Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Finally, the light of justice at the end of the tunnel in the Adkins case

In the “reverse” of the Trayvon Martin case—the Daniel Adkins incident in Arizona, in which a black male used the “stand your ground” defense in justifying the shooting death of a unarmed “white” Hispanic—a grand jury and Maricopa County prosecutors finally decided that they had enough evidence to overlook the “concerns” of Arizona’s manic gun lobby and charge Cordell Jude with second degree murder on July 27—nearly four months after the shooting. Although not immediately arrested, he is expected to show-up for his arraignment on August 9. As I mentioned before, the tipping point in favor of prosecuting Jude on a murder charge was his arrest on July 14 on drug and weapons charges. We’ve learned a little bit more about that arrest: Jude was apparently the driver in a “drive-by” shooting incident committed by his two passengers; Jude claims that he didn’t know the men, and was just giving them a “ride.” Marijuana was found on Jude’s person; he claims that he didn’t know Marijuana possession was “illegal.” Before anyone gets the idea that Jude was just a naïve young child, we should recall his twitter comments; this is a man for whom callousness toward human life and criminal activity is just part of his “wayz.”

In a news conference, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery told reporters that "Our decision to prosecute this case is based on a thorough review of the evidence gathered during an extensive investigation by our law enforcement partners, and after a separate and careful analysis of the defendant's assertion of self-defense. After engaging in this deliberative process, we are confident in moving forward with our efforts to hold this defendant accountable for his actions…The mere claim that you were engaged in self-defense is not enough. There is a reasonable person standard that has to be reviewed in light of all the facts of the case as to whether or not someone would believe they needed to use deadly physical force to stop another person.” Montgomery noted that a reasonable person would not consider being "yelled" at to be sufficient justification for shooting someone.

Whether or not this will be a test case on the “stand your ground” defense remains to be seen. One thing that is certain is that this indictment came no thanks to the national media, which has been shamelessly playing up the race angle in the Martin case, when the Adkins shooting was clearly more obviously unjustified in its nature. It was Adkins’ family and a few dedicated people who kept this story alive when it seemed likely that the Arizona gun lobby and media indifference would have effectively “killed” the case—and injustice “served”—that persuaded prosecutors that Jude’s crime could no longer go without the prospect of punishment.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Some people still worship at the shrine of the false saint Ronald

I was sitting at a bus stop in Kent when a man, dressed in a black suit and smoking a cigarette, ambled by and stood about in a bus-waiting posture as well. I got the feeling he wanted to talk to me about something, so I retrieved my netbook and started doing some typing. After a while he spoke up, inquiring how my day was. Thinking that he might be some “missionary” looking for a lost soul, I said “I’m fine” and continued the pretense of being deep in busyness. Unfortunately, once I opened the door, there was no stopping him. I felt obliged to respond to observations about the weather, airports and the Army.

But then things started to become interesting when he wanted to talk about politics, after I mentioned that I was in the service during the Reagan administration, and how he and his handlers seemed to have more sense about armed conflict than George W. Bush and friends. This observation seemed to excite the man in the black suit, who exclaimed that Ronald Reagan was smarter than both Bushes combined—which sort of lit my fuse, because I didn’t believe Reagan was smarter than the second Bush (especially in his second term, when he was already showing signs of Alzheimer’s), let alone both combined. He went on to say that we haven’t had a good president since Reagan (oh no, another Saint Ronny fanatic), and I responded that this was a matter of opinion. The man then asserted that Bill Clinton was the worst president, and was responsible for giving poor people home loans they couldn’t afford; that’s right, blame poor people for the lousy economy instead of banksters and financial gamblers looking for a quick buck.

I’m no “fan” of the Clintons, but suggesting Bill was a worse president that Reagan made me wish I hadn’t just breakfasted at McDonald’s. I responded that Clinton was a good (not great) president whose most critical mistake was allowing the Glass-Steagall regulations to expire—which allowed banks to gamble with depositors’ money in high risk schemes that in the end were more disastrous than anything Ralph Kramden ever dreamed up. I further disturbed the scene when I asserted that I regarded all the troubles that faced the country today could be traced to Reagan. My bus stop companion expressed speechless consternation at this assertion, and I’m sure he was eager to know why I felt this way (by the looks of him, I’m not sure he was even born when Reagan was first elected), but he seemed relieved when the bus finally arrived, and sat as far away from me as possible.

