Kenyan elders demanded an apology from Washington on Thursday ahead of a planned protest over a controversial photo of U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama in traditional Somali dress.
The picture, which appeared on a U.S. Web site, showed the Democratic frontrunner donning a white headdress and robes during a visit in 2006 to the remote north-eastern town of Wajir.
The photo took centre stage in an increasingly acrimonious race for the White House, with Obama aides accusing his party rival Hillary Clinton's camp of "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering" after it was published.
Obama, whose late father was from western Kenya, has fought a whispering campaign by fringe elements who wrongly say that he is Muslim and have even compared his surname to that of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Clinton's campaign denied it officially approved the picture's release.
The dispute has angered many in Kenya, especially ethnic Somalis from the northeast, who resent the implication that Obama did anything wrong during his visit.
Wajir residents plan to demonstrate after Friday prayers to show their support for the Illinois senator.
Mohamed Ibrahim, who attended one of two crisis meetings held in Wajir on Thursday by clan members who hosted Obama on his trip, said Washington must immediately make amends to them and especially to the elder pictured with him.
"The U.S. government must apologise to us as a clan and the old man," Ibrahim told Reuters by telephone. "We have been offended and we cannot afford to just watch and stay silent."
He said it was essential Clinton "clear her name" too.
The old man in question was retired chief Sheikh Mohamed Hassan, a senior elder who deserved great respect, local residents said.
"He was the right person to perform any such activity like dressing a visitor like Obama with traditional Somali clothes," said another Wajir community leader, Mukhtar Sheikh Nur.
"We give special treatment and respect to any visitor."
If there was no apology, the elders said, they would demand the expulsion of U.S. troops based near Garissa town.
Many Kenyans support Obama in the way the Irish idolised U.S. President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s -- as one of their own who succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
Following Obama's streak of 11 straight wins in the battle to become the Democratic nominee, Clinton needs to win next week in Ohio and Texas to keep her campaign alive.
Once the odds-on favourite to win the party's nomination to run against a Republican candidate in the general election, she has lost big leads in public opinion polls in the two states as Obama has gained momentum and made inroads among her supporters.
(Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Giles Elgood and Tim Pearce)
Friday, February 29, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
Read here for more
Barack Obama is today criticizing Hillary Clinton on her efforts to pretend she never supported NAFTA. Just as a follow-up to my post on Friday, I want to remind folks who claim Hillary Clinton never praised NAFTA that, in fact, she did praise NAFTA -- repeatedly.
According to NBC's Meet the Press, in 2004, Clinton said, "I think, on balance, NAFTA has been good for New York and America."
In her memoir, Clinton trumpeted her husband's "successes on the budget, the Brady bill and NAFTA."
And in 1998, Bloomberg News reports that she praised corporations for mounting "a very effective business effort in the U.S. on behalf of NAFTA." Another direct quote.
I went over two of these three quotes -- and some more -- in my recent syndicated column, which you can read here. And, as predicted, this issue has now become the central focus in the Ohio primary - the primary that could decide the Democratic nomination.
However you feel about NAFTA -- and if you are a typical American, polls show you likely do not like it -- Clinton now trying to lie and say she never really supported NAFTA is an absolute insult.
It further suggests that on really important economic issues, she's more than happy to lie about provable facts when it suits her political needs
Friday, February 22, 2008
From New York Times
By JIM RUTENBERG, MARILYN W. THOMPSON, DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and STEPHEN LABATON
February 21, 2008by
WASHINGTON — Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers
Lobbyist Vicki Iseman
A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.
When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.
Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.
It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.
But the concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.
Mr. McCain promised, for example, never to fly directly from Washington to Phoenix, his hometown, to avoid the impression of self-interest because he sponsored a law that opened the route nearly a decade ago. But like other lawmakers, he often flew on the corporate jets of business executives seeking his support, including the media moguls Rupert Murdoch, Michael R. Bloomberg and Lowell W. Paxson, Ms. Iseman’s client. (Last year he voted to end the practice.)
