Saturday, April 30, 2005 at 1:21 PM
The bride-to-be, who only hours ago many feared was murdered by her fiancé, is very much alive. Reaction to this news, however, is running the gamut from sympathy to outrage. But, even though both extremes are perfectly understandable, one little fact about her “cold feet” odyssey incites more outrage than sympathy:
When she finally realized that she could not hack it as a fugitive bride, she called 911 and blamed Hispanics for her fake abduction.
That she may have had cold feet is excusable. After all, the hysterical pressures that attend the planning of most weddings these days are enough to drive anyone crazy. But blaming her flight from this madness on unsuspecting Hispanics is simply inexcusable!
The family spokesman claims that she has issues that no one else knew about: Another man? Another woman? Fear of big weddings (14 bridesmaids and over 600 guests)?
Whatever her “issues”, making that false claim about her abduction represents a willful deceit that only reinforces racial stereotypes. (Remember Susan Smith?) And, this alone should cause law enforcement officials to press criminal and civil charges against her to compensate for the cost of their wild goose chase and, more importantly, send the message that using racial minorities to excuse one’s own foolish (and criminal) behavior has real consequences.
As for those issues, enquiring minds would like to know…
Saturday, April 30, 2005 at 1:15 PM
Friday, April 29, 2005 at 12:10 PM
Please scroll down this page to the article on Vladimir Putin’s democratic crusade and yesterday’s article on Bush and the Saudis, and determine for yourself whether Bush or his press courtiers acquitted themselves well in last night’s putative press conference.
Moreover, is it just me or did Bush seem as scatterbrained last night as he seemed five years ago on political issues that one might’ve expected him to speak about with more coherence by now – if only from rote performance?
Of course, even his advisers knew things were going poorly when a major network cut-off President Bush to carry Paris Hilton’s Simple Life (…from one simpleton to another?)
Friday, April 29, 2005 at 12:00 PM
In his State of the Union Address last Monday, President Vladimir Putin laid out a political agenda for Russia that aims at not only countering America’s military power (by establishing a military alliance with China for example) but also challenging the accepted wisdom that American-style democracy is best for all nations. Moreover, Putin’s speech follows a line of recent initiatives that make it plain that he is determined to lead the only credible challenge to American global hegemony (just as his predecessors did not so long ago).
To this end, as documented in a recent article, Putin has consolidated authoritarian control over his country and insists, without a hint of irony, that his “reforms” are consistent with democracy – Russian-style. In addition, he is reasserting Russia’s sphere of influence over former Soviet Union satellite states – undaunted by his well-publicized setbacks in Georgia and the Ukraine.
But Putin is not limiting the spread of his Russian-style democratic reforms to these satellite states. In fact, he took his crusade to the Middle East this week. And there he gave aid and comfort to Iran, Egypt and Syria by assuring them that he supports their reluctance to implement Bush’s democratic reforms – implying that his democratic philosophy might be more suited to their authoritarian rule.
Nevertheless, Putin saved his most dramatic pitch for his historic visit to Israel. Indeed, in a diplomatic coup akin to Nixon going to China, Putin stood his ground as he proclaimed that his foreign policy initiatives were just as consistent with democratic principles as President Bush’s. For example, Putin declared that his support for Iran’s nuclear program and his sale of sophisticated arms to Syria (countries both religiously dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state) are just as democratic as Bush’s support for Israel’s nuclear program and his sale of sophisticated arms to Pakistan. (And, as far as symmetry goes, he has a point!)
Of course, one can understand Putin’s antipathy towards the transformative power of American- style democracy, and why he would want to do all he can to make authoritarian rule seem democratic. After all, American-style democracy led to the fall of the Soviet Union that he now laments as the greatest catastrophe of the 20th Century. Indeed, it is a measure of Putin’s antipathy that he ranks the loss of the Soviet empire as a greater tragedy than Stalin’s murder of millions of Russians (presumably as he consolidated his Russian-style democratic rule), Hitler’s extermination of millions of Jews or Pol Pot’s massacre of millions in the killing fields of Asia. And, he maintains his position despite the fact that almost every world leader considers the demise of the Soviet Union perhaps the most liberating event of the century.
If nothing else, Putin’s lamentation should give Bush cause to take another look into his soul. Because the last time he did, Bush declared he saw a friend and fellow democrat. But now, he has to wonder whether he missed the little beelzebub sitting on Putin’s left shoulder dressed in red with horns coming out of his head.
For his part, Putin seems convinced that Bush has no power (or desire) to stop him from restoring Russia’s “old ideals [that] were destroyed” with the fall of the Soviet Union. Indeed, Bush seemed to endorse Putin’s perverse approach to democracy when he reiterated in his press conference last night that he still has faith in Putin as a democratic reformer. (Just as he remains convinced that the Saudis have love in their hearts for America….)
Thursday, April 28, 2005 at 11:45 AM
Last Monday, in the midst of yet another national uproar over gasoline prices, the Crown Prince of the House of Bush gave a very affectionate welcome to (America’s oil-rich friend) the Crown Prince of the House of Saud at the Western White House in Crawford, Texas.
(Incidentally, it is instructive to note that Prince Abdullah is the only world leader accorded the honor of being invited to meet President Bush at his ranch on two separate occasions. And, despite pretensions to the contrary, such invitations are highly coveted in capitals around the world. Therefore, can you imagine the envy French President Jacque Chirac must feel for having never been invited? But I digress….)
Bush’s affectionate embrace of the Saudi Prince sent political tongues wagging (and late-night comedians into creative overdrive). After all, such an extraordinary public display seemed not only diplomatically inappropriate but also politically insulting to the American people in light of the declared tensions between America and Saudi Arabia over lingering 9/11 issues and the current oil crisis.
