Sunday, July 31, 2005 at 12:29 PM
Saturday, July 30, 2005 at 11:24 AM
There seems no end to America’s entanglement in Iraq and no one has a clue about how this “democratic experiment” will turn out.
On the other hand, NASA astronauts are busy today performing spacewalks to repair damaged thermal tiles on Shuttle Discovery so that when it returns to earth in 8 days it does not disintegrate like its sister Shuttle Columbia. Because, despite the brave talk about everything being “A – OK”, Houston knows these astronauts have a problem (and we all know how this flight will turn out if those tiles are not repaired).
Friday, July 29, 2005 at 10:41 AM
Now that al Qaeda and other jihadists have given the brotherhood of terrorists a bad name, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) has decided that it’s time to lay down arms and foment “troubles” to end British occupation by non-violent political action. Clearly an honourable gesture; but one made dubious, alas, by a rather glaring omission:
As it happens, instead of outrage at the recent suicide bombings in London, leaders of the IRA merely felt upstaged. Therefore, they convened a secret meeting of their Christian soldiers and ordained that since Islamists are prepared to die for their cause, IRA members must now take an oath to do the same.
Well, before the first name on the roll could be called, their soldiers all ran for cover like cockroaches having their dark revelry disrupted by fluorescent light. They ran, of course, because these good Catholics know that the only virgin waiting for them in heaven is Mother Mary….
Gerry Adams (C), leader of Sinn Fein (the “political arm” of the IRA) confirming the IRA Statement on Thursday that it is decommissioning its use of terrorism as a political strategy. Nevertheless, it behooves the British (Unionists) to follow the motto for dealing with untrustworthy adversaries that was coined by a genial old Irish American, former U.S. President Ronald Regan: Trust but verify!
Whatever its motivations, the IRA should be applauded for finally recognizing the futility of its ways. After all, British dominion over Northern Ireland remains anachronistic at best. And even the IRA must now concede that, but for its misguided campaign of paramilitary violence, domestic and international solidarity with the Irish people’s aspirations for independence would’ve compelled the British to negotiate a peaceful, face-saving pullout of its troops decades ago.
Therefore, the legacy of the IRA shall be 30 years of terror which left thousands of innocents dead and tens of thousands injured – all for no political gain whatsoever!
So, IRA, perhaps the Mothers of the Disappeared will thank you for coming to your senses. But you’ll pardon the rest of us if we just bid you good riddance!
Friday, July 29, 2005 at 10:32 AM
The U.S. Congress finally passed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) – by an unseemly close vote of 217-216 – in the wee hours of yesterday morning after personal pleas by President Bush and an awful lot of pork bartering with the people’s money. Yet the most cynical feature of this political luau was Bush trying to persuade mercurial Congressmen that they had to vote for CAFTA to protect the security interests of the U.S. and its Central American allies.
The alleged threat?
A regional conspiracy between President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and President Fidel Castro of Cuba to fund socialist insurgencies to foil Bush’s crusade for American dominion throughout the Western Hemisphere….
Please click here to read the real merits of this trade agreement and why I predicted months ago that it would become law despite valid labor and environmental concerns.
Thursday, July 28, 2005 at 9:59 AM
Note: The following article is posted as part of a blogosphere campaign to seek justice for this missing woman and highlight the profound media bias against covering crimes in America involving non-white victims. (Especially since coverage about some white guy from Connecticut who went missing off his cruise ship in the Mediterranean now threatens to take up the slack from the media’s obsession with Natalee Holloway.) The campaign is the inspired idea of the author of the All Spin Zone blog, Richard Cranium . If you have any information about her disappearance, please call the Philadelphia police at 215-686-3183.
TO: Ms. Nancy Grace, Headline News / CNN Host
Dear Ms. Grace,
Latoyia Figueroa is still missing after 8 days. And as tragic as the Natalee Holloway case might be, Natalee doesn’t have a seven year old child wondering where she is, nor was Natalee (to the best of our knowledge) 5 months pregnant.
Here’s an overview of the important details in this “missing woman” case:
1) Latoyia (we should only use her first name) is not white.
2) She does not have blonde hair.
3) She was not scheduled to get married last weekend.
4) She’s from West Philadelphia.
5) There may actually be a lead or two in her case.
6) HER UNBORN BABY, HER UNBORN BABY, HER UNBORN BABY.
7) To the best of our knowledge, no one from Texas has yet offered to bring in cadaver dogs to search for Latoyia, nor have forensic dive teams volunteered to scour the Schuylkill or Delaware rivers.
8) Also to the best of our knowledge, the FBI hasn’t been requested to participate in the investigation (even though Philly actually is in the US of A), nor have any DNA samples been rushed to Washington, DC.
9) HER UNBORN BABY, HER UNBORN BABY, HER UNBORN BABY.
I hope this enough for you to run with – certainly, the crackerjack CNN research team available to you can fill in any speculative details or obscure leads of prurient interest. While it’s doubtful that Latoyia’s family can offer $100 reward, much less $1 million (as has Natalee’s), I’m sure they’d still have an undying gratitude for any of your viewers who could turn up a lead on Latoyia.
