Monday, February 28, 2005 at 11:22 AM
I watched the Oscars last night. (But, before the title of this column leads anyone to queer assumptions, let me hasten to clarify that I tuned in for purely journalistic purposes.) And, I feel confident asserting that my original column was right on all points. (Please see Previous Posts or Archives) Nevertheless, I failed to indicate that – sometimes – the opening monologue by the Host can be really entertaining.
I wish I could report that Chris Rock, rocked! But I’m afraid he seemed a little overwhelmed by the hyped-up expectations: his material was rushed, confusing and just not that funny; perhaps even upstaged by Robin Williams. He proved one thing though – that the Sunday morning Church hour is not the most segregated time in America. It seems Saturday evenings at the movies might be even more so. (Stay tuned for the Black Academy Awards.)
Finally, Jay-Z must have threatened the Oscar producers with violence because there can be no other justification for Beyonce’s 2nd and 3rd songs!
Best Lead Actor (Female): Hilary Swank – a seemingly genuine spirit utterly without typical Hollywood pretensions. (But did you see Annette Benning when this award was announced? She clearly did not deserve to win because she couldn’t even act happy after losing to Hilary.)
Best Lead Actor (Male): Jamie Foxx – with Morgan too – oh what a night! Endearing speech for a guy who – by his own admission – so likes to play the fool.
Best Supporting Actor (Female): Kate Blanchett – don’t know her from Adam but she exuded poise and good humour.
Best Supporting Actor (Male): Morgan Freeman - best moment of the night. Long overdue! But was that a necktie he forgot to tie or his wife’s shawl that he forgot to return?
Best Director: Clint Eastwood - As much as I like Clint, I really wanted Marty Scorsese to win. Academy members must have something personal against him because Marty is fast becoming the Susan Lucci (Erica Kane) of the Oscars.
Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby – Like most blacks in America, I haven’t seen this one either. But, OK…
Best Dressed? Well, since I watched, I’ll play along. It’s too crass to rank women, so here are some notables:
Halle Berry looked divine. She is that rare woman whose natural beauty makes even the most beautiful dress seem shabby. Hilary Swank is easily the prettiest boxer I’ve seen since Mohammed Ali; and Renee Zellweger looked like a red mermaid waddling like a penguin on stage. But Kirsten Dunst deserves special mention for admitting to the world that, like Cinderella (and most celebrities), she has to return her borrowed dress right after the show, or else….
That’s it – no more, ever!
Sunday, February 27, 2005 at 12:08 PM
The Pope may be knock knock knocking on heaven’s door, but he’s still fighting the good fight and, evidently, with good humour. Nevertheless, the continuing terror of Catholic priests preying on innocents (especially boys) must anger and aggrieve His Holiness to biblical proportions.
Last Friday, the Council of Catholic Bishops reported 1,092 new accusations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. And, no one believes these reported cases represent the full scale of this dirty little secret that the Church has guarded so zealously for ages. I choose to believe, however, that the Pope has been caught unawares by the ordination of so many perverted priests. Therefore, like Moses – who asked God to smite Israelites who turned their backs on Him – so too, perhaps, the Pope should call the wrath of God upon priests who have betrayed their vows and defiled the sanctity of the Holy Church.
Nevertheless, it’s a shame that such unholy matters have descended like cold black clouds burdening the twilight of John Paul’s pontificate. Yet, this Pope may well be remembered more for his daring deeds as a crusading priest – displaying theatrical charm, political brilliance and enviable athleticism as he outwitted communist authorities in his native Poland – than for his dogmatic edicts as a conservative Pope – insisting on strict adherence to a doctrine that so many Catholics find anachronistic and unsustainable.
In either case, John Paul II seems assured of a place in the pantheon of Great Popes of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Here’s to your health – Karol Jozef Wojtyla
Saturday, February 26, 2005 at 12:04 PM
A suicide bomber struck in the heart of Tel Aviv last night killing 4 Israelis and wounding many others. Israeli Prime Minister Sharon promises restraint and Palestinian President Abbas vows swift justice. (Ironically, the Israelis and Palestinians are pointing fingers at Syrian-backed terrorists (Hezbollah) who they allege want to foment a permanent cycle of violence in the region.)
