Monday, November 14, 2005 at 11:11 AM
Liberia is the only African nation never colonised by European imperialists. And this is probably due in large part to the fact that it was originally inhabited by black American settlers under the auspices of the United States government. But this unique founding did not set Liberia on a path that distinguished it from the pathologies of corruption, political incompetence and bloody civil wars that characterise the histories of other countries in Africa.
Nonetheless, Liberia has just distinguished itself in another way that augers well for its future. Because last week, after years of being misled by egocentric men who measured their success by the size of their guns and Swiss bank accounts, Liberia became the first African country to elect a female president.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has demonstrated that she is as politically astute as she is academically accomplished. And it is a testament to the enlightened self-interest of the Liberian people that they rejected the prototypical posturing of yet another would-be strongman, former soccer star George Weah, in favour of this serene, courageous and wise woman.
Sore loser and self-possessed former soccer star George Weah screamed foul and hurled groundless accusations of fraud when it became clear that he would lose – what he apparently thought was a national celebrity contest – to a little woman who has probably never had people treat her like a god or swoon over her autograph
Now, hope springs eternal that Johnson-Sirleaf will tame the unruly, predominantly male politicians who have made such a mess of things in Liberia; just as her idol “iron lady” Margaret Thatcher (the first female elected Prime Minister of England) instilled discipline and accountability amongst the members of her ruling Party when she was first elected in 1979.
So, here’s to Liberia’s unflappable President-elect as she gives birth to a new era of hope for Liberia and all of Africa.
Note: Woman Power! Alas, treating the chronic maladies that have plagued Liberia (and most African countries) may require women (like Johnson-Sirleaf and the founders of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS ) to usurp the authoritarian control men have wielded over Africa, take hold of the reins of political power and steer the continent on a more wholesome path
Endnote: Because she’s Harvard educated and, frankly, a woman, Johnson-Sirleaf will probably have no difficulty attracting financial aid from the United States and other donor nations to build her country’s infrastructure. The key to her success, however, rests on her ability to enlist the leaders of Liberia’s fractious and corrupt Armed forces (and local police) in a national effort to squash the destabilising activities of diamond warlords and rogue militia men.
Monday, November 14, 2005 at 10:58 AM
Jacob Zuma indicted! But it remains anyone’s guess whether he goes back to prison where he spent so much time (on Robben Island) for “conspiring to overthrow” the Apartheid regime; or whether he rides his wave of unebbing popularity to become the next president of South Africa…
Just weeks ago, all of America experienced heart palpitations after a special prosecutor indicted an aide to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on perjury charges. Well, relatively speaking, all of Africa must have went into cardiac arrest last weekend after prosecutors indicted South Africa’s Deputy President Jacob Zuma on corruption charges.
Zuma’s indictment stems from his suspicious dealings with his personal financial adviser and two French arms manufacturers. But the nature of politics in South Africa is such that the more compromised his political integrity, the more Zuma’s popularity seems to increase amongst a critical mass of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Nonetheless, it is highly unlikely that the principled and uncompromising South African President Thabo Mbeki will be unnerved by the political hysteria surrounding Zuma’s legal woes. After all, this indictment represents quiet vindication for the bold move he made by sacking Zuma when the National Prosecuting Authority announced it would charge him with two counts of corruption months ago.
It remains to be seen, however, whether Zuma’s cult-like supporters will allow the court to determine his fate; or whether they will mount increasingly violent and destabilising protests under banners claiming that Zuma’s prosecution is politically motivated (and led by Mbeki himself).
Sunday, November 13, 2005 at 12:42 PM
For a 17th consecutive night, French youths torched cars and properties in cities all over France. But, adding a positive dimension to this reign of terror, the immigrant parents of these disaffected arsonists are now marching defiantly in the streets by day. Instead of fanning the flames, however, they are demanding constructive dialogue with French authorities about what needs to be done, and not merely said, to stop their children from taking their fiery frustrations to the Champs-Elysées and Eiffel Tower.
Alas, France’s state-of-emergency measures – including imposing a ban on public gatherings and ordering curfews – have done little to put out the flames.
Saturday, November 12, 2005 at 11:34 AM
In America, Veteran’s Day has become as much about honouring those who risked (and sacrificed) their lives “to defend our freedoms” as Christmas Day is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. (And we all know how politically incorrect it is now to display Nativity Scenes or even inscribe the name of Christ in Christmas….)
