Sunday, December 31, 2006 at 11:58 AM
Saturday, December 30, 2006 at 12:56 PM
At about 10 pm EST last night, Saddam Hussein stepped defiantly into the gallows and took the hangman’s noose with no hint of the fear his executioners hoped to see. And, after he allegedly damned America and an Iraq without him, Saddam was hanged with uncanny proficiency.
It seems U.S. President George W. Bush has never been well-informed nor prescient about events in Iraq. But his statement on the hanging of Saddam Hussein is encouraging in both respects:
Today, Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial — the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.
Fair trials were unimaginable under Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical rule. It is a testament to the
Iraqi people’s resolve to move forward after decades of oppression that, despite his terrible crimes against his own people, Saddam Hussein received a fair trial. This would not have been possible without the Iraqi people’s determination to create a society governed by the rule of law….
Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the War on Terror.Allahu Akbar!
Saturday, December 30, 2006 at 8:07 AMWhen Egyptian authorities threw political dissident Ayman Nour in prison last week, he became only the latest opponent of a benevolent despot to be jailed under dubious circumstances. Yet, except for reporting the event as just another news story, international media made little mention of the fact that Nour’s imprisonment confirmed Egypt’s notorious retreat from the path toward democracy, which President Hosni Mubarak promised his American and European benefactors he would follow. (Incidentally, the U.S. government has given this zealously pro-American tyrant almost $50 billion dollars during his 25-year reign….And he has shown his gratitude – from time to time – by extracting information from renditioned prisoners the Americans were too squeamish to “interrogate”.)
Of course, some of us remember well how, during the Cold War, imprisoned political dissidents like Natan Sharansky (in Russia) Aung San Suu Kyi (in Myanmar) and Nelson Mandela (in South Africa) were causes celebres for political activists around the world. (I certainly participated in my share of “Free Mandela – End Apartheid” rallies in college.) But even western governments seemed unrestrained by diplomatic protocol as they spewed moral indignation at the totalitarian regimes that jailed these martyrs for democracy.
Therefore, it is more than a little ironic that – despite the wave of democracy washing over the world – there are more political dissidents in prison today than there were back then. (And, in its oxymoronic attempt to keep a leash on political freedoms as it unleashes free enterprise, China probably has more political dissidents behind bars than all other countries combined….) But it is profoundly disheartening that neither political activists nor western governments seem terribly troubled by the plight of these victims of political oppression.
Indeed, agitation on behalf of the politically oppressed appears to have fallen out of fashion along with greasy jerry curls and disco music….
Nevertheless, for overindulged college students who are conscientious enough to appreciate that there’s more to extra-curricular activities than cruising My Space, here’s a little collegial advice: Research the high-profile dissidents featured below (or any others you deem worthy), then organize campus freedom rallies for their cause. I guarantee that you will not only become a better student (and human being) for doing so but, in due course, you will also rekindle widespread moral outrage against the repression of political prisoners – just as rallies for clemency for Stanley “Tookie” Williams rekindled outrage against the death penalty. (And Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger found out just how influential such protests can be when his native Austria rebuked him – by revoking his national honours – after he signed Tookie’s execution order).
As if to dramatize his zero tolerance of political dissent, Russian President Vladimir Putin – the man President Bush lauded for having a good democratic soul – decided to make an example of the richest man in Russia (who, not insignificantly, is also a Jew). As a result, one day in October 2003, Mikhail Khodorkovsky went from running one of Russia’s most profitable companies and funding democratic reform campaigns, to being arrested and thrown in prison on charges of fraud and tax evasion. Khodorkovsky is now serving a 9-year sentence, no doubt in a dingy cell in the infamous Russian Gulag Archipelago).
Western leaders still consider Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a pioneer for democracy in the Arab world – despite the fact that during his 25 years in power he never allowed a single candidate to oppose his “re-election” as president. But it was only this year – when democratic reforms in Iraq and Palestine made him look like the dictatorial dinosaur he is – that Mubarak deigned to “ask his country’s parliament to change the constitution and permit multiparty popular elections.”
Yet, even as he made this request last February, Mubarak had already begun his campaign of repression against his most formidable opponent Ayman Nour. Nonetheless, Nour’s Tomorrow Party made a relatively respectable showing in the September national elections by winning 12% of the vote against 89% for Mubarak’s egregiously misnamed National Democratic Party (down significantly from its customary 100%).
But, evidently, Mubarak found this prima facie fraudulent margin of victory too unnerving. Because just this week, his rubber stamp judiciary found Nour guilty of those stale charges and sentenced him to 5 years in prison (which, in a truly Machiavellian bit of political stagecraft, means that Nour will be out just in time to serve as Mubarak’s foil for his next round of multiparty elections.)
Political prisoner Kizza Besigye
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni is no more a democratic pioneer in Africa than Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is in the Middle East. Yet Western leaders routinely lavish Museveni with praise for his democratic leadership.
