Friday, April 28, 2006 at 11:07 PMUPDATE (Sunday 7:20 pm):
Thank you for your kind wishes in comments here and via email. I’m extremely flattered and encouraged by your support. I hope you find my book as interesting and entertaining as any book on international current events can be.
AnthonyIn late-February, one of my more visionary and enterprising readers persuaded me that I had enough content in this weblog to emulate reputable columnists by revising and extending some of my posts to publish in a book. I knew that such anthologies comprised a well-established genre in the publishing world but I had a difficult time seeing merit in anything I might produce in this respect. In the final analysis, however, my high esteem for her professional judgment compelled me to oblige.
Unfortunately, I’ve already disappointed my publisher by being too shy about promoting this book. And true to form, instead of blathering on here about it, I’d rather cite what others have said to help you determine it’s commercial value:
I was aghast to discover that his weekly commentaries…were but a tiny sampling of his prolific writing. Separately, Anthony Hall maintains his own website, The iPINIONS Journal, on which he publishes daily commentaries on an even wider span of subjects – and each of them is written with insight, careful thought and good humour.
It is extremely difficult to sustain well-informed writing of a weekly commentary on current events in a way that educates and titillates audiences. It is well nigh impossible to do so on a daily basis. Yet, this is what Anthony has achieved. –Sir Ronald Sanders, Ambassador, Author (Crumbled Small)
Imagine the informed Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat), the provocative Christopher Hitchens (The Trial of Henry Kissinger) and the witty Maureen Dowd (Bushworld) producing daily, as opposed to weekly, commentaries on international current events. Because that’s exactly what Anthony Livingston Hall does on his weblog, The IPINIONS Journal. And this book offers a riveting anthology of his commentaries as a comprehensive 2005: year in review. – Publisher iUniverse
Hall tackles subjects such as the worsening relations between the US and Latin American governments as left-leaning and fiercely independent Presidents are elected in democratic processes; the troubling revelation that President Bush authorized tapping of communications by US citizens; and condemnation of African leaders who, as he puts it, “feel entitled to abuse their subjects with impunity just as the British did during their colonial rule”.
No sacred cow, or personality, be they celebrity, royalty or politician, is safe from Hall’s iconoclastic pen, and the knowledge and authority with which he covers a range of topics is truly
Insightful, incisive and sometimes laugh-out-loud-witty…a unique perspective on today’s important events and issues. This book is written with clarity of thought and expression and piercing humor….It is a valuable and entertaining look back at some of last year’s more noteworthy topics. Highly recommended. – The Caribbean Net News Book Review
I suspect those of you familiar only with my writing style might find my shyness somewhat disingenuous. But, as Oprah might say, it’s me being my authentic self. Therefore, I shall suffice to direct you to the sidebar on this page to visit my home page at my publisher’s website to purchase copies of this book for yourself and all of your family and friends.
NOTE: A different publisher invested a great deal of money to publish a similar book by the author of the Daily Kos blog – who purports to have over 10 million regular readers. Therefore, imagine that publisher’s disappointment now that his book has sold only 2,062 copies at retail since its release over six weeks ago – as was reported here yesterday.
Of course, this presents an irresistible opportunity for me – as David to Kos’ Goliath – to slay the self-proclaimed giant of the blogosphere. More important, if we can sell more than 2100 copies of this book over the next few weeks, it will mark a triumph of earnest and constructive opinion over contrived and partisan talking points. And, this medium and public debate will be much the better for it.
ENDNOTE: Because I’m so uncomfortable featuring my book as the good news story today, I urge you to click here to check out my real Good (news) Friday story on South Africa’s giant leap into the stratosphere of technology….
Thursday, April 27, 2006 at 9:57 AMFor over 18 months, the entertainment industry has been buzzing with speculation about which megastar was:
…accused of performing a sex act while having a massage at a prestigious hotel in Scotland.To be precise, this egomaniacal, self-indulgent, narcissistic misogynist blithely discarded his towel, exposed the arousing effect his masseuse was having on him and proceeded to spank the monkey (jerk-off, whack-off, choke the chicken, oh alright – masturbate!) right there on the table. And, to this day, I’m sure he’s just stupefied that – far from considering his personal performance the climax of her life – this woman was utterly disgusted.
Of course, one would expect such a jerk to be revealed as someone like Charlie Sheen or Hugh Grant; but, not in this case. Instead, like the Oracle of Delphi revealing the secrets to immortality, the chairman of the employment tribunal to which the masseuse immediately filed a complaint revealed on Monday that:
…he was not convinced there was a pressing social need convincing enough to allow restrictions to be put in place which would prevent [Kevin] Costner being identified [as the perpetrator of this most ostentatious exhibition of Onanism].
Yes folks, this erstwhile Robin Hood not only touched, but actually fondled – in a lewd and lascivious way – what for any decent man would be The Untouchables during a professional massage. Perhaps Costner was suffering a JFK flashback….
But what compounded his perverted behavior was the fact that the 51-year-old Costner assaulted this masseuse while on honeymoon with his twenty-something trophy wife. Now, I know what unconscionable doggs some of us can be. But I’m convinced that if they visit a masseuse during their honeymoon, most men would do so only to reinvigorate their bodies for more connubial action with their more-willing-than-they’ll-ever-be-again wives. However, Rumor Has It that Costner prefers “having sex with someone he loves” and that “a honeymoon in the hand” suits him just fine. Although, perhaps Costner was just “cleansing his pipe” - so that he could plant healthy seeds in his properly fecund wife….
