Tuesday, September 13, 2005 at 5:01 AM
By any objective measure, South Africa’s transition from Apartheid to Democracy has been a resounding success. Over 2 terms (the first under the leadership of Nelson Mandela and the second under current President Thabo Mbeki), the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has made unprecedented strides in providing basic services (from running water to electricity to low-cost housing) for millions of blacks who before had known nothing but conditions of extreme poverty.
In fact, the ANC has done more for its previously disenfranchised and economically marginalized citizens in 10 years than successive American governments did for emancipated blacks over a 100-year period. Moreover, as the opening phase of a comprehensive plan to build the country’s infrastructure and empower its citizens, the ANC’s record stands in stark contrast to the political oppression and economic exploitation that South Africa’s blacks suffered for over 300 years under white dominion.
Yet, all is not well. And to be fair, no one seems more acutely aware of his country’s shortcomings than the enlightened and visionary Thabo Mbeki. Indeed, I suspect that he – more than anyone – finds reprehensible the commercial practices that keep blacks mired in economic conditions that smack of indentured servitude.
The South African Parliament where MPs are considering a National Credit Bill which many government supporters fear does not do enough to redress claims and practices by national Credit Bureaux that keep many poor people (most notably enterprising blacks) mired in a quick sand of debt!
Therefore, on behalf of Anti-apartheid comrades in the diaspora who are now true friends of South Africa, I feel constrained to make this deferential enquiry into the country’s National Credit Bill: A bill which we would have expected the ANC to strengthen in the interest of poor blacks rather than structure in the interest of predominantly white businessmen.
The most salutary provisions of the National Credit Bill are those that are intended, inter alia:
…to promote black economic empowerment and ownership within the consumer credit industry…to repeal the Usury Act, 1968, and the Credit Agreements Act, 1980; and to provide for related incidental matters.
And, that’s all well and good. But one does not have to be one of the millions of chronically indebted and unemployable university graduates to have grave concerns about the most glaring defect in this Bill: namely, its failure to grant amnesty to thousands of South Africans who are being exiled to an economic sub-culture because of blacklisting by Credit Bureaux. After all, even leaders of the ANC’s governing alliance, COSATU and SACP, have challenged the ANC to amend and move this bill in the public interest: They argue that:
South Africans pay more than 360% a year in interest on unregistered micro-loans. It is no wonder that millions of our people are caught in debt spirals and end up blacklisted. It is time to wipe the slate clean and close this chapter of massive exploitation of the poor.
Moreover, when one adds to these adhesive interest payments the crippling fees and transactional costs poor South Africans must pay for the privilege of maintaining a simple bank account, only then does one get a sense of the scope of unfairness that the National Credit Bill really must redress.
Many of us who know educated and enterprising South Africans find it incomprehensible that the government would brook bank policies and debt collection practices, let alone enact legislation, that perpetuate the myriad forms of usury this bill purports to repeal. After all, we know first hand how badly these entrepreneurs – who want nothing more than to contribute to the development of their country – are handicapped by credit blacklists. And we sympathise with the despair they express over the Hobson’s choice that each seems fated to confront; which is:
Whether to seek economic emancipation abroad the way their forefathers sought political asylum or stay at home and struggle to live and work with dignity despite being hounded by unscrupulous debt collectors the way black political dissidents were once hounded by Apartheid’s Koevoet?
It is clearly untenable for South Africa’s potential business and political leaders to be labouring under such frustrating states of consciousness. Therefore, we make this solemn plea for the governing ANC to use its power to unshackle the aspirations of these talented and ambitious citizens by granting them unconditional debt amnesty.
Because failure to do so would exacerbate not only the country’s unemployment but also the brain-drain of South Africans who emigrate to places like Canada, Australia and Britain; never to return for fear of being marginalized in debtors’ subculture for the rest of their days. And, this alone should render moot the concerns some MPs have expressed about the adverse impact a grant of amnesty would have on the national economy.
Alas, if South Africa can lead African nations in demanding debt forgiveness for international loan obligations that were assumed under duress and which they have no hope of ever paying off, then why, pray tell, would the government of South Africa not grant the same dispensation to its own people where the case for debt forgiveness is even more compelling (economically, politically and morally)?
