Thursday, October 20, 2005 at 10:02 AM
Weather reports indicate that Hurricane Wilma is tracking to make landfall on the west coast of Florida on Saturday. And, it does not bode well that this hurricane has already churned up the record as the strongest hurricane ever formed in the Americas.
But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has given the U.S. residents in Wilma’s path more than adequate assurances that FEMA is poised to ensure that there will be no repeat of their Katrina disorganization and neglect.
Unfortunately, without resources so readily available to Americans, my family and friends in the Caribbean and Mexico stand at the mercy of Mother Nature as every hurricane passes by. And, thus far, Wilma has flooded many of our homes in Jamaica, the Turks and Caicos and Cayman Islands; killed 11 people in Haiti by landslides; and forced mass evacuations in Cuba and Mexico (as they now cower and await their fate).
Therefore, our prayers are with the truly helpless as they weather this hurricane…
Wednesday, October 19, 2005 at 10:29 AM
As this previous article illustrates, I’m a big fan of the maverick President of Venezuela – Hugo Chavez. I fully support the poverty alleviation programmes he’s implemented to empower historically poor and disenfranchised Venezuelans.
But, as this previous article illustrates, I am no fan of the reprobate President of Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe. I abhor his dictatorial rule and rank cronyism that have turned Zimbabwe from a net exporter of food into one where millions of its people face chronic starvation.
Indeed, it is noteworthy that Chavez redistributed land from rich aristocrats who sat on it as their private reserve, to poor farmers who are using it to grow bountiful harvests. By contrast, Mugabe redistributed land from white farmers who provided bountiful harvests annually, to his political cronies who are sitting on it as their private preserve – whilst their own people starve to death! (And, for good measure, Mugabe politically cleansed Zimbabweans he suspected of opposing this kleptocratic redistribution of wealth.)
Therefore, I was profoundly dismayed when I saw pictures of Chavez embracing Mugabe at the 60th Annual Summit of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome on Monday. And my dismay only deepened when I read reports about the effrontery of Mugabe lambasting Europe and America for starving his people by blaming their agricultural subsidies for “crippling the development of agriculture in [Zimbabwe]“. He then perfected his deflection of blame by offering this resonant rhetorical canard:
“Must we allow these men, the two unholy men of our millennium, who in the same way as Hitler and Mussolini formed [an] unholy alliance, form an alliance to attack an innocent country?”
But, never mind my dismay, what does such an embrace convey to the oppressed blacks of Zimbabwe who look to latter-day Robin Hoods like Chavez and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa to come to their aid? And, what are we to make of the credibility of purported humanitarians and international statesmen who applauded Mugabe’s patently hypocritical demagoguery? After all, there can be no more pathological example of “the pot calling the kettle black” than Mugabe comparing President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler.
Note: To President Chavez – Not every enemy of your enemy is your friend….Robert Mugabe was not worthy of your embrace!
Endnote: For the record, the United States donates more food aid to poor countries than any other country by a considerable margin. And I have no doubt that every delegate attending that hunger summit is perfectly aware of this fact. Therefore, it demonstrates an acute and perverse strain of spite and ingratitude for these delegates to encourage Mugabe’s megalomania; especially since they are also acutely aware that he has politically cleansed Zimbabweans who dared to oppose his dictatorship, and deliberately consigned others to death by stubbornly refusing food aid from America.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005 at 9:46 AM
Once again, Japanese PM Koizumi has made quite a jingoistic show of visiting the Yasukuni War Shrine to pay homage to Japan’s war dead. On such previous occasions, China issued pro forma statements expressing outrage at Japan’s unqualified reverence for soldiers the Chinese regard as nothing more than warmongering imperialists and war criminals. (In fact, many of those honoured at this shrine were convicted as war criminals by the Allied Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal in 1948.)
China’s statement of protest this time, however, is conspicuous for its heated rhetoric. And, Asian tensions were only exacerbated last night when South Korea issued its own statement of protest – out of respect, one presumes, for its citizens who were also victims of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Japanese.
In conversation with a European friend about this international spat, she expressed bewilderment that China and South Korea would take offense at a Japanese PM visiting a shrine to his fallen comrades in his own country. In response to her bewilderment, I merely posed the following questions:
How do you suppose the Poles, French and British would feel if Chancellors of Germany made a similar show of annual pilgrimages to a shrine to Nazi war dead to pay homage to Adolf Hitler and other SS war criminals?
And, surely you’re aware that the Japanese committed atrocities against the Chinese and Koreans that were very much in kind to the atrocities the Germans committed against the Jews and other Europeans during World War II?
My friend responded to these rhetorical questions with an appropriate moment of silence (eventually conceding that my point was “well-taken”). And, I hope that anyone who wonders what this Yasukuni shrine fuss is all about will find these questions just as instructive.
Nevertheless, I invite you to click here to read my previous article on this conflict – which is only one of many simmering (political) skirmishes threatening to destabilize relations between Japan and its Asian neighbours in years to come. And, click here and here to read more on the statements issued by China and South Korea.
Monday, October 17, 2005 at 11:41 AM
Minister Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam (NOI) marked the 10th Anniversary of their Million Man March (the March) by calling black men, women and children to the National Mall again on Saturday to launch their Millions More Movement (the Movement). But, since I am still in despair over the dashed hopes and broken promises from the March, I thought it would be too politically masochistic to join the Movement.
Thanks to C-SPAN, however, I could not resist tuning in from the comfortable home that my Caribbean work ethic and unparalleled opportunities in America have enabled me to own. And it saddens me to affirm that what I saw of Saturday’s activities vindicated my decision not to dignify this occasion with my presence.
(Incidentally, it seems appropriate to note here that the most instructive and useful message of the day was delivered as a self-deprecating aside by fellow West Indian native Wyclef Jean. He begged the crowd to excuse his perfect English as he shared his immigrant story of coming to America at the age of 10, speaking not a word of English and soon working several jobs at once – “the way we West Indians do” – to get by. He ended his story by declaring this self-evident truth: that if he could achieve such stellar success in America, then there was no reason why every black American could not do the same! Unfortunately, speaking such obvious truths was not on the Movement’s agenda for this day, as every other speaker – with one notable exception – made patently clear.)