But does anyone believe that Israel will ever be free from such attacks? After all, there are literally millions of Islamists in the Middle East who believe that the state of Israel has no right to exist.
God save the Iraelis and Palestinians – from themselves!
Friday, February 25, 2005 at 11:59 AM
Yesterday, President Bush completed his “How Ya Like Me Now?” tour of Europe. From Brussels to Bratislava, he lectured the Europeans on the universal values of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. And, in each case, he cited the liberation of Iraq as vindication of his uncompromising foreign policy. Indeed, Bush’s message was especially poignant, if not degaulling, in Paris – where President Chirac must have felt like an unruly child being chastised by his Daddy.
Think of Bush whatever you may but he must be admired for galloping into that political lion’s den and emerging with not only his skin but also his pride still in tact. Because for almost 3 years now, the Europeans have belittled, gnashed at and undermined him at every turn. Indeed, it seemed as if many of their Heads of State were adjunct advisers to the John Kerry Campaign during last year’s Presidential Election. Yet, Bush went, confronted their carping and laid bare their idle pretensions.
Anti-Bush Europeans and Al Qaeda terrorists saw the invasion of Iraq as an opportunity to exorcise their envy of American prowess and disdain for Bush’s firmness on spreading democracy all over the world. But their insurgent hopes for Bush’s demise have now been dashed by millions of Iraqis (including old chador-wearing women) who risked their lives to heed his call for democracy in Iraq. Now, in classic if you can’t be them join them fashion, the Europeans have pledged grudging support for Bush’s crusade – leaving the Al Qaeda terrorists to their suicidal fate.
George W. Bush is a far from perfect leader. And, he himself readily admits that he leads a far from perfect nation. Indeed, Winston Churchill might have said that America has its faults but no country on earth has fewer of them. As for its leader, who amongst us would not say that: If I were an Iraqi or Afghan, I would thank God for President Bush. And that if I were an Arab – living anywhere in the Middle East – I would thank God for Bush’s promise to bring peace and democracy to my country. Would that the same could be said of any other leader – especially he who waxes quixotic about Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite!
Friday, February 25, 2005 at 11:51 AM
By any standard, Oprah Winfrey is a pretty remarkable woman. But – as a Black woman – her success and influence are unprecedented. Therefore, it behooves all black women to be mindful of her Oprah Show séances and consider how Oprah might help them “live their best lives”.
On 6 March, Oprah Winfrey presents Their Eyes Were Watching God – a made for television movie (starring Halle Berry) based on a 1937 novel by Harlem Renaissance writer, Zora Neal Hurston. It would be in bad form for me to reveal too much of this story but Oprah fans might like to know that she was quoted as saying that “this is the greatest love story ever told”.
High praise indeed – which constrains me to reveal just this much: the story is about a black woman’s unconventional and uninhibited quest for love in 1920s America. In fact, it mirrors Hurston’s personal explorations which included a retreat to the Caribbean where “[Zora] got her groove back”. (He was many years her junior and, as a Caribbean man, I can only say that we’ve always been friendly like that….)
What the story reveals about this black American woman’s emotional and sexual needs is provocative, to say the least. But what it implies about black American men’s inability to fulfill those needs is even more so.
Ultimately, however, I wonder how credible happily married women (or those who aspire to be) will find Oprah’s praise for this story. Especially given that she seems a committed spinster who prefers the company of her best friend, Gayle, to that of a devoted and loving husband.
Thursday, February 24, 2005 at 12:16 PM
According to Reuters, on 20 February 2005 President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela announced to his nation that President Bush has ordered a fatwa against him. As evidence to support his claim, Chavez cited recent declarations by U.S. government officials that he is a “negative force [and] source of instability” in Latin America. And, his suspicions were supported – animatedly – by Fidel Castro (that cat of 9 lives who 9 U.S. presidents really wanted to kill).
One can be forgiven the impulse to dismiss the suspicions of these two die-hard Marxists as purely delusional. After all, wouldn’t such an act betray Bush’s religious mission to spread “democratic” values around the world? Nevertheless, America’s serial involvement in the assassination (including failed attempts) of various Heads of State lends credence to Chavez and Castro’s claims.
