Friday, September 30, 2005 at 10:33 PM
Yesterday, John Glover Roberts Jr was sworn in as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He will now preside over a Court that has become the arbiter of what is not only legal in America but also of what is morally correct!
In a surprising bipartisan gesture, the Senate voted 78-22 to confirm Roberts as the the successor to the late William H. Rehnquist who died earlier this month.
Click here to read more about this man and his historic appointment.
Friday, September 30, 2005 at 10:21 PM
Beth Holloway seems to have conceded that her daughter Natalee will never be found; and worse still, that those she is convinced are responsible for her disappearance will never be prosecuted. And unless one has lost a child under similar horrific and mysterious circumstances, I suppose it’s impossible to understand what motivated Mrs Holloway to behave as she has since her daughter went missing in Aruba last June. But she elicited praise and condemnation, in almost equal measure, for conducting her own investigation whilst pressuring local authorities to prosecute the prime suspects (Joran Van Der Sloot and brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe).
Alas, over the past few weeks, the force of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has sucked public sympathy and media attention away from her personal plight. But Mrs Holloway believes that the hurricanes also provided dark cover for the Aruban authorities to set the suspects free. And, as far-fetched as this belief might seem, it is entirely consistent with her accusations that local officials involved in this case were not only incompetent but also corrupt.
But, as I pointed out in a previous article, Mrs Holloway went too far in demanding that the Aruban courts do what would be unconstitutional and inhumane for any American court to do: namely, to keep the suspects locked-up indefinitely without any evidence to show that they’ve actually committed a crime. And it is worth noting that the coordinated efforts of the FBI, Dutch authorities and her own gaggle of private investigators and search teams have produced neither a clue about Natalee’s whereabouts nor one scintilla of evidence linking any of these suspects to her disappearance.
Unfortunately, one of the suspects, Joran Van der Sloot, only exacerbated Mrs Holloway’s grief and frustrations by granting an ambush interview on Monday – from his safe haven in the Netherlands – to a crack reporter from the American TV show “A Current Affair”. Because, during that interview, he not only seemed like a credible cad – admitting to lies that are par for the course amongst players everywhere – but he also insisted that neither he nor any of the Kalpoe brothers had sex with Natalee; though he implied that she was really begging for it.
This in turn prompted Mrs Holloway to make “serious” her call for all Americans to “reconsider any plans they may have had to travel to Aruba, the Netherlands or any of the Dutch territories until they find my Natalee”. She also revealed the “bombshell evidence” from police reports in which Van Der Sloot allegedly incriminates himself in the crime of having sex with Natalee whilst she was in a semi-conscious drunken stupor; i.e., unable to consent (which amounts to a prima facie case for rape!) Enough?
Finally, demonstrating that he not only knows how to get away with rape and, perhaps, murder, but that he also knows how to defend himself in the court of public opinion, Van Der Sloot ended his interview (and this Natalee Holloway saga) with the following query:
Why would Mrs Holloway jeopardize the economic welfare of 100,000 innocent Arubans because her daughter may have “run off with a bum, or been sold into white slavery in Venezuela or met with some other mysterious fate?”
Thursday, September 29, 2005 at 8:18 AM
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted yesterday on felony conspiracy charges stemming from a Texas (good ole boy) fundraising scam. In response to the indictment, DeLay issued the following politically correct statement:
I have notified the Speaker that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader pursuant to rules of the House Republican Conference and the actions of the Travis County District Attorney today.
But he left it to his political spokesman Kevin Madden to convey how he really feels about these charges:
These charges have no basis in the facts or the law. This is just another example of Ronnie Earle misusing his office for partisan vendettas. Despite the clearly political agenda of this prosecutor, Congressman DeLay has cooperated with officials throughout the entire process. Even in the last two weeks, Ronnie Earle himself had acknowledged publicly that Mr. DeLay was not a target of his investigation. However, as with many of Ronnie Earle’s previous partisan investigations, Ronnie Earle refused to let the facts or the law get in the way of his partisan desire to indict a political foe.
This indictment is nothing more than prosecutorial retribution by a partisan Democrat.
Of course, what else would one expect DeLay’s spin doctor to say to treat his political flu? Except in this case, there’s probably more truth to this statement than one might think. After all, a criminal indictment for campaign fundraising shenanigans is rather like being criminally indicted for jaywalking. But, as the statement suggests, Texas District Attorney (DA) Ronnie Earle is using state law to make a federal case against DeLay. And, no one in his right mind should try to make sense of the dirty state politics that led to this indictment.
Suffice it to say, however, that neither Democrats nor Republicans would survive federal enquiries into their campaign finances based of this Texas (DA Earle) standard. Indeed, many people still wonder how Bill Clinton was able to get away with having foreign Chinese fund his reelection campaign in 1996. And, speaking of Texas, they wonder what campaign fundraising schemes George Bush’s “pioneers” concocted to get him elected president in 2000. But what Clinton and Bush had going for them were Federal Election Campaign laws that are nothing more than a set of codified rules that allow members of both political parties (who are running for president or Congress) to do whatever is necessary to get elected – without fear of prosecution.