Minister Louis Farrakhan is easily the most articulate, visionary, inspiring, provocative, dynamic and intelligent public speaker in America today (as he has been for decades). But many of us who have been energized and moved by his anti-establishment polemics have come to realise that Farrakhan is little more than a performer who delivers speeches full of sound and fury, signifying nothing and then is heard no more … until his next curtain call.
For example, in March 1995 Farrakhan led an army of one million black men in a spirited denunciation of white supremacy. But, more importantly, he exhorted blacks to atone for their self-inflicted maladies and for the serial failures of black leadership. Of course the irony that his failures ar paramount in this respect was completely lost on him.
Yet he exuded such infectious majesty on this occasion that even pedestrian black leaders delivered speeches about self-help, black empowerment and personal responsibility with so much eloquence that one might have mistaken them for historical black luminaries like Booker T Washington, Frederick Douglas, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. But none of them reached the rhetorical heights where Farrakhan’s rhetoric soared – from the opening of his speech until he ended it with this, now trademark, pitch:
Now brothers, the last thing we want to say, we want to develop an economic development fund….Inside of one month, we would have over $100 million. And in one year, we would have $1 billion…which means that no Black organization will be accountable to anybody outside of us….How many of you would like to see all our Black organizations free?
A task force will be formed…to make sure that the things that we say today will be implemented….[W]e want an outside accounting firm to come in and scrutinize every dollar that was raised from your pockets to make the Million Man March a success….We will come back…and we will account for every nickel, every dime, every dollar…so that you can trust. I put my life on this.
To rob you is a sin. To use you and abuse you is a sin. To make mockery of your love and your trust is a sin. And we repent of all sin and we refuse to do sin anymore.
I’m ashamed to confess that I not only bought every word Farrakhan uttered but also contributed to his phantom Economic Development Fund (EDF). Because, as best as I can discern, none of the black empowerment initiatives he outlined or the fiduciary promises he made were executed or fulfilled - if they were ever intended to be. Frankly, it shall redound to his eternal shame that Farrakhan did, in fact, use and abuse the trust we vested in him and (did) make a mockery of the love we bestowed upon him as a leader who, we hoped, would create a “third force” to compel the American establishment to address the concerns of the poor and powerless.
Therefore, watching the events of last Saturday, I had an appalling sense of déjà vu as speaker after speaker delivered essentially the same words I heard 10 years ago. Only this time, instead of projecting the aura of historical black luminaries mentioned above, they looked and sounded more like second-rate actors spouting off hackneyed lines about Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq. And instead of professing atonement for their own sins, they were blaming President Bush for everything from causing the levee breaks in New Orleans to cutting back their welfare checks.
Indeed, what I witnessed, from my 1995 vantage point, was a bunch of unrepentant and otherwise misguided thieves returning to the scene of their crime and pulling off the same heist a decade later. Specifically, one of the longest speeches on Saturday was a shameless (but decidedly shameful) solicitation for money by one of Farrakhan’s boosters. And in what must be a patented NOI version of Three Card Monty, he entertained the crowd with jokes (like a Saturday night comedian) and threw them a few religious platitudes (like a Sunday morning preacher) all whilst coaxing them to put their “Benjamins [100 dollar bills] in the receptacles” (like an everyday street hustler).
(Incidentally, these receptacles were conveniently placed all over the Mall and guarded like Fort Knox by NOI praetorian guards. But can anyone recall a rally or march on the Mall where the organizers had more receptacles for collecting cash than trash?)
To deliver Saturday’s pièces de résistance (think Sermon on the Mount), Farrakhan descended the steps of the Capitol like a deus ex machina (black saviour) – escorted by his personal security detail from the Fruit of Islam (FOI) – and wowed the longsuffering crowd with vintage farrakhanisms. The highlight (or most irresponsible part of his speech depending on one’s vantage point) was his call for a separate black government of the United Sates comprised of “black, brown, red and poor people” and complete with Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Trade and Commerce, Defense, Information and Religion. And he promised it would be a government that would forge economic and political solidarity with a United States of Africa and a United States of Latin America and the Caribbean. (W.E.B. DuBois and Jomo Kenyatta must have been rolling over in their graves.)
Intriguing stuff … until one realises that it’s merely a repackaging of the grand platform for the “global advancement of black people” he presented 10 years ago. But to perfect his recidivism, Farrakhan prefaced the end of his speech with that familiar refrain: “Now brothers [and sisters] we need money. Only instead of using the pretext of an EDF, he announced the founding of a National Skills Bank where millions of black people who wish to contribute to his borrowed vision of a Pan-African world could register their names “for a small deposit of $20″ and donate “as many Benjamins as you can.” (Farrakhan even pulled a $100 bill out of his pocket at this point and held it above his head so that there could be no confusion between Benjamins and Georges [one dollar bills] when these new suckers make their deposits.)
As for the “millions” who attended, you can believe NOI counters or your lying eyes….
Of course, I won’t be at all surprised if – 10 years from now – Farrakhan has nothing of substance to show for all of his talk about the Movement. And I suspect that many other black men are just as cynical. After all, these aerial shots – juxtaposing the one million men who heeded Farrakhan’s call in 1995 (left) with the smattering of men, women and children who heeded his call on Saturday (right) – provide irrefutable evidence that many of us have become justifiably disillusioned with Farrakhan’s hollow words and no longer wish to be associated with him.
(Though listening to speaker after speaker marvel at the “millions” in attendance on Saturday and suggesting that DC authorities might deliberately undercount them for political reasons, one got a sense of people lamely propagating a big lie about the size of the crowd to serve their own political agenda.)