Mr. McCain helped found a nonprofit group to promote his personal battle for tighter campaign finance rules. But he later resigned as its chairman after news reports disclosed that the group was tapping the same kinds of unlimited corporate contributions he opposed, including those from companies seeking his favor. He has criticized the cozy ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, but is relying on corporate lobbyists to donate their time running his presidential race and recently hired a lobbyist to run his Senate office.
“He is essentially an honorable person,” said William P. Cheshire, a friend of Mr. McCain who as editorial page editor of The Arizona Republic defended him during the Keating Five scandal. “But he can be imprudent.”
Mr. Cheshire added, “That imprudence or recklessness may be part of why he was not more astute about the risks he was running with this shady operator,” Charles Keating, whose ties to Mr. McCain and four other lawmakers tainted their reputations in the savings and loan debacle.
During his current campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Mr. McCain has played down his attacks on the corrupting power of money in politics, aware that the stricter regulations he championed are unpopular in his party. When the Senate overhauled lobbying and ethics rules last year, Mr. McCain stayed in the background.
With his nomination this year all but certain, though, he is reminding voters again of his record of reform. His campaign has already begun comparing his credentials with those of Senator Barack Obama, a Democratic contender who has made lobbying and ethics rules a centerpiece of his own pitch to voters.
“I would very much like to think that I have never been a man whose favor can be bought,” Mr. McCain wrote about his Keating experience in his 2002 memoir, “Worth the Fighting For.” “From my earliest youth, I would have considered such a reputation to be the most shameful ignominy imaginable. Yet that is exactly how millions of Americans viewed me for a time, a time that I will forever consider one of the worst experiences of my life.”
A drive to expunge the stain on his reputation in time turned into a zeal to cleanse Washington as well. The episode taught him that “questions of honor are raised as much by appearances as by reality in politics,” he wrote, “and because they incite public distrust they need to be addressed no less directly than we would address evidence of expressly illegal corruption.”
A Formative Scandal
Mr. McCain started his career like many other aspiring politicians, eagerly courting the wealthy and powerful. A Vietnam war hero and Senate liaison for the Navy, he arrived in Arizona in 1980 after his second marriage, to Cindy Hensley, the heiress to a beer fortune there. He quickly started looking for a Congressional district where he could run.
Mr. Keating, a Phoenix financier and real estate developer, became an early sponsor and, soon, a friend. He was a man of great confidence and daring, Mr. McCain recalled in his memoir. “People like that appeal to me,” he continued. “I have sometimes forgotten that wisdom and a strong sense of public responsibility are much more admirable qualities.”
During Mr. McCain’s four years in the House, Mr. Keating, his family and his business associates contributed heavily to his political campaigns. The banker gave Mr. McCain free rides on his private jet, a violation of Congressional ethics rules (he later said it was an oversight and paid for the trips). They vacationed together in the Bahamas. And in 1986, the year Mr. McCain was elected to the Senate, his wife joined Mr. Keating in investing in an Arizona shopping mall.
Mr. Keating had taken over the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association and used its federally insured deposits to gamble on risky real estate and other investments. He pressed Mr. McCain and other lawmakers to help hold back federal banking regulators.
For years, Mr. McCain complied. At Mr. Keating’s request, he wrote several letters to regulators, introduced legislation and helped secure the nomination of a Keating associate to a banking regulatory board.
By early 1987, though, the thrift was careering toward disaster. Mr. McCain agreed to join several senators, eventually known as the Keating Five, for two private meetings with regulators to urge them to ease up. “Why didn’t I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?” Mr. McCain later lamented in his memoir.
When Lincoln went bankrupt in 1989 — one of the biggest collapses of the savings and loan crisis, costing taxpayers $3.4 billion — the Keating Five became infamous. The scandal sent Mr. Keating to prison and ended the careers of three senators, who were censured in 1991 for intervening. Mr. McCain, who had been a less aggressive advocate for Mr. Keating than the others, was reprimanded only for “poor judgment” and was re-elected the next year.