Hence, for anyone who thinks the march to war in Iraq was sheer folly (or politically contrived), the Veteran’s Day speech President Bush delivered yesterday must have been especially galling. Because he did not honour veterans so much as recite political talkings points to justify why over 2000 more dead and tens of thousands of walking wounded have been added to the ranks of America’s war veterans under his leadership; and why many others are bound to follow….
Thank you for your service soldier…See you at the Army / Navy game, eh?
Friday, November 11, 2005 at 12:36 PM
In this previous article, I lamented the public spectacle that celebrated author Terry McMillan was making of the end of her marriage. I expressed consternation and profound disappointment about her decision to file divorce papers containing the intimate details that led to the breakdown of her marriage. After all, the world did not need to know that the Jamaican boy toy who helped her get her groove back was, in fact, gay and that he “did it” only for a green card and some cash.
But, perhaps my gender precluded me from fully appreciating the inner turmoil this failed relationship ignited in McMillan. Because when Oprah gave her the opportunity on Wednesday to confront her ex-husband Jonathan Plummer on TV, McMillan’s barely contained fury made it clear that she remains very much a woman scorned. And, when Oprah played secret recordings of messages she left for her husband after filing for divorce, McMillan came across as seething with more combustible resentment against him than the fiery resentment Muslim youths have expressed against the French government.
Nonetheless, she’s hardly the first woman to have been betrayed in this fashion. And, as I delineated in that previous article, Plummer might be the more aggrieved party in this messy affair. Moreover, if McMillan is still so bitter because she fears this failure might reflect badly on her personal integrity and professional reputation (especially given the success of How Stella Got Her Groove Back), one has to wonder why she did not finance a quiet divorce settlement (and deal with her emotional pain through private counseling).
As it is, the only thing damaging McMillan’s integrity and reputation is her making a public spectacle of her failed marriage. And, because I can think of no rationale for an otherwise mature and intelligent woman to behave in this manner, I have to think that rank homophobia (abetted by a punctured ego that cannot countenance losing her groove thing to a man), more than feelings of betrayal, is fueling her resentment. And, this is made painfully clear when one hears her on those recordings repeatedly damning Plummer as a “fucking fag”: (Of course, on the show she made it clear that some of her best friends are gay….)
But, despite her bravado, McMillan is so emotionally vulnerable and conflicted that giving her a forum to vent on this subject is like inviting an alcoholic to happy hour. This was plain to see when she appeared on the Tavis Smiley Show several weeks ago, and only confirmed when Oprah elicited her confession that she invited Plummer to her home – just days before the taping of this show – for a bath: only, she would have us believe, because she has a big tub and he doesn’t have one.
Therefore, one has to wonder why the emotionally nurturing Oprah would enable McMillan’s inner turmoil by giving her this universal stage to air her dirty laundry. I would hate to think that it was just because it made for good TV ratings. Although the business savvy Oprah did not miss this synergistic opportunity to plug the fact that she has bought the rights to McMillan’s latest book The Interruption of Everything, and that she’s already in production to bring it to a movie theatre near you….
Note: One of the more interesting moments on the show came when Oprah asked Plummer why he thought he deserved a financial settlement. Amazingly, he was dumbstruck by this obvious question. Then Oprah declared that, but for his plea for some of McMillan’s millions, she would have found Plummer a sympathetic figure. Yet, even McMillan admitted that he was a 20-year old boy when she plucked him from Jamaica; and that he gave at least 4 years of wedded bliss…before they descended into this current state of marital purgatory.
Moreover, if McMillan’s behaviour is motivated by a zealous effort to keep Plummer from getting her money, then Oprah should be mindful that – as I delineated in the previous article, Plummer was more than incidental to McMillan’s banking millions of dollars off his life story. And, notwithstanding her airtight pre-nuptial agreement, it’s too bad McMillan does not have enough maturity, class and kind-heartedness to recognize that Plummer deserves something for that as well.
Endnote: A transcript of the utterances of a woman scorned does little justice to her head-shaking, eye-rolling, finger-pointing histrionics – especially if she’s a black woman (as I found so patently clear when I saw a tape of this Oprah show after reading some excerpts). Therefore, if you ever have a chance to see this Oprah show or the Tavis Smiley interview, I recommend watching it, if you’re into Jerry Springer trash TV that is.)
Get a shrink Terri…and stay off TV
Friday, November 11, 2005 at 10:23 AM
In this 5 August article, I expressed vindication for predicting that Rafael Palmeiro’s testimony before the U.S. Congress about his use of steriods was so fatuous that it would provoke a perjury investigation.