Whatever the motive for his grotesque, juvenile and criminal behavior, there seems No Way Out for Costner to ever redeem his public image as The Bodyguard any woman would want to be her leading man. Nonetheless, I suspect this public humiliation will have no impact on his wife’s mercurial devotion – until the most opportunistic moment arrives for her to cash-in according to her pre-nuptial agreement.
NOTE: Costner exudes probity and intelligence, which give his films – no matter how bad (Waterworld) – some redeeming value. Yet, in his personal life, he’s evidently no different than the accomplished scoundrels I featured in my recent article titled: How sex makes smart men do stupid thing. Furthermore, knowing that he thinks he’s entitled to treat women this way has shattered all of my illusions about his professional gravitas. Indeed, I hope this episode turns people off his movies forever.
ENDNOTE: I hope this episode also turns people off The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, Fife where Costner perpetrated this criminal act. And, here’s why:
When the masseuse complained to the owners, they fired her. (Why this never became a police matter remains a mystery to me. But even most Englishmen I know find Scottish law incomprehensible.) Of course, most hotel owners would discard any employee as blithely as Costner discarded his towel to curry favor with a celebrity. But doing so for bad service is one thing; whereas, firing an employee for complaining about being sexually assaulted by a celebrity guest sets a wholly unacceptable precedent for kiss-ass celebrity worship. And, firing this masseuse under these circumstances was made all the more egregious when her lawyers discovered that the hotel owners and Costner are “good friends”.
It’s no wonder they settled her claim of damages for unfair dismissal on the eve of trial this week. But ordinary people should now appreciate that the owners of The Old Course Hotel seem to expect their employees to provide services or tolerate behavior that one should only expect at massage parlors in the red-light district of big cities.
Finally, the following statement by his publicist, Paul Bloch, makes it patently clear that Costner feels completely immune to the consequences of his perversions:
This is a dispute between an ex-employee and a hotel; this was never about Kevin Costner….I have not even reached Mr Costner. He’s on location shooting so he knows nothing more about this
INSTRUCTIVE NOTE: On my honeymoon, I would have opted for a joint massage with my new bride….
Wednesday, April 26, 2006 at 8:28 AMIn this previous article (dated 2 February 2006), I cautioned fellow Caribbean natives against expressing too much moral indignation over the political and financial scandals plaguing America (personified by people like former Congressman Tom DeLay and former Enron Chairman Ken Lay). And I justified my caution by pointing out that:
…no fewer than eight of its former government ministers are facing criminal corruption charges for allegedly expropriating funds from revenues generated by Trinidad and Tobago’s lucrative oil and gas industry. And, chief amongst those in the dock is former Prime Minister (1995-2001) and current Opposition leader, Basdeo Panday.
But, since Panday was charged in September 2002 and still seemed hell-bent on filing “dilatory motions”, I argued that he was making as much a circus of Trinidad and Tobago’s legal process as Saddam Hussein was making of Iraq’s. And, because of his tactics, I predicted that:
…it might take a decade before a jury is even empaneled in Panday’s case.
But I was wrong!
Because, on Monday, Panday was found guilty by a Trinidad court for hiding his ill-gotten gains in a London bank account. And, how ironic is that! After all, most Europeans rely on our off-shore banks to “protect their assets”. Indeed, perhaps Panday deserved to be convicted for still being so tethered to England’s colonial cord of obligation that he felt obliged to stash his cash in London, instead of Switzerland – like any self-respecting crook in his position would have done.
Alas, for his greed and stupidity, Panday must now serve three-years hard labor and pay over TT$1.5 million in fines. And, in the Caribbean, “hard labor” entails every dreadful penal connotation your mind can conjure up….
Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 9:44 AM
After seizing the land (i.e., biting the hand) of white farmers who fed Zimbabwe, Mugabe seeks their helping hand…
Five years ago, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of sub-Saharan Africa; today, it is a basket case of starving people. Five years ago, there were 4000 white-owned farms in Zimbabwe; today, there are only 400 – mostly unproductive – farms left.
The vast majority of the seized farms went to President Mugabe’s loyal cronies in government who used them for weekend retreats. Virtually every Cabinet minister and senior security official now has at least two farms. Even then, they are not given the title deed, just a long lease, which the president can revoke at the first sign of disloyalty.
It has been a catastrophe. These people had no idea how to farm commercially and farms that would normally be overflowing with maize and other crops lie fallow, much of them now covered in waist-high wild grass. Farm machinery stands unused in abandoned fields.I wrote the above about Robert Mugabe’s iron-fisted ruination of Zimbabwe in this previous article over a year ago. Subsequently, just last October, I expressed utter indignation in this article when the United Nations invited him to Rome to lead a chorus of Third-World despots, incompetents and kleptomaniacs in a shameless rant condemning America and Europe for “ crippling the development of agriculture in Zimbabwe.”
But only a month later, I had cause to express cautious optimism when it became clear that Mugabe’s foolish pride in starving his own people was waning after he was forced to admit that his land reforms were an abject failure. Moreover, I was certain that this begrudging admission would lead him to unclench his fist and hold his hand out for help to reverse his patently and tragically flawed plan for the purported economic liberation of black Zimbabweans.
Therefore, I was not terribly surprised when the BBC reported yesterday that:
Zimbabwe has confirmed that it is offering land to white farmers who had their property seized under President Robert Mugabe’s land reform programme
As indicated, when I first wrote about Mugabe’s land redistribution plan, Zimbabwe still had 400 “mostly unproductive” farms. Today there are 300. But, frankly, I doubt any of the 3600 farmers whose farms were seized, invariably by force, would even consider Mugabe’s “offer”, unless it was sanctioned and guaranteed by either the EU or the US…or China!