And, it will take more than the conveniently timed (recycling of) energy initiatives Bush announced today to quell concerns about his failure to demonstrate what benefits redound to America’s favor from his treating the Saudis like the fourth rail of American politics (or worse yet, intimate friends).
For starters, it’s worth recalling that on the eve of entertaining Prince Abdullah at his ranch in April 2002, Bush promised Americans that he would “talk down” the price of crude oil with his royal compadre – “mano a mano”. But in the years that followed, oil prices have actually doubled (no doubt much to the constrained glee of Bush’s Saudi and Texas oil friends).
Therefore, it seems more than a little ironic, if not incredulous, that Bush reiterated the same promise (to get the prince to put out) on the eve of their date just days ago. Indeed, that unfulfilled promise of 2002 begs the question:
What is America (and Bush personally) getting out of this relationship with Saudi Arabia?
After all, relying on the Saudis to fulfill Bush’s promise to bring down the price of oil has proved a fools comfort to the American people. And, last fall, Bush himself had to endure sinister charges from John Kerry about secret deals with Prince Abdullah to lower oil prices (to the $25 target) to pump up his reelection prospects. (Charges that proved embarrassingly misinformed when prices stuck at over $50 right through Election Day.)
Yet, despite his obvious fecklessness, Bush continues his public prodding of the Saudis to increase oil production – as he did with the following statement made just days ago:
I don’t think they’re pumping flat out. I think they’re near capacity, and so we’ve just got to get a straight answer from the government as to what they think their excess capacity is.
For their part, the Saudis make it clear that they do not take Bush’s prodding seriously. Indeed, they dismiss it outright as a gesture designed only to manage his short-term political liabilities from high gasoline prices. Because, they proffer, high gasoline prices in America have nothing to do with their failure to increase oil production. Instead, they blame misguided environmental concerns that, for decades, have caused successive American governments to neglect the country’s oil refining capabilities.
As it happens, the Saudis have a point. Indeed, Bush even echoed their assessment today in his energy speech by calling for new refineries and other measures (including going nuclear) to decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil. And, he seemed genuinely hopeful that these measures would help ease the hardships on Americans caused by high oil prices.
The only problem is that the Saudis also have a point when they imply that Bush’s energy policy is nothing but a political ruse. And, for anyone who takes umbrage at this portrayal of the “I mean what I say and say what I mean” President as a craven political opportunist, the followings words from Bush’s 17 May 2001 “national energy policy speech” might provide a rude awakening:
The major reason for dramatic increases in gasoline prices today is the lack of refining capacity, and my plan gives the needed flexibility and certainty so refiners will make the investments necessary to expand supply by increasing capacity.
Clearly, all Bush did today was repeat the hollow energy initiatives he proposed three years ago; and, with the same incredulous gusto that he repeated his hollow promise to talk down the price of oil with his Saudi friends.
Nevertheless, Bush is not entirely to blame for America’s failure to develop alternative sources of energy. But the failure of successive presidents to resolve this problem does not absolve him from having to explain the glaring contradictions in his (and America’s) relationship with the Saudis. After all, not only are they doing nothing to lower gasoline prices, the Saudis also remain defiantly undemocratic despite Bush’s democracy crusade; they demanded the downsizing of America’s strategic military bases in Saudi Arabia to appease Islamic Jihadists; and, notwithstanding the Saudi connection to 9/11 (Bin Laden and the majority of the hijackers all being Saudis), they continue to fund Wahabi Madrassas that teach hatred and destruction of America as a core subject.
Therefore, one has to wonder what benefits they do provide to remain exempt from American reprimand, sanctions or usurpation. Indeed, the mysterious nature of this relationship only deepens when one considers that the royal family’s dependence on American security guarantees preclude their using oil as leverage to resist the democratic changes that Bush has demanded of and imposed upon other nations. (Of course, if Bush were truly a man of his word, such a move by the Saudis would only make his day because it would finally give him just cause to invade an Arab country….)
Ultimately, the public policy contradictions that characterize the US and Saudi Arabia relationship compel one to conclude that the Saudis are not so much allies of the United States as they are private patrons of the Bush family Dynasty.
Indeed, only a thriving personal interest can explain why the cowboy strutting George W. Bush morphs into a hand-holding, flower-loving, huggin, kissin chicken when that royal Saudi rooster comes a-callin. And, it seems fair to wonder whether Bush family members own shares (through elusive trusts and other cleverly disguised arrangements) in oil companies that are benefiting from inflated oil prices. Moreover, if anyone thought the Chinese funding of Clinton’s Presidential Library was scandalous, future disclosures of the Saudi funding of Bush’s Presiden
tial Library (and his post-presidential sinecure) might prove positively treasonous.
At long last, as nefarious as it seems, only Bush’s personal financial motives can account for the egregiously unrequited nature of America’s public relationship with Saudi Arabia – post 9/11.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005 at 11:13 AM
Yesterday, in an extraordinary development – even for the trial of Michael Jackson – his lawyers were caught on camera outside the courtroom fighting for control of his legal representation. But their heated exchange was only a prelude to the mafia kiss Michael gave his long-time family attorney, Brian Oxman, before ordering his new consigliore, Thomas Mesereau, to whack him from Team Jackson.
All indications are that the once sober and fair-minded Massereau lured the unsuspecting Oxman outside (like prey) merely to maximize Oxman’s humiliation by subjecting him to a televised finger and tongue lashing before the kill.