In “Another Commonwealth Summit on Trade Ends with Imperial Promises but no Guarantees,” November 29, 2005, I noted with derision that:
“Delegates spent almost as much time defending their decision to allow Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to host their next summit, as they did spinning the platitudes about trade and good governance contained in their joint Communiqué into something approximating substantive achievement.”
Except that their decision was indefensible. Because, only weeks before this summit, Museveni had opposition leader Kizza Besigye arrested on a battery of charges ranging from terrorism to rape. More to the point, these Commonwealth leaders knew full well that Museveni timed Besigye’s arrest to prevent him from running in national elections scheduled for next February.
Yet they not only refused to censure Museveni; they reaffirmed their intent to allow him to host their summit in 2007. The damning irony of treating his re-election as a fait accompli seemed completely lost on them.
So, where’s the outrage?
College students of today, it’s time to find your Nelson Mandela, put away your ipods and protest…goddamn it!
Friday, December 29, 2006 at 11:51 AMWhen news broke on Christmas Day that James Brown (73) had died of congestive heart failure, I did not think his passing was worthy of comment; except perhaps to note that he was probably the most famous and enduring one-hit wonder in entertainment history (ie. “I feel good”; I dare you to name another hit?). But, since so many of you have asked, I have preempted my regular “Good (news) Friday” feature to share my thoughts on the death of the “Godfather of soul”.
I’ve only seen Brown perform on TV. And the only thing I found entertaining about his performances was his trademark shuffle – a “sex-machine” version of Chubby Checker’s twist. Beyond this, all I got from Brown’s performances was a series of incomprehensible grunts and screams, which Eddie Murphy lampooned with flattering effect during his stint on Saturday Night Live.
It is also curious to note that – even though blacks are now wailing about him as if he were their pride and joy – Brown survived as an entertainer primarily by performing as a golden-oldie act for mostly white audiences. Indeed, it’s more than a little symbolic that as blacks cried crocodile tears for him up in Harlem, Brown’s white “wife” (and mother of his 5-year old child), Tomi Rae Hynie, was shedding genuine tears down in South Carolina outside the gates of his mansion because lawyers for Brown’s other three or four wives (and 7 children) had locked her out as soon as he was pronounced dead.
The lawyers claim that they did this “to protect his estate” because Hynie’s marriage to Brown in 2001 was null and void. Evidently, her divorce from her previous husband was not final when they got married. However, rumor has it that they did it in fact to protect his assets from being seized by Brown’s creditors with whom he was involved in a $25-million dispute at the time of his death.
Thus the legal scandals which plagued Brown in life seem fated to follow him to his grave. After all, this was a man whose drug problems and run-ins with the law made Bobby Brown seem like a choir boy.
Nevertheless, thousands of blacks, led by their pied-piper Al Sharpton, seem determined to give Brown a farewell worthy of a head of state. It’s too bad, however, that coverage of the real state funeral of former President Gerald Ford and rumors of the imminent execution of Saddam Hussein have relegated their posthumous tributes to a sideshow.
Meanwhile, many of the black men who paid their respects to him (and, alas, to Al Sharpton who stood in front of his open coffin all day like a zealous eunuch) claimed that Brown was their role model and that his catchy lyric “say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud” helped them develop self-esteem.
Of course, given that Brown was married to a white woman, and was a serial adulterer, wife beater and law breaker, this would explain, in part, why so many black women are heads of household, and why more black men are in prisons than in colleges….
But, if Brown was as proud a black man as his fans claim, I suspect he would be indignant at the whitewashing of his troubled, and hardly exemplary, life that is now underway.
Friday, December 29, 2006 at 11:26 AMToday, John Edwards must be thinking that his 2008 U.S. presidential campaign is doomed to fail. After all, he chose what he thought was the slow news week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to maximize coverage of the announcement of his candidacy, only to have the deaths of James Brown and former president Gerald Ford suck up all the air time. This, after he tried to hold America in suspense about his presidential ambition until yesterday, only to have his campaign staff preempt his big announcement by accidentally launching his campaign website on Wednesday, which made what little coverage he got yesterday utterly anti-climactic.
Nevertheless, Edwards went through the motions of assuring his fellow Americans that – in case they didn’t get enough of it in 2004 – he will be rehashing his trite “two Americas: one rich and one poor” shtick for their edification over the next two years.
And, in what had to have been the most egregious gaffe of his campaign launch, Edwards to traveled to New Orleans to use the rubble and poor victims of Hurricane Katrina as props for his choreographed announcement. Unfortunately, the look on the face of every kid in this photo-op betrays the “campaign of hope” Edwards is trying to convey with his contrived smile.
Indeed, even the most cynical political commentators could not ignore the hypocrisy of Edwards showing up for a day to decry the fact that – more than a year after Katrina – these longsuffering people are still struggling to rebuild their lives of quiet desperation. Because during this time, instead of traveling to lend a helping hand – like so many people who are genuinely concerned about the gap between the two Americas did – Edwards was busy watching contractors build his plantation mansion in North Carolina that is so, well, presidential, it would make both George Ws (ie. Washington and Bush) blush with envy.