Note: There is profound commiseration amongst poor people throughout the Caribbean (and even in the United States) with the credit and banking woes that consign so many South Africans to a de facto debtor’s colony. And, those of us who advocate for their economic liberation remain dumfounded by the willingness of black leaders in this part of the world to support legislation and policies that further business interests but do little to empower the poor.
But we retain hope that the leaders of South Africa – for whom the isolation, frustrations and indignities of institutionalized poverty (and blacklisting) are not a distant memory – will pass laws in this respect that are more redistributive in their impact. Because we have no doubt that such equitable laws would serve as an education and a blue print for the less sensitized leaders we shall continue to entreat on behalf of the chronically indebted poor in our midst.
Finally, we appreciate that some MPs are concerned that amnesty might only create a clean slate for the poor to return to indebtedness. We are convinced, however, that the banking paradigm established by Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh – on the merit of providing “micro credit”
strong> to the poor – will allay all such concerns. After all, over the past 2 decades, his Grameen Bank has loaned more than US$5 billion to over 5 million (extremely) poor customers that traditional bankers have treated like financial lepers, and has enjoyed an unprecedented payback rate of over 99% on their loans. Clearly, if juxtaposed to the default, bankruptcy and foreclosure rates common amongst more “creditworthy” (rich) customers, lending to the poor would seem not only good for business but also good for the soul!
In the spirit of solidarity and on behalf of true friends of South Africa, I respectfully submit this plea….
Monday, September 12, 2005 at 10:56 AM
Only weeks ago, I published an article on the Orwellian Agreements that Yahoo!, Microsoft and other technology companies signed with the Chinese government to spy on the Internet activities of Chinese citizens. Of course, back then, corporate chiefs at these companies protested with indignation that they would never become stool pigeons for China’s police state. Nevertheless, I lamented how odious and hypocritical it was that American corporations that exploited democratic freedoms to make their names and untold fortunes are now collaborating with a totalitarian regime to deny people in the most populous country on earth similar human freedoms.
Special Agents Jerry Yang (L) and David Filo, founders of Yahoo!, now as notorious in China for preventing democratic freedoms as Eliot Ness was famous in America for preventing crime…
It came as no surprise, therefore, when international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders reported last week that Yahoo! had helped the Chinese government entrap and sentence Chinese journalist Shi Tao to 10 years in prison (a.k.a. the Ministry of Love) for the crime of daring to use his email account to:
…post on the Internet a government order barring Chinese media from marking the 15th anniversary of the brutal crackdown on democracy activists in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
I would recommend boycotting Yahoo! but, since they’re probably monitoring every key stroke I make on my computer, I fear terminal cyberspace reprisals….Doublethink!
Click here to see what those yahoos over at Yahoo! have to say for themselves!
Sunday, September 11, 2005 at 11:54 AM
Creationism – the biblical account of the origin of man (the Adam and Eve not Steve version) that was crucified in the (first) trial of the 20th Century, Tennessee v. John Scopes - has been resurrected in the guise of Intelligent Design.
Intelligent-design theory adds a scientific gloss to creationism by arguing (according to my crude reckoning) that the “specified complexity” that is indispensable to all living organisms cannot be explained by Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection and random variation (chance) – which form the scientific basis for Evolution (from a monkey on all fours to two-legged man, over thousands of years, through the survival of the fittest adapting to ever-changing environmental conditions.) The theory holds further that “the empirical detectability of intelligent causes renders intelligent design fully scientific” and that only an intelligent agent (God) can explain ubiquitous phenomena in nature that defy scientific reduction. Have faith….
Therefore, armed with their evolved intelligent-design theory, onward Christian soldiers are now marching on public schools all over America demanding that as much time be given to creationism as to evolution in teaching the origin of species….Hallelujah!
But here’s an interesting thought:
This perennial debate presumes that evolution and creationism rest on mutually exclusive belief systems. However, they are not necessarily irreconcilable. The following is a unique theory posited by an acclaimed aeronautical engineer (and personal friend) who – like Sir Isaac Newton and other scientists who turned to God at the end of their reasoning – harmonizes the two theories as follows:
A seed or nucleus of life was created. And, call it the Big Bang if you must. (Creationism)
That seed or nucleus of life was then designed or programmed by an intelligent agent [God]. (Intelligent Design)
That seed or nucleus of life then evolved over time. (Evolution)[Adrian, 1 September 2005]
And, anyone who does not see the inspired logic in this synthesis is probably one who scoffs at the creative genius of Jackson Pollock….Amen!
