Thursday, March 31, 2005 at 12:46 PM
Caribbean nations are becoming extremely exasperated with the seemingly endless influx of Haitian migrants into their countries. Because it is now painfully clear that these desperate souls not only drain limited social services but also contribute to increasing incidences of crime and disorder in local communities throughout the region.
Despite increasing political stability, chronic poverty, hunger and violence in Haiti continue to compel exodus en masse from its shores. And, with a population of almost 8 million potential migrants, Haiti is a persistent menacing presence for every country in the Caribbean.
It is imperative, however, that we do not cast all Haitians living in our midst as part of this problem. Because some Caribbean countries (like The Bahamas) have a proud and honourable legacy of assimilating Haitians who – for generations – have made valuable contributions to their cultural and economic development.
Nevertheless, some countries are facing an immigration crisis that poses a severe challenge to national governance. This is especially so in countries like the Turks and Caicos and Cayman Islands where Haitians threaten to outnumber natives unless immigration controls are enacted and enforced zealously.
All Caribbean governments must recognize that this is not a crisis that can be managed with political rhetoric – as the Americans have done with their Mexican immigration problem. But at least the United States can assimilate its 12 million undocumented Mexicans (and, indeed many more) without suffering any noticeable impact on its national resources. By contrast, however, Caribbean countries cannot sustain the shocks to infrastructure and siphoning of resources that the uncontrolled influx of Haitians would inflict. Therefore, our governments must take aggressive action to seal our borders and repatriate Haitians who cannot present a legal or equitable claim against deportation.
In this regard, it might be helpful for governments of the Caribbean to consider some other governments are dealing with similar immigration problems:
Italy, for example, has an immigration policy that aims at mass expulsion of illegal immigrants – especially the unemployed. Indeed, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi even proposed an immigration bill that would authorise border patrol to open fire on boats carrying would-be illegal immigrants.
Switzerland – in a radical departure from its tradition of liberal immigration laws which resulted in immigrants accounting for up to 23 per cent of its total population – now has some of the most restrictive immigration laws in Europe. Among these is a law which mandates immigration authorities to deny renewal of work permits in great numbers to force thousands of settled immigrants out of the country.
Germany, of course, has a notorious historical antipathy to foreigners. And, perhaps to honour its long heralded motto that “Germany is not an immigration country”, the Germans recently ratified new laws that would severely restrict foreign immigration and even require repatriation of highly skilled immigrants who were educated at the German tax payer’s expense. (Remarkably, they passed these new laws despite the widely recognized fact that – with its rapidly aging population – the German economy has a desperate need for such skilled workers.)
England, despite spouting more inclusive rhetoric, recently unveiled its new immigration strategy to reduce the influx of immigrants to the UK. Indeed, Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged his Labour government’s commitment to reduce immigration by an even greater number than those envisioned by leaders of the Conservative Party whom he accused of racism for describing non-white immigrants as “bogus asylum seekers…flooding into Britain.”
(Even if only an election year ploy, Blair’s new immigration plan is very consistent with those being implemented all over Europe – with the notable exception of France where Jacque Chirac remains committed to stripping all vestiges of national origin from French immigrants and turning them into undiluted Frenchmen.)
Finally, it should be noted that America’s liberal immigration policy towards Mexicans (on whom they depend for cheap labour) and Cubans (who are coveted pawns in their ongoing political chess match with Fidel Castro) does not extend to blacks from Caribbean countries – especially Haiti. Indeed, reports of Haitians being interdicted by the US Coast Guard and repatriated without any asylum due process incite considerable resentment among Caribbean government officials who do not have the manpower, resources and, perhaps, political will to do the same.
Of course, it would be untenable for Caribbean governments to endorse shooting at Haitians (Italy) or repatriating skilled Haitians (Germany) or refusing renewal of work permits for long-settled Haitian (Switzerland). Nevertheless, what the above policies demonstrate is that countries will enact draconian immigration laws if they perceive them to be in their national interests.
And, Caribbean countries must follow suit no matter how politically incorrect or potentially inhumane. Because what these policies also suggest is that if big and rich countries feel compelled to enact such legislation for the welfare of their citizens, then the compulsion for the much smaller and poorer countries of the Caribbean to take similar action should be 10,000 fold.
In this regard, The Bahamas has taken the vanguard position. And, its policies can be instructive since no country has been a more preferred thruway or squatting destination for swarming Haitian migrants than The Bahamas. Only months ago, the Bahamian government announced new measures to “stem the flow of illegal immigrants to The Bahamas”. And, in addition to emulating the American interdiction practice, the Bahamian government has initiated an aggressive campaign of repatriation that – although not quite to the German extreme – will invariably uproot many Haitians who have been settled in The Bahamas for a very long time.
Other Caribbean countries will be compelled to follow suit despite grumblings now about the Bahamian plan. In fact, the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights (IJCHR) recently criticized the Jamaican government for failing to provide Haitians with adequate due process consideration of their asylum applications before repatriating them back to Haiti. Nevertheless, to the greatest extent possible, Caribbean countries should coordinate immigration efforts to erect a regional bulwark against Haitians fleeing in droves from their country.
In theory, this might seem inhumane. But in practice, it could prove an enlightened means of helping Haitians despite themselves. Because, if it becomes clear that all countries will interdict and summarily repatriate them, then fewer Haitians might be willing to risk their lives at sea. Moreover, governments that do not have to worry about Haitian boat people or Haitian shanty towns (like the Mud and Pidgeon Peas in Abaco) becoming eyesores and breeding grounds for criminality will be able to direct more political and economic resources towards helping Haitians improve their living conditions at home.
Finally, as a regional block, Caribbean countries should lobby the US Congress to pass on the costs of dealing with Haitian refugees to the United States. After all, as referenced above, the American presidents are almost as responsible for creating the nightmarish living conditions in Haiti as the succession of incompetent, corrupt and ruthless leaders they’ve sponsored throughout Haiti’s modern History.
Indeed, the American government must honour its unfulfilled obligations to help build a Haiti that can sustain, govern and police itself. And, if Haitians remain compelled to brave the Caribbean Sea to escape horrific conditions at home, then Caribbean Countries should consider doing as Fidel Castro did with his undesirables in Cuba 25 years ago: Put all Haitians who reach their shores into sea worthy dingys and ship them off to the United States for the Americans to deal with them.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005 at 10:50 AM
Johnnie L Cochran, the most clever, debonair and charismatic lawyer of our time, died yesterday from an inoperable brain tumor.