Oh, and here’s a picture of Latoyia, in case you need one when you run your full hour show devoted to Latoyia. I’m sure her family can provide more.
Lastly, I note that “Natalee Holloway” rates “about 5600” Google News hits, while “Latoyia Figueroa” rates two. Here’s hoping your show and CNN’s website can contribute another hit for Latoyia.
I look forward to watching the show!
Wednesday, July 27, 2005 at 12:39 PM
Have you ever wondered why canned music by pop tarts (like Jessica Simpson and her whining little sister Ashlee) outsells real music by gifted artists (like John Legend and Rikki Lee Jones); or why cheesy songs (like Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy, Breaky Heart”) are played a hundred times a day whilst more interesting ones (like Anita Baker’s “You’re My Everything“) are heard only once in a blue moon?
Well, wonder no more. Because on Monday, NY State Attorney General Spitzer blew the lid off the scandalous practice by record companies of bribing radio stations (targeting program directors and deejays) in key markets to play songs by artists who can’t really sing but have great cross-promotional potential (to be packaged for TV, movies, clothing lines, commercials (for diet coke, apple pie and Chevrolet) and, in the case of 50 cent, to peddle the gangsta lore of hip hop).
The practice is called payola and it flourished in the 1950s during the early days of rock and roll. In fact, it’s how a few former radio personalities like Dick Clark made a lot of cash and acquired a great deal of power in the music industry early in their careers.
However, payola was then, as is now, an illegal practice. Spitzer described it rather comprehensively as follows:
It takes many different forms. But it is essentially the same scam where — instead of airing music based upon the quality, based upon artistic competition, based upon aesthetic judgments or other judgments that are being made by radio stations — radio stations are airing music because they have been paid to do so in a way that has not been disclosed to the public. This is wrong, and it is illegal.
Alas, by the time federal authorities were tuned-in to what Clark was doing at his radio station, he had become so much a part of Americana that they were loath to prosecute him. (And the rest, as we say, is history.) But other deejays – including the almost as famous Alan Freed (the man who coined the phrase “rock and roll”) – were not considered such sacred cows. In fact, after receiving a fine and six months suspended sentence, Freed was fired from his ABC-radio and WNEW-TV gigs and died penniless in 1965 – a broken man at 43.
This should have been a cautionary tale for record labels and radio stations. But it was not. In fact, Spitzer lamented during his press conference that given the current state of payola in the music industry “it’s deja vu all over again”.
Indeed, in the 1980s, the practice led to the notorious scandal in which the Arista label was exposed for paying deejays to make the lip-syncing duo Milli Vanilli the Grammy winning heart throbs of pop music. (Soon thereafter the conspiracy behind the music of other acts like C&C Music Factory and Black Box was also exposed.)
Yet payola flourished through the 1990s and into the present. But it’s one thing to manipulate playlist rotations at radio stations to ensure that digitally manufactured songs by no-talented pretty faces go platinum. However, it’s a far more egregious fraud to promote a live performance by Ashlee Simpson (on Saturday Night LIVE) only to have her suffer a nervous breakdown on stage when her canned voice does not sing on cue for her to lip-sync along.
Ashlee Simpson making her pretty face into an “oh my gosh, now the whole world knows I can’t really sing” face after being exposed on national television as a lip-syncing fraud. Even the morally bankrupt and easy to please Jude Law had to bite his lip to contain his outrage…
But thanks to Ashlee and others it is now widely known that digital enhancements, slick PR campaigns and aggressive radio airplay can guarantee a hit record for almost anyone. And Attorney General Spitzer should be applauded for forcing truth in advertising in the music industry. Because, it’s not only a fraud on the public but also grossly unfair to truly talented artists for record labels to pay radio stations to pass canned music off as real recordings.
After being exposed, Sony BMG agreed to pay $10 million in fines for offering bribes (of everything from plasma TVs, flights on private jets, free vacations, computers to cold hard cash) to buy hit records for J-Lo and others on its labels (which include Columbia and Epic Records). And, Spitzer indicated that Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and EMI Group are all expected to settle his payola charges by paying similar fines. But he also warned that he intends to extract far greater fines from radio stations (like Infinity Broadcasting Corp and Clear Channel Communications) that he claims are “the ones who are most fundamentally violating the public trust”.
Rock on Spitzer!
Note: Spitzer has earned a crusading reputation for exposing the insidious and arrogant nature of white collar crimes in New York City. But some of us are beginning to wonder why he seems so inclined to accept plea bargains which allow these office criminals to part with only a few of their ill-gotten dollars instead of being thrown in jail where they belong. Because here he’s letting executives at Sony BMG get away with a $10 million fine when everyone knows that they pocketed billions from these scams. (Besides, $10 million is probably how much Sony BMG budgets just for J-Lo’s make-up and traveling expenses). And, when coupled with the equally modest fines he extracted a couple years ago from financial firms (like Citigroup) and stock analysts (like Henry Blodgett, Mary Meeker and Jack Grubman) for hyping worthless tech stocks, one sees a very disheartening and cynical pattern: Rich criminals using a fraction of the money they stole to pay for their crimes. And that too – Mr Elliot (Ness) Spitzer – is wrong!