Indeed, why would any white farmer return when one of the few whites brave enough to stay on in Zimbabwe after his farm was seized in 2004, opposition MP Roy Bennett, reportedly sought political asylum in neighbouring South Africa just days ago. The spokesman for his party confirmed that “…the regime is after his head. We cannot afford a dead hero.”
Therefore, as desperate for and deserving of their help as poor (black) Zimbabweans clearly are, white farmers can be forgiven their decision to wait until the 82-year Mugabe dies a natural death or is himself the target of the coup of liberation he supposedly executed against oppressive whites over 26 years ago….
Monday, April 24, 2006 at 9:47 AM[NOTE: Dear Readers:I posted this article at 5:47 this morning. But, due to techinical difficulties with the publishing platform, it was uploaded only moments ago (1:55 pm). I apologise for the delay and beg your patience with me through these frustrating episodes. I'm negotiating a transition to a more reliable platform with my webmaster and should have good news in this regard within weeks.Thank you for your continued interest and kind support.Anthony]________________________________________________________________________________
Alas, it’s true: familiarity breeds contempt.
And contempt was the only feeling I had when I woke up yesterday to news reports of yet another bin Laden tape dominating airtime on the 500 channels of my HGTV! Of course it featured his familiar diatribe about American-led crusades against Islam and such rubbish, which compelled me to wonder – who cares anymore what bin Laden has to say….
Bush: Hey, the CIA said he was hiding in a cave, not in a closet….OK Osama, come outta the closet!….Psssst, I always thought this fella sounded kinda queer….72 virgins? Yeah, right! I guess Allah never said if they were boys or girls….
Indeed, where the mere mention of Osama bin Laden’s name once incited fear (and some anxious loathing), now it merely prompts the reflexive eye-rolling one sees when old people interrupt dinner conversations to tell the same boring story for the 72nd time. Moreover, what can be more pathetic than this cave dweller now peddling tapes in a vainglorious attempt to take credit for every ill-fate that befalls Western civilization? I suppose Rev. Pat Robertson pinned Hurricane Katrina on God’s wrath against homosexuals and river-boat gamblers before bin Laden could take credit for that too. Incidentally, since Osama keeps begging for a clash of civilizations, wouldn’t it be truly divine for this radical Islamist and cookoo Christian Pat to end up in a cave somewhere so they could settle this religious-crusades nonsense once and for all?
Speaking of cookoo Christians, I wonder if either Rev. Jesse Jackson or his chubby pretender to the pulpit, Al Sharpton, will finally condemn bin Laden now that he’s calling for Jihad against our African brothers and sisters in Darfur. Because it’s one thing to express common cause with everyone from Hugo Chavez to this self-appointed Caliph in calling for the heads of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. But it must offend the conscience of even these two Tartuffes when anti-American zealots call for the extermination of already starving, oppressed and helpless blacks in Africa – as Osama did yesterday.
And, speaking of Tartuffes, can I hear an asalamu alaikum from Minister Louis Farrakhan? Perhaps he can get word to his Muslim brother Osama – via Al-Jazeera – that he’d better revoke his order for Islamic Jihadists to join Sudan’s Janjaweed militiamen in their religious (ethnic) cleansing of blacks in Darfur, or Allah will send Jesse and Al instead of Pat into his cave to determine who’s holier than thou….
Really folks, don’t you wonder why broadcasters in America still think it’s news when Osama apologists and enablers at Al-Jazeera in the Middle East play another of his utterly irrelevant tapes? And then, doesn’t it insult your intelligence when they get some oxymoronic “expert on Osama bin Laden” to expound on the dire implications of Osama’s rantings?
Sunday, April 23, 2006 at 12:16 PM
It is undeniable that China’s phenomenal rise to economic superpower status is due in large measure to its government’s denial of basic human rights to the hundreds of millions of poor Chinese who provide the cheap labour that fuels its economic growth. And, alas, many American corporations have conspired and colluded with the Chinese government to enable it to deny its citizens these rights.
Indeed, Chinese President Hu Jintao has good reasons to shout Yahoo!! for getting not only Yahoo but Microsoft, Intel and every other American hi-tech firm to check their conscience at the border as a condition of doing business in China. But, although the Chinese government takes great pride in its ability to control the minds and manage the freedoms of its 1.3 billion citizens, this overweening pride can lead to embarrassing situations abroad: As was the case when President Hu was heckled by a Falun Gong disciple at the White House on Thursday, and as I lamented in this previous article:
…it could not have helped the political atmospherics [of Hu’s dinner with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and the other corporate titans the Chinese have recruited as thought police] when Reporters Without Borders announced – on the eve of Hu’s visit – that the Chinese government’s Internet police (aided and abetted by Yahoo) had arrested and incarcerated even more journalists for promoting a “so-called Western-style democracy” than previously disclosed.
Saturday, April 22, 2006 at 11:56 AMThis week, the chorus of disgruntled (retired) generals calling for U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to join them in their idle-minded sinecure reached such a discordant crescendo that even the normally tone-deaf Rumsfeld took heed. And, in an unprecedented display of contrition and humanity, he stood before the members of the Pentagon press corps – for whom he has always shown a quizzical, if not supercilious, indifference – and expressed genuine regret for providing them so much fodder to caricature him as an arrogant, cantankerous, know-it-all (my-way-or-the-highway) ball-buster. Because, alas, it has finally dawned on Rumsfeld that his didactic lectures on war strategy have become about as reassuring to the American people as that “shock and awe” first strike against Iraq that was supposed to “end the war before it began”.