Too many people only regarded Cochran as the lawyer who helped OJ Simpson get away with murder. But for those of us who knew a little about the man, Johnnie was not only a skilled defense attorney but also a tireless advocate for civil rights and black economic empowerment. Moreover, he was already a celebrity among lawyers before OJ Simpson made him a household name.
Farewell Johnnie! And, even though no one would be more suited to the task, chances are pretty good that you won’t have to plead your case at the pearly gates….
(Click here for an Obituary on Jonnie Cochran from the Associated Press)
Wednesday, March 30, 2005 at 10:48 AM
Lately, the use of anabolic steroids has been a topic of considerable public scrutiny in America. But, no one has embodied and exploited their use more infamously than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
These pictures demonstrate, however, that the use of steroids is really a bargain with the devil: A few years of bulging biceps and gorilla-like strength and then a lifetime with a flabby gut and noodle-like virility.
So, why do so many men take this deal?
Probably for the same reasons so many people smoke crack or cheat on the spouses they love. But, the more we can expose men like Arnold for the frauds they are, the greater regard we’ll have for our own natural God-given attributes.
Women addicted to botox and plastic surgery, take note!
Tuesday, March 29, 2005 at 11:33 AM
The Robert Mugabe government of Zimbabwe is the most corrupt, dysfunctional and incompetent in Africa. And, on a continent that has the most corrupt, dysfunctional and incompetent governments in the entire world, Mugabe’s achievement in this regard is a truly dubious distinction. Therefore, those of us who rue the slings and arrows of Mugabe’s outrageous governance will observe national elections there on Thursday with quixotic feelings of cynicism and unconquerable hope.
Of course, no one doubts that Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party will declare victory just as it has in every election since Mugabe led Zimbabwe to Independence in 1980. The only suspense this time is whether the wave of democracy that recently washed away tyrants from countries like the Ukraine, Syria and Kyrgyzstan will now surge it’s inexorable force of peaceful revolutionary change over Zimbabwe.
Hope springs eternal…
Robert Mugabe, 81, personifies the big dada pathology that has afflicted most of post colonial Africa: A guerilla fighter who liberated his people from white racists only to plunge them into deeper throes of oppression by his ruthless, greedy and inept leadership of their independent nation.
Zimbabweans celebrated the birth of their nation 25 years ago. But it soon became patently clear that the chaos, violence and rank incompetence that attended its Independence Day celebration were foreboding of things to come.
Indeed, Mugabe wasted little time assigning his unskilled guerilla comrades political portfolios to ensure his absolute control throughout the country. No political opposition or dissent was tolerated and soon fear and intimidation became the method of governance in Zimbabwe.
Nevertheless, even two decades after independence, a herd of white farmers still managed the most profitable sector of Zimbabwe’s economy: agriculture. And, for a proud black freedom fighter who promised not only political but also economic liberation from the white man, this fact hovered as a glaring humiliation and contradiction over Mugabe’s leadership. In 2000, he decided to do something about it.
It would be a terribly oversight, however, not to mention the simmering dissention among the ranks of Mugabe’s comrades in arms who 20 years later had little to show for their dedication to his cause. Especially since Mugabe’s action against the white farmers was prompted as much to appease them as to honour his commitment to spread black empowerment benefits throughout his country.
Therefore, to the relief and exultation of restive blacks, Mugabe announced sweeping land reforms in which his government would seize the “farms of white colonialists to give to landless peasants and the veterans of the war of liberation.” A noble idea to be sure; but so was the cause of national independence 20 years early that did so little to empower the 70 percent of Zimbabweans who remained mired in extreme poverty.
Unfortunately, like his independence blueprint for black empowerment, Mugabe’s land reforms have been an abject failure: Five years ago, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of sub-Saharan Africa; today, it is a basket case of starving people. Five years ago, there were 4000 white owned farms in Zimbabwe; today, there are only 400 – mostly unproductive – farms left. Indeed, the AP reports that:
“Most of the seized farms went to President Mugabe’s loyal cronies in government who used them for weekend retreats. Virtually every Cabinet minister and senior security official now has at least two farms. Even then, they are not given the title deed, just a long lease which the President can revoke at the first sign of disloyalty.
It has been a catastrophe. These people had no idea how to farm commercially and farms that would normally be overflowing with maize and other crops lie fallow, much of them now covered in waist-high wild grass. Farm machinery stands unused in abandoned fields.”
In addition to ruining Zimbabwe’s agriculture, Mugabe also precipitated hyper-inflation that is now over 400 per cent. Indeed, in 2000, Zimbabwe’s currency was Z$40 to $1; today, it is over Z$10,000. Now add to this structural collapse the escalating spectre of AIDS that is killing 1 child every 15 minutes and only then one gets a glimpse of the living hell that is Zimbabwe on the eve of national elections.
Therefore, given this horrific record of failure, it might seem incredulous to most people that Mugabe is so assured of reelection. But there are two principal reasons for this cynical assurance:
First, Mugabe has a national network of political cronies, security police, spies and thugs that make Stalin’s regime of oppression and intimidation seem feckless. And, this network has already ensured that the silenced opposition has no means (through national media or grass roots campaigning) of mobilizing votes or protest against Mugabe’s rule. Moreover, his compromised judiciary ruled recently that those who escaped repression to live abroad will have no say (via absentee ballots) in the outcome of Mugabe’s election.
Second, Mugabe has cajoled the vast majority of his people into thinking that no one more powerful than he cares about them. Moreover, that only he, their Big Dada, stands between their current misery and even worse conditions that would befall them if “foreign agents were allowed to derail Zimbabwe’s great revolution”. (Fidel Castro, eat your heart out!)
Regrettably, thanks to the malevolent neglect of rich nations and the complicity of many African governments, Mugabe’s brainwashing of his people has been quite successful. After all, despite showing aggressive interest in the outcome of elections where dictatorships rule over mostly white populations, the Bush Administration has demonstrated precious little interest in the fate of black Zimbabweans. (Indeed, it was especially disappointing that Secretary of State Dr Condoleeza Rice offered no encouragement to Zimbabweans to vote against Mugabe on Thursday when she presented America’s annual report on Countries with Human Rights Abuses only yesterday.)