Well, yesterday, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, announced that – after an exhaustive investigation – his committee could not find sufficient evidence to refute Palmeiro’s claim that when he testified under oath that he never took steroids, he did not know that the vitamin supplements he took were, in fact, steroids. And, therefore, that there would be no perjury charges filed against him.
Thursday, November 10, 2005 at 11:17 AM
I’ve always been more interested in the phenomenon that makes multi-millionaire celebrities of barely literate athletes than in the games these athletes play. And, no sport perpetuates this phenomenon more than the National Football League (NFL) in the United States.
I know many intellectual and social snobs who resent the millions these educationally challenged, mostly black players make. But I think they deserve every penny they get. Moreover, I think young football players who are treated as little more than indentured servants by U.S. colleges and universities should also be compensated commensurate with the millions of dollars they generate for these “academic” institutions; especially since so few of them ever make it to the professional ranks.
Indeed, this is precisely why I find it incomprehensible that so many professional athletes do mindless things that jeopardise their million-dollar salaries: like Latrell Sprewell who assaulted his coach because he didn’t like the coach’s “attitude” during practice; or James Worthy who solicited street prostitutes despite having his pick of groupies galore at team hotels; or Ricky Williams who routinely violated the league’s drugs policy despite claiming he did not have a drug problem. (Imagine a perfectly sane mind that would risk fame, glory and a $5 million pay check for “a few joints”.) Then, there’s Terrell Owens (T.O.) who continually slandered the team owner who pays his salary, undermined the esprit de corps amongst his teammates (by repeatedly impugning their professionalism in the press) and pulled all kinds of publicity stunts that embarrassed the NFL (like delaying a nationally televised game to autograph footballs).
Terrell Owens (L) doing perhaps the only thing he does better than playing football; which is bitching at his teammate, quarterback Donovan McNabb, for failing to throw him the ball so that he could win the game all by himself…
T.O. is easily one of the most gifted athletes to ever play professional football. And, he was instrumental in helping the Philadelphia Eagles make it to the Super Bowl last season, where they lost to the very team-spirited (and appropriately named) New England Patriots.
Yet, ironically, most Americans know T.O. from the infamous TV commercial he made with Desperate Housewives star Nicollette Sheridan last year. The commercial portrayed him as all too willing to abandon his teammates (and his good sense) at game time for a romp with a blonde bimbo.
What we did not know at the time, despite reports of his “competitive feuds” with McNabb, was that T.O. had already worn out his welcome in Philadelphia with his selfish antics and disruptive behaviour. Therefore, his teammates were probably more relieved than shocked when team owners announced on Monday that T.O. had been, in effect, fired!
In fact, according to the Washington Post, T.O. was suspended without pay for 4 games and will lose approximately $200,000 for each of those games. The Eagles will then have to pay him about $1 million to keep him off the field for the final five games of the season because they’ve declared that they don’t want him anywhere near their team ever again….
Of course, the cocky T.O. probably expects that his carefully worded but badly read apology will suffice to get the Eagles or some other team to take another gamble on him – just as teams have done routinely for unruly but really talented athletes in all sports. But I hope even this “win at all cost” mentality slaps T.O. in the face. And, that no team picks up his contract which was scheduled to pay him $770,000 in 2006, $5.5 million in 2007, $6.5 million in 2008, $7.5 million in 2009, and $8.5 million in 2010. Because only then will such misguided, self-obsessed and utterly irresponsible athletes appreciate how truly fortunate they are.
Indeed, the best resolution of this saga for the NFL (and for all of professional sports) would be for T.O. to be denied the opportunity to play another football game for the rest of his life!
Note: The insolent and asinine behaviour of athletes like T.O. is bad is enough. But what I find particularly incomprehensible is, quite frankly, that they risk their professional careers knowing full well that the vast majority of them do not have the education and skills to get other gainful employment. Unlike an investment banker, for example, who would have a much easier time if he gets fired for displaying similar unprofessional traits.
Endnote: To get sense of how immune NFL players have become to the consequences of their bad behaviour, bear in mind when reading this story that some of them are often arrested one day and returned to the field the next. The story involves two NFL cheerleaders who were arrested for “engaging in conduct embarrassing to the team” (the Carolina Panthers). Suffice it to note that these two Sapphic pom pom girls became violent when female patrons at a bar in Tampa, Florida challenged them for taking up too much time in one of the few bathroom stalls….
Wednesday, November 9, 2005 at 10:57 AM
Even for high profile and hotly contested presidential elections – like Bush vs. Gore in 2000 and Bush vs. Kerry in 2004 – almost half of the Americans who are eligible to vote, fail to do so. Therefore, it is not surprising that an election day on which neither the presidency nor control of the U.S. Congress is at stake would register only anemic interest. And, yesterday’s state elections were no exception (with final turnout figures in some states expected to be less than 35%).