But before too many people register (i.e., pay) to be used, abused and mocked yet again, I urge all black people of conscience (especially journalists) to demand the financial reports Farrakhan promised in 1995 would be forthcoming on an annual basis to ensure fiscal transparency and good governance of his EDF. And, to help frame our demands in this regard, here are just a few threshold questions I would ask Farrakhan to answer, if I had the chance:
1. What is the name of the “outside accounting firm” you promised would audit all of the fiscal activities of the people you appointed to manage the EDF?
2. You suggested in 1995 that “in one year, we could have $1 billion” in the EDF. What was the total amount collected by this fund?
3. One of the most dramatic and “uplifting” moments during your speech in 1995 was when you said that, with so much money in the EDF, you would have your board “call in Myrley Evers Williams and ask her, what the budget of the NAACP is for this year? $13 million? $15 million? Write a check.” How many checks, and in what amounts, Minister Farrakhan, did your EDF managers write to the order of the NAACP and other minority organizations over the past 10 years?
4. Please tell us what three going concerns (whether businesses, development projects or community outreach programmes), which have been funded by seed money from the EDF, you are most proud of?
5. You have an impressive network of Mosques all over this country and you seem indiscriminate in your solicitations to help black and poor people of all races, religions and creeds. Therefore, can you tell us what, besides selling recordings of your inspiring words (many of which, I confess, I purchased before the March), has your NOI done to better the lives on non-Muslims in America?
Meanwhile, if purported civil rights leaders (like-fathering-babies-out-of-wedlock) Rev. Jesse Jackson and (chronically-indebted) Rev. Al Sharpton had any credibility or clout left, they would’ve quieted Farrakhan by raising these questions through private admonitions long ago. Instead, there they were on Saturday shadowing Farrakhan, hoping to bask in his reflected glow….
NOTE: At one point in his speech, Farrakhan ridiculed the $40 billion debt relief African Heads of State negotiated with G8 countries a few months ago. He reasoned that, since England alone had exploited more than a trillion dollars from the African continent, this concession was, in fact, an insult (implying, of course, that the Africans are too ignorant or provincial to recognize this). But his reasoning begs the following question: Since black Americans claim that white Americans amassed trillions of dollars by exploiting their labour for centuries, how much have Farrakhan and other enlightened black Americans negotiated in reparations from white Americans? Answer: Nothing! (But HR40 is still pending in Congress….)
ENDNOTE: As indicated above, there was one notable exception to Saturday’s slew of utterly forgettable speeches. And that redeeming moment came when Erykah Badu took centre stage and refused to sing. Instead, she lectured the crowd about the categorical imperatives of self-love, self-respect and self-determination, all of which she found so sorely lacking in most of them. Alas, as one can well imagine, she came across to these black folks like a skunk at a garden party.
Yet Erykah never sounded so inspired, and I was really loving it until Farrakhan’s chief of staff and son-in-law, Leonard Muhammad, entered stage right. (Most Americans would recognize Mr Muhammad as the dark, brooding emissary Farrakhan sent to manage Michael Jackson’s security and, more importantly, his coveted finances after MJ was arrested on charges of child molestation. One wonders what ingenious and intimidating slights of hand were involved in establishing that short-lived association of convenience.)
At any rate, Mr Muhammad approached Erykah – as the crowd sat in eerie silence – and appeared to whisper what I suspect were words to the effect of “shut up and sing, bitch!” Because as soon as he left the stage – as stealthily as he appeared – Erykah began singing like a wounded canary. And, the Movement proceeded as planned….
Asalamu alaikum, Allahu akbar!
Sunday, October 16, 2005 at 12:18 PM
Saturday, October 15, 2005 at 11:20 AM
I’m not sure why anyone was shocked, shocked that White House news producers staged a teleconference this week featuring President Bush and properly rehearsed American and Iraqi soldiers to tout the pockets of success in their fight against Islamic jihadists and Iraqi insurgents. After all, these same producers have staged almost everything Bush has done since he began his excellent adventure to become president of the United States in 2000.
The only difference here is that we got an inadvertent glimpse behind the curtain to see these crafty wizards manufacturing the news that they wanted the President and his soldiers to present to the American people on this newsworthy occasion.
Embarrassing – yes! Shocking – no!
Click here for a detailed transcript of what the image above depicts, appropriately, in cartoon fashion.
Not to be outdone, however, on the very morning they reported the scandal of the White House manufacturing news, the NBC TODAY “show” was caught manufacturing a bit of news of its own. In this instance, a reporter with an obvious flair for the dramatic, Michelle Kosinski, thought it would be far more newsworthy for her to been seen paddling a canoe in 3 inches of New Jersey flood waters than simply walking through it as most sensible people would.
Indeed, this point was made with hysterical clarity when, at precisely the moment Kosinski went live to repeat the breaking news of “flood waters so high that one needs a canoe to get around,” two completely disinterested men ruined her report by walking into camera range – displacing water with the evident ease of a child having a splashing good time in a rain puddle in his backyard.
Embarrassing – yes! Shocking – no!
Click here to see the video of the intrepid Kosinski doing her live audition for a role in the sequel to Broadcast News.
Note: The next time you see one of those fearless reporters risking life and limb in a hurricane to bring you the news that it’s, ur, “pouring rain and the winds are blowing something fierce,” don’t be surprised to learn that just outside camera range is one of those big fans blowing gale force winds at him – just for dramatic effect.
And, that’s the news folks…stay tuned!
Friday, October 14, 2005 at 9:50 AM
In the aftermath of Los Angeles cops being caught on tape beating Rodney King to a pulp, I was obliged to explain to my dumfounded white friends why so many black men resist arrest – so reflexively. It is regrettable, therefore, that video taken last week of New Orleans cops beating the hell out of an old black man obliges me to do so yet again.
Many white people seem to think that black men resist arrest because they are either high on drugs (as Rodney King was), have just committed a crime and are trying to flee (like all criminals do) or are just plain stupid and have no respect for authority (which, alas, is true in some cases). But the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of us are inclined to resist arrest because of a socialization process that has imbued us with the reasonable suspicion that when white policemen stop us, they often do so just to harass or beat us – based on no probable cause at all.