Now, can’t we all just get along…for Christ’s sake!
Saturday, September 10, 2005 at 12:43 PM
Timing is everything!
Therefore, with the world now focused on providing all kinds of relief for American victims of Hurricane Katrina, no one should be surprised that pleas for (yet more) relief for African victims of chronic starvation have been entirely ignored. And, in this regard, I refer you to the BBC article “Malawi appeal gets not a penny.”
But where displaced Americans from New Orleans were victimized primarily by human error and rank incompetence, starving Malawians remain powerless against Mother Nature’s pestilence of drought. Indeed, for so many Africans, it seems that chronic starvation is their cursed fate. And, despite the Live Aid, Live8 and G8 initiatives to Make Poverty History, we seem unable to do a damn thing about it (as I lamented in this recent article).
Yet, there are things Africans can do to help mitigate their plight. Because, with credit and technological assistance to implement better management of arable land, they can survive periods of drought without suffering total corrosion of fertile topsoil that took centuries to form.
(In addition to combating chronic starvation, sustainable land use practices would also reduce the desertification of land that causes mass migration and inevitable land conflicts (eg. in Darfur) as poor and hungry people seek greener pastures throughout the continent.)
Therefore, instead of continuing this cycle of celebrity fundraisers to fight acute famine, let’s hope that NGOs like CARE will finally prevail upon donor nations to invest in sustainable poverty alleviation and land management programmes. Because it will be a crime against our shared humanity if – 10 years hence – images of mass starvation are still pricking our conscience and picking at our wallets.
Note: Today, American federal and local officials are ruing their failure to invest $14 billion a few years ago to reinforce the levees in New Orleans. Because, it will now take an estimated $125 billion to repair the damage caused by anticipated breeches in those very same levees. Therefore, we should take heed where famine is concerned: Let us not be penny-wise today only to look pound-foolish (and unforgivably inhumane) a few years from now.
Please give all you can to CARE and specify Malawi Famine Relief!
Friday, September 9, 2005 at 9:47 AM
For Interpol, “4-1-9” scams have become as notorious and unstoppable as narcotics trafficking. They are named after the section of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraud schemes. And, although Nigerians are the masters of these scams, Europeans, Asians and even Americans are honing similar schemes with remarkable success.
419 scams take many forms but the essential ingredients are patented. (Click here for detailed information from Interpol on how they work.) But here’s how I was solicited by email as a 419 target just days ago [and, except for editing my name, I’ve copied the email in its entirety]:
From: “Mariam Abacha” email@example.com [note the 007 ref]
Subject:urgent (Do Not Ignore) [ALH]
Date: Wed, 07 Sep 2005 02:59:03 +0000
First of all i will like you to kindly view this sites, it will help to believe this story and understand. [Here she provided links to news stories about former Nigerian Dictator Gen. Sani Abacha]
This business proposal to you is strictly confidential, with due respect. Sorry at this perceived confusion or stress may have receiving this letter from me, Since we have not known ourselves or met previously. Despite that, I am constrained to write you this letter because of the urgency of it.By way of self introduction. I am Mrs. Mariam Abacha, the widow of the late Gen. Sanni Abacha former Nigerian Military Head of State who died mysteriously as a result of Cardiac Arrest. Since after my husband?s death my family is under restriction of movement and that not with standing, we are being molested, policed and our Bank Account both here and abroad are being frozen by the Nigerian Civilian Government.
Following the sudden death of my husband General Sani Abacha the late former head of state of Nigeria in june 1998, I have been thrown into a state of utter confusion, frustration and hopelessness by the present civilian administration, I have been subjected to physical and psychological torture by the security agents in the country. My frist son was just released from detention some months ago by the Nigerian Government for an offence he did not commit. As a widow that is so traumatized, I have lost confidence with anybody within the country.
