOM’s case for reparations for “the atrocities of slavery.” After all, Gonsalves and CARICOM have been more dogmatic in trying to force former European colonizers to pay for slavery than Senator Ted Cruz and the Tea Party have been in trying to force President Obama to repeal Obamacare.

    Indeed, like Cruz and the Tea Party, Gonsalves and CARICOM are banking on public shaming and political pressure to compensate for shortcomings in their legal case. Their mercurial strategy assumes that, just as corporations often settle cases (even frivolous ones) to avoid bad publicity, European governments will settle out of court instead of forcing them to prove their case in court. Which, of course, would constitute a triumph of European paternalism and self-recrimination over Caribbean pride and self-responsibility – the “damning irony” in our case be damned.

    What was surprising, however, was the deluge of commentaries his UN address inspired. After all, Gonsalves did little more than repeat his mantra about making Europeans pay today for the sins their forefathers committed 150 years ago.

    I, on the other hand, have been writing commentaries on this controversial subject for years, trying to disabuse Gonsalves and CARICOM of their antic mission. Not least because extorting a quarter-trillion dollars from European governments for “the developmental benefit of our Caribbean societies and all our peoples” makes a mockery of CARICOM’s stated mission:

    To provide dynamic leadership and service, in partnership with Community institutions and Groups, toward the attainment of a viable, internationally competitive and sustainable Community, with improved quality of life for all.

    In any event, here is what I wrote in “The Fatally Flawed Demand for Reparations for African Slavery,” Caribbean Net News, February 16, 2007:

    ___________________

    In this the year of the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, we in CARICOM must pursue coherently and in a focused, not episodic, way the legitimate demand for a full apology and reparations from the Europeans for African slavery… The dignity of both the Caribbean and Europe justly summons this cleansing of the spirit and of the historical decks.

    This is the clarion call CARICOM Chairman and St Vincent and Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves made as host of the 18th Intersessional Heads of Government conference on Tuesday.  As political rhetoric, this call to action is sympathetic, morally compelling, and quite appealing.  As a demand for compensation, however, it is indulgent, politically specious, and wholly infeasible.

    With all due respect to Gonsalves, the record of futility in making such demands should be instructive.  After all, far more influential and credible claimants than CARICOM heads of government have demanded reparations to no avail from what were generally recognized as the most amenable governments in history to offering them; namely, the UK government of Prime Minister Tony Blair and the U.S. government of President Bill Clinton.

    Even President Barack Obama is on record declaring his belief that there is no legal merit in demanding reparations for slavery. Here, for example, is how the Huffington Post quoted him on the subject in an August 2, 2008 report under the headline, “Obama Opposes Slavery Reparations:”

    I have said in the past – and I’ll repeat again – that the best reparations we can provide are good schools in the inner city and jobs for people who are unemployed.

    Claimants for reparations for slavery invariably cite two very cogent precedents:

    1. The Reparations Agreement of 1952 between Israel and West Germany, pursuant to which the Germans compensated Israel for slave labor and persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, and for Jewish property the Nazis confiscated. (Holocaust survivors have also filed successful claims against German banks and other corporations for compensation for forced labor.); and
    2. The Civil Liberties Act of 1986, pursuant to which the U.S. government paid $1.65 billion in reparations to “82,000 of Japanese ancestry who had been subjected to evacuation, relocation and internment during World War II.”

    It must be noted, however, that these claims were successful primarily because direct links could be established between the perpetrators of the harm alleged and surviving victims of that harm.  By contrast, no such links exist between the institution of slavery and modern-day claimants for reparations.  And, to disabuse Blacks of any feelings of racial discrimination in this respect, it would be helpful to know that the U.S. government paid reparations to Blacks who suffered from the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment precisely because direct links could be established.

    Moreover, all precedents aside, because virtually no European feels as guilty for slavery as many Germans felt (and still feel) for the Holocaust, it would be politically prohibitive for any European government to even countenance a demand to pay for reparations for African slavery.

    Never mind that even if this demand were not made infeasible by the passage of 150 years, most Englishmen would probably still take umbrage by arguing that — while seafaring merchants and New-World colonizers were exploiting African slaves for unjust enrichment — they were enduring unspeakable hardships of their own, which Charles Dickens chronicled with such vivid imagery.  And, at the risk of defiling the myth that all Blacks were victims of slavery, I wonder what portion of this claim, if any, Gonsalves and others intend to charge against the African kings and tribal chiefs who profited from selling fellow Africans into slavery, thereby giving Europeans political (even if not legal and moral) sanction to treat them as property bought and paid for…?