It must be said, however, that black American and African leaders have shown even less concern about Mugabe’s thriving dictatorship than President Bush has demonstrated. Indeed, it is instructive to note that whilst America’s putative black leader, Rev. Jesse Jackson, was all over television during the past 48 hours, he never once commanded the world’s attention to
the plight of the poor and oppressed people of Zimbabwe. Instead, Jackson used his considerable influence to commmand media attention to the plight of Michael Jackson (the indicted child) whose legal ordeal Jackson compared to the oppression suffered by Nelson Mandela under apartheid.
(Sadly, it has long seemed futile to keep hope alive for Michael Jackson’s sanity. But, with Rev. Jackson collaborating in this abject mockery of Mandela, it might prove difficult to keep hope alive for his political integrity. Click here for more details on how other “African American” leaders have challenged the American government to help Michael Jackson as they ignored poor starving Africans in the Sudan.)
Meanwhile, Africa’s most powerful leader, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, has not only embraced Mugabe’s flourishing dictatorship but has actually undermined efforts by South African Trade Unionists to help organize opposition to Mugabe. In fact, much to the dismay of Zimbabwe’s marginalized opposition Party (Movement for Democratic Change - MDC), Mbeki recently announced to the world that “President Robert Mugabe’s government had taken action to ensure a level playing field and there was no violence or intimidation in Zimbabwe.”
MDC spokesman, Paul Themba Nyathi, said that Zimbabweans were “stunned” by Mr Mbeki’s observations and added, rather sardonically, that maybe Mbeki “knows things that those of us who are on the ground do not know”.
All things considered, it seems highly unlikely that any change will come to Zimbabwe after Mugabe orchestrates national elections on Thursday. Nevertheless, long-suffering, humbled and dreadfully intimidated Zimbabweans deserve not only our humanitarian concerns but also our active support. Therefore, please use the links below to register your outrage at this conspiracy of neglect by key world leaders.
We can remain hopeful that the spontaneous revolutions that have erupted all over the world in recent months might penetrate Mugabe’s considerable defenses. Indeed, Zimbabwe’s courageous Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo has even said a public prayer for a Ukrainian style uprising to overthrow Africa’s lone reigning big dada.
The conditions of poverty, disease and hunger are so severe, however, that Zimbabweans may not have the strength to march in the streets even if they wanted to….
Click here to register your concerns about Zimbabwe to President Bush
Click here to register your concerns about Zimbabwe to Rev. Jesse Jackson (By mail or fax)
Click here to register your concerns about Zimbabwe to President Mbeki
Monday, March 28, 2005 at 2:25 PM
It seems that the investigations into widely reported corruption and malfeasance at the United Nations have plunged its seemingly unflappable leader, Kofi Annan, into extreme depths of despair.
Many speculate, however, that Annan’s emotional anguish has not been caused by pending reports on the UN’s negligent performance in peacekeeping or even the unconscionable sexual abuse of poor helpless children by its peacekeepers throughout the developing world. Instead, insiders at the UN indicate that Annan is crestfallen by the implication of his own son as a pivotal figure in the UN’s $40 billion oil-for-food scam.
But, notwithstanding the alleged gross misdeeds of his son, Annan’s own documented failures of leadership should compel him to resign as secretary general of the UN, immediately!
Note: When Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992, I had great expectations that the chronic maladies that afflict poor blacks (and whites) in America might finally be redressed. But when he left office 8 years later, those maladies not only remained chronic but, in many respects, had actually gotten much worse.
Likewise, when Kofi Annan was elected the first black secretary general of the UN in 1997, I had great expectations that the chronic maladies of war, poverty, starvation and disease that plagued so much of Africa and the developing world would finally receive sustained international relief. But today, all of these problems seem even more dire.
Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan are two modern tragic heroes who lifted the hopes of so many – to the stars – only to let them come crashing down amidst scandal, public disgrace and profound disillusionment.
Monday, March 28, 2005 at 11:25 AM
This is my home in the Turks & Caicos Islands. I invite you to come revel in our holiday spirit anytime….
Despite the abhorrent nature of colonialism, the British left some customs that are still heartily observed throughout their former colonies in the Caribbean. And, public holidays certainly fall within this cherished tradition.
Curiously, unlike Americans, the British apparently saw no need to glorify all of their holidays with patriotic or reverential titles like President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day or Thanksgiving Day. Instead, they just called many of them Bank Holidays (no doubt in honor of Britain’s great mercantile heritage).
That’s why the “Easter Monday” holiday seems so puzzling; because it has a reverential title but no discernible relevance to Jesus Christ. It may be that even the British had qualms about appending a bank holiday to this very religious event. And, Easter Monday seems as appropriate a title for sneaking in another banker’s day off here as calling the day after Christmas “Boxing Day” for an additional holiday there as well.
This is my home in The Bahamas. I invite you to come revel in our holiday spirit anytime here too….(I know, life is good!)
Of course, with beaches like these, one might wonder why the British did not fashion even more such innocuous excuses for holiday celebrations.
Sunday, March 27, 2005 at 12:18 PM
Is it just me or is the 24/7 media coverage of the death throes of the Pope, Mrs Schiavo and now, perhaps, Prince Rainier of Monaco becoming a macabre farce?
Witness the spectacle on Good Friday of the Pope being put on display like a scene out of Weekend at Bernie’s. Indeed, the poor man looked more like a propped-up papal mascot than the infallible Holy Father of the Catholic Church. Though I confess I am not Catholic, my humanity and spirituality made me deeply saddened by that Vatican production. After all, it seemed orchestrated merely to exploit religious sympathies for the Pope (or rather the scandal plagued Catholic Church).
The Pope’s infirmities have clearly left him unable to function on his own. But I don’t think devotion to the papacy (or Catholicism) is so tenuous that Catholics need to see a lifeless Pope positioned in a chair or waiving like a marionette from a window to feel and demonstrate appropriate concern for his health.
It’s one thing for Catholics to go on pilgrimages to Lourdes for religious inspiration from purported apparitions of the Blessed Virgin. It’s quite another, however, for the Vatican to produce apparitions of the Pope to elicit similar inspiration.