Furthermore, for more interrogation about my husband?s assists and some vital documents he’s movement is also been monitored. Following the recent discovery of my husband?s Bank Account by the Nigerian Government with Swiss Bank in which the huge sum of US$700Million and DM450Milllion was logged. I therefore decided to contact you in confidence that I was able to move out the sum of US$30Million , which was secretly lodged in a trunk box (CONSIGNMENTS)and deposited with a Security Company in europe as materials of Inheritance.
I therefore personally, appeal to you seriously and religiously for your urgent assistance to move this money into your country where I believe it will be safe since I cannot leave the country due to the restriction of movement imposed on the members of my family by the Nigerian Government.
You we be contacted by my second son mustapha, seeking asylum in United Kingdom shall arrange with you for a face to face meeting , in order to liaise with you toward effective completion of this transaction.
However, arrangements have been put in place as soon as you indicate your interest, forward to me your Telephone Number,Fax Number and your Postal Address so that i can send it to my son for him to contact you .the Certificate of Deposit and other necessary documents, are with my son, he will give you this doccunment to enable you to claime this funds as my beneficiary.
Conclusively, we have agreed to offer you 30% of the total sum while 70% is to be held on trust by you until we decide on a suitable business investment in your country subsequent to our free movement by the Nigerian Government.
Please reply urgently and treat with absolute confidentiality and sincerity.
Hajia Mariam abacha(Mrs.)
The 419 scam has been around for decades. And it is particularly apt that Nigerians are the evil geniuses credited with its creation. Because, I recall reading many years ago the cautionary lamentations of Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka on the amount of his country’s considerable brain power that was being dedicated to graft. (Incidentally, I highly recommend Soyinka’s 2001 play “King Baabu“ which parodies the abuse of dictatorial powers by African leaders and is, in fact, based on the aforementioned Gen. Abacha.)
Yet, according to Special Agent James Caldwell of the U.S. Secret Service – Financial Crimes Division:
We have confirmed losses just in the United States of over $100 million in the last 15 months and that’s just the ones we know of. We figure a lot of people don’t report them.
Therefore, if you’ve been taken by this scam and are not too humiliated to report it, click here for some very helpful information. If you receive any such correspondence, DO NOT REPLY!
Click here to read why some people might find the alleged Mrs Abacha’s letter credible.
(By the way, please be mindful of internet swindlers who have set-up websites – that look remarkably similar to legitimate ones – to solicit money for victims of Hurricane Katrina)
UPDATE: A significant number of friends and associates have enquired about how the enterprising Mrs Abacha could have gotten my private email address and full name. But all I could offer in reply was that even Bill Gates wondered aloud about this question when he mentioned the heart- wrenching solicitations he receives purportedly on behalf of starving children in Africa.
Alas, privileged information on the internet is oxymoronic!
News and Politics
Thursday, September 8, 2005 at 10:48 AM
Yesterday, former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker released the findings of his committee’s 1-year, $30 million investigation into the UN’s $64 billion Oil-for-Food-Programme. Unfortunately, the 1000-page report merely detailed facts about corruption at the UN that were sufficiently exposed by international newspapers over a year ago. And, it only echoed insights into the UN’s culture of corruption that I offered in my own commentaries on this scandal dating back to February of this year.
Indeed, the findings of the Independent Inquiry Committee can be summarized as follows:
The United Nations is beset by serious instances of “illicit, unethical and corrupt behavior” all of which have been abetted by “egregious lapses” in leadership at all levels within the organization.
Of course, the opening sentences of my commentary from 22 March 2005 said as much:
The United Nations is one of the most disunited, corrupt and ungovernable organization in the world. And, if its leader were held to the minimal standards of governance required of leaders at charitable organizations in the United States, he would have already been indicted on a battery of criminal and civil offenses.
The only uncertainty was (and, alas, remains) whether or not UN Secretary General Kofi Annan would do the honourable thing and resign to preserve what little is left of his personal and professional integrity. It is instructive, therefore, that in his first statement on the committee’s report, Annan vowed to “take personal responsibility for the failures of the oil-for-food programme” but gave no indication that he now felt honour-bound to resign. This, despite the report’s finding that he is an incompetent ditherer though not an intentional thief (like his son Kojo whom it accuses of trading on his Daddy’s name to extract hundreds of thousands of dollars from contractors doing business with the UN.)