Think whatever one might about the histrionics of the king of pop. But it seems that the people who associate with him either enable or adapt to his questionable and surreal lifestyle – almost all of them harboring ulterior motives. Most notable in this respect are the two women (one of whom is Lisa Marie Presley) who joined him in marriages that amounted to little more than publicity stunts and were arguably never even consummated.
The more intriguing aspect of this internecine fracas, however, is the suggestion that a row between Michael and his latest family guardian, brother Randy, precipitated this legal purge. Indeed, given what sister Latoya revealed (years ago when she was trying to make it on her own) about her family’s parasitic and sycophantic relationship with Michael, Randy’s banishment from the team must be even more humiliating (and costly) than Oxman’s. (Randy’s loss, Tito’s gain?)
[Incidentally, notwithstanding Michael’s weird antics, one has to wonder what transgression Randy committed to cause his excommunication: mishandling Michael’s affairs, (mis)appropriating his money?]
Clearly, “dysfunctional” cannot adequately explain the intriguing dynamics of Jackson family ties…
Click here to read how Michael officially told one of his lawyers to just beat it!
And, click here for more on the trial travails of Michael Jackson.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005 at 11:10 AM
Law enforcement officials, legal experts and child care specialists are perplexed over a story that came to light a couple days ago. And, it has provoked debate on a genuine social (and family) dilemma for which there seems to be no clear resolution or guidance:
The issue is whether there can ever be an occasion where a 5-year old student’s temper tantrum becomes so hostile that it warrants police intervention to handcuff that child?
Corporal punishment was once a school teacher’s ultimate tool to discipline disobedient students. But that ended years ago after litigation trends made it prohibitive. Moreover, cognitive dissonance has made even parents reluctant to spank their children for fear of becoming ensnared in the criminal justice system on child abuse charges; even though many of them still believe spanking is a sensible and effective method to discipline their children.
Therefore, what does a teacher or parent do with a child who is not only disruptive but also physically abusive and “out of control”?
Well, alternative forms of effective discipline differ greatly but surely a bright line can be drawn at calling in the police to handcuff a 5-year old girl. Yet, evolving social norms that require teachers to assume greater responsibility for raising respectful and obedient children are untenable and unsustainable. Indeed, in the current case, one must question the parenting in this child’s life that led her to think that she could behave in such outrageous manner with impunity.
Beyond this, however, effective discipline seems awfully subjective and situational. Nevertheless, the “democratic” approach developed by child care specialists offers the most enlightened and salutary techniques.
Click here for a comparative analysis of child disciplinary techniques and to see whether you agree with the democratic approach.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005 at 10:52 AM
Perhaps it’s a sign of black political and economic success that the notion of a leader of black America has essentially fallen into desuetude. Indeed, the public agendas of erstwhile black leaders demonstrate how irrelevant even they seem to think such a notion is today. After all, men like Jesse Jackson and Vernon Jordan now seem more preoccupied with their rights to sit on corporate boards than the rights of blacks in general.
It is instructive to note, however, that the burgeoning black middle-class now has more in common with middle-class whites than with poor blacks. And, this economic disparity within the black community precludes the unity of political purpose for blacks that was the case when they were fighting for voting rights, desegregation of public places of accommodation, integration of schools, compensatory affirmative action and other civil rights causes.
By contrast, today, office politics, not civil rights, incite and unify the political concerns of middle class blacks. And, activism for them involves networking up the corporate ladder into management and boardrooms, not protesting in the streets. Indeed, middle-class blacks derive inspiration and racial pride more from businessmen like Ken Chenault, CEO of American Express and Richard Parsons, CEO of Time Warner than from political flame throwers like Julian Bond, Chairman of the NAACP and Al Sharpton, professional political court jester. (Incidentally, does anyone know what happened to Senator Barak Obama?)
Furthermore, the social interests of increasing numbers of blacks revolve more around owning club memberships and beach homes than fighting discrimination and inner city crime. And, there’s the rub: Because clearly a significant percentage of blacks remain affected by chronic poverty, crime and now, even political neglect. After all, since black political leaders rely on middle-class blacks (and whites) for campaign contributions to remain in office, poor blacks (who rarely vote) have no one to pay any more than lip service to their concerns.
But help for poor and marginalized blacks is coming from a most unlikely source: the hip hop community. And, before convulsing with incredulity, please check out the organized efforts by hip hop vanguards to empower blacks using the self-help methods pioneered by Booker T Washington over a century ago.
Undoubtedly, hip hop mogul Russell Simmons is more in-tune with the concerns of poor blacks in America than any politician has been over the past 20 years. After all, it is Simmons who has led opposition to draconian Rockefeller drug laws that have had a very disparate impact on poor blacks (longer sentences for a small amount of crack cocaine that blacks usually possess than for a much larger amount of powder cocaine that whites usually possess); he’s the one who rails against racial profiling of young blacks (especially for “driving while black”); he’s the one preaching the values of business enterprise and economic self-determination; he’s the one promoting yoga and Buddhism as more hip than gang banging and “living the thug’s life”; and, he’s the one making even traditional political activism cool with his rap-the-vote campaign; etc….
Russell Simmons: A new political leader for black America? No, just a brother who got his (and then some) and is helping other brothers and sisters get theirs!
Click here to read more about the man and his mission in his own words.
Monday, April 25, 2005 at 11:08 AM
In the late 1990s, the banking secrets that protected Switzerland’s national criminal enterprise were finally exposed. Joint investigations by US authorities and the World Jewish Congress uncovered documents verifying claims by Holocaust survivors that Swiss banks were holding and benefiting from billions of dollars in assets that they were entitled to – claims that Swiss authorities had vehemently denied for decades. (Former Swiss President Jean-Pascal Delamuraz even feigned indignation at the very notion of these claims by dismissing the survivors as congenital “blackmailers and extortionists”.)