So much for this latest great white hope for black America….
Run Obama run!
Thursday, December 28, 2006 at 11:30 AM
My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works!
These are the memorable words President Gerald R. Ford uttered to signal the end of Richard Nixon’s scandalous presidency and the beginning of his ill-fated two and a half years as the 38th president of the United States.
Ford passed away on Tuesday at the enviable age of 93. And even though retrospectives on his life and presidency will saturate TV 24/7 until he’s buried (pursuant to an elaborate state funeral which, according to custom, he planned himself), I feel obliged to pay my respects – even at the risk of being redundant.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Gerald Ford was an accidental president. After all, he is the only man in U.S. history to have served as vice president and president without campaigning for either position. Because when financial scandal forced Spiro Agnew to resign as Nixon’s VP in October 1973, Nixon selected Ford as his replacement. And, when Watergate forced Nixon to resign 10 months later, Ford became president.
But what I find most extraordinary about Ford’s presidency is that he led America out of not one, but two long nightmares: Watergate and Vietnam. And it’s truly ironic that two of the men he hired to help guide him out of these political disasters (Donald Rumsfeld (left) as Secretary of Defense and Dick Cheney (right) as Chief of Staff) are the very two men most responsible for getting America back into another nightmare: Iraq….
The ultimate (political) irony, however, is that Ford ruined his chances of being elected president in 1976 in his own right when he pardoned Nixon for his Watergate crimes within weeks of becoming president. Yet even his critics have come to appreciate that pardoning Nixon was a wholly selfless and enlightened act. Indeed, so much so that his fiercest critic, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), saw to it that Ford received the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award in 2001 for making the “controversial decision of conscience to pardon former President Richard M. Nixon”.
For the record, here’s how Ford explained this historic pardon:
I simply was not convinced that the country wanted to see an ex-president behind bars. We are not a vengeful people; forgiveness is one of the roots of the American tradition. And Nixon, in my opinion, had already suffered enormously. His resignation was an implicit admission of guilt, and he would have to carry forever the burden of his disgrace. But I wasn’t motivated primarily by sympathy for his plight or by concern over the state of his health. It was the state of the country’s health at home and around the world that worried me.
Nonetheless, the ultimate irony is that this accidental president will probably be remembered as much for being Betty Ford’s husband as for anything he did as president. Because after he left the White House, Ford lived the remainder of his 30 years in relative obscurity, if not ignominy (notwithstanding all of the posthumous accolades being expressed).
Indeed, despite his humble and altruistic reputation, Ford was criticized for spending most of his time either in corporate boardrooms or golf courses; instead of engaging in the public-spirited activities that have made Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton such popular ex-presidents. And, his reputation was hardly enhanced by Chevy Chase establishing his career by lampooning Ford as bumbling buffoon in sophomoric skits on Saturday Night Live….
Meanwhile, he basked in the reflected glow of his liberated wife who became famous in her own right after her public struggles with addictions led her to found the Betty Ford Center for the treatment of alcohol and drug dependency.
Saturday, December 23, 2006 at 12:12 PM
Thursday, December 21, 2006 at 11:10 AMNo, I’m not “too much of a snob to comment on the Miss USA thing” (as regular readers who have feasted on my Britney, Paris and Nicole commentaries can readily attest). So, here’s my two cents’ worth:
Donald Trump is successful, in part, because he’s a shameless, irrepressible, self-promoting megalomaniac. And no one knows how to exploit publicity for financial gain better than this latter-day PT Barnum (even if that means engaging in mudslinging catfights with women like Martha Stewart and Rosie O’Donnell).
Therefore, when reality-TV junkies were all waiting with baited breath on Tuesday to hear him utter his now trademark words “You’re fired” to Miss USA, Tara Connor, it served them right that he fooled them once again.
Because, instead of feeding their prurient lust for gossipy details about why he was firing Tara (i.e. tidbits about her cocaine use, lesbian sex with her roommate, Miss Teen USA, and bar hopping throughout NYC), he trumped these suckers by making the news conference all about him: Trump – the merciful, Trump – the compassionate, Trump – the lifesaver…of a hot cute country bumpkin in distress.
Of course, no one can deny that giving Tara “a second chance” was a shrewd PR move. But it did not take a genius to figure out that – just as Paris Hilton’s porno tape and Kate Moss’ cocaine-snorting pictures made them and their enablers millions of dollars – so too will Tara’s scandalous behavior make her the most notorious (and memorable) Miss USA in history.
Indeed, consider this: She was crowned in April. But, until her gallivanting made her the fourth Bimbo of the Apocalypse last week, did you know who Tara Connor was or have any interest in Trump’s second-rate (to Miss America) beauty pageant…?