For those who don’t remember or were not born when Reagan was president, it is useful to remember that the “Reagan Revolution” was in many ways as reactionary as the Iranian revolution a few years earlier. In fact, Reagan conspired with the Iranians in the highly improper and probably illegal “October Surprise” which allowed the American hostages to suffer for an additional three months in captivity for tawdry political gain; this wouldn’t be the last time that Reagan and his henchmen engaged in activities that were just this side of treason. Reagan also set the tone for an anti-labor strategy during the air traffic controllers strike. Ironically, the controllers’ union was one of the few that endorsed Reagan, but the union discovered that Reagan had no intention of being sympathetic to their demands for higher pay and better working conditions; when they went on strike, they were promptly fired. The positive public reaction to the move—which would have been expected, because of the air traffic hiccup—was short-sighted, since it merely emboldened the Reagan administration to further erode labor rights.

Although his own vice president, George H.W. Bush, rightly called Reagan’s “supply-side” economic plan “voodoo economics,” the Reagan witch doctors promptly went to work over the first 100 days of the administration—no thanks to the Democrat-controlled Congress. Despite the fact that Reagan won a bare majority of the popular vote, the Democratic majority apparently felt that Reagan had a “mandate” and a “right” to expect his program to be passed; many of these Democrats were Southerners who were party members in name only, and more than a few would switch parties. Reagan’s massive tax cuts that benefitted mainly the wealthy and corporations were supposed to spur economic growth by “trickle down” effect “predicted” by the so-called Laffer Curve. But the Laffer “effect”—that cutting marginal rates on taxes creates higher government revenue because it creates an “incentive” to make more “taxable” income—makes no sense at all, as Warren Buffett has commented on; because of high taxes, businesses and individuals that wanted to make more money actually invest more. Today, instead of investing their extra cash into the economy, many corporations and individuals—like Mitt Romney—“invest” their money in off-shore tax havens instead of creating jobs, which would have in turn created consumers to support those jobs. The only explanation for this is personal greed, apparently something Laffer never took into account. And one wonders if Reagan and his handlers actually believed that his tax policy would actually increase tax revenues—since he was a proponent of “small government.” The disastrous effect of supply-side economics is still being felt today—and it is no “Laffing” matter.

While Reagan’s military hardware build-up—actually with programs initiated during previous administrations—helped end the Cold War by convincing the Soviet Union that it could not keep-up with the U.S. militarily, hastening the break-up of the Warsaw Pact. But having served in West Germany for four years, I can tell you that while U.S. soldiers were generally supportive of Reagan, Germans viewed him with deep suspicion, as some kind of dangerous cowboy; his “Star Wars” initiative was regarded as a unrealistic exercise that unnecessarily exacerbated tensions right on the country’s doorstep. I remember a cover of a German magazine that portrayed a clownish Reagan sticking his head above a foxhole, wearing a steel pot with an M-16 in hand. Of course, like many armchair warriors Reagan never actually served in the military.

With massive tax cuts and $1.5 trillion in military spending, sending the federal budget deficit to levels that were higher than even today’s in comparison to revenue intake in real terms, and unemployment that remained above or near double-digits most of his first term, how much was Reagan’s “revolution” going to cost the country—or rather, who was going to pay? Tea Partiers forget that Saint Ronald was not completely opposed to tax hikes, so long as they were disguised as something else. Still, someone had to “pay”—and it wouldn’t be the rich who continued to get richer: It turns out that Reagan intended that the poorest and most vulnerable Americans would do the paying—by slashing every social program in sight, including school lunches for poor children (remember the “ketchup is a vegetable” controversy?), low-income housing subsidies, food stamps, AFDC and Medicaid.

Another disastrous result of Reagan’s election was environmental policy. Interior Secretary James Watt may have been an idiot who talked himself out of his job barely after he started, but his underlings—like Rita Lavelle and Anne Gorsuch—were even more corrupt tools of business. Politics also played a part in environmental “policy”: Gorsuch ordered a delay in granting Super Fund money for the clean-up of the Stringfellow toxic waste dump in California, because she feared that Gov. Jerry Brown might “benefit” from the clean-up in his expected run for the Seante. Before the two were forced to resign after criminal charges of selling their services to corporate American, severe damage to environmental protection had already done.

The refusal to enforce, and the reduction of, regulations naturally effected the financial sector—the most publicized failure being the Savings and Loan crash, from which obviously nothing was learned from; the total tax payer money used to bail out those institutions far exceeded that of the 2008 bail outs in real terms. Civil rights enforcement was no less infected by hostility and indifference; that current Supreme Justice Clarence Thomas was in charge of it is the only thing we really need to know.