Indeed, despite a mountain of evidence to rival the Alps, the Swiss government not only persisted in its denials but also defied good faith by announcing an internal investigation which found only about $8,000 in dormant accounts – as opposed to the billions being claimed by the survivors. All of that changed, however, after bank security guard Christophe Meili alerted Jewish investigators that officials from the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) were busy shredding documents related to those claims. In fact, this revelation coupled with the US government’s threat of sanctions made Swiss authorities extremely solicitous of settling the claims and putting this national embarrassment behind them.
But they were quickly disabused of any hope that settling would appease and quiet their critics. Because, in addition to exposing their shredding caper, investigators began revealing some of the more sinister secrets about Swiss banking: including disclosures about train loads of gold that the Nazis systematically looted from banks and private homes all over Europe (and even from the mouths Holocaust victims) and deposited into the vaults of Swiss banks – with the knowledge and complicity of Swiss authorities.
More to the point, however, investigators revealed that – to ingratiate themselves to their preferred Nazi customers – Swiss bankers routinely violated the terms of accounts held by Jews by simply informing them that “The situation has changed”. The bankers then “aryanized” those accounts by selling them to Nazi sympathizers at a fraction of their value. No doubt records of these fraudulent transactions (among others) are what the bankers were shredding so anxiously.
Thus exposed as Nazi collaborators, fraudsters and congenital liars, the Swiss conceded to settlement terms with the US government and World Jewish Congress which, in part, called for the Swiss to establish a $1.25 billion fund to compensate all Holocaust survivors. The global significance of this concession, however, cannot be overstated. Because it not only indicted Switzerland’s banking practices but also shattered its carefully cultivated acclaim of being a safe-harbor (of neutrality) as war raged in Europe during WWII.
Nevertheless, the admissions and restitution by the Swiss represented only partial atonement for their national sins. After all, it has been an open secret for decades that the Swiss were also the bankers of choice for sundry dictators, corporate swindlers, drug traffickers and mafia kingpins….
But, that was then:
Last week, Swiss authorities announced – with the zealotry of the newly converted – that Swiss banks will no longer be a safe haven for the ill-gotten gains of the international rogue’s gallery of criminals. And to demonstrate their belated conversion, Swiss authorities trumpeted the arrest of the son of former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha on charges of fraud, criminal conspiracy and money laundering.
Now, never mind that this might be a case where the sins of the father (and his erstwhile Swiss collaborators) are being visited upon the son. The fact remains that baby Abacha was doing his best to squander the $2.2 billion his Daddy stole from the Nigerian people from 1993 until he was assassinated in 1998. And, the Swiss have assured Nigerian authorities that they will return the assets in all accounts under Abacha’s name.
But it remains to be seen how far the Swiss will go to fulfill the obligations of restitution that are required to complete their conversion. After all, almost every country in the world can use the exploits of Abacha of Nigeria as precedent to file similar claims:
For example, claims can derive from the corrupt regimes of Bongo of Gabon; Mobutu Sese Seko of former Zaire; Duvalier of Haiti; Fujimori of Peru; Salinas of Mexico; Milosevic of former Yugoslavia; Koutsogiorgas of Greece; Yelstin’s oligarchs of Russia; Suharto of Indonesia et. al. And, when one factors in potential claims that could derive from the exploits of international criminal syndicates, the potential liabilities of Swiss banks become prohibitive.
Oh what a tangled (and often costly) web we weave when at first we practice to deceive….
Note: Does anyone know what happened to Christophe Meile after he betrayed the shredding secrets of the Swiss banks that forced Switzerland off the easy road to perdition and onto this difficult straight and narrow path towards national redemption?
Monday, April 25, 2005 at 11:02 AM
It is an open secret that Democratic politicians in the US generally favor the Labor candidate for Prime Minister in British national elections. Nevertheless, respect for British sovereignty and the intelligence of the British people have always constrained Democratic politicians from expressing this preference openly (in the US or, perish the thought, the UK).
(And, with good reason; after all, as the visceral and indignant reaction of Ohio voters demonstrated when the London Guardian newspaper tried to sway their vote in favor of John Kerry last year, no sensible voter wants outsiders telling her how to vote – even if it is an amiable cad performing the political seduction.)
Yet this is precisely what Bill Clinton did last night – in a narcissistic, self-indulgent and overreaching appearance on British TV. There he was schilling at a campaign event for Labor’s Tony Blair – showing no regard whatsoever for the long established and respected tradition referenced above and, thereby, leaving yet another stain on his dubious political career.
Of course, no one in America would be surprised by Clinton’s disregard for the bounds of political decency in this respect. And some might even argue that he has every right to appear on Blair’s behalf in his capacity as a private citizen. Indeed.
But can anyone imagine any other ex-President or ex-Prime Minister doing anything so gauche? Moreover, Clinton remains the de facto leader of the Democratic Party and his wife is already campaigning to become the next President of the United States. Therefore, there’s no denying that his insult to the leaders of the UK Conservative and Liberal Parties (and the British electorate) carried the imprimatur of the most influential American politician – after the sitting president.
What is most puzzling about this juvenile political farce, however, is PM Tony Blair’s gleeful surrendering of his country’s electoral independence. After all, notwithstanding Clinton’s impudence, one would’ve expected Mr. Blair to show more respect for his fellow candidates and the British people….Can he be that daft and desperate?
[More on the British Election next week]
Sunday, April 24, 2005 at 11:48 AM
Yesterday, China and Japan elevated their schoolyard row to a high-stakes political chess game as their respective leaders met on neutral territory to solicit pawns for their cause. But before Chinese President Hu Jintao had a chance to make his first move on this world stage, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi check-mated him by making a long overdue public apology for Japan’s wartime aggression that, ostensibly, gave rise to this row.