In DeLay’s case, however, he’s being hoisted on his own petard for allegedly transgressing state laws where détente between political parties – based on this notion of mutual assured destruction if campaign laws were enforced – evidently does not exist. Moreover, it is widely known that DeLay has made many enemies in Washington by hammering Democrats (and unruly Republicans) to push a conservative agenda in Congress. Less known, however, is the fact that he has made just as many enemies back home by hammering local politicians to ensure that as many of his Republican friends were elected to the Texas Congressional delegation to help reinforce his power in Washington.
Ultimately, though, the merits of the case against him are irrelevant. Because, as President Clinton’s advisor and close personal friend Vince Foster wrote in his infamous suicide note, “here [in Washington] ruining people’s life is considered sport.” And no one has played this sport better than DeLay. Unfortunately, he did not count on skeletons in his closet down in Texas coming out to ruin his political life up in Washington. Oh, and trust me, almost as many Republicans as Democrats are struggling to constrain bipartisan schadenfreude today at DeLay’s comeuppance – no matter what they say on TV.
Game, set…Mr Earle!
Note: It’s axiomatic in legal circles that a DA can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. Therefore, it is instructive (and possibly, in itself, an indictment) that DA Earle had to run through 6 grand juries to finally win this indictment against DeLay.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005 at 1:09 PM
The force of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita sucked public sympathy and media attention away from Cindy Sheehan (whose son was killed in action in Iraq). And, it seems this notoriously grieving mother does not appreciate losing her grip on the public’s consciousness to Mother Nature and the victims whose lives she devastated.
But Mrs Sheehan reclaimed the spotlight this week for what one can only hope is a final act to strut and fret her grief for television and then is heard no more….
As soon as Rita ceded a little TV coverage to her, Mrs Sheehan wasted no time in letting her erstwhile sympathizers know how disappointed she was that they abandoned their obsession with her cause celebre for what she dismissed as “a little wind and a little rain”. And, as if to demonstrate that Mother Nature and the victims she either killed or rendered homeless cannot match her flair for the dramatic, Mrs Sheehan staged her arrest in Washington on Monday by defying police orders to stop stalking the White House. But the decidedly inappropriate grin she gave as the police were carting her away makes it clear that she got the attention she sought.
What remains profoundly unclear, however, is the cause for which Sheehan continues to make a spectacle of herself (and of those who are becoming increasingly wary of association with her). After all, she became a sympathetic figure when we thought she was just the grieving mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who just wanted President Bush to meet with her; and, who was prepared to sit outside his ranch in Texas until he condescended to do so. But then we learned that the “compassionate conservative” Bush had already met with her.
Thus having been found wanton on that sympathy card, Mrs Sheehan then decided to use her son’s death as the raison d’être to oppose the war in Iraq. And even in this respect she warranted sympathy. But then she became a self-appointed spokesmom for all kinds of causes ranging from groups calling for the immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq (and Afghanistan) to those demanding the cessation of American support for the “terrorist state of Israel.” Worse still, in language more becoming of Michael Moore than a grieving mother, she began calling Bush all kinds of unprintable names and warning of dire consequences for any politician (most notably Hillary Clinton) who does not see the war in Iraq (and American foreign policy in general) through her political prism.
Of course, Mrs Sheehan is entitled to grieve in any way she pleases. But it seems a perversion of her son’s memory for her to have used his death as a launching pad for her career as a rabid, misguided, uninformed, self-possessed political nut-case.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005 at 11:54 AM
A South African AIDS expert Saturday advocated male circumcision as the best available “vaccine” against the virus in his country, where an estimated 6 million people are infected and more than 600 people die every day.
It is instructive to note that the findings of the Soweto Study (of this remarkably prophylactic “association between circumcision and reduced risk of HIV”) mirror the findings of a Kenya Study that was conducted by Canadian researchers in 1987. And, the AP reported that these findings hold such promise that the U.S. National Health Institute is currently conducting a Uganda Study with a sample of 5,000 men.
All very hopeful indeed; therefore, one might ask, what’s so controversial? In two words: religion and custom.
Because, whether to cut or not to cut has been the contentious question facing Western civilization for thousands of years. Circumcision is most associated with Jews who practice it as a “mark of their covenant with God”. But, even though most Christians reject this religious covenant, many have adopted circumcision as a standard medical practice – as an old wives’ panacea for everything from curing syphilis to foiling the sin of masturbation.
Even as a non-religious custom, however, circumcision is not without controversy. Because where Americans are routinely circumcised, their counterparts in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa rarely have this elective surgery. (And, this fact is especially ironic in the case of Africa where more women than men are circumcised – as a cultural rite of passage for African women of all religious faiths.)
Yet, whatever the religious or cultural taboo, if circumcision is as effective in fighting HIV as these African studies suggest, then not practicing it as a standard medical procedure – especially in areas with high incidence of HIV/AIDS – is irresponsible, if not inhumane.
But I still have reservations. Because I wonder about the controls for these Afro-centric studies: For example, even though HIV/AIDS is a predominantly heterosexual disease throughout Africa, how would the researchers have controlled for high risk behaviours that might exacerbate the risk of HIV infections?
I also wonder why researchers have not conducted a follow-up study with circumcised homosexuals in America as one controlled group and non-circumcised homosexuals in Europe as the other to see if the results of the 1987 Kenya Study would be replicated. After all, whatever their attachment to the foreskin, I suspect most uncircumcised men (regardless of sexual orientation) would rather have a bris (Jewish term for circumcision) if that would lower their risk of contracting HIV.