[However, no amount of commentary can convey this psycho-sociological pathology with greater clarity or poignancy than a scene from the movie "Crash" that is now out on DVD. It is a scene – all too familiar to blacks in real life - where white cops stop a black couple (for DWB – driving while black). And, the way those cops “check out” and interrogate the couple is enough to put the proverbial chip on the shoulder of any self-respecting black man...for life.
For the edification of white folks who see Crash, it might help you to know that most of us identify with the rage that comes out of the woman in the scene that follows; which means, of course, that most black men in that situation would have been all over that cop and would probably have ended up badly beaten or, more likely, dead.
If you haven’t seen this movie, I recommend it highly. But I digress...]
In this case, long-time New Orleans resident Robert Davis insists that he gave the police no probable cause to arrest him. And, that when “all of them came at me, I feared for my life.” For their part, the cops report that Davis was drunk and disorderly. (An ironic charge considering that “drunk and disorderly” is precisely the behaviour city officials promote as part of the revenue-generating Mardi Gras culture of New Orleans). The cops also claim that Davis was “shuffling along and bumping into people and had to be restrained for his protection and theirs.” And, they insist that they followed “standard procedures” to accomplish this law enforcement task.
It begins with four young and armed police officers surrounding the elderly Davis;
They have him pinned with his face against the wall and his hands behind his back;
Then suddenly one of the officers begins pummeling Davis in the back of his head;
Only then does Davis react and a scuffle ensues;
The officers wrestle Davis to the ground where, even though he’s clearly restrained, one of them continues punching him above the shoulders (whether on the head or in the face, one cannot see at this point);
The final scene shows Davis writhing, virtually unconscious, on the ground in a pool of blood.
Now, only a defense lawyer – doing his best to keep these rouge cops out of prison – would argue that they only used reasonable force to arrest Davis; and that, whatever beating he got, Davis “brought it on by his actions.” But, if Davis can substantiate his claim that he hasn’t had a drink – in 25 years - their defense is shot!
Meanwhile, some of their lay-defenders are claiming that the stress of losing their homes and having to cope with the post-Katrina chaos caused these cops to commit this brutal assault on Davis. But, besides being a fatuous argument on its face, the people making it are probably the same ones who condemned as criminals the poor blacks who were compelled to steal bread and water after losing their homes and being abandoned by local and federal officials.
Nevertheless, I suspect that even the jurors who acquitted the cops involved in the Rodney King assault would convict these cops in less time than it took the OJ jurors to acquit him. (Did you get that?)
The real story here is that, despite all of the purported racial awareness and sensitivity training, too many white cops (all over America) still seem empowered and motivated by stereotypes in their dealings with black people. And, only God knows how many other black men have been treated this way but have no way of challenging the police brutality against them because it was not caught on tape.
Thursday, October 13, 2005 at 10:23 AM
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg - who demonstrated fearless leadership by taking the subway to work despite what he thought was a credible threat – is seen in this photo-op calming and commiserating with an equally fearless New Yorker – who probably thought the terror alert was a joke when he announced it
I know a number of people who cancelled meetings in New York after the Mayor announced last Thursday that “specific and credible intelligence” compelled him to put the city on the most heightened terror alert since 9/11. But making such announcements and altering plans in reaction to them is not only unwarranted but also self-defeating. After all, these responses only embolden terrorists to make more threats – hoping to incite more terror and disrupt our lives in perpetuity.
Moreover, it seems farcical for the Mayor to have encouraged New Yorkers to “go about your daily activities as usual” whilst deploying a phalanx of prophylactic security measures around the city that resembled a Gilbert and Sullivan Broadway production more than anything designed to combat terrorism. Indeed, as if only to complete this farce, after the Mayor had thrown the city into a surreal state of simultaneous calm and panic, it was disclosed on Tuesday that the intelligence he claims compelled his action was nothing more than a hoax. Evidently, a disgruntled Iraqi informant thought he’d get back at his American spymasters by feeding them disinformation. (But the joke’s not on the Mayor and NYC; it’s on everyone who longs to live in freedom).
Nevertheless, does anyone really believe that if suicide bombers were planning to blow-up trains on the NYC subway that they would have attempted to go underground at a station guarded by a cauldron of police donning mad-max body armour and carrying machine guns that fire over 500 shots per minute? And, since the Mayor made public the (alleged) intelligence about them hiding bombs in baby carriages or backpacks, does anyone think that the bombers would have shown up pushing baby carriages or carrying backpacks – even if they were stupid enough to go to one of those “stake-out” stations?
Yet, for almost a week, TV screens all over America were saturated with images of battle-ready policemen eyeballing commuters as they entered SOME of the targeted subway stations; and images of their comrades-in-arms underground scanning the baby carriages of European nannies and rummaging the backpacks of WASPY coeds – searching in vain for those fabled bombs. Meanwhile, if they chose, would-be bombers had virtual EZ passes at all kinds of other “high value targets” in New York City and even at a nuclear plant just outside the city that, if hit, would have made the subway bombings seem like firecrackers by comparison.
I should hasten to clarify that I do not think complete resignation in the face of such terrorist threats is the way to go. It behooves us all, however, to face the reality that there’s simply no way New York or any city can protect its residents from suicide bombers. And, it’s only a costly diversion – bordering on the theatre of the absurd – for government officials to mount such gratuitous show of force in response to terror threats.
Therefore, instead of turning their cities into Orwellian fortresses, government officials should be recruiting individuals to infiltrate these terrorist organizations and using any means necessary to disabuse terrorists of their jihadist ambitions. After all, no country has been on a more heightened terror alert since 9/11 than the United Kingdom. Yet, despite its labyrinth of security measures – including surveillance cameras on every street and at every underground station – terrorists still struck in the heart of London on 7/7.
Alas, broadcasting intelligence reports about a planned terrorist attack, no matter how reliable, will not deter terrorists. In fact, the only thing such announcements do is provide government officials a pretext to show-off their arsenal of police weapons that, ironically, only exacerbates the terror they’re supposed to allay.