Therefore, when they finally met, all President Hu could do was execute a political feint by accepting the apology, diplomatically, while telegraphing lingering concerns over Japan’s undeclared intentions to dominate Asia – this time by political instead of military aggression.
Indeed, informed observers of this clash of Asian titans never thought their row was about text books and World War II. Because Japan’s lobbying efforts to win a seat on the politically influential United Nations Security Council always loomed as real causa belli for China’s protests.
Therefore, it remains to be seen what orders President Hu will now issue to his standing army of protesters in light of Prime Minister Koizumi’s deftly quelling apology. And, whether Japan’s curiously timed counter protests (yesterday also) will upset Hu and Koizumi’s chess board.
But this schoolyard row raises questions of far greater significance: For example:
Will China risk the phenomenal pace of it’s economic development by prolonging this tit for tat row with Japan?
Is China as determined to prevent Japan from getting a seat on the UN Security Council as it is to prevent Taiwan from becoming independent; and, will it make the military option a matter of national law in this case as well?
Indeed, will China’s continual threats of military confrontation with it’s neighbors eventually spook foreign investors who are so indispensable to it’s growth and jeopardize China’s manifest destiny to rival or surpass America as a world superpower?
Click here to read more on the background and potential consequences of this row.
Sunday, April 24, 2005 at 11:46 AM
Saturday, April 23, 2005 at 12:14 PM
Last February, Bill Cosby – America’s favorite TV Dad (and faithful husband) – escaped prison when prosecutors investigating allegations of sexual assault concluded that they did not have sufficient evidence to convict him, beyond a reasonable doubt, at trial.
But no one thought that was the end of the story. Indeed, just over a month later – after losing any chance to take away his freedom – Cosby’s lone accuser filed a civil lawsuit to take away his money instead.
Many court observers assumed this suit would be settled with financial dispatch in the same way that Kobe Bryant paid-off his accuser (for what ultimately proved to be a $5 million romp!). But a few days ago, the allegations against Cosby became 10-times worse and, potentially, 10-times more costly. Because lawyers for his accuser filed motion in court for 10 more women to give evidence of similar sexual assaults that were allegedly perpetrated against them by Cosby. (Click here to read the motion in full)
Kobe had only one “disgruntled” groupie to payoff. Moreover, his wife sparkled with understanding and support – flashing that $4 million diamond ring he tendered to shield her from public humiliation. (And, given his idle brain, Kobe will probably be paying his wife for understanding, support and “some” for years to come.) Cosby, on the other hand, has eleven women (and perhaps more waiting in the wings) to deal with; and, who knows how many diamond rings would be required to shield his wife from the humiliation their testimony will certainly inflict.
Of course, the merit of their allegations of being drugged, grouped and raped by Cosby has yet to be investigated. And, it is possible they could all be lying; just as it’s possible that Cosby has been as faithful to his real wife as he was to the one he had on TV….
Nevertheless, it’s been a while since Cosby had a starring role in anything worthy of his comedic genius. And, regrettably, this case seems likely to typecast him forever as a predatory sexual wolf despite his (trademark) sheepish grin.
Friday, April 22, 2005 at 10:56 AM
[With apologies folks, this is very inside Washington stuff]
Today, after almost two years of partisan bickering, the fractious members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee finally recommended the confirmation of President Bush’s judicial nominee – Judge Janice Brown – to the US Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.
But a political confrontation of historic proportions looms when her nomination reaches the Senate floor for debate and final vote (possibly as early as next Monday). Ever since Bush announced Judge Brown’s nomination in July 2003, Democrats have remained ideologically opposed to her joining the nation’s second highest court. And, they have vowed to use the filibuster (endless debate and procedural motions) to deny Republicans the opportunity to confirm her on a party-line vote.
For their part, the Republicans (with their 55 member majority) have threatened what is being described as a “nuclear option”: Changing Senate rules (which requires only 50 votes) so that cloture (limit) on debate would require only 50 votes as opposed to the 60 that are required under existing rules.
If Republicans succeed, they can end the filibuster and confirm Judge Brown (and other Bush judicial nominees) with a majority of 50 votes. But Democrats counter that if Republicans deploy this option, they will use other parliamentary procedures to bring all pending legislation in the Senate to a screeching halt and, effectively, close down the federal government.
Why all the bellicose rhetoric and political threats? Well, each side invokes Constitutional duties and principled concerns about protecting the American way of life. Democrats, in particular, proffer that if the Senate confirms all of Bush’s judicial nominees, those judges would legislate new laws from the Bench that could turn America into a Taliban state like the one Bush just got rid of in Afghanistan….
But a pox on both their Parties because Democrats are only trying to do to Bush’s judicial nominees what Republicans did to President Clinton’s nominees not so long ago. So after all the political posturing, Republicans will confirm Bush’s nominees and Democrats will simply lick their wounds whilst waiting their turn to run rough shod over Republicans again under the patronage of the next Democratic President. Indeed, there seems no end to this cycle of partisan attack and retaliation that now constitutes political leadership in Washington.
But click here to read my recent article on why liberal Democrats would rather shut down the US government than allow this impeccably qualified black woman to serve on the US Court of Appeals.
Friday, April 22, 2005 at 10:53 AM
Good news from Africa…for a change:
Africans are becoming model stewards of the most exotic wildlife, lush indigenous forests and complex freshwater and marine habitats in the world. And, they are doing so on their own initiative – without prodding from eco-crusaders like do-gooders from the World Wildlife Organization.