Tuesday, July 26, 2005 at 10:33 AM
As of the publication of this article, NASA insists that Space Shuttle Discovery will launch today at 10:39 a.m. EDT to mark America’s heroic return to space flight – almost 2½ years after the humbling tragedy of Space Shuttle Columbia.
It must be noted, however, that doubting Thomases have been doing their best to scuttle this flight or portend its doom by harping on NASA’s decision to waive a safety rule that would’ve grounded the shuttle until the “point sensor” glitch that caused the Agency to call off the July 13th flight has been completely resolved.
O ye of little faith…
The Crew: front row: left, pilot James Kelly, Mission Specialist Wendy Lawrence, center, and Commander Eileen Collins, front right. Second row from left, Mission Specialists Stephen Robinson, Andy Thomas, Charles Camarda, and Soichi Noguchi.
To be fair, however, those who question this launch are probably still haunted by the images of Challenger (January 1986) and Columbia (February 2003) exploding before their very eyes – killing a crew of 7 astronauts in each case.
But a flight without risk is a flight that never takes off. And, second guessing the calculated daring of men and women who are willing to risk their lives “to boldly go where no man has gone before” seems not only presumptuous but also myopic and contrary to the pioneering human spirit.
No one knows the full range of scientific or intergalactic discoveries that may result from unrelenting space explorations. But just as journeys on earth were not limited (to boats, trains and automobiles) by risks associated with flying airplanes, journeys into space should not be limited by risks associated with flying space shuttles.
Therefore, bon voyage Discovery…and Farewell!
Monday, July 25, 2005 at 10:58 AM
The Putinization of Russia (return to Stalinism) holds nostalgic appeal for poor Russians – many of whom feel betrayed by the unfulfilled promises of democratic reforms and capitalism. But for the oligarchs, burgeoning middle-class and Westerners with vested capital and political interest in Russia, it portends recriminations (such as confiscation of property without just compensation) and the rebirth of costly and dangerous cold war tensions.
It is not surprising, therefore, that many opposition forces in and outside Russia would be motivated to undermine domestic and international confidence in the leadership of President Vladimir Putin. But it is unacceptable – even for unabashedly partisan journalists in the UK – for Western newspapers to become propaganda sheets for those forces, no matter how much they espouse democratic values. Unfortunately, this is precisely what some of the most respected newspapers in Britain have become.
It defies logic to think that as Putin deploys his increasingly dictatorial powers to purge oligarchs (like Mikhail Khodorkovsky who was recently sent to the gulag for 9 years) for raking in tens of billions from “the piratization of Russia” during the roaring 1990s, that Russian bureaucrats would be daring and clever enough to embezzle or extort hundreds of billions from Russian enterprises.
Yet anyone reading the British papers last week (without a healthy dose of skepticism) would’ve believed that this is indeed the current state of affairs in Russia today. In fact, the headlines were impossible to ignore: The Guardian: “Cost of bribes soars as Russia’s millionaire bureaucrats rake in profits”; The Independent: “Massive scale of corruption in Russia revealed”; and The Financial Times: “Bribery in Russia up tenfold to $316bn in four years”.
Coincidentally, each of these reputable papers cited research by the Indem Foundation, a Russian think-tank and business consulting firm, which concluded that “the Russian state itself is the country’s biggest racketeer [and, by inference, Putin more a mafia godfather than president]”. But any amateur political economist would’ve been drawn to their headlines more by the troubling suspicion that the level cited was fiscally infeasible than by the report of alleged widespread corruption in Russia. After all, $316 billion was more than twice the annual budget (of $93 billion) and almost one third the GDP (of $1.4 trillion) of the Russian Federation in 2004. And, bribery on this level would make even the dark kleptocracies of Nigeria and Kenya seem positively transparent.
One can only speculate about the reasons why a watchdog foundation would publish such blatantly spurious (and entirely unverifiable) statistics about the Russian economy. Perhaps it is part of a Machiavellian strategy by reformers (and Khordokovsky sympathizers) to discourage legitimate investments in Russian and, thereby, undermine Putin’s authoritarian rule. But whatever Indem’s political motivations (because its research has no economical merit), it is utterly inexcusable and unethical for respected British papers to abuse the trust of their readers in this fashion.
Putin has done a great deal to disillusion anyone interested in seeing democratic reforms implemented in Russia. But the evidence suggests that there was far greater corruption going on in Russia during the “democratic” revolution lead by former President Boris Yelstin. Therefore, specious alarms about corruption in Russia today only discredit objective criticisms about Putin’s dictatorial leadership and regressive economic policies.
Note: Anyone familiar with the level of racketeering in the U.S. government (especially at the Pentagon as evidenced by its dubious relationship with Halliburton) and in the UK government (as evidence by the “secret commissions” British Ministry of Defense contractors routinely receive on weapons sales – especially to rich developing countries like Saudi Arabia) will find these self-righteous and indignant reports about the Russian government more than a little hypocritical. (Nevermind that corruption at Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, Tyco et.al. even caused many poor Americans to feel betrayed by their faith in capitalism….)