Note: I know that some people resent the constant gardening amongst Africans to find human guinea pigs for pharmaceutical research. And, I suppose I would too if HIV/AIDS were not killing Africans – as opposed to people on other continents – at a ratio of 25:1.
South Africa has the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world. Nearly 30 percent of pregnant women are infected, according to a health department survey published in July, and in the hardest hit province of KwaZuluNatal this rises to 41 percent. The disease is now one of the main causes of death among young adults and infants.
Yet, South African President Thabo Mbeki is roundly here for more information on this disease and to share your concerns with the recently founded Ogranisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS that can be instrumental in promoting male circumcision as a medical necessity throughout Africa.
Monday, September 26, 2005 at 10:38 AM
I heartily endorse the prospect of a female president of the United States. In fact, last March, I published a commentary on a dream contest between Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice for the 2008 presidential election. Because I really believe either one of these women would do a far better job as president than any of the male contenders already pounding their chests and sharpening their rhetoric for this quadrennial political battle.
But, in a preemptive strike at these male pretenders to the Oval office, ABC launches a television series tomorrow night called Commander-in-Chief. It stars Geena Davis as a female who was placed on a presidential ticket as a political stunt but then becomes president when the real one dies unexpectedly. And, you can bet your campaign contributions (by tuning-in) that President Davis will tackle domestic and international affairs with all of the skill and sensitivity of a mother disciplining her unruly child (and never ever let her husband forget he’s a man, ‘cause she’s a W-O-M-A-N!)
Clearly, the producers of this political series hope to transform or prepare the American consciousness to accept a female as president. But I fear a backlash against this long-overdue prospect if people are offended by this patently obvious use of the Davis character to telegraph a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Nevertheless, if the TV show survives and if Hillary and Condi give the American people this dream contest in 2008, then it’s entirely possible that the weekly diet of elect-Hillary propaganda will wear thin by election night and redound to Condi’s favour.
Hail to the chief!
Click here for a “quick take” on the top five female contenders for 2008….
Sunday, September 25, 2005 at 12:03 PM
Saturday, September 24, 2005 at 12:25 PM
Simon Wiesenthal, the holocaust survivor who waged a relentless crusade to bring Nazi war criminals to justice, died last Tuesday at 96. Angels report that Wiesenthal was so proficient in his fight against evil that – upon reaching the pearly gates of heaven – God granted him a special dispensation to visit the Devil to ensure that all of the Nazis on his list were accounted for and justifiably burning in hell!
Click here for more on the life of this truly heroic man.
Friday, September 23, 2005 at 10:04 AM
When Hurricane Katrina was still gathering storm in the Gulf of Mexico a few weeks ago, I commented that if any country were equal to the task of Mother Nature’s fury, it is the United States. I cited America’s abundant resources, emergency management protocols and evacuation plans as all anyone could hope for to limit the loss of life from Katrina’s onslaught. But I also warned that if protocols and plans were not executed properly or if people refused to heed evacuation orders, then the loss of life would be significant. But that was then….
Now comes Hurricane Rita – still churning in the Gulf and already packing more punch than the heaviest blows Katrina landed on New Orleans or Mississippi. But, to give the Americans a fairer fight this time, Mother Nature has targeted the big, rich and very white state of Texas. And, her sense of humour (or poetic justice) is not lost on those of us who appreciate the synergistic drama in her choosing the state from whence hails the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush.
(Nevertheless, late reports are that she might still give New Orleans a glancing blow just to see if they’ve learned their lessons….)
By all accounts, Texans are as prepared as boy scouts…for a hurricane. But whether they’ll survive the road rage and traffic jams as over one million of them flee for their lives (and return with equal frenzy to survey property damage) is a different matter.
Rita is expected to unleash her full fury late-tonight or early-tomorrow. But just to make sure everyone knows who’s in charge, Bush intends to fly down to survey the battlefield today to ensure that all of his troops are ready for what he expects to be all out war with the mother of all hurricanes.
Good luck Texas. May the force be with you….
Thursday, September 22, 2005 at 12:56 PM
The world was shocked, shocked to learn last week that skeletal model Kate Moss is a cocaine snorting, junkie loving, child neglecting, lesbian shtuping dilettante. And, ostensibly, these embarrassing revelations shamed one of her sponsors – H&M – into declaring that it could no longer have a model of Kate’s unseemly moral turpitude modeling its clothing line. (But don’t be surprised if other sponsors suddenly find religion and follow fashion by kicking her to the curb or in the gutter where, evidently, Kate feels right at home.)
Not to be outdone, however, now comes word that the esteemed Scotland Yard will divert resources from its post 7/7 terror investigations to determine, presumably, what motivates Kate’s destructive behaviour. (What a bloody farce!)
Whatever the moral of this story, the London Daily Mirror should be commended for exposing not only the pathetic life of Kate Moss but also (just one of) the depraved habits many models pick-up on their way to supermodel fame. Because, notwithstanding all the beauty products they hawk for a pretty fee, the ugly truth is that many of these models rely on drugs and booze to stay thin (and to numb their self-loathing).