Leading Africa’s new era of environmental activism is South Africa under the leadership of Thabo Mbeki. Indeed, (black) South Africans are so committed to developing sustainable living practices that – after gaining control of their country a decade ago – they guaranteed citizens a Constitutional right to an environment that is not detrimental to their health. And as President, Mbeki has implemented programmes for Africans to live in harmony with nature while utilizing and cultivating those natural resources that are so vital to an enriched life.
Click here for information on visiting some of the beautiful parts of Africa the world rarely sees – like this glorious view of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.
In the Pan African tradition of Kwame Nkrumah, President Mbeki has also used his influence as principal founder of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to make protecting the environment central to development plans throughout the African Continent. And, last Tuesday at UN Headquarters in New York, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognized South Africa’s pioneering environmental efforts:
UNEP presented President Thabo Mbeki and the people of South Africa the “Africa award for the country’s commitment to cultural and environmental diversity and its efforts towards achieving the goals encapsulated in the 2000 Millennium Declaration and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Plan of Implementation.”
Click here for more information on conservation and development in South Africa, and about How You Can Make A Difference!
Thursday, April 21, 2005 at 10:54 AM
Last week, lawyers for six prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), Cuba filed yet another lawsuit against the US government alleging more incidents of torture and abuse. Of course, this case will only fuel the hysteria surrounding government efforts to prevent another terrorist attack on America.
Many Americans seem unaware that torture and police brutality feature prominently in the annals of law and order in this country. Indeed, their frequent use by government agents gave rise to the expedient pathologies of plausible deniability and the thin blue line of silence. But, where torture is almost always justified, police brutality can never be.
Informed Americans were not at all surprised (and many not even dismayed) by reports of torture at the Guantanamo and Abu Gharib prison camps. After all, torture as a tool of interrogation has a tradition which stems back to the prisoner of war camps at Andersonville and Fort Delaware during the American Civil War (and beyond). And, the only thing that has changed over the years is that technology and media saturation have increasingly exposed these tactics to an increasingly politically correct public.
Indeed, political correctness, moral relativism and cowardice have driven political leaders to absurd extremes to ensure plausible deniability even when torture is absolutely justified. (President Bush’s preferred ruse is rendition which usually involves deporting terror suspects to be interrogated in friendly “rogue” states like Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia where concerns about torture are not so quaint.)
But for those who think justified torture is an oxymoronic notion, consider the following scenario:
Reliable intelligence indicates that an admitted terrorist (like Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh) has critical information about a plot to detonate a nuclear bomb in New York City and FBI agents want to use any means necessary to get it out of him.
Now, what if that terrorist retains counsel who throws a battery of due process obstacles in the way of the FBI’s interrogation? Should agents play out the legal process – which could take years? Should they seek authorization to bypass legal procedures in the interest of national security – which could take hours, if not days pleading up the chain-of-command? But what if time is of the essence – 15 minutes to detonation – and advisers to the Commander-in-Chief insist they need at least 30 minutes to figure out the (politically) correct thing to do?
Would torture be justified in this case to extract that information? Too unrealistic?
What if FBI agents detain a criminal suspect who they believe has knowledge about plans for a suicide bomber to blow himself up at peak shopping hours in the Mall of America? Now, what if the agents don’t know whether that bomber will blow in 15 minutes or 15 days?
Would torture be justified in this case?
I submit that in both cases public safety demands decisive action. And, the private rights of that terror suspect must give way to any tactic that might prevent these imminent (or potential) disasters – even if it results in torturing him to death. Thankfully, human nature is such that only the most rabid virgin-craving zealots would welcome death by torture instead of coughing up information to save lives. And, alas, most terrorists (like Osama bin Landen himself) have no craving for celestial virgins. Mpreover, I think our collective conscience can live with those odds….
Let me hasten to concede, however, that not all detainees at Guantanamo and Abu Gharib were (are) suspected of possessing such critical terror intelligence. Indeed, it may be that the plaintiffs in this case have legitimate claims. If so, they should be compensated.
But when corroborating evidence indicates to a reasonable degree of certainty that a detainee has critical information that could prevent the loss of innocent lives, the government should not hesitate to use (and should not deny using) any means necessary to get that information.
Inexcusable Police Brutality!
On the other hand, police brutality – which often occurs not to prevent crimes but in retaliation against criminal suspects – is never justified! Take the case of Esteban Corpio:
Last week, Corpio was arrested for allegedly stabbing an elderly woman. As he was being interrogated, he somehow managed to disarm the detective and killed him with two shots to the chest. He then attempted to escape by jumping through a glass window and falling 3-stories down to the ground (providing for the police a fortuitous explanation for ALL of his injuries). But he was soon caught and, “after resisting arrest”, taken back into custody – this time for dead serious interrogation.
Now, there are no pictures of Corpio at the point of his capture. But the pictures above and below show what he looked like hours later at his arraignment in court. (Of course, incidents of police brutality are rarely caught on camera – the notorious Rodney King episode being one of them.).
Nevertheless, it does not take a forensic pathologist to figure out that fellow officers of that murdered detective took out their anger, frustration and embarrassment on Corpio. And, such police brutality is utterly unjustified!
(Indeed, just imagine how angry, frustrated and even embarrassed police in Atlanta were a few weeks ago when Brian Nichols disarmed one of their fellow law enforcement officers and then murdered four of them including a Judge.)
No public or law enforcement interest was served or even intended by beating this criminal suspect beyond recognition. And, it could only have been motivated by unadulterated vengeance and other such perverse emotions. But the police who inflicted this punishment are now no more than common vigilantes who should be criminally prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!
What do you think?