Sunday, July 24, 2005 at 11:44 AM
Today, cyclist Lance Armstrong makes a ceremonial ride along the Champs-Elysees to mark another victory and bid farewell to fans (and his miraculous cycling career) at the appropriately named Arc de Triomphe.
Armstrong sealed his sporting legacy by winning an unprecedented 7 consecutive wins at – the world cup of cycling – Le Tour de France.
But he has earned an even more enduring and endearing legacy by embracing his inspirational role as someone who not only overcame a deadly bout with cancer but actually went on to LIVESTRONG and thrive as survivor.
And, thanks for the inspiration….
Saturday, July 23, 2005 at 12:15 PM
President Bush: The Brits are our best friends and no people are more prepared to take a few bombs for us than they are! And, as for bombing our friends in Egypt, well, if those bastards thought we mistreated them at Abu Gharib, just wait till Hosni [Egyptian President Mubarak] gets his hands on them….
Given his declaration that the terrorists attacks in London were in retaliation for British involvement in the Iraq war, reasonable minds would like to know how London Mayor Ken Livingston rationalizes similar attacks last night in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt. After all, like their Muslims brothers in Turkey (who were also attacked), the Egyptians had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq.
Again, this is a war between fanatical Islamic terrorists and the rest of us. And, you can take it from the horse’s mouth because here’s what revered London Islamic cleric Sheikh Omar Bakri said just yesterday about their objectives:
[We] would like to see the Islamic flag fly, not only over number 10 Downing Street [official residence of the British Prime Minister], but over the whole world….
(Let us pray that by the time you read this, Omar Bakri is preaching this holy jihad nonsense only to his suicidal acolytes serving life sentences with him in prison!)
Continuing their War of Terror, coordinated al Qaeda attacks in Egypt killed 83 (and counting) and wounded hundreds (almost all local Muslims). Like the innocent victims in London, these people were targeted simply because they were partaking of the “decadent Western culture of the infidels” that fanatical Islamist jihadists will give their lives to destroy!
On guard Jordan, Italy, Pakistan, (World…)
Friday, July 22, 2005 at 10:53 AM
Emergency response teams executing familiar duties after more terror bombings in London yesterday. Pay attention New York! Because random searches of bags on the subway will prove as effective in preventing similar attacks as border patrols have been in preventing illegal immigration to the U.S. from Mexico…
Despite Prime Minister Blair’s call for calm, a second round of bombings in London – 2 weeks to the day after those of 7/7 – have unnerved many Britons and provoked anxious quivers in their heralded stiff upper lips. Yet, no doubt, calm shall prevail. No thanks though to the cloistered intellectuals and political gadflies in their midst who have rationalized and excused instead of condemning these irrational and inexcusable acts of terror.
One expects uninformed people to offer reflexive and simplistic opinions about complex and threatening geopolitical developments (like the rise of terrorist attacks worldwide). But such opinions passing as analysis by purportedly informed individuals and accredited institutions is not only surprising but also very dangerous.
Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero falls into this latter category. After all, he and his political allies rationalized their way to power by convincing a majority of the Spanish electorate that if Spain had not joined coalition forces fighting in Iraq, terrorists would never have attacked Madrid.
Now it seems the very influential Royal Institute of International Affairs is attempting to sway public opinion in Britain in similar fashion. Because this erstwhile respected institution reported on Monday that:
The Iraq war had boosted recruitment and fund-raising for al Qaeda [and that] backing the United States in Iraq put Britain more at risk from terrorist attacks.
Of course, resident scholars at the institute probably feel perverse vindication now that yesterday’s bombings will confirm their specious analysis in the minds of many apprehensive Britons. Admittedly, if terrorist attacks had been perpetrated only against countries represented amongst coalition forces, their analysis would have some merit. But as it happens, al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for perpetrating attacks in many countries (including Kenya, Tanzania, Indonesia and the Yemen) that have had nothing whatsoever to do with the war in Iraq.
Moreover, these useful idiots seem to have forgotten al Qaeda’s first (1993) bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York City – long before Iraq became ground zero in Bush’s war on terror. Furthermore, they offer no explanation for terrorist attacks in Turkey – a country that not only did not back the U.S. but actively obstructed the prosecution of the war by refusing to allow U.S. forces to use its territory as a staging area for incursions into Iraq. The scholars’ most egregious oversight, however, is their failure to account for the daily suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks by these fanatical Islamists against innocent Iraqis (fellow Muslims) – many of whom were guilty only of helping restore law and order to their war ravaged country….
Therefore, it is not only disingenuous but also disrespectful for this royal institute and gadflies like London Mayor Ken Livingstone to advance such a fallacious nexus for these attacks. In fact, here’s what Livingstone offered:
Under foreign occupation and denied the right to vote, denied the right to run your own affairs, often denied the right to work for three generations, I suspect that if it had happened here in England, we would have produced a lot of suicide bombers ourselves.
Clearly an ironic and myopic observation coming from an Englishman whose country denied blacks every human right imaginable during their colonization of Africa and the Caribbean. Yet, oppressed blacks did not “produce a lot of suicide bombers” to terrorize the English for whom they held nothing but justifiable contempt.