In his book Rouge State, William Blum (a former US State Department Contractor) documents CIA operations to kill Zhou Enlai of China in the 1950s; Jawaharlal Nehru of India in 1955; Gamal Nasser of Egypt in 1957; Norodum Sihanouk of Cambodia in 1959; “Papa Doc” Duvalier of Haiti, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo and Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic – all in 1961; Ngo Diem of South Vietnam and Sukarno of Indonesia in 1963; Che Guevara of Cuba in 1967; Salvador Allende of Chile in 1973; and Omar Torrijos of Panama in 1981 – just to name a few. (Incidentally, Noam Chomsky – internationally renowned Professor at MIT and ardent critic of US foreign policy – has documented similar claims.)
It can be said, however, that – like Castro – Chavez has become a real pain in the elephantine butt of America and is, under the Bush doctrine, eminently deserving of a bulls-eye on his forehead. Indeed, since his election in 1999, Chavez seems to have relished every opportunity to defy America’s presumptive authority throughout the Western Hemisphere.
And, his fraternizing with Castro is the least of his perceived impertinences: He has befriended unrepentant communists in China and Russia and touted them as more worthy partners in the exploration and exploitation of Venezuela’s oil; he has even threatened, repeatedly, to cut-off Venezuela’s daily supply to the US of a desperately needed 1.5 million barrels of oil; he is flirting with the “hostile” notion of purchasing a fleet of advanced military jets and helicopters from Russia; and, his South American neighbours (Columbia in particular) are complaining that he’s aiding and abetting leftist rebels throughout the region.
Given the above, devotees of American imperial power might think it’s no wonder Chavez has been targeted for elimination. Of course, Bush maintains that he has no intention of killing Chavez…but that “all options remain on the table” to deal with him.
Take cover Hugo!
Thursday, February 24, 2005 at 12:05 PM
In a rambling, defiant, penitent and – ultimately – pathetic stream of consciousness, Barry Bonds finally confronted his media hounds to deny ever taking steroid. (At least I think that’s what he was trying to say.) But watching this proud and very accomplished man squirm-out tortured denials on TV was almost as pitiful as watching Bill Clinton – in his Monica Lewinsky deposition – sweat over the sexual meaning of what “is” is.
Ironically, this was an occasion when the usually taciturn Bonds should have had much less to say. Because, as delineated in the previous post on this subject, today’s baseball players (especially black ones) have earned far greater professional legitimacy than hallowed (white) players like Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
Let’s play ball!
Wednesday, February 23, 2005 at 10:07 PM
A jury has finally been empanelled to hear evidence of child molestation against Michael Jackson. Some have noted that there are no blacks on the jury. Therefore, this case will be heard by a white judge, tried by white prosecutors, defended by white lawyers and covered by white media.
Maybe Michael suspected long ago that this day would come and bleached his skin and straightened his hair to avoid conviction on account of his race….
Wednesday, February 23, 2005 at 2:03 PM
Think whatever you will of the British royals, there are at least some depths to which Her Majesty will not sink! The Palace announced today that Queen Elizabeth II has refused to dignify the marriage of Prince Charles and his mistress with Her presence. And, of course, this is meant to fuel speculation that plans are afoot to skip a generation in the Royal succession….
Hail William, King of England!
Note: Don’t be on it…
Wednesday, February 23, 2005 at 12:59 PM
With his purchase of the Charlotte Bobcats last year, Robert Johnson became the first black owner of a team in the National Basketball Association (NBA). And, in so doing, he pierced one of the few remaining bastions of racial segregation in America: team owners of the NBA. Johnson is an entrepreneur who amassed a fortune as the Founder and CEO of Black Entertainment Television (BET). His interest in the NBA, however, will generate social and cultural benefits that cannot be accounted for on the bottom line.
Last week, Reggie Fowler continued this pioneering trend with his purchase of the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League (NFL). And, in so doing, he pierced the racial barrier in another of those remaining bastions: team owners of the NFL. Fowler too is a very successful entrepreneur with holdings in manufacturing, aviation and property development.