Some people involved think Mr. McCain got off too lightly. William Black, one of the banking regulators the senator met with, argued that Mrs. McCain’s investment with Mr. Keating created an obvious conflict of interest for her husband. (Mr. McCain had said a prenuptial agreement divided the couple’s assets.) He should not be able to “put this behind him,” Mr. Black said. “It sullied his integrity.”
Mr. McCain has since described the episode as a unique humiliation. “If I do not repress the memory, its recollection still provokes a vague but real feeling that I had lost something very important,” he wrote in his memoir. “I still wince thinking about it.”
A New Chosen Cause
After the Republican takeover of the Senate in 1994, Mr. McCain decided to try to put some of the lessons he had learned into law. He started by attacking earmarks, the pet projects that individual lawmakers could insert anonymously into the fine print of giant spending bills, a recipe for corruption. But he quickly moved on to other targets, most notably political fund-raising.
Mr. McCain earned the lasting animosity of many conservatives, who argue that his push for fund-raising restrictions trampled free speech, and of many of his Senate colleagues, who bristled that he was preaching to them so soon after his own repentance. In debates, his party’s leaders challenged him to name a single senator he considered corrupt (he refused).
“We used to joke that each of us was the only one eating alone in our caucus,” said Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, who became Mr. McCain’s partner on campaign finance efforts.
Mr. McCain appeared motivated less by the usual ideas about good governance than by a more visceral disapproval of the gifts, meals and money that influence seekers shower on lawmakers, Mr. Feingold said. “It had to do with his sense of honor,” he said. “He saw this stuff as cheating.”
Mr. McCain made loosening the grip of special interests the central cause of his 2000 presidential campaign, inviting scrutiny of his own ethics. His Republican rival, George W. Bush, accused him of “double talk” for soliciting campaign contributions from companies with interests that came before the powerful Senate commerce committee, of which Mr. McCain was chairman. Mr. Bush’s allies called Mr. McCain “sanctimonious.”
At one point, his campaign invited scores of lobbyists to a fund-raiser at the Willard Hotel in Washington. While Bush supporters stood mocking outside, the McCain team tried to defend his integrity by handing the lobbyists buttons reading “McCain voted against my bill.” Mr. McCain himself skipped the event, an act he later called “cowardly.”
By 2002, he had succeeded in passing the McCain-Feingold Act, which transformed American politics by banning “soft money,” the unlimited donations from corporations, unions and the rich that were funneled through the two political parties to get around previous laws.
One of his efforts, though, seemed self-contradictory. In 2001, he helped found the nonprofit Reform Institute to promote his cause and, in the process, his career. It collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in unlimited donations from companies that lobbied the Senate commerce committee. Mr. McCain initially said he saw no problems with the financing, but he severed his ties to the institute in 2005, complaining of “bad publicity” after news reports of the arrangement.
Like other presidential candidates, he has relied on lobbyists to run his campaigns. Since a cash crunch last summer, several of them — including his campaign manager, Rick Davis, who represented companies before Mr. McCain’s Senate panel — have been working without pay, a gift that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars.
In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has hired another lobbyist, Mark Buse, to run his Senate office. In his case, it was a round trip through the revolving door: Mr. Buse had directed Mr. McCain’s committee staff for seven years before leaving in 2001 to lobby for telecommunications companies.
Mr. McCain’s friends dismiss questions about his ties to lobbyists, arguing that he has too much integrity to let such personal connections influence him.
“Unless he gives you special treatment or takes legislative action against his own views, I don’t think his personal and social relationships matter,” said Charles Black, a friend and campaign adviser who has previously lobbied the senator for aviation, broadcasting and tobacco concerns.
Concerns in a Campaign
Mr. McCain’s confidence in his ability to distinguish personal friendships from compromising connections was at the center of questions advisers raised about Ms. Iseman.
The lobbyist, a partner at the firm Alcalde & Fay, represented telecommunications companies for whom Mr. McCain’s commerce committee was pivotal. Her clients contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns.
Mr. Black said Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman were friends and nothing more. But in 1999 she began showing up so frequently in his offices and at campaign events that staff members took notice. One recalled asking, “Why is she always around?”