But Livingstone and others who express such views are merely transferring blame to (and stirring civil strife amongst) the victims of terror. Whilst, in the same breath, they are giving aid and comfort to the terrorists who thrive on the belief that their cowardly acts can influence the policies of national governments – as indeed they seem to have done in Spain.
Ultimately, however, no cost benefit analysis (re: supporting the war or not) can be offered to predict terrorist attacks. Therefore, these al Qaeda apologists should disabuse themselves (and Britons) of any notion that not backing the U.S. in Iraq would have made them immune. In fact, this analysis is so naïve that those propounding it would probably give full faith and credit to a promise by bin Laden that if coalition forces withdraw from Iraq all terror attacks would stop:
Peace for our time…?
Note: What little has been deciphered about the ideology of al Qaeda terrorists makes it patently clear that they do not envision peaceful coexistence with infidels (non-Muslims) – regardless of their position on the war in Iraq.
The only scholar who has been vindicated by these attacks is Samuel Huntington who warned – after al Qaeda’s first attack on the World Trade Centre – of an impending clash of civilizations. And, his analysis was affirmed by this year’s CRS Report for Congress on Al Qaeda: Statements and Evolving Ideology which quoted Osama Bin Laden himself proclaiming that:
…an emerging conflict between Islam and the West would be fought between the Islamic world and the Americans and their allies. [That] Muslims must find a leader to unite them and establish a pious caliphate that would be governed by Islamic law and follow Islamic principles of finance and social conduct.
Now, just imagine that pious caliphate being established in Pakistan where nuclear weapons are readily available to help suicidal jihadists carryout their terror crusades against the West….
Thursday, July 21, 2005 at 10:38 AM
Less than a month after Live8 bands played and G8 leaders pledged to Make Poverty History, international news agencies are reporting that over one third of Niger’s population of 10 million are on the brink of starvation. But these reports are particularly tragic because for months world leaders simply ignored pleas by private voluntary organizations (PVOs) for a relatively modest amount of money to prevent this crisis (only $30 million compared to the $50 billion pledged recently by the G8). In fact, they even ignored Jan Egeland, the United Nations Under-Secretary General (UN USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, who warned of dire consequences from persistent drought and a plague of locusts that have decimated the crops these God-forsaken people depend upon to feed themselves and their cattle.
Child of Niger representing millions who did not hear the music and know nothing about the pledges of relief. Alas, their lives consist entirely of coping with the death throes of death by starvation…
Many Africans feel cursed by God, and, who can blame them. Just imagine the cruel irony of Niger’s drought now being broken by torrential rain; only instead of bringing relief, the rain is spreading malaria and other diseases amongst people already suffering plagues of biblical proportions (water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink…). Indeed, as one grieving mother wailed:
“As far as I’m concerned, God did not make us all equal – I mean, look at us all here. None of us has enough food.”
Meanwhile, the mortal gods (G8 leaders and rock stars) have been too busy negotiating long-term, pan-African relief to be bothered with the logistics of providing emergency food aid to Niger. And, even if the world were to mobilize one of its patented band aid solutions today (as France initiated on Monday with an airlift of 200 tonnes of food), it will be too late for hundreds of thousands of these poor children. Because, as a frustrated Milton Tetonidis of Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) lamented:
“There are children dying every day in our centres….We’re completely overwhelmed, there’d better be other people coming quickly to help us out – I mean, the response has been desperately slow.”
But, where the mysterious and vexing workings of the almighty God must be respected, the salutary disregard world leaders have shown towards this preventable suffering must be condemned. However, the brunt of this condemnation should be focused on African leaders who spent most of this year calling for debt relief for their national treasuries but seemed deaf, dumb and mute when it came to calling for aid to feed their own people.
(For the record, the Panafrican News Agency gave African leaders constructive notice of this looming crisis in Niger as early as 2000 and yet not only did they do nothing themselves but they also neglected to sound the alarm for international aid: “African solutions for African problems” indeed!)
Even though African leaders did not seem to care, UN USG Jan Egeland appealed to rich governments for money to avert an ‘acute humanitarian crisis’ in Niger. Unfortunately, their response was essentially let them eat (yellow) cake…
Beyond condemning government leaders, however, citizens of rich countries must also be challenged to reflect on why it takes TV images of starving children to stir their compassion for fellow human beings who are known to be living in the vice-grip of chronic poverty, disease and starvation in Africa. Indeed, as UN USG Egeland observed only yesterday:
Niger is the example of a neglected emergency, where early warnings went unheeded….The world wakes up when we see images on the TV and when we see children dying….We have received more pledges in the past week than we have in six months. But it is too late for some of these children.
We could have prevented this, and the world community didn’t.
Ethiopia, Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, the Sudan, DR Congo, Zimbabwe and now Niger (one “g” despite racial inferences that might explain the world’s neglect of this entire continent). So, where in Africa will “unconscionable” images of starvation come from next…Mali?