Many assume that black players – like Randy Moss and Michael Jordan – are the masters of their respective sports. But they are merely (highly paid) indentured servants which makes their relationship to their white team owners seem rather antebellum. (OK: if Michael Jordan’s a slave, who needs freedom – right? But I’m sure you get my point.) Nevertheless, with only 2 blacks now in the exclusive club of the 122, integrating the ownership of major sports teams in America still remains a daunting challenge.
Johnson and Fowler, however, are trailblazers in the significantly evolved struggle for black empowerment in America. We are no longer marching in the streets – protesting for civil rights. Instead, we are climbing the ladders of corporate success – seeking control of our economic destiny.
But we cannot mark this occasion without paying homage to our entrepreneurial forefather – Booker T. Washington. Because, as early as the 1880s, he advocated business enterprise and the acquisition of property as the most assured path to empowerment in America. And, Johnson and Fowler represent the all too belated vindication of his counsel.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005 at 6:16 PM
For decades, Fidel Castro boasted that his Communist government provided Cubans the best health care in the entire world. But his claim only ever amounted to ash because per capita smoking in Cuba has always been worse than in any other country. Now, however, Castro has decreed that, henceforth, there shall be no more smoking in Cuba!
Nine (9) successive US Presidents have attempted to undermine Castro’s leadership – to no avail. This decree, however, may finally be his Achilles heel. Because this country of cigar addicts will probably revolt before kicking their national habit.
What did Karl Marx say about a nation carrying the seeds of its own destruction?
Well, this stogie’s for you Fidel!
Tuesday, February 22, 2005 at 5:20 PM
Today has been designated “Free Mojtaba and Arash Day” by the Committee to Protect Internet journalists. The Committee is calling on the worldwide community of Internet journalists to do what it can to help raise awareness of the plight of Mojtaba and Arash. They have been jailed by the mullahs in Iran for daring to publish their political thoughts on the Internet. I hereby register my support.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005 at 2:26 PM
In an unprecedented stand for democracy and the rule of law in Africa, ECOWAS and the African Union (with a paternal assist from Europe and the United States) prevailed upon the Togo’s National Assembly to reverse its rubber-stamp approval of the army’s installation of Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema to replace his father as President.
In announcing the corrective Parliamentary bill, the deputy Speaker declared that “it is only a fool who never changes his mind”. No doubt economic sanctions and travel restrictions figured prominently in bringing the cosmopolitan (Francophone) MPs to their senses.
Baby Eyadema seems destined for a brief but pivotal footnote in African history. And the cure for Africa’s Big Dada pathology seems well at hand.
Now what to do about Herr Mugabe of Zimbabwe….
See Previous Posts Index for original artilce
Tuesday, February 22, 2005 at 2:47 AM
In 1962, when the Soviet Union threatened America’s sphere of influence by basing missiles in Cuba, President John F. Kennedy threatened nuclear confrontation if they did not retreat. They did and, thankfully, the Cold War remained cold. Today, however, China poses a similar threat. Although the Chinese weapons of choice are not missiles but money and people – and lots of both.
As the United States, Europe and Japan are anxiously monitoring China’s flexing of her rapidly increasing military and economic muscle in Asia, China is strategically basing state-controlled enterprises (and operatives) throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. With relatively unlimited cash and human resources, China is becoming a major player in the pharmaceutical, petroleum, machinery and equipment, engineering and construction, textile, telecommunications, electronic, financial services and transshipment fields. Nevertheless, the Americans remain preoccupied with potential military threats and regard this Chinese economic infiltration as rather benign…so far. (Recall that Troy regarded the infiltration of Sparta’s wooden horse as rather benign as well – until it was revealed as the proverbial Trojan horse.)
This week, at the China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Co-operation Forum in Jamaica, Vice President Zeng Qinghong is expected to consolidate China’s geopolitical strategy of co-opting the economies of the Caribbean. He reveled in the Santa Claus-like reception he got at every port of call during his tour of the region prior to his arrival in Jamaica. After all, the locals were understandably giddy with glee when Qinghong showed up bearing gifts of unparalleled capital investments and glad tidings of future tourist visits in the tens of millions – which is no exaggeration coming from China.