Nonetheless, at least one political contest was worthy not only of high profile interest but also of this post-election commentary. This was the contest in California starring Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as the “champion of the people” taking on state legislators – cast as a chamber of villains “beholden to special interest” – for control of the affairs of state. The script called for Schwarzenegger to use his movie star muscle to push the legislators aside and demagogue into law a series of ballot initiatives to enhance his executive authority. Chief amongst them were initiatives lengthening the amount of time it takes public school teachers to get tenure, boosting the governor’s powers over the budget, limiting union dues and changing the way the state draws its legislative districts.
Actor Warren Beatty, with his actress wife Annette Benning peering over his right shoulder, stealing the carefully scripted (and blocked) scene that Schwarzenegger’s political director staged for the final rally of his 2005 campaign
But, perhaps because he had become so accustomed to having his way on movie sets, Schwarzenegger did not bother to read the entire script. If he had, he would’ve had notice of (and been pumped-up for) the cameo appearance of an even bigger movie star stepping-in to champion the cause of the legislators. As it was, when Warren Beatty began his scene stealing performance during the last weeks of the campaign, Schwarzenegger acted more like a 90-pound weakling than the muscle-bound Mr. Olympia that made him rich, famous and Governor of California.
For his part, Beatty – the Oscar winning actor – used all of his seasoned stagecraft to upstage the artistically challenged Schwarzenegger. And no scene was more dramatic or embarrassing for the “governator” than when Beatty showed up and essentially terminated the final rally for his ballot initiatives last weekend. Because Beatty not only drew away all of Schwarzenegger’s press coverage; he also captivated the attention of most of Schwarzenegger’s star-struck supporters who naturally gravitated to the bigger star on the Hollywood food chain. Even worse, however, was the way Beatty then delivered his glib lines – eviscerating Schwarzenegger’s political competence and his monosyllabic movie roles.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger retreating from his own political rally to escape the glare of Beatty’s celebrity and demanding to know why none of his people told him that his script called for Beatty’s scene stealing cameo
As for the ballot initiatives, well, the Schwarzenegger / Beatty political foreplay made the election results anticlimactic. Especially since political pundits characterized this contest as a preview of next year’s political blockbuster: “The Celebrity Race for Governor of California – featuring, in a typical movie twist, Beatty (in a life imitating art role) as the populist champion of the people wresting control of state affairs from Schwarzenegger – who will be (type)cast as a egomaniacal power-hungry fascist.
That’s Hollywood folks…
But click here if you’re really interested in the results of those ballot initiatives. (Hint: Schwarzenegger is washing lots of sand out of his eyes this morning…)
Tuesday, November 8, 2005 at 11:38 AM
Disillusioned and disaffected youths continued their riots for a twelth night undeterred by the French goverment’s show of force
Progressive political observers have commended President George Bush for expressing sympathy for President Jacques Chirac as he grapples with nightly riots that are fueling the flames of anarchy all over France. Of course, this commendation is notable only because many (political) dead-enders – who fought for the invasion of Iraq – see Chirac’s incendiary woes as form of purgatory for impugning Bush’s integrity and undermining his efforts “to bring democracy to Iraq” and, ultimately, to assimilate all Muslim nations into the family of world democracies.
But Bush is right to eschew such jingoistic gloating (especially if one truly believes that “what goes around comes arounnd”). Moreover, as I warned in this previous article, it behooves Chirac’s myopic critics to appreciate that the root causes of the French riots are spreading under fertile ground in countries all over the world.
Reports are that young people in France’s African (Muslim) communities erupted in this nightmarish violence because they are fed up with chronic unemployment and feelings of (religious and racial) discrimination and social alienation. Indeed, just as young blacks in America fought against the virulent racism their parents tolerated, it seems young Muslims in France are fighting against the caste-like presumption that they too will supply the cheap labour for rich Frenchmen that their parents provided.
But this violence is untenable and ultimately self-destructive. And it is instructive to note that it was not those who torched American cities in frustration who won civil rights for black Americans; instead, those rights were won mostly by young blacks who sat-in at lunch counters and participated in mass non-violent civil disobedience (like the protest marches led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott spirited by Rosa Parks). Therefore, for the sake of our aggrieved Muslim brothers, let us pray that the fatwas now being issued by inspired Imams soon resonate amongst these rampaging arsonists.