I have to give credit to Reagan for making the smart move by evacuating the Marines from Beirut after the barracks bombing that killed more than 200 U.S. Marines; however, he had an opportunity to flex American military might by invading the tiny island of Grenada, which Reagan claimed was about to become another Cuba after leftist “radicals” overthrew the government there. But it was Reagan’s support of right-wing murder regimes in Central America that was responsible for the infamous Iran-Contra Affair. Originally, the secret sale of weapons to arch-enemy Iran was supposedly in cooperation for aiding in the release of American hostages in Lebanon (or was it a promise made to the Iranians for their cooperation in the “October Surprise”?). This in itself was highly irregular, but it was compounded when rogue operators like Oliver North used some of the money from the sale of those weapons to arm Contra militias in Nicaragua fighting the leftist Sandinista government, which violated the Boland Amendment, which prohibited military aid to the Contras, who were too closely tied to the brutal Somoza regime which led to the Sandinista movement in the first place. While North and a few henchmen were eventually convicted of crimes in the affair, all would soon have their convictions overturned or later receive pardons. While Reagan accepted “responsibility” without acknowledging any personal hand in the “transaction,” the actions conducted in his name—like the “October Surprise”—came dangerously near the line of treasonable activity.

The “legacy” of the Reagan years was one of irresponsible government—especially concerning the environment and financial regulation—that often came close to being criminal in its neglect. It was during the Reagan years that the erosion of labor rights went on the fast track, and it was under Reagan that the income gap between rich and poor began its seemingly unstoppable acceleration, based on an economic premise that was never anything more than an unproven theory popular with right-wing economists. It was under Reagan that the poorest Americans were seen not as having problems, but being a “problem.” It was under Reagan that immoral, unethical and even criminal behavior in support of political ideology would find increasing acceptability, especially in extremist right circles. And perhaps worst of all, the “cult” of Reagan, that it was “sunshine in America” during his administration when it was nothing of the kind, has some Americans believing that the country needs to go back to the policies of that time. What they do not understand is that, as I wanted to explain to that man in the black suit, what is wrong with the country today is in many respects a direct result of Reagan’s policies.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Who has the right to be called "Cherokee"?

Earlier this month, the Justice Department entered the on-going dispute between the Cherokee Nation and the descendants of freedmen, supporting the latter's claims to Cherokee citizenship. At first blush, it is easy to sympathize with the majority of Cherokee who voted in 2007 to restrict Cherokee citizenship to the descendants of those listed on the Dawes Roll as “citizens by blood," which effectively disenfranchises blacks who claim to be Cherokee; Native Americans—but especially the Cherokee—have expressed sensitivity about who has the right to claim the heritage without having to carry the baggage of centuries of oppression, and now want to acquire the “benefits” of it.

Officially, there are 300,000 “citizens” of the Cherokee Nation, but approximately three-quarters of a million people “self-report” as having Cherokee “blood.” Here is a list famous and semi-famous people who have “self-reported” as part Cherokee but in fact have no legal claim to the appellation: Tori Amos, Garth Brooks, James Brown, Kevin Costner, Johnny Depp, James Garner, Demi Moore, Chuck Norris, Elvis Presley, Quentin Tarantino, Burt Reynolds, Tina Turner, Steve and Liv Tyler, Billy Ray and Mylie Cyrus, Cher, James Earl Jones, Johnny Cash, Sam Elliot, Tommy Lee Jones, Waylon Jennings, Robert Redford and Diane Sawyer. The only members of this bunch who could actually pass for Native American is Cher and maybe Reynolds; the rest are obviously trying to acquire some “kinship” that has a political dimension, or trying to establish their “native” credibility (likely true of the Southerners).

I recall a History Channel program which made laughably baseless claims of non-Indian settlements deep in the interior of North America thousands of years ago. Much of this is based on the belief that many of the “civilized tribes” had members with Caucasian features, including the Cherokee. Some whites who claim to be Cherokee say their ancestors were one of the tribes of Israel; others claim that it was the Welsh. Half the states in the union have ignored federal and Cherokee Nation requirements of genealogical proof and have recognized numerous so-called Cherokee bands; these bands allow anyone who claims to be “Cherokee” to become members of the “tribe.” To a person, these people are clearly Euro-American, and many make no pretense that they are not. In 2007 the state of Tennessee gave recognition—despite opposition from Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians—to a group calling itself the Central Band of Cherokee. However, earlier this year, the Bureau of Indian Affairs declined to recognize its legitimacy.