Christopher Columbus, however, might serve as a more analogous trailblazer for VP Qinghong’s than Santa Claus. Because the Chinese search for new markets is really a pretext for their quest for dominion over this region. And with massive direct investments and Chinese tourists boosting visits to unprecedented levels, China’s trade with the Caribbean will soon become indispensable to national economies throughout the region. And, as a geopolitical fringe benefit, China’s ability to exercise unprecedented political influence will also be assured.
To be fair, however, China has made no attempt to disguise its political strategy. Because in each case, China has demanded that Caribbean governments sever all ties with Taiwan as a condition of its largesse. For example, in 1997 The Bahamas was the first Caribbean country to abandon its US-led policy on Taiwan after Hong Kong based Hutchison Whampoa invested hundreds of millions of dollars in a container port and several hotels in that country. Today, this Chinese company is fast becoming the largest employer in The Bahamas.
In fact, China’s “benign infiltration” throughout the Caribbean has become so pervasive that only five countries still maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan — the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And, it seems only a matter of time before they abandon ship.
Of course, no one can blame these countries for acting in their perceived national (economic) interests. After all, their political allegiance to America was more like a lilliputian cord of obligation. And, as China looms as a more reliable and generous benefactor, it seems reasonable that they would all welcome the severing of that chord – if only as matter of national pride. Besides, there is also palpable sense – worldwide – that China, not the United States, will be the most dynamic and powerful country of the 21st Century.
Therefore, America’s indifference to the Caribbean is clearly not without consequences. Yet, in a recent interview with BBC America, Roger Noriega – the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs – blithely dismissed any potential challenge by China to America’s influence in the region. Nevertheless, there seems no doubt that China is engaged in a Cold War strategy of buying-up political influence. And, Caribbean countries have been extremely solicitous of China’s attention. Perhaps when the Chinese summon Caribbean nations to support their international agenda – like voting at the UN for a Chinese Resolution to deploy any means necessary to bring Taiwan under its national flag – only then will America realize the threat posed by China’s Caribbean offensive.
Post Iraq, however, few Americans might care what China does in Taiwan (or anywhere else for that matter). But consider international developments that might lead China, for strategic reasons, to base missiles in Jamaica or convert its container ports, factories and chemical plants in the region to dual military and commercial use. Would the governments in the Caribbean comply? Would they have any real choice in the matter? And, would America then blockade the entire region – as it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis? Now, consider China making such strategic moves in Latin America where its benign economic infiltration dwarfs its Caribbean operations. This Cold War could then turn very hot indeed….
But don’t worry man, be happy!
Monday, February 21, 2005 at 3:23 PM
Last Friday, Philadelphia prosecutors announced that Bill Cosby will not face charges stemming from a woman’s allegation that he fondled her at his suburban mansion after giving her medication that made her woozy. Cosby confessed to committing adultery with his accuser (think Kobe Bryant) but denied any criminal wrongdoing. The prosecutors said they found “insufficient evidence to support the woman’s claims”.
The woman, a former Temple University women’s basketball coach, claimed that, after a night out with friends in January 2004, Cosby gave her medication that made her dizzy, then fondled her. She said she later awoke to find her bra undone and her clothes in disarray. Her claims were corroborated, however, by a Los Angeles attorney who claimed that Cosby harassed her in similar fashion almost 30 years ago. Indeed, whispers of Cosby’s aggressive womanizing dogged him even during his reign as “America’s No. 1 Dad” on The Cosby Show.
With these whispers now a public scandal, however, one has to wonder how much longer Cosby can continue his crusade as the conscience of black America. (For example, by decrying that “[t]hey can’t read; they can’t write. They’re laughing and giggling, and they’re going nowhere.”) Perhaps he’ll be shamed into silence like Jesse Jackson who retreated after being exposed as a dead-beat dad of an illegitimate child. Or perhaps Cosby will soldier on like Bill Clinton who seems pathologically immune to public disgrace.
Hey, hey, hey!