The silver lining in this instance though is that, perhaps, this hoax will cause the Mayor and others to spare us any more terror alerts and just allow anti-terror analysts and the military to do their best to engage terrorists where they live, plan and train for their diabolical deeds. Besides, with their big barrel machine guns, chances are – if they did spot a suicide bomber on the subway – trigger-happy NY policemen would probably kill more people trying to arrest him than the bomber would’ve killed if he had detonated his bomb. (Remember how many bullets reserved London policemen put in that innocent Brazilian commuter - after they had him restrained – because, they claim, he was acting suspiciously…like a terrorist?)
UPDATE: It seems President Bush was briefed on this article because, late this afternoon, he had his CIA director announce the formation of a new spy shop called the National Clandestine Agency to enhance “American overseas spying activities.” Fewer guns, more spies = better intelligence. It’s elementary!
Wednesday, October 12, 2005 at 10:28 AM
Sex education in the age of HIV/AIDS seems to have had little impact on sexual behaviour in the United States. Because, despite all of the alarming reports about the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs, Americans are just as careless in their sexual dalliances today as they were during the heyday of the sexual revolution – when their only concern was whether an unwanted pregnancy might result from their one-night stands.
On Monday, MSNBC and Zogby International published the results of the most extensive sex survey ever undertaken which show that nearly one third of the 56,000 adult men and women polled begin new sexual relationships without asking a single question about their new lover’s sexual history or practices. And, even more troubling, the results show that twice as many people (66%) routinely have unprotected sex on first encounters – after lubricating their good sense with alcohol.
No doubt there are myriad reasons why otherwise responsible adults behave so irresponsibly when it comes to sex. But one must wonder why, given the stakes involved, more people don’t at least insist on using condoms. (Too embarrassed? Mood killer?)
Of course, with all of this unprotected sex going on, one must also wonder why more Americans aren’t contracting HIV/AIDS. But perhaps there’s something to be said for the cognitive dissonance about the fatality of this virus amongst these players of “sexual roulette.” Because other surveys have shown that a critical mass of heterosexuals now believe that only men who engage in promiscuous buggery (anal sex) and the chronically poor (who have never been immunized for anything) face serious risk of HIV infection.
Moreover, it’s become self-evident that AIDS is not an automatic death sentence as once thought and that the cocktail of drugs to treat it allows those infected to live almost as they would with any other non-lethal STD. And, that’s HIV and AIDS in the 21st Century…for Americans.
Note: Even if early childhood vaccinations help protect you against HIV/AIDS (and I suspect we can all recall the battery of shots we had to endure), it still seems foolhardy to bonk a person whose name, to say nothing of sexual history, you barely know – unless you insist on using a condom!
Tuesday, October 11, 2005 at 11:56 AM
Crude, but true; and here’s why:
The idle rich spend veritable fortunes adorning themselves in these glittering gems. But it’s about time that people of conscience join the muzzled voices that are exposing diamond merchants for the nefarious hustlers they are. Because these are people who – through shrewd marketing – have so hoodwinked the world that most people now regard these frivolous accessories as a basic, even if costly, necessity. And, in this regard, diamond merchants are no different from drug dealers who hook thrill-seeking suckers on dope that inevitably becomes a more important necessity in their lives than food itself.
Women - ask yourselves why you would feel cheapened and profoundly disappointed in your fiancé if he gave you a small diamond ring or, God forbid, no diamond ring at all to mark your engagement; especially if you know that he could easily afford a big rock? But, apart from the vain glory of showing-off a big shiny rock on your finger, how many of you even understand the concocted terms of art for assessing the artificial value of diamonds? (Have you seen any of those PrimeTime Live television exposés where diamond merchants are caught peddling cubic zirconias to giddy lovers who know as much about the 4cs (color, clarity, cut, and carat weight) as they do about rocket science?
Men – ask yourselves what – besides the ego satisfaction and fringe benefits (sex with trophy wives) that come with catering to the superficial desires of women – do you get from spending so much money on diamonds?
And, as enlightened human beings – we should ask ourselves why we perpetuate the sparkling but illusory aura of diamonds by pretending that they have intrinsic value. After all, diamonds are nothing but bits of shiny rock that poor blacks in Africa spend every daylight hour digging from mines and sifting from mud pits, in conditions worse than those that slaves in America laboured under whilst picking cotton 150 years ago. And, no matter how much sexy advertising campaigns gloss over the blood, sweat and tears of diamond production, there’s no denying that the retail culture of these gems thrives on the cruel and inhumane treatment of our fellow human beings.
For a little perspective, consider the sometimes violent protests by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) against wearing fur. These activists vent justifiable outrage against people who self-indulgently accessorize their clothing with fur (a “slaughter jacket”) that they know is derived from the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals. Therefore, where’s the outrage against people who self-indulgently adorn their bodies with diamonds that they know is derived from the barbaric exploitation of human labour? (After all, at least the hedonistic fur wearers can make the argument – albeit specious – that it keeps them warm. By contrast, what utility is there in diamonds?)
At any rate, the next time you see one of those slick commercials or magazine ads telling you that you’re a loser or that your love means nothing without diamonds to seal your bond, think of the poor blacks slaving away in some dirt pit in Africa so that diamond merchants can lay that self-serving and sanctimonious guilt trip on you. Indeed, think also of the diamond profiteers (like diamond’s grand wizards and patrons of Apartheid - the Oppenheimers of DeBeers in South Africa) who remain feudal lords to black miners. Because the Oppenheimers and their diamond cabal laugh all the way to the bank at the stupid Americans who buy 55% of the world’s diamonds and who seem to have bought – hook, line and sinker “that diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”
Note- To my nouveau riche black brothers who have taken the pagan worship of diamonds to crass extremes: Please, you are behaving like those freed slaves who wanted nothing more than to own more black slaves than their former masters. Wise up, kick your bling bling habit and use that money that you’re wasting on diamonds to plant seeds of urban development to help supplant the ghetto blight you rap about!