Unfortunately for Tara, because her indentured-service contract makes her Trump’s meager-salaried employee, the millions generated from her sudden notoriety will all go into his pocket, not her purse, which clearly suits him just fine….
Therefore, truth be told, Trump is not giving her a second chance; he’s just cashing in on her bad behavior. Besides, this was probably more like her 20th chance because I’m sure Tara’s chaperones have been warning her for months to clean-up her act before she’s regarded as nothing more than a wannabe Paris Hilton.
But God help Tara if her small-town mind leads her to believe that Trump is really concerned about her welfare. Because he’ll milk her like a cash cow until the end of her reign, and then put her out to pasture like he’s done with all of his other (now nameless) Miss USA winners. (Although, I suspect Playboy’s just waiting it’s turn to milk what few drops of interest remain….)
NOTE: For the record, Trump should have appeared at that news conference with first runner-up, Tamiko Nash, to announce her as the new Miss USA. Then, the truly helpful lesson – for Tara and all American girls – would have been that if you get an opportunity like this, which, alas, all too many of them girls covet, you’d better behave yourself and honor your commitments or you’ll lose it in an instant. Period!
ENDNOTE: In case you actually thought Trump was being sincere about wanting the best for Tara and the young women of America, the following should disabuse you of your naiveté:
Here’s how Trump once explained why he hates alcohol:
My brother, Fred, who was a terrific guy in every way, passed away, and alcohol killed him. It was pure and simple. He died because of alcohol. And I wish the lawyers that went after the tobacco companies would go after the alcohol companies.
Given this apparently heartfelt declaration, you’d think Trump would have such an emotional aversion to alcohol that he’d have nothing to do with it. Yet, far from unleashing his gaggle of lawyers on alcohol companies to avenge his brother’s death, Trump is actually competing with them to peddle this poison by selling “Trump: The World’s Finest Super Premium Vodka” – with the same unscrupulous, egocentric and bottom-line intent with which he sells “Trump Ice Bottled Water”.
But since he evidently has no problem with underage girls drinking like “girls gone wild” under his professional guardianship, don’t be surprised if Trump uses his nubile Miss Teen USA as bait to market his Vodka….
Wednesday, December 20, 2006 at 8:25 AMLast September, when Pope Benedict XVI – Germany’s most famous native son – criticized tenets of Islam which incite Muslims to riot, Muslims reacted so violently, including issuing death threats against him, that the Pope was forced to perform a series of public apologies to quell their fury. But I promptly criticized him for being not only fallible but also gullible for thinking that an apology would tame Muslim fanatics.
Then, just weeks later, even before the Deutsche Oper – Germany’s most famous opera house – had a chance to perform Mozart’s “Idomeneo” (modified with a provocative scene depicting the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad being triumphantly placed on a wooden chair next to those of Neptune, Jesus and Buddha), Muslims erupted in such a terrorizing fury that the Deutche Oper cancelled all performances.
(Incidentally, please take a moment to appreciate the symbolism of a world without all of the evil organized religions have wrought….)
The opera house cited threats from Muslim fanatics, which posed an “incalculable security risk” and a wish “to avoid endangering its audience and employees” as the reason for the cancellations. But I could not help thinking that the Pope’s earlier capitulation set an enabling precedent of appeasement under Muslim threats that the Deutche Oper was now following.
Though, ironically, both incidents only reinforced the Pope’s lament (uttered when he was still Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” under Pope John Paul II) that Turkey should not be admitted into the European Union because Muslim culture and religious dogma are simply incompatible with European values.
But when the Pope ignored threats to his life (because his apology did not satisfy the self-appointed avengers of Islam) and not only survived but actually thrived during a state visit to Muslim Turkey, I lauded for him performing a truly heroic feat – like a modern-day Daniel in the Lion’s den….
Indeed, I thought it fair to assert that – just as he had set the unfortunate precedent for appeasing Muslim fanatics – the Pope had now set a new precedent for challenging them in the most forthright way. And, sure enough, his fellow Germans took note. Because soon thereafter, the Deutche Oper rescheduled its performances of Idomeneo, the first of which was performed without incident on Monday; albeit with unprecedented security in place, including metal detectors.
Nevertheless, the Pope and Deutche Oper have provided a valuable life lesson for all of us in this era of terror: Do not be cowered by threats. Live life! (ie. the show must go on) Because, more often than not, threats of terror are intended merely to intimidate, not to inflict bodily harm.
Monday, December 18, 2006 at 11:26 AM
In a March 2005 column I predicted that the battle within the Anglican Church over the role of women and gays would eventually blow its worldwide communion asunder. Back then, some of the most influential dioceses in the United States and overseas – especially in Latin America and Africa where the Anglicans are competing with Catholics to win souls for Christ – threatened to secede over this issue. Because, they claimed, the ordination of women and gays as bishops (to say nothing of consecrating gay marriages) was tantamount to a “Satanic attack” on the Church.