It is not hard to see why; the “band” was featured on that outrageous episode of the History Channel, in which the members claimed that their own white skin and features were “proof” that the ancestors of the Cherokee were the “lost tribe of Israel.” Although DNA testing proved their claims a fraud, the CBC still flies an Israeli flag over its “tribal” headquarters. These claims of non-Indian habitation before the Indian presence (which proliferated after the discovery of “Kennewick Man”) resembles the ideas of the Ahnenerbe, the Nazi SS “think tank” that, among other things, planned an expedition to the Inca ruins in order to discover “proof” that the ruins were actually built by a people of the Nordic race, thousands (nay, millions) of years earlier.

The CBC is one of five self-described “Cherokee tribes” in Tennessee which have no federal recognition. “One reason the Cherokee Nation opposes such groups is that such groups appropriate and distort our culture and our history. For example, this group identifying as the Central Band of Cherokee claim that they are the descendants of ancient Israelites, which is by far one of the wildest claims made by any of these groups,” said Richard Allen, a Cherokee policy analyst. “The Cherokee Nation has identified more than 200 such groups who claim to be new Cherokee bands, clans, tribes and nations. These groups cannot meet the requirements set forth by the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs Branch of Acknowledgement and Research.”

In 2008, the joint council between the two Cherokee bands passed a joint resolution opposing “fabricated Cherokee tribes and Indians.” It resolved that

“WHEREAS, the Cherokee Nation has been aware of a growing number of non-Indian groups claiming to be Cherokee tribes or bands and that these groups have been organizing and attempting to gain federal recognition, this problem being acknowledged by the Joint Council in Resolution No. 008, adopted on October 3, 1988 in Cherokee, North Carolina.”

“WHEREAS, public funding by pseudo-Cherokee Tribes is of epidemic proportions and often involves membership fees; misleading presentations to school children and interference in a multitude of government functions including child welfare cases…the sovereignty and reputation of the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, as well as members the general public continue to be in jeopardy due to the acts of individuals who organize and administer fabricated Cherokee tribe…untold millions of federal dollars that are appropriated for the benefit of tribal people are being diverted from their intended purpose, including money distributed by federal agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Native Americans, the Department of Labor, Department of Education, Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Joint Council of the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians do hereby support the federal recognition process ofthe Department of the Interior as administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Branch of Acknowledgment and Research, and endorse the criteria used by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as appropriate;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians denounce the state or federal recognition of any further 'Cherokee' tribes or bands, aside from the those already federally recognized, and commit to exposing and assisting state and federal authorities in eradicating any group which attempts or claims to operate as a government of the Cherokee people; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that no public funding from any federal or state government should be expended on behalf of non-federally recognized 'Cherokee' tribes or bands or the individual members thereof; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians shall call for a full accounting of all federal monies given to state recognized, unrecognized or SOI(c)(3) charitable organizations that claim any Cherokee affiliation.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the federal and state governments should stringently apply a federal definition of "Indian" that includes only citizens of federally recognized Indian tribes, to prevent non-Indians from selling membership in 'Cherokee' tribes for the purpose ofexploiting the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that no 501(c)(3) organization, state recognized or unrecognized groups shall be acknowledged as Cherokee,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that any individual who is not a member of a federally recognized Cherokee tribe, in academia or otherwise, is hereby discouraged from claiming to speak as a Cherokee, or on behalf of Cherokee citizens, or using claims of Cherokee heritage to advance his or her career or credentials.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this Resolution shall be the policy of the Joint Council of the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.

So obviously the Cherokees are touchy about who calls themselves a Cherokee, especially those claimants who disassociate with the “nation.” The tragic irony of the Cherokee story is that they were one of the most successful of the tribes to assimilate their culture with Euro-American ways. From the late 18th to the early 19th centuries, the Cherokee (along with other “civilized” tribes in the Southeast, like the Seminole and Chickasaw) adopted many “white” ways: They wrote a constitution based on the U.S. version, adopted European-style farming techniques, textile weaving, and housing. The Cherokee also concocted their own written alphabet and dictionary, and most Cherokee were literate in both Cherokee and English. Many willingly adopted Christianity, because of its message of “universal love.”

Yet none of this meant anything to racist whites; even in Connecticut, Cherokee leaders Elias Boudinot and John Ridge—American in every way save their race—were driven out of the state by irate mobs after they married local white women. Land-hungry whites also found the Indians difficult to tolerate; although the five “civilized tribes” land rights were accepted for a time, the increasing influx of European immigrants put pressure on the federal and state authorities to dispossess the Indians of their land. Oklahoma territory was established as the new home of the Cherokee (the eastern band survived by squatting on the land purchased by William Holland Thomas, a white man adopted by a Cherokee chief).