If not, then it’s only a matter of time before young Muslims in other European countries, and young people living kindred lives of seething desperation all over the world (like Haitians throughout the Caribbean and Hispanics in America) erupt in similar violence.
(Apropos, there are reports this morning that copy cat Muslim riots have already spread to neighbouring Belgian and German cities.)
In fact, it is in this rather ominous context that Bush’s expression of sympathy with Chirac is so enlightened. Because it reflects an understanding that Chirac now faces a universal imperative to restore law and order (ASAP), without appearing to make concessions to the rioters. (Since conveying the message that rioting pays will only embolden marginalised youths everywhere to seek similar concessions by similar riotous means.)
French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy ordered French police – in vintage Churchillian fashion – to confront the rioters in the ghettos, in the suburbs, along the Champs-Elysées or wherever they may be. Because, he vowed, France will never surrender [again] to marauding, fanatical thugs
Unfortunately, French leadership in the midst of this crisis seems woefully inadequate to the task. Because it is sheer folly for Sarkozy to declare “war without mercy” against rioters he called “rabble [and] scum” on one hand; whilst on the other, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is promising a potpourri of social benefits (like education scholarships, jobs for everyone and billions of euros in community development), if only they would stop their rioting. Meanwhile, Chirac has hardly distinguished himself by showing up on TV – looking more like Rodney King than the President of France – to make a dazed and confused plea for generic calm.
Clearly, this will not do. Chirac must first establish law and order (by imposing curfews and declaring martial law where necessary – as the American president did to quell black riots in the 1960s). Then, all too belatedly, his government must redress the root causes of this pernicious marginalisation of and percolating rage amongst Muslim youths. And, this redress (commensurate with serious national introspection) must begin with government initiatives that are designed to transform the consciousness of white Frenchmen to accept the assimilation of Africans and Muslims; not merely as French ideal, but as a fact of life. After all, even PM de Villepin concedes that:
“It’s also the responsibility of each of us to change our behaviour, to change the way we look at people.”
Beyond this, however, the riots in France should serve notice on other developed nations that have relegated immigrants to ghettos where crime and every order of vice pervade (and, incidentally, where Islamic jihadists troll for guerilla fighters and suicide bombers). Because these riots demonstrate what little spark it takes for the simmering resentment that burns in ghettos to set nearby cities ablaze and terrorise an entire country.
Alas, there but for the grace of God…
Note: Isn’t it a curious thing to see poor and dispossessed rioters (like those in France or Liberty City, Miami) invariably destroying property in their own communities (including schools and hospitals); instead of taking out their destructive frustrations on establishment properties (like those along the Champs-Elysées)?
***UPDATE: Despite vowing only yesterday to resist imposing martial law, toda
y PM de Villepin announced sweeping curfews to help restore law and order – pursuant to a national state-of-emergency decree that will effectively put France under martial law at midnight…It’s about time!
Monday, November 7, 2005 at 10:28 AM
Over the past few months, I’ve written a series of articles on Zimbabwe’s descent into political and economic hell. In them, I lamented on how the fiendish president of this God-forsaken country, Mr Robert Mugabe:
Guaranteed his reelection earlier this year by dispatching military thugs to harass voters and seize productive farms from white farmers – which he gave to political cronies to maintain their unbridled loyalty. (And on which these political hacks built barren mansions instead of farming the land);
Bulldozed the homes of poor Zimbabweans he suspected of “conspiring” to undermine his authority; thereby politically cleansing and rendering homeless hundreds of thousands of the millions of his already starving people; and
Was fêted recently at a United Nations conference on combating world hunger and starvation, despite his egregious record of cutting off UN food aid from his own people (as a cruel and inhumane political strategy to nourish his dictatorship).
And, with each successive commentary, I expressed increasing outrage not only at Mugabe for his venal treatment of his own people, but also at world leaders (especially Africans) who gave tacit approval of or showed unconscionable indifference to the impact his genocidal policies have had on innocent and helpless Zimbabweans.
But it seems Mugabe has had a political conversion. The BBC reported last week that he now accepts blame for turning this country that was once the crown jewel of Pan Africanism into one that stands as a prime example of African kleptocracy, tribal savagery and congenital political incompetence.
Nonetheless, my serially vindicated cynicism compels me to suspect that this mea culpa is just another amoral Mugabe ploy to elicit sympathy and extract financial aid from Western donors. After all, affecting regret for the suffering they’ve inflicted on their own people has always served Africa’s “big Dadas” (despotic rulers) well in courting relationships with rich countries (like the United States during the Cold War and China today).