United Nations Headquarters in New York City: Central command where the report claims the former director of the oil-for-food programme UN Under-Secretary Benon Savan lorded over an international kick-back scheme.
Even more anticlimactic than its catalogue of misdeeds, however, was the committee’s assignment of blame for this multi-billion scandal. Because, Volcker & Co simply dispensed the tried and true canard for unaccountability in all corrupt organizations: blame everyone but fire no one! In fact, the report incubates Annan’s incompetence by citing “systemic failures” within the UN and blames its Secretariat, Security Council and General Assembly (all 191 member nations) for the labyrinthine dysfunctional bazaar the organization has become.
(Incidentally, it should come as no surprise that this is the same canard the Bush Administration is now deploying to avoid accountability for the Hurricane Katrina tragedy.)
The committee did offer the “unambiguous” conclusion that the UN “requires stronger executive leadership, thoroughgoing administrative reform and more reliable controls and auditing.” And, it recommended that a chief executive (enforcer) be appointed to keep an eye on its tenured crooks.
Ultimately though, notwithstanding the crimes outlined in this report, no one will do time. Moreover, since the very incompetents at the UN who allowed this criminal enterprise to flourish are the ones the committee now calls upon to implement its recommended reforms, the organization seems in no danger of becoming properly managed and accountable anytime soon.
If you’re a masochist, click here to read the report in full…. (Adobe Acrobat Reader required)
Note: As my previous commentaries delineate, my call for Annan’s resignation stems primarily from his egregious lapses in leadership that enabled UN staffers to rape and abuse refugees they were commissioned to protect; and lapses that countenanced the tribal killing and starvation of millions of Africans all because, by his own admission, he “failed to sound the alarm soon enough.”) Indeed!
Wednesday, September 7, 2005 at 11:32 AM
The surly Princess Michael of Kent has proved once again that a Royal title confers neither class nor intelligence. Several months ago, I published a commentary on reports about her gauche behaviour at a restaurant in New York City. On that occasion, her royal act was made notorious by the racial slur she spewed against black diners who were seated, conspicuously, at a more privileged table.
Now, the princess has committed the faux pas of prattling-on to a complete stranger – in terribly unflattering detail – about the people she depends upon for her daily bread; i.e., The Royal Family. It seems one of those delightfully irreverent British tabloids seized upon the opportunity to exploit her greed and stupidity. The News of the World dispatched one of its editors – disguised as an Arab sheik – to elicit the princess’ musings under the pretense of being willing to pay above the list price of £6million for her home, Nether Lypiatt - the 17th century Cotswolds manor she has shared with her husband Prince Michael, the Queen’s cousin, for 25 years.
And, as the princess gave him the royal tour, here are some of the juicy tidbits she shared with the fake sheik whom she no doubt regarded as just another nouveau riche fool looking to part with his money:
On The Queen: That, if Her Mummy is any guide, Charles will probably die before the end of Her reign. And, that the Queen “finds it difficult to accept Charles’ marriage to Camilla.”
On Prince Charles: That Diana caught him “whispering words of undying love to Camilla on their honeymoon.” And, that he was (and remains) “deeply jealous of Princess Diana’s popularity.”
On Princess Diana: That she was just a “convenient womb to bear Charles’ heirs and that he NEVER loved her”. And, that her loveless marriage made her a “bitter, nasty and strange woman.”
On Princess Consort Camilla: That “she will be crowned Queen” – no matter what Buckingham Palace says. (Incidentally, a prospect I proffered in my commentary on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Charles.)
On Prince William: That, “no, no, no-no jumping.” He will not become king if Charles is still alive.
On Prince Harry: That, his Nazi outfit with its blazoned Swastikas (which caused an international furore) was no big deal. And, that “had he been wearing the hammer and sickle there wouldn’t have been so much fuss made. And yet what does a hammer and sickle stand for? Russia, Stalin.”
Evidently, the princess thought these endearments about the royals would enhance the value of her home. But, in an even more desperate gesture to seal her coveted deal, she offered to throw in some family antiques and bed linen, redecorate the manor for the fake sheik (if he “employed” her) and cut the ceremonial ribbon at a supermarket he claimed to be opening in Dubai (for the right fee of course).