And even though many overseas dioceses made good on their threat in short order, the news of this “new day” for the Anglican Church did not dawn on the Episcopal Church (the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion) until yesterday. Because that’s when seven of its parishes – located in my home state of Virginia – defected as well.
But, truth be told, what really confounded, if not upset, many Episcopalian loyalists is the fact that these white Virginians abandoned their white leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams of England, to pledge their allegiance to a black leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria (and his rival worldwide communion).
It is worth noting, however, that Williams recognizes Akinola as a charismatic and formidable adversary. In fact, he has conceded that Akinola advocates such an appealing – even if ignorant and parochial – interpretation of the Holy Scriptures (e.g. Homosexuality is “unnatural and un-African”), that the Church may have to:
…create a two-tier system of membership, with branches that ordain partnered gays given a lesser status.And this, after Akinola showed no willingness to even countenance such a compromise when he publicly challenged Williams’s leadership by declaring that:
We deplore the act of those bishops who have taken part in the consecration, which has now divided the church in violation of their obligation to guard the faith and unity of the church.
Therefore, the internecine struggle that has beset every other established church known to man now looms for the Episcopal Church. Because no one doubts that the Virginia secessions constitute the breach in the levee of Church unity that will lead to a flood of defections from the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.
NOTE: But, where Williams concedes that he may be unable to prevent Akinola from stealing Anglican souls, he seems determined to prevent him from stealing Church property. Accordingly, he has decreed that if these unruly secessionists want to join Akinola’s church, they will have to purchase separate facilities to worship their God. Therefore, it seems very likely that the fight to save souls for Christ will be a mere undercard to the main event: the mother of all battles between Anglican factions to procure Church property for themselves (especially the multi-million dollar holdings in the U.S.)
UPDATE: I’ve received a number of emails today asking which leader do I support in this internicne battle: Akinola or William? Frankly, I don’t have a dog in this fight. Nonetheless, I shall suffice to reiterate what I lamented years ago when this row over the role of women and gays first erupted:
What is ironic and, frankly, disappointing is that Archbishop Peter Akinola and Archbishop Drexel Gomez are misleading African and Caribbean blacks, respectively, into using perverse religious and cultural rationalizations to discriminate against women and gays. After all, white bigots used similar rationalizations to discriminate against blacks not so long ago.
If I were pressed, however, I would support Williams and bid good riddance to the Virginia parishes and any others that wish to pledge allegiance to a self-righteous leader who presumes God’s ordination upon his bigoted religious practices. Although I wonder how these Virginians – who now seem so devoted to the prospect of interracial worship with Africans – would feel about interracial marriages with them….
Split in Anglican Church breaks along racial lines…
Sunday, December 17, 2006 at 12:29 PM
Saturday, December 16, 2006 at 3:02 PMDespite the mess President George W. Bush has created in Iraq, the U.S. remains the greatest force for good in the world – providing, as it does, more financial and humanitarian aid to the poor (especially throughout Africa, Asia and the Caribbean), and doing more to broker peace (especially in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula) than any other country by far.
Meanwhile, the UN has become such an enabler of tyrannical regimes that it expends more effort trying to define what constitutes genocide than providing safe havens for victims of genocide.
Yet, to listen to Kofi Annan during his farewell speech as UN Secretary General this week, one would think that America’s misadventure in Iraq vitiates all the good it’s doing elsewhere; which, of course, is a reductio ad absurdum (ie. Bullshit!).
Friday, December 15, 2006 at 11:38 AM
Good (news) Friday: Circumcision confirmed as the most effective way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS
This is not iffy data [or bush medicine]. This is serious data.
[Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health, at a press conference on Wednesday confirming the dramatically positive correlation between circumcision and reductions in the incidence of HIV/AIDS]I’ve been promoting circumcision as an effective treatment for the prevention of HIV/AIDS ever since African doctors published the results of their trials in this respect over two years ago. But I’ve been dismayed by the number of people who either dismissed their scientific findings as “bush medicine” or accused me of helping to pervert African cultural and religious customs by imposing neo-colonial notions of hygiene.
My initial thought was that their criticisms were patently uninformed because circumcision was practiced by Africans (including Egyptians and Ethiopians), Jews and Muslims long before it was adopted by Westerners (and, even then, more in America than in Europe).
But then it occured to me that their criticisms constituted a classic case of transference – where those accusing me of neocolonial bias were themselves exhibiting this bias. After all, it was entirely reasonable to infer that they simply could countenance simple and inexpensive circumcisions performed by African doctors being more effective in treating this virus than a cocktail of expensive antiretroviral drugs manufactured by multinational pharmaceutical companies.
But I finally realized that these critics were just congenitally opposed to this procedure when they were not disabused of their ignorance and misguided concerns even after circumcision was endorsed by leading scientists from the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations programme on HIVAIDS (UNAIDS) at the 16th Annual International Aids Conference in Toronto, Canada last August. Indeed, I found most troubling the inescapable fact that their perverse paternalism made these critics more concerned about African customs than they are about African lives….