Clearly, no one with a conscience can ever become inured to this suffering. But it is almost impossible to avoid feelings of hopelessness and unmitigated cynicism. After all, funds from Live Aid in 1985 were supposed to provide emergency famine relief to the people of Ethiopia as well as ensure that starvation was eradicated “forever” from the continent of Africa. Yet today, not only are the people of Niger starving on a greater scale than the Ethiopians did back then but the continent seems even more ravaged by starvation when one considers current conditions in other places like Darfur and the DR Congo.
Furthermore, even though this year’s Live8 concerts raised worldwide consciousness about extreme poverty in Africa, they seem to have had far less impact on the national priorities of some G8 countries (like Germany and Japan) that are already expressing misgivings about fulfilling their pledges of debt relief. Even more ominous, however, are the criticisms that have come from the very aid workers who are supposed to implement the new G8 framework for aid to Africa. Because leaders of prominent PVOs complain (and warn) that “its guidelines do little to help with health care, drinking water supply and long-term financial viability”.
Therefore, no one should be surprised years from now when persistent starvation in Africa prompts calls for another Live Aid event to make poverty history…again.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005 at 11:42 AM
To compliment his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, self-appointed war President George W. Bush launched a political war at home (and possibly within his own family) last night by nominating conservative Judge John Roberts to replace moderate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court (instead of nominating a moderate or another woman – as his wife Laura openly favoured).
But one has to wonder why so many pundits were surprised that Bush nominated such a resolute conservative knowing that it would trigger political warfare. After all, just as he honored his word to take out the Taliban and Saddam Hussein – come what may, he has now honored his word to appoint a judge who shares his conservative moral, social (and political) views. And, fair enough….
Judge Roberts is undoubtedly qualified for the job – especially given the standard set by Bush’s Daddy with his nomination of Clarence Thomas in 1991. His conservative Republican bona fides are beyond reproach. And, his near unanimous Senate confirmation just years ago as a Judge to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit looms as a shield against political counterattacks from Democrats who voted for him back then. Indeed, as far as political war strategy goes, Bush may have struck a fatal blow against his liberal adversaries with this nomination.
Nevertheless, one contentious line in the generally measured judicial opinions Judge Roberts has written will serve as the casus belli (clarion call to action) for liberals around the country. Moreover, it will galvanize Senate Democrats to not only filibuster but also shut down departments in the Executive branch of the U.S. government if that’s what it takes to defeat his nomination.
That line, extracted by zealous Democratic operatives from a legal brief Judge Roberts drafted for a 1991 abortion case entitled Russ v. Sullivan is:
We continue to believe that Roe v. Wade [the case which granted women abortion rights] was wrongly decided and should be overruled.
It will not matter to liberals that Judge Roberts wrote it as an advocate, not as a judge; or, that his purported deference to “settled precedent” should guarantee that his appointment does not portend the end of abortion rights. Because Senate Democrats gave fair notice that they will not allow any nominee to pass muster during confirmation hearings by uttering platitudes in response to their direct questions about legal opinions and judicial philosophy. Specifically, they warned that they will demand assurances that the nominee will not join the Court’s conservative cabal in reversing progressive rulings in cases concerning civil liberties – including the death penalty, police powers, religious practices, gay rights, affirmative action and, of course, abortion rights.
But just as liberals are likely to filibuster his nomination, conservatives are likely to deploy the dreaded “nuclear option” to overcome their filibuster. Therefore, despite Bush’s call for a dignified confirmation process, it’s only a matter of time before it descends into the nasty business of partisan political warfare. The outcome, however, will never be in doubt: Judge John Roberts will be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court!
Note: Many Washington insiders speculate that Bush’s political guru Karl Rove had a Machiavellian hand in the selection of Judge Roberts and the timing of his announcement as the nominee. To be sure, his nomination fulfils a promise Rove made to the conservative activists whom he credited with crusading for critical votes to reelect President Bush. And, the timing deflects damning media attention from the normally stealth and prudent Rove who, until yesterday, was a front-page “piñata” for his compromising exposure in CIA leak-gate.)
So, here’s to killing two birds with one stone…or three (birds) if one counts the Democrats who will soon be fulminating about back-alley abortions, rolling back civil rights and other scaremongering prospects all in a vain attempt to score political hits against a nominee who seems the judicial equivalent of the teflon father of modern conservatism – former President Ronald Reagan.
At long last, liberals must realize that – in this “war for the hearts and souls of America” – filibustering judicial nominees is a flawed strategy. After all, the Constitution grants the president almost plenary power to appoint judges to the Supreme Court. And, the “advice and consent” clause does not grant Congress a veto over the exercise of that power – as liberal Senators Kennedy of MA and Schumer of NY evidently presume.
Indeed, if liberals fear that the appointment of conservative judges to the federal bench (especially the Supreme Court) will lead to the Talibanization of America, their only recourse is to do what Rove and his conservative cohorts did: organize grass roots campaigns to ensure that a liberal like Sen. Hillary Clinton is elected in 2008. And, who knows, perhaps she’ll nominate a disabled Hispanic lesbian (who shares her liberal values) to the Supreme Court to balance things out a little….