One would naturally sympathize with the plight of a people who tried to assimilate with white ways and integrate with their customs, and to a great degree the Cherokee did this in a way that we would have recognized as successful. You can find countless examples of Cherokees from the first half of the 19th century who in culture, dress and education appeared to be American, even establishing a constitution based on the American model. But Southerners, Georgians in particular, found it difficult to abide their presence. Georgia passed laws that made it virtually impossible for the Cherokee to continue as a semi-autonomous state; despite the aid of friendly lawmakers in Congress and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that denied that states had a right to dictate to Native Americans, Georgia ignored the ruling, and President Andrew Jackson supported federal legislation that simply made Georgia’s actions a fait accompli. Soon after came the infamous “Trail of Tears.”

Although the Cherokee were technically independent in their mostly barren Oklahoma territory, this couldn’t last long. White settlers lived on a fraction of Oklahoma territory, and for those who sought statehood, the Indians, who “owned” most of the territory, had to be marginalized. The federal government was only too obliging. Although the 1887 Dawes Act was initiated in good intentions—to “integrate” Native Americans into the wider culture by giving them “allotments” of land for which to farm, after which they would forget their Indian ways and become good American citizens—by the time the law was passed, it was so full of loopholes that it essentially became a land grab for non-Indians. Whites rushed into the territory, taking the best land before the allotment process even began. Most Cherokees by now had become cynical about the “fruits” of white civilization, and many simply refused or could not adjust to yet another change in their circumstances. The Burke amendment made it easier—or more coercive—for Indians to be given their allotments if deemed “competent.” Those who were not deemed “competent” saw their “allotment” sold off to whites. Since Indians “accepted” the allotments, this meant automatic U.S. citizenship—and thus subject to federal and state taxes. Many Indians did not even know they were in possession of land until they received the tax bill; when they could not pay the taxes, the land was essentially forfeited to white buyers. One effect of the Dawes Act that did have consequences for the present day was Dawes Rolls, which a sort of census of those eligible for the allotments.

Then came the Curtis Act in 1898, which essentially banned tribal government. By the time the first iteration of Cherokee Nation was dissolved in 1906, white residents could now claim control over all of Oklahoma territory, and Oklahoma became a state the following year. It would not be until the Meriam Report of 1928 revealed the shocking conditions that the Dawes Act had left Native Americans in that calls for reform gathered momentum. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 during the FDR administration allowed for the return of “surplus” land to Indian control instead being sold to whites, and funds were provided to purchase more; the reestablishment of tribal government was set in motion, although for a time the Cherokees remained under federal supervision until the 1970s.

One thorny issue missing from this narrative is the status of freedmen. When people think of “freedmen,” they naturally think of former slaves on Southern plantations. However, not all slaves resided on plantations owned by whites. All five “civilized tribes in the Southeast (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole) owned slaves—another sign of their adoption of “white ways.” The Cherokee apparently owned more slaves than the other tribes, and mixed white/Cherokee more than “FBIs” (full-blooded Indians). It is estimated that there were 20,000 slaves distributed among the five tribes at one point. Many Cherokee took their slaves with them on the “Trail of Tears.” During the Civil War, most of the “civilized tribes” supported the South, although a minority in each supported the Union cause. The federals treated with Cherokee who were Union sympathizers, who agreed to emancipate their slaves—although the in totality this meant little since most of the Cherokee slaves were in the hands of Confederate sympathizers; it is believed that in exchange for their support, the Confederate government promised the Indians their own “state,” although this was a promise they were unlikely to keep.

After the war, the five slave-owning “civilized” tribes were more or less coerced into signing the so-called Treaty of 1866, which among other things gave the newly freed slaves formerly owned by Indians the choice of leaving the reservations and becoming U.S. citizens, or remaining on the reservations and becoming citizens of the tribes, whether the tribes wanted them to or not. The Cherokee insisted that the freedmen had six months to make their claim one way or other, or else they would be denied tribal citizenship. Although some supported freedmen rights, most Cherokee have been fighting that condition ever since; all “principle chiefs” elected since the 1970s (including Wilma Mankiller) supported enfranchisement only for those who hold a “Certificate Of Degree Of Indian Blood.”