Nonetheless, even though a more humble Rumsfeld would help the Bush Administration win its public-relations battles with the American media, forcing him to retire would do nothing to help the American military win its war with the Iraqi insurgents. Besides, it’s not as if any of these generals are offering war strategies that differ from the one Rumsfeld is trying to execute. Instead, they’re just pussies now taking cheap shots at him from their cloistered retirement – by challenging Rumsfeld in the media in ways that, if they had any cajones, they would have challenged him to his face when they were still serving under his command.
Meanwhile, I think Rumsfeld should stay right where he is and let the world witness his transformation from the cocksure Oracle of America’s military might to an equivocating apologist for its pyrrhic accomplishments in Iraq.
NOTE: Click here for my constructive criticisms, which offer strategies for how Rumsfeld should prosecute this war that has become an Achilles heel not only for the Bush Administration but also for America’s presumptive power around the world.
UPDATE (2:15 pm): Judging from the emails I’ve received about this post, it seems I presumed too much by expecting you to follow the links to my previous articles to grasp my thoughts not only about the decision to invade Iraq but also about the way the war is being waged. Therefore, here’s the Cliff-Notes version:
I have written, repeatedly, that America’s march into Baghdad was sheer folly. And I thought it was a foolhardy idea to invade Iraq even when intelligence agencies from Russia to France thought Saddam Hussein possessed the WMDs that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell warned the world about during his United Nations address in February 2003.
Once Bush ordered troops into Iraq, however, I thought he should have followed the Powell Doctrine and sent in hundreds of thousands of them to secure every nook and cranny of the country, and under strict Martial Law conditions. (In fact, I had in mind 500,000, not the 300,000 General Shinseki suggested, and which got him fired.)
Now that things are a complete mess (as they have been for almost two years), I think it’s irresponsible for these generals to be sniping at Rumsfeld without offering a clear exit strategy for the troops on the ground. At least Congressman John Murtha is demanding a fazed retreat “to the horizon” – whatever that means. But no one in any leadership position or who has presidential ambitions is recommending anything Bush and Rummy are not already trying to do.
Yet carping political opportunists like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, both of whom voted for this war (before Kerry voted against it – whatever that means), would have the world believe that they not only voted against it but have actually pleaded with Bush to change his strategy. Even Sen. John McCain seems equivocal about his initial support for the war. Though I suspect this is because he doesn’t want his call for more troops to appear to be an all too belated endorsement of the Powell Doctrine.
Unfortunately, now that Iraq has its own duly-elected government, the Powell Doctrine is no longer a viable option. All Bush and Rumsfeld can do, short of declaring victory and retreating in abject humiliation, is to keep recruiting Iraqis to insulate American troops from insurgent attacks and begin their orderly withdrawal commensurate with political developments in Iraq.
If anyone has a better idea, in substance, I’m sure Bush and Rumsfeld are desperate to hear it….
Friday, April 21, 2006 at 11:19 AM
We lost the American colonies because we lacked the statesmanship to know the right time and the manner of yielding what is impossible to stop. [HM Elizabeth II]
This will seem almost traitorous to many of my fellow Caribbean natives, but I am not a monarchist. In fact, nothing offends my sense of nationalism more than seeing so many of my people maintain a level of fealty to British Royalty that would shame even the most obsequious servant in the royal household. After all, I have been quite unabashed in agitating for our regional governments to not only abolish allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth but also rid our societies of all the colonial vestiges that flow from her “Sovereign” fountain of honors (like knighthoods and Orders). But you can read more about that bad news stuff here.
Because today is the Queen’s 80th birthday and the good news for all of her subjects is that, looking as fit as she does, she is destined to live longer than her mother (who died at 101). And, alas, this virtually guarantees that Charles and Camilla will never, never become King and Queen. Indeed, as if to admonish the boy who would be King to perish the thought, the Queen dispatched one of her most trusted ladies-in-waiting this week to inform the BBC that she considers her role as monarch:
…a job for life [and that] she wouldn’t consider not continuing to fulfil those vows until she dies.
God Save The Queen!
Happy Birthday your Majesty!
NOTE: The news of the week was clearly Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States. And, in addition to my article from Tuesday below, I invite you to click here to read my Caribbean perspective on his visit.
Queen Elizabeth II, British Royalty, Monarchy
Thursday, April 20, 2006 at 6:23 AMNothing defines the American character quite like sports. And no sport is more central to that character than Baseball. Indeed, it seems entirely fitting that it was Baseball (and not schools, churches or places of public accommodation) that led the desegregation of American society. And, it probably surprises no one that blacks have dominated this sport from the time Jackie Robinson became the first black to join the major leagues in 1947, through the day Hank Aaron shattered Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record in 1974, to today when Barry Bonds is poised to dethrone Aaron to become Baseball’s new home-run king.
Of course, when it was revealed last week that a federal grand jury is equally poised to indict Bonds for lying under oath about taking steroids, many blacks expressed the cynical belief that his legal jeopardy has more to do with racist resentment over his preeminence in the sport than with his lies about steroids. And, despite the unseemly tendency of too many blacks to cry racism whenever a prominent black is the target of a criminal investigation, their paranoia is not entirely unwarranted in this case. After all, despite the entire world witnessing Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire perjure and / or incriminate themselves during congressional testimony last year, the U.S. Congress gave them both a walk by refusing to indict.
Nevertheless, I’ve been quite unabashed in proffering my reasonable suspicion that Bonds has cheated his way to Baseball superstardom by enhancing his performance with an apothecary of steroids that would make Dr. Frankenstein green with envy. And my suspicions were only confirmed when his steroids regimen was chronicled in the recently published book Game of Shadows. But, where it’s quite acceptable to revel in schadenfreude over the public ridicule Bonds has been subjected to (including having steroid-size syringes thrown at him during games); it smacks of prosecutorial abuse to make a federal case out of his dissembling about steroids.