Tuesday, July 19, 2005 at 10:45 AM
A few months ago, I published an article delineating why Taiwan was causing cold war tensions between the United States and China. I hypothesized that – just as the U.S. and former Soviet Union came perilously close to nuclear war over Cuba – the U.S. and China would take us to the brink of nuclear war once again over Taiwan. I concluded, however, that where the Soviet Union blinked and retreated from Cuba, this time the U.S. seems fated to blink and retreat from Taiwan – notwithstanding its 51-year old pledge to defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression.
Well, since then, Taiwan has become even more of a bane to cordial ties between the U.S. and China. Yet both countries seemed committed to a level of diplomatic discourse that precluded any talk of war. But that commitment was broken last week in rather shocking and provocative fashion.
To put this current crisis into context, it would be helpful to know that for years the U.S. has relied on China to exert a moderating influence on North Korea’s unnerving propensity to threaten nuclear war to extract concessions from its adversaries. Now, the U.S. and Taiwan are accusing China of doing the same.
China regards Taiwan as a renegade province. And, no country (including the U.S.) has ever denied China’s territorial claims over this self-governing island. However, successive Taiwanese governments have declared their preference for official independence from China. And, they have been emboldened in this pyrrhic quest by America’s Taiwan Relations Act 1979 – under which the U.S. has been arming Taiwan to help:
…maintain the capacity of the United States [pursuant to its 1954 pledge] to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion [by China] that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.
But, significantly, the U.S. has stopped far short of supporting Taiwan’s drive for independence. In fact, it has actually endorsed China’s claims by terminating diplomatic relations with Taiwan in order to recognize only “one China and that Taiwan is part of China.” Therefore, for all these years, peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait have been predicated on China’s commitment to:
…firmly abide by the principles of peaceful re-unification of one country two systems.
In recent years, however, China’s meteoric rise as a global economic power has allowed it to finance a military build-up that threatens to destabilize the uneasy détente in this trilateral relationship. And last March, in a foreboding gesture, its legislature passed an Anti-Secession law that grants China’s leaders legal cover to order its military to use any means necessary (including preemptive strikes) to prevent Taiwan from becoming an independent nation.
For its part, Taiwan has voiced credible concerns that China is planning to call America’s bluff by seizing political control of the island by force. And, no one doubts that China is now capable of squashing Taiwan like a bug. Indeed, this is why last week’s remarks by a senior general in the Chinese Army, Major General Zhu Chenghu, were so shocking and provocative. At an international press conference, the general blithely declared that:
If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition onto the target zone on China’s territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons.
Such words coming from a general in the North Korean army would be summarily dismissed as typical vacuous bluster. In this case, however, the U.S. felt constrained to condemn them as “unfortunate [and] irresponsible”. But even as China’s foreign ministry spokesman attempted to distance political leaders from the general’s remarks, he refused to say that the general’s views conflicted with official Chinese policy. In fact, in reaffirming China’s policy on Taiwan, the spokesman himself declared ominously that:
We will never tolerate Taiwan independence; neither will we allow anybody with any means to separate Taiwan from the motherland.
Clearly, such gratuitous declarations must lead the U.S. to infer that China is spoiling for a fight. After all, as indicated above, U.S. policy has been entirely consistent with China’s efforts to prevent Taiwan for separating from the motherland. And every Chinese general and politician is no doubt aware that the U.S. has pledged to defend Taiwan ONLY against attack by China.
Of course, if China is planning an attack, General Zhu’s remarks may be part of a psychological operation to test America’s resolve. And, given U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, China may see a strategic opportunity to strike with relative impunity.
Alas, China’s strategic calculation in this regard would be correct. Because, even though the U.S. has expressed grave concerns about China’s military build-up and maintains that “peace and stability in the area [Taiwan Strait] are in the political, security, and economic interests of the United States”, if China invades Taiwan, U.S. security guarantees would probably prove as helpful as Britain and France’s guarantees were to Poland when Germany seized it in a blitzkrieg invasion in 1939. Indeed, in that event, the only “defense” the U.S. seems likely to offer would be to issue a diplomatic reprimand and, perhaps, call for economic sanctions against China. What is certain, however, is that the U.S. will not engage China in a war over Taiwan; and, China knows it!
Therefore, Taiwan seems fated to fall under China’s direct control. The only question is whether China will remain patient enough to accomplish its objective by political proxy (using Taiwan’s Opposition Party – the Kuomintang); or whether China will finally exercise its military might and take the island by force.
Complicating prospects for resolving the Taiwan conflict peacefully is that fact that China is already engaged in a two-pronged battle for oil rights to fuel its economic and military expansion. On one front, just last Saturday, China declared that Japan’s decision to grant rights to a Japanese firm to drill for oil in the East China Sea impinges on its exclusive maritime rights and “makes conflict inevitable”. (This potential trigger for war comes amidst an ongoing schoolyard row between China and Japan over lingering hostilities stemming from World War II.)
Many geopolitical experts warn that China’s unprecedented and unquenchable thirst for oil will destabilize its already strained bilateral relations with Japan, the U.S. and other rich countries over supply and cause sustained increases in the price of oil which will impose severe economic hardships on poor countries.