Nonetheless, here’s how I entreated people who are genuinely grieved by the spread of HIV/AIDS – especially in Africa and Francophone Haiti – to deal with critics of circumcision:
…join me in condemning and dismissing – as either a religious hypocrite or inhumane or both – anyone who opposes circumcision as a necessary and effective medical procedure. Because our shared humanity and moral rectitude clearly compel us to support any scientific development that would help stem the genocidal ravages of HIV/AIDS amongst poor black and brown people.Now comes the good news that the most influential scientific body in the world, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), held a press conference on Wednesday to announce the results of their own trials which mirror those of earlier trials conducted by African doctors. Here’s what the NIH scientists reported:
…two clinical trials in Africa have been stopped because an independent monitoring board determined the treatment was so effective that it would be unethical to continue the experiment….Circumcising African men may cut their risk of catching AIDS in half.And, here’s how Daniel Halperin, an HIV specialist at Harvard’s Center for Population and Development described the potential impact of this announcement:
This is very exciting news…. I have no doubt that, as word of this gets around, millions of African men will want to get circumcised and that will save many lives.Enough said…chop, chop!
Thursday, December 14, 2006 at 10:59 AMI think it was fitting, despite the obvious irony, that the last report Ed Bradley presented on 60 Minutes before he died a month ago was an exposé on the miscarriage of justice in the racially-charged Duke University rape case.
To recap: Last March, a black stripper accused several members of the all-white (except for one) Duke lacrosse team of gang-raping her. She claimed that they perpetrated this crime during a party at which her strip tease was supposed to be the feature entertainment.
And, despite glaring inconsistencies in her complaint and the absence of any forensic evidence linking anyone at the party to this alleged crime, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong misled a grand jury to indict three of them based on her spurious eye witness selection.
However, months before Bradley reported facts which indicted Nifong for professional misconduct beyond all reasonable doubt, here’s what I wrote as a public appeal for justice in this case:
…I hereby reiterate my plea for DA Nifong to drop these charges, post-haste! Because proceeding would only exacerbate the irreparable harm these men have already suffered (financially and by the infliction of emotional distress); especially since a trial would surely result in a “not guilty” verdict given all of the well-documented flaws in the case for the prosecution.
But, never mind my plea, Nifong seemed impervious even to Bradley’s damning report and persisted in his wanton persecution of these players.
However, the Associated Press reported this week that, in the early days of his investigation last Spring, Nifong retained a private lab to run DNA tests on the forensic evidence collected in this case. And, according to this truly shocking and scandalous AP report:
…the lab found genetic material from several males in the accuser’s body and her underwear, but none from any team member.
This, notwithstanding the fact that the accuser swore she did not have sex with anyone within days before she claims she was raped. Now lawyers for the accused players have filed an official complaint alleging that Nifong neglected to disclose this clearly exculpatory evidence immediately – in violation of his professional ethics and generally recognized criminal law.
Moreover, it seems this report also provoked U.S. Congressman Walter Jones – who hails from North Carolina where Duke is located – to ask U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department to conduct federal investigations to determine whether Nifong’s actions in this case constitute a violation of the players’s civil rights.
Therefore, expect this to become a federal case now whether or not Nifong comes to his senses and drops the charges – post haste….
NOTE: Today’s release of the official inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Princess Diana is bound to dominate news broadcasts all over the world. But, after reading advance excerpts, I felt obliged to write a public apology (which was published over at CNN). Click here to see why.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006 at 10:45 AMIf there were still some reservoir of doubt in the international community about the fact that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, it would probably constitute a shrewd geo-political strategy for its leaders to cultivate that doubt. But since this fact was an open secret even before Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu confirmed it in 1986, it seems positively asinine for them to remain coy about it.
Therefore, I am dumfounded by the national furor that erupted in Israel yesterday after it was reported that – during an interview with a German TV station on Monday – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert let it slip that Israel is a bona fide member of the nuclear club. Here’s what Olmert said that has them damning him as a loose-lip traitor:
Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map….Can you say that this is the same level, when you are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?But, if Olmert be damned, Israelis should cite his launching that ill-fated war against Hezbollah last summer (in a bungled attempt to reclaim Israeli soldiers being held hostage) as his capital offense.
Because condemning him for this slip of the tongue smacks of a patently fatuous pretext to punish him for all of his other political sins. Especially since none of these politically indignant critics is suggesting that – like Vanunu – Olmert be tried, convicted and imprisoned (18 years) for treason.
NOTE: Meanwhile, as Israel is busy debating whether or not ’tis treason to reveal its nuclear weapons as an established fact, Iran is hosting an international conference to promulgate denials of the Holocaust as an historical fact. And, just to ensure the credibility of its communiqué, Iran invited the world’s most notorious Holocaust deniers, including David Duke, the former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and even a few self-hating Jews, to be key contributors….The Zionists have used the Holocaust as a weapon to deny the rights of the Palestinians and cover up the crimes of Israel.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006 at 11:50 AMLast Summer, after it became clear that her ties to the quagmire in Iraq made her unelectable, I abandoned my crusade for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to run for president of the United States in 2008. Then, in October, after a number of his closest advisers persuaded me that – despite his coy demeanor – he was planning to run, I jumped on Senator Barack Obama’s (“I think he can”) choo-choo campaign train.