Endnote- To all diamond lovers: Don’t let anyone sell you on the morally relative argument that “certified or pure” diamonds that come from the sanctioned exploitation of blacks by internationally recognized governments (e.g. diamonds from South Africa) are acceptable; whereas, “conflict or blood” diamonds that come from similar exploitation of blacks – only by rebel forces fighting for control of their national governments (e.g. diamonds from Angola or Sierra Leone) – are not. Because the so-called “Certificate of Origin” or “Kimberly Process” is merely a ruse by white merchants who control international trafficking in diamonds to sanitize their gems that are, in fact, just as tainted by human misery as the diamonds that come from black rebels.
The only difference here is in degree and form; i.e., black rebels who purvey diamonds from conflict zones are like street muggers who steal your purse; whereas, white merchants who purvey diamonds in cahoots with enabling governments and boutique retailers are like corporate thieves who steal your pension and life savings (Enron, WorldCom).
It is interesting to note, however, that some white merchants are becoming sufficiently conflicted about the sordid black provenance of diamonds that they are actively researching ways to manufacture diamonds using hydrogen and methane gas. And, if this development does not debunk the myth of diamonds, then nothing will.
Monday, October 10, 2005 at 10:31 AM
In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue: Here’s the course he sailed on a misadventure that took him to the Caribbean when he thought he had landed in India. But, in typical Eurocentric fashion, he named the natives he met there “Indians” anyway and the rest, alas, is HIStory.
Americans have been celebrating an annual Christopher Columbus holiday for centuries. In 1971, the U.S. Congress declared the second Monday in October a federal holiday in honour of this sea-faring Italian. And, many countries throughout the Americas and the Caribbean mark similar holidays in his name.
Monday, October 10, 2005 at 10:18 AM
I’m not one to say I told you so: But Germany’s 18 September national elections – that resulted in a presidential standoff between incumbent Herr Schröder and challenger Frau Merkel - finally ended yesterday on precisely the terms I predicted.
Sunday, October 9, 2005 at 10:40 AM
Our prayers go out to the people of South Asia who were rocked by a massive earthquake yesterday that triggered mudslides and tremors which destroyed towns and villages across Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.
Thankfully, we know how quickly and efficiently the U.S (and other countries) responded to the devastating Tsunami that washed away so much of Indonesia last December; therefore, these countries should take heart that the best aid America has to offer is on its way, if it’s not already there.
Note: Unlike the wild predictions of casualties that were pronounced in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 18,000 have already been confirmed dead from this earthquake and it is feared that that number could rise significantly. And, this does not even account for the living dead – those wounded and displaced – who could number in the hundreds of thousands.
May God be with you South Asia…
Saturday, October 8, 2005 at 10:46 AM
Almost 50 years after Cuba’s socialist revolution, it is untenable for America to maintain an (affirmative action) immigration policy that gives Cubans EZ passes into this country (just to spite Fidel Castro); whilst erecting ever increasing barriers for all other immigrants from the Caribbean (even summarily repatriation many of them – as is invariably the case with Haitians). Yet, despite this arbitrary policy, when compared with other countries around the world, America has by far the most generous and humane immigration policy of them all.
Indeed, this fact is finally coming into stark relief for Europeans who once chided America with righteous indignation for its treatment of Mexican immigrants. Because they are now finding that as many Africans are seeking illegal entry into E.U. – with equal determination – as the Mexicans who have been crossing the U.S. border illegally for decades.
And, I have no doubt that if the American government treated Mexicans or other immigrants the way the “socialist” Spanish government is treating Africans, Europeans would have already raised holy-hell in condemning it as a violation of international human rights.
So, where’s the international outrage against the way the Spanish are herding (and abusing) Africans in border detention centres before expelling them back to where they came from?!
Click here and here for a little insight into how those erstwhile universal humanists in Spain are greeting their African brothers who are merely trying to escape the chronic pestilences of disease, famine and war.
Friday, October 7, 2005 at 11:40 AM
One of the highlights Freeh discloses on 60 Minutes this Sunday night is that – instead of demanding that his friends in the Saudi royal family allow the FBI to interview the Saudi Islamic fundamentalists suspected of blowing-up Americans in 1996 – Bill Clinton merely took the opportunity to hit them up for money for his presidential library.
As his former trusted aide, George Stephanopoulos, chronicled in his memoir of disillusionment and disaffection with the former president, Bill Clinton is All Too Human. And, despite his good intentions (and good deeds), he is really just a petulant, spiteful, egocentric, greedy, manipulative, unfaithful, impeached and pathologically self-righteous redneck!
But don’t take my word for it. Read the eye witness accounts of this man’s treachery by Freeh and Stephanopoulos. And, for good measure, I would recommend the equally revealing memoir Lift Every Voice by Lani Guinier – the black woman Clinton stabbed in the back after right-wing Republicans smeared her as a quota queen for recommending a voting system that would allow fairer representation of blacks in government.
Note: So diabolical is his charm that, despite his public betrayal of Guinier, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison hailed Clinton as “the first black president of the United States.” If she has any integrity left, however, Morrison too will soon publish her memoir of disillusionment and disaffection with Bill Clinton….)
Friday, October 7, 2005 at 10:07 AM
In the grand tradition of American democracy, Iraqi Shia and Kurds joined forces in their provisional parliament last Sunday and unilaterally changed Iraq’s electoral law to make it almost impossible for disgruntled Sunnis to undermine the ratification of Iraq’s draft constitution. The change they decreed stated that:
“The two-thirds majority needed in three provinces to defeat the constitution will now be counted from all registered – as opposed to actual – voters.”
Imagine their bewilderment, therefore, when the Americans led the international chorus of critics condemning their legislative manoeuvre. After all, the Shia and Kurds were probably inspired by the Republicans in the Florida legislature who changed their state’s electoral laws to favour George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential election recount. And, ironically, the change these pioneering Iraqis made was only intended to guarantee another political victory (albeit pyrrhic) for their patron, President Bush, when the votes are counted after the 15 October referendum.