Corpio’s close up: Looks like a screen test for the role of Hannibal Lecter’s adopted son…
Wednesday, April 20, 2005 at 10:55 AM
The new infallible leader of the Holy Roman Catholic Church has decreed his name shall be Pope Benedict XVI.
Unfortunately, the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany as Pope seems hardly inspired. Indeed, it may even be ominous. And, given his provocative political inclinations, Ratzinger’s election is much more than a matter between God and the Catholic Church.
Indeed, it behooves us to be mindful that this Pope (formerly the enforcer of “immutable” Catholic doctrine) makes no apologies for the Catholic Crusades (as Pope John Paul II did) and insists that the only way to heaven is by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior: Non-Christian devotees of moral relativism (especially Jews and Muslims) take cover!
It is worth noting, however, that Ratzinger’s unveiling as the new Pope was greeted with palpable disappointment by many Catholics – particularly among liberals in the United States, Hispanics in South America and Blacks in Africa. But the reaction among Italians was most interesting, suffused as it seemed to be with resentment over the election of yet another “foreign” Pope. Indeed, to the Italians – who apparently regarded Pope John Paul II as a mere interloper in their papal heritage – Ratzinger’s election must seem positively iconoclastic.
Notwithstanding viscerally emotional reactions, however, those who shudder at this Pope’s religious dogmatism have much in his writings and pronouncements as the Dean of Cardinals to justify their fears. After all, as “keeper of the faith”, Ratzinger advocated excommunicating unruly liberal Catholics and deploying missionary zealots to proselytize Christian dogma (not interfaith fellowship) around the world (converting by quality not by numbers). Clearly, now as Pope, such edicts (jihad) are bound to resurrect untenable notions of crusades and inquisitions that make Hitler’s delusions of Aryan supremacy seem relatively sane.
Nevertheless, the truly spiritual among us should pray that Pope Benedict XVI will be guided by the Holy Spirit to nurture our shared humanity despite disparate religious beliefs and, thereby, exorcise the fears incited by Cardinal Ratzinger obsolete….
Click here to read a little on the divine preeminence of Catholicism according to Cardinal Ratzinger.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005 at 11:11 AM
News media around the world lauded the armistice in the six year “Banana War” that was signed on 11 April 2005 by the United States and the European Union. But much of the reporting about this event glossed over the complex geo-political and economic relationships that fueled this conflict and ignored lingering issues that are bound to cause internal strife for a number of the more marginal warring parties.
The United States and its Latin American banana-exporting allies launched the first salvo in this war in 1999 when they filed a trade complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO). They sought a ruling that trade preferences granted by the EU (pursuant to special agreements under The Lomé Conventions) to banana imports from its former African, Caribbean and Pacific colonies (ACP states) discriminated against Latin American growers and US multinational corporations like Dole and Chiquita Brands. In addition, they sought a WTO declaration that retaliatory US sanctions against the EU would be legitimate.
These trade preferences – which had been in effect since June 1993 – placed economically prohibitive restrictions on the amount of bananas allowed into the EU from any country that was not an ACP state. And, even though it codified their colonial dependency, the ACP states welcomed the EU banana quota system as a life raft to keep their economies afloat.
Nevertheless, media reports casting this as a fight which pitted the US and its de facto colonies in Latin American against the EU and its ACP states were premised, well, on banana peels. Because, the adversarial relationships among the parties involved in this war were far more dynamic and amorphous.
For starters, the US filed complaint against the entire EU only because of the EU’s unified trade policy. In fact, within the EU camp, the US had a sympathetic ally in Germany who was embroiled in a factional fight against France, Spain and Britain because it harbored no paternal obligations to the ACP states and felt unfairly penalized by the new EU preference regime. Indeed, Germany complained that it was having to pay higher prices for bananas from the ACP states that were inferior in quality to the much cheaper bananas they had grown accustomed to importing from Latin America.
But this was hardly the only factional conflict. In Latin America – soon after the EU preferences took effect – Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia and Nicaragua entered a “Framework Agreement” with the EU which granted them partial increases in their quotas for banana exports to the EU. Naturally, this angered their erstwhile regional allies (Guatemala, Ecuador, Panama and Mexico) who accused the signatories to this agreement of selling-out.
(Incidentally, struggles within Costa Rica itself – between environmentalists who wanted to scale back banana production and the multinational banana traders who weighed in on the quota increases – only made its internal strife much more severe.)
Conflict also prevailed at the corporate level pitting US based Chiquita and Dole against their European rivals because the EU preferences enabled the EU based multinationals to take banana market share from Chiquita and Dole – whose banana plantations are spread throughout Latin America).
(Ironically, this conflict even produced fissures within the Clinton Administration as it sought to champion the cause of its rich multinationals while maintaining diplomatic comity with Europe. The more unsettling conflict, however, was over this administration’s betrayal of its professed Democratic mission to champion the cause of the poor against exploitation by amoral corporations.)
And, finally, there was a South / South conflict that had Latin American growers and ACP growers fretting over which of their economic colonial masters would succeed in guaranteeing markets for their produce.
These internal tensions were real and only became more exacerbated when the WTO ruled (in 1999) that the EU banana trade preferences violated international trade rules and that US retaliatory sanctions would be legitimate. Because, in addition to awarding millions of dollars in damages, that ruling permitted the US to target a variety of European products on which it imposed a 100% tariff “until the EU ensures that its banana regime is fully compliant with the WTO ruling”.
Therefore, for the past six years while the ACP states enjoyed the fruits of their banana preferences, banana growers in Latin America and small businesses in America and Europe have struggled to survive. Because, even though precipitated by a dispute over bananas, the tariff hit list drawn up by the Clinton Administration adversely impacted many other exports to the US market including British linens, Danish hams, Scottish cashmere sweaters, Italian cheese, French handbags and German coffee makers.