Therefore, instead of displaying him to death, maybe the Christian thing to do would be for the Vatican to provide the Pope hospice care and let him prepare to meet his maker.
For purely farcical viewing, nothing tops the death dance surrounding Mrs Schiavo. For me, however, this charade incites only troubling and cynical questions. For example:
Do we really need the round the clock “Breaking News” about every futile judicial or political maneuver to get her feeding tube put back into her stomach?
Do we need more coverage of ranting Friar Tucks and “pro-life” Christians who – in decidedly unchristian form – have damned Mrs Schiavo’s husband to hell for being “motivated by money to murder her”?
(It is noteworthy, however, that the courts have repeatedly found all of their claims entirely baseless. Yet, these self-professed Christians remain not only unrepentant but actually indignant as they continue to cast aspersions on Mr. Schiavo.)
What are we to make of the fervent prayers of the fundamentalists for Mrs Schiavo to die on Good Friday as a sign from God that they had fought the good fight? Can you imagine their religious delirium if their prayers were answered?
(Ironically, the judge who found overwhelming evidence to support Mr Schiavo’s contention that his wife did not want this public spectacle and then ordered Ms Schiovo’s feeding tube removed, is now himself under 24/7 watch – by the police – to save his life.)
And, why isn’t it considered child abuse to throw one’s children into this funereal orgy to be arrested “to save Terri”? Indeed, what kind of parent would subject her child to such emotional, psychological and sociological duress?
After she crosses the bar, how long will it take for the haunting images of Mrs Schiavo to disappear from our collective consciousness? A few days, until the next celebrity scandal hits the headlines or whichever comes first?
Finally, what if her husband is telling the “honest to God” truth? That would mean that her parents and all of those who now presume to represent Mrs Schiavo’s interest have, in fact, betrayed her wish to die with dignity. Moreover, it would mean that in their self-righteousness they have condemned this once beautiful woman to everlasting images of her looking like the nightmarish vision that must have inspired Edvard Munch’s The Scream? (See in Archives US Congress Playing God in the Terri Schiavo Case for more on this topic)
Now comes word that Prince Rainier is in a persistent vegetative state. And, all of the elements are in place for another eternal vigil for the living dead. Indeed, just to ensure synergy in this regard, the media is saturated with reports of the dying Pope dispensing special blessings upon both Mrs Schiavo and Prince Rainer. Naturally, the spirit moves one to wonder whether his blessings are for EZ passes at the pearly gates or for them to continue this life in their persistent vegetative state….
In this case, however, it seems likely that royal prerogatives will rule the day. Because, despite the morbid public interest, I doubt the Royal family of Monaco will behave like the cardinals of the Vatican and orchestrate public viewings of Prince Rainier at every opportunity to manufacture sympathy for their principality.
Death with dignity? Actually, that is very often the case. It’s just the dying part that can be such a farce. Nevertheless, may God grant each of these stricken souls peace – despite those who love and care for them!
Saturday, March 26, 2005 at 11:47 AM
Meanwhile, Bush – the democracy crusader – has decided to undermine the world’s largest democracy (India) by selling nuclear capable jet fighters to its neighbour and perennial enemy, the military dictatorship of Pakistan.
Can you spell hypocrisy? A-M-E-R-I-C-A!
Friday, March 25, 2005 at 11:35 AM
The Putinization of Russia continues apace and Papa Joe Stalin must be very proud indeed. In fact, President Vladimir Putin’s power and influence have become so totalitarian that national polls show Russians have more faith in him than in their Church or any other organ of the state. And now, the cult of Putin is becoming manifest in ways eerily reminiscent of the early days of Adolf Hitler and, worse yet, Russia’s own Joseph Stalin.
A little dramatic, perhaps, but consider that only yesterday a zealous battalion of the Putin Youth Movement (think Hitler Youth) vowed to escalate street protests against the Bolshoi Theater because of a performance they consider not only pornographic but also treasonous. Consider further that the threatened escalation involves resurrecting that hallowed fascist tradition of burning books by authors they deem “anti-Russian” – including the book upon which the Bolshoi performance is based.
Indeed, those of us with some knowledge of how the cult of Hitler co-opted the minds of so many Germans can just imagine the Putin Youth leader shouting over the pyre of burning books:
“We must declare the fight against that which impedes us from being what we must be, Hail (????) Comrade Putin!”
["He alone, who owns the youth, gains the Future!" Adolf Hitler, speech at the Reichsparteitag, 1935]
Nevertheless, in the great scheme of Putinization, the transgressions of the Putin Youth are child’s play. Because the state actions that Putin himself has ordered now loom like a sword of Damocles over any step towards democracy in Russia.
Here are just a few of the things he’s done to rescue his Motherland:
He arrested the owner of Yukos Oil (think ExxonMobil by American standards) and then seized the company’s assets because he deemed it in interest of the Russian state. And, when one of his closest advisers questioned the legality and political and economic wisdom of these totalitarian acts, Putin purged him from government (presumably to exile in Siberia). Now, just imagine how much this one act imposed loyalty among the ranks of his remaining advisers.
(Incidentally, the Yukos owner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, remains locked-up in the midst of a kafkaesque trial on trumped up charges of tax evasion. But many believe his only crime was using his billions to organise political opposition to Putin. And, as a former KGB officer, Putin knows first-hand how useful the Russian Gulag can be for disposing of potential political adversaries.)
He has censored the press – which flourished under his predecessor, Boris Yelstin – to such extremes that viewpoints in any way threatening to Putin’s vision for Russia have been eliminated from national media. Indeed, during a recent Bush / Putin press conference, it was laughable to see Bush question a Russian journalist about freedom of the press in Russia – given the well known fact that all members of the Russian press corp are picked by Putin himself.
But even more comical was Putin’s attempt to bond with Bush by referring to similar powers they supposedly exercise over their respective media and citing by way of example how Bush was able to fire Dan Rather for reporting that unflattering story….
He has abolished the election of all Russian governors and decreed that, henceforth, governors will be appointed by him instead. (Not exactly the Night of Long Knives but just as effective.)
He has attempted to reassert Russian influence in former Soviet republics including his well publicized meddling in Georgia and the Ukraine.