That February, Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman attended a small fund-raising dinner with several clients at the Miami-area home of a cruise-line executive and then flew back to Washington along with a campaign aide on the corporate jet of one of her clients, Paxson Communications. By then, according to two former McCain associates, some of the senator’s advisers had grown so concerned that the relationship had become romantic that they took steps to intervene.
A former campaign adviser described being instructed to keep Ms. Iseman away from the senator at public events, while a Senate aide recalled plans to limit Ms. Iseman’s access to his offices.
In interviews, the two former associates said they joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that he was risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman. The two associates, who said they had become disillusioned with the senator, spoke independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated by others.
Separately, a top McCain aide met with Ms. Iseman at Union Station in Washington to ask her to stay away from the senator. John Weaver, a former top strategist and now an informal campaign adviser, said in an e-mail message that he arranged the meeting after “a discussion among the campaign leadership” about her.
“Our political messaging during that time period centered around taking on the special interests and placing the nation’s interests before either personal or special interest,” Mr. Weaver continued. “Ms. Iseman’s involvement in the campaign, it was felt by us, could undermine that effort.”
Mr. Weaver added that the brief conversation was only about “her conduct and what she allegedly had told people, which made its way back to us.” He declined to elaborate.
It is not clear what effect the warnings had; the associates said their concerns receded in the heat of the campaign.
Ms. Iseman acknowledged meeting with Mr. Weaver, but disputed his account.
“I never discussed with him alleged things I had ‘told people,’ that had made their way ‘back to’ him,” she wrote in an e-mail message. She said she never received special treatment from Mr. McCain’s office.
Mr. McCain said that the relationship was not romantic and that he never showed favoritism to Ms. Iseman or her clients. “I have never betrayed the public trust by doing anything like that,” he said. He made the statements in a call to Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, to complain about the paper’s inquiries.
The senator declined repeated interview requests, beginning in December. He also would not comment about the assertions that he had been confronted about Ms. Iseman, Mr. Black said Wednesday.
Mr. Davis and Mark Salter, Mr. McCain’s top strategists in both of his presidential campaigns, disputed accounts from the former associates and aides and said they did not discuss Ms. Iseman with the senator or colleagues.
“I never had any good reason to think that the relationship was anything other than professional, a friendly professional relationship,” Mr. Salter said in an interview.
He and Mr. Davis also said Mr. McCain had frequently denied requests from Ms. Iseman and the companies she represented. In 2006, Mr. McCain sought to break up cable subscription packages, which some of her clients opposed. And his proposals for satellite distribution of local television programs fell short of her clients’ hopes.
The McCain aides said the senator sided with Ms. Iseman’s clients only when their positions hewed to his principles.
A champion of deregulation, Mr. McCain wrote letters in 1998 and 1999 to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to uphold marketing agreements allowing a television company to control two stations in the same city, a crucial issue for Glencairn Ltd., one of Ms. Iseman’s clients. He introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a program. And he twice tried to advance legislation that would permit a company to control television stations in overlapping markets, an important issue for Paxson.
In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision.
Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In an embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating scandal, once again raising questions about intervening for a patron.
Mr. McCain’s aides released all of his letters to the F.C.C. to dispel accusations of favoritism, and aides said the campaign had properly accounted for four trips on the Paxson plane. But the campaign did not report the flight with Ms. Iseman. Mr. McCain’s advisers say he was not required to disclose the flight, but ethics lawyers dispute that.
Recalling the Paxson episode in his memoir, Mr. McCain said he was merely trying to push along a slow-moving bureaucracy, but added that he was not surprised by the criticism given his history.
“Any hint that I might have acted to reward a supporter,” he wrote, “would be taken as an egregious act of hypocrisy.”
Statement by McCain
Mr. McCain’s presidential campaign issued the following statement Wednesday night:
“It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.
“Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career.”