But over the past two months, Obama’s train has grown so big and gathered so much speed that people are now talking about him, not as the candidate who could, but as the one who would be, the next president of the United States. And his remarkable apotheosis in this respect was consummated last weekend when an unprecedented gaggle of reporters followed him to the bellwether state of New Hampshire to cover his keynote address at – what was heretofore – an uneventful fundraiser for the state Democratic Party.
But, where no one was surprised that he dazzled the sold-out crowd with his Audacity to Hope speech, everyone, including reporters, seemed in awe of the excitement he generated even at local coffee shops and bookstores.
Indeed, here’s what veteran party strategist Charles Campion said about witnessing the political deification of Barack Obama:
In all my history, nobody’s ever had a crowd this big, this early.
For his part, Obama has been keen to at least pretend that he’s not buying the hype – insisting that he’s surprised, and that his wife is positively baffled, by it. All the same, he is clearly fulfilling a yearning on the liberal side of the American political divide for a credible anti-Hillary candidate.
But, with his telegenic appeal, Ivy-League education, bi-racial and intercontinental background – which makes him the personification of America’s multicultural aspirations, and his precocious (even prescient) political skills (he predicted today’s state of affairs in Iraq with uncanny accuracy), it’s not at all surprising that Obama is being greeted everywhere like political royalty:
He had the true spirit we’re looking for….I do hope he runs. I haven’t been so excited by omeone since JFK, when he was campaigning when I was 10 years old.
[Kathryn Frieden, a physician from New Hampshire]
Meanwhile, Obama’s political adversaries (most notably die-hard operatives from the Hillary camp) have already begun spreading negative stories about him. And I suspect these fellow Democrats are behind the perverse dirty trick to exploit anti-Muslim bigotry by purportedly outing Obama’s middle name: Hussein. But the way Obama addressed this would-be liability will not only disabuse most people of their cultural ignorance, but also erase any lingering doubt that he has the temperament and smarts to be president:
It would be one thing if my name was John Hussein Smith, then this might be a real problem. When you are already starting with Barack Obama, you know, let me put it this way. If my name is going to be an issue, than I don’t think my middle name is relevant.
Now, stay tuned for the “keep your black paws off our white women” ads that worked so well against Harold “call me” Ford in Tennessee (see Related Article below).
Finally, apropos the JFK reference, it behooves anyone who supports Obama to consider the grave concern he and his family must have that he may emulate the Kennedys by getting assassinated: either like Bobby – as he’s poised to be elected, or like John – at some point during his presidency.
After all, this prospect loomed as such a clear and present danger that no less a hero than former Secretary of State Colin Powell – who was as celebrated a potential presidential candidate in 2000 as Obama is today – decided the risk to his life was too great to run….
Nonetheless, I hope Obama has the courage, ambition and desire to heed this historic calling. Because, as new convert Jeff Hughes declared so authoritatively in New Hampshire on Sunday:
Right now it’s his opportunity, his time.
Monday, December 11, 2006 at 11:21 AM
… When a politician is caught with his hand in the cookie jar, instead of inciting moral outrage, it merely provides comic relief. And Mr. Jefferson is only the latest to become a laughing stock amongst a presumed (Congressional) den of thieves.
This is the cynicism I expressed last May in my commentary on the most brazen crook to disgrace the U.S. Congress in decades. My cynicism stemmed from the fact that the FBI not only caught Democrat William Jefferson on videotape accepting marked bills under his dinner table at the Ritz Hotel, but later found those bills stored amongst $90,000 similar bills in the freezer of his Washington, DC townhouse.
Yet, when Jefferson resisted all attempts by Democratic leaders to force him to resign – for the sake of the Party, I had no doubt that his mostly black constituents (think a district of OJ jurors) would vindicate his impudence by re-electing him this fall.
Meanwhile, in his defense, Jefferson insisted that he was being politically persecuted and that there were two sides to this story. But, since he evoked all the sympathy of a skunk at a garden party, here’s how I suggested Jefferson should explain being caught with his hand in the cookie jar…as it were:
…since neither factual nor legal arguments would do much to exonerate him, Jefferson should do what most black scoundrels do when caught in a legal vice-grip: play the race card. And, in this regard, perhaps Jefferson could argue that – since most blacks have good reasons to distrust banks – the other side of this story is that, in fact, there’s absolutely nothing suspicious about hiding his cash beneath his mattress…or even storing it in his freezer.