Monday, February 21, 2005 at 1:39 AM
**Update** – Despite vowing to ride-out the rest of his contract, Reuters reports that Rudd Lubbers has just quit the United Nations under pressure from sexual harassment allegations. Can his boss, Kofi Annan, survive his mounting scandals?
See Previous Posts index for original article.
Sunday, February 20, 2005 at 9:23 PM
Today the New York Times published excerpts of private conversations between (then) Governor George W. Bush and Doug Wead, an Assembly of God Evangelist who secretly taped their discussions. Call me cynical but I’ve read (and heard) the excerpts; And, I smell a rat!
The Times and almost every political pundit seem to have bought the notion that Bush had no idea his remarkably thoughtful and articulate words were being recorded. But I’m not so sure. Take a listen and you decide if that person sounds like the deer in the headlights character who mumbled and gaffed his way through the 2000 Presidential campaign. (For heaven’s sake, that Bush on tape sounds positively Clintonian….)
Or is that Nixonian? Well, perhaps not quite so infernally sinister. But I sense the scripted musings of an extremely cocky Presidential heir who suspected these recordings might one day counter his anticipated legacy as a political dunce. (Better shrewd than smart, eh!) Moreover, despite his religious vocation, Wead seems more a complicit H R Haldeman than a principled Linda Tripp.
Wead claims that he made the recordings because he knew Governor Bush would become a “pivotal figure in history [think Roosevelt and Churchill friends]” – no doubt by converting the entire world to his notions of democracy and freedom. How prescient!
No, what we have here is a deliberate leak orchestrated by a political prince that would make Lee Atwater (Bush’s Machiavellian tutor) extremely proud. And, Wead’s attempts to explain his motives are not only specious but also patently fatuous.
Sunday, February 20, 2005 at 4:35 AM
It takes a remarkable record of professional incompetence to provoke the (liberal) New York Times to join the (conservative) Wall Street Journal in calling for one’s resignation. As Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan has achieved this dubious distinction – and deservedly so.
Annan was elected Secretary General on 1 January 1997. His election settled a classic struggle between developed nations (led by the United States and England) and the Third World (led by Egypt and Botswana) over whether Annan’s predecessor, Boutros Boutros Gali, would serve a second term. Until then, a Secretary General’s election to a second term was routine. But the Americans (led by President Clinton) and their cohorts found Boutros Gali too zealous in challenging developed nations to honour their international obligations and trying to redress inequities between rich and poor countries in world affairs. They assumed Annan, however, would be a more malleable functionary and imposed his election upon the United Nations.
Alas, Annan has proved more resolutely bureaucratic than politically compliant to his American benefactors. But, unlike Boutros Gali, their disappointment in Annan stems not from his zealous execution of the mandates of his office; rather, it stems from his dithering and predilection for (European) bureaucratic form over (American) results-oriented substance in international affairs.
In fairness to Annan, however, a little due diligence by the Americans in 1996 would have warned them about his Eurocentric world view. Indeed, Annan is the prototypical process-obsessed bureaucrat – having been nurtured by the UN since his initiation 1962. His failures as a leader, however, were telegraphed with devastating clarity during his tenure as head of the UN’s Peace Keeping Department from 1993 – 1996:
Annan’s fellow Africans, in particular, remember well this period of humanitarian neglect by the United Nations as a holocaust rampaged amongst the people of Rwanda and Burundi. Almost 1 million Africans were massacred by tribal militias over a few weeks in 1994. And, Annan and his “peacekeeping” forces simply stood by like palace guards in the midst of this tragedy. In lamenting his failures, he admitted recently that he “realised after the genocide that there was more that [he] could and should have done to sound the alarm and rally support.” Ultimately, Annan confessed that he was “guilty of sins of omission.” Indeed!
Of course Annan’s contrition would be only slightly more convincing if he were not now “playing his fiddle” in midst of yet another African holocaust. His neglect in this case is more egregious, however, because he stands not as a confused and feckless field officer but as the head of United Nations itself. To date, over 100,000 primarily black Africans have been ethnically cleansed (and 1.2 million driven from their homes) in Darfur, Sudan by government-backed Arab militias. And, it is noteworthy that it was the Americans (and not their Africans brothers) who prodded the United Nations to charge these militias with committing genocidal crimes against humanity. But, instead of “sounding the alarm and rally[ing] support”, Annan retreated to form by appointing a commission to study whether the Americans were right to call massacre of 100,000 Africans “genocide”. Meanwhile, the killing goes on….