And, moreover, just today Mugabe showed discouraging signs that his political dementia and megalomania remains acute. Because, he further alienated the only country that has offered unconditional food aid to Zimbabwe – which Mugabe’s antic and despotic state of mind led him to reject continually – by threatening to expel the U.S Envoy Christopher W. Dell for describing his government for what it self-evidently is: namely, one of “corrupt rule” and gross mismanagement.”
We shall see…
Sunday, November 6, 2005 at 11:37 AM
Some Americans reacted with indignation and incredulity when it was revealed last week that the CIA has been operating secret prisons overseas at which terror suspects are tortured routinely and held without charge indefinitely. Which, of course, is rather like Americans being shocked and repulsed when they find out how sausage is made but still consuming more hot dogs per capita than anyone else in the world.
Grow up America! Why else do you think you’ve been spared another 9/11…so far?
Saturday, November 5, 2005 at 11:03 AM
Yesterday, 34 Heads of State convened their Fourth Summit of the Americas in Argentina amidst street riots that made a mockery of their diplomatic agenda. Because news of what little progress they make towards creating a Free Trade Area of the Americas will be rendered mute, if not moot, by the raucous and violent anti-American, anti-Bush and anti-free trade demonstrations that dominated media coverage of the summit.
But if most Heads of State were frustrated by this rabble-rousing turn of events, the riots were entirely consistent with the agenda of at least one of them: namely, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. After all, Chavez declared before arriving in Argentina that he did not agree with the American mandated political reforms and free trade objectives on the official agenda. In fact, his agenda was diametrically opposed to them. Moreover, Chavez seems to have convinced himself that democracy and free trade are the arsenals of war by other means, which have been concocted by President Bush to enslave the poor people of the Americas and, more specifically, which are aimed to assassinate him. And, he is determined to do everything in his oil rich and increasingly demagogic power to defend himself (and the Americas) against his own delusional perceptions.
Upon arriving in Argentina, the first order of business for Hugo Chavez was to incite a stadium filled with anti-Bush protesters to go into the streets and demonstrate that anarchy is a Latin American virtue and democracy an American vice
Upon arriving in Argentina, the first order of business for George Bush was to plead for the spread of democracy and free trade throughout the Americas….Oh, and for the exoneration of his political aide Karl Rove
Meanwhile, in an egregious breach of diplomatic protocol, Chavez shocked even his socialist allies amongst the Heads of State by spewing the same anti-Bush rhetoric to President Bush’s face that he vented to work the stadium crowds into a crazed and rampaging mob
Note: Chavez is a skilled politician and an even more effective rabble-rouser. But he undermines his potential as a worthy hemispheric foe to President Bush (and the legitimate economic reforms he proposes) by fomenting anti-Bush street riots and cheerleading anti-Bush stadium rallies. Because sympathetic Heads of State will soon realise what, alas, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner knows all too well today: Namely, that inviting Chavez to one’s country to incite mob violence that leads to the destruction of local businesses is no substitute for engaging Bush in negotiations to improve political and economic relations with the United States.
Moreover, these leaders know that Chavez is not credible in blaming Bush for imposing the values of democracy and free trade throughout the Americas. Because they are acutely aware that these values were, in fact, introduced to Latin America by Ronald Reagan; that they were then implemented – in their first phase via NAFTA by Bill Clinton; that they are now being furthered by Bush; and that they, most assuredly, shall be furthered even more by whoever succeeds him as President of the United States – even if that is Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Endnote: In addition to apologising to fellow Heads of State for hijacking their summit, I hope Chavez also has the decency to write President Kirchner a cheque to cover the cost of repairing the damage caused by his rampaging “revolutionaries”.
Friday, November 4, 2005 at 10:15 AM
For the past 7 days and 7 nights, Muslims have been rioting in French cities to vent political, economic (and religious) grievances that are eerily similar to those that provoked blacks to riot and burn American cities in the late 1960s. In this era of Islamic terrorism, however, the situation in France is far more explosive than the civil unrest that permeated America back then.
(I should note here that reports describing these as riots by poor and disenfranchised black African immigrants are misleading. In fact, black African immigrants have as much responsibility for these riots as Mexican immigrants had for the Los Angeles (Watts) riots of 1965. Because it was the accidental killing 7 days ago of 2 Muslim boys (from North Africa), which lit the fuse of long-simmering feelings of abuse, neglect and alienation amongst France’s sizable Muslim minority that set Paris ablaze.)
This is a tragic development; but it comes with instructive irony: After all, French President Jacque Chirac premised his spirited opposition to the invasion of Iraq and attributed his country’s assumed immunity from Islamic terrorism on France’s enlightened understanding and “assimilation” of Muslims. (Of course, we now have prima facie evidence that Chirac was motivated to plead Iraq’s case because Saddam Hussein was bribing some of his key advisers to do so.)