Cherokee Nation leaders insist that Dawes Roll is the only legitimate list of who may claim Cherokee citizenship along with their descendants. However, there is much disagreement if freedmen, who were listed separately on the Roll, should be regarded legitimately as tribal members—particularly those who dispersed after the break-up of tribal sovereignty in the early 20th century. Many Cherokee believe that the descendants of freedmen only want a handout at the expense of legitimate Native Americans, and this claim has been around for well over a century, when Cherokee claimed that freedmen had no right to tribal resources, and were taking government assistance that rightly should go only to legitimate Indians. These claims remain the main “selling point” for those opposed to freedmen citizenship in the tribes.

This is not to say that the descendants of freedmen don’t have legitimate rights and grievances. It must be remembered that slaves held by the “civilized” tribes were so against their will, and the tribes did profit from their labor. The tribes “owe” them something. Earlier, the Cherokee insisted that what they were “owed” was already given to the freedmen in the form of the Dawes land allotments. But the ultimate question should not be about resources; it should be “Who has the right to call themselves ‘Indian’ and if not, is this in conflict with tribal identity?” Native American identity has been under assault by non-Indians claiming to be “indigenous” or otherwise members of said tribes, while others have tried to delegitimize their status as the “first” Americans. Can Native Americans safely accept as “citizens” non-Indians (whether white or black), and still maintain their historical and cultural identity, accumulated over thousands of years?

Perhaps the question should come down to how well the descendants of freedmen have acculturated themselves to Cherokee mores; simply voting in elections and accepting the “benefits” of tribal membership while existing outside the “nation,” without concern to longstanding and deep-rooted issues confronting Native Americans and their relationship with the “outside” world, should not be sufficient to claim “citizenship.” However, those freedmen descendants who have no Cherokee “blood” but can demonstrate that they are active in the Cherokee community (and I mean the tribal, not black, community) should, on the other hand, have the right to claim citizenship in the tribe.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Rock star" Hillary a no-hit wonder

The rock star’s motorcade weaved its way through the streets of the city, lined with angry residents chanting for the “star” to leave town as they shouted insults, tossed shoes, tomatoes and water bottles to underline their contempt. No, the rock star wasn’t a Beatle who offended Imelda Marcos or Southern bible-belters, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a stop in Cairo on her final “rock star” tour of the world before she “retires” from politics, or so she claims. “Rock star” is the appellation the New York Times applied to Clinton last month (“Hillary Clinton’s Last Tour as a Rock-Star Diplomat,” written by Steven Lee Myers), in a nauseatingly flattering piece entirely devoid of perspective. “I would argue that Mrs. Clinton is perhaps the most significant secretary of state since Dean Acheson, who helped unify the relationship between modern Europe and the United States,” it quotes Google chairman Eric E. Schmidt, a Clinton supporter in 2008. Republican senator Lindsey Graham—who as a South Carolinian obviously has little pleasant to say about a black president—gushes “I think she’s represented our nation well. She is extremely well respected throughout the world, handles herself in a very classy way and has a work ethic second to none.”

As noted above, she is not “well respected” everywhere or by everyone, and “classy” is not the word I would use to describe her response to a question by a Congolese student back in 2009. And it is certainly embarrassing to compare Clinton to Acheson, who had a hand in not just shaping Cold War policy, but NATO, the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. Clinton’s most significant achievement as Secretary of State, according to the UK’s Daily Mail, is

“Since becoming secretary of state in 2009, Clinton has logged 351 days on the road, traveled to 102 countries and flown a whopping 843,839 miles, according to the State Department.” After breaking the “record” of 98 countries visited, “Not content, she tacked on another two countries — Mongolia and Laos, where she was the first secretary of state to visit in 57 years and only the second ever — on her latest trip. And she has another six months to go before she reaches her self-imposed deadline to step down and take a breather.” This is apparently what Graham means by “hardworking.”

I admit I am no fan of Hillary. The often bizarre and self-pitying behavior exhibited by herself (like the RFK assassination allusion) and her adherents (Harriet Christian, Bill’s meltdown during the South Carolina primary, feminist commentators like Bonnie Erbe who belittled and called on Barack Obama to step aside after the primaries). When under pressure, her behavior was in sharp contrast to Obama’s coolness, particularly when he was faced with such media assaults as the Rev. Wright “scandal.” Hillary, on the other hand, exhibited wild swings in temperament when confronted by adversity. While Obama seriously miscalculated when he believed that the Republicans would prefer to work with him rather than heed the racial paranoia of the party’s hardcore constituency, one should not assume the “what ifs” of a Hillary administration; as documented in the book “Game Change,” Hillary regarded anyone who did not pledge personal loyalty to be an enemy, which calls into question her ability to work with others (we only have to look to the 1993 health care reform battle). Hillary seemed only to function with the support an almost cult-like following; however, she seemed to have an inability to keep order within the cult, as each had a different idea on how to “serve” her. The Clintons could also be accused of having patronizing, demeaning attitudes concerning race, a sort of “love us or leave us” shtick; Bill insisted that white people would not vote for Obama, while Hillary insisted that she represented “working people, white Americans” at one campaign stop. I also have this suspicion that the Clinton’s were behind the Rev. Wright “exposé.”