Therefore, don’t get caught-up in Kate’s woes; instead, be mindful of the illusion of beauty that drugged-out and retouched models convey to impressionable young girls every day. Since, truth be told, Kate Moss – off her appetite-suppressing drug cocktail – probably looks more like Bridget Jones….
Mothers, don’t let your girls grow-up to be models…like Kate, Naomi, et. al.
UPDATE: Check out this story published on 9 October 2005 which confirms my assertion about the diet of drugs in the fashion industry.
[* Lead photo courtesy of The News of the World]
Thursday, September 22, 2005 at 12:42 PM
Lil’ Kim is screaming diva discrimination from behind bars today. She’s pissed-off because the prison officials who sent domestic diva Martha Stewart to a “camp cupcake” that smacked of suburban charm, sent her instead to a camp pigpen that reeks of ghetto squalor.
Bitch on Lil’ Kim!
Wednesday, September 21, 2005 at 11:07 AM
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a joke – as Israel, Pakistan and India attest.
Besides, every country has the right to develop and possess any weapon it chooses for its national defense; provided, however, that that country is not led by religious fanatics (e.g., Iran) who claim divine authority to determine which countries have the right to even exist; or that that country is not led by a delusional, genocidal, paranoid, megalomaniacal and certifiably insane dictator (e.g., North Korea) whose notion of diplomacy is threatening to nuke the country of any leader with whom he has a political disagreement.
Moreover, where countries like Iran and North Korea forfeit their right to develop and possess weapons of mass destruction, history dictates that the United States and its coalition of the willing are the only agents capable of disarming them (for the sake of world peace) … as Libya can attest!
Which brings us to Kim Jung Il and his hermit kingdom of North Korea:
On Monday, newspapers around the world heralded the triumph of diplomacy for finally diffusing nuclear tensions that threatened to blow the Korean peninsula to smithereens. They reported that Kim had agreed to “give up all nuclear weapons and programmes” in exchange for oil, energy and normalized relations with the rest of the world; including, critically one imagines, establishing diplomatic ties with his principal negotiating adversaries: the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China.
Not surprisingly, before the ink was even dry on this reported agreement, critics of the Iraq war (led by British MP George Galloway on Monday night’s O’Reilly Factor) were claiming vindication for their proposition that a similar diplomatic outcome was in the offing to resolve tensions over Sadaam Hussein’s possession of WMDs – if only the trigger-happy U.S. President George W. Bush had a little more regard for diplomatic persuasion.
On Tuesday, however, Kim decreed that Monday’s agreement dealt only with the first item on his indefinite list of demands. He then declared that he would not give up his nuclear weapons (as promised) “until the United States provides civilian atomic reactors” according to his specifications.
U.S. President Clinton tried to get Kim to abandon his nuclear ambitions by dispatching his female Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang, North Korea to stroke his ego and whisper sweet nothings in his ear about gourmet food and fine wine. Kim took the food and wine but, alas, he prefers Scandinavian blondes.
But no one familiar with Kim’s negotiation tactics should be surprised by this turn of events. After all, this little tyrant has been performing his own version of the tail wagging the dog, with infuriating effect, for many years. Recall the embarrassing spectacle of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright traveling all the way to Pyongyang in 2000 to toast a similar triumph of diplomacy only to have Kim renege on his word even before she made it back on American soil. And recall the equally futile overtures of South Korean leaders who offered a bonanza of economic benefits through their Sunshine Policy only to have Kim accept with one hand in agreement whilst giving them the finger with the other.
Yet, Kim is not the most ridiculous performer in this kabuki nuclear dance. Because this spectacle is distinguished by the incredulous fact that none of the five powerful nations involved even know the precise nature of the nuclear programme they’re trying so hard to get Kim to forswear.
Therefore, at long last, the world police Americans (who will do anything to disarm Kim and maintain their prerogative to determine the world order), the caught between Scylla and Kharybdis South Koreans (who are fatally hopeful for a peaceful resolution), the wary Japanese (who think the Chinese pose a greater danger to regional peace than Kim does), the mercurial Russians (who will share nuclear technology with any state willing to pay) and the Machiavellian Chinese (who relish seeing Kim play the Americans for fools) all will finally have to show their true negotiating hand. And, just as it was with Sadaam Hussein, the Americans will find that they have been dealt a hand that requires them to recruit another coalition of the willing to call Kim’s bluff.
So, here’s what Bush should do:
Reinstate America’s moratorium on talks with Kim; continue providing grains to help him feed his people; let Kim fiddle with whatever nuclear toys he may (or may not) have – but quarantine him politically and militarily to monitor and control movement of material and persons across his borders; and telegraph one of his patented messages to Kim warning him that if he transgresses his borders or peddles his nuclear wares that America will consider it an act of war and shall respond with overwhelming force.
(Incidentally, Bush should cc the equally enigmatic Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who left no doubt during his debut at the 2005 United Nations World Summit last week that, like Kim, he will not be deterred from making his country a fully-fledged member of the nuclear club.)
Bush should then punctuate these sobering diplomatic measures by renouncing America’s policy of “no first use of nuclear weapons” as inconsistent with its war on terror. And to justify this renunciation, he should proffer that military experts have determined that conventional armed forces are inadequate to deter states that appear fixated on subjecting the U.S. (and the world) to nuclear blackmail. He should then have Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hold one of his delightfully menacing Pentagon briefings on America’s:
…revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction [as well as] the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
As Sadaam learned
the hard way, sensible American leaders will invoke President Reagan’s mantra for dealing with any rogue state they suspect of possessing nuclear weapons: Trust but verify. And, if leaders of rogue states deny their ability to verify (as Sadaam did and Kim is now doing), then American leaders should reserve the right to use any means necessary to resolve the matter.