But with last week’s announcement of a cessation of declared hostilities, some of the combatants will likely experience a significant reversal of fortune (or misfortune as the case might be). Generally, the terms of the settlement call for the US to suspend the tariffs on EU exports by 1 July of this year. And, conversely, they require the EU to phase out its banana preference regime so that it is entirely abolished by 1 July of next year (which for some ACP states is like granting a one year stay of execution).
Indeed, under these terms, the former British colonies (namely: Belize, Jamaica, Suriname, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada) face imminent internal strife. Because, in these countries – especially the Windward Islands – banana production is a main source of earnings and employment. For example:
“The four islands that comprise the Windward Islands have a combine population of just under 500,000 people. On the island of St. Lucia, 60,000 people depend on the banana industry to earn their daily living. This is over one-third of the population. In Dominica 33 percent of the labor force and 70 percent of the population of St. Vincent is directly or indirectly involved in the production of bananas. Overall, 30 percent of the land in the Windward Islands is under banana cultivation.”
Unfortunately, despite cautionary notices to diversify, these countries remain dependent almost entirely on banana exports. Therefore, the loss of EU preferences EU will lead inexorably to destabilizing unemployment, poverty and, probably, the kind of political instability currently plaguing Haiti.
Nevertheless, as internal strife permeates the ACP states, the US victory in this war may seem more and more pyrrhic. After all, if banana growers in these countries have no markets for their crops, they may resort to alternat
ive development schemes like growing substitute crops that remain very much in demand in the US – despite the WTO and American law. (And, they need only look to the cocoa growers in South America or, indeed, marijuana growers in Jamaica for inspiration and guidance.) In addition, many of the newly unemployed in the former British colonies may well take to the Caribbean Sea to seek refuge in America - like desperate Haitians have been doing for years.
And so blows the winds of war…
Monday, April 18, 2005 at 11:06 AM
Today, Catholic Cardinals secrete themselves to elect a new Pope. But already we are being entertained by the machinations of the Judas Iscariots among them.
Up until last weekend, many pontifical pundits were touting the holy merits of Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany and, thereby, making him the putative front runner. Then suddenly, leaks about the days of his Hitler Youth began permeating media outlets around the world. And, any notion or prayer that these holy men would engage in a spiritual Conclave devoid of secular sleaze was effectively dashed.
Unfortunately, it does not seem to matter that Ratzinger, like all German children of the Third Reich, was required by law to join Hitler’s juvenile corps of Aryan troops. And, especially given his vocation, that Ratzinger’s Nazi past obviously amounts to nothing more than having been an obedient child doing as his parents instructed and his country commanded. (An explanation that no fair-minded person would dismiss with the same moral disdain as the specious and reprehensible excuse of “just following orders” proffered by Nazi war criminals.)
Moreover, hasn’t the statute of limitations expired on the collective guilt of all Germans for transgressions perpetrated by Hitler’s regime?
Clearly this is just a Machiavellian ploy by Ratzinger’s holy opponents to put blood on his hands by conjuring up allusions to Pope Pius XII – who lives in infamy as Hitler’s Pope. Unfortunately, this character assassination of Ratzinger seems entirely consistent with so much that is unholy about the Catholic Church.
Indeed, it only remains for them to now give Cardinal Law of Boston – that pontiff of the Church’s sex abuse scandals – the honor of announcing – Habemus Papam!
Monday, April 18, 2005 at 11:05 AM
Some people live by the cynical motto that there’s nothing money can’t buy. Indeed, only this explains why anyone would attempt to use personal wealth to deny public access to public beaches. Read below the arrogant follies of two rich people who thought their money entitled them to do just that:
For over twenty years, billionaire entertainment mogul David Geffen deployed an armada of lawyers to block public access to Malibu beach via the “public” path that runs adjacent to his multimillion dollar home. And, he maintained his uncivil disobedience despite promising (over 20 years ago) to allow “access for all” in exchange for a special building permit to remodel that home.
Well, it appears Geffen has decided that he’d rather allow beach bound riff-raff to traipse pass his home than continue to fund beachfront investments for his craven lawyers. Because last week, he finally surrendered and ceded custodial care of the beach path to a non-profit organization acting in the public interest.
Click here for more on the Malibu beach fight.
In a similar battle down in the Turks and Caicos Islands, millionaire developer Jack Civre used ravenous guard dogs to block public access to the beach (and one that is really worth fighting for) – via a gravel road that runs adjacent to his private property. The dogs in this case, however, were not interested in generating fees to fund their seaside kennels; instead, they were quite happy to settle for a pound of flesh. And, so they did.
The TCI government – not averse to discreetly accommodating the antics of the rich -must now resolve this very public spat that has civil as well as criminal ramifications. Indeed, some of the unnerving questions it must address include:
Did the TCI government grant a special permit to Civre to bar residents from using the public access road to the beach?
Given the public interest in this dispute, will the government issue a declarative statement clarifying the relative rights between Civre and the public concerning the use of this road?
And, will TCI prosecutors investigate whether criminal charges are warranted based on the claims of the dog-bite victim who dared to take this road less traveled to the beach?
It’s probably a good thing though that black TCIslanders aren’t too interested in going to the beach. Because, just imagine the national scandal if (white) Civre’s dogs had taken a bite out of a black islander? (Bull Connor would be burning with nostalgic glee down in hell.)
As things stand, it may be that this squabble between white folks over access to tan themselves (black) is just too Caucasian to cause the black government any worry at all. Nevertheless, this national birthright (i.e., access to all public beaches) must be protected and vindicated.
Click here to read how this story played in the local press.