Meanwhile, what did her prince charming do during this groveling sales pitch? Well, Prince Michael reportedly mumbled barely intelligible gripes, without a hint of irony, about how royalty is not what it used to be:
Not only the deference [to Royalty] has very much gone, the whole thing of tradition and history—all the things that we grew up to think were the right priorities—have all been dismissed as of no importance.
Note: Princess Michael is not the only royal whose greed led her down a primrose path to international embarrassment. After all, just 4 years ago, Prince Edward’s wife, Sophie the Countess of Wessex, was caught on tape by the very same fake sheik dishing all manner of scandalous gossip about government officials, the fringe benefits of being royal and, like Princess Michael, the Royal family when he dangled the prospect of easy money for her taking….
Wednesday, September 7, 2005 at 11:20 AM
I’m all for doing anything within reason to reduce the incidence of female rape – particularly in poor countries where women are most vulnerable. But, perhaps due to innate male obtuseness, I don’t see how this contraption protects women and seals the doom of their attackers in real life.
According to Ms. Ehlers, women are supposed to wear them like tampons….
But, is that 24/7? And, if a woman happens to be carrying one in her purse when she’s attacked, does she scream “wait! Let me insert my penis fly-trap?
I don’t get it….
Click here to read about it and see what you think.
Tuesday, September 6, 2005 at 11:15 AM
Today, leaders of 13 Caribbean Commonwealth countries (CARICOM) and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will hold a summit in Jamaica – reportedly to sign (but possibly only to further discuss) their PetroCaribe Oil Agreement. Since Chavez and Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson announced the draft agreement in June, concerns have been raised – from reading the fine print – that it seems less about oil and more about politics. And, if this is so, many CARICOM citizens who were led to believe that PetroCaribe would deliver cheap fuel for local consumption will be flabbergasted.
Whatever the regional benefits (or shortcomings) of PetroCaribe, many suspect that Patterson (L) is using it as leverage in his private (bilateral) dealings with Chavez to extract national benefits for PetroJam; i.e., $500 million in funding to upgrade a Jamaican oil Refinery…
Nevertheless, Patterson – arguably the most influential amongst CARICOM leaders – remains convinced that Chavez’s “call of conscience” – to provide oil at below market rate to these countries – is genuine. And, he seems determined to sell the leaders of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago – the lone skeptics in CARICOM – on the economic merits of PetroCaribe.
There is no doubt, however, that this Agreement has significant geopolitical implications. Indeed, for many CARICOM leaders, PetroCaribe is merely a fringe benefit of the political alliance they forged with Chavez earlier this year when they abandoned their presumptive deference to the United States and supported his candidate for president of the Organisation of American States (OAS).
The more intriguing dynamic afoot, however, is the extent to which Chavez is acting at the behest of Venezuela’s new political godfather, China. Because it is undeniable that even more than he, Chinese leaders have been strategically buying-up political influence throughout the Caribbean and Latin America in recent years. And, just as the former Soviet Union saw in Fidel Castro a willing (Cold War) proxy to antagonize America in its own backyard, China now sees in Chavez a useful conduit to further its political ambitions in the Americas and satisfy its economic needs at home (oil!).
But even if the economic benefits of PetroCaribe are not as great as initially thought, CARICOM leaders would still do well to sign the Agreement for the political message it sends to the United States: Namely, that after decades of feeling obliged to pursue national and regional policies in accordance with America’s overweening interests, CARICOM leaders now feel empowered to do business even with America’s adversaries if they deem it in their interest.
However, CARICOM leaders must be mindful of being played like pawns in the hand of China, the U.S. or, indeed, Venezuela. After all, PetroCaribe presents an opportunity for them to serve notice on all nations seeking to exercise influence beyond their national borders that, henceforth, you ignore CARICOM’s interests at your peril (as the U.S. discovered at the OAS).
Note: To be taken seriously, of course, CARICOM leaders must stand as one. Therefore, it is imperative that Patterson persuade the leaders of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago to sign-on.
Good luck PJ!