This mantra is especially apropos in negotiations with Kim whose words have proved notoriously untrustworthy, even when written in binding agreements. And, any further efforts to dignify him with the international imprimatur of diplomacy would be as gullible and irresponsible as British PM Neville Chamberlain sipping tea for world peace with Adolf Hitler as Hitler’s army was systematically blitzkrieging through most of Europe.
Your move Kim…
Tuesday, September 20, 2005 at 11:28 AM
The institution of royalty is an absurd anachronism and an ostentatious affront to the universal declaration that all people are created equal. Therefore, it redounds to our collective shame (as human beings) that so many people remain loyal and devoted to this inherently unjust imperial vestige of national governance. (And, that so many royals have proved incapable of conforming their behaviour to the requirements of common decency, to say nothing of royal etiquette, is the least of what informs my disdain for this institution).
Of course, one can be forgiven the impression that royal eyesores reign only in Europe and the Middle East because there is so little coverage in Western media about the royal families of Africa and Asia. But after commenting last week on that royal shrew – titled Princess Michael of Kent – my mind sought cleansing in reflections on the one royal who at least intrigues me and for whom I have grave concerns.
When Masako Owada of Japan entered public consciousness at 30, she seemed much less a sacrificial lamb than Diana Spencer did upon her debut at 19. But then Masako was a cosmopolitan career woman with graduate degrees from Harvard and Oxford. By contrast, Diana was a naïve babysitter whose education was capped at finishing school in Switzerland.
Therefore, when Masako married His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince Naruhito on 9 June 1993, I was dismayed but admittedly interested in observing how this liberated, educated and sophisticated woman would adapt to the confining and provincial protocols of royal life. (After all, despite subjecting herself to this fairytale marriage, Masako had more in common with Hillary Clinton than with Princess Diana.) In fact, truth be told, I was hopeful that she would help humanize, demystify and, ultimately, dethrone the Japanese Imperial family – which is the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world.
Early in their marriage, Princess Masako perfected the coy Lady Di look to stunning effect, thereby, ensuring that her charismatically challenged Prince Naruhito would never feel too diminished in her presence (as Prince Charles came to feel when Princess Diana blossomed from the shy virgin he deflowered into a cocksure glamour puss he could not keep up with…).
Regrettably, as best as can be determined, Masako’s reign as crown princess has been fraught with even more despair and frustration than Diana’s reign as Princess of Wales. But where Diana’s marital woes stemmed from her unwillingness to accept the prominent role Prince Charles wanted his mistress to play in their marriage, Masako’s stem from her failure to produce a male heir. And, the fact that she finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl in 2001 seems to have only added insult to the dashed expectations of the Imperial family and her loyal subjects. (By contrast, the properly fecund Diana exceeded expectations in this regard by producing an heir and a spare; although it clearly did her no good.)
Alas, it is doubtful that Masako will ever fulfill her only royal duty that seems to matter. Because the unnatural anxieties that evidently inhibited her performance at 30 are bound to preclude the belated birth of a male heir at 42. Therefore, in light of such unforgiving stresses, it came as no surprise when the Imperial Household Agency announced last year that:
…Crown Princess Masako was exhausted [and had] excused herself from royal duties. [And] that she had taken refuge at her family’s home in a wooden mountain resort.
In fact, the Agency declared her “mentally ill” and conceded that no one had any idea when (or if) she planned to resume her royal duties.
The lasting image of Princess Masako (again emulating Princess Diana in looking forlorn of hope) as she was being driven last December from a Japanese sanatorium where she underwent treatment for her “adjustment disorder”…
Now, if Princess Masako had performed 10% of the royal duties Princess Diana performed – outside the bedroom – her exhaustion would be understandable. (What ancient Japanese rigors she may have endured behind closed doors trying to produce a male heir is another matter entirely.) But her reign as Japan’s Crown Princess was made ironically conspicuous, even troubling, by the fact that she hardly ever appeared in public. Indeed, her failure to play a more ceremonial role (at home and abroad) as the “symbol of the nation” has been almost as disappointing to Japanese monarchists as her failure to produce a male heir.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are busy trying to decide whether to change Japan’s Imperial succession rule to allow a female to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Under a post-World War II law, only males can assume the throne. There are no princes in the generation after Naruhito, whose younger brother has two daughters. Naruhito’s only sister is 35 and says she has no immediate plans to marry.
And, as a loyal Japanese MP Satsuki Eda observed:
There is simply no reason why we shouldn’t allow a woman to reign…I think it is a very good thing that we are able to discuss this issue, without worrying about taboos.
(Incidentally, Prince Albert recently decreed changes in Monaco’s succession laws; not so that a female could succeed him but rather contemptibly so that his black son could never ascend his Monegasque Throne.)