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
by Commuting one Monday morning to Boston from Washington during the Clinton presidency, I lucked out: Senator Edward Kennedy came in late and took the last seat next to me. Of course, I respected his privacy, though when breakfast was served he noted from my working papers that I was a professor at a school on whose board he served. This race is not now between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It’s between Obama and Bill Clinton. And it’s about whether Bill Clinton can once again fool all the people all the time. Hillary Clinton had the option in the race thus far of showing she could be a chief executive in her own right. She let him perjure himself on national TV about his shenanigans with other women, and she ‘stood by her man’. He couldn’t have survived without her graceful silence. Whatever. Frank Rich, one of the most influential columnists in America, put it quite bluntly. ‘Any democrat who seriously thinks that Bill will fade away if Hillary wins the nomination - let alone that the Clintons will escape being fully vetted - is a democrat who, as the man said, believes in fairy tales’. The man, of course, was Bill himself trying to put down Barack Obama. Oddly, while watching it, I thought of my old boss Ronald Reagan, someone about as far ideologically from Obama as it is possible to be. Obama is the most original voice in American politics since Lincoln. And as best I can see, he’s not trying to fool any of the people any of the time.
W SCOTT THOMPSON
W SCOTT THOMPSON (D Phil). is a national security expert who served four American presidents and is a professor emeritus at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Then we looked at the morning news: the Clintons had rented out the Lincoln bedroom for US$5, 000 a night to political contributors. ‘The Clintons have cheapened the dignity of the American presidency,’ he said. I made the obvious comment that no Kennedy would have ever done that. ‘There’s quite a housekeeper on that team,’ he concluded.
Now the housekeeper is running for president, and her husband is trying to fool all the people that she would be in charge.
Abe Lincoln once said ‘you can fool all the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time’. Let’s be honest.
Maybe Bill elbowed his way in, still crimson from the way his own vice-president Al Gore kept him out of the 2000 campaign, denying him the fun and power of anointing a successor. There was lots of schadenfreude in the Clinton White House when Gore finally lost.
After all, what strong leader in history has wanted to be followed by his equal? They all want epigones - ‘weak followers’ that make themselves look good.
Maybe it’s because it’s payback time: Bill owes Hillary.
The way Hillary allowed Bill to run her campaign in South Caroline has revealed all too clearly what a second Clinton White House would look like.
There is the obvious point, as Garry Wills has pointed out, that the Founding Fathers debated this point, and concluded that power should be divided among the great branches of government, certainly not in the Executive branch.
But the real question is Bill Clinton himself.
But whatever, Bill made himself the issue in South Carolina. While she was campaigning elsewhere, trying to downplay the significance of this state primary, knowing she was going to lose, she let him muscle his way around the state insulting Obama.
His world-scale ego couldn’t bear being left out of her race in which he has no legitimate role. But there can be no doubt about it anymore. Obama can now concentrate on the issues, ride above the fray, and let the Clinton team once again try to project their marital problems and needy egos on the American people.
No doubt Hillary Clinton is now wishing there were someone like the king of Spain recently turning to President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and telling him just to ‘shut up’.
No one can tell big Bill Clinton to shut up. For Hillary is - at least figuratively - in bed with Bill. If she told him to leave the campaign to her, he would play the game Teddy Roosevelt played in 1912. In 1908, he decided against running for his own second term and anointed William Howard Taft as his successor.
But Teddy, with an ego is big as Bill’s (albeit with much greater grace and style), couldn’t stand the sight of the walrus-like president floundering around and favouring special interests. So in 1912 he created a new party, dividing the electorate with his spoiling game, and ensuring the election of the Democrat’s Woodrow Wilson.
What the Clintons have had thus far is the advantage of psychological entitlement. They know how to move around the world’s stage, enjoying being front and center, ignoring journalists and other impertinent questioners about their secret contributions and sordid past.
In the last days of the Clinton presidency, Bill granted a presidential pardon to the slimy Marc rich, in European exile. We don’t yet know what the trade-off for that was. Mrs Clinton has just bought a house in suburban New York to establish residency in that state for her race for the senate.
She had much of the furniture in the family quarters of the White House trucked off to her new house. Normally this is known as theft. Thankfully, the day after the presidential turnover, White House curators called her bluff.
Hillary Clinton claimed innocence and returned the furniture. The Clintons want us to believe fairy tales about themselves. She was just the housekeeper, after all.