    Not to mention all of the political, economic, and psychological wounds we’ve inflicted upon ourselves (from fostering rampant social maladies to perpetuating artificial differences amongst us that make it impossible to integrate our economies). It clearly behooves CARICOM leaders to focus on healing these, instead of picking at the scab of old wounds that will do nothing to improve our regional condition.

    But, frankly, I am dismayed that the very notion of this claim does not shock the conscience of an erstwhile enlightened and progressive leader like Gonsalves so much as to make it unconscionable.   After all, given the ravages of HIV/AIDS, famine, and genocide now plaguing people all over our purported Homeland, one would’ve thought any demand on Europeans for payment for grievances would be not for the benefit of relatively wealthy Caribbean people, but for that of these truly aggrieved and helpless Africans.

    Indeed, even though it might be too politically incorrect for many to concede, I suspect that the vast majority of us in the Caribbean look at the life of the average African — whose ancestors were not “harmed” by the European slave trade — and thank God that we are here, and not there.

    Therefore, I admonish Gonsalves and his fellow CARICOM heads of government to refrain from burdening our people with this predominantly “African-American” grievance.  Because piggybacking “our destiny” on this Faustian claim for reparations for slavery tethers us to an umbilical cord of obligation that only compromises our bona fide independence.

    That said, if our leaders wish to pursue a more sustainable and constructive cause of action on behalf of descendants of African slavery throughout the Caribbean, I would be honored to help them present a claim to the British government – based on an equitable assumption of quantum meruit – for compensation for exploitative labor and other civil rights abuses suffered during colonialism.  After all, not only the perpetrators of the harm but also the victims in this case could be readily identified.

    ____________________

    To be fair, Gonsalves and CARICOM are now predicating their claim on the precedent the UK government set in June (2013) by granting reparations to victims of the Mau Mau rebellion. They have even retained the same UK firm, Leigh Day, which waged that successful case.

    Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 8.37.12 AMUnsurprisingly, the UK government – perhaps duly recognizing that England did more than any other European country (most notably France and the Netherlands) to facilitate and maintain slavery in the Caribbean – took the lead in rejecting CARICOM’s amended demand:

    The UK Government is blocking attempts to force it to pay reparations for slavery.

    Reparations ‘are not the answer’ it said and governments ‘cannot take responsibility for what happened over 200 years ago.’

    (Nassau Tribune, November 1, 2013)

    I agree.

    As it happens, though, here’s how I juxtaposed, in “Reparations from Britain for Colonialism,” July 18, 2012, the flaws in suing for reparations with the merits in suing for compensation — not for slavery, but for legitimate complaints of cruel and inhuman punishment the British meted out during their colonial rule (i.e., the Mau Mau precedent):

    ___________________

    To listen to some critics of British colonialism, you’d think it was utterly devoid of any redeeming value. But as one who was subjected to it throughout much of his youth, I can attest that this is not so.

    Indeed, all one has to do is juxtapose the way education and civil service have floundered in post-colonial countries in Africa with the way they thrived in those countries during colonialism to counter unqualified criticism in this respect.

    Having said that, let me hasten to assert that nothing, not even a good education and a competent civil service, can possibly justify the dominion British colonialists exercised over native people from India to the Caribbean. Especially because British mercantilism meant raping and pillaging local resources for the benefit of Mother England. Not to mention the practice of racial segregation (i.e. de facto apartheid), which reinforced the dehumanizing nature of colonialism.

    More to the point, as British journalist and historian Richard Gott notes in Britain’s Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt (2011), no less a person than British Prime Minister David Lloyd George telegraphed how colonial officers intended to deal with natives who resisted this dominion when he proudly recalled how, at the 1932 World Disarmament Conference, he:

    [D]emanded the right to bomb for police purposes in outlying places [and] insisted on the right to bomb niggers.

    Which brings me to the cruel and inhuman punishment colonial officers meted out to natives whose natural pride and human dignity compelled them to resist. Nowhere was this demonstrated in more poignant and persistent fashion than in Kenya during the Mau Mau rebellion throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

    For, according to the Kenya Human Rights Commission, 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured, or maimed. What’s more, 160,000 were detained in conditions that rivaled those their forefathers were subjected to as captured slaves during the “Middle Passage.”

    But where seeking reparations for slavery that ended 150 years ago has always been fraught with obvious (legal) problems, seeking reparations for colonialism that ended just 50 years ago is much less so.

    This is why the British government finds itself in the untenable position of having to defend against claims by Kenyans – who say they themselves suffered all manner of human rights abuses while being held in detention camps by the British colonial Administration during the Mau Mau rebellion.

    Lawyers for several victims filed what they clearly hope will be a class-action suit on behalf of all victims demanding an official apology and compensation for pain and suffering.