But despite being solicitous of finding legal daylight for her daughter to shine, lawmakers seem perfectly happy to allow Masako to languish in darkness for the rest of her days. Yet, ironically, it might be Masako’s intelligence that saves her from Diana’s fateful end. Because she is probably sensible enough to understand that there’s simply no way she would ever be accepted in her role as Crown Princess or Empress of Japan unless she satisfies the chauvinistic demands of the Imperial household (by producing a male heir).
So, here’s to the Masako’s family for giving her refuge from the conspiring machinations of royal courtiers. And, may she find the happiness in her mountain retreat that no liberated and self-respecting woman could ever hope to find today in a royal marriage.
Note: Given her anxieties and depression about child birth, perhaps Masako should retain Tom Cruise for psychological counseling….
And, I shall deal with Africa’s notorious King Mswati III of Swaziland when he finally distinguishes himself by surpassing his Daddy’s booty of 60 wives. At last count, this 37-year-old hedonistic polygamist had taken wife number 13. But Mswati faces a formidable challenge from HIV/Aids for the dubious claim of ravaging the most teenage girls in his Kingdom….
Monday, September 19, 2005 at 10:08 AM
So much for the infamous German “ordnung must seien” (order!). Because the political chaos following yesterday’s national elections makes the “banana republic” craziness following the 2000 presidential elections in America (when Al Gore refused to concede defeat to George Bush) seem relatively sublime.
Results indicate that neither incumbent Gerhardt Schröder’s Social Democrats (at 34.3%) nor top challenger Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (at 35.2%) won enough seats to form a new government. Worse still, neither of these fiercely antagonistic Party leaders seems able to form a coalition government (with fringe contenders like the Free Democrats at 9.8%, the Left Party at 8.7% and the Green Party at 8.1%) without the other’s Party playing a decisive role.
Therefore, German political pundits are calling for a “grand coalition” between Schröder and Merkel to forestall any further shock to the country’s (erstwhile) predictable order of things. The problem with such a political marriage, however, is determining what to do when both partners want pre-nuptial agreements guaranteeing that he or she will always be on top.
No doubt the political wheeling and dealing going on today in the German Bundestag (national parliament) rivals the haggling, buying and selling one might find on a busy day at an Indian Bazaar. Though, at the end of the day, I suspect that Merkel will hatch a governing coalition with the Social Democrats – after an internal purge puts Schröder out to pasture in favour of a new Party leader. (Click here for analysis of other possible outcomes.)
Auf wiedersehen Gerhardt: It’s bad enough that you enabled the spoiled expectations of the German people but, please, have the decency not to become a spoil-sport yourself. So leave the political stage – now – with what little remains of your grandfatherly appeal…
Nevertheless, Angela Merkel is on the cusp of making history as the first female Chancellor of Germany. And, having been mentored by the larger than life former Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1982-1998), she is more qualified than Margaret Thatcher was (and Hillary Clinton is) to assume leadership of her country. Clearly, these facts alone make her worthy of far more international media attention; notwithstanding competition from Katrina and Britney (Ooops, she did it again; and this time she had a baby).
Unfortunately, Merkel does not have the celebrity status of Hillary Clinton or the intriguing force of personality that made “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher such a fascinating political character. In fact, Merkel’s personality seems more suited for a job as a school-crossing guard than one as Chancellor of Germany – especially now when dynamic and decisive leadership is so critical. After all, given Germany’s current standing in Europe (and internationally), one might think that the thriving capitalist West was sucked into the vortex of the dour communist East (from whence, to complete the stereotype, Merkel hails) when the country was re-unified in 1990 – as opposed to the other way around.
But check-out the graphics below to see what daunting challenges await Merkel and why so many anxious Germans spell malaise: G-E-R-M-A-N-Y! (Yet, it is worth noting that few of them would even countenance giving up any of their cradle-to-grave welfare entitlements for the sake of bringing fiscal sanity to Germany’s national budget. Entitlements, incidentally, which make the American welfare system seem like government sanctioned medieval torture.)
Note: Since there’s no love lost between Schröder and U.S. President Bush, many pundits speculate that Merkel might seek closer ties with Bush to distinguish herself from Schröder on the international scene. (Indeed, Schröder seemed convinced that his best campaign riff was ridiculing Merkel for visiting Bush to boost her foreign policy bona fides, in the same boneheaded fashion that John Kerry visited French President Jacque Chirac during last year’s presidential election in America.)
But Merkel would be well-advised to forge a special relationship with British PM Tony Blair (and there’s no love lost between him and Schröder either) much as Margaret Thatcher did with U.S. President Ronald Reagan. After all, Blair is easily the most popular and influential leader in the world (due in large part to his close ties with President Bush). And nurturing ties with him is unlikely to incite the visceral condemnation she would surely suffer (at home and throughout Europe) from any appearance of pursuing common cause with Bush.
Disclosure: Lest I be accused of showing off, let me hasten to admit that my fluency in German is limited to the few words I learned from Colonel Klink on re-runs of Hogan’s Heroes. Beyond those, “I write nothing, I speak nothing, I understand nothing!”
Sunday, September 18, 2005 at 11:45 AM
Saturday, September 17, 2005 at 12:29 PM
For 3 days this week, Judge John Roberts fielded questions from Senators conducting public hearings on his nomination to become the next Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. And, by acclamation, Roberts gave a tour de force during which he displayed promethean jurisprudential skills with Zen-like humility.