To return to the New York Times piece, a strange narrative is described regarding Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng and cookstoves, an episode used to emphasize how foreign affairs is expertly handled in Hillary’s capable hands. Clinton arrived in China to view how China was progressing on their recent agreement to support the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, one of Hillary’s pet projects. The goal of the alliance is to put 100 million clean stoves in 100 million homes by 2020. Although the developing world is the principle target, China is expected to be a significant consumer of these stoves. The Global Alliance website has a video which depicts Somali women supposedly walking six miles to collect branches on a barren landscape, sometimes attacked by irate landowners whose land is being stripped by these marauders. The message is, of course, stilted and heavy-handed: “The land is being destroyed. The women must gather wood to survive. The wood is heavy. The burden causes injury and premature births. This is the story of one billion women (a made-up number, but who’s counting?). Women spend hours cooking each day. Cooking fires contribute to global warming. Fires put out black carbon in the atmosphere. Smoke makes women sick. Mothers keep children close to keep safe. Respiratory disease kills children. Mothers die too (the problem, as shown in the video, is improper ventilation; there are no stove pipes to channel smoke out safely).” With these new stoves, which use ethanol rather than wood, the women and children are seen clapping and dancing joyously as they view a demonstration.

However, last April another Times report found that there is scant evidence to support the Alliance’s lofty claims. A trial run for the stoves in India was particularly disturbing. 2,600 cookstoves were distributed in a rural India community, and their use was observed over a four-year period. The Times reported that

“The study found that acceptance and, crucially, usage, of a new stove wasn’t universal even initially, and usage declined rapidly over time, as stoves broke down and households failed to make the necessary repairs or investment in maintenance. Some households who’d voluntarily entered the lottery refused the new stove, even though it was heavily subsidized. Other households that accepted the improved stove continued to use their old stove alongside the new.”

As for the health benefits the new stove was alleged to provide,

“The researchers found, in the aggregate, no statistically valid evidence that the stoves had any measurable impact over a wide range of health outcomes, including lung function, infant birth weight, infant mortality, or even the chance of getting sick…Lastly, and most disturbingly, the researchers found that those who adopted the new stoves actually saw a decline in their living standards compared with their neighbors who hadn’t. They spent more time maintaining their new stoves (even though, as we saw, this wasn’t enough to keep the stoves usable in many cases), which took them away from income-earning opportunities, and there was no significant reduction in fuel costs or time spent cooking.”

As usual, the West never takes into consideration cultural mores, and tries to change what has worked for a millennium. Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser wrote in an op-ed piece that the failure of the India experiment “doesn’t imply that we should give up trying to improve indoor air quality — but it does mean we need to think about behavior as well as technology. Dumping stoves into the developing world isn’t going to alter the long-standing advantages of traditional methods. If we want to help people in poor countries, our engineering skills alone won’t be enough.”

And this is supposed to be one of Hillary’s successes as Secretary of State?

The other part of the story was the Chen controversy. When Chen escaped house confinement, his first demand was medical attention and for authorities to treat his complaints about harassment from local authorities. Chinese authorities apparently granted these desires behind the scenes, but then Chen demanded to leave the country; after some public tit-for-tat, the Chinese government allowed him to leave “officially” as a visiting American student. Upset that months of preparation for the cookstove summit would be go awry, Clinton was forced to accept the initiative of the unnamed diplomat who met Chen in secret and advised that he be taken to the American embassy. Reports—or rather opines the Times—“The next challenge was to resolve Chen’s fate in a way that wouldn’t scuttle essential Chinese cooperation on the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, the worsening conflict in Syria, the fighting between Sudan and South Sudan, cyberattacks emanating from China — and cookstoves. No one close to her would dare put it quite this way, but a question at the heart of her legacy is this: As important as the plight of Chen might be, what is it compared to the deaths of nearly two million people a year from toxic smoke in their kitchens?”

Where’s the Pepto?