Whilst, on the other front, China’s “unsolicited bid to take over a U.S. oil company” UNOCAL, has unnerved officials in Washington who have vowed to block the bid because they fear “that China could reduce U.S. energy supplies and threaten national security.” In response, China has promised to retaliate against U.S. companies in China if the U.S. blocks China’s bid for the oil company.
And, so it goes. But as Michael Wessel, director of the U.S.- China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressional advisory body, conceded last Thursday:
The Chinese have Bush over a barrel now….This is happening at the same time as outstanding major trade issues, the currency, textiles, intellectual property rights, the six-party talks with North Korea, at a time when the Bush administration is trying to moderate those conflicts.
Something’s gotta to give! Stay tuned…
Monday, July 18, 2005 at 5:07 PM
Today, South Africans celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 87th birthday by lighting a special torch in his apartheid prison cell as part of a new nationwide drive to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. The torch was lit just after midnight on Robben Island, the former apartheid prison off Cape Town where Mandela spent almost two decades for seeking to end white rule and bring democracy to his country.
Click here to read birthday greetings that were submitted to the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s message board on the occasion of his 84th birthday. Because, they all remain as relevant today as when they were originally expressed….
Monday, July 18, 2005 at 10:56 AM
His proud grin says it all: Yesterday, Tiger bested a field of golf’s premier players to win another major championship with an ease that confounded professional commentators and annoyed the hell out of his perennially resentful critics. After all, these are the same experts who heralded Tiger’s demise as the most dominant player in golf when he hit a dry spell of victories a couple years ago.
But now, after two wins in the three major championships so far this year (at the Masters and the British Open) and a close second in the other (the US Open), it is safe to conclude that predictions of Tiger’s professional demise have been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, as Tiger himself gave notice after yesterday’s win:
I’ve been criticized for the last couple of years. ‘Why would I change my game?’ This is why….First, second and first in the last three majors. That’s why.
Welcome back Tiger. And, it’s good to see that your Swedish wife has not sapped you of your athletic prowess as many of your sponsors and fans feared.
Sunday, July 17, 2005 at 10:59 AM
Karl Marx: R.I.P?
Saturday, July 16, 2005 at 12:04 PM
At 12:01 this morning, the latest literary potion from neopagan J.K. Rowling entitled Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released. And, people (mostly children up way past their bedtime) rushed bookstores with such crazed determination to get their copies that one might have thought they were cocaine addicts jostling each other to score some free crack.
But surely it’s a good thing that so many kids have fallen under the spell of Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. And, only self-important snobs would dismiss their intellectual interest because they are not reading Shakespeare with equal devotion. Because any book that takes kids away from socio-pathetic computer games like Grand Theft Auto has to be recommended.
I only wonder what sort of wizardry Rowling is performing to get so many poor children in E-9 countries (like Nigeria and Brazil with over 70% illiteracy) to “read” her books. Hmmmm….
Nevertheless, I applaud you Ms Rowling. And, you deserve all the Harry Potter billions you can get!
Friday, July 15, 2005 at 10:18 AM
First Lady Laura Bush returns to Washington today after a goodwill tour of Africa that, regrettably, got less coverage in America than the latest “breaking news” from Aruba about futile efforts to find Natalee Holloway.
Perhaps she was ignored because Americans are only drawn to stories about Africa involving genocide, disease, starvation and corruption; or perhaps it was because, by welcoming her with serene dignity and respect, Africans did not create an international spectacle the way the Israelis and Palestinians did when they greeted her with jeers and physical threats on her most recent goodwill tour of the Middle East.
Whatever the case, Mrs. Bush – a former public school librarian- presented a more compassionate and empathetic face of America to the Africans she visited throughout her tour. And, even though the G8 and Live 8 leaders may provide more debt relief, her human touch may prove a far more valuable and cherished gesture for Africans dying of AIDS and living in inhumane conditions….
Friday, July 15, 2005 at 9:59 AM
Today is the last of the 7-day annual Spanish Festival Encierro (running of the bulls). And, despite animal rights protesters showing up like skunks at a party, a goring good time was reportedly had by all.
Unwelcome guests: Festival organizers had to moooove streaking animal rights activists – many of whom looked like fat cows – because they were exciting the bulls to make love instead of charging after runners for a good fight…
This bloodthirsty revelry gained international notoriety after being featured in the 1926 Ernest Hemingway novel The Sun Also Rises. But the game residents of Pamplona have hosted it since 1591. And every year, people from all over the world trek there for the most thrilling vacation of their lives. Indeed, many of them return home proudly battered, bruised and bloodied (as their red badges of courage) from running with the bulls the way other vacationers return with red faces and sunburned bodies from beaching in the sun.
So, here’s to the bull runners: This bud’s for you!
Note: Perhaps next year the animal rights party-poopers will favor the fun-loving people down in Buñol with their presence. At least there the only blood they’ll see will be the puree from tomatoes that are the weapons of choice in the world’s largest food fight called Tomatina (an annual tomato-tossing festival that began 45 years ago as an act of protest against Franco’s brutal regime).