By contrast, no doubt due to the partisan nature of such hearings, Republican Senators came off as craven enablers by gratuitously “clarifying” some of Roberts’ answers that I suspect were vague by intelligent design. And Democrats fared no better as Roberts made them look like jackasses as they tried in vain to entrap him – as much on political policy as on points of law. (A spectacle, incidentally, which even yellow dog Democrats would now concede was rather like watching keystone cops trying to trap the great Houdini.)
Therefore, barring an act of God, Judge John Roberts will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a floor vote scheduled for next Thursday. And deservedly so!
Note: Will women NOW be forced into dark alleys for abortions? No! Will blacks be forced to sit in the back of the bus again? No! And all who sounded such polarizing alarms at the hearings revealed more about their own ignorance than about any prejudice Judge Roberts might harbour.
Frankly, I would have preferred a nominee for this position more in the judicial mold of Thurgood Marshall than William Rehnquist (Roberts’ mentor). Nevertheless, President Bush nominated a man who even rabid Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer admits is probably the most qualified person ever nominated to the Supreme Court. And for this Bush should be commended.
Meanwhile, it is a curious thing that those who protest loudest about almost anything Bush does are often the ones who did not even bother to vote. So here’s a shout out to haters and naysayers like Kanye West and Cindy Sheehan: organize and mobilize your people to vote in ’08. Then maybe your candidate (Hillary Clinton?) will be where Bush is today with the prerogative to appoint Judges and pursue policies that are more to your liking.
Until then, please shut up!
Friday, September 16, 2005 at 12:22 PM
Last night, President Bush addressed the nation on his recovery plan for New Orleans (and other areas affected by Hurricane Katrina). And, even the most cynical Bush basher had to be encouraged by his comprehensive vision. Of course it helped that his vision practically mirrored the recovery plan I prescribed (on 1 September) just days after New Orleans became a watery Pompeii.
On 29 August, when Katrina was still churning miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, I wrote that there was no cause for panic because, more than any other country in the world, America had ample resources and (post 9/11) emergency plans in place to weather even “da BIG ONE!” But I also warned that:
…how well local authorities enforce evacuation orders and how many daring fools ignore them (and go sight seeing in the eye of the storm) shall determine Katrina’s human casualties.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of casualties from this disaster were, in fact, caused just as I predicted. And President Bush admitted as much by accepting blame for the failure of government officials – at all levels – to execute evacuation orders and emergency relief procedures. (Nevertheless, it is not insignificant that the alarms about tens of thousands of people having perished seem grossly exaggerated and that the few hundred deaths recorded so far have resulted more from human neglect than from the force of Hurricane Katrina.)
Then, on 1 September, after the levees broke and destroyed the city, I wrote another article urging Bush to assure those affected, the American people and the world that he would emulate the bold initiatives taken by previous presidents in his plan to rebuild New Orleans. I cited Truman’s Marshall Plan and, more specifically, FDR’s Tennessee Valley Project as blue prints for comprehensive federal involvement in this respect. Moreover, as a life affirming feature of his initiative, I recommended enlisting all able bodied adults displaced by Katrina to be relocated from cavernous sports stadia in Texas back to temporary work sites in Louisiana to participate and earn a vested interest in the rebuilding of their city.
Therefore, I was pleased to see Bush lay-out a plan to just that! And, as for the $200 billion estimated for this project: it will probably cost twice as much. But even so, it’s better value for money than investing similar amounts to rebuild parts of Iraq one day only to have Islamic fanatics blow them up the next.
Finally, in that prophetic 29 August article, I also offered the crude prognosis that Katrina would be good for business because:
Hurricane season for Home Depot is like Christmas season for Toys R Us. And, if you think I’m being too cynical, please note how often the damage from this hurricane is expressed in terms of dollars as opposed to lives lost….
Crude, but undeniably true!
Note: I was ridiculed by some for writing in my 29 August article that:
A watery Pompeii New Orleans shall not become…for too long at any rate. The waters will recede and clean-up will be a bitch!
Well, as best as I can tell, over 2000 years later, Pompeii remains covered in ashes from mount Vesuvius; whereas, the flood waters will be gone from New Orleans within 2 weeks and the city will be cleaned up and mostly rebuilt within 2 years.
Clearly, by any objective measure, this vindicates my prescient assessment of the lasting impact of Hurricane Katrina!
Thursday, September 15, 2005 at 11:49 AM
According to Reuters, some shrewd photographer caught President Bush writing this note yesterday, during unbearable speechifying at the UN World Summit, to his school-marm, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, asking to be excused to go wee wee.
Is nothing sacred…
Thursday, September 15, 2005 at 11:08 AM
Just months ago, Ukrainian President Victor Yuschenko was heralded in Washington as the hero of Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution.” And, despite unsightly scars (from dioxin poisoning) that make him look more like a beastly ogre than the matinee idol he used to be, Yuschenko stood proud as a rare joint session of the U.S. Congress showered him with praise worthy of a modern-day George Washington.
Back on the home front, however, Ukrainians had lost their revolutionary euphoria and were already becoming impatient with the lofty, but seemingly stagnant, promises of democracy. And, notwithstanding this national mood of anxiety and disillusionment, Yushchenko was more preoccupied with mending the alienation of affection within his political marriage than with tending to the affairs of state.