Because, as I wrote in this previous article, even though Bonds has relished being the poster boy for the overpaid, self-indulgent, obnoxious, temperamental, whining cry-babies that professional athletes have become, an indictment would make him a scapegoat for the sins not only of Baseball but of the entire culture of American sports. And, that just ain’t fair….
Moreover, as I wrote in this previous article, just as players like Babe Ruth were not indicted for drinking alcohol during prohibition, players like Bonds should not be indicted for taking steroids today. Although I appreciate that the grand jury investigation and that sensational book have forced Commissioner Bud Selig to act to protect and preserve Baseball’s public goodwill. And I have no doubt that that is all Selig’s appointment of former Sen. George Mitchell to head an inquiry into the use of steroids in Baseball is intended to do.
Therefore, speculation that Selig might suspend Bonds or strip him of any of his awards is utter rubbish – no matter what the Mitchell inquiry “discovers”. Because that would then require him to strip awards won by Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and too many other major leaguers to list here.
All bets are off, however, if Bonds is indicted. Because this would provide a convenient pretext for Selig to get rid of the most troubled and unloved MVP in Baseball history: a pretext, alas, that is openly coveted by many Baseball insiders who dislike Bonds even more than they resent his phenomenal achievements.
So here’s the endgame: I predict that Bonds will be indicted! And once he is, Selig and Mitchell will be all too relieved to announce his indefinite suspension and declare all is well with Baseball again….
NOTE: It will be interesting to see what Selig does about all of those tainted records. And I’m sure he’s praying Bonds remains in his current batting slump so that he’s indicted before he surpasses Babe Ruth’s home run record, which looms only 8 good steroids-induced swings of his bat away.
Barry Bonds, grand jury indictment, Baseball Commissioner
Wednesday, April 19, 2006 at 5:42 AMIt had been so long, relatively speaking, since a Palestinian suicide bomber struck in the heart of Israel that many people were genuinely shocked by Monday’s attack, which killed 9 and wounded 60. And, that it happened in the very same Tel Aviv sandwich shop where the most recent attack occurred on 19 January only compounded their consternation.
Although, their shock (and dismay) were probably due in part to the false sense of security that is provided by the Jericho-like wall the Israelis built to prevent these walking bombs from crossing their borders. But, as I commented here and here – after suicide bombers stuck in the heart of London last July, no wall, labyrinth of security cameras or beefed-up force of RoboCops can ever prevent these Islamic Jihadists from executing their misguided holy mission.
Indeed, far from being shocked that they struck, the wonder is that they do not do so more often. And with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now threatening to deploy his army of 40,000 suicide bombers to England and the United States if he’s not allowed to build his nuclear bomb (to “wipe Israel off the map”), it’s more likely that this terror will become a fact of life for the rest of us (as it is now for the Iraqis) long before it ceases to be so for the people of Israel.
In the meantime, however, we could probably do a little to discourage these sacrificial warriors – who seem more motivated by their lust for the apocryphal 72 virgins than by any desire to please Allah – if we simply stopped broadcasting their idle-minded farewell tapes. After all, this is precisely the kind of attention these invariably poor, uneducated, marginalized and hopeless Muslim boys crave, even if posthumously, and it only inspires those left behind to seek this pyrrhic glory.
NOTE: Any hope Israelis had that Hamas would condemn Monday’s attack – now that they are the duly recognized government of the Palestinian territories – were shattered when they justified it instead as:
…a natural result of the continued Israeli crimes against our people….The Israeli occupation bears responsibility for the continuation of its aggression. Our people are in a state of self-defense and they have every right to use all means to defend themselves.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006 at 11:17 AMToday, President Hu Jintao begins his first state visit to the United States as China’s head of state. However, it reflects not only America’s waning political influence but also China’s rising economic status that Hu’s welcome dinner will be hosted, not at the White House in Washington, DC by the world’s (erstwhile) most powerful man, President George W. Bush, but at the private mansion in Seattle, Washington by the world’s richest man, Microsoft’s Chairman Bill Gates.
Although, to be fair, it can be argued that Hu and Gates have established a business relationship that emulates the political relationship Bush and British PM Tony Blair leveraged to invade Iraq. Indeed, as I lamented in this previous article, Hu and Gates have already leveraged their ties to help Hu’s government spy on and even arrest Chinese citizens who used their computers in ways the Communist Party deemed subversive (e.g., by merely expressing a wish for more democratic freedoms).
But Hu’s visit is all about allaying American concerns about China’s ballooning trade surplus, which was a record $11.2 billion in March (more than double the amount for the same month last year). And, Gates and fellow CEOs from practically every fortune 100 company in America hope that Hu will show some gratitude for their contributions to his country’s surplus (and for Gates’ lavish hospitality) by announcing new trade policies that will open China’s markets to more of their products (indeed, including the beef Hu will probably dine on tonight) and services (especially in finance), and protect their trademark and intellectual properties from widespread piracy by Chinese “entrepreneurs”.
And, it’s only after Hu and America’s corporate titans have chewed over the meat and potatoes of Sino-US bilateral trade will Hu then lunch on leftovers with President Bush on Thursday. In fact, just as Bush’s first state visit to China was distinguished more by his bike ride with the Chinese Olympic cycling team than by his dealings with Hu, so too will Hu’s visit to America be distinguished more by his dinner with Gates than by his dealings with Bush.