Tuesday, September 6, 2005 at 11:01 AM
Yesterday, in a shrewd political move, President Bush re-nominated the affable John Roberts to replace William H Rehnquist as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. And, despite dogged opposition from the far-left wing of the Democratic Party, Roberts is expected to win easy confirmation.
Bush can now savor the prospect of nominating a different replacement for retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and, no doubt, he’ll really give Democrats someone worthy of their partisan carping. Indeed, don’t be surprised if he nominates a (white) female or Hispanic in the prototypical conservative mold of the judge his Daddy nominated to the Court in 1991 – Clarence Thomas.
Note: There is some speculation that the controversy swirling around the Katrina relief effort will compel Bush to ask O’Connor to serve another term to avoid an untimely and unseemly fight with Congress. I’m not so sure; after all, when has this president allowed sense and sensibilities to turn him away from a good fight….
Monday, September 5, 2005 at 10:22 AM
Click here for a brief history of this American holiday.
Sunday, September 4, 2005 at 11:55 AM
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist of the United States Supreme Court died of cancer last night at his home in the Washington DC suburb of Arlington, Virginia. He was 80 years old. May he rest in peace!
(Please click here to read his obituary.)
Note: For those of us who decry the racial politics that caused the federal government to abandon tens of thousands of blacks in distress in New Orleans last week, Rehnquist’s death could not be more untimely. Because our condemnation will only be exacerbated by the Party politics that will now drown-out our demands for sustained help as Democrats and Republicans engage in a war of words over his replacement.
Alas, justice that was delayed in coming to their aid will be justice that is denied to many black victims of Hurricane Katrina!
Saturday, September 3, 2005 at 12:47 PM
Much has been made of the looting in New Orleans this week. And, true to form, the pictures American media decided to broadcast told a very misleading story. But here are a few points of clarification:
Blacks comprise nearly 70% of the population of New Orleans and the vast majority of them chose not to or was unable to evacuate the city. And, that is why so many blacks were seen rummaging for their lives.
But the few whites who were also trapped by the floods looted too; even though they were invariably depicted as desperately “looking for food”.
Nevertheless, the self-evident motive for looting (in almost every case) was for life sustaining items like food and water.
Yet, it is undeniable that a few blacks betrayed their ignorance and criminal intent by wading through the flood with TVs and other products that could do them no good. But there were ignorant whites doing the same.
Moreover, the pictures did not show that part of the reason why these brazen acts of criminality were allowed to go unchallenged is because many policemen deserted their posts. Indeed, there was only passing reference in the media to a white police captain and his gang of fellow (mostly white) officers who – instead of patrolling the streets – commandeered the local WAL*MART to ensure their own survival.
Finally, in the midst of this urban tsunami, President Bush proclaimed “zero tolerance” even for taking food and water. But clearly this is moral absolutism ad absurdum (BS). Because what, pray tell, would this compassionate president have these despairing, starving and abandoned Americans do to save themselves and their families?
Indeed, for those of us for whom moral relativism is a fact of life, we sympathise with the looting by these poor people in distress; especially when their acts are juxtaposed to the price gouging by rich oil barons who have elevated their looting to a professional business practice.
Friday, September 2, 2005 at 10:44 PM
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims but we can’t bail out the city of New Orleans. It’s a national disgrace. [Terry Ebbert, director of FEMA New Orleans]
Well, just a final thought:
Whereas Hurricane Katrina inflicted her wrath indiscriminately, relief for her victims seems to have been a matter of race…and class. Many (white) people are dumfounded by the national neglect that led to the horrific images of misery and chaos shown on TV. They are “shocked, shocked” that these scenes (with thirst and hunger compounded by rape and murder) are playing out in New Orleans, and not in “some third world country”. But in the souls of black folk, we know that an America where such neglect did not exist…was never America to us.
Indeed, people all over the world listened in disbelief as the black Mayor of New Orleans sent out a desperate SOS 48 hours after Katrina had blown past his city. Yet, blacks all over America can attest that emergency (911) calls from their parts of town are invariably treated with such salutary neglect.
So, here’s the truth laid bare for the world to see: If New Orleans were mostly white, these scenes, in fact, would not exist!
Note: If a hurricane can render America’s post 9/11 homeland security and emergency response services so utterly useless, God help us when al Qaeda strikes again….