Unfortunately, he seems to have failed in both respects. Because Ukraine is now mired in economic and political chaos that, for a critical mass of Ukrainians, make the corruption and oppression that prevailed under Yushchenko’s communist predecessors seem relatively benign. In fact, his Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Tomenko and State Secretary Alexander Zinchenko cited as much in tendering their resignations last week.
But the worst was yet to come….
Because in reaction to these spectacular gestures of no-confidence in his leadership, Yuschenko sacked his entire cabinet and precipitated the downfall of Ukraine’s first democratically elected government after only 8 months in power. But Yulia Timoshenko – the refined political wife he appointed as Prime Minister – felt betrayed by her summary dismissal and filed for an immediate dissolution of their political marriage.
In keeping with her appeal as the mother of this young nation, Timoshenko justified her filing in an open letter to Yuschenko by declaring that:
I consider your decision [to sack the entire cabinet] about the government resignation [of Tomenko and Zinchenko] in current conditions as a threat to the national security of Ukraine.
Moreover, she indicated that her spurned affection was made even more vexatious by Yuschenko’s hypocrisy. Because, she claims, he blames her for the government’s demise even though he was too busy traveling the world – basking in the acclaim as democracy’s latest darling – to render any support to her as the caretaker of Ukraine’s domestic affairs.
Nevertheless, this current political crisis does not necessarily portend doom for the Ukrainians in their transition from communism to democracy. After all, during their transition from fascism to democracy, Italians changed governments the way Frenchmen change mistresses. In fact, Yuschenko should seek guidance from Italy’s current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Because Berlusconi has clearly reclaimed his country’s confidence and affection after conducting a disastrous May – December romance with the Italian people (as Prime Minister) in 1994.
But Yuschenko will have little time to work his charm on the Ukrainian people because new national elections are scheduled for March 2006. And, alas, this time around he won’t be able to get by on his good looks. Even more troubling for his prospects of success, however, is the fact that, in these elections, his opponents will be his former revolutionary partners PM Timoshenko and Deputy PM Tomenko; and not the former KGB apparatchiks who tried to assassinate him at a dinner party by spiking his martini with dioxin.
Indeed, in announcing his candidacy to unseat Yuschenko, Tomenko declared his intention to “organize the second stage of Orange Revolution.” And, not to be outdone, Timoshenko announced her candidacy by emphatically warning Yushchenko against undermining her campaign by interfering “into personnel policy of my electoral block in the coming parliamentary elections.”
Now, doesn’t the drama of this divorce between Yuschenko and Timoshenko make the split between Brad and Jen seem relatively trite?
Wednesday, September 14, 2005 at 10:22 AM
The United Nations General Assembly in New York: More a Tower of Babel than a tribunal for resolving international conflicts and coordinating humanitarian relief!
175 Heads of State and Government will assemble in New York City today for a world summit marking the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations. Unfortunately, the record of the UN in recent years raises grave concerns about whether it will ever prove “adequate to the historic purpose” proffered in its founding instrument by the General Assembly’s First Plenary Meeting in 1946. That instrument states that the UN’s purpose, in part, is the
…maintenance of peace and security by collective recourse…and the establishment, through cooperation in the economic, social, educational and humanitarian fields, of those conditions of stability and well-being which will ensure peaceful and friendly relations, based on the principle of equal rights and self-determination among the nations of the world.
But as the General Assembly convenes today, the UN is regarded more with contempt for internal corruption and spectacular mission failures (e.g. oil-for-food, Rwanda & Bosnia) than with acclaim for establishing conditions of stability and well-being through mission successes (e.g. Cyprus, Kashmir & East Timor).
Moreover, the “sweeping and urgent reforms” that the Volcker Independent Inquiry Committee proposed last week to redress the UN’s “systemic failures” are fated for even longer and more futile debate than the organization’s 60-year effort to define “terrorism”. In fact, this fate (of abiding futility) was sealed weeks ago when U.S. Ambassador John Bolton proposed an unprecedented 750 amendments to the UN’s draft agreement for reforming the organization.
Therefore, one is constrained to wonder about the point of this gathering: Especially since French President Jacque Chirac’s mysterious illness will prevent him from attending to amuse us by hounding President Bush like a woman scorned; Libyan leader Mouammar Kadhafi, now humbled, has become an insufferable bore; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not the American hostage-taking terrorist we were led to believe he was; and, North Korean President KIM Jong Il is too smart to even think about showing up!
Even more disappointing, however, is the fact that the intriguing spectre of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez leading a band of merry nations in opposition to every amendment proposed by the US (as he did at the historic OAS summit earlier this year) has lost its suspense. Because Chavez was hoisted by his own petard just last week when key members of the CARICOM group – whose unified political allegiance he was attempting to bribe with cheap oil – rebuffed his advances.
Although, where Chavez is concerned, all is not lost because we can still indulge in idle speculation about how many bullet proof vests he will feel compelled to wear and whether he’ll have the cajones to look Bush in the eye and dare him to “bring it on”.
But beyond the curious interpersonal dynamics amongst Heads of State, all else at this world summit will be cheap talk (about management transparency, seats on councils, viability of commissions and putting teeth in UN resolutions); and costly folly (as poor people continue to die needlessly whilst bureaucrats bicker over sanctioning authority to launch humanitarian (or collective military) interventions around the world!)….Sound familiar?