But now the senator from Illinois has found His voice and it is a presidential one. He gave the most flawless victory speech from South Carolina that I have ever heard.
But 1980 was a time like 2008, with the need for a great leader who could unite the country. I wasn’t alone. Bill Bennett, a conservative commentator, astonishingly said the speech uplifted -like Ronald Reagan! That was precisely the right word.
But there’s a huge difference between the two, Reagan and Obama.
Commuting one Monday morning to Boston from Washington during the Clinton presidency, I lucked out: Senator Edward Kennedy came in late and took the last seat next to me. Of course, I respected his privacy, though when breakfast was served he noted from my working papers that I was a professor at a school on whose board he served.
This race is not now between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It’s between Obama and Bill Clinton. And it’s about whether Bill Clinton can once again fool all the people all the time.
Hillary Clinton had the option in the race thus far of showing she could be a chief executive in her own right.
She let him perjure himself on national TV about his shenanigans with other women, and she ‘stood by her man’. He couldn’t have survived without her graceful silence. Whatever.
Frank Rich, one of the most influential columnists in America, put it quite bluntly. ‘Any democrat who seriously thinks that Bill will fade away if Hillary wins the nomination - let alone that the Clintons will escape being fully vetted - is a democrat who, as the man said, believes in fairy tales’.
The man, of course, was Bill himself trying to put down Barack Obama.
Oddly, while watching it, I thought of my old boss Ronald Reagan, someone about as far ideologically from Obama as it is possible to be.
Obama is the most original voice in American politics since Lincoln.
And as best I can see, he’s not trying to fool any of the people any of the time.
Friday, February 08, 2008
From Independent UK
Click here to watch the video footage
By Michael McCarthy
These pictures expose the gory reality of Japan's so-called "scientific" whale hunt in the Southern Ocean, with a slaughtered adult minke whale and calf being hauled on board a Japanese factory ship.
The release of the photos marks a significant shift in whaling politics, for they were taken not by the environmental activists who spent much of January harassing the whalers on their Antarctic hunt but by officials working for the Australian government.
They were put into the public domain by the eco-friendly administration of the new Labor premier, Kevin Rudd, accompanied by withering comments from Australian ministers.
For a government to become so strongly involved raises the stakes considerably in a dispute in which most of the international community is ranged against Japan.
It provoked anger in Tokyo and a warning to Australia from a Japanese official that this was "dangerous emotional propaganda that could cause serious damage to the relationship between our two countries".
But there was as much, if not more fury, at the pictures in Australia. Peter Garrett, the Environment Minister, and a former member of the rock group Midnight Oil, said: "It is explicitly clear from these images that this is the indiscriminate killing of whales, where you have a whale and its calf killed in this way." He said he felt "sick and sad" looking at them and added: "To claim that this is in any way scientific is to continue the charade that has surrounded this issue from day one."
The images include footage of a harpoon being shot into a whale, which is then hauled on to the ship. One photo shows two whales – one far smaller than the other – being dragged by ropes up a ramp.
The row comes as the Humane Society International urges the Australian government to launch a case against Japanese whalers in the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea. Japan has defied the international moratorium on commercial whaling which has been in place since 1986 by claiming that its whale hunts are carried out for scientific purposes. This season it is seeking to kill up to 935 minke whales and 50 larger fin whales.
Last month activists from two anti-whaling groups, Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, spent weeks trying to disrupt the hunt with their vessels Esperanza and Steve Irwin. Many of their pictures were flashed around the world. But perhaps of more long-term significance was the fact that this time Australia sent a fisheries and customs patrol ship, Oceanic Viking to the Southern Ocean to gather photographic and video evidence about Japan's hunt, for use in a possible legal challenge.
The resulting pictures caused a strong reaction in Tokyo yesterday.
Hideki Moronuki, chief of the Japanese Fishing Agency's whaling section, denied that the photograph depicted a baby whale, and accused Australian officials of coming dangerously close to the whaling ships to take the images.
"The fleet is engaged in random sampling, which means they are taking both large and small whales," he said. "This is not a parent and calf."