Nevertheless, Bush will still have some juicy political bones to pick with Hu at their White House lunch. And he’ll probably salivate at the opportunity to still seem relevant to this Sino-US relationship by gnawing about the slow pace of democratic reforms in China, its human rights abuses and its refusal to allow the yuan (Chinese currency) to float on the open market. However, Bush will also be obliged to tango with Hu about China’s role in defusing nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula, its threats to move militarily to assert political control over Taiwan and its brazen checkbook diplomacy throughout the Americas. But, no matter how much Bush grinds his teeth or steps on Hu’s toes over these issues, I suspect Hu will be far too sated with the food for thought Gates fed him to show any real interest in anything Bush has to serve.
Of course, since he really has no political capital left to lose, perhaps Bush should put some ants in Hu’s pants…by inviting the exiled Tibetan religious leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as a surprise lunch guest. Imagine how interesting and newsworthy that lunch would suddenly become if the Dalai Lama could finally sit across a diplomatic table and ask a Chinese leader, Hu, to explain:
Why, if China respects his religion and religious freedom (as Hu insists), did it send communist troops to trample over defenseless Buddhist monks and occupy Tibet in 1950?
Why, if China respects his religion and religious freedom, did its leaders persecute him and his followers so much that tens of thousands of them were forced into exile?
Gyaltsen Norbu, 16, the Tibetan Buddhist chosen by the Chinese communists as Tibet’s next religious leader, making his first major appearance before an international audience last Thursday at the opening ceremony of the World Buddhist Forum in the resort city of Hangzhou southwest of Shanghai.
Why, if China respects his religion and religious freedom, did its (avowedly atheistic) leaders usurp his authority to anoint Gyalsten Norbu as Tibet’s 11th Panchen Lama and command him to parrot communist propaganda like:
Chinese society provides favourable environment for Buddhist belief [and that] Buddhists should be patriotic and defend the nation;
Whilst the Dalai Lama’s chosen successor remains under house arrest and is regarded as the world’s youngest political prisoner because he’s been there since 1995, when he was just six years old?
And, indeed, why, if China respects his religion and religious freedom, would Hu himself preside over the unveiling of the largest statue in all of China of the father of Chinese communism, the late Mao Zedong, right in the heart of Buddhist Tibet? (Incidentally, if nothing else, this eyesore should disabuse the Dalai Lama and his followers – especially high profile donors like actor Richard Gere – of any hope that His Holiness will ever return to Tibet or that this Buddhist country will ever become independent.)
Finally, if the Dalai Lama’s questions do not force Hu to cower away from the table with an acute case of political indigestion, perhaps Bush could serve the pièces de ré·sis·tance by putting the following questions before him:
Are you not aware Mr President that, despite its phenomenal growth, China has a ticking people bomb that is bound to explode and ca
use your booming economy to go bust? [As 60 Minutes reported last Sunday and as I commented last November]
And, are you not concerned that the unseemly gap between rich and poor that is now fueling terminal unrest all over China will eventually break your totalitarian control and give rise to the democratic freedoms your billion-plus peasant farmers crave? [As FOX News reported last Monday and I commented last December]
Bon appétit President Hu…
NOTE: I have linked to many previous articles today to put this complex, bipolar relationship between China and the United States into as comprehensive a context as possible. These two countries are destined to dominate world affairs for much, if not all, of the 21st Century. And, even though they will always find a way to do business together, how they manage their geopolitical and strategic relationships with other nations (e.g. how China deals with Taiwan and how the U.S. deals with North Korea; and how both deal with the superpower envy of Russia) will determine, in large measure, whether we suffer the cataclysmic anxieties of a Cold War redux or live in relative harmony with only occasional discordant notes from radical Islamists to tolerate.
Therefore, I encourage you to take a moment to read the articles I linked to as well.
ENDNOTE: It’s too bad we’ll never know what Hu said to dinner guests at the Gates mansion. Because those are the only words of truth and consequence that he will utter during this visit. Indeed, the hackneyed political platitudes coming out of both men’s mouths at their joint news conference on Thursday should produce enough flatulence to cause you to hold your nose and fog-up your TV screen.
Monday, April 17, 2006 at 9:14 AMHere’s a glimpse of my home in the Turks & Caicos Islands. I invite you to come revel in our holiday spirit anytime….
Despite the abhorrent nature of colonialism, the British introduced a few customs that are still heartily observed throughout their former colonies in the Caribbean. And public holidays certainly fall within this cherished tradition.
Curiously, unlike Americans, the British evidently saw no need to glorify their holidays with patriotic or reverential titles like President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day or Thanksgiving Day. Instead, they just referred to almost all of them as Bank Holidays (no doubt in honor of Britain’s great mercantile heritage).
That’s why the “Easter Monday” holiday seems so puzzling. After all, it has a reverential title but no discernible relevance to Jesus Christ (like Good Friday: He was crucified; and Easter Sunday: He arose!). Perhaps even the British had qualms about appending a “bank holiday” to this very religious occasion. Indeed, Easter Monday seems as appropriate a title for sneaking in another bank holiday here as calling the day after Christmas “Boxing Day” for an additional holiday there as well.
Here’s a glimpse of my home in The Bahamas. I invite you to come revel in our holiday spirit anytime here too….(I know, life is good!)
Of course, with beaches like these, one might wonder why the British did not conjure up many more innocuous excuses for bank holidays….
Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 11:07 AM
Sunday, April 16, 2006 at 10:54 AM
Saturday, April 15, 2006 at 12:25 PMDespite gorging themselves on record profits, corporate CEOs are getting away with paying no taxes and robbing employee pensions to fund their $400 million retirement packages….
But on this customary tax day (15 April), it puts this most burdensome duty of US citizenship into perspective if one knows that many rich people believe that “Only the little people pay taxes” – as Leona Hemsley, perhaps the most infamous CEO in America (after the crooks at Enron) once said.