I’m not sure how many people would die if the U.S. and China ever got into a shooting war, but as we have just heard, there is not much more consensus on how many people would die because they did not have those cookstoves—in fact, more people might die of starvation because they didn’t have their traditional cooking devices, just so Hillary can advance her personal gender agenda. Again, this is because activists in the West believe that just because the infrastructure supports for their modern convenience toys don’t exist (fuel stations and trained repairpersons, just for starters), that is no reason not to concoct a narrative of victims (women and children) and victimizers (men)—even if in ways they don’t understand, that they are victimizers as well. I suppose it is also useful to point out that China has not been very cooperative in the past concerning those other pesky issues, and it was clear that it was throwing her a face-saving bone in regard to those cookstoves. There is no point in bloating this puff-piece any more than necessary.

As Obama’s first term in the White House winds down, and Hillary serves out her last few months, the media and even Republicans have come out in praise of her. “Libya was a good showcase into who she is. I said at one time during this debate, Thank God for strong women” said Graham. I saw one magazine cover call her “Head of State.” How pompous. How full of “it.” Hillary is praised for making the State Department her personal fiefdom—which she has done by ruthlessly packing it with her disciples and yes-people, the Clinton “cult.” She cannot tolerant dissent within the ranks; she takes it “personally.” Even criticism of Clinton’s performance as “head of state” is couched in empathetic terms; the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens only faulted her for “loyalty” to Obama, and she “could not be held accountable for the failures of a president she understood to be a lightweight.” The problem with that statement is that the facts indicate that Obama is no more a “lightweight” than Clinton. As a senator, Obama teamed with Richard Lugar to craft a non-proliferation initiative. What did Hillary do? During the 2008 primaries she claimed to “help bring peace to Northern Ireland.” But the actual negotiator, George Mitchell, confessed that the First Lady’s role was limited to being “one of many people who participated in encouraging women to get involved, not the only one." Irish commentators at the time expressed surprise at the audacity of her claims. Her stories about dodging bullets in Bosnia had as much credibility as her tale about “negotiating” open borders in Kosovo: "I cannot recall any involvement by Senator Clinton in this issue," said the top American envoy involved in those negotiations. Clinton also claimed that she knew how to “handle” China—based on a speech she gave on women’s issues in Beijing in 1995.

Clinton has survived with her manufactured “image” intact partly because she wasn’t involved in the bruising domestic policy battles, and because the Clinton name still has some “cachet.” The fact that most people think of Bill before Hillary is due to his perceived empathy with common people, while Hillary is limited to being a “symbol” to certain demographics. That her stature is dependent upon that of her husband’s was doubtless the reason for her going off-the-handle when that male Congolese student’s question about whether she discussed policy issues with Obama was mistranslated to refer to Bill. “My husband is not secretary of state, I am. If you want my opinion I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband.”

Obama has been criticized for not allowing Clinton “free reign.” Again we are dealing with excuses to explain Clinton’s lack of a single imposing accomplishment. Her “all-in” approach to the Palestinian problem is symptomatic of an inability to understand the fineries of negotiations. Is this because she lacks the true skills required of delicate diplomacy? While it was Obama who has been criticized as being “anti-Israel,” it was Hillary’s comments that have provided that impression. And we should not forget that Hillary’s true passion has been her “gender agenda.” She may have time to make the occasional pointed speech about Syria or Russia, but these sound less like policy statements than her personal opinions.

And all too often, it was Obama’s—not Hillary’s—instincts that were correct. Obama knew that country was tired of the Iraq adventure and wished to linger there no longer than necessary; but Hillary wanted the military to maintain an indefinite presence. But this would have only made U.S. troops there a continuing target for militant action. As implied by Graham’s comment, Hillary was credited for the successful conclusion of the ousting of Libya’s dictator, yet this was anti-Obama talk. Clinton opposed intervention in Libya during the uprising there; Obama, however, supported compelling Europe and NATO to take a lead role in a “no-fly” air campaign to support the Libyan rebels. This campaign was in fact a victory for Obama, with Clinton playing only a grudging supporting role. Yet Lindsay referred to it as a “victory” brought about by a “strong woman.” One suspects that Republicans are trying to this late-stage praise campaign to draw Hillary cultists, still angry about 2008, away from Obama in 2012.

There is some speculation that Clinton will run for president in 2016. She will claim to have foreign policy experience that her opponent will presumably not have. That may be true. But it is also true that she was no less an “amateur” in foreign policy than what the new Edward Klein book brands Obama as president. Opponents would no doubt point to her lack of accomplishment, and the fact that in regard to domestic policy, her “experience” is still of little more substance than her years as First Lady.