And, he has reclaimed the Stalinesque power to dissolve the Russian legislature (the Duma) – at his discretion – if they dare to pass any law that does not meet with his approval.
As a form of mild consolation, it might be helpful to note that many prominent figures in Russia are decidedly against this Putinization of Russia: Most notably among them is, ironically, the last totalitarian leader of Russia, Mikhail Gorbachev, whose glasnost and perestroika reforms in the late 1980s precipitated the demise of the Soviet Union Putin seems to covet; And then, there’s the World champion Chess player, Garry Kasparov, who expressed his concerns as follows:
“The Soviet Union could not and cannot be a part of modern Europe. It could become a part of Europe only with its conquests. We must distinguish between modern Russia that we need and the Soviet past that Putin is trying to retrieve.”
Indeed, Kasparov has become so disillusioned with Putin’s creeping dictatorship that he shocked the chess world last week with the abrupt announcement of his retirement to pursue his real interest in life now which is “toppling Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
Conspicuously absent among Putin’s public critics, however, is his soul mate, President Bush. But, curiously, this is a fact that should actually dispel all notions of Bush as a religious zealot with the diplomatic tact of a bull in a china shop. Because, as Henry Kissinger would affirm, Bush has consistently demonstrated the skill of a political genius when it comes to (the realpolitik of) picking his fights on the international scene. (The same, alas, cannot be said for more reputed statesmen like Jacque Chirac who seems caught in the undertow of Bush’s wave of world democracy.)
Where Putin is concerned, however, Bush has clearly decided that it’s in America’s enlightened strategic interest to play chess, as it were, with Putin. Bush continues to refer to him as friend and soul mate whilst his foreign policy team are diplomatically telegraphing Bush’s wariness about him; for example, by now using the cold war term of “regime” to describe Putin’s government.
Moreover, Bush fully realizes that notwithstanding the Putinization of Russia, his wave of democracy is engulfing all of the former Soviet republics (including the republic of Kyrgyzstan which just today saw its communist government washed away). And, that eventually a democratic Tsunami will hit Russia (and China too) and no amount of authoritarian control will be able to keep that wave at bay.
Yet, no one can deny the growing unease in many European and Asian countries with Putin’s regressive leadership. To be fair, however, Putin might argue (one hopes more persuasively than he did in making that Dan Rather analogy) that he has cause to be wary of Bush’s leadership as well; especially
because of what he sees as Bush’s fomenting of “permanent [democratic] revolutions” around the world. (See in Archives, Russia’s Putin: A Soul Mate Scorned… for more on this topic)
Meanwhile, Putin seems undeterred and unopposed on his march back to the future in Russia. Indeed, many expect him to cajole the Duma to amend Russia’s Constitution to abolish term limits so that he may be declared president (under the cover of legality) in 2008 and, no doubt, well beyond.
Friday, March 25, 2005 at 11:30 AM
Who would have thought when Whitney married Bobby 13 years ago that she would rival him in bringing public disgrace and humiliation upon their family?
Yet, it is undeniable that – despite Bobby’s record of bad behaviour – Whitney’s record of diva tantrums, public displays of dementia and drug induced anorexia has been the prevailing spectacle of their marriage. Now she seems determined to match Bobby’s frequent arrests by being repeatedly committed to drug rehab.
Can anyone remember that heavenly voice and beautiful face that descended among us like an angel in the 1980s? Then, did anyone catch her drugged-out renditions of gospel spirituals during her wacky “retreat” to her “homeland” (Israel) last year? And, just look at how she’s deformed God’s brilliant construction of her face?
Well, as a firm believer in redemption and the power of prayer, I pray for Whitney’s recovery from drug addiction and recapturing just a little of that magic she had before things went so horribly wrong.
Good luck Whitney!
But why isn’t that no good Bobby in there with you? Because, if not the drugs, you know Bobby will mess you up again if he doesn’t get help!
Thursday, March 24, 2005 at 11:43 AM
It seems Barry Bonds would rather run away from baseball than stand up at the plate and risk being exposed as the most infamous cheater in the history professional sports.
Yesterday, the man who would be (home run) king of baseball, abdicated as the heir apparent in a whining, sniveling and self-pitying press performance that only confirmed the emotional side effects of his steroid abuse.
No one who follows baseball believes that Bonds, McGwire or even Sosa never took steroids. Therefore, it’s become a pathetic tragicomedy to see these sports heroes humiliate themselves with their puerile attempts to convince us otherwise.
But the Bonds saga is so delightfully sordid that it rivals the best TV soap opera for pure entertainment value:
There’s the criminal element that has Bonds anxiously awaiting the findings of a federal probe into his relationship with a steroids factory in San Francisco called BALCO.
In addition, the IRS has him nervous about its investigation into the wads of cash his mistress claims he offered recently to buy her silence – not about cheating on his wife mind you; no, he was only concerned that his mistress might disclose what she knew about his use of steroids.
Indeed, there’s the personal element that has a woman scorned, one Kimberly Bell, claiming that she was his mistress for over 10 years. (And, what a piece of…work she is.) Ms Bell seems not only proud of her adulterous affair but she is also indignant that Bonds had the balls to think he could put her out to pasture with a few niggardly mortgage payments. Now she’s hell bent on revenge with a tell all book in the works and the pawning of tapes she recorded of Bonds having serial roid rages that make potty-mouth Ludicris seem like a gentleman. What a girl…
And then, of course, there’s this professional element that has Bonds suffering a physical and nervous breakdown right before our eyes. He blames the media for his cheating (both types, presumably) and the shattered knee that he says may prevent him from ever playing another baseball game. “You guys have always been out to get me [sniff, sniff, sob, sob] You wanted me to jump from a bridge. Well now I’ve jumped. Satisfied? Now you got me. You got me and my family [boooohoohoohoo].”
MAD TV could never create stuff so bad, so good!
But how sad: If only Bonds were man enough to admit the obvious, his legion of fans would have stayed loyal to him….(See in Archives Baseball is Juiced. So what! for more on this topic)
Alas, good riddance Barry. Now go join Mark McGwire to detoxify your body of steroids and try to reclaim what’s left of your shriveled manhood!