As it turned out, however, he did not have to be quite so clever to save his job. Because Jefferson spent the entire campaign simply stoking the historic distrust most blacks have of the FBI (which attempted to frame Dr Martin Luther King after all). And it paid off big time. Because, in a run-off election on Saturday against (black) Louisiana state Rep. Karen Carter – who was fated to lose because all of the few white voters in this district supported her – Jefferson won by a wide margin to retain his seat in Congress.
But saving his job is one thing. Beating FBI charges against him is quite another. Indeed, I suspect Jefferson’s victory will prove pyrrhic at best. Because it only means that when he’s indicted (within months) on federal bribery charges, his arrest as a sitting Congressman will be all the more politically embarrassing for Democratic leaders – who just regained control of Congress by promising to rid it of corruption.
Sunday, December 10, 2006 at 12:27 PM
Now, to get the UN to change course from its corrupt ways, perhaps President Bush should task his Iraq Study Group (which the world seems so enamored of) to devise 79 reform recommendations for this Tower of Babel masquerading as the last bastion of international diplomacy.
Despite his good deeds, Bolton forced to bolt as UN Ambassador
Saturday, December 9, 2006 at 12:29 PM
Thursday, December 7, 2006 at 11:50 AMYesterday, members of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) delivered their 79 (change-the-course)recommendations – like a Christmas gift – to President Bush at a White House breakfast meeting, and to the American people at a Capitol Hill news conference.
(Incidentally, unless the number “79” has some numerological power that will make their recommendations more enforceable, I wonder why the ISG did not condense them by 4 to 75, or increase them by 1 to 80 to make them more palatable.)
At any rate, although wrapped in a hypothetical quagmire, the recommendations purportedly offer a “last chance” to rescue U.S. troops from the killing fields of Iraq and salvage what’s left of America’s international pride and gravitas.
Only in Washington, however, could stale ideas be repackaged and presented as new with such ceremonial authority. But frankly, re-gifting last year’s fruitcake has more integrity than the gift the ISG presented yesterday.
In fact, notwithstanding his gracious acceptance of the bound volume of these recommendations, Bush has already indicated (before and after accepting them) that all of the ones with any merit have already been incorporated into his “policy adjustment” now well-underway.
But, for the record, here are some of the Iraq truism the ISG proffered that are worth reinforcing:
– Our ship of state has hit rough waters, It is time to chart a new course.
– We agree with President Bush’s stated goal of an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself
– The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating…. We’ve traded one nightmare for another.
– Iraq’s neighbors and key states in and outside the region should form a support group to reinforce security and national reconciliation within Iraq, neither of which Iraq can achieve on its own.
– [T]he Syrians look the other way as arms and foreign fighters flow across their border into Iraq, and former Baathist leaders find a safe haven within Syria.
– By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.
– Iraq is a major test of, and strain on, U.S. military, diplomatic, and financial capacities. Perceived failure there could diminish America’s credibility and influence in a region that is the center of the Islamic world and vital to the world’s energy supply.
– If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq’s government and a humanitarian catastrophe. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized.
Significantly, the ISG did not recommend the only strategy that could accomplish the stated goal it shares with President Bush; viz: a dramatic increase in the number of troops consistent with the Powell Doctrine (and the Pottery Barn “you break it, you own it” principle). However, this is not because the ISG considered the doctrine and found it wanting. Rather, it’s because, despite recognizing it as the course the U.S. should have taken, the ISG lamented the fact that the U.S. military simply does not have enough manpower to execute the Powell Doctrine. (See Related Articles).
Yet it is undeniable that unless U.S. forces can impose conditions on the ground that are tantamount to martial law (think Japan after WWII), none of these recommendations will have any impact on the civil war now raging in Iraq, and all of the doomsday scenarios the ISG rightly expresses grave concerns about will materialize.
After all, it’s as clear to me as yesterday’s news that, no matter how much training and embedding they’re offered, the Iraqis will not stand up to govern, defend and sustain itself. Therefore, having now broken Iraq, the U.S. must either assume total responsibility for fixing it, or cut and run and let the chips fall where they may! All else is political folly….
Meanwhile, as the ISG was presenting its blueprint for a way out yesterday, 10 more US soldiers were blown to smithereens in the killing fields of Iraq….
NOTE: Many political analysts lauded as a bold new strategy the ISG’s recommendation that the U.S. should hold direct talks with Iran and Syria over the fate of Iraq. However, Bush has made it patently clear that he believes Iran and Syria have been fomenting and funding the Iraqi conflict and have the blood of American soldiers on their hands.
Never mind that the only reason these countries (especially Iran) would want to have talks with the U.S. would be to negotiate the terms of U.S. surrender and withdrawal from Iraq.
Therefore, Bush is no more inclined to sit down and negotiate with them than he is to do so with North Korea. Nonetheless, he has conceded that the Iraqis are free to hold such talks on their own behalf if they deem them worthwhile. And, in fact, Iraqi leaders are already bartering with Iran and Syria; which, alas, makes American soldiers seem more like Filipino-guest workers than masters of Iraq’s fate….