Clearly, this serial neglect of his fellow Africans should be just cause to call for Annan’s resignation. But the New York Times and Wall Street Journal were moved by more salacious considerations: money and sex.
From Annan’s first day as Secretary General, the United Nations was responsible for administering Iraq’s “Oil-for-Food” progarmme which was intended to provide Sadaam Hussein the means to purchase humanitarian supplies for the Iraqi people during international sanctions against his country. But recently unclassified records implicate Annan’s son, Kojo, and his Deputy Secretary General, Benon V. Savon, in a monumental scheme to help Sadaam launder billions of dollars from the programme to buy weapons and live like a Babylonian king. These records may well implicate Annan himself – at the very least – for more sins of omission.
A few weeks ago, disgusted officials leaked an internal UN report which found that peacekeepers had sexually molested and abused African refugees in the DR Congo. These leaks forced Annan to admit that he had known for some time about his staff’s criminal conduct – including paedophilia, rape and prostitution (some of which was caught on tape). He offered words of contrition to the African victims and pledged to convene a commission to investigate these crimes. (True to form, his contrition would’ve have been more convincing in this case had another UN report a few years ago not found evidence of similar “widespread” sexual abuse of African refugees by UN staff.)
Just days ago, the head of the United Nation’s Refugee Agency, Rudd Lubbers, was desperately denying allegations of sexual harassment made by a member of his staff. He assured the media that his boss, Kofi Annan, had reviewed the report by the UN Internal Investigations Department (OIOS) on the allegations 6 months ago and “concluded they were unsustainable”.
But on the heels of his denials, a British newspaper, The Independent, published leaked information from that report. It showed that the OIOS found that “Mr. Lubbers did engage in unwanted physical contact with a subordinate female staff member. [Moreover that] new allegations that came to the OIOS’s attention during the investigation were also examined and indicate a pattern of sexual harassment by Mr. Lubbers,” Nevertheless, Lubbers insists the he will not resign prior to the end of his contract with the UN (December 2005).
In refusing to resign, however, Lubbers is merely following Annan who insists that, despite growing pressure for him to resign, he too will not leave prior to the end of his contract (December 2006). But, although he retains some residue of good will for, amongst other things, promoting the transition to civilian rule in Nigeria; resolving a stalemate between Libya and the Security Council over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing; and forging an international response to violence in East Timor, Annan’s failure of leadership (especially in African affairs) warrants his immediate resignation.
If he survives, however, the metastasizing malaise at the United Nations will inevitably led him to say about 2005 what he said about last year (and could say about almost every year of his term as UN Secretary General): namely, that it was an “annus horribilis”.
Friday, February 18, 2005 at 9:59 PM
Jose Canseco’s book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big has been greeted by almost everyone associated with this “all American” sport with a whole lot of sanctimonious blather. They profess incredulity at Canseco’s claims that he and many of baseball’s best players were (and are) juiced-up on steroids. And, major league officials seem positively penitent trying to assure fans that they will do everything possible to rid the sport of performance enhancing drugs.
Baseball “purists” are so outraged that they are calling into question all records set over the past decade as probably achieved by pumped-up cheaters. These cheaters, however, rescued the game from almost terminal disinterest after the baseball strike of 1994. Indeed, team owners and fans alike knew well that the sudden supernatural performances of once mediocre players did not result from pumping iron during that strike.
But, so what if players take steroids. It is a victimless vice, far less poisonous than alcohol and, where a “roid rager” merely intimidates, a drunk actually kills.
Given all the fuss, however, one might think that Canseco’s confessions amounted to heresy. But the heresy is not Canseco’s revelations (and accusations); rather, it is the collective hypocrisy of all who refuse to admit that cheating to get ahead in sports (and life) is as American as, well, baseball and apple pie.