Thursday, February 07, 2008
( Maureen Dowd is a New York Times columnist.)
Read here original article
HILLARY Clinton denounced Dick Cheney as Darth Vader, but she did not absorb the ultimate lesson of the destructive Vice-President: don't become so paranoid that you let yourself be overwhelmed by a dark vision.
I think Hillary truly believes that she and Bill are the only ones tough enough to get to the White House. Jack Nicholson endorsed her as "the best man for the job", and she told David Letterman that "in my White House, we'll know who wears the pantsuits".
But her pitch is the colour of pitch. Because she has absorbed all the hate and body blows from nasty Republicans over the years, she is the best person to absorb more hate and body blows from nasty Republicans.
Darkness seeking darkness. It's an exhausting spectre, and the reason that Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, Claire McCaskill and so many other Democrats are dashing for daylight and trying to break away from the pathological Clinton path.
"I think we should never be derisive about somebody who has the ability to inspire," Senator McCaskill told David Gregory on MSNBC on Tuesday. "You know, we've had some dark days in this democracy over the last seven years, and today the sun is out. It is shining brightly. I watch these kids, these old and young, these black and white, 20,000 of them, pour into our dome in St Louis Saturday night, and they feel good about being an American right now. And I think that's something that we have to capture."
Tuesday's voting showed only that the voters, like moviegoers, don't want a pat ending. Hillary and Obama will battle on in chiaroscuro. Her argument to the Democratic base has gone from a subtext of "You owe me," or more precisely, "Bill owes me and you owe him," to a subtext of "Obambi will fold at the first punch from the right."
Hillary's strategist Mark Penn made the argument last week that because the voters have "very limited information" about Obama, the Republican attack machine would tear him down and he would lose the support of independents. Then Penn tried to point the way to negative information on Obama, just to show that Obama wouldn't be able to survive Republicans pointing the way to negative information.
As she talked on Sunday to George Stephanopoulos, a former director of the formidable Clinton war room, Hillary's case boiled down to the fact that she can be Trouble, as they say about hard-boiled dames in film noir, when Republicans make trouble.
"I have been through these Republican attacks over and over and over again, and I believe that I've demonstrated that, much to the dismay of the Republicans, I not only can survive, but thrive," she said, adding that "frankly, in his prior election in Illinois, Senator Obama didn't face anyone who ran attack ads against him".
Better the devil you know than the diffident debutante you don't. Better to go with the Clintons, with all their dysfunction and chaos — the same dysfunction and chaos that fuelled the Republican hate machine — than to risk the chance that Obama would be mauled like a chew toy in the general election.
Better to blow off all the inspiration and the young voters, the independents and the Republicans that Obama is attracting than to take a chance on something as ephemeral as hope. Now that's Cheney-level paranoia.
Bill is propelled by Cheneyesque paranoia, as well. Bill's visceral reaction to Obama — from the "fairy tale" line to the inappropriate Jesse Jackson comparison — is rooted less in his need to see his wife elected than his need to see Obama lose, so that Bill's legacy is protected. If Obama wins, he'll be seen as the closest thing to JFK since JFK. And JFK is Bill's hero.
Even though Obama stopped smoking when he started running for president, he has lost more than 2 kilograms racing around the country. Just like Hollywood starlets, he works out religiously and can make a three-course meal out of a Nicorette.
For much of the year, when matched against Hillary in debates, the Illinois senator seemed out of his weight class. Though he has slimmed down, he has moved up to heavyweight. The big question is: can he go from laconic to iconic to bionic? Will he have the muscle to take on the opposition, from Billary, to the Republican hate machine, to the terrorists overseas?
"I try to explain to people, I may be skinny but I'm tough," he told a crowd of more than 15,000 in Hartford the other night, with the Kennedys looking on. "I'm from Chicago."
The relentless Hillary has been the reticent Obama's tutor in the Political School for Scandal. He is learning how to take a punch and give one back.
When she presents her mythic narrative, the dragon she has slain is the Republican attack machine. Obama told me he doesn't think about mythic narratives. Nonetheless, if he wants to be president, he'll have to slay the Clinton dragon.