Thursday, March 24, 2005 at 11:36 AM
At a time when fans who wanted to be like Mike (Jackson that is) are moon walking in droves away from his image, Madonna wannabes remain as devoted to her ever changing style as ever. Indeed, it seems that almost every country in the world still has its own national Madonna wannabe: the more notorious among them being Matsuda Seiko of Japan, Kylie Minogue of Australia and Gloria Trevi of Mexico.
In many respects, however, Ms Trevi has had more drama in her private life than the real Madonna could ever manufacture for her public life. Indeed, her biography reads like the magical realism depicted in the novels of Gabriel García Márquez.
But after many years of making headlines for her personal scandals, Trevi returned to the stage two weeks ago in her home town of Monterrey, Mexico to kick off her “reinvention tour”. And, like the star she continues to emulate, Trevi still seems to be able to wow the crowds.
She plans to launch the US leg of her tour, appropriately enough, on April fools day in that most surreal of cities, Las Vegas.
Madonna who? You go girl!
Wednesday, March 23, 2005 at 11:53 AM
For decades, international environmentalists have been decrying the deforestation of the Amazon basin as the most amoral act by man against nature in world history. But, from the unsuspecting native tribes that welcomed Spanish explorers centuries ago to national governments that conspired with multinational corporations in modern times, indigenous people of the Amazon have always allowed foreigners to reign over their rainforest like foxes in a henhouse.
Today, however, native Indians are fighting to prevent further exploitation of Amazon lands. And nowhere is this fight more organized and violent than in the tiny country of Ecuador. Indeed, only last week, Indians from the Kichwa, Achuar and Shuar tribes staged widespread protests that brought much of Ecuador’s industrial activity to a screeching halt.
In the 1990s, Ecuador became the mecca for oil exploration in Latin America. The country’s Ministry of Energy and Mines sparked a black gold rush in 1999 when it confirmed Ecuador’s potential to yield as many as 26 billion barrels in oil reserves. And, with the recent completion of a 300-mile pipeline, Ecuador is now capable of producing up to 850,000 barrels a day (an amount which ranks it among the largest producers of oil in Latin America).
Understandably, Ecuadorian officials remain extremely solicitous of milking their new cash cow for all it’s worth. Yet, these are not entirely mercurial leaders. Because the dirty little secret that binds all of the oil producing countries throughout this region is their onerous debt burden to international creditors, like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And, like all of these countries, Ecuador labors under extreme duress to service its debt; and, expanding oil production deep into the Amazon rainforest promises tremendous relief in this regard.
Notwithstanding foreign obligations and potential riches, however, the Indians have had enough! They have asserted ancestral land rights to areas of Ecuador where the potential yield for oil is greatest. And, to protect their rights and drive away the oil companies, they have organized guerilla campaigns of kidnappings, sabotages and robberies that would make the insurgents in Iraq green with envy.
In addition, however, the Indians have joined forces with environmental groups like Amazon Watch to fight the oil giants in more sophisticated ways. To this end, they have staged city protests, filed legal injunctions and sued the companies for pollution, dumping waste into waterways and leaving behind hundreds of unlined pits brimming with toxic wastewater – which the Indians claim have caused irreparable harm to their health. In fact, a $6 billion class action lawsuit by Indian tribes have oil giant ChevronTexaco so tied up that the wariness of other oil companies is bringing oil production in Ecuador to a virtual standstill.
It is worth noting, however, that the Amazon Indians insist that no amount of money will settle their land claims. In this respect, they differ from their North American brothers who have greedily parlayed ancestral land rights into pleasure domes of gambling, drinking and exotic sex.
Nevertheless, some multinationals have tried to be good corporate citizens by funding clinics, schools and other modern amenities. And, they have pressured the government to channel more of their oil revenues to poor villages where over 75% of the Ecuadorian population reside. But the Indians now seem as fanatical to drive the oil companies from their ancestral land as bin Laden jihadists were to get the American military out of their holy land.
Meanwhile, Ecuador’s president, Lucio Gutiérrez, is threatening military action to arrest the Indians from their “primordial” fixation. But, given the worldwide publicity already attending the ChevronTexaco trial, the oil barons have thus far persuaded Gutiérrez that such action would incite so much international outrage that the little fortune they now enjoy would dry up overnight.
Indeed, it is an ironic coup that the Indians are using modern technology to dramatize their david against goliath fight to preserve their primitive way of life. Nevertheless, the looming spectre of violence and more law suits are paralyzing Ecuador’s oil industry.
The repercussions from this fight, however, threaten to disrupt oil production throughout the Amazon basin – as Indians, especially in Brazil, Bolivia Columbia and Venezuela, feel empowered to assert similar rights. Moreover, this portends serious consequences for America’s political quest to reduce its dependency on oil from the Middle East. Indeed, it may even have made last week’s vote in the US Senate to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) a little more palatable.
It is a little known fact that the U.S. imports more oil from Latin America than it does from the Middle East. And, with China now pushing for increased oil supplies from this region, Latin American governments may feel compelled to take drastic and decisive action to ensure uninterrupted production of oil.
But, there are almost 40 million Indians living in the Amazon basin. And, it is clear that a significant number of them have become so disillusioned with capitalism that they are determined to protect the rainforest, not as an environmental cause, but as a matter of life or death.
Unfortunately, history and the inexorable force of human progress put the Indians at a considerable disadvantage in this fight. And, it is regrettable that our addiction to oil will allow us to ignore whatever Latin American governments do to the native Indians to ensure our life sustaining fix.
Be encouraged, however, because God must be on the side of the Indians…
Wednesday, March 23, 2005 at 11:50 AM
A couple days ago, this boy walked into his school on an Indian Reservation in Minnesota and shot everyone in sight. When it was all over, 10 people were dead, including the trigger boy who shot himself.
Despite the verbal flatulence now polluting the media with psychological and sociological explanations about why this happened, I think any worthwhile observation in this regard would require understanding evil.
Therefore, I refer you the Guardian’s report which presents some facts that might prove, at most, insightful….
Tuesday, March 22, 2005 at 11:28 AM
The United Nations is one of the most disunited, corrupt and ungovernable organization in the world. And, if its leader were held to the minimal standards of governance required of leaders at charitable organizations in the United States, he would have already been indicted on a battery of criminal and civil offenses. (Click here for a delineation of the more egregious infractions and failures by UN staffers under the leadership of this organization’s (putative) chief executive officer, Kofi Annan.)