Washington, Jefferson and the founding fathers built America by cheating Indians and blacks of their civil and economic rights. Ford, Rockefeller and the robber-baron industrialists made their fortunes by cheating labourers of fair wages whilst forcing them to work in horrible conditions. Rutherford B. Hayes, John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush are all reputed to have cheated their way to the Presidency by rigging votes in one state or another.
But I digress. This is about sports after all:
Players from the CCNY basketball team in the 1950s to those from Arizona State in the 1990s were discovered to have taken bribes to manipulate the outcome of their games. Rosie Ruiz joined the race only in the last mile to cheat her way to victory the 1980 Boston Marathon. In that same year, Tonya Harding had goons ambush Nancy Kerrigan hoping to cheat her way to Olympic gold – in the genteel sport of ice skating no less. Don King in boxing; Marion Jones in track and field; Football and steroids? Enough said.
Of course, cheating is nothing new to baseball:
Some of the more notorious scandals include the 1919 White Sox team taking bribes to throw the World Series; Albert Belle (1994) and Sammy Sosa (2003) using corked backs to hit more home runs; Pete Rose betting on the outcome of games in his capacity as player for and manager of the Cincinnati Reds; and, George Brett (1999) using pine tar on his bat to increase his batting average.
Nevertheless, some might maintain their (moral) outrage by suggesting that steroid use is a worse form of cheating because it is illegal. But so was alcohol during the most productive years of Babe Ruth’s career. And, I doubt anyone would argue that Ruth was a teetotaler or that his records should be called into question because he abused alcohol. Moreover, it is plausible that alcohol was an emotional and physical palliative that made Ruth a more productive player. A more salient historical consideration, however, is that Ruth would most likely have not had any records if blacks were not segregated from the major leagues during this period.
Ultimately, Canseco’s book increases the chance that many players will get caught taking steroids. And, therein lies his virtue (helping to clean up the sport) and only sin (exposing his fellow players). Regrettably, in sports (as in life) it is not the cheating that causes shame and outrage; rather, it’s admitting to it or, worse yet, getting caught. But baseball players who are caught may well claim that they were merely seeking their piece of the American pie – the old fashioned way.
Thursday, February 17, 2005 at 1:09 PM
HRH Prince Charles’ proposal to marry Mrs. Parker Bowles (his mistress-in waiting for 30 plus years) must have King Henry VIII chortling in his grave. Because, no other royal since that raffish king has shown such utter contempt for his religion, the institution of marriage and the welfare (and lives) of women. But on 8 April 2005, Charles is scheduled to complete this dubious trifecta and, in so doing, enhance the legacy of unconscionable royal prerogatives that make fools of loyal subjects.
(A republic, a republic – my life for a republic!)
Charles clearly realises what, alas, Edward VIII did not: that Great Britain has always had a critical mass of servile monarchists for whom the royals can do no wrong. And, that no amount of aberrant, shameful and capricious behaviour will diminish their devotion to the Monarchy.
Indeed, it is troubling – to say the least – that revelations about the royal family’s cold-hearted treatment of Princess Diana seem to have had little effect on their public support. It was these loyalists, after all, who not so long ago welcomed Diana as the lady avenger of their faith. They worshiped everything about her and prayed for the day of Charles’ coronation as King and she – their Queen. And, upon her sudden death, they wailed and mourned as if Christ himself had been re-crucified!
But the royal family’s PR machine seems capable of manipulating public opinion through any scandal that threatens their reign. So that when the exiled Princess disclosed details about her marriage (of quiet desperation) to a Prince who treated her as little more than the chosen breeder of his heir and spare, that machine spewed out its own revelations about Diana that made Charles seem the victim of a bulimic, hysterical, ungrateful and hopelessly dysfunctional brat of a wife; and, that was that!
So this British fairytale continues with Charles now lauded as a doting Daddy betrothed to a more suitable woman. The sad reality, of course, is that where the Royal pronouncement of such a marriage once warranted summary abdication, today it heralds the respectable union of the future king and his indefatigable mistress.
But royal prerogatives and enabling subjects notwithstanding, if only half of Diana’s claims about Charles are true, his head should be fitted for a guillotine rather than a crown.
(A republic, a republic – my life for a republic!)