    The claimants’ lawyers allege that Mr. Nzili was castrated, Mr. Nyingi severely beaten, and Mrs. Mara subjected to appalling sexual abuse in detention camps during the rebellion…

    In his statement Mr Nyingi, 84, a father of 16 who still works as a casual labourer, said he was arrested on Christmas Eve 1952 and held for some nine years. During his detention, in 1959, he says he was beaten unconscious during an incident at Hola camp in which 11 other prisoners were clubbed to death. He says he has scars from leg manacles, whipping and caning.

    (BBC, July 17, 2012)

    It is noteworthy that the British government admitted this week – for the first time and in a court of law no less – that Kenyans were tortured and ill-treated as alleged. Never mind that it was obliged to do so because the High Court ordered the release of 300 boxes of secret documents recently that not only chronicle the systematic torture and ill-treatment colonial officers meted out, but also expose a conspiracy among British officials to cover up these human rights abuses.

    Yet, despite all this, the government is attempting to avoid compensating the direct victims of the Mau Mau rebellion by using the same argument governments have used to avoid compensating the descendants of the victims of slavery; namely, that:

    …too much time has passed for a fair trial to be conducted.

    (BBC, July 17, 2012)

    To be sure, lawyers can raise all kinds of issues as to why, ironically enough, the British government cannot get a fair trial: Not least among them is the likelihood of assigning collective guilt to all colonial officers because victims, many of whom are now in their 70s and 80s, would be hard-pressed to identify the offending one(s) in each case. Lawyers can even question whether detention during the Mau Mau rebellion was in fact the proximate cause of their injuries.

    But if it has any regard for what little redeeming value its legacy of colonialism retains, the British government would consider it a moral imperative to move post-haste to negotiate a victims’ fund with the Kenyan government from which all victims can seek relatively fair compensation … in Kenya.

    Incidentally, this would (and should) not absolve the government of the categorical imperative to pursue and prosecute every British official implicated in these human rights abuses: from the Secretary of State in London to the camp guard in Kenya, and not just those who executed them but those who conspired to cover-up these abuses as well. Indeed, these British officials should be pursued and prosecuted with the same dogged zeal with which officials who collaborated with the Nazis in the torture and ill-treatment of the Jews are still being pursed and prosecuted to this day.

    Of course, colonial rebellions were not nearly as persistent, and were not put down with nearly as much brutality in other colonies, as was the case in Kenya (the American rebellion excepted).  But if the High Court were to establish the precedent that victims of colonial-era abuses could seek damages in British courts, I have no doubt that thousands of claimants would show up in London to seek redress from every place on earth that was subjected to British dominion.

    This is why the British government would be well-advised to initiate government-to-government settlements of all such cases instead of allowing any of them to proceed to trial – especially with all of the opening of old wounds (on both sides) that would entail.

    Mind you, even if the High Court were to rule that victims of colonial abuse have no recourse in British courts, the reputational damage to Britain of such an inequitable ruling would far outweigh any amount the Kenyan and other post-colonial governments could reasonably demand be placed in compensation funds for colonial abuses.

    Accordingly, I fully expect Britain, at long last, to do the right thing: apologize and pay, pursue, and prosecute!

    ___________________

    maumau-300x168Of course, we now know that, a year after I advised the British to establish a victims’ fund for tortured survivors of the Mau Mau rebellion, they did just that:

    Britain is to pay out £19.9m in costs and compensation to more than 5,000 elderly Kenyans who suffered torture and abuse during the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s, the foreign secretary, William Hague, has said.

    Hague told the House of Commons that the payment was being made in ‘full and final settlement’ of a high court action brought by five of the victims who suffered under the British colonial administration…

    The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place … torture and ill-treatment are abhorrent violations of human dignity which we unreservedly condemn.

    (The London Guardian, June 6, 2013)

    Again, there’s dignity and honor in Gonsalves and CARICOM prevailing upon former European colonizers to negotiate a victims’ fund for elderly Caribbean natives who suffered torture and abuse during colonialism. But there’s only shame and dishonor in them using slavery to guilt Europeans into providing funds for Caribbean development.

    With that, I rest my case against reparations for African slavery.

    Related commentaries:
    U.S. finally apologizes for slavery
    Kenya … war crimes

  • Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 6:33 AM

    Turkey joins Europe despite Europeans

    Posted by Anthony L. Hall

    Turkey is for the first time connecting its European and Asian sides with a railway tunnel…

    The sub-sea passage that runs below the Bosphorus Strait, will link the Asian and European shores of Istanbul for the first time.

    The opening of the major engineering project marks the completion of a plan initially proposed by an Ottoman sultan about 150 years ago.

    (Daily Mail, October 30, 2013)

    139551_600

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