But, acting as a parent might with an unruly child, the Americans reprimanded the Shia and Kurds by telling them, in effect, to do as we say, not as we do. And, as a result, the Iraqis have been forced to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by reversing their legislative act.
Click here to see why the Shia and Kurds were so determined to have their way and why the Americans are becoming less credible everyday in the Muslim world as stewards of democracy (a credibility deficit that will only worsen with the recent court ordered release of more Abu Ghraib photos).
Note: It was almost surreal to see President Bush give war-weary Americans a pep talk on his global war on terrorism yesterday that, alas, must have frustrated more than inspire them. Click here to see why….
Thursday, October 6, 2005 at 9:55 AM
Anyone who is unnerved by predictions of a cataclysmic terrorist strike – of a magnitude 1000 times greater than 9/11 – will be petrified by predictions of a pandemic outbreak of Bird Flu. Because World Health Organisation (WHO) scientists are predicting fatalities of between 50 and 150 million people; and, they seem resigned to the fact that governments around the world will be as effective in protecting their citizens from this pathogen as the U.S. government was in protecting its citizens from the 9/11 attacks or the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.
Nevertheless, President Bush addressed this frightening prospect with unusual clarity and command of details during his White House press conference on Tuesday. And, he assured the American people that he’s not waiting for the outbreak to take charge; but that he’s marshalling all of the resources of the government today to prepare the nation (and the world) for Bird Flu pandemonium.
Unfortunately, for many people, relying on Bush’s word in this context is rather like relying on Bart Simpson for guidance in the event of an outbreak of nuclear war. Therefore, here’s a concise though comprehensive assessment from the BBC of the pending doom of the Bird Flu:
Scientists fear a global epidemic of deadly flu in humans will strike soon as this tends to happen three or four times a century.
Bird flu is the most likely trigger and one virus that causes it – H5N1 – is giving particular alarm.
Highly contagious and deadly in birds – and spread by them – this virus has also killed dozens of people since re-emerging in SE Asia in 2003.
Experts think it is only a matter of time before the virus changes and develops the ability to spread easily among humans.
A new variant capable of triggering a deadly pandemic could evolve if the avian flu virus combined with a human strain of influenza.
This could happen if a human had both infections at the same time.
It is feared the new variant would spread easily and quickly, killing large numbers of people, whose immune systems would not be primed to cope with infection.
Upwards of two million people could die globally and many more would be infected, experts predict.
Bird flu viruses occur naturally in migratory waterfowl. They are passed on in droppings and other secretions.
Domesticated birds like chickens and turkeys are particularly prone to the more deadly variants that develop.
Once the virus is found in commercial or household flocks, rapid destruction is recommended of all birds that may be infected. Farms should then be quarantined and thoroughly disinfected.
Millions of birds have been killed in an effort to contain the latest outbreak and minimise risk to humans.
Symptoms in humans who get H5N1 range from fever, sore throat and cough to severe respiratory illness and organ failure in fatal cases.
Since the first human cases appeared in the current outbreak in 2004, more than half those infected have died. Vietnam is worst affected so far.
Almost all victims were in close contact with infected birds.
But because the disease is not food-borne, experts say it is still safe to eat poultry.
The 1918 flu pandemic killed more people than WWI.
At present there is no vaccine to protect humans against infections caused by H5N1 avian flu.
However work on prototypes continues.
Efforts are hampered by not knowing what form the virus would take if it mutates as feared.
However some anti-viral drugs which are available can help limit symptoms and reduce the chances the disease will spread.
Note: Many of these issues will be discussed at a Bird Flu World Summit today in Washington, DC. But this begs the question: Has anyone derived any reassurance from previous world summits on HIV/AIDS or famine in Africa? Be afraid people, be very afraid….
UPDATE: Today, 1 November 2005, President Bush announced a $7.1 billion initiative “to help prepare the country for a global epidemic of influenza”; insisting that “our country has been given fair warning of this danger to our homeland.”
Wednesday, October 5, 2005 at 9:50 AM
“White folks don’t understand about the blues. They hear it come out but they don’t know how it got there. They don’t understand that’s life’s way of talking. You don’t sing to feel better. You sing ’cause that’s a way of understanding life.”
— From Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by August Wilson
It is a profound indictment of American pop culture that a person as distinguished as August Wilson (easily one of the greatest dramatists in U.S. history) can die with hardly a notice in the national media. And, this indictment is especially poignant because of Wilson’s own lamentations on the superficial and racist nature of this culture. But now he’s dead: having succumbed to liver cancer at the age of 60 at his home in Seattle, Washington last weekend.
I feel compelled, however, to ask this question in his honour: Why did the theatres on Broadway not go dark in tribute to Wilson as they did earlier this year in tribute to Arthur Miller? And, I do not proffer some Pollyannaish version of equal treatment here. But if Miller got the Broadway version of one minute of silence, then surely Wilson deserved at least 30 seconds!
Wilson chronicled the story of black life in America (in plays like Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences and The Piano Lesson) with the precision of an historian, the introspection of a psychologist, the perspective of a sociologist, the drama of a playwright and the justified rage of an ordinary black man.
Alas, even though acclaimed and well-compensated for his works, Wilson went to his grave fulminating against racial injustice – as evidently prevalent on Broadway as it is in boardrooms – that still limit the pursuit of happiness for so many blacks in America. But, in addition to singing, black folks are now rapping the blues….
Click here for more on the life of this extraordinary American from the Detroit Free Press.
Tuesday, October 4, 2005 at 10:44 AM
When Bush nominated the supremely qualified and inimitably reasonable Judge John Roberts to replace William Rehnquist as the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, he took the bite out of his Democratic adversaries who were frothing for a dogged political fight.