Nevertheless, for the past 2 years, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan maintained an almost indignant resistance to President Bush’s efforts to reform the culture of malfeasance at the United Nations. But last night – manifesting a Saul of Tarsus-like conversion – Annan announced sweeping reforms of his organization that reflect many of the transformative features of the once derided Bush doctrine to make the world safe for democracy.
In fact, over the past few years, the world has witnessed political transformations in countries from Afghanistan to Lebanon that many assumed were impossible without cataclysmic clashes of ideologies, cultures and religions. And, it is a profound indictment of Annan’s leadership that the UN remained virtually irrelevant to all of these international developments. But, with the simplistic conviction of an idiot savant, Bush declared his intent to force these transformations and has, so far, defied and confounded his detractors with his remarkable progress.
Washington insiders, however, are not surprised that Annan has now seen the light. But what a bitter pill it must be for him to gulp down reforms that the world sees as being forced upon the UN by Bush. After all, not too long ago, Annan was basking in the French glow of opposition to almost every facet of Bush’s transformative world view.
Back then, the world seemed so aligned against the US that Annan must have felt insulated from any imposition by the Bush administration. Indeed, Annan even went so far as to declare America’s invasion of Iraq a violation of both the UN Charter and International Law: a declaration from which many people inferred his not so subtle wish to see Bush defeated in the forthcoming US presidential elections.
Well, Annan has been biting his tongue ever since. And, his self-flagellation became especially acute after Bush’s decisive reelection as President of the United States. But for those of us who always admired his political equanimity, Annan’s undiplomatic and, incidentally, incorrect declaration about the invasion of Iraq reeked of political opportunism that seemed way out of character. Unfortunately, his political instincts failed him miserably and thus began his performance of penance.
Annan’s penitent journey began in New York City last December when he was summoned to a council of friends – who just happened to be the liberal cardinals of the American and British politics. These father confessors were appropriately concerned that Annan’s lapses in judgment threatened to eclipse his notable accomplishments as UN secretary general. And, a suppliant Annan was anxious to receive their absolution and imposition of the penitent acts he would have to perform to redeem himself in the eyes of President Bush.
Thankfully, his expiation culminated in Washington DC a few weeks ago when Annan threw himself at the mercy of Bush’s most trusted adviser, Dr. Condoleeza Rice, in a desperate effort to save his job. He succeeded. He had been redeemed…with conditions!
Therefore, we should see these reforms for what they are: The price Kofi Annan must pay to keep his job. Nevertheless, if Nanny John Bolton (Bush’s new man at the UN) nurtures their implementation, these reforms will redound to the good of the world.
Instructive Note: For 10 years, UN ditherers and malingerers have been debating a definition of “Terrorism” that would satisfy the United States and countries like North Korea and Syria. But the newly converted Annan has given them 5 months to resolve the matter (presumably on US terms) or else…. Imagine that!
Tuesday, March 22, 2005 at 11:24 AM
It now seems abundantly clear that when Charles and Camilla became officially engaged, the pronouncement by Buckingham Palace that Camilla SHALL NOT become Queen was just a ruse. (No doubt to quell the feared moral (and royal) indignation of legions of irretrievably committed Diana sympathizers.)
Because late last night, the British government leaked a royal declaration that – despite assurances to the contrary – Camilla Parker Bowles SHALL become Queen of England when (if) Charles becomes King.
So, what are we to make of Her Majesty’s well publicized outrage about the marriage of the Royal heir to that woman, Parker Bowles? And, why would She now countenance the evidently unworthy Camilla defiling the Her Royal lineage (anymore that it already is)?
In one very British word my friends, Snookered! Because, where Charles and Camilla are concerned, the Royals have been playing the British people for suckers for over 30 years. (Click here and here for previous articles on this well orchestrated royal ruse.)
Charles is clearly a brooding, narcissistic, self-indulgent Mummy’s boy. And, in the Queen’s eye, he can do no wrong. Moreover, his sense of entitlement has become so imperious that the only possible way to deny him his Queen is to pull a Diana on Camilla….
Therefore, the only reason for the earlier pronouncement was so that Buckingham Palace could establish what is called in the PR business “plausible deniability”. And, with it firmly established, the Royals can now claim that it was the government, and not they, who declared that Camilla should be Queen.
Boycotting the ceremony but presiding at the reception? What rubbish! Really, Her Majesty must take Her loyal subjects for Royal fools….
Monday, March 21, 2005 at 10:32 AM
Last Saturday, Nelson Mandela, the world’s most revered celebrity, hosted a group of his musician friends to perform another benefit concert for his 46664 Foundation to combat the AIDS pandemic in Africa.
It is noteworthy, however, that where two former American Presidents were recently feted for being drafted to lead the Tsunami relief efforts, this former South African President volunteered many years ago – to rather quiet acclaim – to lead relief efforts on behalf of HIV/AIDS sufferers whose dire circumstances make Tsunami survivors seem very privileged indeed.
According to Mandela, who recently lost his eldest son to AIDS, over 25 million Africans (mostly women) are infected with this deadly virus. And, he pledged the $1.6 million raised at this concert to help defray the cost of treatment protocols for a great many of these them.
Bono embraces Mandela’s call to help HIV/AIDS sufferers in parts of Africa Where the Streets Have No Name
As he often does, Mandela addressed those who still wonder why he doesn’t just settle in to a comfortable retirement – given his 27 years of unjust imprisonment under hard labor:
“You may well ask, what is this old age pensioner doing here tonight, when he is supposed to have retired? Yes, I would love to enjoy the peace and quiet of retirement, but I know that like many of you, I cannot rest easily while our beloved continent is ravaged by a deadly epidemic.” Indeed.
Therefore, on behalf of an all too fickle world, I thank you Madiba:
For your quiet dignity which rises above the crooning of celebrities and speaks volumes through your tireless and uncompromising humanity.
Monday, March 21, 2005 at 10:24 AM
Last week in Amsterdam, a Dutch court may have unwittingly issued a death warrant for the Somali born Dutch MP, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. This is because the court dismissed a cease and desist complaint filed by Islamic fundamentalists to prevent Hirsi Ali from airing anymore of their dirty laundry.