And one more thing – is it just me or do reports from New Orleans now bear an uncanny (and disturbing) resemblance to reports from Iraq?
Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 3:30 PM
Yesterday, President Bush made his first address to the nation on the ravages of Hurricane Katrina from the splendor of his rose garden at the White House. But he sounded more like a cheerleader than a commander as he recited his list of items including bottled water, canned goods, cots and band aids that were being convoyed to the affected areas. Because, though such emergency supplies are needed (and private donors and NGOs are way ahead of the government in this regard), I expected Bush to announce bolder and more sustainable initiatives (with all due respect to his Daddy and former President Clinton who are about to head out on a national begging campaign on behalf of hurricane victims.)
For example, instead of alluding to the Marshall Plan (but doing little to emulate it), Bush should order FEMA and the Army Core of Engineers to enlist all of the men (and willing women) who are now homeless and jobless in a massive federal works programme to help clean up and rebuild their city. And, if that means redeploying some Army engineers from their suicide mission in Iraq, then much the better!
Indeed, instead of a Marshall Plan – with its marshal law implications – Bush should seek guidance from FDR’s Tennessee Valley Project which did for the areas surrounding the Tennessee River Valley much of what is now needed for New Orleans. Moreover, such a project would provide jobs and a sense of purpose for the thousands who, in their deteriorating states of anomie, might resort to all kinds of desperate measures to cope.
Therefore, to give these dislocated people hope beyond the Houston Astrodome , Bush should order tent cities to be set up outside New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi from which they can become gainfully employed in a noble project with vested interests!
Besides, what self-respecting man wants to sit around in a football stadium with women and children commiserating about their sudden misfortunes? (Just-a-thought!)
Note: Am I the only person who finds it ironical, if not fallacious, that the Americans are demanding that Iraqis resolve their lingering concerns about the practical implications of Federalism – within months – when, even centuries later, they seem utterly clueless about the relative duties and reponsibilities of federal and local officials under this system of government?
Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 10:44 AM
Rev. Jesse Jackson and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: Holding a joint news conference on Monday at Chavez’s Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela. Jackson seized the opportunity to condemn as a “criminal act” Rev. Pat Robertson’s call last week for America to take out Chavez; and, to reject as “politically motivated” President Bush’s claim that Chavez is a threat to stability in the Americas. For his part, Chavez toasted Jackson’s indictment of his own president and fellow preacher with a sip of tea….
I have been an unsparing critic of black American leaders for demonstrating so little solidarity with the political and economic plight of fellow blacks in Africa and the Caribbean. For example, despite their professed power and influence, they have been conspicuous in their lack of support for the starving and oppressed people of Darfur and Niger; and in their failure to help resolve the political crisis in Congo and Haiti. Indeed, it has always struck me as profoundly disappointing that a community of Cubans in Miami seems to exert more influence on American foreign policy than notorious black political activists.
(But it is an indication of their indifference in this regard that none of them seem terribly bothered that white celebrities (like Bono) are more recognized as champions of African causes than they are.)
Nevertheless, I am pleased to commend Rev. Jesse Jackson for his peace initiative to Venezuela. Jackson met with President Hugo Chavez on Monday and prayed for a cessation of the hostile rhetoric on both sides. Never mind that Jackson’s seeking to influence American foreign policy to help Chavez sleep well at night seems rather contrived when juxtaposed to his failure to render support to Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue (if only to get the American government to deliver on its financial pledges and provide more troops for the UN’s mission to restore law and order in Haiti. I said I was unsparing!).
Meanwhile, even though American officials disavowed Robertson’s remarks before Jackson’s visit, Chavez welcomed his intercession as an opportunity to demonstrate true statesmanship: He awarded Jackson an honorary sash for his services and offered to sell heating oil at cut rate prices to poor Americans. Indeed!
Note: For some of his critics, Jackson can do no right. Therefore, instead of acknowledging the goodwill generated by his initiative, they accuse him of grandstanding (although coverage of Hurricane Katrina stole his thunder); and of ignoring protests by opposition supporters outside Miraflores Palace who claim Chavez is amassing dictatorial powers in Venezuela (ironically – a claim very similar to that being made against President Bush by protesters outside his ranch in Crawford, Texas).