NOTE: VP Dick Cheney has become such a reviled figure in American politics – with poll numbers even lower than President Bush’s – that it would not surprise me to see the Democrats produce talking points characterizing his charitable donation of almost $7 million (from the $8.8 million he earned last year) as a blatant attempt to assuage his guilt by washing his hands of the blood money he got, after cashing-in deferred shares, from Halliburton. After all, many of his partisan critics have argued for years that Halliburton won no-bid contracts to profit from the war in Iraq only because Cheney is its former CEO and retains finanacial interests in the company via deferred stock options.
Friday, April 14, 2006 at 9:39 PMTo all of my fellow Christians who backslid from the ritual of attending Good Friday Church Service many years ago, I suggest you watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ today and reflect, perhaps for the first time, upon the meaning of these words, which we recited ad nauseam in our youth:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.NOTE: The vast majority of you will find this incredibly anachronistic, but the leaders of my mother country, the Turks and Caicos Islands, are actually debating whether or not we should belatedly break the yoke of colonialism and declare our independence from Great Britain….
Click here to read my thoughts on this debate – as published in my weekly column at CNN.
Thursday, April 13, 2006 at 9:47 AM
We do not want the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, or the knowledge about how to make a nuclear weapon….The international community must come together to make it very clear to Iran that we will not tolerate construction of a nuclear weapon. Iran would be dangerous if they have a nuclear weapon….All options are on the table….The use of force is the last option for any president. You know we have used force in the recent past to secure our country.The above quote represents a battery of declarations, pleadings and warnings by U.S. President George W. Bush about Iran’s nuclear program. Yet, in a gesture tantamount to kicking sand in Bush’s eye, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad invited the world on Tuesday to witness his defiance of and challenge to everything Bush has said in this regard. And in a jingoistic address to his nation, he proudly announced that Iran not only possesses the knowledge to make nuclear weapons but has, in fact, mastered the task of enriching uranium, which now clears the path for Iran to build nuclear bombs “on a large scale.” Here’s Ahmadinejad’s declaration of Iran’s nuclear success and intent:
I’m announcing officially that Iran has now joined the countries that have nuclear technology….This is a very historic moment, and it’s because of the Iranian people and their belief. And this is the start of the progress of this country.
This clearly renders Bush’s dire warnings effete and feckless. Indeed, Bush himself telegraphed the utter futility of his words when he dismissed – as “wild speculation” – reports by Seymour Hersh and others that the U.S. is planning strategic nuclear strikes on Iran to destroy its nuclear weapons program. And I hasten to clarify that the reason Bush cannot back up his words in this case is not because America lacks the military power to do so (i.e., too bogged down in Iraq); instead, it’s because America lacks the political will. Nonetheless, since no one believes Iran is building this nuclear capacity to fuel its energy demands, Ahmadinejad’s announcement begs the question:
What, if anything, is the international community going to do to prevent Iran from developing an arsenal of nuclear weapons?
The answer, of course, is talk, talk and talk, but do absolutely nothing! Because, despite denunciations from Europe, Russia and China, no country – including the United States – seems prepared to do the only thing that will stop Iran from going nuclear: i.e., use military force! Well, no country, that is, except Israel. And, as I indicated in this previous article, Ahmadinejad’s repeated threats to “wipe Israel off the map” have given Israel not only the moral authority but also just cause to use any means necessary to prevent Iran from executing this holocaust.
Therefore, pay no mind to the international blather about Iran’s nuclear program. Because when Israel determines that Iran is on the threshold of possessing nuclear weapons that could, in fact, wipe it off the map, Israel will launch military strikes to take out Iran’s nuclear program, just as it did to take out Iraq’s nuclear facilities in 1981.
NOTE: Notwithstanding the dire predictions of conflict-averse politicians and TV generals, the “nightmare scenario” is not attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities. Instead, it’s failing to do and allowing Iran to go nuclear….
Indeed, the world keeps demanding that Iran disclose the truth about its nuclear program. But Ahmadinejad has demonstrated time and time again that, when it comes to Iran’s nuclear ambition, the world can’t handle the truth!
Wednesday, April 12, 2006 at 9:51 AM
UPDATE: Dan Brown (DaVinci Code) may not be a plagiarist, but he is a reprobate fiction writer masquerading as a historian…Claimants Michael Baigent (center) and Richard Leigh (right) versus defendant Dan Brown (left)
In this previous article (dated 28 February 2006), I distilled the issues in dispute and predicted the outcome of the sensational plagiarism trial of the author of The Da Vinci Code (DaVinci), Dan Brown, as follows:
First and foremost, I submit to you that this question must necessarily arise whenever the alleged plagiarizer sells 30 million books and the original author only around 30. However, Brown cleverly attributes the original idea for DaVinci, in part, to HBHG. And, since novels based on historical scholarship have a hallowed tradition dating back to the time of William Shakespeare, it is a precedent that British courts are loath to overturn.
Therefore, as a legal matter, claimants Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh will lose….Hence, I was not at all surprised last Friday when Mr Justice Peter Smith rejected the claim by the authors of The Holy Blood Holy Grail (HBHG) that Dan Brown plagiarized the central theme of their book. In fact, the judge ruled that:
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (sic) did not have a central theme in the way its authors suggested….It was an artificial creation for the purposes of the litigation working back from the Da Vinci Code.In my article, I also argued that this case was, in fact, more about the HBHG authors’ sales envy than about plagiarism. I wrote in my ENDNOTE that:
There is, nonetheless, an upside to this whole farce for all parties involved. Because, as James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces demonstrated, there’s nothing like controversy to boost sales of a book (or movie). Indeed, even if they lose, Baigent, Lincoln and Leigh might see their 30 copies in sales increase to 3 million before the dust is settled….