Their complaint stemmed from the release last August of a film that Hirsi Ali wrote and co-produced with social gadfly and controversial director, Theo van Gogh (yes, of that Van Gogh family). The film, called Submission, exposes the rampant physical abuse in the daily lives of Muslim women – including beatings, incest and sexual abuse. And, in particularly provocative scenes, it features images of Koranic verses inscribed on semi-naked and horribly bruised Muslim women. The film also rails against Dutch authorities whose indifference to these crimes betray their religious and cultural ignorance, if not bias.
Upon the film’s release, Muslim clerics immediately decreed it blasphemous and an insult to Islam. And, within short order, van Gogh was assassinated on the streets of Amsterdam and left with a threatening note in Arabic stabbed into his chest. Naturally, authorities assumed Hirsi Ali was next and, therefore, placed her under 24/7 security protection.
But if the Islamic fundamentalists hoped that their killing of van Gogh would force Hirsi Ali herself into submission, they were wrong. Because, she not only continued to speak out (calling Islam a primitive religion and the Koran a text which sanctions abuse against women) but she also announced earlier this year plans for 2 sequels to Submission.
In fact, it was this announcement that sent the clerics on their misguided mission to the Courts – since Dutch security prevented them from executing Islamic justice against Hirsi Ali in the streets.
Therefore, like their fatwa (death sentence) against Salman Rusdie for his Satanic Verses, Mulim clerics have now publicly condemned Hirsi Ali to death and are exhorting Islamic acolytes to win favor with Allah by killing her.
Below is just one of the many Koranic verses the fundamentalists cite to justify their fatwa:
4.34 Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them….
Nevertheless, Hirsi Ali remains defiant. She has said that “either I stop my work, or I learn to live with the feeling that I’m not safe [and] I’m not stopping.” And, Muslim women everywhere who continue to suffer beatings, rape and genital mutilations in silence can be thankful for her now very prominent voice.
Yet, it must be disheartening to Hirsi Ali that high profile feminist in America refuse to put aside their partisan bickering and harmonize their voices in First Lady Laura Bush’s nurturing call for the liberation of Muslim women all over the world.
May Allah protect you Hirsi Ali. And may the liberated women of the world find enlightened common cause with your struggle…before it’s too late!
Sunday, March 20, 2005 at 11:28 AM
For a very long time, I was resigned in the settled belief that my acute disdain for American politics inured me to insults by American politicians. But yesterday that belief was shattered to smithereens by the sanctimonious and Machiavellian antics of Republican and Democrat members of Congress over the Schiavo family’s tragic dilemma.
As of the time of this posting, an unusually bipartisan Congress is poised to impose the awesome weight of the American government on one side against the other in this family dispute that would defy even the wisdom of a divinely inspired King Solomon.
The undisputed facts are as follows:
Terri Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state for over 15 years. Her husband and friends claim that, before she became terminally incapacitated, Mrs Schiavo told them that she would never want to depend on extraordinary means (like the feeding tube now being used) to sustain her life. However, Mrs Schiavo never executed a living will expressing her wishes under such circumstances.
Mrs Schiavo’s doctors have determined that she has no chance of recovery from her fatally brain-damaged state. Her husband wants to remove her feeding tube and let her die, but her parents want her extraordinary care to persist indefinitely.
A judge, after weighing all of the facts and circumstances involved, decided that the husband’s duty to honor his wife’s intent should prevail.
There are simply too many genuine points in conflict to be absolutely certain of anything in this case. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the imposition of Congressional fiat is ill-advised, at best. Indeed, what Republicans and Democrats have already done is demonstrate the unscrupulous willingness of politicians to trample any sacred or personal right to further their political agenda. Just consider for a moment the self-righteous and abusive act of issuing a subpoena for Mrs Schiavo’s “testimony” before Congress.
Democrats have cravenly abandoned all of their “principled” right to privacy arguments and joined the “pro life” Republicans to “save the life of Terri Schiavo.” But given these developments, truly principled and sober-minded people of good conscience must compel sustainable answers to a number of relevant questions: namely,
Do we want to confer upon politicians an arbitrary and capricious power to flout the well-settled law that protects communications between husbands and wives from government intrusion and abrogation?
Even if we deigned to ascribe honorable motives to some members of Congress, are we willing to give more credence (and power) to the government than to her husband to determine Mrs Schiavo’s wishes under these circumstances?
What does this case say about the inviolate bonds of marriage: Should we not respect the right of Mr Schiavo to decide what is best for his wife; provided however, that there is no credible evidence that he is motivated by nefarious intent? (And, this point has been adjudicated, exhaustively, and no such finding has been made against Mr Schiavo.)
Indeed, do these politicians have some evidence, not available to the judge, that Mr Schiavo is untrustworthy?
Do we accept the premise of the proposed Terri Schiavo law which holds that a once sane, mature and married woman who communicated to her husband what she wanted him to do in the event of her terminal incapacitation must now be protected – like a fetus in the womb – from the husband who wants only to honor her expressed wishes?
And, where it is admirable that Mrs Schiavo’s parents seem willing to pay any cost and bear any burden to maintain her in persistent vegetation, would Congress be so eager to intrude under similar circumstances if the vegetative person were a poor black man with no such support?
Moreover, should her parent’s resources even be weighed against her husband’s declarations of Mrs Schiavo’s intent?
(Incidentally, if nothing else, this case behooves us to reconsider the caricature of the mother-in-law as the worst fate that could befall a marriage. Because, imagine the emotional torture of a truly loving husband just trying to carry out his wife’s wishes under these circumstances and having to fight her parents in this very public way….)
Clearly, I have made no attempt to conceal my principled objection to Congressional involvement in this case. But, whereas I can at least appreciate the specious logic that motivates pro-life Republicans, I cannot fathom why privacy and women’s rights advocates like Hillary Clinton would join in their march to trample over the prerogatives of this marriage and the private right of Mrs Schiavo to die with dignity.
A Pox on Both Your Houses
Saturday, March 19, 2005 at 2:27 PM
In a dramatic display of President Bush’s new charm offensive, his Secretary of State, Dr Condoleeza Rice, extended a warm embrace to help improve relations with the nuclear rogues of North Korea.
Indeed, for dealing with nuclear bad boys, America’s motto seems to be: Hey, if bombs can’t work, seduce and induce…