Therefore, it is particularly ironic that Muslims are now fulminating – in riotous frustration – over what they charge is a record of persecution, discrimination and disrespect by the French government. And, quite frankly, Chirac seems utterly clueless not only about their grievances but – most concerning to Eurocentric Parisians – also about how to quell their rioting.
Stop fiddling Chirac…
Note: If Muslims are prepared to burn Paris to the ground to express their grievances (real or perceived), then it behooves Americans to resist indulging in schadenfreude (as in “They had it coming….We told you so”) and, instead, recognize that what is happening there could easily happen here.
Endnote: Anyone who doubts the religious (al Qaeda breeding) inspiration for these riots should know that a prominent Muslim cleric in Paris has issued a fatwa for aggrieved and misguided youths to burn the city for “40 days and 40 nights”.
Thursday, November 3, 2005 at 11:17 AM
Yesterday, between meetings and conference calls, my partners and I tuned in to the Rosa Parks funeral being broadcast live from Detroit, Michigan. In addition to paying my last respects, I was eager to watch it because I’ve known since childhood that black preaching and singing are never more inspiring and heavenly than they are on these funereal occasions. And, from what I saw of the service, this blessed phenomenon held true to form.
Rev. Jesse Jackson headlined a roster of who’s who in black America and leaders of the Democratic Party in eulogizing Rosa Parks. But given her universal humanity, acclaim and appeal, it is a lamentable indication of de facto segregation in America that so few people from who’s who in white America and no leaders of the Republican Party were featured at Mother Parks’ “homegoing” tribute
I became annoyed, however, by the untimely canned commercials that kept interrupting the solemnity of this live programme. But if you’ve ever channel surfed during a major TV event that is being simulcast on all major networks, you probably suspect – as I do – that there’s collusion amongst them to synchronize their commercial breaks. Because flipping through CNN, MSNBC and FOX for continued coverage proved entirely futile. Moreover, for some incomprehensible reason, both the House and Senate were in session; and C-SPAN and C-SPAN 2 were contractually obligated to cover their mundane and wholly uninspiring Congressional speeches.
But in homage to Mother Parks, I contained my frustration and sat quietly through these intervening indignities. Nevertheless, my resourceful mind could not be denied. So before too long, I got the inspired idea to have one of my (white) associates switch to Black Entertainment Television (BET) – thinking surely that the programmers at this station would not be so insensitive in their coverage of this historic and decidedly Afrocentric occasion (as to interrupt it with commercials).
Therefore, imagine my embarrassment and dismay when we got to BET and found that they were not only running commercials as well, but that, in fact, BET was not covering the funeral at all. Instead, what greeted us after the commercial break on this pioneering purveyor of black culture were scantily clad black women – shaking their big fat dimpled asses to the incomprehensible lyrics and utterly discordant sounds of a rap music video. Even worse, we were held in shocking disbelief long enough to see accused and arrested serial sexual predator R Kelly mugging for the cameras to promote his own self-indulgent music videos.
Now, what made this oversight especially egregious is the fact that this station dedicated several hours of prime time just the night before to honour BET and its founder Robert L. Johnson for their Silver (25th) Anniversary in broadcasting. And, the juxtaposition of that coverage with their failure to cover Mother Parks’ funeral dramatizes a monumental betrayal of BET’s purported mission.
It is also worth noting that I sympathized with blacks who criticised President Bush for announcing his new Supreme Court nominee on Monday morning. Because that announcement was as untimely (and contrived) as the commericals that had me so annoyed yesterday – in so far as it diverted TV coverage from the procession at the national capitol where Mother Parks was Lying in Honor. Yet I have no doubt that many of the blacks who criticised Bush are the ones who watched and celebrated that anniversary event, but who will not utter a word of condemnation against BET for running trite music videos instead of covering this special event in black history.
Note: Of course, it’s entirely possible that the reluctance to criticise BET stems from the mistaken belief amongst many black Americans that Johnson still owns this TV network. But, in fact, Johnson sold-out (for billions) to the very white Sumner Redstone of Viacom years ago; which only adds irony to this egregious oversight: Because here we have “white” networks suspending regularly scheduled programming to cover an event honouring a black iconic figure (albeit with commercial interruptions), whilst the one ostensible black network carries on with business as usual – without any regard for this momentous occasion.
(Although, I suspect finding out that Black Entertainment Television is owned by an old white man will trigger belated outrage at this oversight amongst many blacks.)