And now his nomination of the well-qualified and temperamentally immaculate Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O’Connor as an Associate Justice has effectively defanged the Democrats yet again. After all, Miers is a confirmed spinster who seems to have been married to the law all of her adult life (as an effective litigator though, like Rehnquist when he was nominated, never as a Judge). Moreover, given that she has been his trusted counsel since his tenure as governor of Texas, Bush clearly feels confident that Miers will help execute his vision of jurisprudence in America for years to come. (And besides, only a rabid yellow dog would salivate for a partisan piece of the matronly Mrs Miers…down Teddy!)
But even Bush’s most ardent critics – on the far-right and far-left – must concede that this is a nomination worthy of King Solomon. Because Bush seems to have split the partisan requirements for this pivotal judicial appointment right down the middle: To appease liberal Democrats, he nominated a woman but not a polarizing one like Judge Janet Rogers Brown; and to appease conservative Republicans, he nominated a woman who was a trailblazer in trying to get the influential American Bar Association (ABA) to adopt a more neutral stance on abortion. And, only confirming the wisdom of his nomination, both Democrats and Republicans are expressing political anxieties – in equal measure – about how Miers will rule as a Supreme Court Justice.
But for anyone whose politics are emotionally tied to single issues like abortion or gay rights, here’s what you can expect from Harriet Miers, John Roberts and this new court: They will not overturn a woman’s right to choose an abortion; and, they will not recognize any rights for gays beyond those granted by each state.
What is most interesting about the Miers nomination, however, is its political implication. Because it clearly vindicates those of us who have argued that, notwithstanding his rhetoric, Bush’s true political nature is that of a moderate conservative. And, we did not make this argument based on religious faith; rather we proffered Bush’s truly astounding presidential record which, amongst other things, shows that he surpassed his liberal predecessor President Bill Clinton by appointing more blacks and women to prominent positions in his administration and by allocating more government funds for welfare programmes in America and for fighting poverty and disease in Africa.
Moreover, Bush has clearly given the finger to religious zealots in his political Party who expected him to nominate someone like arch conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Because it is already self-evident that Miers is not in the Scalia judicial mold; and, reliable sources indicate that her judicial mold might, in fact, put her to the left of the moderate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Therefore, wouldn’t it be delightfully ironic if years from now we find that, with the Roberts and Miers nominations, Bush had effectively moved the Court further to the left?
Note: Perhaps the country should thank Laura Bush who made it plain that Miers is the type of person she wanted to see nominated. And President Bush should certainly be commended for heeding his wife’s private counsel – even to the chagrin of his most rabid political supporters.
Endnote: Since spinster Miers will now be cloistered on the bench with confirmed bachelor Justice David Souter, perhaps – in between legal briefs – these two romantically challenged jurists will find time to court each other. And, who knows, they could become the first married couple to serve together on the U.S. Supreme Court….
Monday, October 3, 2005 at 10:29 AM
“You could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down.”
- William Bennett on his show Morning in America
When conservative talk show host William J. Bennett posited this genocidal crime fighting strategy last week, he may have intrigued his listeners but he outraged everyone else in America. And, after a torrent of protest and criticism, he only added insult to injury by declaring – rather smugly and self-righteously – that he proposed it as “a thought experiment” for his (fed up with black crime) audience. But even President Bush was so outraged that he issued a public statement condemning Bennett’s “musings” as “not appropriate.” (Nevertheless, I feel constrained to point out that saying Bennett is a big fat idiot who should choke on his food and die is not appropriate; whereas, saying black children should be aborted is not only morally reprehensible but also unforgivable.)
On its face, one might expect such perverse and puerile race-baiting from a radio shock jock like Howard Stern; not from someone like Bennett who professes serious intellectual and moral bona fides. After all, for the last 2 decades, Bennett has been the intellectual and moral deacon of the Republican Party. During tours of duty Secretary of Education and National Drug Policy Czar, he led the conservative agenda to “bring God back in public schools and make Christianity the guiding principle of life in America.” And, to ensure that everyone got his holier-than-thou message, he wrote his own bible called The Book of Virtues to offer Americans a moral code of conduct for the new millennium.
But then, a few years ago, Bennett fell from grace; which, of course, is the inevitable fate of all moralizing hypocrites. The “sin” he committed was preaching the virtues of family values and personal responsibilities whilst squandering his family’s income by living the high life of a gambling junkie. Indeed, between spending time with showgirls at casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, it’s a wonder Bennett had anytime left to spend with his wife at home in idyllic suburbia.
To his credit, however, when Bennett’s secret vices were exposed, he confessed his sins – “with a broken and contrite heart” – before God and man. And he led us to believe that, through prayer, his demons were exorcised and his mind cleansed of such iniquity. Hallelujah!
But my Lord, what are we to make of this patently immoral and, worse still, brazenly unchristian sermon about aborting black babies to reduce crime. After all, it’s about as logical as suggesting we kill white babies to reduce HIV/AIDS (since white homosexual men are more often the carriers and infecting agents of this deadly virus in America). Moreover, in sermonising this way, Bennett conspires, intellectually, with his listeners about committing the cardinal sin of (ethnic cleansing) abortions which, according to his bible, is tantamount to murder.
Indeed, Bennett’s strategy for reducing crime seems more in the spirit of the tyrannical Arab King Herod who – hoping to kill the baby Jesus – decreed the extermination of every Jewish infant to protect his crown. Whereas, if he were a real Christian, clearly Bennett would have asked: What would Jesus do?
Therefore, instead of issuing a defiant statement trying to defend the intellectual fatuousness of what he said, Bennett should confess that “the devil made me do it” – just as he did when he was caught gambling like a fiend. Because even as a “thought experiment,” what he hypothesized reflects a truly reprobate mind too at ease with racial bigotry and moral hypocrisy.
For now though, if professed radio shock jocks like Opie and Anthony can be fired for advocating sex acts in St Patrick’s Cathedral, then by his own moral imperative, Bennett should be fired for advocating killing babies – even black ones.
Yet he remains gainfully employed by the Salem Radio Network. But click here to help his employer see the wisdom of telling Bennett to repent or go to hell!
Note: If a penitent Bennett or any other Christian conservative wants to engage in a serious discussion about how race affects crime in America, then that would be a talk show worth listening to.