Hooray for Hollywood!And I was right here too.
However, I was surprised when Mr Justice Smith echoed my cynicism in his ruling by declaring that:
It is a fact that the claimants’ book sales have benefited from The Da Vinci Code (and this litigation).
(But if you’re a glutton for tortured and verbose legal reasoning, only to end up where I began, click here to read extracts from Mr Justice Peter Smith’s ruling. )
Having prophesied the outcome of this trial in every material respect, I feel obliged to assert that I consider Dan Brown’s theory – that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child and the bloodline survives to this day (in France of all places) – as much a fairytale as the Bible’s story of Adam and Eve. Therefore, I consider him nothing more than an unconscionable snake-oil salesman for peddling his perversion of Christian beliefs as historical fact.
Indeed, if Brown’s research was so thorough, and his book so factual, one wonders why he didn’t discover the Judas bombshell: That the Judas Iscariot portrayed in the Bible as a cardinal betrayer was, in fact, the most trusted and loyal disciple who simply followed Jesus’s divine instructions to turn him in to be crucified – as part of God’s plan for the salvation of mankind.
Or, one wonders why he did not discover the John the Baptist bombshell: That John the Baptist and Jesus were, in fact, “twin Messiahs”….
NOTE: If you’re a Christian, I admonish you to look neither to the Bible nor to any ancient text for validation of your faith. After all, such mortal representations of “God’s word” are inherently unreliable – no matter how purportedly inspired by the “Holy Ghost”. Whatever your religious faith, however, I think we will all find favor with God if we simple follow the Golden Rule:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!
Tuesday, April 11, 2006 at 10:04 AMLawyers for Duke lacrosse players announce DNA results and call for case against them to be dismissed…
It was probably drowned out by our immigration rallies (did you see me?), but lawyers representing the Duke University lacrosse players accused of gang raping an exotic dancer made the undeniably stunning announcement yesterday that DNA results exculpate all of them of rape.
Here’s what I wrote on 29 March, in part, about the dancer’s accusations:
….Where I agree that the public should wait for a trial to determine the guilt of these players, the undisputed facts of this case compel Duke to pass summary institutional judgment.Despite my legal restraint, however, I left no doubt that I thought the players were guilty as alleged. However, given the DNA results, I am now obliged to limit my condemnation of them to the undisputed facts, which include hurling racial epithets, refusing to cooperate with law enforcement authorities in the early stages of the investigation and fraternizing in a way that led one of them to write that criminally offensive email – just hours after this alleged rape – about having “some strippers over [and] killing the bitches” as soon as they walk into the dorm room. But this development clearly begs the following questions:
Does the absence of DNA evidence mean that this woman was not raped? NO!
Nonetheless, this sordid spectacle will have severe repercussions for race relations and rape victims (especially black women) for years to come. For now, I shall heed my own counsel and wait for the trial or until the DA announces that the players have all been exonerated.North Carolina civil rights leaders call for judicial due process and prayers…
In either case, some sober reflection is in order. And, incidentally, it is unseemly to argue now that the accused were all clever enough to wear condoms or restrict seepage. (res ipsa loquitur….)
But Durham DA Mike Nifong owes it to the players, the alleged victim and a very anxious and confused public to state, unequivocally and without further delay, what these results portend for the prosecution of this case. Because, despite vowing to continue the case even absent DNA evidence, I suspect he will find it legally and politically prudent to make the anticlimactic announcement, within days, that the case will be dropped and the alleged victim prosecuted for making a false claim….
Monday, April 10, 2006 at 9:19 AMJust as blacks marched in the 1960s for civil rights, Hispanics are marching today for immigrant rights. And, just as many non-blacks marched back then in support of black civil rights, today I march in support of Hispanic immigrant rights.
But, just as a few blacks risked undermining the political influence and moral authority of those non-violent marches by rioting and spewing bellicose rhetoric, so too will a few Hispanics risk undermining these marches by donning gang paraphernalia and waving foreign flags in the faces of U.S. citizens.
Therefore, I say let’s march! But please, leave the gangsta attitudes and all flags – except old glory (the U.S. flag) – at home….
Images from yesterday’s warm-up march in Texas:
The issues involved in this fight for immigrant rights are complex. And, unlike the fight for black civil rights, the solution to the problem of illegal immigration is not black and white. Nonetheless, please click here to read my commentary on the issues surrounding today’s march and about the bill that I think offers the best solution. And take note that I wrote the following:
Unfortunately, given the political grandstanding on both sides of this issue, it’s unlikely that any legislation will be enacted before the November 2006 elections.
Because, on Friday, the compromise bill, which included the comprehensive measures I argued are necessary to deal with this problem effectively, was defeated in the U.S. Senate; not on its merits but, primarily, because opportunistic Democrats used technical tricks to defeat it so that they would have immigration as a political issue to run on in the November elections – since Republicans are perceived (wrongly) as the party more opposed to comprehensive immigration reform.
Of course, notwithstanding the Senate’s failure to act, political debate and agitation on immigration matters will rage on. Therefore, I also invite you to click here to read why I think talk of building fences and making felons of people who help illegal immigrants (as some boneheaded Republicans want to do) only promise comfort to fools.
NOTE: Marches are being staged all over the country, but I’ll be joining the one here in Washington, DC. So, if you’re watching TV today, see if you can pick me out of the crowd: Chances are I’ll be the only black guy wearing a red, white and blue cap amongst my Hispanic brothers and sisters….
ENDNOTE to my black American friends: I hope as many of you march in support of Hispanics as the number of whites who marched in support of blacks during the civil rights movement….
Si Se Puede!