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick sounded the recurring theme amongst those eulogizing Mother Parks by assuring her that – despite appearances – black Americans will vindicate her sacrifice and emulate her heroic example. But we clearly have a long way to go “to overcome” - especially when “black” TV stations have no compunctions about dissing Rosa Parks.
Wednesday, November 2, 2005 at 10:29 AM
Despite a rate of growth that is the envy of the world, China’s economy is, in fact, a ticking time bomb. Because the 1.3 billion people providing cheap labour to fuel its boom represent mushrooming fuel demands that portend its bust.
Of course, Chinese leaders are acutely aware of this pending doom. And, notwithstanding the lip service they now pay to human rights, their State Family Commission is still executing China’s inhumane “one child per family” rule in a futile effort to avert this symbiotic (population triggering economic) explosion. But before it became an economic superpower in the 1990s, China’s infanticidal family planning laws made it a pariah in the international community. Unfortunately, many erstwhile critics of these laws (U.S. and European countries) have chosen to partner with China in the exploitation of Chinese labourers instead of challenging China to respect their human rights.
In fact, the only noteworthy human rights development in recent years has been China’s deployment of a sophisticated PR machine that manufactures its national image the way China manufactures new toys for American consumption. For example, I am reliably informed by Chinese friends that their evolved communist government shrewdly directs foreigners to big cities (like Shanghai and Beijing) that emulate western cities (like New York and Paris) in every way – including the personal freedoms western city dwellers enjoy. But where city life is relatively uniform throughout America and France, the affectations of modernity and freedom in China’s big cities are designed to divert attention from the feudal, barren and collectivized rural areas where most of its billion plus people still reside.
And, in these tourist-free zones, blackouts do not occur because utility workers accidentally slice power lines; instead, blackouts are a way of life because there are no power lines supplying electricity to these areas at all.
In these tourist-free zones, unemployment has become chronic not because another manufacturing plant has been forced out of business; instead, unemployment prevails because China’s great leap forward into the technological age of mass production of food (and almost everything else) has rendered collectivized peasant farming redundant.
In these tourist-free zones, the Confucian order of family life is breaking down not because women are abandoning “domestic bliss” for professional careers; instead, things are falling apart because men are migrating to the big showcase cities to find jobs to support their families.
And, herein lies China’s (and ultimately the world’s) growth dilemma:
Because the more village peasants are lured by the bright lights and economic promises of city life, the greater China’s energy demands become. And, the greater China’s energy demands become, the more of the world’s zero-sum supply of energy China will consume. And, the more energy China consumes, the more sustained high gas and heating oil prices shall remain. (Recall that less than 5 years ago, OPEC stated it sees the “ideal price for crude between $ 22-28″. But the “ideal” price now seems to be twice that amount….)
Meanwhile, China’s big cities continue their inexorable population growth and energy consumption that will inevitably cause its booming economy to go bust. And, despite the ruthless enforcement of its one child per family policy (including forced sterilizations and late-term abortions), Chinese leaders seem powerless to defuse this ticking (and migrating) time bomb.
Note: Ironically, the Communist Party has encountered resistance to its one child per family campaign from the very city dwellers it promotes as beneficiaries of China’s growing economic power. Because these relatively cosmopolitan Chinese regard the Party’s PR posters, which link happiness, prosperity and patriotism to having just one child (invariably a boy), as provincial and a tacit sanctioning of the killing of female infants.
Endnote: Imagine living in NYC with almost 50% more people, in the summertime and without electricity (AC) for several hours everyday, and only then, my Chinese friends insist, does one get a sanitized sense of what life is becoming like in the beautiful city of Shanghai.
Alas, the centre cannot hold….
Tuesday, November 1, 2005 at 10:34 AM
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a 24 year old American student, will probably spend the rest of his life in prison. And the legal formalities to ensure his fate got underway yesterday in a courtroom just outside Washington DC – where Abu Ali is on trial for allegedly conspiring to assassinate President Bush.
In an article published here on 1 March 2005, I wrote about the controversy surrounding this case. The odd thing, however, is that the conspiracy to kill Bush is not its most controversial feature. That dubious distinction goes to the education Abu Ali received (courtesy of Bush’s friends – the royal family of Saudi Arabia) at an Islamic Academy less than 10 miles from the White House.
But his trial is anti-climatic. In fact, if ever there were a show trial in the United States, this is it.
Nevertheless, click here to read about Abu Ali’s claims that his confession was extracted by torture and about the school for scandal that made him guilty by education.